Penske has unveiled a wide-ranging plan to boost the Indianapolis 500 and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that includes the largest Indy 500 purse in history, changes to the Indy 500 qualifying format, new long-term sponsors, and a massive investment in the fan experience at IMS.
The changes are the first to be introduced since Roger Penske took formal ownership of the Speedway and the NTT IndyCar Series in January.
“This is the racing capital of the world,” Roger 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.”
Headlining the changes is a $2 million boost to the Indy 500 prize purse, taking the overall prize pool to more than $15 million.
The main qualifying tweak is the return of multiple runs for the Last Row Shootout, which will be expanded to 75 minutes. Previously, each car was limited to a single run, and the new format aims to build drama by intensifying the fight for one of the final three spots in the Indy 500 field.
Indy 500 qualifying speeds will rise due to a boost in turbo levels, which will create an additional 45 horsepower, while an expanded TV schedule will add additional coverage for both days of qualifying. Full broadcast information will be released at a later date.
Six new major sponsors for the IndyCar Series and IMS have also been announced: Pennzoil, Verizon, Snap-On Tools, DEX Imaging, Road and Track magazine and Global Medical Response.
Meanwhile, a raft of upgrades geared towards improving the fan experience at IMS will be rolled out ahead of the Indy GP in May, led by the installation of more than 30 new large-screen video boards, including 24 along the Paddock seating. In addition, all seven infield screens will be modified to also show the running order.
A new 100 foot by 20 foot video screen dubbed the IMS Media Wall will be installed a the base of the Pagoda facing the Plaza, while Verizon’s 5G Ultra Wideband network will be introduced to make the IMS the first racing facility with commercial 5G service.
Planned infrastructure improvements include modifications to Georgetown Road to make it more friendly to pedestrian traffic, and renovations to more than 125 restrooms inside the Speedway. New pavement will be added to the Parcel B lot hear the main gate, and around three miles of fencing will be added to the entire facility.
In Victory Lane, the winner’s car will be elevated to the same level as the victory podium to give fans a better vantage point for pictures and facilitate social media sharing.
More detail-focused improvements will include night light signage over Gates 1 and 2, and IMS will take responsibility for a beautification project along Crawfordsville Road. Fresh paint and new signage will be added to more than 50 concession stands inside the track, picnic tables will be added throughout the Speedway grounds to create more gathering space for family and friends, and more than 230 racing-themed flags will be placed around the facility and Crawfordsville Road.
All of these changes are scheduled to be completed before the Speedway opens its gates to fans to begin the Month of May on May 8.