The Times the Indy 500 Was Canceled and Three Rain Moves

Hopefully the news has settled in, and everyone has come to some sort of acceptance that May of 2020 won’t be the May we’ve come to know and love. In fact, everything around INDYCAR this year was thrown into upheaval. Races have been canceled or moved. We’re ending the season in St. Petersburg after we tried to start the season there. Most traumatic is that the Indianapolis 500 has been moved from May 24, 2020 to August 23, 2020. As far as I can tell, in modern time, this is the biggest move for the 500.

The race was outright canceled for the years of World War I and World War II. This isn’t a history blog, so I’ll spare a lot of details, but America’s involvement in World War I stretched from April 6, 1917, to November 11, 1918. During those two years (1917 and 1918) no Indianapolis 500 was held. There are a countless of reasons that can fill countless of essays and books, but it comes down to this: America couldn’t handle coal transportation, Europe was running low on fuel, so there was a huge increase in oil demand. When oil is needed for war efforts, running an automobile race seems low on the priority scale. WWI did not disrupt a lot of major sports events because, well at the time there weren’t a lot of major sporting events. It did cause the cancellation of the 1916 Olympics. If you strangely love the pageantry of the opening ceremonies, you’ll notice in the final parts of the torch rally the carrier ‘stumbles’ briefly if they mention the years and hit 1916.

The reasons were a lot more direct for the cancellation during World War II. America officially entered the war on December 7, 1941, following the attack on Pearl Harbor. During the war years, there were rations on gas and rubber. The government went further to ban automobile races during the war, which ended September 2, 1945. During this global action, multiple large sporting events were canceled including the 1940 and 1944 summer and winter Olympics. Additionally, in Europe the Tour de France was canceled as was the FIFA World Cup. Strangely though, in the US baseball wasn’t canceled and many players were former servicemen or would go on to serve in the armed forces. Back home in Indiana, the IMS went vacant and became unattended through 1945. As most of us know, it was November of 1945 when Tony Hulman purchased the track from Eddie Rickenbacker. Thanks in part to Wilbur Shaw who had tested on the grounds a year prior.

Thankfully, and everyone go knock on wood right now, the race for 2020 hasn’t been canceled but only rescheduled approximately three months. The longest move of the race. In 1973, the race attempted to start on Monday May 28, a serious crash on the first lap red flagged the race and rain led to the race being rescheduled for the next day. On Tuesday May 29, the race attempted to start again but was red flagged on the second parade lap due to rain. The race was finally ran on Wednesday May 30 following the start time being delayed from 9:00 a.m. to 2:10 p.m. On Sunday, May 25, 1986, the race was first delayed due to early morning rain. There was an attempt to dry the track in the mid-morning, but ultimately the race was rescheduled for the next day. The next day, rain fell the whole day dismissing any hope for a race being ran. Instead of rescheduling the race for Tuesday, the race was rescheduled for the following Saturday. This rescheduling caused the Rex Mays 200 at Milwaukee to be pushed back one week.

The most recent rescheduling due to weather happened in 1997. The morning of Sunday May 25, 1997 started with rain in the morning but a stretch of dry weather raised everyone’s hopes. However, the race is held in Indiana and Indiana weather is fickle. Fifteen minutes after the cars were placed on the grid, rain started back up again. The race was ultimately rescheduled for the next day. Ten laps into the race on Monday rain started to fall, and on lap fifteen the rain increased and the race was once again rescheduled for the following day. On Tuesday the race was ran without major incidents.

As we adjust to this new normal, and a season of first (including iRacing – which I discussed in the last blog post), here’s yet another first. The Indianapolis 500 rescheduled due to a global health crisis. I’m happy it wasn’t outright canceled, and I’m very happy it got rescheduled to my birthday!