Roger Penske unveils record Indy 500 purse, improvements to speedway

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A series of new plans to boost both the Indianapolis 500 and Indianapolis Motor Speedway were unveiled during a press conference at the historic facility Friday afternoon.

The changes are the first to be announced since Roger Penske officially took control of the speedway and NTT IndyCar Series in January.

“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.”

The changes include:

A record purse: The event purse for the 104th running of the Indy 500 will be the largest in the history of the event. The purse will grow by $2 million to $15 million, with the winning driver guaranteed a minimum of  $2 million.

Multiple qualifying attempts will return to the Last Row Shootout: The shootout will expand from 60 to 75 minutes. Previous versions of the shootout allowed only one attempt per car. The new format gives teams another opportunity to qualify for the race while preserving the tradition of Bump Day.

“Listening to the fans and looking at the information that flowed to my desk, the fans here, the history here is having a bump day,” Penske said. “I think that that will take place at this year’s Indy 500.”

A boost in turbocharger power: The 45 horsepower increase will allow for higher speeds during Indy 500 qualifying.

Expanded television coverage of qualifying: NBC will cover both Saturday and Sunday of qualifications weekend, with total network exposure increasing over 2019. Full weekend broadcast details will be unveiled at a later date.

New Sponsors: The Indianapolis Motor Speedway and NTT IndyCar Series will add six new major sponsors in 2020: Pennzoil, Verizon, Snap-on Tools, DEX Imaging, Road & Track magazine, and Global Medical Response.

Technology Upgrades: Over 30 new large-screen video boards will be installed on the grounds of the speedway, including 24 along the paddock seating. All seven of the large infield big screen monitors will also include additions to display the race running order.

Another new addition is the IMS Media Wall. This video board will be 100 feet wide and 20 feet tall and will be displayed at the base of the Pagoda facing the Pagoda Plazza. The wall will display data-driven race insights from NTT for fans.

Additionally, Verizon will expand it’s 5G Ultra Wideband network to make IMS the first motorsports facility with commerical 5G service.

Infrastructure improvements: The 110-year-old facility will receive several upgrades to improve the fan experience. Pedestrian traffic on Georgetown Road will be widened by two lanes to allow easier ingress and egress.

The winning drivers and teams of the Indy 500 and Brickyard 400 will also be elevated to the same level as the victory podium after each race. This will give fans a better vantage point for pictures.

Additionally, more than 125 restrooms will be renovated inside the facility and over three miles of fencing will be installed.

Beautification upgrades:  Night light signage will be installed over gates 1 and 2, while over 50 concession stands will receive fresh paint. More picnic tables and racing flags will also be installed throughout the grounds.

All aspects of the fan aspect improvements are underway and will be completed before the IMS gates open for the month of May on May 8. The 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 will take place on Sunday, 24 and will air live on NBC.

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Three-time W Series champ Jamie Chadwick joining Andretti in Indy NXT Series for 2023

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Jamie Chadwick, the three-time W Series champion, will drive for Andretti Autosport in the Indy NXT Series next season.

Chadwick will make her debut in an American racing series in March, driving the No. 28 for Andretti Autosport with sponsorship from DHL. The 24-year-old will become the first female driver in 13 years to compete full time in the Indy NXT championship.

Chadwick joined the female free-to-enter W Series in its inaugural 2019 season, winning two races and the first of three consecutive championships. She has been a reserve driver for the Williams Formula One team and will continue in that role in 2023. She also has driven in the Extreme E Series.

Despite her success, Chadwick hasn’t landed a bigger ride in F3 or F2, and her break didn’t come until Michael Andretti contacted her and offered a test in an Indy NXT car.

The final three races of this year’s W Series schedule were canceled when funding fell through, but Chadwick still believes the all-female series was the right path for her.

“W Series has always been and will continue to be an opportunity to be racing for every female driver, so for my side, I looked at it while perhaps I would have liked to step up maybe earlier, at the same time being able to have that chance to race, get that experience, have that development, seat time… I was constantly learning,” Chadwick told The Associated Press.

“In that sense, I wasn’t frustrated at all. But on the flip side of it, now I’ve had that experience testing in the United States in Indy NXT and this is something I’m really excited about.”

Chadwick also is expected to have an enhanced role as a development driver next season with Williams, which chose American driver Logan Sargeant to fill its open seat on next year’s F1 grid.

“Andretti Autosport is proud to be supporting Jamie alongside DHL,” said Michael Andretti. “Jamie’s successful career speaks for itself, but Indy NXT gives Jamie the opportunity to continue her development in a new type of racing.

“We’ve turned out five Indy NXT champions over the years and look forward to continuing our role in developing new talent.”

Indy NXT is the new name of the rebranded Indy Lights Series, the final step on the ladder system before IndyCar.

Andretti will field two drivers next season in IndyCar that were developed in Indy NXT: Kyle Kirkwood, the 2021 champion, will return to Andretti after one season in IndyCar driving for A.J. Foyt Racing, and Devlin DeFrancesco is back for a second season.

Chadwick will be teammates in Indy NXT with Hunter McElrea and Louis Foster. She becomes Andretti’s second full-time female driver alongside Catie Munnings, who competes for Andretti United in the Extreme E Series.