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May 31, 2021

As more Americans get vaccinated and celebrate relaxed Covid-19 restrictions, a sellout crowd of 135,000 people gathered Sunday at the 105th annual Indianapolis 500 for the largest sports gathering since the pandemic started, according to the event’s broadcaster, NBC.


Brazilian racecar driver Hélio Castroneves won the race for a record-tying fourth time, joining three other drivers who've pulled off the accomplishment: A.J. Foyt, Al Unser and Rick Mears.

This race was also notable because, for the first time ever, a crypto-sponsored car was racing. Ed Carpenter racing the "Bitcoin" branded car, came in 5th, leaving the PNC vehicle in the dust. The crypto space, who collaborated to fund the car, celebrated it as a huge victory.

The Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the world’s largest sporting facility, worked with the public health department in Marion County, Indiana to determine that the event would be held at 40% capacity, leaving roughly 100,000 empty grandstand seats.


Masks were required for the event and spectators were asked to social distance, but officials decided to forego temperature screenings at entry.

The Indy 500’s 2021 showing is starkly different from the empty stands at last year’s event, which was pushed back from Memorial Day weekend to late August as a result of the uncertainty around the Covid-19 pandemic.

A slew of sporting events since April have drawn increasingly larger crowds as state and federal governments start relaxing their Covid-19 restrictions. Holding the previous record for mid-pandemic gatherings, some 78,000 people attended an annual soccer match between the Australian Football League's Collingwood and Essendon last month. In the U.S., 73,000 fans gathered at the AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas, earlier this month to watch Mexican fighter Canelo Alvarez win a boxing match against previously unbeaten Billy Joe Saunders. Despite the big sporting crowds, however, there have been larger gatherings for religious and political occasions in India.

This year marked the first time in the Indy 500’s more than century-long history that a team composed primarily of women competed in the race. There were no women who started in the race last year—the first time that happened in more than two decades.