Indianapolis 500 marks largest sporting event since beginning of COVID-19 pandemic

The race, shown on NBC, was a sold out event

Fans fill the stands during the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Sunday, May 30, 2021. About 135,000 spectators are admitted to the track, for the largest sports event since the start of the pandemic. It's about 40% of attendance and leaves 100,000 empty seats in the permanent grandstands. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)
Fans fill the stands during the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Sunday, May 30, 2021. About 135,000 spectators are admitted to the track, for the largest sports event since the start of the pandemic. It's about 40% of attendance and leaves 100,000 empty seats in the permanent grandstands. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

Indianapolis, Indiana – With a sold-out crowd of 135,000 people, the Indianapolis 500 became the largest sporting event since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is the largest sporting facility in the world, fitting nearly 400,000 people during a normal year. The Speedway worked with state officials and determined 40% capacity was appropriate, and the 135,000 tickets quickly sold out.

Per NBC sports, last year’s race averaged 3.67 million viewers and a 2.3 rating. It was held in August due to the pandemic, instead of the usual Memorial Day Weekend time slot.

The Speedway also served as a mass-vaccination clinic in April 2020. The goal, partially, was to encourage people to get vaccinated so the race could have fans.

Helio Castroneves joined Houston native A.J. Foyt, Rick Mears, and Al Unser Sr. in the prestigious four-time winners club. Castroneves, already a fan favorite, was met with cheers and people climbing the fence around the track in honor of his Spiderman-like tradition.

“You guys don’t understand,” Castroneves said after winning. “The fans give me energy! People don’t understand. This is absolutely incredible.”

The sight of so many fans attracted plenty of attention on social media, with many commenting that the large crowd felt close to pre-covid times.