Motor racing-Indy 500 sells out, 135,000 fans expected on Sunday

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(Reuters) - Indianapolis Motor Speedway will host 135,000 racing fans for the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday and the sold-out crowd will represent a big step forward as North American sports continue to turn the page on the COVID-19 pandemic.

"We've hit our capacity for this year's Indianapolis 500 and look forward to hosting 135,000 fans at the world's largest sporting event since the pandemic began," race organizers said on Thursday.

"We're thrilled to welcome fans 'Back Home Again' and appreciate our loyal customers and their continued support."

The 135,000 represents approximately 40% of the venue capacity, which is being constrained to stem the spread of the virus.

Health officials credit rising vaccination rates in Indiana and nationwide for the state's ability to hold such a large gathering.

A year ago, the "Greatest Spectacle in Racing" was held without a single fan in attendance for the first time in its history.

The 105th running of the race on Sunday will require spectators to wear masks when not eating or drinking, will check temperatures at the entrance and will have social distancing requirements inside the track.

The race is shaping up to be a clash of generations, with veterans like pole sitter Scott Dixon, 40, aiming to fend off the IndyCar youth movement, led by 21-year-old Colton Herta and 20-year-old Rinus VeeKay.

(Reporting by Rory Carroll in Los Angeles, editing by Ed Osmond)

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