NASCAR 2009 schedules teleconference, part 3

Continued from part 2 Q: Mike, are you at all concerned that placing an August Nationwide race in Iowa might siphon off some of the fan interest from the October Nationwide race in Kansas City? MIKE HELTON: No. We feel like there's a ...

Continued from part 2

Q: Mike, are you at all concerned that placing an August Nationwide race in Iowa might siphon off some of the fan interest from the October Nationwide race in Kansas City?

MIKE HELTON: No. We feel like there's a marketplace for more in that area. I think Kansas City is an incredible host of NASCAR events, one of the premiere marketplaces for any sport or entertainment to go into. We're certainly glad to be there.

But I don't think that another Nationwide race at Newton, Iowa -- actually, I think they will complement each other. I think it will actually build a better following for the Nationwide Series in that very hardcore motorsports area of the United States.

Q: Mike, was there any reason not to do this Atlanta, California, Talladega swap? Anything you all needed to be convinced of before making the change?

MIKE HELTON: I'm not sure if I understand the question.

Q: Did you have any second thoughts when the track operators asked you to make that change?

MIKE HELTON: Well, we certainly go through a thought process I guess would be the best way to couch it and ask a lot of questions of both the promotors, test float it among some of the key sponsors and teams, what do you think type thing before we come to a final conclusion. But it really ends up on the merits of does it make sense for the good of all of NASCAR. We get input from a lot of the different groups in NASCAR to land on our decision.

But I wouldn't say that there were any heartburn or negative issues to it. It was a matter, does it make sense, does it work, do both facilities agree with it, then ultimately does NASCAR agree with it. That's how we kind of landed it.

Q: Did you want to put the Montreal Nationwide race on an off weekend for Cup? Was that done on purpose to get possibly nor Cup guys to that event?

MIKE HELTON: It really just worked out because the calendar for '09 worked out that way. The doesn't mean that necessarily going forward it will be that way. It just happened to work out that way in '09 as we put it together. But certainly we feel it gives us an opportunity in Montreal to utilize an off Cup weekend somewhere with a high significance, and Montreal certainly fits that.

Q: Mike and Gillian, is this the ultimate test for Southern California as a two-race market? What happens if this Chase race is not a big draw as you would expect it to be?

MIKE HELTON: From NASCAR's perspective, Southern California, Ontario, Auto Club Speedway, however you want to label it, is very important to NASCAR. We think Gillian and her staff are very aggressive about building NASCAR's brands out there, whether it's the trucks, the Nationwide Series or the Sprint Cup Series. We're very pleased with that effort. We're there because Southern California we think is the right place for us to be doing what we do.

GILLIAN ZUCKER: As I mentioned before, we've acknowledged Southern California is an emerging but critically important market for NASCAR. In the time that I've been here, I've watched an amazing growth of fan knowledge and passion. I've watched fans come to this sport. I've watched them brave the elements of unfathomable heat on Labor Day and rain delayed events during February. They continue to come back. They're passionate about writing and telling us what they want. We're really about growth. As long as we're continuing to see that, then we believe we're making the kind of impact in this market we need to be making for the sport. We feel that next Labor Day, next Pepsi 500 during the Chase we'll be seeing that.

Q: Mike, there was a lot of talk about other tracks wanting a second Cup race or a new Cup race. Were any other changes considered for 2009?

MIKE HELTON: Yeah, we always consider a lot and get a lot of requests across the board. It may shift a week or two. It may be a month or two. A lot of those requests are very difficult to honor when it just involves one facility.

This request, when it came from two facilities that agreed and made sense, made sense, it was much easier. There's a lot of requests we get, as you can imagine, from different promotors of maybe liking a different spot, but those spots are hard to find.

This was the only major move that was considered in '09 on the Sprint Cup Series.

Q: Jerry, are there any plans to expand the track facility and seating capacity or anything else?

JERRY JAURON: Well, actually within the past two weeks we've begun a feasibility analysis here at the Speedway regarding what capacity we would have from a temporary standpoint at a minimum for our August 1st Nationwide event at Iowa Speedway. With that said, the facility was built knowing that we could expand and wrap the facility, with the exception of the tunnel, and have in excess of 100,000 seats here at Iowa Speedway. That's not being contemplated for the immediate 2009 season. We're going to get that feasibility study done from an outside engineering firm by the end of August, within a couple weeks here. With that, we're going to move forward as to a conceptualization as to how many seats we need for next August. Obviously we're going to track what should be very brisk ticket sales. I assure our fan base, we will have a seat for them or we will have room for them. No one will be turned away.

Q: Mike, a truck race in Chicagoland, how much do you think that might help you filling up a sponsor in that size market?

MIKE HELTON: I think a lot of the decision-making process that we put into where we race certainly is influenced by all sponsors, including the series sponsor. But we're racing in Chicago now with the Nationwide and Sprint Cup. When a truck race became available, Chicago had been for some time wanting one. It makes sense for that series to be in that market area as well. We're glad that it worked out for '09.

Q: Ed, the Labor Day date, even Darlington had issues packing the house there. We know it's a holiday. What challenges are you preparing to face with a weekend that's struggled to find its footing?

ED CLARK: First and foremost, we don't think it's going to be something where it's an automatic sellout. It's going to take considerable effort, a lot of smarts, a lot of planning, a lot of work to increase our crowd. A night race doesn't automatically mean you're going to do it.

At the same time one week earlier, we all know the success of Bristol Motor Speedway, what's happened up there. We know it can be done. I think part of it is how the first event goes off and the tradition we establish and how we bring our community in as partners with us to welcome fans who come here from all over the United States. We know we have work to do. We can't do things as we've done traditionally and we're working on ways to change that and make this almost like a new event.

It's a challenging market. We see an opportunity and I guess the best way to maximize our opportunity is to take advantage of that and put our very best effort forth, provide extra activities for the fans in addition to the racing that gives them more reason to come enjoy the weekend, see how things fall.

Q: Jerry, did you have discussions with NASCAR about getting the Truck Series to Iowa?

JERRY JAURON: We were open to either one of the series, with the Craftsman Truck Series or the Nationwide Series. We've had drivers from all the series say our track is wonderful and they'd love to come race here. But the schedule just didn't permit. There was no open date. We can respect that. We feel you're not given a race here at Iowa Speedway, you earn it. Fortunately there was an opening in the Nationwide Series. We feel very fortunate to be given the opportunity to race that race here next August. We're elated. But down the road obviously if an opening exists in the truck and eventually in Cup, we will definitely entertain bringing those series to Iowa as well.

Q: Mike, you said Chicago had been wanting one for a while. When this opening became available, were they at the front of the line or did you consider other tracks for this opening?

MIKE HELTON: Chicago had been interested in a Truck Series race. But others had been interested in other races as well. It's just a matter of balancing out what we think is the right place, the right time, availability, and what's good for the NASCAR community in whole. When we decided to put the Truck Series event in Chicagoland and the Nationwide Series in Iowa, it came after a good deal of thought process.

Q: Gillian, does this mean we're not going to have a night race in October?

GILLIAN ZUCKER: That is yet to be determined. We'll be working with the broadcast partners to determine start times for both races in 2009.

Q: Can you give me a chronology of who approached Atlanta or did Atlanta approach you?

GILLIAN ZUCKER: Well, I think it was sort of a public evolution. We put out for several years that we've been interested in an alternative date to our Labor Day date. I'll let Ed speak to this, but I believe it was this year they determined they thought Labor Day weekend might be a good fit for them.

ED CLARK: Yeah, I think it was kind of both of us thinking independently but the thoughts we threw out there kind of created a, Hey, that could work. Down at NASCAR, Mike can maybe answer that. We've long since wanted to change some dates here in Atlanta. The problem is people just don't want to give up their dates, and I don't blame them for that, and we don't want to take someone's date that is working for them. So this just happened to be one of those rare instances where we both saw the benefit, probably started discussions independently, but then it became something that pretty quickly seemed like a real opportunity that we both jumped on. I really think we're both going to benefit greatly from it.

Q: Mike, with the announcement that you're going to Chicagoland in the truck schedule, how close is NASCAR to sewing up a new title sponsor for next season with the Truck Series?

MIKE HELTON: Hopefully we're getting pretty close to it. Steve Phelps and his folks are very hard at work on narrowing it down and landing on a specific sponsor for that series. Hopefully in the next few weeks we can put it out in public.

Q: Mike, do you foresee a day down the road where either the Nationwide or Truck Series might return to Rockingham? Can you explain why there are so many open race weekends in the spring in the Truck Series.

MIKE HELTON: Well, your first question, I've learned a long time ago not to try to get too far ahead of us on predicting things because it changes. We've got so many moving parts and pieces out there from track ownership to availability to not being able that it's good just to be fluid and flexible. That's kind of what we've done the last several years.

I don't know what the future holds for what type race may happen at Rockingham. It's interesting to follow Andy and his crew down there and see what happens.

The truck schedule is purposely kept at a number that we feel like -- number of events that we feel like is reasonable for the truck owners and participants to be involved in. Part of it's economics - most of it - part of it's just the ability to move around with the people that you need to move around and what all resources you have to put at it. And when we move to opening the Truck Series at Daytona during Speedweeks, which was the right thing to do for the Truck Series, it spread out their season, spread out the calendar a little bit. We do have multiple weeks off in that series because it starts now earlier than it originally did. We kept the number of events where it is so that we didn't put a burden on the participants in the sport. That's basically why you end up with a lot of open weekends.

Q: Mike, it seems you and other NASCAR officials are often faced with tough choices. A lot of times the fans don't know about it or we don't know about it. The decision-making process, does it ever get easier?

MIKE HELTON: Well, I like to think it does. The fact of the matter is there's a lot of moving parts and pieces in the NASCAR community in general, whether it's the racetracks or race teams or NASCAR, and that's a good thing. We worked very hard for a long period of time to build this sport into the level of recognition that it now gets and probably deserves more that we at this point to work to get. When we do that, we also ask for the exposure. We also inherit the responsibility that goes along with that. And I think that's what we see today in NASCAR. While it appears to have a lot of moving parts and pieces, it's still a great program. It's still a wonderful sport. It's still a wonderful lifestyle to be part of. And it doesn't get any easier and it shouldn't. It kind of is what it is. That's what comes along with the high level of exposure, you get scrutiny with it, and scrutiny demands sometimes tough decisions. That's what we ask for and that's what we should step up and be prepared to do.

HERB BRANHAM: First of all, thanks to NASCAR president Mike Helton and all of our track presidents for joining us. Busy call, great media audience.

-credit: nascar

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