Indy Racing League Media Conference
Topics: Indy Racing League
September 10, 2010
THE MODERATOR: Welcome to the IZOD IndyCar series teleconference, in which we have announced the 2011 series schedule. That event took place today at the Milwaukee Mile, and the Mile played an important role in the 2011 schedule. We'll get to that in just a bit.
Our guest today is IZOD IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard, and Randy will talk about the schedule.
Before I ask a question of Randy, I want to give a few bullet points about the schedule. There are 17 events. There are nine road and street events, eight ovals. The schedule remains the most diverse and challenging schedule in all of motorsports. The season opener is March 27 on the streets of St. Petersburg, and the Brazil race moves to May 1, that's the street course down there in Sao Paulo. It is the lead-in race to the 100th anniversary of the Indianapolis 500, which is May 29 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
And then we have an exciting dual race set up at Texas Motor Speedway on June 11. That's one of two night races. The other night race is June 25 at Iowa Speedway on the oval there. That event moves to a night race. And sandwiched between those two events is the return of the Milwaukee Mile on Sunday June 19. We are very happy to return to Milwaukee. It's an historical venue of great importance to the IndyCar Series, and all of open-wheel racing.
Another new event is August 14 at New Hampshire, Indy-style racing returns to New Hampshire after a hiatus. Very pleased to go back up into New England to the great race fans up there.
And we also have a new event September 4 on the streets of Baltimore, an exciting city course that takes us past the world-renowned Inner Harbor and that will be a loot of fun.
Kentucky shifts to October 2, and the season finale which will be announced in the coming weeks, will be on an oval.
Randy, thank you for ginning us today. Appreciate it.
RANDY BERNARD: Thanks for having me.
THE MODERATOR: What were the goals of the 2011 schedule while you were building it with various series partners, and how does this schedule meet those objectives?
RANDY BERNARD: I think the first thing we need to do is we wanted to make sure we defined IndyCar first. And I think that we need to make sure that when we define IndyCar, it's truly what we are, and that is the most versatile, fastest race car and race car drivers in the world; and just separates us from F1 and separates us from NASCAR, and it's truly what IndyCar is.
And in doing that, we need to make sure that we keep the versatility from the different types of tracks that we race, and that includes having Super Speedways with short ovals as well as road courses and street courses. And I think that when we set the 2011 schedule up this year, the one thing we wanted to make sure that we were doing is making sure that there was versatility through and through that series.
Q. Mr. Kelly, it's a pleasure to hear your voice again. Randy, there's been a lot of talk that the finale could be in Las Vegas and curious if you could update us on the status of that, and if you have a deadline for securing financial backing for a possible Vegas event.
RANDY BERNARD: Well, Jeff, you and I go way back and you know how much I love Vegas, and I think Vegas is one of the greatest cities in the world. I don't think there's a better city in the world to culminate your championships than in Vegas.
I think that knowing me, you know that that has to be one of my goals. I have tremendous relationships there with the LVTVA, as well as with the tremendous amount of hotels and casinos. So right now we are doing our due diligence and hoping that we can come to an agreement here very shortly on that event.
But we also have -- Fontana is very interested if we cannot get that done. So that's one of the key reasons we have not made the decision at this point yet, but I'm optimistic that we'll see some type of decision made within the next two weeks.
Q. Normally a series like this would have some adjustments to the schedule, but you walked into a situation with really a major overall. Do you feel like this is kind of a relief, given all that you've had to go through? Was it a pretty daunting challenge? Maybe not as big as the CART challenge, but a pretty good size?
RANDY BERNARD: I think the relief will come next year if we sell out and have big-time attendance at these races. I think the work just begins. Now that we have announced the schedule, we have to make sure that we follow through and work on marketing strategies that allow us to have great crowds, and I think that's one of our biggest concerns; our objective is that we need to really work on, and that is making sure that we grow in our sport.
Q. Can you give me a sense for how many of these -- I don't ask for specifics maybe, but for how many of these events you had to be a promoter or take a more active role in?
RANDY BERNARD: I have actually -- of the 16 that we have announced, we will not be -- we will be helping with Milwaukee the most, I would say.
We have a hundred percent confidence in all of Bruton Smith's tracks. I think Bruton has told us time and time again that he really, really likes open-wheel racing and IndyCar, and he wants to see it grow.
So I think that those are the type of partners that we want to make sure that we are working with, because they are not only saying it; they are doing it.
Q. One thing strikes me about the schedule is that there's pretty good pacing and separation between events on the schedule; can you speak to that as well as specifically to the extra week between Toronto and Edmonton to recover from the carnage that quite often happens at that Toronto race and to get across the country.
RANDY BERNARD: I have to give 100% of that credit to Sarah Davis, who has helped orchestrate the schedule, and I think that she has done a really good job of working with these promoters and making sure that there is time in between some of these events.
And the other one -- the big one was between the Indianapolis 500 and Texas. Same thing; we felt that after the Indianapolis 500, the team owners needed a little bit more time probably to work on their cars and get their teams together.
So that was the reason we took that week off there, as well.
Q. And can you speak to the Toronto/Edmonton?
RANDY BERNARD: I tell you, they are two great events on the schedule, my first time, both of them this year. And in Toronto, a huge city and the city shuts down for IndyCar up there. It was absolutely fantastic to see the crowd and how much they enjoyed it. Then we went to Edmonton and they had perfect weather and they had a great race.
But I really enjoyed both Canadian events.
Q. Can you talk to the spacing between those two races? It was back-to-back consecutive weekends last year.
RANDY BERNARD: It just worked out that way. I think it's because the promoters wanted it that way and Sarah, and I think it makes great sense. It allows them to promote the winner out of Toronto for Edmonton, for sure.
Q. It looks like there's a pretty specific break between you guys and ISC, the four tracks you are dropping are ISC. I'm wondering if that's because you couldn't cut a deal with them or because SMI made you an offer you couldn't refuse. And also wondering if Homestead was more of a victim that it's an ISC track or that you don't want to come any more?
RANDY BERNARD: No, no, I don't want to get shot when I go down there, that's for sure. But I think that we never want to close doors with any of our promoters, especially ISC.
ISC has promoted almost 70 races; 66 races in their history with us, and I think that's very important to know. But I also think it's very important that we have to make sure that we are trying to move IndyCar to the next level, the IZOD IndyCar Series, and our -- one of our goals has to be, for next year, is let's get 24 different promoters interested in the series, and let's make sure we pick the top 17, 18, 19 events. And I think that's very important for us to do.
So Bruton didn't underestimate -- if you don't do ISC. He has never mentioned ISC to me. So I mean, unfortunately ISC was a victim this year of -- the scheduling was a major issue; sanction agreement and fees were another, and I think third would be marketing. Those would be the key factors most likely as to why we are not going back to any of those four tracks.
Q. Would you like to come back to Homestead at some point if you had the opportunity?
RANDY BERNARD: Yeah, I think Homestead -- you never rule out any track. I think we want to play -- we want to race at tracks where we can have significant amount of press in the market, as well as great crowds.
And if there was a way that we could see it, planning to take it to that level, definitely we would return to Homestead.
Q. You mentioned three items about the break in ISC, Daytona Beach is the home of the ISC and looking as that aspect of the scheduling; you mentioned about marketing and not competing against NASCAR. What were some of the other items?
RANDY BERNARD: The scheduling, sanctioning fees and agreements, and marketing were the primary factors.
John Saunders and I had a great conversation in Chicago. I have spoken with Lesa several times, and we are not burning bridges. We want to keep a great relationship there, but we also -- we believe that we have a great set of promoters and a great set of tracks on our 2011 series.
Q. Back to the Homestead issue. How much did the attendance play a factor? They were not exactly running in front huge crowds there. Was that a factor, as well?
RANDY BERNARD: A significant factor. I think that that's one of the primary factors we have to look at in going somewhere is the attendance, and if you can't deliver attendance, I'm not sure why any series would want to continue to go back.
You know, I think Homestead, I've never been there, so this will be my first time, but I've had a lot of people tell me it's a great race.
Again, we don't want to close doors. If we can figure out a way to make and put that back on the series, I would not want to say it would be a final event if we could work out a deal with Vegas, but I think that it definitely is going on our series again.
Q. Getting off on a different tack, welcome to the United States. You arrived back yesterday, didn't you?
RANDY BERNARD: Yes, ma'am, I sure did.
Q. Could you talk at all about your travels, or is that something you can't discuss at this time?
RANDY BERNARD: I can discuss some of it, and I think the part that can't is that my primary objective in going to Europe was meeting with auto manufacturers, press and F1 teams and just letting them know the direction of IndyCar and that we are alive and well and have great momentum. I think we accomplished that.
Also, we want to make sure that we tried to invite as many manufacturers to participate for either engines or aero kits as possible for 2012 in the new car.
So it was a whirlwind of a tour, and I think it will be very rewarding for us.
Q. Then you feel that it was well received?
RANDY BERNARD: Yes, ma'am, I feel it was very well received. Some of our meetings that were supposed to be two hours ended up over five hours. I think we had a great response, and everybody was very welcoming to us, and very genuine in their interest in IndyCar. I think it speaks big volumes for the series and our momentum I think.
Q. I wanted your thoughts on the New Hampshire event next August. The last time the IndyCars were in New England's it didn't get a very good crowd at all, and even with the NASCAR stop in New Hampshire, auto racing is down the food chain as far as New England sports are concerned. How important is it in having SMI and marketing muscle behind them to solidify open-wheel racing in New England's? This may be a better question for the track, but do you plan on bringing in the modified racing there? Your general thoughts right now.
RANDY BERNARD: First, I think Jerry Gappens is very interested in bringing modifieds, and I think there's some technical questions that have to be asked regarding tires, to make sure they are most comparable on the same track. I know that Richmond several years back, we had a problem with modifieds. They just wanted to make sure, if that's possible, which I'm sure it is, just get together.
And then second, on your question in regards to marketing, first I think Bruton Smith and SMI are absolutely fantastic marketers. They understand IndyCar. And I think that with the power and the momentum that Indy car and the IZOD IndyCar Series currently have, I think that will play a positive.
And I think the third point on that would be our sponsorship participation and activation. We have signed 14 new sponsors in the past 12 months, and then we have this year, first-year having IZOD as our title, I think the amount of activation that they can work the market, especially IZOD wants to work Boston, I think that you'll see great crowds.
Q. You have mentioned the name of Bruton Smith a couple of times already and SMI, do you sense an improved level of comfort with dealing with that group, and do you think that they can take the sport in a different direction, a better direction than ISC could have?
RANDY BERNARD: I don't want to play an SMI-better-than-ISC game, because I think, again, I'm trying to keep both doors open, because I think it's very important. But I will say I feel very comfortable with SMI. I think that Bruton and I talked extensively, and Bruton has great ideas, and he wants to see IndyCar grow.
I think, you know, when you're dealing with the top and you know that the top all the way down to all of the track presidents are fully working towards building IndyCar, that's very important to us as a series.
Q. Great to see Milwaukee back on the schedule. How long has this been in the works?
RANDY BERNARD: Well, I tell you, when I first came on March 1, probably by March 15, if I had not heard from, I don't know how many fans said that was some of the best racing and how it was such an important legacy and tradition of the sport and what a crying shame that it wasn't on there, that's when it really began.
We flew up here and met a couple of months back and started trying to figure out a way to do it. And when came up there, it created interest some several different promoters, and so we started negotiating with two separate promoters, and both of them are outstanding type of promoters you want to deal with. And when we finally chose the direction we wanted to go, it just made all the sense in the world. We are very optimistic about Milwaukee. We think it's going to be a great event.
THE MODERATOR: Randy, thank you very much are to joining us today. We appreciate you taking time out of your busy schedule, you are quite the globe trotter these days and we appreciate your time.
RANDY BERNARD: Thank you.
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