The planned 2021 IndyCar Series opener on the streets of St Petersburg has been postponed to April amid COVID-19 concerns.
IndyCar’s now-traditional season opener in Florida has been pushed back from 7 March to 25 April in the hope of being to accommodate more fans as coronavirus cases in the state continue to rise.
Florida health officials reported 15,431 new coronavirus cases on Tuesday, along with 98 more residents’ deaths attributed to COVID-19. The state has now confirmed 1,392,123 COVID-19 cases since the pandemic began and 22,188 casualties.
“I want to thank our friends at IndyCar and our partners at Green Savoree for putting the health and safety of fans first,” said St Petersburg Mayor Rick Kriseman.
“Each of these races takes an incredible amount of work from hundreds of dedicated professionals, and I know the decision to move the date of the race is not made lightly.
“I appreciate the drivers, teams, staff, and most of all the fans for their patience and understanding. I look forward to welcoming everyone to the next Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.”
IndyCar CEO Mark Miles added: “It’s not surprising that an event of this magnitude, scheduled for the first week of March, is still subject to the implications of the pandemic.
“We’re delighted we were able to work with Mayor Rick Kriseman’s administration and Green Savoree Racing Promotions to find a more suitable date, which helps consolidate the beginning of our schedule and allows us to stay on NBC network television.”
Due to St Petersburg’s postponement the Honda Indy Grand Prix of Alabama at Barber Motorsports Park is now set to host the 2021 IndyCar curtain raiser on 11 April.
It is the second year in a row the St Petersburg weekend has had to shift dates. Last year’s IndyCar opener was called off at the very last moment as the COVID-19 pandemic gathered pace.
Last season’s event was moved to the end of the year and became the 2020 season finale, with Chip Ganassi Racing’s Scott Dixon clinching his sixth championship and Penske’s Josef Newgarden winning the race.
The decision means the returning Indy Lights championship will also have its season opener change from St Petersburg to Barber.