Indy 500: IMS Media Tour - Barnhart, Angstadt press conference

Brian Barnhart-Terry Angstadt Press Conference Transcript 2008 Indy 500 Media Tour Tuesday, April 8, 2008 BOB JENKINS: Let's resume here. Again, thanks to Tony for being with us this morning. Two races down, two to go before the month of May...

Brian Barnhart-Terry Angstadt Press Conference Transcript
2008 Indy 500 Media Tour
Tuesday, April 8, 2008

BOB JENKINS: Let's resume here. Again, thanks to Tony for being with us this morning.

Two races down, two to go before the month of May arrives, and we turn our full attention to the Indianapolis 500. Our guests on this second segment here are to my close right, the president of competition and operations for the IndyCar Series, Brian Barnhart; and the president of the commercial division for the IndyCar Series, Terry Angstadt.

Brian, let's start with you. Two races down, one on a very high-speed oval, the other on the streets of St. Petersburg in wet and dry and just about every other kind of weather condition that you can imagine. Give me your opinion on the state of competition for the series.

BRIAN BARNHART: First of all, good morning, everyone. Thanks, Bob. It has certainly been a diverse and challenging couple set of weekends to start the 2008 IndyCar Series season. The transitioning teams joining us in IndyCar faced a steep challenge in terms of equipment availability and preparation. And I couldn't be more proud of how the existing and traditional IndyCar teams helped with the availability of that equipment, the preparation of that equipment through the testing that was done at a very late, late time line with association to the event at Homestead and, of course, our chassis supplier at Dallara, Xtrac, the gearbox, and Firestone and Honda did a great job, as well, stepping up. So I think the Homestead race was actually about as good as we could have hoped for in all terms of competition and safety, performance, reliability, all of that. It certainly positioned us about as well as we could have hoped moving into St. Pete the following weekend. Clearly St. Pete is an environment that the teams transitioning over were more comfortable with and more familiar with that type of an event and that type of racing, more quickly up to speed and on par with the traditional teams in terms of competition. And then the challenges, of course, on Race Day. I think that's the first day in four years that we've ever run at St. Pete with any kind of wet conditions. Again, I think everyone responded very well to that. It was an entertaining show. It had unique strategies, different aspects of it in terms of when to put the slicks on, when to get off the rain tires and just the overall environment. I think the thing I liked best about it were the comments from everyone afterward was how much fun they were having, how fun the cars were to drive and how challenging the situation was, and I think they put on a good show.

JENKINS: Terry, from a business standpoint, what impact has the unification had on your division?

TERRY ANGSTADT: Thanks, Bob. It really has been outstanding. We had some very strong momentum pre-unification, and unification really accelerated that. As we said before, we felt it removed the highest single hurdle we had in any type of objection into investing in our form of motorsports. So again it's been outstanding. We had a Peak Motor Oil relationship developed pre-unification, and then right at unification we welcomed Firestone on as the entitlement partner of the Firestone Indy Lights. And closely, right after that was Coca-Cola is our official soft drink. And then DIRECTV as our premier major and satellite cable TV partner. So just in those relationships alone, really will help us carry our message, help us activate, help us spread our word far beyond what an individual budget from a sanctioning body can do. So that's really how you grow the business.

JENKINS: More announcements like you just mentioned, Coca-Cola, DIRECTV and so forth?

ANGSTADT: We've got a weekend off, so absolutely, we can work on that. (Laughter) There are a lot of conversations, proposals. Believe me, we're just getting started. No one is suggesting that this is all the way there yet, and we're working real hard at more announcements to come, yes.

JENKINS: Brian, what are your hopes and expectations for the month of May?

BARNHART: The first one always on my mind is a safe and competitive month; certainly would like to see the weather cooperate, especially on the important days.

The qualifying format finally got an opportunity to play itself out last year. I think it was well received by everyone, the competitors, the fans, everyone seemed to enjoy that. I would like to get the opportunity to play that through again with the potential of even more cars given on that first weekend to try to go for 11 spots on the first day and 11 spots on the second day. I just think it's going to be a continuation of what we've already seen and that's just an increased depth of field in terms of quality teams and drivers. We have really got a lot of good car/driver combinations.

JENKINS: The transitioning teams, of course, have been busy the last six weeks preparing cars for the races. Can we expect backup cars for these transitioning teams for the month of May?

BARNHART: Well, that's one of the things, again, as I mentioned earlier I couldn't be more proud of the help that we received from the teams and the availability of equipment and what Dallara has done.

As we sit today, every team that has come over has at least one spare car. So there were five teams that came over, and the four two-car teams of Coyne, Conquest, Haas and KV Racing all have three cars, and HVM Racing has two cars. The four two-car teams will receive their second spare car later this month.

In addition to that, we've also been able to ensure that some of the one-offs that are beginning at Indianapolis and are going to run Indy and maybe a few other races, like Sarah Fisher Racing and Luczo Dragon, Rubicon Racing, have also been able to acquire chassis. So we are not only to accommodate the teams that are making commitment for the full season, but we've also been able to make sure chassis are available for some one-offs that are coming to Indianapolis, as well. Like I say, all the full-time teams will have all spares in hand by the end of this month.

JENKINS: Terry, the DIRECTV announcement was not a title sponsor. You might distinguish between the two, and are there ongoing talks and what are your hopes for a title sponsor?

ANGSTADT: Well, we are hard at work at securing a title sponsor. There are a number of likely suspects out there that really align well with our brand attributes. If you really think about what we have established as when you think of IndyCar, what do you think of, and that is speed, technology and innovation, diversity and green.

Then if you think of companies that can also align their brands or their goals or their business objectives with those brand attributes, you have a pretty wide field to choose from. If you think of technology companies, cell phones, mobile platforms, financial services, it's a pretty wide field. We've cast our net pretty wide. So now, when you're looking for an investment of that scale, do you typically get those mid-year? No. But we want to secure that this year for a roll-out next year. If something happens before that, fantastic, but that's our goal.

We also have, we are hard at work at a presenting sponsor. DIRECTV is neither title or presenting. So we are also hard at work at that. But in terms of DIRECTV, when you secure a media partner with the aggressive posture they take in the marketplace, they can do a whole lot for us, and we are very early stage as to what their total activation will look like. But it does include a national TV spot with our content featured. So that alone, again, is literally millions of dollars of exposure when they roll that out. And that's just the beginning.

So we could not feel better about that relationship. It is very early stage. And now it's up to us to fully exploit that.

JENKINS: OK, let's open it up for questions.

Q: I have a question to Mr. Barnhart. I think in Miami the first race, Graham Rahal had a very, very bad accident. The car was withdrawn from the race. After that, did you get in touch with Dallara concerning safety updates for the chassis?

BARNHART: Actually, Graham's crash in testing, the reason it prevented him from participation was simply the timing associated with that. He crashed on a Tuesday evening in a night test that was for the transitioning Champ Car teams to come over. By the time spares were available, it would have been probably Thursday at noon, and we're on track Friday at noon. They just didn't have a physical time line to get that car repaired. That's the reason that car didn't participate at the Homestead test. That is the car, however, that he won the race with two days ago in St. Pete. They immediately went to repairing that car. It was the first chassis that Dallara had produced in '08 under these specifications, so that's IRL Chassis 8001, and they went to work on it, put it into road course configuration, shook it down at Sebring on Tuesday night, ironically in the rain, and came to St. Pete that weekend and ran Friday, Saturday and Sunday. So that's the car that won the race. So there weren't any safety updates, and there was no reason to have any.

JENKINS: Brian, give me your opinion on Graham Rahal's victory last Sunday and what it might mean for people here at the Speedway during the month of May.

BARNHART: Well, obviously it's an extremely familiar name. Bobby, his father, is the '86 winner of the '500,' and there's great history and legacy there. From a long-term proposition and platform what we're looking at from the IndyCar Series, you've got to really be excited about the fact that we've got second- and third-generation drivers with the names like Rahal, Andretti and Foyt, with A.J. IV, you're excited about the future moving forward, and it's ironic they're now challenging the old guard with the Castroneves, the Wheldons and the Kanaans. If that's an old guard, those guys are probably young 30s. And, as I mention, it shows the depth of the field and the excitement moving forward. When you've got those types of names, you feel there is going to be an emotional attachment the fans are going to be able to make to all of your competitors and have a reason to root for someone, and that's going to be an important aspect moving forward.

Q: Brian, the Dallara chassis is starting to get a little bit aged. I know the next generation, the plans are being talked about now. What's the target date for the next generation IndyCar and could it be a significant change from what we've seen now?

BARNHART: We couldn't be more proud of the existing chassis. It's basically the same chassis we've been running since 2003. Again, in the last two weeks you've seen the biggest aspect of it that we're most proud of. It is the most diverse race car on the planet. It's the only car in the world capable of running the diverse schedule that the IndyCar Series runs. It doesn't matter if it's 24-degree high banks at Homestead or Texas or if it's 230 miles an hour at Indianapolis or if it's on a street and road circuits or anything in between. That car is the only car capable of doing that. Again, going back to how much fun the guys have driving it and the level of competition that it provides, we couldn't be better positioned with the car that we're currently running.

That said, it is starting to get some age on it. We certainly want to look toward the future. We're in a position that's a little bit of a transitional time. We want to give these teams to amortize the expenses associated with it in coming over. Yet at the same time, we want to continue our position as leaders in the industry and innovators. We're extremely proud of our positioning as the only series in the world to run 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol. As Terry mentioned, one of our brand attributes is technology and the association with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which was developed as a proving ground, has always been a leader in the industry in terms of innovation and development and safety, whether it's the rearview mirror or the SAFER Barrier. We're going to continue as we move forward with an eye toward the future and what the next generation will be.

I think you've seen some of the studies we've done with the College of Creative Studies and some of the art designs we've done to take a look at perhaps what the future look of an IndyCar could be. Along those lines we're also going to take into consideration the future architecture and specifications what the engine might be and keeping an eye toward being the industry leader. I think there's a good chance that the next evolution of car will have some significant standing in terms of continuing the leadership position with regards to what the technical specifications are. From a timing standpoint because of that, I guess I would finish with you're probably looking probably around 2010 or 2011.

Q: Brian, the drivers are coming in from Champ Car, most of them haven't driven ovals and they'll have Kansas and Miami-Homestead. Is that enough preparation, and how much extra attention will you give those drivers in the early part of May?

BARNHART: Well, it certainly is a challenge, Dick. They did two days of Homestead open testing, and then they ran the Homestead event. As you mentioned, they'll do the Kansas event the week before coming here to the Speedway. They'll also be eligible for refresher test and/or rookie test, which is going to be significantly important for them, as well. Instead of waiting till Tuesday when we're on track with everyone, they're going to have an opportunity to run on Monday and Tuesday, which is going to be really important for them to get acquainted with, get acclimated to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the challenges associated with running around here. The beauty of the month-long event is that you've got an opportunity to run 1,000, 1,500 miles and gain a lot of experience. I think that's going to go a long way toward closing the competitive gap as you move from June onward. After you've got 1,000 miles under your belt around this place, you're going to have a much better knowledge for the car and feel for what the car needs and changes. As we move on to Milwaukee and Texas after Indianapolis, I think the gap that was at Homestead in terms of competitive difference between the standard teams and the transitioning teams will reduce greatly after spending the full month here in May.

Q: Just a question about logistics. Running a normal race weekend, officials, technical inspection, registration, et cetera, now you're going to be running two events, per se, on the same weekend, Motegi and Kansas. Who will actually be running the -- I'm sorry, the Motegi and Long Beach. Who will actually be running Long Beach, who will be running race control? How will your team be split up?

BARNHART: It's not much of a split. The IndyCar race at Motegi is the traditional IndyCar event. At Long Beach is the Champ Car finish, naturally. Tony Cotman will be the only person we're transitioning off from the operational side. Tony joined us in January of this year. Tony will continue in his position at Champ Car for the Champ Car finale at Long Beach. Other than that, the entire officials and everybody traveling to Motegi that traditionally do, will do so. I think there are eight or 10 of us that are going to come over after the race and basically observe and spectate at the Long Beach race on Sunday. Because of the time change you're capable of doing that. Tony is the only one that will be an official at the Long Beach finale, and the traditional IndyCar officials will go to Motegi.

Q: Brian, you made a comment that Dallara after the month of May can only deliver four chassis a month, is that a contractual obligation? Are they at capacity? I was a little confused when you said that a couple weeks ago. What was that all about?

BARNHART: Dallara has been producing four chassis a month since the order was placed with unification. The last four chassis that are due to be delivered to the Champ Car teams by the end of this month is April. That's just their production schedule. Since the order was placed in response to unification, Dallara's production capabilities have been four chassis per month. Our order carries us through the end of May. So we've got a couple of replacement cars that are going to be made available to some of the teams that have made cars available to the Champ Car teams. Those will be delivered in May. And that's the last of our order. That's just been their production capability.

JENKINS: Last question.

Q: This is for Terry. With Danica and Sports Illustrated and Helio on "Dancing with the Stars," have you seen a definite impact and exposure coming in from that?

ANGSTADT: Just purely from a numbers standpoint, "Dancing" represented 22 million viewers a week times a couple of shows. It is amazing of the references when we go into another market, it is in the press. Helio is asked about it, we're asked about it and it's fantastic for our series. That has been phenomenal.

And Danica in Sports Illustrated was tremendous, as well. Sports Illustrated is a good partner of ours, as well. We put a little ad in there, we had a text message, sweepstakes to get a signed poster from Danica. That's again four and a half million copies of that book plus the pass-along rate. It is fantastic exposure. We would like to think that, yes, that has meant a bit of a tick in attendance as well in TV ratings. We're real pleased with both programs.

JENKINS: Thanks to Terry and Brian for being with us. Joie Chitwood will be up here in just a few minutes. You can do one-on-ones for about five minutes with Terry and Brian. Thank you, guys.

-credit: ims

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Sarah Fisher , Graham Rahal , Brian Barnhart
Teams HVM Racing , HART