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IndyCar confirms season opener on June 6 at Texas oval

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Washington (AFP)

IndyCar confirmed Thursday its 2020 season will open June 6 at an empty Texas Motor Speedway with an oval night race on a condensed schedule under coronavirus pandemic safety measures.

The event sets the stage for a double sports return from the deadly virus outbreak in Fort Worth, with the US PGA Tour planning to resume June 11-14 at the Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club, also with no spectators.

IndyCar was to have launched the campaign in St. Petersburg, Florida, on March 15 but the COVID-19 outbreak forced organizers to postpone the race as well as the signature Indianapolis 500, which has been rescheduled from May 24 to August 23.

"All of that pent-up energy, anticipation, frustrations and anxiety will be pounding through the drivers' nervous systems," speedway president Eddie Gossage said.

The Genesys 300 will stage practice, qualifying and the race on the same day over the 1.5-mile (2.32km) oval. The race will be shortened by 48 laps to 200 laps.

American Josef Newgarden will try to take back-to-back wins at the Fort Worth oval as he begins to defend his 2019 IndyCar season crown.

Safety precautions decided in consultation between public health officials and the speedway include limiting on-site personnel, health screens and protective equipment for all participants, strict social distancing protocols and a revised competition layout to increase distancing.

The safety plan "will ensure the safety of our event participants alongside an exciting return to competition," IndyCar president Jay Frye said.

A revised 15-race schedule announced in April remains in place, including two road races and the 500-mile oval classic at Indy plus two races at both Iowa and Laguna Seca. The finale is set for the streets of St. Petersburg at a date to be determined.

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