The 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place behind closed doors, reversing an earlier decision to allow a reduced number of fans access to the historic race.
With the NTT IndyCar Series schedule reorganised following the coronavirus pandemic, circuit and series owner Roger Penske had been keen to get fans into the Brickyard for the crown jewel event.
In June IndyCar President Jay Frye confirmed plans were in place to permit fans to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. A few weeks later an 88-page document was released showing how the circuit would operate under strict social distancing guidelines.
Those plans have now been forced to change due to continued spread of the virus in local areas, leaving the speedway no choice but to hold the Indy 500 behind closed doors.
A statement from the speedway said: “It is with great regret that we announce the 104th Running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place on Aug. 23 without fans.This tough decision was made following careful consideration and extensive consultation with state and city leadership.
“As dedicated as we were to running the race this year with 25 percent attendance at our large outdoor facility, even with meaningful and careful precautions implemented by the city and state, the COVID-19 trends in Marion County and Indiana have worsened.
“Since our June 26 announcement, the number of cases in Marion County has tripled while the positivity rate has doubled.
“We said from the beginning of the pandemic we would put the health and safety of our community first, and while hosting spectators at a limited capacity with our robust plan in place was appropriate in late June, it is not the right path forward based on the current environment.”
Ticket holders will be able to carry their seats over to the 105th running of the event on May 30, 2021.
“Penske Corporation made a long-term investment to be the steward of this legendary facility,” added the speedway.”
“While we were very excited to showcase the investments and enhancements we have made in the guest experience, we know we have reached the right decision.
“As much as Roger Penske and everyone associated with the ‘500’ wanted to race with fans this year, we ultimately reached this conclusion in partnership with the state of Indiana and city of Indianapolis.
“Our commitment to the Speedway is unwavering, and we will continue to invest in the Racing Capital of the World and we look forward to welcoming our loyal fans back to ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ on May 30th of 2021.”
Whilst all European series have banned fans altogether, US-based series IndyCar and NASCAR have permitted a reduced number of spectators at some of its races this year.