The Indianapolis 500 will run without fans. The long-rumored possibility comes after a recent increase in COVID-19 cases across Indiana and other states in the Midwest.
The NTT IndyCar Series’ crown jewel has gone through two rounds of crowd reduction plans in reaction to the coronavirus, and with the latest adjustment, the 500-mile race will be held for the first time in front of empty grandstands.
“This tough decision was made following careful consideration and extensive consultation with state and city leadership,” read a statement from IMS.
“As dedicated as we were to running the race this year with 25 percent attendance at our large outdoor facility, even with meaningful and careful precautions implemented by the city and state, the COVID-19 trends in Marion County and Indiana have worsened. Since our June 26 announcement, the number of cases in Marion County has tripled while the positivity rate has doubled. We said from the beginning of the pandemic we would put the health and safety of our community first, and while hosting spectators at a limited capacity with our robust plan in place was appropriate in late June, it is not the right path forward based on the current environment.
“We encourage Hoosiers to continue making smart decisions and following the advice of our public health officials so we can help get Indiana back on track.
“Penske Corporation made a long-term investment to be the steward of this legendary facility. While we were very excited to showcase the investments and enhancements we have made in the guest experience, we know we have reached the right decision. As much as Roger Penske and everyone associated with the 500 wanted to race with fans this year, we ultimately reached this conclusion in partnership with the state of Indiana and city of Indianapolis.
“Our commitment to the Speedway is unwavering, and we will continue to invest in the Racing Capital of the World. We encourage everyone to watch this year’s race on NBC, and we look forward to welcoming our loyal fans back to ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ on May 30th of 2021.”
Originally scheduled for May 24, the 104th running of the Indy 500 was moved to August 23 as a nationwide shutdown was implemented to stem the spread of COVID-19. With practice due to start on August 11, IndyCar teams have been anxious to receive confirmation the race would go forward as planned.
As of Monday night, and despite the commencement of official on-track activities next week, teams had not received the Indy 500’s master schedule from the series, or the operations manual which dictates all facets of how teams are expected to function and perform their jobs amid the variety of coronavirus-related restrictions. An entry list for the Indy 500 is another awaiting publication.
Individuals who still have tickets to this year’s Indy 500 will be credited for the 2021 Indianapolis 500 and will retain their seniority and their originally assigned seats. The first Indy 500 practice will take place on Wednesday, Aug. 12, with race day scheduled for Sunday, Aug. 23, with national coverage beginning on NBC at 1 p.m. ET.