NASCAR Media Conference
August 19, 2008
HERB BRANHAM: Welcome, everyone, to this week's teleconference. This follows the announcement made earlier today of the 2009 schedules for NASCAR national series competition. To open up today's teleconference, I have a very special guest, I'll start off with NASCAR president Mike Helton.
MIKE HELTON: Thanks, Herb. Good afternoon, everyone. The announcement today of our three 2009 national series schedule has some significant news in it. We think this news and these moves benefit all the industry, including the tracks and the teams, but most importantly our fans.
In the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, we've realigned the schedule, resulting in three changes. The Auto Club Speedway's second race in 2009 will move from the Labor Day weekend to October the 11th. That makes it the fourth event in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup. Atlanta Motor Speedway's fall race will move to the Labor Day weekend, which will be September the 6th in 2009. Talladega Superspeedway's second race in 2009 moves into Atlanta's former fall slot, and that will become the seventh race in the Chase on November the 1st.
The other thing on the Sprint Cup Series schedule, you'll notice there are four off weeks in 2009. That's an increase from one from this season. That's due in part to the way the calendar falls with the holidays.
In addition the NASCAR Nationwide Series has a new event coming up in 2009 at Iowa Speedway in Newton, Iowa. That race will be on Saturday, August the 1st. On August the 28th, the NASCAR Truck Series takes its popular brand of racing to the nation's third largest market with a nighttime event at Chicagoland Speedway.
We're excited about these realignments and we're very pleased today that we're also being joined by the respective track presidents who have worked with us on these realignments.
Herb, I guess we'll hear from those presidents.
HERB BRANHAM: We'd like each of our track presidents to give us a brief opening statement about the 2009 schedule, then we'll swing it over to the media for questions.
First up, Ed Clark, Atlanta Motor Speedway.
ED CLARK: Thank you. We're very excited. First of all, I want to thank the folks from Auto Club Speedway and Talladega Superspeedway. I think this is a win-win-win for all of us and certainly a win for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and for the fans. We've been desiring a night race here in Atlanta for a number of years. Mike Helton I'm sure will tell you we've had many conversations about that. We're bringing Labor Day racing back to the Southeast and doing it with a nighttime event. A lot of excitement around here today. We made our announcement a few hours ago here in Atlanta. Tremendous outpouring for that. The initial comments are just what we expected. A lot of frenzy. We expect to build right on into next year. We're going to do some things to enhance the weekend.
Our schedule is going to change a little bit. Instead of the Nationwide Series event being in the spring, we're going to run a Truck Series event on Saturday of our March weekend along with the Kobalt Tools 500. That's March 7th and 8th next year. Then we're going to move our Nationwide event and run it on Saturday night, along with pole qualifying on Saturday and our Sprint Cup race will be Sunday night next year.
We're really excited. The market is excited about it. Can't wait to get started working on it.
HERB BRANHAM: Ed, thank you.
Continuing on, next up we'll welcome Auto Club Speedway president Gillian Zucker.
GILLIAN ZUCKER: We're having to pinch ourselves here to be sure this is really happening. We know how complicated the schedule change was to complete. For that reason, we have to thank NASCAR, the tracks involved, the sponsors and the broadcast partners.
The 2009 schedule is a victory for race fans. We're tremendously excited to bring the thrill of the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup to Southern California. But we feel this is more than just the Chase coming to Southern California. It's a chance for all NASCAR fans to benefit from what the sport has become famous for: a way to see the country while experiencing NASCAR. From a weather standpoint, it's hard to think of a better time to visit Southern California than early October.
So as the newest host of the most exciting playoff in sports, the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, we look forward to being a piece of the championship puzzle.
HERB BRANHAM: Thank you very much. We'll now hear from Talladega Superspeedway president, Rick Humphrey.
RICK HUMPHREY: Obviously we're also very excited about our new position in the NASCAR Sprint Cup schedule for several different reasons. The opportunity to be race No. 7 in the Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup is very appealing. Since we moved our second race of the season to October back in 1997, we've been a big part of the championship battle. We believe that moving even deeper into the Chase makes Talladega even more significant to the championship.
Also by moving to the end of October and coupled with Atlanta's new date, that separates our two events, which is very beneficial for both parties. And then lastly in 2009 our race weekend falls on Halloween, which is certainly something we feel is an asset and something we'll be able to capitalize on.
Like Ed mentioned his scheduling changing a little bit, our schedule for the season in 2009 will change somewhat. We'll move our ARCA event to the spring weekend of April 24th to the 26th and have a triple-header in the spring, then in the fall the Craftsman Truck Series as well as the AMP Energy 500 the weekend of October 30th through November 1st.
HERB BRANHAM: Thanks, Rick. We'll move now to the Midwest, Iowa Speedway president, Jerry Jauron.
JERRY JAURON: Good afternoon. The team here at Iowa Speedway is elated to be part of the Nationwide Series for 2009. Though the past two years we've enjoyed two sellouts from the NASCAR East/West Series, our selection to join the Nationwide group will strengthen what has already become a very successful partnership between NASCAR and Iowa Speedway.
Furthermore, to be associated with Nationwide, with the many thousands of employees actually right down the road in our capital, Des Moines, Iowa, makes this announcement even more noteworthy. We have a tremendous fan base here in the Midwest with what we believe is enormous growth potential. Our Iowa fans are crazy about racing since we have no professional baseball, basketball or football teams in the state to compete with. We're very excited about our future.
HERB BRANHAM: Last but by no means least, welcome Chicagoland Speedway president Matt Alexander.
MATT ALEXANDER: I appreciate that introduction to clarify. We're very excited about the NASCAR Truck Series coming to Chicagoland Speedway. It's a strong addition to our schedule that includes the Sprint Cup and Nationwide and IRL. It bodes very well with our efforts to really continue to try to provide the best possible experience when our fans and guests come to Chicagoland Speedway.
Unlike Jerry, we have a lot of great competition in this market and we're very proud of the progress that we've played in trying to establish NASCAR, motorsports and Chicagoland Speedway. Really a big key of our goal is to create us as a big part of the historic and impressive Chicago sports landscape that exists.
For all of you that came to our inaugural events under the lights, Ed talked about it a little bit earlier, but having a night race is absolutely incredible. We built a lot of momentum on that. There's a lot of buzz around that event, not only at the event itself, but in the Chicago market, which really bodes well for the sport in trying to captivate this third largest market. A more tangible example of our growth in this market is our TV ratings for this year for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series is up 26% compared to last year. Obviously we're making great strides in that department. Even with that momentum, I really believe we've only scratched the surface in this market and really developing more motorsports fans and we still are trying to provide even a better experience for our fans that come year in, year out. Adding NASCAR trucks to our schedule clearly falls in line with that line of thinking. I think it's a win-win for our fans and our guests.
The other thing it does as far as an adjustment, we are actually moving our date two weeks previous. We used to be the weekend after Labor Day. This weekend we'll fall with trucks and IRL on August 28th and 29th. Why that is important is all my friends in the Midwest understand that really the summertime in the Midwest is Memorial weekend to Labor Day psychologically for families and getting the summer activities in. So for us to fall in line in that calendar really bodes well for us to continue to provide a great community spirit and a family spirit out here as well. We're excited with the addition of trucks to meet the growing excitement of the motorsports fan base in the Chicago market.
HERB BRANHAM: Thanks to everyone for those opening statements. We're going to go right to the media now for questions.
Q. Mr. Helton, I wanted to ask what the key factors were for making Iowa Speedway look so attractive for a Nationwide Series date?
MIKE HELTON: Well, it began with having an event that opened up, then looking around as to the opportunities and options we had to put that event back in the schedule somewhere else.
Iowa came to mind. We have some experience there, as Jerry mentioned, with the Grand National Division racing there. The competitors that have been there speak very highly of it. We went by to look at the track. There's no question that the facility is first rate. It's in the heartland of America. Our series sponsor, Nationwide, has a great presence in Des Moines, in that area. Iowa has always been a very strong motorsports community across the board, open-wheel and stock car both. So it made sense to us.
Q. Gillian, how much of a factor was attendance in making this switch? Mike can address it as well. I know the attendance for the Labor Day race hasn't been what you've expected or what you wanted it to be. I know the time of the year the race was there is a hot weekend, makes it uncomfortable for fans to come out. How much of a factor was attendance in making this switch?
GILLIAN ZUCKER: You know, we are very clear about the fact that this is an emerging market for NASCAR but also a very important one. Since the track opened in 1997, we've seen nothing but growth in this market, even with a less-than-ideal schedule. What we see here is a real opportunity for people to come out and experience NASCAR in temperate conditions and we believe it certainly will help with our attendance and help us to continue to grow.
MIKE HELTON: I think Gillian addressed it from her perspective. That's where NASCAR gets its influence, is from the track operator. That's what triggers a realignment, is the track operators themselves.
I would remind everybody that the inaugural Labor Day event in California was the addition of a second race in California, and the schedule throughout the 60-year history of NASCAR has been a work in progress to find the right place at the right time for the series. In this case it's the Sprint Cup Series.
But I think Gillian did a good job of answering from the track's perspective.
Q. Mike and Ed, given the clamor among Southeastern fans when the Labor Day race was moving to Darlington in the first race, Mike, was any consideration given to try to go ahead and restore some good faith among the traditionalist and try to move the race back? Ed, do you feel you can satisfy that traditionalist feeling among Southeastern fans with the race at Atlanta? Rick, you're moving to Halloween weekend. I know years ago when you first moved to October you had some push back from Southeastern Conference football fans about being in the middle of their season. Are you at all concerned that this date would be even more sort of at the fever pitch time of the SEC schedule?
MIKE HELTON: The '09 schedule is a result of a realignment. The realignment is a result of requests that came from Atlanta and Auto Club Speedway that initiated the chain reaction of everything. Labor Day is a national holiday across the entire country. I think it's significant because it does, like Matt said earlier, signify, wherever you might be, kind of the end of summer as much as anything else.
But the result was a collaboration of Auto Club Speedway and Atlanta, so Darlington never was a factor in this conversation.
ED CLARK: From my standpoint, we certainly don't think we're going to replace Darlington. But I think what we've done is given Southeastern fans an opportunity to have an event back in the Southeast at a long time NASCAR Speedway. We'll be celebrating our 50th year of racing next year. This event certainly is going to be the keystone of that celebration.
It's a holiday weekend, as Mike said. It offers a lot of opportunities to people to maybe expand their attendance. There are a lot of attractions and things in and around Atlanta that they may enjoy as well as the race. We're going to call on those partners to help us build this weekend and make it really, really special. Our goal is to elevate the stature of our fall weekend, as I said. I think we can do that here in Atlanta. But first and foremost we've traditionally had tremendous racing here in Atlanta. The drivers love to race here. The fans enjoy the races. We're going to build on that. Add the element of the night racing which makes the cars, even as fast as they are in Atlanta, seem even faster. Just really make this a special weekend that becomes a tradition in itself, very much like Darlington has been for so many years.
RICK HUMPHREY: To answer the question about the Southeastern Conference football schedule, like I mentioned, in '97 we moved from the fall to a July date, as many of you probably recall, was less than desirable conditions to do anything, much less watch a race outside. What we have found since 1997, we've gone everywhere from late September to the third week into October just based on how we fell into the schedule. We've discovered that it appears every weekend from Labor Day to Thanksgiving is a big weekend in the Southeastern Conference from a football standpoint, especially when you've got Auburn and Alabama here.
What we have found is that the opportunities to market to those folks who are coming into town to watch those football games, we were able to market to them and provide them the opportunity to stay into our state and watch the race. While we're aware that the Southeastern Conference has big games week in and week out, we felt and have continued to both be able to have our place in the market on any given fall weekend.
Q. For the track operators, with the challenges these tracks have these days with attendance, today's announcement takes you out of the box a little bit that we've previously been in. In light of Humpy Wheeler opening a consulting company, is there any thought by any of you to pursue any outside ideas, whether from Humpy's company or any other place, for some new directions to go?
ED CLARK: Starting off from our standpoint, we've taken on the Blue Sky agency here in Atlanta. They work with the Atlanta Braves and a number of other sports franchises. They're lending some assistance to us in promotion and advertising. We see this as an opportunity, I won't call it a new start, but almost like a new event. We're gonna enhance the event. We're going to go beyond what we traditionally have done on race weekends to make the events special. They'll be involved in that as well as our staff and others.
So, yes, we're definitely taking a step forward with promotion, advertising and other things. Already working on that, as a matter of fact.
GILLIAN ZUCKER: I like to think that we already have a bunch of really creative and unique out-of-the-box ideas running here in California. We have a huge Latino outreach program that's been extremely successful. We've seen that grow considerably over the past three or four events. Some unique things that we've done with our partner, Miller Lite, a bar poster program all throughout Southern California. Some unique marketing partnerships with the military with our area sports franchises, everything from the Angels to college football, which is playing on Labor Day Monday in conjunction with this year's Pepsi 500. We have trucks that drive around the marketplace. We've done doorknob hangers that encourage people to attend the event, myspace, facebook and many, many others. That's something we intend to continue. We find anything you can do to more creatively reach people, especially in today's day and age, is a positive thing. It helps stretch budgets, to reach people in ways they weren't really anticipating generates curiosity to the sport and helps bring fans to the Speedway.
JERRY JAURON: I will reiterate what Gillian said. I've challenged our staff internally to throw the box away. We don't think within the box here at all at Iowa. Plus with kind of a spread-out fan base, this announcement today is such a huge milestone for our track. We've only been in existence two years officially next month. This just raises the ante, so to speak, of our abilities here at Iowa. Plus it's going to bring much more national exposure from a sponsorship and corporate partnership level here at Iowa Speedway versus mainly dealing with upper Midwest based companies. We see this as a huge opportunity. We do outsource our media buying and work with a number of strategic partners within the area to try to reach each and every household that are racing fans. Beyond that, we have pre and post race concerts. But more so we sell the entire event. For example, August 1st, 2009, there will be more than just a NASCAR Nationwide Series event here at Iowa Speedway. We'll have concerts and tailgating and race simulators, et cetera. You can come out and spend 10 hours and have entertainment or you can go to a different sports choice and only be entertained for a couple hours. So we're selling the entire experience. So far it's been very successful for us here at Iowa Speedway.
MATT ALEXANDER: Very consistent with what Jerry said, as well. We're in a unique position because we're in a traditional great sport like NASCAR at Chicagoland Speedway, but we're really the new kids on the block in this fantastic market of Chicago sports. We're not really out to replace the Cubbies, the Bears or the White Sox, but as I mentioned earlier, we're just trying to create a niche for ourselves in the market. That quite frankly starts with things like adding lights, like we did this year, and providing even a better experience like trucks, like we just announced today, and make sure that the fans understand when we open our doors, it's a once-a-year experience or twice-a-year experience. When we open our doors, Chicagoland Speedway is the place to be, and make sure we get the message out, but more importantly when they come here that really is the place to be and the experience they have with the competition on the track or with what Jerry is talking about, the entire experience they have, they walk away saying, You know what, this sport really is a key element at what we do in Chicago. If we continue to do that and continue to get the word out, then the success will come our way.
Q. Gillian and Mike, given the weather problems that have happened on the February date, kind of hit bottom this year with the rain-out and everything, what are the chances of getting away from that date as well?
GILLIAN ZUCKER: Well, as Mike had stated earlier, the request for date changes typically start at the track level. From our perspective, that's not one we've looked at yet. The track has been here for 11 years, and this is the first weather-affected event we've had of that nature. Our feeling is that generally speaking, weather in Southern California is pretty good most of the time. We've been very lucky and fortunate with weather. Hopefully that's out of the way and we won't experience weather conditions for a very long time.
But we certainly enjoy the idea of being the West Coast premiere of NASCAR. The television ratings for that event coming off of the Daytona 500 are incredibly strong in the nation's number two media market. That's a very important asset and we believe it's a great way to start the NASCAR schedule.
MIKE HELTON: Gillian is right. Throughout the history of NASCAR, we've had a long run at racetracks, then it would rain. We've also had a long run of rain at racetracks and then the sun would come out. It's hard to predict. As much as we have over at least the last couple decades of trying to put the tracks in the best-case scenario for weather, when you run 36 out of 40 some weeks, it's hard to do that. But weather is something that has an impact on us. But, you know, in most cases it's go on down the road and it will change. One week or two doesn't necessarily guarantee you a good weather weekend. But it happens. We're an outdoor sport. We're very dependent on a dry facility. Those things happen in our sport. We even had a rain-shortened race in Phoenix, Arizona, in October one year. You never know what might happen with Mother Nature involved.
But, yeah, I think February, and I agree with Gillian, I think February was a very unique situation after 11 years of running there, that was a unique moment. Hopefully it was and we can get back on to dry racing in California in February.
Q. How important to NASCAR is the Southern California market?
MIKE HELTON: It's huge. The Southern California market is huge to everybody, retail, wholesale, service, sports, entertainment, it doesn't matter. It's a huge influence in a lot of decision-making processes. It's equally huge to us as we have all the different stakeholders that we have in the sport, car sponsors, teams, official status companies, and certainly the fan base in Southern California or in that whole Southwestern part of the United States is very significant to NASCAR and the growth of NASCAR.
Q. Mike, I'd like to ask you about things looking ahead to the future, like Kentucky, like people looking for dates, people wanting to have dates. When we ask the drivers in the garages, they're like, Take us to new places. We're talking about double dates. Can you project into the future, not specifically with dates, but what does the landscape look like for that?
MIKE HELTON: I would start off by reminding everybody that we put the schedule together one year at a time. Today's announcement is our most modern, our most current look at the three national tours that NASCAR has, national series that NASCAR has.
I don't know what the future holds other than the fact that based on our experience, and I think if people looked at NASCAR's reaction to opportunities, the track operators looking at the opportunities that they might have or the thought processes, NASCAR reacting through realignment and different options, that we are open to looking at better ways of doing things for the entire industry, and particularly the fans.
But having said that, I couldn't tell you what the next five years might hold, but I would tell you that today is our most modern and most current look at our schedules.
Q. Mike and Jerry, you talked about some of the benefits that drew you to Iowa Speedway as far as the Nationwide date announced today. As far as bringing in fans from just not Iowa but surrounding states, how much do you think it will help that the track has gained a reputation for having some really good side-by-side competition? Do you think fans are going to appreciate that?
MIKE HELTON: Well, I think that fans expect that at NASCAR events across the board. Every facility we go to, every race weekend we bring NASCAR to a community, fans expect NASCAR-type racing, which is close side-by-side racing.
What helped us in the process at Iowa was the facility certainly is first class. It's a first rate, well thought out facility that accommodates and handles race teams, fans and the entire NASCAR community from our perspective in choosing a site to do what we do. So that's what really drew us to Iowa as a site for the Nationwide race in 2009.
JERRY JAURON: I want to thank Mike for those comments. In addition to that, to speak even further about our venue, there's not a bad seat in our house. From every seat at Iowa Speedway you can see the entire track and see it very well. There's no obstructions. So from a fan standpoint, it's very fan friendly that way, as well as Rusty Wallace's from the ground up construction and design of the facility has made it one of the favorites of the Cup drivers, the Nationwide drivers, all drivers that have tested our facility over the last two years.
We like to call ourselves a racy racetrack, and it definitely is. It gives a lot of fan entertainment and driver and team entertainment as well.
Q. Ed, were you disappointed that Atlanta now won't be in the Chase starting next year? Did that give you any pause in terms of signing on to the swap?
ED CLARK: That's certainly something we took a hard look at. At the end of the day we felt like the opportunity to have a night event in a summertime setting on a holiday weekend overshadowed the opportunity to be in the Chase. It was something we certainly looked at, considered and evaluated very diligently. Hopefully we're going to prove that we were right, so we both come out more favorably making the move we made.
Q. Mike, are you at all concerned that placing an August Nationwide race in Iowa might siphon off some of the fan interest from the October Nationwide race in Kansas City?
MIKE HELTON: No. We feel like there's a marketplace for more in that area. I think Kansas City is an incredible host of NASCAR events, one of the premiere marketplaces for any sport or entertainment to go into. We're certainly glad to be there.
But I don't think that another Nationwide race at Newton, Iowa -- actually, I think they will complement each other. I think it will actually build a better following for the Nationwide Series in that very hardcore motorsports area of the United States.
Q. Mike, was there any reason not to do this Atlanta, California, Talladega swap? Anything you all needed to be convinced of before making the change?
MIKE HELTON: I'm not sure if I understand the question.
Q. Did you have any second thoughts when the track operators asked you to make that change?
MIKE HELTON: Well, we certainly go through a thought process I guess would be the best way to couch it and ask a lot of questions of both the promotors, test float it among some of the key sponsors and teams, what do you think type thing before we come to a final conclusion. But it really ends up on the merits of does it make sense for the good of all of NASCAR. We get input from a lot of the different groups in NASCAR to land on our decision.
But I wouldn't say that there were any heartburn or negative issues to it. It was a matter, does it make sense, does it work, do both facilities agree with it, then ultimately does NASCAR agree with it. That's how we kind of landed it.
Q. Did you want to put the MontrÃÂ©al Nationwide race on an off weekend for Cup? Was that done on purpose to get possibly nor Cup guys to that event?
MIKE HELTON: It really just worked out because the calendar for '09 worked out that way. The doesn't mean that necessarily going forward it will be that way. It just happened to work out that way in '09 as we put it together. But certainly we feel it gives us an opportunity in MontrÃÂ©al to utilize an off Cup weekend somewhere with a high significance, and MontrÃÂ©al certainly fits that.
Q. Mike and Gillian, is this the ultimate test for Southern California as a two-race market? What happens if this Chase race is not a big draw as you would expect it to be?
MIKE HELTON: From NASCAR's perspective, Southern California, Ontario, Auto Club Speedway, however you want to label it, is very important to NASCAR. We think Gillian and her staff are very aggressive about building NASCAR's brands out there, whether it's the trucks, the Nationwide Series or the Sprint Cup Series. We're very pleased with that effort. We're there because Southern California we think is the right place for us to be doing what we do.
GILLIAN ZUCKER: As I mentioned before, we've acknowledged Southern California is an emerging but critically important market for NASCAR. In the time that I've been here, I've watched an amazing growth of fan knowledge and passion. I've watched fans come to this sport. I've watched them brave the elements of unfathomable heat on Labor Day and rain delayed events during February. They continue to come back. They're passionate about writing and telling us what they want. We're really about growth. As long as we're continuing to see that, then we believe we're making the kind of impact in this market we need to be making for the sport. We feel that next Labor Day, next Pepsi 500 during the Chase we'll be seeing that.
Q. Mike, there was a lot of talk about other tracks wanting a second Cup race or a new Cup race. Were any other changes considered for 2009?
MIKE HELTON: Yeah, we always consider a lot and get a lot of requests across the board. It may shift a week or two. It may be a month or two. A lot of those requests are very difficult to honor when it just involves one facility.
This request, when it came from two facilities that agreed and made sense, made sense, it was much easier. There's a lot of requests we get, as you can imagine, from different promotors of maybe liking a different spot, but those spots are hard to find.
This was the only major move that was considered in '09 on the Sprint Cup Series.
Q. Jerry, are there any plans to expand the track facility and seating capacity or anything else?
JERRY JAURON: Well, actually within the past two weeks we've begun a feasibility analysis here at the Speedway regarding what capacity we would have from a temporary standpoint at a minimum for our August 1st Nationwide event at Iowa Speedway. With that said, the facility was built knowing that we could expand and wrap the facility, with the exception of the tunnel, and have in excess of 100,000 seats here at Iowa Speedway. That's not being contemplated for the immediate 2009 season. We're going to get that feasibility study done from an outside engineering firm by the end of August, within a couple weeks here. With that, we're going to move forward as to a conceptualization as to how many seats we need for next August. Obviously we're going to track what should be very brisk ticket sales. I assure our fan base, we will have a seat for them or we will have room for them. No one will be turned away.
Q. Mike, a truck race in Chicagoland, how much do you think that might help you filling up a sponsor in that size market?
MIKE HELTON: I think a lot of the decision-making process that we put into where we race certainly is influenced by all sponsors, including the series sponsor. But we're racing in Chicago now with the Nationwide and Sprint Cup. When a truck race became available, Chicago had been for some time wanting one. It makes sense for that series to be in that market area as well. We're glad that it worked out for '09.
Q. Ed, the Labor Day date, even Darlington had issues packing the house there. We know it's a holiday. What challenges are you preparing to face with a weekend that's struggled to find its footing?
ED CLARK: First and foremost, we don't think it's going to be something where it's an automatic sellout. It's going to take considerable effort, a lot of smarts, a lot of planning, a lot of work to increase our crowd. A night race doesn't automatically mean you're going to do it.
At the same time one week earlier, we all know the success of Bristol Motor Speedway, what's happened up there. We know it can be done. I think part of it is how the first event goes off and the tradition we establish and how we bring our community in as partners with us to welcome fans who come here from all over the United States. We know we have work to do. We can't do things as we've done traditionally and we're working on ways to change that and make this almost like a new event.
It's a challenging market. We see an opportunity and I guess the best way to maximize our opportunity is to take advantage of that and put our very best effort forth, provide extra activities for the fans in addition to the racing that gives them more reason to come enjoy the weekend, see how things fall.
Q. Jerry, did you have discussions with NASCAR about getting the Truck Series to Iowa?
JERRY JAURON: We were open to either one of the series, with the Craftsman Truck Series or the Nationwide Series. We've had drivers from all the series say our track is wonderful and they'd love to come race here. But the schedule just didn't permit. There was no open date. We can respect that. We feel you're not given a race here at Iowa Speedway, you earn it. Fortunately there was an opening in the Nationwide Series. We feel very fortunate to be given the opportunity to race that race here next August. We're elated. But down the road obviously if an opening exists in the truck and eventually in Cup, we will definitely entertain bringing those series to Iowa as well.
Q. Mike, you said Chicago had been wanting one for a while. When this opening became available, were they at the front of the line or did you consider other tracks for this opening?
MIKE HELTON: Chicago had been interested in a Truck Series race. But others had been interested in other races as well. It's just a matter of balancing out what we think is the right place, the right time, availability, and what's good for the NASCAR community in whole. When we decided to put the Truck Series event in Chicagoland and the Nationwide Series in Iowa, it came after a good deal of thought process.
Q. Gillian, does this mean we're not going to have a night race in October?
GILLIAN ZUCKER: That is yet to be determined. We'll be working with the broadcast partners to determine start times for both races in 2009.
Q. Can you give me a chronology of who approached Atlanta or did Atlanta approach you?
GILLIAN ZUCKER: Well, I think it was sort of a public evolution. We put out for several years that we've been interested in an alternative date to our Labor Day date. I'll let Ed speak to this, but I believe it was this year they determined they thought Labor Day weekend might be a good fit for them.
ED CLARK: Yeah, I think it was kind of both of us thinking independently but the thoughts we threw out there kind of created a, Hey, that could work. Down at NASCAR, Mike can maybe answer that. We've long since wanted to change some dates here in Atlanta. The problem is people just don't want to give up their dates, and I don't blame them for that, and we don't want to take someone's date that is working for them. So this just happened to be one of those rare instances where we both saw the benefit, probably started discussions independently, but then it became something that pretty quickly seemed like a real opportunity that we both jumped on. I really think we're both going to benefit greatly from it.
Q. Mike, with the announcement that you're going to Chicagoland in the truck schedule, how close is NASCAR to sewing up a new title sponsor for next season with the Truck Series?
MIKE HELTON: Hopefully we're getting pretty close to it. Steve Phelps and his folks are very hard at work on narrowing it down and landing on a specific sponsor for that series. Hopefully in the next few weeks we can put it out in public.
Q. Mike, do you foresee a day down the road where either the Nationwide or Truck Series might return to Rockingham? Can you explain why there are so many open race weekends in the spring in the Truck Series.
MIKE HELTON: Well, your first question, I've learned a long time ago not to try to get too far ahead of us on predicting things because it changes. We've got so many moving parts and pieces out there from track ownership to availability to not being able that it's good just to be fluid and flexible. That's kind of what we've done the last several years.
I don't know what the future holds for what type race may happen at Rockingham. It's interesting to follow Andy and his crew down there and see what happens.
The truck schedule is purposely kept at a number that we feel like -- number of events that we feel like is reasonable for the truck owners and participants to be involved in. Part of it's economics - most of it - part of it's just the ability to move around with the people that you need to move around and what all resources you have to put at it. And when we move to opening the Truck Series at Daytona during Speedweeks, which was the right thing to do for the Truck Series, it spread out their season, spread out the calendar a little bit. We do have multiple weeks off in that series because it starts now earlier than it originally did. We kept the number of events where it is so that we didn't put a burden on the participants in the sport. That's basically why you end up with a lot of open weekends.
Q. Mike, it seems you and other NASCAR officials are often faced with tough choices. A lot of times the fans don't know about it or we don't know about it. The decision-making process, does it ever get easier?
MIKE HELTON: Well, I like to think it does. The fact of the matter is there's a lot of moving parts and pieces in the NASCAR community in general, whether it's the racetracks or race teams or NASCAR, and that's a good thing. We worked very hard for a long period of time to build this sport into the level of recognition that it now gets and probably deserves more that we at this point to work to get. When we do that, we also ask for the exposure. We also inherit the responsibility that goes along with that. And I think that's what we see today in NASCAR. While it appears to have a lot of moving parts and pieces, it's still a great program. It's still a wonderful sport. It's still a wonderful lifestyle to be part of. And it doesn't get any easier and it shouldn't. It kind of is what it is. That's what comes along with the high level of exposure, you get scrutiny with it, and scrutiny demands sometimes tough decisions. That's what we ask for and that's what we should step up and be prepared to do.
HERB BRANHAM: First of all, thanks to NASCAR president Mike Helton and all of our track presidents for joining us. Busy call, great media audience.
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