Roger Penske has penned a heartfelt letter to fans on the eve of final practice for the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500, with the 2020 race to be held behind closed doors due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Penske, who owns the team bearing his name and is also in his first year of ownership of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the IndyCar Series, wrote it was “disappointing” to run the 2020 event without fans.
Friday practice, dubbed ‘Carb Day’, is the final day of running before Sunday’s race – and both days, as well as the preceding practice and qualifying days, were closed to the public.
Penske addressed fans with the following letter ahead of this weekend’s action, also revealing the changes and improvements made to the famed venue:
Dear Indianapolis Motor Speedway Fan,
I will miss you on Sunday.
Believe me, there is no one more than me who wanted fans to be able to watch the 104th Running of the Indy 500 in person.
It is disappointing to run the event without all of you here, but I know our drivers are determined and ready to put on a world-class show for everyone watching at home.
Especially now, during these difficult times, gathering with friends and loved ones for cherished traditions means so much. Hundreds of thousands of fans return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway every year, savoring the final note of ‘Back Home Again in Indiana’ and cheering for some of the world’s greatest drivers. The roar of the crowd goes with the roar of the engines. I wanted you here.
For Indianapolis and Indiana, in general, the Indy 500 means so much. This is especially true for our Race Day staff and local businesses in Indianapolis, who count on the Month of May to boost their income and take care of their families.
But given the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Marion County, running the race without fans was the right decision.
My family and I purchased the Speedway and IndyCar for the long-term. As much as I wanted to open our gates, even at 25 percent capacity, protecting our fans and ‘The Greatest Spectacle in Racing’ for the long term is more important.
When fans return in 2021, you will see many of the improvements we’ve made, including more than 30 new LED video boards, 5G connectivity and refreshed concession stands and restrooms. The winning driver and car are now lifted atop Victory Podium, allowing more fans to see the iconic post-race celebration. More improvements, all focused on our fans, are on the way.
When I was 14 years old, my father took me to the Speedway to watch the race. It was 1951, and Lee Wallard won it. I was able to put on a helmet and sit in a race car. I’ll never forget that experience. That special day shaped the rest of my life and made me who I am. It’s why I care so much about the Speedway and IndyCar racing. It’s why the fan experience will always be my top priority.
Thank you for understanding, and I look forward to seeing you next May.
And drivers – start your engines.