Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Q&A | Tony George

Tony George too busy to celebrate unification

Tony George has been vilified by most anyone with an opinion on the Great Open-Wheel Schism of 1996-2008. He had irreparably broken open-wheel racing. He didn't know what he was doing. He was draining the Hulman family trust, as if that was any of their business. Those were among the civil comments.

But thumbing through newspaper coverage of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg and indulging on M&Ms as race cars screamed outside his transporter, the founder and chief executive of the Indy Racing League was focused ahead. He doesn't really think he broke open-wheel racing, and he's not taking credit for fixing it after the rival Champ Car series went out of business and some of its teams and race dates were folded into the IRL.

It's just time to get on with the future, he said.

What's the next step for the IRL?

It's just a matter of continuing to assimilate all the teams into one series and try to each week improve and build on the product, try to get everything stable on a platform we can build on. We had a good race last week (at Homestead). I don't know if we could have expected anything more, but I know everyone did an outstanding job under very difficult circumstances. I think this week feels good, and it's building the way we'd like to see it. I think it's still going to be a little challenging as we leave here, but by May, hopefully things will really have found its level and we'll be able to start building.

With open-wheel racing not truly unified since 1979, did you need to see the signatures on paper to believe this was a done deal?

I don't think it required seeing dry ink, but once I got the sense it was going to happen, I found some relief. I actually started sleeping well and for about a week, I had about six or seven nights of uninterrupted sleep, which is something I haven't had in a long time.

I think just knowing that we have a chance to all work together now, to build open-wheel racing back to where it needs to be is exciting. … This week again, looking at this spotter card with all those cars on it, I think everyone is feeling pretty good about it, including myself.

How different will May and the Indianapolis 500 feel this year?

We'll have to wait and see. I think the fans will give us a sense of feel. I think it will be competitive and there's all likelihood we'll see 36 to 40 entries potentially. … These teams will have had an opportunity to get more familiar with the equipment, they'll have the whole month of May — weather permitting — to really get comfortable with the package at the speedway, and I think it'll only get more competitive as the weeks go by.

Did you celebrate once the deal was done?

I had a couple of people send me bottles of champagne and (I) received a couple of cigars, and, to be honest, I haven't enjoyed any of them at this point. I intend to at some point. It's just been pretty hectic.

Do you feel like you've vindicated yourself in your detractors' opinions by making the moves — many financial — to reunify the discipline?

I'm not sure I broke anything, so I'm not sure I fixed anything. Collectively, we broke open-wheel racing and collectively, we fixed it. But for the decision Champ Car ownership made to not continue, we wouldn't be unified, would we? They basically made that decision.

We hear future schedules referred to as a "clean sheet of paper." Is St. Petersburg on that sheet?

This is one of the great events. You've got the support of the community, an engaged promoter with a very supportive cast of supporters as far as sponsors for the event, great ambience. I can't imagine that it wouldn't be back. I think we do have them on the schedule already because their contract is through next year. I can't imagine it wouldn't be part of it going forward.

Tony George too busy to celebrate unification 04/04/08 [Last modified: Tuesday, April 8, 2008 1:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. U.S. repeats as Solheim Cup champion

    Golf

    WEST DES MOINES, Iowa — Lexi Thompson set the tone by rallying from four holes down. The rest of the Americans took it from there and restored their dominance in the Solheim Cup

    Lexi Thompson, left, comes back from four holes down to halve the day’s first singles match with Europe’s Anna Nordqvist to set the tone for the United States.
  2. Rays see the Blake Snell they've been waiting for in win over Mariners

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — It was a one-run game Sunday when the Mariners' Robinson Cano singled with one out in the seventh inning, bringing the dangerous Nelson Cruz to the plate.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell (4) throwing in the third inning of the game between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Sunday, Aug. 20, 2017.
  3. Bucs journal: Demar Dotson (mild groin strain) expected back for opener

    Bucs

    TAMPA — The Bucs got good news Sunday on starting right tackle Demar Dotson, whose MRI exam showed only a mild right groin sprain and who should be back at practice next week.

    Tackle Demar Dotson has only a mild groin strain.
  4. Bucs counting on better health creating better pass rush

    Bucs

    TAMPA — Ask Bucs coaches about the improved depth and health of their defensive line, and they'll look around for a piece of wood to knock on.

    Retired All-Pro defensive end  Simeon Rice, right, the last Buc to have double-digit sacks in a season,  works with defensive end Ryan Russell, who last season was promoted from the practice squad for the second half of the year as injuries piled up. He is competing for a backup job this year.
  5. Rays journal: Jake Faria heads to DL with left abdominal strain

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — RHP Jacob Faria made the trek he didn't want to take after his last start. It was to the trainer's room. The pain in his left abdominal went from nagging to an issue during his start that night in Toronto.

    Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Jacob Faria (34) throwing in the first inning of the game between the Milwaukee Brewers and the Tampa Bay Rays at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Friday, August 4, 2017.