IndyCar, IMS “absolutely focused” on the Indy 500

David Malsher-Lopez

Following the IndyCar Series’ announcement this morning that the first four rounds of the 2020 season had been canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic spreading across the U.S., the current plan is to have the season open with the GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis on the IMS road course, following up with the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Miles said in a teleconference today: “We are absolutely focused on May. We’re all still in St. Petersburg, Florida right now, I’m with [IMS track president] Doug Boles and we’re going to go home and keep doing what we do and be absolutely ready with the normal schedule.

“We will obviously evaluate everything every day by the hour and we’ll make any changes we have to make, but our mindset and our efforts are completely dedicated to being able to put on a great show.”

The series had left a month-long gap in the schedule this summer – last two weeks of July, first two weeks of August – to allow TV partner NBC to cover the Olympics in Tokyo. Given that event is currently under question, should local laws prohibit any running at Indy in May, shifting the date of the GP and 500 into that gap would seem one feasible option.

“I just think those are questions that can't be answered,” said Miles. “You have to know we'll do everything possible to have the Indianapolis 500 mile race and the Grand Prix before it, in May.

“If somehow that ends up not being feasible we'll be looking at all the other possibilities that we can. Nobody knows the answers – your hypothetical question included, regarding the possibility that the Olympics aren't happening.”

He went on: “We want to race, we want as full a season as we can have. We want to race in all our cities. The bottom line is that we just don’t know enough right now to know what’s possible when. What we can do is monitor the situation endlessly and be in contact with all of our promoters and local officials and focus on that.

“From our perspective – our hope, our vision, our plan is to restart in May and get in as much of a season as we can. I know that our promoters are going to assess their individual situations as well. We’ll be every day, every hour talking to suppliers, to the paddock, to our sponsors, our broadcasters, and promoters and we’ll put on as big a show as we possibly can this year.”

MotoGP has floated the idea of bulking up its restarted season with double-headers, and Miles admitted that was a concept pondered by IndyCar too.

“Yeah, that’s an idea that we’re aware of, something we’ll take into account,” he replied. “All considerations have to be taken into account when we make the plan going forward. What can a broadcaster cover? What can the promoters do? What works for Honda and Chevy and our suppliers? We’ll do whatever it’s possible to do to create the fullest season.”

Support from teams and series partners

Miles said that IndyCar’s partners and suppliers, showing an appreciation that the COVID-19 pandemic had created so much uncertainty, were fully empathetic with the Series’ decision to call off the races, and uncertainty over the future shape of the 2020 season.

“We’re in touch with all of our business partners and couldn’t be more appreciative of the support of NBC, NTT, Firestone, Honda and Chevrolet,” said Miles. “They’re all businesses and they are each dealing with the situation as a business and an employer and with their customers including us, so there’s a lot of empathy and support there.

“Roger Penske [owner of Penske Entertainment, new owners of IndyCar and IMS] and I called with all our team owners – same thing. Obviously they want to race and we want to race and we really hate we can’t give our fans what they want right now but there’s a very strong sense of cohesion inside the IndyCar paddock that we’re doing the right thing, what we have to do right now.”

Regarding the fate of the smaller, less well-funded teams, Miles commented: “I think we're concerned about our whole ecosystem, but… everybody's taking stock of the situation and everybody will sort of grind through it. I didn't hear anybody thinking that they weren’t going to be in business.

“We will be in very regular touch with them. And I think if there's anything about IndyCar teams it's that they've shown their resilience and know how to manage. They care about their people. Right now I think even more than thinking about their businesses, they're thinking about their employees and keeping them safe and keeping them employed

“So, we have real admiration for the team owners and I'm sure they'll get through it.”