The 500 Shrinks Even More- No Balloons, Purse Cut, No Last Row Shootout

The pandemic has claimed more of the normal Indianapolis 500 pre-race activity and has had an effect on the purse.  The last row shootout will not take place on Sunday, August 16, there will not be the traditional balloon release which usually precedes the command to start engines, and the purse, supposed to be $15 million this year, has been cut to $7 million. I have a feeling the schedule and other plans may be adjusted as next week goes on. At the end of this piece I have attached the revised on track schedule.

Balloon Release

The balloon release was eliminated to reduce the number of personnel at the track on race day. As of now IMS is expecting 2,500 people on hand for race day. The announcement did not address the environmental concerns about the balloons, and a spokesperson said there is no intention of doing away with the tradition. Once something is eliminated, it usually doesn’t return. With no fans present for the race, I don’t think it matters whether the balloons are released. The 500 is going to look like any other race.

Last Row Shootout

The official entry list is at 31 cars with one more definitely expected. There is still a possibility of a 33rd entry, but no more. With no chance for bumping, the Speedway eliminated that part of qualifying Sunday’s schedule. If only they had removed the Fast Nine part as well and just made Sunday a practice day.  The Fast Nine is a relic from when the track needed content fillers for qualifying days. It’s time to retire this played out part of the schedule. If someone has a problem Saturday, let them start last.

The Purse

Teams knew they were going to take a financial hit, but this really hurts the smaller teams. The winner will receive just over $1 million. There is nothing that can be done about this. With no ticket revenue, the Speedway cannot offer the payout they had planned.

Indy 500 on-track schedule

Wednesday, Aug. 12

11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Oval Veterans Practice (NBC Sports Gold)

1-3 p.m.: Rookie Orientation, Veteran Refresher (NBC Sports Gold)

3-5:30 p.m.: Indianapolis 500 Practice (NBC Sports Gold)

Thursday, Aug. 13

11 a.m.-5:30 p.m.: Indianapolis 500 Practice (NBC Sports Gold)

Friday, Aug. 14

11 a.m.-5:30 p.m.: Indianapolis 500 Practice(NBC Sports Gold)

Saturday, Aug. 15

8:30-9 a.m.: Indianapolis 500 Group 1 Practice (NBC Sports Gold)

9-9:30 a.m.: Indianapolis 500 Group 2 Practice (NBC Sports Gold)

11 a.m.-4:50 p.m.: Indianapolis 500 Qualifying (NBC Sports Gold; NBC 3-5 p.m.)

Sunday, Aug. 16

11-11:30 a.m.: Fast Nine Shootout Practice (NBC Sports Gold)

1:15-2:15 p.m.: Fast Nine Shootout Qualifying (NBC Sports Gold; NBC 1-3 p.m.)

3:30-6 p.m.: Indianapolis 500 Starting Field Practice (NBC Sports Gold; NBCSN 4-6 p.m.)

Friday, Aug. 21

11 a.m.-1 p.m.: Indianapolis 500 Final Practice (NBC Sports Gold)

Sunday, Aug. 23

1 p.m.: Start of Indianapolis 500 pre-race broadcast (NBC)

2:30 p.m.: 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 (NBC)