Continued from part 1 Q: Jack, I was there at that first race, too. A lot of camaraderie. What do you see for the future of the IRL? JACK ARUTE: More of what we saw in that first race. I have not seen any substantial diminishment of the ...
Continued from part 1
Q: Jack, I was there at that first race, too. A lot of camaraderie. What do you see for the future of the IRL?
JACK ARUTE: More of what we saw in that first race. I have not seen any substantial diminishment of the camaraderie. In fact, I've seen an increase in the excitement. We talk about chases for championships, we talk about the increased safety as Eddie referred to.
As I said before, I think what's happened with the IndyCar Series is that it now has become the leader in open-wheel IndyCar motorsports entertainment. Entertainment involves the product on the racetrack and what I call the fan experience that takes place for people that come to the grandstands and watch the races.
Look at the races that we've had this season. Look at the excitement and the pressure that the front-runners are feeling right now in the chase for this championship.
Q: Eddie, any comments on that?
EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: I agree wholeheartedly. It is continuing to get better and better as we run. Everything changes. Nothing ever stays consistent in life. I believe you'd be very hard put to find any more competitive racing. You know, maybe there's been a little bit of an advantage from the engine manufacturers this year, but the races have been great. We've had American winners. We've had winners from other countries. You know, it's just continuing to grow.
Q: Eddie, you talked about the changes in the engines. We only have to look at this year to see I think one of the major changes, and that is the announcement of going to road courses and a possible street course for 2005. When you look back over the 100 races, did you think the series would ever experience this big a change?
EDDIE CHEEVER, JR.: I did not think we'd be going to road courses as early as we have done. I think we have to remain true to the philosophy that we are an American oval racing series, although we do have one race in Japan every year.
I think it's good. I think it's great. The battle with the other open-wheel series in the States is won. I think picking these road races carefully like we're doing now will only enhance our championship, and it will give the drivers a wider experience.
Q: Jack, is the league right now where you thought it might be nine years ago? Is it where you thought it would be?
JACK ARUTE: Honestly, no. I thought the growth was going to be a little bit slower. It was going to take a little bit more time. One of the reasons was because of a short-track experience that I've had with my family when we introduced a different formula for what's up here in the northeast called modified racing. It, in essence, took us 10 years before we realized what we had and had the product where you could look straight in the eye with anybody and say it was a quality product.
I think the fact that it's been accelerated by the Indy Racing League in their growth is a tribute not only to the owners and drivers that make up the series, but I also think to Brian Barnhart and his staff, because every move they've made in terms of rules and the racing package has always turned out to be a positive move forward.
You know, most of the time when you're evolving something, it's going to be maybe four steps forward and one step backward. But the net gain was going to be there. But that hasn't been the case. I mean, every move they've made has been very positive and has accelerated the growth.
Q: Over 100 races, nine years, most colorful personality you've had in nine years?
JACK ARUTE: I think you've got to look at what Eddie Cheever said. When he stood there in Victory Lane, said, "My dad told me if I was only going to win one race, make sure it was the big one."
Q: What do you feel is the correct split between road races and oval races in a season? 60/40, 70/30? Given where ESPN and ABC is, which do they prefer to televise?
JACK ARUTE: You've posed two questions that are really basically well above my pay scale. One, because I can't do math.
I will tell you what I do think the measuring stick as far as the mix needs to be. I think Eddie alluded to it just a little while ago. We need to make sure that during the course of this expansion that as attractive as some road-course racing venues may be, that we don't lose sight of the fact that this is an American oval heritage that you're building upon.
I think you see the same thing being done with the controlled growth to road courses that series within the NASCAR community have done.
As far as ABC and ESPN is concerned, I learned a long time ago that the suits that live on the higher floors, they like to make those speculations. I'm just happy to get the call every Monday and tell me where the next race is, then I just show up and go to work.
Q: Sixteen-race schedule. Do you feel that four would be too many road races?
JACK ARUTE: I don't know. That's why I say, I think what it's got to be is the growth has got to be with an eye towards maintaining that oval-racing heritage, but you've got to take a look at it and measure each opportunity for its merits. What will it do to further? If you go into that geographic area, does that then open up another geographic area where there may be an oval-race facility that would be then wanting an IRL race?
I don't think it's really fair to get in a position of saying it's a 25 percent, 15 percent, 10 percent. I think you've got to look at it case by case. I think that's one of the great things the IRL has done. Every move they've done is by measuring it against the growth scenarios.
Q: Could you talk about the emergence of new teams, Rahal Letterman has come in, been competitive, and of course Andretti Green? Sam Hornish thought he was joining the New York Yankees of motorsports, and you figured that Marlboro Team Penske was ready to steamroll, but they must be desperate to win this in their backyard?
JACK ARUTE: I don't know if "desperate" is the word. But what we saw last week at Pikes Peak is what is going to happen on a short track like the Nazareth oval, where it's not a case of raw horsepower. I think we saw some muscle flexed by Chevrolet, we saw some muscle flexed by Team Penske and Toyota. Darren Manning had a great run with a Toyota powerplant, because unlike some of the 1.5-mile superspeedways where you've got your right foot just buried, that's why they put the left foot pedal called the brake in these race cars. When you get to these short tracks, it's more about handling, it's more about a driver being up on the wheel from the drop of the green flag.
I think it goes without question that you know that Penske is going to be loaded for bear because it's in their backyard. Let's not count out Chevrolet, either. I think whether it's Eddie's team or Panther, Chevrolet has made some good inroads. On the short tracks, that's where you're going to be able to show not necessarily your horsepower muscle but your total package muscle.
Q: How about Chevrolet? Performance gotten better? More confidence at Red Bull Cheever Racing?
MODERATOR: We've lost Eddie. He's over in France. We lost his cell phone.
JACK ARUTE: Do you want me to speak for Eddie?
Q: Do your Eddie impression.
JACK ARUTE: I mean absolutely (using very deep voice).
Q: Buddy Rice wins. He's parking his car on the south portico of the White House. What did that do for the series, to have an American driver in Victory Lane at the Brickyard?
JACK ARUTE: It was nice to see some Americans kicking some Brazilian butt. But I think in all honesty, and my opinion has changed, when Buddy Rice won the Indy 500, we all made a big deal about it. It was an American finally getting back into Victory Lane.
I started to seesaw and lean towards, "We need more Americans in this series." All of a sudden I came to realize, and it really became validated as I watched the Olympics over the last nine or 10 days, it's no fun if you're an American and you're at the top of your sport just to beat other Americans. What you want to do is you want to be measured against the best.
I think it goes without question, I think right now in this day and time, in terms of IndyCar (Series) racing, open-cockpit, open-wheel racing, the IRL has the best drivers. So if you're an American, you want to beat all the best. You don't want to beat just four or five fellow Americans.
I think that's what's evolved since Buddy came on the scene. Now we have more than a third of the field are Americans. When you mix in the Brazilians, add some of the Europeans, when you go out there and beat them, it's like winning an Olympic gold medal. You've proven you're the best globally, not just within the confines of the United States.
MODERATOR: We really appreciate you taking the time to call us today.
JACK ARUTE: All right.
MODERATOR: Thank so much, everyone.