I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I came away from the announcement at Indianapolis Motor Speedway even more impressed with Roger Penske and what he can accomplish. It was just 100 days ago that he purchased the Speedway and the NTT Indycar Series. There is a lot of information to digest from the press conference. Here are some thoughts about the major areas discussed today.
For a detailed list of the improvements at IMS, click or paste this link:
Adding $2 million to the purse for a total of $15 million is a step in the right direction. It’s an increase of about $60,000 per starter. The winner is guaranteed $2 million. I hope the winning driver’s total reaches $3 million with other prizes. Could this be just a first step? Penske seemed to dodge the question about adding a title sponsor to raise the purse even further.
I like the multiple attempts on Bump Day for those trying to get in the field. One of the issues with the 2019 format was that a driver couldn’t defend by going out again. Expanding the time to 75 minutes is okay. I would prefer two hours for this. I will save my annual qualifying rant for May.
The turbocharger boost to 45 horsepower for qualifying should see speeds increase. There are many other factors that may prevent this- weather, time of day, the effect of the aeroscreen. Fast Friday will be interesting.
NBC expanded coverage on both qualifying days may lead to higher race day ratings. Some coverage will be on NBCSN, but it sounds as if the main segements- the Fast Nine and the Last Row Shootout- will be on NBC. Again, more about this in May.
The new sponsors announced today show the power of Roger Penske. Several are associate sponsors of Penske’s race team. The more the merrier in this department.
Penske has said from the first day he would invest in the fan experience. He is doing that. The improvements to the video boards alone would have been a big enough enhancement for one year. However he is not stopping there. Moving the west side fence into Georgetown Road will greatly help the congestion there.
Refurbishing 125 restrooms with fresh paint and new sinks has been needed for some time. No mention today of the famous (infamous?) troughs.
I’m excited to see the lighted signs at the main gate and at Gate 2.
The one thing that concerns me is raising the winning car to the podium. It’s a nice idea and I understand why they want to do this, but I think this will take some excitement away from the celebration. I thought this practice was stopped because the moment lost spontaneity. I would prefer the celebration be on ground level, where there is actually more room, then lift the car and have the driver and team come up to the podium. Maybe IMS can practice this during the GMR Grand Prix and the Freedom 100 to work out any possible kinks in the new procedure.
Today was a very positive day for the future of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It’s always a nervous time when anew owner comes to a place. I felt at the time Penske was the best person to take over the Speedway. Today showed that so far my feeling was correct.