IMS and IndyCar owner joins insider Nathan Brown on a special edition of Pit Pass Live. Indianapolis Star
With one month remaining until the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was set to host the first-ever IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader, the series announced Thursday morning that the landmark event will be held July 4-5 without fans in attendance.
When Indiana government officials laid out the state's reopening plan May 1, the final step — Phase 5 — of the "Back on Track" guidelines were set to allow social gatherings of 250 or more people with all sectors of business reopening with social distancing guidelines in place.
But Marion County, and in turn Speedway, was delayed in the reopening process by one week, due to the high concentration of coronavirus cases and deaths in the area. And days ago, the county entered Stage 3 10 days behind the rest of the state — seven days behind schedule in order to make the July 4 deadline that could have allowed for fans in the grandstands for IndyCar's GMR Grand Prix, Xfinity's Pennzoil 150 and the Brickyard 400 the following day.
"While we certainly worked diligently to run our events with spectators, we reached a point where we needed to make a final decision because the race weekend is less than a month away," said Penske Entertainment Corp. CEO Mark Miles in a release. "Today it's not possible to be confident that Indianapolis will be at Stage 5 of the state's reopening plan by the Fourth of July weekend.
"We are extremely appreciative of the time and expertise Governor Holcomb, Mayor Hogsett and state and local public health officials have given us over the last few months. This was a collaborative process and a decision we’re all aligned with after thorough review of the situation. We remain committed to welcoming the world’s greatest fans to the Speedway for the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race in late August.”
Also announced in the release, the title of the Brickyard 400 has been modified from the "Big Machine Vodka 400" to the "Big Machine Hand Sanitizer 400." The company has shifted some production from alcohol to hand sanitizer.
Additionally, the BC39 USAC midget race has been canceled, along with the Florida Georgia Line concert. Concerts for the Indy 500 weekend were shelved in late March.
Fans who have purchased tickets for the races or concert action for that weekend will have the option to receive a credit for future IMS events -- including this year's Indy 500 on Aug. 23 or the Harvest Grand Prix on Oct. 3 -- or a refund. IMS said it will contact fans directly.
Email IndyStar motor sports reporter Nathan Brown at @By_NathanBrown.