Practice Begins for a Very Different 500

Good morning from the 71st and Michigan Road media center annex of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Practice begins today for the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 on August 23.

Today’s schedule all times ET:

11-1 Veterans

1-3  Rookie Orientation and refreshers

3-5:30  All cars

Coverage: NBC Gold

The weather forecast seems to be improving for the week. Today should be dry.

My race preview will come out next week.  Some story lines to follow for now:

No Fans

For the first time in he race’s history, the 500 will take place with no fans watching.  How will it affect the drivers?  I have wondered if having fans in the stands on race day affects the drivers’ perspectives in certain areas of the track.

The winner will not hear  cheers while on the victory podium or see the fans waving on his cool down lap. That will be disappointing to whomever wins.

The pre race grid will be eerily quiet with the throngs that usually pack the front stretch.

We have seen two races without fans. They seemed weird, but the 500 will seem even stranger, I think. The energy fans bring to this race is unlike the buzz at any other track.


The aeroscreen gets its first test on the speedway this week. We know from iIowa that it performs as it was designed to. Will it hold up at higher speeds in a similar incident? How will it affect handling? Will passing be more difficult?

Will the extra weight slow the cars? Will the aeroscreen act as front downforce?

Indycar has once again modified the cooling system with larger tubing and a filtration system to keep debris out of the cockpit. I will be looking for what the drivers think of the changes.

Helio’s Last Ride for Penske?

2020 could be the final year in which Helio Castroneves drives at Indianapolis for Roger Penske. The three time 500 winner has been driving full time for Penske in IMSA, but that program ends after this season. The full time drivers have been told to seek other rides. Castroneves has expressed interest in returning to Indycar full time.  He may have to settle for a mid pack team next year. How Castroneves does this year may determine where he ends up next year.

No Women in the Field

For the first time in 20 years the field will not have a female driver. Pippa Mann could no put together a program for 2020. It may be a few years before we see the next woman drive in the 500.

Bump Tales Bumped This Year,  Pole Tales Coming

Because there will be no bumping, Bump Tales will spend the year in quarantine. Tomorrow, look for the first edition of Pole Tales, stories of how poles were won before the Fast Nine came into being.