The NTT IndyCar Series is moving forward as planned with the three closing races of its season.
Amid tightening restrictions surrounding COVID-19 and its new variants, the fate of IndyCar’s upcoming West Coast swing set for Portland International Raceway on September 10-12, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca on Sept. 17-19, and the Long Beach Grand Prix from Sept. 24-26 have been called into question.
As Oregon and California — and the cities or counties where the three races are contained — apply new mandates in response to the rise in COVID cases, the series says it will adjust and adhere to whatever requirements are put in place next month.
“We talk to those groups every day out there, and every indication we have right now is we’re full speed ahead,” IndyCar President Jay Frye told RACER. “Obviously, when you go into any municipality or local area, they have different rules and regulations. For instance, last weekend at World Wide Technology Raceway, most of us stayed in Missouri; they had one set of rules. The racetrack was across the river in Illinois, and Illinois had a different set of rules. So when we go out west, we’ll do the same there.”
Although the policies are subject to change, the three road courses currently have differing guidelines to follow. Portland will be subject to a new state-led policy where masks will be required at all times, whether fans or members of the traveling show are in or outdoors, and maintain social distancing. At Laguna Seca, the Monterey county-owned facility does not currently require masks to be worn, but its track managers continue to urge its unvaccinated attendees to use them.
And Long Beach — which has been the greatest source of concern within the paddock — will enforce a new set of demands by the city. Like Portland, masks will be required at all times, but in order to gain swift access to the circuit, proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test taken no sooner than 72 hours before arrival must be shown. For the unvaccinated and those who haven’t been tested, a slower access opportunity will be available through on-site ‘rapid’ COVID testing that will be provided at main entry points.
“California, obviously with Long Beach, has come up with a tighter set of requirements, so we’ll do like we’ve done and go off of whatever the rules and regulations are to safely come into any place that we’re heading to,” Frye noted. “Right now, we feel very good about all three.”
Thirteen IndyCar races have been completed this year with a number of event dates being shuffled, doubled, or cancelled as a result of COVID-19. Frye expects to get through all 16, but also knows that if one or more are lost due to regional changes in relation to the coronavirus, the series will need to adapt to whatever it’s dealt.
“Do we have a contingency plan if we don’t get through them all?” he said. “Not at this point, but again, there were times last year when COVID was at its worst where things were decided on the Thursday night before you’re supposed to leave for the race. Who knows over the next couple of weeks how things could change; those decisions are out of our hands, but again, right now we feel really good about everything we’ve got going to happen as it’s supposed to happen.”