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)

Carpenter Adds Space Force Sponsorship for 500

Ed Carpenter Racing has a new sponsor for the number 20 car for the August 23rd Indianapolis 500. The United States Space Force joins the team. The U. S. Air Force already sponsors the number 47, which  Conor Daly will drive in the 500, and it also sponsors the 20 car when Daly drives it on the road and street courses. Carpenter has touted his team as the All american team, so this sponsorship falls in line with the team’s theme.  The press release:

Three-Time Indy 500 Pole Winner Ed Carpenter Will Drive No. 20 U.S. Space Force Chevrolet on August 23
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(WASHINGTON, D.C.) August 7, 2020 – The U.S. Space Force announced a partnership with Ed Carpenter Racing this morning on FOX & Friends. Gen. John W. “Jay” Raymond, Chief of Space Operations unveiled the No. 20 U.S. Space Force Chevrolet with driver and team owner Ed Carpenter. The three-time Indianapolis 500 pole winner will carry the colors of the U.S.’s new military branch in this year’s 500-mile race, scheduled for August 23, 2020. Through ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing,’ Carpenter and ECR will build awareness of the U.S. Space Force in race fans and Americans all over the country.
The U.S. Space Force became the sixth branch of the Department of Defense when it was signed into law on December 20, 2019. The mission of the U.S. Space Force is to protect the interests of the United States in space; deter aggression in, from and to space; and conduct space operations. Similar to the branches of the military which are dedicated to protecting and securing the air, land, and sea, the U.S. Space Force focuses singularly on space.
“The U.S. Space Force’s involvement with the Indy 500 is centered around our organizations’ shared principles of STEM, teamwork, speed and competition,” said Maj. Jason Wyche, Chief of Air Force and Space Force Recruiting National Events Marketing Branch. “Additionally, the partnership gives the U.S. Space Force the ability to reach a large number of prospects and influencers through the far-reaching broadcast viewership and media coverage both for and leading up to the race.”
While Carpenter now races exclusively in the oval events, he is one of the most experienced drivers in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES with 184 career starts to date. He began his 18th season of Indy car competition with a Top 5 finish at Texas Motor Speedway in June. Carpenter, an Indianapolis native, has started on the front row of the Indianapolis 500 five of the past seven years. He solidified his status as a hometown favorite by winning the pole position in 2013 and 2014; in 2018, he became just the 10th driver to collect three or more Indy 500 poles in the century-plus history of the race. Of Carpenter’s 16 Indianapolis 500 starts, two of his strongest results have come the past two years, including a runner-up after leading the most laps in 2018.
Carpenter is thrilled to have the opportunity race on behalf of the U.S. Space Force. “This is such an exciting day, unveiling this beautiful U.S. Space Force Chevrolet that I will drive in the Indianapolis 500 on August 23! To be able to represent the men and women of the U.S.’s newest military branch is truly an honor,” proclaimed Carpenter. He continued, “Even though we are not running the ‘500’ on Memorial Day weekend this year, the event has such a strong connection to our Armed Forces and there’s no better way to showcase the brand new U.S. Space Force!”
The U.S. Space Force will organize, train, and equip agile, lean and forward-looking space professionals to defend our nation, allies, and American interests in space. By creating separate service with a dedicated purpose, the United States will maintain an advantage as space becomes more crowded and contested. Approximately 16,000 military and civilians from the former U.S. Air Force Space Command are now assigned to the U.S. Space Force and 6,000 active-duty Airmen will be transferring to the branch.
Just two weeks ago, the U.S. Space Force released its logo and motto, both of which are featured prominently on Carpenter’s No. 20. First used in 1961, the Delta symbol honors the heritage of the U.S. Air Force and Space Command. The silver outer border of the Delta signifies defense and protection from all adversaries and threats from the space domain. In the center of the Delta is the star Polaris, which symbolizes how the core values guide the mission. The U.S. Space Force motto, ‘Semper Supra’ (Always Above), represents the service’s role in establishing, maintaining and preserving U.S. freedom of operations in the space domain.
Carpenter is the only individual in the NTT INDYCAR SERIES who handles both the responsibility of driving and owning his own team. Founded in 2012, Carpenter’s eponymous team has two full-time entries and expands to three cars for the Indianapolis 500. The 39-year-old will compete alongside fellow Hoosier Conor Daly and Dutch rookie Rinus VeeKay. ECR will be representing two branches of the United States military as Daly races for the U.S. Air Force. The 28-year-old’s special edition No. 47 U.S. Air Force Chevrolet pays homage to the founding year of the U.S. Air Force and one of its most iconic aircraft, the Bell X-1. VeeKay, 19, will be competing in his first Indianapolis 500 in the team’s No. 21 entry.
The 2020 Indianapolis 500 was originally slated for May 24 but was rescheduled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After careful consideration and extensive consultation with state and city leadership, the decision has been made to hold the race on August 23 without spectators. All on-track action from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway can be viewed via NBC Sports Gold, NBCSN or NBC. The 2.5-mile oval will open for practice on Wednesday, August 12 and continue throughout the week. Qualifications will be held on Saturday, August 15 and Sunday, August 16. The 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 will begin at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday, August 23 with a live broadcast on NBC.
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About Air Force Recruiting Service
The mission of the U.S. Air Force is to fly, fight and win in air, space and cyberspace. For 2020, the Air Force Recruiting Service is hiring nearly 29,000 new Airmen to fill opportunities in both the U.S. Air Force and the U.S. Space Force. AFRS is looking to inspire, engage and recruit the next generation of Airmen and Space professionals to preserve the security of America. For more information about U.S. Air Force and U.S. Space Force benefits and opportunities, go to

Mr. 500- Andy Granatelli’s Love Affair with IMS

In the 1960s it was impossible to talk about the Indianapolis 500 without mentioning Andy Granatelli. His only victory came in 1969 with Mario Andretti driving, but his showmanship and innovations grabbed headlines throughout the decade. His strong presence at the track each May was felt by everyone there.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum introduced a new exhibit, “Granatelli,” on August 1. It is running concurrently with the “From the Vault” display. The Granatelli exhibit occupies the north hall. It is a small exhibit, with about a half dozen cars and a showcase of memorabilia.

Granatelli is remembered for two things: attempting to prolong the run of the popular Novi and for bringing the turbine powered car into the race. neither car had much success, but both had fans talking about Granatelli and his team.

A Granatelli quote in the display says. “The Novi did everything but win races.”

The Novi driven by Jim Hurtubise in 1965. 1967 was the final run for the famed car.
Parnelli Jones driving the turbine in 1967. He started sixth and was leading by the end of the first lap. USAC rewrote the rule book over the next few years, making the turbine unable to compete.

Granatelli tried to qualify for the 1948 race. On his qualifying run he had an average of 123 mph working through three laps. The right rear tire blew and he crashed his Miller Ford Offenhauser in turn two.


A Granatelli entry was converted to turbine power as a test car in 1955. Known as the SAC Fireboid, Henry Banks drove demonstration laps in 1955. the car then became property of Firestone as a test car.  As a Granatelli entry the Kurtis Kraft KK 3000 was driven by Pat Flaherty in 1950 and Jim Rathmann to second place in 1952. Freddie Agabashian also had a turn behind the wheel of this machine.


The walls in the exhibit are are covered with murals with quotes and text from Granatelli’s biography, They Call Me Mr. 500. The one that stood out to me captures the essence of what every fan, driver, and car owner feels about the race and the speedway.


Althpugh the display is not large, it packs a lot of history about a great era at IMS and one of the most intriguing figures of that time. The exhibit runs through June 20, 2021.

I will have some more photos posted on my Facebook page, The Pit Window later tonight.

IMS Museum to Close During Track Activity Days

From the IMS Museum this afternoon. This might change some people’s plans.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, Offices Closing on All 2020 Indy 500 Track Activity Days

Museum will maintain normal tour, operating hours Aug. 17-20

In light of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s decision to conduct all 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge track activity without fans, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum will be closed on all “500” track activity days.

The days the IMS Museum will be closed are: Aug. 12-16 (practice and Crown Royal Armed Forces Qualifying days); and Aug. 21-23 (Miller Lite Carb Day, Legends Day presented by Firestone, and “500” Race Day, respectively). This includes the Museum’s corporate offices.

The Museum will welcome visitors during its normal hours, from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET), on all other days, and “Kiss the Bricks” track tours will be available from 9 a.m.-3:30 p.m. The Museum’s popular and in-depth Golf Cart Tours will not be available beginning Aug. 10 and will resume Aug. 26.

Two featured exhibits are on display at the IMS Museum: “Granatelli: Larger Than Life presented by O’Donovan & McCardel Wealth Management by Raymond James,” which opened Aug. 1 and runs through June 20, and “From the Vault presented by Bank of America,” which runs through March 21.

The IMS Museum is a public, non-profit 501(c)(3) organization located in the infield of the world-famous 2.5-mile IMS oval, requiring its closure in order to comply with the decision to not allow fans at IMS for the 2020 Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge.

Like most museums and arts organizations, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted revenue and finances for the IMS Museum. Donations are always welcomed; the generosity of our members, corporate sponsors, visitors and donors make it possible for Museum staff to preserve and share the 111-year  history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and its events, plus Indiana’s rich automotive heritage. At this time, your support is appreciated more than ever. To learn more about the many ways you can show your support – including memberships and our popular “Adopt-a-Car” program – please click here.


About the IMS Museum: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum is home to one of the world’s premier motorsports and automobile collections, with interpretive emphasis on the Indianapolis 500 and its role as an American icon of sporting tradition and innovation.

Located inside the famed 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, the IMS Museum is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization which relies on the support of visitors, members, donors and corporate partners, who make possible our daily operations, exhibits, educational programming, and restoration and preservation initiatives.

For more information on the IMS Museum, please visit, contact the Museum at 317-492-6784, or find us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn.


Different Month, Not the Same Feeling

Indianapolis Motor Speedway have been promoting the slogan,” Different Month, Same Feeling.” I think they can stop now. I never thought the feeling would be the same. Following yesterday’s announcement, There is definitely not the same feeling. I’m not sure if there is any feeling left.

I still believe it is the correct call to not allow fans for everyone’s safety. I don’t blame IU Health, the governor, or the mayor. My understanding is that it was Roger Penske’s call. Penske didn’t become a successful businessman by making bad decisions. This is defintiely a call for the long term of the speedway and the sport, although the short term is going to hurt.

There are some things that Indycar, IMS, and NBC could do to alleviate the angst of the fans. NBC could have a two week special price on NBC Gold for practices and qualifying. NBC could show the race not necessarily commercial free, but with ad overlays so that the action is on screen for the entire 200 laps. The Speedway could offer 2020 ticket holders a small gift shop coupon good through next May 30.

But life and racing go on. As of today, according to their websites, World Wide Technology Raceway (Gateway)  and IMS are still selling tickets to their next events for now. As we found out the last few days, things can change quickly.

The doubleheader at Gateway will have two 200 lap races instead of the traditional 248 lap race. Qualifying will follow the same format as at Iowa, where the second lap determines the starting spot for race 2.

IMS Schedule for the Indianapolis 500


I will post each day’s schedule beginning next Wednesday. I’m wondering if the qualifying format will change if there are only 32 or 33 entries

IMS Grandstands Stay Empty as the Race Goes On

In the end, it came down to a decision to save lives. I didn’t expect the announcement this soon, but it is better for fans who have travel and lodging reservations to cancel.  It will be sad to see empty stands while activities leading up to the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 move along at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the next two weeks.  Today’s decision to run all track sessions, including the race without fans is sending shock waves through the Indycar fan community.
The postponement of Mid Ohio and the moving back of opening day by 24 hours led me to suspect something bigger was coming. While I halfway expected the announcement of no fans at the race, a total ban on fans for practice and qualifying came as a shock. Practice day crowds are quite small and distancing would be easy. On qualifying days the crowds are larger, but nothing approaching Race Day. Carb day was the one day other than race Day that concerned me crowd wise.
COVID cases in Marion County have been going up. The have tripled since mid June and have increased the past two weeks. I think IMS and Indycar are erring on the side of safety.  Yes, they had a plan which was approved by state and local health officials. It is an excellent plan, very thorough and well thought out. i have no doubt IMS would execute the plan well. The one thing that troubled me was the enforcement of fan requirements. I wonder if that is the component which made the track decide that having fans was too big a risk.
The decision is a huge financial blow to IMS, Indycar, and the teams. How many of the smaller teams will still be in business next year, or even be able to finish the season? Will the purse for the 500 be diminished? It will be a struggle to get 33 cars this year, and it may be a struggle to reach that number for the next couple of years.
 Here is the full statement from IMS:

Update from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway today issued the following statement:

“It is with great regret that we announce the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place on Aug. 23 without fans. This tough decision was made following careful consideration and extensive consultation with state and city leadership.

“As dedicated as we were to running the race this year with 25 percent attendance at our large outdoor facility, even with meaningful and careful precautions implemented by the city and state, the COVID-19 trends in Marion County and Indiana have worsened. Since our June 26 announcement, the number of cases in Marion County has tripled while the positivity rate has doubled. We said from the beginning of the pandemic we would put the health and safety of our community first, and while hosting spectators at a limited capacity with our robust plan in place was appropriate in late June, it is not the right path forward based on the current environment.

“We encourage Hoosiers to continue making smart decisions and following the advice of our public health officials so we can help get Indiana back on track.

“Penske Corporation made a long-term investment to be the steward of this legendary facility. While we were very excited to showcase the investments and enhancements we have made in the guest experience, we know we have reached the right decision. As much as Roger Penske and everyone associated with the ‘500’ wanted to race with fans this year, we ultimately reached this conclusion in partnership with the state of Indiana and city of Indianapolis.

“Our commitment to the Speedway is unwavering, and we will continue to invest in the Racing Capital of the World. We encourage everyone to watch this year’s race on NBC, and we look forward to welcoming our loyal fans back to ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ on May 30th of 2021.”

Further Information from IMS

  • All on-track activity during the month of August, including practice and qualifications, will be closed to the general public.
  • Individuals who still have tickets to this year’s Indy 500 will be credited for the 2021 Indianapolis 500 and will retain their seniority and their originally assigned seats.
  • The first Indy 500 practice will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 12, with a full schedule available on
  • All of the action from IMS can be viewed via NBC Sports Gold, NBCSN or NBC. Visit or for a comprehensive streaming and broadcast schedule.
  • The 104th Running of the Indy 500 will take place Sunday, Aug. 23, with national coverage beginning on NBC at 1 p.m. ET.
  • Local Central Indiana coverage of the race will be available on NBC affiliate WTHR.
  • Broadcast coverage of qualifications on Saturday, Aug. 15 begins on NBC at 3 p.m. ET.
  • Sunday, Aug. 16 broadcast coverage of Pole Day begins on NBC at 1 p.m. ET.

Opening Day Moved

Practice for the 104th running of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway will begin on Wednesday, August 12, rather than Tuesday, August 11. No official reason for the move has been given, but Wednesday will be split between veterans and rookie orientation/refresher sessions.

In effect, Thursday will be the only full practice day before Fast Friday.

The move is likely a cost saving move for the track and the teams. It may also be an attempt to allow more time to have 33 entries. My count comes up a couple short of a full field right now. If this year has taught us anything, it is to be prepared for things to change. I think this may not be the only change we see before the 23rd.

Please check on the day of your track visit just to make sure things are scheduled as you thought.


Controversy- a 500 Tradition

I used to officiate high school basketball. After a game, my partner and I would say, ” We must have had a good game because both sides were mad at us.” If we apply that standard to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, they are doing a great job. At least two entities have issues with the track. Controversy is nothing new to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It even predates the 500 mile race at the track. There was the original, deadly surface which caused several fatal  accidents, followed by the somewhat controversial finish of the first race in 1911, qualifying controversies, and more arguments about the finishing order of certain races, notably 1981 and 2002. This is not new, but it is more about what happens off the track.

IU Health, the Speedway’s medical partner, issued a statement asking the track to hold the race with no fans. Their plea comes after IMS produced what I think is a thorough and comprehensive plane for fan safety which has the approval of the Marion County Health Department and state medical officials. The track responded with a strongly worded rebuttal.

IMS requested input from IU Health and received no response. I would think if you are investing sponsorship in a place that asks for input, you should give it, rather than wait until a plan comes out and then take issue with the contents.  IU Health actually seems more concerned with the activities outside the track- fans going to restaurants, staying in hotels, and shopping. The speedway has no control over what the fans do outside the track. Businesses have plans in place which I hope will mitigate any spread of the virus.

While I am not a fan of running the race at all this year, I understand why Roger Penske feels the need to have it. I get why he wants to have fans. Like everyone else, i made my choice about attending. I agree that IU Health has a point, but where were they when the plan was being put together? Their statement seems like a blindside attack. I wonder how this issue will affect their partnership with IMS in the future.

Fickle Fans

When the Speedway asked ticket holders to state their preferences about reassigned tickets or credits, some fans had a difficult decision. Some decided to skip this year’s race while others requested the maximum number of tickets allowed.

There was a period of tension while those that chose to keep their seats waited to see if they would receive their full allotment and if their new seats were close to their original places.

That phase soon was replaced by relief upon learning that their order had been fulfilled, many for the maximum number they requested. As fans began receiving tickets this week, the joy has turned to some grumbling. I saw one person on Facebook complain about the spacing and stating their intent to sit with their friends anyway. The fan practically dared the track to enforce the seat assignments. If they feel that way about their seats, are they feeling that way about the mask requirement too?

From what I have seen and heard of the seating plan, it is well done. There is plenty of space between groups of assigned seats. I don’t know why people are complaining about getting seats when tickets are limited to a small percentage of capacity.  If you are unhappy with your seats, stay home and watch the race on television. But first, turn in your tickets so that someone else who wants to go has a chance.

I’m not worried about IMS weathering this storm. It has gone through much worse. Remember 1964 and 1973?

I will wait until next year when with luck and hopefully a vaccine we can enjoy the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 on its proper date of May 30.



August Tickets, Test Drives, ECR’s New Engineer

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has sent out new tickets with modified seat assignments. The ticket for the scheduled August 23 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 is different from the original tickets for May 24. The new ticket has a shot of Simon Pagenaud standing on his car after winning last year’s race.  Sadly, Norman did not make the photo again. I was disappointed he wasn’t on the original release. I hoped a second chance wold allow him the opportunity. The photography is amazing.

Jimmie Johnson Test Drive

After two failed tries, seven time NASCAR champion Jimmie Johnson finally got his dream drive in an Indycar yesterday.  Johnson’s first scheduled test at barber was cancelled when Indycar shut down at the beginning of the pandemic. His second scheduled test day didn’t happen because Johnson had tested positive for COVID-19 just a few days ahead of the test.

Johnson turned about 120 laps in Felix Rosenqvist’s car and impressed five time Indycar champion Scott Dixon and Ganassi team manager Mike Hull. Both felt Johnson could fit right into Indycar and be competitive.

Johnson has said he has no interest in driving in the Indianapolis 500, but he seems to be changing his mind. the aeroscreen might be ther thing that persuades him. I look for Johnson to run more than one road course race in Indycar next year. The 500 may wait until 2022, but we’ll see.

I think it would be an amazing crossover if the master of one racing discipline gave Indycar more than a one-off attempt. We are starting to see more drivers try different disciplines as they did in the 50s and 60s. I would like to see different series coordinate their schedules more to accommodate more crossovers.

Pearn to Engineer Daly’s Car for 500

Cole Pearn will be the engineer on Conor Daly’s number 47 entry in the Indianapolis 500. Pearn had stepped away from racing in 2019 after helping Martin Truex and Furniture Row Racing win the 2017 NASCAR championship. I have heard a lot of praise for his skills.

I don’t know much about him, but he worked with Pete Craik, the engineer for Ed Carpenter’s number 20 car at Furniture Row. Their former relationship should help Daly. I still think this is a huge leap for his first Indycar venture. On the plus side, the Carpenter are usually strong at Indianapolis.

A Dark September

After the double header at World Wide Technology Raceway, Indycar has the entire month of September off. How does the series stay relevant for 32 days between races?

In  my weekly call with Roger (kidding!) I will offer a few suggestions:

  1. Announce the elusive third OEM
  2. Lay out the final configuration for the new 2.4  engine, including whether a hybrid component is included.
  3. Unveil the new chassis.
  4. Present the 2021  Indycar schedule.
  5. Announce the 2021 schedule of events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
  6. Purchase Iowa Speedway.

You’re welcome, Roger and Mark.