Indianapolis 500 drivers expected high quality from Roger Penske’s transformation of Indianapolis Motor Speedway, yet they were still surprised and impressed by its appearance when the facility upgrades were on display during the Fourth of July convergence of INDYCAR/NASCAR racing events.
From the beautification through landscaping to a reimagined Georgetown Road to the 250 new racing flags raised along the property, it had a striking look. Clearly, it made a good first impression.
“Typical Penske fashion,” 2014 Indianapolis 500 champion Ryan Hunter-Reay said. “Clean and bright.”
“Spotless,” 2013 “500” winner Tony Kanaan said. “Like his team, his race cars, his trucks. Up to Roger’s standards in every way.”
“Like I remembered it as a child,” three-time 500 pole winner Ed Carpenter said. “It’s all the little details – like it should be.”
Due to health protocols, the drivers didn’t get the chance to see all of the fan-facing upgrades Penske has focused on: concession stands and restrooms, the reimagined and expanded fan gathering areas and the wider Georgetown Road. But most of them described studying the drone footage distributed Friday and appreciated Penske’s attention to detail, another legendary hallmark of his business operations.
“For a facility that is 111 years old, she looks brand new — fresh, updated and beautiful,” Charlie Kimball said. “IMS has always been about history, tradition and quality, and it’s all still there, just younger and fresher.”
James Hinchcliffe received a tour of Pagoda Plaza and saw the massive new video board – the Pagoda Plaza Media Wall — that is now its centerpiece. The 2016 “500” pole winner was excited to learn of plans still to come when spectators attend the 104th Indianapolis 500 on Aug. 23.
“I also saw that area around the (Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum),” he said. “It looks so much better and cleaner. The whole look of the facility is like that. It’s a breath of fresh air.”
Kanaan said: “IMS has always had this vintage look, but now it looks so new. It looks like the track was just built a month ago.”
Kimball noted the new trees planted around the property. Kanaan mentioned how parking lots have been paved and those that haven’t yet been now have proper space markings. Carpenter said all the grass just looks greener than in recent years.
“It’s just beautiful, and things like the bathrooms have a nice mix of being nostalgic and clean,” Carpenter said. “The Pagoda (video board) is awesome … and what they’ve done with Georgetown Road is really amazing, especially as far as getting people in the facility with more social distancing. It’s all the little details you’d expect from Roger.”
Other drivers highlighted the 5 miles of new gate fencing, 3 acres of new sod, 3 tons of new concrete, 400,000 square feet of new asphalt and 30 new video screens. There also are lights on the IMS sign at Gate 1 and 5G Connectivity that is cutting-edge technology.
“The elevated (car) lift at Victory Circle is a really cool touch, too,” Hunter-Reay said. “I’ve never seen that before.”
Said Kanaan: “IMS is such a big place that you think Roger might miss something. But it’s like, ‘Nope, he got that, too.’”
Spectators are scheduled to get their first look at the facility when Indianapolis 500 practice opens for NTT INDYCAR SERIES drivers Tuesday, Aug. 11.