Indy: Night race by 2015 possible

Updated: February 11, 2013, 6:21 PM ET
By David Newton | ESPN.com

Indianapolis Motor Speedway would consider moving NASCAR's Sprint Cup race to a Saturday night event if the track receives $100 million from the state for capital improvements that could include adding lights.

A bill for funds to upgrade the 103-year-old facility was scheduled to be introduced Monday by Sen. Michael Young, R-Indianapolis. From there it would be assigned to a Senate finance committee, followed by public hearings. If passed in the Senate, it would have to go to the House.

Approval by the Indiana General Assembly is required before it could become law.

If approved, IMS would discuss with NASCAR and the community around the track whether there is interest in moving the race from Sunday afternoon to Saturday night.

Doug Boles, the chief operating officer and vice president of communications at IMS, said it's doubtful lights could be installed before 2015 if that becomes the plan.

"This conversation in the legislature gives us an opportunity to talk about these things and think through how they could actually be funded,'' Boles told ESPN.com on Monday. "From that standpoint [a night Cup race] definitely is a possibility.''

Boles said there would be no consideration of moving the Indianapolis 500, held in late May, to a night event.

"The Indianapolis 500 has a long history of starting at 11 [a.m.] or noon,'' he said. "I would see that as continuing to be the start time.''

IMS is seeking the money for upgrades to the infrastructure, with projects including the addition of lights, more modern grandstands and new video boards. The project is expected to cost between $70 million and $100 million.

Boles said it is not set in stone that lights will be a part of the final project

"It is one of the projects we have identified as a potential,'' he said. "That is a good indicator [on where we stand]. As we go through this process and better define what makes sense, we will know. That will become clearer over the next several weeks.

"But it's important enough for consideration that [lights are] on that list.''

The Brickyard 400 traditionally is held on Sunday afternoon in late July. Boles said excessive heat for the race has contributed to declining attendance at that event. Estimated attendance has dropped from 280,0000 in 2006 to 125,000 in 2012.

This year's Brickyard 400 is scheduled for July 28.

"Heat in the middle of the summer absolutely has been an issue on whether people want to sit in the grandstands,'' said Boles, noting that much of the seating is aluminum, which absorbs heat. "We hear from fans that is something to address.''

IMS's plan, the Indianapolis Star reported Friday, would create a "motorsports investment district'' to collect existing state sales income and corporate taxes generated in an area that includes IMS to help pay for the improvements.

According to the newspaper, collected taxes would raise up to $5 million a year that the state would contribute to help pay off bonds for the improvements over a 20-year period. IMS would contribute $2 million each year.

If approved, Boles said it likely wouldn't be until 2014 before any projects began. With typically harsh winters in Indiana and preparation for the Indianapolis 500 in May, he said getting lights in time for the July 2014 Cup race "might be a stretch.''

Boles said IMS has not discussed the possibility of a night race with NASCAR yet.

NASCAR executive Steve O'Donnell said the governing body would certainly entertain the discussion of a night race at IMS.

David Newton | email

ESPN Carolina Panthers reporter