Final three IndyCar races going ahead despite COVID worries

While speculation has surrounded the last three rounds of the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season, the event organizers are all confident the races will go ahead as planned.

The climbing number of COVID-19 cases in both Oregon and California, and the states’ anticipated reaction to that, caused many in the IndyCar paddock to wonder if the races at Portland International Raceway, WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca and the streets of Long Beach might again come under threat.

All three venues lost their 2020 races due to the COVID pandemic, obliging IndyCar to find alternatives, and its season to comprise just 14 rounds.

So far this year, only Toronto has been put on ice again, although both the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park were pushed back to April, and the Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach – usually a mid-April event – is now the season finale.

Representatives from all three of IndyCar’s final rounds have confirmed to Motorsport.com that their races are safe.

Steve Bidlack of Green Savoree Racing and Promotion, which organizes IndyCar’s the Sept. 10-12 Grand Prix of Portland (as well as St. Pete, Toronto and Mid-Ohio), said: "The Grand Prix of Portland remains on the schedule as planned and will follow all state and local guidance for COVID-19 at the time of the event in September."

The PR Director at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca, Barry Toepke, stated: “The entire WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca team is anxiously awaiting the arrival of the Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey Sept. 17-19. It will have been a two year absence due to the pandemic, so local businesses are thrilled for it to be returning.

“Currently, there are no restrictions in place [but] we do strongly recommend that unvaccinated guests wear a face covering when in groups and be observant of spacing.

“We just concluded a very successful and safe Rolex Monterey Motorsports Reunion and will continue with all the hand-sanitizing stations and restroom monitoring that were in place. Guest and team safety is our utmost priority.”

The Grand Prix Association of Long Beach’s CEO and president, Jim Michaelian, who was involved in the event before it even hosted its toe-in-the-water Formula 5000 race in 1975, said: “Our plans for the upcoming 45th Acura Grand Prix of Long Beach on September 24-26 continue unabated.

“Our intention is to provide our patrons with the usual fun and excitement associated with our event while still being very cognizant of the need to provide a safe and secure environment for everyone. As such we are committed to observing all of the health and safety protocols which will be in place in late September.

“And we look forward to an exciting weekend of racing including the drama of the season finale of the NTT IndyCar season.”

This Saturday will feature the series’ final oval race of the season at Gateway’s WorldWide Technology Raceway on the Illinois/Missouri border and – weather allowing – sees IndyCar experiment as it did at Texas in 2020 by running it as a one-day show.

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