INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) – Making the Grand Prix a safer and more enjoyable experience is already in the plans for IMS officials.
Many at the track were still talking about what happened at the starting line Saturday, when pole sitter Sebastian Saavedra was hit from behind. His car stalled right when the race began causing two drivers hit him.
But despite the race stumbling out of the gate, officials feel the weekend was a success.
On a much calmer but just as loud Sunday afternoon, Mike Cates was soaking in an up-close look at the same drivers he saw flying around the track Saturday.
“Beginning the whole month of May with a race weekend is a great way to start the month,” he said.
For the Baker family, Sunday was a chance to tour the new track IndyCars tore up a day earlier.
“I was showing them the skid marks of the tires going into the turn so were just kind of reliving that thinking yesterday there were cars going down here,” said Doug Baker.
But before they sped down the straightaway Saturday, they needed to simply get started
“All of a sudden you saw pieces flying through the air,” described Cates.
“One of the risks of a standing start is somebody might stall a car as they try and get off the line. Unfortunately yesterday it happened to be the pole sitter. So you had the entire field that had to figure out how to navigate around him,” said IMS President Doug Boles.
He said they’ll look into whether a standing start should be used for next year’s race.
“That’s just part of racing. I mean that’s just what happens,” said fan Jennifer Baker.
The other risk of that style of start came for Mayor Greg Ballard. Flying debris from the crash hit him right after he waved the green flag.
Boles said it’s possible the next honorary starter will be up in the flag stand or there won’t be one at all. Instead, drivers would just rely on the lights at the starting line.
As for the fans, being close is exactly what many wanted. IMS officials were glad to see thousands of fans using the new spectator mounds and temporary stands.
But it’s possible those areas will be shifted or expanded and video boards added or moved to enhance their view.
“I would agree that that’s probably an opportunity for improvement for the facility, not only for the Grand Prix but for the 500 as well,” said Cates.
“It was a first event for us. So it’s really going to take some of that fan feedback as we move forward. So there are a lot of tweaks that we can make to make it better,” said Boles.
Enhancing the view is one thing, making sure there’s enough space to accommodate everyone is another factor they’re working on.
Officials were hoping to get 40,000 people inside the Speedway. The numbers aren’t official yet, but they appear to be well north of their expectations.
“We may have benefited from people being cooped up inside all winter. Couldn’t wait to get ready and get May going,” said Boles. “The weather obviously helped us. We had a great walk-up crowd. Visually the place looked really full of folks on our mounds.”