News & Multimedia

No. 2: Race Fans Welcomed Back for Indy 500

Note: The editorial staff at IMS.com is taking a look back at the 10 biggest moments of 2021 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in this year-end series, with one installment appearing on the site per day in countdown fashion from Dec. 22-31.

For the first time in two years, race fans walked through the famed Gate 1 of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge Race Day, and it made for one of the more special and important days in this track’s 112 year history.

Not since 2019 had race fans in any capacity attended the Indy 500 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, which prevented race fans from attending the 104th Running that was postponed to August 2020.

This year, with guidance from state and local officials, IMS was able to welcome fans in the stands for what turned out to be one of the most historic races in the history of the Indianapolis 500 as Helio Castroneves earned his fourth Indy 500 victory in thrilling fashion.

It was the perfect bookend to what was a very emotional day as race fans came back together for those special moments they once took for granted: the performing of “Taps,” “Back Home Again in Indiana” and the national anthem, Roger Penske saying “Drivers, Start Your Engines,” and the field of 33 taking the green flag and roaring into Turn 1.

These were moments we all took for granted, and after a challenging two years, experiencing these things in person was a beautiful moment for everyone.

Most importantly, this happened still with COVID-19 precautionary measures in place. The grandstands were limited to 40 percent of capacity (135,000 race fans), and face masks were still mandatory. That’s not the Indy 500 we know and love, but that’s still a lot of people for one sporting event, which is why it had such a huge cultural and societal impact in “reopening America” last summer.

On Memorial Day weekend in 2021, eyes from around the world were on Indianapolis as the Racing Capital of the World “reopened America” in what was the largest gathering in the world since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

And in true Hoosier fashion, it went off without a hitch and gave live events around the world a blueprint for how to safely and smartly host large gatherings amid a pandemic.

But this is “The Greatest Spectacle in Racing.” It’s the largest single-day sporting event in the world. Come 2022 we’ve got a lot of lost time to make up for when more than 300,000 race fans return for one of the biggest homecoming celebrations in all of sports.

We sure hope you’re ready to come Back Home Again.

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