SBD/December 12, 2012/Leagues and Governing Bodies

Belskus Talks About Upcoming IndyCar Season, Developing Strategic Plan

Belskus says he wants to have a presence in markets IndyCar does not currently serve
Interim IndyCar CEO Jeff Belskus has “made a positive impact within the series in just a matter of weeks,” according to Marshall Pruett of SPEEDTV.com. The longtime Hulman & Co. exec has been “tasked with leading the IndyCar Series after Randy Bernard’s dismissal, and until recently, was expected to hold onto the IndyCar CEO role.” But Belskus now “heads into the upcoming 2013 season with plenty of work to do and an undetermined amount of time to make progress.” Below are excerpts froma Q&A with Belskus.

Q: If there was one takeaway message from the recent IndyCar CEO change, it’s that the concerns of the car owners need to be the concerns of the person in charge of IndyCar. The actionable concerns. How can this be addressed going forward?
Belskus: They are an important stakeholder for us and we have many important stakeholders; the tracks are important, the sponsors are important, our fans are important, but the team owners certainly are up there. I hear them. And I know they've got a dilemma and I know they need help and we’re committed to doing what we can to help them. So what I really think the problem is, is that we need a better way to interact with them, a better process to interact with them. It doesn't exist within the sport today in a more organized forum, if you will, so we’re going to work here with coming up with good ideas with them in terms of how we interact on an ongoing basis so that they know that they're being heard and that we're responding hopefully as well.

Q: What can be done to increase the annual operating budget for IndyCar -- the funds to run and staff the series and, specifically, market and promote itself?
Belskus: We want to be strategic about our expenditures and I do think we’ve seen value in adding to our promotional budget. And, again, we want to be strategic and smart about how we spend those dollars.

Q: What’s the biggest area of improvement with IndyCar you’ve targeted to attack while you’re in charge of the series?
Belskus: We are in the process of developing a strategic vision, the strategic plan. I think it's premature, I think that's really the top priority is get a good long-term plan in place here. I think from that we’ll flow a lot of, we’ll make a lot of decisions based on how that plan comes together and what that plan ends up looking like.

Q: Sanction fees have been a good tool to improve IndyCar’s bottom line, but it has also kept the series away from certain venues based solely on what promoters are willing to pay. Do you foresee any changes to this policy?
Belskus: Our schedule is critically important. And we know we have fans in markets that aren’t served today with IndyCar racing and we very much want to find opportunities to have a presence in those markets (SPEEDTV.com, 12/10).

DOUBLE DUTY
: ESPN.com's John Oreovicz reported NASCAR driver Brad Keselowski said that he "would be interested" in running the Indianapolis 500 in the future. Keselowski, who won the '12 Sprint Cup title driving for team owner Roger Penske, said, "Ford doesn't have a presence in Indy car racing, but if they did, I'd be knocking on Roger's door and he'd be knocking on mine. How could it not appeal to you? It would be the pinnacle achievement in motorsport of all time. If you could go out and win one of those races, let alone two, you'd be a legend." IndyCar champion Ryan Hunter-Reay said that he was "disappointed" NASCAR driver Tony Stewart did not accept Penske's offer to drive in the Indy 500. Hunter-Reay said, "I was hoping to see it happen. We want the best here and welcome anyone who wants to come drive in the Indy 500, especially with someone like Tony Stewart's qualifications" (ESPN.com, 12/10).

ONE-YEAR WONDER: SPEEDTV.com's Pruett cited sources as saying that IndyCar driver Rubens Barrichello has “accepted an offer to race full time in the Brazilian Stock Car series in 2013.” Prior to that decision, Barrichello “had been working to raise the funds to return to IndyCar with a Honda-powered team.” However, he “struggled to find all of the multi-million-dollar budget that was needed to land a competitive drive.” Teammate Tony Kanaan said, “They’re asking him for money to keep racing in IndyCar, and he doesn’t have all the sponsors. I know his heart is still in IndyCar, but he’s not going to sit and wait. It’s a shame" (SPEEDTV.com, 12/11).
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