SPEEDWAY, Ind. — The Indianapolis Motor Speedway is expecting a crowd of over 325,000 people for Sunday's Indy 500, almost a full house. The message for fans going to the race is to plan ahead and get there early.
Before the green flag, the race for fans is getting inside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
"Patience is going to be a big piece of this,” said Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles. “It is bringing the second largest city in the state of Indiana to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway basically at the same time."
The Speedway expects the largest crowd in the last 20 years with the exception of 2016. That was the sellout for the 100th running of the Indy 500.
Less than 10,000 grandstand seats are available. IMS parking is sold out.
The Speedway offers shuttle services to the main gate from the airport and across from Lucas Oil Stadium for $50.
The IMS app will provide real-time updates on the status of wait times at the 21 pedestrian gates.
“If you're coming to the Indy 500, it's going to be awesome this year,” Boles said. “It's going to feel 100% like an Indianapolis 500 is going to feel. I can't wait for our drivers to see fans back in the grandstands."
"That's what this place is all about,” said Marco Andretti, starting his 17th Indy 500 Sunday. “That's what makes us. We’re paid as entertainers, so without the fans we're nothing. So, I think that's when you really feel the magnitude of this place is like walking out of Gasoline Alley on race day. So, I’m really excited everybody's back."
Up to 20,000 partying race fans are expected in the Snake Pit. You can bet on your race favorite in the new Caesars Sportsbook Lounge. Families can enjoy the Speedway Museum and the midway activities before the race.
"It's been a few years and it just wasn't the same without a packed house,” said team owner and driver Ed Carpenter, who starts his 19th Indy 500. “So, it's a welcome sight for us."
The largest single day spectator sporting event in the world always makes the Speedway on race day a potential target for terrorism.
"Tragic things that have continued to happen in our country recently, and really if you think about Texas, and Buffalo, and other places where we've had challenges in the last 10 days, you don't sleep as well at night obviously,” said Boles.
Every vehicle entering the Speedway Sunday is searched by dogs that can detect explosives and firearms. Weapons of any kind are prohibited inside the track.
Coolers and backpacks are searched as fans enter the pedestrian gates.
"I worry a lot about weather,” Boles said. “Weather is a big challenge. You get this many people here for weather and how do we make sure we keep people safe in the weather conditions. But given the world we're in right now, that (terrorism) is really a heightened concern. But I feel really comfortable about the planning and the teamwork that we have with law enforcement."
More than 1,000 law enforcement officers will be on the grounds of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Sunday. While SWAT teams are always present on race day, this year they may be a little more visible.
The Indy 500 is a tier two federal security event, with support from the FBI and Secret Service. The airspace and surrounding areas near the Speedway are closely monitored. Race fans are urged to call 911 if they see any suspicious activity.