The 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23 will be held at approximately 25 percent fan capacity, and all spectators will be required to wear masks amid the COVID-19 pandemic, race organizers announced Tuesday.
Penske Entertainment Corp. President and CEO Mark Miles explained the decision in the press release:
"In June, we announced the race was on and that attendance would be limited to no more than 50 percent of capacity. We also made clear we intended to do things differently this year. By offering credits to fans who had previously purchased tickets, encouraging those over 65 to stay at home, limiting attendance in the infield, reducing tickets in our suites and promising fans their decision to not attend would not impact their seniority or right to renew tickets for 2021, we now anticipate attendance at approximately 25 percent of capacity. We will welcome fans back, and we have an aggressive plan in place, which has been developed through collaboration with national, state and local health experts."
The seating arrangement will also account for safe social distancing, hand sanitizer will be provided to attendees, and all people who enter the venue will have their temperatures taken before being granted admittance.
Nathan Brown of the Indianapolis Star reported that the approximate crowd size—estimated to be around 87,500 people—would be the smallest since 83,000 fans were in attendance in 1916.
The race was originally scheduled to be run May 24 but was rescheduled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Race organizers made it clear that they had no intention of holding the race without spectators.
"A 500-mile race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway without fans would be just that—a 500-mile race without fans," IMS President Doug Boles told the Indianapolis Star in June. "And that's not the Indy 500. In order to have the Indy 500, you have to have fans."
Miles added Tuesday:
"We look forward to welcoming fans back to the 500 in person. Our outdoor facility is mammoth, and with attendance of about 25 percent, it will certainly look different this year. We want to demonstrate that even under current circumstances, people can gather with carefully planned procedures in place so we don't have to go back to shutting down our country and our community."
As for the race itself, Simon Pagenaud will be hoping to repeat his win from the 2019 season. The race has not had consecutive wins by a driver since Helio Castroneves pulled off the feat in 2001 and 2002. Pagenaud ranks second in the IndyCar standings behind Scott Dixon, who won the series' first three races. Josef Newgarden, Pato O'Ward and Will Power round out the top five.