Q&A: Angstadt, Barnhart, Savoree, Michaelian and Gray
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League telephone conference. We're pleased to have several guests with us today to discuss the 2009 IndyCar Series schedule.
Joining us is Terry Angstadt, president of the commercial division of the Indy Racing League, Brian Barnhart, president of competition and operations for the Indy Racing League, Curtis Gray, president of Homestead Miami Speedway, Jim Michaelian, president of Grand Prix of Long Beach and Kevin Savoree, co-owner of Andretti Green Promotions, which promotes the street races in St. Petersburg and Toronto.
Terry, let's start with you. There are a lot of exciting things to talk about regarding the 2009 schedule. Take us through some of the highlights and the reasoning behind some of the changes that we see.
TERRY ANGSTADT: Well, I think just in terms of kind of the total footprint of the schedule, we're very pleased that we did extend the schedule a bit. We felt like we actually came off of the sports landscape a little too quickly last year.
And we like an early to midâ€‘October. And that's not to say that we want to compete with a lot of the popular fall sports at the same time. We think that that will just be a good move for our business. We liked the opportunity to incorporate some great historic Champ Car venues into our schedule.
We did some of that this year. We took another step further for next year. And we think that that's an important part of our evolution as well. And we think in total number, being 18 right now is good. It's good for our business. It's good for our team's business.
And we think we really hit some important key venues and really with an overall goal of serving our fan base best. So as kind of an overview, we don't think it's the perfect schedule but we think it's great progress towards a much-improved schedule.
MODERATOR: Brian, the schedule continues to be quite diverse. Can you elaborate a little bit on how the diversity of the schedule and extending the schedule by a month will affect the onâ€‘track competition?
BRIAN BARNHART: I think that's one of the greatest attributes of the IndyCar Series schedule right now is the diversity of the events that we have. When you look at it, it's the only series in the world that runs the versatility of events that we do.
And you can run permanent road courses to temporary street circuits to short ovals to super speedways, from high bank tracks to flat tracks. We're the only series in the world that does that.
And it creates tremendous challenges for the teams and, of course, tremendous challenges for the drivers. The drivers really relish those challenges. And to be able to excel on that variety of tracks builds the truest form of a champion, I think, in all of motor sports. And there is no overall champion or representative of that versatility than the champion of the IndyCar Series.
So the drivers love it. The teams love it. The fact that we've extended the season by about a month will certainly improve the quality of life for everyone. We faced tremendous challenge this year with the stretch we just concluded with Edmonton of six weeks in a row. That's been eliminated.
We do a stretch of four with a break and then we'll do two stretches of three races in a row, a considerable improvement. It's better for not only the people but the ability to go through the equipment. They're sophisticated, highly technological machines that need some serious maintenance on them. And that's an improvement both from a team and from a quality of life standpoint that I think will improve it for everyone.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Kevin, let's look at you next. You've got the season opener. St. Petersburg has been a firstâ€‘class event since it debuted a few years ago. Talk about the opportunity there in St. Pete to start the season and also, if you would, tell us about Toronto and what IndyCar Series fans can expect in the series' first visit there.
KEVIN SAVOREE: Thanks, Tim. And obviously I just want to thank Terry and Brian for all the hard work that they've put into this schedule. It's really well thought out, and it's got a lot of balance. As a competitor, we're really looking forward to the 2009 season.
As for St. Petersburg, Andretti Green could just not be more proud to basically be leading off the season next year. It starts with Mayor Rick Baker and the city council and the fans of St. Pete; they've been so supportive of the event and I think we're going to put on a great show down there. We have in the past.
And we're really looking forward to it. And I think this past year the mayor, when we all got together and met with the other stakeholders, with Honda, with the IndyCar Series, I think everyone really felt the enthusiasm that St. Petersburg was showing for IndyCar racing and for our event. And I think maybe in a big way Terry and Brian rewarded St. Pete and Mayor Baker for that enthusiasm. And the job's up to us now. I mean, we've got to do a great job next year, and we're looking forward to it. And I know Tim Ramsberger who heads up the race there for Andretti Green is looking forward to the challenge as well. And I think, again, we'll put on a good show and the fans will look forward to it.
As for Toronto, we're actually up here for a couple of days. Obviously a lot of planning going into that event. It's a huge market. So much history here. I mean, we walked in, we moved offices just kind of around the corner from where GPAT was, and I walk in and I see this huge picture of Bobby Rahal, and he was the inaugural winner. And there's so much history. Just so much history and so many great champions. And I think in a way that really feeds on the heritage of open wheel racing and IndyCar racing.
So I know the Indy Toronto event is going to be very, very special. The fans here in Canada and especially here in Toronto, they love their open wheel racing, and there's so many great stars that are going to be coming here next year in July. It's the traditional date. So I think the fans are really going to warm up to that.
We've had such a corporate reception. Everyone we visited, they've just been so excited to know that we're going to be back. And obviously I think the more heavy lifting that this event has from corporate sponsors, it's really going to bring it back to the stature that it had several years ago. And we're looking forward to doing that.
It really started the end of February with the due diligence we did in acquiring the assets of GPAT and conversations with Brian and (Tony) George about Toronto. And obviously the reception we had here in Toronto with the province, with the city officials, with tourism, with the officials at Exhibition Place, it's such an attitude of canâ€‘do. And I think come next July people will really, really see that, and again we're looking forward to it.
MODERATOR: Sounds great. Jim, Long Beach obviously is another place where it just has a long history of successful street races. This past April being no exception to that. You've been able to keep your traditional date for 2009 as well. So talk a little bit about how things are already gearing up for next April.
JIM MICHAELIAN: First of all, let me say how excited we are to welcome the IndyCar event here in Long Beach. It will be our 35th anniversary, and we're delighted to be able to showcase the IndyCar Series teams and stars here on that particular date.
It is important for us to have some continuity. We have a great deal of equity in that date, and I'm thankful that Terry and Brian and Tony (George) and everybody could work together in terms of assuring us the opportunity to continue to provide our entertainment to our fans here in that third week in April.
For some of the teams and drivers that will return, like Helio Castroneves and for others, it's an opportunity to see some of the stars who have developed over the years and will have a chance now to compete at Long Beach.
We're very excited about it. I think as most of you know we've signed a longâ€‘term agreement with the City of Long Beach to run the event through 2015 with a fiveâ€‘year option. And with our longâ€‘term relationship with Toyota and with a number of other sponsors, this gives us a great opportunity to showcase the IndyCar Series in the Southern California market. And our conversations with Terry really centered on the idea of really introducing the concept of open wheel racing as personified by the IndyCar Series in this market. And we're going to take some extraordinary steps this year to help profile what the series has to offer in advance of the event.
So we're very excited about being a part of this group. Just as a side note - It's sort of unique for us to be sitting here in, what, late July, talking about the confirmation of a schedule for the series for 2009, which is a refreshing change. So we're looking forward to being able to complement what Terry and Brian have done.
We are actually going on sale for our renewals this coming Monday (Aug. 4). So the timing is perfect with regard to the release of the dates. And then we'll go on sale to the general public the first week in October. So we're ramped up and ready to go and looking forward to having a great event here next April.
MODERATOR: Sounds great. Thanks, Jim. Curtis, 2009 schedule looks very good for you. Homestead-Miami Speedway - you already host a championship weekend in November. And now you get to crown another championship race in October. Talk about that if you would.
CURTIS GRAY: Obviously we're extremely excited both at Homestead-Miami Speedway and International Speedway Corporation. But all of South Florida, it's a natural fit for us to host the national championship of the IndyCar Series, especially here in South Florida, which is known for hosting championship events. There's been more Super Bowls here than any city in the country, as well as hosting World Series and the Stanley Cup and Orange Bowl and other championships, and NASCAR's three championships here at the Speedway.
So we have a lot of experience both at the Speedway and in the marketplace hosting championships. So it's really a great fit for us. We're extremely excited about it. The track itself lends itself very well to open wheel IndyCar racing with variable banking.
There have been extremely close finishes here. So we're hoping for a finish kind of like the championship last year, and especially with the unification and all the new drivers, by the time they get here in October next year we hope it's very competitive. We look forward to a lot of sponsors getting on board. I know with the IRL and building the prestige of the championship is very exciting to us. Again, with our experience of hosting championships here we feel we'll do a great job.
I think it will have a different feel to it than hosting the NASCAR championships, and I say that because of the drivers who live here.
We have 10 or 12 IndyCar Series drivers who live here in South Florida, and having them help us promote the championship and the event is going to be very exciting for us.
So I can't tell you what a neat feel this has for us. And I look forward to working with the IRL in building the championship here in South Florida.
Q: Hi. This is for Terry and Brian. There was a statement issued earlier today by Jerry Gappens that had some pretty harsh comments to it basically calling the exclusion in New Hampshire and Las Vegas a slap in the face to Bruton Smith. What is your reaction to that and what are the reasons why neither of those tracks were able to get on the schedule?
TERRY ANGSTADT: I guess I stopped worrying about what other people say that you can't control. I think it was very unfortunate that he characterized it that way, because in fact I had a very cordial conversation with Bruton Smith two days ago, and I don't think he felt that way. But we continue to have an interest in that market. We've said that. We hope we can keep an open dialogue there.
At the same time, we respect if we don't fit their business plans. This is a business. They are a big and successful company. And we hope we can work together in the future. And in fact in both venues. But we'll see how that goes. But I was somewhat surprised at the tone as well.
Q: Is it possible it had something to do with the date that New Hampshire could do or did it have to do with the sanctioning fee?
TERRY ANGSTADT: No, no, we did not even â€‘â€‘ the fees were not a part of it. It was all about making a date work.
Q: And also is there a concern that Eddie Gossage has been a challenging guy to deal with from time to time at the Texas event, that there could be a carryâ€‘over to that event in the future, which is one of the most successful races on your schedule?
TERRY ANGSTADT: I think Eddie is a fantastic promoter and we enjoy working with him.
Q: Are you running for Congress?
TERRY ANGSTADT: Not at all.
Q: Terry or Brian, talking about another press release that came out of an SMI track, Gossage said that the big stumbling block for Vegas was having the race on the road course instead of the big oval. Having a race on an outside road course with no permanent infrastructure for fans, is that the only way that you would want to come back to the Speedway here in Vegas?
TERRY ANGSTADT: We felt at this stage of our development the concept was we could really right-size the venue according to the crowd we thought we could attract, which we thought was a very pragmatic approach to developing that. And as we said, we completely respect that they chose not to do that. So no hard feelings whatsoever.
And we said that putting 30, 40, 50,000 people in a big beautiful oval like they own didn't make sense for either one of us, our opinion, so that's really what it came down to.
Q: Would you consider trying to give rebirth to the street course that the defunct Champ Car boys used?
TERRY ANGSTADT: We've taken a very brief look at that. We think that â€‘â€‘ it's kind of challenging in particular in that community. But we're always open to listen to new ideas.
Q: You've moved your banquet here to run, I believe, with SEMA or close to SEMA. With the championship race going to Miami, is it safe to assume that the banquet would probably go to Miami next year?
TERRY ANGSTADT: That's what we're looking at, yes.
Q: Kevin, you talked about the historic significance of the Toronto Indy race, 21 years with uninterrupted until this year, and your coâ€‘owner, pretty successful there. How close are you to naming a title sponsor? And could you talk a little bit further on how the planning is going for next year?
KEVIN SAVOREE: Well, obviously the historic significance of this place is just incredible. I mean driving around the circuit this morning, there's just so many great memories. It's a fantastic facility. And we look forward to even making it better. Obviously the competition has always been fierce here and walking in and seeing that picture of (Bobby) Rahal. I called Mike (Andretti) and said, 'What do you want me to do with it?' We all had a laugh about that.
And obviously Mike won seven of those races up here. So he had a lot of success here, and he considers getting this event on the calendar as big as any of those wins. As for the title sponsor, we've really worked hard on trying to identify a partner who is going to have the same enthusiasm, the same drive that Michael had when he won those seven races.
We want somebody who just wants to really get out there, get their name out there, work with us in the market, and we're pretty close. We're actually in draft stage of a contract with a title partner, and obviously over these last few months that's one of the big things we've been working at is trying to identify that right partner, because we really believe in our model that if you have the right title sponsor, great things are going to happen.
And hopefully before the month of August is over we'll have an announcement on that.
Q: Given that this announcement is being made in July, how much does that help you get ready for next year?
KEVIN SAVOREE: Well, obviously it's a big help. It's one thing for us in the corporate community because Michael Andretti's name and the Andretti name itself carries so much weight here in the Toronto market, that we were having great success even without the date being announced.
I think we have that kind of credibility as Andretti Green. But certainly now that it's in black and white, not only the corporate community can see that, but also the fan base.
And, again, I think we're going to try to plan some things over the course of the next several months to make sure we have our name and our face out there in the marketplace, and the city's really excited and the province and tourism to work with on those kind of things, and we'll just see how that goes.
Q: Terry, while I have you here I'm going to relay a question we had asked multiple times while we were in Edmonton. The only negative that the fans were talking about was the fact that the IRL souvenir truck wasn't there and the teams weren't selling their Tâ€‘shirts and their hats and jackets. I got kind of a partial explanation that it was about tariffs and taxes and things. But I think the fans want to sort of get an official reason from the IRL why that didn't happen and are we going to have that for next year in Toronto and Edmonton?
TERRY ANGSTADT: I do appreciate the question, and no one was as disappointed as we were, because it connects your fans to your drivers and your racing product so much more when they can take something home and wear it and use it and enjoy it. So it was a big disappointment to us as well.
There are some, in the apparel business specifically, there are somewhat protective measures taken by the Canadian government to encourage local production. If you get far enough ahead of that, you can minimize some of those financial risks. And we did not do that. So that's on us.
And I certainly told the folks I talked to up there that we do accept that responsibility, and we are going to improve that for the future. I am hopeful we can bring everything we take to every race, because it is successful and, again, fans like it, relate to it.
So that is certainly our goal. And I feel pretty good about the ability to deliver a great merchandise mix to both events for next year.
Q: Kevin, you mentioned Michael's success in Toronto, the recordâ€‘setting seven wins. Just wondered if you treated this race as his baby and just how handsâ€‘on he was in bringing this race back to Toronto?
KEVIN SAVOREE: Michael is very involved. Obviously we made a lot of trips up here as part of our due diligence team. And Michael, I think, may have attended all those but one. And whether that was meetings with representatives from the province or tourism or the city, he's been very, very actively involved. And I do think it holds a really special place in his heart.
From the first time that the opportunity came available, Michael and Kim Green and myself all felt like we really had to try to put a deal together and try to make this happen. We felt like we had a great model in St. Petersburg, that with the cooperation of the league, a title sponsor and local government, that if we could replicate that in the Toronto market, we would have great success.
And, again, I think we've got a lot of those building blocks in place. As I said earlier, I think we're pretty close to having that last building block there. And we're going to be very proud of this event next year, I can promise you that.
Q: Terry, we saw the announcement this morning for Australia 2008. How likely is Australia for '09?
TERRY ANGSTADT: We are in active conversations regarding '09. We are keeping a couple of slots open for them. And we're hopeful it can be announced. When we conclude those we'll certainly let everyone know.
But we're hopeful we will get them included for '09. But just can't indicate that as yet.
Q: As a partner in scheduling with Japan, I presume?
TERRY ANGSTADT: That would be a good spot for it to fit, yes.
Q: And where do you stand with Cleveland and Houston, particularly with (Mike) Lanigan being an integral part of your sport?
TERRY ANGSTADT: We had a very good meeting with Mike and his promotion company at Edmonton, and we certainly talked through our real interest for the future in both markets. And that interest is real. So we wouldn't say that if it were not. So we are hopeful that those can be incorporated in the future.
Q: And kind of as a general thing, I've already got a bunch of eâ€‘mails regarding this subject. Tony George spent a lot of time at unification, in fact mentioning it a couple of times about not disenfranchising anyone and making this a clean sheet of paper, or cleaner, I think as I said. This is still an IRLâ€‘based schedule, three events, I believe, for '09 came from immediate Champ Car days, what kind of thoughts do you have about that?
TERRY ANGSTADT: Well, we think it is a good move towards balance, as we've also said that because Champ Car brought, as we've said, a lot of opportunities and a few challenges. And as exclusively road racing, we think that working towards that 50-50 balance is good. We already had a bit of a head start there. So by incorporating three and possibly four for the future for now, with continuing interest in some of the other premier markets, we think that a 10â€‘8 for '09, 10 ovals, eight street and road, is a good balance. And as I said, there's real interest in a couple more historic Champ Car venues for the future.
Q: (Question about Houston and Cleveland venues)?
TERRY ANGSTADT: We've not been that specific, but I have referenced that we certainly never assume that these opportunities are open forever. So we know that we will need to make some decisions in the next year or two to keep those options open and viable.
Q: Terry, it seems that you're talking about a lot of future options but that none of the ovals are being mentioned. Are you at your limit for ovals for the schedule at 10?
TERRY ANGSTADT: We've not set any specific limit for ovals. We've tried on a couple of other ovals but have not been able to make those work. But for now I think we're feeling pretty good about the ovals we're at.
Q: Which markets are you looking to enter right now that is not part of the schedule, just the ones you've discussed, or are there a couple of others you're interested in?
TERRY ANGSTADT: We said we think to properly serve our fan base we still have a void in the northeast and northwest. So those are two geographic markets that we would like to find solutions to.
Q: New Hampshire Motor Speedway is still a possibility in the future?
TERRY ANGSTADT: It certainly is open from our perspective.
Q: Terry and Curtis, seems that the biggest change on the schedule is moving Homestead from the beginning of the season to the end. Terry just made a comment, it doesn't make sense to put 30,000 people in a big beautiful stadium. With all due respect, Homestead has not drawn impressive crowds for an IndyCar race; are you optimistic that the move to an October date will help in that regard?
TERRY ANGSTADT: We do. We think that we will bring some additional marketing clout to that. We are confident. We have already spoken to some of our new sponsors about their interest in South Florida and their being involved and interested in our final championship event. We are hopeful we can move the needle. And Curtis will be the first to say we talked long and hard about our historic performance there. And I think we are both confident that we can attract a much bigger crowd to our seasonâ€‘ender vs. our opener.
CURTIS GRAY: We feel the same way here. Growing the prestige of the championship, I think, is very important. And we're going to work with the IRL in that regard. But really, when you address South Florida as a championship event, that's what gets people excited down here. They're used to hosting a championship. Anything less than that makes it a tough sale sometimes. That's why we've had such success with our NASCAR event.
And also building up to the event, I think that's something we've learned and got experienced with is seeing how the Super Bowl creates events, ancillary events leading up to the championship, and we plan to do that same model for the IRL championship.
Q: With the release of the schedule today, although it was not specified whether it will be a championship event, but if you go from the season finale September 11th at Chicagoland until April 5th, that's seven months, the IndyCar Series is going to be out of the country. How do you hope to maintain the fans' attention through that incredibly long off season?
TERRY ANGSTADT: That's certainly a challenge we face. And I do think, though, if just to kind of think real time here. The sponsorship and other activities that we're having in developing some plans for future OEMs and equipment changes, we have lots of stories developing in and around the series. It's always a challenge in any business to maintain the excitement and business developments around our upcoming off season and stay in the news.
Q: Terry, I wanted to find out what made Homestead the ideal fit for the finale. And do you expect that the spring training will still be there?
TERRY ANGSTADT: Again, we were really, we could not feel better about finding a great South Florida warm weather oval, where we have real relationships with ISC. When we were pushing through our challenges of not only developing our entire schedule but then when it came down to kind of the championship ending event, we were just very excited to be able to put this deal together with ISC and Curtis. And, again, the climate's right. We think the venue is good.
We think the venue size is good. We think we can create, again, activities and championship banquet and other things in and around a few days down there and just not in town, in and out for a race. Our plans will be bigger than they have been in the past. And just really like the South Florida market to hold that celebration.
Q: How about spring training?
BRIAN BARNHART: We haven't set those dates for our preseason test. It's anticipated we'll probably continue, with what we've done the last couple of years, we'll do one on an oval and one on a road course, as yet to determine the locations.
Q: How does the approach to St. Pete change now that it's the opener in terms of making it a big blockbuster event, where you have a lot more eyes on you than when you were in the second event?
KEVIN SAVOREE: Obviously I think we're going to do a lot of the same things. I think Tim (Ramsberger) and the team down there have done a great job leading up to the event. We expect a lot of the same. Obviously as the season opener, I think the IndyCar Series, I think we'll have a lot more if it's possible. I mean obviously we had a lot in the past. I think we'll probably have some more driver appearances in markets. And I just think the buildup to the season opener, it just gets more attention. I think perhaps the partnership we've had with the IndyCar Series will just continue to expand on that and use the assets that the league has and we'll work through those things.
Q: What are your thoughts on St. Pete's place in the evolution of the series? You're one of the first places to prove that street racing will work. And now the series is where it's got almost half nonâ€‘oval events?
KEVIN SAVOREE: I mean, as a competitor, Michael (Andretti) and Kim (Green) and I, on behalf of Andretti Green, Brian touched on it earlier, we love this formula. We love the series, the diversity of the competition and the diversity of the schedule. Brian said it earlier. If you come out on top of the series, it's an incredible accomplishment, and I think especially this year. Week in, week out, it is so tough, so tough on the teams, the drivers the equipment.
It's been tough. And I think the guys have done a good job for next year in trying to spread things out a little bit and give the guys a couple of breaks. But again for us we just see, we just see this series is since unification there's been so many positive news stories and they just continue to go. It's like today, here we are the end of July with the schedule out. And I think that's just another positive sign of the good things that are happening. And I know Terry and his guys are working really hard on league sponsorship. And as those things continue to come into focus and come into the public domain, I think there's just so many positive things out there. The series is on an uptick, and I think that's especially incredible when you consider the economy that we're all working with. So my hat's off to them.
As far as our place with being the first nonâ€‘oval back in 2005, I mean obviously Michael and Kim and I feel really â€‘â€‘ it's a great feeling to know that we had a small part in that. And, again, a small part. It was really Tony George and his team and so on that said, look, we want to try something else. And I think maybe in some small way that's part of how everything continued to evolve. So if we were part of that evolution, we're thrilled to have been there.
Q: Terry, does the image of the series that you project or the marketing of it change at all next year with eight nonâ€‘ovals and beginning the season on the street course, that will be the first chance for a lot of fans and maybe nonâ€‘fans you're trying to lure in to see one of your events for 2009?
TERRY ANGSTADT: I really think that kind of the marketing direction and the positioning we've created over the last couple of years is sound. And I think that is the sign of something that you hopefully fit on, that you've hit on that has some longevity. That I don't think that's going to shift. We really emphasize speed, technology and innovation, diversity and green as our attributes.
You look at those attributes wrapped around the St. Pete location, they all fit and resonate. And in particular, as Brian and Kevin have both touched on, diversity is not only in the venues we compete at. But also in our driver mix.
So it's a great fit and, again, we could not be more excited to kick it off in your beautiful community.
Q: Terry or Brian, this is the first time I guess since 2005 that you guys have put an LA race on your schedule. I know you tried at Dodger Stadium, Palm Springs, other ideas. What does it mean for you guys as a series to have a race in LA on the schedule already now?
TERRY ANGSTADT: It's just critically important to our longâ€‘term growth. I certainly don't need to tell you anything about the importance of the southern California market in most any business, let alone something that is outdoor and athletic and sporting like we do. So it's critical to our future to figure out a southern California viable location with the history that Jim (Michaelian) and the Champ Car guys have created in Long Beach. It's an outstanding opportunity to come into something with all that equity, that you're really not starting from scratch.
So we're very, very fortunate and feel very blessed to be able to button into that great, great event.
Q: I was talking to (California Speedway President Gillian) Zucker over there, and she said you guys had talked about doing an endâ€‘ofâ€‘theâ€‘season race there, banquet the following day in Hollywood, or what have you. Does California Speedway fit into your plans, or are they the deal, too, where they've got 100,000 seats there as well and it's too big of a place?
TERRY ANGSTADT: That one is, again, for the current stage of our development, that is a bit of a challenging venue for us. So that's why we feel so good about being able to go to Long Beach. And, again, maybe some day we'll grow into a venue like that. But I don't see that real soon.
Q: Terry, MIS, great heritage and great track. With oval racing, any comments in particular in view of the comments you just mentioned with California?
TERRY ANGSTADT: Again, it's a bit of a, it's kind of a good newsâ€‘bad news, I guess from the IndyCar Series perspective. Michigan is owned by a good partner of ours. They have a couple of good NASCAR dates that put us in a bit of a box. So it simply doesn't work so well.
So we had to kind of move on and stick to our principles of finding and optimizing a great, for next year, 18â€‘race schedule. So that's what we did. We have a lot of respect for the guys that operate that track as well as ISC, but it's just not a fit for us right now.
Q: Terry, I wanted to get your reaction to the story that was in the Sports Business Journal on Monday. It said basically looking at '09 and beyond you're having a hard time selling the television rights to your schedule beyond the Indy 500. Can I get your reaction to that story?
TERRY ANGSTADT: Well, we have a contract right now with ABC and ESPN that runs through '09. And it includes a variety of terms that pertain to future rights, negotiations and confidentiality. So with that said, we do and need to abide by those terms. As soon as we have a telecast schedule ready for '09, we're going to button that into this schedule. But we're just not ready to announce that quite yet.
Q: Are you confident that you're going to be able to continue to sell a package of all your races in terms of the television rights going forward?
TERRY ANGSTADT: 100 percent.
Q: Terry, I know we've spoken about this throughout the season. How close did Portland come to being on this schedule, and where did the ball drop on it?
TERRY ANGSTADT: Well, thanks very much for the call and the question. And I think characterizing it as a dropped ball is maybe a little severe. We had a great meeting with a number of representatives from the Portland area. In fact, two different groups.
And we are quite confident through some of our further due diligence that that's a market that we know has a lot of open wheel fans. It has a good history. We think the venue is good and interesting, and we think we're going to get there. It did not develop in time to include it for '09. But we certainly have a continued interest.
Q: That's the good newsâ€‘bad news for the fans then. That this isn't necessarily going to always be like that, but at least for next year?
TERRY ANGSTADT: Exactly. And it could not be really completed for next year. But we're hopeful it will be in the future.
Q: Brian, this is the third year now that you guys are coming out to Iowa Speedway. And after listening to some of these other venues that have been tossed around here today that you're not going to or and so forth, what's your relationship with Iowa Speedway grown into?
BRIAN BARNHART: We've been very pleased, actually. Our inaugural event there with our relationship with ethanol has been supported very well by the ethanol industry. Titled both of the events taking place there. I was a little disappointed with our onâ€‘track performance the first year. Especially coming back this year I could not be more pleased. I thought we put on a great show, 250 laps with great product, great overtaking and an entertaining event. I was tickled with what we did on track the second time around. And I look forward to â€‘â€‘ I think it's interesting that Iowa has the second largest number of oval tracks of any state in the Union.
Very knowledgeable racing community. It's a very proportionally built facility with a lot of ticketâ€‘buying interest where we've had a sellâ€‘out both years we've participated there. So the energy around the event, the knowledgeable race fans and the good show we put on this year made for a great combination and one we hope continues into the future.
Q: Do you anticipate a continued relationship with Iowa Speedway?
BRIAN BARNHART: It's worked well for us. As I said, especially with the relationship with ethanol and the fact that we've had two very successful events there, I would hopefully and certainly think that it can continue into the future.
Q: Terry, I was wondering about the change in moving Kentucky a week up, and since midâ€‘Ohio came to the scene a couple of years ago, about now Kentucky and Midâ€‘Ohio back to back?
TERRY ANGSTADT: Any questions from us about that? Is that your question?
Q: No concerns, just how much of a better fit it is now that Kentucky and Midâ€‘Ohio are back to back?
TERRY ANGSTADT: We like both venues. We think we certainly race well at both venues. And we really do appreciate the movement on both tracks to help us accommodate the breaks that we needed to create our schedule. And it was funny because I was talking with someone that said, oh, gosh, only one venue off and one on and this was a pretty easy schedule to put together.
It is not an easy process, and it really does take the cooperation of all groups to make those types of shifts. Even when they're not dramatic, it creates lots of issues. So we appreciate the movement by both and we do think it has created a very sound schedule and like where both races are positioned.
Q: Was there a lot of reception from the Midâ€‘Ohio folks about trying to go back to midâ€‘August because in part these Champ Car events, that's where they were traditionally on the old schedule?
TERRY ANGSTADT: I don't think that was a big consideration, but it did work well. So we, again, appreciated Michelle (Trueman Gajoch)'s efforts.
Q: Just with Kentucky coming up next week, how happy are you guys with the progress of attendance last year and with estimates of this year's crowd?
TERRY ANGSTADT: We had a great crowd last year and really liked the improvement over the previous year. And what we're hearing is well up. So we're looking forward to getting there and greeting and interacting with all the fans in that market.
Q: Terry, can you comment on the possible synergy benefits of having Toronto and Watkins Glen compared one week apart and I guess what's the fit with Watkins Glen being back on the schedule for next year?
TERRY ANGSTADT: Again, we've just seen steady improvement at our Watkins Glen event. Craig Rust and his team do a great job promoting that. We love the 4th of July weekend. We brought a little more festivity to the race this year with IZOD, our new sponsor, and we do think that's a great fit leading into Toronto. And then having that one week break into Edmonton. We think that's a very nice kind of swing for our not only our teams but our fans. So we like the way those three fit together.
Q: Your first comment today was that this is not a perfect schedule but something to the effect of progress for the future. Can you elaborate on that? I know there's been a lot of talk, of course, about other races here today like in Portland and Cleveland and so forth. So can you elaborate on that and also what about Road America, is that a future thing? And do you envision, how big a schedule do you envision down the road?
TERRY ANGSTADT: Not that there's any real magic to this number, but we think we can grow into a very well distributed and optimized 20â€‘race schedule eventually. And I don't know if that's next year or maybe the year following. But I think that's a nice goal to raise the overall value of our business, the overall value of our teams to be able to support and put on 20 great races. So that's kind of a goal. And so that leads us to can we enter the markets that I've talked about earlier in an effective way and really have good access for our fan base to find an event of ours and not have to travel too far to do it.
Q: To follow up on that, if you were just going to do 20 races and there's been talk of, what, three or four other races already, former Champ Car events, that means you have to make some hard choices of dropping some other races, I would assume?
TERRY ANGSTADT: That's business. It truly is. And that's an exercise that we went through this year. It's an exercise we will go through every year. And, again, I think that's just a good healthy challenge for both sides and none of those are determined at this point, but I think we all know that we have to perform strong to maintain and grow businesses. So those will be some of the decisions we face in the future.
Q: Terry, I was wondering if you could elaborate on the decision to put Motegi as the second to last event on the schedule. I wonder if you're concerned that building momentum through the latter part of the schedule for a new season finale, barring the addition Australia, you have five weeks prior to Homestead, only one race which is Japan, which has challenges for the U.S. media and the eastern U.S. television audience to follow?
TERRY ANGSTADT: That's a great question. And it's one that we have certainly discussed at length. And we do think the back part of our schedule does allow us to add races as we develop further. At the same time, we also felt that building momentum early in this schedule, going into the Indianapolis 500, there was also a bit of a break in momentum there. So we feel like this is a better fit overall to really make that race very viable, work well. And as I said, it's not a perfect schedule yet. And we may never have the perfect schedule, but we hear that point. It's a great point and that's just one of the decisions we needed to make.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
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