Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
July 31, 2009
THE MODERATOR: Before we get started about the 2010 IndyCar Series schedule, I would like to introduce Terry Angstadt, president of the commercial division for the Indy Racing League; Mark Simendinger, vice president and general manager of Kentucky Speedway; and closest to me, Jeff Ewing, vice president with Zoom Motorsports, which is part of the Barber Motorsports Park effort.
Terry, if you would get us started with some comments on 2010.
TERRY ANGSTADT: It's hard to know where to begin. But we are very excited about making our announcement today. As we have said on a number of occasions, really developing a schedule is a pretty good challenge to a sanctioning body, it truly is.
We really look to serve the markets where we feel our racing product will be well-received, and we have a fan base or the opportunity to develop a new fan base. But it also takes really strong professional and motivated promotors to allow us to do what we do. And we never take that for granted at any venue in which we race.
So it really is that balance. It's really looking for the large DMAs, where can our product be successful, and where can we find strong, motivated promotors to help us race and bring our racing series to the general public.
So we really do feel like, although I don't think we have ever felt like or have suggested we have the perfect schedule, I think we have a good one, I think we have a balanced one. You will find one where we have nine street and road courses, eight ovals. As we have strived historically to find the balance between those two, that's about as close as we can get right now.
We're really proud of a couple areas of expansion. Just to touch on one, then we'll turn it over to Jeff, because we couldn't be more excited to go to Birmingham, but racing in Brazil we think will bring really just an incredible new aspect to the IndyCar Series.
As you know, there is a long and great history of open-wheel racing in Brazil. Needless to say we have our share of talented and great personalities in our drivers from Brazil. And our long time relationship with Grupo Bandeirantes Television, who carry our TV rights and broadcast our product in Brazil, and also our new relationship in our fuel supply and promotional efforts with Apex Brazil.
So we really think we have a tremendous base and opportunity to go to that country, put on a tremendous show, and really make our series better at the end of the day.
I think I'll turn it over to Jeff for a few comments. When we tested at Barber Motorsports Park, as I've said, I don't think I've ever seen a more thorough or professional process of due diligence. I think we started a conversation two years ago, and this group has attended more races than I have, have really done their homework. They're going into this with their eyes wide open. We're convinced they're going to be successful from day one.
THE MODERATOR: Jeff Ewing, Zoom Motorsports, which does all the promotion for the Barber Motorsports Park. As many of you know, earlier this week, Barber put out a press release confirming their date on the IndyCar schedule.
You had quite an event down there with the Governor of Alabama, the Mayor of Birmingham. Share a little bit of that with us.
JEFF EWING: First, it's a privilege to be sitting here with you guys today. As Terry said, we have been working with the league, the league staff, for a period of about two years. During that time frame we've had two wonderful tests. This one in March I think exceeded our expectations. I think it exceeded everybody's expectations. We had 20,000 people come for over three days. So open-wheel racing is alive in the Deep South, and we're happy to be a part of the schedule and host the league for the next three years and hopefully many more to come after that.
This past Monday, we had the Governor and the Mayor make our announcement. The public support that we have received and that the series will receive, as we will see during our event, that's where it starts. It started with the Governor's staff, the Mayor, City of Birmingham, Mayor Langford, together with CVB and some other organizations, we made a push to bring the organization to our facility.
I can't thank enough Mr. George Barber, who built the facility. If you haven't been there, it is one of the finest in the country. It has the world's largest motorcycle museum, Lotus cars I think from the league were there during the March test. But just a wonderful, wonderful facility.
It's actually the largest philanthropic undertaking by an individual in the state of Alabama's history. He's put in over $70 million of his own money for a foundation to build the facility. We had the privilege of promoting it. We look forward to showcasing it to the world through the Indy Racing League next year.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks, Jeff.
Also on the schedule, one prominent change for a track we've been with for quite a few years, that's the Kentucky Speedway, transitioning from its traditional late July or early August date to Labor Day weekend. Mark, if you can share a thought or two with us on that.
MARK SIMENDINGER: Thank you.
First of all, Jeff, I'd just like to see welcome to the world of promoting. I know how excited you are. It seems just like yesterday that we opened this place. You couldn't have a better partner, I can tell you right now, than the Indy Racing League.
Terry, welcome back to Kentucky. It's always good to have you, Brian Barnhart, John, everybody. The Indy Racing League is a fantastic partner and has been for years. We are more than proud to have you here. You've been a big part of our success.
Moving the date is certainly something that has gotten me a lot closer to Bruton Smith over the last couple weeks. We've had a lot of discussions about it. But anybody who's witnessed us over the last several years, and especially who's witnessed us since Speedway Motorsports acquired the track, knows that Bruton is all about change, and he's all about making things better. He's not really concerned about the status quo.
We all have agreed that in order to make this race even better, and we're thrilled with the history that we've had with this race, we've had some thrilling moments. Last year Helio runs out of fuel on the last lap, the series champion wins here. All those kind of memories stack up.
But to even make it better, we thought going to the holiday weekend, with the amount of money we invested in camping, and the amount we continue to invest in camping facilities here, could make it even a better destination weekend for us. It also gives us a little bit more time from our biggest event, which is the NASCAR Nationwide Series, it gives us more time to promote and to sell.
So we think we can take this race and even make it better. That's why we chose to do it. We were happy that the date was available. So we're still kind of working a little bit on whether it should be Saturday night or Sunday. But we're working that out. It has to do with television availability and things like that.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Mark.
The press release is being handed out right now. We can go ahead and open it up to questions.
Q. Terry, the obvious question: It says Brazil, but it doesn't say where in Brazil. Where do you kind of stand right now in determining what venue it will be?
TERRY ANGSTADT: Well, as I think you know, we talked in Edmonton, we had a very successful trip down there a week ago. Frankly, really for a couple of reasons. We have three very interested cities. We have MOUs signed with two, and we will begin really locking down the details of those in concert with Grupo Bandeirantes. They are a big part of the formula down there. As you know, the president has stepped in and publicly proclaimed his support to racing in Brazil. Clearly we just want to make sure that all of our good partners are aligned on that.
There are three great options. We will be determining that over the next probably week to 10 days. We didn't want to force that process to match our schedule announcement, but we were certainly more than comfortable enough to suggest that we will be opening our season in Brazil. But we'll be making that announcement probably in the next week to 10 days.
Q. Terry, I know the mechanics will be happy to see this. Four road races in a row, four ovals in a row, five road courses in a row, four ovals in a row. A conscious effort by you guys to make that happen?
TERRY ANGSTADT: Since you pointed that out, absolutely it was a conscious effort. We do know that and it helps that.
Q. It is tough to turn a thing around and go from a road course to an oval and only have four days to do it. Was there a lot of people coming to you guys with that complaint saying, If you can help us out here, try, because it's been like this for a long time?
TERRY ANGSTADT: Actually, when we had to really blend the schedules together, and we really had to go a number of races in a row after unification, we really did make a conscious effort. We understand what it takes to turn these cars around. We don't have the luxury of having 20 cars sitting in garages, getting ready from a couple races from now.
It was a conscious effort. Unquestionably, it helps the quality of life for the crews and the mechanics.
Q. Terry, I see a space between the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Texas Motor Speedway that's usually been reserved for Milwaukee. What can you tell us about that? Also, what can you tell us about the space at the end of the month which was usually reserved for Richmond?
TERRY ANGSTADT: Well, great question. Regarding Milwaukee, I think it's been pretty well-documented the challenges. I think everyone that has been associated with Milwaukee has gone through it. When I tell you that we worked - and when I say we, Sarah Davis on our team - late into last night and again this morning trying to figure out a formula that may allow us to possibly race there in 2010, that wasn't possible. We are continuing an open dialogue with them. We hope to be able to find something in the near future for Milwaukee.
It's a great venue. It's an historic venue. We would love to be there. We were not able to do that in time for this announcement or for this schedule.
Richmond was also a venue that we enjoyed. We understood that the business model just wasn't working for ISC in that regard. So we'll not be racing there. We thought that that was a pretty good venue. We'd been there for a lot of years. But we do respect the business decision made, and ISC continues to be a strong partner of ours, so we'll respect that decision.
Q. Jeff, when you first had the IRL test last year, the talk was you were going to do whatever it took to get you there, including making a braking zone, adding a straightaway. Will that happen next year? Is it still in the process? Do you think that's something you'll see in 2011?
JEFF EWING: Yeah, I think we're working with the league on several things. The first and most important thing is the debris fence that will be added, safety measures for the track. And our thought is to run and work with the league and build it over the years as this thing grows. The safety side was what you'll see next year, then we'll look into the future of what we need to do.
Q. Jeff, earlier in the week, when the announcement was made that the IndyCar Series was coming, there was also something in there that said the crowd will be limited to 30,000 to provide the best viewing situation. Why did you come up with that figure? Could that figure possibly be expanded? Are you trying to make this more of a premium-type ticket for the 30,000 that do come?
JEFF EWING: Well, that's a good question. The 30,000 number, we do want to make it a great experience for our fans. As those that have been there know, this is a European-style road course, hillsides similar to Mid-Ohio, fans sit in the tree saves. It's one of those things that, yes, it could potentially grow, the number could go higher. Being a promotor, I want to sell as many tickets as possible.
So it's something that we'll work as plans continue to develop. We'll put hospitality, parking and other things, we'll continue to look at that number over the next few months.
Q. Terry, could there be another race added at the end of June? A lot of people said, Hey, if Milwaukee can't run, how about going to Elkhart Lake?
TERRY ANGSTADT: We're not planning today on adding another race this year, as we sit here today. This is a pretty dynamic business, as evidenced by the last 24 hours in putting this schedule together.
So that is the plan. And we have maintained an open dialogue with George at Elkhart Lake. That may develop in the future. It has not as yet, but we know that's a pretty popular venue.
Q. Are you saying Milwaukee is definitely not going to be on or it's still being reserved?
TERRY ANGSTADT: No, we are not planning on adding Milwaukee this year. We are hoping that we can reach a model that may work in the future.
Q. Terry, can you speak at all about New Hampshire, that being left off the schedule?
TERRY ANGSTADT: Well, certainly. New Hampshire has some unique challenges. We, again, have a fantastic relationship with our hosts that also own this venue. At the same time, when you look at the seasonality of that part of the world, you look at two Sprint Cup events at that venue, it's a very compressed window to try to make anything work. The last thing either side wants to do is to force an event into a schedule where we don't think both sides would be successful.
So it really comes down to a very, very challenging window to try to fit an event of ours into a seasonally challenged part of the country and a track that hosts two Sprint Cup events.
Q. Is Vegas still a possibility in the future?
TERRY ANGSTADT: We think Vegas would make a fantastic place for the IndyCar Series to race at. We absolutely want to maintain an open dialogue on that venue. We have talked about that on any number of occasions. Of course, a natural would be to possibly end your season there. Again, with SMI, we would like to continue to have that open dialogue.
Q. Same with Cleveland?
TERRY ANGSTADT: Again, we have a lot of respect for Mike and his promotional team, let alone his race team. Just nothing but high marks, as you guys well know about Cleveland as an event. And we really tried to figure it out for this year, quite frankly. I know I said something at Iowa, when I said we didn't have the broad-based support, I got a few fan emails on that. It wasn't certainly from a fan aspect. We know the popularity of that event. I was referring to the broad-based financial sport to help Mike be successful, to help us be successful when we go there.
That is an absolute open opportunity and we'd love to figure that out in the future.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, gentlemen.
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