INDIANAPOLIS — Tighter security imposed at the Indianapolis 500 after the Boston Marathon bombings caused bottlenecks Sunday that angered hundreds of fans who stood in line for up to two hours to enter the speedway and said some security officials largely abandoned their checks as the green flag was waved.
Massive crowds swelled outside the Indianapolis Motor Speedway entrances as security guards clad in yellow shirts set out to check every ice cooler to make sure it met new size limits and wasn't carrying any contraband. Sheriff's deputies stood nearby in case things got out of hand.
Fans whose coolers violated the size limits were told to lug them back to their cars, in some cases parked several blocks away in makeshift lots that charged as much as $75. Others who had tickets saw reports of lines lasting up to two hours and opted to stay home.
"People were getting short," said Speedway resident Richard Kappel, who waited an hour to enter the track.
Indiana State Police Sgt. Rich Myers blamed the bottleneck on late-arriving fans and said there were more security workers on duty to check coolers than in the past. But speedway spokesman Doug Boles acknowledged that the new security provisions, which also included closure of a key route into the track, affected fans' waits.
"I do think the root cause of that was that we were elevating our cooler restricions," Boles said.
Boles said security guards were told to stop stubbing tickets to speed things up and to use their own judgment regarding coolers as loud boos arose from the hundreds of fans still outside when the race started.
"At the very end, they kind of opened up the floodgates," said John Bumstead of Logansport, Ind.
Boles said track officials would review this year's crowd control to find ways to improve it next year without sacrificing security.