Main Takeaways From IMS’ Capacity Limit For The Indy 500

As of last week, I was honestly thinking that next month’s 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 was going to be in danger of even happening. While COVID-19 cases in Indiana are on the rise again, how would it be humanly possible for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to play host to a major sporting event with a crowd of more than 150k in one place at the same time in the midst of a global pandemic?

It just didn’t make sense.

With Tuesday’s announcement, I feel better that we will indeed see the ‘500 run on Aug. 23.

Here are my main takeaways as to why.

Less Than 25% Of Original Ticket Holders Wanted In

Now that we know 25% is the limit, we know that those that previously held a ticket for the May date, over half of them opted out.

When IMS sent out a survey last month, approximately 170k tickets were sold to the race at that time. So, with 25% capacity now for the Aug. 23 race and IMS being able to fulfill all ticket requests that have been received from existing customers, that means over half of the fans that previously had a ticket said no to this year’s race.

The reason I know that it’s over half is, IMS honored all tickets that were wanted from those that opted in and still have some on sale.

Do I Have Tickets?

If you held a ticket and opted in when IMS sent out the memo of finding out who wanted to keep their tickets and who wanted a credit, then you are good to go. That means IMS was able to fulfill your order as you will be getting more guidance the first week of August on what to do.

Did My Tickets Move?

More than likely yes. There’s no way to accommodate people in their normal seats that they previously sat in. With needing to distance 70-90k of spectators and also needing to use every seat available, some tickets will be moved from their original location. But, just be glad that you’re going and in.

“Super Bowl” Crowd

Mark Miles has recently said to the Indy Star that he expected a “Super Bowl” type crowd for this year’s Indy 500. We know that if we’re at 25% capacity, then 70-90k will be allowed in for next month’s race. That is a big Super Bowl crowd.

While I get some people may be nervous of that many people in one place, IMS is a very large facility and they’re using the entire grounds even though it’s 25% filled. That means there will be a lot of distancing throughout the Speedway to ensure you’re not around thousands of people.

Expect Scaled Back Atmosphere

Everything you know as a race day routine, scrap it for this year. First off, the race doesn’t start until 2:30 p.m. ET anyways. Secondly, there’s no need to get there early. With such a small crowd and likely a crowd that will have to enter at certain gates depending on where your tickets are, it’s going to flow quite easily.

I was at Bristol last week for the All-Star race and it went as smooth as possible getting in. We had designated times to come in and only one gate we could enter at those times. We encountered less than I’d say 20 people walking in.

Expect a similar situation in August.

Also, concession stands will have pre packaged meals, so that Indy Dog or Tenderloin, well it will have to wait until hopefully 2021 to be able to get bought.

Finally, you’re going to have to wear a mask at all times. IMS said it’s mandatory that once you get to the gates and until you leave, a mask will be needed on. I know this is going to be likely the most controversial thing about this decision on Tuesday, but just be thankful a race is happening.

IMS/IndyCar Had To Make Concessions Here

Prior to today, I didn’t think we’d see an Indy 500 next month. This past Saturday, Indiana reported 855 new cases of the coronavirus, which according to the Indy Star, was the highest number of new cases in weeks. I see these daily updates and since we’ve moved to Phase 4, they’re going up. It doesn’t take the smartest guy in the room to figure out that’s why we’ve been delayed in moving to Phase 5 and if we keep going this direction, we may never get there — at least any time soon being.

As a result, Mark Miles said last week that they are now trying to learn a new normal, because maybe where were at now, is going to be this way for a while. He noted that Indiana was supposed to be in Phase 5 of the reopening plan on July 4. They’re still not there yet. They will remain in phase 4.5 for at least another couple of weeks. Remember, these numbers are rising.

The city of Indianapolis has been operating between 10-14 days behind the state’s plan. We most certainly will get into August without restrictions being able to get lifted in Indiana in terms of capacity limits.

“You know what I think is happening is society is trying to define a new normal,” Miles said last Thursday. “There is probably a point in time when we thought in Indiana stage five is normal, we’re back completely. Now I think nobody has a clue when stage five happens.

“What we’re trying to do is figure out what a new normal looks like so that we can continue to operate, continue to do that in the most responsible, safest way, and take care of our fans and communities. That’s what we’re all about. I think Michael and the team are doing that in Iowa. You can be sure we’re all over it for Indianapolis.”

So, how will Indianapolis look next month? The Brickyard 400, Pennzoil 150 and GMR Grand Prix all took place behind closed doors because Indianapolis wasn’t going to be to stage 5 by that weekend. How can the Indianapolis 500 host over a quarter of million people a little more than a month later in the same conditions? We’re no different here now than we were then.

Well, they adapted. That’s why they went from 50% capacity to 25%. That was the only way that they could make this work.

That’s why Miles and his team were doing their homework each race weekend to at least keep the option open. They’re trying to figure out a new safe normal and one that includes fans in that.

“We like other sports, have to operate locally even if the series is national and international,” said Miles. “What drives how we approach things is in Iowa the governor, Michael, the mayor of Newton, the local officials, they’ve met with them, they’ve talked with them, worked out a protocol that makes sense according to the situation on the ground there, which would be different in Ohio and different in Indianapolis, wherever we race.

“It’s not like it just builds on itself as a whole. It’s really the parts, where we race, the local conditions there that determine the procedures.”


  • It was announced on March 26 that the Indianapolis 500 was being moved to August.
  • On June 26, IMS announced that they’d allow 50% capacity for the ‘500 this August.
  • July 21, IMS announces 25% capacity now.

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