Along with the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the Formula 1 Monaco Grand Prix, the Indianapolis 500 Mile race is certainly one of the major events on the motor sport calendar.
The oval where the race is run has more than 250,000 permanent seats and can accommodate tens of thousands of additional spectators within the immense 2.5-mile track. Every year, far more than 100,000, and sometimes even more than 200,000, gather on site for this extraordinary celebration.
This year will be different. Exceptionally, the event is taking place on August 23 as a result of the coronavirus. What’s more, there won’t be any spectators on hand to cheer on the participants. Back in the spring, officials of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) had hoped they could allow in 100,000 fans, but evolving conditions have put the kibosh on that plan.
Indiana is one of the states where the number of Covid-19 cases is on the rise. IMS explained in a statement that in Marion County, home to the organization, the number of cases has tripled and the positivity rate has recently doubled.
"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," IMS noted.
"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 organization added.
Like many sports, the IndyCar circuit was forced to cease operations in mid-March due to the pandemic and reschedule its races, moving the legendary Indy 500 event from its traditional date of May 24 to August 23.
Widely recognized as the world's largest one-day sporting event, the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race will have a different flavour this year.
Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb said IMS's decision to ban spectators from the 104th Indianapolis 500 was the right one, showing it is serious about putting the safety of fans first. He noted that “Throughout this unprecedented process, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has always prioritized the safety of the fans”.
Said the governor, “I want to encourage Hoosiers (Indiana residents) to continue to social distance, wear masks and take precautions so we can continue to slow the spread of Covid-19 and hear the roar of the engines at the track next May.”
The IndyCar has only run six races since the season resumed on June 6, with some events hosting a limited number of spectators.