LOS ANGELES – IndyCar racing, its season in limbo in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic, remains committed to staging the Indianapolis 500 even if it means delaying the US classic, IndyCar chief executive Mark Miles said Friday.
“What I can say is that organizing the 104th Indianapolis 500 mile race is our highest priority,” Miles told AFP.
“It’s impossible to know exactly what effect the crisis will have on this, but I’m completely sure, if it’s possible to be sure, that we’ll run the 500.”
The fabled race on the 2.5-mile (4-km) oval at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is scheduled for May 24.
“Our objective is to stay the course, for now, and to see if it’s possible to do it as scheduled mid-may,” Miles said. “If that’s not possible we’ll find another date. But that’s a decision we’ll come to when it’s clear what the future looks like.”
IndyCar, like sports around the globe, is in limbo as authorities limit large gatherings in hopes of slowing the spread of the potentially dangerous coronavirus.
The first four races of the scheduled 17-race season were called off, and Miles said organizers of two of them have indicated they don’t want to reschedule.
The first race on the schedule now is the May 9 GMR Grand Prix on the street course at Indianapolis.
Miles said he didn’t yet know if two other early season races would be rescheduled.
“It’s just too early to know what’s possible,” he said, but didn’t rule out the possibility that IndyCar could still fit 17 races into the season.
“For example, some people suggested we can do a doubleheader, we can run twice in the same weekend as we do in Detroit,” he said.
He said the fact that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is now owned by famed US team owner Roger Penske might make organizing a doubleheader there easier.
“No one really knows when the conditions will return to the point where we will do racing or sports again,” Miles said. “Everyone is making contingency plans. And you’re just talking about sports.
“What’s possible depends on when normal life can resume.”
Miles said he hadn’t heard of anyone in IndyCar, either drivers or other team personnel or series staff, testing positive for COVID-19, noting that with racing suspended, people are scattered.
Should someone in the IndyCar family be diagnosed, he said, it would be handled “on a case-by-case basis until it’s time to go racing.”
And when it is time to resume, he said, he didn’t anticipate racing without fans in the stands.
“I can’t say it’s impossible,” Miles said. “I think we have to wait until we have proper races. Just to have a race, we probably have to have 2,000 people just to make it possible without fans.”