The Good & Bad Of The 2016 Official Program

You may or may not have seen that the Official Program for the 100th Running of the Indianapolis 500 is now available for sale on the IMS website. Even if you are not planning on attending the race this year, you might want to consider ordering a program in order to own a small piece of history.

I consider my collection of Indianapolis 500 programs to be one of my most prized possessions. You wouldn’t know that by a very careless mistake I made a few years ago.

In 2001, I moved. As most people do in household moves, I purged a lot of stuff – you know, the boxes of junk you haul from one attic to another. I never kept my programs in the attic. However, when I was preparing to move, I boxed them up into the usual liquor store boxes that are a mainstay for moving. There was one box that had about ten Indianapolis 500 programs, which left half the box empty. In a rush, I added some old Sports Illustrated magazines in there to fill up the box. A week or so later, I decided that there was no point in dragging all of those old magazines around with me, so I threw the entire box into the dumpster. It wasn’t until I got to the new house that I realized what I had done.

I was devastated – absolutely devastated. But I am married to an absolutely wonderful person. Although we were not married then, Susan knew how upset I was to have lost some of those programs from years past. Throughout the next year, she secretly kept a close and silent watch on eBay. By the time my next birthday rolled around ten months after my move; she had replaced all of the ones I had accidentally tossed, along with filling in the gaps of the ones I still had, from the year I was born (1958) through the present. So because of her diligence, I own every Indianapolis 500 program from 1958 through last year’s. To this day, it is the best birthday present I’ve ever gotten.

In the days before the internet, the Official Program was my go-to source for information about the Indianapolis 500. As a kid, in the sixties, I would spend countless hours scouring over each program from the race held just a few weeks earlier. Most of the photos were from the race the year earlier, but it didn’t matter to me. I had those pages memorized, along with the different articles about the race in general or a specific driver. I also cherished the section in the back that listed the basic stats of each race since 1911. It was good that I had two older brothers to go to anytime I had a question about something I couldn’t find. So you can see – I cherish my programs.

The programs were always a great price up through the last decade, also. I remember just a decade ago, the 2006 Official program was only six dollars. For all of the photos and information that was packed into that publication – that was a deal. When Jeff Belskus started running things at IMS in the beginning of this decade, the price went up. The 2010 program jumped to ten dollars and by the Centennial Running in 2011, the price was a whopping fifteen dollars. That didn’t seem that high however, because that program was more or less a special edition and was one of the best programs I’ve seen. It contained 256 pages and was stuffed with valuable information, stats and articles. With all of the extra content and three different covers to choose from – it was worth it.

It was the following year, 2012, when I was disappointed in the program for the first time ever. The pages had shrunk for the first time that I could remember. The entire program was not as tall or wide, and it had far fewer pages. What pages it did have were of a much thinner stock (read: cheaper) and contained mostly ads where interesting articles used to be. That was also the year that the longtime protective plastic sleeve with the wing & wheel on it disappeared. Maybe enough people squawked because the 2013 program was an improvement. The pages contained the same dimensions and were of the same thickness, but the content was better. That also happened to be the year that Doug Boles took over as president of IMS, so that may explain something. But the plastic sleeve that I liked so much has never returned.

Beginning in 2014, the program contained a second and thinner version – for the Angie’s List Grand Prix of Indianapolis. Last year’s price remained at fifteen dollars – the same as the 2011 price.

With the 2016 Official Program, there seems to be a mixture of good and bad, First the good – There are 320 pages in this year’s program, the largest ever. It seems there are posters, inserts and artwork throughout the program. There will be articles about Roger Penske’s Fifty Years in Motorsports, the Holmatro Safety Team, an update of Project 100 and several in-depth driver profiles. New for this year will also be a full-page profile of every “500” from the very beginning.

Now the bad – Although the logo for this year’s event is slowly starting to grow on me, I’m not sure it needs to be the only real focus on the cover. The three separate covers available for the centennial in 2011 were all spectacular. It appears this year will have one cover and it’s…not spectacular. In fact, it’s quite ordinary.


But the worst part is the price. Be prepared to shell out twenty-five dollars for this year’s program. I don’t care how you try to explain that away, that’s outrageous. When I heard that this program was going to be expanded significantly, I expected an increase. But I figured it would be in the eighteen to twenty dollar range. I was not expecting a ten dollar jump from fifteen to twenty-five dollars. That’s a bit much. It’s even tougher to stomach when you realize that ten years ago, the price was less than one-fourth of what it is today. Ouch!

But will that stop me from buying one? No, and it probably won’t stop many fans from getting one either. But you might want to stuff another ten dollar bill in your wallet the first trip you make to the track, if you are trying to plan how much money you need.

I trust that it will be as good or better than the 2011 Centennial program, even though that one will be tough to beat – even at the same price. For ten dollars more, that’s going to be a tall order. Maybe they can at least put it in the protective sleeve for us at that price.

George Phillips

15 Responses to “The Good & Bad Of The 2016 Official Program”

  1. This a huge event and in the scheme of things [and particularly for us travelling so far] this isn’t a big deal. I’ve bought rounds of drinks for more than that.That said, it’s a massive print job and the economy of scale kicks in as I expect they plan selling many more this year. I’ll be taking a couple of spares home for buddies…

  2. JohnMc Says:

    I have sent off for two and I look forward to reading this year’s program. I am looking forward to seeing starting grid cover when race week comes. Of course, that has always been free.

  3. S0CSeven Says:

    Hmnnnn….. it sounds like we’ve discovered the source of some of your questions and answers for the annual trivia contest.

  4. Kyle Lakatos Says:

    Got mine yesterday and it came with a free Hot Wheels car. Didnt see the section about a page profile for every race. The inserts are cool. Overall I wasnt impressed, not enough articles, no Indy lights driver profiles, Lots of ads, The cover makes it weird to open to read. Just could have been better in my opinion

  5. $25 for a program and the museum price has jumped in TWO YEARS from $5 to $10! What in the hell are those people thinking out there? Last year the museum was $8 and their visitor numbers went down significantly to about 127,000 people for the whole year, compared to our art museum which has attracted about 136,000 in the first four months of 2016. Raising prices on everything is not the answer!

    • Bruce Waine Says:

      Jingle…… Jingle…… Jingle in their pockets……”Wring out of them a$ much a$ you can before the doldrums commence on and following the 2017 INDY 500.”

  6. billytheskink Says:

    I’m a program collector, so I’ll get one, but $25 is quite steep, especially when jumping from $15. It’s more than I paid for programs from the Final Four and the US Grand Prix, though I guess it is fair to say that this is a bigger live-attendance event than those two.

    With prices increasing across the board at IMS, it is looking like the track is trying to find the line of what people will stand to pay. let’s hope they don’t skip across it.

  7. SkipinSC Says:

    George, your topic is perfectly timed. I am leaving for a visit to Indiana on Wednesday (sadly one that will NOT include a visit to the race,) and while I have already purchased this year’s tie-dyed tee shirt for my collection, I had not purchased my program for THAT collection yet.

    In addition to all of that, one of my dogs had gotten hold of my 2015 program and left it far worse for wear and in need of replacement. (Sound familiar?) The 2015 program is on sale for $7.50 and I have to say, my frugal streak (spell that C-H-E-A-P) made me consider foregoing my order of this year’s program until next year to see what price it will be a year later.

    In the end, however, my fandom won out and I went ahead and spent the $25. Hopefully they’ll be waiting for me when I return from Indiana.

  8. It will be difficult to match that 2011 program, but this one looks pretty good. I don’t collect the programs every year, but I have a handful. My most prized possession are my badges. I’m actually in the process of buying a larger display box, as I am running out of space!

  9. Ryan Johnson Says:

    George, I think you’ll like what happened to me today. For whatever reason after I read your post this morning I went to check on my tickets and to my surprise they were not where I had left them… Or anywhere in my house for that matter. After about a hour and a half of searching up and down the entire house we finally came to the conclusion my wife must have accidentally trashed them with actual trash. $215 later and I have another GP ticket right next to my original ticket and amazingly found an Indy 500 ticket for $125 very close to where I was supposed to sit. While very unfortunate my worst nightmare was not realized and I’ll be there… Just learned one very important lesson in the process! However, I could not have been blessed with a better wife!

  10. Ryan Johnson Says:

    To clarify, I spent $215 total on both tickets, not just the GP ticket and I really do have the best wife a man could ask for. She looked just as hard as I did and it was just a simple mistake. A great story and reminder for years to come!

  11. Bob Butler Says:

    Obviously a “have to have” item for a 500 fan, so I bought mine today. While I grimaced at the $25 price tag for the program I nearly choked to death on the $10 shipping charge!

  12. EDGAR Emmitt Says:

    I ordered my 100 years of Indy through the Indy Star.
    Plus I have Donald Davidsons book and that one was autographed.

    The only program I ever kept was my 1 race in 1965.

    Frankly that penn-oil cheapens the program.

    But it’s each to their own what’s important to them as a keepsake.

  13. EDGAR Emmitt Says:

    I”ll add that I bought a bronze badge in 2009 and this year’s also.
    Talk about a keepsake,the bronze badges are sold out. I think that may be a 1st for Indy.

  14. George et al. You all have sold me on buying a program through the IMS store. As you know I haven’t had the pleasure yet to attend a 500 race, but I do have a few programs. My favorite cover is from a few years ago and had I think it was the living multiple winners of the race. This year’s cover is pretty bland.

    Kudos to Susan for finding replacement copies of your lost programs. She is a keeper!!

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