COLUMBUS, Ohio (WCMH) – The NTT IndyCar Series is targeting the second week of September to run a doubleheader at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Morrow County that was postponed due to COVID-19.
“We’d like to be there, I think it’s like the second week of September, for a doubleheader,” said Mark Miles, president and CEO of Penske Entertainment Corp. (which owns IndyCar), in a press conference Wednesday.
“And it really, like all of these decisions, is going to be driven by the situation on the ground in Ohio,” Miles continued. “And it’ll probably be something that we won’t know until we get closer to that end of August period. The teams are ready to go, we’d like to be there.”
A spokesperson for Mid-Ohio, however, could not confirm that mid-September date.
Miles added that NBC, which broadcasts IndyCar races, has “saved some time for us” for the races.
The 75-lap Honda Indy 200, held most years since 1970 at the 13-turn road course outside rural Lexington, was originally scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 9. On July 27, Mid-Ohio announced the race would become a Saturday-Sunday doubleheader, but just five days later the track announced on Aug. 1 that it was postponing the races to “a date to be determined in September or October” by reason of “communication with local health officials given the current environment.”
On Aug. 1, Morrow County was at Advisory Level 1 (“Active”), the lowest level in Ohio’s Public Health Advisory System, which measures exposure and spread of COVID-19. Morrow has since moved up to Level 2 (“Increased”), and its neighboring counties range from Levels 1 through 3 (“Very High”). Gov. Mike DeWine will announce updated levels on Thursday at 2 p.m.
The logarithmic scale graph below shows the cumulative increase in cases in Morrow County and its neighbors since July 1:
The data shows a notable increase in cases through July, but a steady increase since. Data for the past two weeks, however, is preliminary as new cases are backdated to the date of a patient’s first symptoms.
A representative for the Morrow County Health District did not respond to a request for comment by end of business Wednesday about the agency’s talks with the race track.
According to Mid-Ohio’s July 27 announcement of the doubleheader, the races would operate based on Ohio’s COVID-19 Responsible Restart guidelines. Under those guidelines, the track would have limited attendance, and spectators would be required to wear face coverings. Fans would also not be allowed in grandstands, the paddock or pits.
The track’s general admission, grass viewing areas would be open to spectators, however, as well as camping sites. Social distancing would be required everywhere.
IndyCar’s 2020 schedule, like in all other sports, has been the victim of heavy revisions due to the coronavirus pandemic. Its original 17-race, March-September slate was pushed back to June with most races postponed or canceled. The series has run just six races across four tracks in Texas, Indiana, Wisconsin and Iowa.
Sunday’s Indianapolis 500 (1 p.m. ET on NBC4) will be the first in its 104-race history to take place with empty grandstands, after “careful consideration and extensive consultation with state and city leadership,” forced Indianapolis Motor Speedway to turn fans away.
After the Indy 500, there is a one-month gap in IndyCar’s latest revised schedule between a doubleheader at World Wide Technology Raceway in Illinois next weekend and an Oct. 2-3 doubleheader on IMS’s road course.
It would seem that gap was put in place to facilitate a new date for Mid-Ohio.
Mid-Ohio’s NASCAR Xfinity Series race, originally scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, is still listed as postponed, despite NASCAR’s final revised 2020 schedule replacing the race with one at Talladega Superspeedway in Alabama.
Mid-Ohio also has yet to announce any schedule changes for the IMSA Acura Sports Car Challenge race weekend, still on the calendar for Sept. 25-27.