INDIANAPOLIS — Big crowds, high speeds, fierce racing, danger and controversy are key elements to the Indianapolis 500, and this year’s 107th running of the world’s greatest race did not disappoint in any of those areas.
Doug Boles, president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, reported that more than 330,000 spectators filled the track’s grandstands, infield and Snake Pit on Sunday, May 28, to watch American Josef Newgarden win his first Indianapolis 500.
It was the largest turnout since the sold-out crowd of 350,000 fans attended the 100th Indianapolis 500 in 2016.
“I’ll tell you, it was some crowd,” Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske said the day after the race. “And it was real.
“When we signed up for this place, we said let’s make it better and make it a place where everybody wants to come and have fun. The demographics, I saw so many kids come out here with their families.
“It’s a generational thing. People come here every year and want to keep their tickets. If we can make this fun and exciting as it was Sunday at the end, that’s our goal.
“What we are doing is taking a product that took 106 years to build into what it is. What we are trying to do is sustain it and bring it up to the current standards and bring it up to the expectations that you have as a kid or a parent or when you first discovered this.
“We are trying to make this better.”
Attendance was also up significantly on practice days leading into qualification weekend. IMS announced a total of 87,000 fans attended the two days of qualifications on May 20-21.
There was also a large crowd that came to Carb Day for the final practice sessions, Pit Stop Challenge and Carb Day concert.
As the owner of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Penske can watch the race wherever he wants. He chose the top floor of the Pagoda, the 11th floor of the massive facility at the start/finish line.
Penske purchased the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from the Hulman-George family on Nov. 4, 2019. He had grand plans for the 2020 season, but the COVID-19 pandemic caused the Indy 500 to move to Aug. 23 and be run without spectators.
Three years later, the fans filled the world’s largest stadium and witnessed one of the race’s greatest finishes.
WHEEL SAILS OVER FENCE
The scariest moment in years came on lap 185 when Arrow McLaren driver Felix Rosenqvist crashed his No. 6 Chevrolet in turn one. Rosenqvist hit the outside wall, which broke the front suspension on his car.
When Rosenqvist’s car was impacted by Kyle Kirkwood’s speeding No. 27 Andretti Autosport Honda, the left-rear wheel of Kirkwood’s car broke from the suspension. The impact was so severe, it sent the wheel and suspension pieces flying over the fence in turn two.
The wheel sailed through an open area between the grandstands in turn two and the Turn Two Suites before landing on a white Chevrolet Cruze in the parking area near the suites.
There were no serious injuries from the wheel.
Kirkwood’s car flipped over and skidded several hundred feet on its roll hoop and aeroscreen before coming to a stop.
Kirkwood was not injured.
“The good news is we didn’t have a real problem with that tire going out,” Penske said. “I talked to the Dallara guys, and we are going to look at that. We have tethers now and I have never seen a wheel come off like that.
“That, to me, was the scariest thing. We have to fix that to make sure that doesn’t happen again. The technical guys should look at that. The speed here is great, but that was the pinch point on the race.”