An Interview with Roger Edmondson, Gill Campbell and Michelle Trueman-Gajoch ADAM SAAL: Good afternoon or good morning for our friends on the West Coast, including one of our guests today Gill Campbell, the CEO of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
An Interview with Roger Edmondson, Gill Campbell and Michelle Trueman-Gajoch
ADAM SAAL: Good afternoon or good morning for our friends on the West Coast, including one of our guests today Gill Campbell, the CEO of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. We're also happy to be joined by Michelle Trueman, the president of Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, and our president at the Grand American Road Racing Association, Roger Edmondson. Thank you for taking time out of your busy schedules.
Today we'd like to announce two more key dates as well as a long-term relationship with Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, as we complete our 2006 Rolex Sports Car Series calendar. Weep happy to announce today that in addition to a three-year extension on our agreement with Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, we will now run on May 5th through 7th on the 2006 schedule at that track on the Monterey Peninsula.
In turn, we have a new date at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. We're going to run the EMCO Gears Classic on June 23rd through 25th. The Rolex Sports Car Series again will be a Saturday highlight at that race and will be back with the Grand-Am Cup Series on that Sunday.
Again, these are two more pieces of the puzzle as we look to finalize our 2006 Rolex Sports Car Series schedule. We have a few other dates we previously announced that I'll touch on later in this conference call.
For now, I'd like to hand it over to the president of Grand American Road Racing, Roger Edmondson, who can talk about what we've just announced, how he feels about it, and what he thinks it will do for possibly one of the best calendars we've had to date at Grand American.
ROGER EDMONDSON: Thank you, Adam.
Obviously, any time we announce a new schedule, we have a lot of people listening carefully, and with a critical eye. I think people are going to agree when this entire schedule is put forth that this will be the strongest calendar that Grand American Road Racing has had in our six-year history. In fact, it will be year number seven next year.
Any time you have a schedule announcement that includes two of the premier road courses in America, as this one does; it's a win-win proposition for all involved. We were particularly gratified to be able to come to an agreement with Michelle Trueman on a new date at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, a track where we have a fairly lengthy history. Since our inception back in 2000, we've been there every year but one. We're moving out of an August time frame into a time in June that I think will be very beneficial for our teams.
Fortunately, because we run that Rolex race on a Saturday evening, the cars stay over on Sunday, so the fans get a chance to take a look at them. Then they'll be able to get the transporters loaded up and head straight down to Daytona for the Thursday night, 250-mile race at Daytona. We go from one of the most storied road courses in North America to the modestly self-named "World Center of Racing" down at Daytona for two completely different types of racing within about six days of each other.
Obviously, the other announcement today is not only of our date for next year at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca, but also of a three-year agreement. This was our first year, 2005 was our first event ever at that facility. It has been a mainstay of North American road racing for many, many years and host to Grand Prix races in other high-level motorsports events. It's well-known and is one of those tracks that you have to have on the schedule along with Mid-Ohio if you want to be a first-class road racing organization.
To have a three-year commitment there from the management and to know that we have that date secure for the next three seasons is going to be very important to our teams and their sponsors. And I think that it is a result of our having had an above-expectation turnout of spectators and participants in our very first year. Also on that same vein, we had growth this year at Mid-Ohio with the best crowd we've ever had.
This is a big day for us to be able to announce this. We're hoping to have the rest of the schedule completed in the next few days. Again, to circle back, I think people will feel it's the strongest, most varied road course schedule we've ever had.
ADAM SAAL: Thank you very much, Roger. Again, we're looking forward to it very much as we said.
Based on nothing more than the dates and chronology of it, we'd like to go to Gill Campbell first. Gill, talk about not only the confirmation of our May date there, but three more years to come. Congratulations. We look forward to it. What are your feelings out there in Monterey?
GILL CAMPBELL: Thank you, Adam and Roger.
Yes, we wanted very much to bring Grand American, the Grand American Rolex Series here. We worked on it for several years actually trying to accomplish that. 2005 brought that to fruition, and what a great year it was. It was our beginning event of the season and a tremendous event. I think we certainly thrilled the fans. No one really knew exactly what to expect. And everybody went away with the "wow" factor, and that's certainly what we wanted to create.
Moving forward over the next three years gives us an opportunity to build that event. We believe that 2005 created an excellent foundation. More than 50 cars, more Prototypes than we've ever seen on this racetrack. It was a phenomenal event.
The next three years gives us a chance to enhance everything that we were able to do in 2005. As Roger says, it gives the teams opportunities to get sponsors. Certainly as a promoter, it gives us opportunities to be able to secure long-term sponsorships and also to let our fans know that they can count on this date now for years to come.
ADAM SAAL: Great stuff. Thank you very much, Gill.
Let's move on to some opening comments from Michelle. Michelle, talk a little about the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series, what your fine team there was able to accomplish with a pretty unique event with the tuner component. It was definitely the biggest Grand American attended event we've had at Mid-Ohio. We're coming there at a new date. Talk a little about how that came about and what you're looking for in 2006.
MICHELLE TRUEMAN: The entire team at Mid-Ohio and TrueSports has been thrilled to be part of the whole evolution of Grand American. I can't even remember now why we sat out for a year. I'm sure perhaps it was a date issue or something at this point, but I don't recall. Having been able to support Grand American's efforts and Roger's efforts in the development of the series has certainly proven fruitful.
As the event has been in August the last few years, we have not been a hundred percent happy with its placement because of conflicts within the market certainly, football season and so on here in this part of the country. But with some other jumbling that had to occur on our schedule, it opened up the opportunity to move this event to the end of June, which I think should be a very, very good date. It falls after school is out. The real racing season in the Midwest will be just beginning, which I think is key.
With the growth that we experienced this year at the event, both on the racetrack and off the racetrack, from a corporate standpoint, the field of cars, the absolutely excellently competitive racing on Saturday evening, we're very enthusiastic about the date change from that perspective because I think we can only grow from there.
ADAM SAAL: Thank you very much, Michelle. We appreciate the kind words. We're going to keep working with you equally as hard, in addition to Gill, to make sure these events continue to be successful.
What I'm going to do now is run through the dates of the confirmed races so far. I'll go pretty slowly if you want to take some notes down, then we'll cue up for some questions from our media.
We're announcing our race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca the weekend of May 5th through 7th.
We will be at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course on June 23rd through 25th. The Rolex Sports Car Series will race on that Saturday.
We kick the season off with the Rolex 24 at Daytona. That will be January 26th through 29th. That is an earlier date now that falls between NFL Conference Championship Weekend and the NFL Super Bowl. We're confident that that schedule will even bring greater focus to an event that's really lit up the scoreboard the last couple of years.
We announced earlier this year that we will make our debut race at Infineon Raceway, Sears Point, and it gives us two great events out in the San Francisco area. We'll be there August 24th through 26th. That is also a Saturday feature race, and we will share the card with the IRL IndyCar Series.
We also announced a couple weeks ago what will be the crowning event, the grand finale at the Miller Motorsports Park which is the new track being built in Salt Lake City. It's the biggest road course being built in this country, over four miles in length. We're going to have the longest race there, a nine-hour race. It's officially called the Sun Chaser Nine Hour for the Rolex Sports Car Series. That will take place on Labor Day weekend, August 31st through September 2nd. That race will also be on a Saturday. We're looking at a noon start, ending at 9 p.m. that Saturday.
In the middle of all that, but certainly not to be left out, as Roger alluded to, we will leave Mid-Ohio in the last weekend of June and head right down to Daytona International Speedway where we'll run the Brumos Porsche 250, a one-day event on Thursday, June 29th.
I appreciate you bearing with me as we go through that. There will be a transcript available of this teleconference later on. It will be emailed out to all media, with all those dates on there.
At this point, we'd like to cue up our friends in the media for questions for Roger, Gill or Michelle.
Q: Roger, at Phoenix you split the races with the Prototypes running by themselves, and GT cars running by themselves. It was indicated that might be something that is done on some of the shorter tracks. Is that something that you're looking at doing at Laguna Seca or are you going to stay a combined event?
ROGER EDMONDSON: Well, no, right now my plan is to continue to run at Laguna Seca with a combined format. We saw the race weekend at Phoenix as a learning experience for everybody involved. And, frankly, I did not find the entertainment value to be quite the same as a typical Grand American event with our two classes running together.
We have so much passing within class for position that in itself is exciting. But when you add the overtaking that goes on between the Prototypes and the GT cars, it creates a whole new dimension. I think it's something we would miss.
We are going to announce a format change in our qualifying procedures next year that I think will provide some extra racing activity for the spectators and for the teams, and allow everybody who comes to get involved in a race, but also we'll end up with a field size when the main event comes that we can survive and live with as far as the pit road space and track density.
I do not plan to split the thing as a matter of course next year. There will be a couple of events, for example, the Friday night event at Watkins Glen when we run with the Nextel Cup cars, will be a Daytona Prototype-only event. And we also have announced an event at Lime Rock Park Memorial Day weekend, that will be a GT-only event. But as a matter of course, the Rolex Series will continue to run combined events as they have.
Q: You have experienced tremendous growth in the numbers of Prototype cars and increase in GT cars. Do you anticipate further growth for next year? Is there a place where you're going to be saturated and you're going to have to cut off the growth? Right now the fields are awfully large.
ROGER EDMONDSON: Well, first off, we're gratified by the growth. We believe it is ratification of our concept, and that is that you have to earn a championship, you can't buy a championship. That's very simply because anything you use on your car in Grand American racing has to be available to every other competitor.
I think the American road racing infrastructure and community has signed on to that. The quality of racing has never been higher in road racing circles. Just this last race at Phoenix, for example, we had 12 cars within one second in qualifying. That may be the norm in other forms of racing, but in road racing, it's almost unheard of. We believe that that chance to win, the hope we've been selling, has actually been bought by the teams.
As far as continued growth, when Grand American was first conceived of and formed back in 1999 with our first season of racing being 2000, one of our mission statements was to eliminate the peaks and valleys that had plagued road race for the last 50 or 60 years. We believe that the two primary elements that will lead to that are strong schedule, promoters who are having successful events and supported by sponsors, and having teams that are able to feel that they have a chance to win and are also supported by sponsors.
Those things are not the sort of thing you can reach out and buy or snap your fingers and create overnight. They come only from planting the seed and then harvesting the crops as they come up. That's something we're starting to see.
We anticipate continued growth, although we certainly don't believe it will be at the current level or the current rate. I do believe that if we were to start sending people home using traditional qualifying methods where guys would tow all the way across the country, run a practice session or two, then some time qualifying, get sent home, I think that in itself would not only slow down growth but I think it would kill it. That's why I mentioned earlier we've come up with a new format that's going to give every team that comes a chance to race and a chance to go home with some points.
But in closing, as far as the future goes, it's very clear that Riley and Crawford are building quite a few new cars. Doran and Fabcar are both open for business and ready to take orders. At the same time we believe our new GT rules are going to result in the same sort of growth in that category also. We're very excited about the future and see growth as a continued part of our program.
Q: Gill, you've had a successful night race at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. You've got another one coming up. Is that something you're looking at or going to investigate with Grand American with some of the night races they already have on their schedule?
GILL CAMPBELL: It certainly does provide some excitement. At this moment in time, I can tell you that, no, that is not something we're considering here at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. We certainly have a lot of neighbors that we have to consider no matter what we do.
I think that with the entertainment package that comes along with the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series right now really does attract for this racetrack a good day crowd. It will stay as a daytime racing event at the moment.
Continued in part 2