INDIANAPOLIS – Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles swept away the anxiety in the hearts of dirt-track fans across America with a single sentence in Wednesday’s BC39 drivers meeting.
“That temporary backstretch is no longer temporary,” Boles said, a smile gracing his features.
With that one notation, the Driven2SaveLives BC39 was removed from the perceived “endangered species list,” thanks to the support of grassroots supporters from coast to coast who came out to support the inaugural edition last year.
It was a moment that had been long-awaited by many who had dreams of seeing dirt racing at The Racing Capital of the World take root and become a tradition, rather than a novelty.
For Boles, however, it was the completion of a goal that he’d carried with him from the beginning of the project.
“We really hoped it would (be more than a trial) from the beginning, but in order to really to get the company comfortable and the board comfortable what we were going to do, it took the first one really jazzing everyone up like it did last year,” Boles said. “A lot of our board didn’t understand short track (racing) at all, so for them, they said ‘let’s do something temporary, in case it doesn’t work, then this can be parking again like it’s always been.’ But last year was such a success in the fall that we got the approval to go ahead and put (in) that backstretch.
“I say it wasn’t permanent last year, but if you were here, you know everything but the backstretch was permanent,” Boles noted. “Now the next permanent thing that I think we have to start thinking about is grandstands, because we rent those right now … but that’s where we are and we really want this to be a tradition. We want to be part of short track racing, because it’s the heart and soul of motorsports in this country and for us to have an event like this every year is pretty important, I feel like.”
Boles grew up as an Indiana race fan in his youth, and because of those early experiences recognizes the importance of intertwining IMS and short-track racing for the good of both sides.
“For me personally, this race brings back a lot of memories,” Boles explained. “I grew up doing short track (racing) with my dad, and just like a lot of folks, when you grow up in a smaller town, you go to your local race tracks on the weekend and your neighbors are racing and you get a chance to really meet these guys. Every once in a while, one of those neighbors makes it to the next level, and for us … it’s harder any more to get to that next level, when you think about IndyCar, or even NASCAR, and coming to run at the speedway.
“In our eyes, the opportunity for that neighbor at the local short track (level) to actually get to run at the speedway, even if it’s on the dirt track, to me is pretty important. It’s that connection to the grassroots that I think we all need to make sure we have.”
After Wednesday night’s Stoops Pursuit, which featured a chaotic finish won by Kyle Larson as Michael Pickens and Justin Grant flipped around him, Boles’ confidence was as high as ever that The Dirt Track at IMS has already staked its claim on a longstanding piece of the famed facility’s history books.
The next step beyond that is adding to those pages for years to come.
“It was amazing,” said Boles of the Pursuit finish. “I actually sat and watched it from the grandstands with the fans. It’s pretty neat to see the fans’ reactions … and everybody was really paying attention those last few laps. Then, for that last two corners, they were all going pretty crazy. The number of high fives that I got from fans was pretty impressive.
“That was maybe the craziest ending I’ve ever seen at the speedway, and it’s definitely added to our highlight reel for the future.”
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