& Brian Barnhart Conference
IndyCar Series driver John Andretti, Richmond International Raceway president Doug Fritz and Indy Racing League presidents Terry Angstadt and Brian Barnhart were guests on yesterday’s Indy Racing League teleconference.
Background on John Andretti: John Andretti is in his first season in the IndyCar Series, driving for Roth Racing.
· Age: 45 (Birthday is March 12, 1963)
· Career Starts / 2008: 5 / 4
· Career Victories/2008: 0
· Career Top-Five Finishes/2008: 0
· Career Top-10 Finishes/2008: 0
· Career Poles/2008: 0
· Career Highlights: Competed in CART from 1987-1992, winning at Surfers Paradise in 1991. Competed in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series from 1993-2007, recording two victories.
· 2008 Highlights: Joined Roth Racing at Indianapolis, finishing 16th. Qualified seventh at Texas. Finished 11th at Iowa.
· Off the Track: Nephew of Mario Andretti and cousin of Michael Andretti.
Background on Richmond International Raceway: Richmond International Raceway will play host to the IndyCar Series for the eighth time in 2008. This year’s race features an additional 50 laps.
Background on Automotive Manufacturers Round Table: The Indy Racing League hosted an Automotive Manufacturers Round Table June 24 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway with the objectives of making the technical aspects of the IndyCar Series more relevant to the challenges facing the automobile industry now and in the future, and reviewing and defining the technical specifications and aligning them with the R&D efforts already underway by the automobile industry.
They said what...? Listed below are select quotes from today’s teleconference, with the approximate time code from the audio MP3 in parentheses.
***Q: John, going back to the whole unification thing. I'm curious, from just a purely driver's perspective, from someone who is in the cockpit, how is this going to change racing on such a small track with so many more cars out there this year, how does this affect what you're actually doing when the flag is raised?
JOHN ANDRETTI (25:30): Obviously, last week at Iowa it was a similar short track and qualifying got rained out and had to start in the last row. And I was really disappointed because I thought it's so hard, and yet we got racing up through, and I think we had a really strong race. Passed a lot of people.
I think the talent and the drivers and the quality and the depth of the teams has increased and not only from the people that came, but from the people that are there, you know, realized that they already have their game stepped up as far as they can step it up. But they also realize we have more coming and you get even more aggressive at it.
So I think that the quality at the front has just come a long way. The cars, the tires, the engines, the fuel, it's all the same. So it's up to the people to get each one working differently and the driver to do the same. And sounds like, OK, that's not a huge challenge but it is. Because when you're talking about it, you're only talking about just a very, very small amount. When you look at the lap times at Iowa and they have to go to ‑‑ they've got four numbers behind the decimal point and the last one is the only one that's different, that's quality racing. And it's deep.
It goes from the beginning to the back. I mean, we're in practice and we're a tenth-and-a-half (of a second) off the fast time and we're 15th. And I'm like if I could have just got a tow I could have been quickest. Because it's just a small amount. And you're looking for those small amounts. When you're looking for those small amounts, that means you're in a tough series with some great competitors. And that small amount has grown over a larger amount of cars.
So you just gotta qualify really well and then you've got to keep that track position.
When NASCAR guys talk about aero push, they have no idea what aero push is. Going 180 miles an hour around Iowa and getting behind somebody and you pick up a push and you're heading for that wall at 180, that's an aero push that will take your breath.
And it just doesn't cost you the position sometimes, but it scares the heck out of you, too. So there's different challenges, but in a way it's all the same kind of racing. I see it the same as in stock cars and I see it the same as here. It's very quality, very deep and it's all about doing all the right things. And you have to do a perfect day now to win that race. You can't just luck into it at all.
***Q: Doug, could you explain why IndyCar racing has been able to gather such a good fan following at Richmond?
DOUG FRITZ (11:30): Yeah, we've been real pleased with it. This will be the eighth time we've run the SunTrust Indy Challenge. Seems like it's gotten bigger. The event's gotten better each and every year. It obviously starts with the product on the racetrack. The racing is very, very exciting for the fans. And it's unique.
This market is good for racing in general. I think the fan base we built here at Richmond just like to see good racing. And that's why it's taken off. If the product wasn't good on the racetrack it wouldn't have done well. And it has been very, very good for the fans. They've enjoyed the races each year.
I think with the additional benefits of additional teams, the unification series, additional laps, the qualifying, just right now, again, back to the unification that's a huge thing for the industry and for open wheel racing.
And, again, our fans are paying close attention to it. We're excited about this being our biggest and best race ever here at Richmond International Raceway.
*** Q: Was there any discussion of sticking with the normally aspirated engine or going back to turbo chargers? Was that part of the dialogue?
BRIAN BARNHART (33:30): Absolutely we talked about whether it should be turbo charged or normally aspirated. We talked about the number of cylinders and configuration. There was a lot of discussion. But, again, all of that was from them to us, as our guests at the roundtable, it was our role to sit and listen to the manufacturers and their opinions.
We didn't tell them a whole lot about what our positioning was with regards to specifications. We spent more time telling them what our business plan is, making sure they were educated about what the IndyCar Series is, where we're going, where we're racing, what our market is, what our audience is, that kind of stuff.
But with regards to ‑‑ and we talked a lot about our schedule, the diversity of tracks that we run and versatility required by our equipment, the challenges faced by that. And then we listened to them talk about specifications, whether it's turbo charged or normally aspirated or V‑6 or a V‑8 or V‑12 or whatever. We talked about alternative fuels and all that type of stuff.
*** Q. Terry, from your perspective, what did you take out of yesterday's round table from the business and commercial side?
TERRY ANGSTADT (30:30): Well, certainly to echo Brian's positive feelings about the meeting overall, it was just outstanding. And I think what was encouraging, really kind of two parts to my answer. One is from a commercial benefit standpoint, if we are able to attract additional engine participation in our series, that brings with it plenty of marketing dollars.
So that's kind of first and foremost. And the people attending the meeting also echoed very much of an interest in the benefits of connecting their technical and actual engine participation to the marketing benefits.
It raises the challenge to us to make sure we raise the value of the series, deliver that marketing value to each company considering participation. So, again, everyone understands what large companies can bring to a business like ours. And to me that was really reinforced at the meeting.
The 2008 IndyCar Series season continues with the SunTrust Indy Challenge June 28 at Richmond International Raceway. The race will be telecast live in High Definition at 8 p.m. (EDT) by ESPN. The race will air live on the IMS Radio Network. A Spanish-language telecast of the race will be carried by ESPNDeportes. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio and indycar.com. The 2008 Firestone Indy Lights season continues with the Corning Duels same-day doubleheader on July 5 at Watkins Glen International. The Jeld-Wen 100 will be telecast at 5:30 p.m. (EDT) June 26 on ESPN2 and live on indycar.com.