New Grand Prix of Indianapolis aims to draw more eyes to IMS

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INDIANAPOLIS – This year we have a new race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Thursday, IMS opened the gates for free so fans could be there while drivers practice for the first-ever Grand Prix of Indianapolis.

The idea of an IndyCar road course race has been floated around for years, but it wasn’t until late summer last year that folks at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway decided to make it happen, working fast through the winter months.

“A new way to kick the month of May off,” said J. Douglas Boles, IMS president. “It’s going to take a lot of work to continue to grow the event.”

The Grand Prix of Indianapolis is a key race on the IndyCar series, and an effort to get more eyes on the track in May.

“This is a great way to bring more people to the Speedway, bring more attention to the Indianapolis 500, and really ramp things up from a higher level than where we have been the last few years,” said Boles.

For months, IMS staff worked making additions, trying to enhance the fan experience, and perhaps the most notable part is the new spectator mounds providing a never-before-seen view.

“The Grand Prix is a great idea, because this racetrack should never be left idle,” said Terry Taphorn of Indianapolis.

Fans FOX59 talked with Thursday are glad there’s a new race in town. Some are even set up and prepped for the Grand Prix on Saturday.

“You can never get too much excitement out here,” said Lydia Boyer.

Most are hoping it will be a success, though some question if fans will actually show up.

“We’re kind of wondering where all the fans are? Are they going to show up tomorrow, or are they going to be here Saturday?” asked Sam Randazzo, who traveled in from Springfield, Ill.

IMS predicts attendance Saturday should be in excess of 40,000. It’s a number they want to continue to grow through the years. But first the focus is a great race this weekend.

“What can we do from Thursday to Friday and from Friday to Saturday, so we’re going to make changes this weekend to make it better for our fans,” said Boles.

The Indianapolis 500 has a $500 million a year impact to the local economy, and it brings people in who stay in our hotels and spend money in the city. IMS hopes that the Grand Prix of Indianapolis will develop a following, as well.

Friday is the qualifying round, while Saturday is the race.