IndyCar cancels season opener, all races through April

IndyCar has called off its season opener in St. Petersburg, Florida, with the series announcing that all races through April have been canceled.

Friday's announcement covers the first four races of the 2020 season. The next scheduled race is the GMR Grand Prix on the road course at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on May 9.

IndyCar was scheduled to open its season Sunday on the streets of downtown St. Petersburg without fans. NASCAR also postponed its weekend events at Atlanta Motor Speedway on Friday, and Formula One called off its season-opening race in Australia, leaving the first full weekend of global motorsports without a major event.

Mark Miles, president and CEO of IndyCar parent company Penske Enterprises, said the about-face came as both IndyCar and NASCAR saw more and more events and attractions closing. He cited the mid-tournament cancellation of the Players Championship and the closure of theme parks as indicators public gatherings should not proceed.

"There's a public health risk any time people are getting together," Miles said. "Really, there isn't a sporting event left that feels comfortable running even without fans. ... We just felt like it was the right thing to do to not allow the opportunity for the racers to go racing here."

It takes six to eight weeks to build a street course, which shuts down large portions of the host city. It is unlikely that St. Petersburg can host the event later this year because of the permits required. Miles also said the Grand Prix of Long Beach, scheduled for April 19, was officially canceled for 2020.

It was unknown what will happen to races in Birmingham, Alabama, and at Circuit of the Americas in Texas, two of the four April races called off Friday by IndyCar.

"From our perspective, our hope, our ambition, our plan is to restart in May and to get in as much of a season as we can," Miles said.

If IndyCar resumes in May, the season would begin at Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a race on the road course and then the showcase Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend.

"Anything from this point is going to be strange -- right now is strange," five-time IndyCar champion Scott Dixon said. "I think that would be a fantastic start because that would mean everything is moving in the right direction, but we don't even know that now. Hopefully we are racing by then."

Officials at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, now owned by Roger Penske, said in a statement they were working with public health officials about racing in May. The Indy 500 draws crowds of more than 300,000.

"Currently, we don't expect any disruptions to our month of May schedule, including the Indy 500," the speedway said. "Our opening day is nearly 60 days away, which gives us time to continue gathering expert advice and evaluating the most up-to-date information available."

Former Indy 500 champion Alexander Rossi issued a statement in which he called the decision "a bummer.''

"I share in the disappointment with all the fans and pro athletes across the globe,'' Rossi said. "But let's work through this together, be good (intelligent) humans, and come back to have some fun in a couple months.''

Defending IndyCar series champion Josef Newgarden received word of the cancellation standing in the lobby of his hotel just a few feet from the entrance to the street course.

"Crazy times we are living in, man. Crazy times,'' Newgarden said.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.