The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was originally set to be filled at 50 percent capacity for the Indy 500 later this month. However, Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske has changed his mind and now won't be allowing any fans to attend the sport's biggest race. It's the first time in the 104-year history of the event that there won't be any fans in attendance.
Back in June, Penske revealed that the Indy 500 was only going to allow 50 percent of fans to attend the race. Then in July, Penske narrowed that down to just 25 percent, but did still plan to have fans in attendance for infamous race that was rescheduled for Aug. 23 in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Normally, around 275,000 fans attend the Indy 500 on a yearly basis.
In the past, Penske had stated that he didn't want to hold the Indy 500 without fans in attendance. However, the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Indiana impacted Tuesday's decision, which Penske told the Associated Press 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 told 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."
Another determining factor was when IU Health, which is the state's largest health care system and an Indianapolis Motor Speedway partner, announced that the network opposed fans attending the Indy 500 this year.
"Until we sustain better control of this virus and its spread," IU Health said in a statement before Penske announced the decision. "We strongly encourage IMS to consider an alternative to running the Indy 500 with fans in August."
Another massive change with this year's Indy 500 is that is will be shown to central Indiana residents on live television. That's something that has only been done on three other occasions, according to WTHR 13. It is usually blacked out in the local TV market and aired on a tape delay.