The 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 is days away with final preparations being made for the “Greatest Spectacle In Racing.” Race officials are encouraging fans to stay home and watch the race on television.
For the first time in history, the Indianapolis 500 will be run outside of Memorial Day weekend and have no fans in attendance.
Race officials have discussed the tough decisions that had to be made ahead of the race. With a few days to go, they highlighted some of the special programming they’ll have this year for the television broadcast including a flyover by the Air Force Thunderbirds.
Penske Entertainment Corp. President Mark Miles said it’s tough not having fans in the stands this year, but the race must go on.
"And ultimately, it's really important to our stakeholders. So the teams have proven themselves to be incredibly resilient, but it's really important that they have their Super Bowl," Miles said. "And that's the role or even a greater role that 500 plays in the IndyCar Series."
Thursday morning, track owner Roger Penske sent a letter to fans that had tickets to attend the race, sharing his disappointment with being unable to host them this year in light of COVID-19.
Throughout practices, time trials and Pole Day, some fans parked along the track trying to catch a small glimpse through the fence.
When Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) officials announced no spectators would be allowed at this year’s Indy 500, the usual TV blackout was lifted in the Indianapolis area.
IMS President Doug Boles said a lot of work has gone into this year’s television production of the race.
“We're encouraging our fans to stay home and watch it on TV, the TV coverage is going to be better than anything you can get standing at 16th and Georgetown,” said Boles. “So it's, in our minds, we're trying to do the best we can to deliver an Indy 500 experience into the living rooms through NBC. And we're hoping they'll do that.”
Boles said for those who choose to come out on race day, he encourages them to follow health guidelines including social distancing and wearing a face mask when needed.
The Indy 500 is scheduled to run this Sunday, Aug. 23, with programming beginning at 1 p.m. and the race starting at 2:30 p.m. Eastern time.