- The Indianapolis 500 will be run this year without fans in attendance for the first time in race history.
- The race has been rescheduled to August 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Indianapolis Speedway owner Roger Penske had originally said he would not run the race without fans.
You can add another major sporting event to the ‘no fans in attendance’ list. The 2020 Indianapolis 500 has already been rescheduled to August 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic and earlier today the announcement was made that it will be run without fans in attendance. This will be the first time in the 109 year history of the race that the grandstands will be empty.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced the decision in a press release:
“It is with great regret that we announce the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place on Aug. 23 without fans. This tough decision was made following careful consideration and extensive consultation with state and city leadership.”
“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.”
In addition to the race all other on-track events including practices and qualifying will be closed to the public.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske had initially said that he would not hold the race without fans in attendance and until recently that was the plan. Organizers first announced that attendance would be limited to 50% of capacity, a figure that was reduced to 25% just a couple of weeks ago. Given that 25% capacity would still put 87,000 people on the racetrack grounds today’s decision is clearly the right one.
Calling it ‘the toughest business decision I’ve made in my life’ Roger Penske eventually changed course out of concern for the well being of race fans and the broader community:
“We need to be safe and smart about this. Obviously we want full attendance, but we don’t want to jeopardize the health and safety of our fans and the community. We also don’t want to jeopardize the ability to hold a successful race.”
“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.”
Changes in public opinion might have forced the hand of race organizers though Penske maintains that this did not influence today’s decision. Last week, IU Health–Indiana’s largest health care system–released a statement advising against holding the Indy 500 with fans in attendance:
“Until we sustain better control of this virus and its spread we strongly encourage IMS to consider an alternative to running the Indy 500 with fans in August.”
Penske reaffirmed his commitment to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and stressed that the decision to hold the race without fans is in the longterm best interest of the track:
“We will continue to improve the speedway, the competitors will get to see it over the next two weeks and we believe this decision now regarding the 500 is in the best interest of protecting the 500 for the future.”