IMS Grandstands Stay Empty as the Race Goes On

In the end, it came down to a decision to save lives. I didn’t expect the announcement this soon, but it is better for fans who have travel and lodging reservations to cancel.  It will be sad to see empty stands while activities leading up to the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 move along at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway the next two weeks.  Today’s decision to run all track sessions, including the race without fans is sending shock waves through the Indycar fan community.
The postponement of Mid Ohio and the moving back of opening day by 24 hours led me to suspect something bigger was coming. While I halfway expected the announcement of no fans at the race, a total ban on fans for practice and qualifying came as a shock. Practice day crowds are quite small and distancing would be easy. On qualifying days the crowds are larger, but nothing approaching Race Day. Carb day was the one day other than race Day that concerned me crowd wise.
COVID cases in Marion County have been going up. The have tripled since mid June and have increased the past two weeks. I think IMS and Indycar are erring on the side of safety.  Yes, they had a plan which was approved by state and local health officials. It is an excellent plan, very thorough and well thought out. i have no doubt IMS would execute the plan well. The one thing that troubled me was the enforcement of fan requirements. I wonder if that is the component which made the track decide that having fans was too big a risk.
The decision is a huge financial blow to IMS, Indycar, and the teams. How many of the smaller teams will still be in business next year, or even be able to finish the season? Will the purse for the 500 be diminished? It will be a struggle to get 33 cars this year, and it may be a struggle to reach that number for the next couple of years.
 Here is the full statement from IMS:

Update from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway today issued the following statement:

“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.

“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.”

Further Information from IMS

  • All on-track activity during the month of August, including practice and qualifications, will be closed to the general public.
  • 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 a full schedule available on
  • All of the action from IMS can be viewed via NBC Sports Gold, NBCSN or NBC. Visit or for a comprehensive streaming and broadcast schedule.
  • The 104th Running of the Indy 500 will take place Sunday, Aug. 23, with national coverage beginning on NBC at 1 p.m. ET.
  • Local Central Indiana coverage of the race will be available on NBC affiliate WTHR.
  • Broadcast coverage of qualifications on Saturday, Aug. 15 begins on NBC at 3 p.m. ET.
  • Sunday, Aug. 16 broadcast coverage of Pole Day begins on NBC at 1 p.m. ET.