IndyCar back in St. Pete seven months later to finish season

Chip Ganassi speaks about driver Jimmie Johnson joining his IndyCar team for next season at a press conference during the IndyCar race weekend Saturday, Oct. 24, 2020, in St. Petersburg, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson) (Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – IndyCar opened the second week of March giddy to finally start its season. The coronavirus seemed so far away from the downtown streets of St. Petersburg and teams poured into the city eager to shake off six months of rust and race again.

The NBA suspended its season just hours before IndyCar's drivers had their track inspection. City officials fretted over the event and banned spectators. Formula One then canceled its race in Australia and IndyCar abbreviated its weekend.

Still, they would race.

“I remember being like, ‘Oh, we live in America, it will never happen to us,” Alexander Rossi said. “The F1 race in Australia, things were starting to get wild, right? And I was still, ‘Oh, that sucks for them. We live in this bubble, the U.S. is fine, right?’

“Then there was the awakening of ‘This is a much bigger problem than just sports.'”

Seven months after the coronavirus pandemic brought to the sports world to a sudden stop, IndyCar returns to St. Petersburg, where drivers were finally sent home 48 hours before the March 15 scheduled start.

IndyCar is celebrating the completion of a season that was once in doubt, but the damage caused by the shutdown is unknown. The entire industry left St. Pete in March unsure how IndyCar could survive.

“I was really concerned about the future of all of us,” Rossi said.