Continued from part 1 Q: Tony, I don't know if you had a chance to get out there and watch that first practice. How meaningful was it for you to see everyone together on the track for that first practice? How meaningful will it be for you to...
Continued from part 1
Q: Tony, I don't know if you had a chance to get out there and watch that first practice. How meaningful was it for you to see everyone together on the track for that first practice? How meaningful will it be for you to see this race go green?
TONY GEORGE: Well, I'm really happy for all the fans and really all the teams. I think everyone's wanted to see unification for quite some time. Now that we have it, we just have to really focus on that.
It was certainly gratifying. I was kind of envious of these guys. They've been down here watching them test this week. In the last month, especially the last two weeks, it seems like it's been two months, you know, waiting for the start of the season. I'm just really -- I couldn't get down here soon enough. I wanted to watch these teams come out and test. I haven't been around to really see any of them yet. I've said hello to a few people, but perhaps tomorrow morning I'll get a chance to visit a little bit.
But my daughter is excited. I'm excited. Everybody's excited in our household to be down here and looking forward to this season.
Q: Brian, how do you work the difference in terminology possibly between the Champ Car drivers and the IndyCar drivers? For example, how far is clear? Clear is a different thing to a guy used to running around an oval. How are you working that out?
BRIAN BARNHART: On the fly, experience is the only way they're doing it. I think it's just important in track team and seat experience. As I said, the 1600-plus laps the other day were mainly run without traffic. They spent most of their time just getting familiar with the track, the car, the environment, trying to get an idea of what to expect.
Every one of them has an understanding of how different it was going to be for the session this morning with all cars on track. You know, even that was a little different because of the temperatures. I was happy we got to run 4 to 10 p.m. with four days' worth of testing. Because the way the schedule lays out, the guys aren't really going to have a lot of time this weekend, none, they're going to qualify this evening from 6:25 to 8. They're not going to have any race time experience other than what they did at the test down there.
I think that's going to be a significant challenge for the transitioning teams tomorrow evening because I think, you know, everybody still this afternoon gave extra room, kept themselves kind of clean. A lot of that's going to go away when you get added downforce tomorrow night with the cooler temperatures. And with the race on the line, things are going to tighten up quite a bit. I think it's going to be one of the challenges that makes it such a daunting task for everybody beginning tomorrow evening.
Q: Terry, the IndyCar Series has got a lot of brand equity out of the 'I am Indy' tagline for the last two years. The Indy Pro Series had some growing equity. Is Firestone going to do a lot of activation to get the Indy Lights name in here? I talked to some team owners yesterday and they were kind of like, 'what happens to the brand equity that we've already built up with Indy Pro?'
TERRY ANGSTADT: I think if you look historically, there is a lot of brand equity in Indy Lights, as well. I think, if anything, it's a bit of a return to that. They will be activating significantly, as they do with the IndyCar Series. So you will see certainly spots in the telecast and in a number of other activities, there's no question in my mind.
We're doing this on the fly, as well, when this just came together last week. We will be distributing patches for uniforms. We've got some decals on some haulers, not on everything. It will be as good as we can do it. There's no doubt in my mind we will quickly kind of reach that level of equity that the Pro Series had.
Q: Terry, along those lines, you mentioned a few things. Since the announcement of unification, has there been a strong reaction from companies, potential sponsors? Have you heard from more people?
TERRY ANGSTADT: No question. In fact, we tend to call them rather than wait for them to call us. But there has been -- I've been absolutely overwhelmed with the reaction. Far better than we thought it would be. And you never really know what to expect. We knew some people would use a convenient excuse in terms of, Gosh, yeah, I'll invest when all of this might be one. We're kind of calling those in. Our sales team, we've really had some aggressive pushes into the market and, again, have been very, very pleased with the reaction.
You will see more of those come together literally over the next few weeks.
Q: Tony, when this whole unification came together, the number of cars expected at that time, is it what you expected or is it more or less than you hoped for?
TONY GEORGE: I don't know. I don't know that I had any expectations. I kind of assumed 14 or so was a very real possibility. I don't know where we would be today if that many had actually come. Where it settled out at - 8, 10 - that seems to be a manageable number to get the season going.
But we would have really been hard-pressed I think to come up and even do a reasonable job. So I guess to that extent, I wish everybody that wanted to be here could be here. Derrick Walker comes to mind. Certainly wish the economy around this sport was booming from the very announcement so that guys like Gerry Forsythe would find a sponsor and be here.
I guess it would have been an interesting challenge to have, to try and come up with more equipment. And we possibly could have. I think, you know, I've still got a car available. We could tighten our belt and try to get by running two. I do know that, you know, beyond May, if anybody wants to acquire more equipment, Dallara can still build four (chassis) a month beginning in May.
I mean, we'll slowly catch up. But it's getting there.
You know, this 8 or 10 has been a good number to get transitioned, though.
Q: Tony, when you look back at this weekend, compared to other significant events in open-wheel racing in this country, how do you think you'll view it?
TONY GEORGE: I don't know. I really have no idea. It's certainly significant for our time. But that's really the only frame of reference I can put it in, I guess. It's our current reality.
I know it will be more popular and a happier time in many people's memories than, you know, 1994 or 1996, I guess. But beyond that, those two reference points, I don't know.
Q: Do you think this will be a particularly memorable weekend when you look back?
TONY GEORGE: I don't know. We'll see. I might have a better perspective on that Saturday night or Sunday morning.
I hope it's memorable and historic.
Q: Tony, how close is this IRL to the IRL of your long-term vision when you began in '96? How close do you come to accomplishing the goals that you wanted to get accomplished back then?
TONY GEORGE: Well, I mean, it's certainly not far off. When we sort of developed the idea for the Indy Racing League, what we wanted to be, we wanted it to be a diverse series, much like CART was at the time. We wanted some road courses; we wanted some temporary circuits. But we wanted to ensure that ovals remained a part of it.
At that time, you know, there was a movement away from ovals for a variety of reasons. One, there weren't a lot of good ones. And I think a couple of things, the growth of NASCAR and the opportunities that came along as a result of a couple billion dollars being spent in investment on permanent oval facilities, we certainly wanted to be a part of that.
But we did always expect to have road and street races as part of our schedule. It's just that we never were presented opportunities to do that. Chris Pook was part of our formation meetings. He was at least suggesting that Long Beach was in the mix for consideration. But, you know, that's all part of the history. Again, I think because we came out with an all-oval schedule, and that's kind of where we found ourselves for several years, I think the perception became that that's what we intended to be, and that was never really the case.
You know, I like it. I think it's likely we'll see more of a balance than we have today. I don't know what it might be. Recently as this week, it's suggested it might be six, six, and six. But I don't know what that might be. We could have 18 races. We could have 20, 22 races. We could see some more ovals developed. We could see some ovals fall off the schedule. We could, you know, see new opportunities.
I think what this gives us is the opportunity to really look at the very best prospects for building a unified open-wheel series going forward.
Q: Did you expect to see more American drivers?
TONY GEORGE: We always kept about half the field in IndyCar. I don't know. I mean, we can sit back and go through media guides, if you want. We can see how many American drivers we've had throughout the last 10, 12 years in the IndyCar Series. It's always been at least about half.
You know, I don't know. I think we need to try. Regardless of their background and their orientation coming up, whether it's through karting or quarter midgets or whatever, I think we want to encourage young American drivers to become involved in our form of motorsport, open-wheel racing.
You know, not everyone aspires to grow up and race stock cars. I just think we have to encourage them and continue to provide opportunity for them. But certainly nothing could be more appropriate than to have international drivers in what is an international series. Indianapolis 500 has always been an international event and has always had international drivers compete in it.
I don't think we want to do anything more than provide opportunity for those that want to participate in this form of sport.
Q: The weekend of the 19th and 20th is going to be quite challenging. I understand about 12 or 15 of you are going to do your own double. Talk a little bit about what your roles will be at the Long Beach race, if it's just going to be observer or how that is going to work, the logistics of that, the key people that may be part of these two races in a day, day and a half.
TONY GEORGE: Spectator.
BRIAN BARNHART: My role actually will be observer, as well. Just going from -- from the operations and competition side, I think several of us are going down just to get a head start on Long Beach for 2009. You know, my logistics and operation people will be going, in terms of paddock space, hospitality, circuit, that type of stuff.
Tony Cotman will be the race director for the Champ Car finale at Long Beach. That means he will not be joining us in Motegi. He will be in race control with me here this weekend and St. Pete, but he will do Long Beach. So we'll go back to John Lewis and myself doing race control at Motegi. Tony Cotman will be the race director at Long Beach. Those of us on the operational side are mainly going down just to get familiar with the facility, get a little heads up and observe the finale as well.
TERRY ANGSTADT: I'll be going to both as well. We actually will have not only some event management people out there helping, as Brian mentioned, but some salespeople out there, really trying to make some introductions and get the lay of the land and do a very good job, not only in assisting a great Champ Car finale, but also how we do a really good job next year.
Q: Tony will you consider for next season having a new title name for the series, just something fresh? Also, looking down the road, what are all the things you hope to have in place by the start of next year?
TONY GEORGE: I think in part, a good opportunity to come up with a new name in conjunction with something we're working on for next year, and that will be title sponsor. If you're suggesting doing away with "IndyCar ," I don't see that. We happen to think that most people feel that it's probably the best description of our types of cars and what the series represents. So I think "IndyCar" will remain part of it.
A lot of people like the old PPG IndyCar World Series moniker. But I think a lot of that will depend on when we attract the right title partner, you know, we'll want to solicit their input and thought as well. I don't know.
Q: Brian, going back to the weight thing. Are you going to weigh the drivers at every race? Any news on additional races this year?
BRIAN BARNHART: On the weight thing, no. We weighed them at the beginning of the year. That's what we're going to leave locked in for the entire season. So it will be a one-time weight. That's what we'll go through the entire schedule of events with.
Terry is probably better addressed on the additional races. I think it's known that there's been a lot of interest on our behalf at Edmonton for a July or August date, right in that range. I think Australia has been mentioned as well. Terry can probably give you an update on that better than I can.
TERRY ANGSTADT: We are -- now we will be able to move forward. I guess within 10 days technically, we'll be able to execute sanction agreements with both Edmonton and Surfers Paradise. Really taking much more of a clean-sheet approach for '09. We've already had a couple of groups in talking about '09, and are very optimistic that we will have a very entertaining and possibly more international schedule. We just haven't made those decisions yet.
BRIAN BARNHART: It's also important to keep in mind, both of those would be pending FIA approval, as well.
Q: Tony, what is the situation of the Mexico City race? A lot of rumor is that it's possible to have a race in the next year. Have the people of Mexico contacted you for interest?
TONY GEORGE: You know, I don't know that any of us have been contacted directly. I know there's been some activity and possibly some meetings in the not-too-distant future to go down and investigate some opportunities.
As I said earlier, 2009 really represents the opportunity for us to really look at where the series' best opportunities for growth are. And if there's interest from cities or venues in Mexico that warrant our consideration, we'd be happy to do that.
But at this point I'm really not aware of anything specific underway.
Q: Brian, any drivers who will be racing in Japan that have expressed an interest in racing Sunday on Long Beach? Do you have any drivers maybe without a ride right now who would be possibly entered in Long Beach?
BRIAN BARNHART: I think the latter is probably the more likely. And I think that's one we would be most interested in. I can't address it specifically. It is a Champ Car event, what they're doing.
I would love to see guys like, you know, Tomas Scheckter, who has run with us before, is going to run a select number of events, with Luczo Dragon, could be available. Other drivers along those lines. You have Alex Lloyd who has a commitment with Ganassi Racing, but is not able to run more than a handful of races this year. It would be a great opportunity for him. I would love to see that, but I don't know how much of that can happen.
You have some other guys like Rafael Matos, who was the Atlantic champion last year, moved into the Indy Lights Series this year, would obviously be available. I think those would be great opportunities for those guys to get that chance. Don't know if they will or not.
We will not be allowing any drivers to do the double. They wouldn't get back till Sunday morning to begin with and will have missed all the activities on Friday and Saturday. With it being a shared points race between the two, you couldn't have somebody get a double-up weekend.
Q: (Questions regarding points.)
TERRY ANGSTADT: We are working with Surfers on a solution, and it will have either an international overlay where we are considering a couple of options right now that we would take the points from Motegi, Long Beach, Indianapolis, Edmonton and Surfers, have an international overlay and a nice cash bonus and a significant trophy and do something very appropriate for that end of our season.
Or it may, and kind of least favorite of the two, but still being discussed, it could possibly be the first points towards '09. The international reference was not necessarily Europe at this stage of our development. As Tony mentioned, we're open to ideas, but that was more in reference to probably more of a North American strategy, maybe a Mexico, maybe another event in Canada, along those lines.