SPEEDWAY, Ind. — It almost felt like race day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with a steady stream of vehicles turning into the main entrance off 16th Street.
But unlike race day, traffic is not backed up and people are not headed to the stands or infield. They're driving down Gasoline Alley, directed by National Guard troops, into one of 20 garage bays for their much-awaited COVID-19 vaccination.
Saturday is the second day of a four-day mass vaccination clinic at IMS — one of three sites across the state. IMS is doing roughly 4,200 shots a day — all by appointment only, with all slots already full.
Carla Schaffer arrived before her allotted time, waiting in a parking lot across from the 16th Street entrance.
"It's exciting because I feel I'm part of history being here at the Speedway and being part of the Johnson & Johnson vaccination and being able to actually get out of the COVID world," Schaffer said.
Like others, she also looked forward to driving down Gasoline Alley into one of the 20 garages, which were turned into vaccination bays for a much-awaited shot in the arm. Because Schaffer and others pre-registered and never leave their car, each vaccination takes an average of four minutes.
It's then a short trip down Pit Lane to the observation area, where the newly vaccinated must wait 15 minutes to make sure there are no issues or reactions.
"It's been really, really smooth," said IMS President Doug Boles. "Yesterday we were worried. We'd never done anything like this."
Boles said the clinic all came together very fast, with plans set into motion just a week ago.
He said while there had been talk about about a mass vaccination clinic, "We didn't know until the weekend ahead of time this would happen."
He credited the collaboration of state health officials, the National Guard and IMS with being able to pull it off.
Boles said IMS was the perfect venue — not just because of its size and experience with large crowds, but the incentive it provided.
"People want to say they've done different things at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, whether it's the Indy 500 or NASCAR," Boles said. "So I think when people saw they could get vaccinated here, it helped push some over the edge."
That along with the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, which is one and done.
It definitely drew race fans from near and far.
Steve and Laurie Burris drove to IMS from Dillsboro, Indiana — a two-hour drive.
That's a long drive for a shot they could have received a lot closer to home.
"We wanted to be vaccinated and this was fastest way we could get vaccinated," Steve said. "But the enticement of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, my affection for the the Speedway and the Johnson & Johnson vaccination was also of interest to us."
Steve's attended 38 Indy 500s, and Laurie often goes with him.
"Its a great place to get the shot," she said "I'm looking forward to it."
"I wanted to wave a checkered flag when I got my shot, but I was afraid I would embarrass him," Laurie laughed.
The IMS vaccination clinics run thru Monday between 8 a.m. and 10 p.m. Nearly 17,000 people are expected to be vaccinated over the course of the four days.
Boles said they'd be more than happy to host other vaccination clinics at IMS, depending on the need of state health officials.
"We've talked to them. They know it. I think it's just really a matter of them finding enough of the vaccine in terms of units to make that happen," Boles said.