State of INDYCAR: Measurable momentum
A half-day presentation was reduced to a succinct 90 minutes. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway media center was exchanged for a ballroom at the Westin Hotel in Indianapolis. Bagpipes ushered reigning IZOD IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti to the stage. The message was more proactive than explanatory.
Such was the State of INDYCAR 2011 program, which was the highlight of three days of driver physicals and media events, team owner and sponsor meetings and renewing acquaintances.
"I think INDYCAR has positive momentum and our job is to continue to build on it," Randy Bernard said following the multi-media program -- his first as CEO of INDYCAR, the sanctioning body of the IZOD IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights. "That's what this program was about -- it's January 2011 so let's take the opportunity to invite our sponsors, team owners, drivers and the media to hear about our plans.
"I think it's real important when they see this and start relaying the same messages that we have, I think it will gain their confidence and the momentum will continue to build."
Following opening remarks, Bernard yielded the stage, backed by the new sanctioning body logo, for presentations by commercial department heads (marketing, sales, public relations) and Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO and president Jeff Belskus.
Items covered during the program:
Brian Barnhart discusses competition changes for 2011 season. READ
About the new sanctioning body name and logo. READ
INDYCAR opens branch office in Southern California. READ
Youngsters as young as 9 can have behind-the-scenes access. READ
Other highlights included:
• ABC will televise five IZOD IndyCar Series races in 2011 -- the March 27 season-opening Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, the Indianapolis 500, the oval events at The Milwaukee Mile and New Hampshire Motor Speedway and the season-concluding race (venue not yet announced) on Oct. 16. VERSUS will broadcast the remaining events plus Indianapolis 500 qualifications.
• Under VERSUS race weekend coverage, Firestone Indy Lights races will be broadcast at 6 p.m. (ET) on Wednesdays. Additionally, the standalone event in Quebec in August will be broadcast on tape delay by VERSUS.
• Scholarships for the new Mazda Road to Indy ladder system include the Skip Barber champion receiving a scholarship of $200,000 to take with him or her up to USF 2000. The champion of USF 2000 will take a $350,000 scholarship to Star Mazda. That champion will take a $500,000 scholarship to Firestone Indy Lights. The Firestone Indy Lights champion will receive between $500,000 and $1 million to take to the IZOD IndyCar Series team of his or her choice. An additional scholarship was previously announced for the USAC National Drivers Champion for Firestone Indy Lights. Bryan Clauson will compete in the six oval races in 2011, beginning with the Firestone Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
• Emerging technologies will be incorporated throughout the life of the chassis that will debut in 2012 to expand the fan experience, including telemetry and in-car video available on phones. Also, four manufacturers are expected to provide aero kits for the debut of the IndyCar Safety Cell.
• Starwood Hotels and Resorts announced it has reached a new three-year deal to become INDYCAR's official hotel.
• All 269 living drivers who have competed in the Indianapolis 500 have been invited to participate in an autograph session in May -- one of many fan initiatives for the month.
"I'm a firm believer in hard work bringing momentum, and we have a great team that is working hard," Bernard continued. "We have so many elements that we're trying to drive right now that we can't miss and everyone knows it. That's why I think the team owners, sponsors, race venues and drivers are working with us.
"If we can keep this going, we're going to have a great year and a bright future."