IRL: Chitwood, Barnhart IMS Media Tour transcript, part 2

Continued from part 1 KING: Let's open it up for questions. We have Eric Powell from the media relations staff who has the mike on the other side. Keep in mind we will be transcribing this entire press conference. Q: Brian, realistically, with...

Continued from part 1

KING: Let's open it up for questions. We have Eric Powell from the media relations staff who has the mike on the other side. Keep in mind we will be transcribing this entire press conference.

Q: Brian, realistically, with all these opportunities, the chance for error, of course, increases and crashes and things of that nature, equipment being torn up. Will the car count be sufficient to sustain these types of qualification procedures? Because the latest I had seen was 30 cars and 16 drivers thus far as of a few days ago. Will we have enough to keep the interest up so on that Bubble Day we've had the possibility of 33 and maybe there's 10 or 12 still out there trying to make the race.

BARNHART: You absolutely will have enough to fill the field. I have no doubt about that. I don't anticipate on Bump Day having 33 and then 10 or 12 more looking to get in. But we most definitely will have at least 33 cars, and we will have a full field. I think in response to what you're saying, the fact that we have made equipment usable instead of putting it on a trailer by accepting a qualifying run will ensure that you have more equipment available, more engines, more chassis available to go through this process and make sure we do get to the 33 and beyond.

Q: Brian, I believe you were still the track superintendent when the previous paving job was done. What was different with this particular paving job and how many areas of the track had to be ground down?

BARNHART: Well, there's a lot of things that change over time. If I'm not mistaken, the last time it was paved was for the '96 season. You get a lot of evolution and development over time. The director of engineering and construction for the Speedway is Kevin Forbes, and he is always taking a look at the mix to use and the polymer and slag and aggregate content is. You know, one of the things that did not work very well with the previous pave was it didn't last as long as it was anticipated. And if you remember, it cracked very severely. Even last year we had to stop practice a couple times and we are very fortunate through the race we had some holes develop out on the racetrack that took some time to repair. The paving this year included changing the mix so that didn't reoccur once this new pavement is down. Of course, we have an obligation, as well, to provide as smooth a racetrack as possible. So there were some bumps that were identified out on the racetrack post paving and throughout the wintertime so there was some grinding done. And the comments yesterday, the guys said it is very, very smooth out on the racetrack. Like I said, I don't anticipate we have any major issue. This is the same type of procedure that we've gone through at several other racetracks any time they've been repaved. The difference being Indianapolis is the fastest track we run, and any time that you would see something that is not anticipated or unexpected, you're going to be better safe than sorry. Firestone, their tires are an incredibly important component of what we put on the track in May. They do an outstanding job for us. They saw some things that were unusual and unexpected to them. At that point in time, it's best to just go evaluate it. They've taken the equipment back to Akron, and they're taking a look at it and will get back with us with their feedback. If we have to respond to do something different from a league standpoint, we will. And if Joie needs to do something from a racetrack standpoint, I'm sure they will.

KING: The question is what areas of the track had to be ground?

BARNHART: There are various spots all around it. In an effort to provide as smooth a racetrack surface as possible, they have touched spots all the way around, all the way around the two and a half miles.

Q: I have a question for Joie concerning the time change. There were several guys in NASCAR, Robby Gordon, John Andretti, Stewart, complained about they wouldn't even have an opportunity to run this with that time change. What's your thoughts on that? Was that taken into consideration or not?

CHITWOOD: Absolutely it was taken into consideration. I think it was interesting to get comments from drivers who haven't been doing the double and that they had the most comments about whether the start time was where it was. If it had been an issue, we would have hoped they would have participated anyways. We did take that into consideration. We have to also balance out the fans out there in terms of when they can watch the event. We think that it is a unique idea and challenge to run in both events. I think that if Robby is still interested, although the timing is tight, it is still possible. Based on his experience so far with his season, I don't know what his plans are. But we did take that into consideration. Brian and I, I think it's safe to say we had a month of meetings talking about these issues, because for us it's always the law of unintended consequences and can you think of enough things that you haven't thought of the first time as to what you have to plan for. We always know there are some things we know it will affect. But did we cover our bases and prepare for the others? I think we did a nice job. Obviously Mr. Gordon and Stewart had some comments, and more power to them, but we did take that into consideration.

Q: Brian, you mentioned that a team could use one engine for two different qualifying cars. What procedure follows, then, in regards to which qualifying engine can go in which car and how is this going to work?

BARNHART: With regards to the race?

Q: Yeah.

BARNHART: They don't have to race the motor they qualify now anyway. They've never had to do that, at least in most recent memory that I can think of. Most guys don't race the same engine they qualify unless it gets sent back and rebuilt anyway. So that's not an issue for us. Post-qualifying, accepted run, making it in the top 11 for that day or into the field that motor will be stamped and sealed. If they tell us they're going to try to qualify another car with it, and especially on that same day, we'll let them obviously get it out, get a change if they want to try and do another car with that same motor, and then we'll do a post-qualifying inspection when that motor is done for everyone.

Q: Brian, as we all discovered last year, it occasionally rains here in May. How much flexibility is built into the new qualifying system in terms of in case there is a rainout?

BARNHART: I think one of the best things about it in those meetings that Joie referred to earlier that we spent so much time, I think what has come out of it, I think you're going to see the Speedway and the IRL do a really good job of communicating together to make a decision in the best interest of both. I mean, because like you're saying, it can occasionally rain here. And our whole goal in providing that, I think we're going to make a good decision together between the Speedway and us as to whether, you know, the drama of trying to do this qualifying of 11 cars on a single day, we would lose the impact of that if on Pole Day it's raining in the morning and then by the time you get through qualifying, if you get just one trip through the line, if it looks like we're not going to start qualifying until 3 or 3:30, you know, on Pole Day, we're going to lose the edge of what we're trying to accomplish here. At that point in time the League's going to get together with the Speedway, and we're going to make an intelligent decision as best we can before that, trying to anticipate what the weather is going to do. We would be better off moving Pole Day completely to the second day. We have the possibility of moving the second day into Monday, which right now is a closed day from on-track activity. We have the ability of doing it one through 22 cars. So we have a lot of flexibility. That was part of the thing, result of the meetings that we had in trying to build that flexibility into it to maintain the drama and excitement of the format and what it's designed for to try and be able to respond to weather that you can't control to make sure we keep that drama available to everybody.

CHITWOOD: Brian, I would add I think there's a good example when Castroneves won the pole a couple years ago. That was a Pole Day on a Sunday. We had had weather, and we got together and made I think a good decision and had a nice experience with Helio going back I think in the last 20 minutes to capture pole. But I think it was important that we communicate and make sure we think of that fan out there who can enjoy that experience.

Q: Brian, how many cars do you anticipate for ROP?

BARNHART: You know, I don't know. To be honest with you, I haven't taken a look at it. I know we have a handful coming. Historically we've been somewhere between six and 10, and I think that would be a consistent number this year.

Continued in part 3

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Series IndyCar
Drivers John Andretti , Robby Gordon , Eric Powell
Teams HART