Indianapolis Motor Speedway Doesn’t Pit After Month Of May
IMS doesn’t stop hosting events once the final Indianapolis 500 fan leaves the track, and this weekend the inaugural SVRA Open Wheel World Challenge will take place.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles says there are two questions he usually gets asked after the Indianapolis 500.
“What do you do in the offseason?” And, “Hey, do you get to take time off since the 500 has been over?”
The answer to the second will give a pretty clear indication of the answer to the first, and that answer is, “No.”
It’s been just shy of two weeks since Takuma Sato took the checkered flag at IMS to win the 101st Running of the Indianapolis 500, and since that day Boles and his staff have been hastily cleaning up the track, removing sections of concrete wall that made up the inside of the oval in order for the road course to be usable, and more. This year the Speedway isn’t just hosting the Brickyard Vintage Racing Invitational next weekend, but the inaugural SVRA Open Wheel World Challenge this weekend, too.
“I can’t think of anywhere in the world, let alone the United States, anywhere in the world that’s more important, more recognized, more significant to open wheel racing than Indianapolis Motor Speedway,” SVRA President Tony Parella said. “There’s not even a close second for open wheel.”
Parella wanted an event that paid homage to the 50th anniversary of Formula Ford racing and illustrious history of open wheel racing, and Boles thought people who are participating in the events next week might come and spend more time around the track and Indianapolis. Parella didn’t know if he’d get 100, and as of Thursday the paddock had over 300.
“Honestly, I didn’t know how good it would be,” Parella says. “To draw 300-plus, that exceeded my wildest dreams.”
The 2017 SVRA Open Wheel World Challenge isn’t even designed as a spectator event. Boles says fans can still watch from turn two and the museum viewing area, but IMS is still in the process of getting the track “customer ready” for next weekend.
Parella’s initial plan was for the open wheel challenge to be a “one-off,” just so he could gauge the level of interest for it. Had he known last year how it all would go, things would have been different.
“I’m seeing so many things we can do better,” Parella says. “I guarantee, next time we come back for the open wheel world challenge it will be huge. It’s going to be bigger than this, I guarantee it.”
He plans on holding a similar event, one definitely more tailored to spectators, at IMS every two or three years. It won’t be every year because he wants international drivers to be able to plan for it and count on a consistent date. Sure, there are other tracks he does business with he says he could easily rotate the event to, but there’s no way he’s going to do that.
“I can’t personally name another race track in the world that carries the same effect with drivers as being able to say they raced at Indy,” Parella says. “If you’re an open wheel driver that’s even more significant.”