SPARTA, Ky., Thursday, Aug. 24, 2000 -- It's appropriate that during Brian Barnhart's first week as vice president of operations for the Indy Racing League he will oversee the first Indy Racing Northern Light Series race at the new...
SPARTA, Ky., Thursday, Aug. 24, 2000 -- It's appropriate that during Brian Barnhart's first week as vice president of operations for the Indy Racing League he will oversee the first Indy Racing Northern Light Series race at the new Kentucky Speedway. "It's going to be a little different role," said Barnhart, who was promoted this week to vice president status by Tony George, president and chief executive officer of the Indy Racing League. "Many of the things I did do I will continue to do, and probably it will be just an expansion of working more closely with Tony on the day-to-day operations of the league. "Obviously, Tony has a lot of commitments across the street at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the F1 event (Sept. 24), the Brickyard (400), and everything else that he does. I'll probably work more closely with him on some of our operational issues, deal more with the track promoters and also work very closely with (senior vice president and chief marketing officer) Bob Reif and our marketing group to try to improve and grow the league in the future." The Belterra Resort Indy 300 on Aug. 27 at Kentucky Speedway is the first step into that future. It is the first of a number of tracks, several of them brand new, that will become regular venues on the circuit starting next season. In addition to Kentucky, the Indy Racing Northern Light Series will compete next year at freshly constructed tracks in Kansas City, Kan., Joliet, Ill., and Nashville, Tenn. Also, new on the schedule will be races at Homestead-Miami Speedway in south Florida, Richmond International Raceway in Richmond, Va., and Gateway International Raceway across the Mississippi River from St. Louis. "It's great to expand our future and go into new markets with Indy Racing," Barnhart said. "But the one thing that really excites me about this coming weekend is, that outside the Indianapolis 500, this really is going to be our first event back in the Midwest. Besides the lull we've had in our schedule, it's really exciting to get racing again, but it has an added dimension in that it has a 'home track' feel to it. All of our people - our staff, officials, everybody - are driving to the event. "So it's like a second home or a home away from home for us. It's in the Midwest, where our fan base seems to be strongest. Also, obviously we're very strong down in Texas. We're excited about our first event in the Midwest and, of course, next year's schedule concentrates on the Midwest." The Indy Racing League is nearing completion of its fifth season. It started with three races in 1996 followed by a combined 1996-97 season. The last three seasons have stretched from January to October, but next year a minimum of 13 events will be condensed into a period between March 18 and Sept. 30. "I'm very pleased with where we're at," Barnhart said. "I think, with many of our founding principles and philosophies, we have achieved many of our goals. We've created many new opportunities for people like Tony Stewart, Billy Boat, Donnie Beechler, Jimmy Kite and Davey Hamilton. We've created a lot of opportunities for the grassroots-type of American racers to have a path to Indianapolis and Indy-car racing. "Yet at the same time, we haven't done it at the expense of other opportunities for other drivers. We still have a great mix of foreign drivers as well. We've had (Arie) Luyendyk and Kenny Brack, Scott Goodyear of Canada, Stephan Gregoire and Airton Dare, who is a young Brazilian driver with us. "We've expanded as our schedule shows going into 2001. We've been able to take Indy-car racing into new markets. I think there have been a lot of things we have been able to do. We've greatly controlled many aspects of the sport that at one time were very alarming. We have controlled the escalating cost of racing, we have a good bit of control on our manufacturers as well. As well as the cost, we've controlled the speed, and we are very concerned with the safety aspect of racing. "So, overall I'm very pleased with the way the league has progressed in five years and very excited about the challenges that lie ahead, and taking it to the next level." And this weekend at Kentucky, as always, Barnhart will balance his myriad duties in his usual professional ways as he leads the Indy Racing League and Indy Racing Northern Light Series successfully through its first new race facility on the way up the ladder to the next level.
THE BELTERRA RESORT INDY 300 NOTEBOOK
Schedule: The Belterra Resort Indy 300 starts at 2:30 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 27. MBNA Pole Qualifying starts at 12:15 p.m. Aug. 26. Practice sessions start at 11:15 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. Aug. 25, 9:30 a.m. Aug. 26 and 10 a.m. Aug. 27.
*** On the air: The Belterra Resort Indy 300 will be televised live on ESPN at 2:30 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 27. "Indy Racing 2Day" will be televised at 11 a.m. (EDT) Aug. 27 on ESPN2. ESPN2 will televise MBNA Pole qualifying at 5 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 26. The Indy Racing Radio Network will broadcast a 30-minute prerace show at 2 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 27, followed by the live race broadcast at 2:30 p.m. IRRN will broadcast qualifying live at 2:30 p.m. (EDT) Aug. 26. The area IRRN affiliate is WIKT-FM 95.3, Carrollton, Ky. The IRRN race broadcast also will be available live on the Internet at www.indyracing.com as part of a partnership between Indy Racing Online and Yahoo!/broadcast.com. Live streaming video of all practice sessions will be available at www.LiveOnTheNet.com.
*** Tickets: Tickets for The Belterra Resort Indy 300 are available by calling Kentucky Speedway at (888) 652-RACE or through Tickets.com at www.tickets.com. Ticket information and a seating chart is available at www.kentuckyspeedway.com.