That Shows How Much I Know

One thing that I have always tried not to do is shy away from a topic where I ended up being completely wrong. Such is the case with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. It seems like it was more than a year ago, but it was really only two months ago that the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg had been apparently cancelled, and not postponed.

Not only was that March race seemingly cancelled, the three April races on the NTT IndyCar schedule – Barber, Long Beach and COTA – were all wiped out as well on that now-infamous Friday the 13th of March, when everything happening seemed surreal.

A few weeks later, when the Indianapolis 500 was re-scheduled for Aug 23 and the other revisions to the IndyCar schedule were announced, including the Harvest Grand Prix in October; it was also mentioned that the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg had been given second life and would serve as the season-finale at a date to be named later.

To me, it made no sense. Even if most of the remaining races on the schedule were held; I saw no reason to believe that St. Petersburg would run in October. They had already put up the course and taken it down without a single car turning a wheel. What made them think that putting it up again seven months later, then again next March was a feasible idea? I was skeptical it would ever really happen, and boldly said so on this site.

As the weeks dragged on, no date was given for St. Petersburg. For a while, the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg was listed on the schedule, with a date listed simply as TBA. Then one day I noticed that the entire race had been removed, further fueling my skepticism that this race would never run. By the time the Month of May hit, I figured it was a foregone conclusion that it would not return this year. Quite honestly, I had written it off to the point that I had actually forgotten about it in the last couple of weeks.

That shows how much I know.

Lo and behold, out of the blue on Wednesday; we got word that the event would run as the season finale and we even had a date set for it – October 25. The event I said would never run this fall, apparently will.

Not that I’m unhappy about that (even though I don’t like to be proven wrong), my question is – Why? Don’t get me wrong – Susan and I went to St. Petersburg for the start of the 2019 season, and we loved it. It was nice to experience warm weather after a cold winter. But in October, I’m not looking to escape to warm weather. What is it about St. Petersburg that made it more viable as a make-up race, than say…Barber? I know Barber has a lot of fall events on its schedule, but there is no track to construct at Barber. Perhaps SEC football and/or the nearby Titans and the Falcons of the NFL made the fall look too unattractive to a track located in Birmingham.

I think most likely it may have to do with the bad publicity that the race promoter, Green Savoree, encountered when the race was supposedly cancelled in March. They immediately announced a no-refund policy that did not go over well at all with fans. The fact that they are also the promoter at Toronto, a race that is most likely not going to happen along with Portland that is looking iffy at best – probably had something to do with it as well. Mid-Ohio is the only Green Savoree race that looks like it stands a solid chance of running this season, so perhaps IndyCar gave them this opportunity to make things right with fans.

Who knows? There may also be some magic number of races that need to be run in order to satisfy sponsor commitments. With Toronto and the three remaining west coast races (one at Portland, two at Laguna Seca) all shrouded in some degree of doubt, a Florida race seemed a lot more likely to happen in October since that state is way ahead of others in re-opening.

With another race added onto a schedule that has undergone many changes since mid-March, I am very happy to have been proven wrong about St. Petersburg. I’m not sure whether or not we will attend, but it will depend on the usual variables – funds and available vacation time.

The races we plan to attend (if they run, of course) are Road America in June, the GMR Grand Prix at Indianapolis over the Fourth of July weekend, the Indianapolis 500 (and Qualifying weekend), Gateway and the Harvest Grand Prix back at Indianapolis. Road America is a fly-away race, four weekends to drive to Indianapolis and once to Gateway. I don’t know that we need to chase hot weather in late October, when we should be enjoying firing up our fireplace for the first couple of times. But we have plenty of time to think about that, between now and then.

I know many are still of the belief that no IndyCar races will run this season – including the Indianapolis 500. I disagree. I’ve been fairly bullish on this race season all along and I think most of the races will happen. All indications are that Road America will happen, with fans. That prospect got a big boost yesterday, when the Wisconsin State Supreme Court overturned their governor’s restrictions on re-opening. I hope that translates to allowing fans on-site, where there is plenty of room for social distancing. If not – I hope they give us plenty of warning. The only races I’m still concerned about that may not happen, even without fans are Richmond, Toronto, Portland and the two races at Monterey. If the rest of them run, I’m happy. If we can go to the ones we’ve already planned to attend, I’m ecstatic. St. Petersburg just turned out to be a bonus that I was not counting. That shows how much I know.

George Phillips

16 Responses to “That Shows How Much I Know”

  1. While they took down the track barriers St. Pete left the grandstands up. I guess they hoped to reschedule. I agree that this is to help Green Savoree, which could really get hit hard this year. it also will help the city recoup some of the income they lost for Spring Break

  2. billytheskink Says:

    A pleasant surprise indeed. Clearly there was a desire from Indycar, the promoter, and the city to run the event.

  3. I wonder how badly the TV ratings will be affected, going up against the NFL. George got lucky, that is the bye week for the Titans, for me it’s the Chiefs at the Broncos.

  4. S0CSeven Says:

    Toronto TV is reporting that the July Honda Indy has been cancelled along with every other July event that has a group of over 250 people.

  5. Bruce B Says:

    Ok gang I’m trying to remain positive but please help me out here. With all of these stipulations in place and some sports moving ahead with no fans, can we really believe they will let 350,000 of us sit together at IMS come Aug 23? If Indy doesn’t happen with fans I really don’t care if they run any of it. How can we have a season without our “Super Bowl” with fans?

    • Trust me. The Indianapolis 500 will run in August, with fans. The media isn’t focusing on the most important number – and that is percentage of new positive cases compared to number of people tested. They are focusing on total number of cases. Of course that number is going to grow. It can only go up. It can’t go down. I’m not saying that the media is favoring one political party over another. They are favoring themselves. It is not in their best interest for COVID-19 to fade away. Their ratings are through the roof. The longer they keep scaring people, the better it is for them.

      Nationwide, that percentage is down to only 6.9%. In Tennessee, it is down to 3.6%. As the weather gets hotter, those numbers will continue to shrink. In Georgia, a state that was roundly criticized for re-opening on Apr 23 – their numbers continue to fall over three weeks later.

      Roger Penske wants the Indianapolis 500 to happen with fans. He knows how to work with state and local politicians. If the numbers in Indiana and nationwide continue to show improvement (which I believe they will), he and the politicians will get this done and it will happen. I believe that fans will be required to wear masks. I also believe all fans who hold tickets and still feel comfortable in attending, will be there on that day. If someone doesn’t feel comfortable going, that is their choice and they should not be ridiculed for it. Conversely, those of us who do feel comfortable going should not be chastised for exercising our right to go. OK, now I’ll get off of my Friday night soapbox. – GP

      • Bruce B Says:

        Thanks George! Soooo hoping you are right!! 👍

      • Bruce Waine Says:

        George – Your conclusion brings to mind a question.

        Does your “soapbox” come equipped with lights for night use?

      • Big Mac Says:

        Well, George, if I may have a minute or two on your soapbox…

        I agree that it’s wrong to focus on the total number of confirmed cases, because doing that just provides an incentive not to test, and therefore not to confirm cases (as Trump has admitted). But that’s about all that you wrote that I agree with.

        Close to 1700 people a day are currently dying from COVID, which is roughly the same number as die each day from cancer and heart disease, and is only slightly down from a peak COVID daily death rate in the low 2000s. That’s not the media trying to scare people to get ratings. That’s fact. Hotter weather may—emphasis on may—reduce the transmittability of this disease, but we don’t really know how significant that effect will be. I think that universal mask-wearing could have a huge effect, as demonstrated not only in Asia but also in the Czech Republic, but that would require a nation that accepted the need for such measures in the spirit of shared sacrifice to defeat a common enemy. Unfortunately, a substantial portion of the public seems to think that wearing a mask is too great a burden to bear, egged on by a president eager to do anything to distract from his own ineptitude, so the effectiveness of such a simple measure may be significantly undermined.

        Today was the day that we were supposed to reach zero deaths according to the infamous White House cubic model. Of course that didn’t happen, and we still have no plans whatsoever to perform the level of testing or contract tracing that would be required to bring those rates down to very low levels, which would have been the best approach not only from the perspective of public health but also for the economy. And now, instead of belatedly developing such plans, we seem to be giving up and settling for levels of death that are close to current levels. In an environment such as that, bringing hundreds of thousands of race fans together in an environment that doesn’t permit anything even approximating the necessary degree of social distancing would be foolhardy, so I don’t see it happening. Maybe they’ll come up with a way to run the race with a significantly reduced number of fans, but I have a hard time seeing anything more than that.

        As I wrote here two weeks ago, I’d love to be wrong about this, but I don’t think I am.

        • It always has to go back to politics, doesn’t it? In about three months, we’ll know that one of us was very wrong. I’ll be here to admit it, if it’s me and the “500” doesn’t run with fans in August. If it does, will you?

          • Big Mac Says:

            First, let me reiterate that I won’t be too surprised if they can run with a significantly reduced number of fans. I don’t think it will run with the full complement or anything approaching it. I’ve been reading your blog since you started it, so I’ll be here to eat crow if necessary.

          • Thanks for eleven years of loyalty. I can’t imagine crow tasting very good. How about whoever is wrong gets to buy the other one a beer? Then we’ll sit and talk racing and enjoy it. – GP

          • Big Mac Says:

            Sure (although I’m more of a bourbon guy)!

        • Ron Ford Says:

          Nascar came up with a way to run a race with a significantly reduced number of fans today at Darlington. No fans in the stands.

  6. Ron Ford Says:

    Nascar successfully ran a race at Darlington today without any fans. Pit crews and other personnel wore masks near as I could see on TV. I imagine Roger Penske noticed that a race was successfully run without fans. Of course a TV contract is necessary to do that to make up for no revenue from fans in the stands.

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