The Indianapolis Motor Speedway Is Getting a Major Makeover
Penske pours money into enhancements for the Indianapolis 500 and "Month of May."
Three months after racing and automotive powerhouse Roger Penske's surprise purchase of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the entire NTT IndyCar series, the Penske organization on February 14 announced a bundle of enhancements both to the Indianapolis 500—scheduled this year for May 24 on Memorial Day weekend—and the traditional "Month of May" activities that surround the race.
For starters, the total prize purse will grow to $15 million, an increase of $2 million compared to last year. Six new sponsors will join the race: Pennzoil, Verizon, Snap-On Tools, DEX Imaging, Global Medical Response, and Road & Track. The winner of the Indy 500 (as well as the GMR Grand Prix held on the Indy road course two weeks before the 500, and the NASCAR Brickyard 400) will have their car elevated to the level of the victory podium in order to provide better photo opportunities.
Penske will bring more drama to the qualifying process by increasing the Indy cars' maximum turbo boost, which should result in an additional 45 horsepower and faster speeds. Multiple qualifying attempts by a given car will once again be allowed in the Last Row Shootout, which has been lengthened to 75 minutes, and NBC television will cover qualifying events on both Saturday and Sunday.
Penske has also invested millions of dollars in fan-friendly technology at the Speedway, with 30 additional large-screen video boards and what it calls the new Media Wall, a 100-by-20-foot screen installed at the base of the paddock Pagoda. Verizon is upgrading on-site wireless service, making Indianapolis Motor Speedway the first track with commercial 5G service. Less glamorous but equally important, pedestrian walkways will be widened, concession stands will get new paint, more picnic tables and fencing will be added, and 125 bathrooms will be renovated.
The upgrades to the facility are happening right now, and Penske plans to have everything complete before the gates open on May 8 ahead of the 104th running of the Indy 500.
"This is the Racing Capital of the World," Penske said. "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.
"I am very excited about the enhancements to qualifying weekend, the largest-ever 500 purse, new sponsors, and the significant investments we are making to the IndyCar Series and to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway."