IndyCar determined to save Indy 500 from coronavirus

Simon Pagenaud wins the 2019 Indianapolis 500
© IndyCar Media

The organisers of the NTT IndyCar Series have pledged to do whatever it takes to ensure that the 104th Indianapolis 500 is run on schedule in May, despite the disruption caused by the coronavirus global pandemic.

The US open wheel series was forced to call off last weekend's season opener at St Petersburg as a precaution, and has also cancelled the next races due to be held in March and April.

That means the first race of a truncated 2020 calendar is currently listed as the GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis on May 9. It's held on the infield track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a circuit adapted from from the former F1 Grand Prix layout.

Immediately after that race, the teams are planning to begin ten consecutive days of intensive practice and qualifying for the Indy 500 which is still scheduled to go ahead on May 26, which is the Memorial Day public holiday weekend in the US.

It's also the same date that F1 holds its crown jewel Monaco Grand Prix in Europe, but that race is also looking increasingly in peril.

With the US adopting increasingly severe restrictions on large public gatherings, the Month of May timetable is clearly at risk. Up to a quarter of a million spectators pack into the IMS grandstands for the event every year.

The official advice is to postpone such gatherings for eight weeks, which would curtail racing until at least May 11. Even so, IndyCar currently remains optimistic that its biggest show of the year will still go ahead as planned.

“We are aware of the CDC’s interim guidance suggesting the postponement of events involving more than 50 people over the next eight weeks," a statement from the series management said on Tuesday.

©Price/XPB Images

“Our priority is to do our part in protecting the public health while still conducting the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge as scheduled on May 24," the statement continued.

“This continues to be a dynamic situation which we are monitoring constantly in coordination with federal, state, local and public health officials," it added.

"We 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 NASCAR series has also responded to the latest lockdown restrictions by curtailing racing until at least May 3, which would be earlier than the current eight week hiatus would suggest.

"Our hope and plan is to return to Martinsville Speedway and we intend to hold all races this season, with future scheduling to be determined," NASCAR managers said in an email announcement distributed ot fans on Wednesday.

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