Race Weekend Central

Fire on Fridays: NASCAR Must Learn From Indianapolis Communications

The way the weather delays at the Indianapolis 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 were handled this past Sunday (May 26) were night and day from each other, and it revealed an area where NASCAR can heavily improve.

As a media member who was there, I can tell you firsthand that the folks at Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar did an excellent job in keeping us briefed on the situation and what their plans were. They were proactive.

At 6 a.m., IMS President Doug Boles held a press conference. That’s right, I said at 6 in the morning! I’ve never seen a press conference so early, but it was necessary.

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All the media and a lot of fans get to the Indy 500 well before 6 a.m., so it made sense to do it at that time. And we all knew from looking at the forecast that weather was going to impact the race in some capacity, so there needed to be a game plan.

Boles was transparent in the presser, and he told us they’d keep us posted on what was going on. Keep in mind this was over five hours before the first lightning delay or rain drop.

The next update from Boles came a little before 11 a.m., a little over an hour and a half before the Indy 500’s scheduled start time. This time he said they would make a decision at 11:15 a.m. on whether to go ahead with the opening ceremonies or delay them and tell fans to seek shelter. He said they were going to be far more cautious than the typical eight-mile lightning radius used at sporting events, because the very old IMS has limited spots to find shelter.

I’m not sure about the first Boles press conference, but Frontstretch‘s Tom Blackburn said that local TV station WTHR and radio station WFNI aired the second presser live. Other stations could’ve as well, but we don’t know if they did or not.

Boles and the IndyCar team even broke news during his second presser, revealing that Kyle Larson was sticking around to run the race despite the delay.

Right on time, at 11:15, the numerous video boards around IMS showed the lightning delay message. After a four-hour delay, the weather was gone, the track was dry and the race started, going the full distance.

Over at Charlotte Motor Speedway, NASCAR did not communicate half as well. Frontstretch‘s Stephen Stumpf was there and told me that there were no proactive updates from NASCAR or the folks at Speedway Motorsports, owners of CMS. He said the vibe in the media center was very much that they would resume racing once the track was dry.

Obviously, the track did not dry like anyone thought it would due to the humidity. But that information was not relayed until the race was abruptly called after two hours of track drying.

Justin Allgaier was brought into the media center to do a press conference during the delay, and he was talking about how excited he was to see Larson take over the No. 5 car once the race resumed.

Then, a few media folks heard rumblings the race wasn’t resuming and the rest of the media had to find out from overhearing gossip. About 10 minutes after the Allgaier presser, it was announced that the race was over.

Stumpf, who wasn’t in the media center at the time, gathered the race was over from seeing victory lane being set up. NASCAR didn’t even do a good job communicating to Christopher Bell that he had won the race, as he found out during his interview with FOX’s Mike Joy.

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And you wonder why the sold-out Charlotte crowd was angry to the point of almost causing a riot. NASCAR or Charlotte needed someone like Boles in Indy there to give updates. We needed to hear, “Our track-drying efforts aren’t doing much, and if we’re not able to see progress by (insert time), we’ll have to end the race.”

I’m not asking for much, just some better communication and more transparency on the NASCAR side. If fans and media got that, they would be much more understanding of the tough decisions they’re forced to make.

It really feels like NASCAR and Speedway Motorsports dropped the ball in Charlotte, and they should look at what IMS did as a blueprint going forward if they’re going to improve in their communications.

About the author

Michael Massie joined Frontstretch in 2017 and has served as the Content Director since 2020. Massie, a Richmond, Va., native, has covered NASCAR, IndyCar, SRX and the CARS Tour. Outside of motorsports, the Virginia Tech grad and Green Bay Packers minority owner can be seen cheering on his beloved Hokies and Packers.

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janice

communication and transparency from na$car?? are you serious? i’ve been a fan since the 70’s and those two things are rarely connected to na$car.

CCColorado

Good article Michael with info from the Indy side.
Janice is so correct! I too have been a fan of ANY kind of Motorsport since those days of the 70’s, na$car has always been so secretive and good ole boys oriented. Have not changed a bit, just putting lipstick on a pig.

Wildcatsfan2016

Glad to know that Indy communicated well and not at all surprised that NASCAR communications are nonexistent. Many years ago we were at Darlington for the race on Mother’s Day weekend. It was hotter than heck all day and you could see the storm brewing an hour before the scheduled start time. No info from the track. Lightning struck in turn 3. I grabbed our stuff and started up under the stands on the concourse. Then it poured rain for the next 3 hours. The only dry place was in the restrooms. No info from the track during that time. We were actually on the mobile phones to friends watching the race from home and they were telling us about the radar. They finally called the race. That was more than 10 hrs ago and apparently nothing has changed

pb

Well, you sort of are asking for a lot. IMS is a first class outfit and Roger Penske is known to have exacting standards. NASCAR…isn’t.

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