INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - Doug Boles has been president of Indianapolis Motor Speedway for two weeks and already has a to-do list as long as the 2 1/2-mile track.
Up first, getting through Sunday’s NASCAR Sprint Cup race.
Then comes the big decisions such as how to spend the $100 million from the State of Indiana for improvements to the track.
Boles met Saturday with a small group of fans to get their input on how the track can improve. Suggestions ranged from big (add lights) to small (nicer restrooms) but Boles told them he was committed to taking their suggestions seriously.
With attendance down from about 250,000 for the first NASCAR race in 1994 to the 100,000 expected on Sunday, Boles wants to enhance the live experience.
“We have jumbotrons that probably don’t deliver the best way they could,” he said. “We have to figure out how to enhance the seat technology. How do we give them an opportunity to see portions of this track they can’t see otherwise. Lights is something we’re considering. My guess is, it’s 50-50.”
Clint Bowyer joked it would take “nuclear power to light this place.”
He might not be far off _ the amount of juice needed to power Indy for a Saturday night race could be one reason to not install lights.
“When we invest this money, we have to make sure it’s generating a return to the tax payer,” Boles said. “So we need to see an increase of fans. We think we’d see an increase, at least initially. The question right now for is, is that just a blip? Hey, I want to see the Indianapolis 500 lit up at night and then it goes down. Or, is that something we can sustain over time. That’s really the driving factor in whether or not lights will become part of this facility or not.”
Boles said work on certain projects could begin in October or November and be finished in time for May’s Indianapolis 500.
Boles hoped filling the weekend with a Grand-Am race Friday night and the Nationwide Series race on Saturday would bring more fans to the track.
He also wanted sports car racing to stay on the 2014 IMS schedule after Grand-Am and the American Le Mans Series merge.
And, he felt the buzz from the wildly successful Truck Series race on the Eldora dirt Wednesday could spark interest for Sunday.
“It gives folks a reason to make this a full weekend of racing activity,” he said. “It’s a different enough kind of racing that I don’t think it impacts. If anything, it adds. It gets people in the right frame of mind and come in with a positive note.”
IMS and the IndyCar Series got a boost with the recent release of the DreamWorks Animation movie “Turbo.” The movie is about a snail named Theo who tries to win the Indianapolis 500.
But any fan looking for “Turbo” merchandise at the track had to make a few stops before finding a store selling a shirt or toy. Instead of promoting the movie that opened last with $21.3 million and in third place in the box office, Turbo was stuck in his shell.
“This weekend is really about the NASCAR event, which we’re focused on,” Boles said.