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IndyCar will open 2020 season at Texas without fans in one-day event

IndyCar return

FORT WORTH, TX - JUNE 09: Scott Dixon, driver of the #9 PNC Bank Chip Ganassi Racing Honda, and team owner Chip Ganassi celebrate in Victory Lane after winning the Verizon IndyCar Series DXC Technology 600 at Texas Motor Speedway on June 9, 2018 in Fort Worth, Texas. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)

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The IndyCar return is a go. The NTT IndyCar Series officially announced Thursday that its 2020 season will open without fans Saturday, June 6 at Texas Motor Speedway, releasing a schedule and safety protocols.

The Genesys 300 has been adjusted to 200 laps on the 1.5-mile oval from the previously announced 248 to accommodate the one-day event. Because of restrictions for the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the grandstands will be closed, and access to the facility will be strictly limited.

The series will practice from 1:30-3:30 p.m. ET and qualify at 5 p.m. ET. The green flag will take place at 8:45 p.m. ET.

Qualifying and the race will be televised live on NBCSN. The practice will be shown on NBC Sports Gold.

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Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage previously said the track wouldn’t hold the IndyCar race without fans unless part of a NASCAR doubleheader.

Gossage confirmed to that there will be no NASCAR doubleheader (he expects Texas’ postponed Cup race from March will happen during the summer). Gossage said he reached a deal with IndyCar owner Roger Penske for an unspecified reduction in the track’s sanctioning fee this season.

“We were able to sort something out,” Gossage said. “Obviously we’re going to lose money. We wanted IndyCar to know they’re a good partner. So we’re paying them some money. Not as much. But we’re paying them some money. And they’re taking less, so it shows their partnership.

“But I did get one concession out of Roger. I get 10 minutes in his motorcoach to go through all the seat cushions looking for change and stuff that have been left behind by folks in his motorcoach to help bridge the gap. I can’t thank Roger enough for that one.”

Gossage said Texas is in the second of a five-year deal with IndyCar. He said Speedway Motorsports chairman Marcus Smith said it was “the right thing to do” to honor the agreement for 2020.

“We all have had skin in this game for 24 years with wins and losses,” Gossage said, referring to IndyCar’s return at Texas. “We’re always going to do the right thing in our company. So give Marcus credit for his position, and I give Roger, Mark Miles and Jay Frye credit for their position. You have to compromise in those situations.

“Sometimes it kind of can seem series and racetracks have an antagonistic relationship, like we’re butting heads. It’s really interesting since this COVD-19 interruption has occurred, it’s been great doing business with each other. Roger sits in and says, ‘This is what I’m thinking,’ and I said, ‘That’s a deal.’ We’ve known each other for a long time. He said, ‘I can trust you, you know you can trust me.’ It’s just been great. Nobody’s gotten the other guy. Everybody is in it together. It’s a great way to do business together.”

Gossage said IndyCar and Texas Motor Speedway are limiting personnel to 900 people on property. With grandstands and suites closed, Gossage anticipates no more than a dozen staffers from Texas Motor Speedway will be on site for the race.

IndyCar’s health and safety protocols were reviewed by health care officials in the Fort Worth, Texas, area and reviewed by health care officials in Indiana. Gossage said they are “very similarly worded” to the NASCAR protocols for the May 17 event at Darlington Raceway despite being developed independently.

Gossage said IndyCar teams and officials will be arriving via two charter flights from Indianapolis (usually it’s one, but two are used for social distancing) into Alliance Airport, which is about 5 miles from the track.

Several buses will transport IndyCar staff from the airport to the track. The buses will be sanitized during the day and then return IndyCar personnel to the airport immediately after the race. Lunch and dinner will be served at the track as no one will be permitted to leave the property after arriving and having a health screening on entry to the infield.

To aid in social distancing, Gossage said the 24 IndyCar teams would be spread in half among the track’s two large garages, which contain 64 bays apiece.

Personal Protective Equipment will be provided to anyone entering the facility, along with guidelines on its usage. There also will be carefully maintained social distancing.

Texas will be IndyCar’s first race this year. The Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg season opener was postponed (two days before it was to be held without fans) because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thursday marked the first update to IndyCar’s 2020 schedule since an April 6 revision that included the cancellation of the Detroit Grand Prix and the addition of doubleheaders at Iowa Speedway and Laguna Seca Raceway and an event on the IMS road course.

IndyCar said Thursday the rest of its revised slate of races remains on track this season, including the rescheduled 104th running of the Indy 500 to Aug. 23 on NBC.

Here’s the release Thursday from IndyCar on Texas opening the season:

INDIANAPOLIS (May 7, 2020) – The 2020 NTT INDYCAR SERIES season will begin Saturday, June 6 with
the Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway. INDYCAR’s stars will take the green flag at 8:45 p.m. (ET),
with broadcast coverage provided by NBC Sports via NBCSN.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, INDYCAR will run a condensed schedule with practice, qualifying and
the race taking place on the same day. The event also will be conducted without fans in attendance. This
will be the 24th consecutive year in which INDYCAR has raced at the 1.5-mile oval in Fort Worth, Texas.
“We’re excited and ready to kick off the NTT INDYCAR SERIES season at Texas Motor Speedway,”

INDYCAR President Jay Frye said. “We’ve worked closely with Eddie Gossage, the entire TMS team and
public health officials on a plan of action that will ensure the safety of our event participants alongside
an exciting return to competition for our drivers, teams and viewers tuning in from around the world.”

“America needs live sports and they are not going to believe what they see when the Genesys 300
storms into their living rooms on TV from Texas,” said Eddie Gossage, president and general manager of
Texas Motor Speedway. “One of the world’s greatest sporting events, the Indy 500, has been postponed
until August by coronavirus, so all of that pent-up energy, anticipation, frustrations and anxiety will be
pounding through the drivers’ nervous systems. Typically, the Genesys 300 results in a 220-mph photo

Other steps to protect the wellbeing of participants have been identified through close consultation
with TMS and public health officials.

These include:

• Strict access guidelines limiting the number of personnel on site
• A health screening system administered to all participants
• PPE equipment provided to everyone entering the facility, along with guidelines on usage
• Social distancing protocols in place and carefully maintained
• Revised competition layout to increase distancing

To accommodate the one-day schedule, the length for the race at Texas Motor Speedway has been
adjusted to 200 laps rather than the previously announced 248 laps. The full on-track schedule for the
Genesys 300:

• NTT INDYCAR SERIES Practice: 1:30-3:30 p.m. (ET)
• NTT INDYCAR SERIES Qualifications: 5 p.m. (ET)
• Genesys 300 at Texas Motor Speedway: 8:45 p.m. (ET)

The remainder of the updated, 15-race INDYCAR calendar for 2020, announced April 6, remains on
schedule for competition.