Doug Boles Is No Idiot
Late last week, IMS officials confirmed what had been suspected for the past few weeks – MotoGP will not be returning to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 2016. Not being a fan of motorcycle racing, this didn’t really affect me one way or the other; but I had heard unofficially that the Red Bull Indianapolis Grand Prix was a money losing proposition for IMS.
I normally don’t get too riled up over comments I see on social media. Even if I get mad at something, I try to follow the advice of our friend Pressdog and never engage the crazies. Unfortunately, there are times when something irritates me so much that I have to speak out. This is one of those times.
I first saw this news very early Friday morning. It was a post on Facebook from the official IMS Facebook page. One of the first comments came from someone with poor punctuation skills, saying “wake up call for doug boles. he is an idiot”. Bad punctuation aside, his message was very clear.
I know, I know…the internet is full of trolls and cretins and we shouldn’t pay them any mind. But in an age when there are so many justified complaints about the leadership from Hulman and Company; IMS President Doug Boles stands out as one of the very few bright spots in the whole leadership structure. I could not let such a senseless comment go without a retort.
My first impulse was to sling names, barbs and arrows at this person. But then I thought I would be getting down on his name-calling level. So I decided to go after the comment instead of the person making it. Without attacking him personally, I came back with “Doug Boles is the smartest "idiot" on the Hulman payroll. He’s the best thing IMS has going. I wish he would run IndyCar, but he’s too smart to do that. Boles inherited MotoGP and tried to make it work. He couldn’t. He’s smart but he’s not a miracle worker.” Fortunately, others chimed in backing up my sentiment.
I meant every word of it. Doug Boles is the best asset that the board of Hulman and Company has. While his boss and IndyCar counterpart, Mark Miles, tends to operate with a bunker mentality and focus strictly on the bottom-line; Doug Boles is the polar opposite. I spent all four weekends at IMS this past May and I don’t think there was a day that I didn’t see Boles out mingling with the fans and making sure that they were enjoying themselves. To say he is a man of the people is an understatement.
Some are turned off that Boles wears a suit at the track every day. First of all; the duties of the job and the level of people Boles deals with, practically mandate that he wear a suit. I’ve never been told this, but I also think that he treats his title of President with the respect it deserves. That’s not to say that Doug Boles takes himself too seriously – far from it. If you’ve ever had a conversation with him, you know how down-to-earth he is.
Boles holds a law degree and is a very astute businessman. But above all else, Doug Boles is one of us – he’s a fan.
Doug Boles grew up just west of Indianapolis in Danville, IN. Although he was already a huge fan, his father would not allow him to attend the Indianapolis 500 until he was ten; thinking that less than ten was too young. I totally disagree with that notion, since I was six when I attended my first race and have very vivid memories of the turbine cars before I turned ten – but I digress.
Once he was allowed to attend his first in 1977, he was predictably hooked. He has not missed a race since then. After attending Butler University and IU McKinney School of Law, Boles worked on then-Indianapolis Mayor Stephen Goldsmith’s motor sports initiative which helped grow the area’s cottage industry of motorsports. Boles was also a co-founder of Panther Racing in the early days of the IRL. More recently, Boles joined IMS as VP of Communications in 2010, followed by a short stint as IMS CEO in 2013 before being named to his present position as President of IMS.
To say Doug Boles is living the dream is putting it mildly. If you follow Boles on social media, you know how much he appreciates and loves his job. He constantly posts impromptu pictures of IMS throughout the year, whether it is a snow-covered track in January, a sunset from the Pagoda or an update on an IMS construction project. With almost every photo posted, he always makes it clear how much he appreciates what he does for a living.
I don’t look upon it as gloating. I see it as someone who has to pinch himself to make sure he isn’t dreaming and who knows how lucky he is to have such a job. I won’t pretend to know how much Doug Boles is paid, but I’d be willing to bet he could make a ton more in a private law practice. Boles strikes me as someone who doesn’t do his job for the money. It’s out of love for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and a passion for the Indianapolis 500 that he does this job.
And it’s a job he does very well, in my opinion – contrary to the guy on Facebook who dared to call Doug Boles an idiot. Boles works endlessly to oversee every facet of any event that takes place at IMS. Those that I know that work for Boles; respect him not only for his likeability and people skills, but for his work ethic and attention to detail.
But not only is Boles a great manager and ambassador for IMS, he also has a great business acumen. He does a great job balancing his respect for the great traditions at IMS with an eye on future revenue possibilities. Case in point – the Sunoco signage that went up this past spring at IMS. He knew it would not be a popular move with purists, but in order to keep up with the times and increase revenue, he had to do it. Credit him for making it as tasteful and discreet as possible.
Doug Boles inherited MotoGP at IMS. As I said, I don’t follow the sport and did not watch any of the MotoGP events there. It wasn’t because their participation at the hallowed grounds of IMS offended me. It just didn’t interest me. I really can’t speak intelligently about the event specifically, so I won’t try to explain why or how MotoGP failed at IMS.
But knowing what I know about Doug Boles, he worked endlessly to make it work. Contrary to the thinking of at least one person, Boles is no idiot. He knew what he had to bring in to make MotoGP profitable. Those at MotoGP knew what had to happen on their end for the event to be feasible. Both parties had business models they had to follow. In the end, it became obvious that the two sides could not make it work, so they made the decision to end it. It’s no one’s fault. It was a business decision. Neither party displayed idiotic tendencies. Idiocy would have been for Boles to continue to stage an event at IMS that was losing money.
So excuse me for going off on a rant over something as silly as a random comment on Facebook. Those that know me know that I’m not just sucking up to Boles simply due to his position. Besides, have you read what I write about Mark Miles? It’s just that I have a great deal of respect for Doug Boles and the job he has done at IMS. To see his name and reputation called into question by someone who apparently knows very little of what they’re talking about really irked me. Doug Boles is no idiot.