04/01/12 Randy Bernard ducked into the press room to chat with the media and fielded a couple of questions. Asked about Lotus, Randy expresses that they realize that Lotus does not have the resources of the big manufacturers, but all things considered, they are not doing a bad job, and he expects them to step it up as the season progresses.
He was very firm in reiterating that IndyCar is sticking by them and supporting them in every way they can. He said IndyCar wants to ensure the opportunity is as broad as possible in the interest of possible future manufacturers knowing this is a good place to showcase their product and a good competitive environment.
Asked about Indy 500 field, he said that he knows Chevy and Honda will combine for 28 cars. With Lotus' 6, that makes 34. He said "Could I go to Chevy or Honda and ask them to supply a few more cars? Sure I could." he expressed that the concern is the quality of support for the teams. It's not so much a matter of physical engines as it is the technical support needed to properly supply their teams equally.
Randy said that he is aware that Jean Alesi is eager to run the Indy 500 and knows there are several possibilities floating around.
Asked if he has seen the St. Pete TV ratings and Randy said bluntly "Yes I did. They were terrible." and he said that they seem to be faced with going up against PGA events. He said they are holding steady and they are not losing viewers, but not making the gains they want to see. This is something AR1 finds very interesting, as the high average age of a PGA fan is not far off of the older aged average IndyCar fan according to this news item we posted a couple of weeks ago.
We asked Randy about the issue of the old IndyCar fan. He said they have a number of things in the works to address that. The new animated film "Turbo" is a big point of pride for them. They have also opened a Los Angeles office to continue to network with Hollywood, "shoulder" programming, and the west coast trend-generation machine. He said that the way they are promoting their grassroots series is also a key element in penetrating the younger sports fan demographic. He said they are also making plans to move into cross promoting with other sports as well.
He was asked if he has heard from Eddie Gossage. "I haven't heard from Eddie, and I don’t really need to. He doesn’t call me when he books another race at his track, and I don’t need to call him whenever we book an event" He said that Houston is separate enough and different enough that he doesn’t think there is any conflict or threat to the TMS event. He said IndyCar has a huge fan base in Texas and he is not particularly worried about it.
As for Barber Motorsports Park, Randy raved and raved about the facility and the promoter and said they would love a long term deal for this event to be a fixture on the IndyCar circuit. He said that going into that, there are some things they might like to see, like more opportunities for passing. He said he was going directly from the press room to meet with the promoter and track management to discuss it with them.
We can say that the Barber track should be the model for how things are done. You don’t see a porta-toilet at this race. They are all covered with screens. The backs of grandstands are covered, as are all scaffoldings for…well…anything. The grass is perfectly manicured. Fresh flowers planted around the track. It's like the Disney of racetracks and a huge point of Alabama pride in the region. Even the tire walls are covered with white shrouds. It’s a first class facility and operation all the way. The facility is especially great at taking feedback from the fans and media on what they like and how to make the event better, and it shows with increased attendance every year in a sluggish economy. Scott Morris reporting from Barber