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IndyCar to open its delayed season June 6 in Texas

One version of the schedule released Thursday still has the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, called off in March, listed as the rescheduled season finale on a date to be determined.
Works pack up after the news that the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic on March 13. The race was to be the IndyCar season opener. The new season opener is June 6 in Texas.
Works pack up after the news that the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic on March 13. The race was to be the IndyCar season opener. The new season opener is June 6 in Texas. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published May 7, 2020
Updated May 7, 2020

FORT WORTH, Texas — IndyCar has gotten the green flag to finally start its season with a night race June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway without spectators.

The race was the next one on the series schedule that hadn’t been postponed or canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. IndyCar and track officials announced revised scheduled details Thursday, heavy with safety precautions along with financial concessions from both sides to make it happen.

That schedule, as posted on indycar.com, has two versions on the website’s Schedule section. The version seen right away shows 14 races through Oct. 3 but no mention of a rescheduled Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, which was to be the season opener March 15 but was called off because of the virus. A version that comes on a PDF when “Season Schedule” is clicked on at the top right of the schedule shows 15 races, with the St. Petersburg race listed as the season finale on a date “TBA.” In a version of the schedule released April 6, that race also was listed as the season finale without a date.

In a statement on the IndyCar website Thursday, the series said that after the Texas race, “the remainder of the updated, 15-race IndyCar calendar for 2020, announced April 6, remains on schedule for competition.”

The series will have a condensed schedule, with practice, qualifying and the race taking place on the same day. There will be strict access guidelines limiting the number of personnel on site, with health screening system administered to all participants and personal protection equipment provided to everyone entering the facility.

Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage had previously indicated he didn’t want to run a IndyCar race without fans, given that tracks don’t get a cut of the TV revenue for those races like they do for NASCAR events.

“For a race track with the IndyCar race, the gate is your single largest revenue source. So that’s a big deal to do it without fans in the stands, and I didn’t want to do that,” Gossage said. “But at the end of the day, we worked something out. … We’re paying IndyCar, we’re just not paying as much. So both of us compromised, and both of us are losing money.”

Gossage wouldn’t reveal figures. He joked that one concession he got from series owner Roger Penske was 10 minutes in Penske’s motorcoach to “search between the cushions to kind of help bridge the gap on our financial issues.”

Texas has hosted IndyCar races since the 1½-mile track opened in 1997. The speedway used to have the first race after the Indianapolis 500 in late May and hosted two races a year from 1998-2004, including the series finale the last six years of that stretch.

IndyCar president Jay Frye said the series worked with Gossage and public health officials on a plan to “ensure the safety of our event participants.”

Gossage said IndyCar was chartering two planes to fly drivers and team members from Indianapolis to the Fort Worth Alliance Airport the morning of the June 6 race and back home that night. The planes would be sanitized before and after each flight, as would the buses that would take everyone to and from the airport and track.

Social distancing protocols will be in place and are to be carefully maintained. There are two 64-bay garages on the infield at Texas, and both will be utilized to give the 24 expected teams plenty of room for separation.

After the St. Petersburg race was called off, IndyCar canceled races at Long Beach, Calif.; Birmingham, Ala.; and Austin, Texas. A planned doubleheader at Detroit, which would have been the week before Texas, was canceled a month ago after the Indianapolis 500 had been postponed until August.

Times staff writer Matt Baker contributed to this report.

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