May 30, 2023 - News

The Indy 500 renaissance is real

Look at the size of that crowd. Photo: Brian Spurlock/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Josef Newgarden's thrilling victory Sunday adorned an already special Indianapolis 500 for his boss.

Driving the news: Newgarden delivered the 19th win for Roger Penske and the first since Penske acquired Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2019.

Between the lines: The event was a massive success for Penske even before the green flag waved.

  • One of the largest crowds in Indy 500 history — more than 300,000, with the final number not yet announced — filled IMS on Sunday.
  • Before that, nearly 85,000 people showed up for qualifying weekend, the most in over a decade.

Why it matters: The crowds this month make clear that Penske is shepherding the Indy 500 through a renaissance considered unlikely a few years ago.

Flashback: The 100th running of the Indy 500 in 2016 attracted a sellout crowd of more than 350,000.

  • But fears ran high that the turnout that year was all about novelty as fans perhaps were bidding adieu to a piece of nostalgia.
  • Attendance had been on the downswing for years, with 220,000 showing up in 2015.

The big picture: Penske has reinvigorated the track, as well as the world's most famous race.

State of play: After the pandemic halted Penske's plan, the crowds of the past two years are giving IMS officials confidence that momentum will continue.

What they're saying: IMS President Doug Boles told IndyStar ticket sales were pacing ahead of last year in the days leading up to the Indy 500.

  • "At that rate, we're starting to get back into that sellout conversation, probably in the next couple years," he said.

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