OP-Ed – Rebuilding the 500 – Part 1 of 5 – Intro

Rebuilding the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race

An Introduction
A few weeks back, I posted the article, The Role of a Series, arguing that most successful series throughout the history of motorsports, including American open-wheel racing, were successful because they had one marquee race that everyone in the racing world wanted to win. Sportscar racing has the 24-Hours of Le Mans, stockcar racing has the Daytona 500, Formula 1 has Monaco, off-road racing has the Baja 1000, and rally has the Dakar (Da Argentina now?). American open-wheel racing has always had the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race, but as we all know, that fantastic event has dwindled over the past decade and a half. Attendance has dropped, its visibility in the motorsports world has diminished, and the enthusiasm of drivers and manufacturers from other forms of racing has waned. As it stands now, the 500 is not much more than just another race on the IndyCar Series calendar. Fortunately, it is a bit more than just another race, but it no longer holds the type of prestige and preeminence that it once did. Because of that, I argued that the rest of the races in the series and the sport as a whole have suffered.

Recently, the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race has made gains in attendance with a strong crowd showing last year.

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This was most evident in how long I sat unmoving on 30th street just past the Armory at 0600h and still missing out on parking in the North 40. Although it was great to see people coming back to the Speedway to watch the race, and to see a stronger crowd than in past years show up for Bump Day and Carburetion Day, the on-track product really wasn’t anything extra special. Don’t get me wrong, IndyCar racing, especially at IMS, is one of the coolest things on the planet, but there really didn’t seem much that differentiated the 500 from the race at Kansas. It was the same cars, the same drivers, of course plus a couple of more ex-IndyCar drivers, the same engines, and the same teams. There were no new crazy car ideas, no one-off manufacturer efforts, no flurry of teams from outside of the main IndyCar core trying to run the 500, and no risk of setting any records. Again, not that the event isn’t one of the coolest things to go and see, but it could be, and has been, so much better. So how can one of the oldest and most historic motorsports events in the world reclaim its rightful place of prestige? I think there are a few different areas that could help: open and innovation-encouraging rules, speeds close to the track record, and increased purse size.

Over the next several days, I will be posting a series of articles in which I try to detail some ideas I have on how to restore the Indianapolis 500 Mile Race to its proper place as the Greatest Spectacle In Racing! At any point in this process, if you think I’ve hit the nail on the head, or a bit off the mark, or just totally clueless, be sure to say so in the comments section below. I certainly don’t have all the answers; I just have my own thoughts. Dialogue and discussion are how all of this will move forward.

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