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INDIANAPOLIS MOTOR SPEEDWAY MEDIA CONFERENCE
January 15, 2020
THE MODERATOR: Good morning, everybody. My name is Doug Boles with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. It's kind of an exciting day here at this historic racetrack. 130 days from now, we will be just about to green flag the 104th running of the Indianapolis 500 presented by Gainbridge, and just 42 days later we will be kicking off our race day for the Big Machine Vodka 400, the 27th running of that event here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and as you guys know, there's been an awful lot of news about the Indianapolis Motor Speedway over the last 60 plus days, and we're really excited about the future.
As we've been thinking about the future and conversations in that time frame, one of the things that comes up every day is how do we continue to grow the Big Machine Vodka 400 and that racing weekend. In fact, it may be one of Mr. Penske's highest priorities, and as we were thinking about it, we thought about how do we really show that investment, how do we show the excitement around that weekend, and especially its new date around Independence Day.
As you can see up here to my left in front of you is pretty much a who's who of motorsport, and we're excited to bring these folks together, and it shows you the teamwork, I think, that the motorsport community has and the commitment that the motorsport community has to making the Big Machine Vodka 400 weekend one of the greatest weekends on the racing schedule in 2020.
To my left I will walk through the folks that are here. Obviously Roger Penske, chairman of Penske Corporation. Excited to have Roger here. Patty Lanning to his left, who is the VP of North American marketing for Shell Lubricants; to her left, Ben Kennedy, who's the manager of racing operations and international development for NASCAR; Scott Borchetta, to Mr. Penske's right, Big Machine Label Group, and who is our partner around Big Machine Vodka 400 weekend; Sam Flood, on the far left, is NBC and NBCSN's president of production. We are so excited to have him here today, as well. And then to my left, a race car driver who really doesn't need an introduction, Justin Allgaier. I think of him as a winner at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, having won the Xfinity race here two years ago. And I love Kyle Busch, but I have to say I was hoping you were going to get him there at the end of the race this year. You did end up second there, but you've been a great ambassador for the sport, and you were in Tulsa this morning for the Chili Bowl. You'll be back in Tulsa, so thank you for figuring out a way to get through the fog and get to us today.
So as we start thinking about what's going to happen 172 days from now, and we'll back that up by five days, and we kick that off with the United States Auto Club's BC 39, the third one that we've had. We have Kevin Miller with United States Auto Club here and Levi Jones. Thank you for coming, guys. That's really the kickoff of that entire weekend.
Mr. Penske, this is an exciting moment, the opportunity to talk about your first announcement really, first opportunity to talk about the speedway, and it's about the Brickyard. Talk about why today is so important.
ROGER PENSKE: Well, Doug, thanks, everybody, for coming today. Obviously people want to know what we're doing, so we thought we'd have some cadence here over the next several days and get to 100 days before the 500 and have some fun. And I think that as we sat around, and I would say thanks to Mark Miles and the whole team. We closed, I guess, on January 6th, but I said we were practicing for two months ahead of time, so this didn't all happen in the last 10 days to make this decision we're going to make today.
But as you know, NASCAR we've brought to the speedway -- and I don't know how many weekends have they been here over the last how many years?
THE MODERATOR: Every year since 1994.
ROGER PENSKE: So '94, and to think about what we could do with Ben and his team at NASCAR to make a difference. And I think that's one of the things that I've tried to tell the team here. We're going to invest between now and the 500 in the Brickyard for fan experience. Not about revenue but for fan experience, and I think one of the things we need to do is what can we do different.
And sitting down with the NASCAR team and our team, we decided, what can we do to make this Brickyard weekend different, and as you know, it's Independence Day, we have Memorial Day just a month or so before that, and the men and women who serve in our armed forces and the first responders are the top of the list.
So we felt what could we do to connect, and I think we'll be announcing things as we go forward to connect that great group of people that do so much for our country.
But with that, getting together with NASCAR, we felt with our relationship with NASCAR, as we've been a track owner, I remember when Bill France Jr. and Len Kukler were up at Michigan, we were going to maybe cancel the first NASCAR race. We had bought the Michigan track, and they begged me to run it. Well, it was the best thing we ever did, and I guess since then we've developed a relationship with the France family and everyone else there. It's just been amazing.
With the changes that NASCAR is making to make their product better, we said, what can we do here. So we'll talk about that as we go forward.
To me, it's the 4th of July weekend, it's the military, it's our fans, and certainly the people here that make a difference, and I think, Doug, as you know, you've been a big part of this, that we'll announce here in a few minutes what we're going to do to make it different, but first let me thank you all for coming today. Thank Patty, obviously, and Scott. They both bring a real key part of this weekend. I mean, we've had a relationship with PENNZOIL for many years. Rick Mears won a race here with a PENNZOIL car. Helio drove it, and certainly Scott, his reputation.
I'm going to learn about concerts and Florida Georgia Line. These are things I don't know much about. I can set up a car but I'm not sure I know all these names. I'm going to get a little help there.
We're really excited from our perspective, and again, I want to thank all of the media and certainly the people that have supported our journey here over the last, say, 12 or 14 weeks. So I want to thank you.
THE MODERATOR: You sort of alluded to it. We have a pretty cool announcement to make. One of the bigger changes around the Big Machine Vodka 400 weekend, why don't you talk about that and explain how Patty fits into that.
ROGER PENSKE: Well, number one, we've decided, a first, to run on Saturday, the PENNZOIL race will be on the road course, not on the oval, and we'll run the Brickyard 400 will run on the oval as normal on Sunday. So to me it's a change. We went to the NASCAR people. They've looked at our road course. We'll run the road course similar to what we do with the IndyCars and we'll have a car - Ben will talk about it - to do some testing. But we think that's a big change and something that we want our fans to look at this and see if this is something that they want so we can grow this in the future.
And certainly Justin will talk about it. It's going to put on some great racing. And guess what; the 500 was the 500 for I don't know how many decades, and once the decision was made to move NASCAR in, we felt that we wanted to take it to the next level, and we've had some great racing here on the weekend, the Brickyard weekend, but we think with the concerts, the road course on Saturday and the oval on Sunday will make a big difference for our fans and certainly for our TV partners. So again, we're excited, and Doug, thank you.
This team here, we've talked about it, we know that we can turn this track -- think about it: Turning it from an oval into a road course is not easy, but our team can do that here, so we're excited to announce that this morning.
THE MODERATOR: Patty, the PENNZOIL brand has a lot of roots here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The PENNZOIL brand has been in victory lane here, I think back to days of Johnny Rutherford, days of Rick Mears, that yellow PENNZOIL color makes a lot of sense at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and once again, the PENNZOIL brand is going to help make history with the Xfinity race. Talk about how important that is for you guys to continue the legacy of PENNZOIL at the speedway and especially in this unique and new event that we'll offer around Big Machine Vodka weekend.
PATTY LANNING: Yeah, no, we're really, really excited about this opportunity, and as Roger mentioned, we've been in a strong partnership for many years with Roger and Penske Racing, and we saw this as a natural transition and opportunity for us to take advantage of. Obviously to be able to sponsor the first NASCAR road race here at Indy is pretty amazing, and I know a lot of drivers are probably going to be really excited about the opportunity to win at this race.
And for us, as you mentioned, PENNZOIL has a long history of winning, winning at this track, and obviously the opportunity for us is to continue to take advantage of it. We've had Johnny Rutherford in '80, obviously Rick Mears in '84 and '88 to win, and for us, that's a great partnership, and we couldn't be more excited for it.
We're really looking forward to what the future holds and with the opportunities to go forward in this partnership in the future.
THE MODERATOR: We're all excited to have you, and thank you, as well, for coming in for this announcement.
Ben, I've got a question for you. I get a question all the time. We're in Indy, the IndyCar Series is sort of in our DNA, and people say, what's it like to work with NASCAR. And in my 10 years here, I can't think of a better partner than NASCAR. You guys are engaged with us; you help us try and think about how to make our events better; you own the problems that are NASCAR's problems; we own the problems that are ours. We lay everything on the table. It is an amazing partnership. Talk a little bit about how this came about and what the next steps are to getting to July and the Xfinity race on the road course.
BEN KENNEDY: Sure, and I appreciate the collaboration, as well. It's really been such a seamless process. We've been kind of contemplating do we run the road course here at Indianapolis for quite a while now, and the collaboration with Roger and Bud and you, Doug, and the entire team here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway has been really an easy journey. Certainly a very exciting announcement for us in NASCAR, an exciting announcement for Xfinity and the Xfinity Series.
You think of that series and always such fantastic racing that they put on, and especially you think of the road courses we go to, from Road America to Mid-Ohio, Watkins Glen, some of the road course racing is our best racing for the Xfinity Series. I'm sure Justin will allude to it a little bit more, but really excited to see what that weekend brings for the Brickyard and everything that Roger and the team are doing around the track and around that weekend and really bringing a breath of fresh air to it will be great.
And then we'll have also Matt DiBenedetto out here next week testing the course, so we're going to test out a few different configurations just to make sure everything looks good on our end, and we'll be out here for the July 4th weekend.
THE MODERATOR: So one of the funnier things that's happened over the last several weeks as we are trying to figure out the layout, what's the configuration look like, the guys that are down in Daytona said, well, we'll just test in January. So fortunately our 10-day forecast looks really good, so next Wednesday Matt will be out here testing a couple different configurations, and there will be an announcement later on which configuration we'll actually use, but we're excited to actually excited to see a race car on the racetrack on January 22nd. Doesn't happen much like that at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Justin, two laps you thought, Kyle said two more laps and you could have been a two-time winner at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. You were the first call we made when we were going to make this change to see if you could help out because we know you understand the history and tradition of the speedway; you understand the sport. Talk a little bit about what this change means and how excited you are and you think other drivers will be to run on the road course here.
JUSTIN ALLGAIER: Well, first of all, to have the opportunity to come here, I can't say thank you enough. As Roger mentioned, thank you guys as the media for coming out and supporting this. But I knew when the announcement was made that Penske Corporation was going to purchase the speedway, I immediately got a big smile on my face. As a former employee of Mr. Penske and knowing the Penske organization, I knew that the speedway couldn't be in better hands. And I was curious because I've had enough conversations with Roger to know that the wheels are always spinning and he's always trying to improve racing, improve not only his race team but the product that goes on the racetrack in general.
When I got the phone call to come and be a part of this announcement, obviously winning here two years ago, running second last year, I'd like a little redemption on the oval just because I feel like we've had a successful kind of go at it. But on the flipside of it, this opportunity for this weekend really, really is exciting to me, and I feel like all the competitors, all the teams, the switch to July 4th weekend, to switch to a race course that I feel like fits our cars very well, as Ben kind of alluded to, they're going to try some different configurations, but seeing what kind of some of the options are, I believe in my mind that there's going to be some great passing zones, the ability to really put on a great race. Not that the oval race wasn't good, but as we're evolving in the sport, the fans and as Roger mentioned the fan experience is the most important part. And to kind of come into a weekend where you have that split, you've got a road course on Saturday and an oval on Sunday, I'm excited for that.
I'm trying to figure out now how to stick around for Saturday night to enjoy the festivities of the whole weekend, but it's just -- to be able to come here and to be part of this event, I think as all the Xfinity drivers are looking into this weekend, I think we're all going to be excited to be the first NASCAR road race at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and we're all going to want to win that first race.
I remember the first time coming here and racing in the Xfinity Series how exciting that was. I remember the first '94 Brickyard 400. I actually sat in Turn 1 up in the top level of the grandstands. So there's a lot of excitement. It's new. And I couldn't be more excited to get back here July 4th weekend.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you for coming in, and good luck of the rest of the weekend as you go midget racing in the Chili Bowl, so appreciate you taking the time.
We've had a great relationship with NBC for a long time, and certainly on the NASCAR weekend side of things, and last year all our racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway was under the NBC umbrella, and Sam Flood and his team have been fantastic partners. And what we want fans to do, we want fans to come and spend the entire weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, start out with USAC racing, carry it on through the PENNZOIL Xfinity race into the Big Machine Vodka 400. But for those fans that can't be here, Sam, why don't you talk a little bit about a little bit of the change related to NBC and the weekend here at the speedway.
SAM FLOOD: Well, we loved the idea when they came to us about making this switch to the road course, and we at NBC like to make big events bigger, and this will be a big weekend. What a way to celebrate the 4th of July, celebrate the country, to be at this racetrack, flying in yesterday and looking out on a clear day, unlike today, and seeing this amazing complex, and you realize on July 4th weekend we can bring it to life with this partnership, showcase the great driving, the different forms of racing, and have them both on NBC.
So Big NBC is going to air both races. It'll be on the network. We are going to be all in. We talked through the logistics of switching the coverage from a road course to the oval, and we realize if they can switch the tracks around, we can certainly move cameras around and make it special and showcase the speed, the action and everything that happens here.
But we're very honored to be able to cover an event at this track that is so important to the sport, and to do it in this new way is going to be spectacular, and NBC loves, as I said, to make big events bigger. We're going to make this one huge.
THE MODERATOR: We really appreciate the partnership, and we're looking forward to a double NBC weekend at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on independence weekend.
Last but certainly not least, and in fact we kind of put him last on purpose, so Scott Borchetta has been a partner at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway for many years. We know him for the Big Machine Vodka 400, his help even before it became the Big Machine Vodka 400. You're involved in the Indy 500. You love motorsport like nobody I know. You race cars still.
But as we started thinking, one of your investments in the speedway wasn't just for the Big Machine Vodka 400, but you wanted to help build the entire weekend, and as we started thinking through this, you were one of the first people to say, what do we do about the road course, how can we make the Xfinity race better, how do we make the lead-in to the Big Machine Vodka 400 better. Why don't you talk about the excitement of this and just what it's like to be a partner with you. You're all in on this whole weekend.
SCOTT BORCHETTA: Yeah, you know, first I've got to say, to be able to sit next to Mr. Penske, I'm actually a little bit nervous. He's been one of my heroes forever. From the beginning of my career, Roger, to be able to sit next to Roger today, I've used the unfair advantage statement from the beginning of Big Machine Records.
To be involved with you at the Speedway here, which is a place that I love so much, is truly an honor. Just so excited to make this.
It's really about the evolution today. That's what today is about. Everybody involved in motorsports is looking at how do we engage our fans, how do we give them a better experience.
The way that road racing has taken off in NASCAR for the last several years, Doug and I have been talking about this for a couple years, how do we get.
(Interruption in audio.)
-- Doug called me and said, Roger is really in on this idea. It's like, okay, this is going to be fantastic. What's happening with the Cup cars and the package that they have on the superspeedway is challenging. Everybody is working hard to make that race the race that it needs to be.
I was here in 1994 as well, saw Jeff Gordon win that first Big Machine 400. To evolve and take the cars on the road circuit is going to be so great for not only the fans, but for the drivers. I've won here. I got to win the race this past year in the 72 Corvette. That was such a proud moment. Actually in practice, I got to pass Johnny Rutherford. He was out in a vintage car.
It means so much to me to be part of this, what we can do. This all comes down to entertainment, what is the best experience that we can give for the fans. That's where we come in.
What we're going to do bringing Florida Georgia Line back for July 4th, it's going to be explosive. We're going to have a huge fireworks display, of course. What we're building, what we will be announcing over the next several weeks, the lineup is going to be incredible. That whole weekend, starting July 3rd, is going to be extraordinary.
We think this is going to become such a destination for fans not only of racing but for fans who want to come out and have a great experience at one of the finest facilities in the world.
THE MODERATOR: Roger started off talking about the importance of the customer experience. Part of that is your mantra, as well. The third year Florida Georgia Line has come. We had 25,000 people hanging out with them on Saturday night last year. We're looking forward to doing that again.
Let me recap, then I'll ask a final question for Roger, then we'll take some questions.
The weekend begins really with the BC39 as we kick that off on Wednesday. If you're into events, if you're into music, if you're into racing, you can't miss this weekend. It starts Wednesday and Thursday on the quarter mile dirt track, a hundred plus competitors, it's become a huge event for us in two years to kick things off.
Come here on Friday, hauler parade still in downtown Main Street on Friday as the Cup cars roll in. You have Xfinity on the racetrack practicing. We roll into Saturday where you'll have the Pennzoil Xfinity race. We'll get into practice that late afternoon for the Big Machine Vodka 400. We'll close the evening out with Florida Georgia Line in concert.
Starting Friday for the first time ever we're going to allow infield camping at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. One of our big events, we're excited about that opportunity. Moving in on Friday, camping through the weekend. Saturday night we will have fireworks here at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. You can watch your fireworks from downtown, the grandstands. The opportunity to stay here for one of the largest shows here in the state of Indiana. We're also going to make that available to folks if they want to come in after the race. We want this to be the place to celebrate the 4th of July.
Then on Sunday we're going to roll right into the Big Machine Vodka 400, that race that everybody wants to win, get a chance to kiss the bricks. A massive weekend of excitement. A lot of changes going on. We will continue to make subtle changes going on. We're going to have a food fest. But it is a weekend to not miss.
Before I ask Roger a final question, I want to introduce General Winslow. Thank you for all the military does. We're excited, as Roger mentioned, to connect these two American weekends together. We're going to be doing an awful lot with military, active and former military, to make sure they have a chance to be part of this weekend.
This is a community effort, not just a NASCAR effort, not just a venue effort, but a community effort. Even in this room today, you have Mark Miles, CEO of Penske Entertainment Group. You have Jay Frye, president of the IndyCar Series that's here. Bud Denker, president of Penske Corporation. Allison (indiscernible), senior vice president for Penske Entertainment Group. Jonathan Gibson, senior vice president at Penske Corporation.
This is a team effort. We're excited to all together work to make this weekend really successful.
Roger, any closing comments? I know you're excited about this. You're really helping drive the bus on this. This is a pretty neat group you're sitting in.
ROGER PENSKE: I think I said it when we made our announcement back I think it was in November. We had the merger agreement. I never believed that I was here in 1951 with my dad, that I'd be sitting up here talking about a road race at the NASCAR weekend on the Brickyard.
Real opportunity. We're going to make more announcements about some of our plans a hundred days out, which will be in February. Lots of things we're working on. We want to, again, make the fan experience premier.
I think this shows you in a very quick partnership, with the France family, with Ben obviously who leads that, that we could put this together in a short period of time.
I think we have the facility. The Holman family invested here. We've got one of the best road circuits, Formula 1 capability, so it has the safety, passing capability. We got the garage area.
Our people can turn this track in hours, not days. These are the things that really are in that toolbox which I was aware of to a certain extent. I knew a lot what was inside. What I've learned about outside, what we can do here, this is just the start of it.
Doug, thank you for your leadership.
J. DOUGLAS BOLES: Thank you.
THE MODERATOR: We'll take a couple of questions.
Q. Roger, Doug, whoever feels most suited to answer this question. Do you look at the Brickyard weekend as your permanent NASCAR home now or is this a one-year experiment to see what happens with this date?
ROGER PENSKE: I think the day is provided us by NASCAR. Looking at their schedules, they've announced lots of changes, lots of opportunities. We're in partnership with them.
But we're focusing on the date we have this year, tied in with our 500 date. I think the main thing here is let's show the fans, let's show you as the media what we can do here, whether it's this weekend, two years from now or not.
I look at it as an opportunity, glass not half empty but half full. We're going to excite it and execute it. That's our plan.
Q. What about Cup oval practice? Do they get any practice before Sunday? When does the oval become available for Cup practice at all?
ROGER PENSKE: These guys are so good, we'll line them up and go. It will be a rain weekend, just go on points.
THE MODERATOR: 2018 all over again. We're going to go by points.
What will happen is the Pennzoil Xfinity race will take place on Saturday afternoon, roughly a 90-minute break after the checkered flag on that, we will convert the track to an oval configuration. There will be one or two Big Machine Vodka practices on Saturday afternoon. Qualifying will be Sunday morning for the race. The race will be Sunday afternoon.
Q. Doug, you talked about you've been in conversations these last couple years. In talking with Roger, what finally made the most sense to make this move for the future?
ROGER PENSKE: Let me try to answer that question. This was in the suggestion box really. We've asked people what is your top 10. This is one that was at the top on many people's list, let's try the road course.
At that point with our partnership with the folks in Daytona, certainly Ben, we went to them with options. Really they turned it around. To credit, Ben and his team are the ones that checked the box, said let's go. Really hadn't gotten that far probably before.
I think it was something we wanted to do. What could we do coming right out of the box. Less than a week, now we're announcing we're going to be running on the road course.
We gave them our priority. They were able to set the schedule with us, were able to do the things, wanted to be sure they could turn the track properly. Some work had to be done there.
We were able to go through those particular items, the box on those, and here we are.
Q. Getting a chance to get the Xfinity Series cars on the road course, for you Roger or Ben, do you see this as an opportunity to test and see what the Cup cars might potentially look like? Is that anything that could potentially come down the road?
BEN KENNEDY: I think the focus now is to really test it with Xfinity, especially next week. We'll see how that goes. There's a few different configurations. Really want to focus on Xfinity.
I think it will be neat. We were talking about it a little bit earlier today, but to have Xfinity on the road course, then the Cup Series on the oval in the same weekend, personally I can't think of a weekend in NASCAR's history where we've run a road course and oval back-to-back. I think it will be really neat to see.
ROGER PENSKE: I think the fans themselves are going to be the ones who are going to tell us, our media partners, what was the outcome. Who knows next year, we might run the Cup cars on the road course and run Xfinity on the oval. I'm serious. You never know.
That's the great thing with NASCAR, with an open mind, we have that opportunity to try a number of different things.
Q. Ben, obviously I know things are kind of urgent. You have a Penske driver Matt DiBenedetto testing next week. Any more testing after next week, keep a fair playing field?
BEN KENNEDY: Yeah, so right now the plan is just for the test, actually not with Matt DiBenedetto. Matt DiBenedetto will not be eligible to drive an Xfinity race. That was one caveat we had to put out there just to keep it as a level playing field.
For right now, just planning on the test next week. If we need to reevaluate, we will from there.
Q. You've made it known that the Brickyard is still an important event, that you're wanting to do a lot with it. Obviously it's faced challenges over the last few years. Why has it been so important for you to put so much emphasis on the Brickyard race the NASCAR weekend?
ROGER PENSKE: Basically we look at the 500 and the success we have. This race, we had many, many fans here as we started. Then we had the issue with tires and other things. We really have not had the ability to fill the stands the way we want to.
I think it's a challenge for us, something we want to work on. It became a priority for us. I think it's a focus. We've decided to use the facility other than just for the IndyCar Series, so now it's time for us to execute.
This is 2020. We're going to make it better. We have the military certainly, we have our partners, Pennzoil, certainly Scott with his company. I think the partnership with NASCAR, they're looking to make it different. This was pretty easy for us. I think for us, we just need to execute.
One other thing, Ben just mentioned Matt DiBenedetto, we will not be running at any speeds here next week with the weather. If someone thinks we picked him to run this, this was a car that could be available. I think following that, there might be a tire test. We don't know that, Ben, do we? There could be. Just to put that to bed, there's no advantage here because you're not going to be running anywhere near the speeds you would think about running. It's more to look at the track, look at the runoffs, for the technical people at Xfinity, look at the runoffs, do they need to add anything.
THE MODERATOR: I'll let everybody go. You can see on the screens here and on the backdrop our new Big Machine Vodka 400 logo. It embraces red, white and blue, the American spirit. We are going to build a campaign around that red, white and blue called Go Forth at IMS. Around July 4th weekend, you will start seeing that Go Forth FGL, go forth Xfinity race. There is going to be a huge plan, Go Forth and Get Dirty, one of my favorites.
We are looking forward to connecting two of the greatest American weekends here at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Just recapping this weekend is going to be every racer's dream. Short track with some of the best short track racers, folks who don't normally run short tracks, rolling it into the Xfinity race for the first time ever on the road course, concluding things on the big oval, Big Machine Vodka 400.
It's 172 days from now. It's going to be a party, so thank you.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports