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Speedway bolsters staff as Indy 500 centennial nears

November 6, 2010

Motorsports businessman, attorney and former race team owner Doug Boles on Nov. 1 joined the Indianapolis Motor Speedway staff as director of public relations as the famed race track enters a critical year.

Boles, 44, will be counted on to tell the Speedway’s story as it approaches the 100th anniversary of the first Indianapolis 500 in 1911. He’ll also handle all public relations surrounding the annual Brickyard 400 NASCAR race and MotoGP motorcycle race.

“We have a lot of things going on, a lot of upcoming events next year, and we need help in engaging the community and telling our story,” said IMS CEO Jeff Belskus. “Doug is uniquely connected to almost every segment of the Indianapolis community, and we think he’s going to really help us accomplish our goals.”

Doug Boles Boles

Boles will need to hit the ground running. Belskus said the Speedway will make a flurry of announcements about centennial events “in the coming weeks.” Boles is expected to be the point person on some of those initiatives.

While it may be challenging, Boles said the primary goal of his new job is simple.

“I have three directives,” Boles explained. “Communicate the Speedway’s message to the fans, communicate our message to our corporate sponsors and better communicate with the community.

“If you add those three things together, it adds up to improved ticket sales. The most important part of my job is to help the Indianapolis Motor Speedway sell tickets.”

That could be a tall order. In the last five years, the Indianapolis 500 and the Brickyard 400 NASCAR race haven’t been the sure sellouts that they were before.

“The popularity of motorsports in general, and open-wheel racing in particular, has waned,” said Dennis McAlpine, a New York-based motorsports analyst. “The economy sure hasn’t helped, so it’s been real tough.”

The Speedway lacked the internal staffing and organization to bolster ticket sales once they fell off, McAlpine said.

If anyone can help, Boles would be a likely candidate, said Zak Brown, president of Just Marketing International, a local firm that pairs sponsors with motorsports enterprises worldwide.

“Doug knows his stuff and is extremely well-rounded,” Brown said. “He’s highly competent, and has the connections to make an impact.”

A Danville native and Butler University graduate, Boles was a founding partner of Panther Racing, one of the Indy Racing League’s most long-standing teams. He served as a co-owner and chief operating officer from 1997 until early 2006.

Boles, who earned a law degree from the Indiana University School of Law at Indianapolis, served as executive vice president of the marketing and advertising agency Ignition Inc. from 2006 to 2008. He then became a partner in the marketing agency i3Worldwide while conducting his own private law practice, primarily representing drivers, race teams and sponsors.

Boles brings a wealth of civic experience to the Speedway, having served as director of governmental and corporate affairs for former Indianapolis Mayor Steve Goldsmith from 1992 to 1997, where he spearheaded the nation’s first government-led effort to attract motorsports companies and jobs to a community.

Though there have been several posts vacated in the Speedway’s marketing and public relations divisions—most notably the dismissal of former Director of Public Relations Ron Green last November, and the departure earlier this year of Chris Schwartz, the Speedway’s marketing vice president—Belskus said Boles is not a replacement.

“This is a unique hire that goes back to conversations we have had with Doug over the last 12 to 18 months,” Belskus said. “He reached out and explained the ways he could help us, and the fit was very logical to us.”•

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