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.
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.
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?
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