The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has once again changed its plans for this year’s Indianapolis 500 amid the COVID-19 pandemic. For the first time in history, the delayed race will now run without any fans in attendance after previously being scheduled to be held with a limited number of fans. IMS says the 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,” IMS said in a statement. “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.”
Additionally, IMS says all on-track activity during the month of August, including practice and qualifications, will be closed to the public.
The Speedway says those who have tickets to this year’s race will be credited for the 2021 Indy 500 and will “retain their seniority and their originally assigned seats.”
Governor Eric Holcomb released a statement shortly after the announcement:
“Throughout this unprecedented process, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has always prioritized the safety of the fans. I am grateful for Roger Penske’s leadership and his entire team for thoughtfully approaching this decision with transparency and collaboration. I want to encourage Hoosiers to continue to social distance, wear masks and take precautions so we can continue to slow the spread of COVID-19 and hear the roar of the engines at the track next May.”
Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett also issued a statement:
“Roger Penske and the entire leadership team at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have consistently made clear that their highest priority is the safety of Indy 500 fans. That has been evident throughout the last several months, as they have consistently lived up to their commitment to collaborative planning and careful consideration of the data.
For more than a century the Indianapolis 500 has been a favorite community tradition and I’m confident that fans will soon gather in the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway once again.”
The announcement comes less than a week after Indiana University Health called on race organizers to consider an alternative for the race, saying having even a limited number of fans in attendance “could lead to a spike in COVID-19 infections.”
IMS responded by calling IU Health’s viewpoint “inaccurate and premature.” The Speedway cited its plan for the race that was developed in conjunction with national health experts and approved by the Marion County Department of Public Health, though would be subject to continued review.
The race was moved from Memorial Day Weekend to August 23 as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. The GMR Grand Prix, which was to be held in early May on the IMS road course, took place without fans over the Fourth of July weekend.
IMS says the race will still be televised live, including in Indiana where it is normally blacked out, on August 23. Broadcast coverage of qualifications will continue as planned.