Sporticast Special: Behind the Business of the ‘Greatest Spectacle in Racing’

On this special Sporticast episode, hosts Scott Soshnick and Eben Novy-Williams travel to Indianapolis to take in the spectacle around the 107th running of the Indianapolis 500. They speak with two guests— driver Hélio Castroneves, and Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Doug Boles.

A four-time winner of the Indy 500, Castroneves talks about the tradition behind the race, and how the business has changed over the course of his 23-year IndyCar career. Social media and non-scripted TV shows—such as F1’s Drive to Survive—have given drivers new opportunities to interact directly with fans, he says, which provides new avenues for sponsors to get involved in the sport. When he’s done racing, Castroneves says he would like to get into team ownership.

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He also shares some personal anecdotes about his Indy 500 championships rings, his successful stint on Dancing With the Stars, and even his choice of milk should he win his fifth Indy 500 on Sunday.

Boles was named president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corp. in 2013, overseeing not just the Indy 500 race, but everything else that happens at the track. He talks about the economics of hosting more than 300,000 fans on a Sunday for the race, and also about how IMS has enhanced the live venue experience over the past few decades. There is now an adjacent golf course, with three holes in the track’s infield. There are a number of concerts on the grounds during Indy 500 week, including an electronic dance music show during the race itself (performers this year include DJ Diesel, better known as Shaquille O’Neal).


Boles also talks about how the venue makes money throughout the rest of the year. IMS doesn’t host birthdays or weddings—minus one notable exception—but the course is used for concerts and other races, including an annual NASCAR race. Car companies also get time on the track throughout the year. In total, he says, the venue is used more than 100 days a year.

Both Castroneves and Boles also reflect on the competition between different global racing circuits. F1 is making inroads into North America, and Tony Stewart’s SRX launched in 2021 to provide fans a mid-week option. They discuss whether the different options run the risk of cannibalizing each other, or if increased attention on auto racing more broadly is automatically good for each circuit.

Editor’s note: The Indianapolis 500 race and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway are owned by a subsidiary of Penske Corporation, owned and operated by Roger Penske. Sportico is owned by Penske Media Corporation, operated by Jay Penske, Roger’s son. PMC operates independently of Penske Corporation.

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