2005 Indianapolis 500 Schedule Press Conference Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2004 Tony George Brian Barnhart Joie Chitwood Bob Bedell Kirk Hendrix MIKE KING: Good morning, welcome back to the world's greatest race course. My name is Mike King, and I'm...
2005 Indianapolis 500 Schedule Press Conference
Tuesday, Sept. 14, 2004
MIKE KING: Good morning, welcome back to the world's greatest race course. My name is Mike King, and I'm the anchor of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Network and will be your moderator for this morning's press conference. Not just one but several major announcements concerning the 89th running of the Indianapolis 500, and we're all happy you could be here. Of course, we still have two races yet to run and to decide the championship in the '04 IndyCar® Series on the schedule, but it's already time to start thinking about 2005. Very quickly, we will be creating a transcript of today's press conference. With that in mind, if you would, even though we do not have a teleconference connected with today's announcement, we would like you to wait until we could get a microphone to you so our transcriptionist could include both the question and the answer on the transcribed copy of today's press release. Josh Laycock will be on the other side and he will have the other microphone for that side of the room. Also, at the conclusion of today's press conference, you can see Josh, you can see Eric Powell or you can see Ron Green, there will be two additional documents that will be handed out today. Well, we've got, as you can see, several guests joining us here today. Let me introduce all of them to you. First off, let's start with Kirk Hendrix, who is the 500 Festival president and CEO. Kirk, it's good to see you. Bob Bedell, on the other side, is Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association president and CEO. Bob, it's nice to have you here. Joie Chitwood is, of course, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway senior vice president of senior affairs. Brian Barnhart, who is the Indy Racing League senior vice president of operations. And in the middle, Tony George, of course the president and the CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Gentlemen, it's great to have you all here. It's great to have all of you here. I'm aware that we're probably going live on several of the local channels. I want to turn it over to you, Tony.
TONY GEORGE: Good morning, everyone. Thank you, Mike. Today we are here to announce our planned schedule of activities for the Indianapolis 500 next May. We've considered a number of openings over the years for what we can do to enhance our schedule here in May. We've taken a lot of things into consideration. We've considered the thoughts and comments of competitors, fans, community leaders because we know it's important to this community, it's important to the month of May; and for those reasons, today we're here to announce a schedule that builds on our traditional schedule. We have a few changes, some of them will be viewed as dramatic; some will be viewed as subtle. But, nevertheless, they're important changes and, again, they take into consideration, I think, our competitors, our fans and the community. Basically, there are five major changes, which I'll touch on as an overview, and then later on we'll get into some of the more details of the schedule with Joie and with Brian and the others. But for the first time since 1963, we are starting the race at a new time. It will be a 12 o'clock local start, 1 Eastern. This will make the television broadcast more accessible to television viewers and give fans more time to arrive at the racetrack. Second, we are restoring the fourth day of qualifying, so we will have two full weekends of qualifying. We are modifying the qualifying format to provide for bumping on every qualifying day, while maintaining the tradition of the four-lap qualifying average. Third, we are shortening most of the practice days by one hour with on-track activity taking place from noon to 6 p.m. on most of those days. Fourth, the Miller Carb Day will move from Thursday to Friday, May 27th, and the schedule will expand to include the Futaba Freedom 100, giving our fans more activity on race weekend. Fifth, we are moving the Rookie Orientation Program into the first two days of the month. It will be scheduled on May 8th and May 9th. Our goal is to provide a schedule that balances the best inter ests of each party and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway while maintaining the traditions of the event and the exciting build-up to race day during the entire month of May. We believe the schedule achieves those goals and while providing even more excitement with the new race start time, qualifying format and Carb Day, it should be an exciting month.
KING: Tony, thanks. I want to remind you that we will obviously open the floor for questions at the conclusion of all of today's statements. Now to expound a little bit on the schedule just announced by Tony George, let's turn it over to Joie Chitwood. As I mentioned earlier, he's the Indianapolis Motor Speedway senior vice president of business affairs. Joie.
JOIE CHITWOOD: Thanks, Mike. I want to expound on a couple things Tony brought up on the overview. Specifically, I want to talk about the start time change and Carburetion Day and four days of qualification. As we discussed the start time, a significant change for us as we haven't had a start time different since 1963. Just for those of you to know, it was 10 a.m. back then and moved to 11. There are a couple factors that I want to emphasize in terms of importance for us. One is allowing our fans specifically better viewing opportunities, specifically on the West Coast in terms of viewing our event. That was one factor we decided on. Another in terms of our changing times, now after 9/11 and the security procedures we go through with a crowd this massive, it gives us a better opportunity to make sure we have the proper procedures in place to get everyone into the event, seated appropriately, but make sure we don't compromise any of our safety or security standards. Lastly, we do believe the change in time will enhance our TV ratings based on home viewership or home usage in terms of later afternoon viewership. So those are a couple factors we considered when contemplating the timed change to noon local. In terms of Carburetion Day, we've enjoyed great success with how fun Carburetion Day has been. We offer a lot of different activities from the final practice to vintage cars on the track to our pit stop competition and, lastly, our concert. What we have decided to do is expound upon that and add some more activities to it, specifically the Futaba Freedom 100, and also with the move to Friday, truly anticipate this gives more opportunities to visitors to the great city of Indianapolis as well as sponsors in terms of having three contiguous days of activity that they can utilize and enhance. When you look at the day, there will be one significant change, as well. We will actually have a day that will include the IndyCar practice, which will shrink from two hours to one hour. The Futaba Freedom 100, we will have ou r vintage car laps, as well, we'll have our Rally's/Checkers Pit Stop Competition, and lastly our Miller Lite Carb Day concert. In terms of a way to kick off the weekend, we really feel that having this flow into our drivers' meeting on Saturday and parade and into the race on Sunday, it will provide three great days of activities. Lastly, when it comes to four days of qualification, tradition is something very important here, and things that we always consider when creating change and opportunity and the fact that we can go back to offering four days of qualifying, it fits into what people feel is special about this place. Brian will talk more specifically about the procedures itself but in terms of providing strong weekends of activity, we believe having that fourth day makes all the sense, and probably Bob Bedell can refer to what's important in terms of driving attendance here and people who come to enjoy not only the Indianapolis Motor Speedway but the city of Indianapolis itself. So, Mike, thank you.
KING: Joie, thanks. To talk about the aspect of competition and how the new schedule will affect competitors is Brian Barnhart. Brian is the, of course, the senior vice president of operations for the Indy Racing League. Brian.
BRIAN BARNHART: Thanks, Mike. We're very excited about announcing a new qualifying procedure for the Indianapolis 500 that we think will create more drama and excitement for teams, drivers and fans while returning to the traditional format of four days of qualifying and, even more important, we think it will also create more opportunities, which is a consistent theme that we've tried to do with the Indy Racing League since our inception. The qualifying format will debut next year. In going back to the four-day traditional qualifying format, we are going to only qualify 11 cars on each of the first three days of qualifying. We will have and continue to have the drama of Pole Day, but only the first 11 spots will be secured by the end of qualifications on the first day. Positions 12 through 22 will be determined on the second day of qualifying, positions 23 to 33 on the third day of qualifying. And then Bump Day, the fourth day, will bump the slowest car in the field regardless on the day in which it qualified. It created an opportunity here for bumping within every day of qualifying. So once the drama of Pole Day will continue and maintain the drama of qualifying, but once 11 cars have accepted a speed, you will then be trying to bump and reserve a spot in the front third of the field. In doing so, we are also going to change the number of attempts allocated per car to three attempts per chassis per day for each day of qualifying. So theoretically you could have a chassis make 12 attempts to qualify throughout the four days of qualifying. That also will change even if a car has accepted and completed a four-lap run, if it gets bumped or withdrawn, historically that car was then removed from competition the remainder of the month. That car is now further eligible for more competition. So we're trying to extend the life of the cars, extend the opportunities provided to cars. So if a car has accepted a four-lap run on the first day and is 11th-fastest and then gets bumped out of the field by a car that day, that car can get back in line with the same motor and the same engine and try and re-bump into the front third of the field by the end of the day on the first day. Again, positions 12 to 22 would be determined on the second day, 23 to 33 on the third day, and then Bump Day would be bumping the slowest car in the field for the fourth and the traditional fourth day of qualifying. Change in the number of attempts we think is a very good thing for the smaller teams that only have one chassis and sit sometimes and think, boy, I don't want to take a time the first weekend because I want to wait and see how the second weekend is going to play out. We think it will increase the opportunities of that team to take an attempt on the first day or second day, they have nothing to lose. If it gets bumped, they can come back with the same car on the third or fourth day. The same thing applies to teams that are historically one- or two-car teams and the rest of the IRL IndyCar Series schedule and they try to expand cars during the month of May. It removes some of the questions or doubts about it because if their primary car posts a time on the first or second day and is in the field, they don't necessarily have to keep a car in reserve in case that car gets bumped because that car can come back and run again the third or fourth day if it does get bumped. It is creating more opportunities and extending the life of the cars for everyone out there. It is going to increase the drama because you can see a guy take a run on Pole Day at 1 in the afternoon and complete all four laps and be sitting fourth on the grid. If he feels he can better that time, he can come back and withdraw that car and try and run later. But unlike in the past like when Scotty Brayton did that a few years ago, that car that he withdrew was finished. Not now. He can withdraw that car that he had sat fourth on the grid temporarily with and he can go out with the exact same car and exact same engine and try and improve his starting position. We really think it's going t o create a lot of opportunities and add drama and excitement for everyone involved. We just think it's going to be an exciting new format as we move forward. We've also listened to our teams in an effort to control cost. You don't have to make two trips to the Speedway now and come with ROP back in April and come back in May to the event by attaching it to the front of the month of May practicing. You're making one trip here to the Speedway. If you are not a rookie team, there's a reduction of about probably in excess of 20 hours of practice time by taking the first two days away to veterans only and, plus, you're losing one hour of practice time on all the other days. We've taken about 20 hours of practice time away, which in effect will reduce the cost per mile, number of laps available to the teams. It compacts their travel times, their hotels. We have tried to listen to the teams and control their expenses for the month of May from that aspect. It also will increase the activity on track because of less hours available to practice, fans are more likely to see more cars on track instead of a section or segment of time where only maybe two or three cars are on track. You will be more likely to see multiple cars on track more often. I think they're exciting changes. We're very much looking forward to the new format for 2005. You know, historically, there's been a lot of exciting things involved with the qualifying, and we're trying to take the most unique and exciting aspect of qualifying at Indy and add to it. I mean, the fans love the bumping and now the ability to bump on all four days, the bumping is one of the best aspects the Speedway has always had, and now the ability to try and bump on four days instead of just the one is even better for the fans. I think it's going to create a really exciting atmosphere.
Continued in part 2