SPEEDWAY, Ind. — What better way to welcome back fans to the Indy 500, than a race that ended in a nail-biting finish Sunday afternoon?
With a historic, record-tying fourth win by Helio Castroneves, fans who were lucky enough to get their hands on the 135,000 tickets were given a front seat to the biggest sporting event since the pandemic began and a thrilling finish, at that.
“You just don’t know what Indy means,” said fan David Watts.
The Hoosier shared, “being back here after last year, no fans, it didn’t stop us we were right outside the main gate off turn one.”
In 2020, fans were not allowed at the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” as a result of growing COVID-19 concerns. The race was also pushed back several months, to August.
Watts said, “It’s really great to be back here in the racing capital of the world. There’s no place else I’d rather be. For me, it’s Christmas Day!”
This year, fan capacity was capped at 135,000 tickets, or about 40 percent, but it felt full with the energy and the sound of the crowd’s cheers as the drivers made their way around the track 200 times.
“The race is so different seeing it on TV, but being here live is just totally different,” said Watts. “It’s much different seeing it in person and seeing all of the traditions and all of that. Everything’s aimed towards all of the ceremonies.”
“All the activities before the race is all towards honoring armed forces, plus first responders,” said Watts, “there’s no place like it.”
Watts began coming to the Indy 500 in 2016, and said he doesn’t plan to stop. It’s a tradition he’s come to know and love, and look forward to each year.
“Even though you still have that limited amount apparently that’s in the track, you still have that same energy that’s all around you,” said fan Derrick Rumley, from Evansville.
The Hoosier said it’s his 12th time attending the Indy 500, a tradition he is thrilled to be back celebrating in 2021, but also remembering why this weekend is so important.
“At the end of the day it’s Memorial Day Weekend. We’re here representing the soldiers and everybody that’s fallen, and we’re just so thankful for getting to experience this at the end of the day,” said Rumley.
Between the sounds of the cannon going off to mark the opening of gates, a tradition since 1911, fans cheering, long lines at concession stands, and the roars of the crowd as the winner crossed the finish line, some might say Sunday’s race symbolized a step towards returning to some ‘normalcy.’
On Sunday, Roger Penske issued a race day message to fans. In it he wrote:
“We are so excited to host you at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and honored to welcome you back home for today’s running of the 105th Indianapolis 500. We appreciate your patience and all of your support over the last year as we have worked to safely bring fans back to the 500. There is nothing like celebrating “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing” with our fans and hearing your cheers here at IMS. We missed having you here last year and it only feels right to have you back at the Racing Capital of the World. As we continue our work at IMS to make it even better for our fans, we are so proud that today’s race will help our country keep moving forward and we hope to have a full house next year for the Indianapolis 500.”Roger Penske, Owner, Indianapolis Motor Speedway
“It’s something I would recommend you know for everyone, put on your bucket list,” said Watts.