Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
September 13, 2006
TIM HARMS: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. Our guests today are John Lewis, vice president of league development for the Indy Racing League, and Robin Braig, president of Daytona International Speedway.
Good afternoon, gentlemen.
ROBIN BRAIG: Good afternoon from Daytona.
JOHN LEWIS: Good afternoon.
TIM HARMS: Earlier today the Indy Racing League and Daytona International Speedway announced that six IndyCar Series drivers will be conducting a compatibility test on the Speedway's 10-turn, 2.73 mild road course on September 26th and 27th.
John, why don't you tell us about the reasons behind going to Daytona for this test.
JOHN LEWIS: Well, first of all, we're ecstatic about it. We're excited to head down there to use the facility. The people at Daytona and International Speedway Corporation have been extremely accommodating. We're happy to be there.
The reason we chose Daytona really started through some winter dialogue where we were talking about some potential warm-weather testing venues. One question led to another. We did some research on our side. The folks at Daytona did some research on their side. It looks like it would be a good testing venue for us.
We're hoping to go down there in a couple weeks, prove all of our theories correct, hopefully use Daytona International in the future to be a warm-weather testing venue for IndyCars.
TIM HARMS: When you look at a facility like Daytona, it has a long history, a variety of types of motorsports, what are the types of issues that need to be addressed during a compatibility test?
JOHN LEWIS: Well, you look at safety. We want to look at speeds. With Daytona, which is unique from some of our other racetracks, obviously banking is going to be a pretty big concern. We're going to look at what straightaway speeds are going to be, how the cars transition from the flat to the banking.
But, again, we've done some computer models with regard to how the cars perform, how the tires perform. Dallara and Firestone and Honda are all comfortable with that. When we go down there the 26th and 27th, we hope to run a bunch of laps.
TIM HARMS: We've had several IndyCar Series drivers who have competed at Daytona in the past. For example, Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon were part of the winning Rolex 24 team this season. Do drivers ever come to you with input such as, We should be racing at Daytona? Since we've announced that we're going there, have any of them given you feedback about going down there in an IndyCar?
JOHN LEWIS: It actually worked the other way around, Tim. When we started talking about potentially using Daytona as a test venue, we sought out some teams. Ganassi Racing, like you said, won the Rolex race this year. Cheever Racing has competed there in a Grand-Am car. We went to those guys initially and said, Hey, we're thinking about using Daytona as a testing venue for IndyCars. Do you think they would work there? The first reaction from both Dixon and Wheldon and Cheever unequivocally was yes. They said, I don't think these cars will have a problem at all.
Like I mentioned earlier, you move down the line. Okay, Firestone, your tires are going to be okay here. Dallara, how is the chassis going to work here? So on, so forth.
They didn't really come to us, per se, as we came to them. Once they heard we were considering this, they've all been pretty excited.
TIM HARMS: Robin, from your perspective, Daytona hosts a lot of types of motorsport activities. Talk about the opportunity of adding the IndyCar Series to that list.
ROBIN BRAIG: This is just an unbelievably exciting time for us. I get to represent all of our employees and our race fans. We have a lot of veteran employees here that have seen a lot of different testing sessions, go-karts to sports cars, virtually anything that will run on this track.
To have open-wheel and the Indy Racing League, it's important to our community. We just can't wait to have the unique sounds and the fuel smells that are going to be so much different from NASCAR going around our track. That noise is going to ring throughout our community and our track. It's just really exciting. We're glad that the IRL has considered us for at least a compatibility test.
TIM HARMS: Tell us a little bit about the layout of the course that will be used for this test, how you kind of came up with the layout that you did.
ROBIN BRAIG: Well, as John mentioned, we passed that assignment off to not only his expertise and his staff, and they've made several visits down here, but we'll use our famous road course, which has seen a lot of different activity. It will be 2.73 miles. They won't use the high banks in NASCAR turns one and two, but they'll come out -- we made some changes here to support our motorcycle events. To work out perfectly for IRL, they liked some of the track we laid down for our motorcycle people. They'll exit the infield road course right there at the very west end of Lake Lloyd and jump out onto our wonderful superstretch. They'll catch a chicane back there going into turn three. They'll get up on the high banks in NASCAR turn three and four. Then the dash is on. That's where I think we'll all be leaned over the railing looking to see how fast they'll be coming around turns four and the 18-degree banking on our frontstretch, entering back into our famous road course there at the end of pit road. We can all visualize it and we know the route, we just don't know how fast they're going to be going past us. That's exciting for us.
TIM HARMS: Let's open it up for some questions for both John and Robin.
Q. If the testing goes well and if you continue to test there, considering the magnitude of the name of a test venue, what if any consideration might be given to scheduling a race there and what would be the fastest -- assuming everything went perfectly, what would be the quickest possible scenario for getting an IRL race there?
JOHN LEWIS: Robin, you want me to take that?
ROBIN BRAIG: I'll follow you up after your comments, John.
JOHN LEWIS: I think that's a good question. The speculation has been fun. We feel that it's going to be responsible on IndyCar's part and Daytona's part, too, that we kind of keep the reins on that a little bit. We truly want to go down here, conduct a compatibility test, see if we can use this as a testing venue. That's been our focus. There's really been no dialogue with regard to future events or races down there.
We want to try and get this test under our belts and hopefully find some time next winter or spring where the IndyCars can do a full open test there. That's been our main focus.
ROBIN BRAIG: I would agree with John's comments. We're always open to exploring new events for the World Center of Racing. At least my bosses and I'm sure John's bosses, the Georges and the Frances, may have discussions, but we're not aware of anything that has anything to do with having a full-blown IRL event here. We're going to get this compatibility test under our belt and hopefully that will evolve into a warm-weather test facility for IRL.
Q. Do both sides feel you need to tread lightly, given that even though it's a long, long time ago, the absolutely disastrous first attempt in 1959 to run IndyCars there, is that situation still to the point that it warns everybody from a PR standpoint and safety standpoint that you really need to tread lightly with this? Does that history factor in in the back of your minds?
JOHN LEWIS: From an IndyCar standpoint, we certainly never ignore our history. We're really looking at this test quite differently. The cars and the way they perform now is certainly a lot different than it was 50 years ago almost. The circuit itself, we're purposely using this 2.73 mile road circuit to do exactly what we need from a test.
It's going to have some high speed on the banks in three and four. It's also going to have a lot of downshifting, up shifting, cornering loads, cooling, braking zones, so on and so forth through the infield. We're not really comparing apples to apples. We're trying to look at a testing venue in a warm-weather climate that has the ability to attract attention and provide a stable course for us. What better fit than Daytona International Speedway?
ROBIN BRAIG: I don't have anything to add to that.
Q. John, what top-end speeds do you expect from your cars? Where on the Speedway? Are they going to be restricted in any way?
JOHN LEWIS: In the truest sense of the word, no, they won't be restricted, per se, by a restrictor plate or a revv limiter. When you look at the configuration that we're running, the downforce that it's going to take these cars to get through the technical portion of the infield, I would guess that our speeds will be less than 190 miles an hour, top end. I think a lot of people are assuming because we go 230 miles an hour at Indianapolis, it's a much, much different car. In order to generate the downforce needed to get through the technical portions of the infield, you have to have a lot more front and rear wing. Therefore, that generates a lot more downforce and certainly lower speeds.
I would guess maybe, as you get to the chicane that Robin described down the superstretch, then again out of turn four off the banking, that would probably be the two quickest portions of the road circuit we're going to run.
Q. What about the G loads in the turns? Any concerns?
JOHN LEWIS: No. It shouldn't be anything more than what we generate at a lot of the other oval tracks we currently race at.
Q. John, you talked about getting a warm-weather testing venue here. What advantages does Daytona have over an even warmer-weather spot, Homestead-Miami Speedway?
JOHN LEWIS: For the record, we're committed to Homestead-Miami Speedway. Curtis Gray and his guys down there do a fabulous job for us. We're going to try and mix it up. If things go well at Daytona and Robin and I can work out a schedule that works where we could test down there this winter, we would like to, in a perfect-case scenario, do some road course testing at Daytona, then head down the road to Miami and run the ovals under the lights, something we've never done before. We haven't done a night open test.
It's really not to exclude Homestead-Miami from any other testing; it's really to add another venue to give us another option.
Q. The road course, the way they have it set out is 2.73 miles. As the compatibility test went along, could you change the course if something wasn't working?
JOHN LEWIS: From an IndyCar standpoint, I'd have to clear this with Robin, the beauty of Daytona is that their technical portion in the infield really gives us a lot of different options. We kind of came together and said this 2.73 works best because, like he said, it gives us turns three and four, the banking, the rest of the circuit through the infield.
From an IndyCar standpoint with regard to our equipment, if we needed to make a change and turn right somewhere instead of turning left or change this corner or something, we could do that.
But I'd really have to defer to Robin with regard to the manpower or adjustments it would take to switch around the actual physical portion of the road course.
ROBIN BRAIG: You know our infield as well as I do. We've got concrete telephone poles. We've got some guardrails that are extremely close to the infield road course that the IRL engineers noticed immediately in terms of runoff, what they need. For this compatibility test, the way we've got it laid out, works perfectly. Down the road, if IRL determines they need a longer course or they want to test other turns and so on, so forth, it's just a matter of moving fencing and tearing out some other poles.
This track is 50 years old. The infield is 50 years old. It wasn't built for the speeds that we're getting to these days. But we can certainly adjust and we'll take our lead from the IRL on those adjustments.
Q. I always hear there's bumps in turn four. Drivers complain about the bumps in turn four. Is IRL aware of these bumps? Are there bumps? What is your view on that?
JOHN LEWIS: Like Robin said, any time you have a racetrack that's 50 years old, there's probably going to be a bump or a dip here or there. That goes back to the question I answered earlier. When we talked to the guys at Cheever Racing and the guys at Target Chip Ganassi Racing, they didn't think that the suspension that the IndyCars are currently equipped with would have any problems with regard to any type of bump or dip in turns three and four.
We're aware of them. I don't anticipate those to be a problem.
Q. Are you going to let spectators watch this?
ROBIN BRAIG: We're going to have our full tours, our Daytona USA tours, open. We're going to take them into our new infield. We're going to open up our fan zone. If they log on to Daytona500.com, they'll get all the information on the timing and how they can get a chance to take a tour and observe this historic time.
Q. Are you going to let us in?
ROBIN BRAIG: Media will have to pay, as well (laughter).
Absolutely, we'll be accommodating the media in the infield, as well.
Q. Your winter test dates, what would they be?
JOHN LEWIS: We're not that far yet. I apologize. We're working with the people at ISC to see if there are a couple dates we could work so we could come down to Florida and run Daytona and Homestead without having to trek back up north. We're not that far along yet. We hope to have of information available very shortly.
Q. When you say "Trek back up north," you're talking about using two different types of cars for this test and the one at Homestead, are you not?
JOHN LEWIS: We actually use the same cars. When we go from a road course to an oval, it takes about a half day. You have to change some of the gearing, some of the suspension, then you change the rear and front wings. Those are pretty minor changes.
We physically run the same car on the ovals as the road course.
Q. You were talking about computer models, the idea of top speed, are your computer models showing what your average speed might be on that 2.73 mile road course?
JOHN LEWIS: That's a good question. I bet they do. No one has asked me that yet, so I'm not sure what the average speed will be. I'm not the genius that Robin is.
Q. John, is there any consideration at all being given to the conceivability of running the oval?
JOHN LEWIS: No. We've not talked about that. I think with that banking and our cars, we're really looking for a test venue for a road course. Our focus has been on the 2.73 configuration we're going to do in a couple weeks.
Q. How much wanting another warm-weather testing facility is market driven? You're already in the Homestead market for oval track testing. You come up to Daytona, a different market. How much is that a consideration?
JOHN LEWIS: We certainly look at all realms of the business. There's no secret that the people at Daytona do a fabulous job. If IndyCars come down there and we run, it's popular, it becomes a popular winter testing place for us, I think that's good for everybody.
Like Robin said, the community's excited. He's got employees excited. We hope the media and the fans are excited. The league is certainly excited. Those are all win-win situations for everybody. We hope that's the case.
Q. Is there anything that could come out of these talks about running a Champ Car and IRL doubleheader at some of the street course venues?
JOHN LEWIS: That would come out of it? No, this is just testing on our part to do a due diligence, to prove all the computer modeling, et cetera, we've done. Like I said from the onset, we're very, very hopeful and excited that the IndyCars can come down and have Daytona at a fan-friendly, team-friendly, media-friendly venue for us to do some more winter testing.
Q. John, any word on when the rest of your schedule will be released for 2007?
JOHN LEWIS: Yes. We hope to have some more announcements next week, then we'll be wrapping it up shortly. It's Wednesday now. By the first to the middle of next week, you should have several more announcements coming out. That might trickle in the following week. We hope to be finished then.
Q. Might Kansas be some of the early week announcement?
JOHN LEWIS: Yes, I would probably anticipate that.
Q. How is it that information from this test can be translatable to other road course venues?
JOHN LEWIS: You're going to look at a lot of different things: braking zones, acceleration, similar radiuses, corners, heat rejection from the engines. There's a thousand different things that I'm probably not smart enough to talk about. They translate very, very well with regard to the performance of the car. Suspension loads, wing angles, tire wear. It may be raining, it may be dry. There's variables that continue on that translate very well to the performance of an IndyCar from one track to another.
Q. You mentioned you're going to test at Homestead under the lights. Does that mean perhaps in your late March race of 2007 you are actually going to be running under the lights there?
JOHN LEWIS: Tune in next week. We hope to have more announcements with regards to the schedule.
Q. Robin, it was mentioned the top-end speed for the IndyCars will be about 190. How does that compare to the Nextel Cup cars?
ROBIN BRAIG: It's almost right in the same range. That's what we do coming out of turn two.
Q. Robin, could you discuss the positives and negatives of making an IRL event part of Speedweeks.
ROBIN BRAIG: I don't really have a comment on that. I don't really even see that as being an opportunity. Our rich tradition, whether we motorcycles stay as they are with the Daytona 200, our Supercross event, we market it to a specific audience, tradition, heritage, everything else, that goes along with our motorcycle event. I would say the same thing about our Speedweeks that is NASCAR related. I don't see any reason why we'd entertain something like that. Just out of pure respect to the heritage, not speaking for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I doubt they would see a Friday afternoon NASCAR race or Saturday afternoon NASCAR race before the Indy 500. It just doesn't seem to be a match that would be appropriate.
Q. John, when are you going to have the Pro Series cars down there? I assume they would be part of a test for this.
JOHN LEWIS: We've not talked about that. As typical of anyplace we run, with the addition of Daytona here in a couple weeks, we had to do a compatibility test at every racetrack we've been to, whether it be Homestead or Texas or Chicagoland or Kansas, so on and so forth.
If this does prove to be a good testing venue for us, then I would probably go back to Robin and say, Hey, instead of two days to run IndyCars, can I have three days where I could do Pro Series on one day and IndyCar on the following two.
Your question is valid. Again, I tried to set the tone earlier, we're probably not that far along yet. We have to walk before we can run. We're trying to figure out how our cars in the IndyCar Series perform. Then if there's the ability to expand to the Pro Series, we'd certainly look at that.
Q. Are you going to modify the course or add pavement near the west horseshoe?
ROBIN BRAIG: The pavement that they've selected to run on is the new pavement coming out of the horseshoe past Lake Lloyd there, just all been laid down for the motorcycles. Fortunately it worked out good. They like the radius on the turns there. We will not be adding any additional pavement. In fact, we've got some that's well-cured right in that area and should sustain all their needs, their tire tests. They've looked at it. We're in good shape.
Q. Are they going to make the left-hand turn prior to the horseshoe?
ROBIN BRAIG: Exactly.
Q. Are you going to run it with ethanol only for the test?
JOHN LEWIS: We're actually going to have both. That's a good question. We're going to have two teams down there with engines that run a hundred percent ethanol so we can compare our data, we'll have two teams down there that will run the blends we did in 2006, which was 90% methanol with 10% ethanol. This will mark the first time an IndyCar has run on 100% ethanol.
Q. Do you anticipate teams using both chassis at the test or will it be all Dallaras?
JOHN LEWIS: That's a good question. Don't quote me on it, but I think we'll all be using Dallara chassis.
Q. How are the teams chosen for the test?
JOHN LEWIS: We took the top four teams in interim points without duplicating. That makes sense in my mind, but is hard to understand. We went did Penske, then Ganassi, then Andretti Green. We didn't take the top four because that would have been two Penskes and two Ganassi teams. We went down the line. If you go without duplicating a team, you go Penske, Ganassi, Andretti Green, Panther. Those will be the four teams.
Q. Open-wheel cars have been missing from Daytona for quite a while. Even though we're in the early stages, does this feel good to you that you have finally have mostly ever type of car at the World Center of Racing?
ROBIN BRAIG: I think it's a great opportunity for us. I think back to when there must have been some testing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway when the Cup cars came in there. Like I say, the veterans that have been around here, the community, the race fans in this community who are very hardcore NASCAR-oriented fans, have all been very - to use John's quote - are curious to see and to hear and to smell the IRL cars on our track.
Q. Robin, are there any talks of possibly repaving the track, whether it's in the near future or further down the road?
ROBIN BRAIG: We do not have any plans. We again lean on our sanctioning body and our tire supplier, Goodyear, to tell us when we need that.
We are fortunate to know that the repaving at Talladega has been extremely successful. The technology on high banks, all that. We have a comfort level knowing when the time is right, we're ready with the technology and the pavement and all the polymers, so on and so forth. Right now our sanctioning body and tire supplier are saying it's good. We have a couple whiners amongst the drivers, but we'll listen to our sanctioning body.
Q. There's been an awful lot of discussion about that backstretch chicane for some reason over the last couple of months from various series. Have you done anything with that or will you do anything with that? Has it been reconfigured? I looked at the map you supplied with the announcement. It looks like the motorcycle chicane. How might it apply to the other vehicles?
ROBIN BRAIG: I think you hit the nail on the head there. That chicane has so many different -- the long chicane, the short chicane, the bus stop. The fact that some of the drivers get very aggressive and tear up the grass, push in and make it dangerous there. Even the IRL people noticed that visually from an IRL car sitting low, there's a dip back there, how they confine the apex of going into the chicane. All that is a great opportunity for us to hear the responses from the IRL teams on what we can do to make it more stable, more racy, and a little less dangerous. Even the motorcycles have trouble with it.
If you put more pavement in the grass, they'll just move the racing line over and be in the grass even further. That's what we've been told by our sanctioning bodies. We'll take the lead from them. Clearly our chicanes, there's several options the IRL has. Who is to say they won't change throughout the weekend, try the short or long chicane.
Q. Concerning the two teams that will be running the pure ethanol, the 96 to 98% ethanol with gasoline combined, will they also be used the three-and-a-half liter Honda engine as opposed to the three-liter currently in use?
JOHN LEWIS: That's correct. The teams that are running the hundred percent ethanol will be on a three-and-a-half liter. The teams running the 2006 fuel will be running 2006 engines.
Q. Does that mean the teams running the three-and-a-half liter will be using the first on-circuit test of that engine?
JOHN LEWIS: That's correct. It will be the first time for that engine and the first time for that fuel.
TIM HARMS: Gentlemen, thank you so much for taking the time to join us this afternoon. Appreciate that. We all look forward to the results of the tests in a couple weeks.
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