The 104th running of the Indy 500 took place at an empty Indianapolis Motor Speedway three months later than expected due to COVID-19. New IMS owner Roger Penske said in a letter at the time that fans would return in 2021 and now he has provided a sense of how many. Penske is "optimistic" about a crowd size in the six figures.
"We're not making any predictions at all because anything I would say today could be completely wrong," Penske told reporters during a Zoom press conference on Monday. "Our goal is to have 250,000. That's what we want to have. It's outside. We've got the biggest stadium in the world here and it's a matter of where we're going to be with the CDC and the governor and the mayor, so I don't have any number that I'd want to hang my hat on."
IMS has more than 250,000 permanent seats, making it one of the largest venues in the world. With temporary seat additions, the venue can host an estimated 400,000 people during high-profile events. The 105th running of the Indy 500 doesn't take place until May 30, but Penske noted that more than 100,000 tickets have been sold.
"It just shows you the interest in the race and we've got a lot of people that are waiting, and we have our [general admission] and what else we normally do on that weekend, but I think the good news is we're going to have the race and it will be limited or be open based on what the current numbers are," Penske added.
While motorsports have avoided IMS, the facility has been fulfilling a different purpose. Penske explained that vaccinations have been taking place at the massive venue and that even more will happen in the future. Although the details are still in the works.
"It's way down and I think with that [the crowd] will hopefully be a big number," Penske said, per NBC Sports. "That's what our hope is, but what we've done in the meantime we've been doing vaccinations. We did 16,000 in three days and we're getting ready to do a mass vaccination in April.
"We haven't worked out the details yet with the state, but we think there's an opportunity to make a big impact here, where we could give back to the community," Penske added. "With the size of our facility and what we were able to accomplish just in three days, we think we can really help this whole area here — the city of Indianapolis and the surrounding counties."