Continued from part 1
KING: OK, Brian. Thanks. Of course, those of us that follow the series, we all think in terms of nothing other than racing, or usually it seems. But obviously the world's greatest race also commands the world's greatest live audience here in Indianapolis. Here to talk a little bit about the impact of tourism during the month of May here in Indianapolis and central Indiana as a whole, the president and CEO of the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association, Bob Bedell.
BOB BEDELL: Thanks, Mike. Any changes that are good for fans are -- thank you very much. Any changes that are good for fans are obviously good for visitors and will attract more visitors. You know, our mission at the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association is to advance tourism and economic growth. Clearly, no other single event in the history of our city contributes more to that mission than the Indianapolis 500, and it does that every year. Let me put it into perspective. No other city has a single event that brings in 300 million visitor dollars a year to its economy each year. And no other city is able to boast of a single-day television audience from 200 countries and 420 million households each year. And no city turns a single event into a month-long festival for its visitors and its residents attracting hundreds of thousands of people to our city and their spending dollars each year. So today's announcement with reference to qualifications and Community Day, Carb Day with the Infiniti Pro Series (Futaba) Freedom 100, and the month of May festivities demonstrates the continued viability and support of the Indianapolis 500. Defining our city as world-class, defining our city as a first-tier visitor destination and defining our city as the undisputed racing capital of the world. All of us at the Indianapolis Convention and Visitors Association and the hospitality industry in our city are grateful to Tony George and grateful to the Hulman-George family, the Speedway team and the Indy Racing League for their remarkable contributions to the visibility and the economic vitality of our city. Thank you.
KING: OK, Bob, thank you. Of course, the pageantry of this event extends well beyond the boundaries of the Speedway, and the 500 Festival is, of course, responsible for so many of those events outside of the track. Here to talk more about that is Kirk Hendrix. Kirk is the president of the 500 Festival Association.
KIRK HENDRIX: Thanks, Mike. Our role is to contribute to the magic of the entire month. We work hand in hand with Tony and Joie and Brian to develop a month-long of activities. Part of it is to make our city a more popular place, enrich the lives of people who live here, create the opportunities for tourism, and it is all about promoting the race. We work hand in hand for a month of activities, and we try to make sure every weekend in May we have something big and dramatic, and we do. We've distributed our schedules. Very briefly, we open the month a day before opening day at the track is the Mini-Marathon, which draws 30,000 runners, and already we're at 8,000 registrants for this year, which puts us well ahead of last year's record pace. So we open the first weekend with the Mini-Marathon; the second weekend is Kids Day, which draws 40,000 people, kids and families, downtown to Monument Circle. The IRL and IMS have a vast presence down there; it is a way for us to get kids involved and interactive with educational things, but also to promote the race and promote the IRL and to promote IMS. It is a real day we partner on something that's very valuable for the families. On the third weekend is the Mayor's Breakfast, which will return on this campus to the IMS Plaza Pavilion. You recall last year Roger Penske was the keynote speaker; we sold out the auditorium. We will secure another keynote speaker, and this year the day will be completed by a day of qualifications, which makes it a terrific day out here. We had 55 mayors from across the state coming and participate with us. Then race weekend has an energy all of its own. On Friday, we have our memorial service downtown. On Saturday is the parade, which is televised internationally. We draw 300,000 people downtown. It's become one of the largest and most dynamic parades in all of America. Then we conclude our portion of the festivities on the eve of the race party, as we'll call it, the race weekend party is the Snake Pit Ball, and we have that at the Indiana Ro of Ballroom. Our role here is to contribute what's happening at the track in the month of May and also to help support Bob and his future efforts.
KING: Thanks, I'm assuming there's no questions. I'm kidding. I know there are lots of questions. We've got microphones on both sides. Just raise your hand.
Q: Brian, is this qualifying for the pole, would that be just on the first day or the fastest of all four days?
BARNHART: Qualifying for the pole will be on the first day, provided you get through the line. A lot of the same characteristics will carry over, the qualifying draw, the line, those aspects will remain. Again, you get three attempts per day if you choose to do so for each chassis instead of three for the entire event. But the pole would be determined at the end of the first day.
KING: Brian, if you could expound on that a little bit. Will you be allowed to go through the line for a second time before everyone has an opportunity to go through the first time? In other words, if you draw the No. 1 pill and you qualify early in the morning, do you have to wait until the line shuffles completely through before you pull that qualification attempt and get back in line?
BARNHART: Yes, that is, again, something that is going to continue. We will do the draw. The line will be determined and you will not be able to get back into the line until you've had a break in the line. So that will carry over in traditional, in the same format we've been doing in the previous years.
KING: Questions? Maybe I was wrong. Any other questions? Up front.
Q: I assume this format is only for Indy, not for the rest of the series?
BARNHART: Yeah, that's correct. Four days of qualifying at Indy. Everywhere else we qualify in a one time through the line at the other 15 events, and this applies to Indianapolis only.
KING: Joie, I'm wondering how many different drafts of a schedule did you have to go through before you finally settled on one?
CHITWOOD: Before we really got into drafts of schedule, it was about certain activities and what we could do better with them. So in terms of looking at a Carb Day situation, it was the other things that we could enhance around it before really coming up with a Friday move. But I think that we typically tend to get a lot of recommendations from different people, fans included, teams, sponsors. You have to balance all of their needs and requests with what is good for not just the Speedway, the community, but all of them, as well. So there's always a number of different options to look at. It's safe to say that I would assume that we probably had different options presented to us after every Indy 500 way back 20, 30 years ago to now. So I think we've really settled on a couple things that make a lot of sense in terms of providing more impact over certain weekends with the activities we presented.
Q: Tony, a few years ago there was some talk about maybe changing qualifying, the fastest nine each day. Was it the last two years where there just wasn't enough cars that really forced your hand to do this? Did you listen more to the competitors than anybody?
GEORGE: Well, interestingly, this format is something that had been considered as early as, that I recall, the early 1980s. Later it was given consideration in the late 1980s and early '90s. You know, we've kind of asked ourselves the same questions many of you, I'm sure, have in the past. When you look at qualifying and what made it special back in the decades of the '60s, '70s, '80s, and I think there are a number of things you conclude when you look at that. Prior to 1994, the only activities here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway were the race and the activities of practice and qualifying leading up to the race. So that all changed in 1994. Changed again in 2000. But, you know, along the way we have, in trying to be good stewards and provide leadership in our industry, we've really taken a strong look at safety and containing speeds. I think that the fact that no longer do each year, you know, the fans come out to look at new track records and escalation, they have in the last few years been focusing more on the bumping process and all that. Now, this scenario does not necessarily in and of itself contemplate increased car count, thereby more cars going for the 33 starting spots. I think that comes with some rule stability. I think our highest number of entrants, attempts and bumping took place in the Indy Racing League era. The last round of rule stability, if you will, was when we were afforded the opportunity for the highest number of entries, car count, qualifying attempts and number of bumps. So as we look forward in the next couple of years, we hope to have stable rules that provide easier access to entry for the 89th running. You know, Brian can get into it a little bit more, but our intent is to keep the necessary updates to compete next year to a financial minimum as far as costs to the teams. So I think we'll see some build-up in the number of available chassis and engines, and I think, you know, as a result there will be more people interested in entering cars, more drivers walking around looking to don their helmets to take qualifying attempts, all the while adding to the increased excitement, if you will, of bumping by having it take place on each of the qualifying days.
Q: As a follow-up, Brian, have you talked to Firestone? Because the capability is here or the potential for guys to just throw big money. I mean, Penske is going to have a bunch of cars. Are the Firestone people comfortable they can make enough tires? You can certainly see lots of qualifying attempts in four days.
BARNHART: I think that's going to be the exciting part of it, Robin. The last few years we have limited the number of sets of tires available to each entrant. That's going to continue. So now going into this format -- in the past each entrant, the last couple of years entrants have been allowed 35 sets of tires. With everyone starting on Tuesday of the first week, you'll have four practice days there, three practice days the second week, so you have seven practice days. Any team is going to have to sit down and look, and say, 'OK, I've got seven practice days plus Carb Day. If I do, say, two-and-a-half sets for each day of practice, that's an average of 17 sets for practice, one set for Carb Day is 18; and if I set aside 10 sets for race, that's 28.' In our current allocation, that leaves them seven sets to qualify with on any of their four days. So I think that's going to, the overall -- if you want more sets to practice with, then you're going to have to take some out. If you want to set aside X amount to qualify with, because we have always limited, the last several years, limited the number of sets available, that's going to enter into the strategy equation. Like you say, even though you get 12 attempts, boy, if I'm going to have to end up using all 12, I'm going to have to take some out of my practice days, and it may affect your thinking on how much full-tank running you want to do the second week. It's just going to really increase the strategy and the drama aspect of it.
Q: But your plan is to keep it at, stay at 35 sets, don't expand?
BARNHART: No, we certainly are not going to expand, especially with the reduction in days and hours, there is no reason to expand. Our intention right now is to leave it at 35 sets.
KING: Any other questions? Last call? Brian, I've got one before we adjourn. You mentioned that the chassis/engine combination that qualifies on that given day will be allowed to pull that qualified car and make another attempt. No engine changes then would be allowed on a car that is qualified to go back out on the same day?
BARNHART: No, you'll be allowed. The same engine can qualify more than one car; it can qualify the same car multiple times. If they want to change motors, they can do that, as well.
KING: All right, I wanted a clarification on that.
Q: Joie, with moving Carb Day and the Futaba (Freedom) 100 to Friday, obviously people coming into town have more activities. Is there going to be like package tickets to come in Friday, Saturday for the drivers' meeting and combine that to allow the fans coming into town to be able to get out here?
CHITWOOD: Tom, that's a great question. I actually have not got to that point of coming up with a package ticket. Something that we could consider, obviously, but I think we might have different and distinct crowds in terms of Carb Day with Saturday's parade crowd, in terms of the drivers' meeting and Sunday Race Day. Haven't really considered that option, but it's something we could look at and see if there's any viability to it.
KING: OK, anyone else? Anyone else? I know a lot of you have live shots scheduled for noon. Thanks so much for being here. Gentlemen, thank you all for being here. We look forward to the 89th running of the Indianapolis 500 and the final two races on the '04 IndyCar Series schedule. Thank you all for being here.