Angstadt, Barnhart teleconference 2008-06-25, part 1

An interview with Terry Angstadt and Brian Barnhart Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have several guests joining us today. Starting the call...

An interview with Terry Angstadt and Brian Barnhart
Indy Racing League Teleconference Transcript

MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. We have several guests joining us today.

Starting the call with us is IndyCar Series driver John Andretti and Richmond International Raceway President Doug Fritz. And in a few minutes we'll be joined by Indy Racing League presidents Terry Angstadt and Brian Barnhart.

MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, we're joined now by Terry Angstadt, the president of the commercial division of the Indy Racing League and also Brian Barnhart, the president of the competition and operations division.

Thanks for joining us. As you folks know, Terry and Brian, yesterday, hosted an automotive manufacturer's roundtable at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Brian, can you give us an overview of yesterday's roundtable?

BRIAN BARNHART: Yeah, it was actually a really good day and probably exceeded our expectations from what we thought we might get into. The process began a little over a year ago in thinking about how to approach our future specifications. And yesterday's meeting was kind of the first of its kind in a very unique presentation format. We were very happy to begin with the quantity and quality of the people that attended the meeting.

We were very well represented with 14 or 15 engine manufacturers and race shop engine builders in the room. And it was a very positive meeting from all aspects of it. And as I said earlier, probably exceeded our expectations.

MODERATOR: Terry, from your perspective, what did you take out of yesterday's round table from the business and commercial side?

TERRY ANGSTADT: Well, certainly to echo Brian's positive feelings about the meeting overall, it was just outstanding. And I think what was encouraging, really kind of two parts to my answer. One is from a commercial benefit standpoint, if we are able to attract additional engine participation in our series, that brings with it plenty of marketing dollars.

So that's kind of first and foremost. And the people attending the meeting also echoed very much of an interest in the benefits of connecting their technical and actual engine participation to the marketing benefits.

It raises the challenge to us to make sure we raise the value of the series, deliver that marketing value to each company considering participation. So, again, everyone understands what large companies can bring to a business like ours. And to me that was really reinforced at the meeting.

Q: Terry and Brian, I understand that the reaction of returning for a future meeting was pretty much unanimous on that. What is the next steps in the process with this and when does it come down to maybe some actual negotiations to have some of these join on board as an engine supplier?

BRIAN BARNHART: The reaction was very positive. As I said earlier, everybody was enthusiastic about the discussions that took place, and the next steps are to digest the information that we received yesterday. Yesterday was a great opportunity for us to listen to what the manufacturers had to say about the future direction of automobiles that they manufacture and what their thought processes were on what the specifications should be for race engines as well and talk about technology transfer from racing into passenger cars.

It was a positive meeting. The next step is, with us racing each of next five weeks, is to continue to digest the information we received yesterday. We'll respond and react by contacting each of the manufacturers individually again and set up another roundtable discussion and get them back and follow up and try and get into more specifics than what we did yesterday.

Q: Was there any discussion of sticking with the normally aspirated engine or going back to turbo chargers? Was that part of the dialogue?

BRIAN BARNHART: Absolutely we talked about whether it should be turbo charged or normally aspirated. We talked about the number of cylinders and configuration. There was a lot of discussion. But, again, all of that was from them to us, as our guests at the roundtable, it was our role to sit and listen to the manufacturers and their opinions.

We didn't tell them a whole lot about what our positioning was with regards to specifications. Terry could probably address this. We spent more time telling them what our business plan is, making sure they were educated about what the IndyCar Series is, where we're going, where we're racing, what our market is, what our audience is, that kind of stuff.

But with regards to -- and we talked a lot about our schedule, the diversity of tracks that we run and versatility required by our equipment, the challenges faced by that. And then we listened to them talk about specifications, whether it's turbo charged or normally aspirated or V-6 or a V-8 or V-12 or whatever. We talked about alternative fuels and all that type of stuff.

Q: Terry can you address the next steps, just, basically, the time line, how the next steps, what you hope to accomplish in the next roundtable and when the roundtable actually goes into the negotiations of potential auto makers joining the IndyCar Series?

TERRY ANGSTADT: Yeah and that really is, certainly to at least to touch on negotiations, that's premature at this point. But one of the benefits of hiring RWB to help us through this process, which is what we did, is as Brian said we're a little busy for the next five weeks.

And they are charged with really kind of assembling the information, making some sense out of it and communicating back and scheduling those next kind of one-on-ones to really gauge the interest level. We'd be thrilled if we're able to take a couple more interested parties the distance.

So that's really going to be the next steps. And we know that we need to make a decision in the fall of this year to really execute with our stated goal of 2011. And that does not mean that that's an absolute requirement. That certainly is a stated goal and we would like to stick to that.

Q: Brian, I don't know if this question had been asked of you earlier at some earlier point a thousand times or something. If you're going to have to repeat yourself, I'm sorry. Having said that all that, I'm curious your take how the unification has melded here and what obviously to expect when coming to a small track as Richmond and how that, what that does for the sport and fan interest and the product, I suppose?

BRIAN BARNHART: I'll start with the product part of it. And it's going to really add and enhance to every venue we run. But especially a place like Richmond. I mean when you go to a three-quarter mile track, and we're going to put 26 cars out there, the key of the day will be traffic and the best car and driver handling through traffic. It will put a strategy on pit stops and fuel mileage, track position.

It's going to really enhance the entire experience for the fans and it's going to truly challenge the drivers to be in traffic. On 300 laps around a 15-second racetrack, they're going to have their hands full. They'll be worn out by the time they get out.

In terms of overall unification, we couldn't be more pleased with the progress of what it's done. The energy and momentum it's created for the sport, the stuff we've had happen off the racetrack, whether it's been 'Dancing With the Stars' with Helio (Castroneves) or Danica (Patrick) in the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, on the cover of Sports Illustrated the week before the 500.

We've had some great things off the racetrack happening as well as Danica winning a race. Graham Rahal winning a race. Marco and Graham on the front row at Milwaukee. We've just got great story lines. The energy and momentum has been very positive all year long.

Q: Also to follow that up, you sort of hit on this a little bit, from a very more nuance position, I suppose. You said the traffic, obviously, and little things like making sure that the pit times are quick. And you're getting all those little, the details, I suppose. Can you talk about how that increases and how -- what other nuances are sort of really going to be more important to just making sure you're out in front?

BRIAN BARNHART: I think I was listening a little bit before my segment started on the teleconference, and John Andretti was addressing the same way. As he talked about it, the overall depth of the field. When we've got 15 or 20 cars separated by two-tenths of a second, then your strategy becomes vitally important. And (Dan) Wheldon chose to stay out and not pit with 60 laps to go at the last race. It got him good track position. He was able to hold on and take the lead and the win.

Just as John Andretti said, you've got to have a perfect day. You can't make any mistakes whether it's on pit lane, on strategy, your setup, what you do in handling traffic. It really puts a premium on having a perfect day to be successful and win the race.

Q: Did you get the sense yesterday that there was a lot of guys just curious, and maybe by the end of the meeting they were maybe more interested? Did you get the sense, I know you probably won't tell us who was there but we heard maybe Audi, BMW, some old manufacturers were there as well as new ones and that maybe they're ready to try it again under the right circumstances. How do you gauge how the interest was when everybody left town?

BRIAN BARNHART: I honestly think the participation level was higher than anyone could have imagined or I would have anticipated. And I would say it was clearly higher than it would have been had it not been for unification. It was so clear that the unification and positive direction of open-wheel racing is what triggered the high level of interest of everybody that was in the room.

What was most encouraging is that through the discussions there was clearly more agreement than there was disagreement. And a lot of energy for follow-up and next meeting and a lot of common ground, like I say.

Q: As a follow-up, do you get the sense that when the IRL started there was individual engine manufacturers and then it became leased engines? Is it too early to think about where that might be in 2011? Could it be both?

BRIAN BARNHART: I think it could be both. And that was touched on a little bit in some of the participants that have been both ways in the past certainly seemed more open or at least willing to discuss the different philosophy that they had before. So I mean like I said it was just a very positive and open discussion that was frankly a little surprising is now granted we didn't get into a ton of details, and the devil will be in those details. But certainly from a first meeting and conversation standpoint, a little more commonality than there was disagreement.

Q: Brian, you touched on the commonality. You said you're not going to reveal to them which direction you're going. Sounds like they gave you a pretty good path of where they'd like to go. And by commonality, if I'm connecting the dots properly, they were pretty clear that on all of these subjects it was pretty unanimous or at least some common ground about where they'd like to go on these various topics you hit. So is it pretty safe to assume that you'd want to follow their recommendation?

BRIAN BARNHART: Well, I think it is. I think it's smart and a direction the IndyCar Series wants to go. I think we definitely want to align ourselves as closely as possible with their thinking and their direction and what their future is going to be with regards to technology. And the whole purpose of that discussion was to listen to their input with an open, fresh mind and collectively determine the direction and future for Indy car specifications and it was successful from that standpoint for sure.

Continued in part 2

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Series IndyCar
Drivers John Andretti , Graham Rahal , Brian Barnhart
Teams HART