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Indy 500 rescheduled to Aug. 23; GP becomes NASCAR doubleheader

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IndyCar unveiled a revised 2020 schedule Thursday, moving the 104th Indianapolis 500 to Aug. 23 and out of May for the first time.

The GMR Grand Prix, which had been slated for May 9, moves to Saturday, July 4 as a doubleheader with the NASCAR Xfinity Series race the day before the Brickyard 400 on July 5.

The Indy 500 will be broadcast on NBC for the second consecutive year.

“The Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is my favorite time of year, and like our fans, I am disappointed that we have had to reschedule the Indianapolis 500,” track owner Roger Penske said in a release. “However, the health and safety of our event participants and spectators is our top priority, and we believe that postponing the event is the responsible decision with the conditions and restrictions we are facing.

“We will continue to focus on ways we can enhance the customer experience in the months ahead, and I’m confident we will welcome fans with a transformed facility and a global spectacle when we run the world’s greatest race.”

Under the updated Indy 500 schedule, the track will open with practice sessions Aug. 12-13, followed by Fast Friday on Aug. 14. Indy 500 qualifying is Aug. 15-16 with each full day of qualifications televised on NBC.

Thursday, Aug. 20 will feature Indy Lights practice and qualifying and pit-stop practice. The Indy Lights Freedom 100 and the final Indy 500 practice will take place Friday, Aug. 21 on Miller Lite Carb Day.

The full broadcast schedule will be released soon.

The IndyCar races scheduled for Aug. 16 and Aug. 22 have been rescheduled. The race at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course has been moved a week earlier to Aug. 9, and the World Wide Technology Raceway event has moved back to Aug. 30.

In moving the GMR Grand Prix from May 9 to July 4, IndyCar and NASCAR will stage a long-discussed doubleheader weekend for the first time. The NASCAR Xfinity race at IMS, which will precede the IndyCar race on July 4, already had been moved to the road course.

After the IndyCar and Xfinity races, both of which are on NBC, occur on the road course, IMS will be switched over to its oval configuration for the Brickyard 400

“For very good reason, this historic pairing will be circled on the calendar of every motorsports fan,” Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles said in a release. “We appreciate our friends at NASCAR for their flexibility and support in this matter and will work with them on a memorable, exciting weekend of racing action.”

The Indy 500 joins a long list of major-league events that already have been postponed because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

The Summer Olympics (which have been delayed until 2021), Kentucky Derby (postponed until Sept. 5) and The Masters (which are delayed indefinitely) also have had their traditional dates put on hold as the world wrestles with an outbreak that has infected more than 500,000 and killed more than 20,000 (including the United States recently passing a death toll of 1,000).

Formula One also recently announced a postponement of starting its schedule until mid-June. NASCAR remains the only major racing series that is committed to racing in May.

In a March 16 statement, Indianapolis Motor Speedway had said it was aware of the CDC guidelines that crowds larger than 50 be limited through mid-May. The track said it was planning for all contingencies but also would be prepared to run its events in May.

The original schedule called for the track opening in earnest with the first week of May with the GMR Grand Prix scheduled Saturday, May 9 on its road course.

IndyCar had announced March 13 that its first four races of the season would be canceled or postponed because of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Here’s the full release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway on the postponement of the 104th Indy 500:

The Indianapolis 500 Presented by Gainbridge has been rescheduled for Sunday, Aug. 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, officials from INDYCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) announced today. The 104th edition of “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” will air live on NBC, with the official green flag time to be announced at a later date.

The GMR Grand Prix will transition to Saturday, July 4 on the IMS road course as part of a historic double-header featuring the NTT INDYCAR SERIES and NASCAR. This first-of-its-kind racing event also will be televised by NBC on Independence Day.The Indianapolis 500 was originally scheduled for Sunday, May 24, in its traditional spot on the calendar during Memorial Day weekend. The GMR Grand Prix was scheduled to be run on Saturday, May 9.
“The Month of May at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is my favorite time of year, and like our fans, I am disappointed that we have had to reschedule the Indianapolis 500,” Roger Penske said. “However, the health and safety of our event participants and spectators is our top priority, and we believe that postponing the event is the responsible decision with the conditions and restrictions we are facing. We will continue to focus on ways we can enhance the customer experience in the months ahead, and I’m confident we will welcome fans with a transformed facility and a global spectacle when we run the world’s greatest race.”

“Memorial Day weekend has always provided Indianapolis 500 fans an opportunity to honor the men and women who have fought and sacrificed for our nation’s freedom,” Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles said. “This August, we’ll also have a unique and powerful opportunity to honor the contributions and heroism of the doctors, nurses, first responders and National Guard members serving on the front lines of the fight against COVID-19. We’re grateful for the patience of our fans as we’ve navigated this situation, and we extend our thanks to NBC for its terrific partnership and diligent work to maximize broadcast coverage with this new schedule.”

On-track action in August will begin at IMS with practice sessions on Wednesday and Thursday, Aug. 12-13, followed by Fast Friday on Aug. 14 and Indianapolis 500 Qualifications on Saturday and Sunday Aug. 15-16. Each day of qualifications will be televised on NBC, providing more network coverage of qualifications for fans than in 2019.

A full broadcast schedule will be released soon.

The following week’s schedule will begin with hot pit-stop practice sessions on Thursday, Aug. 20 and include Indy Lights practice and qualifying. The Indy Lights Freedom 100 race, a significantly expanded Indy 500 Pit Stop Challenge and final Indianapolis 500 practice will take place on Friday, Aug. 21 as part of Miller Lite Carb Day, followed by the public drivers’ meeting and full-field autograph session on Saturday, Aug. 22 as part of Legends Day presented by Firestone.

As a result of the schedule changes at IMS, the INDYCAR races scheduled for Aug. 16 and Aug. 22 have been rescheduled. The Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio is now scheduled for Aug. 9, and the Bommarito Automotive Group 500 at World Wide Technology Raceway at Gateway is now scheduled for Aug. 30. An updated 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES calendar is available at this link and can also be found at the bottom of this release.

GMR Grand Prix Makes Historic Move

The GMR Grand Prix will take the green flag Saturday, July 4, before the first NASCAR Xfinity Series race on the IMS road course – the Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard. The unique holiday racing lineup will mark the first time that the NTT INDYCAR SERIES will compete at the same track on the same weekend as both the NASCAR Cup Series and NASCAR Xfinity Series.

Immediately following the live telecast of the GMR Grand Prix on July 4, NBC will air the first NASCAR race on the IMS road course with the Xfinity Series cars in action at the Pennzoil 150 at the Brickyard.

“For very good reason, this historic pairing will be circled on the calendar of every motorsports fan,” Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles said. “We appreciate our friends at NASCAR for their flexibility and support in this matter and will work with them on a memorable, exciting weekend of racing action.”

Tickets already purchased for the Indianapolis 500, GMR Grand Prix and associated on-track days such as Miller Lite Carb Day and Crown Royal Armed Forces Qualifying Weekend will be valid on the rescheduled dates. Individuals already in possession of those tickets should use them for entry. To learn more about the adjusted on-track schedule, review customer FAQ’s and submit questions, fans can visit www.ims.com/COVID19.

Important Indy 500 Race Weekend Concert Update

All concerts scheduled for the original Race Weekend in May have been canceled. This includes REO Speedwagon and Styx on Friday, May 22, Luke Bryan on Saturday, May 23 and Martin Garrix on Sunday, May 24.

This decision was made to provide the maximum flexibility possible to complete the Indianapolis 500 by Sunday, Aug. 23 and provide room for any contingency plans necessary. IMS appreciates the understanding of fans and regrets that the COVID-19 situation has caused the cancellation of these events.

Fans who made concert-specific purchases will be able to access a credit for any IMS event, including the Indy 500, or choose to receive a refund. IMS concert customers will receive further communication on how to exercise their ticketing options.

Enhanced Health and Safety Measures at IMS

IMS and INDYCAR officials will continue to work closely with local, state and federal health representatives to ensure a safe and healthy experience for spectators. Enhanced measures that will be in place once activity resumes at IMS include:

  • Increasing housekeeping staff at the track to elevate frequency of cleaning and disinfecting high-touch surfaces
  • Using cleaning products that meet current EPA and CDC guidelines for registered disinfectants to be used against COVID-19
  • Educating all employees on CDC prevention guidance, including proper handwashing technique and requesting that all vendors communicate strict hygiene protocol to staff
  • Increasing public hand-sanitizing stations in high-traffic areas, containing sanitizer that meets or exceeds the CDC standard for alcohol content
  • Reducing required hand-to-hand interactions between customers and staff at concession areas and other key IMS locations

April 9 in Motorsports History: Al Unser Jr. gets sixth Long Beach win

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The list of winners in the Grand Prix of Long Beach is a ‘who’s who’ of open-wheel racing.

Mario Andretti won at the famed street course four times. His son Michael won there twice.

Paul Tracy is also a four-time winner at the beach. Alex Zanardi, Juan Pablo Montoya, Sebastien Bourdais, and Alexander Rossi also have won at the famed course multiple times.

But there is only one “King of the Beach”: Al Unser Jr.

The winningest driver in the race’s history, Unser won at Long Beach four consecutive times from 1988-91. He won again in 1994 and entered the 1995 edition as the race’s defending champion and the defending CART champion as well.

Starting fourth, Unser made slight contact with Gil de Ferran when he passed the Brazilian on Lap 3. He then continued to move up to the front, taking the race lead from Teo Fabi on Lap 30.

Once he had the lead, Unser ran away from the field, winning by more than 23 seconds over Scott Pruett.

Unser’s victory was such a familiar scene that after the race, CART news manager John Procida began the winner’s news conference with the following statement: “Well, we have a very familiar face on the top rung of the podium. As we listed on the prerace press release, this seems to be the Al Unser Invitational.”

Indeed it was. Unser’s victory was his sixth at Long Beach, and the 28th of his career. overall. While it would be his last win there, Unser continued to race at Long Beach through 1998 before missing 1999 with a broken leg and moving to the Indy Racing Leauge in 2000.

In 2009, Unser was inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame, which honors significant contributors to the race and California motorsports community.

“It truly is just an honor to be mentioned with the names and the legends that have already been put into the sidewalk,” Unser said during the induction ceremony. “To have Brian (Redman, the inaugural winner of the race) and Parnelli (Jones) is really an honor and just to be in their company is very, very special.”

Also on this date:

1971: Jacques Villeneuve was born in Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Canada. The second-generation driver was one of the best in open-wheel racing during the 1990s, winning the Indianapolis 500 and CART championship in ’95 and becoming a Formula One champion two years later.

1989: Rick Mears dominated CART’s Checker Autoworks 200 at Phoenix International Raceway, leading every lap from the pole and lapping the field.

2011: Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas won the Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park, their sixth consecutive victory in Grand Am competition. Their lengthy win streak, which started on Aug. 7, 2010 at Watkins Glen, prompted Grand Am to offer a $25,000 bounty for any Daytona Prototype team that could beat the dominant duo. The Action Express trio of Joao Barbosa, J.C. France, and Terry Borcheller finally unseated Pruett and Rojas in the series’ next round at Virginia International Raceway.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter @michaele1994