IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard and Brandon Igdalsky, the president and CEO of Pocono Raceway, meet the media to discuss the announcement Pocono join the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2013.
Q. Talk about adding the doubleheaders; why add them at those particular racetracks at Detroit, Toronto and Houston?
RANDY BERNARD: First of all, we think the double-headers are good for everyone – from fans to drivers to our sponsors. It builds exposure and viewership. At the same time, we think the fans will be able to take in twice as much action and see their favorite drivers on those three weekends.
The reason we picked Belle Isle was Roger Penske. He and (event chairman) Bud Denker are investing millions of dollars into repaving that race course and create some more passing zones. We thought that would be a great place for us.
We have always seen great racing in Toronto, and the fact that we wanted to have two races in Canada was very important to us, especially with Rogers Sports Network coming on as our Canadian TV partner next year.
And the last is Houston, the fourth-largest market in the United States. We felt it was imperative to have a doubleheader there for (race promoter) Mike Lanigan. We just thought it would be another great place to have a doubleheader.
Q. Another new aspect of the schedule is the return of the Triple Crown, which will include the Indianapolis 500, Auto Club Speedway and Pocono Raceway. Talk about bringing another traditional aspect back to the sport.
RANDY BERNARD: As everyone knows, tradition is so important to the sport. And if you are going to bring Pocono back, I think it makes the most sense to bring the Triple Crown as well. Thanks to Brandon and his family, the fans are going to get to see what they have been wanting – both Pocono and the Triple Crown.
BRANDON IGDALSKY: The excitement level around here is up through the roof. It's great to be here with Randy and to have IndyCar coming back to this legendary speedway, and a speedway that was started with the help of Indy car racing back in the '70s.
Q. Talk a little about how the race came about. I know you were in Florida for St. Petersburg, but you weren't looking for a race back then.
BRANDON IGDALSKY: I was in the area and swung by and got to meet Randy and his team. It got out that I was there and the fans got louder and louder and as the summer went on and the spring went on. Randy and I came back to the table and put our teams to work and here we are today.
Q. Why Pocono after all these years, and did the IndyCars test there on the newly repaved track? What sense do you get the racing will be?
RANDY BERNARD: Well, the first question is, why Pocono? First of all Pocono was built for IndyCars. The fact that each one of these three corners provides for a different Indy car track … Trenton in the first corner and turn and the second turn Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the third turn at Milwaukee.
We know we are going to have great racing here. The fact that we define our sport as the fastest, most versatile racecar drivers in the world, I think it's really important that we give these drivers versatility. And this track is one of those great tracks that you really want on your series.
Have we brought a car here yet and tested? No. Being this was a track built for IndyCars, all of our experts said the fact that it's been repaved and the fact that they put the SAFER Barrier in, this will be a great track. And we hope to test this year.
Q. Can you tell us, is this more than a one‑year deal?
BRANDON IGDALSKY: It's for the next three years, and we hope it will be longer than that, but this initial iteration is for three years.
Q. Does this schedule preclude the addition of another race, say, for example, if another promoter comes with the City of Edmonton, or if there's a Quebec City proposal. For 2013, is there any possibility of another race in Canada?
RANDY BERNARD: We'd love to entertain a race in 2014, but I think it's real important that we have selected 16 great markets with 19 races that are all going to be real strong.
I think the most important thing we can do here is to prepare. I don't think that it would be in our best interests to try to rush another race in 2013, and I think that's one of the key reasons why Toronto got a double-header.
Q. There were reports that Providence, Rhode Island, could possibly join the schedule, I believe the dates were August 2013 but you just mentioned that it's not quite in your best interests to add a 20th race for 2013. With that being the case, what is the official status of that race? Could we see that for 2014?
RANDY BERNARD: We had races and promoters wanting to have additional races. They just were not able to pull it off in time for our deadlines. I think it's real important that everyone understands that we have to stick to a formal plan and I think that we did that this year.
In regards to 2014, we would love to see Providence. If they are going to do it, it needs to happen sooner rather than later because we are not going to increase our schedule by a significant amount of events, which means there's a very limited amount of races that we are going to bring on anew.
There are a couple of markets in Canada that are interested; Providence is interested; you've heard New Orleans is interested. There are quite a few markets out there.
There's not room for everybody, but I guess the big key here is which ones get onto our schedule early enough to be on 2014.
Q. I noticed there's a gap between Baltimore on Sept.1 and the Houston double-header in early October; is that just an unavoidable matter with the scheduling in 2013?
RANDY BERNARD: It really was, and the easy solution would have been keeping Fontana right there in the Sept. 15 weekend, but we wanted to listen to our fans and our fans loved what they saw out there this year.
This is the IZOD IndyCar Series and it should end with a 500‑mile oval, so that's why we moved it behind Houston. So it was unavoidable. And I think it's also really good to end our season later. I don't think anybody likes to see us end September 15; it's six months before our next race.
Q. What was it about Providence's bid that failed to get it on the schedule?
RANDY BERNARD: I think Providence did a fantastic job, a marvelous job, of really trying to come together and putting it together. Putting on a street race is a monumental task, and I think that they want to make sure that they have all their ducks in a row just like we want to see it.
They couldn't meet all of our deadlines. They were working diligently on trying to get it done, but unfortunately it falls into a crunch period where they just ran out of time.
Q. And how high a priority is it for IndyCar to bring a street race to New England?
RANDY BERNARD: Well, I think the Northeast has been very good to us. At Pocono we think we are going to have great crowds and we are bringing back one of the traditional races that are always very exciting.
It's important to us because we love the diversity of ovals and street courses, but I think the most important thing is making sure that we have just a really solid plan in place before we go anywhere.
Just their passion and energy for the event really helped. That's the direction we wanted to go. Everyone from the governor to the mayor has just been very hospitable and we want to help people that really want an event, too. So it would have been a great place to have one.