Tony George makes prediction

IndyCar visionary Tony George goes out on a limb to make the bold prediction that the economy will dominate the picture in 2009

As a businessman [and great visionary – i.e. Vision Racing] whose family's heritage and future are interwoven with motorsports, Tony George doesn't hesitate when asked what story will dominate the sport in 2009.

"The economy. That will be the big story in sports business," he said.

Like George, the Indy Racing League founder and CEO who also is an IndyCar Series team owner, other owners are small businessmen who daily are reminded of the bottom line. From sponsorship to travel costs and ticket sales, economic factors will impact all forms of motorsports in the new year.

In an effort to continue the growth of the series since open-wheel unification was realized in February and react to economic downturns, team owners and sanctioning body officials have met collectively on three occasions to share ideas and information. Additional meetings a planned for 2009.

"The genesis of getting together was to try to come up with dialogue and consensus about things that we feel we as owners can do to help support the league and to ensure that we all are working together to stay together and be positioned to come out of these difficult times stronger and in a position to take advantage of opportunities that lie ahead," George said. "It's not anything more than a re-affirmation of their commitment to open-wheel racing and a demonstration of support for achieving success."

Initial meetings were held in conjunction with the Indy Racing League Championship Celebration in Las Vegas in November, and owners gathered for a subsequent lunch meeting in Indianapolis earlier this month.

"It's been an interesting experience working with the other owners and the IRL to try to curtail costs," said John Barnes, whose Panther Racing team entered the IndyCar Series in 1998. "The league has always been a benchmark for containing costs with its teams. But in these extreme times, it's allowed us to look at all aspects of our business and try to compete in these tough economic times."

Last week, IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights chassis manufacturer Dallara announced it will reduce prices on replacement parts to teams by an average of 11 percent. The sanctioning body also is evaluating other ways to curb costs, and recently placed some technical alterations targeted for '09 in storage.

"A lot of things are on the table right now because of the economy and everybody's trying to do the right thing, the responsible thing," George said. "We've really focused on going forward."

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