INDIANAPOLIS — A virtual news conference was held Wednesday to discuss the upcoming Indy 500.
The briefing featured Penske Entertainment Corp. executives including Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles, IMS President Doug Boles, and INDYCAR President Jay Frye.
The Indianapolis 500 will begin at 1 p.m. Aug. 23, with the green flag scheduled for approximately 2:30 p.m.
Boles said many of the traditional pre-race elements will remain this year, despite having no fans.
The Singing Surgeons will sing the National Anthem, and Jim Cornelison will return to sing “Back Home Again in Indiana.”
The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds will perform a flyover. Boles said this is a special treat this year as the Thunderbird pilots are always busy on Memorial Day weekend, when the race is typically held.
Boles said he’s looking forward to welcoming fans back in 2021 to see all the new improvements to the track, including new restrooms, an expanded perimeter, new video boards and multiple other improvements.
Frye said this is the second fastest field in Indianapolis 500 history.
“I think it’ll be an amazing race,” he said.
In terms of the COVID-19 pandemic, Miles said they planned for all sorts of different scenarios.
“We could have the best 88-page plan available…but if the public health situation in general was not at a place where it made sense to go forward with fans then we wouldn’t,” he said.
He said there was nobody that came in and told them they couldn’t have fans, they made the decision themselves.
“We had to make a decision and I think it was the right one. Sitting here today, some of the metrics are better but still not where they need to be,” Miles said. “It was clear what the right decision was.”
Boles said everyone had hoped pushing the race back to August would give them enough time, but obviously that didn’t work out.
He said the whole process has been an “emotional roller coaster” for everyone at IMS.
“Without the leadership of Roger Penske, I don’t know how we would have gotten through this,” Boles said. “To have him as a leader during this time has been a blessing.”
Boles said he understands fans may show up outside the track on race day, but encourages them to stay home and watch the race on TV.
For those who decide to show up anyway, he urged them to wear a mask, practice social distancing and follow hygiene guidance.
“It’s an opportunity for race fans to do what’s right for the community,” he said.
Looking forward, Boles said IMS has never been in a better spot and can’t wait to welcome fans back.