Tony George finally speaks

UPDATE #2 The second part of this interview was posted today. Credit to Holly Cain for asking the tough and direct question.

HC: Given all that you know now — all that you have been through — was it all worth it to form the Indy Racing League? And why?
TG: That is a very broad, open question and the only thing I can do is reiterate what I said earlier, but perhaps say it another way.

There is great value in the Indy Racing League; it exists to support the institutions of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indianapolis 500 Mile race; and I am proud of its contributions to the sport.

05/04/10 Former Indy Racing League and Indianapolis Motor Speedway boss Tony George apparently supports the substantial cost-cutting initiatives the Speedway and the IRL implemented during the past year, though he admits “several loyal people" have left the organization his family owns.

Tony George

“We should have addressed the need to restructure sooner," he said in an interview published on Tuesday by AOL. “We had gotten fat and complacent."

About 50 people have either been released or have quit since December 2008.

Speculation on how much George spent on the IRL since he launched it in 1996 has reached as high as $25 million in some years. It’s thought that the financial losses have not been as significant in the past two years, but neither George nor his IMS replacement, Jeff Belskus, have confirmed that. George did not tell AOL how much money he’s spent on the IRL.

However, George said the IRL is “a fantastic asset both financially and strategically," and that he is proud of that.

Among his disappointments are not getting to finish many of the initiatives he started, including the celebration of Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s Centennial Era, which concludes in 2011.

George, who was only fired as IMS CEO, said he did not stay on as the IRL’s boss because he felt Terry Angstadt, the president of the league’s commercial division, was doing the job asked of him. Now, Angstadt and Brian Barnhart, the president of competition, report to Randy Bernard, who became the IRL’s CEO in March.

IRL and IMS officials did not comment on George’s statements.

05/04/10 Tony George finally gave an interview to Holly Cain for Motorsports Fanhouse. Read the entire interview here

The interview seemed a little bit sanitary to us, and we wish some of the tough and more direct questions would have been asked. We would have liked to have heard what he thinks about his replacement, and if he still thinks the IRL was the best thing for the sport over the long term. We all know it ultimately was not, and we would really love to hear him admit that. But if someone is going to say something like that, they need to believe it.

Some quotes from the interview we found interesting:

"I'm proud of our leadership in investments in the safety of the sport. I am proud of the Hulman Family's commitment to community and philanthropy.

"Obviously, once the decision was made to expand our racing events at the Speedway, being a part of bringing world class events like the Brickyard 400, MotoGP and F1 USGP to fruition; but with that said, the IRL for sure. It has so much potential and it truly is who we are, we can influence its direction; build it as a brand leveraging both the IMS and the 500 for which it exists.

"Much has been speculated, wildly inaccurate, about how much was spent to build the IRL. I am proud that we have spent a lot less than it would have taken to buy a professional sports team in the NFL, MLB, NBA or even the NHL – and we own the whole league.

"The IRL is a fantastic asset both financially and strategically. I'm proud of that."

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