INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2000 -- The gigantic cranes are gone. So is the constant stream of cement trucks. The number of workers scurrying about wearing hard hats has been reduced to a trickle. The "new look" Indianapolis...
INDIANAPOLIS, Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2000 -- The gigantic cranes are gone. So is the constant stream of cement trucks. The number of workers scurrying about wearing hard hats has been reduced to a trickle. The "new look" Indianapolis Motor Speedway is ready for Race No. 2 - the NASCAR Winston Cup Series Brickyard 400 on Aug. 5 - of this unprecedented 2000 season of speed and construction. "Overall for the entire project, I'd say we're 98-, 99-percent complete," said Kevin Forbes, director of engineering and construction for the Speedway. Forbes has supervised a complete revision of the inside main straightaway facilities for the past 18 months - a project conceived and masterminded by Speedway President Tony George - as the Speedway prepared for the introduction of the Formula One SAP United States Grand Prix on Sept. 24, 2000. It has been an immense task costing tens of millions dollars. Serious work began immediately after last year's Brickyard 400 event. The beautiful, spacious and towering Pagoda rose at the start-finish line, replacing the Control Tower that had stood in the same spot since 1956. Thirty-six Formula One garages topped by 12 expansive suites were built just to the south of the Pagoda, a new Legends Row replaced the old accessory building in the west end of the garage area, and a four-story media center was erected north of the Pagoda. And, of course, a 2.606-mile (4.2 kilometers) road circuit was constructed. It uses the south chute between Turns 1 and 2 of the oval and much of the main straight before winding through the northwest corner, down the center and the southeast corner of the infield. Much of the major construction was completed before the 84th annual Indianapolis 500 on May 28. But there still was grooming to be done in the ensuing two months. For instance, the Plaza area behind the Pagoda was paved for the Indianapolis 500. After that race, the macadam was removed and primary work was aimed at completing this area, once called the Flag Lot, in time for the Brickyard. The repaving was finished July 31. "We hadn't had a chance to really finish that completely for May, so we spent a majority of the time between the two races designing and finishing the landscaping and planters," Forbes said. The large planters are in place, but trees won't be planted in them until October. Also, black-and-white pavers surrounding the planters still must be installed before the SAP United States Grand Prix. Installed through the center of the heart of Pagoda and then to the end of the Plaza is an extension of the fame "Yard of Bricks" at the start-finish line of the racetrack. One of the most visual additions since the Indianapolis 500 is 1.3 miles of curled-top debris fencing installed around the infield section of the road circuit. Also noticeable are the many tire barriers placed along the guardrails in key infield sections of the road circuit. Forbes said 42,500 tires have been put in place to soften the impact of an off-course excursion by one of the Formula One machines. "We've also finished all of the pea-gravel runoff areas," he said. "We did some additional seeding and landscaping. We realigned 5th Street behind the (Hall of Fame) Museum and kind of realigned Shaw Drive where 5th and Shaw come together to better facilitate runoff areas for Formula One cars." The media facility was very functional but unfinished for the Indianapolis 500. Now it's 100-percent ready for the influx of NASCAR writers this week and throng of international Formula One press due next month. The facility will hold some 500 press representatives on the fourth floor and in an auxiliary room on the second level. There have been 130 TV monitors installed throughout the work areas in the media center. Between the fourth and second levels is a media food lounge that will be functional for the Brickyard race. Televisions also are installed in similar fashion there. "The concrete base for the Formula One digital broadcast center was constructed between the two races," Forbes said. Next to it will be the international and host television compound for the Formula One race. Across the track, work was intensified on the TV commentary booths hanging under the paddock penthouses. That work was only 50 percent complete during the Indianapolis 500, but now is close to being finished, Forbes said. The rooms in Legends Row are fully ready for occupancy. Twelve catering support rooms for the Formula One paddock club and Gasoline Alley suites are ready for use. Gourmet food will come from those kitchens during the Formula One race. Finally, a canopy has been installed above the new food and beverage stand around the Tower Plaza. Hungry fans can stay dry if it rains. "Everything else we have left to do is basically things you can't see," Forbes said. "It's moving barriers around, closing off the road course to streets. It's opening up the road course onto the racetrack. It's a lot of kind of moving things around to accommodate Formula One. "Noticeably now, there is very little left to do."
BRICKYARD 400 NOTEBOOK
Schedule: The Brickyard 400 starts at 12:15 p.m. (EST) Aug. 5. Pole qualifying starts at 1:30 p.m. Aug. 3, with second-round qualifying at noon Aug. 4. Practice sessions will take place at 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Aug. 3, and 9 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. Aug. 4.
*** On the air: ABC will televise the Brickyard 400 live Aug. 5, with the pre-race show starting at 1 p.m. (EDT). ESPN2 will broadcast pole qualifying live from 2:30-5:30 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 3. ESPN2 will televise second-round qualifying live from 1-2 p.m. Aug. 4. The final "Happy Hour" of practice will be televised from 7:30-8:30 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 4 on ESPN. The Indy Racing Radio Network will broadcast the race live Aug. 5, starting with a pre-race show at 12:30 p.m. (EDT). IRRN also will broadcast pole