After a year with no fans in attendance, the Indy 500 will once again have spectators on hand to witness the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing.”
In 2020, the delayed race was held in a quiet Indianapolis Motor Speedway due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
But this year, as vaccination numbers across the U.S. rise and restrictions across the nation are being lifted, the Indy 500 will be allowing fans to travel to Speedway, Indiana, to watch the race.
While fans will be allowed in the gates, it will not be as large as the world’s largest sports venue has been accustomed to hosting in past years. Attendance will be only at 40 percent capacity, and even lower compared to years where 400,000-plus have walked into the speedway.
For those needing to watch the race at home, it will be carried at 12:45 p.m. ET on Sunday by NBC, with prerace and postrace coverage set to be shown on NBCSN between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m., and after 4 p.m.
Below is all you need to know about the 2021 Indy 500, including Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s fan attendance policy, the length of the race, the drivers competing and the pre-race performer.
Fan attendance at the Indy 500 in 2021
Racing fans were devastated a year ago in August when the Indy 500 made the decision to run the race without fans in attendance.
That will not be the case again in 2021.
The Indy 500 will move forward with 135,000 fans in attendance, which will be the largest crowd for a single event during the coronavirus pandemic. That 135,000 number represents about 40 percent of the venue’s capacity.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which can hold up to 257,325, according to a 2004 study by the Indianapolis Star, though more than 400,000 people have been able to see the race live with temporary seating that is put up for the race.
Fans in attendance will be required to wear face coverings and groups will be spaced out during the race, according to a press release from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“Our fans mean everything to us, and we can’t wait to welcome them ‘Back Home Again’ for this year’s Indy 500,” Indianapolis Motor Speedway President J. Douglas Boles said in the release. “The city and state have worked with us to identify the appropriate health and safety precautions so that we can successfully host a limited but very enthusiastic crowd. The health and safety of everyone coming to IMS, along with Central Indiana and the Hoosier State, have been paramount throughout this process.”
The release stated that the plan for hosting the race with 135,000 people was devised with state and local health officials and noted that it had been approved by the Marion County Public Health Department.
How many laps is the Indy 500?
Throughout the race’s history, the drivers have raced 500 miles across 200 laps of the race.
The 2021 Indy 500 will be starting at 12:45 p.m. on Sunday. The Indy 500 typically lasts around three hours, with the race last year seeing its first car, driven by Takuma Sato, cross the finish line at 3 hours and 10 minutes.
Where is the Indy 500 race track?
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway was built in 1909 and 17 years later, the town of Speedway, Indiana, opened up around it when one of the owners decided to build a residential area around the race track, according to the town’s website.
The track itself is a 2.5-mile oval, containing inside part of the Brickyard Crossing golf course. For all 104 previous runnings of the Indy 500, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been the site of the race.
Indy 500 drivers 2021
It has been 13 years since Scott Dixon last won the Indy 500 when he finished the race in 3:28.57.6792, averaging 143.567 mph. That win, in 2008, was also the first time he had the pole position.
For the fourth time in his career, he’ll be the pole-sitter after he posted the fifth-fastest qualifying time in the history of the Indy 500, finishing the Fast Nine Shootout at 231.685 mph.
Last year’s Indy 500 winner, Takuma Sato will race from the 15th position while the 2020 Fast Nine Shootout top finisher, Marco Andretti, sits in the 25th spot.
The top nine spots were set Sunday during the Fast Nine Shootout after the 10th through 30th spots had been previously set by qualifying times on Saturday. The slowest five drivers also raced on Saturday to qualify, with Sage Karam, Will Power and Simona de Silvestro earning the three spots. De Silvestro will be the only woman in the field.
Who is singing the national anthem at the Indy 500?
Country musician Jimmie Allen will be performing “The Star-Spangled Banner” ahead of the start of the Indy 500 on Sunday, the Indy 500 announced.
Allen is the first Black artist to begin his career with back-to-back No. 1 country hits with the songs “Best Shot” and “Make Me Want To” back in 2018. During the 2021 Academy of Country Music Awards, he took home the New Male Artist of the Year award.
According to the release from the Indy 500, his album “Bettie James” is named for his late father and late grandmother as both influenced his career.
The EP features Brad Paisley, Tim McGraw, Noah Cyrus, Charley Pride, Darius Rucker, Mickey Guyton, Nelly, Rita Wilson, Tauren Wells and The Oak Ridge Boys.
“We are excited to welcome Jimmie to the Racing Capital of the World for a memorable and emotional Memorial Day Weekend performance,” Boles said in the release. “The national anthem is a signature pre-race moment, and this year’s rendition carries extra meaning as we prepare to welcome fans back to the Indy 500 and honor our frontline heroes.”
All Indy 500 pre-race ceremonies will air live on NBCSN before moving to NBC at 11 a.m. through the end of the race around 4 p.m.
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