IndyCar: Prepare for a new golden age of open-wheel racing

When Roger Penske made his purchase of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar, big things were expected. Are we about to enter a golden age?

The Penske name and motorsports have been tied together in many historic and mighty endeavors, with many huge victories coming in NASCAR, IndyCar and the IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship to name a few.

So when the man rightly dubbed “The Captain” acquired ownership of the NTT IndyCar Series and the host track of the Indianapolis 500, Indianapolis Motor Speedway, expectations were high to see how the man known for professionalism would take American open-wheel racing to the next level.

Details of the first improvements are already being made clear, as changes to Indy 500 qualifying, an increased race purse, sponsor additions and significant track improvements were announced yesterday morning.

Indy 500 qualifying will see a slight alteration in the form of the Last Row Shootout increasing to 75 minutes in length. This will make the battle for the final three positions a true duel, allowing for more than one run by each driver.

Every year, there seems to be one big-name driver running the full season who fails to qualify due to some kind of mistake ruining the single run allowed. Adding more time to battle for the final starting positions will allow for more competition and give more chances for drivers running the full season to secure a spot in the prestigious race that offers double points.

What better way to assure teams feel the draw to attend the Indy 500 than financial compensation? For over a decade, the payout purse has stood at $13 million, but Roger Penske will be adding a whopping $2 million to that purse with the goal of further supporting the full-time teams and helping to cover the increased cost of tires and fuel used to make the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing” possible.

In order to increase purse payments, Penske utilized his deep market reach and reputation within the sport to bring Verizon, Pennzoil, Snap-On Tools, Road and Track magazine, Global Medical Response and DEX Imaging as partner sponsors. This increase in sponsorship allows for needed improvements to series infrastructure, which all goes toward improving the overall fan experience.

Adding to the excitement will be a plethora of investments coming to Indianapolis Motor Speedway. When visiting the Brickyard for the 104th running of the Indy 500, fans will notice the addition of 30 big-screen TVs in the stands and paddock area in order to provide a better idea of who is running in which position and where the cars are on the massive four-turn, 2.5-mile (4.023-kilometer) superspeedway.

More improvements will include full 5G integration, courtesy of Verizon, pathway improvements for walking fans, renovations to some 125 restrooms and 50 concession stands and improvements to parking and other fan experiences.

If it sounds like the venue is getting a massive makeover, it is. The Indy 500 is marketed as the “Greatest Spectacle in Racing”, and deservedly so with a wealth of history and high viewership ratings. Penske’s goal is to help the location match the prestige attached to it and bring the track infrastructure into the modern age.

Penske sees Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a racing focal point and had this to say, according to RACER.

“It is on par with some of the most historic sporting institutions in this nation and across the globe, from Churchill Downs to Augusta National. Today, we’re announcing a meaningful investment in our fan experience that will produce rapid results. It’s part of a long-term plan to ensure the legendary status of the Speedway continues to grow and evolve for generations to come.”

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There is no doubt that the entire NTT IndyCar Series will benefit from the influx of financial capital and resources as the 2020 season begins and the sport moves forward. Come Friday, May 8, Indianapolis Motor Speedway will be ready to showcase its improvements as we move into a new golden age for the series we hold so dear.

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