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Unlike 2020, Fans Turned Out This Year To Attend Indy 500

NOEL KING, HOST:

One-hundred-thirty-five thousand people went to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway yesterday to watch the Indy 500. Because of COVID, last year's race was held with zero spectators. Here's Samantha Horton of Indiana Public Broadcasting.

SAMANTHA HORTON, BYLINE: The sounds of cheers from thousands of race fans returned to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sunday as the green flag dropped.

(SOUNDBITE OF CARS RACING)

HORTON: Dan Wenzler attended his first Indy 500 in 1957. This year, he's with his daughter, Natalie, and both are thrilled to be back at the track.

DAN WENZLER: I like getting here early in the morning, watching them pulling the cars out and putting them on the track. And I get cold chills when I even talk about it.

NATALIE WENZLER: For me, it's everything coming together. It's the sport. It's family. It's - everyone's having a good time and just celebrating. Obviously the spirit of this weekend, of Memorial Day, too - it's everything coming together. That's what gives me chills.

HORTON: Helio Castroneves won his fourth Indy 500 race yesterday and tied three other legendary drivers for the all-time record of wins. After winning, Castroneves climbed the fence surrounding the track as fans chanted his name.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED CROWD: (Chanting) Helio. Helio. Helio.

HELIO CASTRONEVES: Great moment for everyone, especially after last year being so difficult with the pandemic. But very, very nice to have everyone to celebrate. So I couldn't be more happier.

HORTON: Also making history was Paretta Autosport. The team owner is a woman - the driver, another woman - Simona de Silvestro. Most of the crew - they're women, too. Qualifying was a big deal for the rookie team. But on race day they fell short, finishing 31st out of 33 cars.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: You saw today was a tough day, but then we just dust ourselves off and we go to the next race. And that's really the best - you know, the best takeaway that everybody should, you know, kind of take from this, boy or girl.

HORTON: Kelly Tingle watched the race at home with her young daughter, Elena. The Paretta team made it easy for the mother and daughter to talk about diversity and opportunities.

KELLY TINGLE: This is just about more than motorsports. It's about the next generation hopefully being more equal than the current representation that we have in business and motorsports.

HORTON: Next year, Tingle says, they plan to be at the race and cheer on Paretta Autosport.

For NPR News, I'm Samantha Horton.

(SOUNDBITE OF MASERATI'S "THIEVES") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.