IMS Plans for the 500: Local TV, Mandatory Masks, Cancelled Events

As expected, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has done a thorough job preparing a plan to run this year’s Indianapolis 500 in the safest manner possible. An 88 page outline released this morning provides details of how different the 104th running will look. Some highlights:

The race will be broadcast live on local television. This year will be only the fourth time the race has been televised live locally. The last time was in 2016 for the 100th running. The local broadcast is consistent with the speedway’s rationale in 2016- all available tickets have been sold.

All fans will have their temperature taken at the entrances. if a fan has a temperature above 100.4 degrees, that individual will go to a secondary screening station to undergo further testing. The high temperature does not necessarily mean that fan will be excluded from the event. Fans with temperatures below the threshold will receive a colored wristband to wear for the day. Iowa Speedway also used this procedure.

Masks are mandatory. Fans will be given a mask and hand sanitizer as they enter the grounds. The masks are mandatory at all times while inside the venue except for when eating or drinking. Doug Boles said there will be progressive enforcement by guest services staff, starting with reminders. Boles said the Speedway is prepared ask a fan to leave for not complying with what they think is a reasonable request.

Concession stands will have mostly prepackaged foods. There will not be functioning water fountains or misting stations. For people who normally get food at the track, this is the year to begin bringing your own.

Events surrounding the race which won’t take place include Legends day, the 500 Festival Parade, and the  Last Row Party.  The  Victory Banquet will be closed to fans. I assume a credit will be issued to those fans who have tickets.

Bronze badge holders will still have access to Gasoline Alley on practice and qualifying days. Boles said the track sold a limited number this year so that crowding should not be an issue. I would have preferred that this access not be allowed. I would be fine if the Bronze badge were only good for grounds admission.

On Race Day the time fans can be on pit lane will be limited, and on track access is limited to team and race personnel.

Fans who have kept their tickets but change their mind after reviewing this plan can still get a credit for 2021.

Boles does not see a problem with crowd size on practice or qualifying days. Seating areas on those days will be marked for distancing. Some areas have been closed on practice and qualifying days in the past. it sounds as if just more sections or stands might be closed.

Mark Miles said the plan has been approved by Dr. Virginia Cain, Health Director for Marion County. He said that the plan may be adjusted if the health metrics change.  Indiana requires events which plan to have more than 250 attendees to submit a safety plan.

Dr. Ed Racht, Chief medical officer of Global Medical Services, explained the science behind the Speedway’s plan.  Since IMS is an outdoor venue, the virus is 19 times less likely to spread than at an indoor arena or concert hall.  He stated that there is more understanding of the virus and its transmission, and the application of strict criteria can help slow the spread of the disease. Racht emphasized the importance of face coverings.

The entire 88 page plan is available for download at

IMS is doing everything possible to see that the 500 is run this year. A drastic change in cases in Marion County could still derail all of their planning.  I really don’t have any objection to anything I heard today. I like that the blackout was lifted and lifted early, I like that face mask wearing will be enforced, and I think their distancing plan is feasible. It appears they have taken some of the ideas from Iowa Speedway and built them to scale. I wonder if IMS will have chalk circles on the viewing mounds.

Whether to go or stay home is an individual choice. If you read this and have turned in your tickets, you can purchase a new ticket through this Friday.