Q: My estimation is the technical interest from the average fan about IndyCar today is probably as low as it's ever been. With everything proposed here, I love the ideas and sound of it, but I think most of these things only excite folks that already care, which doesn't add anybody to the party. What elements of promoting these things, new technical innovations are coming, will excite folks?
DERRICK WALKER: We didn't get here overnight. We evolved here. Where we go from here will also be a process of evolution. If we're going to go to a completely different place ultimately, we'll take time to do that. I don't care who comes in and takes this job and has the challenge of moving the sport one way or another, it's always going to take a lot of time. It always comes down to resources and time.
When you look at the aero kit, which I almost hate the words, it has an impression of being some sort of body bit you put on there and you've got a different car, but it's really the same. These will be major design changes. This is a deal-changer. There's a lot of things this is going to affect, by going away from the traditional running car. If you look at the aero kit, branding is a big component. When you look at promoting, I'm sure Chevrolet and Honda, because they're going to have their own image, their own car design, albeit under the spine of the running chassis we have. So there's a promotion element. They're going to promote that. Why else would they do it?
There's also a speed element. It will certainly change the game when it comes to speed. It will also affect the road courses which we don't need a huge increase in speed -- we need more overtaking and a car that is on the limit to drive, the guys are learning take a little bit longer. We have cars that are fairly easy. We have a power range which is fairly low. The balance of grip and power is maybe not where we want it to be. These aero kits will allow some of those things to be addressed over time.
The fans want to see some differentiation. As much as I would like to turn the clock back, I'm not so sure back to the future is the best way to do that. I think we need to keep stability, keep rubbing on it. So this is a very conservative step, for sure. This is not earth-shattering. But there is some newness in it. It's going to look a little different. It's going to introduce an aero race with the two manufacturers, which they want. It's going to give some differentiation for the teams and their cars, and the fans hopefully will recognize that.
It's not the magic bullet that's going to fix IndyCar. I just don't think you can see that realistically happen in that sort of time. You have to think further out. If you want to get adventurous around 2019, 2021, possibly. We have a plan here moving in that direction. We're working on what is the next step, all part of an evolution.
Q: Was any consideration given to allowing the teams and manufacturers to relocate the radiators?
DERRICK WALKER: It would be a considerable advantage if we said radiators are free, whatever. Change costs money. New components. Also, if you did away with the duct, you're doing away with a large component, which is a safety item stuck out there.
It would be nice to remove the duct and let the manufacturers go. There's no guarantee as the sidepod design ends up, how much driver protection you're maybe taking away. For us to go back and relook at every manufacturer's kit, think about the crash structure there, how it performs, we thought for cost reasons and for those reasons, we'd leave those, maybe something in the future, but not right now.
Q: I wanted to confirm basically the team owners, even the ones that aren't in the big league, they have said this is a gradual enough process for them to be able to afford it. When Mark Miles took charge, he said that we need technical innovation but don't want to blow a fuse. Even the guys that won yesterday, they are actually OK with this step-by-step process and feel they can afford it.
DERRICK WALKER: No team likes to spend money. What we're doing is we're spending it over time to give them time to work into it. We're doing the least impact on their budget we can do. Change is going to cost money. Also if we're not going to change, then we can save a lot of money. I guess the question comes, do we need to change. In my opinion, we do.
If you look at the current car, nobody wanted to buy that, at least at the time most of them didn't. They hunkered down, made it happen. It was a tough pill to swallow, the cost of reinvesting in a car.
Now we're at a better place. We're looking a bit further out saying, where do we go from here. We're not throwing the whole car away. Our engine partners are willing to carry the brunt there. The team owners are going to pay their fair share. If we don't feel we need to develop IndyCar in this direction, obviously we don't need to be doing this. The league thinks we do. We've gone to great lengths to explain why we think that's necessary and we're going to move forward with that plan.
If the team owners disagree with it, there's not a majority there that keeps it going, we'll drop it. We won't ram it down their throat. We need everybody in the game, we need everybody to bring into this and make it happen.
Q: You mentioned the need for the manufacturers and team owners to buy into that. What is the time frame for that before you have to move forward?
DERRICK WALKER: Mark (Kent) from Chevrolet is here. I'm going to say Monday, of course (laughter). We need to give them time to digest the rules. We're going to try to get these things finalized in at least two to three weeks. The manufacturer will have something ASAP. We're going to ask them basically. We want it ASAP. If they have a process internally, they have to go through and consider these things, obviously we're going to say, what is your timeline for making your decision. We'll try to get them both on the same page to release it. As the clock ticks, we're going to be developing this underbody. We'll be doing this.
We have to do something on the floor area, reduce that. There's other things incidentally on the safety aspect. We're going to do a lot more of safety, period. That's not just the driver. It's the pit crews, the fans in the stands. You probably all know that Indianapolis, working on a current plan to make significant changes at that place, not just safety, but safety included. There's a big initiative on trying to be fiscally responsible with not only how do we spend our money but how do with we add protection as we try to ramp up and be the series we want to be.
Q: What about Audi, Dodge, Ford? Have they indicated there's an engine they would be interested in in two or three years?
DERRICK WALKER: I know IndyCar two years ago went out looking, knocking on doors to see who were interested. At that time they weren't. With a more long-range plan, the door is open for other engine configurations, not immediately, but if any manufacturer said, I like this idea, let's go do it, they're going to have a two- to three-year build-up plan. It's not something that is going to happen overnight.
The door is open for competition. We're grateful with the current manufacturers because they provided great competition between them, great engines. They fit the bill, they work. I'm sure they would like, too, more competition. If the formula can change in the future that doesn't disenfranchise anybody, works for the better good of what we're trying to achieve here, I'm sure they'd welcome the competition as much as anybody. The door is open. Once we level off here with this job, it's going to be one of the things that Mark and I are going to be doing -- going out there knocking on doors. We should have three manufacturers at least -- we lost one, and we need to replace that one. That's job number one. We'll all be better off all around if we had a better manufacturer there.
Long term, that technology door, that green door, could be open relatively soon provided it's within the framework of what everybody is doing now. We can't disenfranchise anybody because we're off on some exercise of whatever.