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Indianapolis Motor Speedway Planning to Host Up to 135K Fans for 2021 Indy 500

Blake SchusterSenior Analyst IIIApril 21, 2021

FILE - In this May 24, 2019, file photo, cars take to the track during the final practice session for the Indianapolis 500 IndyCar auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis. The Indianapolis 500 scheduled for May 24 has been postponed until August because of the coronavirus pandemic and won't run on Memorial Day weekend for the first time since 1946.  The race will instead be held Aug. 23. (AP Photo/AJ Mast, File)
AJ Mast/Associated Press

Indianapolis Motor Speedway will welcome a limited number of fans back to the famed race track for the 2021 Indianapolis 500 on May 30, according to Nathan Brown of the Indianapolis Star

Up to 135,000 fans will be permitted to watch the race in person, 40 percent of the track's capacity. While the official number of seats in the grandstand has never been confirmed, Indianapolis Star reporter Curt Cavin counted 257,325 permanent seats in 2004. 

While the track has never announced official attendance numbers, in 2016, the Star said 350,000 fans would be at the race, while an estimated 400,000 spectators attended in 1990, per the Associated Press (via USA Today). 

Last year's race, the 104th running, was postponed until August 23 and held without fans in attendance because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Brown noted if reached, 40 percent capacity at IMS will represent the highest-attended event in the United States since the onset of the pandemic. 

Race officials announced the sale of 170,000 tickets to the Indy 500 last week before sending out an advisory requesting ticket holders confirm how many of their allotments they planned to use with credit available for next year's race for any unused tickets. Speedway president Doug Boles told Brown nearly 33,000 tickets were already returned and fans interested in attending can still submit an application with the track to do so.

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Those in attendance will be required to wear a mask unless eating or drinking, observe social distance guidelines and temperature checks will be required before entering the grounds. 

Additionally, IMS plans to use the month of May to continue encouraging Indiana residents to get vaccinated. The track held a four-day mass vaccination clinic in March that served 16,000 people. The drive-up vaccine clinic at the track will remain available throughout May until the 27th—three days before the Indy 500. 

Per Brown: 

"IMS projects that by race day, nearly 60% of its fans will have been vaccinated, which they believe, along with mask-wearing and spacing, should ensure safety by those who do attend this year's race. A year ago, IMS initially said in July they would allow as much as 50% capacity for the Aug. 23 race, and then fans' demand lowered that projection to 25% on July 21. But on Aug. 4, track officials announced the decision to hold the race without fans due to the significant continued spread of COVID-19 locally and the lack any vaccine at that point."

“The city and state have worked with us to identify the appropriate health and safety precautions so that we can successfully host a limited but very enthusiastic crowd," Boles said in a statement. "The health and safety of everyone coming to IMS, along with central Indiana and the Hoosier state, have been paramount throughout this process.”

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