INDIANAPOLIS — For the first time in three years, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS) welcomed a packed house for the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
Officials with the track said it was not only the biggest crowd since the 100th running of the Indy 500 in 2016, but the second biggest in 20 years, drawing in an estimated 325,000 fans.
“This is so awesome, I mean there’s like 300,000 people here. You’ve gotta love it,” said Ron Goodman.
Some might argue based on the electric energy throughout the track, that not only did Marcus Ericsson win, but so did the spectators.
“It’s just nice to have everybody back here. It’s been a while. Last time I was here it was college,” said Jackie Knight, who traveled from Texas for the race.
After 2020, where no fans were allowed at the race due to COVID-19, and 2021, where capacity was capped, people were thrilled to be back again in the stands and soaking in their favorite traditions.
“This is my 10th consecutive year, I even came during the COVID year and sat outside the gates and watched through the straight,” said Eddie Willhoite.
“I brought these two guys, their first time, they’re my rookies. I love bringing new people out here,” Doug Broderson shared.
While many love traditions they’ve carried throughout the year, they also shared, they love to start new ones.
“The opening ceremonies. I did it as a kid with my dad, so I wanted to share it with them, so this is great,” said Jimmy Knight.
For brothers Korben and Chase Knight, the Indy 500 was a new experience for them.
“It’s exciting,” said Chase. “There’s a ton of people.”
When asked what their favorite part of the Indy 500 is, many people agreed on the pre-race ceremonies.
“This right now. The start. The pageantry and you can’t help but shed a tear when they sing ‘God Bless America,'” said Broderman.
Although Indy 500 weekend is jam-packed with events to attend and, of course, the race itself, it’s not lost on anyone why this weekend is so much more than just the Indy 500.
“I’ve got my son over here with me. He’s a veteran. My buddy here’s a veteran, the one back there’s a veteran. It’s big, you know,” said Broderson. “It’s a race but it’s an event and it’s on Memorial weekend and it still just makes the hair on the back of your neck stand up.”
Leana Lancaster said, “It’s exciting to celebrate with everybody that we love in Indiana, and we come from a military family, she was a service member as well, so it’s exciting.”
Many said they were excited to be back at the track and shared they had a driver they were rooting for in the race, but the overall consensus was, regardless of who wins, being back at the track in full capacity for this year’s event.
“You look across and you don’t see any empty seats over there. There’s a few around here, said Broderson.
“I’ve always been just a fan and it’s always been great being here,” said Willhoite.
“It’s the best month of the year in Indiana,” said Kristen Koziel.