On August 23, the delayed 104th running of the Indy 500 will finally happen. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has decided that it will allow race fans to buy tickets and attend the race, but will limit entrance to half of the track’s 235,000 person capacity. How fitting that the track will allow 117,500 people in the gates to hang out with each other in the same place for the whole day when we’re in the middle of a pandemic that has taken the lives of only slightly more Americans.
The track hasn’t yet detailed its plan to allegedly keep race fans safe when they attend this huge mass gathering, but I can bet that it’s going to be meaningless horseshit. Sure, the track can likely cover its ass with “safety measures” like requiring masks and social distancing. If you think any of the people attending this race in Indianapolis on a hot August day are going to wear face coverings all day, you’re fooling yourself. And social distancing is literally going to be impossible at this track, even at half capacity.
I have, in the past, attended racing events at IMS, sitting both in the “tower terrace” infield grandstands along the main straight, as well as the turn 2 “G” grandstands. In either instance, I was seated shoulder to shoulder with my fellow race-goers, packed in like sardines in a can. The metal bleacher seats are delineated only by a number on the seatback, approximately two to two and a half feet apart. If capacity is halved, you would be lucky to have a couple of feet of “social distance” between you and the person sitting next to you. Even less if someone is sitting directly in front or directly behind you.
And that’s to say nothing of the viral mess that public restrooms, concessions stands, and narrow corridors will become with a hundred and seventeen fucking thousand people in the Speedway.
As of this writing, Indiana has seen just over 42,000 cases of COVID-19 within its borders, and a mere 2553 deaths. But imagine what six-figure attendance to Speedway, Ind. might do to those figures. All of the travel involved, all of the people coming into contact with each other, and all of the asymptomatic virus carriers that may be in the crowd.
Singing Back Home Again. Shouting to each other. Drinking. Wolfing down a famous tenderloin sandwich. Cheering. For several hours.
If the last few days and a new record high of infected Americans haven’t made it clear, we aren’t over the hump on this horrifying disease yet. States that had re-opened everything are shutting back down, my state of Nevada just pushed a blanket No Shirt, No Shoes, No Mask, No Service requirement into effect for everyone in a public space, and Florida just broke its case record by thousands with 8,942 new diagnoses on Thursday. It’s not over. Please don’t risk your life, or countless others, with stupidity.
The Indianapolis 500 is one of the few remaining events left on my automotive bucket list, and I’d made plans last December to attend the race this year. When it was postponed a few months ago I resigned myself to admitting that this year just wouldn’t be my year, and even though tickets are available for purchase again, there’s no chance in hell I’m going to be buying one. Stay home, stay safe, and for fuck’s sake, wear a mask.