INDIANAPOLIS — Sunday’s 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 (1 p.m. ET, NBC, INDYCAR Radio Network) will mark the seventh race of the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season. Essentially, if everything goes to plan, this is the halfway point of the year.
But, we still are in 2020 and every plan anyone has is likely made in pencil, not permanent marker.
As of now, INDYCAR has seven races slated between Sunday’s Indy 500 and October’s season finale in St. Pete. Mark Miles,CEO Penske Entertainment Corp, says that as we sit here today, the series is in really a good place compared to where they could be during a pandemic.
“I think we’re in good shape,” Miles said during a leadership conference call with the media on Wednesday. “Again, if you look at every live entertainment, every sports league, music, the rug has been sort of pulled out from under us. The question we face every day is, in an incredibly unpredictable context, how do we navigate our way forward.
“It required us being agile, I think, dealing with a fluid situation, being flexible. When I say ‘us’ I mean INDYCAR, IMS, all our teams, our promoters, broadcasters. Sometimes we talk about thinking about what’s around the next turn. In this case we don’t know where the next turn is let alone what’s around it.
“I think we’ve done really well. Look, after the 500, after this Sunday, we will have had seven INDYCAR races. We have seven yet that are scheduled.”
Next up would be a doubleheader at Gateway next weekend. While recent reports that the St. Louis area could be tightening up again, track officials said earlier this week that the race weekend is still on an unaffected by recent guidelines levied.
“I’m quite optimistic about doing the doubleheader in St. Louis, the weekend following Indianapolis,” Miles continued. “Then we’re hoping we can get back to Mid-Ohio and do a doubleheader. We’ll be here at the Grand Prix and expect to do the doubleheader. We’ll have our finale in St. Petersburg. Indianapolis represents the first seven, then seven yet to go. We’re hopeful of getting all of them in.”
Miles, said that in terms of the TBA dates for the Mid-Ohio doubleheader, he’s hopeful for the second weekend of September.
“Yeah, we’d like to be there I think it’s like the second week of September for a doubleheader,” said Miles of the status of Mid-Ohio. “Like all of these decisions, it’s going to be driven by the situation on the ground in Ohio. It will probably be something that we won’t know until we get closer to the end of August period. The teams are ready to go. We’d like to be there. NBC has saved some time for us. Hopefully we’ll have a doubleheader at Mid-Ohio in mid September.”
Mid-Ohio was initially scheduled for the beginning of this month, but with Ohio tightening up their state, the chances of both races having fans were slim. So, INDYCAR had to make the decision to pull out and wait until they can. That’s why no official announcement other than what Miles said today has been unveiled about the Mid-Ohio weekend, but that situation is fluid since technically the entire month of September is open for the series.
To get to 14 races, Miles said that the doubleheaders have been a key. While many questions have been asked about going to Michigan, Kentucky, Chicago, Kansas or even Milwaukee, Miles said it isn’t that easy.
“Very difficult to stand up a new race in a new place on an unscheduled weekend, much more feasible to add a second race on a weekend at a place where we’d already planned to race,” he said. “That’s helped the promoters who have had the benefit of having a second race added to their program. It’s pretty efficient for all of us, INDYCAR, NBC, and of course the teams. So that’s been really important.
“I think the teams have been remarkably resilient. I think they’re in pretty good shape. I’m sure there will be conversations all of us will have with our sponsors and other partners. Most of those are sort of by informal understanding: Let’s wait till the end of the year and we’ll take stock and have any kind of a true-up that might be appropriate.
“For the most part I think we’re delivering really good value. I think that’s perceived by our partners. We’re certainly making the best of a difficult situation.”
Miles notes that they hope to put out the 2021 schedule by the time this year’s championship concludes or even a little before that if possible. He’s hoping maybe even by the end of next month and that next year’s calendar should look a lot like this one was in terms of the initial slate before the pandemic hit.