2012 Super Weekend at the Brickyard press conference
I've lived in Indianapolis all my life, and I still get excited about driving through the gates here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to come to an event, whether there are cars on the track or if it's just an announcement. This obviously is not just any other announcement. It has been a special year here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway as we recently celebrated the Centennial anniversary of the Indianapolis 500 and more great events to come as we look forward to the Brickyard 400 this summer, and what we're here to talk about today, the Super Weekend in 2012 in association with the Brickyard 400.
At this time, we've got many dignitaries we're going to hear from today and special guests. But at this time I would like to introduce the Mayor of Indianapolis, Mr. Greg Ballard. (Applause)
GREG BALLARD:Thank you, everybody, for coming. It's always good to come back to the Brickyard. It's another beautiful day, and this is kind of like Race Day for us. But it always is in Indianapolis, rain or shine, and it does rain here occasionally as we've known. But because we are the world capital of auto racing, we take that moniker seriously.
2012 will mark the 19th running of this race. Now it's really exciting to see what's going to happen in 2012. As you probably know, racing is a real source of pride in this city for everyone who calls this city home. It's in our blood, it's who we are. Indianapolis has long played host to a lot of national events right here at this track. But today's announcement is something special, not just for race fans around the country and around the world, but for all of Indianapolis businesses alike. It provides all of this new on-track activity in 2012, coupled with what we consider to be a great downtown experience, including the hotels and restaurants and cultural activities that few racing cities can claim. It's the combination of the track and our downtown, I think, that makes it a very special destination for people.
So because this is such a destination event that's going to start to happen in 2012, it's so special because racing is an important economic engine in our city, also. It provides so many hundreds of millions of dollars to our local economy each year because of this track. We are very proud of that and the fact we have such a long relationship with the Speedway. This extended racing weekend will have a great positive impact on local tourism, as we know, in addition to providing the city great national exposure, even more so.
So I want to congratulate IMS and NASCAR and GRAND-AM on this great announcement and welcome to all the fans once again to our great city where racing is who we are. We love coming to the track as much as possible. Now we just add to it once again to the luster of this beautiful, beautiful facility.
Thank you, everybody, for coming out today. I appreciate it very much. (Applause)
MODERATOR:Thank you, Mayor.
Now let's begin to meet the stars that we will be enjoying on race weekend, that special Super Weekend of 2012. I encourage you to keep your eye on Turn 4 as they make their way toward the start/finish line and the Yard of Bricks here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
The Pace Car and a GRAND-AM, Nationwide and Cup race cars raced toward the start-finish line. (Applause)
MODERATOR:I have to find out how difficult it was for these guys to not race one another down the start-finish line.
Let's introduce Jeff Belskus. Jeff is the CEO and president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation. Jeff, good afternoon. I'll ask you to step to the podium for the photographers and congratulations on what a wonderful announcement being made here today. What does it mean to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to have a Super Weekend of 2012?
JEFF BELSKUS:This is a very important announcement for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We're excited to have Nationwide and GRAND-AM added to our Brickyard 400 weekend. Really adds a lot of good content and good racing for our fans. It's going to make for just a really exciting weekend.
MODERATOR:After the growth that we saw at the Indianapolis 500 and the Centennial celebration in May, now as we look forward to added races at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway next year, what does that mean for the fans of Indianapolis who have such a passion about racing?
BELSKUS:Well, it's important for our fans, it's important for us. We know our fans like a lot of different forms of racing, and GRAND-AM, Nationwide, NASCAR, Sprint Cup, we're pleased to host it all here and it's going to make for a Super Weekend.
MODERATOR:How soon can fans start to learn about ticket availability and the actual events from a specific and timeframe standpoint?
BELSKUS:Tickets will go on sale August 1st after this year's Brickyard 400. You can check IMStix.com, and that will be the best place to get information on tickets.
MODERATOR:Thank you, Jeff. Congratulations. Jeff Belskus.
Also, I want to let everyone know there will be an opportunity for one-on-ones. Next, the president of NASCAR, Mr. Mike Helton. (Applause)
Well, Mike, this marks the 18th running of the Brickyard 400 that we're quickly approaching. What has NASCAR and Indianapolis mean to the sport of stock car racing?
MIKE HELTON:It's meant a lot. 17 years ago when we ran our first race here, we've benefited from that impact ever since. So now to be able to add our second stock car series, the Nationwide Series and North America's greatest sports car Series, the GRAND-AM Rolex and Continental cars, I think it speaks to the commitment that NASCAR and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway have with each other to better the future of motorsports to create a truly a world-class event here in July in the middle of our season, which gives us a great moment to look to.
MODERATOR:How important is it to continue to not only grow the sport as a whole but the events individually?
HELTON:I think it's important to pick the elements and the combination of relationships in order to grow it. Everybody wants to grow, and we're no different than that. Certainly NASCAR has done a lot of things in the past to assure the future of the sport. Today's announcement is one of those milestones, I think, where you pulled a nationally iconic facility like Indianapolis Motor Speedway together with NASCAR Sprint Cup, NASCAR's Nationwide and the Grand-American Series to put together a weekend that's going to be special for all motorsports fans.
MODERATOR:Thank you, Mike. Thanks for coming today. (Applause)
Next I would like to introduce Tom Bledsoe. Tom is the president of GRAND-AM. Hi, Tom. (Applause) Tom, your organization tested here in 2009. How excited were you at that time of the possibility of coming here to actually compete?
TOM BLEDSOE:Well, the cars looked great in 2009; they drove well. We tried two different tracks, the MotoGP track and the Formula One track. I think everybody agreed the Formula One track is probably the better track. We were excited; they're going to race well here.
MODERATOR:What does it mean to GRAND-AM as an organization to be racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
BLEDSOE:This is probably the most significant announcement for GRAND-AM that we've ever had. I think it's very significant to sports car racing in America. To have sports car come to Indy is huge.
MODERATOR:Race fans are looking forward to it, I can assure you. Tom, thank you very much for being here today. Tom Bledsoe. (Applause)
Next I'd like to introduce Carl Edwards, former Nationwide Series champion, currently second in points in the Sprint Cup Series. Good to see you.
CARL EDWARDS:Good to be here. I'm just excited.
MODERATOR:You're Mr. Media, you don't need me.
EDWARDS:I got my blood pumping a little bit driving down the front straightaway there. It's pretty cool to have Wayne Taylor, Scott Pruett and Ricky Stenhouse here. This is a really special place to all of us race car drivers. I think that this weekend is going to be -- it's going to be neat just to sit back and watch the guys get to run for the first time on this Speedway. I know my first trip here, I couldn't believe they were letting me drive on the racetrack.
It's an honor to drive here. I'm glad we brought Mr. Helton, otherwise we probably would have had a little bit of trouble getting stopped before we caused you guys a little problem down here. We were getting a little racy there.
It is good to be here, and I'm very honored to be a part of this day. It's a big announcement.
MODERATOR:What does it mean to you as a race car driver? You race at so many great racing facilities, but to have an opportunity to race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
EDWARDS:Just to come here to Indianapolis to race anything is huge. I ran a bunch over at ORP. The first time I came to this track was for a test session. They let me ride in Kenny Schrader's hauler. I came out here and they were doing a test, and I sat right back there in the garages and polished wheels on the hauler and watched Jeff Gordon and Terry Labonte and Kenny Schrader and these guys drive by. To me it means a lot to just be here, and to be able to drive on the racetrack is just a huge honor.
So a win here for me would be as big as any win on the schedule. This weekend it will be a lot of fun. It will be different because we'll be able to sit back and watch some of these spectacular races, you know, during the Super Weekend next year. It will be cool for all the drivers.
MODERATOR:You've been close to winning here before. We wish you well later this month. Certainly I know you, as we all do, look forward to the Super Weekend of 2012. Good luck.
EDWARDS:All right. Thank you, guys.
MODERATOR:Carl Edwards. (Applause)
Next I'd like to introduce Ricky Stenhouse Jr. Ricky, a member of the Nationwide driver crew, championship-caliber season for you. You've been right there knocking at the door all season long. How has it been from your perspective in the Nationwide campaign so far this year?
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.:First, I want to thank Nationwide Insurance for doing all they do for our sport and for NASCAR to allow them to change the point system up a little bit; they worked together for that. It's creating an awesome championship battle. We've got a win, but that championship is what we're gunning for. We've lost some ground over the first half of the year, but we've got the second half to go gain them back.
MODERATOR:I know you're very familiar with Indianapolis, grew up kind of racing the sprints and the midgets in the USAC Series, are familiar with this great facility, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But now as a Nationwide driver, what kind of anticipation do you have as you look forward to having the opportunity to race on this track in 2012?
STENHOUSE:It's going to be an unreal feeling of -- I've visited this race for the Brickyard 400 and the Indianapolis 500. It was always cool to sit here and watch, but I never had the opportunity to come out here and make laps around this place. To be able to do that and have a chance to win at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is just going to be huge, not only for myself but our series. I think it's going to -- that whole weekend is going to bring a lot of people in the stands. This place is an iconic place, not only for American auto racing but all over the world. Everybody knows this place. To add your name to the record books of winning here is going to be a big deal for us.
MODERATOR:To see the reaction and the emotion in your eyes, and Carl's as well, as you spoke about the opportunity to race here I think says a lot. Thanks, Ricky. Ricky Stenhouse Jr. (Applause)
Now I'd like to introduce Wayne Taylor. Come on up, Wayne, owner of a GRAND-AM team, former driver as well, the dad of racers. You were part of the test team here in 2009, were you not?
WAYNE TAYLOR:Not so much as a dad.
MODERATOR:You were a dad at that time.
TAYLOR:Yes, I was, but today I don't feel like a dad. I actually felt like a driver again because I was allowed to get in this car and come down one of the most famous straightaways in racing. I think it's very exciting for everybody that GRAND-AM is going to get the opportunity to have our cars race here. If I think of three of the biggest world events, I think of Le Mans, Daytona and Indianapolis. I've been fortunate to have won on both of those. So when we come here next year, obviously I won't be driving, but we will try to win that. We'll have to take care of Scott Pruett and make sure he slows down a little bit. But the aim would be to try and win that race, being the inaugural team.
And I think for the fans it's going to be a great weekend because literally you can come in and you watch sports car racing, you can watch Nationwide, you can watch Cup. And I think from the standpoint of our drivers, we'll probably have the time to sit here and watch all the other events.
MODERATOR:We've talked to Carl and Ricky, of course, from a competitor standpoint, and you mentioned as a former driver, but your team is based here in Indianapolis. What does it mean to your team as a business organization to have a GRAND-AM event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
TAYLOR:Yeah, I've always talked about Daytona being my home event because I actually live in Orlando. However, this is my other home event because my team is based here down the road. And what it means is that I'm not going to have any hotel bills, so that's a good thing. (Laughter)
But, No, everybody will be excited. We can finally bring my mechanics and engineers that work day and night to prepare these cars to go to all these tracks and let them bring their families and have a real great weekend when we come back.
MODERATOR:Thank you, Wayne. Wayne Taylor. (Applause)
At this time I would like to bring up Scott Pruett. Scott is a three-time GRAND-AM champion. (Applause)
He's raced here in the Indianapolis 500, the Brickyard 400. And now you're going to have an opportunity to run on the road course here. That's quite a trifecta.
SCOTT PRUETT:I'm telling you, I just got goose bumps. Every time I come to this place I have goose bumps. I was here for the Centennial event about six weeks ago and the energy and excitement that Indianapolis has. And I was here for the testing in 2009. We came here and looked at the different tracks and worked together with the Speedway looking at those opportunities. I can tell you that as we come backward through Turn 1, it was probably one of the most freakiest things I've done since I've been coming to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. But as the day went on, really got a handle on it and we're pushing 200 miles an hour down the front straight, and there's nothing like speed here at Indy.
MODERATOR:When I saw you at the Indianapolis 500 in May, I joked with you about getting back in the car and you scoffed at that, but how excited are you to know that you are going to be racing here again?
PRUETT:This is truly historic on so many levels. I mean, those of us who really, you know, as a kid you lived and breathed and just thought Indianapolis and what it represented and being here in an Indy car and then in a NASCAR, getting that opportunity to come test in 2009, and then for the GRAND-AM to be able to put this event together with two other great events, with Nationwide and with Cup, and what we're going to be able to do here is going to be the first time ever.
We're talking about that opportunity of doing something that starts late in the day and we can run our headlights and really make what's going to be one of the most unbelievable races that we've seen in a lot of years gone by. With GRAND-AM you have the prototypes and GT cars, everybody is going to want to come and be part of that. It's going to be a massive entry. The fans are going to see just an unbelievable race of fighting it out wheel to wheel for probably three hours. So it's going to be absolutely just incredible.
MODERATOR:Just what we should expect from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
PRUETT:What we should expect. And then for us having Ganassi just right up the street as well and having our team based here and everything that we've achieved together, there's nothing like racing in your own backyard. Certainly that weekend to stick around and watch the Nationwide race on Saturday and then the Cup race on Sunday. We all are good friends; we follow the racing. Carl has been doing a hell of a job this year with his series and we kind of talk about that and to stick around and see and watch the other guys do what they do so well.
MODERATOR:We're looking forward to it. Scott Pruett. (Applause)
Now I would like to bring up another competitor in the GRAND-AM Series, David Donohue. David, the son of former Indianapolis 500 winner Mark Donohue. (Applause)
What's it mean to have another Donohue name back here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
DAVID DONOHUE: I tell you, Carl, in his own experience, really -- I think all the drivers here are saying, oh, man, he stole everything we were going to say because in his own experience he summed up the way we all feel inside about this place. You can even hear I'm a little choked up.
When I was upstairs in the Pagoda, there's a picture of my dad sitting in his Indy-winning car right in this very spot. I'd really like to have a copy of that picture. (Laughter)
Not just me in my car but that actual of my dad. And then come down and sit on pit wall and be at the very spot he was, it's, I'm afraid I'm going to go speechless here. It's really something else. It's very special for all of us as drivers, you hear it a thousand times but it's the same thing when you watch a race at Indy on TV or you walk in the gates, there's just an electricity here. It's a place that makes legends and hopefully we can be a part of a new chapter of that.
MODERATOR:In the Formula One history here, you competed in the Porsche Cup on the Formula One weekends, but you were telling me a little bit earlier about a special opportunity you had to drive an old Roger Penske Formula One car and joked that it's the only time a Roger Penske Formula One car has been around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Share a little bit of that.
DONOHUE:My claim to fame is that I'm the only driver to ever drive for Roger Penske in a Formula One car at Indy. Just so happens it was a vintage Formula One car and it was a couple parade laps, but nevertheless, if there was a lawyer there he couldn't argue my point.
But this place is truly special. Like I said, Carl, you stole everything we were all going to say.
MODERATOR:How special would it be to be the inaugural winner of a GRAND-AM event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
DONOHUE:Well, you know, just racing here is going to be checked off the bucket list. Winning here, I couldn't even imagine. You know, it might even -- it would equal or be better than winning the Rolex 24. Who knows? I mean, it's right there. For us as road racers, the Rolex 24 has something special to me because my team was based nearby and we have been trying so many years. But this place, it's hallowed ground for motorsports. Everyone knows Indy, all you have to say is Indy and they know exactly what you're talking about. For us to race here, it's very literally a dream come true. I mean, the hair is standing up on the back of my neck. It's just amazing.
MODERATOR:Thank you, David. David Donohue. (Applause)
How about a round of applause for all those who were here today that helped contribute to make this event such a special event as we look forward to the Super Weekend of 2012? (Applause)
And before we wrap up, a special thanks to the Hulman-George family for all they do for the racing community, the opportunity for race fans and competitors alike to come here to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and live out their dream as fans, as drivers, as team owners, as mechanics, behind the scenes and in front of the scenes and even those of us in the media that have the privilege to deliver those events whether it's through print or the radio or television, it certainly is an honor.
Thank you to all those who have been here to participate. Again to remind everyone that our guests will be available for one-on-one interviews, there's some cars out front for photo opportunities as well; also, these great machines that are here.
Thank you very much for coming out to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway today. We look forward to a very special weekend in 2012. (Applause)
Jeff Belskus, Mike Helton, Tom Bledsoe,
Carl Edwards, Scott Pruett, Ricky Stenhouse Jr.
MODERATOR:Welcome, everyone, to a historic day at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. About an hour ago the Super Weekend at the Brickyard for 2012 was announced in which the NASCAR Nationwide Series and GRAND-AM Road racing will join the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series for a full weekend of racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
It will be the first time in IMS history that races will take place on the two-and-a-half-mile oval and 2.534 Grand Prix road course during the same weekend, and the NASCAR Nationwide Series and GRAND-AM Road Racing will make their IMS debut.
It's a full weekend of racing with Nationwide Series practice on Thursday, July 26, GRAND-AM Rolex Sports Car Series practice, qualifying and races on Friday, July 27th, NASCAR Nationwide Series practice, qualifying, and its race on Saturday, along with Sprint Cup Series practice and qualifying, then on Sunday, July 29th, the Brickyard 400 will take place.
Today for guests we have Jeff Belskus, the president and CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation, Mike Helton, president of NASCAR, Tom Bledsoe, president of GRAND-AM Road Racing, and drivers Carl Edwards, Ricky Stenhouse Jr., and Scott Pruett.
Jeff, describe, if you would, what this announcement and what the growth of this event means for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
JEFF BELSKUS:This is a very important announcement for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It's an important announcement for the City of Indianapolis. We have an 18-year relationship with NASCAR through the Sprint Cup Series. We're excited to have the GRAND-AM cars here, the Nationwide cars here.
It's going to be a great weekend of racing, very historic weekend. It will provide great value for our fans. They'll get to see four races. I understand two different GRAND-AM events on Friday, the Nationwide cars on Saturday, and the Sprint Cup cars on Sunday.
MODERATOR:Mike, it was a huge event when the Brickyard 400 made its debut at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in 1994. Describe what it means for NASCAR as an organization to expand its relationship with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, adding the Nationwide Series to the Super Weekend in 2012.
MIKE HELTON:It's still a huge event to come to the Brickyard 400 and participate here. We're anxiously waiting the next four weeks to get here and run that event.
But when you add in 2012 the Nationwide Series to the mix, then the sports car program from GRAND-AM, that just makes this week stand out and become a very motorsports-destination weekend because of the magnitude of all the content that we'll have at the same racetrack on the same weekend.
For NASCAR, it's a great opportunity in the middle of its season to perform at an internationally iconic facility with its sports car product, the GRAND-AM, Rolex, and Continental, then our Nationwide Series, which is second only to the Sprint Cup stock car series in this country, and then the Sprint Cup that has the tradition of being here.
You put all that together, it reignites the energy of NASCAR being able to participate at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
MODERATOR:Tom, GRAND-AM road racing tested at Indianapolis in 2009. At that point obviously the goal was to get to the Speedway. Did you think it would come together this quickly? For your organization, what does it mean to race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
TOM BLEDSOE:Well, that test was a great test. The cars looked very good. They drove the track very good. Everybody was very happy with it. And, yes, since September 2009 we've been dealing with the track, talking back and forth. GRAND-AM currently for 2011 has some very big initiatives, very busy. On the top of that list was Indy. I'm very happy to be able to check that one off.
It's very significant. It's probably the most significant announcement we've made. We have big plans for it in regards to maybe doing some different things, getting some more cars involved. Although with Continental and Rolex here, we expect to have over 110 cars, possibly more. It's huge for us.
MODERATOR:We'll open it up to the media for questions at this point.
Q:Jeff, what's the major emphasis behind this decision? There's been a lot of talk about attendance at Indianapolis having dropped off in past years, maybe this being a way to inject some excitement into the Brickyard. Talk about how moving Nationwide and GRAND-AM to Indy relates to that.
BELSKUS:Sure. We're looking to add content to the event for the weekend. We're going to triple our hours of track activity here. That will be good for the fans. It will be good for the sponsors.
We're billing it as a Super Weekend in motorsports. To come here and see all the different types of competition, whether it be on the road course or on the oval, it will be great for our fans, it will be good for the sponsors. It's going to be a fun weekend, really.
Q:I looked at your release and I'm wondering about the length of the events. Mike, I guess that would go to you.
HELTON:Well, the Brickyard 400 obviously stays the Brickyard 400. We're still working on the length of the Nationwide race. It will be similar to other two-and-a-half mile tracks in length.
Tom can speak to the GRAND-AM lengths.
BLEDSOE:Continental will be the two hour, 45 minutes. The Rolex, we're going to increase it to three hours because we have some plans for a possible endurance championship that we're real excited about. We're going to do them all in one day, like practice, qualifying, both races. It's going to be a full day.
Q:Mike, as far as Lucas Oil Raceway, do you feel the Nationwide Series has outgrown that track? What would it mean if you lose that from the schedule?
HELTON:It hasn't outgrown the track. This is such a great opportunity for us in the Indianapolis market. This is the only weekend we run in Indianapolis. So it was a tough decision because the Raceway Park has been such an important part of the Nationwide program for so many years.
Hopefully we'd like to try to figure out a way to be in their future and their in ours. But this weekend just presented itself with too much of an opportunity to make a very significant event in the middle of our season.
Q:Jeff, with the Nationwide race on Saturday, what sort of bump in the crowd are you expecting? I think they drew like 30,000 at Lucas Oil Raceway. Do you expect you'll see that kind of crowd or bigger on Saturday?
BELSKUS:We have high expectations. We hope a lot of people come out and can enjoy some good racing.
We've got hundreds of thousands of seats here. I suppose the sky's the limit there. But we're going to price it appropriately. Again, we're interested in providing a good value for our race fans, and we hope that brings them out.
We're looking forward to a good event. Again, I think the sky's the limit on what we can get, so...
Q:I got a Twitter from a reader commenting about the NHRA race. This makes Indianapolis the high ground in American racing. But my question is about the Continental Tire series. As the rumors got out that these things were happening, that one didn't come in until a little later. What was your thinking with that series? A lot of people like that series because it's full-time, rock'n roll racing. Some people call it old-time stock car racing.
BLEDSOE:The naming has been new, but the series has been around I think since 2002 when it was the Motorola Cup. That group, and we've had racers in it from the very beginning, they've been around for a long time.
Yeah, we're real happy with it. We have an average car count of 60, in big events, 70. We expect this to be probably the biggest. It's very exciting. It's very close, it has a myriad of car manufacturers in it. It's right now doing well on TV and at the events. Very happy with the Continental Series. And Continental as a sponsor has done a lot to step up and promote that series, activated it from a marketing standpoint very well for us.
Q:Mike, you talk about the opportunity this affords you. I assume this opportunity has been out there in recent years. The question is, why now? Is there something you felt you either needed or IMS needed to make this move beginning next year?
HELTON:I don't know that it's a matter of need in anything. It just happened to present itself that we both had a high level of interest, both NASCAR, Jeff and his folks here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, of re-energizing the Brickyard 400, making a modern statement, if you will, in both of our facilities, both of our series. This gave us the opportunity to do it.
Sure, we could have moved the Nationwide Series over here years ago and have had dialogue back and forth for some time. But I think it wasn't a function of needing anything as much as it just made sense.
When you add the GRAND-AM aspect to it, I think it puts a significant onus on this weekend to be a world class, significant motorsports event, when you put all three of them together, so the timing made sense.
Q:I'd like to get the drivers' perspectives - Ricky, Carl and Scott - about these three races, or four races, on this weekend.
RICKY STENHOUSE JR.:I think it's going to be a huge weekend. I think the fans, the ones that are disappointed that we're not going back to Lucas Oil on this weekend, I think they're going to get to the racetrack and be surprised how much on-track activity, how many things both of these series are going to have to offer them, especially the on-track activity.
We're going to be on the racetrack every minute just about of the whole weekend. I think they're really going to enjoy that.
As for myself, it's going to be huge just to make laps around Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It's something every racecar driver wants to do. It doesn't matter what series you race in. To finally be able to do that is going to be a huge, huge deal in my accomplishments of racing.
CARL EDWARDS:We were just sitting here talking about how neat it's going to be to see the Continental and Rolex cars run. I don't think I have a shot at getting a ride in a Rolex car as I wrecked one of those pretty bad in Montréal before the green flag was even thrown.
But Jack Roush Jr. and Billy Johnson run in the Continental Series in a Ford Mustang. I had no clue they were going to have 60 cars here. I think that will be something that a lot of people are going to be excited to see. The Rolex cars are spectacular. I can tell you firsthand, those guys are amazing drivers and they're really great race cars.
I think for us in the Cup Series, you know, if we're solely running the Cup race like normal, this will be just more fun for us as fans of the sport to be able to see a weekend like this. It will be more of a destination for my friends and family that want to come out here to the race. They'll be entertained all weekend. Then it culminates with the Brickyard 400, which to us is as big as any race of the year. It will be a huge one for any of us to win.
SCOTT PRUETT:This is truly historic. When you think about having that big a weekend, then seeing sports cars come here for the first time, I think you talk about a destination weekend, it's going to be absolutely incredible.
The races we can put on, whether it's the Continental Series, my series with the Prototypes, the GT cars, we'll be starting I guarantee probably 30 cars in the Prototype side and probably another 50 cars. So they could be easily starting 50, 60 cars for the GRAND-AM Series, as well.
Everybody and anybody, when you look at even our team based not too far from here, the Ganassi organization, we'll look at every opportunity to put at least one more car out there. Every racer, as we heard earlier, they want to come be a part of this event. We're all concerned with the economy right now. We're all feeling that pinch. I think it's a good thing that seeing responsibility from, like, Indianapolis Motor Speedway where they're concerned for that, trying to give the fans more for the dollar, not just adding more stuff, but adding good, quality races, that are going to entertain fans. My home is in California. I already have guys booking flights that want to be a part of it, be part of this action, seeing our friends.
We all are friends along the way, all the drivers, and unfortunately only have a few opportunities to catch up with each other, whether it's at Watkins Glen when we race with Nationwide, or the Cup Series. That in itself makes it that much more, from a selfish standpoint, enjoyable.
Q:Jeff, I saw that in your release one of the incentives for the Super Weekend, you were encouraging fans to buy tickets for this weekend so they could renew for 2012. Have sales picked up? What are you expectations regarding the crowd?
BELSKUS:We still have high expectations. Right now we're running even with last year. We hope that will bring out more fans, this announcement.
But additionally we have some other aspects, other things that we've added for this year's Brickyard 400 with a concert on Saturday with Hinder, a relationship with Big Machine Records, Rascal Flatts, others performing on Race Day. Again, it's no additional price on the ticket. It will be an opportunity to come out and see some great racing and see some good concert acts, as well.
So, yeah, we're working at adding content and are optimistic it's going to produce a good result for everybody.
Q:Jeff, I was curious if you felt any impact from Kentucky having a Cup race? Did you feel you had to add content to your weekend if you're going to be two or three weeks after a Kentucky triple-header weekend?
BELSKUS:So far we don't seem to be feeling much effect from Kentucky. But it's a competitive world. When we started the Brickyard 400 in 1994, I think Michigan was the only other Cup race in this area or this vicinity. Now we've got Chicagoland and Kentucky added. So it's a competitive world. We're doing what we can to keep ourselves current and be relevant and be a part of that.
So, you know, this will help with our fans, with the value. So we're excited to see it. I said earlier, I wish we could have gotten this done in 2011 and not have to wait till 2012.
Q:Tom, you tested there in 2009. Now you're announcing a race in 2012. These guys must be really tough to negotiate with. It's just you and me on the line here, so...
BLEDSOE:It's been a good relationship. I mean, it's been not heavy negotiations, but we've been keeping in touch because we both had interests. Timing had to be right, so ... Basically this is where we ended up. Very excited to be here.
Q:I know it's nearly a year away, but have you given any thought to what the trophy might be like for this historic event?
BELSKUS:We haven't only not thought about the trophy, we don't have a start time yet. But those are all important details. As you heard Scott Pruett say, it's an historic event, and we want to commemorate it in an appropriate way.
So, yeah, we have a few weeks, few months to work on those details. We'll get after it.
Q:Mike, on the move of the Nationwide race from Lucas Oil to Indianapolis, there was some speculation about what may have caused it. There was some speculation a sanctioning fee may have been involved. Did you move this on your own? Did you give the track a chance to bid or keep it? Did you make this decision independent of anything they were doing?
HELTON:We spent a lot of time in our relationship with NHRA, the folks with Raceway Park, over time discussed the possibilities of one day, since we are only in the Indianapolis marketplace one weekend a year, how that weekend might change its shape.
As I've said on a couple of occasions today already, it was a tough decision to sit down with those folks over the past two or three years and talk about when that moment might happen. But the opportunity to be here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is significant.
We'd like to think that we're going to stay in Raceway Park's future and them in ours.
MODERATOR:Gentlemen, very much appreciate you taking the time today to participate in the call. Again, congratulations on such an historic announcement and such a big day for NASCAR, for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and for GRAND-AM Road Racing. Thank you very much for joining us.
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