In partnership with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway (IMS), along with support from Siemens and SCCA, the GreenpowerUSA Foundation announces that middle and high school students will be racing during Month of May at the Racing Capital of the World. The Greenpower Electric Car Challenge at IMS will take place on Monday, May 1, 2017, helping to kick off an exciting month of action at the Speedway.
I invited Matt Mindrum, the Vice President, Marketing and Communications for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to talk to us about the connection between Greenpower and Indy.
What is the connection between racing in Indianapolis and education?
Racing is a huge part of central Indiana’s history and economy Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s proud tradition of innovation and technology has been part of our brand for over 100 years, and we’re committed to using racing as a means to advance education and careers in our state.
Do you have any particular techniques or methods you use to engage with schools?
Partnerships are key for us. The Greenpower partnership is a great example of this. We partner with Indianapolis and the town of Speedway public schools in a variety of ways--from bringing drivers out to engage with students in the classroom, to providing a fourth-grade curriculum that is focused on racing history in Indiana. In addition to Greenpower, we also have partnerships with Purdue University, and their motorsports program, with whom we host an electric vehicle grand prix and STEM career fair at IMS each year. We also have a partnership with a group called Nexgeneracers, which is focused on education and life skill development through racing. Through these and other programs, we’re inviting people out to the track that have not previously been engaged with IMS or racing in the past. These are all things we are really proud of.
How did you get connected with Greenpower in specific? Electric car racing is not necessarily what you think of when you think of racing at Indianapolis.
The one constant at Indianapolis Motor Speedway over the last 100 years has been innovation and change. A lot of innovation has come from developments here, from rearview mirrors and safety restraints, to crash absorbing walls and more. Innovation is really core to who we are and what we do.
The way we got involved with Greenpower was through a gentleman named Robert Clarke, who led Honda’s Performance Development division for many years and later served as President of SCCA Pro Racing, working closely with IMS and INDYCAR in those roles. Today, Robert is a strong supporter of Greenpower’s program and connected us with Jacob Boyett at Greenpower and Patricia Jebeles at Siemens.
Can you see a point in the future of Indianapolis Motor Speedway where they are racing electric vehicles rather than gas powered cars?
That’s a great question, but I always stop short of trying to predict the future. There are many types of racing at IMS today–IndyCars in the month of May, stock cars at NASCAR’s Brickyard 400, and planes in the Red Bull Air Race. We also have the special events that are growing like Greenpower and the Purdue University evGrandPrix. So I certainly wouldn’t rule out professional electric car racing in the future.
This is an inaugural event. Can you see it becoming an annual event?
We’re excited to partner with Greenpower, and that they have had so much interest from their teams and their stakeholders in an event at The Racing Capital of the World. We would love to continue to support Greenpower, and if there is a fit that benefits both sides, we would love to see this event continue in the future.
Is there a message that you’d like to send out to kids in school about the future of engineering and racing combined?
I don’t know that I’m qualified to answer that question (as the public relations contact for IMS), but I can say that learning should be fun, and there’s nothing more fun than getting out on the race track or coming to watch racing events. So if there’s a way to engage with learning and technology at the same time, I think that’s a win all around.
How many spectators do you expect to see at the Greenpower event?
It’s an enormous facility. We just sold it out for the first time last May at the 100th running of the Indianapolis 500 mile race with over 350,000 people on site. All I can say is that we expect less than that. [editor: I think we need a smiley here ]
Are there other things going on around the race track about the time that the Greenpower event is taking place (May1)?
The Greenpower event kicks off the month of May on May 1st, and May is our busiest and most exciting time of year. We’re calling it “the greatest month in racing” in our messaging this year. We’ve already started IndyCar testing at the track over the last couple of weeks. We have a variety of events here at the track and throughout the region to get people excited about the month of May. The Greenpower event is on May 1st. May 6th we will have the 500 Festival Mini-Marathon—the country’s largest half marathon (foot race) and a major fundraiser called REV Indy, which benefits the Methodist Health Foundation. The next week we hold the INDYCAR Grand Prix on the IMS road course, then the very next day we begin practice for the Indianapolis 500. After two weeks of practice and a weekend of qualifying, we’ll host our second biggest crowd on Miller Lite Carb Day, honor Indianapolis 500 history and host a major country concert on Legends Day, then hold the 101st running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 28—where we expect over 300,000 people again this year, including 30,000+ at an electronic dance music event inside the track during the race. It’s a crazy month, and I’ve probably only caught about half of what’s going on. We’re glad to have Greenpower kicking it off.