ISC Chitwoood talks about Kansas and IRL
Chitwood spent seven years with Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the last five as president and chief operating officer, before becoming VP of Business Operations for ISC in August 2009.
Chitwood on ISC's take on IndyCar:
" It’s a business where everybody needs to have a win-win. And everybody has to feel good about stuff. IRL has some good stuff going on with the addition of IZOD (among other developments), but business is not easy right now. We’re still in the grips of whatever we are calling this thing – recession, depression, you name it -- and sports in general, whether it be baseball, basketball, racing, is a tough business."
"Not as many people are spending money whether it’s ticket sales, corporate (sponsorship), you name it. So that puts stress on everybody. Stress on the IndyCar series, stress on NASCAR, stress on ISC. So you have to figure out ways you can work together and gets more fans to attend and have good events, that way everybody is happy."
Chitwood's response to fans that think ISC is stifling IndyCar:
"...Everybody has an opinion. Fans feel certain things towards IndyCar, towards ISC, toward NASCAR, towards SMI (ISC rival Speedway Motorsports Inc.). I don’t think it’s my job to respond to every fan and say “Why do you feel this way?” We try and put on good events. We’ve got good properties. We’ve got good racing. And if it doesn’t meet a fans expectation then there’s not much we can do. We can try to make the event better, but at the end of the day, if a fan doesn’t enjoy an experience at a certain track, they can go (take their business) to a different track. Whether they like road course racing, street course racing, or ovals."
"At the end of the day we host events for them to be successful. Which is good for the fans, good for the company, good for the sanctioning bodies. That’s why you put an event on."
Chitwood on status of future IndyCar events at Kansas:
" We’re still trying to figure out what the schedule is for next year. We’ve not made a determination that we’re not having events or this is the weekend it comes from. Schedules are a big jigsaw puzzle for everybody, and it can be really challenging. And right now we were in the throes of trying to figure out how we satisfy the require for the second race here because of the casino, and also talk to the IRL about the properties they like, what races are good, how do we make them better?"
Chitwood on Randy Bernard and changes at the IRL:
"...I guess having been associated with that so long it’s tough for me to answer that. I want them to be successful. I think that open-wheel racing is a great thing in this country. My grandfather did it for so many years. I like watching open wheel racing. I like watching NASCAR racing. I love watching Moto GP racing. I’m a racer, so I hope that that’s good for them. I see a lot of energy. He’s involved."
"I see a lot of interesting things trying to change things, whether the oval/none-oval (trophies) -- that’s a nice little tweak to that -- so that’s good. I hope that works. At the end of the day, we’re a company that owns race tracks. We want successful races. And I hope it’s IRL. I hope its NASCAR. I hope it’s Grand Am. I hope it’s ARCA. I hope whatever else is out there, we can run them and people show up and like it. That’s how it is. I think the things I see from Randy are really positive really good. I hope that makes a difference."
Chitwood on his prior history working for the IRL, and now with ISC:
"...I understand the challenges. I understand it really well. I know what they are going through. I know the pain. I was with the IRL in 1996 from the very first season. And I know what it’s like. I know how tough it is. So I appreciate the hard work and the energy it takes to do it. There’s been a lot of stuff going on the last couple months and it’s been really positive."
"Hopefully with the change in leadership looks like they are focused on some things and got a good title sponsors. That’s good. That’s good. I mean, conflict is not good for anybody and there was a lot of it going on. It’s nice to see (positive developments). Hopefully things are heading in the right direction. That would be good. That would be good for everybody. "
Chitwood on how the IRL fits into the future of its tracks' business:
"We’re about shareholder value. We’re about putting on races. At the end of the day, we are a public company so we have fiduciary responsibility. A healthy IRL or a healthy anything that we can run at our properties and provide shareholder value is what we want to do. When you start to see title sponsors and things like that, that’s good. It makes for a stronger league. More people interested. Great. More people show up to events."
"I’ve seen or heard this, that, or the other. At the end of the day, it’s about putting on successful events. We have a lot of seats, a lot of property out there. It would be nice to run them more than one or two weekends a year. You got a lot of infrastructure. Any track operator will tell you that. You got a lot of seats out there, and if you only use then once or twice a year that’s probably not maximizing their use."