As sporting events are being postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, one of the first big time events that hadn’t yet been postponed was the Indy 500. Given there are over 250,000 grandstand seats and an estimated 400,000 people attending, it wasn’t going to be a good idea to still have the race over Memorial Day weekend.
In trying to prevent the spread of COVID-19, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced that their May IndyCar races will be postponed and that includes the Indy 500. The GMR Grand Prix which takes place on the road course is set to run on July 4 while the 104th edition of the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” will be moving to August 23. The Indy 500 has outright canceled the race during World War I and II but they have never actually raced on a date other than at the end of May.
The Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge has been rescheduled for Sunday, Aug. 23 and the GMR Grand Prix will move to Saturday, July 4.
— Indianapolis Motor Speedway (@IMS) March 26, 2020
While the situation is not ideal, it was the right situation given the circumstances. And if these dates hold up, the speedway can possibly make the best of an unfortunate situation.
The road course race is being moved to July 4, the same day as the NASCAR Xfinity Series race on the road course. Fans have been interested in having an IndyCar/NASCAR doubleheader when the Cup Series is involved and this provides a chance for both series to test it out. The plan will be to do the IndyCar race and then the Xfinity race on Saturday the 4th with the Cup Series racing the Brickyard 400 on the oval on the 5th. Given ticket sales have been less than ideal for NASCAR and IndyCar’s road course race doesn’t really stand alone, this could be a new tradition to beef up ticket sales all around.
As far as the Indy 500 is concerned, the race being on Memorial Day weekend was an opportunity to honor those in the Armed Forces who made the ultimate sacrifice. Penske Entertainment president and CEO Mark Miles pointed out that while they will do the same for August’s race, they will also honor “doctors, nurses, first responders, and National Guard members” who are currently fighting the fight in the COVID-19 pandemic.
Because of Indy moving to August, other August IndyCar races have been moved as a result. The Gateway race has been moved a week later to August 30 while the Mid-Ohio race moves up a week to August 9. The season opening race on the streets of St. Petersburg is now listed as the “expected finale” but no date has been determined for that race.