NASCAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
November 29, 2012Richmond High School
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to today's NASCAR teleconference as we feature some exciting news surrounding the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series and its 2013 schedule.
With us from Las Vegas are Steve O'Donnell and Tony Stewart. Steve and Tony, thanks for joining us today. We appreciate the time.
We have some big news with the Truck Series with the announcement of the 2013 schedule today, some international flair and a return to racing roots all in one.
Steve, can you talk about some of those great additions we have to look forward to.
STEVE O'DONNELL: Appreciate everyone joining us today.
Certainly an historic moment for the NASCAR Camping World Truck Series as we're going to announce our 2013 schedule. It will include a full slate of 22 events. We'll start again in Daytona where obviously everybody wants to win and the series certainly has a terrific history of putting on some unbelievable events.
2013 will see us return to Rockingham Speedway, building upon what we thought was a very successful event that took place in 2012.
As you heard last week in Miami, we're taking the trucks international for the first time with an inaugural event at Canadian Tire Motorsports Park in Ontario, and we also announced last week an age limit change to the series where we will allow 16?year?olds at road courses and at tracks under 1.1 miles and less.
Today with Tony on the phone we are extremely excited to announce the addition of Eldora Speedway, an event that's going to take place Wednesday night, July 24th. It will mark NASCAR's return to a dirt track at the national series level for the first time since 1970. It's complementing what is already a great calendar of race events that will take place at Eldora, where they're going to celebrate their 60th year of racing.
I want to thank Tony Stewart for his vision, for the facility. Earl Baltes, has been there a long time, and a long proponent of racing. Brett Frood and especially Roger Slack, the promoter at the facility. We can't wait to get up there. An exciting group to work with. We really look forward to a tremendous calendar of events for 2013.
With that, I turn it back over to you.
THE MODERATOR: Tony, it's a pretty big day for your short track. Talk about the excitement of bringing the trucks to Eldora this summer.
TONY STEWART: It has been one of the hardest things to not talk about I think in my entire professional racing career. To have had the opportunity to go and do a test earlier this year with the trucks was just really a dream come true for us as a facility.
I've always joked around and people say, What would you do if you could change the schedule? I always joke around about saying, I would add a dirt race.
Roger Slack and Steve took that and ran with it. Now we're fortunate enough to have the Truck Series at Eldora finally.
It's really a dream come true for us as not only a promoter, but I don't think any of us really thought, like we mentioned since 1970, the national series have never been to a dirt track. To imagine that 42 years later we're going to be taking a national NASCAR series back to a dirt track is a huge honor for us, something that everybody, including Roger Slack, Larry Kemp, Larry Boos, everybody at Eldora, are extremely excited.
THE MODERATOR: The excitement is going to grow as we get ourselves ready for the 2013 schedule for the trucks.
We'll now go ahead and turn it over to the media for some questions.
Q. Tony, now that you can talk about it, if you could shut your eyes and describe what truck racing will be like at Eldora?
TONY STEWART: Honestly, on the day we did the test, we didn't have the most favorable conditions. We had a lot of rain leading up to it.
I think the race itself is going to be pretty exciting. We've seen what the Prelude to the Dream has done in the past, bringing in drivers that weren't accustomed to running on dirt, how quickly they adapt to it.
I think with a little bit more favorable conditions we'll be able to give the Truck Series a surface that's going to be really, really competitive, very, very wide, at the same time going to give these guys an opportunity to learn something that's a little bit different to them.
I think it's a great opportunity for not only the Truck Series regulars but also with it being a Wednesday night race, having a lot of the Cup Series and Nationwide Series drivers as well as younger drivers and veterans from the World of Outlaws, late models, USAC drivers that will have an opportunity to land rides for that race.
I think it's going to be a great day. I think it's going to be a very historic day for NASCAR and definitely for Eldora Speedway. I think the racing has a lot of potential to be very, very good. We have a very, very wide racing surface. I think that's always provided great racing no matter what divisions we've had there in the past.
Q. Tony, did you have to put in any sort of soft walls or make any changes to the track? Some tracks that have had a standalone truck race haven't been able to make it work financially. What makes you confident you can make it work at Eldora?
TONY STEWART: I think the reason we can make it work is it's so unique. It's the first time we've had a midweek show in NASCAR for quite some time. Obviously the early days of NASCAR, they were running three and four nights a week. In this era of NASCAR, we've not had a Wednesday night show.
I think that in itself in the middle of the summer lends itself to being a great night.
Like we mentioned, having the opportunity to have so many different drivers from so many different divisions. With the Cup Series and the Nationwide Series and even the dirt drivers from their respective series, Wednesday night at that time of the year is normally a pretty free night. It gives us an opportunity to get guys in there that don't normally have that chance.
But as far as the SAFER barriers, we had the officials and the University of Nebraska, Lincoln's midwest roadside safety facility, those guys came to town and checked the facility. We don't have to add SAFER barriers, but we are going to be making changes to the exits and entrances to the pit areas. That's stuff we already started looking at. With the university's help, they're helping us make that even better than what we had planned.
There will be some changes structural inside the track, but all for the safety obviously. I was pretty surprised and pleased of the report that we got from them. We had our heads held up after they left. We felt the few things they asked us to change really gave us a lot of confidence that what we have been doing there has been done well.
Q. Steve, will the race be contested like a normal race?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I think we're still in discussion with Tony and his group. I think what is fair to say is we are looking at how races are competed at dirt tracks historically with heat races or last?chance races. I think we're very interested in looking at that.
As Tony said, we think we're going to have huge interest, not only from the series, but young up?and?coming dirt racers, veteran dirt racers. We think it will be a pretty compelling format.
Details still to come, but I think you'll see us look at different variables. It will be a points race on the schedule, but probably some different variables included in the event.
Q. Tony, I guess it was presumed you would compete in this race. Yes?
TONY STEWART: Still up in the air. A lot of me wants to compete, but at the same time I want to make sure as a promoter and track owner that I'm doing everything I can to ensure we have the best quality racing surface and show that we can provide.
I haven't made a decision 100% either way. Like I say, part of me definitely wants to be in a truck there and competing. At the same time, as a track owner I feel a lot of responsibility to make sure everything is going as planned and doing everything we can to ensure a great show.
Q. I assume you like the fact it was Brickyard week?
TONY STEWART: I think it's great timing. I think it just adds to a great week at Indianapolis. With the changes that Raceway Park has out there, I think this is something that can perk the area back up. It's literally a two?hour drive from Indianapolis to Rossburg, Ohio. I think a lot of people that are in town for the Indianapolis weekend will make the two?hour drive to come to Eldora.
Q. Tony, from a technical perspective, how much has to be done to the trucks to make them race well on dirt?
TONY STEWART: Literally all we had to do was take the splitters off the front of the trucks. With pavement tracks, and we do it in the Nationwide Series, the Cup Series and the Truck Series, determining how close you can get the nose of the vehicle to the ground is very, very important.
With the splitters, with it being a dirt surface, those splitters can dig into the ground. Just a simple change of removing the splitter seemed to be enough of a change to keep that from happening.
Like I said, we didn't have ideal conditions. Just removing the splitter seemed to resolve the problem.
Q. Tony, can you tell us about the test. Was it just you that participated? Any other drivers participate in it? When did NASCAR first come to you or you go to them to make this whole thing Stewart to happen?
TONY STEWART: Honestly, I can't even remember how far back it's been. It's been discussed in the past for quite some time actually, for over a year. I didn't actually honestly believe that it was going to gain the momentum that it had.
Obviously, this year when the discussions came up again, the interest was there, I was definitely pleased and caught off guard by it for sure.
But definitely at that point, realizing that everyone at NASCAR was genuinely interested in doing it, it was something we put the full?court press on.
Really impressed with being able to work with NASCAR and Steve and his staff. The process of going through and trying this experiment, trying to see if this was going to work was a lot of fun to work with them. I'm really excited about this event because of that.
Myself and Austin Dillon were the guys that did the test. Austin was actually the first guy on the track in a truck. I thought that was something. He kept waiting on me to go out. I said, I would like you to go out because that's something down in the history books, a useless trivia question maybe, but Austin was the first guy from the Truck Series in a truck on Eldora. Obviously Austin has a lot of dirt experience and I've got a couple laps on it myself.
Q. What about the Goodyear tires?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I think one of the things, too, on the timing of the event, Nebraska coming off that October 15th test with RCR gave us kind of a written notification of some of their thoughts, but wanted to go out and visit the facility.
That didn't take place till this past Monday. So I think when you look at the timing, when everything came together for a final go, the recommendation not to install SAFER barriers was as of Monday night. That led up to the timing where we were able to announce this.
Tony mentioned very minimal changes to the truck, which is great for us. Goodyear will go with the Wrangler brand. The only change will be a different tread. They're in the process of working with us on that right now.
Q. Tony, what is your seating capacity there? Do you envision trying to add some seats, even temporary seats, for this race?
TONY STEWART: We physically have 16,600 at Eldora. With lawn seating and patio seating, we have over 20,000.
There will be discussions between Roger Slack and myself about adding temporary seating on both ends of the racetrack, turns one and two mainly. We'll see how ticket sales go. If they're going as well as we hope, we're hoping we may have to add some more.
But it's still in discussions right now.
Q. Steve, any decision yet about the length of the race?
STEVE O'DONNELL: No. I think it's still going to be involved with the format. It will obviously depend if we go with some heat racing, qualifying racing. That will factor in. I know Tony has added some laps for some of the Sprint cars this year, so we'll look to put on an event that kind of matches up with what historically takes place at Eldora.
But TBD in terms of race length at this point.
Q. There's no way to do pit stops, right?
TONY STEWART: We have that option. But we've talked about a bunch of different formats. That's still being discussed between NASCAR and ourselves right now.
Really, that was one thing that I was impressed with with NASCAR. They came to us, and Steve's group mentioned that we really have a blank canvas to work with because there's not been an established format for this type of a race.
That gives us a great opportunity, which we're still in discussions about, as far as what the format will be, what the length of the race will be, whether there will be live pit stops or whether there will be a break halfway through. That's a part of the discussions of how the format of the race is going to be run.
Q. Tony, what has been some of the conversations you've had with current NASCAR Truck Series drivers about this racing?
TONY STEWART: We haven't spoken to any drivers actually because, like Steve mentioned a minute ago, we honestly didn't have this completed till late last evening or this morning.
We haven't discussed it with anybody mainly out of respect to the fact that we didn't know whether the event was actually going to happen or not. But we really haven't spoke to anybody in any depth about it.
Obviously, a lot of the drivers have come to us and speculated about it. My comment has been, I would be glad to have one there and hope it would happen. That's as far as the discussions have gone at this point.
Q. What kind of changes are going to be needed to run a dirt race?
STEVE O'DONNELL: It goes back to what Tony said with the splitter, really minimal changes, other than that, to be able go ahead and race, then a different tire tread.
Part of the reason for being able to go to Eldora, as we look at any racetrack, be it a road course, short track, superspeedway, what will be involved in terms of making changes to the actual truck, what are the costs involved, what type of race do we think we can put on.
The good news from our perspective, as Tony said, was very minimal changes need to be made to the truck. We'll learn a little bit more as we go. But we think it's a win?win for really the truck owners in terms of what changes need to be made and what type of quality of race we can put on at Eldora.
Q. Steve, typically I think everyone thought when you do something different, like road racing or whatever, you give the teams an opportunity to do it more than once to make it easier on them. Looks like you have one dirt race, one road race. What should we expect in the future? Does this mean more dirt racing? More road racing?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I think it's a fair question. I think if you look at the history of NASCAR, really the development of our drivers, they're getting younger and younger. You take a kid like Kyle Larson, or even look back to Tony, Kasey Kahne, the history of those drivers, a lot of them grew up on dirt, road courses, ovals.
What we feel like this enables us to do is give us that taste as drivers evolve up to the Truck Series, gives them the ability to race not only on ovals, but road courses that they'll see at the Sprint Cup level. By bringing back dirt, we bring back some of the roots of NASCAR, what a lot of these drivers grew up on.
Eldora, we certainly think it would be a huge success. I would never rule out looking at other venues in the future. I think we're comfortable with one dirt and one road course in 2013. But it's something we'll definitely look at for 2014 and beyond.
Q. Steve, do you expect any sort of test date in advance of this event or do you think it will be 'come in a day early'?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I think right now we're in discussions with Tony. Historically we go in the day early and let the teams learn the facility.
We're expecting, I think as Tony mentioned, a pretty big field of drivers from all over the place. Got a tweet from Tony Kanaan telling Tony he's going to show up and race. I think you can expect a big field of drivers.
We'll work with that. It will depend on the format of what we come up with, the timing of the event that works for the facility and Roger Slack. We'll probably treat it like we have for other events: going in early, letting the drivers have some time on the track.
Q. Steve, you mentioned the possibility of racing the trucks at Greenville?Pickens next year or in '14. Is that still a possibility?
STEVE O'DONNELL: I think so. I think the good news for the trucks is we received really a ton of interest from other short tracks. No secret we want to get back to our roots. We've had interest from other road courses. We feel like we put the best schedule out there that we could for 2013. It gives some of the tracks that have expressed interest more time to put some things together for 2014.
I would certainly leave the door open for not only Greenville but a number of other facilities that have helped us get to where we are.
I probably would be remiss in not mentioning the Nuckles family and Columbus Motor Speedway, another venue that has been a partner of NASCAR for a long, long time in Ohio. Certainly part of our roots.
As you all have seen, we're going back to Ohio with the NASCAR Nationwide Series at Mid?Ohio. We're now at Eldora. The Nuckles family has certainly been a huge proponent of NASCAR. Its tracks like those that host our All?American and touring series events that we think are terrific venues for the trucks in the future as well. I want to thank them.
But I would also say 2014, a lot of interest from a short track perspective.
Q. Are you satisfied with the length of the schedule as you have it next year or would you rather have it be more races?
STEVE O'DONNELL: We're satisfied. I think we always put the goal out there of getting the best possible facilities on the schedule and we're not going to add races just for the sake of adding them.
We'd like to speed up the process in terms of timing for future years, obviously. But as you heard, we put this together as quickly as we could, taking the right route from a safety perspective.
But I think I'd certainly leave the door open for further expansion in 2014 and beyond.
THE MODERATOR: Steve and Tony, thanks so much for taking the time today. Again, congratulations to both of you and everyone who had a hand in putting on the opportunity to add these two great new races in Canada and at Eldora to an already exciting Truck Series schedule for 2013. We're looking forward to that. A lot to look forward to in 2013.
Thanks to the media for joining us today.