IndyCar drivers grateful to have fans back this weekend

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IndyCar Rev Group Grand Prix winner Alexander Rossi enters Victory Lane Sunday, June 23, 2019, at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis. The IndyCar series will welcome fans for the first time of the year during the REV Group Grand Prix doubleheader Saturday and Sunday, July 11-12, 2020, at Road America in Plymouth, Wisconsin.(Gary C. Klein/The Sheboygan Press via AP)

MILWAUKEE – 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 Saturday 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.