Mark Miles gave his media day presentation and then was asked more questions by several journalists. Here is a recap of what Mark said about topics that most IndyCar fans that have been around the last few years would want to hear.
Mr Miles was asked if IndyCar was planning on adding canopies to the cars due to the tragic accident last August where Justin Wilson lost his life at the Pocono race. Miles replied, "There are no secrets in this sport. First of all, even before Justin's accident, IndyCar had worked closely with Formula One safety people to look at protecting drivers, especially heads. And I think it is fair to say, while a lot of work was done, all that had been accomplished is that we had done the work."
"After Pocono, we got connected with a major international company that provides and develops, call it glass applications for fighters and NASA and all kinds of major programs. And a lot of work is being done to see what is possible. These guys are pros. They started with "Now what do we have to solve for, heat, extraction and on and on." They have a list of 20 or 30 issues that would have to be addressed.
"At this point, we are pretty confident that the material can be developed. You have to decide how strong it has to be. You can make something that nothing can get through. But how much weight and visibility become factors. You have to decide if it will be a enclosure or a different approach to protecting a head. My guess it will be a different approach and not a complete enclosure. You have to figure out if it can be fitted on our car. And it has to be affordable.
'I reminded these folks that maybe they would be able to sell about 60 of these a year. Now you have to divide your development costs by 60 and if it's a big number, it is not going to work. "
"So, It is a work in progress. It is not going to happen this year. It is too soon to tell whether it is possible for 2017 or 2018. More than anything, it will depend on how it will fit on the car or if it requires a new chassis. And we have to be very careful about that."
|A proper IndyCar for 'real' drivers – a canopy, no wings but with large tires so the loss of aero grip is partially offset by the gain in mechanical grip. No record speeds at Indy for awhile, but close racing will be back and driver talent will be a bigger part of the equation again.|
And note that the tethers for the front nose cone and the back wings were announced for this year.
Qualifying Speeds at the speedway were the next topic. Reference was made to the presentation by former President of Competition and Operations, Derrick Walker, at the Detroit Grand Prix in June of 2013. His presentation detailed the course of many years with changes to increase the speed of the cars, including the new aero kits we saw in 2015 and also included a competitive enhancement to the chassis by 2018.
Walker's plan was to have speeds reach in the 239 mph range by the 2016 Indy 500. The question to Miles is will we see the speed that was targeted to break the track record for this year's qualifying.
Mr. Miles replied, "We dialed back the boost last year. So I think we might be faster. I don't know yet. To be fair, I think Derrick and I agreed that I was absolutely as implicated in that idea as he was. Why, because I believe that is a great part of what IndyCar is all about, the pursuit of faster. And I still think that's true.
"We have proven that is it more complicated to go faster safely. And so rather than try to fit in a time frame, I think it is just more of a journey than a goal for a date certain. I do think we will continue in little increments to get there."
Mark was asked about the change to the fuel probe sensor affecting the car. He answered, "l do not remember if the car is taken out of gear or if it stops the engine, but the car will not be moving with the fuel probe in. The new sensor has to function fast and it has to stop the car."
I asked Miles if we were going to have more then 33 cars qualifying for the Indy 500. Miles replied, "Yes. Don't ask me how many more, but yes. I feel good about that. We have had good interest and everybody who will want to enter I think will be a quality team. An interesting entrant." Miles was then asked if his hands were tied due to Chevy and Honda, who supply the engines. Miles replied, "I didn't say we were looking for 40. So yes, at some point your comment is true. But I'd say we are talking 34 or 35, that is a practical problem."
I asked him if there was a plan in place to attract new fans after this year? "It's funny, at IMS we are organized so even if you are at the most senior level for a function, engaged for IMS as part of the IMS management team, there is a similiar one at IndyCar, almost all different people expect for me. And each of those have their objectives for 2016. For IMS, you might have thought that it would be to sell out all the reserved seats or something like that. That is not what it says. It's minimize any decrease in 2017 from the uptick in 2016. I think the demand this year is incredible. We are thinking a lot right now about how to keep it there going forward. It is probably not imaginable that you can literally do it. But if we are going to effect that, we have to have it pretty clearly in mind this March and April, because of the way we sell tickets.
Miles was asked, how do we attract more millennials? All pro sports have this question right now. Miles replied, "One major way is being better at everything digital. I mean everything, websites or tweeting, all those platforms. We have to be better at all that. I know that is a big priority in it's own marketing for Verizon. So we are brainstorming with Verizon about things we might be able to do together."
"We got some information that we will share at some point, that shows that the onsite fan is much younger than I thought. The television viewers are a little older than those that come to tracks. The data is better than I had thought in terms of who is showing up at tracks. The Verizon app gives fans a bit of an advantage. Anytime we can put technology in the hands of our fans, it is better for us."
I asked about the double headers that have disappeared from our schedule. Miles commented, "They are now singular. They are down to one and it looks like that is going to stay that way."
Lucille Dust reporting from IMS
02/02/16 I spent a few minutes with Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles after his Project 100 presentation during today's INDYCAR Media Day.
I started by asked if the project will be completed on time. "I am sure we will be working the night before the race. Not on major construction. I was down in Daytona this weekend and they were working for the 24 and working up till the 500. It is the nature of the project. I am nervous a little bit because of the 5% of the fans will be disappointed if you don't finish the project.
"The seats are selling significantly ahead of what we have been over the last 4 or 5 years. The entire upper deck is sold out and anything under shade is pretty much gone. I don't know if we will sell out this year because we are so big. We are going to get to a point where the best seats are gone."
Now that (Boles' stepson) Conor (Daly) has a full time ride, how does that impact you? "It means when I go home at night, things are better at home. When I go home, I would check in with him in his office in the basement and I would chat and help him make a plan for the next day. We had a great Christmas since he was not worried about what was going to happen."
I asked Doug what it feels like to have Conor in the 100th Indy 500. Doug answered, "Yes, it feels really special. For him and I. But what is more special, is that he has done the 500 twice, but has never done both races in May. So this year he is excited about the opportunity to spend the whole month here."
Lucille Dust reporting from IMS
02/02/16 I caught up with 2015 Verizon IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon after the throwback paint scheme was revealed on the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet.
AR1: You and Tony Kanaan have been spending time together in the offseason…
Dixon: " Yes, it had been fun. Tony and I had done a little bit of triathlon stuff years ago. He has continued to do it at an intensive level. I have been on hiatus for 9 years now. Those events have been fun, spending time with him in Miami and spending time with his family. We spend a lot time together during the season, the 24 hours and a lot of a dinners, talking about racing. So the triathlon thing was nice to do because it was totally different. We are still competitive but something on a different platform."
AR1: Do you think Max Chilton will add to Ganassi Racing team this year?
Dixon: "Yes, absolutely. It is nice to have stability, the four cars set early. I am definitely excited for the whole year, one with TK and Charlie and now with the addition of Max. So, I am excited to get testing and start the season."
I also chatted with Schmidt Peterson Motorsports driver James Hinchcliffe, who will be returning to action after his season-ending accident last May at Indy.
In addition to the injuries to his leg, Hinch sprained the last vertebrae in his neck. He told me had it not been for the HANS device, "it would have been game over".
We’re happy to have Hinch back, and he has already been testing quite a bit since the season ended.
Lucille Dust reporting from IMS
02/02/16 It is a cold, gloomy day here in Indianapolis. The annual media day is underway. The construction on the grandstands is continuing as they prepare for the 100th running of the Indy 500.
I will be updating you on the happenings for today.
Lucille Dust reporting from IMS