George, Barnhart, Ungar outline exciting plans in 'State of Series' address FONTANA, Calif., Feb. 3, 2003 -- Confirmation of the continued growth and development of the Indy Racing League, a focus on keeping a level playing field for all ...
George, Barnhart, Ungar outline exciting plans in 'State of Series' address
FONTANA, Calif., Feb. 3, 2003 -- Confirmation of the continued growth and development of the Indy Racing League, a focus on keeping a level playing field for all competitors and an update regarding the business aspects of the League were highlights of the State of the Series Address, given Feb. 3 by IRL President and CEO Tony George, Senior Vice President of Racing Operations Brian Barnhart and Senior Vice President of Business Affairs Ken Ungar.
George opened the speech, delivered on the opening day of the annual Test in the West at California Speedway, with a short retrospective on the recent developments within the IRL. Among the highlights:
*The April 2001 announcement by Toyota to commit to the IRL for the 2003 season.
*The June 2001 confirmation by General Motors that Chevrolet would return to the Indianapolis 500 through participation in the Indy Racing League.
*The August 2001 announcement regarding the formation of the IRL Infiniti Pro Series.
*The September 2001 expansion of the IRL's partnership with ABC Sports and ESPN.
*The October 2001 extension by Firestone of its relationship with the League.
*The May 2002 announcement that SAFER Barrier technology would be in place at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the 86th Indianapolis 500.
*The May 2002 announcement of Honda Motor Company's plans to enter IRL competition in 2003 and that the IRL and Twin Ring Motegi entered into an agreement for the league to conduct its first race outside of the United States.
Other key points highlighted by George were details of the new IRL Leaders Circle Program and guidelines emphasizing improved driver safety and quality car construction, as well as the announcement in January 2003 that the League's premier series would be known as the IndyCar Series.
"All of these events would no be possible if it were not for our drivers and teams offering some of the finest competition in all of sports," George said. "And for the 2003 season, joining our already established field is a number of drivers and/or teams that are making a transition to our brand of racing.
"It is with a great deal of pride that I can state that never before in the history of American racing have we had an open-wheel, oval series with the celebrated drivers, the established owners, the significant committed players from the auto industry and all the groundwork which I have laid out that the IndyCar Series will have in 2003."
Looking back on previous seasons, George reflected on the competitiveness of the series.
"When the league had its first race in January 1996," George said, "it was the realization of a vision to create a series where competition is close, costs are controlled, the same quality of equipment is available to all, and teams and sponsors can afford to compete.
"Eight years later, we are realizing that vision."
Barnhart focused on the IRL's Racing Operations division and its continued efforts to further the IRL's initial objective of maintaining cost control and a level playing field while also continuing to offer the most competitive racing series in the world today.
"We continue to have the ability to maintain cost controls because the manufacturers have bought into our business formula and participate under the terms of the league," Barnhart said. "Our agreement with the engine manufacturers in 2003 is nearly identical to our very first agreement with GM and Nissan when the league was formed. We have not, and will not, change this formula to attract manufacturers."
Barnhart also stated his belief that the formula is working so effectively that other forms of racing are implementing similar plans.
"Our SAFER Barrier, a system to reduce the force of impact in wall contacts, has been recognized by several engineering and safety organizations. Said Barnhart. " We are pleased that other tracks are looking seriously at the SAFER Barrier to see if it meets their needs."
Ungar outlined the IRL's efforts to further its business growth.
"For the first time in our history, we have senior level executives and support staff in marketing, licensing, sales, promoter relations and public relations who are totally focused on our league," Ungar said.
Ungar cited various trends, including the longstanding television ratings success of the Indianapolis 500, the upward trend of the IRL's television ratings over the past two seasons and the platform to televise IRL broadcasts globally via ESPN International.
"2003 will be a showcase for many of our partners, new and existing alike," Ungar said. "Toyota, Honda and GM plan aggressive marketing campaigns featuring the IndyCar Series. Firestone will also continue its strong support of the IndyCar Series.
Ungar also stressed the League's five business goals:
*Improve television ratings.
*Improve the League image.
*Cultivate driver development.
*Increase engine manufacturer participation in the League.
"Our series is undergoing a renaissance," Ungar said. "With the drivers and teams, tracks, broadcast relationships and sponsor support, there is no reason to believe that the sky is the limit."