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IndyCar, ARCA will race before limited crowds July 17-18 at Iowa Speedway

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The NTT IndyCar Series weekend doubleheader July 17-18 at Iowa Speedway will be held before limited crowds.

The series announced in a release Thursday that its twin 250-mile races and the ARCA race at Iowa will have a limited number of tickets available.

According to series and track officials, the maximum estimated crowd for both nights at the 0.875-mile oval would be between 5,000 to 6,000 people with proper social distancing.

Under health and safety protocols established with public officials, all fans will undergo temperature checks before entering parking areas. Groups of fans in attendance will be separated by at least 6 feet in the grandstands. Only essential racing personnel will have access to the infield.

According to guidelines provided on the Iowa Speedway website, fans will be provided complimentary masks upon entry. The track said “it is strongly encouraged for all guests to wear an appropriate face covering, but fans will not be required to wear one during the race weekend.”

Tickets will go on sale June 26 after existing ticketholders for the races have been assigned spots.

The IndyCar Series opened its season June 6 without fans at Texas Motor Speedway, and it will race without fans at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in a July 4 doubleheader with the NASCAR Xfinity Series.

IndyCar’s July 11-12 doubleheader at Road America, which is the third track on the schedule, has yet to announce its policy.

Several racetracks gradually have begun to open their grandstands in the past two weeks. IMSA announced Tuesday that its July 4 race at Daytona International Speedway will have a crowd of up to 5,000.

Homestead-Miami Speedway played host to a crowd of 1,000 military personnel, first responders and their families for its June 14 races, and 5,000 fans will be allowed Sunday at Talladega Superspeedway.

Bristol Motor Speedway announced Monday night that it would have up to 30,000 for the All-Star Race on July 15.

Here’s the release from IndyCar on Iowa Speedway:

INDIANAPOLIS (June 18, 2020) – INDYCAR will welcome fans to Iowa Speedway for the upcoming July 17-18 race weekend featuring the NTT INDYCAR SERIES Iowa 250 races and the ARCA Menards Series race.

Under the guidance of public health officials, medical experts and local, state and federal authorities, INDYCAR and Iowa Speedway will observe safe social distancing and provide enhanced hygiene and safety precautions for all fans in attendance at the event. Only a limited number of tickets will be available for the upcoming race weekend with each group of fans in attendance separated by at least 6 feet of distancing at Iowa Speedway, in order to align with Iowa state COVID-19 guidelines.

All previously purchased tickets for the July 17 and 18 race weekend will be honored by Iowa Speedway, including season tickets. Seating will be reassigned for all existing ticketholders in order to follow safe social distancing guidelines. Ticketholders will be notified about their specific seat locations in the coming days, and tickets will either be emailed or printed and distributed beginning July 1. A limited number of remaining tickets for the race weekend will then go on sale Friday, June 26, and fans will be able to secure their seats online through www.iowaspeedway.com  or by phone at 866-787-8946.

Single-day tickets start as low as $15 for Friday, July 17 and $20 for Saturday, July 18, while all two-day ticket packages include a 10% discount. Tickets to the Iowa Speedway luxury hospitality suites will also be available for purchase, along with weekend camping and parking options. Safe social distancing protocols will also be in place for suite ticketholders and for all of the camping options at Iowa Speedway.

The July race weekend will feature two full points races for the NTT INDYCAR SERIES on back-to-back nights – the Iowa INDYCAR 250s. Friday, July 17 will include the high-powered NTT INDYCAR SERIES cars competing in the first of two 250-mile races under the lights at Iowa Speedway. On Saturday, July 18, ticketholders will enjoy the ARCA Menards Series Shore Lunch 150 in the afternoon, followed by the second Iowa INDYCAR 250 race that evening.

As part of the enhanced health and safety measures for the event weekend, all guests will be screened in their vehicles with contactless temperature checks before entering the parking areas and only essential racing personnel will have access to the infield. Hand sanitizer and face coverings will be distributed to each guest when they enter the track, and enhanced cleaning and sanitizing procedures will be implemented throughout the facility over the course of the weekend.

Additional protocols and guidelines for guests planning to attend can be found at www.iowaspeedway.com, along with pricing and seating options. A limited number of available tickets will be placed on sale beginning at 9 a.m. CT Friday, June 26 through the website or by calling 866-787-8946.

‘His Mona Lisa’: Roger Penske adds his golden touch to iconic Indy

AP Photo/Jenna Fryer
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INDIANAPOLIS — The purists can relax: Roger Penske did not remove troughs from the men’s bathrooms at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

He replaced them, of course, with the shiniest, sleekest basins on the urinal market, thus preserving one of the speedway’s treasured if unusual features while still insisting every inch of the facility be brought up to Penske code. It’s been six months since Penske completed his purchase of the 111-year-old national landmark, a fixer-upper that he already has lavished with some $15 million worth of improvements.

“It’s like you just bought a Ferrari,” said Penske, “but it was rained on.”

Penske gave The Associated Press a two-hour tour of the speedway this week, showing off with dizzying detail the new landscaping, paved lots, planted trees, picnic tables, widened pedestrian paths, hand dryers in every bathroom, improved sight lines, pressure-washed buildings, freshly painted signs and LED monitors everywhere.

There is not a lone pièce de résistance; Penske is equally proud of every change, including a 104-by-20-foot video board on the Pagoda, a lift in the winner’s circle to raise the winning car and, of course. those old-school troughs.

Two days before the speedway opened for a historic NASCAR-IndyCar doubleheader race weekend, the 83-year-old Penske was pushing a car onto the lift as he quadruple-checked its functionality. He went through another dry run of the lift, ensuring it lined up perfectly for postrace celebrations and alerting an employee to some manufacturer stickers he wanted removed lest the public seem anything short of Penske perfect.

“This is his life’s work,” said Chip Ganassi, a longtime rival car owner. “The way he talks about the place, the energy in his voice over every element. This is his Mona Lisa.”

A car drives past the 16th Street entrance to Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which has been refurbished by Roger Penske over the past six months (AP Photo/Darron Cummings).

Penske, for the record, is a billionaire transportation titan with a record 18 Indianapolis 500 victories.

He has powerhouse teams in both NASCAR and IndyCar, but the latter is now even more of a beloved project. When Tony George approached him last September to inform him the Hulman family was looking to sell the famous speedway, Penske pounced on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

The deal was finalized in six weeks and he got the keys – he literally has a set of keys that opens doors inside the speedway – the first week of January. He quickly was climbing through the grandstands in a freezing Indiana rain as he personally inspected his sprawling new property, one of the most famous sports venues in history.

Penske is meticulous and every element of his operations reflects an immaculate and organized culture. When “The Captain” talks about sprucing up the speedway, he often references Augusta National, home of the Masters and a gold standard among golf tournaments in terms of resources, presentation and hospitality.

It is Penske’s expectation that fans will view Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the same level of admiration, awe and respect that Augusta receives.

“It’s my job. I’m not looking for a gold star or a blue ribbon, I just want to be sure the guests, the fans that come, ultimately when they can come, will have the experience that I hope they will,” Penske said. “I want to take Indianapolis Motor Speedway to the next level.”

He envisions three IndyCar races a season, a return of Formula One, a crown jewel sports car race and an improved NASCAR weekend that potentially could see the Cup Series shift to the road course and away from the 2.5-mile oval.


The updated rear facade of the Pagoda at Indianapolis Motor Speedway (AP Photo/Darron Cummings).

The platform above the new Pagoda video board is wide enough to fit 18 Indy cars – or a musical act for a concert in the plaza. The monitor itself could be used for a movie night, and Penske said eventually IndyCar races in other cities will be aired on the screen for watch parties.

He knows off the top of his head that 25,000 linear square feet of fencing – almost two laps around the oval – has been erected on the grounds. Penske said 4,000 cans of paint and counting have been used and can point out areas that have been updated. He marvels at the 400,000 square feet of asphalt that has been paved, particularly in lots once notorious for being muddy messes.

He can spot the new trees on the property and notes that 3 acres of sod were put down. Penske marveled at the immaculate grounds of the Brickyard Crossing golf course on the property, so he put the groundskeeper in charge of the entire place.

They temporarily closed the Crossing so energy could be focused on the rest of the grounds in time for this weekend’s race. Ganassi said as he flew into Indy, the green grass was what most struck him from his aerial view.

The place looks brand new and yet the work won’t stop any time soon.

Penske hopes to host 175,000 fans – half of capacity – for the rescheduled Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23, and he wants them to be wowed. There will be no fans this weekend, and even race teams are highly restricted on where they can go.

Mark Miles, the day-to-day head of the speedway, recalled that Penske executive Tim Cindric said “the place looks 25 years younger,” which Miles said is an understatement.

“It’s not just fresher and younger. There are areas that are just better,” Miles said. “The scale of the improvements, the comprehensiveness of the improvements, is remarkable. But the one thing that is really going to blow people away is the new big board on the back of the Pagoda. The mayor’s office downtown can hear the audio system on that. We’re looking forward to being able to show these things off.”

A new sign at Indianapolis Motor Speedway greets visitors as they enter the north entrance (AP Photo/Darron Cummings).