We all saw it coming, but it’s still a bit of a shock.
We found out today that for the first time ever the Indianapolis 500 will not be run in May. Wow, that’s a bit hard to process, yes?
Over the last few weeks as the world has worked through the effects of the COVID-19 virus, the 500 has stood firm on its May 24 date. But, like the rest of the sports world, they finally had to concede today that it was time to move the 500, and the green flag will now fly on Sunday, August 23.
I knew it was coming. I work from home and have been taking all of this very seriously. I only leave my house every 3-4 days, and have been doing my best to distance myself from others. I feel like it’s the right thing to do. I’ve watched the numbers closely, and I knew that barring a dramatic turnaround, the 500 on Memorial Day weekend wasn’t happening.
Still, it was hard to hear the news. Since 1979, the month of May has been my life. This year is (was) to be my 22nd time to see the 500 in person. I’ve seen pole day and race day, as a fan, a member of the media, and as part of a team.
After my divorce, in later relationships I made this clear…Memorial Day is non-negotiable. I will be sitting in the Southwest Vista on the Sunday before Memorial Day (or maybe even better seats) now until the day I die.
The 500 means the world to me, and I know I’m not alone. Still, with everything going on in the world, we have to deal with a new normal, at least this year. I share with the sentiments of lots of other people, that a 500 in August is better than no 500 at all.
Now, I’d rather have it in October during Columbus Day weekend as a winner-take-all, season finale, but I’ll cede to Roger Penske on this one. He is The Man, after all.
Besides, everybody, it looks like we might get 15 Days In…August. Barring any setbacks, or a really cool internship I’m going after, I’ll be there almost every day I can. And on race day, hopefully 300,000 people will join me.
It’s Indy after all. And if you don’t know what Indy means, I don’t know what to tell you. All I can say is let’s go all-in for a 500 in August, and when that time arrives, let’s go all-out like never before.
While we’re at it, let’s talk about the change in the schedule too.
So as it stands now, the doubleheader in Detroit will start the season, the 500 will take up the two weeks in August, and the season will close in St. Pete. I kind of like the idea of the 500 running back-to-back with the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at Gateway the next weekend. Anybody see a cool Indy 500/Milwaukee kind of vibe?
Let’s break all of it down. As it stands, 14 races at 13 venues. Long Beach, COTA and Barber look to be out. Outside of Detroit, no doubleheaders scheduled. According to sources St. Pete will be run sometime in October.
You know, I don’t mind St. Pete as the finale. They have been a great partner to IndyCar for a long time and I think that giving them that opportunity is great. Plus, a trip to Florida in October will be fun. If it all goes to plan, we will end the season at St. Pete and begin 2021 at St. Pete. And with a shorter off-season to boot!
Another big move is Indy GP sharing the July 4th weekend with NASCAR. I’m seriously down with that. I think it will be a great weekend, and getting IndyCar in front of some different fans will be a big deal. Actually, getting NASCAR and IndyCar fans to the same track, where we find out we have a lot more in common that we have differently, will be a good thing for all involved. And if it gets any sort of crossover (hello Tony Stewart) that would make the weekend even bigger.
I mean, I don’t think that IndyCar fans would become Cup fans and vice-versa, but it would be great if we could all find some sort of appreciation and mutual ground that would work out for everybody. Our goal should be growing the sport of racing, not fighting dumb and inconsequential battles between us.
In the end, all I want to see this year is some racing. If the 500 is the first race of the year, so be it. If the race gets moved again, so be it. All I want to see is cars on track, and as long as I get to see that in 2020, I will be happy.
But as the schedule stands, I want to give credit to people like Roger Penske, Doug Boles, Mark Miles and Jay Frye. We may all talk about this finagling of the schedule, but it is way, way beyond any of our pay grades.
All of this involves millions of dollars of contracts and moving large pieces. What was announced today involved a massive amount of negotiation, people making large sacrifices and lots and lots of massaging. This was a massive undertaking that lots of us will probably never understand.
Should I say this though…if Roger Penske weren’t involved, would it have all happened? What we have today tells us all we need to know about the future of the series in RP’s hands. He gets things done, and with the moving of the race date, has an extra three months to get everything ready.
So I guess if I don’t see you before then, hopefully I’ll see you in Indy in August! In the meantime, stay inside. Oh, and go wash your hands. Right now. Yeah, go. Right now.
Photo credit: Chris Owens/IndyCar Media