After putting a plan in place to have a limited number of fans at the Aug. 23 Indianapolis 500, officials with Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced on Tuesday that the race will be run without an audience. The growing COVID-19 pandemic is the reason behind the decision.
It’s the first time in 104 races that fans won’t be in attendance at “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” The iconic race has been canceled six times since the inaugural contest in 1911. All six cancellations — 1917-1918, 1942-1945 — were because of World War I and II. This year’s race was moved from May 24 to the third week of August.
Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles told the Indianapolis Star that the ownership of IMS is disappointed with the decision, but there was no alternative.
“What I hope [is that] people recognize is that we’ve done everything possible to be able to do it with fans,” Miles said. “This plan will go down as the model for how to do a mass gathering under these circumstances, if it were possible. We’ve said all along that we had to hang in there and see if the public health situation would allow us to do it, and we’re at least as disappointed as all the fans that we can’t have them there this year.”
Indy 500 Goes from Some Fans to None
Two months ago, IMS announced that the race would allow no more than 50% percent of fans into The Brickyard for the Indy 500. In July, they reduced that number to 25%.
With the ability to hold up to 257,000 fans at the Speedway, cutting attendance down to a fourth would have allowed around 60,000 people to enter the facility. Even with the safety precautions IMS had in place, which included required the use of masks, distribution of hand sanitizer, and temperature checks, officials deemed crowd safety could not be guaranteed.
Odds to Win Indianapolis 500
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Drivers React to No Fans
Drivers were understandably disappointed when they heard the news that Indy’s stands will be empty on race day.
Graham Rahal took to Twitter to express his emotions about having no fans at the Indy 500.
“Today’s news brought lots of mixed emotions, but we’ve got to do what is necessary for our fans & community’s health & safety now in order to keep this sport & race alive for generations to come,” Rahal wrote. “It won’t be the same without you all on 8/23, but we’ll be back strong in 2021.
Defending champion Simon Pagenaud echoed Rahal’s sentiments.
“The health of our fans is our No. 1 priority,” Pagenaud wrote on Twitter. “It will be sad to not interact with the crowd this year, but I’ll be proud to take the green flag as the reigning champ of the most amazing race in the world!”