In a Q&A-like format, Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Doug Boles spoke about his high-profile occupation during a Jan. 11 Greater Lawrence Chamber of Commerce luncheon at Old Oaklandon Golf Club in Lawrence.
Chamber President Brad Klopfenstein asked questions of Boles, a Zionsville resident, who talked mostly about his unique job and lauded the City of Indianapolis for its sterling reputation in the sports industry.
Boles was named IMS president in 2013.
“I fell in love with the Speedway because my dad was very passionate about it as well,” Boles said. “I grew up in a house where all we did was talk about motorsports and IU basketball.”
Boles said one of his primary reasons for attending Butler University was its proximity to downtown Indianapolis.
“I knew I could quickly get over to see a lot of things going on at the Speedway,” he said. “Ultimately, it’s where I have always wanted to be.”
Boles said he encourages young people to never give up on their passion. He said when he was starting out in the motorsports industry, he spent an entire weekend making sure the bathrooms at IMS were clean.
“If you’re passionate about something, you can find a way to tie it into whatever you do,” Boles said. “If you want to be in something, you need to be willing to do whatever. Everybody wants to be the president tomorrow, but you have to remind folks it takes time. If you really want to be there, people will notice you’re willing to do anything.”
Klopfenstein asked Boles about his day-to-day responsibilities at IMS.
“It’s no different than any business you all run, really,” Boles said. “First of all, it’s taking care of your people and making sure you’re supporting the people working for you. The biggest thing for me is to stay out of my peoples’ way. My job is to turn them loose, let them get their work done and help them solve problems.”
Boles said IMS requires about 5,000 people to make the Speedway run each year, many of which only work one day a year – during the running of the Indianapolis 500. He said the COVID-19 pandemic has created staffing obstacles, as it has for many businesses.
“It is a challenge to get people who are really good,” Boles said.
Boles said one of the reasons the sports industry in Indianapolis is successful is because the city’s sports organizations support each other.
“Hoosier hospitality is a real thing,” he said, noting that the Indiana Pacers, Indianapolis Colts, Indiana Fever, Indy Fuel and the IMS support each other. “We all continue to help each other, and really, we are selling the City of Indianapolis. I think that’s the secret sauce of the sports industry. We use all those sports opportunities to bring friends and family in and show them how proud we are as Hoosiers.”
Because of his role, Boles said he doesn’t get to see much of the Indy 500 when it’s running.
“Most of the time, I’m working the whole time,” Boles said. “I don’t spend any time in the suites. People think you sit in the suite and watch, but most of my time is out walking with customers.”
Boles said in 2021, he watched a portion of the race as a fan for the first time since becoming IMS president. He got to watch his stepson, driver Conor Daly of Noblesville, lead several laps.
“I found my wife, Beth, and I went and sat with Beth when Conor took the lead for the second time and stayed in the seats while he was leading,” Boles said. “That was fun, and that was the one time I’ve been able to be a fan and to be excited for her as much as I was for Conor.”
For more chamber events, visit greaterlawrencechamber.org.