After initially insisting on fan attendance for the 2020 Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Roger Penske has decided to close the race to spectators later this month, according to an AP News report on Aug. 4.
The coronavirus pandemic delayed the start of the NTT IndyCar Series season and, as a result, the 500, which was moved from its typical Memorial Day weekend date in May to a late August weekend. The date change is the first ever for the 500-mile event, and 2020 also marks the first time that no spectators will be admitted.
Penske bought the track early in 2020, later saying the race wouldn’t be run without fans when the pandemic’s impact became evident. However, the severity of the virus and concerns over its spread forced Penske’s hand in barring fans and keeping the race on the schedule.
“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.
“We need to be safe and smart about this,” Penske added. “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.”
Indianapolis has a permanent seating capacity of nearly 250,000, while infield seating brings the total closer to 400,000. According to the report, the primary factor in Penske’s decision was a sustained rise in cases in Marion County, Ind., where the track is located.
In the United States, the pandemic has resulted in nearly 5 million cases and more than 150,000 deaths. Indiana alone has more than 70,000 cases, with almost 6,000 in the past week.
Opening practice for the Indy 500 was also canned on Aug. 3, meaning the teams will have one less day to make laps around the 2.5-mile circuit.
The 2020 Indianapolis 500 is set to be run on Aug. 23, with the green flag scheduled for shortly after 1 p.m. ET. Simon Pagenaud is the defending winner, out-dueling Alexander Rossi last year for his first 500 victory.