Latest IRL News and Commentary

Q&A with Brian Barnhart and Joie Chitwood

April 7, 2005

MIKE KING: We're going to roll right into our second press conference since we are trying to make up a little bit of time here. I want to let you know that we will entertain questions in just a couple of minutes. After we get a couple of questions out of the way and opening statements. Joie Chitwood, the president and COO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The president and chief operating officer of the Indy Racing League, Brian Barnhart. Our second press conference of the morning here. How's it fit, Brian? Brian is a watch guy, by the way. He loves watches.

BRIAN BARNHART: It fits great.

KING: Well, let's start, Joie, with you. Your first year as the president of this track in terms of overseeing the facility as the boss, if you will. Racing has been a part of your life from the go. You've built racetracks, you've run racetracks, you've been a part of leagues. Just give me an indication of what it's like to go into your first Indy 500 as the president of the Speedway.

JOIE CHITWOOD: I'm not sure if pressure is the right word for it, but obviously there are things that we want to do to make sure that the competitors, the fans, the sponsors all have a great time and that responsibility falls solely on my shoulders. I would be remiss if I didn't take a chance, though, to welcome everyone here for the media tour. I know that with all of our busy schedules to take three days out of your schedule to come here to be entertained by our announcements can be quite a challenge. So I want to thank everyone for showing up. Hopefully we're providing you enough content and access that it's useful for you. I'm excited, Mike, I think in terms of being around motorsports a long time, I have one luxury, I guess if you would call it anything, and that is my grandfather raced here in the '40s, so I feel like I have a special connection to this place. And I hope that that passion for the Speedway shines through in all of our efforts in terms of how we present the Speedway to all who are involved. For those who don't, I'd like to hear about that. It's our job to make sure that we listen to all the participants' needs and understand what it is they expect from us. We're all about being first class and being the international leader in motorsports entertainment. Hopefully you see what we do with the facility in terms of the investment and improvements, we try and do that. Some days we don't get it all right; we like to think we do, but we want to make sure that's our goal, and we're attempting to do that.

KING: We'll get back with Joie momentarily to talk about the schedule for the month of May 2005. Brian Barnhart was named the president of the Indy Racing League, the first of the year. He, of course, has overseen operations for many years in the Indy Racing League and now is the boss, if you will. Brian, before we talk about the 500 and month of May 2005, we come off of what was a unique weekend for the Indy Racing League and the IndyCar Series in St. Petersburg. From my perspective, having never worked or attended a street event, I was thrilled, thought it was a great event. Give us your take on St. Petersburg as a whole and the first time ever that the IndyCar Series cars turned both right and left.

BARNHART: Thanks, Mike. I would echo your comments. I think it was an outstanding weekend for the IndyCar Series, Indy Racing League's first non-oval event. There was an awful lot of work that went into making that event happen on all fronts, not the least of which was out of our technical staff, Les McTaggart, Phil Casey and the help of our partners in the manufacturing side with our Panoz chassis, our Dallara chassis and our Xtrac gearboxes. The difficult thing that was presented to us when we made the decision to go non-oval racing and road and street racing, we had a car that had been designed and optimized to perform on ovals. To make the switch to road course and street course racing was a bit of a technical challenge, and we chose to make that process take place over two years balancing the economic impact to the teams, to our update kits. It's a more difficult challenge to take an oval car road racing than it is to take a road racing car and make it an oval race. Our guys did an outstanding job. As a product you saw that was put on the racetrack this past weekend at St. Petersburg is a testimony to the technical staff and what they put together. We had virtually no mechanical failures. I think we had one gearbox glitch over the weekend and one engine failure over the course of three days and several thousand miles run over the weekend. So hats off to our technical staff and their ability to put on and maintain that close competitive product that the Indy Racing League and the IndyCar Series has become known for. We put on a great show and a street race. The drivers were complimentary of the cars, they're fun to drive and we put on a great show. Another aspect of that from the preparation of the facility, Barry Green and Andretti Green Promotions just did a yeoman's job putting on the first street race for us. They not only set the standards from a facility standpoint if we ever go street racing and/or future road racing, but they raised the bar for all promoters in the series and created an atmosphere that was absolutely a street party atmosphere from day one. The first of the week we got there, I flew down Wednesday, and it was just a great atmosphere and the ambience, they had the marina down to the back of the left of the back stretch with the yachts, and just the overall excitement and enthusiasm and how the community welcomed us was very refreshing and exciting. So our first non-oval event was very successful; we are pleased with it and looking forward to many more in the future.

KING: Brian, we fully expected to be fighting with cars on the track, they'd be able to hear you and Joie during this press conference. There were cars on the track yesterday, but it's my understanding that Firestone has canceled the remainder of the test. If you could address that, please.

BARNHART: Joie and I will be talking with Al Speyer and the Firestone people later this afternoon. As you all know, the surface was repaved here last fall. Yesterday was the first time we had cars on track on the full oval portion of the repaved track. And Firestone came back with several of our teams to do a Firestone tire test for a first run on the new surface. That's standard procedure, very methodical how we do it. They have since canceled and postponed the test. They're going to return later this month. They don't have anything finalized yet, but the look and hope is to come back in the next couple weeks. I think they want to go re-evaluate some things they have seen right away from the cars on track and I think they might have experienced some unexpected results from what they had seen. That's pretty standard, like I say, with the procedures which you go through. Once a track has been repaved, you're going to run, do a methodical process, re-evaluate that data, take a look and we'll come back and take another look at it, like I say, in the next couple weeks.

KING: Brian, anything specific at this point that can be addressed or until you sit down with Firestone and the drivers that were on track, is this kind of an ambiguous sort of situation?

BARNHART: I think it's -- we don't have anything that's jumping out at us. I think everybody was being a little extra cautious. I think they experienced something they had never seen before and unexpected. At that point in time it's better to go evaluate it than it is to try to run through something that you don't know what's going on. They took some of the tires back and they're going to re-evaluate them, get back with us what they see. Our obligation from the Speedway and from the IRL standpoint is we're going to provide a safe and competitive racetrack for them, and we've got the feedback and data from the drivers that were on track yesterday. Firestone will evaluate what their tires are doing, and I'm sure we'll be having a continued dialogue with them. And if anything needs to be addressed after we get more feedback from them, we'll do so, keeping in mind, like I say, our obligation just to present the best racetrack possible for all of our competitors in May.

KING: Brian, we'll get back to you in a just minute as you address the new qualifying procedures for the 89th 500, which really should make the month of May very interesting. Joie, as far as the schedule from Opening Day through Race Day on May the 29th, if you could preview I guess the schedule as a whole and perhaps some of the changes. I know Carb Day is perhaps one of the biggest changes.

CHITWOOD: Absolutely. I think there were probably four main things that occurred in terms of our month of May schedule changing from last year to this year. ROP now opens up the month in terms of our first on-track activity. That will be the first couple days. We'll then phase into our veteran program and the typical running on the track. We've added that other qualifying day on the second weekend. Traditionally we've been now down to three days; first, second and a Bump Day. We'll have four days in terms of qualifying. Brian will address the specifics of that nature. Carb Day moving to Friday. I will be honest, I actually had that in my mind for a couple years now. I was very interested in how people enjoy the weekend here in Indianapolis and how you bring in customers and guests and how your typical process works. I really felt Friday was a prime day to enjoy the experience a little bit better. Heard a lot of good comments, not only from the normal customer out there, the fan that's taking Thursday off and enjoying himself and having to go back to work on Friday before a holiday weekend. Also the sponsors that fly in. For them to bring their guests in now on a Thursday evening to experience Friday, Saturday and Sunday the race. Really pleased with that experience and what it can do. I was happy working with Miller Lite that we could add a band such as Black Crowes to the event schedule. We have had some good conversations about that, I guess they're kind of the rage right now in terms of getting back together and sold out a number of New York City shows. I think we'll have a great buzz for that day. We've added the Pro Series race to that day, our Freedom 100, and I think in terms of a day when you're going to get a lot of activity between IndyCar practice, Pro Series race, pit stop competition and the concert, I think I'd put that day up against most any in terms of activity and experience and what you can do when you're here at the Speedway. Of course, we also changed the start time of our race, moved it an hour later. We have some TV considerations there in terms of the East Coast and the West Coast. I'm glad that if daylight savings were to pass, that we'll worry about that on June 5th and not any time sooner than that. Obviously, that will be something that we deal with in the future in terms of start times. But in terms of the major accomplishments or changes that occurred, those were the ones that we actually announced. I'm very pleased with them. In terms of that announcement, Brian and I sat up here I want to say sometime in the winter and talked about that and was pleased to talk about it then. In terms of response, you're also interested in how people respond to those changes, both positive and negative. So far we're really pleased with the response. Fans, sponsors alike felt that we made some good changes. I'm sure Brian will talk about the unique qualifying procedure now and the responses we've received for that, as well.

KING: Brian, rookie orientation now becomes a part of the month of May proper as opposed to a separate event, if you will. If you could talk about that and the new four-day qualifying procedures for the 500.

BARNHART: As Joie mentioned, the IRL is very pleased to be working in conjunction with the Speedway with the changes because we think it's going to enhance the month of May and the Indianapolis 500 from all aspects. As he mentioned, there's four or five major changes. We're balancing all terms of that with the fans, the entertainment of what we're looking for and with our teams and our participants from a cost standpoint instead of making a separate trip here a couple of weeks before the month of May to do our ROP. We're going to start the month off on Sunday and Monday with ROP, and those drivers will go through that aspect. The track will be opened to all competitors then on Tuesday. So the veterans will get Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday to practice. The rookies will get two days in front of that before the veterans are turned loose. That will give them ample time to get accustomed to the unique aspect of the facility and the speeds associated with what the Indianapolis Motor Speedway is all about. So we're pleased to be able to -- USAC started that program probably 20, 25 years ago and has had such an impact and been very valuable to drivers when you first come to the Speedway. It is so unique and so different from everywhere else you run. It is sure nice to get out there before you have 30 other drivers out there with you, and you get some guy who's been here for 25 years and he goes busting down into Turn 1 at 220 his third time by and you're still trying to find your way around, it's a little intimidating. So the Rookie Orientation Program is very valuable, and we're happy to have that to start the month off on Sunday and Monday and then move into the veterans Tuesday through Friday. That again balances. And from a cost aspect, all on-track activity on most days is going to take place from noon to six, trimming an hour off of the schedule as well. A couple of days of practice off for the veterans, like I say, that's balancing the cost aspect to our teams. We think it's also going to increase and enhance from the Speedway standpoint because you have shorter period of time and shorter hours during the practice day, I think you're going to see a lot more on-track activity. I think you saw that last year with the rule changes we made, engine change and chassis change beginning in May. Our second week of practice during the month of May was probably the most active second week of practice I can remember in the history of the Speedway. Guys were getting so accustomed to the full tank runs with the aerodynamic and mechanical changes that we had made, and we practiced in a fashion that I have never seen them practice around the Speedway before, as well. We ran in clusters of cars, groups of cars getting traffic experience. Guys running in six, packs of six and eight, and I don't think we've ever seen that. I think all of that led to what I think on Race Day was one of, if not the best Indianapolis 500 from an on-track product that I have ever seen. I think we raced last May on Race Day better than I've ever seen us, with two- and three-wide and just the depth of field and competition. All of that has been factored into our decision-making processes and balancing with the fans. I think they're going to see a lot of activity, especially when the veterans start running Tuesday through Friday. We've got a great new qualifying format that is going to introduce a ton of strategy to the teams. The teams are still allowed 35 sets of tires throughout the course of the month. Now the qualifying format is considerably different. We are only going to qualify 11 cars on each of the first three days. You will have the potential and most likely will have bumping on each of the first three days of qualifying, as well as the traditional Bump Day, which is the fourth day. You will take positions one through 11 and once you have 11 cars that have accepted times, the slowest car from Pole Day is on the bubble for that day. You will start bumping on day one. If you're not in the top 11 at the end of the day, you have to come back and qualify on day two. Day two you'll do positions 12 through 22, day three you'll do positions 23 through 33. Each day you will be bumping after those 11 cars have accepted times, you will be bumping amongst the slowest cars only from that day. The fourth day you will bump the slowest car in the field regardless the day it qualified. Also changing from that format and again trying to increase economic impact and the fan standpoint, in the old days you used to be allowed three qualifying attempts per car for the entire month of May, provided none of those attempts are run to completion. We now have three qualifying attempts per car per day even if that attempt gets run to completion. So if you run, you're the first car off the line, you accept your time and you end up getting bumped on Pole Day and you're 12th fastest, you can come back with that same engine and chassis combination and make a second and third attempt on day one. You can bring that car back on days two, three and four. So you have ultimately the potential of 12 qualification attempts with the same piece of equipment, same motors, engines can now qualify more than one chassis at a time. If you have a teammate deal, you can take a motor out of one car and put it in another car to qualify it. So we have tried to make more equipment available. Obviously, making it more exciting for the fans, allowing for bumping. The drama of Pole Day is unlike virtually anything else I have ever seen. That will remain, the runs going for the pole, but now in addition to Pole Day drama you are going to have some drama with regard to bumping on day one, day two, day three instead of just day four. You have potential for bumping every day and the drama of Pole Day. We are excited about the qualifying format for Indy.

KING: Let's open it up for questions. We have Eric Powell from the media relations staff who has the mike on the other side. Keep in mind we will be transcribing this entire press conference.

Q: Brian, realistically, with all these opportunities, the chance for error, of course, increases and crashes and things of that nature, equipment being torn up. Will the car count be sufficient to sustain these types of qualification procedures? Because the latest I had seen was 30 cars and 16 drivers thus far as of a few days ago. Will we have enough to keep the interest up so on that Bubble Day we've had the possibility of 33 and maybe there's 10 or 12 still out there trying to make the race.

BARNHART: You absolutely will have enough to fill the field. I have no doubt about that. I don't anticipate on Bump Day having 33 and then 10 or 12 more looking to get in. But we most definitely will have at least 33 cars, and we will have a full field. I think in response to what you're saying, the fact that we have made equipment usable instead of putting it on a trailer by accepting a qualifying run will ensure that you have more equipment available, more engines, more chassis available to go through this process and make sure we do get to the 33 and beyond.

Q: Brian, I believe you were still the track superintendent when the previous paving job was done. What was different with this particular paving job and how many areas of the track had to be ground down?

BARNHART: Well, there's a lot of things that change over time. If I'm not mistaken, the last time it was paved was for the '96 season. You get a lot of evolution and development over time. The director of engineering and construction for the Speedway is Kevin Forbes, and he is always taking a look at the mix to use and the polymer and slag and aggregate content is. You know, one of the things that did not work very well with the previous pave was it didn't last as long as it was anticipated. And if you remember, it cracked very severely. Even last year we had to stop practice a couple times and we are very fortunate through the race we had some holes develop out on the racetrack that took some time to repair. The paving this year included changing the mix so that didn't reoccur once this new pavement is down. Of course, we have an obligation, as well, to provide as smooth a racetrack as possible. So there were some bumps that were identified out on the racetrack post paving and throughout the wintertime so there was some grinding done. And the comments yesterday, the guys said it is very, very smooth out on the racetrack. Like I said, I don't anticipate we have any major issue. This is the same type of procedure that we've gone through at several other racetracks any time they've been repaved. The difference being Indianapolis is the fastest track we run, and any time that you would see something that is not anticipated or unexpected, you're going to be better safe than sorry. Firestone, their tires are an incredibly important component of what we put on the track in May. They do an outstanding job for us. They saw some things that were unusual and unexpected to them. At that point in time, it's best to just go evaluate it. They've taken the equipment back to Akron, and they're taking a look at it and will get back with us with their feedback. If we have to respond to do something different from a league standpoint, we will. And if Joie needs to do something from a racetrack standpoint, I'm sure they will.

KING: The question is what areas of the track had to be ground?

BARNHART: There are various spots all around it. In an effort to provide as smooth a racetrack surface as possible, they have touched spots all the way around, all the way around the two and a half miles.

Q: I have a question for Joie concerning the time change. There were several guys in NASCAR, Robby Gordon, John Andretti, Stewart, complained about they wouldn't even have an opportunity to run this with that time change. What's your thoughts on that? Was that taken into consideration or not?

CHITWOOD: Absolutely it was taken into consideration. I think it was interesting to get comments from drivers who haven't been doing the double and that they had the most comments about whether the start time was where it was. If it had been an issue, we would have hoped they would have participated anyways. We did take that into consideration. We have to also balance out the fans out there in terms of when they can watch the event. We think that it is a unique idea and challenge to run in both events. I think that if Robby is still interested, although the timing is tight, it is still possible. Based on his experience so far with his season, I don't know what his plans are. But we did take that into consideration. Brian and I, I think it's safe to say we had a month of meetings talking about these issues, because for us it's always the law of unintended consequences and can you think of enough things that you haven't thought of the first time as to what you have to plan for. We always know there are some things we know it will affect. But did we cover our bases and prepare for the others? I think we did a nice job. Obviously Mr. Gordon and Stewart had some comments, and more power to them, but we did take that into consideration.

Q: Brian, you mentioned that a team could use one engine for two different qualifying cars. What procedure follows, then, in regards to which qualifying engine can go in which car and how is this going to work?

BARNHART: With regards to the race?

Q: Yeah.

BARNHART: They don't have to race the motor they qualify now anyway. They've never had to do that, at least in most recent memory that I can think of. Most guys don't race the same engine they qualify unless it gets sent back and rebuilt anyway. So that's not an issue for us. Post-qualifying, accepted run, making it in the top 11 for that day or into the field that motor will be stamped and sealed. If they tell us they're going to try to qualify another car with it, and especially on that same day, we'll let them obviously get it out, get a change if they want to try and do another car with that same motor, and then we'll do a post-qualifying inspection when that motor is done for everyone.

Q: Brian, as we all discovered last year, it occasionally rains here in May. How much flexibility is built into the new qualifying system in terms of in case there is a rainout?

BARNHART: I think one of the best things about it in those meetings that Joie referred to earlier that we spent so much time, I think what has come out of it, I think you're going to see the Speedway and the IRL do a really good job of communicating together to make a decision in the best interest of both. I mean, because like you're saying, it can occasionally rain here. And our whole goal in providing that, I think we're going to make a good decision together between the Speedway and us as to whether, you know, the drama of trying to do this qualifying of 11 cars on a single day, we would lose the impact of that if on Pole Day it's raining in the morning and then by the time you get through qualifying, if you get just one trip through the line, if it looks like we're not going to start qualifying until 3 or 3:30, you know, on Pole Day, we're going to lose the edge of what we're trying to accomplish here. At that point in time the League's going to get together with the Speedway, and we're going to make an intelligent decision as best we can before that, trying to anticipate what the weather is going to do. We would be better off moving Pole Day completely to the second day. We have the possibility of moving the second day into Monday, which right now is a closed day from on-track activity. We have the ability of doing it one through 22 cars. So we have a lot of flexibility. That was part of the thing, result of the meetings that we had in trying to build that flexibility into it to maintain the drama and excitement of the format and what it's designed for to try and be able to respond to weather that you can't control to make sure we keep that drama available to everybody.

CHITWOOD: Brian, I would add I think there's a good example when Castroneves won the pole a couple years ago. That was a Pole Day on a Sunday. We had had weather, and we got together and made I think a good decision and had a nice experience with Helio going back I think in the last 20 minutes to capture pole. But I think it was important that we communicate and make sure we think of that fan out there who can enjoy that experience.

Q: Brian, how many cars do you anticipate for ROP?

BARNHART: You know, I don't know. To be honest with you, I haven't taken a look at it. I know we have a handful coming. Historically we've been somewhere between six and 10, and I think that would be a consistent number this year.

Q: There was a report within the last year that TV would like to see this as a night race. Any possibility down the road that would even be considered?

CHITWOOD: I'll address that. (Laughter) I love comments like that from the standpoint of people who don't understand the process we go through. In terms of our community and what we do and what it takes to get people in and off property, and I would shudder to think what it would take to do that in the middle of the night. I'm not sure that would be a pleasurable experience for the fan or the officials out there. It is something people talk about. There seems to be a continual effort to push TV later, and I think you see that with a lot of sports properties. We are unique in the fact we are a racetrack out in the middle of nowhere and a town kind of grew up around it. So we always have to take that into consideration in terms of the neighborhoods across the street, the jurisdictions and manpower it would take to do that. That would be a monumental task. So I think that it's easy to say that; however, there's a lot of things that we would have to do to even come close to thinking that were a possibility.

BARNHART: A lot of our drivers would like to sleep in.

Q: Joie, as you are now president and chief operating officer of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, I doubt as a young lad coming through that you ever assumed that could happen. Having said that and you are now, what's the biggest thrill you have and what's your biggest challenge as the president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, obviously the biggest racetrack and sporting event in the world?

CHITWOOD: That's a good question. Obviously, you know, we are a racetrack. We've been here since 1909 when the track was originally built. We have a lot of grandstands out there; the key for us is to put on quality events. In terms of a challenge, I think that we all have to understand that in this day and age we're in a competitive environment, not just in terms of racers out on the track but in terms of the entertainment dollar out there. Are we providing enough relevant entertainment to meet the changing needs of that contemporary customer? So for me, it's always thinking about can we do something better, are we offering the right types of things for our fans? And I think in terms of the culture of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, we probably have not thought like that. I think recently with the addition of the Brickyard 400, the USGP, we understand fans like to attend events at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. So for me it's about what's next, where are we going, can we improve the events we have, can we do things a little differently and what else are we not doing out there that might be a benefit if we were to put on track. That's not an easy question; there are not events out there that you can say, “Hey, let's just have it here at Indy.” The question is where can we go, what's the next step. If you don't spend every day thinking about what tomorrow could be, you never do. You deal with the typical problems and issues of any business, be it budget, staffing, personnel. So for me it's about spending some time each day thinking about where we're going to be next year, five years, 10 years. I think that's the important part, that's the big challenge.

Q: Brian, as street racing often does, it kind of brings out a different element of driving or aggression even. How much of the stuff did you see from Sunday that kind of concerned you a little bit? Because the format as close as it is with these cars, sometimes the best way to get by somebody is to knock them out of the way.

BARNHART: Well, it clearly does bring that element to it. As long as that doesn't transcend into the oval track portion of what we do, I think that's first and foremost. Even still, I think if you go back to the St. Pete event, that's going to be a part of it because of the design of the track and the nature of the event and the aggressiveness that comes through on that and the difficulty in passing on the nature of that track versus an oval, it does bring some of that out. It's clearly something that's part of the show, but as an official you always need to use discretion as to what's acceptable and what's not. There were certainly aspects of the show on Sunday that added to the value of the entertainment aspect of it and there were certainly aspects of it that were a little concerning to me from our standpoint and the first time officiating a street course event, we're going to spend a lot of time revisiting those and dealing with the people on an individual basis as we move forward. The next time we're on a road course is at Infineon in August. But that is a part of it that is a little different. The aggression and the efforts to get past a car in front of you are a lot different in that type of environment than it is when we oval track race. It's something we have to adjust to and it's my job to make sure the drivers understand what is acceptable and what is not and they all perform within those parameters that are set for them.

Q: Joie, you were talking about what's next. That's one of your next big challenges. There were some rumors about motorcycles running out here sometime back. Is there anything to that? Have you all considered that?

CHITWOOD: I think I would tell you that I am really open to a lot of things, and I think that we did test them a couple years ago to find out what kind of requirements they might need if we were to engage in that thought. But I will tell you that that could be an interesting thing to look at. I wouldn't say no to you at this point. I think that there might be a lot of fans out there who might be interested to see what a motorcycle does around here. I have no immediate plans to start adding three, four, five, six races to our calendar. We have three pretty good ones now. But I do want to understand what might be next, and that's definitely a possibility.

Q: Joie, not only as a media person but as a fan, I've been very impressed with the ABC/ESPN coverage of the IRL events this year, particularly the side-by side action they have. For this year's 500, do you know, did -- I know it's been announced Brent Musburger is going to be the chief announcer, do you know are they going to continue that style of coverage and will it be broadcast in high definition?

CHITWOOD: The first part of your question and at this point I am, last time I've heard, the plan is to do the side-by-side broadcast during the 500. Now, I might have to check with Ron (Green) to make sure that was the latest thing I saw. But my knowledge is yes, I believe that's the case. For your second question, I am not sure on the high def; I think there's been discussion. I'm not sure it's been resolved or not. So I can't tell you if it's for sure going to be high def. But so far on side by side, I believe it is going to be side by side.

KING: One real small correction. Brent Musburger will be the host and Todd Harris will be the chief announcer. He will be handling play by play right here.

Q: Has there been some thought about running road course out here for IndyCar?

CHITWOOD: I kind of like the Indy 500 for the Indy cars. (Laughter) I tend to think the Formula One cars do a nice job on the road course. So at least my thought process would be I'm not sure that having the Indy cars on the road course would really -- I don't think that would be the right thing to do. I like the Indy 500 a little bit.

Q: Brian, as has been stated, there was a street race, and there's a great difference between a street race and a road course. The obvious one is they're narrower, they're shorter, they're not as fast, the driver who is aggressive -- and you certainly don't want to take that away being aggressive -- will tend to do things where they wouldn't where you go to Infineon where speeds are a lot higher and results can be a lot worse. Do you anticipate any problems? I saw some bumping, but when you've got a narrow course and you're a faster car, and albeit a driver may try to move over but didn't get over as far as he should have been or something, do you have a different mindset when you go to high-speed road course as opposed to a street race? I think street race is great, and I'm not a road racing fan, but I thought they put on a tremendous show. And there was passing. A lot of people that I heard talking about, well, it's not an oval, the passing, the series will not continue, but it did and it was close, and I thought it was a tremendous show. What are your thoughts on that one?

BARNHART: Well, I agree with you. Some of that takes care of itself depending on the nature of the track, whether it's oval or road course or street course. I think a lot of what you saw at St. Pete this weekend, you can see the same thing if you go back and look at our history the last couple years at Richmond. There's a lot of bumping that goes on at Richmond, as well. And it's not unique to Indy cars, either. Any series that runs a more bullring -- a street course is a more of a bullring type of atmosphere. And you will get guys kind of rooting there way in to try to get around. Because of the dynamics and design of the racetrack, you kind of need that. At a place like Indianapolis where you're at super speeds and you've got a five-eighths mile straight-away, it's a finesse, it's timing of your passes and you don't go in and root your way around like that because the consequences are more severe. I think the drivers' mentality is that they're aware of that as much as anybody else. So on a street circuit or a short three-quarter mile track like Richmond, you get that bullring and kind of rooting your way in there type of attitude mentality. As you go faster and as tracks get wider, the drivers take that into consideration, and they respond accordingly. It's almost like a second nature to them, and you don't see near as much of that at places like Texas, Indianapolis, Kansas, that type of deal. So I don't anticipate any problems. The drivers are pretty much aware of it on their own. It's obviously their butts that are on the line, and they're the ones most aware of what their surroundings are and their environment and what the repercussions will be.

Q: Brian, last year there was a lot of effort to slow the cars down. Already, like yesterday Buddy (Rice) was talking about 226 for a pole this year. Are you kind of amazed how fast the engine cops are starting to pick back up the speeds and the chassis manufacturers are making up all the efforts you've made to slow them down? Do you have an estimate for pole speed this year or what would you think would be the right pole speed?

BARNHART: Well, you're right, Matt. It's part of the difficulties of our job and from a sanctioning body standpoint, we're clearly outnumbered. We have thousands of people working against what we're trying to do, whether they're in the tire development for Firestone or whether they're in the engine development for Honda and Toyota and Chevrolet, down to the teams themselves with all of their engineers. Their entire job description entails going faster. You know, we are clearly outnumbered in the chassis, in the engine, in the tire, in the team development standpoint. Everything that we try and do to control speeds, there's a lot of people working against us. That's the nature of the sport. I was very comfortable and happy with the changes that we made in 2004. You know, I think the teams have done a nice job responding, and the fact that we were able to make those changes without adversely affecting the on-track product we put out there, that's going to continue. We were successful at St. Pete. You're going to see a slight increase in the performance of the cars this year, that was anticipated. I think you'll see us from a league standpoint, our goal is we like to keep the speeds at Indianapolis, we have target speeds at every racetrack we run, and for Indianapolis we like to keep the speeds in the 220s. I think you'll see us run kind of a three-year cycle. I'd like to run like we did in '04 at about 222 and come back the next year at 225, the next year at 227 or 228, then back them back down to 222. I think the drivers are very comfortable with the stability of the cars and the ability to race the cars at that speed. If you go back to our entire month's performance in 2004, like I said earlier, I think it produced as good a month of May, and I think the best on-track product on Race Day that I have ever seen for an Indianapolis 500. So our targeted goal, I guess we would like to see them in the 25 or 26 range. As always at Indianapolis, so much of that is dictated by the atmospheric conditions on Pole Day, as well. You can get an ideal day or you can get a really difficult day performance-wise and that can affect performance by 4 or 5 miles an hour in itself, just the weather conditions, humidity, heat, sunshine, that type of deal.

Q: This is for Joie. I understand that Kevin Forbes put a great deal of thought and design work into a drainage system during the repaving period. A, is that true; and B, does that eliminate the term weepers that we've used around here?

CHITWOOD: One of the interesting things about the race course itself, we continue to pay homage to our heritage and that is we have a lot of bricks underneath that racecourse. We're not going to be taking those bricks out anytime soon. Conversely, there's a challenge as it relates to the drainage under the track. I'm confident that Kevin is working hard to make sure that that's something that we deal with. As the asphalt got older last year in terms of its 10-year cycle, we saw a little bit more of that and had to deal with that. It is something we talk about and try and make sure doesn't affect the competition side. But one of those things of having 3.2 million bricks under the track is that that's what's under there. So it is something we discuss and try and come up with the right ways to resolve.

Q: Brian, with your promotion, you now have some business responsibilities that maybe you didn't have before. Do you look at a possible reevaluation of some of the ISC venues? The crowd at Phoenix wasn't very good, for whatever reason, and some of the other ones don't seem to put the same type of promotional effort into the IRL race that they do their other events, which has to concern you a little bit. Do you see that as an issue that you're going to address here through this year and maybe next year as far as maybe getting some of those ISC venues off in favor of some other ones?

BARNHART: Well, I don't know that we would look at it that specific as much as we look at each individual event and its value and merit and what it contributes to the series. I think the best thing that can happen to us in the short term is what we were able to do this past weekend at St. Pete has added an awful lot of flexibility to us. In the past as an all-oval schedule and at facilities that run a lot of events and multiple events, we didn't always get the pick of the date of when you needed to get into that event. Oval track racing, obviously, runs in dry weather only, so the ability to road course race and to street race gives the IndyCar Series and the Indy Racing League much more flexibility than it ever had in the past. You can certainly get into different weather circumstances. And planning a schedule now with the ability to add road and street venues to what we're doing clearly gives us more flexibility in creating a schedule in 2006 and beyond that includes events that are clearly in the best interest of the series and moving forward instead of just creating an event to make sure we try and get to 16 or 18 events to stay on the calendars. They've all got to be kept on the schedule through their own merits, not necessarily because they've been on there traditionally. We're going to do what's in the best interest of the series, and the ability to road race gives us a lot more flexibility from a scheduling standpoint, date equity-wise, we just have a lot more ability to make change, and we'll take a look at that on an individual basis.

KING: Joie, you have the unique perspective of being able to look at that question as a guy who both oversaw the construction and ran another racetrack, Chicagoland Speedway. Can you talk about the mechanics of what Bruce is saying, how a general president or manager of another track will look at the promotion of an event coming into his or her track?

CHITWOOD: Absolutely. Having spent three and a half years with the Indy Racing League before moving on to Chicago and building a racetrack in Chicago, it gives you a different perspective. But in terms of a marketplace, it's a little bit similar to the marketplace we're in, in which you're not just competing with motorsports in general; you're competing with other sports properties. I will tell you that going into the Chicago market and not being inside the loop, there's a lot of a buy-in component that you have to get. You have to get customers to feel comfortable that you're part of the sports market. I think that you do need a concerted effort. I will tell you that whatever event you have, you want to have people in the seats. It's not as easy as you might think in terms of just building it and having people show up. You have to make sure you have a competitively priced product, that you're transferring the excitement of the racing to the fans so that he understands what he's purchasing. In terms of the other markets out there, I know what they've been through, it's what every track promoter goes through regardless of what type of racing you have. That is who you're competing with, are you priced appropriately and is the competition or the excitement that you provide on track adequate enough to make a purchase sale? I will tell you there's no right or wrong answer to that. You're dealing with some intrinsic things, it's that trigger inside someone who says, “OK, you have hit the right button for me, I will purchase that ticket.” I can tell you the person that finds the exact answer to that will do very well for themselves because every sports property out there deals with the same thing.

KING: This is our last one, and we'll break for a few minutes for one-on-ones.

Q: Brian, I would like to follow up on what Bruce was talking about. You enter into a situation with adding races, street and road course races that allow you some greater schedule flexibility, but how does that keep the series from falling potentially into the same business pitfalls in the big picture that CART encountered that ran them out of business? Having said that and following up in a different direction, do you have any kind of a plane ticket thing set up for Long Beach to go out there and tape measure or anything to make any plans?

BARNHART: No, I would hope in answering your second one first, I would hope that the people from Long Beach and any other similar facility like that had an eyeball on what we did at St. Pete last weekend. I think we passed with flying colors, and certainly we've proven our capability of performing on venues like that. And if the right opportunity -- again in going to the first part of your question -- where we're going to be successful is going to be making sure we pick events that are in our best interest and strong venues for us. You know, that again is a change a little bit from what we've done because we've been all ovals, now in the flexibility what we have, it's a matter of picking the right ones that are the best for our fans, best for our sponsors, best for our teams, our drivers in the league and ones that we have good relationship with the promoters who can do something similar to what Barry and his group did this past weekend at St. Pete, create that buzz and excitement around the event, make that purchase sale to the fans like Joie was talking about and put on an event that not only shows a good racetrack product with the racing that's going on. But the other aspect of it is you have to make that fan feel like there's more to it than just the race. And we've found out over the course of the last several years it's not just about the product you put on the racetrack, it's the entire event. It's got to be the party atmosphere and the event itself, not just counting on the fact that you feel and we feel we have the best racing product in the world. It's much more than that.

KING: OK, guys, both Brian and Joie, thanks so much. We're going to break for about 10 minutes for one-on-ones, and then we'll reconvene with a brand new team that will be part of the 89th 500.


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