Indianapolis 500 to Run August 23 without Fans in Attendance

Indy 500 Field Shaping Up

The 104th Indianapolis 500 was supposed to run on the final Sunday of May, the 24th. COVID-19 scotched that as the United States sat in lockdown. Penske Entertainment Corp. decided August 23rd would be an optimal date and said the race would be held at half capacity on the historic Indianapolis Motor Speedway 2.5-mile oval. Then the capacity shrunk to 25 percent and today, IMS and Penske Entertainment said, sorry, no fans for this 104th race. It just isn’t safe enough.

When the Speedway initially announced its decision to hold the 500 this month, its site in Marion County of Indiana was in pretty good shape. people were paying attention to Gov. Holcomb’s edicts of staying at home, wearing masks and being careful. In the past several weeks, trends in the area have caused infections to increase incrementally, by as much as 30 percent. IU Health, which provides assistance to the Speedway with medical personnel and air flights for injured members of both the public and for participants, stated its objection to holding the race – even with only one-quarter of the outdoor seats filled.

So on Tuesday, IMS decided to regretfully announce that the “104th running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place on August 23 without fans. This tough decision was made following careful consideration and extensive consultation with state and city leadership,” the Speedway said. “We said from the beginning of the pandemic we would put the health and safety of our community first, and while hosting spectators at limited capacity with our robust plan in place was appropriate in late June (when the 25% maximum attendance was announced), it is not the right path forward, based on the current environment.”

All on-track activity – practices, two days of qualifying and the 500-mile race – will be held without fans in attendance and the track will be closed to the general public. The only way for any rabid racing fan to see the action is through NBC Sports Gold, NBCSN or NBC. There will be comprehensive streaming on IMS.com or INDYCAR.com, where a streaming schedule is being posted. While on-track activities were scheduled to commence a week from today, on August 11, that scheduling has been pushed back a day later to Wednesday, August 12.

J. Douglas Boles, president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway – and a huge fan of the race himself – released a letter to fans and ticket holders, in which he declared, “If you are a current Indy 500 customer, please know that you will receive an IMS account credit for your tickets to all August events and all related items (badges, credentials, parking, camping, etc.), and you will retain your seniority and your original May seating location for 2021.”

Visitors to next year’s race will be able to see the upgrades enacted by Penske Entertainment Corp. that will make IMS an even more desirable place to visit for the Indy 500 – and its other events. “The Penske Corporation,” Boles stated, “has made a long-term investment to be the steward of our legendary facility, and we were very excited to showcase the many investments and enhancements we have made over the last eight months. As much as Roger [Penske] and all of us associated with the ‘500’ wanted to ace with fans this year, we ultimately reached this conclusion in partnership with the state of Indiana and the city of Indianapolis.”

Fans took to social media and were either devastated or appreciative of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s consideration of their needs. With deaths from COVID-19 currently at 1,000/day or more, the vast majority were understanding of the Speedway’s decision to exclude them. “Not unexpected,” one said, “but I’m glad it will be happening and look forward to watching from my home.” Another commenter noted Roger Penske’s earlier comment, “We didn’t buy the Speedway for one year; we bought it for generations to come, and it’s important to our reputation to do the right thing.” The fan added, “The right thing is not always the popular thing. Respect to Penske.”

About Anne Proffit 1222 Articles
Anne Proffit traces her love of racing - in particular drag racing - to her childhood days in Philadelphia, where Atco Dragway, Englishtown and Maple Grove Raceway were destinations just made for her. As a diversion, she was the first editor of IMSA’s Arrow newsletter, and now writes about and photographs sports cars, Indy cars, Formula 1, MotoGP, NASCAR, Formula Drift, Red Bull Global Rallycross - in addition to her first love of NHRA drag racing. A specialty is a particular admiration for the people that build and tune drag racing engines.

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