INDIANAPOLIS (AP): The Indianapolis 500 has been postponed until August because of the coronavirus pandemic and won’t run on Memorial Day weekend for the first time since 1946.
The race will instead be held Aug. 23, three months later than its May 24 scheduled date.
“The month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is my favorite time of year, and like our fans, I am disappointed that we have had to reschedule the Indianapolis 500,” said motorsports giant Roger Penske, who finalized his purchase of IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway earlier this year.
“However, the health and safety of our event participants and spectators is our top priority, and we believe that postponing the event is the responsible decision with the conditions and restrictions we are facing,” he said Thursday. “We will continue to focus on ways we can enhance the customer experience in the months ahead, and I’m confident we will welcome fans with a transformed facility and a global spectacle when we run the world’s greatest race.”
The Indianapolis 500 began in 1911 but did not run in 1917, 1918, and from 1941-45 because of World Wars I and II. Tony Hulman bought the neglected speedway after the second war and the Indy 500 returned on Memorial Day weekend in 1946 and has been scheduled for that weekend every year since.
Although weather disrupted other runnings of the prestigious race, it had never been outright rescheduled until now.
It was an inevitable decision but still had to be difficult for Penske, who completed his purchase of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar in January and has already pumped millions into capital improvements to ready the historic venue for its first 500 under new ownership.
Penske had been eagerly anticipating the May 15 start to the IndyCar season, but was forced to suspend the series 48 hours before the scheduled opener when the coronavirus was declared a pandemic. Four races were initially scrapped and IndyCar said it would resume racing May 9 on the road course at Indianapolis. Long Beach and St. Pete both said they could not reschedule, but St. Pete could still find its way back to the calendar.
That race will now be run on July 4, a day before NASCAR races at The Brickyard in an unprecedented doubleheader between the series.
“Memorial Day weekend has always provided Indianapolis 500 fans an opportunity to honor the men and women who have fought and sacrificed for our nation’s freedom,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles said. “This August, we’ll also have a unique and powerful opportunity to honor the contributions and heroism of the doctors, nurses, first responders and National Guard members serving on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19.
“We’re grateful for the patience of our fans as we’ve navigated this situation, and we extend our thanks to NBC for its terrific partnership and diligent work to maximize broadcast coverage with this new schedule.”
On-track action in August will begin at Indy with practice on Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 12-13, followed by “Fast Friday” on Aug. 14 and Indianapolis 500 Qualifications on Saturday and Sunday Aug. 15-16.
The following week’s schedule will begin with hot pit-stop practice sessions on Thursday, Aug. 20 and include Indy Lights practice and qualifying. The Indy Lights Freedom 100 race, Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge and final Indianapolis 500 practice will take place on Friday, Aug. 21 as part of Carb Day.
The public drivers’ meeting and full-field autograph session will be Saturday, Aug. 22.
IndyCar said the new changes to the schedule mean new dates for Mid-Ohio (Aug. 9) and Gateway outside of St. Louis (Aug. 30).
While there was no word on when the season will start, IndyCar’s website shows the first race of the season in Detroit on May 30.