By Luis Torres, Staff Writer
“The Month of May” has arrived, but it’ll be pure silence this year as there won’t be an Indianapolis 500 in that glorious month for the first time since 1945.
Former Indy 500 winners Tony Kanaan and Alexander Rossi explained during Friday’s video conference that it’s already affected them, knowing that the COVID-19 health crisis has dampened the spirits for them and the rest of the NTT IndyCar Series.
However, the anticipated wait has shifted towards “The Month of August,” which both agreed it has the seeds of being one, if not, the biggest Indy 500 races of all-time due to the two-week hype it’ll have and perhaps become Mr. August after the 200-lap madness ends.
From a hype perspective, Rossi said the 104th Indianapolis 500 Presented by Gainbridge has the writings of being a “coming of a age” event, similar to the race he won in 2016 which was the 100th running of the 500-mile spectacular.
“I think it’s going to be pretty spectacular,” said Rossi. “Everyone talks about the hundredth running as being this kind of coming of age of the Indy 500, bringing it back to the forefront of people’s minds. When things get taken away from society, from people, you start to gain such a big appreciation for it because you don’t get to do it any more, you miss it.
“I think when the 500 finally does come back, there’s going to be that kind of same buzz and excitement that we felt for the hundredth. The anticipation is there. It’s just building and building and building each day and week that people can’t go to the racetrack, can’t do what they love and want to do.
“I think it’s going to be really exciting and really spectacular. In a way I think if we do our jobs right, we can make it one of the biggest 500s ever.”
Kanaan feels the same way Rossi does about the August 23rd event because no matter the month, coming to Indianapolis Motor Speedway still brings tremendous buzz to a driver.
“Once you’re there, once you get to the track, spending two weeks there doing your thing, it doesn’t matter what day of the week or month of the year it is. It’s still going to be May, August, whatever that is,” said Kanaan. “It has a big potential to be probably one of the best races ever. I’m not talking about competition, qualifying. It’s just because we’re going to be so thrilled that we’re out, everybody can do their thing with whatever the rules are going to be.
“If we’re going to have 10 people or 400,000 people, I believe the excitement is going to be over the top.”
The 2004 INDYCAR champion also realized how much what people had before the crisis shouldn’t be taken for granted, especially since moving to Indianapolis.
“All of us, I believe, I can talk about myself, are a lot more appreciative to time that we missed. This thing leveled us to the same level. Everybody’s in the same level,” said Kanaan. “Doesn’t matter how much money you have, how big or small your house is, it doesn’t matter.
“Hopefully we come out better, we appreciate things more than usual, normal things, wake up and leave your house. I got in the car this morning. Actually I will now. It has a big potential to be the best one ever, I think.”
Those thoughts in mind, they’re both aware of different the weather conditions will be in the summer months compared to the tail end of spring.
Kanaan noted that while the heat could be a concern and out of his control, the weather at Indianapolis will still vary.
“It’s Indy,” Kanaan after his opening thought. “It could be 80 degrees but could be 45 degrees, could snow the day before. You never know.”
“I don’t think so (laughter),” Rossi immediately replying Kanaan’s comment.
Rossi, who has finished in the top-seven in all four Indy 500 appearances, noted the potential hot conditions was one of the first things on his mind which brought some sentiment, but he’ll be far from the only one required to adapt on changing conditions.
“That’s the one thing I’m not looking forward. Ultimately it’s the same for everyone,” said Rossi. “You’ll just have to adapt to that challenge with the way you set up the car, kind of go through your preparations, which will be a little bit different than we’re used to in May.”
The void of not having any action at IMS during “The Month of May” is there, but Kanaan commented that while it’ll be hard, the 500 is still in tact and 114 days away.
“I think all of us are missing the month of May. The best thing I can say is it’s happening in August,” said Kanaan. “It’s just a little delay in everybody’s plan. This is the month that, in my opinion, is my favorite month of the year.”
The final round of the INDYCAR iRacing Challenge takes place at the virtual IMS May 2. Live coverage of the First Responder 175 commences at 2:30 pm EST on NBCSN. Both Kanaan and Rossi were locked in the 33-car grid by virtue of being the 2013 and 2016 Indy 500 champions respectively.