GREG MORRIS: Indy 500 still a go for Aug. 23, but …

It’s August in Indianapolis and that means the 104th running of the Indy 500 will take place on Aug. 23. You can watch the race live on WTHR-TV Channel 13 and/or listen to it on WIBC-FM 93.1. Despite all the challenges, I have no doubt the IMS team will again present the greatest race in motorsports, and it will be worthy of your attention and support.

Of course, watching on TV or listening on the radio are your only options. As everyone surely knows by now, no fans will be allowed at the track. It’s a darn shame. While this wouldn’t have been the full-blown event we’re used to—with only 25% fan capacity, as had been the plan—I thought running the race with any reasonable number of fans would be a tremendously positive step in the right direction.

The Aug. 4 “no fans” announcement was heartbreaking to all the IMS staff, race fans who were willing to attend the live event, and the entire hospitality ecosystem that depends on this single event to provide money to sustain their businesses and themselves. The lost wages and local economic impact are hard to calculate, but they have to be in the tens of millions of dollars.

This is not a criticism of the decision. It’s not unexpected, and I don’t think IMS leaders had any other choice. Knowing them, I’m confident they did everything possible to make fans in the stands a reality. In fact, the night before the announcement, crews were working late into the night to continue to make improvements for the fans who would be arriving soon.

I can’t begin to imagine how many hours were spent creating and preparing to implement the master plan to protect race fans from coronavirus concerns and readying such a massive facility. I’d venture to say thousands of hours. IMS teams were bound and determined to run the race with fans in the stands. To make the call at the 11th hour to run it without fans had to be devastating.

I do want to give a big shout-out to Roger Penske, Mark Miles, Doug Boles, Allison Melangton and all those involved for having the courage to try. I really liked their chances of pulling it off and applaud the effort.

So, why did IMS pull the plug so late in the game? Of course, the primary concern was always first and foremost the safety of fans. There were frequent conversations in the past few weeks and particularly in the last few days with Gov. Holcomb and staff and Mayor Hogsett and staff about metrics and looking at the trends of the coronavirus breakout. And the numbers continued to head in the wrong direction.

However, when I looked at the master plan with all the preparation, procedures and safety protocols put in place for fan safety, which included having your temperature checked on your way into the track, seating arrangements focused on social distancing in this massive facility, wearing a mask at all times, including outside, and a seemingly endless list of other precautions, I believe this would have been the safest place to be in the city that day.

But, here we are. All on-track activity, including practice, qualifications and race day, is closed to the general public. But please break out your race gear and party attitude and enjoy this year’s Indy 500. Next May, things should be back on track for a return to what we know as the greatest spectacle in racing—live and in person!

To the entire IMS staff—hang in there and thanks for all the extra effort. Race fans everywhere appreciate you.•

__________

Morris is publisher of IBJ. His column appears every other week. To comment on this column, send email to gmorris@ibj.com.

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3 thoughts on “GREG MORRIS: Indy 500 still a go for Aug. 23, but …

  1. The lack luster leadership of Indiana and Indianapolis forced Rogers hand. There is no better place in the world to hold a social distance event than one of the largest venues in the world, especially for 25% capacity. Bottom line is, for the series to survive, Racing Fans Matter. Even if it is only 80,000. Anyone down with painting Racing Fans Matter on the roundabout. or maybe we can 20,000 together paint RFM on stuff, throw smoke bombs and fire crackers and cut the fence and go in a see the race, Hogsett could tacitly be complicit. And no masks would be required because domestic terrorism is exempt from the spread of C-19. Obviously I am beyond PO’d.

    1. Spot on, Steve R. I enjoyed this thoughtfully written article as opposed to what the Star’s columnist wrote. He declared that “Roger Penske and his pals” are greedy, so wanted fans at the race. This is so utterly ridiculous and embarrassing to see on the front page. Greg Morris has expressed the sentiments that most of us feel. We are so glad to have Roger Penske at the IMS. What a wonderful presence! A nod to Mark, Doug, and Allison, too. They are a great team, and Hogsett continues the ruination of Indpls. – a blue stain on the city. My husband and I planned to attend Carb Day and the race. The place is enormous, and we felt no qualms whatsoever. Every precaution would have been taken. Obviously, the political pressure was great, and eventually fans were eliminated. I am very grateful for the leadership of the track and all of their planning to make this race happen with fans. BTW, if you haven’t been to the museum lately, cars from the vault have been brought up. And, with fewer people, you get to talk to the people who work there. They have a tremendous amount of information to share, and one doesn’t usually get to talk one-on-one with them. We will return to experience this again.

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