Q&A with Indy Lights boss Roger Bailey
Roger Bailey, executive director of the Firestone Indy Lights, participated in a Q&A session this week, discussing the 100th Firestone Indy Lights race under the Indy Racing League banner. Below is his interview.
Q: This weekend marks the 100th Firestone Indy Lights race under the Indy Racing League sanction. Does it seem like it's been 100 races since the first one in July 2002?
A: "First, it seems like we reached 100 Firestone Indy Lights races much sooner than the last time we reached 100 races (in the CART-sanctioned Firestone Indy Lights). It seems like only yesterday that we came on board at Kansas and the time has really flown by. All the while, Firestone has been a great partner to me and the series since Day 1. Sometimes they don't get the credit they deserve because they are always there for us and we always expect them to be. But they've done a lot for us and achieved a lot for us."
Q. There have been numerous drivers that have stood out in the series since that first race. Who are some that stand out in you mind?
A: "Alex Lloyd, Raphael Matos, Richard Antinucci, Wade Cunningham have all stood out. The unfortunate part is that there have been fewer opportunities for those guys to move to the next level. Raphael was very fortunate to find a full-time seat with Luczo Dragon, but Alex Lloyd had one of the most dominating seasons in the history of the series and we haven't seen him in a full-time ride."
Q. What race is your most memorable?
A: "Without a doubt, the most satisfying moment for me was when we were able to race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for the first time with the Freedom 100. We've had seven of them now, but the first one was the crowning jewel of the (current) Firestone Indy Lights program. I've been doing this for a quite a few years now, so a race is a race is a race. We've had some really spectacular races - I go back to the (Logan) Gomez-(Alex) Lloyd finish at Chicagoland was quite memorable - but the most memorable is getting to Indianapolis."
Q. And looking to the future of the series. What do you see for the next 100 races?
A: "I thought the growth of the series would be greater in 2009, but what we didn't factor into the equation was how bad the economy would be. I think we're over the hump and teams are starting to talk to us again. We've already had one IndyCar Series owner express interest in running a team next year and there is a dialogue with several other people. We're not looking for 20-30 people; we're looking for 6-8 solid players to run every race.
"Frankly, we've got the best field this year that we've ever had in terms of talent and quality. We may be down in numbers from the beginning, but in terms of quality it's as strong as any other series in the world. Guys like Tony Kanaan, Helio Castroneves, Dan Wheldon, Bryan Herta and Scott Dixon graduated from the old Indy Lights and talent-wise we're approaching that level again. Once we get the numbers back where we want them, we will be totally whole and I see a great future."
Q. And the perception that the Firestone Indy Lights races are the best race they see week in and week out has to be a great calling card for the series?
A: "You never know if people are saying that to you are just saying it to please you, but the people who have said that to me are the people who know what they are talking about and I know they mean it. Of course, it makes us all feel good about what we're doing. That comes with the quality of the field. We've had our last two races go from green flag to checkered flag without any issues. Sometimes a good race to me isn't so much the on-track action but the fact that everyone can load their cars unscathed when it's time to go home."