‘The next best thing’: Indy 500 fans line up outside track to watch race

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Fans were hungry for any semblance of a normal Indianapolis 500, leading hundreds to show up and watch the race in person from outside the track.

Fans aren’t itching to crowd the outside of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway next year and would much rather be inside the track, but they say when you’ve gone for so many years, you can’t let a pandemic slow you down.

Driving into Speedway, race fans did anything to catch just a glimpse of an IndyCar buzzing by.

“It just feels surreal being out on the corner drinking, hanging out with your friends because you’re not allowed in there,” Derek Mullis said.

Mullis and his friend, Anthony Espinoza, claim they were the first outside the track at 5:30 in the morning so they could claim the best spot on 16th Street.

“We can’t get in there,” Espinoza said. “We can be at home and watch the race, but you can’t hear the engines unless you’re out here. That’s why we’re here. Because this is the next best thing.”

All across 16th Street, fans had eyes glued to the giant video board. Being together almost felt like it was a normal year as they all watched and reacted to some of the race’s biggest moments, like Conor Daly’s crash.

“Ohhh!” The crowd roared.

“I just saw someone go into the grass, kinda spin out on their own,” Maria Nigrelli said.

But when News 8 crews were there, barely anyone was wearing a mask.

“Since this race is so messed up, we dedicated it the COVID-500” Mullis said.

Some say they just want one day to let loose. Others say they trust their fellow race fans.

“I feel like everyone feels safe here,” Nigrelli said. “It’s fine. If they didn’t feel safe, they wouldn’t have come out here. That’s how I feel at least.”

This year was obviously not what many were expecting between the pandemic and the yellow flag ending, but fans say it was still a great Indy 500.

“When it ends under caution, it’s just so much more exhilarating,” Thomas Lee said. “Because people are like ‘Oh, that’s it!’ you know? You hope maybe they get it done for the last lap, but it was still a great race.”

Race fans say they hope they won’t have to deal with a virus next year, but they’ll do what they need to to see the race in person.

News 8 reached out to the Marion County Public Health Department to see what their plan was for the race, along with how many citations were given. The department says situations like this are difficult to enforce because it’s not a complaint against a business or venue.

Statement from health department:

The health department only respond to complaints. It’s hard for me to say any more about this specifically. We focus on complaints against businesses, venues, etc. that host or provide services to the public. I’ll check in the morning to see if we have anything, but some situations could be more difficult to enforce.

Marion County Public Health Department


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