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No. 8: INDYCAR Pulls Off Triple Play at IMS
No. 8: INDYCAR Pulls Off Triple Play at IMS

Editor’s Note: This is the third of a series of 10 vignettes in which IMS Senior Communications Manager Paul Kelly picks his top 10 moments of 2020 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

It’s hard to believe, but 2020 was the first year in the 111-year history of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that three INDYCAR event weekends took place at the facility.

The triple play for the most competitive open-wheel racing series in the world wasn’t planned, but it was so well-received by competitors and fans that it’s happening again in 2021.

2020 started with the usual two NTT INDYCAR SERIES races scheduled during the Month of May at IMS, the GMR Grand Prix on Saturday, May 9 on the road course and the 104th Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge on Sunday, May 24 on the IMS oval.

But the COVID-19 pandemic ran that calendar through the shredder, forcing creativity, flexibility and outside-of-the-box thinking from INDYCAR and every series around the world to complete a 2020 season.

A handful of NTT INDYCAR SERIES events were unable to be rescheduled due to health restrictions surrounding the pandemic, so series officials responded by adding a third INDYCAR event weekend to the schedule at the Racing Capital of the World for the first time. The Harvest GP presented by GMR featured a doubleheader, with races Friday, Oct. 2 and Saturday, Oct. 3 on the IMS road course.

Josef Newgarden won Race 1 on Friday, with Team Penske teammate Will Power taking the checkered flag Saturday.

Those races ended up being the third and fourth NTT INDYCAR SERIES races of the season at IMS, joining the GMR Grand Prix on Saturday, July 4 and the Indy 500 on Sunday, Aug. 23.

It was the first time there were more than two INDYCAR races at IMS in one year since the Harvest Classic on Sept. 9, 1916, a series of three races on the oval swept by Johnny Aitken.

That event served as the inspiration for the name of this year’s October INDYCAR doubleheader at IMS, drawing yet another straight line between the glorious past of IMS and its exciting present.

But perhaps even more thrilling than the great on-track action in both races was the welcome sight of spectators back in the grandstands at IMS. Health restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic prevented fans from attending the historic NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend July 4-5 and the Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23, but a limited number of fans were admitted to the Harvest GP weekend, with mandatory mask use and social distancing.

When the gates first opened that weekend, grateful fans were greeted by elbow bumps from an equally grateful Roger Penske and IMS President Doug Boles in one of the most memorable scenes of 2020 at the Speedway. The fans also were able to see and experience the numerous improvements to fan amenities throughout the facility since Penske completed his purchase of IMS in January 2020.

The good vibes created by that weekend will continue in 2021, as a third NTT INDYCAR SERIES race is scheduled for the IMS road course Aug. 14 in another NASCAR-INDYCAR weekend, joining the GMR Grand Prix and 105th Indianapolis 500 in May.

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