Earlier today INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard and Pocono Raceway CEO and President Brandon Igdalsky participated in an INDYCAR conference call to discuss the 2013 IZOD IndyCar Series schedule.
Q. Randy, I know we just wrapped up an exciting 2012 season but the announcement of the schedule has to have you excited and looking forward to 2013 already.
RANDY BERNARD: Yeah, we are really excited. The biggest thing for us is the fact we are going from 15 races to 19 races and continue to showcase the fastest, most versatile race car and race car drivers in the world. I think the schedule this year really allows for that in a big way.
Q. Talk about adding the doubleheaders; why add them at those particular racetracks at Detroit, Toronto and Houston.
RANDY BERNARD: First of all, we think the doubleheaders are good for everyone -- from fans to drivers to our sponsors. It builds exposure and viewership. At the same time, we think the fans will be able to take in twice as much action and see their favorite drivers on those three weekends.
The reason we picked Belle Isle was Roger Penske. He and (event chairman) Bud Denker are investing millions of dollars into repaving that race course and create some more passing zones. We thought that would be a great place for us.
We have always seen great racing in Toronto, and the fact that we wanted to have two races in Canada was very important to us, especially with Rogers Sports Network coming on as our Canadian TV partner next year.
And the last is Houston, the fourth-largest market in the United States. We felt it was imperative to have a doubleheader there for (race promoter) Mike Lanigan. We just thought it would be another great place to have a doubleheader.
Q. And finally, another new exciting aspect of the schedule is the return of the Triple Crown, which will include the Indianapolis 500, the INDYCAR World Championships at Auto Club Speedway, and where you are today, Pocono Raceway. Talk about bringing another traditional aspect back to the sport.
RANDY BERNARD: As everyone knows, tradition is so important to the sport. And if you are going to bring Pocono back, I think it makes the most sense to bring the Triple Crown as well.
Thanks to Brandon and his family, the fans are going to get to see what they have been wanting -- both Pocono and the Triple Crown.
Q. Randy mentioned returning to Pocono and bringing back the Triple Crown, how excited is Eastern Pennsylvania about the return to IndyCar racing?
BRANDON IGDALSKY: The excitement level around here is up through the roof. It's great to be here with Randy and to have INDYCAR coming back to this legendary speedway, and a speedway that was started with the help of Indy car racing back in the '70s.
Q. Talk a little about how the race came about. I know you were in Florida for St. Pete, but you weren't looking for a race back then.
BRANDON IGDALSKY: I was in the area and swung by and got to meet Randy and his team. It got out that I was there and the fans got louder and louder and as the summer went on and the spring went on. Randy and I came back to the table and put our teams to work and here we are today.
Q. Why Pocono after all these years, and did the IndyCars test there on the newly repaved track? What sense do you get the racing will be?
RANDY BERNARD: Well, the first question is why Pocono. First of all Pocono was built for IndyCars. The fact that each one of these three corners provides for a different IndyCar track … Trenton in the first corner and turn and the second turn Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the third turn at Milwaukee.
We know we are going to have great racing here. The fact that we define our sport as the fastest, most versatile race car and race car drivers in the world, I think it's really important that we give these drivers versatility. And this track is one of those great tracks that you really want on your series.
Have we brought a car here yet and tested? No. Being this was a track built for IndyCars, all of our experts said the fact that it's been repaved and the fact that they put the SAFER Barrier in, this will be a great track. And we hope to test this year.
Q. Can you tell us, is this more than a one-year deal?
BRANDON IGDALSKY: It's for the next three years, and we hope it will be longer than that, but this initial iteration is for three years.
Q. I just noticed there's a gap between Baltimore on September 1 and the Houston doubleheader in early October; is that just an unavoidable matter with the scheduling in 2013?
RANDY BERNARD: It really was, and the easy solution would have been keeping Fontana right there in the September 15 weekend, but we wanted to listen to our fans and our fans loved what they saw out there this year.
This is the IZOD IndyCar Series and it should end with a 500 mile oval, so that's why we moved it behind Houston. So it was unavoidable. And I think it's also really good to end our season later. I don't think anybody likes to see us end September 15; it's six months before our next race.
Q. What was it about Providence's bid that failed to get it on the schedule?
RANDY BERNARD: I think Providence did a fantastic job, a marvelous job, of really trying to come together and putting it together. Putting on a street race is a monumental task, and I think that they want to make sure that they have all their ducks in a row just like we want to see it.
They couldn't meet all of our deadlines. They were working diligently on trying to get it done, but unfortunately it falls into a crunch period where they just ran out of time.
Q. And how high a priority is it for INDYCAR to bring a street race to New England?
RANDY BERNARD: Well, I think the Northeast has been very good to us. At Pocono we think we are going to have great crowds and we are bringing back one of the traditional races that are always very exciting.
It's important to us because we love the diversity of ovals and street courses, but I think the most important thing is making sure that we have just a really solid plan in place before we go anywhere.
Q. I know that Mario said at your event today how big this is for the northeast race fans. How do you reach out beyond that and make this bigger than just a Pennsylvania event, or is that enough for you?
BRANDON IGDALSKY: It's an international event, and we see that with our other events here. Because of our proximity to New York and Philadelphia, there are a lot of people that come overseas. They will spend a few days in New York or Philadelphia, and then will drive up or take a bus up to come to our race and enjoy our racing. We are going to see some of that, especially with this series and having a little more international flair to it.
At the same time, there's the traditionalists and the true IndyCar fans that remember what Pocono was all about in the '70s and '80s, and I think you're going to see a lot of them come back and come back in droves.
Q. Is it going to be the Pocono 400 or will you look for a sponsor?
BRANDON IGDALSKY: Right now it's the Pocono IndyCar 400 but we will be pursuing sponsors for the race.
Q. Why is the race 400 miles at Pocono? Many people thought it would be a 500 miler.
RANDY BERNARD: A 500 mile race would have been the tradition and that probably would have been our first choice.
But having Pocono on ABC was really important to us to keep continuity. We are going to have six out of seven races all on ABC. And by doing that, ABC only had a three hour window, and so we couldn't go to a 500 mile race unless we wanted to switch to NBC Sports Network. We just thought it was really important to keep all of the ABC races as close together as we could to continue to create momentum for the series.
Source: IZOD IndyCar Series