Steve Lauretta, President of Chip Ganassi Racing and Scott Dixon unveiled the new look for the #9 featuring the “Bolt” which the team used from 1995 to 2001 seasons.
With the start of the 16 race Verizon IndyCar series still a month away, one race in particular seemed to be on everyone’s mind at the IndyCar media day. If you haven’t heard, you soon will, this year’s 500 is the 100th running.
IndyCar and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are going all in to celebrate. Many of the drivers on hand spoke about how any win at Indy is special, but winning the 100th would be a special milestone.
Doug Boles, President Indianapolis Motor Speedway, highlighted the $92 million remodel that the speedway is calling Project 100. The front stretch grand stands are in the middle of getting a new and expanded roof structure and adding about 1000 seats to the speedway.
The track fence has been replaced with a new mesh that is coated with a smaller filter that you can see through better.
Gate 1 has been changed, there are now 7 elevators on the outside of the main grandstands and 18 suites have been converted to the Hulman Suite Club were people can buy individual tickets for the entire year. Boles stated “The biggest challenge is balancing what makes us special, which is the history and tradition of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.”
While the speedway of course will be celebrating the 100th running, IndyCar will also be looking to capitalize on the anniversary as the series travels to other tracks. Mark Miles, CEO, Hulman and Company which runs the Verizon IndyCar Series stressed how the series is working with the promoters of the other tracks to grow the fan base. The series has enjoyed two consecutive years of TV viewer growth.
The schedule for the series has been expanded to 16 races. Phoenix and Road America are on the schedule this year along with a new venue, the Grand Prix of Boston. The Boston race is not without its share of controversy but the series is working with the promoters to overcome the objections. Miles stated that one of the issues that makes the Boston race troublesome is that there are 5 different property owners they are working with.
The same question kept coming up to the drivers, “How special would winning the 100th Indianapolis 500 be?” And the same answer kept coming back, “Any win at Indy is special.”
Juan Pablo Montoya put it as succinct as anyone “If you have to work harder because it’s the 100th, then you haven’t been doing your job.”
Will Power pointed out that as a team it is also special because this will be Roger Penske’s 50th running as a team. “I don’t think you want to focus on the fact it’s the 100th, you want to focus on the race itself” added last year’s runner up.
Graham Rahal’s dad Bobby Rahal won the 500 in 1986. That win “transformed the Rahal name forever” said Graham. Graham won the Daytona 24 overall and the Atlantic Championship 30 years after his father. He is hoping “this tradition continues.”
Other highlights from media day included Honda announcing they will continue to provide engines for at least the next two years with an option for the three years after that. Chip Ganassi Racing unveiled Scott Dixon’s number 9 ride bringing back the lightning bolt from late ’90s. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway presented Helio Castroneves with a section of the old fence that he climbed after his three wins. A final decision on the Honda aero kit changes for 2016 have not been announced yet, but there was some indication that it was only days away.
The 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series starts March 13th with the Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. The month of May starts with the Grand Prix of Indianapolis. “It’s going to be a special May” as Doug Boles said.