Continued from part 1 Q: I take it, since this was predominantly an engine discussion, that you feel like one tire manufacturer and one chassis is probably the way to stick for the future? BRIAN BARNHART: Well, you're right on both counts.
Continued from part 1
Q: I take it, since this was predominantly an engine discussion, that you feel like one tire manufacturer and one chassis is probably the way to stick for the future?
BRIAN BARNHART: Well, you're right on both counts. It was an engine roundtable discussion. And with regards to chassis and tire, we've got two of the finest manufacturers in the world in Dallara and Firestone.
And I've told a lot of people that I think Firestone makes the best race tire in the world. It's the safest, most reliable, most consistent tire going. And I could never envision another brand being on an Indy car. And I think Dallara is recognized as one of the most respected chassis builder worldwide.
And when you stop and look at the versatility of our schedule and the diverseness from street to permanent roads, to short ovals, when you run three-quarters of a mile at Richmond and seven-eighths of a mile at Iowa, the flat track at Milwaukee, and high banks at Texas, and super speedway like Indianapolis as well at 225 miles an hour, it's the only car in the world capable of doing what our car does, and it does it very well. I mean we have good quality races on all types of venues with the same car.
It's also the best way for us to control speeds, to control costs, to control the pace of development, to control specifications, we think, to stay with single supply in the chassis and the tire departments, and it's our ultimate goal to attract new manufacturers participation on the engine side.
Q: Brian, could you, first off, a question about Danica. Did you see anything different or suspect about her driving at Iowa? I'm sure you heard some of the complaints after the race.
BRIAN BARNHART: I did. And it's no different than any other race that we run and whether it's her or anyone else. Generally what happens is if a driver's car is not as good as they would like it to be, and they're not able to progress as they would like to and pass and move up into the field, they get a little defensive and try and protect positions as best they can.
And the role of the officials and sanctioning body, and me in particular, is to make sure they don't do that, that they don't advantage themselves or disadvantage their competition in an unsportsmanlike fashion.
And it's also not one of those things where you just pull over and let the next guy go. What I think is probably happening a little bit is I think guys are getting a little frustrated and she needs to be a little careful that she has earned her respect from her peers through the first two or three years of participation in this series.
And if things aren't going so well, she needs to continue to treat her fellow competitors with respect. If she doesn't, that will probably come back to cost her in terms of losing respect amongst her competitors.
Q: On the roundtable, I was wondering, I know some of the Champ Car drivers were lobbying a return to the turbo charged engines and I know you said that was something that was discussed. What are the pros and cons from your viewpoint on that?
BRIAN BARNHART: The only con associated with the turbo charger is going to be additional costs, from something that we're currently not running. You're going to have to get turbo chargers, you'll have to get waste gates and associated hardware with them. We need to be careful not to allow a lot of turbo charger development, because that would also increase costs from something we don't have.
It's about the only negative associated with it. The best positives associated with it are two-fold. One being with the diversity of the schedule that we run, it is a great power control and helps us adjust power levels. If we need a little more power on the street and road courses, we can certainly adjust the boost up. And if we need less power, we can turn it down and control the boost level down from that standpoint.
And also you can't underestimate the second positive that is also just playing the sound. It's the natural muffler. With more road and street courses, city streets, that type of deal, it's nice to turn our adjustables down a little bit, and it's got a great sound to it.
Q: Terry, maybe you could touch on something with the turbo. I know there was some apprehension in the original switch. I know one of the reasons was actually the decreased length between IndyCar and production cars. Is that something that might be prohibiting this in the future?
TERRY ANGSTADT: You know, I certainly don't think so. And when we heard the enthusiasm and understanding around the room as to what, to Brian's points, what turbo charging the engines can bring to the series, I don't think that will be a barrier at all. In fact, I think when OEMs go to smaller displacements and increased efficiency and power, that you'll probably see that in some passenger cars.
Q: Brian, I understand if you can't disclose which manufacturers were at the roundtable, but can you tell us, I know you said 15 different engine representatives. But can you tell us how many auto makers?
BRIAN BARNHART: You know, I don't even remember the split off the top of my head. I think I would say maybe eight and six or something like that. Sounds about right, or nine and seven. Nine and six. I'm not good at math.
Q: The engine manufacturers that are looking to go into the series, obviously are going to have a big learning curve to catch up to Honda. Have they voiced any apprehension to you about that? And is there any plans by the series if they make the move to help their development?
BRIAN BARNHART: Well, we didn't discuss much about that. And I think the reason for that is I think we're talking about a pretty significant change in architecture. So I think even Honda will have a pretty steep learning curve. And I think what's going to be coming will be significantly different enough if we gain new and additional participants. I think it will be a pretty good learning curve for everybody including Honda.
Q: You both mentioned that the unification had made it easier to get the manufacturers in the room. Are you finding that unification is making it any easier to get sponsors interested in coming to your series?
TERRY ANGSTADT: Unquestionably, it's made a huge difference. We had some very good momentum prior to unification and it's just increased dramatically. So we just see a lot of interest and enthusiasm and willingness to take a very hard look at what we're doing.
Q: Brian, we're about 24 hours away here in Richmond from rookie practice. I guess you had a dry run with this in Milwaukee. But with more cars here on pit road, 26 up from a high of 22, have you had a chance yet to look at the pit sizes; and, two, is there a concern with having 26 cars here on pit road here?
BRIAN BARNHART: There's definitely a concern in every pit road. Not just at Richmond. It's a function of the car count and it's a good problem to find ourselves. We're going to run 39-foot pit boxes this weekend at Richmond, which is pretty close to average. I think our usual average is right at 40.
So we'll be down just a whisker. But we've run them as short as 36 in the past. So should be all right. It's just a matter of guys making sure they take care of each other in pit road.
Q: What were the dimensions here last year?
BRIAN BARNHART: I think we ran them as either 40s or 42s last year. So they're going to be a little shorter and a little tighter. And I think the biggest difference will be we'll go a little further around the corner and start them a little sooner.
Q: Can I get thoughts from you about the qualifying format coming to Richmond?
BRIAN BARNHART: One of the changes we've made has been to, again, try to directly link our old track heritage to the Indianapolis 500.
And we run four-lap qualifying runs at Indianapolis, whereas traditionally we were doing best of two laps in the other ovals. So everywhere we run, we're going to take the green flag second time by. And we average four lap speeds. It's accumulative time over those four-lap runs that set our pole. What's been really exciting about that was, at Milwaukee, after three laps, Helio (Castroneves) was P1 and about to bump his way onto the pole. But his fourth lap was slow enough, he fell back and started, I think on one of them he went off the front row and the other went back to second. It really makes it a situation where a guy can't just put in one good flyer lap and get there. The car's got to be consistent enough over four laps to get it done.
Q: Have you been surprised with how well the racing has been and maybe the lack of cautions at Milwaukee and Iowa, especially with the transition teams and so many cars on the track?
BRIAN BARNHART: Maybe a little bit. But to be honest with you, I think it is a true reflection of the quality of teams and drivers that are in the series. Not just the transitioning teams that came over. We know we've got basically the best of what was in Champ Car at the time.
Obviously we probably would have loved to have had Forsythe and Paul Tracy participating. But we've got the cream of the crop from what they're doing. When you blend that in with the quality of drivers that were participating in the IndyCar Series beforehand, it's added, as John Andretti was saying earlier, it's just really added to the depth of the field and the competition is incredibly close.
Q: Is there any update as to any solutions to trying to finish on the green, any plans or proposals that you're looking at?
BRIAN BARNHART: Yeah, we've been looking at that for several years. And, unfortunately, some of the same challenges that existed when we first looked at it about five years ago still exist.
And, I don't know, I think operationally and procedurally I think we can overcome a lot of it. I think we can work well with our TV partner in terms of TV windows and that kind of stuff. To be honest with you, one of the biggest challenges I think we still face from it is I'm a little concerned how team tactics could come into play with it at certain events.
Q: Is there an optimal number or a number range you have in mind as to the number of engine manufacturers down below?
BRIAN BARNHART: I think from a competition side, I think that will take care of itself. I mean we're running right now with 26 or 27 cars full time. And if we happen to get into a multiple manufacturer situation, I think it will kind of sort itself out simply based on the number of cars that are in and the number required to be healthy and sustain a good business model.
So I think you're probably looking at going to three, maybe four, would be the ultimate situation we could find ourselves in. I don't think a 26-car field, it would be a challenge for a 26-car field to support five manufacturers. But I don't think we'll limit it.