What’s IndyCar’s Plan Now?

INDIANAPOLIS — The last couple of Thursday’s for NASCAR has gone to perfection. Last week, the state of North Carolina deemed them an “essential” business and allowed them to get back to work. The entire month of April, they were on the “non essential” list and with the stay-at-home order getting extended last week for the state through early May, NASCAR wouldn’t be able to get restarted again until they could get into their shops.

Well, they got the help that they needed and will return to action in two weeks at the Darlington Raceway. That, plus their immediate schedule was unveiled today (Thursday).

Now that we know their plans, what’s IndyCar’s? We know that their plan is to start their season up on Saturday, June 6 at the Texas Motor Speedway. The state of Texas said that they’re willing to host sporting events again, so the offer is there. But, for the NTT IndyCar Series, it’s not as easy as NASCAR.

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First, while the state of Indiana is reopening our state this weekend (May 1), the city of Indianapolis isn’t. Mayor Joe Hogsett extended the stay-at-home order for the capital city through May 15. Just Thursday alone, there were 669 new coronavirus cases known in Indiana, totaling 17,835 so far. Also, there were an additional 44 new deaths reported taking us over 1,000. He said that the state data shows that Marion County is registering approx. 1-in-3 deaths from COVID-19 in comparison to the rest of the state. Because of that and Marion County being so densely populated, there’s still an increased chance of the coronavirus spreading in our local community.

“It’s clear from talking to state leaders and community stakeholders that the challenges we face here in Indianapolis are unique – a city filled with large venues, densely populated neighborhoods, and active business centers,” Hogsett said in a Thursday morning news release. “To ensure that we see continued progress in our fight against this virus, we must recommit to our social distancing efforts even as we plan for the future. I appreciate Governor Holcomb’s partnership as he and his team continue to address the diverse needs of Hoosier communities.”

Most IndyCar teams are located here in Indianapolis. All but Team Penske, Dale Coyne Racing and Carlin to be exact. The teams here in Indiana can’t work because they’re deemed “non essential” like NASCAR was in North Carolina. Indiana would need to move IndyCar to “essential” if they want to return any time soon. If they have to wait through May 15, does that give them enough time to be ready for the first weekend of June?

Then, how can IndyCar stage a race in Texas without race fans. While Texas has said that they will allow sports to come to the Lonestar State, they also made it clear too that fans can’t attend. IndyCar, will have a very hard time with holding a race without fans in the stands due to them not paying out TV money to race tracks like NASCAR does.

See, NASCAR has an $8.2-billion TV contract and shares that revenue with teams and tracks. IndyCar’s is no where close to that. So much so, the tracks not only don’t receive TV money, they also pay IndyCar a sanctioning fee for them to show up. What incentive do race tracks have to open their doors to IndyCar teams but not to fans? They’d be in the red instantly with no way of getting out of it.

That’s why an IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader was sought out, but NASCAR doesn’t seem willing to leave the southeast quite yet to make it happen. Their plan is to run at least seven races near their base in North Carolina before venturing out to races that they’d need to get there via planes.

So, two races at Darlington (South Carolina) and two more in Charlotte (North Carolina) are on the schedule in May for the Cup Series. Atlanta (Georgia), Bristol (Tennessee) and Martinsville (Virginia) are in talks to start off the month of June, which means a race on June 7 in Fort Worth (Texas), isn’t possible.

So, eliminate the chances of that, which means IndyCar has to get creative. Do they eliminate the sanctioning fee to race? If that’s the case, how does the series and their teams make money?Also, NASCAR isn’t willing to go far to race, why would IndyCar?

That would eliminate Texas from the get go too. Then, you get Road America two weeks later, but how would that track open their doors to the series without fans? Richmond (Virginia) in late June would make a ton of sense if IndyCar wanted to travel a distance and share a track with NASCAR because that race track is close enough to North Carolina for them to race at and they need to make up a spring race lost from the .75-mile track.

That then takes us to the Fourth of July weekend at Indy for the AMR Grand Prix at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Unless IndyCar is wanting to make a fourth change to the schedule, July may be their best chance of a start too, but even that may be behind closed doors.

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