IndyCar Racing State Of The Union
Brian Barnhart (Competition), Terry Angstadt (Commercial) and Charlie Morgan (TV) from the Indy Racing League (IRL) met with the media Saturday evening at Watkins Glen to give a state of the union address of sorts following the big news this week that Tony George had been removed as President and CEO of the Indy Motor Speedway and subsequently he resigned as CEO of the Indy Racing League. What follows are some pretty interesting stories.
We have the full transcript below, but here are the highlights of the meeting:
THE MODERATOR: Like to thank everybody for sticking with us late this afternoon, we are going to offer a little IndyCar Series midseason media Q&A, just to introduce our principles up here, nearest me, Brian Barnhart, president of competition for the IndyCar Series, Charlie Morgan in the middle seat, president of IMS production, and our first speaker, starting to my far left, Terry Angstadt, president of the commercial division of the IndyCar Series. Terry?
TERRY ANGSTADT: Thanks, John, and thank you again for hanging in with the schedule today. We did want to get in front of you to not only provide a bit of a midseason update, but also clearly there have been a couple of changes around IMS and the Indy Racing League this week and wanted to have you hear that news from us, and answer any questions that you may have about that. But I will touch on a couple of other subjects, as well.
But organizationally, which is probably the most important, we have certainly -- we, being the management team, in fact, on both sides of 16th Street have received assurances directly from the board that they are pretty pleased with the direction and the management of the company.
And we have a pretty high confidence level in that, because we see the financial statements and we know if we are either achieving the plan or we're not, and we are exceeding the plan.
So anyone that has an appreciation for business knows, and we can talk about a lot of new, good developments and where we are going. But at the end of the day, you get an income statement every month, and you are either doing your job or you're not. We are exceeding sponsorship sales year-to-date, our budget to date by six fold and our net income by fivefold. And again, not getting into specifics because it's a private company, that's pretty solid performance against the plan. So just wanted to bring some relativity to that.
Also just in other subjects, the 2010 schedule, which is important, clearly, as to announcing that, we are working very hard at optimizing that and we hope to announce that by the end of July and we may actually do that at August 1 at Kentucky, that's been a network request, so we may do that.
We are really hanging in between 17 and 18 races. Our job is to try to hit the top DMAs in the country, and we do have an international expansion in the works that you've heard a little bit about. And we hope, it's not been confirmed like previously reported, but we hope to confirm that we are going to open in Brazil in the very near future. As we said before, we will not race internationally unless it's good for everybody involved.
And our model is holding up well; to be able to announce that we hope when we announce our schedule, we'll be down there would weeks from now making a final determination as to venue or venues, and make that announcement hopefully when we announce the rest of our schedule.
Just in terms of new sponsorship. Hopefully you've seen what happens when you do secure someone like an APEX-Brasil, you see them in the broadcast, you see them at the venue and other marketing efforts, as well as in IZOD, and I don't know all of you that understand the size of media commitment. But when we go to New York and you take over a Macy's store and you hold the kind of press event we had there, that's only because of good, strong partners like an IZOD, a PVH and a Macy's. Those are the kind of game-changers that we not only have secured a couple of this year, but we certainly hope to secure more in the future.
I think that that is kind of it for me, as I said, on the financial performance side. I get a little flared up when they say, "Gosh, the IndyCar Series got unified and the economy crashed around them." We have not taken that as an excuse and I think that's why we have been able to drive through some tough economic conditions and exceed our budget that we have developed before all of that happened.
So I think that's important for everyone to hear, not only when we talked about a little bit of a management change, but you know, where is the stability of the Indy Racing League. We are exceeding that plan, and our job is to make it very stable in the future. We have a high confidence level in doing that, and I think kind of the final points on the organization, is when you consider Tony (George) as a member of the board, as a significant owner in the company, and a team owner, I don't think anyone here could question how aligned his interests are in our success.
And there is no question in my mind or I think anyone's mind close to our business, you know, this is kinds of a lifelong thing Tony signed on for. So he's going to be in and around our events, and trust me, very involved in our day-to-day business. Thanks.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Terry. As I noted earlier, Charlie manages our television relationships with VERSUS and ABC, and Charlie, if you would, give us a little update on that front.
CHARLIE MORGAN: Sure, just a quick update, we are halfway through year one on what is an ABC a four-year deal, and on VERSUS a ten-year deal. So it's certainly very early in the life of both of those deals.
When we put these deals together and we went out and actively sought the opportunity to shop our media rights early, last year, about this time, we were looking for a combination of things. We were looking for a way to keep our sport in the mainstream media, you know, some could say maybe on an old-school broadcast network for all of the great things that being visible on a mainstream broadcast network can do: High visibility; both the fans and a casual viewer can stumble upon and find your product, and hopefully like what they see, fall in love, and want to follow it.
We also recognize the importance of continuity in 45 years worth of history with the ABC family of networks, was very important to us, and to them. So we were able to put a deal together with them for four years, that includes the Indy 500 and four additional races of their choosing each year, will not necessarily be the same four races as they are this year.
In fact, the ABC package wraps up next week in Toronto. We have Indy, we have Milwaukee and Iowa and now here at Watkins Glen and Toronto, and that will be this year's ABC package.
They have done I think a terrific job of promoting us across all of their platforms so far, and we will be begin a process with them almost immediately after the end of their package this season to do some significant brainstorming about how we can bring even more of Indy, IndyCar and IMS assets, and more Disney family assets to trying to make sure that the ratings have improvement in 2010 over 2009.
As far as the VERSUS side, the other thing we were looking for when we did this deal was a place we could get expanded coverage. One of the things Tony said a year ago was we have to have more time on the air to tell more of our stories and ESPN and ABC have different limits on the amount of time they can provide us, or any sport. And so we went out looking for a partner where we could be a cornerstone of their programming schedule and we found that in VERSUS.
Just an example of the kinds of benefits: They started their Tour de France coverage today. They don't have an IndyCar telecast again until Edmonton, and they are already promoting that Edmonton telecast coverage, today, in the Tour de France coverage, and will throughout; by the way, that finale is on the day of the Edmonton race, so I think we'll have a great sort of cross-pollination of audiences.
That's what we are looking for, expanded coverage and time, three-hour race windows and re-airs. That's what we went looking forward and found VERSUS. And we think together, really, one without the other does not provide what we were looking for in total. It is the combination of an ABC and VERSUS package that delivers what we went looking for.
Ratings so far, the VERSUS races, and here is how I look at it, as transparent as we know how to be: Race to race, they are obviously significantly lower rated, they have 75 million homes, vs. 95 million on the ESPN vs. 105 million on ABC.
But again, one of the things is we said if you get more coverage with fewer people, you still have a gross rating point for the coverage of the weekend that could be significant and the gross rating point for the first five races that are VERSUS races this year, last year, delivered a 0.65 average and this year it's a gross rating point of 0.55.
So we are in the game. We are in the ballpark. We have work to do. VERSUS has work to do. That's why it's a ten-year package. Their challenge is to continue to move themselves out of the premium tiers into basic tiers, and that will grow their reach beyond the 75 million.
And our job is to give them compelling content that will drive consumers to call their local cable supply, because that's really where their battles will take place now. As each local system comes up for renewal, they will be fighting their way off of premium and into basic tiers. And it is fans of the sport that they cover that will help bring pressure on those local systems to make that move.
Steps we have taken so far: Already beginning our marketing plans and creative work for the 2010 season with (Vice President of Marketing) John Lewis and his group to see if we can maybe interconnect some of that marketing look with one or both of our network partners, and might increase some consistency there if that makes sense. And we are scheduling a post-ABC season meeting in New York with a large number of their principals and ours to discuss 2010 plans now.
I said one of the things our goals there is to eliminate the chance for someone to say, if only we had thought of that sooner, we might have been able to do it. We are going to start thinking about it now, so that when we roll into next year, Indy 500 and beyond, we have the time to execute those plans.
Beyond TV, a couple other quick notes. As everybody knows here we are on an XM channel and now that XM and SIRIUS combined, the IndyCar programming is part of the best of XM package that's available to SIRIUS subscribers for an additional premium each month. So we have some expanded reach there.
They have expanded their coverage of us. They are now picking up the qualifying coverage from the IMS Radio Network that we do for IndyCar.com, that is now carried on our XM channel and we have actually begun exploration with one of our teams and drivers who has some sponsorship money about doing a driver-hosted show, as well. So some expanded coverage happening there, and more possible in the future.
The last piece of media discussion is our race-control product which is our online, what we call complimentary package, whether ABC or VERSUS, includes the in-car cameras that a viewer can select which ones they want to follow and includes telemetry timing and scoring. Last year that was a paid service, and this year we decided it was more important to the growth of sport to make it available for free instead of paid. And it has shown good, solid growth as a result of that, and we had about 12,000 people using that product in May and Indy, and we average around 3,000 users on every IndyCar race.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you, Charlie. We'll turn it over now to Brian Barnhart.
BRIAN BARNHART: Just a couple of quick updates on the engine front. We have previously confirmed five engine manufacturers have expressed continued interest in participating in the IndyCar Series in the future, including Honda, Audi, Fiat, Porsche and Volkswagen, and as I said, they continue to show great interest. Plans for introducing a new engine spec, while remaining and maintaining the series position, as a leader in the use of ethanol biofuels remains an ongoing process with considerable OEM input. We are expecting to finalize the engine specifications in the next few months.
On the chassis side, we pretty well know that down to two directions to go, with two parallel path programs that are significantly different from each other. We will continue in that direction and make a choice on deciding which one of those chassis we are going to choose. Again, probably within the next couple of months with the primary focus area being on a reduction in the cost of participation. We really need to find a way to allow the team participation in a cost effective manner.
One of the changes we have made with regards to the specifications for the upcoming events that we have done, we have done a bulletin out and in trying to address the on-track product of what we've seen the last couple of months and what we've done, we have had considerable conversations with the drivers, team managers engineers, owners and whatnot and we have come to a conclusion that we are going to try to allow them more tools and options to determine the amount of level, downforce they want to race with and we are going to allow the rear tire ramps and extensions and wheel base to be used at their discretion at the remaining four mile-and-a-half tracks for the season-enders. And we have tried to focus on those changes and kept them between the wheel bases of the cars, tried to stay away from wing angles as that tends to get into pit sensitivity of the cars. And it is an efficient and effective form of downforce and their choice.
They don't have to qualify and race in the same configurations, and gives them some effective tools to hopefully improve the car's handling and capabilities of racing better on the racetracks.
They are all items they currently possess and nobody has to buy anything and they are all items they have great familiarity with and don't have to test with, and so from a financial standpoint it was a right direction to move from a team standpoint.
THE MODERATOR: All right, yes, thank you very much, we will open up to Q&A.
Q. Terry, if you could clarify, Jeffrey Belskus is the CEO of the IMS Corporation and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, does he also maintain the CEO status at the Indy Racing League?
TERRY ANGSTADT: Technically it is not included in his title, but actually our reporting structure is through Jeff to the board, so that is the way it will work. And I think we all have a pretty high confidence level in Jeff, and look forward to that transition.
Q. It's my understanding you guys just met with the majority of the team owners a few minutes ago. What is the main message you communicated?
TERRY ANGSTADT: We met with every team owner; it wasn't the majority. And I think it was a very positive meeting. It was a lot of what we just covered with you. In fact, it was everything of what we just covered with you. And again, it exceeded my expectations, and I think it was a very good kind of flow of communication and I think everyone left very positively. You can ask them, as well.
Q. Terry, where does Milwaukee stand? Since we talked to you last, there's been new news about how much the promoter is in debt; and secondly, Australia, have they contacted you about getting back into the game, perhaps?
TERRY ANGSTADT: The easy one first. Australia has not contacted us, and we have left that I think very positively last year, but do not have an ongoing interest of racing there.
And in Milwaukee continues to be a challenge, that has I think probably gotten a bit worse since we have talked last, just in terms of a future possibility.
We felt like we may be able to develop a plan with the current promoter to not only fulfill outstanding obligations, but give us a confidence level that we could put it on the schedule.
We are not announcing the schedule until the end of July, and so I guess there could be something developed, but kind of remains to be seen. It does look like pretty tough operating conditions up there right now. So we'll just monitor that, and as I said, we have an alternative developed on the schedule and again we hope to be able to include Milwaukee and we just don't know that yet.
Q. In Canada we get the ABC broadcast but not the VERSUS, so we have to rely on TSN to give us coverage of the series in Canada and TSN has chose tone only give us the race coverage and we don't get the qualifies or the Indy Lights. I think in a couple instances, there's been a time shift to the middle of the night and there's also one race that wasn't covered at all. Any comments on what we can expect for improvement in the future?
CHARLIE MORGAN: It's a great question and a little complicated to explain but let me see how I can tackle it.
The rights for our international coverage, the 5:00 AM B.C. race, as you indicated, are a part of the package that ABC ESPN has and where they have owned and branded networks they broadcast those races; and beyond that it goes into what is referred to as syndication and is available basically on the open market for virtually anyone to make an offer, whether it's pay TV, free TV, a local station or a pan-regional network, and we have examples of all those.
TSN is the network that purchased the syndication package initially at the start of the season. I am aware that there were some challenges there. We have followed up.
The interesting part that makes it a little complicated is that while those rights are actually VERSUS rights, they have hired ESPN International to do their syndication for them as ESPN had traditionally been syndicating race coverage beyond their own networks and we felt initially in combination with VERSUS and the IndyCar side, that they offered our best chance to continue to maintain good coverage. They had more relationships with folks buying auto racing.
That deal is a two-year deal, and so they have done that for us this year and next year. And, in fact, I had a meeting today with ESPN International sort of reviewing some of the challenges you spoke about, discussing some action steps we can take to try to make sure we improve it for 2010, in particular.
With TSN we did address as you mentioned, the one race that was not covered, and have been assured that those problems have been fixed. And I'm also told, and you might be able to confirm this or not, that they do bounce around between TSN and TSN2, and the TSN2 has recently struck a deal with Rogers for some increased distribution. So hopefully moving forward that provides us some additional exposure in Canada.
Q. Yes, it was a serious problem in TSN in the Toronto market was Rogers is the cable supplier in the Toronto market so that dispute affected car racing as well as many other popular sports. I would point out, of course, that in Canada, there's been a tremendous interest in open-wheel racing, traditionally, and you know, it's disappointing I think to those traditional race fans who are perhaps having some difficulty making the conversion to the new era, that a new style of racing for them -- because they were, as you know, CART fans, true blue, when the coverage is limited.
CHARLIE MORGAN: Absolutely understand that, and we are committed to working with all of the various rights holders and partners to improve that.
One thing I'll even mention that we are doing to try to address, probably does not apply in Canada because we do have a syndication rights holder, but where some of these races have not been available because they were not ABC, ESPN races and no syndication partner picked it up. We are developing a streaming product that will be available for a very low-cost purchase race by race, in countries where there is not coverage. So we are making additional steps to try to make sure our product is available, but certainly understand the sensitivity.
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 Indy Racing 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.
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.
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