Takuma Sato crosses the finish line to win the Indianapolis 500.
(Photo by Walt Kuhn/Getty.)

What Went Into the Complex Decision to Postpone the Indy 500 and Find a New Date

SPEEDWAY, Ind. — Many sporting events and leagues have been postponed because of the coronavirus. The latest is the Indianapolis 500.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced Thursday afternoon that the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” will not be on its traditional date of Memorial Day Weekend. Instead, it will be on Sunday, August 23.

“I enjoy counting down the days to the Indianapolis 500, and the countdown has been adjusted today,” said IMS President Doug Boles. “It will be 150 days from now, when we get to celebrate this race.”

Many different people with many different companies and organizations had to come together to make the decision, and the decision wasn’t easy.

“With the number of postponed sporting events being rescheduled to the late summer and early fall, it’s frankly very difficult to find three consecutive weekends like we traditionally have in the month of May,” said Mark Miles, president and CEO of Penske Corp.

That’s why they decided to split the two NTT IndyCar races scheduled in the month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The GMR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course will now be on Saturday, July 4 — creating a first-of-its-kind doubleheader with IndyCar and NASCAR. The NASCAR XFinity Series race will also be on the road course that day. The Brickyard 400 is set for the following day, Sunday, July 5.

That potentially creates a unique opportunity where drivers could cross-over, and compete in all of the races that holiday weekend. Boles even hinted at the idea that Indiana native and former race car driver Tony Stewart could make an appearance. He said he sent a text to a “specific driver from Columbus, Indiana” asking if he would be interested.

“He sent back a thumbs up,” Boles said. “He said ‘get me the rides, maybe I’ll consider it.'”

Preparations for the 104th Running of the Indy 500 will begin a month later.

“By scheduling in late August, we fully expect to be outside the window impacted by the COVID-19 virus,” Miles said.

He added that NBC, which covers the NTT IndyCar Series, also played a factor in helping decide a new date.

“NBC has been terrific in this,” Miles said. “Everything they license and broadcast is trying to get squeezed into a shorter period of time. They’re going to be doing other certain things, that we won’t talk about today, to help promote all of this. The 500 will have a significant broadcast window, on race day, plus both days of qualifying and the Grand Prix as well.”

The first practice will be on Wednesday, August 12. Qualifying will be Saturday, August 15 and Sunday, August 16.

Boles said Carb Day on Friday, August 21, will consist of Indy 500 final practice, the pit stop challenge, and the Indy Lights Freedom 100. However, all of the concerts surrounding race weekend have been canceled. That includes REO Speedwagon and Styx, who were supposed to perform on Carb Day, the Legends Day concert featuring country star Luke Bryan, and the Snake Pit during the race.

“As we were focusing on making sure we could get the most important thing we have, the Indy 500, scheduled, and in the windows that we had and the short amount of time that we had to do it, we were left with no other option at this moment of time other than to cancel those,” Boles said.

It might be a little different, and a bit weird, but Boles and Miles are positive race fans will still turn out for the 500.

“We may not be the first public event after the real crisis is behind us, but we will certainly be the biggest,” Miles said.

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