Indianapolis Motor Speedway slams door on fans at Brickyard

Indianapolis Motor Speedway will host the IndyCar-NASCAR doubleheader on the July 4 weekend without fans.

Track officials had been optimistic IMS could be the first major sporting venue to have fans back in the stands this summer. Instead, the stands will be empty much like the rest of the tracks since major racing resumed in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

IMS officials announced the decision Thursday after consulting with local and state officials.

“While we certainly worked diligently to run our events with spectators, we reached a point where we needed to make a final decision because the race weekend is less than a month away,” said Mark Miles, who oversees the IndyCar Series as president of Penske Entertainment Corp. “Today it’s not possible to be confident that Indianapolis will be at Stage 5 of the state’s reopening plan by the Fourth of July weekend.”

Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb announced a five-stage plan last month to reopen the state with the final phase tentatively scheduled to include a return to sporting venues on July 4 — the very day an IndyCar-NASCAR Xfinity Series doubleheader is scheduled to run at the sprawling track. Marion County — home to Indianapolis, the state’s largest city – only recently entered the third stage.

IMS draws upward of 275,000 people for the Indy 500, the world’s largest single-day sporting event that this year was postponed three months to Aug. 23. In recent years, Brickyard weekend attendance for the NASCAR visit has waned. Last year’s estimated crowd of 60,000 was an improvement over 2018. But with approximately 235,000 permanent seats at the speedway, there could be plenty of space for fans to be socially distanced should the restrictions loosen.

NASCAR’s Brickyard 400 is still set for its original date of July 5 on the historic

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Nadal not sure about 2020 US Open; depends on COVID, travel

If it weren’t for a pandemic-caused postponement, the French Open would have been in Week 2 now, and Rafael Nadal might still have been in contention for a 20th Grand Slam title. Instead, he’s home in Spain, practicing lightly — and wondering along with everyone else in tennis whether the next Grand Slam tournament, the U.S. Open, will be held.

And if it is, would he play?

“If you (ask) me today, today I will say, `No,”’ Nadal said with a shake of his head during a video conference call with The Associated Press and other wire services Thursday.

“In a couple of months? I don’t know. Hopefully, `Yes,”’ he continued. “But we need to wait probably until we have more clear information about how the virus evolves and how the situation is going to be in New York in a couple of months. Because, of course, New York has been one of the places that have been very strongly hit by the virus. So let’s see.”

Nadal thinks there are two key requirements for the U.S. Open to happen — and for tennis to resume anywhere: assurances about being protected from the coronavirus and having everyone be able to fly internationally.

“We can’t come back until the situation is completely safe enough in terms of (health),” he said, “and fair enough in terms of all the players from every single (country) can travel to the tournaments under safe circumstances to compete.”

Tennis, like most sports, has been on hold since March because of the COVID-19 outbreak.

The ATP and WTA tours are suspended at least until late July. The French Open’s start was pushed back from May until September. Wimbledon was cancelled for the first time in 75 years.

A decision about the U.S. Open is expected within weeks;

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Luis Suarez says playing without fans will feel ‘peculiar’

Barcelona’s Uruguayan forward Luis Suarez reacts during the Spanish Super Cup semi final between Barcelona and Atletico Madrid on January 9, 2020, at the King Abdullah Sport City in the Saudi Arabian port city of Jeddah. – The winner will face Real Madrid in the final on January 12. (Photo by Giuseppe CACACE / AFP)

Barcelona forward Luis Suarez is in line to return from a long injury lay-off when La Liga resumes next week behind closed doors in the heat of the Spanish summer after a three-month coronavirus shutdown.

Suarez, 33, was sidelined for four months in January after undergoing surgery on his right knee but could make his comeback on June 13 when leaders Barcelona travel to Mallorca, for their first game since early March.

“I feel very good, adapting to training with my team-mates. Returning after an injury is always difficult, because you are a little scared but I’m enjoying being back,” Suarez told the club’s website.

La Liga is set to restart with the Seville derby on June 11 and to be completed on July 19, yet the expectation is players will be subjected to safety protocol for several months and stadiums will not be full again until next year.

“We are not used to playing in so much heat in the middle of summer. We are adapting to playing without a crowd which will be peculiar,” he said.

“We will continue to focus on winning games to win the league title, which is what we all want.”

“As time goes on, everything is getting back to normal, despite the death of so many people,” he added.

Defending champions Barca hold a two-point lead over Real Madrid at the top with 11 rounds of matches still to be played.



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