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March 7, 2014

Mark Miles

Graham Rahal

Derrick Walker

THE MODERATOR:  Welcome, everyone, to today's IndyCar conference call.  We're pleased to be joined by Mark Miles, Derrick Walker and Graham Rahal. 
Mark, you have a brief statement to make. 
MARK MILES:  Just a few comments to put this announcement into perspective from my point of view.  What this is about for us is that we have a desire to give fans more opportunities to see IndyCar drivers on the track when there's a lot at stake, not just with practice, but where they are out there with putting it on the line in a way that matters. 
First, pursuant to that goal, we added the Grand Prix of Indianapolis.  I would say the reaction from fans and ticket purchasers has been terrific. 
Now today we're announcing changes for qualifying.  These changes we believe ensure that fans will enjoy two days of exciting track action.  I think in the last many years, Saturday has been the day in qualifying, but there's been an opportunity to add more compelling content on Sunday and that's what we're trying to do here. 
Saturday will determine who will get into the Indianapolis 500 race, and Sunday will determine where the cars who got into the race will start on the grid for the race itself. 
These two days will culminate, lead up to, the setting of the first three rows and the positions in the first three rows and who will start the race in the pole position. 
We think that makes for more compelling experiences at the track, and for television viewers all over the country we believe the same.
ABC, I think folks know, is going to cover all three weekends.  They will cover live at least a couple of hours of both Saturday and Sunday.  Their live coverage on Sunday will culminate with the setting of the pole.  We think that's putting our best action forward on qualifying weekend. 
Lastly, this is sort of an out-there point.  Derrick and we are working on the objective by the hundredth running of the race of setting the new track record.  We do believe that's something we can do while increasing the safety of the drivers and it's something that can be done gradually between now and 2016. 
As that happens, we believe that's a really important storyline about IndyCar racing, particularly at IMS.  These changes to the format where the entire qualifying weekend experience culminates with the setting of the pole we think it's sort of like building a bigger stage for that drama as that story unfolds going forward. 
Those are just a couple of my thoughts. 
THE MODERATOR:  Thank you, Mark. 
Derrick, a question for you, we'll see all 33 drivers in the field make two runs to determine their starting position in the Indy 500.  How does that change the challenge of qualifying for Indianapolis? 
DERRICK WALKER:  I don't think it ever changes the challenge for qualifying in Indianapolis.  It's something that's always difficult at Indianapolis, something that the teams work hard on trying to achieve.  I don't think that will ever go away.  There's still a huge challenge in front of them.  This different format is different, but I don't think it lessens the challenge at all. 
THE MODERATOR:  And, Graham, the four laps as Derrick mentioned around IMS in qualifying trim can be some of the most stressful laps a driver can have all year.  Now you have to do it twice.  Does that change your approach? 
GRAHAM RAHAL:  No, I don't think it does.  For us, many times as drivers, we would all tell you we've been eager to go out and run more than once.  It's always the team owners and managers that never want us to risk it. 
I think the new format is definitely intriguing.  We're going to be at least out there two times.  For us hoping of course we're in the top nine and we get to go to the shootout at the end of the day. 
As Mark said, the most important thing to realize here is we have to give our fans a better product both on TV and at track.  As we know Sunday in the past has been a moot point.  Now I think there's going to be quite a bit of buildup Saturday, see who the 33 will be, then go into Sunday and wait till the very end to see who the pole winner is going to be. 
I'm pretty excited for the changes that are ahead.  Of course, I am a traditionalist, but I'm always one that's open for change as well.  I'm looking forward to this month of May. 
THE MODERATOR:  Let's open it up for questions for Mark Miles, Derrick Walker or Graham Rahal. 

Q.  Mark, what are the expectations?  You obviously want the crowd and television broadcast to have strong numbers.  Is there a priority for one or the other? 
MARK MILES:  No.  I think it's on both targets.  I think we give people who would travel to Indianapolis, certainly people in the Indianapolis area, an additional day to get out there.  More compelling.  At the same time ABC's broadcast is a big deal.  They'll do that well.  It will be supplemented by ESPN-3 coverage so that our most astute fans can watch more hours over the weekend.  We don't lose that. 
I think we're giving ABC and the television viewer a more dramatic show to watch as well.  So I don't feel like this is preferring one or the other.  It's a good result for both. 

Q.  Derrick, is there a provision in case Saturday doesn't produce 33 participants?  Is there an extra practice session after qualifying on Sunday? 
DERRICK WALKER:  Yes, we are working with the schedule to make available track time for the teams to focus on their race setup.  We realize that's a very important part.  We're reviewing the final schedule.  That will be released.  You'll see there will be some time allocated for that. 
In terms of allowing or helping any teams that are trying to get in the show, we're going to do our best to make sure there's always available time for every competitor, and every competitor gets an equal attempt to get in the race. 
Obviously the one variable is the weather.  We have contingency plans should certain parts of the weekend shorten our day.  We eventually end up with a successful 33 best cars. 
As for the number in the starting field, I think there's enough interest out there from the teams, I don't see that as being an issue at this point.  There's still plenty of good drivers and cars and plans afoot that I think we're going to be okay there. 

Q.  Graham, could you elaborate more.  It seems like this presents a new challenge to teams and drivers to have to qualify twice.  What do you think the other teams and drivers reactions to this new format will be? 
GRAHAM RAHAL:  I think everybody is going to be very supportive.  Of course, there are traditionalists out there that believe we didn't need to change anything. 
The one thing I do know about IndyCar drivers and the teams alike is everybody is supportive and behind Mark and Derrick, everybody making these decisions because we all want to grow the sport.  We all want to see the fan base increase.  With ABC covering this, it's important we maximize our window of opportunity on TV and draw those fans in. 
I think it's been pretty stale in recent times so this will add a whole other element.  For the teams, it's going to be a nerve-wracking element.  As Derrick said, when weather comes to Indy, it changes things completely. 
I can tell you the biggest sigh of a relief as a driver is when you got in on Saturday, and on Sunday you didn't have to think about doing four more laps.  Now we have to think about that all the time.
I'm sure there's going to be more tension, a bit more nerve-wracking for everybody involved.  But that's what it's all about.  That's why these drivers and teams are the best in the world.
I'm looking forward to it.  It's a new challenge.  I've done May where I've had to qualify at least twice, three times before, so I think for me, fortunately or unfortunately I have experienced that.  But now it's a whole different thing because it's going to count for so much. 
Like I said, I hope we're in the top nine and we get to see how things play out on Sunday.  There's going to be a lot of tension, there's no doubt about that.  That's what the fans want to see. 
Last year when we got to the top nine, Ed put up the top lap, the fans go crazy.  They like those moments that are go big or go home sort of moments.  That's exactly what everybody is going to see this time around. 

Q.  Mark, you are giving fans a lot of incentive to come to qualifying but also asking them to come for the Grand Prix of Indianapolis, a few other events throughout the month.  What are some other things you're doing to get fans coming to the track? 
MARK MILES:  Actually as part of answering that question, you're reminding me to make a point that I think is in the release that I forgot to mention. 
Because part of the emphasis here is to get more people out to the track on both Saturday and Sunday, we wanted to make a special pricing offer.  So I think it's $20 per day today if you buy one day, but if you buy the two-day package for the weekend of qualifying, it's going to be $30.  We've tried to make it attractive from a ticket-pricing point of view. 
The rest of what we're doing, we've been telling the story for a while, we couldn't be more excited.  Maybe not as much for race fans, but for people in Indianapolis, it's going to start on Friday, not just with qualifying, but with a new major fundraising event for the city of Indianapolis.  I think that's out publicly.  Maybe I just spilled the event.  But a big event is going to happen Friday. 
We couldn't be more excited about the Grand Prix.  It's going to be so cool to show Graham and his fellow drivers off across the country that they race in different conditions, different tracks, different skill sets, what that's all about, which I think is about the quality of IndyCar, the diversity of the challenge that the drivers confront, and a different feeling for the race at the Grand Prix. 
The race weekend we'll be talking about the music for Carb Day soon.  We've announced an innovation, in addition to a huge concert Saturday afternoon and evening, the public response to that has been off the charts.  Then there's race day, which is hard to beat. 
We hope and believe that's a pretty good lineup for May.  If you live in the Indianapolis area, you've seen already some stepped-up marketing.  We want to communicate with people and build on the really strong base of support in the area and take it to a whole new level. 

Q.  Graham, you obviously as a team announced Oriol on a part-time basis.  Do you see it being two cars for the month of May or is there a potential of adding a third? 
GRAHAM RAHAL:  That's something you'd have to ask dad.  Right now the focus is on Oriol and myself.  Oriol is a guy, talking about this qualifying stuff, is going to add a heck of a lot to our team and program.  That's why he's been chosen to be in that seat. 
I would think that's going to be it for now, but you ought to ask dad and see what his plans are. 
We as a team learned last year running three isn't the wisest thing.  But you never know.  Our focus is doing the best we can for the National Guard.  We're not going to do anything to dilute that program or make it any worse.  We need to make sure that we have everybody within the organization focused on Oriol and myself and doing the best we possibly can. 

Q.  It was a stressful Bump Day for the team last year.  Is it easier having that out of the way on Saturday to worry about your starting position on Sunday? 
GRAHAM RAHAL:  Well, not necessarily.  You got to think about it this way.  Saturday is hugely important, just as Sunday.  Before, if you didn't get a ride on Saturday, at least you knew it was Sunday. 
You have 40 cars showing up for Indy, you don't get a ride on Saturday, that's it. 
I would say what they've done here has added a lot of pressure to everybody involved to make sure you're on top of your game on both days.  So there's no fall-back plan on a Sunday anymore.  You have to make sure you get it done right away. 

Q.  Just a clarification.  The shootout said it would be using aggregate times.  That still looks like it has or is there something different about it? 
DERRICK WALKER:  There's no difference in it, no.  It's as it's been run before.  The breakdown on the procedures, you take the Saturday times for the fast nine and their run order goes from the slowest car from Saturday to the fastest to make its one attempt for the fast nine. 

Q.  What kind of timeframe would you expect before we see information about that extra practice session?  Are all days going to end at 6:00 during the week as they have? 
DERRICK WALKER:  I would think we would have that schedule closed up next week and put it out to the teams. 
It would be our intention to look at giving the teams a maximum time they need.  Typically it's been 6:00.  We haven't discussed it in that detail.  We will be shortly.
Like I say, we're going to try to make available as much time as the teams want and need.  We want to put on a good show.  The better prepared they are, the better the show, as we saw last year. 
THE MODERATOR:  Seeing as we have no further questions, we will thank our guests for their time today and wrap-up today's IndyCar conference call.  Thank you. 

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