Indy 500, weather, start times, lightning, safety and more

INDIANAPOLIS — Track and race officials are monitoring a severe storm that could include lightning that could impact the start of Sunday’s Indianapolis 500, track president Doug Boles told reporters at the morning event action conference at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Media Center.

10:45 am: Rain update from IMS President Doug Boles

Doug Boles expects rain to arrive at IMS by 12:30 p.m

He says lightning is the biggest concern and will ask fans to leave the grandstands at 11:15 a.m. if lightning approaches the speedway, and all festivities at the track will be halted. The same goes for the Snake Pit concert.

This is really a challenging day for us, he said. “Whatever the decision is, it’s going to be a tough one.”

Fans will be allowed to leave the speedway and re-enter, which is different from the usual protocol, he says.

Boles said drying the track will begin between 2:30-3 p.m., with plans to enter the race if the storm tracks the way he expects it to.

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7:30am: Doug Boles initial update

Where is the storm now?

As of 6:20 a.m. ET, the first waves of two storms to hit IMS were still around St. Louis. According to meteorologists working on the track, that storm could hit between 1pm and 1pm on Sunday, with some light rainfall likely to land before the actual storm hits.

As of Saturday evening, this first wave was expected to hit IMS in the 2-3 pm window, Boles said, but those models have changed.

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“Our plan right now is to continue to monitor that storm. We think we’re going to get some weather at some point today,” Bolles said. “Our biggest concern isn’t rain, it’s lightning and making sure our customers are safe at the speedway.

“The next couple of hours will define when that storm hits Indianapolis, and we want to make sure we inform our customers and let them know where we are (in terms of changing the day’s schedule) to help them decide what they want to do — whether they hang out at the speedway or whether they want to stay in their cars.” , or do you want them to wait at home and see how this weather holds together?”

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IMS is proactive about lightning threats

While fans are familiar with the usual 8-mile rule (lightning within that radius can temporarily postpone or cancel youth sporting events), IMS says it will make calls to clear the grandstands very quickly.

Boles said weather radars will be displayed on video screens around the property so fans can monitor and react accordingly.

“As we start to see this storm build, we’ll start thinking about asking people to leave the grandstands much earlier than the 8-mile radius so they can put their own safety plan in place,” Bolles said. “We have another 120 minutes to see how this storm develops, and then we’ll make another decision about what will keep our customers safe.”

IMS will alert fans of weather and venue updates through its public address system and its video boards. Fans can text ‘Indy500’ to 67283 to send alerts to their phones.

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What does this mean for Indy 500 start times?

With the scheduled 12:45 p.m. ET green flag and rain likely to arrive in the afternoon, there’s a distinct possibility the 500 won’t start as planned, Bolles said. On Saturday night, IMS, NBC and its partners discussed moving the race to 12:15 p.m.

“But when it looked like that storm might hit in the afternoon, it just didn’t make sense to do that,” Boles said. “The last thing we wanted to do was move it up to 12:15 p.m., tell customers if they’re here waiting for the pre-race festivities, they’re going to have to go weather sometime before then.

“When it looked like these storms might hit us between 2-3 p.m., (moving to the start) 30 minutes would have really helped us, but because of where it’s being tracked, it doesn’t make sense to move it. Because we’ll be putting ourselves in a bad position.”

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What happens to the Indy 500 pre-race festivities?

Driver introductions will be at 11:47 a.m. today, less than an hour before the scheduled green flag. At 12:11 p.m., the sentimental parts of “America the Beautiful” begin, and Boles said that’s where the show will cut off.

“The last half hour is the most important part for everybody,” Boles said. “You start thinking backwards from ‘command (to start the engines)’. I think we’ll definitely make a decision about where we’re going with those elements by 9:30 a.m. If it rains, we usually go to a normal pre-race stopping point, which is before the last critical parts of the cadence. will be and then move towards them whenever we start the race or get close to the restart.

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“So it’s about how much we hold on to other things.”

Bolles: ‘Make decisions to keep yourself safe’

Bolles closed with this message to the fans:

“We ask our customers, ‘Where do I park? How comfortable am I?’ Before this happens, some people may not be able to sit in the grandstands, so the pieces are important.

“We ask our customers to look at the weather, look at the radar, ask where we are and make a decision to keep them safe. This storm is very easy to see. You can see the red in this storm. Hopefully it will break up or disappear by the time we get here, but this is a pop-up storm. There won’t be.

Boles also said race officials won’t be paying too much attention to weather watches or warnings when making decisions Sunday morning. The next person said to come by 10 am

“I see a big red bubble coming here. There’s lightning in it, and the most important thing we can do is keep the fans informed and stay on top of it,” Boles said. “We believe in what we see in real time to make sure we can make the best decisions for our fans, no matter what anyone else thinks.”

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