Organizers of the Indy 500 had hoped to hold the event in front of motorsports fans in August. However, with just a few weeks to go before the race, it has now been confirmed that the Indy 500 will go ahead behind closed doors. The Indy 500 has never been run without fans previously, but due to Indiana experiencing a spike in coronavirus cases, organizers have decided it is best to ban fans from attending.
The 104th edition of the IndyCar race was initially set to allow 50% of capacity into the historic racetrack. That figure was later revised to 25% as the number of coronavirus cases increased. The increasing numbers of coronavirus in central Indiana in particular has caused new measures to be implemented in the state forcing the hand of Indy 500 organizers to ban fans on August 23rd.
The decision to close the racetrack to fans was taken by Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske. The American billionaire businessman had his team draw up a plan for the event to be held just a few weeks ago. It was widely praised for its attention to detail, but coronavirus numbers told the 83-year-old that it was best to keep fans away from what would have been the largest public gathering during the pandemic.
IndyCar drivers have reacted to the race being held behind closed doors in the immediate aftermath of the announcement. Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing driver Graham Rahal claims that the long-term sustainability of IndyCar outweighs the simple act of letting fans into the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Many drivers and fans had claimed that the Indy 500 shouldn’t take place in 2020 if people are not allowed to attend the race. Rahal, son of 1986 Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal, took to Twitter on August 4th to discuss the importance of the Indy 500 still being run even without fans.
In a video responding to the news of the race taking place without fans, Rahal stated:
“This race is important. This race is the biggest thing each and every year. Without this, I really don’t know if the series goes on in the same manner. I don’t know if a lot of the teams survive without the Indy 500 as we go into the winter. And I know there’s a lot of you, I’ve seen it on Twitter, who don’t care. Who’d rather see us out of business than see us have this race without fans. But it is critical that we go forward. I hope that you guys can understand that, support that.”
Four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt, president of Foyt Racing, stated he never expected to see the event run without fans. Yet, Foyt went on to say through a press release that the decision to ban fans from attending was the” right one to make”.
The majority of IndyCar drivers have responded positively to the race being run behind closed doors. Although disappointed fans won’t be allowed inside the Brickyard, keeping everyone safe is of utmost importance.
The Indy 500 will take place on August 23. Although the banning of fans is the talking point now, once the race gets underway, it is bound to a non-factor when the engines roar.