Indy drivers grateful to have fans back today at Road America in Wisconsin

Driver Simon Pagenaud of France walks to his car in the pit area before the start of practice for the IndyCar race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis on July 3. (AP file photo)

Simon Pagenaud says racing hasn’t been quite the same without spectators to cheer the drivers on for the opening stages of the IndyCar season.

“It’s strange to go to the track without any fans,” said Peganaud, who ranks second to Scott Dixon in the point standings. “It’s like being at a test session. Without the hype from the crowd, you don’t get the feeling of being a gladiator or a superstar. It’s quiet. It doesn’t have that racing feel.”

Pagenaud won’t have to worry about that this weekend.

The IndyCar series will welcome fans for the first time this season during the REV Group Grand Prix doubleheader today and Sunday at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin.

Is is only the third race on the schedule after the coronavirus pandemic caused the season to start nearly three months late. Road America’s setup makes it an ideal testing ground for welcoming back fans. The sprawling, 640-acre layout surrounding the four-mile road course allows fans to practice social distancing and roam around the property rather than crowding into a grandstand.

Organizers aren’t placing a limit on the number of spectators who can attend because the facility can hold so many people. Road America allowed fans back in for its events starting last month.

“It really makes the race weekend,” said Rinus VeeKay, who drives for Ed Carpenter Racing. “Normally when you drive through there, you can smell the barbecues. It would be less fun if we had no fans there.”

IndyCar also plans to have spectators next weekend in Iowa, where the oval track has grandstands. The series is treating each event on a case-by-case basis based on local and state regulations in place where a race is being held.

For example, today’s race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was to take place without spectators because of local regulations in place during the planning stages of the event. IndyCar organizers are hoping fans will fill up to 50% of the speedway’s capacity for the Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23, when they expect the state’s reopening plan to allow spectators.

Fans this weekend will get temperature checks at gates and receive masks and hand sanitizer as they enter. Wearing a mask will be encouraged but not required.

Some areas will be off limits.

“It’s still going to be a little bit different because fans aren’t going to be around the paddock,” driver Colton Herta said. “They’re not going to be really able to see us up close.”


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