IndyCar doesn’t expect coronavirus to affect schedule

David Malsher-Lopez

Miles said he also currently doesn’t foresee any rounds being forced to run behind closed doors – i.e. without spectators – as per Formula 1’s second round, the Bahrain Grand Prix.

Ahead of next weekend’s Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Miles told Motorsport.com: “At this point our expectation is that all of our events will go ahead as originally scheduled and as planned – to include fans on site.

“St Pete is working closely with their local public and public health officials. They are implementing a number of procedures and expiration precautions to reduce any risks for fans and participants.”

While races on closed courses such as ovals and road circuits would be relatively easy – albeit financially painful – to either postpone, or run on schedule but without spectators, it would be a different matter for street course rounds (St. Petersburg, Long Beach, Detroit’s two races and Toronto).

Should local or state regulations stipulate postponement of large crowd gatherings due to coronavirus, there would be greater threat of cancelation of the event altogether. It would be difficult for a race organizer to disrupt traffic and businesses at a time when they were not expecting and/or then forbid spectators to attend.

The Grand Prix Association of Long Beach president and CEO Jim Michaelian told Motorsport.com last weekend that GPALB is “monitoring the situation and working with the Long Beach Department of Health and Human Services, Los Angeles County Department of Public Health as well as the Centers for Disease Control to ensure the health, safety and well-being of our attendees".

However, on Sunday organizers of the BNP Paribas Open tennis tournament at Indian Wells in California canceled this year's event as a result of Riverside County Public Health Dept. declaring a state of emergency.

The fourth race of the IndyCar season, at Circuit of The Americas (COTA), appeared to be a likely candidate as the first IndyCar race to be held with fans unable to gain entrance when the city of Austin pulled the plug on the SXSW media and music festival last Friday.

However, the PGA Tour Match Play round due to be held in Austin in three weeks’ time is set to go ahead with “established protocols to promote the health and safety of our fans and constituents”.

The first race of the IndyCar season has Firestone as its title sponsor, while the Indy Grand Prix of Alabama’s title sponsor is Honda, the Grand Prix of Long Beach since last year has been backed by Acura, while AutoNation is backing the COTA race.

The Grand Prix of Indianapolis is sponsored by GMR [Global Medical Response] while the Indy 500 is ‘presented by Gainbridge’, an online annuity and life insurance agency.

Miles told Motorsport.com: “Thus far we are in very frequent contact with all our promoters with events thru May and all expect that their events will not be significantly impacted.”