I used to officiate high school basketball. After a game, my partner and I would say, ” We must have had a good game because both sides were mad at us.” If we apply that standard to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, they are doing a great job. At least two entities have issues with the track. Controversy is nothing new to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It even predates the 500 mile race at the track. There was the original, deadly surface which caused several fatal accidents, followed by the somewhat controversial finish of the first race in 1911, qualifying controversies, and more arguments about the finishing order of certain races, notably 1981 and 2002. This is not new, but it is more about what happens off the track.
IU Health, the Speedway’s medical partner, issued a statement asking the track to hold the race with no fans. Their plea comes after IMS produced what I think is a thorough and comprehensive plane for fan safety which has the approval of the Marion County Health Department and state medical officials. The track responded with a strongly worded rebuttal.
IMS requested input from IU Health and received no response. I would think if you are investing sponsorship in a place that asks for input, you should give it, rather than wait until a plan comes out and then take issue with the contents. IU Health actually seems more concerned with the activities outside the track- fans going to restaurants, staying in hotels, and shopping. The speedway has no control over what the fans do outside the track. Businesses have plans in place which I hope will mitigate any spread of the virus.
While I am not a fan of running the race at all this year, I understand why Roger Penske feels the need to have it. I get why he wants to have fans. Like everyone else, i made my choice about attending. I agree that IU Health has a point, but where were they when the plan was being put together? Their statement seems like a blindside attack. I wonder how this issue will affect their partnership with IMS in the future.
When the Speedway asked ticket holders to state their preferences about reassigned tickets or credits, some fans had a difficult decision. Some decided to skip this year’s race while others requested the maximum number of tickets allowed.
There was a period of tension while those that chose to keep their seats waited to see if they would receive their full allotment and if their new seats were close to their original places.
That phase soon was replaced by relief upon learning that their order had been fulfilled, many for the maximum number they requested. As fans began receiving tickets this week, the joy has turned to some grumbling. I saw one person on Facebook complain about the spacing and stating their intent to sit with their friends anyway. The fan practically dared the track to enforce the seat assignments. If they feel that way about their seats, are they feeling that way about the mask requirement too?
From what I have seen and heard of the seating plan, it is well done. There is plenty of space between groups of assigned seats. I don’t know why people are complaining about getting seats when tickets are limited to a small percentage of capacity. If you are unhappy with your seats, stay home and watch the race on television. But first, turn in your tickets so that someone else who wants to go has a chance.
I’m not worried about IMS weathering this storm. It has gone through much worse. Remember 1964 and 1973?
I will wait until next year when with luck and hopefully a vaccine we can enjoy the 105th running of the Indianapolis 500 on its proper date of May 30.