The Indy 500 is one of the most popular events in all of motorsports and takes place annually at a packed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The 2020 iteration, however, will be completely different due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The 104th Indy 500 will take place without fans in attendance.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway confirmed the news on Twitter and reiterated that the race will happen on Aug. 23. According to The Athletic, the decision is a reversal from a statement two weeks prior that the race would take place in front of a limited number of fans. The plan was to only allow 25% capacity with increased social distancing, but this is no longer the case. Coronavirus rates are quickly rising in the area, so track owner Roger Penske made the difficult decision to move forward without fans.
"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," the track said in a statement Tuesday. The speedway has space for at least 350,000 spectators, but Penske did not want to put the fans or competitors at risk.
Penske purchased Indianapolis Motor Speedway in January and has spent the time since upgrading the facility in order to prepare for his favorite race. He originally told reporters that he would not run the Indy 500 without fans, but he later changed the amount to 50%. This dropped to 25% and prompted the release of an 88-page plan.
The Indy 500 had an original date of May 24, but the race moved to August. In its place, NBC Sports held a four-hour special that looked back on the 2019 race. This broadcast featured interviews with drivers Simon Pagenaud and Alexander Rossi and included new footage and content for viewers at home.
With the latest update, the fans will not get a glimpse at Penske's improvements to IMS. However, purchasing the track was not a short-term plan. "Look, this is a long-term investment for us for many generations to come," Penske said. "We will continue to improve the speedway, the competitors will get to see it over the next two weeks and we believe this decision now regarding the 500 is in the best interest of protecting the 500 for the future."