Karl Zemlin/IndyCar

Roger Penske unveils record Indy 500 purse, improvements to speedway

Leave a comment

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.

Follow Michael Eubanks on Twitter 

Donny Schatz edges Kyle Larson for Outlaws victory at Lake Ozark

Trent Gower/World of Outlaws
Leave a comment

Donny Schatz made a last-lap pass on Kyle Larson, snatching a World of Outlaws victory Saturday night at Lake Ozark Speedway.

Larson started on the pole, led 30 of 35 laps and was in control until a caution set up a two-lap shootout to the finish before a limited crowd in Eldon, Missouri.

Schatz and Larson traded the lead twice over the final two laps, but the 10-time champion emerged with his first victory since the NOS Energy Drink Sprint Car Series returned in mid-May from a two-month layoff because of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

‘THEY’VE STUCK BEHIND ME’: Kyle Larson comments on future, Outlaws plans

“Man, I don’t know what to say, but Kyle’s a damn good racer,” Schatz, who led five laps, told DirtVision after his 296th Outlaws win. “I kind of had to go where he didn’t. We got that green-white-checkered, and I decided I was going to send it. He decided the same thing.

Donny Schatz celebrates at Lake Ozark Speedway after his second Outlaws Sprint Car victory of the season (Trent Gower).

“I’m glad to get the win. It feels like it’s been forever. I’ve been out here 24 years, and every night is a learning experience still.”

Larson finished second in his fifth start since he began racing with the Outlaws after being suspended from NASCAR.

“Obviously, it would have been nice to get the win,” Larson said on DirtVision. “I figured Donny would rip the middle. The restarts before, he’d almost clear me in (turns) 3 and 4. I should have known to protect and block his momentum. I felt I exited 2 OK. We don’t have spotters or rearview mirrors so you can’t see how close he is or really hear it when the pace is so slow.

“I just didn’t do a good enough job to run a smarter final couple of laps.”

Brad Sweet, Larson’s brother in law, finished third, with Shane Stewart and David Gravel rounding out the top five.

Larson rebounded from a 10th in Friday’s feature at Lake Ozark Speedway, continuing his streak of top-10 finishes in all five of his starts since the Outlaws’ return.

“We got our car a lot better from last night, so that was a plus,” said Larson, who finished second and first in back-to-back nights last week at Federated Auto Parts Raceway at Pevely, Missouri. “These guys are really tough. To be on the podium with Donny and Brad, they’ve won lots of big races and championships, it’s nice. I just didn’t do what I needed to do that last restart.”

Larson nearly had a flawless night Saturday, turning a 11.426-second lap to capture his second pole position this season and won the pole dash to start first in the feature.

Larson, who was fired by Chip Ganassi Racing from his NASCAR Cup Series ride last month for using a racial slur in an iRacing event, said last week that he plans to run several more NOS Energy Sprint Car Series races this year.

Larson remains indefinitely suspended by NASCAR but was approved to race by the Outlaws after completing sensitivity training.