THE 2012 STATE OF INDYCAR
Topics: IZOD IndyCar Series
February 13, 2012
Participants Scott Hoke, Presenter
Randy Bernard, IndyCar CEO
Kevin Lee, NBC Sports
Vince Welch, ESPN
Drivers: Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Charlie Kimball, Josef Newgarden, Alex Tagliani, Tony Kanaan, Ryan Briscoe, and others
Chip Ganassi, team owner
SCOTT HOKE: Good evening, everyone. Welcome to the State of IndyCar for 2012. A great honor to have you with us tonight. A terrific crowd in person. This telecast is being translated all across the world in 50 different languages via Ortsbo.
We have a terrific lineup for you tonight, a big announcement, a few surprises along the way.
Let's start off by bringing out some gentlemen who will be handling some interviewing chores. Please welcome from ADC and ESPN Vince Welch, and from the NBC Sports Network Kevin Lee joining me here on stage.
Vince, let's start with you. You and I were talking before the program. We can't wait for St. Pete coming up in a few short weeks.
VINCE WELCH: With this kind of weather, everybody is excited to get to St. Petersburg. That's one of the things we enjoy at ESPN, we get that season opener at St. Petersburg. Everyone is excited about being there, the start of the race season.
So much to be excited about with the IZOD IndyCar Series. To be able to have that first race, get the season started is something we take great pride in. We're looking forward to having the six races on ABC this year.
SCOTT HOKE: Kevin Lee, I know it's a big deal for the NBC Sports Network and to have the peacock involved.
KEVIN LEE: We're very excited to be associated with NBC. We've been Versus for the last four years and have continued to grow, but now having the promotional arm of NBC, you may have seen something on the Super Bowl coverage in the pregame show, there's a new show we will talk about a little later on. As the new channel NBC Sports Network grows into a full-fledged sports channel, we want to grow as well as IndyCar continues to grow.
SCOTT HOKE: Let's get started by meeting the fastest, most versatile racecars and drivers anywhere in the world.
SCOTT HOKE: Now, ladies and gentlemen, we are pleased to introduce a new trophy for the 2012 season. It's the Manufacturers Championship trophy. Here are the manufacturers and drivers that will compete for this trophy.
Let's meet our representatives of Chevrolet and the Chevrolet Power drivers. Jim Campbell, vice president of performance vehicles and motorsport. Mark Kent, GM Racing director. And the drivers, Marco Andretti, Ryan Briscoe, Ed Carpenter, Helio Castroneves, JR Hildebrand, James Hinchcliffe, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Tony Kanaan, Will Power, and E.J. Viso.
Thank you, gentlemen, from Chevrolet and our Chevrolet power drivers.
Now representing Honda, please welcome T.E. McHale, the manager of motorsports public relations for Honda. And your Honda power drivers, Mike Conway, Scott Dixon, Dario Franchitti, Charlie Kimball, Simon Pagenaud, Graham Rahal, and Justin Wilson.
Thank you, gentlemen, from Honda and our Honda power drivers.
Now representing Lotus, please welcome Olivier Picquenot, the Indy manager for Lotus Motorsports. And the drivers, Simona De Silvestro, Katherine Legge, Oriol Servia, and Alex Tagliani.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, representing Lotus.
There are your 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series drivers.
Now, ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard.
RANDY BERNARD: Good evening. On behalf of the Hulman-George family and the board of directors, we'd like to welcome you and thank you for attending the State of the Sport.
Tonight we're going to share with you some of our successes in 2011, honor our 2011 champions, and also share with you some of our strategics and vision for 2012. We have a lot planned for you tonight so let's get started.
In 2011 I stood up here and told you one of our goals was to increase our television audience by 15%. We are very fortunate and happy to announce tonight that our viewership increased by 28%. Next year we anticipate another 15% growth in our television audience.
On our live attendance, we wanted a 10% growth. We saw a 9.8% growth. Next year we anticipate even a more aggressive goal than that, 15% for 2012.
On our PR front, we had a 36.8% increase on our print articles. On our web impressions, nearly 37 billion, with a 29% increase. Our blog posts, over 103% increase. We found a lot of success with that this year.
The one we're really excited about was social media. Last year we stood up here and told you we had failed at social media. We made some changes. This year, although we're not overly excited with what our potential growth was, we believe we had significant growth, with over 100 plus percent in Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. This year in 2012 we will have a dedicated staff member strictly for all of our social media.
How about our great PR pops? How about Graham Rahal and Cosmo, most eligible bachelor? You can't forget about that Sports Illustrated. I hope there's no kids here tonight (laughter). But the one that really excited me was just recently one of the car sponsors said that GEICO has just announced their new spokesperson. I told Tony I'd get even with him.
Let's talk about 2012. What's next? ESPN on ABC? We will have six events on ABC this year. Last year we had five. Mid-Ohio will be the new one. Here tonight we have with us, I'm not sure where they're at, but we have Rich Feinberg, and Cathy Savino with us tonight. We thank you for showing up tonight and attending.
Last year we also stood up here on the stage and told you we never wanted to use that acronym 'IRL' again. You've supported IndyCar very strongly this year. This year we're going to ask you never to use the word 'Versus' again. It's now NBC Sports Network. We're very proud of that change. Tonight we're very excited to tell you we'll have a new program on called IndyCar 36.
As you know, one of our goals was to make stars and showcase what they do. Starting this year we'll isolate a driver each and every NBC Sports weekend, follow them around for the entire weekend, 100% access from the minute they get to the track until the checkered flag. The following week on NBC we'll turn that into a 30-minute show.
Let me also add on that. This will get a minimum of three or four airings per week on the NBC Sports Network. But the first one will be the half hour prior to the IZOD IndyCar Series.
That will take us to the Firestone Indy Lights Series and we'll have that at a different time in the schedule we will announce fairly soon. Last year we only produced live eight events of the Firestone Indy Lights Series. This year 100% of them will be televised.
We also have some NBC executives with us tonight. Bill Bergofin, senior vice president of marketing, Sam Flood, executive producer, Michael Pearlman, senior director of programming acquisitions, Jay Marsek, vice president of sales and marketing. Thank you for attending and for all you do for us.
Also want to give a shout out to Robby Green. Robby Green is the president and chief operating officer of IMSP. He makes sure all of our television runs correctly and he's done a fantastic job with it.
So now let's talk schedule. The IZOD IndyCar Series this year will have 16 events in the series. I think it's very important I start off with this saying that IndyCar defines itself still as the fastest, most versatile racecars and racecar drivers in the world. This is important and essential for us in the future of our sport. Let's talk about some of the highlights of our series in 2012.
First Detroit, Belle Isle. Chevy and Penske Corp, Bud Denker told me they're going to have a great show up there. He told me they've already sold 80% of their suites out. So he's already seeing great success up there.
Then we move to one of the purest tracks, a track that's been there since 1903. The Milwaukee Mile will be June 16th.
After that we'll go to Qingdao, China August 19th.
From there we'll go to the streets of Baltimore September 2nd. I think it's important we bring this back up. We have a new promoter at Baltimore. They're excited and eager to work with the IZOD IndyCar Series to make this another success.
We'll finish our season in Fontana, California, at the Auto Club Speedway on September 15th.
So at this time what I'd like to do is bring up our new chief operating officer of the IZOD IndyCar Series and IndyCar, Mr. Marc Koretzky, to talk to you a little bit about technology and innovation.
MARC KORETZKY: Thank you. Technology and innovation, two of the core brand attributes that differentiate our sport from others out there. In 2012 we recommitted ourselves to bring the best and brightest in technological advancements to our fans, teams and partners. We're happy to say this year we're going to be relaunching IndyCar.com. We're going to do this in two phases. The first phase will coincide with St. Petersburg and the second part will be launching around the Indianapolis 500.
This website took months in planning, after consultation with our fans, partners and teams.
Additionally we decided to bring the management of our website in-house because now we feel we can be the first to market our information. As we look towards technological advancements, we look to Verizon, one of our great partners. In 2012, we're excited to bring you IndyCar Mobile, a new application by Verizon. It's going to provide information in a much more expeditious manner, improving the customer and fan experience. This technology will be available on Android, Apple, and tablet devices.
We're going to bring telemetry into the picture. Many people ask what that is. Telemetry allows our fans to watch a race on a device like they were in the pit box like a team owner. They'll get all kinds of neat data such as fuel, brake speed, downforce and much more.
Telemetry takes a whole 'nother level as we bring on Gravity Jack. It's the leader in augmented reality. We're the only sports property in the world to introduce this to you. Right now Nick is going to demonstrate augmented reality.
Picture watching a race and wanting to know where your driver is in the field, looking at those data points. Now you can do it. It's one thing for me to sit up here and talk about this technology, it's another thing to see it in action. Right now we're going to watch a video to watch what augmented reality can do.
RANDY BERNARD: Pretty exciting stuff. I think it's important that IndyCar gets out and leads. We want to be the very first in augmented reality. So we are very happy to have Verizon and Gravity Jack working with us on this project.
We ended 2011 with the heartbreaking loss of our friend Dan Wheldon. His absence hangs over us still. It's imperative we commemorate Dan's life by continuing to make great strides in our sport, from safety to the competition to the overall health and growth of the series. We must communicate better. We must work together. We must grow the sport together.
Tonight I hope that we showcase to you one of the greatest sports in the world. So please enjoy. Thank you.
SCOTT HOKE: Please welcome back to the stage Kevin Lee and Vince Welch, along with three drivers you know very well: Helio Castroneves, Scott Dixon and Alex Tagliani.
KEVIN LEE: Good to see you guys. Let's talk about the new car. Helio, I know you've had an opportunity to test it a little bit at different locations. What do you think?
HELIO CASTRONEVES: Certainly there is a lot of change. There is a lot of new change for us. We went from steel brakes to carbon brakes. People don't realize how big a difference it is. You got to generate a lot of heat when you brake.
It's interesting. Plus the car now has two pedals instead of three. Now we have the brakes and the throttle. Changing style to a go-kart, right and left foot.
But it's been long ahead of us, a long way to developing, which is great because you can work with engineers, your mechanics understand a little bit more about the new stuff. Trust me, it's been pretty good.
KEVIN LEE: Good to see Helio in a Chevy this year in IndyCar.
VINCE WELCH: Alex, congratulations on the opportunity with Bryan Herta Motorsports. How much fun are you going to have with Lotus this year?
ALEX TAGLIANI: It's a lot of fun. Me and Bronte don't have kids yet. Helio is struggling keeping his kid. So we decided to go with Lotus because I didn't want to have the minivan that Helio got.
VINCE WELCH: Are you and Bronte working on that? That will make a big headline tonight.
ALEX TAGLIANI: We would like to get one on our own because we don't get one provided by Lotus.
VINCE WELCH: Practice, practice, practice. It's just like racing. Wish you the best.
Scott, there's been a lot said about this new car. Early on there was much discussion and debate about the weight distribution. What has been the progress from the initial testing to where we are today with the new car in that regard?
SCOTT DIXON: Well, first of all, Tag, you better watch on the practice thing. For Helio and I that turned into a lot more (laughter).
VINCE WELCH: He got the easy question.
SCOTT DIXON: Testing on the new car has been cool. For us we've had the same thing for six or more years now. It's been nice to have something new, sit in something different. It reacts totally different.
Yeah, there were a few teething problems here and there. That's to be expected. I think a lot of people forget it was easier because we had the same thing for so long.
The engineers, the teams have had to work a little bit harder because there's a lot of unknowns. But for all of us, it's very exciting. It's cool to have a new product. With the engine manufacturers, I think it will be exciting racing. It hasn't been the normal six-month vacation you get in the off-season.
KEVIN LEE: Thank you, gentlemen.
VINCE WELCH: Now, ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the stage the driver who now sits ninth on the all-time IndyCar win list Dario Franchitti. I don't know if you got to see the piece, but I get goosebumps every time I see that feed. You are a student of history of the sport. What does it mean to you? What do you think when you see your name up there with your heroes?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I'm a little in awe of it. It's something I'm very proud of, but at the same time I don't really think I belong at this point. Just keep pedaling as hard as I can, try to win as many races as I can. Just keep on going. But very proud to be in that company with those guys who are the legends of our sport and are heroes of mine.
VINCE WELCH: He may think he doesn't belong, but he does. Dario Franchitti. We'll have much more coming up with the champ in a little bit.
VINCE WELCH: Now, ladies and gentlemen, let's meet your homegrown heroes, Marco Andretti, Ed Carpenter, JR Hildebrand, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Charlie Kimball, Josef Newgarden, and Graham Rahal.
For so long we've heard the fans cry, More American drivers. I think this is a pretty strong contingent of American drivers right here. What do you think?
Ryan, I'll go to you. What does it mean to you to be the leader of such a strong group of drivers representing the stars and stripes?
RYAN HUNTER-REAY: It's strange to hear it that way, a veteran. That's the position I always wanted to be from racing karts to be in IndyCar. IndyCar always has been a very international sport. But to represent the stars and stripes is pretty special. With this group here, like you said, this is a great group of talent. I think this year is going to be pretty outstanding for this one.
VINCE WELCH: Look forward to some of these guys being in Victory Lane.
KEVIN LEE: We're going to do trivia now with the drivers. We each have a question. One of you should have an insight on this one. Can you name how many wins in IndyCar the three generations of Andrettis have? This is not counting John, so Mario, Michael and there young man here, how many total IndyCar wins? Charlie?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I think it's just under 100, like 95, 96.
KEVIN LEE: Who told you?
CHARLIE KIMBALL: I did history and some research on the other American drivers, a little background.
KEVIN LEE: We just saw Mario's 52. Michael is 42. Marco, not even 25 yet, which I believe is the same age your grandfather won his first race. You're ahead of the pace.
Charlie, you win a seat in an IndyCar this year.
VINCE WELCH: How about a nice round of applause for the American contingent of IZOD IndyCar Series drivers.
Josef, we'll have you stay out here a moment. We have something from artist Jim Swintal.
What would that moment be for you last season?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: There were so many. But Indianapolis is obviously the highlight. I would say if they got something like that, if he painted something from Indianapolis, that would be awesome.
VINCE WELCH: Let's take a look.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Oh, my gosh.
VINCE WELCH: Unbelievable. He's got ESPN (laughter).
This year's painting, entitled Tomorrow is Here, featuring Nashville native Josef Newgarden. Do you sing?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I wish, but that's why I'm racing.
VINCE WELCH: Winning the Firestone Freedom 100, a highlight of a spectacular season. Five wins. Do you remember where those were?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: I should, right?
VINCE WELCH: You're the man.
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: St. Petersburg, Indianapolis, Iowa, then we went to Edmonton, then New Hampshire.
VINCE WELCH: Well done. What a memory. Firestone congratulates Josef Newgarden and Sam Schmidt Motorsports on a championship season.
The Greg Moore Legacy Award presented to the Firestone Indy Lights driver who typifies Moore's distinctive combination of outstanding on-track talent and dynamic personality. He just said, Wow. What a terrific honor as Al Speyer from Firestone makes the presentation.
Josef, why is it so important today for a driver to have not only that on-track talent but also that personality off track?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: Well, I think it's what everything's all about. I mean, driving is such a huge part of it. There's so many more elements to racing. There's the passion. There's the emotion of it. There's the fans. There's everything else that comes with it.
I think people want to see that. They want to see different types of people. They want to have that connectivity. Having that is so crucial. If you have something that's so stale, how can people have an interest in it apart from the racing?
There's a lot more to it. There's so much put into the sport. There's so much work behind the scenes before you even get to the track, you want to see substance from people.
I mean, this is blowing me away. This is unbelievable. Greg Moore, what a guy to look up to. There's been a lot of great people in this sport, and certainly he's at the top of the list. That's very special. Very good guy to look up to. Thank you very much.
VINCE WELCH: Well said. And thank you to Al Speyer and Firestone.
Josef, you've successfully navigated the ladder and now you're at the IndyCar Series with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. Have you had to change Zoe's diaper yet?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: No, Sarah is doing a great job. It's new for them. They're having a blast with it. Like you said, Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing, what a great team. Super excited to be a part of it really.
VINCE WELCH: What do you see as the top challenge for you as you make that transition to the IndyCar Series?
JOSEF NEWGARDEN: There's a lot. There's a lot going on in the series right now. For me it's a lot to take in. I went over to England to race, then I came back to run in Firestone Indy Lights last year obviously. It was a difficult challenge. I think the best thing for me was I got hooked up with such a great team which was filled with a great amount of people. I think we had great chemistry. That's really what I think we have at Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing now. I'm really excited because that's probably the most important thing you're going to need to overcome any hurdles as a new driver, learning how to drive a bigger car, race against a deeper, more talented field, cope with the challenges of being in the IZOD IndyCar Series. Just very fortunate I have that chemistry with the group I'm involved with new.
VINCE WELCH: How about a hand for Josef Newgarden.
KEVIN LEE: We have one more presentation with the Firestone Firehawk Cup. This one is a little more sturdy, a little heavier. Congratulations to Josef Newgarden, 2011 Firestone Indy Lights champion.
SCOTT HOKE: Welcome to the stage, James Hinchcliffe.
KEVIN LEE: Welcome. A special presentation for you that means quite a bit, as well. It's one of the significant awards in our sport. It's written right here on one of these many pages that I have. It's the Greg Moore Legacy Award, which is something that means a lot to you. You've had an opportunity to already win. Also this year we can present you with one of the other great opportunities in this sport.
Tony Renna Rising Star Award. It includes not only driving prowess, but physical fitness and resourcefulness. Tony is somebody we all had a lot of respect for. It obviously means a lot.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: It's incredible. Last year I won the Greg Moore Award, now this one. It's humbling. I train with Jim Leo and Scott Dixon, they speak about him often. There's the fitness element. From what I heard, he was one of the guys blazing the trail on drivers being involved in sponsorship and the off-trackside of things, which is something I take seriously.
To be honored with this is very cool. I'm very proud.
KEVIN LEE: We have another award, as well.
To present the Sonoco Rookie of the Year Award is Mark Burford, the managing director with Sonoco.
You're now the Go Daddy guy. You had a great season last season. You've had a new team that's had success before, that's won the Indianapolis 500. What kind of pressure is on you on and off the track? You're not going to dress like the Go Daddy girl in these commercials.
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: I think the pressure is go to the gym, lose some weight, maybe shave my legs.
It's obviously a great opportunity for me, to be with Andretti and Go Daddy. It's something we're all excited about. It's a visible ride. As a racing driver and team, you put so much pressure on yourself, whether the car is blank white or Go Daddy green, it's not going to change how much pressure there is. There's going to be more eyes on you, so if you do well, there's praise, but if you make a mistake, there's more criticism. That's part of IndyCar racing.
KEVIN LEE: What is different and what is similar?
JAMES HINCHCLIFFE: There's a lot of unknowns heading into that first race. Until we get a clear picture of the pecking order, it's tough to set goals. We're being I think careful with what we're looking forward to do. All we're going to do is put in more work than anybody, work harder than any other team, put the hours in at the track, at the shop. The drivers are going to do our part. Hopefully we can hit the track running at St. Pete and be successful right off the bat.
KEVIN LEE: There's the 2012 Rookie of the Year Award winner.
SCOTT HOKE: Now here to present a special award to Honda, welcome the IndyCar president of operations Brian Barnhart, and IndyCar vice president of technology, Will Phillips. Welcome T.E. McHale, the manager of public relations for Honda to accept the award.
We now welcome back to the stage Randy Bernard, Marc Koretzky, and Greg Bruning.
KEVIN LEE: We'll let Greg answer this question. In racing we know sponsorship is as important as the ability to go fast, but you have to find the right partner, a partner that helps activate the brand. Give us an update of where things are with IndyCar.
GREG BRUNING: I'm very bullish for this year. We've really worked very hard over the last couple years. We've seen exponential growth. A mixture between the endemic sponsors, Honda, Sonoco, bringing in Lotus and Chevrolet, their activation strategies. Then we've also been hard at work looking at the non-endemic, Verizon, some of our other partners, Discover, pushing people into our fan base has been paramount.
VINCE WELCH: In our first announcement tonight, IndyCar is pleased to announce they have extended the partnership with Firestone Racing through 2014. Everyone knows this man, Al Speyer. What does it mean to Firestone to continue a relationship that is a century old in Indy racing?
AL SPEYER: Job security (laughter).
VINCE WELCH: Do you want to make the announcement it's until 2024 until 2014?
AL SPEYER: Whatever the media says, we'll go along with it (laughter).
It means so much to us. A lot of people at Firestone carry that legendary history all the way back to the early 1900s with the Speedway and certainly with IndyCar. The thing that means the most to us is how the IndyCar community wanted us to remain here. Certainly we got a lot of feedback from the teams, all the constituents here, the management of IndyCar worked very hard on this, and the drivers very much were a strong piece of this.
Finally, last but not least, I'd really like to send out a big thank you to the fans because the fans talk loudly, as well. They're critical to all of us. IndyCar has some great fans. We should hear it for the fans tonight, Vince.
VINCE WELCH: Al, congratulations to you and to Firestone and, gentlemen, the IZOD IndyCar Series continuing the relationship through 2014. Thank you.
KEVIN LEE: Our second announcement. IndyCar is excited to announce a new partnership with the IndyCar Discover credit card. Kevin O'Donnell, the vice president of strategic relationships and national accounts, Scott Smith, the vice president of partnership marketing, First National Bank of Omaha, and Rob Heiser, CEO of Segmint.
Kevin, let's start with you. Tell us why discover is getting involved with IndyCar?
KEVIN O'DONNELL: Discover is thrilled to be involved with IndyCar. We think this is a great opportunity to help IndyCar reach their fans, activate their fans, get them engaged with the sport. We think the IndyCar Discover Card will be a great program where people can actually get rewards for using the card, and through these innovative benefits they'll be able to do one of a kind things with Indy.
KEVIN LEE: When do these become available?
KEVIN O'DONNELL: The cards will be available beginning next month. What you can do right now is go to IndyCarDiscover.com and learn more about the program.
KEVIN LEE: Thank you, gentlemen. Looking forward to this.
VINCE WELCH: To all the fans in the audience, certainly want to remind everyone that you want to be sure and sign up for your IndyCar Series Discover Card. There's going to be some great perks throughout the course of the season. You'll want to take advantage of those.
Kevin, another announcement for the series.
KEVIN LEE: Our third announcement. Pleased to announce that national retailer LIDS will be managing efforts for the IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights. We welcome Charlie Broad, the executive vice president for LIDS Sports Group.
VINCE WELCH: Charlie, considering the reach and distribution of LIDS, the popularity of the IZOD IndyCar Series, how easy is it going to be for fans to get merchandise from LIDS?
CHARLIE BROAD: Very easy. With the passion we've seen tonight and we see at trackside, aligning that with what we do in our stores, should be a very easy transition.
VINCE WELCH: What made it important from LIDS' perspective to partner with the IndyCar Series?
CHARLIE BROAD: I think the passion for the sport, whether it be the fans or the race teams. I think that aligns well with what we do in our stores each and every day.
VINCE WELCH: Fans will be excited to stop at your store. Let's give LIDS and that partnership a nice round of applause. Thank you.
CHARLIE BROAD: Thank you.
VINCE WELCH: Our final announcement of the night, Fuzzy's will be joining IndyCar as the official spirits, vodka. Please welcome Eric Timmerman, CEO.
KEVIN LEE: You're a relatively new brand. I think it's been remarkable the way Fuzzy's has grown over the last couple years. Talk about how you've gone about getting this product known to everyone.
ERIC TIMMERMAN: We came to IndyCar in 2010. We had a great response from the fans and Ed Carpenter. We appreciate that. As a young brand, we have to have an opportunity to get the brand out in the market. What better market than IndyCar? The television coverage is phenomenal with the NBC Sports Network and ABC. For us as a brand, it's about a passion for IndyCar. We as a company have two main passions, obviously Fuzzy Zoeller with golf, and IndyCar. We are an Indiana company. We've grown up around the series, so looking forward to it.
KEVIN LEE: Thank you, Eric.
ERIC TIMMERMAN: Remember, get in your Chevy, use your Discover Card, put on your LIDS gear, head on down to the store and get some Fuzzy's.
SCOTT HOKE: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage the drivers that held positions 2 through 6 in the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series championship standings: Will Power, Scott Dixon, Oriol Servia, Tony Kanaan, Ryan Briscoe.
KEVIN LEE: Let's start with Will. You have come so close the last couple years, really had amazing seasons, six wins each of the last two years. What does that tell us about your other competitors, about the depth of the IndyCar field compared to the way it's been the last 20 years or so?
WILL POWER: I have to say the last two years have been the most competitive, the most competitive I've raced in any series. If you look at qualifying on road courses, the top 20 are usually covered by a second. Yeah, it was a good season for us. Obviously we didn't seal the deal at the end there. But to get six wins and eight poles, we'll take that.
KEVIN LEE: How hungry are you this year?
WILL POWER: Extremely. I think we've got a great relationship with Penske and Chevy coming together. I think we're going to be strong.
Time will tell. Obviously we don't know how everyone stacks up at the moment. We're working full-time, testing. Probably do six test days before the beginning of the year, plenty of time in the car. Should be fun.
VINCE WELCH: The last five IndyCar Series championships have resided between this man and his Target Chip Ganassi teammate Dario Franchitti. We know what great teammates you are, the success you've had. How much inner team competition is there between you and Dario?
SCOTT DIXON: You could say it's getting a bit old.
VINCE WELCH: That was pretty generous. I said between the two of you won five.
SCOTT DIXON: Yeah, but he's got four of them, I have one. I have a bit of work to do.
We work together really well. It's an enjoyable atmosphere at Team Target. We work as hard as possible. With the competition that Will was talking about, it's extremely difficult to get on top.
This year we're looking for the same results. We'll try to go 1-2 in the championship. I'd preferably like to win another championship. We'll have to see how that goes.
It's definitely not a dominance but a good show for the team over the last five years.
VINCE WELCH: How has he made you better over the last few years as teammates?
SCOTT DIXON: I think in many ways. I think any driver can talk on their personal sort of ideas. But every driver and every teammate you have has a little different expertise and sort of areas that maybe you don't. For Dario, definitely some of the street courses, the technical side that he focuses on. Some of it I think has gone vice versa, especially for me when he first came on with our team, the oval racing we had.
But I think that's the good part. It's an open book. Obviously if both of us can work together and try to take little bits here and there, we can make our team better and ourselves as well.
VINCE WELCH: Scott Dixon.
KEVIN LEE: One of the great stories last year in IndyCar was Oriol Servia coming in fourth in the championship, competitive throughout the season. Unfortunately circumstances said you had to go look for a ride. Fortunately you did find one with one of the mainstays of the IZOD IndyCar Series in Dreyer & Reinbold and cool gear from Lotus.
ORIOL SERVIA: Black and gold, we like it so far. Yeah, I had to change. People kept telling me how much they enjoyed rolling the R's.
KEVIN LEE: What is the expectation this year? New situation, new team, new engine manufacturer.
ORIOL SERVIA: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, I want to improve what I did last year. I think Lotus is counting on us to do that, too. It will be tough. We all know we're a little behind. I was impressed in the first test about the knowledge they have about the engine. Hopefully I'll be out there with these guys in St. Petersburg.
VINCE WELCH: Everybody knows this man, Tony Kanaan. How would you rate your fitness level right now?
TONY KANAAN: I'm okay, you know, after a few (indiscernible) at the end of the season, it was good. It's funny because having Jimmy Vasser as a boss, he's the first boss that calls me to tell me that I'm working out too much. But I haven't worked out today, Jimmy. I promise.
VINCE WELCH: I see you at the gym sometimes, you're strutting around in your schmedium. Let's see your abs, Tony.
TONY KANAAN: I'll sleep on the couch if I do that (laughter).
VINCE WELCH: How much better is the team going to be this year with you at KV for a second year?
TONY KANAAN: It's better already because we were able to finalize a deal way before five days before the first race. It makes me feel much better. I think the team, we came a long ways. We have a new personnel that we kind of dig in. I'm reunited with my old engineer. We won the championship in 2004 together. I'm looking for good things.
Chevy came onboard, which they have a huge history in racing. They won seven 500s. Hopefully we'll give them the eighth. We'll see.
VINCE WELCH: There's been a lot said about your friend Rubens Barrichello. How close is that deal to being confirmed as your teammate at KV Racing?
TONY KANAAN: I'll give you Jimmy Vasser's phone number. You have to ask him that (laughter).
We're trying. It was great to have him. I think I kind of tricked Jimmy a little bit on that. I said, Jimmy, give him a test, he's going to retire. It put Jimmy under pressure big-time. I'm not real popular with Jimmy right now.
But we're trying. I think it will be a great asset for the series. Apart from being a good friend, he's a spectacular racecar driver, 19 years in Formula One. He has a lot to bring on the table. As a teammate, he will raise my game big-time. Put the guy in the car, he beat me already. I don't know if I want him, but I'm excited if we can make it happen. I think it would be good for everybody.
VINCE WELCH: Tony Kanaan.
KEVIN LEE: Ryan Briscoe from Team Penske, sixth in the championship. All things considered, you had a lot of bad luck. Do you feel you still got something out of last season because you were generally quick?
RYAN BRISCOE: It was definitely an up-and-down season. There were certainly a lot of good races. Second place in Long Beach to Conway, that was a great race. Then the top three sweep at Sonoma was really good with Will and Helio. We had a lot of good races. Obviously quite a few DNF's which really killed championship hopes. But had a lot of fun. A lot of hard-fought races, especially with Kanaan and all these guys up here actually. We fought to the end.
Certainly I'm excited about this year. Can't tell you how proud I am to be part of the Chevrolet team this year. We want to bring them back to IndyCar with a lot of wins this year, too.
KEVIN LEE: A new number. Not the familiar No. 6 with you. What's behind this.
RYAN BRISCOE: I hope it doesn't confuse Bob too much. No. 2, we'll make it work. I don't know where the 6 is going.
KEVIN LEE: I believe Roger's son has that now.
RYAN BRISCOE: I might miss the No. 6, but we'll make better fortune.
KEVIN LEE: What is the game plan for Team Penske as you work out the kinks that come with the new engine?
RYAN BRISCOE: Testing is going well. We plan to win every race.
KEVIN LEE: That's a good plan. I like it. Good luck to you.
RYAN BRISCOE: Thank you.
KEVIN LEE: Thank you, gentlemen.
SCOTT HOKE: Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome to the stage Dario Franchitti, Chip Ganassi, and the No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi racing team.
VINCE WELCH: Chip, step up here with me. You did it again.
CHIP GANASSI: I'll tell you, I thought we were out of it a few times there. Old Will, he gave us a good run. He and Penske kept us honest all year. In the end it worked out.
VINCE WELCH: What does it mean to you, and I know you have a long history in this sport as a driver and owner, what does it mean that your team is the gold standard for IndyCar racing?
CHIP GANASSI: You know, Vince, the team may be the gold standard, but if it is, it's only for one reason. It's because of these guys up on the stage and many more people back at the shop that put it all together. I'm lucky. I've always said, I have the greatest guys in the business that I get to work with. That's what does it really.
VINCE WELCH: You've won four in a row, four championships in a row, for the second time in your ownership career. What does it mean to you to win those championships? When that championship celebration takes place, what does it mean to you to know that you are the man that sits atop the best team in IndyCar?
CHIP GANASSI: It just means to me that I get to work with a bunch of great guys. That's what it's all about, it's about the team. It's not about me, it's about the team.
VINCE WELCH: Winning number five in a row?
CHIP GANASSI: We're going to try. That's what we're here to do. We're going to race hard in 2012, I can tell you. I hope everybody else does. I know they're going to, too. I know our competitors aren't sitting idly by all winter. They want to knock us off. Let's all race hard and may the best team win.
VINCE WELCH: Target on the cars and on your backs as well.
CHIP GANASSI: Target once again, yes.
KEVIN LEE: We have some more hardware for Dario. To present the Bosch Platinum Award is Wolfgang Hustedt. He's the Bosch Motorsports manager.
We have one more, Starke Taylor from IZOD. That one goes to Chip.
Dario, you in essence have won four in a row, officially three in a row, which puts you in pretty lofty company. I think Ted Horn won three in a row and Sebastien Bourdais won four in a row in Champ Car. The basic lame question is, Can you win another one?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I hope so. I'm very lucky that I have these guys to go into battle with this year again. Some of the guys aren't actually here tonight. But every single person on the Target team contributes to anything we do. I know I couldn't do it without them, so I'm very lucky.
But it will be tough. You've seen the competition. It's not going to get any easier. It's pretty exciting with the new cars. We're back with Honda again. That's going to be fun going out and trying to beat the Lotus and Chevy guys.
KEVIN LEE: Over the years you say you want to be in the seat of the car a little bit more.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: It was a tough winter. We had some tough times over the winter as IndyCar as a whole, but also as a team. Getting in the car, doing what we do, going to Indianapolis and driving the new car for the first time, it was an eye-opener, I could tell you. It wasn't the best. We've done a lot of work since then and the car has come along.
KEVIN LEE: What they've done in simulations, they're pretty confident on the ovals now.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: They seem to be. I think we're going to have to go on the track and back that up. But already it's quite a bit quicker on the road courses, like Sebring. We're looking forward to Barber this weekend and then Sebring again. It's a busy time now, but exciting. I'm looking forward to working with this Target team again and see if we can get the job done.
KEVIN LEE: 2007, coming into that season, you came close to winning a championship, lost one on a tiebreaker. You win, you go away for a little while. Did you feel at that time you had done everything you can in IndyCar, and then what brought you back and how much greater is your passion now?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: I had come pretty close before, I tied in points with the Target team. In '07 I was happy working with Andretti Green, won the 500 and the first championship. I thought, Okay, I'm going to try something else. When I was away, I realized what I was missing. That coincided with the series unification. I remember thinking in my bus in NASCAR, Good timing. Then I made the fateful decision to go to Detroit. I saw guys through turn one in Detroit. I went over to Mike Hull, I said, I'd really like to come and do this again. You could see Mike's face change. Turned out that Dan had left that team that morning. So it all worked out. Strange how things work. But it's been a great time so far and looking forward to some more.
KEVIN LEE: We talked about how deep this field is. A lot of us feel this is as deep of an IndyCar field as we've seen in 15 or 20 years. You may not want to talk about yourself in this way, but what does that say about winning three straight championships and four out of five in this era of IndyCar racing?
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Not to keep beating the drum, but it's a team effort. I'm lucky enough to get to drive the car. But I'm sitting here looking at some of these jokers, and it is a tough championship. I raced against Jimmy Vasser in row two, Gil de Ferran, Zanardi, Montoya, all these guys, and a lot of the guys we're racing against today stack up well against those guys. The teams are even closer in competition.
Doesn't make the job easy, but it's fun. I think that's why the fans are enjoying IndyCar racing again.
KEVIN LEE: On behalf of all the fans, thank you to you and all the other drivers for entertaining us. We all believe IndyCar is on a tremendous upswing and only better things are to come.
DARIO FRANCHITTI: Want to say hi to the IndyCar fan club and we'll see you at the first race.
KEVIN LEE: Dario Franchitti, the four-time championship.
SCOTT HOKE: Please welcome the IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard with a few closing words for us this evening.
RANDY BERNARD: We just honored our 2011 champions and introduced our new partners, our phenomenal drivers, and the key components in what we believe will make the 2012 season of the IZOD IndyCar Series the very best yet.
This year promises to showcase fierce competition on the track, maybe the most balanced ever. We at IndyCar believe the series is headed towards a strong passion that will provide excellent entertainment and value for everyone involved.
I'd like to take a moment to address the many critics our series has faced. I read and hear the same things that all of you do, that IndyCar is headed for doomsday, the series will be out of business in two years is what I heard two years ago. I counter that belief with the fact that the IZOD IndyCar Series just had one of its best financial years in its history that. Could not have happened without our tremendous sponsors and partners. On behalf of everyone in the series, we'd like to thank you for your outstanding commitment to the IZOD IndyCar Series.
We heard before particularly during the month of May that the Hulman-George family selling Indianapolis Motor Speedway and IndyCar. I can promise you that one of the very first things that Mrs. George ever told me was her unwavering commitment of her and her family to the Speedway and the series. We heard some sniggering when the iconic advisory committee introduced the new car and said we would never attract a new engine manufacturer. Wrong again.
We're very proud to say that we have Honda, Chevy and Lotus with us tonight. Thank you very much for your support.
We faced doubt over the size of our field and speculation we'd be lucky to have 18 cars on the grid this season because of the introduction of the new Dallara DW12 and the economy. Wrong again. We are very excited to have a minimum of 26 cars compete in the IZOD IndyCar Series compete in 2012.
IndyCar is proud of the fact that we're up 28% in 2011 on our viewership, a year many wrongfully predicted that we would be boring because of an eight-year-old car. They forgot we have great drivers and great story lines with them.
There's been constant speculation about my future with IndyCar. Many wrongfully predicted I'd be gone within a year, or I was just using this as a launching pad. I'm here to say once and for all, I will be with IndyCar as long as the Hulman-George family and the board wants me. I plan on keeping the promise I made to the Hulman-George family and the board when they gave me this tremendous opportunity two years ago.
No one could deny or claim we haven't made mistakes along the way. We have. But our only goal every single day with IndyCar is to better it and make it stronger. We have fantastic drivers, we have outstanding teams, and partners willing to invest millions into the series in an effort to help this series thrive and ensure IndyCar will be here for another century.
It's time for everyone to put its faith back in IndyCar. I know when you tune into ABC and NBC Sports Network, you'll see what an incredible product we have. I'm confident that the strong staff at IndyCar, along with the drivers, the teams, the sponsors, the promoters and all the fans can bring IndyCar to a new height. So let's sit back, buckle up and hold on tight because 2012 promises to be one helluva ride. Thank you very much for attending tonight.
SCOTT HOKE: Race fans, we thank you so much for attending the 2012 state of IndyCar. We'll see you March 25th at St. Petersburg.
Source: FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports