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13 WTHR Indianapolis | Indianapolis Local News & Weather

Fans disappointed, but not surprised, by decision to run Indy 500 without fans

The decision to run the Indy 500 without any fans came less than a week after IU Health, the track's long-time partner, warned that even at 25% capacity, the race co

SPEEDWAY, Ind. — When the news broke that fans would not be allowed in to watch the Indianapolis 500, word spread quickly along Main Street in the heart of Speedway.

Nick White, wearing an IMS shirt, shook his head in disappointment.  

"I'm not happy about it but what do you do? I just don't know what you do," he said.

The decision to run the Indy 500 without any fans came less than a week after IU Health, the track's long-time partner, warned that even at 25% capacity, the race could lead to a spike in COVID-19 infections.

When asked for his reaction, Don Galante said, "you're probably talking to me on the wrong day, 'cause we just lost a relative to the virus."

Galante said even though the news of the race was not what many wanted to hear, "I have to go with the experts to make these decisions."

RELATED: Indy 500 to run without fans

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Kathy Stodghill and her friend, Kathi Thompson, both big race fans, got word as they returned from a tour of the IMS Museum. Stodgill said she had planned on going to the race. 

"I picked up the tickets yesterday," she said.

Thompson, though, decided to take a pass this year.  

"When the COVID thing started, it took the wind out of my sails, so I decided to work race day," she said.

RELATED: Town of Speedway reacts to Indy 500 announcement

Chris Hill, who owns the Dawson's on Main, said he was disappointed but not surprised that the Indy 500 would be run without fans.

"They just kept pushing, pushing and kind of thought this would happen," Hill said.

It comes just a month after the INDYCAR-NASCAR doubleheader was also run without race fans, a double whammy for the businesses that rely on the races to help carry them through the year.

As Marcia Huff, owner of Barbeque & Bourbon, said, "We all fully expected it, but it's still disappointing, like a kick in the gut."

Huff said the 500 "is a good quarter" of her business for the year and is "especially big for the servers."

Both she and Hill hope local race fans will come and support them race weekend like they've done in the past.

"They can still hear (the cars), right?"  Huff said.

Hill said he's just glad the race is still a go.  

"It's such an iconic event for the town and area and the track itself," he said.

Michael Deal said he'll likely be one of those people listening to the roar of the engines from outside the track.

It would have his 67th Indy 500.  

"It's terrible," he said. "I just love the race so much."

But Deal, a medical doctor and psychiatrist, also said IMS had little choice.

"There's no way you can put a lot of fans in here and risk getting people sick," Deal said. "Maybe it wouldn't go bad, but if it went really badly, what effect would that have on the the reputation of the 500?"

While race fans won't be able to watch from the stands, the Indy 500 will be televised live on WTHR.