Podcasts

Doug Boles President Indianapolis Motor Speedway| Part 2

By Jamie Tyler and Ed Bernardon

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Introduction

Welcome back to the latest episode in the Future Car Podcast series. In this episode, we continue our conversation with Douglas Boles; President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation. In episode one, we focused on how Doug prepares for the Indy 500, his passions and how he incorporates fan feedback into the event.

Let’s dive straight into episode two! 👇


What to expect from this episode

How tire manufacturers continue to learn from Indianapolis 500 ♻️

Firestone are the official tire manufacturer of the Indy 500. It’s important to understand how they are gathering new insights from the race and applying it to road cards. There’s a big sustainability push within the sport, so find out how Doug Boles and the rest of the sport are combining these aspects as we move further into the 21st century.

Balancing modern with tradition 🆕

The Indy 500 has incredible reach. It’s one of the most watched sports across the United States, but it’s important to ensure there is a fine balance between modern convenience for the fans whilst protecting what makes the event so unique. We talk with Doug on how how to appeal to the younger customer, whilst maintaining the atmosphere of a 115 year old stadium.

Merging the Indy 500 with Formula One 🏎️

These days, Formula One has three grand prix on US soil; the most recent addition being the Las Vegas Grand Prix. But these races wouldn’t have been possible without Indianapolis holding a spot on the F1 calendar between 2000 and 2007. It’s important to recognize the importance of this, and how it laid the foundation for F1 to become the sport it has in the USA today.


Steeped in history and tradition, the first ever Indy 500 race was held in 1911. Since then, the event has celebrated its 100th birthday (in 2011) and hosted 107 race events. 

  1. Douglas Boles is the President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation and, in this Part 2 interview, he and host Ed Bernardon continue their discussion about the Indy 500 and everything that surrounds it. 

Ed and Doug discuss topics like how sustainability is being incorporated into the event, what it was like hosting the US Grand Prix at the Speedway, and the future of the Indy 500. As always, Ed finishes the episode off by asking Doug some rapid fire questions! Tune in for more!

 

Some Questions Asked

  • How has technology changed the experience that you have at the Speedway? (4:12)
  • How do you think the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, as a venue, is going to evolve over the next 5 to 10 years? (20:03)
  • What’s your legacy? (22:23)
  • What was the first car you ever owned? (23:42)

 

In This Episode You Will Learn 

  • How Douglas balances history and tradition with modernity when organizing the Indy 500 (8:46)
  • How sustainability is implemented in the Indy 500 (10:56)
  • How shows like Drive to Survive can be leveraged at the Speedway (18:24)
  • Whether Douglas has ever gotten a speeding ticket (24:12)

Connect with J. Douglas Boles

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Connect with Ed Bernardon:

Ed Bernardon: The Indianapolis 500 boasts one of the largest live audiences of any event in the world and has energy and fanfare that is nothing short of electric. With all the attention and anticipation of an event like this, expectations are high, and you need a bit of planning to make sure those expectations are met. The man behind this operation is Doug Boles, the president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

 

[Intro Music]

 

Ed Bernardon: In Part 1 with Doug, we discussed the history of the racetrack and the most challenging parts of organizing an event like the 500. In Part 2, we continue discussing the Indy 500 with Doug as he answers questions like how technology has changed the 500 experience. How the event is embracing sustainability? And what Doug wants his Indy legacy to be. We close with our regular Rapid Fire style, where you’ll hear if he passes the driver’s test on the first try, his best speeding ticket story and some of the first-ever revealed facts about the man behind Indy 500. I’m your host, Ed Bernardon, and let’s jump into Part 2 with Doug Boles.

 

Ed Bernardon: You mentioned, early on, technology. That was one of the initial goals of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway: to develop technology. The winner of the first 500 was the first use of the rearview mirror, which was quite significant. What do you think, over the years, is probably one of the most significant technology advancements that came from racing at the Speedway?

Douglas Boles: There’s been so many. Obviously, we go back to that rearview mirror as a really important moment. But if you think about the early days, everything that was on a car back then was the foundation for the cars we drive today. But I think that over the course of our history, the tire technology that Goodyear and Firestone—really were the two, but now it’s been Firestone for the last 25 years—the technology that the tire manufacturer learns by competing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway translates directly to what we have on our road car. So, that Firestone relationship, I think, is one that’s probably benefited us a lot more than we give it credit for. Even some of the small things that we’re doing on the sustainability side right now, I think, are really important that we’re learning technology. Firestone, for example, has this plant that they grow in southern Arizona called Guayule, and they’ve learned how to make rubber out of that. We’ve got this sustainable rubber through the tires. So, that’s probably one of them. From a safety standpoint, this is less about fans and more about racing across the globe. The SAFER barrier, which is that steel wall that’s in front of the concrete barrier, was designed by the University of Nebraska and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Tony George believed that he needed to invest alongside the University of Nebraska when nobody else did. Today, it’s used everywhere: NASCAR and Formula One use it. We have saved countless injuries and reduced countless injuries across motorsport, no matter what form it is, because of the SAFER wall. That’s probably one of the biggest safety innovations that’s come from the Speedway, believing in it 25 years ago to get it to where it is today. Currently, Honda and Chevy are running here, testing new technology through the engine platforms here—all that stuff transfers to the cars. Over the long haul, I would say our tire manufacturer involvement here is probably the thing that’s been the best for us across what we do when we get out every morning and start a car up and don’t even think about the tires, why they last, why they stop, and why they can go through the rain. That’s the thing that folks like Firestone learn in racing.

Ed Bernardon: It’s interesting because I did ask Mario that exact same question, and he said tires. 

Douglas Boles: He did say tires? 

Ed Bernardon: Yes, he did. I think you hit the reason. When we get in our car, we never think about the tires and hardly ever even worry about flats and those types of things anymore. So, that’s the proof. Technology flows both ways. You’ve got 350,000 people sitting in this venue. How has technology changed the experience that you have during any event, the Indianapolis 500 or any race at the Speedway?

Douglas Boles: What we talked about earlier, the technology—when you think about what’s in your phone in your hand—the ability to communicate with the customer in real-time through either social media platforms, email, or however that is, has changed the way that we can communicate to our customers. Giving customers the opportunity to have a digital ticket versus a paper ticket. Although I’m old school, I like the paper ticket for the Indianapolis 500, and so do 90% of our fans. We give them the option, and 90% take the paper ticket, but that communication and opportunity for the customer, for sure. So, NTT, who is the IndyCar Series partner, is a partner here as well, and through their Smart City technology, we’re beginning to learn how to predict gate lines so that we can direct people from one gate to another. We are able to predict when a parking lot is going to fill up. We’re able to predict where we are in a concession stand so that we can staff correctly, see the gate in real-time as people come through the gates, and understand how many people are in the venue. Over the course of several years, getting to see how our customers react, we can staff more appropriately to make sure that we have the right gates open and the number of people at the gates to make the customer experience better. All of those things make life a bunch easier here for us. The technology with even security is the way we can now scan a person coming in through our open gate metal detectors. The technology is now such that you can bring your cooler in through those gates, and as long as you don’t have something you shouldn’t have in that cooler, you’re going to be able to walk right through. That technology, two or three years ago, wasn’t even available; you had to open somebody’s cooler up and check it. So, technology changes every single year for us, and we continue to try and stay on the front edge of that because it does make the customer experience better, also makes the customer safer, and makes our staff more appropriate and more efficient.

Ed Bernardon: Well, it’s like the tires; you don’t notice, “Wow, it didn’t take us long to get into the race this year.” There’s also, if you wanna say, the streaming or the TV audience; there’s talk of virtual reality, augmented reality, all sorts of things, trying to bring the experience of the driver into the living room. Do you see a future for that type of technology in some way? Maybe at the venue or for people who are watching the race on TV?

Douglas Boles: Yeah, I do think as you watch, you’re trying to find ways to give customers or fans at home the experience to feel what it’s like to be in the car, what it’s like to even be at the venue if you’re not at the venue, and there are those pieces of technology that continue to evolve. We’ve tried some of them the last couple of years with Verizon; we put cameras around the racetrack that our fans could go in and look through those cameras and move those cameras around and see different views. So, we are trying to give those customers an opportunity to do that. As technology changes, I’m sure there will be a day, not probably too far from now, when there is the VR opportunity to be at the Speedway while the race is going on and see whatever the broadcaster has, but do it in a way like you’re there. It’s hard to believe how quickly it changes and the opportunities we have. Like I said, we continue to look at all of those ways to make the customer experience better. The closer you can get a customer to the brand, to the event, even if they’re not here, the more likely you are probably to get them to say, “You know what, I want to go experience that in real life at some point in time.” So, we do really try and focus on how we are encouraging that person who’s home watching on the stream or watching with our broadcast partner, encourage them to try the Speedway out if they haven’t done so.

Ed Bernardon: They could be sitting in a simulator like you’ve got there and actually feeling how Conor Daly is turning the wheel.

Douglas Boles: 100%. So, my sim that is over my shoulder here is a static sim. But I was at the thermal race that we had for the IndyCar Series, and there’s a group there that’s created a sim where you actually strap in, and you’re feeling the forces and the Gs that the drivers are feeling as you’re breaking, the car’s moving forward. So, the technology is getting to be there where you can experience what it’s like to be in a race car and feel like you’re actually driving that race car without the risk of the safety side of things, and then the problem of you damage race car is an expensive thing. So, there are becoming more and more opportunities for the ordinary fan, like you and I, to experience what Conor or Joseph Newgarden or any of those guys experience when they strap in an IndyCar.

Ed Bernardon: You mentioned the paper ticket. I get my paper tickets, and I keep them. But you know what, when I go on the track, I use the digital one because it’s more convenient. I think you may have said this: modern but old. There’s something that attracts you about the tradition, I guess. But yet, we want the modern part and the convenience that comes with modern. How do you balance that?

Douglas Boles: You’ve touched on maybe one of the bigger challenges that this organization has, which is how do you balance the history and tradition and the “oh, this is what always happens at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway” with the new, the things that are going to appeal to the younger customer, and the conveniences that a new stadium has that a 115-year-old stadium doesn’t have. So, trying to figure out how you balance that, especially with respect to the Indy 500. With respect to some of our other races, it’s a little less difficult. But for the 500, it is definitely a challenge. You want customers to have the convenience of what technology allows, but you also don’t want to change what makes the 500 so special. Like you, a lot of customers want that paper ticket because that is what they collect. It’s what sits on their desk. It’s the things that mean so much to them. It’s that physical ability to hold that memory in your hand, whereas the digital doesn’t do that. But the convenience of digital, to have it in your phone to go right through, is something that people want as well. So, trying to balance that is definitely a challenge for us. We’re pretty committed to keeping those paper tickets for the Indy 500 year. I’m a massive Indy 500 ticket collector from way back in the day up through the current day. There’s just something special about having an Indy 500 ticket in your hand. At some level, when you come here, especially if you’re bringing somebody new or you’re bringing in a new family member, you want to be able to sit in the seat and go, “This is where I sat with your grandpa, and this is what it really felt like.” But at the same time, you’ve got to bring in some of those modern amenities to make sure that that young person you brought says, “Okay, yeah, this is cool. But I need to do X, Y, and Z, too.” So, it’s a balancing act for us, for sure.

Ed Bernardon: Well, I like your idea about using technology to get in and out of the track as fast as you can. That’s the worst part because once you’re there, that’s when the tradition really matters. You mentioned sustainability. Now, we’ve got 100% renewable race fuel in IndyCar; there are all sorts of things going on at the Speedway when it comes to recycling and things that will impact sustainability. What does one do in such a large venue? What are the top things you try to address? What’s the pecking order here of what you’ve got to do to make a facility like this more sustainable?

Douglas Boles: It’s a challenge, and I will transparently tell you, I was probably one of the roadblocks in the beginning to make some of those investments in sustainability because I felt like when you get 350,000 people at the same place at the same time, for six or seven hours, it’s really hard to keep up with garbage, let alone how do you split the aluminum cans and all the recyclable stuff from the trash. And then, when you get those cans that say “recyclable,” you still have to take them out, spread them out, and really filter through because oftentimes they get contaminated with things that aren’t recyclable, and then you can’t take them. So, it’s a massive process that I don’t think people understand. It’s not just a matter of taking that trash bag out and sending it to the recycle bin; it’s taking that trash bag out, opening it up, and having somebody really literally pick through it to make sure that the recyclable stuff is recycled. I didn’t believe that our fans would adopt it. We ended up, a few years ago, trying it. I think 2021 was the first year that we really had recycled cans out there. I couldn’t believe the number of people, especially people my age or older, who were saying, “Thank you, thank you, thank you for making recyclable opportunities for your fans here at the Speedway.” So, we started simple, just being able to figure out how you recycle cans that either you bought here or that you brought in your cooler. We’ve had unbelievable participation from our fans. In fact, the venue looks cleaner because people are taking pride in it and really helping us take care of it. So, just getting to that point was a big deal. Now, we’ve expanded. Obviously, you talked a little bit about the fuel, that the cars have renewable fuel. We have a station here that actually charges semi-tractors, and all of our tires that Firestone brings in are brought in through battery-powered transporters, which is kind of a cool story. They can recharge here and then go on. We’ve got a solar farm here that we put in in 2014, which is about 70 acres of property that we couldn’t use otherwise. So, we’re producing a massive amount of megawatts that goes back to the grid every year on property that otherwise was just going to be weeds because you couldn’t really use it for anything else. 

Douglas Boles: So, we’re continuing little things. Thinking about our food, composting our food, and working with all of our vendors to have recyclable materials, whether it’s a bag when you buy something from our merch store or whether it’s utensils that you might get with a hamburger. So, we’re trying to do everything we can to make a difference. We allow our customers, when they renew, to check a little box and offset their carbon footprint if they’re traveling a long way. So, it’s amazing how race fans have adopted what I would have told you they weren’t going to adopt three or four years ago.

Ed Bernardon: Your stepson, Conor Daly. You mentioned earlier that you’re a longtime AJ Foyt fan. If AJ was racing Conor, who would you be cheering for?

Douglas Boles: I want it to be a really great race, and I’d want Conor to pass him on the last corner of the last lap. I would want AJ to do really well until right at the very end of it. Conor is my favorite IndyCar driver. It’s an interesting balancing act when you’re the president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

Ed Bernardon: Can’t have favorites, right? 

Douglas Boles: Well, they say you can’t, but he’s my favorite. It’s just the way it is. But people say to me, “Who would you want to win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway from your president’s standpoint?” I start out, and I say somebody like Marco Andretti winning the Indy 500 because Andretti winning would be massively huge. Somebody like Tony Kanaan winning when Tony was running because he was one of our favorites. Ed Carpenter is another local who’s a favorite here. Even Conor is one of those ones because if you go back to the video when he took the lead for the first time at the Indy 500, this place erupted, especially our fans who live here and grew up here. “His dad drove in the Indy 500. It’s really what he’s all about.” So, he would be another great storyline for us. I’m always cheering for him. But I’m pretty excited about whoever wins the Indy 500. It’s a great opportunity to work with those folks. Joseph Newgarden has been a great champion. We’ve had fun working together. One of my highlights in working here at the Speedway was on the roof of the pagoda in 2022. I went up just to check on Roger because Roger watches from up there to make sure that he was okay. As we were standing up there, Conor actually took the lead in the Indy 500. To be able to high-five Penske [15:01 inaudible] Conor taking the lead was a pretty cool moment for me. He’s my favorite race car driver. There are a lot of them; I can tell you why they should win the Indy 500. My heart, obviously, is with Conor.

Ed Bernardon: There’s always drama and great moments in racing. Formula One has this series, Drive to Survive. It’s the maximum in a racing drama. But the Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosted the F1 championship from 2000 to 2007. How do you think that impacted the legacy of the Speedway in those years hosting Formula One?

Douglas Boles: We hosted the, as you said, the US Grand Prix, eight races starting in 2000 and ending in 2007. I think it’s appropriate that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has a history with the US Grand Prix in the United States. There’s a handful of really great iconic racetracks in America. Obviously, this is definitely one of those. Having been able to host the US Grand Prix, and at the time, that first race, it was the largest attended Formula One race ever: 200,000 plus people on property for that first race in 2000. 2001, with 9/11, and all the things that had happened in 2001 and 2002, and continuing to celebrate America here with the US Grand Prix, I think, was really special. Our road course has been modified a little bit since those F1 days, but pretty much a lot of it is what the Formula One drivers drove. So, it is an FIA Grade 1 racetrack still to this day. There are only a couple of those tracks in the US; COTA obviously is one of them, the US Grand Prix, where they race in Texas in Austin. So, I do think it helps our legacy to know that this track hosted the US Grand Prix, and then we hosted the MotoGP for several years after that. So, having had MotoGP here as well, I do think it sets us apart from a lot of the other racetracks. We’re not just the Indianapolis 500, but we have history with our Brickyard 400 and then with MotoGP and Formula One.

Ed Bernardon: Has there been any thought or dialogue with Formula One leadership about possibly bringing it back to the Speedway?

Douglas Boles: So, we had a dialogue with Liberty Media in 2020 when the world was trying to figure out how to go racing again. A lot of the venues where Formula One was going to run were in countries where they just weren’t going to be able to run. So, we talked to them about the potential of being an affiliate race for them to make sure that they got their schedule down. That ultimately didn’t pan out. We talked a little bit about 2021 as well. Again, for a variety of reasons, mostly financial—to be really transparent—most of the venues where Formula One goes get significant support from the country’s tourism bureau, so they don’t have to make a P&L work. Whereas, for us, in order to give Formula One the amount of money that they want to run somewhere, we can’t make that up in ticket sales. So, it’s a bit of a challenge. We have a dialogue with them quite regularly right now. We go down to the Miami Grand Prix and check in there. We take care of any of their guests if they’ve got somebody that’s interested in the Indy 500. I think one of the great things about motorsport at the highest level, across the board, whether it’s IndyCar, NASCAR, Formula One, WEC, or IMSA, we all try and communicate and take care of each other because, to the extent that the whole of motorsports is rising, it’s good for all of us.

Ed Bernardon: How do you take advantage, then, of the popularity of Drive to Survive? Can you leverage that in some way at the Speedway in an IndyCar?

Douglas Boles: Absolutely. If somebody watches a documentary, like Drive to Survive, or frankly, our 100 Days of Indy program that we did last year and we’re going to do again this year, and NASCAR just did a six-episode series of their championship last year. I think all of those things are front doors and gateways to get people to explore motorsport. If you’re a “Formula 1: Drive to Survive” fan and you live outside of Iowa, there’s not a Formula One race there, but there’s an IndyCar race that comes there, and it’s close. So, I do think all of those things give people an opportunity to say, “I can’t see an F1 race, but I can go see an IndyCar race. I can’t see an IndyCar race, but I can go see an IMSA race or a NASCAR race.” I think all of those things are important for all of us. There’s a little bit of competition among all of us. I think, over the last decade or so, it’s more of “Yeah, we compete. But at the same time, we need all of us to be successful because that means that the sport overall is successful.”

Ed Bernardon: Don’t you think you’d enjoy being a Netflix star if they come in and film you there on the simulator or whatever it might be? 

Douglas Boles: I don’t think I’m controversial enough or big personality enough to do that. When you watch some of those, they’re pretty crazy, and I’m pretty happy being a Hoosier from Indiana and just being able to represent the fans and not have to worry about some of the things. I mean, I’m not flying in a helicopter, and my staff is all worried that I’m going to show up in a minute and make sure everything is exactly perfect. I’d rather be the guy who’s got his sleeves rolled up and helps the staff get set up than the guy they’re getting set up for.

Ed Bernardon: I don’t know how exciting that would be, but I’m sure you’d probably figure out a way to do it. Let’s talk a little bit about the future. You’re looking at the Speedway. You said as soon as one race is over, you’re thinking about the next one. How do you think the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as a venue is going to evolve over the next five to ten years?

Douglas Boles: It goes back to the conversation we had earlier about the balancing of what makes us different and special, but what makes us stay true to our DNA and stay true to the ability to attract that new fan who has maybe a slightly different interest. As we start looking at things, we do know technology is super important. So, how do you make sure that technology is part of what’s going on in racing? Those cars that we run in the Indy 500 essentially are rolling computers. Everything that moves from a static state is seen in real time; the rest of it is downloaded when those cars come in. But how are we translating that technology that’s in those cars to what we’re seeing today? How are we making sure that the experience at the venue is the experience that folks expect these days when they go to a concert or another sporting event? Those are the things that we have to grapple with. Then, in terms of the event itself and the product on the track, I get the question all the time: When’s it going to be AI-driven? Or when are you going to go to an all-electric car? Those are things that I think we have to continue to stay in touch with our automotive manufacturers because as automotive manufacturers go, it is likely where racing goes. We’re going to follow those manufacturers and what they feel like is the thing that sells in the showroom. That’s still going to be a piece of that. So, I think at some point in time, there’s definitely a change there. The old guy in me is like, “I don’t want to ever get rid of the internal combustion engine,” just the joy that you have of seeing, smelling, and hearing all those things. On the electric side, you don’t hear it. So, to me, it’s like, “How’s that going to ultimately work?” I just think the biggest thing is you just have to have an open mind and be able to work alongside the people that are smarter than you in the industry, where’s the industry going, and then be able to continue to make those adjustments to make sure that we’re staying relevant across those folks and across our new fan. But we can’t ever forget what got us here, and that’s that group of fans that expects the tradition, the pomp, and circumstance, and everything that leads up to the race. The last thing I want to do is do what Coke did and take classic Coke and turn it into a new Coke. I now want to take the classic Indianapolis Motor Speedway and turn it into the new Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We have to do it—

Ed Bernardon: And then come back to the classic Speedway after that, a couple of years later. Someday, you will retire; it might be way into the future. What do you want people to say? What’s your legacy?

Douglas Boles: I don’t know. I have not really thought about that. I hope that our fans feel like they have a voice inside the walls of Penske Entertainment. Obviously, they have one with Roger; Roger is a massive fan as well as the owner of the series and the Speedway. But for me, I really started out in this position wanting to be somebody or a place where if a fan had a complaint or wanted to tell a story, there was some pair of ears at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway that was going to listen to them. And even if they couldn’t fix what they wanted to be fixed or change what they wanted to change, at least heard them out. For me, I think that the most important thing is just continuing to be that outlet for our customers to say, “Hey, I love this,” or “I didn’t like this.” Like I said, whether we were able to fix that or not, at least somebody truly listened to them and understood why it was important to them.

Ed Bernardon: Doug, I want to thank you for joining us on The Future Car Podcast.

Douglas Boles: Thank you for having me. I appreciate it. You asked some questions I haven’t ever had to answer.

Ed Bernardon: We’ve got to challenge you. We had to challenge you. Now, the big challenge is yet to come. We have our final little segment we call Rapid Fire. We’re gonna ask you some quick little questions, fun questions. If it sounds like it’s something you want to keep talking about, we can do it. Are you ready to go?

Douglas Boles: I’ll try it. Let’s go.

Ed Bernardon: What was the first car you ever owned?

Douglas Boles: It was a 1968 British Racing Green Mustang, a notchback Mustang with a 302 in it.

Ed Bernardon: Did you pass your driver’s test on the first try?

Douglas Boles: 100%. Unlike young kids these days, I couldn’t wait to turn 16 so my dad could take me to the license branch so I could pass that test and drive on my own.

Ed Bernardon: Have you ever had a speeding ticket? I’m sure the answer has got to be yes. No race driver has not had a speeding ticket.

Douglas Boles: Too many. I shouldn’t say this, but I have not had one since 2009. But yes, I’ve had quite a few speeding tickets in my life. 

Ed Bernardon: Tell us your best speeding ticket story. 

Douglas Boles: In Indiana, if you get too many points on your license, you have to go to defensive driving. I must have been in college, maybe just out of college—so, the early 20s—and I had gone to downtown Indianapolis to take defensive driving, and I took my defensive driving class, got the defensive driving certificate that I passed, which means they take some points off your license. I’m driving home, maybe two miles from where I just had the defensive driving class, where the Indianapolis Zoo is currently today, and a nice police officer on his motorcycle with his radar gun pulled me over, and I got my first ticket within 10 minutes after passing defensive driving.

Ed Bernardon: Were you paying attention in that course

Douglas Boles: I paid attention in terms of the course, but my right foot never really followed some of those rules.

Ed Bernardon: That’s why you were successful in racing Formula Vees and Formula Fords. What’s the fastest you’ve ever driven a regular car on a normal road when you didn’t get a ticket?Douglas Boles: Probably too fast. Christmas Day, 1988, 140 miles an hour.

Ed Bernardon: Were you late for Christmas dinner?

Douglas Boles: No, I was just not really smart as a young adult. It was Christmas Day, 1988. So, I would have been 22.

Ed Bernardon: You don’t do that anymore. You do not recommend anyone go 140 miles per hour, that’s for sure. Someday, there’s going to be autonomous cars everywhere. When you’re in an autonomous car, you don’t have to worry about driving. We call it a Living Room on Wheels. You’ve got a five-hour trip, say, maybe you’re going from Indianapolis to Detroit. You’re gonna have anything you want inside this autonomous car. What do you want in your Living Room on Wheels for that four or five-hour drive?

[01:03:15] J. Douglas Boles: Some great speakers and some really good music. For me, that’s part of the car experience: just traveling down the road and listening to music. For me, it would absolutely have to have a pretty good sound system and some great music.

Ed Bernardon: Just kick back and listen to some tunes there.Douglas Boles: I’m such an old-school guy. I want to drive a manual. I’m struggling now that nobody has manuals anymore. I’m going to struggle in that Living Room on Wheels. So, the music needs to be pretty loud to keep me entertained, I think.

Ed Bernardon: If you could have, on that five-hour car ride, anybody to join you alive today or has ever lived, who would you pick? You have to turn the music off, and now you’re going to be hanging out. 

Douglas Boles: I would love an opportunity to talk to Ronald Reagan.

Ed Bernardon: What would you ask him?

Douglas Boles: You read so much about him. I’ve read a lot about him, and obviously, he was alive when he was president. His life story, how he got from the beginning, through his days as an actor, changing political parties over the course of his career to being president of the United States in a very tumultuous and difficult time. It would just be interesting to hear his story from him instead of the things you’ve read. Probably, if I knew I was going to do that, I’d go back through a lot of the things I read and make sure I wrote down some good questions that I’ve had and some of those many books that I’ve read and marked up.

Ed Bernardon: Speedway Museum, are there any secret items, rooms, or something in that museum? Secret items that no one has ever seen that are sitting in a back room somewhere? Is there anything you could tell us about?

Douglas Boles: Well, everybody knew about the basement that was in the museum, which was basically a big garage where they store the cars that weren’t on the floor. It was powerful just because you got a chance to see all those cars in one spot. But the amount of trophies, historic photos, historic paintings, things that they just don’t have a place to display that have amazing stories behind them is pretty mind-blowing. When you have an opportunity, especially now that they’re going through the renovation of the museum, we’ve had to move a lot of those things out. When you had an opportunity to see the collection of things that the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum had, which in and of themselves could be their own museums, is pretty powerful. But the thing that always strikes me is just the number of trophies from back at the turn of the century, when motorsport just started, all the way up through to today. It’s pretty impactful to see all those and to understand where our sport has come from.

Ed Bernardon: No specific item that you want to reveal? 

Douglas Boles: There’s not really a specific item in there that I would say is something that folks haven’t seen. The most important stuff ends up on the floor—the Borg-Warner Trophy, some of the cars, and some of the artifacts related to some of the early drivers.

Ed Bernardon: I’m going to test you now to see how well you know your 350,000 fans. How many beers do you think are sold during the month of May at the Speedway?

Douglas Boles: We sell over 25,000 beers during the month of May here. But what’s crazier is when you think about that, we let our customers bring coolers in. So, that’s just the beers we sold here. We’ve estimated that in terms of beers consumed here, it can be as much as four times that at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in May, so it is an absolute ton of beer.

Ed Bernardon: Indianapolis and Indiana are known for their tenderloins. How many tenderloins do you think you sell?

Douglas Boles: We sell thousands of tenderloins. I don’t know the exact number of tenderloins.

Ed Bernardon: Do you think that’s the top item compared to the hamburger and the hot dog?

Douglas Boles: It is our signature item. It’s probably a little less than our hot dog. I can’t remember how many. I think we can take hot dogs in and wrap the Indianapolis Motor Speedway like seven times the number of hot dogs that we sell in the month of May. The tenderloin is definitely our signature. Another thing that is popping up on our radar is there are these amazing shish kebab steaks on a stick that a lot of our fans now are making part of their tradition as well.

Ed Bernardon: Where is the best seat to watch the Indianapolis 500?

Douglas Boles: One of my favorite things about talking to those customers every night when I get a chance to ask them where they sit is hearing why they think they have the best seat in the venue, and it doesn’t matter where they sit because so much of it is about the memories and who brought them, how long they have been there, and where they park. So, our fans, no matter where they sit, believe they have the best seats in the house. I think, at some level, the experience is so different from each one that that’s absolutely true. I’ve got eight seats in Penthouse B, which is just before you come into turn one on the outside of the racetrack. I think the best place to see the entire place, see pomp and circumstance, somewhere along the front stretch, likely in turn one.

Ed Bernardon: People keep their tickets forever. You can inherit them. What’s the secret? Is there a secret that you could reveal? We won’t tell anybody, but what is the secret to getting tickets to that best seat in the house?

Douglas Boles: It’s about longevity; how long have you been an account holder at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway? The longer you’ve been an account holder, the more likely you are to get seat upgrades and move into some of those seats. So, as those coveted seats, the highest up in certain sections, become available, they get replaced with people with seniority. That’s why I always tell folks that even if you’re still going to sit in the seats of your parents, buy two GA tickets every year so that you can build your seniority, so that the day that your parents say, “Hey, we want to transfer these seats to you,” you can then have some seniority because we don’t allow seniority to be transferred. We allow seats to be transferred in some instances, but we don’t allow seniority. So, it’s important to build your seniority early.

Ed Bernardon: That’s a good secret to know. So, I hope everyone’s listening to that. The last couple of questions. If you could magically invent one thing—magically, poof, it exists—what is it?

Douglas Boles: A pill that would allow you to not have to sleep so you can stay at the Speedway and work every day, 24 hours a day. That, for me, especially in May, is—I wish there was some way that I could do it with less than the three or four hours of sleep I get at night. There’s no reason to be sleeping when you could be here getting things ready for the greatest race in the world.

Ed Bernardon: The anti-sleep pill. Magically uninvents one thing—poof, gone.

Douglas Boles: Negative talk for the sake of negative talk on social media. I love folks who think critically and want to help you be better, but what I hate is when people just want to call somebody a name. So, if there was a way that there was a magic button that just said, “That’s not critical thinking, that’s not somebody really trying to make a difference; that’s somebody just saying something stupid that’s hurtful,” I’d love to see that go away.

Ed Bernardon: Finally, tell us something about yourself that would surprise your friends and family, something they don’t know.

Douglas Boles: I’m pretty transparent with my family. So, I think they pretty much know everything. But I think that maybe a lot of my friends and even coworkers, a handful of them, know and don’t test me on this because I can’t do it. I’ve been trying to teach myself Spanish. So, I’m listening to a Spanish app, trying to do it three or four days a week on my drive in because so much of our community in Indianapolis has Hispanic-speaking folks here, especially with somebody like Pato O’Ward, as a race car driver, probably our most popular IndyCar Series driver that hasn’t won the Indy 500. We see a lot more Spanish-speaking folks in this community and at the racetrack. I took it all through high school and in college, and I basically forgot everything. So, I’m trying to get back to the point where if there was an issue in the ticketing department, the ticket team could pick a phone up and call, and I could at least navigate ourselves through something. So, that’s probably the thing that a lot of people don’t know about me. If I had those three hours, I didn’t have to sleep at night; I could probably get Spanish a lot quicker.

Ed Bernardon: Doug, thank you so much for joining us on The Future Car Podcast. I’m going to leave you with “gracias” and “adiós.”

Douglas Boles: Adiós.

Ed Bernardon

Ed Bernardon

Ed is currently VP Strategic Automotive Initiatives at Siemens Digital Industries Software. Responsibilities include strategic planning and business development in areas of design of autonomous/connected vehicles, lightweight automotive structures and interiors. He is also responsible for Future Car thought leadership which includes hosting the Future Car Podcast and development of cross divisional projects. Previously he was a founding member of VISTAGY that developed light-weight structure and automotive interior design software acquired by Siemens in 2011, he previously directed the Automation and Design Technology Group at MIT Draper Laboratory.  Ed holds an M.S. in mechanical engineering from MIT, B.S. in mechanical engineering from Purdue, and MBA from Butler.

J. Douglas Boles | President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

J. Douglas Boles | President of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway

J. Douglas Boles was named president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation in July 2013. He is responsible for the daily operations of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and all the world-class racing events at the facility, including the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, the Sonsio INDYCAR Grand Prix, the NASCAR Brickyard 400 presented by PPG, the IMSA TireRack.com Battle on the Bricks and the Indy 8 Hour Sports Car Endurance Race. He also is responsible for exploring and expanding business
opportunities for the Speedway. In a normal year, IMS hosts more than 275 event days of activity at the nearly 1,000 acre facility. Boles is a graduate of Butler University and the IU McKinney School of Law.

The Future Car Podcast Podcast

The Future Car Podcast

Transportation plays a big part in our everyday life and with autonomous and electric cars, micro-mobility and air taxis to name a few, mobility is changing at a rate never before seen. On the Siemens Future Car Podcast we interview industry leaders creating our transportation future to inform our listeners in an entertaining way about the evolving mobility landscape and the people that are helping us realize it. Guests range from C-Level OEM executives, mobility startup founders/CEO’s, pioneers in AI law, Formula 1 drivers and engineers, Smart Cities architects, government regulators and many more. Tune in to learn what will be in your mobility future.

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at https://blogs.sw.siemens.com/podcasts/the-future-car/ed-bernardon/doug-boles-president-indianapolis-motor-speedway-part-2/