Indy 500 Will Be Run With Some Fans Despite Nothing Having Changed Since Last Time

Illustration for article titled Indy 500 Will Be Run With Some Fans Despite Nothing Having Changed Since Last Time
Photo: IndyCar

We all know the story of the 2020 Indy 500. First the race was pushed back from its May date thanks to the Coronavirus pandemic. Track owner Roger Penske was none too pleased by that, but vowed to run the race with half-capacity spectators, then lowered that number to 25 percent, but said he’d never run the race without spectators. And finally, the race went off in August with nobody in the stands, because Indiana University health fought to make sure the race wouldn’t be a superspreader event. On Monday it was announced that the Indy 500 would have fans, but a number has not been decided on yet.

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It’s been six months since the 2020 Indianapolis 500 and for all practical purposes nothing has changed, except the fact that five times as many people are dead from having contracted Coronavirus since then. Half a million Americans are dead, and it’ll be significantly more than that by the time May rolls around. Even at the current slightly-lower rate of contraction and death, this country counted nearly 1,500 people dead yesterday. Let’s assume that number stays steady between now and May 30th, that would account for another 139,000 dead Americans by the time the green flag flies.

“We plan to host fans at the Indy 500 and will continue working through the specific details in consultation with state and local health officials,” an Indianapolis Motor Speedway spokesperson told Racer.com. “As access to the vaccine increases and positivity rates decrease, the list of major sporting events welcoming spectators is growing. This includes the Super Bowl, Daytona 500 and the NCAA men’s basketball tournament in our own backyard. We’re still more than three months out, so there’s time to continue monitoring and gathering information. We’ll provide an update to fans in the spring.”

National health officials have indicated that vaccinations will continue ramping up, but have indicated we won’t have enough available for all Americans until late summer. Both Pfizer and Moderna vaccines are already behind scheduled rollout, and neither claim to be able to fulfill their quotas until late July. I don’t know if you’ve looked at a calendar lately, but May happens before July.

So if the conditions last August were so bad that Indy couldn’t go on with spectators, according to local health officials, with just over 100,000 deaths, why is 2021 any different with a projection for over 600,000 dead? There were almost 60,000 new cases of the virus reported yesterday in this country. That’s certainly a far cry from the nearly 300,000 daily new cases we saw at the peak in January, but 50 percent more than the country experienced in August last year when Indy happened.

What the fuck is happening? Do numbers not mean anything anymore? The only way I’d be interested in attending the Indy 500 this year as a spectator would be if my ticket came with a guaranteed jump up the vaccination line. Let’s do this, put the damn needle in my arm! 

Jalopnik contributor with a love for everything sketchy and eclectic.

DISCUSSION

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Matt Sexton

I’m not a math wiz, but from a logical standpoint, how many people have died already is completely irrelevant to what conditions on the ground will be in Indianapolis in late May.

I trust Roger here, because he and IMS have been working on a plan, which I’m sure has been revised several times, since last year. IMS sits on 560 damn acres, I’m quite certain they can manage 50,000 people or (whatever) outdoors there safely.