Indy 500 without fans seems like the wrong move

INDIANAPOLIS — The devastating announcement was made on Tuesday afternoon. No, I’m not talking about the one where due to the uncertainty of the pandemic and his company losing money that a NASCAR team will shutter after the season. I’m talking about the one that came a few hours later regarding the Indianapolis 500 and it being able to still run on Aug. 23, but will be doing so without fans.

This is a feeling of being left at the altar — twice. You know that saying don’t you? Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. 

The first time, we knew that there was no way that we were going to be able to watch a race on the original date of May 24 in person. That was obvious. That date was postponed for Aug. 23. Fans got to throw away or return their “wedding gifts” or should I say ticket stubs in this case, and wait for further direction on what to do for the new date – Sunday, August 23, 2020. 

Still, the whole time they were being led to believe that this race was going to run with spectators and only with spectators. The Indy 500 is the largest single day sporting event in the world and bigger than just another race or just another sporting event. It’s built around the fans. The fan base makes this event. 

So, if there’s anything that’s not going to be held without fans in 2020 – it’s the Indy 500. Anything else is fair game. Not Indy. 

Everyone was on the same page of this. 

Then, we get some bright news recently. The race can be held at 50-percent capacity. Yay! A month later, that number dropped to 25-percent. Still, yay! If you wanted to go, you can. If you didn’t want to go, you didn’t have to.

Then, today’s bombshell. It was like, ‘hey folks, all is good we have a detailed plan, invitations are going to be mailed and get excited, it’s happening.’ Then, once the invites were received and social started media blowing up with happy race fans receiving their blue envelopes, they get kicked in the gut, it a devastating kick that knocks you to your knees and questions if you want to do this again in the future. 

It’s not happening now. Well, it’s happening, except they made the decision for you that you can’t come. They had a detailed plan for why you should feel safe about coming to their house, for their event, and you trusted that plan and gave them money as their “wedding present.” Then, they just left you at the altar again. They took your present, stole your heart and punched you in the gut and said, sorry! This time though, they’re having their wedding. Don’t be fooled. That wedding is happening. They’re going to build that wedding up. All those memories you hoped to make, all those moments reminiscing about the good times you’ve had at that house, well they’re gone and they’re moving on with their life, it’s just that you’re not invited to it.  


There’s some out there cheering this news. Applauding this decision. There’s media members high fiving in news rooms that hated IMS for going through with plans for the ‘500. They weren’t comfortable about it. They bashed them. But, they for some reason after saying that they weren’t happy with IMS for hosting fans, they were still going to go cover the race.

How? Excuse me?

But, I strongly caution, be careful what wish for. The collateral damage from this could be larger than you might think.

No fans for the 500 means a large loss of revenue for the track and the teams too. The ‘500 typically pays for seasons and with the death blow now of having to run behind closed doors, the financial impact will certainly cost us teams. Those fans with their boxed up wedding presents are left outside while those teams that need those fans there, well they can’t help them. 

Soon, those bright colors are going to be blank white or black cars with empty sidepods. That’s the impact that this is going to have for some of these teams. How long can you pay people with blank sidepods?

There’s no denying it, we will lose teams from this news. That’s going to be a fact. While I get some will say well that’s better than losing lives, and I get that, but I question how do you know lives would have been lost by running this race as planned. We’re affecting livelihoods in this too. 

A detailed 88 page plan was announced a couple of weeks ago. It was thorough and wise. It was good enough then to get clearance, what changed?

Cases haven’t necessarily rose here in Indiana. 734 cases in Indiana were announced on July 21. It’s fluctuated over the weeks but not rose dramatically. So if the plan was good enough then, why isn’t it good enough now?

“We can’t put people at risk?” Well, you’re not. People are taking their own risk by going.

First off, instead of a full house, or even half capacity like they said they would on June 26, they were supposed to do so with 25-percent capacity. That equates out to roughly 85-90k that would have been there on Aug. 23.

While that sounds like a lot during a global pandemic, when you think of how massive this facility is, it’s not as much as you’d think.

IMS is a campus of 935 acres. 244 of that includes the infield alone. You can fit Vatican City, Churchill Downs, Wimbledon (the entire facility), the Roman Coliseum, Yankee Stadium and the Rose Bowl all snuggled up inside of those 244 acres inside.

So, putting 85-90k, which lets face it, only a portion of that was coming in next month, you can safely distance everyone throughout the grounds rather easily.

The Bristol Motor Speedway has a capacity of around 162k and has a fraction of the availability in size comparison for acreage to IMS, but they held 30k a few weeks ago for the All-Star race. As we sit here today more than two weeks later, no outbreaks from that event took place.

I know people may trash that but let me hit you with some facts.

I was there. I took my family. I felt safe. I felt safer there than I would going to Kroger or Target, honestly. I was around far less people from where we parked, to when we walked in, through the gates, to the seats and a trip to the concession stand than I encounter on a normal shopping trip for essentials. Fact. You can’t dispute that. 30k may have been there, I suspect 20-25k from reports, but I personally didn’t encounter that amount of people. Here’s why.

Bristol had a good plan. Everyone had two designated times that they could enter the gates. They had specific gates they had to enter based off the grandstands that they were sitting in and even then, they had you enter by groupings of rows. An example, Rows 1-15 entered at a different time than rows 16-30.

That’s why you barely saw many people. You were in your own controlled bubble and had certain places you could or couldn’t go so you didn’t come in contact with anyone else.

IMS is a vastly larger facility and could do a similar plan. Heck, that 88 page plan that they had was applauded and deemed safe.

Don’t believe me? Here’s more facts. With these I’m really skeptical now about. What changed?

The Global Medical Response signed off on it. Ed Racht, the CMO of the group, his signature is on the plan. They had a full page of targeted event medical strategies that IMS implemented.

The plan took over four months to develop. You mean to tell me they wasted their time? It was developed by Indy officials and national health experts, including Dr. Racht, chief medical officer of Global Medical Response. I would fail you if I didn’t mention that the Global Medical Response is the largest emergency medical services provider in the nation.

Let me say that again just in case you have a swayed made up opinion on this situation. “The Global Medical Response is the largest emergency medical services provider in the nation.”

It was also been approved by the Marion County Department of Public Health.

“The IMS plan has been developed in consultation with the Marion County Public Health Department and the Indiana State Department of Health, and reflects the current best practices and mitigating steps outdoor venues should have in place to host public events,” Marion County Public Health Department Director Dr. Virginia Caine said. “It meets or exceeds all local guidelines and is approved subject to continued review. I appreciate the serious and collaborative approach IMS has displayed throughout this process.”

That’s from the Marion County, the county that IMS resides, Public Health Department Director. What changed?

“The IMS plan is detailed and extensive and takes all the right steps to ensure the best measures and precautions are in place,” Indiana State Department of Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said. “Speedway officials have been transparent and communicative throughout this process, and we appreciate the opportunities we’ve had to provide input.”

Hmm, that’s the STATE HEALTH COMMISSIONER. “The IMS plan is detailed and extensive and takes all the right steps to ensure the best measures and precautions are in place.”

What changed? The cases haven’t. I’m confused and I know you are too. Future Indy 500’s May never look the same. It may take years to get back to 33 cars…

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