Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
July 2, 2013
THE MODERATOR: We are now joined by the president and CEO of Pocono Raceway, Brandon Igdalsky. Welcome to the call.
Brandon this week we see the return of IndyCars to Pocono Raceway. I know there was a test there last week that's got a lot of people excited to go back to Pocono. So this week almost has to be like a kid at Christmastime and can't wait for Sunday.
BRANDON IGDALSKY: Yeah, it's definitely pretty exciting and obviously watching the teams out here last week testing, really got the motivation pumping and looking toward to a great race.
After watching what these cars were able to do at Indianapolis, looking for the next evolution of that, and hopefully we'll get more than 68 lane changes.
THE MODERATOR: I know the 2013 Pocono IndyCar 400 is the second leg of the Fuzzy's Triple Crown. I know you've had the trophy going around the area on kind of a mini‑tour, so you've had a chance to gauge the excitement in the community. Just how excited is Pennsylvania to host that second leg of the Fuzzy's Triple Crown?
BRANDON IGDALSKY: The fans are really excited. A lot of people around here remember Pocono before IndyCar, and we are seeing that with a lot of fans that are buying tickets and what they are telling us when they call. They are saying that, you know, my dad took me and now I'm bringing my dad and my kids.
There's definitely some excitement and a lot of people that grew up here in the Poconos and northeast Pennsylvania; that's what they remember about Pocono Raceway starting off when they were kids.
There's definitely a good buzz going on and people are excited. The staff around here, some have been here for over 24 years so they remember what it's like and we have a lot of new people that have no idea. It's going to be an exciting weekend for the fans and the staff and everybody in between.
THE MODERATOR: Just talk about some of the events, not only racing, but a fireworks show on July 6; there's a test day on July 4. Just talk about some of the events happening around the IndyCar race.
BRANDON IGDALSKY: We are going to open up our grandstands on Thursday free of charge for fans to come in and watch testing, get them excited about the event.
And on Saturday night, we typically do a fireworks show every Saturday for our infield guests, but given it's 4th of July weekends we are looking at ramping it up and doing a much bigger show than we typically do.
We will open up the infield for fans or just anybody to come in. It will be a $5 donation to our local fire department, and all the proceeds will go directly to them. You get to come in, hang out go, to our infield concert and block party area; so you can enjoy some good music and have a couple fun times with your friends and family. Got a whiffle ball field out there for the adults and kids to play on, a nice little fun bar out there and a lot of interactive games and watch some good bands. And then at 9:15 the fireworks will kickoff and fans can stay until everything shuts down around midnight.
THE MODERATOR: Sounds like a great time, let's open up for questions.
Q. I wanted to ask you about Tony Kanaan coming in with the Triple Crown; is that something you're going to actively market and promote? And how cool would it be to see Tony come in and get that second stage won?
BRANDON IGDALSKY: Well, to answer your question about are we promoting it, I mean, I think what we did in the last couple of weeks kind of proved that we are behind the big Triple Crown. It's a big piece of us being back on the schedule.
We were part of the original Triple Crown, and a big piece of us coming back on the schedule was IndyCar bringing that back. You know, we are excited about it. Fuzzy's has been a great partner to work with on it. Fuzzy himself will be here for our race and will be hosting a dinner, charity dinner with him at the Blakeslee Inn on Friday night, a local restaurant.
It's been great. We had the trophy, we took the Triple Crown trophy, to about 15 or 20 different locus. We've had it in Philly, we've had it in Allentown just south of us, and all around our neighborhood here and different places and different sports events, a Yankees affiliate and Philadelphia Union and all kinds of fun places. It's definitely a great aspect to the weekend and adds that much more drama and it builds a story line within the race.
To see Tony do it, would be really cool. Obviously it's only ever been done one time, and Al Unser, the legendary Al Unser, was the one to pull it off. You think of all the years it ran and how few guys‑‑ how few guys had a chance to go for it; it's not an easy task, especially now with the competition is nowadays where anybody can really win any weekend.
It's exciting to see Tony do it, we hope he does and we hope he goes to California and can really add some excitement to the end of the season and what that race means for the series as a whole.
Q. In regards to how things got going, bringing IndyCar back, what did it take to get IndyCar coming back to Pocono?
BRANDON IGDALSKY: It literally took me being in the wrong place at the wrong time with Randy Bernard. I was in South Florida about a year ago for the St. Petersburg event, and I had not been to an IndyCar race in a long time and I was nearby and I gave the IndyCar folks a call and said, hey, I'm going to be in town, can you help me out with some tickets. And that was it.
I came over, some media members introduced me to Randy. We started chatting, and you know, it was kind of very informal at the time, but eight months later, we were going to contract and two months later after that, we were making the announcement.
It wasn't too hard once we committed to doing it. We put some time and energy last summer into doing a big fan study here locally. We hired a company that went out and talked to IndyCar fans and NASCAR fans and just motorsports fans in general, as well as non‑motorsports fans and we were pretty surprised by the overwhelming support that it looked like on paper we would have for the event.
And as we are getting closer to the event, we are seeing the fruits of those labors come to fruition and we are excited by the crowd we are going to have here and obviously Fourth of July weekend and a big weekend here in the Pocono mountains. It's a big vacation destination, and we have a lot of people that come into the area this week, so it's just one more thing for them to do on their vacation to the Poconos.
Q. Are you starting to see a lot of people coming in from the New York area, as a couple of years ago, this July 4 weekend was the Watkins Glen race; are you starting to see some of those folks filter in to Pocono, as well?
BRANDON IGDALSKY: We are seeing a good mix of people. Right now, being the first year, not really knowing what to expect and really not doing too big of a marketing campaign outside of our general area; New York is kind of a hard nut to crack.
We are seeing some New York fans, for sure, especially upstate New York. But the majority of the stuff we are seeing is from Eastern Pennsylvania, from Philly all the way up to the New York border and up the 80 corridor where we see a lot of our typical race fans come in.
We are seeing a lot of new fans come that have not been here before and a lot of 'old' new fans; people that have not been here since 1989 and they are calling, all excited that IndyCar is back.
The gentleman who bought the very first set of tickets when we made the announcement, I think it took him all of eight minutes to buy a set of tickets from when we made the announcement back in November. He was just one of those guys that he had not been here since 1989 and he is, I can tell you, very, very excited that IndyCar is back, and we are seeing that with a lot of our fans.
Q. We talked about this before, you said you're getting a lot of new fans; do you get a sense you're also getting some NASCAR fans who come to your races who are just curious about IndyCar Racing?
BRANDON IGDALSKY: We definitely are. We have our Pocono fans, and one of the things I had said when we made the announcement back in November, if the stick‑and‑ball arenas can do it, 20, 30, 40, 80 whatever times a year, why can't a racetrack.
You have NASCAR fans, IndyCar fans and then just racing fans in general. Pennsylvania, as you know, has a fair share of racing fans and we are seeing that. When we had the original Firestone test back in April, I got a chance to walk around the grandstands and the talk to fans that were here, and a lot of them were just that, curious NASCAR fans, that I can tell you went down and bought tickets at the ticket office on the way out because they were pretty excited about.
We are seeing a nice mix of new fans, old fans, people that have not been to an IndyCar race ever before but they are NASCAR fans or just race fans and curious to see what it's all about and obviously to see the speeds these cars are going to be carrying down the front stretch. It's going to be a great show.
Q. Just to follow up, I forget, is this deal more than one year with IndyCar?
BRANDON IGDALSKY: Yeah, we announced it as a three‑year program.
Q. Just your thoughts on the challenges of pulling off three events, and I know you said basketball stadiums do 180 games and so forth, but for your staff, are there some challenges that you have seen so far that you didn't expect? Has it been easier than you expect? Can you give us a gauge of how things are going pulling off three races now and major races in an eight‑week period?
BRANDON IGDALSKY: I can tell you that most of the staff was ready to kill me when we made the announcement.
But we have a good staff here. A lot of our key employees have been here 20, 30, 40 years. So there's the excitement level. I think we all enjoy the one month in the summer where we get to do nothing, which is now gone.
But at the same time, it was an easy transition and it wasn't too hard to turn around and get ready. It kind of actually keeps us all on our toes and we are a little more prepared, because it is just basically clean up, reset and reload coming off to do a NASCAR race, and then we'll just turn around next week and do the same thing and get ready for the next race.
It's been a lot easier than I anticipated. I figured it was going to be not too hard but it actually was a lot smoother than I thought, and you know, we got great staff here and hats off to them for being able to do what they do on a daily basis, but you know, throw a third race into the mix. It does kind of change things, but everybody has been great with it.
Q. As you've moved around the region, do you find some extra energy, because it has been 24 years, and it was such an important event to the Eastern Pennsylvania area; it was a sad departure when it did leave. Do you find some extra excitement, extra energy, as you move around?
BRANDON IGDALSKY: We do, and I've seen that with the fans when we are here. I've seen that with fans at different events, just talking to them.
And I've seen it around the industry. Not just on the IndyCar side of things, but also the NASCAR side. As I go to some of the short tracks around, people are just excited about the race coming back, period.
It is a heritage track for IndyCar. It's part of our heritage and obviously designed and build with the help of the friends out in Indianapolis that helped my grandfather years ago. There's definitely a sense of IndyCars coming home kind of a feeling around here, and you know, it's exciting to have them.
We are really looking forward to what the event is going to be, and honestly, I can't wait to drop that green flag on Sunday and see it all come together.
Q. Could you revisit the decision to go three years, and I assume that all three are guaranteed?
BRANDON IGDALSKY: I don't want to get into specifics of the contract. But three years just seemed like the right way to go. Kind of get the footing going underneath of it.
You know, I think you've got to almost do anything for three years to really gauge whether or not it works or not works, but from what we are seeing coming out here in year one, we are really excited about what the future is going to hold.
I was probably more excited after the Indianapolis race about what our race was going to hold, and after seeing what the guys were doing in testing and talking to some of the drivers when they were here, you know, it's going to be an unbelievable event and I'm really looking forward to it.
THE MODERATOR: Brandon, we thank you for your time and we'll see you this weekend at Pocono.
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