Sunoco to sponsor Indy 500 Rookie-of-the-Year award; rookies have milk luncheon

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The number of rookies in this year’s Indianapolis 500 is seven, three more than last year. George Costanza might like the number; so might 7UP if it opted to sponsor the award.

But the sponsor of this year’s Indy 500 Rookie-of-the-Year award for the seven drivers is a classic, in Sunoco. It was named as such by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Wednesday morning.

Sunoco’s history in motorsports dates to the 1960s, and it also serves as the current season-long Rookie-of-the-Year sponsor for the Verizon IndyCar Series. This is a natural extension.

“The Indianapolis 500 Rookie of the Year award has long been one of the most coveted honors that a first year driver in the race can receive and the list of its recipients is a ‘Who’s Who’ among professional racing drivers,” said J. Douglas Boles, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president. “What makes the award exciting is that a driver who might not have had the best of practice or qualifying leading up to the race, could put it all together on race day and make a strong showing when it really counts. We are looking forward to seeing who that Sunoco Rookie of the Year is for the 98th Running of the Indianapolis 500.”

On Tuesday, before they went to Louisville, the six rookies in the field not named Kurt Busch gathered for the 40th annual Fastest Rookie of the Year luncheon presented by the American Dairy Association Indiana.

Busch was the fastest rookie this year at 230.782 and will roll off 12th, but went to New York on Tuesday for his round of media commitments. Still, he appreciated the honor.

“It’s a very prestigious award and to be able post the fastest time was through a bunch of hard work by the Andretti Autosport team,” Busch said, via IndyCar.com. “When you’re a rookie you’re always driving down a road that you’ve never been down before, and my past experience might have helped out just a little bit with my knowing this racetrack.”

The remaining six – Jack Hawksworth (starts 13th), Mikhail Aleshin (15th), Carlos Huertas (21st), James Davison (28th), Martin Plowman (29th) and Sage Karam (31st) – will be seeking to knock Busch off the ROTY perch for the month of May and take home the prestigious award.

It’s always one of the best subplots of the race.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway can have 10,000 fans for IndyCar races

Indianapolis Motor Speedway fans
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway will have crowds for its NTT IndyCar Series race weekend next month, the first time fans are allowed at the track this year.

The track announced Friday that up to 10,000 fans will be allowed in the grandstands daily from Oct. 1-4. The IndyCar Harvest GP race doubleheader will be held on the track’s road course Oct. 2-3.

IMS has played host to several events this year without fans, including the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 and a NASCAR-IndyCar weekend July 4-5 that included the Brickyard 400. Plans originally were made to have fans at the Indy 500 before reversing course a few weeks ahead of the race. In a letter last month, Roger Penske vowed that fans would return for the 2021 Indy 500.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS president Doug Boles said in a release. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

Fans will undergo temperature screenings upon entry and also be required to wear face coverings at all times on property. The track said each attendee will receive a mask and bottle of hand sanitizer.

The Friday, Oct. 2 race will be shown at 3:30 p.m. ET on USA, and NBC will broadcast the Saturday, Oct. 3 race at 2:30 p.m. ET.

Here’s the release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS, Friday, Sept. 18, 2020 – For the first time in 2020, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome fans to the Racing Capital of the World for the INDYCAR Harvest GP presented by GMR weekend. Up to 10,000 spectators can be in the grandstands each day of racing action Oct. 1-4, per approval from the Marion County Public Health Department.

Tickets are available now via IMS.com and will be sold on a first-come, first-served basis.

The massive facility, which holds more than 300,000 people, will provide two spectator zones with up to 5,000 fans in each. The zones will be located in Turns 1 and 4 of the oval, offering strong sightlines of the road course. Strict health and safety rules will be in place, including the following:

  • Face coverings must be worn throughout the property at all times;
  • All fans will receive temperature screenings before gate entry;
  • Grandstand seats will be marked for distancing;
  • Attendees must use pre-assigned gates and remain in their designated zones.

Global Medical Response, the world leader in compassionate, quality emergency medical and patient relocation services, will be the presenting sponsor of the penultimate weekend of INDYCAR racing this season.

“We can’t wait to see fans come through our gates for the first time in 2020,” IMS President J. Douglas Boles said. “They’ll be greeted by a vastly improved facility, featuring significant upgrades to the spectator experience. We’re also extremely grateful to have a presenting sponsor with the expertise and resources of GMR as we look to implement our detailed and comprehensive health and safety plan.”

The plan, which includes each attendee receiving a mask and a bottle of hand sanitizer upon entering the track, was developed in consultation with state and local health officials.

This event weekend is highlighted by an NTT INDYCAR SERIES doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3. It will be the penultimate event of the series’ season as the field pursues the champion’s prestigious Astor Challenge Cup to be awarded Sunday, Oct. 25 at the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

The INDYCAR Harvest GP will pay tribute to a storied IMS event, the Harvest Classic in September 1916. The Harvest Classic was the only racing event held outside of May at IMS from 1911 through 1993. The event featured three races, all won by legendary driver Johnny Aitken.

Fans also will see a host of facility improvements during the event weekend, including more than 30 new LED video boards, refreshed concession stands and restrooms, and 5G wireless connectivity throughout the facility.

The first race will air at 3:30 p.m. (ET) Friday, Oct. 2 on the USA Network. NBC will broadcast the second race at 2:30 p.m. (ET) Saturday, Oct. 3, with WTHR-13 airing the action live in Central Indiana.

Also racing that weekend will be the first pairing of two major sports car series — the Intercontinental GT Challenge Powered by Pirelli and its North American counterpart, GT World Challenge America Powered by AWS. Former Indianapolis 500 pole winner Ryan Briscoe is among the drivers in the Indianapolis 8 Hour event held Sunday, Oct. 4.

The event also will showcase drivers in SRO America’s Pirelli GT4 America, GT Sports Club America and the TC America series.

The full on-track schedule is available at IMS.com.