Indianapolis Motor Speedway updates status of the Indy 500

When is Indy 500
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Indianapolis Motor Speedway has addressed the Centers for Disease Control’s March 15 recommendation that crowds larger than 50 be limited for eight weeks.

In a statement early Monday morning, the track said it’s aware of the CDC guideline and is planning for all contingencies but also will be prepared to run its events in May.

The track opens in earnest with the first week of May with the GMR Grand Prix scheduled Saturday, May 9 on its road course.

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IMS then switches over to the oval the next week for Indianapolis 500 qualifying on May 16-17 and the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 24.

IndyCar announced last week that its first four races of the season would be canceled or postponed because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

In comments to the Associated Press’ Jenna Fryer this week, track owner Roger Penske said he was “working on many options” for the race.

The Indianapolis Business Journal reported earlier this week that contingency plans had been considered for postponing the race to the summer of fall if the outbreak has yet to subside. The IBJ estimated the race has an economic impact of more than $200 million on the region, which would rule out any cancellation.

IndyCar was to have raced April 26 in Austin, Texas, at the Circuit of the Americas, which has laid off staff and moved to a status of “limited use” because of the outbreak.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway has a grandstand capacity of more than 250,000 and regularly draws a sellout crowd of 300,000 to the Indy 500. Last month, Penske (who bought IMS in January) told NASCAR on NBC analyst Kyle Petty that 78% of its grandstand tickets and all of it suites had been sold for the Indy 500.

Here’s the statement Monday from IMS:

“We are aware of the CDC’s interim guidance suggesting the postponement of events involving more than 50 people over the next eight weeks. 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.

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

Robert Wickens in the Indy 500? Bryan Herta making plans to field a car for next year

Robert Wickens Indy 500
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DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. — Bryan Herta wants to enter Robert Wickens in the Indy 500 as early as 2024 – a year longer than preferred as work continues on the hand controls needed for the paralyzed driver.

Wickens suffered a spinal cord injury in a crash at Pocono Raceway in his 2018 IndyCar rookie season. He’s worked as a driver coach for the Arrow McLaren IndyCar team since, but last year with Bryan Herta Autosport and Hyundai returned to racing in the IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge.

The 33-year-old Canadian won a pair of races (including the season opener at Daytona) driving a Hyundai Elantra N-TCR that is fitted for Wickens to race strictly through hand controls. Herta said Thursday that perfecting that technology for an Indy car in the biggest race in the world has slowed the project he’s determined to do with Wickens.

‘I’M AS HUNGRY AS EVER’: Robert Wickens’ return to racing

“I’d love to take Robbie back to Indy because I know he could do that, and I think that would be a next step for him in his journey,” Herta told The Associated Press. “We’ve spent a lot of time looking at the logistical side of things, hand controls, and I think we have solutions for that.”

Herta said Honda has been supportive of the process, which Herta called “one of the most important things we’ve done in racing” last year.

“We actually looked at doing it this year, but the logistics of it, the timing, it just wasn’t enough,” Herta said. “That’s not something you can rush. There’s some things that we have to work very closely with IndyCar on, and things we just have to get right. It’s a process, but I can see a path to it.”

Wickens, when told his boss was openly discussing the Indy 500, grinned widely. Herta as a team owner won the Indianapolis 500 with Dan Wheldon and Alexander Rossi.

“That’d be fun,” he said of running the Indy 500.

But like Herta, Wickens said the effort has to be both done correctly and be competitive.

“We’d like to do it right. If we started right now, can we get a car ready for the open test in April? Probably,” Wickens told The AP. “But I don’t know where the systems would be and I want to get on proper simulators to make sure its correct.

“We all want to do a proper, professional effort,” he added. “I don’t want to do it for a marketing campaign. I want to do it for a chance to win.”

Wickens in 2021 did a demonstration in Canada that marketed advancements for paralyzed drivers and gave him a chance to again drive. His entire life had been upended 14 races into his rookie IndyCar season, just three months after winning top rookie honors at the Indianapolis 500.

Wickens has since married, returned to racing last year and welcomed the birth of his first child, an son named Wesley whom is infatuated with both race cars and the trip to Disney he took this week during the off days at Daytona International Speedway.

Wickens, who uses a wheelchair but can stand with some support, marks a full year back racing on Friday in the season-opening IMSA Michelin Pilot Challenge race. Despite success last season, Herta made changes to his lineups and Wickens this year will be teamed with Harry Gottsacker.