Alexander took time out during today's NASCAR test session
to talk with the media about several topics concerning
Chicagoland Speedway, as well as NASCAR.
Selected quotes from Matthew Alexander - Vice
President/General Manager of Chicagoland Speedway:
Question: What has Nextel's involvement in NASCAR meant for
the general race fan?
Answer: "I think Winston was a great partner and helped
elevate NASCAR to where it is today. Winston was restricted
for some of the things they could do for obvious reasons,
regulations being number one. That's where Nextel comes into
play because they can now take NASCAR more mainstream and
get to different media outlets that maybe Winston couldn't."
"Nextel knows they need to be aggressive with all those who
are fighting for market share and they see the NASCAR Cup
Series as a way to do that. They also want to get a return
on their investment in NASCAR and that is good for
Chicagoland Speedway because they will be aggressive with
getting the NASCAR brand out and selling it to make it more
mainstream, something Winston also couldn't do."
Question: Will Chicagoland Speedway have the SAFER Barrier
in place for the July 9-11 NASCAR weekend?
Answer: "We made the decision quite a few months ago that
Chicagoland Speedway would install the SAFER Barrier. Quite
frankly, the studies show that it is indeed safer. We try to
improve the experience for everyone, especially the
competitors. And, if part of that is making the race safer
than we need to look serious at that. The SAFER Barrier was
the obvious choice for us to improve the safety for the
drivers. That's why we made the decision months ago to move
forward with it and we are now in the process of making that
happen. It will be in place before the Tropicana 400, NASCAR
NEXTEL Cup Series race at Chicagoland Speedway."
Question: Have you consulted with any drivers for the SAFER
Barrier at Chicagoland Speedway?
Answer: "I've been in conversations with various drivers at
the events I've been at and the general sense in tone from
them is that they are happy to see it come to Chicagoland
"The drivers know better than anyone else about safety. We,
fortunately, haven’t experienced hitting a wall at 200 mph
and the way to get the best perspective is by hearing what
they (drivers) are saying works. It's quite a substantial
investment from our standpoint, but you can't quantify or
qualify, or put a price tag, on someone’s' safety. I don't
look at it in terms of a dollar. I try to look at the big
picture and how to continue to make this sport safer and
hopefully it comes out for the better for everybody."
Question: With hosting both NASCAR and IRL, how did you
determine the areas of the race track that would have the
Answer: "What we did was got input from both NASCAR and IRL
in terms of what seems to be the best layout for both
series, because we don't want to neglect one for the other.
So, we took that into consideration and developed a plan
that everybody seemed to be happy with.”
Question: Will Chicagoland Speedway have a second NASCAR
NEXTEL Cup Series race in the future?
Answer: "I think NASCAR is extremely thrilled with what has
happened at Chicagoland Speedway from not only the
standpoint of fan support, but also television ratings
locally have increased dramatically since we came in 2001.
Obviously, the corporations in Chicago that are involved in
NASCAR and could be involved, also makes it a very important
market for them and a positive experience.”
"The challenges we face both short-term and even long term
is one, weather, and second, how many dates do we have
during the summer. So, the question is, how can we work that
out? Obviously, Phoenix, California, Daytona and other
tracks in warmer climates don't have that issue. We have
that issue and tracks like Kansas also have that issue. So,
there is definitely a tough scheduling challenge that we
need to overcome, but we must continue to put on the races
we have put on and continue to get the sponsor and media
interest to grow, as well as the fan base. We've only begun
to scratch the surface in terms of the growth in this
market. We want to get to a point where NASCAR says we have
to go to Chicago for a second race and figure out how the
schedule could work.”
“NASCAR, I think, doesn't look at scheduling from the
standpoint of ISC (International Speedway Corporation) owns
this track, or ISC doesn't own that track. I believe they
look at scheduling in terms of what makes sense for them.
I'll go back to what I always say. We must continue to help
grow the sport and do things the right way. Then, after we
have some history behind us, we will be in line for a second
Question: Will Chicagoland Speedway host a NASCAR Craftsman
Truck Series race in the future?
Answer: "We have been in discussion with NASCAR and quite
frankly, Sears because they are in our backyard. As of right
now, it's a matter of trying to make all the pieces fit. The
desire is there from all three parties to have a truck race
at Chicagoland Speedway. Our goal is to improve the race
fan’s experience at the track and the trucks would
definitely enhance the weekend. I wouldn’t be surprised if
in the near future we have a truck race."
Question: Will Chicagoland Speedway install lights?
Answer: "That question goes back to if we have unlimited
dollars to spend, I'd say install them right now. I'd love
to see a weekend with a Friday night truck race, Saturday
Busch race and obviously a Sunday Cup race, or something
along that line. But, it's not as easy to say install lights
at the track. You also have to remember that lights on the
track means lights all around the facility, staffing, etc."
Question: Will Chicagoland Speedway add grandstand seats in
Answer: "We are not looking to add seats in the immediate
future. First, our egress and ingress traffic plan is solid.
Relatively speaking, with almost 100,000 race fans driving
in and out of the facility, we do an excellent job. If all
of a sudden we added seats, but kept the same infrastructure
in place, the plan wouldn't properly accommodate the extra
fans. Until we can figure out a plan we feel can properly
accommodate the extra 5,000 to 10,000 fans, we'll take
adding seats slowly. Second, we're continuing to build our
presence in the Chicago market and even though we have sold
out our season each year and are proud of that fact, we
still have yet to garner that huge demand for racing that is
out there right now. What we don't want to do is add 25,000
seats and not have the demand there.”
Question: How well do you think racing is accepted in the
Answer: "That's really been one of the biggest challenges we
have had. I think part of it is on us in that we need to
earn our position in the Chicago sports landscape. Quite
frankly, this is our fourth season and how long have the
Cubs, Bears, White Sox been here? They have an incredible
history built up and part of that history is that the media
who continues to cover them year in and year out are
familiar with the sport and have become fans. Even though we
want the media to understand the sport and be fans of it, we
have to be realistic of that until the mainstream media
really get used to how big racing has become and follow it
on heir own, that's when we’ll see the momentum shift. We've
already seen the signs going in that direction, but we still
have a long way to go. We need to continue giving the media
a first-hand experience of the sport and let them see it and
have access to it and it will then sell itself.
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