IndyCar has been told it can begin its season on the 6th of June at the Texas Motor Speedway, however the nighttime race it will be without fans. The race, which was the first inline that had not been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic, will be a learning experience for most teams as they adjust to the heavy safety precautions and financial concessions, which were required to make this race take place.
The race schedule will be condensed and will see practise laps, qualifying and the race all occurring on the same day. Access will be strictly controlled with the number of people allowed at the track being limited. In addition, all will have to undergo screening by healthcare officials, and they will need to wear personal protective equipment provided while at the facility. Eddie Gossage, president of the Texas Motor Speedway, has earlier said he was not keen on running the race without fans as tracks so not share in any revenue from the broadcasting of the race like they do with NASCAR events. Commenting, Gossage stated,
“For a race track with the IndyCar race, the gate is your single largest revenue source. So that’s a big deal to do it without fans in the stands, and I didn’t want to do that, but at the end of the day, we worked something out. … We’re paying IndyCar, we’re just not paying as much. So both of us compromised, and both of us are losing money.”
While Gossage refused to comment on the figures, he did mention that is was a positive thing to see sports getting up and running again. Since 1997, IndyCar has held a race at the Texas Motor Speedway, and to date, that is longer than any other race track in the series beyond that of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
President of IndyCar, Jay Frye stated that the series worked closely with public health offices and Eddie Gossage to develop a plan that would ensure everyone’s safety. That was the result of IndyCar flipping the bill to charter two private planes to transport team members and drivers to and from the track. The planes will be completely sanitized before and after each trip as will buses used on the transportation to the track. All protocols relating to social distancing will be in place and monitored carefully. In addition, to provide added safety measures, all 64 bay garages will be used to allow the team’s appropriate separation.
The last race to be held before the shutdown was in St. Petersburg, Florida. However, while preparing for the race, it was postponed as was races in Long Beach, California, Alabama and Austin, Texas. In order to get in the required 15 races of the season, IndyCar will be running doubles at California’s Laguna Speedway and at the Iowa Speedway. The series will also return for a second race in October at Indianapolis.
Greg Abbott, the governor of Texas, said that the state was working with the Speedway and that they welcomed the race going ahead without fans in attendance. During his media appearance, Gossage also made mention that the speedway was looking at how it can reschedule the CUP Series event that was to run at the end of March, which was one of eight that were postponed due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Now that IndyCar’s season opener is set for the 6th of June, both Gossage and Governor Abbot released a joint statement that read:
“The American people are eager to watch their favourite live sports again, and this race serves as an example of how we can responsibly hold sporting events while prioritizing the health of the participants and the public.”
Gossage also stated that the track will run all races that were on its schedule for 2020, and that includes the NASCAR Truck Series once it gets confirmation of a new date.