Reports: Texas says it won’t run IndyCar opener without fans

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Texas Motor Speedway is slated to open the NTT IndyCar Series’ revised 2020 season on Saturday, June 6, but the race apparently is in jeopardy if fans can’t attend.

Track president Eddie Gossage told multiple media outlets that the track would refrain from playing host to the IndyCar opener without a crowd.

“At some point we have to make a decision, but it’s not time yet,” Gossage told the Fort Worth Star-Telegram’s Drew Davison in a story posted Thursday. “We wouldn’t consider running Indy cars without fans in the stands.”

Gossage told Motorsport.com’s David Malsher-Lopez in a Wednesday post that the track was “anticipating the race as planned … but we wouldn’t have any interest in holding an event without fans in attendance.

“The reason it is a consideration for NASCAR promoters is that the promoter receives 65 percent of the sizable TV rights fee. In IndyCar, the promoter does not receive any television rights fees. That is a basic issue that causes IndyCar, even in its best days, to not be nearly as desirable to a promoter and why you will always see a turnover in the events and schedule for IndyCar.”

IndyCar officials had no comment on the reports or whether the series had discussed holding races without fans. There have been three revisions to its 2020 schedule (the most recent coming Monday) since the onset of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic

NASCAR has yet to announce a revised schedule for 2020, but president Steve Phelps said racing without fans would be considered upon its return. “Would we consider racing without fans at some point to get back racing more quickly? That’s in the consideration set,” Phelps told reporters March 17. “We’ll work with our health officials and we’re working with a number of infectious disease professionals that are going to help us through what that looks like and whether it makes sense to race without fans or have our first race be back with fans.”

During Tuesday’s “Lunch Talk Live” on NBCSN, three-time Daytona 500 winner Denny Hamlin told host Mike Tirico that he thought NASCAR likely would return without fans, possibly as early as the Coca-Cola 600 weekend on May 24.

“Generally speaking, I think we would be one of the earliest sports back because there’s no contact within our sport,” Hamlin said. “Going back without fans, I think it’s probably going to be part of the realistic future in my opinion.”

Before the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was postponed, IndyCar originally had intended to run the March 15 season opener without fans. NASCAR also had planned to run races at Atlanta Motor Speedway and Homestead-Miami Speedway with empty grandstands before postponing the events.

Simon Pagenaud’s engineer relives 2019 Indy 500 victory on Twitter

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The Team Penske engineer for last year’s Indianapolis 500 winner is reliving Simon Pagenaud’s day by tweeting about what he was doing each moment a year later.

Starting with an observation that he awoke in his Indianapolis hotel room at 4:30 a.m., Ben Bretzman (@benbretzman) sent nearly two dozen tweets by 11 a.m. ET about how the morning before the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 unfolded.

Bretzman was through the infield tunnel and in Gasoline Alley by 6 a.m. By 7:30 a.m., he was wondering if his driver was awake yet, but he had heard for the first time from Pagenaud 45 minutes later.

‘BACK HOME AGAIN’Sunday at 2 p.m. ET, NBC

FIERCE FRIENDSHIPPagenaud, Rossi recall epic battle of 2019 Indy 500

Among other highlights: The team’s last strategy meeting was at 8:30 a.m.; final check of the weather was at 9:30 a.m. and Bretzman gave the No. 22 Dallara-Chevrolet a once-over at 10:35 a.m. before it was pushed to the grid.

Follow @BenBretzman to watch the day unfold from the pit box and tune into “Back Home Again at 2 p.m. ET on NBC as Pageanud and Alexander Rossi, who are good friends off the track, recap their epic duel with host Mike Tirico.

Simon Pagenaud and engineer Ben Bretzman debrief at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IndyCar photo by Joe Skibinski).