It’s race week in Indianapolis. Normally, we’d be giddy with joy at the sight of the calendar being race week here. Instead, it’s just blah. In fact, it’s down right sickening that it’s race week in Indianapolis. Instead of the historic doubleheader weekend being met with excitement, it’s being met with hesitance.
I honestly don’t think I can stomach watching any races this weekend not being there. To me, this weekend at Indy is like the old expression if a tree falls in the wood and no one is around, does it make any noise?
If a race car is at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and no one is there to witness it, should it even count?
I get the race is on the track that’s 2.5-miles in length this weekend for NASCAR and 2.439-miles for IndyCar and the Xfinity Series drivers and teams. But, does it really matter? Fans are what drives this track. It’s what makes Indy stand out above everywhere else on the schedule.
I can watch any other race weekend from my home. I can cover any other race and not be there during a pandemic because it’s honestly easier. I don’t feel like I’m missing out. That’s because no other track around the world means more than Indy. That goes for not just me, but the other fans, the media, the drivers and the teams. It’s not the same without fans at Indy.
It’s the largest facility in the world for sporting events. There’s over 225k permanent grandstand seating and none of it will be used.
“That will be awkward,” said Matt DiBenedetto. “It’s definitely awkward, especially going to the Brickyard 400 that weekend, which is one of the coolest and one of the coolest places we go, period. It’s definitely awkward. People have asked if I’ve gotten used to it and I don’t think we’ll ever get used to it.”
Erik Jones agrees saying that winning at Indy would be nice, but an old tradition won’t likely happen after either.
“Winning at Indy is a pretty cool thing,” Jones said. “Definitely would be weird. Obviously the Brickyard, kissing the bricks with the team, don’t think that’s probably going to happen this year for the winner. It’s a pretty cool thing, something that’s always really special. The Victory Lane there and celebration is really special with your team, with the fans as well.
“That’s going to be a unique one. Any marquee race you win, you don’t have the fans there, I think stings a little bit more than a normal race weekend here at Pocono. Obviously we miss the fans. Those marquee races you miss traditions, celebrating with the fans and the team the things you look forward to as a race winner.”
His teammate Denny Hamlin says that no matter if fans are there or not, he will be excited to win at Indy, but it definitely will feel different this weekend being here.
“I mean, certainly the crown jewel events are different,” said the three-time Daytona 500 winner. “The Coke 600 was different. I don’t know, they just all feel different without fans. Certainly would like to see them back sooner than later.
“I know we have some issues going on in our country that we have to address. We’re also in the entertainment industry and business, we’re trying to entertain the fans at home right now. I think we’re doing a great job with the protocol we have right now here at the racetrack. We’re able to continue to do what we love and put on a great show.
“Unfortunately it stinks for us because it’s not as much glamour around it. There’s a bigger picture to it.”
Kurt Busch said that he’s hurt for the fans to have to miss out on witnessing a marquee event on the schedule.
“It’s a big marquee race,” said the Ganassi driver. “It’s our Brickyard 400. But unfortunately, we don’t have our race fans. That’s what I still think about first, each time we’re heading to the race track. And, with a special weekend like this with INDYCAR and Xfinity on the road course on Saturday, and then the Cup race on Sunday on the oval, Roger Penske is the only one that could have made INDYCAR and NASCAR happen on the same weekend.
“And Big Machine is there with their sponsorship and I know they would put on a great concert and the whole atmosphere around Indy, it was set-up to be fan-based and to have that extra entertainment value. So, it’s something we’ll miss. But I’m focused-in on Sunday’s race.
“I’m just going to fly in day-of. I would have really liked to have enjoyed seeing the IndyCars and Xfinity on track, but it’s time to stay in the bubble and stay isolated.”