The end of the line came quickly and unexpectedly this week for an Indianapolis racing industry landmark when the Indianapolis Motor Speedway announced it was closing the Brickyard Crossing Inn immediately. Around 15 jobs were eliminated.
Informally known as the Speedway Motel, the 96-room structure was built in 1963 and was rechristened Brickyard Crossing in 1993 when an upgraded Pete Dye-designed golf course of the same name was opened on the IMS property. Over the years, a variety of celebrities ranging from the Beatles to James Garner stayed at the facility -- not to mention dozens of famous racers.
The Speedway Motel was also featured in several scenes of the Indianapolis 500-based movie "Winning," which starred the late Paul Newman and Robert Wagner.
In May 2008, during his last visit to the Speedway, Newman paid tribute to the humble on-site accommodations at IMS.
"My favorite tradition was that it took a whole month," Newman said. "Indy started at the first of May, and you had your reservation at the Speedway Motel. If you wanted a room for two days, you took it for the whole month or you wouldn't get it."
IMS president and chief operating officer Joie Chitwood said the hotel buildings will be razed immediately. The lobby, which houses a restaurant, bar and pro shop for the Brickyard Crossing golf course, will remain operational.
"To bring the motel up to the standards and quality of what guests expect at the Speedway would require significant capital expenditures," Chitwood stated. "After reviewing the alternatives, we have decided to discontinue its operation."
Speedway officials are considering several options, including the construction of a high-end hotel in line with the quality of the other offerings at IMS.
Dallara offers up savings
Dallara Automobili, the sole chassis supplier for the IndyCar Series, has projected an 11 percent savings for teams resulting from restructured spare-parts pricing.
Dallara says it is dropping its prices by 8 to 20 percent; it equips the full IndyCar Series field at every race except the Indianapolis 500, where a few Panoz chassis occasionally qualify.
"If we can help the teams go through this difficult economic time, it is in the best interest of the manufacturers, the series and the teams," said Andrea Toso, Dallara's IndyCar Series program leader. "If we don't do anything now, maybe one year from now it's too late. We hope that all suppliers and partners will understand this initiative and follow suit."
IndyCar Series officials welcomed the news. "In light of the current global economic crisis, to see the effort Dallara has made to help all of our teams with an across-the-board cost reduction is truly the definition of a partner," said Brian Barnhart, president of competition and operations for the Indy Racing League.
In truth, there was probably plenty of margin for Dallara to work with. The current IndyCar chassis has been in production since 2003 without major changes. Some new bodywork components will be introduced this year to accommodate a mechanical silencer system that is expected to quiet the Honda V-8 engines by up to 9 decibels.
Viso back with HVM
HVM Motorsport confirmed that E.J. Viso will return to the team for his second season of IndyCar Series competition. Team principal Keith Wiggins also all but confirmed that the Indianapolis-based organization will field a second car, likely for former Champ Car race winner Robert Doornbos.
"This is a natural progression and a sensible move for both team and driver," Wiggins said. "It will actually be the first time since 2004 that we have the continuity of retaining the same driver for a second season. That in itself shows a positive picture for our team and the single open-wheel series.
"We are delighted to continue with E.J. going into our second IRL season and believe that together we can make big strides in 2009," Wiggins added. "The addition of a second entry will further strengthen our program."
Viso, a 23-year-old Venezuelan, scored seven top-10 finishes during his rookie IndyCar campaign. It was a bumpy ride at times as Viso riled veterans with a lack of oval track etiquette, but by the end of the season he emerged as a regular top-10 runner.
"We had a good season in 2008 given that it was our learning year, and having continuity is a good thing to pursue our progression towards the top," Viso said. "The team is working on upping our game, and our plans to enter a second car are very close to being completed. This obviously will be a big plus."
John Oreovicz covers open-wheel racing for National Speed Sport News and ESPN.com.