Indy Racing League Media Teleconference August 3, 2004 Tony George Brian Barnhart Ken Ungar Steve Page Craig Rust TOM SAVAGE: Good afternoon, everyone. We'd like to welcome everybody to today's Indy Racing League teleconference. Today marks...
Indy Racing League
August 3, 2004
TOM SAVAGE: Good afternoon, everyone. We'd like to welcome everybody to today's Indy Racing League teleconference.
Today marks a historic day for the Indy Racing League and the IndyCar Series. We welcome your questions following opening comments from our five guests on today's call.
Earlier today, the IRL announced its 2005 IndyCar Series schedule, which will include 16 races, and for the first time, two road course circuits. For a complete print of the list of the 2005 IndyCar Series schedule, visit our website at www.Indyracing.com.
On today's call, we'd like to welcome five guests who include Tony George, the president and CEO of the Indy Racing League, Ken Ungar, the senior vice president of business affairs for the Indy Racing League, Brian Barnhart, senior vice president of operations for the Indy Racing League, Steve Page, the president and general manager of Infineon Raceway and Craig Rust, the president at Watkins Glen International.
Tony, let's start with you. Can you talk about the decision of going road course racing at this point in time.
TONY GEORGE: Thanks, Tom. I'd like to say first of all, I'm in Indianapolis, and I understand that both the press conferences went well at Watkins Glen and at Infineon Raceway. For that, I want to thank the management of both those facilities, as well as Ken and Brian and the drivers that attended, and both the staffs that worked hard to make this come to fruition. It sounds like it's been very well-received. I look forward with a great deal of enthusiasm to the 2005 season.
It will mark the 10th season for Indy Racing League. Many would consider that a relatively short existence, but certainly open-wheel racing and IndyCar racing, as it's been known, it's been around for a lot longer than that.
We're very proud that the Indy Racing League provides exciting, close competition on track. It's really starting to mature now as a sports sanctioning body and as a racing series. We appreciate all the competitors and manufacturers and fans that support the league.
I think that road racing is something that we've always had on our agenda from the time we started with the Orlando race in 1996. Between 1994 and 1996, we were sort of developing a vision for the Indy Racing League as it came to be known. All along we had contemplated running road courses and street circuits possibly at some point in time, with a real focus on preserving and protecting the open-wheel oval racing aspect of major league open-wheel racing. We tried to encourage investment in new permanent oval facilities. I would say that the last 10 years has shown a couple of billion dollars of investment having been made in those permanent type facilities that we very much want to continue to support and have committed to support.
But we view road racing as something that we want to have as part of our schedule, and it will be now, beginning in 2005. We've always said if and when the right opportunity presented itself, we would add road racing. And we're happy today to be able to announce that Watkins Glen and Infineon Raceway will be part of that in 2005.
With that, I'll turn it back over to you, Tom.
TOM SAVAGE: Thank you, Tony.
Steve Page joined IndyCar Series drivers Tony Kanaan and Townsend Bell from Infineon Raceway today to make the schedule announcement in northern California.
Steve, thank you for joining us today. Congratulations on an exciting announcement from your racetrack.
STEVE PAGE: You bet. It's a very exciting day here. I've been at this track for 13 years. From the first day I got here, one of my objectives was to bring IndyCar(-style) racing to this track, the San Francisco Bay Area, the Sacramento markets, which is where our fans come from. A lot of interest in this series coming to this track. It's a very exciting day for us.
TOM SAVAGE: Thank you, Steve.
Ken Ungar was also at Infineon for today's schedule announcement and joins us today from Infineon. Ken, thanks for joining us today. Can you talk about what the addition of Infineon and Watkins Glen, how that opens up an entire new world really for the Indy Racing League as far as business affairs and marketing to an entirely new group of fans?
KEN UNGAR: Thanks, Tom. Really appreciate it. Thank you everyone who is joining us today on this call.
The addition of Watkins Glen and Infineon Raceway to our schedules is really a landmark for the Indy Racing League. From a business perspective, it helps us access not only two important markets geographically for us, but also to bring the excitement of IndyCar racing to road racing fans and open up opportunities for us in terms of serving race fans as well as race teams and drivers who enjoy that racing and sponsors who are committed to road racing.
TOM SAVAGE: At the same time Steve and Ken were making the announcement in northern California, Craig Rust was doing the same at Watkins Glen International.
Craig, thank you for joining us on the call, and congratulations to you for your announcement today.
CRAIG RUST: Thank you very much. We're thrilled up here. There's been a lot of excitement around the potential of getting this race. Our heritage is born out of open-wheel racing, so we believe it's going to do very well, be very popular. We're looking forward to having been able to bring it back to Watkins Glen. As I said, it's our history, it's where our roots came from.
TOM SAVAGE: Brian Barnhart from the IRL also joins us today from New York where he was at today's scheduled announcement at Watkins Glen.
Brian, thank you very much for joining us today. Can you talk about how the league, from a technical standpoint, has been preparing and will continue to prepare to go road course racing next year?
BRIAN BARNHART: Sure will. Thanks, Tom.
It's been an exciting day and an historic one for the Indy Racing League in announcing both the famed road course of Watkins Glen and Infineon on our schedule for 2005. The excitement has been really outstanding.
One of the greatest things that we've had the last couple of months from Ken and I's standpoint is we just received many, many letters, e-mails and calls from the very passionate and enthusiastic people of this community seeking the return of IndyCar racing to this historical facility here in Watkins Glen. We're excited about being able to provide that in 2005.
From a technical standpoint, we're working very hard to maintain the goals and the values of the series. It is going to create some new challenges for us. It's going to create new challenges for the teams, their engineers, their drivers.
We're doing everything we can to maintain our principle of cost containment while allowing for these specifications and the changes necessary to make the cars. We are very strictly limiting options available to them to control the pace of development, to control the costs spent on the addition of road racing.
We're trying to find a real good balance of adding venues that are good business opportunities for us. It's where our fans want to see us, where our teams want to go, yet at the same time adhering to our founding philosophies and principles as we move forward.
TOM SAVAGE: Thank you, Brian.
We have several media members on the line today, so we'll go ahead and open it up to questions at this time.
Q: I have a couple Florida related questions for Tony. I see that Homestead is number one on the schedule again. Obviously, you must be pleased with that market. Also is there any possibly of adding a street course at St. Petersburg?
TONY GEORGE: Well, the Miami market has been good so far for us. It's shown improvement and growth. Certainly I think (Homestead-Miami Speedway President) Curtis (Gray) has done a very good job for us down there. We continue to look forward to opening our season down there.
But with regard to the rumor of St. Petersburg, you know, it is something that is a rumor. Usually where there's a rumor there's some smoke. Whether or not there's any fire, I don't know. I think we'll have to wait and see as to whether or not an opportunity presents itself.
Q: Would there be any possibility of next season or are we looking beyond that?
TONY GEORGE: Anything's possible. Certainly by announcing our schedule today, it's not something that we were compelled to hold up our announcement of what we knew to be firm and ready to go. Our teams, our sponsors, all of our stakeholders are looking to us to make our plans for 2005 known.
I think if it comes about, it will be a bonus. I think it's a good market. It's a good venue, from what I recall, having seen on television when they ran there last year. Certainly it is a market and a venue with a lot of potential.
Its future on our schedule is not known at this point.
Q: In regards to Phoenix moving to a Saturday, what were the reasons behind that?
KEN UNGAR: The Saturday event at Phoenix was driven primarily by television availability. We had the strong desire, as the track did as well, to keep the event on that weekend for date equity purposes and the window that presented itself for us on network television was on Saturday.
Q: Was that NBA driven?
KEN UNGAR: The NBA was one of the factors. There's a variety of television, you know, during the spring, especially in March. It's one of the most packed portions of the television schedule in terms of many different sports that are on television.
There were a variety of things, including the NBA.
Q: I assume this is probably temporary, one-year deal?
KEN UNGAR: Yeah. Our desire would be to keep our schedule for consistency purposes on Sundays, yes.
Q: Do you know if it will be ABC or ESPN?
KEN UNGAR: We need to confirm that and we'll be doing that shortly as we put out our full television schedule here soon.
Q: Bryan Herta was out here before the Indy 500. He said these cars pretty much could go road racing right now. Is there anything that has to be done or can these cars pretty much go from what they are right now to a road course?
BRIAN BARNHART: In answer to that, we did about two-thirds to three-quarters of the kit during our update kit from the end of the 20003 season into 2004 by changing the radiators, the sidepods to enable for better cooling to go road racing.
We still have a short list of things to do, which we've got to do some new uprights, brakes and a limited slip differential for the powertrain and the gearbox. We are hopefully having the mechanical bits done. All the aero bits should be finalized. We've got a few mechanical bits to do yet. We should be testing those hopefully in the next month.
We're getting pretty close, yeah, but we've just got a little bit to finalize.
Q: Champ Car's contract with the Long Beach Grand Prix is up after next year. Is that something where we might see you guys be interested in for 2006?
BRIAN BARNHART: From my standpoint, Long Beach has a storied history. If an opportunity to race there was presented to us, I think we'd certainly have to take a look at adding it to our schedule.
Q: Are there any other road courses that you're looking at? Within how many years are you looking to expand road courses, maybe adding some ones that are out there, such as Mid-Ohio, possibly Elkhart Lake?
KEN UNGAR: You know, growing the schedule in a very methodical, determined way has been something that we've done nearly from the beginning of the Indy Racing League. We go into a market and we establish partners with the intention to establish long-term relationships.
If you look at how we're looking to develop our schedule, topping out at 20 races as a fully mature schedule, and having a number of road and street events being a part of that, our target would be in the range of six, we have to very carefully determine new opportunities in roads and streets as well as ovals that we're not currently racing at.
So the road courses that you mentioned are those that we have talked to during this process and have considered, but it's a very complicated process as we look at markets. We look at the venues themselves and the combination on our schedule, both in terms of geography and in terms of climate where it fits on our schedule.
Very complicated, but those are venues that we have spoken to as part of this process.
Continued in part 2