Indy 500: IMS Media Tour - Chitwood press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Joie, with the plans of the Centennial, we've seen a lot of the redevelopment plans, which will dramatically change the south end of the track. Can you give us an update on it and how it's coming along? CHITWOOD: ...

Continued from part 1

Q: Joie, with the plans of the Centennial, we've seen a lot of the redevelopment plans, which will dramatically change the south end of the track. Can you give us an update on it and how it's coming along?

CHITWOOD: Absolutely. The town of Speedway is embarking on an absolute necessity for their community moving forward. That's the opportunity to really remake what their Main Street looks like and the property around it. They're a landlocked community, and when you think about investment in their community, they haven't had much. We bring so many people to town to showcase the Speedway, I think there's a great opportunity for them to showcase their community, as well. We've talked about moving of roads, closing of Georgetown, creating a linear park. Really, the key is making sure that their Main Street is up to snuff so that it can be a part of all the festivities and activities we have. We are fully behind them supporting them. In fact, I probably meet with them as much as meeting with my Centennial Committee or my Indy 500 Committee. But I think what you'll see is hopefully the chance for them to remake their community for the next 100 years and give them a chance to capitalize all of the fans and tourists that visit us.

JENKINS: Inside the track at the south end, what changes have been made in the past year?

CHITWOOD: Well, inside the track when you drove in you can see the new four-turn chicane for the motorcycle event. That was all parking that we called The Beach. We used to have some temporary grandstands and some berms there. So really that is no longer available. We'll be, you know, guardrail, fencing that off. That was a significant parking area for us. So it will put a little more pressure on the use of the Museum parking lots and also as we park some Gasoline Alley customers.

We also did tweak the road course turns behind the museum. Those were slow S's. There used to be a tree there. We took the tree out, now it's fast S's. That will also be for the location for the Miller Lite Carb Day concert, so all the media here will park in this lot over here and you'll get to park there for Carb Day. We're not going to displace you for the concert. I should get applause for that, shouldn't I? Yeah, come on. I know how to play to the crowd. (Applause)

The great thing is, even though we're around for the 92nd running, we have a chance every year to improve what we do and try and tweak here and there.

One of the things I love to share, what have we done different in "Taps" the last couple years? I love to ask this question. I ask it all the time. You know, we've changed that significantly from three years ago to two years ago. The Purdue Band always played "Taps." The last couple years we've had a lone trumpet player play "Taps." It's been extremely moving. You could hear a pin drop. And you have the guard behind him with the flags and the trumpet. So we've tweaked pre-race but done it in a way that I think our fans appreciate, and it's even more impactful. For us, it's taking our heritage and our tradition and tweaking a little bit and making sure we provide the experience that our fans have come to expect.

Q: Joie, the addition of the motorcycle event in place of the F1, does it make the task of converting the facility from counter-clockwise to probably going the other way? And is it easier than it was with the F1?

CHITWOOD: One thing I want to make sure is clear, motorcycles didn't replace F1. If you look at the way we scheduled our calendar, we had hoped that F1 would come back and it would have maintained that June date after the Montreal event, and that's why you saw the motorcycle event in September. Now, if we had that four-race schedule, we would have been hard after it. We would have been oval, road course, oval, road course. So right now we've got two oval events and the road course. So the timing is a little bit better, there's not as much pressure and stress.

One of the things that we did do with the design of this motorcycle course, which they will run the same direction as the oval, is that every change we made was also inspected and approved by the FIA so that should F1 come back, they can run this course, they can run it their same direction, they can run it the other direction, they can run the four-turn chicane in Turn One or not. We did not want to make any changes that would preclude us in the future from hosting F1. I know that Tony has said it, I've said it: The door is open. We think that's a phenomenal racing series; we think it should be back in America. So the door is open. Maybe it can come back some day.

Q: Joie, all that said, any plans at all in the future to maybe bring a sports car race to Indianapolis?

CHITWOOD: We've had a lot of discussion about what other events we can host. I think the big challenge for us is what's it take to turn the lights on here. We have such a big property, the amount of personnel to staff it. So any event that we host, we need to have a considerable fan component to make it work. So as it relates to sports car racing, we've had discussions. I think they would like to run here very much so. But right now with adding the motorcycle event, and we might have a couple other things to talk about in May with additional events that I think fit our personality. But right now I'm not sure about sports car racing just in terms of what it takes to host that event.

Q: I've got a question about musical acts at the Speedway in May. When are some more of those going to be announced? I'm also curious about the process of selecting those acts. Is that done by somebody here at the Speedway or do you kind of outsource that or how do you go about that?

CHITWOOD: It's always interesting how musical acts either come to us or if we go out and prospect. We work very closely with Miller Lite. They are really front and center in attracting talent. We talk with them about what makes sense. Julianne, in terms of that opportunity, I don't think anyone really knew that she was a singer. But when you look at her history, she came back from England to really embark on her singing career more so than dancing and then the "Dancing with the Stars" component came out.

I think that we want to do is Carb Day is about having fun. There's a party element to it, and I think that's important for the fans of the Snake Pit back in the day. There's that element of people watching and enjoying yourself. So I think the Carb Day talent takes on a more current or little more fun approach. We're very respectful of Race Day, and so we've done a couple different things lately and we usually work in concert with our partner, ABC/ESPN, as well, on what can be televised or what makes sense for them. So it's a compilation of everyone, the Speedway, our TV partner, our sponsors. We're trying to make sure it fits the Race Day and flows nicely.

JENKINS: You do remember the snake pit don't you, Rich? (Laughter) Go ahead.

Q: Joie, so many other tracks have race weekends that involve multiple series, you know, multiple races. You don't have that advantage perhaps. What do you think about in the month of May trying to supplement the everyday activity of cars on the track or the weekend activity of qualifying to make the track or the experience more active?

CHITWOOD: Well, you know, when you look at the track schedule and look at the unification, I think that our rookie days are going to be as busy as any day we have during May. There's going to be a lot of folks out there running hard. You look at qualifying, I think it shows given the right weather, it can be active, compelling, fun to watch. But if you think about what we put on track race weekend; Carburetion Day, we've got the final IndyCar Series practice, we have an Infiniti Pro Series -- I'm sorry, a Firestone Indy Lights race, we have a pit stop competition, and we have a concert. I'm not sure we could fit any more activity that day. Saturday then is our traditional day, which is our drivers' meeting and the parade downtown. So for us that's important that the community get to enjoy it. There might be fans who don't attend the race who enjoy the parade. And then Sunday our race.

So, Rich, if you said find some time to add something more, I don't know if I could really find the time. I think one of the things about the Indy 500 the last four or five years, it's been such a great race, and I think it's because the teams have such a great opportunity to dial in their chassis and get ready for the race so it is very competitive. So I think that time they need during the month pays off on Race Day because you don't really know who's going to win on Race Day because they all have the right setup, the experience, they're ready for the race.

Q: Joie, as this race, next year's race comes up and then the 2011, the 100th anniversary, are you going to search for some of the distant relatives of those like great-, great-grandchildren, like Louis Schwitzer, the first winner, his grandson, I think, is still alive and bring him back?

CHITWOOD: That's a good question. I'm not really going to answer your question because we have a lot of things planned, and we have our friends at IMS Productions who have been out there talking to people who have great history here. So you're going to see some of that in May once we roll it out officially. So we're uncovering everyone that has a story to tell and we have part of that.

One of the things we've got such -- I make a joke of it, but it's going to be difficult, you know. Disney World can celebrate one birthday over like four or five years. We're going to try and fit 100 in over three. I don't know if we're going to have enough time to do that. There's so many great stories and history and tradition; it's going to be tough to tell them all and make sure that they're meaningful. So we're trying to do it the right way. And yes, we're out there talking to ancestors and living, oldest living mechanics and things like that to get their story on tape so that we can make sure we share it with our fans.

JENKINS: Last question if there is one. If not, Joie, thank you. One-on-ones available

-credit: ims

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