Andy Granatelli drove there, crashed there—and doggedly sponsored 35 losing cars before getting his first winner there. He says, with reverence, "I just love the whole aroma of the place."
"Indy is the big league," says Parnelli Jones, who raced from 1961 to 1967, won the 500 in 1963 and now sponsors three Indy cars. "You would no sooner change the shape of the Speedway's 2½ miles than you would change the shape of a baseball diamond."
Dan Gurney, builder of the American Eagle race cars, driver in nine Indy 500s, a crowd favorite who never won the Memorial Day classic, says, "Indy set the style for racing today."
"Every major racing event, this 500 included, should be a giant festival," says Bill France, longtime NASCAR kingpin whose Daytona and Talladega International Speedways are among the most modern in the racing world.
None of the four would tamper with Indy tradition, the so-called aroma that has made the race a part of the American subconscious. Instead, the panelists proposed a redesigned Brickyard that emerges as a 21st-century Speedway built to oldtime size and scale.
Before outlining their own visions, they agreed that a new Indy would start with a hole in the ground, something suitably crater-sized in the infield. At the bottom would go underground parking, as many levels as needed for the more than 30,000 cars that now crowd the infield. Running through the parking chamber in a figure-eight pattern, a monorail system would transport fans to the stands.
Above the garage roof, the infield floor would still be about 150 feet below track level at its deepest point, sloping upward in graceful terraces, with landscaped paths, picnic sites and camping areas. The key benefit, in addition to the esthetics, would be the unobstructed view offered spectators from the stands and from the upper terraces inside the track. Race watchers could see the cars in action all the way around; on the inside, fans could look up comfortably, their view unimpeded by tall trees or structures. An infield barrier system would protect spectators from runaway race cars attempting to get on the grass.
Beyond such cosmetic touches, Bill France would insist on certain revenue-attracting measures: high-banked Daytona-type turns at the four corners so the Speedway could offer major stock-car and motorcycle racing; possibly a road track snaking through the infield for sports car and Formula I events. He also would shield campsites with suitable shrubbery "so they wouldn't look honky-tonk from the stands," and install a low-level amusement park off to one side, √† la Le Mans, that could bring in money all year round. France's monorail would go further than the other panelists anticipate, circling high over the track and infield to offer overhead views of the race. Finally, he would put ramps at the rear of the main grandstands so fans could wheel in and park at their seating level.
Granatelli sees a future Indy of supreme safety: he would move all fuel tanks underground, line both sides of the track with fire-dousing material triggered upon impact, paint all walls—even the track surface—with "some sort of rubberized asbestos" and suspend fire extinguishers over each pit.
Gurney's barrier walls would be canted inward so that no car could vault into the stands or infield. He would make the walls of an as-yet-undeveloped transparent plastic so fans could see through them and feel closer to the action.
Jones also depends on plastics of the future for his cantilevered transparent roof covering both stands and track to permit all-weather racing. Further, he would line the track with compressed-air jets whose blasts would dry the surface in minutes. And for a final fillip, Jones foresees temperature-control piping hidden beneath the track surface to either cool or warm it so that racing and tire testing could be run at precise temperatures in winter or summer.
All the experts would redesign and stretch the pit area, relocating entry and exit roads for greater safety—and in the shuffle, old Gasoline Alley would be gone. The modern new garage area would reappear behind the pits, and could be roofed with transparent plastic so fans could look down on all the action inside.
And among those looking on, Gurney suggests, might be students of racing as a science. His fondest Indy dream envisions a college research center on the spot, a sort of Indy Tech, where experts could study fuels, engineering and automotive safety in action. "The timeworn defense of auto racing has always been that it improves the breed," he says. "But this laboratory could lend new truth to that claim."
There are several other touches to tomorrow's Indy: since there is no rule that a track must be black, the experts propose colors—say orange straightaways blending into darker reds for corners and banked turns, perhaps a blue pit road—all the better for drivers to focus on.
Admittedly, the entire plan would be easier to realize if one were to abandon Indy, find a new site someplace, dig a hole and start over. Never. Creative dreaming about redesigning Indy is fine, but one would never move the old place. For one thing it might mean the panelists would have to compose a new theme song to replace Back Home Again in Indiana. And that would be carrying renovation too far.