IndyCar opener to run without spectators due to coronavirus

American driver Josef Newgarden hopes to defend his title on Sunday at the IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, where the Florida city's mayor has banned spectators from attending the opener of the 17-race season due to coronavirus concerns

Spectators were banned from IndyCar's 2020 season-opening race Sunday at St. Petersburg, Florida, by the city's mayor due to growing fears over the ongoing coronavirus outbreak.

On-track activity was trimmed to Saturday and Sunday, when the 100-lap feature will be staged before empty grandstands along on a 1.8-mile, 14-turn temporary street course circuit through downtown St. Petersburg.

"My most important job is public safety and health. It is for that reason that we are cancelling general attendance at the (race)," Mayor Rick Kriseman tweeted.

"I don't make this decision lightly. I strongly believe life must carry on, as best we are able. But the reality now is that's just not possible. I am disappointed. I love this race. But I love this city and our residents more."

A 26-car field is set to compete with American Josef Newgarden hoping to repeat as champion in the launch to a 17-race campaign.

"All activities surrounding Sunday's season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be closed to spectators and limited to essential personnel only," IndyCar said in a statement.

"This protocol is being put in place to protect the health and welfare of the fans, drivers, teams, workers and officials, as we mitigate the risk of exposure to COVID-19."

American driver Josef Newgarden hopes to defend his title on Sunday at the IndyCar Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, where the Florida city's mayor has banned spectators from attending the opener of the 17-race season due to coronavirus concerns