About That New IMS Scoring Pylon…

For many years, make that decades; I’ve been going to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway – since 1965, to be exact. In that near half-century, I’ve witnessed a lot of changes. The first race I attended there still had some roadsters powered by Offenhausers and Novis. There were no Turn Two Suites and not near as many stands in the north-end as there are now. Infield parking was allowed in all four turns and the Snake Pit was not a corporate sponsored organized party event. It just spontaneously erupted each year inside Turn one.

The garages weren’t concrete structures surrounded by a massive tarmac; nor did they run north and south, like they do now. They were wooden structures that ran east and west with large barn doors and no ventilation. The Master Control Tower was the landmark structure. In 1965, it was less than a decade old. The scoring pylon just to the south was just a year older.

Despite all the changes, if you were standing on the Yard of Bricks and looking south towards Turn One – the view this past May was almost identical to what it was fifty years ago. That’s what is so reassuring about IMS. Although there has been a lot of change over the years, for the most part – the place looks pretty much the same.

That view changed this week. Although the scoring pylon that was standing at my first race was taken down twenty years ago; its replacement was almost identical, save for a swooping concrete base and a space for logos at the top. A few weeks ago, that familiar structure was removed from the base. The third generation scoring pylon made its debut earlier this week.

Those that know me know how averse I am to change. I live by the mantra of “Change is bad”. I not only resist change, I run from it. There is nothing that I enjoy like a good rut. If you really want to ruin my day, disrupt my routine. Familiarity is my tonic. One reason why I enjoy going to IMS each year is because it is one of the last remnants of my early childhood. Most things there still remind me of the annual pilgrimage we took as a family in the sixties.

When the Master Control Tower came down after the 1998 race, I felt a bit of my childhood had been dismantled. After all, we were both unveiled in 1958. It took me years to get used to the massive Pagoda that took its place by the time the 2000 race rolled along. It’s nicer and bigger than its predecessor, but I still sort of smile when I see pictures of the old Master Control Tower.

I still refer to the current garages as the “new” garages, but next year will mark the thirtieth “500” that they have been in use. It seems like yesterday when the “new “ museum opened up in the infield in 1976, replacing the old one that opened up outside Turn One in 1956.

I winced when NASCAR showed up in 1992 for a tire-test. I cringed when they started racing there two years later. When Formula One showed up driving the wrong way in 2000, I felt like I was watching an event from another planet. My opinion of the new IMS tenderloin this past May has been pretty well documented, here and elsewhere. You see how much I loathe change.

With all of this said, how do you think I felt about a new LED scoring pylon with video capabilities?

Chances are – you would be wrong. Even I can admit that sometimes, change is good. For example, I can remember being scarred for life as I visited the restrooms underneath the grandstands in the sixties. There were no stalls. Heck, there weren’t even any toilets. As a child, I would go to the restroom at IMS only to find grown men with their pants around their ankles, sitting on concrete slabs with holes in them – out in plain view. It’s an image that is still burned into my brain today. Mercifully, at some point, toilets with stalls arrived at IMS.

Like most traditionalists, I was skeptical when I heard vague mentions of a video pylon replacing the one that had stood for twenty years. All of my life, the sight of the straightaway with the black pylon with simple white numbers running up the side was symbolic with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Other tracks had pylons, but nothing like that one. It was iconic. It was classic. Aside from a few burned-out bulbs this past May, I saw no reason to replace it.

But I liked what I saw this week. IMS President Doug Boles is the right guy for overseeing a project like this. No one in upper management with IndyCar or IMS is as passionate about the history and traditions at IMS, as Boles is. While respecting the traditions of the past that we all cherish, he also has an eye on the future and what future generations expect. It appears that most of the time, the new pylon will bear a strong resemblance to the old one. But this new one can change its entire appearance with the click of a mouse.

photo 1

One moment, it will look exactly like what we have come to know, but if a caution comes out – it may suddenly become a solid tower of flashing yellow lights. When the race is over, the entire pylon may resemble a checkered flag. There will also be times when there will be additional information on each car, such as lap times behind the leader, etc. I have an idea that at any given time, we may see several Verizon logos stacked on top of each other. That’s not something that I’m terribly pleased about, but it’s the world we live in. I’ll be very interested to see how it looks this weekend, during the Brickyard 400 telecast.

photo 2

I had feared the worst when I heard what was coming. I pictured a vertical ribbon board similar to what’s found in most NFL stadiums, with garish ads and logos running up and down at an annoying speed. If the default setting is something similar to the traditional pylons that have stood for over fifty years, but they’ll go to the flashier uses only every now and then – that’s a change I can live with and actually embrace.

Speaking of change I can live with…when are they going to do something about those archaic 4:3 video boards?

George Phillips

Please Note: First of all, since the series is taking a break this weekend – so will I. There will be no post here on Monday July 28, but I will return here on Wednesday July 30.

Also, there are technical difficulties with the service that does the poll question, so there will not be one today. Instead, I’ll invite you to view the following video featuring IMS President Doug Boles discussing the new pylon and all of its features. – GP


21 Responses to “About That New IMS Scoring Pylon…”

  1. madtad1 Says:

    Bad news, George…that pylon is like ones at NAPCAR tracks, where they can and DO run ads on it. On the other hand, they can show the drivers pics during introductions…

  2. Ron Ford Says:

    I like it, but I hope they don’t run ads on it. It might be interesting to hear Paul Tracy weigh in on the new mega yellow.

  3. To me lamenting the passing of the old pylon is like lamenting the passing of corded, rotary phones. And, yeah, there will be ads. Welcome to the early 2000s.

    • Ron Ford Says:

      Nothing wrong with a little lamenting now and then. I still lament the passing of the attractive girl in shorts who changed the score flipcards on the scoreboard of the the local minor league baseball park. Plenty good graphics there.

  4. I like it, too. I have always looked at the “Pylon” for information regarding where my drivers were and I have to say that it was awesome to see the #28 climb up the Pylon this past year. As for advertising, that is fine with me because Doug Boles has taste. As a long time air-time salesman I have a good idea where and when you can place ads and I have no doubt that the folks at IMS do, too. I am looking forward to the graphics and this change is good.

    By the way, when the Pagoda came along I thought it was the coolest move in a long time. The Pagoda is beautiful.

    Also, I remember those concrete toilets and I never sat on one.

  5. I’ve been going since ’83 and did not know that about the restrooms! I had the same trepidation about the pylon when it was announced, but it looks quite nice and thankfully is not a jarring change. All kinds of year-round money-making opportunities, one would think — fan/group event/grounds tour photo ops, “Congrats, Harold, on your 50th Indy 500,” etc. As you said, not looking forward to those ads. (I loathe the Sunoco logo on the checkered flag.) As much of an upgrade as the pagoda was, I still view it much like “Mount Davis” at Oakland Coliseum. I fear that in a generation we won’t recognize the old girl at 16th & Georgetown. (Now batting for Team Curmudgeon…) Ditto your sentiment about Doug Boles. Thank God for him.

  6. billytheskink Says:

    I’ve often found the ribbon boards (and large HD video screens) that replaced old static, incandescent bulb, and low-def predecessors in the stadiums that I frequent to be as distracting as they are beneficial. They are all too often more apt to draw your eye away from the live event than their predecessors while typically giving you about the same amount of competition-related information as the old scoreboards did.

    That said, I think a big reason I find so many of these dynamic new scoreboards distracting is the setting. Ribbon boards running the length of a football field or a video screen that is half the length of a basketball court are naturally more intrusive in those settings than they would be at a larger facility. Such is the case at Texas Motor Speedway, where their new comically-oversized video board doesn’t loom so large when viewed from across the whole racetrack. It effectively serves as a slightly larger (as appearing from your seat) replacement for the 3 smaller video boards that used to sit behind the pit lane. Given the sizes of IMS and the new pylon, I imagine it will be similarly effective.

    I watched the first several minutes of Nationwide series practice this morning to get a glimpse of the new pylon in action (that’s the only reason… wink-wink) and I thought it looked quite good. They largely kept to showing the order of top practice times, so I cannot speak to how intrusive or not animated graphics and ads may be.

  7. I will be there this weekend cheering on Montoya. How did this Ganassi kid suddenly become a Penske guy?

  8. I see the new pylon as an improvement that will be easy to take as it doesn’t change the general look of IMS.
    George, Graham Hill had the same concerns about the restroom facilities as you when he first arrived at IMS. He expressed his unhappiness to management, and we have all benefited from the results.
    The current garages are far superior to the ones which were being demolished one summer day when I took Blaze Winter of the Indianapolis Colts out to IMS as one of the locations we used from around Indy to show him in the town for his publicity portfolio.
    I didn’t know they were being torn down when we arrived, and I got physically ill, feeling that part of my life was being destroyed.
    I still have strong memories of the old garages, as well as plenty involving the current configuration.
    The old snake pit inside Turn One did provide lots of entertainment for those of us working from photo positions outside the fence when cars were not running on the track.
    That is a special, if not necessarily wholesome, tradition lost forever.

  9. New pylon to score the same old spec cars year after year. High tech scoring towers don’t bring fans to the track the racing does. Another clear cut example of IMS’s misplaced priorities and myopic vision.

    • Ron Ford Says:

      I think the racing has been good. I don’t think the racing itself was any better with the Novi’s, turbines, Cumming’s Diesel, or Bill Vukovich Sr. in a different time zone than the rest of the field for four straight years. Certainly there was interest in the variety of chassis, engines, etc. Perhaps that is what you mean, but was the racing itself any better?

      • The racing has been close but not better. Spec cars breed close racing and the current cars are so under powered and over-aero’d that there is very little driving involved. The cars are simply to easy to drive. There is lots of passing resulting from drafting and on some tracks P-2-P. IndyCar needs diversity and innovation in design to put the cars back on the edge of control allowing drivers skill on the track to determine outcomes rather than fuel mileage, pit strategy and drafting position.

        • Slow clap, catchfence. Slow clap. I guess IMS could have spent about $10-20 million dollars subsidizing chassis manufacturers and/or engine manufacturers to make wildly varying cars and technical packages or something, but instead they just spent roughly a quarter- to a half-million bucks on some stupid scoring pylon. And I’m certain that the folks in charge of the new pylon are definitely the same folks who are in charge of making technical decisions on the cars. Oops. No, that second group is probably the IndyCar Competition Committee, who sit across the street, and share no duties whatsoever with the first group, which would be IMS’s Facilities Department. Go ahead and grind that ax, though.

        • Ron Ford Says:

          For the most part I agree with you. Where we differ perhaps is that I don’t think the IMS folks have much control over that.

  10. It will help with the 43 cars in the Brickyard 400. From that standpoint its a good thing. Just hope they don’t misuse it. Running advertisements would be misusing it.

  11. I like the new pylon. Looks like an upgrade, to me, since the old one was pretty hard to read if you were more than a couple hundred yards away.

    Point of order: the current video boards, though they look “antiquated” in the current era of 60″ LED TVs and high definition video, are only 13-14 years old. Installed in the very early-2000s, they were pretty state of the art for the time. They were a GIANT upgrade over what we had before, which was…well, nothing. It’s true that there’s much better stuff available right now, but they haven’t probably been in place as long as a lot of folks might think.

  12. I like Doug Boles and think he’s doing a fine job so far. I also think, George, that when IMS was loaned money from the state, updated video boards were on the first phase of improvements.

    I also heard they were going to sell the numbers from the old pylon. I’d go for one of those, if the price wasn’t too high.

    • Phil Kaiser Says:

      The state of Indiana NEVER LOANED ANY MONEY TO IMS! STOP with that and do some research and get your facts straight people!

      One more time: The IMS was granted a waiver from paying income taxes on the concessions and apparel IMS sells out of their facility. NO MONEY was transferred from you or me or anyone else in the state to IMS. NOT ONE CENT.

      God, the media screwed up their reporting on this so badly that people actually believe IMS is getting money from Indiana residents! ONLY THE COLTS AND THE PACERS HAVE DONE THAT, and not a word was said about it. But let IMS (who has never taken a DIME of taxpayer money in over 100 years of existence) be forgiven their income tax for a couple of years and all hell breaks loose….

  13. Phil Kaiser Says:

    George, speaking of those old restrooms back in the day, did you ever wonder why there was a balloon painted on the outside wall of the restroom inside of turn 4? Do you know that story?

    I do, and it’s fantastic, let me know if you’d like to read it….

    Phil Kaiser

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