Among off season IndyCar revelations this week were details on how some more of the 100 million tax dollars will be spent upgrading the grand old facility at 16th & Georgetown. One that has drawn a lot of commentary (which runs the gamut from approval to complete retardation based on perceptions borne of sheer ignorance) is the re-addition of the apron at the bottom of the track.
Its real intent, according to Doug Boles and crew, is to improve the quality of the racing for NASCAR at the Brickyard 400. For years that race been nothing more than a semi-fast parade with little of the type of action NASCAR fans are used to. Like many outsiders who do not ‘get’ Indy, IMS takes enough criticism from outside fans who complain about everything from sightlines to the quality of what is on the track. As a result, attendance has plummeted for the Brickyard for most of the 2000s. Add to such criticism the incessant cackling of obsessed Euro-style open wheel enthusiasts who deride the road course and IMS finds itself in a no-win situation with some.
I say cut IMS some slack. Although moving at a mostly glacial pace current management is getting things done. The oft-maligned road course got a nice makeover, and additional viewing mounds (one of the better ways to watch the motorcycles) are in place. While this fan believes Formula 1 ought to race there every year and IndyCars should stick to the oval, breath will not be held until Mr. Eccelstone exhales for the final time and someone plants his Napoleonic, pompous small arse inside a golden shoebox.
It is difficult to say which form of mostly insipid criticism is more meritless . . . the whining of NASCAR fans or the arrogant huffiness of the formula idiots. Logically the NASCAR crowd has valid points because they actually race there and would like to see the kind of action to which they are accustomed. That is the primary reason the apron is returning. The SAFER barrier is also being extended at the end of turns. Part of that reasoning should appease panic stricken doom and gloomers that fear low apexing at high speed will result in catastrophic accidents with bad angles into walls. Additionally, nervous nellies may be relieved to know that catch fencing around the track is being enhanced.
Those of us who watched racing on what used to be a really large apron were amazed at some of the duels that took place down there when it existed. It should be interesting to watch. IMS gets high marks for finally making a logical decision. The only thing they should not ever consider is gradual banking to more than what the track is now. Leave it relatively flat, as it has been for over a century.
Additional dollars are allocated for fan experience-type enhancements, including improved ways to keep fans in the stands connected wirelessly both for audio and video. That is significant, but so are a new pylon (presumably tall like now only with enhanced electronics and video capabilities) and new video screens (about time). Also related to fan comfort are modernized restrooms (hopefully raw sewage onto shoes will cease to be a problem), improved concession choices and improved seating (hopefully wider and spread further apart).
There are also vague plans to improve ingress/egress and improved parking, fan experience zones and entertainment, but as is the Hulman custom details are scarce. One project they never mention that should be near the top of the list is the moonscape that is the museum parking lot and the crumbling sidewalks that lead into the building.
Headed into the dead of winter it appears the big ship is being turned around.