IMS insists it is committed to IndyCar
The new head of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has insisted that the company remains absolutely committed to the IndyCar Series despite the major management changes of recent weeks.
Indy COO Joie Chitwood's announcement this week that he was leaving for a new role with the International Speedway Corporation, and Indy Racing League founder Tony George having stepped down at the last board meeting, had generated concern that the new IMS regime might become less willing to invest in the championship, which has required substantial sums of money from its parent company since being formed in 1996. But Jeff Belskus, the newly installed president and CEO of the IMS Corporation, said the new management shared George's belief that a strong IndyCar Series was vital for the health of the company's centerpiece Indianapolis 500.
"They're extremely important to one another and dependent on one another," said Belskus in his first news conference since taking the role. "We're hopeful that the League can continue to grow and we can continue to develop it and that it will help us with the Indianapolis 500 in terms of our show. We've had a couple of great races here the last couple of years.
"We need the IndyCar Series to be strong. Conversely, the IndyCar Series needs a strong Indianapolis Motor Speedway. We're all in this together. The Hulman-George family has made a huge investment in open-wheel racing, and they intend to continue to pursue that and continue to try and grow it."
Concern about the amount that the IndyCar Series was costing IMS was believed to be a key factor in George's departure, and Belskus acknowledged that the championship had to improve its financial health.
"We're economically challenged like so many businesses are today," he said. "We continue to deal with those headwinds, so we hope to be able to continue to put on a good show. We hope the race teams can stay strong. We need strong teams. We need committed sponsors. So, there's certainly a revenue aspect to what we're doing.
"From a management perspective, we're like so many businesses. We need to manage our expenses and manage our costs and, again, doing so in a way that continues to provide the best show that we can provide."
Chitwood added that his departure should not be regarded as a consequence of George's exit or a change of course for IMS, and that he had been pondering his future for some time.
"I don't think really the events of the last 30 days factor into this at all," said Chitwood. "When you start thinking about life decisions, that's not something you do at the drop of a hat or something that happens within 30 days.
"Some time in the springtime, in fact, I think Jeff and I might have had a small talk about it — nothing substantial – but I started to figure out if I needed to figure out what was next in my life."