SPEEDWAY, Ind – The first full capacity Indy 500 since 2019 will give many race fans their first look at several technological upgrades at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
“Sixty percent of our fans didn’t get to come last year, nobody got to come in 2020,” said IMS President Doug Boles. “So there’s a huge amount of fans that when they walk in here on Sunday morning, some of the things they see will be the first time.”
Some of the most obvious new tech includes a massive, 104 by 20 ft video board installed on the back of the pagoda. The screen will provide live coverage of action happening around the track, as well as detailed information about race teams on during the 500.
In addition, 20 smaller video boards have been installed throughout seating areas in the paddock, giving those fans something they’ve never had.
“Lot of those folks never were able to watch a video board,” Boles said. “They have video boards now which is really cool for them to keep up with what’s going on around the race track.”
Fans will also notice ribbon boards that display the running order on the seven infield big screen monitors.
Another major technology upgrade is one that fans hopefully won’t notice at all; 5G cellular service installed in 2020, along with nearly 600 digital antennas throughout the speedway.
“Used to be by 9 in the morning, if you tried to get a text message out, it just wouldn’t work,” Boles said. “Still a little bit slow, but it’s certainly a lot better through the 5G and then all the antennas that we put in in the facility to try and drive that information to people in their seats.”
Fans visiting the IMS museum Wednesday said they were excited by the upgrades, as long as the tradition and feeling of IMS stays the same.
“It’s wonderful, absolutely wonderful,” said Willie Kay. “But don’t change too much, that’s what brings us back.”
As it turns out, more technological changes are likely on the way for the 2023 Indy 500. The position numbers installed at the top of the pagoda are no longer working and are unlikely to be repaired. Boles said the problem was the result of another Indiana winter, and the manufacturer no longer supports or makes the parts for the display.
“Definitely old school scoring boards,” Boles said. “So yeah, I think our next step is some sort of digital display that can actually convey the information to our fans.”
While it’s still very early in the planning stage, Boles said it’s possible that some kind of digital display could be used to replicate the “old school” look of the position numbers.
“Sort of like how Victory Field is,” Boles said. “If you go to a baseball game at Victory Field, it feels like you’re in a modern, but old baseball stadium. That’s what we want people to feel here as well.”