Walker talks about possible return to old IndyCar venues

On Saturday night at Texas Motor Speedway, IndyCar Series operations and competition chief Derrick Walker spent some time with select media members openly discussing several racing and logistical issues concerning the tour.

On returning Surfers Paradise:

"Not that it's a bad idea but what you're doing is focusing on race tracks as neat places to go to. The biggest hurdle is that we can think of all these great places that we want to go race but for us and other racing series, some of these places have to think it's a good business venture and be willing to pay the fee to get us to come.

"With Australia, it's not a bottomless pit of money pit of money for a bunch of Indy cars to go race. With the business model of Surfers Paradise, there was a government sponsor that wanted tourism and an American product — an international product — coming to their shores highlighted by what they were trying to advertise.

"That's what made Surfers work."

Returning to Nashville Superspeedway:

"I think we've had one exploratory conversation to see if there was interest. We haven't gotten that far into it yet. But to be honest, what we're trying to do right now is look at the schedule we have now and say "okay how can we lock these races down for several years and get some consistency in the schedule and add more races down the line?"

"It's really hard to simply add more races because of the maintenance of the teams.

"NASCAR can do a hell of a lot more because it has a completely different business model than we do with their teams, infrastructure and money. In IndyCar, the same team members that are working at the shop are here and will be testing a week from now at Iowa or somewhere else.

"It's tough to squeeze all the races in I guess is what I'm saying. We're looking at getting some repeatability and consistency with what we're doing and then look at the future. But we would like to be there no doubt about it."

Hosting a race in Mexico City:

"I'm going to sound like a broken record because yes, short answer is that Mexico City is of high interest to IndyCar and always has been but the issue is getting a promoter that can do it. And that's more than just money too by the way, it's a promoter than can set the race up and manage it too.

And if that was available to us, we would do it in a New York once it made sense. We've raced there many times and right now, it's just getting a promoter."

Returning to Michigan

"Michigan is not out of the question. It's a bigger oval so even the high banking is not an issue because you can get two lanes going a lot like here at Texas.

"You'll start with one lane but as the track rubbers in you'll end up with two lanes and you'll get more passing — or at least hopefully. You'll have four stops so put on new tires every 45-50 laps. You'll see guys that wear 'em out at the start of the run and others who are more consistent, patient and are quicker at the end.

"But the promoters there are so fascinated with NASCAR so we'll see.

"The track can take the speed, that's no problem and the cars can take the speed. The equation that we always struggle with is how fast is fast enough?

"We can hurdle around Indianapolis at 245 to 246 mph with the car we have right now, we just haven't changed those rules. So if we went to Michigan and decided the speed we wanted to see for good racing — it's not about the track, we just have to look at the specification of the car.

"Like we gave them 300 lbs. of downforce here and just like that we made the racing better so we can take it away just as quickly and in a lot of different ways as well. Plus we have boost power and turbochargers so we can take away some engine power relatively easy.

On a Possible Return to Laguna Seca:

"Laguna has made no secret that they would like us back and it's a good old track and it's a good track for IndyCar so yeah that's a logical one.

"Overall, there are some changes like at Sonoma that everyone will want — not just us in IndyCar. We understand their model and that they don't have a ton of money to just throw around the place but as we go racing as we learn more and take note of the improvements that are necessary.

"We have a process in IndyCar where we send someone out to inspect the track or after a race, we get back to a promoter and say here's what we thought was good and where we want to see improvements — that's something we just started this year. And Laguna Seca knows that upon those improvements, we would be back in a New York minute."

The latest on Aero Kits:

"That's the good news and the bad news. That same Muppet that made the decision to decrease horsepower at Texas got us into the mess with the aero kits. (laughs, referencing himself)

"No, the reason behind the aero kits is this is a spec series still and everyone has the same car. But as you can see, it's pretty damn good racing and there is a difference between teams even though we all have the same ship. There are still differences in the engines and the way you set the cars up.

"You can still have good racing with a spec series which is what we've got so then why change it is the question. I'm old school so I would tell you that when I when I was a boy and I looked at race cars, there were a lot of differences in them. To me that's part of the fascination with racing, all the different nooks and crannies.

"So with budgets really tight right now we looked at the aero kits as a way to kind of change the look of the cars and keep it within budget. You could have made an aero kit. Anyone could have made the aero kit but what they have to do is design the box set and the body panels — the engine covers, side pods, wings, rear pod — you design all those and anything you want as long as it fits within the box and do what it's supposed to do.

"You sell it for 75 grand and there are some price restrictions on what spare parts would cost and you can sell it to the teams. That's it. So when we set the rules, the manufacturers, for obvious reasons, said we want to do it. The reason behind the aero kits was the branding and the different look — branding in that whoever puts their name on the side of the car has that kit — in this case Honda or Chevrolet — so now you have Chevrolet looking cars with Chevy engines and Honda the same thing.

"You can have whatever aero kit you want in the future — it could be Coca-Cola or Red Bull and you sell it to the teams. The real thing is … the reason nobody is going to do it en masse is that you're not going to sell enough of these kits to recoup the investment so you have to do with someone who wants a branding, who can get advertising out of it and it makes sense.

"There will be differences from speedways to road and streets as well.

Has anyone else expressed interest in doing an IndyCar aero kit?

"Not at this time. People have made some inquiries but they are waiting on the manufacturers — a look and see to see how it turns out.

"But you know, to design this aero kit, what a manufacturer does is look at the fact that we have high speed tracks, low speed tracks and he'll probably design the car that will win the race that matters the most — likely the Indy 500. So the most important quality is that it runs well at Indianapolis.

"And once he has that design, then he will look at Long Beach or St. Petersburg and this and that so then he will look at different parts of that kit to give him even more downforce because he will need it.

"There's a cap on it, the window for change will open up at the end of next year so then its locked in. What they do is they'll finish their designs almost by now — we just haven't seen them and test them for a while — and then produce them and give them to the teams.

"You'll see cars on track in February or March that will feature the aero kits and there will be an increase in speed — a big increase probably. And that's part of the bad news because we're going to have to manage that."

Decreasing the amount of test dates for next season:

"We are but not because of the aero kits. I mean, we've allowed some days so the manufacturers can develop the aero kits before the teams get them but we've been looking at testing as a way to make the racing schedule easier for teams by blacking out more days.

"Because, look, even though each aero kits costs 75 grand and I've got my one race car or two cars and one driver, I'm probably going to spend a minimum of about $350,000 to $500,000. If I'm a one-car team, what I'm going to do is buy the spare parts and I'm going to test and go in the wind tunnel even though someone will give me a manual that says this is what this thing will do.

"You're going to find out the best way to optimize it so they'll spend that kind of money on one car to find out the way to optimize the best car.

"So obviously Michael Andretti has multiple cars so he won't have to spend $500,000 on each driver, he can spread those costs over a little bit. But then you get the one car teams who won't have the money to spend all of that so they're not going to spend that either.

"So no pain, no gain and they will go quicker and it will be quite interesting to see how they look. You're going to see a lot of differences in these cars."

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