Changes Abound At IMS

SScruggs
By Susan Phillips

Advertising. I guess it is just a sign of the times. Some purists will call it “selling out,” I think it is a way to pump some much-needed funding into upgrading our experience at IMS. If you were at the Grand Prix, you saw Angie’s List advertising everywhere—but if it adds another race to the schedule, more power to it! It takes big dollars to promote and put on an event to an ever-shrinking live viewing audience. The quality of televisions now make it so that you are almost there without the pain of parking, Eight dollar beer, and annoying people who stand up in front of you to block the view. So if advertising dollars are what will make my visit to IMS more enjoyable, I’m all for it. Someday you can tell your kids “I remember when it was plain old Gasoline Alley.”

That being said, I do enjoy the bigger HD video screens (brought to you by Panasonic), the upgraded seats in Pit Road Terrace (a few years too late for us, as we moved across the track a few years ago. I think there are some more changes on the horizon that will make the Speedway even better. Yes, I like the traditions, and you KNOW George is all about traditions, but maybe it is time to be more modern as our sport tries to draw and keep new fans.

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One of the things IMS is doing to appeal to a younger crowd is the addition of some craft beers into the lineup. We searched for Hinchtown Hammer Down, at the track, but could not find it anywhere. We have been searching everywhere for it to no avail, so we went to the source—the brewery. I hear it is being sold outside the track this year, as there are a some new craft beer vendors in and outside the track.

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I was happy to see the Firestone exhibit this year added a giant guitar to the monster trucks in their garage booth. I’m sure it is part of the campaign to draw in the country boys and their trucks. I like to think of it as a nod to their hometown, Nashville.

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Shopping. There are a few changes apparent this year. I’m not sure if it will change for the Indianapolis 500 or the team trailers are a thing of the past. Penske had theirs, but the other large teams who usually had a merchandise trailer, opted for tents this year. I wonder if all the swapping around that happens during the Silly Season has something to do with it. What are you going to do with a bunch of shirts form a driver who has changed their team/number/sponsor (I’ll get into that later in the post). The driver-wear is a bit more generic and there are fewer offerings, but that just makes good business sense. I am still on the hunt for my now what is becoming annual, hunt for the Tony Kanaan die-cast. I know a lot of us are hoping for a Susan G. Komen Pippa Mann die-cast, judging by how fast they sold out the first hours of her Get Involved campaign.

The Museum Gift Shop has changed. The walls that held the display cases between the sides of the gift shops have been knocked down for more of an open mall feel. I am wondering what will happen when it gets really crowded on race day as that was where the cash registers were, but now they are along one of the walls. I saw some pretty great things—I do like the “Gentlemen Start Your Engines” t-shirt, but they don’t usually say that anymore, I guess it is an “Old School” shirt. It seemed like there were a lot more Snake-Pit themed items—from the usual “I survived the Snake Pit” to Frisbees and shot glasses. Another sign of the times, as IMS tries have offerings for a younger crowd.

Then you go outside—the SALE shop. Where all the past years’ driver-wear is on sale for 60% off or whatever is marked on the tag. Feeling nostalgic, I nabbed some great stuff in there. Since Ryan Briscoe and Josef Newgarden have been some of my favorites, I scored t-shirts from last year for 60% off. It’s worth a visit to the bargain store.

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All in all, I had a great weekend and traditional as George is, I didn’t hear a lot of grumbling about the changes. We both realize that in order to keep the landmark that holds such a special place in our hearts has to keep up with the times and in order to get better and survive, money must be found from sources that have not been used before. Soon enough, they will become part of the landscape there and “Meet me near the Sunoco sign by turn one” will become part of our vernacular.

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13 Responses to “Changes Abound At IMS”

  1. Ron Ford Says:

    You did a great job of capturing the various changes at the track with your photos. Thanks Susan.

  2. Yannick Says:

    Well, I don’t mind Gasoline Alley wearing the name of the Series’ official fuel brand. It’s somewhat fitting. And I’m surprised that anyone paid for naming rights to the Pagoda. Here’s hoping the Yard Of Bricks remains just that. A “Clabber Girl Yard Of Bricks” would sound rather awkward.

    Thank you Susan and George for your coverage of this race.

  3. Nick (@thespeedwaygay) Says:

    I’m with you Susan, I’m a tradionalist, but I didn’t mind the changes (ok, a little, but not too much.) However, I actually heard people boo when Angie from Angie’s List was introduced. I understand that you might not like the sponsor signs at the track, but let’s not boo someone whose company just gave the track and series a bunch of needed revenue.

    • Ron Ford Says:

      I suspect the booing was from political conservatives who are upset that the CEO of Angie’s list told the governor of Indiana that they are not going ahead with their planned Indianapois expansion over the Indiana discrimination issue. Governor Pence is not the brightest bulb in the pylon. Just a guess.

      • SkipinSC Says:

        Ron, considering that their stance on Pence’s faux pas came right on the heels of their begging for funding and more tax breaks from the city and state, it was a questionable business maneuver at best, particularly from a company whose financials are under scrutiny from almost every Wall Street analyst I know.. What company do you know that comes hat-in-hand, begging for more benefits then turns around and bites the state of Indiana on the hand? That being said, Angie Hucks has basically sold her stake in the company so she need not be held accountable, but I doubt that the majority of folks in attendance realize any of this.

        • Patrick Says:

          Yes, Angie’s List was one of the first to insert themselves into an emotionally charged political situation. Instead of quietly getting on with their business they chose to make heavy handed and unnecessary threats. I suppose this made them the darling of one side of the issue but it greatly offended people on the other side. Then Angie shows up at the Speedway just a few weeks later all smiles and taking bows. I’m not surprised there was booing by at least a portion of the crowd and I don’t think it had anything to do with the signs.

  4. Pat Reardon Says:

    If it wasn’t for the signage, Angie’s List would not have gotten any mention on the TV broadcast. ABC/ESPN only referred to it as the “Grand Prix of Indianapolis”. The signage across the straightaway and around the track were the only way for a viewer to know that they had any involvement in the race at all.

    • billytheskink Says:

      I believe ABC/ESPN requests a fee on top of the track’s title sponsorship to mention the race by the sponsor’s name. Angie’s List must have balked. Several NASCAR race title sponsors have also done the same over the past few years for races on ESPN.

  5. tonelok Says:

    Overall the speedway looks great. I don’t mind the Sonoco signs.. They actually brighten the place up. I like the one that caps the end of the turn one vista. It ads a little color to the grandstands. I think the advertising enhances the appearance impact speedway and it’s not overdone. Maybe now they can cut back the mention on filling up with “Sonoco Fuel” during pit stops.

  6. Excellent Post Susan. You have further whetted my appetite for race weekend.

  7. James Legault Says:

    Susan, the Hinchtown Hammer Down was available at a craft beer trailer between gates 8 & 9. It was doing a brisk business as was the large merchandise tent just behind it. Thanks for your report!

  8. Harvey Firestone rolled over in his grave.

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