Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
August 10, 2006
THE MODERATOR: -- one-mile oval will move to June 3, 2007, which is one week after the 91st running of the Indianapolis 500, resurrecting a tradition that began in 1946. In addition to the 225-mile IndyCar Series event, the Indy Pro Series will run its fourth race at the track, the Milwaukee 100, 100-lap event showcasing the future stars of the IndyCar Series on the same race weekend.
Since running on back-to-back weekends, eight drivers have been able to pull off the Indianapolis/Milwaukee double, including four-time Indianapolis 500 winner AJ Foyt for whom the current IndyCar Series race is named. Joining Foyt on that list of back-to-back winners is Johnny Rutherford, who won both races in 1974. He joins us on today's call.
Also joining Rutherford on today's call is Indy Racing League vice president of league development John Lewis, and the president and CEO of the Milwaukee Mile, Andy Randall.
Gentlemen, all three of you, thank you very much for joining us today.
John, let's go ahead and start with you. As the league continues to roll out its 2007 schedule, give us your thoughts on having IndyCars returning to the Milwaukee Mile the week after Indianapolis.
JOHN LEWIS: We're extremely excited about it, Tom. We think it's a good move for the fans, for the promoter, for television and it's certainly a great move for the Indy Racing League.
The opportunity to go up there and showcase the stars and cars from the Indy 500 a week following immediately up at the Milwaukee Mile is something that's been done for years, like you said, from 1947, I believe, to 1995. So we're happy to harken back to tradition and hopefully we can add to that list of names, like Unser, Mears, Rutherford, Johncock and others that have won both the 500 and the Milwaukee race.
THE MODERATOR: Andy, congratulations, first of all. I know we're all looking forward to getting up to Milwaukee on June 3 of next year. Your thoughts on today's announcement?
ANDY RANDALL: Thank you very much, first of all. Second, I echo what John just said relative to their excitement at the Indy Racing League, equals our excitement here in Milwaukee. We have been very much about tradition for the 103 years that the track has been operational, the longest operating racetrack in the world. So there's a lot of history tied to what we've done.
I think if they didn't go (indiscernible) during this season, if we weren't asked at promoters, do you ever think it will be a session when the IndyCars return, the Sunday after Indianapolis 500, even my colleagues at the Indy Racing League when they visited here several weeks ago got that question themselves. We're extremely excited. We think it's great for open-wheel racing in our market here. We're thrilled with the level of racing that has been experienced by others around the country and at our track on July 23rd when they were most recently here.
It's an excellent fit for us for a number of different reasons. I've touched on a few. A television package, the package that comes along with it, for us it will be on 2:30 central on July 3rd for a two-and-a-half hour window, which is a terrific TV time. Partnerships with Firestone and Honda parallel our three-year agreement. There's an awful lot of things that come together that make this very exciting for us.
THE MODERATOR: Finally we're joined by three-time Indianapolis 500 winner Johnny Rutherford. Rutherford sat on the pole three times at Milwaukee and won four IndyCar Series races from 1974 to 1980.
Johnny, I know you love Milwaukee, enjoyed a lot of success there. First give us your thoughts on today's announcement and then if you could talk about when you were racing, and the excitement built about coming to Milwaukee right after Indianapolis.
JOHNNY RUTHERFORD: Oh, yes, Tom. It was always something we looked forward to. I really enjoyed racing at Milwaukee. It was such a challenge coming off of the high, high speed, super speed of Indianapolis, coming to Milwaukee, the finesse mile, the Milwaukee Mile, it was great. I think all of the drivers looked forward to coming to Milwaukee.
I had an opportunity to talk to some of the fans that I raced there not long ago, and they were apprised of the fact that we're going to go the first race after Indianapolis. They all seemed very excited about that.
It's a tradition that's revisited that I think is going to bode well for the IRL and for IndyCar racing and for the Milwaukee Mile.
I really look forward to it. I know everyone else does, too.
THE MODERATOR: Sounds very good. Let's go ahead and open it up to questions for the media for John Ruth, Andy Randall, or John Lewis from the Indy Racing League.
Q. John, how close are we to seeing this final schedule out?
JOHN LEWIS: We're working on that. We have chosen to announce our dates kind of spread amount over the next few weeks. You should see another announcement this weekend. I believe Tom can probably step in here, as well. We've got several other announcements scheduled over the next two to two and a half weeks.
Just stay tuned. We've got more good news coming.
Q. What is the likelihood of seeing Los Angeles, Fontana, back on the schedule?
JOHN LEWIS: We're currently talking with some people in the Southern California market. We should have hopefully some more good news regarding a potential venue out there shortly.
Q. It's pretty obvious why this is a big deal for Milwaukee and the fans here. Why are you saying this is good for the league? Why is this important? How does it benefit the league? Does it really matter where you go after Indy?
JOHN LEWIS: It does matter. I think the history, you know, it's another oval, a great oval racetrack for us to go to. You know, maybe Johnny should answer this more so than me. But, you know, the natural fit, you always go to Milwaukee after Indianapolis.
To have the good people up there work with us, with Andy and Craig and their team, it was really a friendly and natural discussion and negotiation, if you will, to try and get the IndyCars back up there immediately following Indianapolis.
JR, you guys used to race in front of huge crowds following the Indianapolis winner up north. We've got the aspirations and ambitions to do that and recreate it again.
JOHNNY RUTHERFORD: Yes, I think, John, to answer the question, it's a tradition that's being revisited. It used to be something that we all looked forward to. As I said, I spoke to several fans who thought it was a great idea and were looking forward to the fact that we're going to be there. Plus it carries the momentum of the entire month of May. The Indianapolis 500 keeps rolling right along. The good fans of Milwaukee had the opportunity to see the Indy winner coming to the track. It's a great deal of hype. I think it's something that both Milwaukee can play off of as well as the IRL in having the current winner of the Indianapolis 500 making his appearance at Milwaukee right after the race.
Q. John, I'm wondering how much consideration, if any, was given to the plan proposed by Eddie to have a week off after Indy, then go to Texas, having the networks of ABC and ESPN kind of build momentum in that respect, make TMS the first race after Indy? How much was given to that plan?
JOHN LEWIS: John, I don't know how you specifically quantify that. I'll go on the record and say first and foremost, I truly enjoy working with the folks at Texas Motor Speedway. Eddie and Kent and Nelson, they're a first-class bunch of guys to work with down there. We had a lot of dialogue.
Arguably the folks at Texas Motor Speedway, Kent and Eddie, are two of the best sports promotors in the business. We talked it through. I mean, they're very happy that we're going to Milwaukee after Indy. As JR says, it really harkens back to tradition. The folks at Texas Motor Speedway have been with the IRL since its inception. They like the date that they have, the night race we have in early June. They've really built an anchor in our schedule. As you come out of Indianapolis, you know you're going to Texas two weeks later.
Would he like to have a week off or the opportunity to do advance promotion? Yeah, I'm sure you ask Eddie that, that's something that's probably in his best interest. But if you talk to Andy Randall, who is on the phone with us here, it's really good for him as a promoter to bring us back up to Milwaukee prior to going to Texas.
If there is a perfect world or a best-case scenario, my take on the whole thing is that everybody has come out of this very pleased. The league's happy that we can go back to that tradition. I think the fans are going to love it. The people at Texas Motor Speedway have been very supportive, as well. We hope to just bring an even bigger and better show down there for the good fans in Dallas and Fort Worth.
I hope I answered your question as far as quantifying how much discussion went on. We certainly talked about it. I talked to the promoter at TMS quite a bit. I talked to Andy quite a bit. We just feel that this feels right and this is good all the way around.
We hope to increase the fan interest and spectator interest at both venues. We hope to come right out of Indy put on a great show at Milwaukee, people are wanting more, follow us down to Dallas-Fort Worth.
Q. Can I assume that Texas Motor Speedway will be run on June 10th or 9th, that Saturday?
JOHN LEWIS: You can probably assume that, yes.
Q. What is the breakdown looking like for ABC, ESPN races, especially with the Milwaukee race?
JOHN LEWIS: I'm not at liberty really to release that right now. We have specific guidelines with regard to race quantities on ABC, ESPN, ESPN-2. You will see an announcement today from ABC Sports announcing that part of their business is going away. I think a press release has gone out earlier today reading from September 2nd on, anything on ABC will be referred to as an ESPN production, airing on ABC.
ABC has made great efforts, as with ESPN and ESPN-2, to become a destination for motorsports fans. As far as what that breakdown is, you'll see that when the schedule totally unfolds. But that's not something I can -- I'd be giving away too much right now if I tried to outline that for you.
Q. Andy, how much of a boost does this make for ticket sales and for your job as a promotor? You're right after Indianapolis.
ANDY RANDALL: I think it's a good question. I think it's going to be a tremendous boost for us for a couple of reasons. One, we're returning to the date that much of the marketplace has been used to having the IndyCars in town, so we can address that immediately, which we're beginning to today of course with this announcement, return to the traditional date.
Second, through the good work with the Indy Racing League, John Lewis and all his team, we're out real early with the date. It's the first week in August, we now know our date 10 months from now which gives us all the rest of this year to aggressively promote this race. We always had that advantage with all of the leagues we work with.
We expect to grow. We grew about 8% in '06 over '05. We had almost 32,000 people at our race. We expect to continue to grow that. We're very optimistic on all fronts. This is an early announcement. It's a date that's traditional in this marketplace. We've got a wonderful product that has really done well in the marketplace. There a number of stories throughout the series that will continue into the '07. We're very, very excited. We'll have our ticket promotion packages as early as the next 60 days, including this particular announcement. It's all good for the Milwaukee Mile on all those fronts.
Q. While no announcement has been made, I'm pretty sure it's safe to assume this will be the only open-wheel weekend on your calendar, correct?
ANDY RANDALL: Our conversations continue. Steve Johnson and I, the president of Champ Car, speak regularly, as early as this week. Concerning this announcement, I apprised Steve it was our intent to announce today the Indy Racing League, the 225 would be on June 3rd, this coming 2007. Steve understood that. He understood why we were doing it. He's in the throes of putting together his schedule. It is not a foregone conclusion that they will not race here this year. Steve and I continue to dialogue. His intended date was towards the beginning of August, beginning of the September, as he told me. We continue to dialogue.
We very much like each other. We very much like the product. He likes the track. If there's a way to work together in '07, I think we'll try it. If it isn't '07, the door is wide open for future conversations about Champ Car returning.
I wouldn't write it to foregone conclusions. Those decisions are still several weeks away. All has been amicable with Champ Car and our conversations. They fully understood our decision relative to the announcement this morning.
Q. Over the last few years here at the Milwaukee Mile, there also has been a USAC race. Will they be part of the show next year?
ANDY RANDALL: That is for the Mile or John?
JOHN LEWIS: I would assume that would be for you, Andy.
ANDY RANDALL: I'll take it then.
We had a wonderful USAC race here this year. The second step in our process is to approach USAC and others about their schedule and about their desire to race with us. We have a wonderful relationship with them through the years. We have not entered into an agreement with them this year, for '07 yet. Only once this announcement is done, the Indy Pro Series will be part of that weekend. We're looking at whether or not we ought to have a three-day race schedule next year in '07, Friday, Saturday, Sunday, or simply a two-day schedule.
So I think it's likely that we will approach USAC. They're a wonderful partner. That's not been completed yet. They are well aware of our conversations with the Indy Racing League.
THE MODERATOR: Andy, John and Johnny, thank you very much for joining us today in this very exciting announcement. Thank you very much.
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