Roger Penske still dreams of a sold-out Indianapolis 500 on Memorial Day weekend but hasn’t committed to a particular attendance figure if that’s not permitted by the state.
In the meanwhile, Indianapolis Motor Speedway continues to do its part to curb Indiana COVID-19 numbers by hosting a vaccination site that ran through historic Gasoline Alley. It also plans to host a mass vaccination event next month before track activity begins on May 14.
The owner of both IMS and the IndyCar Series is hopeful to present something befitting of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing after running the event behind closed doors in 2020.
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“We’re not making any predictions at all because anything I would say today could be completely wrong,” Penske said during a Monday press conference. “Our goal is to have 250,000. I mean, that’s what we want to have.
“It’s outside. We’ve got the biggest stadium in the world and it’s a matter of where we’re going to be with the CDC and with the governor and the mayor. So, I don’t have any number that I’d want to hang my hat on.”
The current state positivity rate in Indiana is 3.1 percent over the past week. It’s not clear what the positivity number of vaccination percentage would need to be for Penske to get the ‘all-clear’ to host a full capacity Indianapolis 500, but his company is doing its best to be good stewards for the community by hosting a vaccination site.
The four-day mass vaccination drive took place from March 4-7 and was one of just three such locations in Indiana to do so. The IMS drive issued over 16,000 vaccinations.
“We haven’t worked out the details (for the April event) yet with the state, but we think there’s an opportunity to make a big impact here (and) give back to the community,” Penske said. “With the size of our facility and what we’re able to accomplish just in three days, we think we can really help this whole area — the city of Indianapolis and the surrounding counties.”
With the exception of the Grand Prix of Toronto, which remains an unknown, Penske anticipates every IndyCar event having fans this season. Like Indianapolis, it’s just a matter of what the state and local jurisdictions will permit.
The season opening Grand Prix of Alabama is scheduled for April 18 and will host fans. A capacity limit for the expansive road course has not been set but it will take place after the state’s mask order will be lifted the week before.
The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg in Florida on April 25 will permit 20,000 fans, equal to the number allowed for the season finale in October. The event at Texas Motor Speedway will likely have as many fans as they sell tickets for with a facility that’s capable of hosting up to 181,655 fans.
“What we’re doing with each of the promoters is based off what the local rules are,” Penske said. “We’re going to have the sponsor capability with the teams. We’ve limited some of the hard cards, etc., but they’re flexible and the promoter will decide how many fans we’ll have.”