Q: Is Grand-Am the only realistic sports car series you could see racing at Indy in 2013? Might either the ALMS or FIA World Endurance Championship appear on the horizon?
DB: Right now, we have a relationship with NASCAR and the events they have here. We've enjoyed working with Jim France and his team at Grand-Am. That's probably going to be the only sports car race we'll have here next year.
I do know that Scott Atherton (ALMS president/CEO) and Jeff Belskus (IMS president) have continuing dialogue and see each other at a lot of events – Mid-Ohio this weekend or Long Beach earlier this year – and there is dialogue, but I don't think it's anything beyond Grand-Am that's on the horizon for the Speedway for next year.
Q: I know the Speedway doesn't release attendance numbers, but how did it measure against expectations for all three series?
DB: Correct, we don't release – it's not our policy. But just by looking, you can tell there was more attendance for the weekend just by having two additional series and three additional races we didn't have in the past. From that standpoint, weekend attendance was up. We need to build on that, though.
The whole idea behind Super Weekend was to give the fans more than just one reason to come to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Historically it's been just one race, the Cup race, and we were probably the only event on the Cup schedule without a support race. It was helpful. The buying decision is based on how much on-track action can you see. Who are the drivers that will participate?
We'd like to see more crossover going forward for the Grand-Am race. We had Jamie McMurray and Juan Pablo Montoya for NASCAR, and Sebastien Bourdais, Scott Dixon plus Paul Tracy from an IndyCar standpoint, but we'd like to have a bigger presence from both of those series.
Q: What sort of ideas do you think IMS can implement, besides more crossover, to promote an attendance increase?
DB: One of the biggest things going into next year is that now, we have one under our belt. We still did have a significant number of fans that were not aware of exactly all the events that took place on Super Weekend. To some degree, a portion of our fans had not been exposed to sports car racing. Having had the first race with great reviews from the fans who attended, and having the word of mouth will help. Plus, having the content we have now – drivers/cars here – can help us promote what that race is and what it will look like.
We'll sit down post-MotoGP and start laying out our plans for next year with our communication and marketing teams, and figure out what our promotions look like. Now we can say what it did look like rather than what it might look like, and have some real-time, real first person experiences that will go toward building the event.
Q: MotoGP prep coming along smoothly (race is August 19)?
DB: I think it will shake out fine, it's an incredible event, with the European feel. And this year we have 1000cc bikes compared to 800s – Ben Spies predicted 230mph down the straights, but realistically more like 205-10 into Turn 1, which is still crazy fast on a motorcycle. We're excited about that. It's a great motorcycle event for enthusiasts, with the midway in vendor's market, way to spend the day/weekend.
Q: I'm sure it's a popular and common question, but what do you see as the feasibility of adding lights? Is it reasonable for next year or further out?
DB: It's more further out. After every event, the organization sits down and asks, “What can we do better? What's been the input from fans? If they stopped attending, why?” One of the biggest things we face is the heat for folks, especially with TV broadcasting so good, in high-def, and the ability to stay at your house. It has cut into the on-site attendance.
It's sort of surfaced as conversation point in the last 12 months or so. It always seems to resurface on a weekend like the Brickyard. But it literally is not anything more than at the conversation stage. There's not been a formal movement internally to discuss the cost beyond the broad spectrum; it's dozens of millions to light the facility.
Next year is probably not possible. It's a conversation point, nothing's formal.
It goes beyond lighting the track; you have to light the track surface, and the grandstands, under the grandstands, the restrooms, concessions, stairways, parking lots. The other discussion, in terms of working with the community, is what about turning thousands of fans loose at 10 p.m. with cops, and safety for pedestrians, plus how does it impact the neighborhood?
We're an 103-year-old track that lives in the city. It's not like the new tracks in the middle of cornfields. There's a lot you have to take into consideration before you decide to put lights up.