No. 2 man gets keys to famous speedway

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INDIANAPOLIS --- Jeff Belskus was content living life as Indianapolis Motor Speedway's No. 2 man.

Jeff Belskus is taking over at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Helio Castroneves (above) is a 3-time Indy 500 winner.  AP / File
AP / File
Jeff Belskus is taking over at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where Helio Castroneves (above) is a 3-time Indy 500 winner.

He worked the books, sat in on meetings, offered advice and learned what it took to run a track. Yes, it was good training for a job he never dreamed he'd have, president and CEO of the 100-year-old Brickyard.

Welcome to reality, where everyone wants to know how Belskus intends to run this family owned company.

"I have a lot of ideas floating around in my head, but I think it's premature to talk about them right now," he said last weekend during NASCAR's race at Indy. "It would be easy, having been here for 22 years, to tell you I have all the answers and I have a plan, but I'm trying to learn everything I can to develop a strategy."

Clearly, Belskus is not suggesting a major philosophical overhaul. He still wants stock cars competing on the storied 2.5-mile oval.

And, he's committed to keeping the speedway's signature event, the Indianapolis 500, front and center.

But changing executives at this venue is almost as unfathomable as not seeing A.J. Foyt strolling through Gasoline Alley.

Since the Hulman-George family bought the track in 1945, the speedway corporation has been a model of stability. Tony Hulman was arguably the state's biggest celebrity this side of Bob Knight through the 1970s, and it was his grandson, Tony George, who took over as CEO in 1990.

The board of directors, which is comprised of George, his mother, his three sisters and attorney Jack Snyder, replaced George with Belskus. Last week, speedway president Joie Chitwood also announced he was stepping down to take another racing job in Florida, giving Belskus even more power.

Most are convinced the new man will run a more efficient operation, something the board clearly craved after George spent hundreds of millions of dollars to make track improvements and keep the Indy Racing League afloat over the past 13 years.

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