May 24, 2019

Potential For Thunderstorms Through Race Weekend

Clouds move above the pagoda at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Thursday, May 23, 2019. - Doug Jaggers/WFYI

Clouds move above the pagoda at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Thursday, May 23, 2019.

Doug Jaggers/WFYI

The Indianapolis 500 race weekend is off to a soggy start, and weather forecasts indicate more of the same through race day.

The National Weather Service says periodic thunderstorms are possible Friday through the holiday weekend, and some could be strong to severe at times.

A line of storms moving through central Indiana Friday morning disrupted Carb Day shortly after fans were allowed in. Lightning forced the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to temporarily close its gates and evacuate the grandstands. The gates and stands reopened a short time later, after the storm passed.

The National Weather Service has meteorologists at the track to work with safety officials. IMS President Doug Boles says Sunday's crowd of approximately 300,000 will be kept informed as weather conditions change through messages on the jumbo screens throughout the infield and on social media.

Lightning, and more severe weather, will prompt track officials to clear the grandstands as they did Friday morning. But beyond that, Boles says, the size of the facility makes it necessary for attendees to make some decisions on their own.

“We do ask people – and it seems kind of odd when we say this – to kind of know your own personal safety plan. And the reason we do that, we’re a facility that’s a mile long and a half a mile wide," Boles says. "You might park a mile away from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and it takes you longer to get to your car than that person that’s parked in the infield. So, we can’t always say ‘hey, do exactly this,’ because we don’t know where you are.”

Weather postponements to the Indianapolis 500 are relatively rare. Of the 102 previous races, only three were postponed before they could begin -- 1915, 1986 and 1997. Two races -- 1967 and 1973 -- were postponed after they began. 

Seven races have been shortened because of rain. The most recent was in 2007 when the race was stopped after 166 laps.


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