IRL Mid-season press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: You mentioned the budget, you're doing well and new sponsors, you're doing well in your income but how close are you to really being profitable and to continue with that question, the rumors are that Tony was removed...

Continued from part 1

Q: You mentioned the budget, you're doing well and new sponsors, you're doing well in your income but how close are you to really being profitable and to continue with that question, the rumors are that Tony was removed as CEO because he was spending too much money from the Speedways and moving over to the IRL, and so if they are true, and if that money is not going to be as much as it was in the past, where do you stand in terms of making the series profitable to stand on its own?

TERRY ANGSTADT: Well I don't get real specific on the actual financials, but what I did say earlier, and I do want to reinforce, is we have taken on the challenge, and this started three years ago, to make this a very viable and sustainable entity on its own. And we are well on our way of achieving that.

There is no question in anyone's mind, certainly internally at the Indy Racing League, that we do not have that financial support to continue to execute our business plan and to deliver the results we have committed to. And as I've said, the confidence comes into the fact that we are going to exceed the plan that was signed off on by our parent organization.

And I think you will see a continuing improving financial picture next year, the year following, and so from a stability standpoint, I would really like to erase that from anyone's minds or concerns about not having an Indy Racing League. That's what we do and that has been the commitment.

And it's interesting to me that, as a criticism, to continue to allow this industry to exist, you know, everyone knows the history of this product, and there was a tremendous investment made by the entire Hulman-George family. So did that lead to part of this? Evidently. So do we think it's a very improved financial picture from this year forward? Absolutely.

Q: For Terry and Brian, in 2005, Tony basically had stepped away from the day-to-day role and gave the responsibility to you guys, so other than with unification, what has been your responsibilities to run the program, and while he was pretty much more focused on being the team owner at Vision Racing? And a follow-up to that what you've both answered.

TERRY ANGSTADT: As we've said, we don't anticipate much of a change, at all, because I do think that, you know, again, when he chose us for these roles, he demonstrated his confidence in us, and again, the board and Jeff Belskus has assured us that he will operate in a very similar manner. Jeff will be in Toronto with us, and at the same time, we don't expect him to be real hands-on with the Indy Racing League.

You will continue to see Tony at every race. So again, for us, we just don't anticipate many changes. If the results were not positive, then they should make changes, but again, confidence level is pretty high.

BRIAN BARNHART: Just reiterate what Terry just said there.

It's going to be pretty much the same leadership plan that's been in place for the last two or three years. It's not like Tony is disappearing. He's still on the board and we are still very much responsible to the board. As Terry mentioned, we submit our plan to them and every year they approve it and our progress towards that plan is what's going to dictate our futures and they have given our support.

The whole family is dedicated to the growth and the future of the IndyCar Series, and they have stated that us to us. They have stated they have faith in us, and if we keep moving in the direction we are, we are going to be in good shape.

Q: And Tony is the guy who hired each one of you, you've had long relationships with him; what was your true reaction when you heard what had happened?

TERRY ANGSTADT: You go first.

BRIAN BARNHART: Well, I guess I was just wishing what's the best for Tony on a personal level; known him for a long time and he met with Terry and Charlie and I on Wednesday before we went to Richmond and had good indication.

I think the best thing that I came out of it was Tony had a great peace of mind and seemed very comfortable with the decisions and seemed very excited about the challenge that he faces with Vision Racing, as well as some additional business ventures he wants to take on at a personal level.

And the other aspect of it, Tony has been in this position now for nearly 20 years, and he signed on, I think he's had a great job. He's done a great job and certainly he enjoyed it to that point. But I think while he's no longer CEO in the position that he held before, the fact that he signed on to be a steward of open-wheel racing in the future is a lifetime commitment for him. So it's going to be ongoing, no doubt.

TERRY ANGSTADT: I think Brian answered that quite well. I think that also as we not only look to how the relationship did develop with us, as we look at tough decisions in the future, the new engine, the new chassis, where we race, those are racing decisions that I'll assure you he will continue be involved in.

Q: A lot of the owners have said they want to get a new car before 2011 and they think they can't afford not to get a new car, did you get to that today and is there any indication you can go forward before then?

BRIAN BARNHART: We are not ruling out 2011 but one of the biggest challenges we face, we are down to two designs seem to be the direction we are leaning towards, and I say they are significantly different, and also they are significantly different from each other and they are also significantly different from what we currently have.

And because of that, I think the challenge with making it by 2011 is a little bit of the fear of the unknown, but also doing your due diligence with it, because it is so radically different from what has been in open-wheel racing over the evolution for the last 30 years; you have to build a prototype, you have to be able to run them. You're going to have to learn how to race those cars, and equally, if not more important, we are going to have to learn how to crash those cars.

And it's hard for me to say without getting into too much detail about it, but just the database that's been created from a safety aspect over the evolution of the current type of car, a significant portion of that doesn't apply, because of the potential new cars are so radically different.

You know, with the importance in priority on safety, I'm just not sure time will allow for the prototype to be built, tested, and then all of the work done for it to be in place. I mean, we are 17 or 18 months from January of 2011, so I'm not sure that's a comfortable time frame to be able to do what we feel needs to be done with it.

If it can, we are not ruling out 2011. Our focus is on 2012 and if we can do it quicker, then we will get it in place for 2011. And if not, it will be 2012.

Q: With the news coming out essentially that Tony is no longer in charge, do you think the public perception is, uh-oh, is the Speedway or the Indy Racing League in trouble, because he's been the guy in the forefront, fans are saying, not good?

TERRY ANGSTADT: To kind of go back to the three very important points of Tony George's future, he's on the board of directors and he's a significant owner and he owns a race team and he'll be with us every weekend. I assure you that's a lot more connected to any business than a CEO, which unfortunately for guys who is work for a living like us know, you can wake up one day and be fired. You're not really fired when you own the company and you are on the board.

And so there is a significant, ongoing role for Tony George. He is the guy that created it. I understand there's a bit of a shift here, I'm not trying to sidestep that part of it, and that's why I think that, again, it's important to realize and emphasize the point, Jeff is who we submitted our budgets to before.

So that's why it's a pretty routine transition from our perspective. But I think also including Tony's ongoing role a little bit more as to his choosing, but if you think of those three aspects of his connection to this business, that's not going to go away.

Q: I understand it and you do, but the people in the fans I think are going to go, uh-oh --

TERRY ANGSTADT: I'll give you a more important uh-oh than the fans. First, our sponsors and suppliers and real closed-in constituents and that's why I would like to think we called in advance and made sure everyone knew, heard the story us from, heard our comfort level in the ongoing future in this business, and I believe have a relatively high level of confidence that we are going to deliver against what we said.

Q: Charlie, with VERSUS coming in and this being their first year and first effort at getting into motorsports, are you happy with the program and the team they put together? And from what I understand, their ratings, they are pleased with because what they had an issue with is nowhere near what they are getting now --

CHARLIE MORGAN: From a content standpoint, and that's where we work most closely with them, we are very pleased and got rave reviews from virtually all constituents: The teams, the team owners, sponsors, viewers; it's been a very, very positive response to a product that's being put on there, largely due to, as you said, a great team of people that have been put in place to make that happen.

And you're right, the ratings for their races, compared to what they had on during those times last year, are up dramatically, sometimes 100 or 200 percent.

Q: Brian, you're obviously trying to address the league three or four years ago, are these changes you're making aimed at trying to get it back to where it was, where the competition is as close as it used to be, and will this hopefully help do that?

BRIAN BARNHART: Well, ultimately our goal is to improve it. It's been frustrating to see a couple of the races, the way they have panned out. They certainly were not up to our expectations and what we have raced at those same venues with the same car historically.

So it was a little bit of a hedge as to why and it's taken a lot of conversations with everybody and certainly we want to improve the entertainment aspect and the on-track competition from what we have seen. You don't stick your head in the stand and hide from those events.

They were real exciting events for us, and it was equally frustrating from our standpoint because you didn't anticipate it or really have an explanation as to why. And so we are certainly trying to address it, and our next oval event is Kentucky at the end of this month, the 31st, and August 1, and based on the feedback and input we have from the teams, these are steps in the right direction.

It's phase one, and if it's not enough, we have to plan for additional stuff to be implemented after Kentucky if this doesn't achieve the desired result. But we think it's certainly moving in the right direction.

Q: Talk about the new chassis and two options, radically different and maybe 2011, would you go with the new engine at the same time? I assume you would. And why only Dallara?

BRIAN BARNHART: I didn't say it was only Dallara. And yes, it would involve a vastly different engine, as well, because concepts are so radically different, and that's again part of the package.

We have got great partners with Honda right now, and certainly we have a meeting scheduled at Toronto next week to keep them included in the loop and talk about what our options are and our time line around these. And it would be a whole new package, chassis and engine, at the same time.

Q: Your relationship with Tony's three sisters; do you have one? And is there any kind of a timetable that in two years, you've got to show this much growth. Mary's release was good because it said we are going to stay behind the IndyRacing League. Do you have to answer to her every couple of years with a performance report that shows improvement? Have they given you a time, five years or ten?

TERRY ANGSTADT: What I can say is that in terms of a relationship with all members of the board, we presented to them three weeks ago, and so we do see them at board meetings. They are there and present and pretty involved, ask questions, expect results. And our planning cycle is really an annual plan and a five-year plan, and we have done both, and, in fact, I believe we have a meeting mid-next week on the five-year plan.

And so far, in fact, this is actual fact and comment from Jeff Belskus, we are beyond where we were asked to be at the end of our current five-year plan.

Now again, those of you in any business, realize that there is a lot of forecast being especially in a five-year plan and I think you can do a really good job one year out and you can do a pretty good job two years out, three, four, five, there's a little bit of guesswork there.

But, that is our planning cycle and I think everyone involved in it are pretty leisured with the look of the actual content in those plans.

Q: (Inaudible).

TERRY ANGSTADT: Absolutely no resistance. It was absolutely the opposite of that. It was very favorably received.

Q: When I hear the name in racing circles, Junior, I never thought of Sam Hornish Jr. Obviously the other guys have done a really great job of making their drivers into stars with a notable exception of Danica (Patrick) and Helio (Castroneves), we don't have a lot of folks who know our drivers. In fact, some days, it's hard for us to know the drivers. I guess the question to the three of you, especially for the marketing wing, is what are the ongoing plans to help keep addressing that situation so that we do develop drivers that we hear about on a daily basis and when we talk to our casual racing friend and we mention their names, we don't get blank stares.

CHARLIE MORGAN: I'll start with that one, that was really one of the things that drove what we were looking for in a new television package, when I talked about additional coverage, the conversations always revolved around, we need people to see our drivers beyond green flag to checkered flag, to get a chance to know, because we believe we have a series full of very interesting, compelling characters, and that we just need to be able to get them exposed to a broader audience.

So that's the very design of why we went out and did this television package. Again, we are five races into it of a ten-year deal, a little hard to evaluate its success or failure so far, but I think the early signs, kind of answering Don's question, again have been very positive, the types of things that were able to show and expand upon in telling those stories, reasons fans would have a rooting interest for or against individual drivers and teams, that's what the TV package was designed to do.

TERRY ANGSTADT: That's exactly right, and that really is the most effective way we can deliver that. There is a lot of other blocking and tackling behind the TV strategy. I mean, things like the mandatory autograph session, we are the only series that does that. Our mobile marketing platform, our Internet strategy, how many ways can we try to make a connection, let alone an emotional connection with our drivers, from posters to schedule cards to, you name it.

So we know that, and working hard against that, but Charlie hit the key point, it's telling the story. It's telling the story on TV.

Q: In New Hampshire last weekend there was a lot of talk about is there any possibility of the IRL coming to New Hampshire Motor Speedway. Any comment you can make about that at this stage?

TERRY ANGSTADT: Well, we are clearly interested in that corridor. New Hampshire represents we think a facility that we know our cars race well there, and there are conversations. So that may develop.

BRIAN BARNHART: From my standpoint, it's the type of track I would love to be back at. The flat, short oval is a great racing track for us and we would love to be back in that market and I think the venue itself to be outstanding.

Q: There was some talk maybe primarily in the chat rooms and letters to the editor and things like that about perhaps throwing out the pit selection process as based on points and maybe making it sort of random as a way of kind of mixing up the competition a little bit. Any conversation on any thought given to that and where does that stand?

BRIAN BARNHART: Well, we actually did that about four or five years ago. I can't remember the exact year, it was either 2004 or 2005, we went away from it for the same reason everybody is talking about and we had more pit accidents that year than any year we have ever done them.

I've talked to more people about it and even talking with our competitors and came to the conclusion that we had more crisscrossing in the pits, and we tended to have guys running into each other and when you got exposed personnel on pit lane, the safety aspect of it, we kind of went back to the way we were before, and it has eliminated that from a safety aspect and certainly improved it in pit lane.

I think going back to what we touched on, I would rather work on improving the on-track product to the point where if you get that right, then the pits become a lot less important.

THE MODERATOR: We appreciate your time and thank all of the media for sticking with us late in the afternoon.

-credit: irl

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Indy Lights
Drivers Tony George , Sam Hornish Jr.
Teams HART