INDIANAPOLIS – The decision on the number of fans that will be allowed at the 105th Indianapolis 500 will be made within “the next couple of weeks,” according to Indiana Governor Eric J. Holcomb and Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles on Friday.
Governor Holcomb has been involved in meetings with Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske, Boles and Penske Entertainment CEO Mark Miles, along with public health officials to study the data and metrics of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
One of those meetings was Friday and Governor Holcomb took time to check out the second day of the Indianapolis 500 Open Test along with Boles.
“From our standpoint, we have been working very closely with the State of Indiana,” Boles said. “The Governor wants as many people here as possible. We are also working with the city of Indianapolis. The metrics in the state of Indiana are up a little bit from where they were a few weeks ago, but still are in a much better place than we were a year ago. All of these vaccinations coming on board, we are really confident in making those plans.
“We are still looking at a couple of weeks before we know exactly what things look like, but we are really confident. Roger Penske is 100 percent focused on as many fans in the stands as we can have, and we don’t want to do a second year without fans.
“We are going to have fans here. All of the protocols will be determined in the next couple of weeks.”
Governor Holcomb attended nearby Pike High School on the northwest side of Indianapolis and was boyhood friends with Team Penske President Tim Cindric. The Governor discussed that the data and metrics look positive, but it’s still too early to predict the number of spectators that will be allowed to attend the May 30 Indianapolis 500 in person.
“It’s like various events, whether it is March Madness or the Indianapolis 500, we look at what leads and drives the slope of the positivity rate that has to do with the hospitalizations, the deaths and the spread,” Governor Holcomb said. “Has it plateaued or not and where is that slope? We are monitoring what happening on a daily basis. Then, we share that with community leaders and elected officials and boards of health, what is on the horizon. It is one elaborate equation that will drive us on the results and the decision.
“We will call the strategy for the race to get vaccinated just like my buddy Tim Cindric will be calling the race strategy for Josef Newgarden at Team Penske on Memorial Day. This is a team effort, and a lot of data will be crunched, and the responsible decision will be made together.
“It will put a lot of joy into people’s hearts to know that we can do things and pull this off. It’s part of our DNA to prove that it can be done in a safe way. It will mean a lot.”
Boles stressed that it is Penske’s goal to has as many spectators as possible at this year’s Indianapolis 500. Last year’s 104th Indy 500 was held without spectators for the first time in history because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The most important thing is to have the Indianapolis 500, the race itself, with as many people that want to be here,” Boles said. “I think we will still have people here for practice and qualifying and those pieces of the schedule as well, but our real focused is to get as many people here as possible that want to be here and do it in a responsible way. We will determine the ancillary events more after we determine how the Indy 500 looks.
“We want to have a normal May, but there are some challenges on having that in 2021. But the focus is on Race Day, May 30, and that is totally what we are focusing on now.
“Roger has allowed us to do so much with this facility that people haven’t gotten to see, we are going to see fans here and I want them to see it in a few weeks.”
Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been the site of several mass vaccination efforts in March and now in April. Holcomb predicts that before May, close to 100,000 people will have been vaccinated at the historic Speedway.
“Tens of thousands have been vaccinated at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” Governor Holcomb said. “To see the teamwork that came together at IMS, with the Indiana State Department of Health, the Indiana National Guard and IU Health just getting at it. It was like watching one giant pit crew take care and save lives. People risk their lives out here at these races, but we are saving lives by the tens of thousands both in March and now in April.
“This is the race we have to win, and this is the way we are going to win it. I can’t tell you the countless photos I have received from folks all over the state of Indiana, counties far from here that want to go to a globally recognized, iconic venue to get vaccinated. It’s an experience and one that will ultimately get us through this.”