An interview with Joie Chitwood, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president and chief operating officer, about the 2006 United States Grand Prix. IMS officials announced Sept. 21 that the 2006 USGP will take place Sunday, July 2 on the 2.605-mile road...
An interview with Joie Chitwood, Indianapolis Motor Speedway president and chief operating officer, about the 2006 United States Grand Prix. IMS officials announced Sept. 21 that the 2006 USGP will take place Sunday, July 2 on the 2.605-mile road circuit at IMS.
Q: The date is announced for 2006. What is the future of the event past that?
Joie Chitwood: Right now, the focus is on presenting the best event possible in 2006 for the fans of Formula One racing. They deserve it. There will be time in the future to address the future of Formula One racing at Indianapolis, but now is not the time.
Q: How long does the current contract last between IMS and Formula One?
Joie Chitwood: The current agreement expires after the 2006 USGP.
Q: Have negotiations started for a contract renewal? If so, how long of a deal?
Joie Chitwood: We're here today to talk about the 2006 USGP. We have had preliminary discussions about the future with Formula One, and we hope to address that in the future.
Q: Has Formula One made any accommodations to IMS for the 2006 USGP?
Joie Chitwood: As I said, our contract runs through the 2006 USGP, and we are moving forward on that basis. We do not discuss detail of our agreements with sanctioning bodies.
Q: What are your attendance expectations for 2006?
Joie Chitwood: The response from fans wanting the event to continue has been strong. Their message has been, "If there is going to be a USGP, it needs to be at Indianapolis." So, we are expecting a successful 2006 USGP.
Q: How does IMS intend to promote the 2006 event after the events surrounding the 2005 race?
Joie Chitwood: Shortly after the 2005 race was underway, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway staff begun focusing its efforts on making sure the fans were being considered in the aftermath of that race. Hopefully, the fans have noticed our efforts. By all indications they have. Regarding the promotion of the 2006 race, IMS has always been creative in its marketing of the event. Our Pit Walkabout is now being modeled by other F1 tracks. We will continue raising the awareness of the sport in the U.S. media. Our ticket prices remain the cheapest on the entire F1 calendar, so we do many things right. It is a challenge, though. We need the cooperation of the entire Formula One community. Drivers need to do more. A top Formula One driver has had an open invitation to be on "The Late Show with David Letterman" show for the past three years. That driver will not do the interview. The parameters in which we must work regarding the U.S. media are also a challenge. So, we will do the best we can working within the constraints placed on us by the FIA and FOM. Also, with the cooperation of Michelin, account holders who renew their 2005 ticket order will receive two free tickets to next year's race. Michelin is funding 20,000 free tickets.
Q: How important is it to IMS to have American Scott Speed in the new Red Bull Junior team, putting an American on the F1 grid for the first time since 1993 at a time that it appears IMS needs an American to draw fans back to the USGP?
Joie Chitwood: Having Scott Speed or any American in the USGP field would help raise the interest level of the event. Having an American in the series consistently is more important for the long run. We hope Scott is just the beginning of that much-needed trend.
Q: July 4th weekend traditionally is big for family travel, family cookouts at the lake, etc. Why is this a better date for IMS than the late June date?
Joie Chitwood: July 4th is also a traditional big racing weekend. The IRL IndyCar Series has had a very successful event at Kansas Speedway the past several years, and the Daytona race is also a big, traditional event. So, the USGP fits nicely into the Fourth of July weekend. On a side note, the July 2 date allows the IMS staff a few more weeks to transition from the Indianapolis 500 to the United States Grand Prix.
Q: There are rumors of a motorcycle road race at some point at IMS. Is it being lined up as a potential replacement for the USGP F1 race, as a one-off event or as a fourth annual event on the schedule?
Joie Chitwood: No, any effort being put into bringing a motorcycle event to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is not being done with intentions of replacing Formula One.
Q: Did IMS have any rival bidders for the 2006 USGP? Were there any other suitors swirling around, looking for a chance to swoop in if Indy either showed limited interest in continuing or dropping the race altogether?
Joie Chitwood: As I said, we have a contract for the 2006 USGP. Anything else is speculation.
Q: Was there ever a point where the Speedway wasn't going to bring back the race? If so, what was the turning point?
Joie Chitwood: There was no turning point. First, we focused our energy on bringing some resolution to the 2005 race for the fans. The next step was looking at 2006, and here we are today.
USGP tickets: Ticket information for the 2006 United States Grand Prix on July 2 is available online at www.indianapolismotorspeedway.com, or by calling the IMS ticket office at (317) 492-6700 or (800) 822-INDY outside the Indianapolis area. Parking and camping information also can be obtained through the ticket office.