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Thursday, June 13, 2024

Indy 500 Draws Biggest Crowd Since Fans Return

  • The Indianapolis 500 was the largest sporting event since the start of the pandemic.
  • Indianapolis Motor Speedway events generate more than $510 million annually.
Jenna Watson/IndyStar/Design: Alex Brooks

After a year of empty grandstands at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500 made its return Sunday. With 135,000 fans present, it was the largest sporting event since the start of the pandemic.

Having the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” back marked a moment of recovery for Indianapolis and the broader live sports experience.

The speedway is the largest sports venue in the world, hosting up to 400,000 fans. In a normal year, its events generate more than $510 million annually for the Indiana economy.

But even at 40% capacity for the 105th running — won by Brazilian driver Hélio Castroneves for his record-tying fourth title — the 500-mile race always has a major economic impact on the city. 

  • Speedway High School pulls in nearly $20,000 from parking fees on race day. 
  • Airbnb hosts earned close to $750,000 in combined supplemental income from the 2019 race. 
  • Hotels in the area are more or less completely booked surrounding the race.

Last year’s purse for the race was reduced by 50%, with the winner Takuma Sato taking home $1.3 million. Castroneves pocketed $2 million on Sunday.

“Great moment for everyone. Especially after last year being so difficult with the pandemic,” Castroneves told reporters after his victory. “It’s not full percent everyone here, but very, very nice for everyone to celebrate.”

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