Decision Day

Number 54 will have to wait. I have agonized over this decision since IMS announced its ticket plan for the postponed Indianapolis 500. After talking to my friends last night, who aren’t going, I have decided to join them on the sidelines. Earlier i received some advice from a medical professional whom I trust. If attendance had been limited to people from Indiana, I might have leaned more toward going to the race. My concern is fans from the petri dish states like Florida, Texas, and California who might be attending.

I have gone to the last 22 500s. the last time I missed the race was 1997. I have endured extreme cold, tornadoes, and scorching heat to watch this most grand of all races. This year I feel is something much more dangerous than any of those perils.聽 It will be okay. If the television blackout remains in place, i will travel to another city to watch the race live. If it is lifted, i will watch from my home.

I will still attend practice days and maybe qualifying. Carb Day is iffy right now. The Speedway is requesting people in my age group not attend, but it now seems more younger people are contracting the virus. Maybe they should be encouraged not to attend as well.

I have thought that businesses were re-opening too soon, and this is not the year for an event like the 500 to take place with fans. I miss all sports like crazy, but I can wait. We are starting to see athletes contract the disease even when they are in a somewhat controlled environment.

I am looking forward the 2021 Indianapolis 500 on the traditional May 30 date next year. It still might be the 104th running.

 

REMINDER: If you have a ticket for the 500, today is the last day to inform the speedway of your intentions. You will not lose your seats for next year or your ticket seniority.

Alonso’s Entry for the Indianapolis 500

Arrow McLaren SP and Fernando Alonso revealed the two time Formula 1 champion’s car for the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 this morning.聽 It’s a different look for Alonso, with only the mirrors in the McLaren papaya orange.
The car is sponsored by Ruoff Mortgage, which was the sponsor on Takuma Sato’s 2017 winning 500 car.

A couple more views

 

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The 50% Solution

Hints and rumors came to a head today as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place August 23 with a reduced crowd of 50% of the track’s capacity. My understanding is that the 50% includes infield and camping space.

Many ticket holders (not me) received a letter today with instructions for re -ticketing. If someone does not wish to go, a credit will be issued which can be applied to next year’s race, among other options. This leaves many fans in a difficult situation. I have from several who will not attend because they feel it isn’t safe. I can’t fault anyone’s decision. It’s a personal choice.

I do believe the Speedway and Penske Entertainment Group are rushing things. They have about two more weeks to make this decision. Indian enters its final re-opening stage a week from tomorrow, and Indianapolis, I assume, will start the final stage on July 11. At this point, why not wait to see if the October date might be a better choice? I submitted a request for a ticket, but I’m not sure if I will use it.

I know this has to be a difficult decision for Doug Boles and Roger Penske. I would be more comfortable with even聽 fewer fans.

The Risks

I spoke with a friend of mine who is involved in the medical community in Indiana. My friend says that Indiana is prepared and is ahead of other states in keeping the spread down. The doubling rate in the entire聽 state is 100 days; in Marion County it is 300 days. States that have spiked in cases after re-opening were already seeing increases prior to ending their shutdowns.

So, according to my friend, as long as the numbers in the state stay steady, and people tend to their聽 personal hygiene- washing hands, wearing masks, distancing- August should be fine. September/October is the beginning of the flu season, which could complicate the Coronavirus.

Lifting the Blackout?

A statement from Mark Miles today said the local television blackout will not be lifted for the race. Why not. They are asking people to stay home then telling them they can’t watch the race until evening? This is a very bad PR move. If the blackout was lifted in 2016 because the track couldn’t sell any more tickets, how is this situation different? The tickets are capped, and although some fans aren’t coming there may be others who want to. I hope the Speedway and Indycar reconsider this decision. If the blackout is lifted it may figure in my decision as to whether or not I watch the race in person.

104th Running at 50% Capacity

From Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It may be decision time for a lot of folks.聽 More thoughts later. This was hinted at on Wednesday in Miler’s mailbag

IMS To Admit Fans for 104th Indianapolis 500 at Reduced Attendance

Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials confirmed June 26 their commitment to welcoming spectators to the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, Aug. 23, with the venue capacity limited to 50 percent attendance.

鈥淭he Greatest Spectacle in Racing鈥 was postponed from its original date of Sunday, May 24 due to the COVID-19 health crisis.

鈥淲e鈥檙e committed to running the Indy 500 on Sunday, Aug. 23 and will welcome fans to the world鈥檚 greatest racing venue,鈥 IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. 鈥淲e will be limiting attendance to approximately 50 percent of venue capacity, and we are also finalizing a number of additional carefully considered health and safety measures. We鈥檒l unveil the specific details of our comprehensive plan in the coming weeks.鈥

IMS is communicating with existing ticketholders to learn of their intent to use their race tickets. Credits will be available for ticketholders who choose to adjust their order. Individuals in high-risk groups are encouraged to consider staying home and returning in 2021.

In close consultation with public health officials, the IMS team is also working diligently to finalize a comprehensive plan of health measures that will be unveiled for spectators in the near future.

Limited 500 Seating? Other News of the Week

An answer to a question by Robin Miller in Racer magazine mailbag may offer a hint as to what to expect attendance wisewhenever the Indianapolis 500 is run. I’m still not optimistic about August. The answer:

From IMS President Doug Boles: 鈥淲e are not installing the southern third of the Pit Road Terrace seats this year. The Pit Road Terrace seats are the temporary bleachers that we install behind the pit road fence on the south side of the Pagoda. It would not impact a decision to bring back the apron or not. A couple of reasons for the change: (1) With IndyCar using the Gasoline Alley garages on July 4 weekend, it helps us with our install time by not putting up as many seats between the race and Aug 12, and (2) in a typical year, we only sell about 50% of these seats, so a third reduction in more appropriate related to demand. And, not the reason why, Skip is correct that it would be a benefit in a COVID year in the sense that it is less people in the area. Ticketing customers in the impacted seats are being relocated inside the remaining Pit Road Terrace seats or given an option for another seat without having to pay the seat price difference.鈥

Along with fewer seats there will likely be no fans in the infield. Another blurb I read last week said that 175,00 tickets have been sold. Will IMS cap the sales now? I would expect a decision about August needs to come by mid July. The COVID-19 numbers in Indiana continue to decline, but several other states are experiencing large spikes in cases and deaths. Stay tuned. Wash your hands.

From earlier: Schedule Set for GMR Grand Prix

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/90591962/posts/2775920421

Barber Renewal or Extension?

Earlier this week an announcement from the Birmingham News Journal said that the NTT Indycar Series and Barber Motorsports Park signed an extension of their agreement through 2023. Today, a Barber spokesperson said the contract runs through 2022.聽 Barber is a staple on the Indycar calendar. The track is a great setting for a race. It is one of my favorite tracks to go to.

Illinois Opens Tracks With Limited Attendance

The state of Illinois has allowed race tracks to open with fan attendance limited to 20%. I’m not sure of the specifics of Illinois’ phased openings, so I don’t know what this means for Gateway yet. Gateway is another track that may have to make an attendance decision. The best attended non Indianapolis oval could open the first turn grandstand to allow the fans to spread out more.

McLaren Financial Troubles

reports this week say McLaren is facing some financial issues. The company is seeking a loan and legal action to raise 280 million pounds. A buyout and lease back arrangement is a possibility. We will have to wait and see what effect this has on their Indycar program.

A Positive Ending

Former Indy lights driver Aaron Telitz has signed on full time with AIM Vasser Sullivan’s IMSA GTD program. Telitz replaces Chase Parker, who was let go by the team last week. Telitz is a good driver. He is with a team with an Indycar connection, which I hope will earn him a chance at an Indycar ride someday.

Kody Swanson, USAC midget and Silver Crown driver, tested an Indy Pro 2000 car this week. Swanson is another driver who is long overdue for a shot at Indycar. It would be great if he could get some Road to Indy races in this year.

We are just nine days away from the next Indycar race!

 

 

The Big Brother 500

Imagine the Indianapolis 500 with an Orwellian feel to it. Or looking like a scene out of A Wrinkle in Time. Nathan Brown of the Indianapolis Star published an article about those possibilities last night. It is worth a read. Find it here: https://www.indystar.com/story/sports/motor/2020/06/08/what-attending-indy-500-like-fans/5320149002/

I understand the idea, and I don’t know how realistic some of these things are. Eddie Gossage, president of Texas Motor Speedway, acknowledges that some of these ideas are far fetched. The concepts are about safe crowd movement during a pandemic, keeping groups as small as possible. It doesn’t address the part where people will be sitting close together to watch the race.

The main idea is an app that not only tells you聽 which gate to enter, but also assigns a time to be at the gate; tells you when you may visit the concession stands or restrooms; and tells you when you may leave the stands after the race. I can buy small parts of this. On the back of each ticket, the Speedway has for years suggested that you enter the gate closest to your seat. I don’t have a problem with that. I don’t necessarily go into the track at that particular gate. Where I park has more to do with where I enter than where my seat is.

Some fans like to get to the track as early as possible while some like to get there late in an attempt to avoid the crowds. I don’t think fans will like being forced to alter their habits.

As for concessions and restrooms, an app can’t regulate your needs in these areas. An app that knows where your seat is and allows you to find the least busy food stand or restroom nearest your seat makes more sense. I’m sure the newly renovated restrooms are really nice looking, but I’ll make an appointment when I want a tour. I’ll go when I need to.

When the race is over, people flock to the exits. many don’t stay for the winner’s lap in the pace car. I can’t imagine forcing to stay up to an hour waiting for permission to leave. By the end of the race some fans have been in their seats close to five hours.

I wonder if a black market will develop where fans sell or trade聽 their time slots. I’m not sure how that could be done. A scenario- i need to go to the restroom but my time slot is 40 minutes away. My neighbor has just entered his/her bathroom time. can we trade?

We all want to attend sporting events and concerts again. Venues have to insure the safety of their customers and take every reasonable precaution. Some of these concepts go a little beyond reasonable in my opinion.I hope some middle ground can be worked out. Who even knows if or when聽 the race will even run this year?

The article also mentions some great new technology from NTT Data. I like the idea of the temperature scanning device. That is definitely a more efficient process than a staff member with a hand held thermometer. An alarm that sounds when a gate has too many fans there is also a good idea.

I concede this year more strict crowd control is needed. I agree that movement should be limited. I also believe that most fans understand this and will do what they need to in order to attend our beloved 500. I am always fearful of once controls are in place they tend to stay in place and get more strict. Race Day has always been one of the days of the year where I feel the freest. I could survive a year of some limits.

 

Final Texas Notes and Other Items

Photo: Indycar, Chris Owens

For a look at what being at Texas Motor Speedway was like, read this great piece by Racer magazine’s Joey Barnes, one of five media people on site. https://racer.com/2020/06/08/barnes-the-loneliest-race/

It’s probably a good thing the next race is four weeks away. The crews need to rest up after their exhausting day Saturday.

This weekend reminded again of how old I am. I have seen multiple wins in person by the聽 three聽 drivers with the most wins in Indycar history. Before you ask, I never saw Ralph de Palma win a race.

Is it August, er October, er, Next May Yet?

While it was reassuring to hear Roger Penske say the Indianapolis 500 will run with fans聽 present or not at all, I’m still not sure when that will be. August seems too soon, especially with news of the Indiana State Fair’s cancellation. The fair was schedule to run August 6-23.

October, especially early in the month holds the promise of pleasant weather. The race would probably need to start earlier since sunset will be before 8 pm. Also, an October race would likely necessitate a compacted schedule. We could see practice Tuesday-Wednesday; qualifying Thursday-Friday, and the race Sunday. October 11 would be the likely date since the Harvest Grand Prix is the weekend before.

Whither Bronze Badges?

I’m hearing Bronze Badges will be honored at the Harvest Grand Prix since they can’t be used for the July 4 GMR Grand Prix. I’m not sure what the policy is for the Indianapolis 500. Would Indycar or IMS want that many people in the garage area? If they take that access away from badge holders, will something else be offered?

The only thing certain in 2020 is uncertainty.

 

 

 

Lost in a Lost World- Indy’s Day Without a Race

The city’s heart and soul vanished Sunday, stolen by the pandemic that dictates our lives nowadays. Race Day 2020 was not to be. Having the circadian rhythms of your life abruptly altered is a jarring experience. In Indiana, we are programmed for this day.

I awoke suddenly at 4 am, my usual race day rising time, then went back to sleep for a couple hours. I felt I should be somewhere, should get聽 the cooler loaded,聽 should meet my friends for breakfast. I kept looking at the clock and thinking, ” I would be entering the track now; I’d be heading to my seat now; It’s time for the opening ceremonies to start.”

Yesterday was the first time I had eaten breakfast at home on the fourth Sunday in May since sometime in the 1990s. A check of social media showed me that many of my friends were feeling the same way I was. feeling – lost. Watching the 2006 race on You Tube provided some solace. There may have been some dust in my eyes at the playing of”Taps’ and “Back Home Again in Indiana.” The Indianapolis Motor Speedway聽 website’s #500AtHome link had some content as well.

Around noon I went to a friend’s house for a small birthday celebration. On the drive I listened to the 2016 race on WIBC. I passed the track on the way and saw several groups of people gathered on the plaza in front of Gate 1. Most had lawn chairs and coolers.

It was comforting to be with some of my racing family for a couple hours. We watched the beginning of the NBC show, “Back Home Again.” The porch was silent during “Taps.” We discussed the August date and what other races we might attend. None of us can be sure any of the race dates are certain, but there was an air of hope.

I went back to Gate 1. The crowd had thinned considerably. Someone had the radio on. It was last year’s race playing at this point.

On Main Street, things were a bit more lively. All the outside tables at Dawson’s were full. Down the street people were just sitting in lawn chairs on the sidewalk, talking.聽 I ran into a couple of friends there. The highlight for me was seeing this vehicle.

wp-15903560017703100720329105841918.jpg

After all, what is Race Day without a salute to the past?

In spite of the few hours of time with friends and at the track entrance, it was a day I hope I never have to go through again. There aren’t many people alive who remember the last time, 75 years ago, when there wasn’t a race on Memorial day weekend.

As for August, we need to keep hoping the race will run, but I can’t see how the Speedway can allow a huge group of fans at that time.聽 We have to hope that something will break like the rain on race morning gives way to to a sunny perfect race day.

Classic 500s Abound on Television, Web

It won’t be the same as being at the track and seeing the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500, but ESPN and NBC will feature several old 500s tomorrow.

The schedule:

Saturday:

Noon-ESPN- Virtual Legends Race from IMS

Sunday:

ESPN2

6:00 am- 2018 Monaco Grand Prix

8:30 am 2019 Monaco Grand Prix

3-5 pm聽 2006 Indianapolis 500

5-7 pm聽 2011 Indianapolis 500

7-9 pm聽 2014 Indianapolis 500

The races have three of the best finishes in 500 history.

NBC

Sunday

2-6 pm Enhanced replay of the 2019 Indianapolis 500 featuring interviews and commentary from Alexander Rossi and Simon Pagenaud.

Other viewing options

Classic races on You Tube

The IMS website will have virtual content all day today and tomorrow, including a race to be determined tomorrow afternoon.

 

Make the best of this weekend. let’s hope for the best come August.