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Indy 500 welcomes 135,000 fans for the world's biggest sports event of pandemic

135,000 fans watched from the stands at Indianapolis Motor Speedway as Hélio Castroneves took home the crown on Sunday.
Credit: AP Photo/Paul Sancya
Fans fill the stands as Colton Herta leads the field in the early laps of the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in Indianapolis, Sunday, May 30, 2021. About 135,000 spectators, about 40% of the speedway’s capacity, were admitted to the track for the largest sports event since the start of the pandemic.

INDIANAPOLIS — The Indianapolis 500 welcomed back 135,000 fans Sunday, the most at any sports event in the world since the pandemic began 18 months ago. 

The number represents 40% of the speedway's capacity and was agreed upon by health officials. 

RELATED: 105th Indianapolis 500 to welcome fans at 40 percent capacity

They say "practice makes perfect" and for the 105th running of the Indy 500 that seems to be the case. 

The GMR Grand Prix served as a practice lap for the Indy 500. About 25,000 fans attended the Grand Prix compared to the 135,000 fans that were expected on May 30th. 

RELATED: Grand Prix serves as ‘practice lap’ for Indy 500

To keep everyone safe, the track added extra safety protocols, including spacing between fans in the stands. Cleaning and sanitation processes were also in place with hand sanitizer stations available. All concession stands and merchandise locations were cashless this year. Plus, vaccine clinics were offered at first aid stations throughout the track—something that Indianapolis Motor Speedway planned to continue throughout the month of May.  

When the Grand Prix was all said and done, Rinus Veekay had taken home his first-ever IndyCar win. 

RELATED: Rinus VeeKay wins IndyCar Grand Prix at IMS

But, VeeKay wasn't the only one to win at the Grand Prix. In a way, Indy 500 fans won too. IMS called the Grand Prix a success and waved the green flag for the Indy 500 to start in two weeks.

This year's "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" had spectators, 135,000 of them to be exact. 

Indy 500 fans arrived early Sunday and were ready to party. Most had no concerns about COVID-19. 

From the pandemic's perspective, this event was massive.

A year ago, no fans were allowed for the race that was delayed from May to August. This year, celebrities were back and fans were everywhere.

"This Is Us" actor Milo Ventimiglia waved the green flag Sunday, May 30 to start the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500. 

Before the race began, the three-time Emmy nominee spoke with 13News anchors Scott Swan and Anne Marie Tiernon.

Fans watched from the stands as Hélio Castroneves took the lead with two laps to go and shared his victory when he became a four-time Indy 500 winner Sunday. 

RELATED: Here are some of the best reactions to Helio Castroneves' historic Indy 500 win

His previous Indy 500 wins were in 2001, 2002 and 2009. Only three other drivers have won the Indy 500 four times: A. J. Foyt, Al Unser, and Rick Mears.