The 2020 season of Indianapolis 500 will take place without viewers and fans present on the location. The primary reason for such a decision is the growing safety concerns regarding the coronavirus pandemic. The official announcement about the arrangement was made on Tuesday, August 4, by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. In the 109-year history of the event, this is the first time fans will not witness the race live from the 2.5 mile oval grandstands.
According to Mark Miles, CEO and President of Penske Entertainment Corp, the organizers hope that people will understand the motive behind the arrangement. He wants to tell everyone that the team is doing everything to make it possible for the fans to enjoy the race. In an interview with IndyStar, Miles said that their plan would become the model for every other organization and the team that wants to organize an event amidst the coronavirus pandemic.
Doing it in this way means that they can comply with all the safety measures and ensure that nobody is affected. Miles added that the organizing team wanted to wait for as long as possible to see if the situation is getting better. However, since there is no positive hope right now, they are equally sad not to allow fans to witness the event live.
The observation period for the Indianapolis 500 Season 2020
In one of the latest news releases, the IMS said they observed the condition till June 26. However, it is unfortunate that Marion County is hard-hit by the virus, and cases are tripling gradually. Moreover, the rate of positivity is increasing at a rapid pace and is now almost double. So, they had already decided that the race capacity for 2020 will be only 50%. The primary reason for the same is that they cannot put the community’s safety and health at stake. Even till the end of June, the organizers thought that allowing spectators’ limited capacity will be possible. However, keeping in mind the current environment, it is just not possible.
The latest update about the event that commences in August is that gates will be shut throughout for the general public. Now, the people who had done pre-bookings can get the amount credited during the race next year. Moreover, they will get a seniority advantage when the booking lines open for the 2021 sports. In this context, Mark Miles says that irrespective of anything around, the races will start on August 23. The maximum number of people present in the location will be 1500.
All of them will only be essential personnel, and no one else will be allowed on the ground. However, there are chances till now that the race officials may feel like canceling the Indianapolis 500. If the event gets canceled now, it will be the 7th time since the race started in 1911. The six cancelations before were between 1917-1918 and 1942-1945. From the years you can see that these were the times of World War I and World War II.
The plan details for the IndyCar Event
The change in arrangement and plans also came right after the IMS officials, and IndyCar issued 88 pages of safety and health plan. There are details of all the methods and mentions that they will allow only a 25% capacity crowd safe and orderly during the event duration.
The plan was issued on June 22, and in it was mentioned that more than half of the 1,70,000 tickets that were sold till then would have to be relinquished. The ticket holders will get a credit for any future IMS event. Later, the event officials also circulated an official survey asking people whether they would want to hold on to their tickets despite the present situation. Everyone was informed that they would allow only 50% of the people out of the total original capacity. Of course! Social Distancing is a mandatory measure due to which crowding the grandstand is not a good idea.
The success of the Bristol Motor Speedway Race
According to the reports of August 3, two weeks after the end of the Bristol Motor Speedway Race, the authorities are happy to announce that there is not a single case of COVID-19 associated with the event. There were more than 20,000 people who attended the games, but the safety precautions were taken seriously. During the NASCAR All-Star race, wearing masks and maintain distance was mandatory.
Everyone had to wear masks at all times except when they were in their seats. Moreover, entry was allowed only after a proper temperature check. A person was allowed to enter only if the body temperature was not more than 100.4 degrees. Moreover, the organizers ended all ticket sales before July 24. It was to ensure that 25% of the capacity was the maximum mark of bookings. So, it is evident that following all the rules of the Marion County health authorities helped in making the Bristol Motor Speedway Race successful.
Now for the upcoming Indy 500 races, the detailed plan was nothing short of an advance assurance that fans will get on the stands, but in a limited capacity. While fans were eagerly waiting to witness the event, here comes the latest update. Therefore, the Indy 500 will be the third race in line of this year’s IndyCar season to be held in fans’ absence. The other two that had to make similar arrangements were the GMR Grand Prix that started on July 4, and the Texas Motor Speedway, the opener of the season.
Arrangements to fight the pandemic
In the June 26 interview with IndyStar, Mark Miles was very ambitious. He said that he and the team would go to any extent, even non-traditional, to make sure that this event becomes a hit despite the coronavirus pandemic. Miles further requests everyone to trust them and understand that their decisions are in good faith for everyone. During the interview, he also mentions that there are still two months remaining for the main event. So, the details may change at any point within this period. Before the GMR Grand Prix, Penske was hopeful and eagerly waiting for the ticketholder survey results. He said that an ideal “Super Bowl Crowd” should be a good idea for the event. The capacity, in that case, would range from 65,000 to 100,000 people.
Penske said that there is no way he can be sure about anything. However, on the other hand, he was no one to shut down commerce or the world. He added that all of the events that are to take place are not for their sole benefit. Instead, these are all investments that also have the history of the IndyCar event involved. Later, it was decided according to the Government’s protocols that all event organizers who are planning to allow more than 250 people had to submit a detailed plan to the regional department of health. The health officials will, in turn, approve the capacity, and other safety measures.
The IMS plan approval
During the IMS plan’s unveiling, Dr. Virginia Caine, Marion County Public Health Department director, gave it a seal of approval. In an official statement, she mentions that the development of the plan was in consultation with the Indiana State Department of Health and Marion County Public Health Department’s rules. Moreover, the details of the project reflect the best practices keeping in mind the pandemic. These are all mitigating steps important now to host any kind of public event in outdoor locations. Dr. Caine added that the plan would remain under review until the beginning of the game. It is to coordinate with the evolving scenario around.
Apart from the current plans, there are still plans for other races. For example, the Gateway, IMS’s Harvest Grand Prix, and the Mid-Ohio are the ones. Even the season-finale in St. Pete is still awaiting an official announcement. Since the last IndyCar race held on July 17-18 during the Iowa Doubleheader, the upcoming ones’ schedule has changed twice already. The first time was on July 27 when there was a combined three times loss at Laguna Seca and Portland. Along with that was making three other doubleheaders at Gateway, Mid-Ohio, and the IMS road course. The next one was on August 1, when the doubleheader of Mid-Ohio was shelved just a week before the schedule. All of the upcoming events will take place in September or October as per the tentative schedule.