Road America general manager Mike Kertscher will use many of the lessons learned during last weekend’s fan-filled SCCA June Sprints club racing event when the NTT IndyCar Series arrives in July.
With the beloved Wisconsin road course set to host IndyCar’s first event amid the COVID-19 pandemic where fans are welcome, the July 11-12 doubleheader will make use of insights gained during the SCCA’s giant gathering of racers and spectators in the Kettle Moraine valley.
“It’s important to know that, starting this past weekend and going forward, almost every weekend we will have a public event open to the fans,” Kertscher told RACER. “We had a very successful June Sprints – one of the biggest June Sprints we’ve had in modern times, (with) 500 cars participating. For us to get that one in, it was big. It was very encouraging to see folks come out and support the event.
“We are making a lot of adjustments. We have signage asking [fans] to please practice social distancing, and messaging on our screens, and our PA reads all of that stuff. [And] we’ve made a lot of operational adjustments here as far as how concession stands serve customers; installing sneeze guards in our store; and more frequent cleaning and adjustments to our suites. The list is eight pages long, I think, at this point.
“And from a paddock standpoint, things were spread out far more. Our fans were also spreading out far more. The use of PPE was very prevalent among competitors and fans. There were folks that never made it into the paddock because they wanted to stay in the outer areas. We were glad they came and enjoyed the show.”
Kertscher says the IndyCar weekend will have no restriction on the number of fans allowed inside the sprawling facility. With less than a month until the event gets underway, he’s also hopeful more open-wheel racing fans choose to attend the two-day affair where another new coronavirus-related safety protocol will be added to the process: print-at-home tickets.
“Full transparency: we are selling some tickets, but it’s not to the level that we would like to see on a normal year,” he said. “But it’s still encouraging in a COVID-19 year. We are asking fans to purchase in advance. Our print-at-home option is the best way to do it, because then we can have contactless entry. Also, when they get scanned at the gate, we have a way to do contact tracing. We know when they’re coming, what gate they’re coming through, all of that stuff. It’s a safe way to do it.”
Road America is asking attendees to take appropriate precautions through the use of personal protection equipment while inside the facility.
“As far as the PPE, we’re leaving it up to them,” Kertscher said. “We’re encouraging it, absolutely; we’d always encourage that. Largely for this past weekend, people were obeying. IndyCar is a whole different scale, obviously. But we’re going to encourage the fans, bring a blanket, bring a chair. There’s so much property here, there’s no reason not to spread out and find a home.”
IndyCar will dictate the rest of the major adjustments for its Road America doubleheader.
“Is the paddock going to be closed? Is it going to be open? We don’t know for sure yet, but I would have to believe that, as a sanctioning body, it’d be wise to probably err to the side of caution,” Kertscher said. “Everyone can expect there’s going to be some adjustments there. I think everyone probably will understand and respect that.
“But, again, it’s their paddock, so we’ll follow whatever decision they might make. We’re really working closely with IndyCar and taking direction from them from a series’ standpoint as what’s going to be needed there.
“The preference here for us would be to have an open paddock, but at this point, we’re just happy to go racing. We’re happy to have two IndyCar races here as well, and make some noise and generate some excitement and buzz in the industry. We’ll take what we can get at this point and we look forward to turning some wheels here soon.”