2009 schedule announcement press conference, part 1

An interview with Terry Angstadt, Brian Barnhart, Kevin Savoree, Jim Michaelian and Curtis Gray Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript July 30, 2008 MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing ...

An interview with Terry Angstadt, Brian Barnhart, Kevin Savoree, Jim Michaelian and Curtis Gray
Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript
July 30, 2008

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League telephone conference. We're pleased to have several guests with us today to discuss the 2009 IndyCar Series schedule.

Joining us is Terry Angstadt, president of the commercial division of the Indy Racing League, Brian Barnhart, president of competition and operations for the Indy Racing League, Curtis Gray, president of Homestead Miami Speedway, Jim Michaelian, president of Grand Prix of Long Beach and Kevin Savoree, co-owner of Andretti Green Promotions, which promotes the street races in St. Petersburg and Toronto.

Terry, let's start with you. There are a lot of exciting things to talk about regarding the 2009 schedule. Take us through some of the highlights and the reasoning behind some of the changes that we see.

TERRY ANGSTADT: Well, I think just in terms of kind of the total footprint of the schedule, we're very pleased that we did extend the schedule a bit. We felt like we actually came off of the sports landscape a little too quickly last year.

And we like an early to mid-October. And that's not to say that we want to compete with a lot of the popular fall sports at the same time. We think that that will just be a good move for our business. We liked the opportunity to incorporate some great historic Champ Car venues into our schedule.

We did some of that this year. We took another step further for next year. And we think that that's an important part of our evolution as well. And we think in total number, being 18 right now is good. It's good for our business. It's good for our team's business.

And we think we really hit some important key venues and really with an overall goal of serving our fan base best. So as kind of an overview, we don't think it's the perfect schedule but we think it's great progress towards a much-improved schedule.

MODERATOR: Brian, the schedule continues to be quite diverse. Can you elaborate a little bit on how the diversity of the schedule and extending the schedule by a month will affect the on-track competition?

BRIAN BARNHART: I think that's one of the greatest attributes of the IndyCar Series schedule right now is the diversity of the events that we have. When you look at it, it's the only series in the world that runs the versatility of events that we do.

And you can run permanent road courses to temporary street circuits to short ovals to super speedways, from high bank tracks to flat tracks. We're the only series in the world that does that.

And it creates tremendous challenges for the teams and, of course, tremendous challenges for the drivers. The drivers really relish those challenges. And to be able to excel on that variety of tracks builds the truest form of a champion, I think, in all of motor sports. And there is no overall champion or representative of that versatility than the champion of the IndyCar Series.

So the drivers love it. The teams love it. The fact that we've extended the season by about a month will certainly improve the quality of life for everyone. We faced tremendous challenge this year with the stretch we just concluded with Edmonton of six weeks in a row. That's been eliminated.

We do a stretch of four with a break and then we'll do two stretches of three races in a row, a considerable improvement. It's better for not only the people but the ability to go through the equipment. They're sophisticated, highly technological machines that need some serious maintenance on them. And that's an improvement both from a team and from a quality of life standpoint that I think will improve it for everyone.

MODERATOR: Thank you. Kevin, let's look at you next. You've got the season opener. St. Petersburg has been a first-class event since it debuted a few years ago. Talk about the opportunity there in St. Pete to start the season and also, if you would, tell us about Toronto and what IndyCar Series fans can expect in the series' first visit there.

KEVIN SAVOREE: Thanks, Tim. And obviously I just want to thank Terry and Brian for all the hard work that they've put into this schedule. It's really well thought out, and it's got a lot of balance. As a competitor, we're really looking forward to the 2009 season.

As for St. Petersburg, Andretti Green could just not be more proud to basically be leading off the season next year. It starts with Mayor Rick Baker and the city council and the fans of St. Pete; they've been so supportive of the event and I think we're going to put on a great show down there. We have in the past.

And we're really looking forward to it. And I think this past year the mayor, when we all got together and met with the other stakeholders, with Honda, with the IndyCar Series, I think everyone really felt the enthusiasm that St. Petersburg was showing for IndyCar racing and for our event. And I think maybe in a big way Terry and Brian rewarded St. Pete and Mayor Baker for that enthusiasm. And the job's up to us now. I mean, we've got to do a great job next year, and we're looking forward to it. And I know Tim Ramsberger who heads up the race there for Andretti Green is looking forward to the challenge as well. And I think, again, we'll put on a good show and the fans will look forward to it.

As for Toronto, we're actually up here for a couple of days. Obviously a lot of planning going into that event. It's a huge market. So much history here. I mean, we walked in, we moved offices just kind of around the corner from where GPAT was, and I walk in and I see this huge picture of Bobby Rahal, and he was the inaugural winner. And there's so much history. Just so much history and so many great champions. And I think in a way that really feeds on the heritage of open wheel racing and IndyCar racing.

So I know the Indy Toronto event is going to be very, very special. The fans here in Canada and especially here in Toronto, they love their open wheel racing, and there's so many great stars that are going to be coming here next year in July. It's the traditional date. So I think the fans are really going to warm up to that.

We've had such a corporate reception. Everyone we visited, they've just been so excited to know that we're going to be back. And obviously I think the more heavy lifting that this event has from corporate sponsors, it's really going to bring it back to the stature that it had several years ago. And we're looking forward to doing that.

It really started the end of February with the due diligence we did in acquiring the assets of GPAT and conversations with Brian and (Tony) George about Toronto. And obviously the reception we had here in Toronto with the province, with the city officials, with tourism, with the officials at Exhibition Place, it's such an attitude of can-do. And I think come next July people will really, really see that, and again we're looking forward to it.

MODERATOR: Sounds great. Jim, Long Beach obviously is another place where it just has a long history of successful street races. This past April being no exception to that. You've been able to keep your traditional date for 2009 as well. So talk a little bit about how things are already gearing up for next April.

JIM MICHAELIAN: First of all, let me say how excited we are to welcome the IndyCar event here in Long Beach. It will be our 35th anniversary, and we're delighted to be able to showcase the IndyCar Series teams and stars here on that particular date.

It is important for us to have some continuity. We have a great deal of equity in that date, and I'm thankful that Terry and Brian and Tony (George) and everybody could work together in terms of assuring us the opportunity to continue to provide our entertainment to our fans here in that third week in April.

For some of the teams and drivers that will return, like Helio Castroneves and for others, it's an opportunity to see some of the stars who have developed over the years and will have a chance now to compete at Long Beach.

We're very excited about it. I think as most of you know we've signed a long-term agreement with the City of Long Beach to run the event through 2015 with a five-year option. And with our long-term relationship with Toyota and with a number of other sponsors, this gives us a great opportunity to showcase the IndyCar Series in the Southern California market. And our conversations with Terry really centered on the idea of really introducing the concept of open wheel racing as personified by the IndyCar Series in this market. And we're going to take some extraordinary steps this year to help profile what the series has to offer in advance of the event.

So we're very excited about being a part of this group. Just as a side note - It's sort of unique for us to be sitting here in, what, late July, talking about the confirmation of a schedule for the series for 2009, which is a refreshing change. So we're looking forward to being able to complement what Terry and Brian have done.

We are actually going on sale for our renewals this coming Monday (Aug. 4). So the timing is perfect with regard to the release of the dates. And then we'll go on sale to the general public the first week in October. So we're ramped up and ready to go and looking forward to having a great event here next April.

MODERATOR: Sounds great. Thanks, Jim. Curtis, 2009 schedule looks very good for you. Homestead-Miami Speedway - you already host a championship weekend in November. And now you get to crown another championship race in October. Talk about that if you would.

CURTIS GRAY: Obviously we're extremely excited both at Homestead-Miami Speedway and International Speedway Corporation. But all of South Florida, it's a natural fit for us to host the national championship of the IndyCar Series, especially here in South Florida, which is known for hosting championship events. There's been more Super Bowls here than any city in the country, as well as hosting World Series and the Stanley Cup and Orange Bowl and other championships, and NASCAR's three championships here at the Speedway.

So we have a lot of experience both at the Speedway and in the marketplace hosting championships. So it's really a great fit for us. We're extremely excited about it. The track itself lends itself very well to open wheel IndyCar racing with variable banking.

There have been extremely close finishes here. So we're hoping for a finish kind of like the championship last year, and especially with the unification and all the new drivers, by the time they get here in October next year we hope it's very competitive. We look forward to a lot of sponsors getting on board. I know with the IRL and building the prestige of the championship is very exciting to us. Again, with our experience of hosting championships here we feel we'll do a great job.

I think it will have a different feel to it than hosting the NASCAR championships, and I say that because of the drivers who live here.

We have 10 or 12 IndyCar Series drivers who live here in South Florida, and having them help us promote the championship and the event is going to be very exciting for us.

So I can't tell you what a neat feel this has for us. And I look forward to working with the IRL in building the championship here in South Florida.

Q: Hi. This is for Terry and Brian. There was a statement issued earlier today by Jerry Gappens that had some pretty harsh comments to it basically calling the exclusion in New Hampshire and Las Vegas a slap in the face to Bruton Smith. What is your reaction to that and what are the reasons why neither of those tracks were able to get on the schedule?

TERRY ANGSTADT: I guess I stopped worrying about what other people say that you can't control. I think it was very unfortunate that he characterized it that way, because in fact I had a very cordial conversation with Bruton Smith two days ago, and I don't think he felt that way. But we continue to have an interest in that market. We've said that. We hope we can keep an open dialogue there.

At the same time, we respect if we don't fit their business plans. This is a business. They are a big and successful company. And we hope we can work together in the future. And in fact in both venues. But we'll see how that goes. But I was somewhat surprised at the tone as well.

Q: Is it possible it had something to do with the date that New Hampshire could do or did it have to do with the sanctioning fee?

TERRY ANGSTADT: No, no, we did not even -- the fees were not a part of it. It was all about making a date work.

Q: And also is there a concern that Eddie Gossage has been a challenging guy to deal with from time to time at the Texas event, that there could be a carry-over to that event in the future, which is one of the most successful races on your schedule?

TERRY ANGSTADT: I think Eddie is a fantastic promoter and we enjoy working with him.

Q: Are you running for Congress?

TERRY ANGSTADT: Not at all.

Q: Terry or Brian, talking about another press release that came out of an SMI track, Gossage said that the big stumbling block for Vegas was having the race on the road course instead of the big oval. Having a race on an outside road course with no permanent infrastructure for fans, is that the only way that you would want to come back to the Speedway here in Vegas?

TERRY ANGSTADT: We felt at this stage of our development the concept was we could really right-size the venue according to the crowd we thought we could attract, which we thought was a very pragmatic approach to developing that. And as we said, we completely respect that they chose not to do that. So no hard feelings whatsoever.

And we said that putting 30, 40, 50,000 people in a big beautiful oval like they own didn't make sense for either one of us, our opinion, so that's really what it came down to.

Continued in part 2

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Helio Castroneves , Bobby Rahal , Jim Michaelian , Brian Barnhart
Teams HART