INDIANAPOLIS – More money for the Indianapolis 500 purse, more time for the Last Row Shootout on Bump Day and major facility upgrades to Indianapolis Motor Speedway were announced by Roger Penske Friday in Indianapolis.
It serves as further proof that Penske is making major changes to the IMS, IndyCar and the Indianapolis 500 since taking over as owner on Jan. 6.
The announcements were made to signify 100 days until race day at the Indianapolis 500 on May 24.
The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has long been known as the Cathedral of Speed and an immortal shrine to auto racing. Penske is taking a gem and polishing it to increase its luster in the world of sports.
According to Penske, it was 3 degrees Friday morning in Indianapolis. He was walking the property looking at placement for a series of new video and information boards that will give the spectators more information at the fabled facility.
From a competitive standpoint, the extra $2 million the purse and expanding the Last Row Shootout to 75 minutes are welcome changes to the Indianapolis 500.
Previous versions of the Shootout featured one attempt per car. Fan feedback indicated they wanted even more drama as drivers try to seize one of the three final spots in the field.
The event purse for the 104th Indianapolis 500 will be the largest in the history of the event. The purse will grow by $2 million to more than $15 million.
“Our purse will go up $2 million to $15 million,” Penske said. “It will be the largest purse paid here. The winner will get at least $2 million, then you have the other winnings you might get for pole position, leading laps that can add to that. I think last year Simon Pagenaud got almost $2.6 million. We think that’s important. We’re investing in the track but also trying to provide additional monies to the teams that are successful here.”
Of the additional $2 million that has been added to the purse, Penske said $125,000 of the purse will go directly to the Winner’s Circle. That is a program that financially rewards full-time distribution.
Last year, Penske advocated guaranteed starting positions for full-time entries in the NTT IndyCar Series. Now that he is the owner of IMS and IndyCar, Penske has listened to the fans who prefer to keep Bump Day as part of the Indianapolis 500.
“I quickly realized that listening to the fans, looking at the information that flowed to my desk, the fans here, the history here, is having a Bump Day,” Penske said. “I think that will take place at this year’s Indy 500.
“They’re going to add an additional 15 minutes, there will be 75 minutes. You’ll be able to have more than one attempt. I think that’s going to make it really exciting based on obviously the entry level. We’re seeing some real interest.
“I think Jay Frye (IndyCar president) would say we saw almost 27 drivers taking a chance to go around the track at COTA here last week. Obviously, there’s some excitement.”
Mark Miles is the president and CEO of Penske Entertainment, after holding a similar position with Hulman & Co. since 2012.
“I personally believe that time trials for the Indianapolis 500 race is one of the most dramatic, exciting weekends in sport, any sport anywhere,” said Penske Entertainment CEO Mark Miles. “I’m delighted there have been a few changes planned which I think will build on a really great year last year to make it even more so.
“We expect bumping will continue. We’ll see. I would be surprised if we don’t have something like 36 cars trying to make their way into the field of 33.
“Last year you will recall on Sunday we introduced the Last Row Shootout. We gave each car still trying to get in one attempt. This year on Sunday those cars still trying to get in to fill the last role will have 75 minutes. They’ll be guaranteed one attempt, and they will have the opportunity to continue to try to get on the board and get into the race until time runs out after 75 minutes. We expect that’s going to be very dramatic.
“It’s also going to be faster, we think, if the simulators are predictive, as we think they are. With the about 40 more horsepower for qualifying, I think we might see the times inch up a little bit more and get above where we were last year, which I know the fans like.”
Additionally, NBC is increasing its commitment to five hours of coverage on qualification weekend.
“This will all be seen by a lot more people because NBC and NBCSN are going to do nine hours over the two days,” Miles said. “NBC on broadcast will go from three hours to five. They’ll be broadcasting on both days. Last year it was one of the two days.”