INDYCAR has elected to suspend all competition for all of its series, the NTT IndyCar Series and the Road to Indy Series (Indy Lights, Indy Pro and USF2000) until the month of May due to the continuing spread of COVID-19.
The site of all May competitions has its own ideas. “Our priority,” the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s comment said, “is to do our part in protecting the public health while still conducting the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge as scheduled on Sunday, May 24.” Because the situation remains so fluid, IMS is working with governmental agencies; they are “planning for all contingencies and will be prepared to run the GMR Grand Prix and Indy 500 as the COVID-19 situation permits.”
The IndyCar series announced it would cancel or postpone its first four races: the Firestone Grand Prix of St Petersburg, scheduled for this past weekend, the Honda Grand Prix of Alabama, the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach and the race at Circuit of the Americas (COTA). With currently rising fears of a lack of proper remediation for this virus, it’s possible the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis Motor Speedway could be impacted, making Indy the first race of the year for the NTT IndyCar Series.
That would not be the worst idea in the world; it works well for NASCAR, which hopes to resume its season at Martinsville and, perhaps, reschedule its lost races. The Daytona 500 is their marquee event that starts each season. Maybe, like the World Endurance Championship, this year’s INDYCAR series could start with Indy in May and end with Long Beach, the second-biggest competition of the year after Laguna Seca?
The circuit at Long Beach, which is about three blocks from my home, was about 2/3-built when the race was postponed. While yesterday I watched workers put some cement guardrails in place, today the huge workforce is tearing it all down. That should mean an early-season race is out of the question. Not a bad idea, and whether it’s summer or autumn, the LBC has accommodating weather most any time of the year.
As for the other contests, forget about St. Petersburg; it doesn’t have Long Beach’s history in putting up and tearing down the circuit in as complementary a manner as Dwight Tanaka has managed to do over the years. The city has decreed a definitive time frame for both the setting up and tearing down of walls, bridges, grandstands and fencing; Tanaka’s team adheres to that. There is a yaw in the series’ current schedule that could accommodate both Barber Motorsports Park and COTA, but weather concerns in the August-September area could stymie that (it’s hot, muggy and nearly hurricane season, after all).
INDYCAR will survive this pandemic, hopefully, if it’s smart in its future planning. And based on prior movements, that’s a big question mark.