The Indy 500 Will Not Have Fans. Is It The Right Move?

Before you read any further I should make it absolutely clear that I am 100% in support of social distancing measures, wearing masks, avoiding large gatherings, and staying home as much as possible to prevent the spread of COVID-19. I mask-up go out, wear gloves at the supermarket, and take every other measure that I think will be effective.

You will definitely not catch me protesting wearing a mask or yelling at fast food restaurant employees about it either.

This post is not about trying to advocate hundreds of thousands of people gathering at the Indianpolis Motor Speedway this month to watch the Indy 500.

Rather this is about my thoughts on measuring what the Speedway has decided to do versus other options. I am probably still going to get slammed for this anyway but hey that’s the internet. That being said, I’ll continue…

Photo: Joe Skibinski

This morning, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced that after “careful consideration and extensive consultation with state and city leadership” they have decided to move forward with the 104th running of the Indy 500 but closing it to fans.

This is definitely not the outcome they or any race fan wanted but in the interest of safety this is the route they chose to go. I’m sure it was tough call for them to make and I commend them for it. Though, I can’t help but wonder if this is really the best way to go. Is it worth it?

Let me explain with a bit of a glance into my personal life. You might actually know this if you’ve been a long time reader of this site but I am a pretty big Disney fan. Not just of their IP like Star Wars and Marvel but also the theme parks. I’m lucky enough to live in Southern California where I am just a short drive away from the Disneyland Resort.

I have an “Signature Plus” pass which is basically a year-round ticket with no block-out dates and I would go to the park just about every weekend. Obviously, when COVID-19 took over the world that all stopped.

Disney closed all their parks but have since re-opened Hong Kong Disneyland (which had to close again) and Disney World in Florida. However, there needed to obviously be significant safety measures in place. Such measures included limited capacity, several closed attractions, limited entertainment, etc. Basically going to Disney World right now means only enjoying about 25% of what would normally be available.

As much as I want to go back to Disneyland I’m not sure I’d want to under such restrictions. With all the measures in place, closed attractions, limited experiences, is it even still “Disneyland” anymore? I couldn’t really enjoy it in the way it was meant to be enjoyed. I would rather just wait until the parks can operate as normal again when there is a vaccine available.

That is the logic I’m applying to this situation. Is it worth it to move forward with the biggest race in all of motorsports without having the thousands of fans there to lend their enthusiasm to it?

Photo: Jason Porter ©2019, Porterimage USA

Maybe it would have been better to just cancel the race until next May. I know even considering such a thing is sacrilege to a lot of people but it is not without precedent. Formula 1 has canceled several high profile races including the the Monaco GP and the US Grand Prix which are arguably two of the biggest events on the schedule.

Some would definitely ask “What about tradition?  Isn’t it better to race with empty stands rather than interrupt something that has continued for literally over one hundred years?”

I suppose my answer to that would be “yes and no”. I have nothing against continuity. Heck, I even have the Star Wars Episode 8 Blu-Ray even though I didn’t like it just so I would have a complete trilogy.

I’m just saying that I think grandstands packed with excited fans is a big part of that tradition, not just the fact that it’s consistently happened for over a century.

Look, I know that the majority of people (including myself) have never even been to the Indy 500 and will just watch it on TV, which is just as significant from a business perspective.

I just don’t know if watching an “incomplete” Indy 500 will be as exciting. Maybe I’m not the only one who feels this way. Though even if I’m not I’m almost certain I’m in the minority here.

I’m definitely still going to watch the race and I’m happy that millions of people all over the world will still get to watch it too. I’m just bit bummed that it won’t quite look or sound the same this year.

Photo: Chris Owens

My heart goes out to all of the fans who made their own traditions of attending the Indy 500 and to all the local businesses that will be affected by this. Eventually we will all pull through this and hopefully come out on the other end much stronger.

What do you think? Do you think its better for the Indy 500 to go on even if the seats or empty? Or would you rather the race be canceled until the fans can come back? Are you completely indifferent because no matter what you were just going to watch it on TV anyway?

I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below or tag us on twitter at @MotorworldHype

[Source: Indianapolis Motor Speedway]

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