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.