The Indiana Air National Guard has notified the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that it won’t be providing this year’s flyover for the Indianapolis 500 due to the sequester, and next week the Guard will learn if other community support efforts will be cut back as well.
IMS officials still vow to make the flyover a reality, and they’re making contingency plans for other military-related events during the festivities.
“At some level we’re still at business as usual,” said IMS Spokesman Doug Boles, who says they are still awaiting paperwork from the other branches of the military regarding the flyover.
“Now, obviously we’re watching this as an interested observer because we’d like to know what happens so we can figure out what our backup plan will be.”
If the other military branches are also forced to cut back on flyovers, Boles says they will pay for a civilian owned aircraft.
“We believe that no matter what happens with the things going on in Washington, D.C. and what the military’s restraints are, that we’ll have a flyover on race day,” Boles said.
Late this week, the Indiana National Guard received a letter laying out some of the sequester-related cutbacks. The letter addresses community support efforts, which could include everything from National Guard involvement in community parades to appearances during the Indianapolis 500.
According to the Indiana National Guard, the specific impact to community support won’t be known until a meeting on Wednesday.
The military factors prominently during many events at the Speedway and throughout the 500 Festival. Ever since 9/11, fans have grown accustomed to saluting service members as they march down pit lane.
“That’s something that’s become a tradition and we hope that we can continue,” Boles said. “A lot of that isn’t so much an expense for the military really, we provide them tickets, we help get them here, so we’re hoping that that won’t be impacted.”
Boles says it’s more likely to impact festivities planned for Military Appreciation Day that take place during bump day qualifying. For example, last year the National Guard brought in helicopters for public viewing.
“We believe that we’re still going to have some military component that’s on display here that weekend, but it just may not be helicopters,” Boles said.
Though the extent of the cutbacks remain unknown, Boles says nothing will keep race fans from paying tribute.
“I mean it’s Memorial Day weekend and with the exception of starting the green flag and running those 500 miles, the most important thing for us is celebrating the service men and women of this country, both past and present,” Boles said. “That’s still going to be the theme that you feel when you come here on race day. I mean, we get to race on Memorial Day Sunday because of the sacrifices of our military.”