2007 schedule teleconference, part 1

2007 Rolex Series Schedule Teleconference Transcript An Interview with Roger Edmondson, Scott Pruett and Rusty Wallace MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for taking a few minutes out of your schedule to join us today for the ...

2007 Rolex Series Schedule Teleconference Transcript
An Interview with Roger Edmondson, Scott Pruett and Rusty Wallace

MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thanks for taking a few minutes out of your schedule to join us today for the announcement of the 2007 schedule for the Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve. A few key pieces of the schedule have fallen into place over the course of the last two months, including as recently as yesterday in Montreal, but we wanted to give the complete calendar which is being sent out via email and being posted on GrandAmerican.com right now.

To talk about it today we have with us Grand American Road Racing Association President Roger Edmondson, 2004 Rolex Series Daytona Prototype co-champion Scott Pruett, and a special guest is also joining us who wasn't advertised, Rusty Wallace, who is the principal behind the new Iowa Speedway. We'll hear from all these gentlemen shortly. I'm going to run through the schedule quickly.

We get started with the Rolex 24 At Daytona January 27th through 28th. On March 3rd we go to Mexico City for what will be a series-standard 400-kilometer race for our sprint events. March 24th, will be Homestead-Miami Speedway. On April 28th and 29th, we will be racing at Virginia International Raceway. May 19th and 20th will be Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. On May 28th, we have a GT feature race at Lime Rock Park. On June 9th, Watkins Glen will see the return of a feature race for the Sahlen's Six Hours of The Glen. June 23rd and 24th will be Mid-Ohio. July 5th will be a 250-mile race at Daytona International Speedway. July 14th will be one of two new races, Iowa Speedway that we mentioned. July 21st and 22nd will be Barber Motorsports Park. August 3rd will be a one-day event on Friday at Circuit Gilles-Villeneuve in Montreal, the second of the two new races for 2007. August 10th will be a Daytona Prototype race with NASCAR Nextel Cup at Watkins Glen. August 25th will be the second appearance at Infineon Raceway with the Daytona Prototype feature race. September 15th will conclude the season once again at Miller Motorsports Park. That race has been shortened to 1,000 kilometers from this year's nine-hour race.

Again I went through that very quickly, and you can find it on your email or at Grand American.com.

Roger, from our point of view, the schedule has a few new twists and surprises, this year it's the two new races. Talk about those in particular and the new schedule.

ROGER EDMONDSON: We have once again a 14-race schedule for the Daytona Prototypes, and it turns out to be 13 for the GT cars. One of the new wrinkles is that we are no longer going to run Prototype and GT together everywhere we go. The growth in this series has been unprecedented. Frankly, we think both categories offer great entertainment value and great activity for the participants, too.

Rather than starting to head down that road where we're going to have to send cars home, we've decided on the shorter races at some of the shorter facilities, to run separate Prototype and GT races. Obviously for the Rolex 24 and Watkins Glen 6 Hour and the Sunchaser 1000, those races will be combined as they will at a couple other locations.

We have a 14-race schedule for the Prototypes. It was my intention to cut back a race or two this year because of the cost to our teams to go racing. It seems as the series has gotten more competitive, the cost of racing continues to go up in spite of our continual efforts to hold it in check.

But unfortunately, or fortunately depending on your viewpoint, we've had an increase in the number of promoters that are interested in having Rolex races. While I was prepared to hold some of them at arm's length, we had two opportunities we simply couldn't ignore. One of them is the new Rusty Wallace facility in Iowa. The Iowa Speedway is absolutely a state-of-the-art facility that is going to bring motorsports into a mature level in that state and actually to a new level. It's going to become THE professional sport in the state of Iowa, is what I believe. I think Rusty and his partners in the business think so, too. We're pleased to be announcing we're going to go there in July.

Not only will we have the Rolex Series, but we're also going to be introducing our new MOTO-ST motorcycle championship at the same time. The other event is the one we announced yesterday in Montreal. Going to the Formula One course in downtown Montreal is a major feather in our cap. We'll be partners with the Busch Series as we do in Mexico City. We think that's going to be a spectacular event for our sponsors and teams. I'm looking forward to the entire series.

I think if you look at the schedule as a whole, it's a significant increase in value to our teams and we've been able to break up some of the travel patterns and make it a little bit easier for them.

Once again, we end right around the first of September. We were fortunate enough this year to be able to bring the series to a conclusion on Labor Day, taking us out of football season. It turned out that our promoter in Salt Lake City felt that running on Labor Day against a family holiday particularly in a very conservative family-oriented locale such as Salt Lake City was fighting Mother Nature too much. We decided to go a couple weeks later, let the kids get back in school, let the families recover some of the money spent putting them back in school, trying to make a family affair out of the finale at Salt Lake. That's it in a nutshell.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Roger.

Scott Pruett is heading into his fourth season of Daytona Prototype competition in the Rolex Sports Car Series. Scott, you've had a great road racing career, won multiple championships, including the 2004 title like we mentioned. Now it seems to be a significant portion of your career is going to be spent in this series. Talk about the growth you've seen with this year's schedule, how it looks for you, and what you're looking at for next year?

SCOTT PRUETT: It's great to be here, great to come back doing the same thing. I'll be back in the CompUSA car with Ganassi and Lexus. I think I'm starting to feel a little bit like Mark Martin. Here we are second last year, second this year. Hopefully we can put it back on top again.

It's been great. The growth we've seen, the racing we've seen, I think last year was unprecedented with some of the races we had. Especially the ones that come to mind were at Virginia and Sears Point. I mean, it's just awesome racing from a driver standpoint and from a team standpoint. With the new teams coming in and getting involved, the level of competition continues to get tougher and tougher and tougher.

As we mentioned earlier, the cost does go up with that, but I think Grand-Am is doing a great job at trying to contain those costs. At the end of the day you have to have the close competition, you have to have a lot of cars. People want to see great racing. That's what we're all about.

With a couple new tracks coming on board, I'm excited to get to Montreal. It's just a beautiful facility up there. I'm also interested to see what Rusty has to offer in Iowa. I've heard a lot of good things about his track. I'm looking forward to going there.

From my standpoint, I love doing this thing.  The series has just been
terrific.  We just need to keep doing what we're doing.

MODERATOR: Scott, thank you for assisting in the segue to Rusty.

Rusty is actually at a business meeting of a good kind right now. He has a corporate golf match going on. He wanted to take the time to be with us today to talk about what is truly a magnificent racetrack just on the outskirts of Des Moines. Rusty, talk about your track. You had some racing going on last weekend, and more next weekend. We'll give him a different type of product when we come out with the Rolex Series. Talk about what our friends in the media can see.

RUSTY WALLACE: We're really excited about the new track in Iowa. It's a seven-eighths miles, the oval is, which has got rave reviews. We have a 1.4-mile road course inside the facility. It's laid out really nice. Myself and Alan Wilson designed the track.

One thing I like so much about it, guys, everybody in the grandstands can sit and see the entire road course. I think it's going to be unlike most facilities where you see bits and pieces of a road course. At this facility, you can see all the action going on.

Road race cars will enter off the back straightaway, enter into the road course, and go back up on the exit of Turn 4, much like Daytona. The one key thing I like about the track is the layout and the braking points for the drivers. We should have a lot of passing there. The great thing for the fans is they'll be able to see the entire track and all the action.

MODERATOR: Thanks a lot.

We'll get right to questions.

Q: Roger, you have races in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. Can you talk about the target market that you have and how you keep yourself from overreaching like other racing series have done so far?

ROGER EDMONDSON: We changed our logo a couple years ago to that slogan that we were the Rolex Series, the Championship of the Americas. It was our intention all along to add the Mexico City race first and to try to keep a presence in Canada. As you know, we ran three years at Mont-Tremblant. Unfortunately, we found we were in a little bit of a jam with spectator amenities there. We stayed out of Canada with the Rolex Series for one year, knowing that this combination with Busch was in the works.

I think it's going to be the proper balance. We have one in Canada, one in Mexico, and the balance in the United States. From the very beginning, we have billed this as an American championship. That's who we are. It's what our focus is on. It's all the goal we have is to be -- we don't have as a goal to be the best road racing series on the planet, we just happen to be. Our goal was to be the best in the United States. Adding Mexico and Canada to that I don't think puts us in an overreaching situation. I think it's a natural evolution of reaching out to the great fans we have both north and south of the border.

Q: Rusty, is there a plan maybe in the works to race at your home track in Iowa or back at the Rolex 24?

RUSTY WALLACE: I'm really excited about racing at the home track in Iowa. I think that's an opportunity. I haven't announced anything yet. I've been busy with everybody at the Iowa Speedway, building that place. We finally got it put together. We're so doggone proud of it, it's unreal.

Honestly, now it's time to start thinking about racing. I did go to Iowa last week and run my son's oval track car there. I kind of got the racing bug again. I'm not ruling out getting back in a road race car again this year. I think I want to do that to stay up the speed with all the new things going on. I want to keep my talent as a driver up to speed, so to speak. I can't announce anything yet because I don't have a plan.

I do want to give a shout out before I get off the phone to my partners up at Iowa because without these guys, it was amazing. I was really happy about getting in this world class facility which many drivers think is the nicest racetrack in America when it comes to an oval track. A lot of them are very impressed and booking the track up for road racing testing. That feels good. We hope everybody is going to enjoy it as much as we do.

Q: Tell me about this motorcycle series you're talking about. Will it run in conjunction with some of the Rolex Sports Car Series or the GT events?

ROGER EDMONDSON: Well, actually my background before I got the call, as we call it, to come down here and start Grand-Am was in motorcycle road racing. I was able to bring to Grand-Am some of the things that had worked well in the World Superbike and the AMA Superbike Championship, some of the things I had a hand in bringing into those sports. We tried them in car racing and It worked out.

At the same time, this is a business where there's no book on how to do it. You learn something every event and every year. We think that there are some things in our Grand-Am program, in our car racing program, that would enhance motorcycle racing. We've announced and are working with a couple of other groups, our involvement in a new endurance championship for twin-cylinder motorcycles only, the BMWs, the Harleys, Ducatis, and certain Suzukis and Kawasakis, so forth. We're real excited about it. The first event comes up in about three weeks at Daytona, the 8 Hours At Daytona. It's interesting to see the entry list build, some of the old names coming back.

Now the second part of your question is would it run with Grand-Am? As a matter of fact, we will be pairing up with the motorcycles at the new facility at Iowa and at Virginia International Raceway. We have a couple other promoters giving consideration to the same thing. That schedule will be announced in full in about three weeks. It's an exciting, exciting expansion for us, but by no means are we taking our eyes off the ball. Our main product is our primary function, and that's the Rolex Sports Car Series and the Grand-Am Cup Series.

MODERATOR: The two races that Roger mentioned, the dates are April 28th and 29th for VIR, and July 14th at Rusty Wallace's new Iowa Speedway.

Q: Scott, are you going to have a new co-driver in 2007? If so, do you have any idea who it is yet?

SCOTT PRUETT: Yes, I am. And, no, I don't (laughter). I wish I could give you a little bit more information. Even as of right now, the biggest question is -- we're actually going to go test three or four potential Mexican national drivers, some of the guys that have been working their way up similar to what Luis (Diaz) has done. Carlos Slim is a very huge supporter of the team and of Grand-Am. They're young drivers he would like us to go and run.

At this point in time, I don't know. I'd say I'm 90%, 95% sure it will be a Mexican national.

Q: Rusty, how many turns on your Iowa course? About how long is it going to take to take a lap in a Daytona Prototype?

RUSTY WALLACE: Well, we've yet to take a Prototype around the track at a high rate of speed and check out the speed. There are many different courses, actually three different courses you can run at Iowa, which really changes the amount of turns. We're looking at about 10 to 12 turns in different ways the way it's laid out. Once we get one of the Prototypes on the track, up to speed with Scott or somebody like that, we'll give a better answer.

Guys, that's about all I can do with you today. I appreciate being on here. Thank you for supporting Iowa Speedway. I hope everybody enjoys it, and I hope the rest of the press conference turns out good.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Rusty. We'll schedule another one before we hit your track next July.

Q: Roger, one of the appeals to a lot of people, one of the fun things, is the Daytona Prototypes and GT cars on track at the same time. It sounds like you've cut back a lot on that. Do you think it's going to hurt or help spectator interest?

ROGER EDMONDSON: I think it's going to make it a little bit harder to swallow for some of the traditional fans because they are used to the multi-class racing. But, in fact, I think maybe the dirty little secret that nobody talks about in sports car racing is for many, many years there were not enough cars in the premier classes to let them run their own race.

We already had multiple driver races where we had driver changes during the pit stops. It's a new race every time there's a yellow flag, every time there's a driver change. If we're ever going to attract new fans, I think we have to make it where people can understand it. Perhaps that form of the sport that all of us have grown up with and have learned the secret code on may be a little intimidating to the general public.

From that standpoint I think having one class races are going to make it easier for the new people to understand, and a single dad can bring his kid to a racetrack without a book that tells him what's going on.

I think there will be an interesting mix next year.  We're not abandoning
that format.  We're just not running it everywhere.

The other choice was to start sending people home because we simply are victims of our own success. We've got too many cars to put on the track at every race track and too many cars for pit road. I don't think we can continue to have growth and ask teams to invest in a Daytona Prototype if they think they're going to get sent home because somebody qualified a little bit better within the GT field.

By the same token, we've seen our GT field go through a little shrinkage the last couple years because the Daytona Prototype races have been so fantastic that the TV cameras have not been able to pay any attention to the GT guys. They feel like second class citizens.

We believe the announcement of the balance between combined races and split races is going to spur growth in both programs. I'm confident that the spectator appeal is going to be high enough that it's not going to be harmful when all is said and done.

Continued in part 2

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Series Grand-Am
Drivers Rusty Wallace , Scott Pruett , Mark Martin