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On and Off The Track, ALGPI Proving to be a Grand Kickoff to May

Another manic afternoon at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway saw President Doug Boles puttering around the infield on a golf cart to check out how fans were using the grass mounds during Friday practice for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

Boles smiled at the sight of fans enjoying the view. He recalled how IMS decision-makers initially considered having this race in the fall. Eventually, they decided to use the 82-lap road course event as a way to attract spectators to the track earlier in the Month of May.

The third Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis is scheduled to start at 3:50 p.m. Saturday. Team Penske’s Simon Pagenaud, who won the inaugural race, is on the pole.

“It’s great to have the Month of May kicked off,” Boles said, steering the golf cart toward another infield vantage point. “It’s obviously a historic month with 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 at the end of the month and the Angie’s List Grand Prix has become a really neat way to kick the month off and get people out wandering around the facility.

“Also, it’s exciting for us since we got Project 100 opened, for people to come out and spend time in the new grandstand, see the new track fence, the new Gate 1. We’re excited about it, but you need people in it to understand how it’s going to operate. It gets better as we go.”

Continual improvements to the facility as well as the track surface have made the Grand Prix more appealing for fans and drivers. In two days of practice on the 14-turn, 2.439-mile circuit, drivers gushed about the smoothness of the track surface.

“When we decided we were going to redo the road course, we knew that the old road course got some pretty rough reviews,” Boles said. “I spent every day for several months out here with race car drivers in Camaros, Corvettes and Tahoes, driving around and getting input from all of them on how to make it better, how to create passing zones, how to make it fun for them and entertaining for the fans. It was our engineers, it was our design team, but it was the race car drivers, too, who had a lot of input in it.

“The Speedway is about speed, so we really wanted a road course that had some speed elements to it. When (Team Penske’s) Will Power won last year, he said, ‘I wish our road courses were like this everywhere we go because it’s so smooth, it’s so wide, it’s really hard to get in trouble here.’ We’re really pleased with how it has developed and we’re excited that the drivers like it.”

Team Penske’s Juan Pablo Montoya, who won his second Indy 500 last May, has raced at IMS as a driver in the Verizon IndyCar Series, NASCAR and Formula One. He answered without hesitation about how the track compares to others.

“Here? It’s the best,” he said. “Oh yeah, it’s so much better. If F1 was here, it would actually be really good fun. It would have been a cool track to race on.

“You really have two good passing zones, the long straight and you have the back straight, and sometimes in Turn 12. It’s a pretty good track.”

Power favorably compared the track to European venues.

“You can definitely have the car freer, a lot of fun,” said the 2014 series champion. “I don’t think bumps are all the fun, honestly. I love these smooth tracks.”

Defending series champion Scott Dixon of Target Chip Ganassi Racing agreed.

“It is nice to come to a facility like this, the care and all the work they put into this place,” said the 2008 Indy 500 winner.

The 100th Indianapolis 500 sponsored by PennGrade Motor Oil is a sellout. 

“The ticket sales are a big deal for the ‘500’ this year,” Boles said. “But I think the biggest thing is the entire community, central Indiana, all of Indiana has really stepped up and gotten excited about this Month of May. No matter where you go in this city and throughout the state, you see things. Hoosier Lottery is all over the state with Indianapolis Motor Speedway branding. Our partners are out talking about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Obviously Angie’s List is big around this event and PennGrade around the ‘500.’

“I think a lot of the successes that have come to us the last few years have been because of the community, the people in this community who are proud that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is here. These races don’t happen without those fans.”

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