Indy 500 to reduce capacity to 25 percent, lift blackout

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FILE - In this May 26, 2019, file photo, Simon Pagenaud, of France, leads the field through the first turn on the start of the Indianapolis 500 IndyCar auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in Indianapolis. The once frosty schism between the two biggest racing series in the United States has thawed and NASCAR's elite Cup Series will share a venue with IndyCar on the same weekend for the first time in history. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings, File)

INDIANAPOLIS – The Indianapolis 500 will limit fan attendance, implement strict testing, social distancing and mask requirements, and lift the local broadcast blackout for just the second time in nearly seven decades when the postponed race is run next month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Speedway officials released a detailed 88-page plan Wednesday for conducting the 104th edition of the race in the age of the coronavirus. The first race under new track owner Roger Penske was scheduled for its usual May date on the Sunday of Memorial Day weekend, but the virus outbreak caused it to be rescheduled for Aug. 23.

Penske Entertainment chief executive Mark Miles acknowledged “everything will be different about this year's race.”

Capacity will be limited to 25% — about 87,500 fans — at the massive speedway, and tickets will be distributed to allow proper social distancing among groups. Even a crowd that size would make it the largest sporting event in North America and perhaps anywhere since the pandemic shutdown began in March.

Most concessions will consist of prepacked food. Fans will have their temperature checked upon entry and receive hand sanitizer and a mask, which they will be required to wear when they are not eating or drinking. New signage and video boards will be posted to provide guidance throughout the speedway.

“In terms of the plan itself, it is approved. We have a green flag and we expect to do the race,” Miles said. “We think it's important to have a race — have this race — to set an example for how people can come together under proper procedures.”

The Indianapolis 500 has run continuously since 1911 with just two breaks for World War I and World War II. While the speedway does not announce official attendance figures, the sprawling facility with its infield lake and golf course can hold about 300,000 people, surpassing Ascot Racecourse as the largest sports facility in the world.

The speedway has prohibited live television coverage of the race locally since 1950, fearing it would cut into ticket sales and attendance. The only time besides this year the blackout was lifted was for the 100th running in 2016, when officials announced that all grandstand and general admission tickets had sold out.