What were the goals of the 2011 schedule while you were building it with various series partners, and how does this schedule meet those objectives? RANDY BERNARD:
The first thing we needed to do is to make sure we defined IndyCar first. And I think that we need to make sure that when we define IndyCar, it's truly what we are, and that is the most versatile, fastest racecar and racecar drivers in the world; and just separates us from F1 and separates us from NASCAR, and it's truly what IndyCar is.
And, in doing that, we need to make sure that we keep the versatility from the different types of tracks that we race, and that includes having superspeedways with short ovals as well as road courses and street courses. And I think that when we set the 2011 schedule up this year, the one thing we wanted to make sure that we were doing is making sure that there was versatility through and through that series. There's been a lot of talk that the finale could be in Las Vegas and curious if you could update us on the status of that, and if you have a deadline for securing financial backing for a possible Vegas event.
I think Vegas is one of the greatest cities in the world. I don't think there's a better city in the world to culminate your championships than in Vegas. I have tremendous relationships there with the LVTVA, as well as with the tremendous amount of hotels and casinos. So right now we are doing our due diligence and hoping that we can come to an agreement here very shortly on that event.
But we also have...Fontana is very interested if we cannot get that [Las Vegas] done. So that's one of the key reasons we have not made the decision at this point yet, but I'm optimistic that we'll see some type of decision made within the next two weeks.
Normally, a series like this would have some adjustments to the schedule, but you walked into a situation with really a major overall. Do you feel like this is kind of a relief, given all that you've had to go through? Was it a pretty daunting challenge? Maybe not as big as the CART challenge, but a pretty good size? RANDY BERNARD:
I think the relief will come next year if we sell out and have big-time attendance at these races. I think the work just begins. Now that we have announced the schedule, we have to make sure that we follow through and work on marketing strategies that allow us to have great crowds, and I think that's one of our biggest concerns; our objective is what we need to really work on, and that is making sure that we grow in our sport. Can you give a sense of how many of these events you had to be a promoter or take a more active role in? RANDY BERNARD:
Of the 16 that we have announced, we will be helping with Milwaukee the most, I would say.
We have 100 percent confidence in all of Bruton Smith's tracks. I think Bruton has told us time and time again that he really, really likes open-wheel racing and IndyCar, and he wants to see it grow. So I think that those are the type of partners that we want to make sure that we are working with, because they are not only saying it; they are doing it.
One thing strikes me about the schedule is that there's pretty good pacing and separation between events; can you speak to that as well as specifically to the extra week between Toronto and Edmonton to recover from the carnage that quite often happens at that Toronto race and to get across the country?RANDY BERNARD:
I have to give 100 percent of that credit to Sarah Davis, who has helped orchestrate the schedule, and I think that she has done a really good job of working with these promoters and making sure that there is time in between some of these events.
And the other one, the big one was between the Indianapolis 500 and Texas. Same thing; we felt that after the Indianapolis 500, the team owners needed a little bit more time probably to work on their cars and get their teams together. So that was the reason we took that week off there, as well.
It looks like there's a pretty specific break between IndyCar and International Speedway Corp. – the four tracks you are dropping are ISC. I'm wondering if that's because you couldn't cut a deal with them or because SMI made you an offer you couldn't refuse. And also wondering if Homestead was more of a victim in that it's an ISC track or that you don't want to come anymore?
RANDY BERNARD: No, no, I don't want to get shot when I go down there, that's for sure. But I think that we never want to close doors with any of our promoters, especially ISC.
ISC has promoted 66 races in their history with us, and I think that's very important to know. But I also think it's very important that we have to make sure that we are trying to move IndyCar to the next level, the IZOD IndyCar Series, and one of our goals has to be, for next year, let's get 24 different promoters interested in the series, and let's make sure we pick the top 17, 18, 19 events. And I think that's very important for us to do.
Bruton has never mentioned ISC to me. So, unfortunately, ISC was a victim this year; the scheduling was a major issue, sanction agreement and fees were another, and I think third would be marketing. Those would be the key factors most likely as to why we are not going back to any of those four tracks.
Would you like to come back to Homestead at some point if you had the opportunity?
RANDY BERNARD: You never rule out any track. I think we want to race at tracks where we can have significant amount of press in the market, as well as great crowds. And if there was a way that we could see it, planning to take it to that level, definitely we would return to Homestead.
[ISC president] John Saunders and I had a great conversation in Chicago. I have spoken with Lesa [France Kennedy] several times, and we are not burning bridges. We want to keep a great relationship there, but we also, we believe that we have a great set of promoters and a great set of tracks on our 2011 series.Back to the Homestead issue. How much did the attendance play a factor? They were not exactly running in front of huge crowds there. Was that a factor, as well?
RANDY BERNARD: A significant factor. I think that that's one of the primary factors we have to look at in going somewhere is the attendance, and if you can't deliver attendance, I'm not sure why any series would want to continue to go back.
You know, I think Homestead... I've never been there, so this will be my first time, but I've had a lot of people tell me it's a great race. Again, we don't want to close doors. If we can figure out a way to make and put that back on the series, I would not want to say it would be a final event if we could work out a deal with Vegas, but I think that it definitely is going on our series again. Could you talk at all about your travels in Europe?
I can discuss some of it. My primary objective in going to Europe was meeting with auto manufacturers, press and F1 teams and just letting them know the direction of IndyCar, that we are alive and well and have great momentum. I think we accomplished that.
Also, we want to make sure that we tried to invite as many manufacturers to participate for either engines or aero kits as possible for 2012 in the new car. So it was a whirlwind of a tour, and I think it will be very rewarding for us.
Some of our meetings that were supposed to be two hours ended up over five hours. I think we had a great response, and everybody was very welcoming to us, and very genuine in their interest in IndyCar. I think it speaks big volumes for the series and our momentum, I think. The last time the IndyCars were in New England, it didn't get a very good crowd at all, and even with the NASCAR stop in New Hampshire, auto racing is down the food chain as far as New England sports are concerned. How important is it in having SMI and marketing muscle behind them to solidify open-wheel racing in New Hampshire?
First, I think [track president] Jerry Gappens is very interested in bringing modifieds, and I think there's some technical questions that have to be asked regarding tires, to make sure they are most comparable on the same track. I know that Richmond several years back, we had a problem with modifieds. They just wanted to make sure, if that's possible, which I'm sure it is, just get together.
And then second, on your question in regard to marketing, first I think Bruton Smith and SMI are absolutely fantastic marketers. They understand IndyCar. And I think that with the power and the momentum that IndyCar and the IZOD IndyCar Series currently have, I think that will play a positive.
I think the third point on that would be our sponsorship participation and activation. We have signed 14 new sponsors in the past 12 months, and then we have this year, first year having IZOD as our title sponsor, I think the amount of activation that they can work the market, especially IZOD wants to work Boston, I think that you'll see great crowds. You have mentioned the name of Bruton Smith a couple of times already and SMI, do you sense an improved level of comfort with dealing with that group, and do you think that they can take the sport in a different direction, a better direction than ISC could have?
RANDY BERNARD: I don't want to play an SMI-better-than-ISC game, because I think, again, I'm trying to keep both doors open, because I think it's very important. But I will say I feel very comfortable with SMI. Bruton and I talked extensively, and Bruton has great ideas, and he wants to see IndyCar grow.
I think, you know, when you're dealing with the top and you know that the top all the way down to all of the track presidents are fully working toward building IndyCar, that's very important to us as a series. Great to see Milwaukee back on the schedule. How long has this been in the works?
Well, I tell you, when I first came on March 1, probably by March 15, if I had not heard from, I don't know how many fans said that was some of the best racing and how it was such an important legacy and tradition of the sport and what a crying shame that it wasn't on there, that's when it really began.
We flew up here and met a couple of months back and started trying to figure out a way to do it. And when came up there, it created interest some several different promoters, and so we started negotiating with two separate promoters, and both of them are outstanding type of promoters you want to deal with. And when we finally chose the direction we wanted to go, it just made all the sense in the world. We are very optimistic about Milwaukee. We think it's going to be a great event.