Penske Confirms No Fans For 2020 Indianapolis 500

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There will be no fans in the grandstands for the 2020 edition of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway later this month. (IMS Photo)
There will be no fans in the grandstands for the 2020 edition of the Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway later this month. (IMS Photo)

MOORESVILLE, N.C. — The 104th Indianapolis 500 will take place on schedule, but without fans on Aug. 23.

That inevitable announcement was made Tuesday by Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials in the interest of public health.

With COVID-19 cases skyrocketing in Indiana, and with growing uncertainty it will be any better in October, Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske and his staff have gone ahead with the August schedule, but the event will be closed to the public.

Expected attendance for the Aug. 23 race was being limited to 25 percent of capacity, including the 235,000 grandstand seats. Speedway officials were expecting a Super Bowl size crowd of around 80,000.

Two weeks ago, the Indiana Board of Health and the Marion County Board of Health approved a plan that would have allowed spectators requiring social distancing restrictions, mandatory face masks, hand sanitizer and other precautions.

But since then the Midwest has seen a marked increase in positive COVID-19 cases.

Penske told the Associated Press it was the “toughest business decision I’ve ever made in my life.”

The 83-year-old owner is looking at the long-term future of the facility, the series, the event and most importantly, the health of the spectators.

“We didn’t buy the Speedway for one year, we bought it for generations to come, and it’s important to our reputation to do the right thing,” Penske told the Associated Press.

IU Health, the hospital group that has had a 100-year relationship with the Speedway, and the state’s largest health care system, said it was opposed to fans attending the Indianapolis 500.

After careful consideration, Penske agreed. The plan is to continue with all scheduled activities except for the Pit Stop Competition on Carb Day. Practice is set to open next Wednesday, with qualifications scheduled for Aug. 15-16.

Carb Day is scheduled for Friday, Aug. 21 with the race on Aug. 23 at 2:30 p.m. Eastern Time on NBC.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials issued the following statement regarding the decision not to have fans in attendance:

“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 30 of 2021.”

Additional details:

  • 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 IMS.com.
  • All of the action from IMS can be viewed via NBC Sports Gold, NBCSN or NBC. Visit IMS.com or INDYCAR.com 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.