Indy 500: Blackout Rule Changed Days Before Indianapolis 500 in Unprecedented Move

For the third time in six years, Indianapolis residents will be able to watch the Indy 500 without leaving their homes. The local blackout on the race was lifted after all 135,000 tickets were sold. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway will only be filled at 40% capacity due to restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic.

"We've hit our capacity for this year's Indianapolis 500 and look forward to hosting 135,000 fans at the world's largest sporting event since the pandemic began," an IMS spokesperson said on Friday. "We're thrilled to welcome fans 'Back Home Again' and appreciate our loyal customers and their continued support."

"With no more tickets available and 40 percent of venue capacity reached, we have decided to lift the local broadcast delay for this year's race," IMS continued. "Central Indiana spectators will be able to tune in on NBC beginning at 11 a.m. We look forward to an exciting and historic edition of the Indy 500 this weekend."

Without the blackout, Central Indianapolis residents can watch the race on NBC, like everyone else in the U.S. NBC's coverage begins at 11 a.m. ET and continues through 4 p.m. ET. NBCSN will air even more coverage, starting at 9 a.m. ET. Peacock Premium subscribers can also stream the race. This is only the fifth time in the race's history it will air live for the entire country, following 1949, 1950, 2016, and 2020, reports the IndyStar. The 2016 race was not blacked out because it marked the 100th anniversary of the race and all 350,000 tickets were sold. There was technically no blackout for 2020, since no fans were allowed in the stands at all because of the pandemic.

The Indy 500 blackout is a unique quirk that comes with the race. Between 1951 and 2016, no Indy 500 race aired in the city where it takes place. "When we first implemented the blackout, it was to protect the integrity of the live event," Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles explained to the IndyStar in 2019. "What makes the race special on TV is the number of people that show up to participate."

IMS lifted the blackout in 2016 out of fears of overcrowding at the track. Once reserved seats sold out, general admission ticket sales skyrocketed. "We didn't want to have so many fans that it wasn't a good experience," Boles said. "It made sense for the 100th running to let the community celebrate with us whether they were at the track or not."

Boles said that lifting the blackout would only happen again if the grandstands are sold out. "That's the first thing. We'd have to get there, and then it'd be a consideration going forward," he added.

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The 105th running of the Indy 500 will feature Jimmie Allen singing the National Anthem and Jim Cornelison performing "Back Home Again in Indiana" again. Danica Patrick is driving the pace car, while Scott Dixon holds the pole position.