Which Races Will Actually Run This Season?

Two of my IndyCar buddies and I are on a group text thread. Whenever we communicate, we rarely allow the topic to venture away from IndyCar. One afternoon last week, I was at work when I received a random and very brief text from one of them asking the simple question “Over/under 5.5 races this year?”

It was short, but I didn’t have to ask for clarification. He wanted to know if we thought six or more of the now-scheduled IndyCar races would run this season. Being the optimist that I have been throughout this COVID-19 era, I immediately shot back “over” without even thinking things through. The other two answered after me, with both of them saying “under”.

I sometimes become irritated with those that predict the worst-case scenario, and this was no exception. I immediately went to the most-recently revised IndyCar schedule, so that I could prove them wrong. The problem was, I couldn’t with very much confidence.

Opinions are all over the place on this subject, even on this site. While some are confident in all races running from Texas forward, others are convinced that we may not see racing again until the 2022 season. I think reality lies somewhere in between.

Let’s look at the entire IndyCar schedule as it stands today. Until I see a date scheduled, I’m still operating under the assumption that St. Petersburg will not run this fall, as has been promised. I just see too many hurdles for that to happen. My guess is that St. Petersburg is done until next March.

As I said Friday, I now think that Texas will run. The seasonal, economic and political climate there are all indicating it could run. Whether or not it will is another question, but I do think it will run.

I wish I could say the same for Road America. The upper Midwest has been hit a lot harder than the south. The Governor of Wisconsin recently extended their stay-at-home order through May 26 – the Tuesday after the Memorial Day weekend. The Road America race weekend is scheduled to start just a little more than three weeks later. There’s not much room for error there. Even if the order expires on May 26, chances are that they will not be allowing sporting events to take place. There are just so many available weekends on the back-end of the schedule. As much as it pains me to say it, I have to put Road America in the Will Not Run column.

Richmond is scheduled to run just six nights later. I’m not real sure as to what is going on in Virginia, but it doesn’t look as if Governor Ralph Northam has any plans to loosen his restrictions anytime soon. It will take a while for a four-phase program to allow racing to take place there. If I had to guess, I’d say Richmond may suffer the same fate as Road America.

So now we are heading into July and we only have one race run (hypothetically). Having said that, I am very confident that the GMR Grand Prix on the IMS road course, will run over the Fourth of July weekend – maybe even with fans present. That’s more than two months away and a lot can happen between now and then. I’m counting the IndyCar GP in the “Yes” column.

While I’m happy that we now have two hypothetical races run, I think it’s safe to say that Toronto will not run. International travel is a whole other issue, and I think it can firmly go into the Will Not Run category. But less than two weeks after the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis, comes the newly created double-header at Iowa – to be run on a Friday and Saturday night. I think it’s a little iffy, but I’m going to say Iowa runs both races and that’ll be two races to add to our other two hypothetical races. So going into August, we’ve got a total of four races.

If the GMR Grand Prix and Iowa both run, I have no reason to believe that Mid-Ohio won’t run on August 9. That’s five races.

If only one race at all runs this season, it will be the Indianapolis 500. I predict it will run on schedule on Aug 23 – with fans, albeit wearing masks. It should only follow suit that running the oval at nearby Gateway one week later should not be a problem. Between the Indianapolis 500 and Gateway, we are now up to seven races, as we head into September. That’s where we hit a snag.

There are three races scheduled in the month of September; one at Portland and two at Laguna Seca. If I had to guess right now, I’d say that none of them run. The west coast has been hit hard by the virus, and they show no signs of desire to get back to normal. The Governor of California has made it clear to the NFL that they don’t see any sporting events taking place for the rest of 2020. If he is willing to tell the Rams, Chargers and Forty-Niners to take a hike; I don’t think they will be bending any rules for IndyCar. That’s three straight races in the No column, for a total of six.

The one remaining scheduled race is the Harvest Grand Prix at Indianapolis on October 3. Because of its location, I feel very confident of it running as well. That means, I think eight IndyCar races will run this season. Regarding the current schedule, that means eight will run, while six will not. That doesn’t sound too bleak until you throw in the races we had already lost (St. Petersburg, Barber, Long Beach, COTA and two at Belle Isle). That’s twelve races total that were scheduled at some point this season that don’t run – in my hypothetical universe.

Of course if the west coast races don’t run, that frees up the entire month of September. Might it be possible to slide Road America and some other venue there? Road America used to run in late September in the early nineties. I remember watching a few of those races where it looked awfully cold, but it would still be doable.

I am usually dead-wrong when it comes to things like this. My guess is as good (or bad) as anyone else’s; but they are just that – guesses. If Iowa doesn’t run, that’s two more races in the Lost Race column, and I’m barely correct on my over/under prediction.

I’m curious – what say you?

George Phillips

11 Responses to “Which Races Will Actually Run This Season?”

  1. I really don’t see any races run with fans in the stands until a vaccine is widely available. I see 3-4 possible doubleheaders with NASCAR, but that’s about it.

    • I can’t see any international or long distance travel either without a vaccine. Ironically we [the UK] are leaving the EU where we would have had medical cover [including COVID] across the entire area for free. 2022 at the earliest for us. #brickyard2022 Stay safe everyone.

  2. Not many, but I think the non fans idea is what we are dealing with for now. It’s going to be a toss up year probably, next year may be better but still no or less fans for some of it. Ultimately, everyone has an opinion on it, I have noticed a lot of people are jerks as usual. I want racing back when it is safe to do so, and we should all be hoping for positive vibes on that front. I think we will get there, will people be reluctant? Sure, but things will move to a normal again eventually.

  3. billytheskink Says:

    I expect further rescheduling, or at least further rescheduling attempts, so this bet may not be settled until November or later. The series is likely going to do whatever it can to please NBC, NTT, and other major partners.

  4. SkipinSC Says:

    I’m not often one to panic, even living where there are occasional hurricanes. To be honest, I think much of the reaction to COVID-19 has been politically motivated, a belief that probably has some wondering where I found a tin-foil hat. Mind you, I say this in spite of the fact that I am in the most affected group, (66, hypertensive, diabetic, with borderline COPD.)

    Mortality rates being what they are, while this virus is nothing you want to fool with, I believe much of the hullaballoo will go away by midsummer. I think 7-9 races is indeed possible, and I suspect a couple of races (St. Pete and Road America in particular) will probably find their way onto whatever schedule is finally implemented.

    As to Texas, I think the idea of IndyCar and NASCAR sharing a double-header there with or without fans is a splendid one and LONG overdue. It took a worldwide crisis and someone invested in both series with a great deal of foresight (Thank you, Mr. Penske,) to make it happen, but I firmly believe that it will, particularly since it affords Eddie Gossage a chance to recoup what would otherwise be a very bad year for him through the NASCAR TV package.

    If I am wrong and only one race is held, it WILL be the Indianapolis 500, and I plan to be there whether I have to wear a mask or not.

    • I have limited experience at Indianapolis (last year was my first), but given my memory of entering on east 16th street under the rail bridge and my memory of watching the general admission area clearing after the race, thinking a mask order could be adhered to is the highest of wishful thinking.

  5. A lot of people are hurting financially. Even if pro sports open back up I have to think attendances will be affected even without the novel Corona virus. I realize most have their 500 tickets but I believe a good majority of other races are walk up admissions.p

  6. agree with Bruce above: it’s all about the money.
    fans may not be able to afford to attend anything.

  7. Surely if F1 is going behind closed doors (at least to start with) the races should be on TV so fans can be sure to see the races

  8. For eleven years, I have had poll questions at the end of each post on this site. Unfortunately, I am close to stopping that practice. This isn’t the Gallup organization and these polls are not scientific. They are for fun. But for the last month or so, someone has been getting on here and voting multiple times for whatever agenda they have.

    For most of Monday, the choice of “Zero races” had only a handful of votes. Suddenly in less than an hour, it was the top choice by more than double the second choice. This is the second time in my last two posts this has happened and the polls are no longer fun. It’s a shame that one anonymous troll has to ruin a long-standing tradition here that most people have seemed to enjoy for years, but that’s about where I am with this. – GP

  9. I have no idea which events will be run this season and I don’t want to guess about it either because it would only be an uneducated guess. The guesses of you guys are probably better than mine in regard to the question at hand because, living far away in Europe and having to work isolated from home office at the computer, I just do not have the time or the energy to use the computer for researching this topic in my spare time.
    These days, I’m happy when I catch some rays of sunlight in the evening, even though not so much on my face anymore since wearing masks has become mandatory in Germany yesterday. I’m actually more concerned about what will happen to my personal cycling season this year, as I’m likely to have to ride alone throughout the summer and won’t be able to stop at any of my usual destinations because the pubs out in the country are closed. Will they survive financially so I can cycle there next year? Who knows.
    It’s the same question about IndyCar’s race promoters.
    One thing is certain: the world is doing its best to recover, and that’s something to look forward to.
    All the best to you guys!

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