Indianapolis Adding Apron But Not Lights
By: Dustin Long - @dustinlong on December 10, 2013 | 5:12 P.M. EST
Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials will add an apron below the racing surface in the corners to enhance the racing there for NASCAR. (Photo: Getty Images)
Indianapolis Motor Speedway will add an apron in all four corners in an effort to enhance the NASCAR Sprint Cup race there.
The Indiana Motorsports Commission approved that and other plans to invest state funds on the track’s infrastructure Tuesday.
The track modifications include repaving and reconfiguring the facility’s road course and refurbishing the catchfence along with adding the apron.
Other improvements included enhancement to seats, elevators, suite renovations, new video screens and scoring pylon, modernized restroom facilities, expanding the fan zone and improved traffic flow.
Lights were not included in the project.
Mark Miles, who oversees Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar as CEO of Hulman & Co., said last week at the NASCAR Motorsports Marketing Forum in Las Vegas that an apron would be a better investment than lights for the track.
“The public thought is that you put up lights that will help the Brickyard, and that might be true, it is occasionally warm,’’ Miles said.
He said a better solution would be to find ways to improve the racing to help draw larger crowds for that race.
“Up until the early ‘90s there was an apron around the oval at Indianapolis and that was taken away before NASCAR came,’’ said Miles, noting the inaugural Brickyard 400 was in 1994. “There is some thought if we put the apron back - it’s more like $1 million instead of the $20-plus million to put up lights - it might help improve, because of the (added) area in the turns, the Cup racing there.’’
A release from Indianapolis Motor Speedway stated that economic studies showed that the amount needed for lights “did not provide the best return for taxpayers.’’
Drivers have stated for years that the high speeds and tight turns make it difficult to run side-by-side at Indianapolis. By adding an apron, it could provide a wider room to race and possibly make it easier for drivers to run closer together.
Indianapolis Motor Speedway has the money after Indiana Gov. Mike Pence signed legislation in May that allows the track to receive low-interest loans from the state for up to $5 million a year for 20 years to complete capital improvement projects. In addition, the track contributes $2 million a year during that time toward improvements.