The 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 will now be held without fans, Indianapolis Motor Speedway and NTT IndyCar Series owner Roger Penske announced the heartbreaking decision Tuesday.
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced massive changes to this season’s schedule, and has already forced the Indy 500 to be moved from its initial Memorial Day weekend date to 23 August.
Penske originally said that the race wouldn’t be held without fans, but as the pandemic’s vice grip on the United States continued to strengthen, capacity was knocked down to 50% and most recently 25% with very strict safety restrictions.
However as cases continue steadily begin to rise in the state of Indiana and specifically Marion County, where the speedway is located, Penske made the decision to hold the race without fans. Penske told the Associated Press that this was “the toughest business decision I’ve ever made in my life.”
“We didn’t buy the Speedway for one year, we bought it for generations to come, and it’s important to our reputation to do the right thing,” Penske said in a telephone interview with the AP.
“We need to be safe and smart about this. Obviously we want full attendance, but we don’t want to jeopardize the health and safety of our fans and the community. We also don’t want to jeopardize the ability to hold a successful race.”
This comes in the wake of the postponement of the Honda Indy 200 at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course to an undetermined later date from it’s scheduled date of 07-09 August. It was also made a doubleheader due to the cancellation of the Grand Prix of Portland and Grand Prix of Monterey also due to COVID-19 concerns.
Penske bought the track and the IndyCar series in January, and has spent $15 million on renovations to the legendary track. While he is excited to have fans see the newly upgraded facilities, Penske believes that this is the best decision.
“Look, this is a long-term investment for us for many generations to come,” he 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.”