The 104th Indianapolis will allow 25 percent capacity, be shown live on NBC for central Indiana, allow bronze and silver badge holders to have their normal access, be open to fans for practice, qualifying and Carb Day and has the blessing of national, state and local health officials.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials unveiled their plan for Aug. 23, which includes wearing a face mask at all times and being screened upon entry to combat the COVID pandemic; but between the size of IMS, the spacing of the spectators and the fact it’s an outdoor event, there was an air of confidence it can be pulled off safely.
“In terms of the plan itself, it’s approved we have a green flag and we expect to have the race,” said Penske Entertainment president Mark Miles during Wednesday’s national teleconference. “It’s a gigantic venue, we’re limiting capacity, making masks mandatory and the fact it’s outdoors, the virus is 19 times less likely to spread than indoors.
“We believe it’s important we have this race and show that people can come together in the right way.”
Miles, IMS president Doug Boles and Dr. Edward Yacht, chief medical officer of Global Medical Response, went over the four-month process of monitoring the coronavirus and trying to make a plan that would safely allow a percentage of people to attend what has always been the largest one-day sporting event in the world.
When asked if he considered this an experiment, Yacht replied: “‘Experiment’ is not the word I’d use. It’s application of pretty strict criteria to minimize transmission. And it’s an outdoor venue so we know the difference in transmission with outdoor vs. indoor venue and that’s given us a degree of comfort.”
Marion County Public Health Director Dr. Virginia Caine said the IMS plan “meets or exceeds all local guidelines and is approved subject to continued review. The plan was developed in consultation with the Marion County Public Health Department and Indiana State Department of Health and reflects the current best practices and mitigating steps that outdoor venues should have in place to host events.”
The usual throng of 250,000 people will be reduced to the neighborhood of 75,000 as IMS and all the grandstands will be open in addition to suites and spectator mounds. But people in central Indiana without tickets or opting to stay home because of the virus won’t have to wait for the replay that night, because they can now watch the race live on NBC.
“We felt under these unique circumstances lifting the blackout was the right thing to do,” said Miles.
Some of the traditions like the Oldtimers dinner, Hall of Fame induction, Legend’s Day and parade have been canceled for 2020 but there will still be some normalcy.
“Those customers with bronze and silver badges will still get that access on have practice and qualifying days,” said Boles. “There will be some adjustments on race day to pit lane access to give teams opportunity to prepare. Nobody will have access to the racetrack race morning except essential racing personal.
“But we do expect fans for practice, qualifying and Carb Day and we welcome them.”
Boles also said the IMS yellow shirts will be patrolling the Speedway during the day to remind people to put on their mask if they’re not wearing it. If someone refuses? “We’ll ask them to leave but we hope we don’t have to do that.”