With 135,000 fans, Indy 500 will become the largest sports event of COVID-19 pandemic

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INDIANAPOLIS — The Indy 500 is set to become the largest sporting event since the pandemic hit in early 2020 with a reduced-capacity sellout crowd of 135,000 expected to attend Sunday’s race.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway worked with the Marion County Public Health Department to determine that 40% of venue capacity will be allowed for the 105th Indianapolis 500. The speedway is the largest sporting facility in the world with more than 250,000 grandstand seats and the ability to host close to 400,000 on race day throughout the entire property.

Other large sporting events have included more than 73,000 fans at the bout earlier this month in Arlington, Texas, between Canelo Alvarez and Billy Joe Saunders and 78,000 for a cricket match last month in Melbourne, Australia. But the Indy 500 will dwarf those totals this weekend.

105TH INDY 500 INFO: Start times, schedules, TV, stats, historical details about the 2021 race

STARTING LINEUPThe 33-car starting grid for the 2021 Indy 500

The track also decided to lift the local broadcast blackout and allow Central Indiana fans the chance to watch beginning at 11 a.m. EDT on NBC.

“We’ve hit our capacity for this year’s Indianapolis 500 and look forward to hosting 135,000 fans at the world’s largest sporting event since the pandemic began. We’re thrilled to welcome fans ‘Back Home Again’ and appreciate our loyal customers and their continued support,” IMS said in a statement.

NBC averaged 3.67 million viewers and a 2.3 rating for last year’s Indy 500, won by Takuma Sato in August when the race was moved away from Memorial Day weekend because of the pandemic and held without spectators for the first time in its 104 runnings. IMS also lifted its usual local blackout last year because spectators were not permitted.

The infield’s raucous “Snake Pit” will be closed and all the traditional pre-race concerts will not be held, including on Friday’s Carb Day. There will be suite seating and the Pagoda will be open to those with tickets, but the midway will be closed.

Indianapolis Motor Speedway recently clarified its COVID-19 fan procedures and protocols for the Indy 500.

The track is encouraging fans to plan ahead by monitoring its website (IMS.com/PlanAhead) for updates on those attending the May 30 race (which will be broadcast by NBC).

Face coverings are required per a Marion County mask mandate, but there no longer will be temperature screenings for entry (a policy change implemented May 14-15 before the GMR Grand Prix, which drew the crowd seen in the photo above).

Fans will be spaced in groups through the venue, and hand sanitizer, washing stations and masks will be available.

X44 Racing win 2022 Extreme E championship as Abt Cupra score first race victory

2022 Extreme E Uruguay
Extreme E
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Abt Cupra Racing’s Nasser Al-Attiyah and Klara Andersson scored their first win in the Extreme E Energy X Prix in the 2022 finale in Uruguay as Lewis Hamilton’s X44 Vida Carbon Racing drivers Sebastien Loeb and Cristina Gutierrez survived a chaotic finale to edge the 2021 champion Rosberg X Prix team of Johan Kristoffersson and Mikhaela Ahlin-Kottulinsky, by two points.

“There are so many emotions,” Andersson said in Extreme E’s coverage. “I’ve been waiting for this for so long. In my second race, first full weekend to be at the top of the podium: it’s big.”

Andersson was behind the wheel at the finish.

Rosberg Racing entered the event with a 17-point advantage over X44, but the standings were close enough that four teams remained in contention in Round 5.

“It’s a crucial weekend for us,” Loeb said in Extreme E’s coverage prior to the race. “We are not in the best position to win the championship, but the only thing we can do is try to win the race and score as many points as possible.”

The top two title contenders each crashed in qualification and were relegated to the Crazy Race, Extreme E’s version of the Last Chance Qualifier (LCQ). For the moment, they had the steepest hill to climb, but then the other two championship contending teams, Chip Ganassi Racing and Acciona Sainz Racing failed to advance from their heats.

Only one team advances from the Crazy Race, so the X44 drivers were in a must-win situation to simply keep hope alive.

More: Extreme E 2023 schedule

Ahlin-Kottulinsky and Gutierrez ran wheel to wheel into the first turn at the start of the LCQ.

The Rosberg racer experienced crash damage in that turn that damaged her front steering, but managed to limp back to the pits at the end of her two-lap stint. The team attempted to fix the steering, but incurred a penalty for having too many mechanics in the pit area.

Meanwhile, Gutierrez took the early lead, but knew she would need to sit through a five-second penalty for an incident earlier in the weekend. The female half of the gender equal pair erased the penalty by entering the Switch Zone with a five-second lead before turning the car over to Loeb.

That was all the nine-time World Rally Championship titlist needed to give him the advantage needed to win the Crazy Race.

But the championship was not over yet. X44 Racing needed to finish third or better in the five-car finale to earn enough points for the title and after advancing from the LCQ, they were forced to take the worst grid position.

A chaotic start to the Finale saw Loeb run as high the lead and low as fourth after getting pushed off course during his first lap. And that is how he entered to Switch Zone.

On her first lap, Gutierrez slammed into Molly Taylor. With one lap remaining, X44 and Gutierrez were still in fourth and the title hope was quickly evaporating, but it was announced halfway through the lap that the third-running Andretti United team would suffer a penalty for a Switch Zone infraction. The seven-second deduction for Timmy Hansen braking too late in the zone made the difference in the title.

Coming off a disappointing Copper X Prix when Tanner Foust and Emma Gilmour crossed under the checkers first, but were relegated to fifth by penalty, the McLaren pair scored their first podium of the season in second.