Mark Miles: “No rest for the wicked”

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Helio Castroneves leads in the Indianapolis 500 last May at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. (Photo IndyCar)

INDIANAPOLIS – There’s no offseason for Penske Entertainment CEO Mark Miles.

Working for IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Roger Penske can be a 24/7/365 proposition for his management team.

“There is a lot to do, some of which started long before the season finale at Long Beach,” Miles told SPEED SPORT. “We are in full swing to prepare for next year.

“You do things like talk to each of your employees and do performance reviews, how we can work better together and come up with a detailed annual plan. We spend time thinking about Dan Andersen’s transition from handling Indy Lights to Indy cars and getting ready for it. We are finalizing the details of the event schedule with NBC and working with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and plans due to meet for May.

“There is no rest for the wicked.”

The NTT IndyCar series had a successful season last year, emerging from the dark shadows of a 2020 campaign that was heavily impacted by COVID. That meant an Indianapolis 500 in 2020 without spectators, double schedules at many of its venues to ensure a 14-race schedule, and other restrictions just to survive.

The season brought the IndyCar out of the shadows of the 2020 pandemic, but had to start the season with some restrictions, including limited capacity for the 105th Indianapolis 500 in May.

The highlight of the year came at this event when a crowd limited to around 40% saw Helio Castroneves become the first quadruple Indianapolis 500 winner in 30 years.

“It was fantastic,” Miles recalls. “We were delighted to have 135,000 in the stands and 10,000 in the suites. It was a nice day. Helio’s victory was historic, sensational and thrilling. It was huge. But I think that becomes the platform for what we want to accomplish next May.

“Now Helio wants to be the first five-time winner.

“There is pent-up demand, and our mindset is that we want to approach that like we did the 100th race to do whatever we can nationally and regionally and in Indiana to encourage fans to come back with it. revenge. We can’t wait until next May and that builds on this year. “

This interview with Miles took place before the Omicron variant of COVID-19 began to impose limits on society and postponements in sports. There remains the hope and intention of IndyCar and Indianapolis Motor Speedway officials to have full capacity for the 106th Indianapolis 500 on May 29.

This will be a first for Penske since purchasing the famous facility on November 4, 2019.

“Roger Penske didn’t see May from that position when she was fully reopened,” Miles said. “This includes our traditional Carb Day and Legends Day concerts and the Snake Pit on race day. The reopening of the infield and all that goes with it.

“I think it’s going to be a year at Speedway where it’s business as usual, but we think the demand will be dampened. It will be a really big crowd and even more anticipation than usual.

“We weren’t too constrained in 2021. We hope to come back to Toronto and return to Nashville for its second edition. We have the opportunity to get back to normal levels for the Leaders Circle for Teams and the Indianapolis 500, so that will be great. “

One of Miles’ highlights was the successful launch of the Big Machine Music City Grand Prix on the streets of Nashville. Seeing a successful first year street race start is often a rarity due to the unique requirements of creating such an event.

“I think every year there are two, three or four requests from cities that want a street race or there may be the initiative to explore possibilities with a city,” Miles explained. “But it takes time, especially with a street race. There are more early dialogues than there are new races. We have three or four conversations every year and most of them turn into dry holes.

“It’s so exciting and important when we find a situation like the one we experienced in Nashville.”

Next year will be the last time the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix takes place at Belle Isle in Detroit. From 2023, this event will return to the streets of downtown Detroit.

“We think it’s fantastic,” Miles said. “Belle Isle has been a great and charming place. But when you think of the Renaissance Center and right there in this downtown Detroit neighborhood, it will take over the city. It’s impacting the city of Detroit and making a big statement on IndyCar and how it will show the city of Detroit is a big improvement. We are delighted with it.

“Places like Toronto present the IndyCar well. It will be an outstanding example of the best of temporary street racing. “

It also looks like there will be an increase in the number of cars for most races on the schedule, continuing a recent upward trend.

“I think this is a great endorsement and shows that the sport is healthy, growing and can attract international talent, international teams and national talent as well as national teams,” said Miles. “Part of the answer is value. We work hard to manage costs for the teams while constantly adding fans who want to follow us and help sell sponsors.

“Another big part of attractiveness is the competitiveness on the track. Nine winners with 22 Leaders Circle teams show that almost anyone can be in the hunt. This is not the case in other series. The value proposition and the competitiveness on the track are pretty compelling attributes. “

Outside of IndyCar, Miles said Penske and his team are determined to increase growth for the IndyCar / NASCAR Brickyard weekend, which for the first time in 2021 had all three races on the IMS road course.

There is also interest in a possible return of the Formula 1 United States Grand Prix event, but there are many challenges for that to happen, according to Miles.

“It’s really not in the limelight at this point,” Miles said. “We have a great relationship with the owner of Formula 1 and the FIA. But there are several issues including the date. We have May and in Indianapolis it’s a whole month and you’re promoting it. well before the start of the month. Then we have the Brickyard weekend, and we want to make it bigger and better every year and that will be in July of next year.

“So where do you put it?” Are you doing it between the Indy 500 and the Brickyard 400 and that five week window? Or do you do it after the Brickyard 400 in August and even in September? How many weeks do you promote this properly because we want it to be sensational? It takes a window to promote it. We’re not crazy about doing this after the NFL starts, because you can’t tell from year to year if we’d be the same weekend as a Colts home game.

“Which windows would work for us would be a key issue not only for us but for Formula 1. I don’t think they would want to have an extra swing.

“We like the idea. If we want to do it, we’re going to nail it down and make it extraordinary. So far, we haven’t found the right time.

When the time comes, there aren’t enough hours in the day to satisfy Penske with his big plans and formidable vision. But timing turned out to be important because Penske’s possession of the world’s greatest running course came at a time when he needed someone with power and resources to guide him through a difficult time.

“I don’t know of anyone who predicted COVID would strike the first year Roger took over Speedway and IndyCar,” Miles said. “It took the world by surprise and was huge on all fronts.

“The other aspect is the opportunities for growth and improvement which come as no surprise. Roger’s team, capital and leadership that we thought about before signing the document would make a huge difference to the future and future of our sport and it turned out to be true.

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