Bruce Martin (00:08):
Indy Car fans, it's time to start your engines. Welcome to Pit Pass Indy, a production of Evergreen podcasts. I'm your host, Bruce Martin, a journalist who regularly covers the NTT IndyCar Series. Our goal at Pit Pass is to give racing fans and insiders view of the exciting world of the NTT IndyCar Series in a fast-paced podcast featuring interviews with the biggest names in the sport. I bring nearly 40 years of experience covering IndyCar and NASCAR, working for such media brands as NBCSports.com. SI.com, ESPN SportsTicker, Sports Illustrated AutoWeek, and SPEED SPORT. So let's drop the green flag on this episode of Pit Pass Indy.
Welcome to this week's edition of Pit Pass Indy. Today's episode focuses on next July's Hy-Vee IndyCar weekend at Iowa Speedway. We have exclusive interviews with Hy-Vee, executive chairman and executive director Randy Edeker and Penske Corporation President Bud Denker. Both Edeker and Denker, along with Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds, helped revive Iowa Speedway by combining an aggressive mix of back to back races surrounded by four major music acts in 2022. They may have raised the bar even further in 2023, as Carrie Underwood will perform before the Saturday race, and Kenny Chesney will perform a concert after the IndyCar Race. Sunday includes the Zac Brown Band before the IndyCar Race and Ed Sheeran will perform after the IndyCar contest. Each pre-race concert will be 60 minutes, and each post race concert is 90 minutes. Tickets went on sale on Monday, December 5th, single day. Tickets start at $100 and go up to $225 two day ticket packages begin at $190 and go up to $440 single day Tickets include two full concerts and a full NTT IndyCar series race. For more information, go to www.hindycarweekend.com/buy-tickets /tickets dash-prices/
In this exclusive interview for Pit Pass Indy, Edeker explains why the Hy-Vee IndyCar Race weekend is more than a race. It's the sporting event of the year in Iowa. He also explains why tickets have increased over last year's prices to make it a memorable weekend at Iowa Speedway on July 22nd and 23.
Randy Edeker (03:03):
Here is my exclusive interview with Randy Edeker for Pit Pass Indy.
Joining us now on Pit Pass Indy is Randy Edeker, the executive chairman of the board, and the executive director of Hy-Vee.
Randy, Monday, December 5th was a big day because tickets went on sale for the 2023 Hy-Vee IndyCar weekend at Iowa Speedway. I know that's a big event for you. The 2022 race was one of the highlights of the season. There's going to be a few changes this year. You've got some even bigger acts. I think that a lot of people after seeing the great performance that Hy-Vee did last year wondered how you were gonna top that. And in many ways you have for 2023. If you could describe to our listeners a lot of the things that are going to be going on at Iowa Speedway next July.
Yeah, so of course starting out on Friday, we'll have our free Friday, which will be a chance for people that don't really, watch IndyCar and haven't had had an experience with it to come in and kind of get a feel for it. And then on Saturday, we have the Hy-Vee Home Front 250, and we have two entertainers that we're bringing in. The first is Carrie Underwood.
Carrie Underwood will come and she's going to be a part of opening up the entire day with a 60-minute concert. And then we are going to have a fabulous race, and then we're going to have Kenny Chesney is going to come and do a 90-minute concert. That in and of itself is a massive weekend. That's all happening on Saturday. And then on Sunday we have the Hy-Vee OneStep 250, and we're opening up with the Zac Brown Band, for 60 minutes. And then later that night, we'll have Ed Sheeran for a 90-minute concert, which there's not a hotter ticket in all of entertainment right now that Ed Sheeran. Between, the four entertainers that we have, we think we just have an unbelievable, really unprecedented lineup for entertainment at the Hy-Vee IndyCar Weekend. We think that it's gonna be huge.
Bruce Martin (05:15):
Not only is there a lot of action on the racetrack, but there's a lot of action with your entertainment selections. The fact they are all coming to Newton, Iowa in a lot of ways, puts that town on the map, not only in entertainment, but in racing. And how important is that for the state of Iowa?
Randy Edeker (05:32):
Well, I think that it's huge for the state of Iowa. If you go back to when I had my initial talks with Roger Penske and Bud Denker, and we started talking about Hy-Vee's involvement in IndyCar, Roger challenged me to create in Newton, Indy's, Sturgis. It's really that destinational event. And so the entertainment is our way to do do that. The entertainment is our way to get people to the event. We believe that once they come, once they watch an Indy race, that they're going to be hooked. We believe that they're going to love the racing, they're going to love the drivers, they're going to love every part of it. But this is our investment to help build the sport up, of IndyCar. And we think that it's crucial to get, new fans there, get a new fan base. if it was just about holding a simple Indy race in the middle of Iowa, we probably wouldn't have been interested in it. But we wanted to help grow the sport in a way that I think is real and lasting and is is going to be an amazing, amazing event.
And so that's our goal really, to continue to help grow IndyCar, grow it for our own selfish needs to have a great, incredible event, but also just to help the sport grow and grow a new fan base and help follow us, follow our concerts and follow everybody else that's out there racing.
Bruce Martin (06:57):
Now, anytime you bring these type of entertainment acts to an event, it's going to cost a little extra money. I believe you worked with Live Nation to get the entertainment in for your race. Some fans have gotten their ticket renewal forms and it's a higher price than it was last year. in some ways, maybe last year the ticket was underpriced to a degree. Where do you fall on that subject at the moment?
Randy Edeker (07:22):
Well, I mean, realistically, II appreciate all the fans that came, but I think that you're living in, in La la Land, if you think you're going to bring this kind of entertainment to an event and not have to up the ticket price. I've read some of the comments and, and frankly, it's just almost silly that people expect to come to an event like this for $55. Our lowest ticket price now is $100. Last year, it was $55. You cannot bring this level of entertainment, grow the sport, grow the event, get more people to the event. We are expecting 60,000 fans in Newton, Iowa, for both days. And so that's what it's about. Of course the ticket price is going to be more, if you look at it depends on how you look at it.
If you look at it from the Indy side, they're looking at an increased ticket price. But we have people contacting us from all over the United States trying to figure out how they can get tickets to get into our event. You just don't see four entertainers like this in the same spot. I talked with a promoter last year who said, on our weekend in the United States, actually in North America, there was no bigger event. And so it's just really almost silly that people would expect that the ticket price isn't going to go up. And I understand if you only want to come to the IndyCar race and that's the only aspect of it that you care about, then that you're going to feel that way. But frankly, you're not going to put this kind of entertainment in.
And when you say that the, the, the amount went up slightly, that's an understatement. It went up a lot. And we're investing, in entertainment to help grow the sport of Indy, grow new fans and, and bring people to Iowa, to frankly, experience the state. We think this is the best way for our state to be viewed, to have this level of entertainment, to get people in to see, the Midwest, see our state. We think that it's a, a great investment. I know we had a few people that were upset, but they're just going to be upset because this is a different level of event than it used to be.
Bruce Martin (09:43):
But if you take your ticket price and compare it to other events on the IndyCar schedule, I believe you're right in line with Long Beach and probably maybe slightly under, what the price of the tickets were in Nashville. And you don't really hear any level of animosity between the ticket buyers talking about the price of those tickets.
Randy Edeker (10:06):
Yeah, that, that's exactly right. I mean, frankly, Bruce, I think it's just a ridiculous comment that somebody would be upset about a $100 ticket price if you compare it to the NFL or to Major League Baseball. I think the thing about the sport of IndyCar.
I'm a guy, and I think you know this about me, Bruce, that I love IndyCar. I am all in. I I love watching it. I love going to the races. I love the fact that we have, the No. 45 Honda, that's going to be racing. We're super excited about that. We're excited about our partnership with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. We think that we've got a a great year coming, this next year. And we're all in on IndyCar. We believe in it, and I think that we're investing in the sport to grow it and make it bigger.
And that's the thing that the fan base has to see. This is for the health and longevity of the sport. As you look at other racing out there, if you look at Formula One, you look at NASCAR, this is our way of growing the sport. We think that IndyCar racing is the best, and we feel like this is the best way we can help grow it and make it a bigger deal. And I think any fan of IndyCar would get behind it, rather than talking about $55 versus $100 would be saying, 'My God, look at how big this event is going to be in Iowa as a part of IndyCar racing.' It's, it's an amazing thing.
Bruce Martin (11:36):
And also, if you take the price of an IndyCar race at your track and compare it to the Minnesota Vikings, the Chicago Bears, the Green Bay Packers, the Indianapolis Colts, the Kansas City Chiefs, I bet that your ticket prices are probably less than what a regular NFL game is.
Randy Edeker (11:55):
Oh, that's absolutely right there. It's less than than any college game around. I mean, that's the thing that's just kind of crazy. We've gotta get the sport build up so that it has this kind of following so that this is not a big shock that the tickets are going to be over $55. It's all about mindset. It's just how people think about the sport of IndyCar racing, and we're trying to change mindset, across the entire sport. We just believe this is the right thing. We believe this is the future. We believe that we can get other races to, to follow suit, and we can create the following that IndyCar deserves, that it's going to need to be sustainable for the future and really become the sport that I think that it's destined to be. I think it's going to be one of the best sports in the United States. I think this is how we should be investing right now.
Bruce Martin (12:47):
And if you even wanted to take that point even further, a regular season, Major League Baseball game at Wrigley Field is pretty expensive. And even an NBA game is pretty expensive, and they play 41 games a year at home. Major League Baseball has 81 games a year at home. That's a, a regular season game compared to a premier event like you're trying to stage at Iowa.
Randy Edeker (13:13):
That's absolutely it. You can compare it to any other major league sport, and we believe that our ticket price is very, very competitive. There are more expensive tickets, there's better seats, but we think we've got a great competitive ticket price. And then for the fan that really wants to experience, the concert, Kenny Chesney, Ed Sheeran, we've got pit passes that they can go down and stand in front of the stage. We've got VIP pit passes that they can stand directly in front of the stage. It's whatever level of experience you want to have at the event. We've got tickets and ticket prices to match every single person. We also have the Chairman's Club, that's goin to be organized different. Last year it was set up different. The Chairman's Club will be elite seats, like I've seen at other Indy races. I've seen it Formula One races that really creates all the viewing options for all the fan base. I think we've got a good plan. We've got great seating, and I think we've got the best, most competitive ticket prices. And as I said, we're getting calls from all over the country that are trying to figure out how they're going to get to Newton, Iowa to see Ed Sheeran and see Kenny Chesney. So we believe not only did we get the big names, but we got them at the right time when they're not appearing anywhere else.
Bruce Martin (14:30):
How important is Live Nation to work with you and Hy-Vee to help bring these type of names to Iowa's Speedway?
Randy Edeker (14:38):
They've been good support. We really came up with a list of folks that we wanted to target. If you look at Kenny Chesney and Ed Sheeran, we negotiated hard to get them to come and had to convince them to come, frankly, to the middle of Iowa. I was in Boston last year, and Kenny Chesney sold out Foxborough three days in a row. With that level of entertainment this is going to be a huge, huge weekend. We're planning on 60,000 seats. We're prepared to add more if we can sell more tickets and think about outside of the Indy 500, think about an IndyCar race that has 60,000 fans attending two days in a row. It's just not out there. We believe that we're creating event, we're creating viewership and following for for years to come.
Bruce Martin (15:31):
If you had it to do over again, would last year's ticket prices have been priced maybe a little higher?
Randy Edeker (15:38):
Absolutely. Yep. We just didn't know what we didn't know. In working with, IndyCar racing, they really controlled the ticket prices. We've really pushed them to expand the ticket prices because we think that collectively we need to embrace, a new style event like, the Hy-Vee IndyCar weekend. Bud Denker has been phenomenal, to work with on that. We've got some attitudes and opinions to change throughout all of IndyCar. We think this is the right place to be right now. And we have to find a way to make sure that we have a responsible event. We're investing enormous money. I won't tell you how much, but you know, Bruce, even just the grandstands and the suites that we're bringing in, we're bringing in from the Waste Management Open, the same company that does the seating for those,. We're bringing in several of the seating units from the Formula One race in Miami that we're going to bring in.
We're bringing the stage in from Daytona. There's a lot that goes into our event. It's not just a typical Indy race. It is really going to be, I call it a festival. It's an entertainment festival with Indy at the heart of it and at the center of it. And so, yeah, we're excited. We would've adjusted the price last year and looking back, but now moving forward, we think we're in a good spot. And we'll just see it, we're working on entertainment for 2024 that we believe will be as big as this year, if not even just a little bit bigger.
Bruce Martin (17:22):
We'll be right back to Pit Pass Indy after this short break.
Welcome back to this week's Edition of Pit Pass Indy. And now here's the rest of my interview with Hy-Vee executive chairman and executive director Randy Edeker, the major force behind the Hy-Vee Indy Car Weekend at Iowa Speedway.
The other thing that I wanted to point out was a lot of fans, if you read reader forums or reader comments or social media, a lot of times they complain that there's not a lot to do at an oval race, which is why the crowds aren't as big at an oval race except for the Indy 500 as they are at a street course race. And that IndyCar needs to market better. Well, here's a perfect example of bringing the street course festival type scenario to an oval race and by aggressively marketing, and then they turn around and start to complain about that. Do you see that as being a little bit puzzling?
Randy Edeker (18:29):
I think people in a lot of ways people just don't want change. They talk about change, but when real change happens, they don't always embrace it. We'll probably lose some fans that came last year that just aren't willing to pay the the $100 for a ticket. But that's okay. We're trying to grow the fan base. We did it last year with Gwen Stefani and other people that, frankly, most of that fan base have never been to an Indy race. Not ever. And we believe that if we grow it with entertainment, we'll get a new fan that comes and they start to follow Indy. And we believe that's the way to help grow the sport. And we believe that's the way to compete with other people in the space.
Like Formula One, we we're trying to invest, to help the sport and also help ourselves. We're not in it just for IndyCar. We're trying to grow a big event. We're trying to help the state of Iowa. If you go back, we were challenged by our Governor to help put an event on. And so we've done that. There are a lot of factors. I think that sometimes the fan base, they want things to grow, but they want it to grow on their own terms. That's okay. We're going to move forward with our event. We're going to keep working to grow it. We're going to try and grow new fans, and we know that we've got the entertainment that we'll sell the tickets out, we'll sell the venue out and, and we'll have an amazing event.
Bruce Martin (20:00):
How valuable has it been for Hy-Vee for your company?
Randy Edeker (20:03):
Well, the publicity has been great. It's discouraging, frankly, Bruce, you talk about it when you try and do something to help the state, and then you get some local media here that they're constantly kind of negative, which we're used to. Then you get a fan base that doesn't really appreciate what we're trying to do. And, we can't change that. So it's a little discouraging sometimes. But for the most part, the recognition, the push we see from it. I can tell you who does get it, the drivers all get it. We've had nothing but great support from the race teams, from the drivers, from all of IndyCar as far as the racing teams themselves have been very supportive and, and, very much encouraging us. And so we're thankful for that.
We just want to get the fans in. We know that we're going to have 60,000 people there. We know that we're going to sell the stands out because we're seeing that. We have people that are excited about it. And so we'll just have to continue to put on a good event and get the people that are super excited about it to support the event. We fully understand that there has to be more going on. That's the races. There's a lot more happening. We've got a free concert stage, we've got a lot of venues out. There's going to be lots of merchandise for sale. There are exhibits around the grounds. And so there's a lot more going on even than just the big concerts and the race. There's more in and around it that we think will be exciting. I fully understand what the fan base is saying, that they want to have a festival, and that's what we're trying to create.
Bruce Martin (21:47):
How about the activation at your stores all throughout, not only in Iowa, but throughout the Midwest?
Randy Edeker (21:53):
Yeah, we will be activating, actually starting at the beginning of the Indy season and really hitting full swing really inApril and, and across all of our stores. The first event is March 5th. We'll have everything up, and then we're going to be activating, actively around the Indy races on NBC, promoting that. We've got a promotion that we're working on with NBC that we think is really exciting. We're not ready to announce that yet, but I think that we'll have huge social impact. We'll help our communities in a big, big way, help people in need. And so we're activating heavily around it. We're just not quite ready to announce all of that yet. But we think that it's a great way and a great platform to draw attention to the needs of others and, and, and needs in our community and help deliver on some of those needs, help some people out. We've got some more exciting things coming that we think will add to the event and add to Indy racing, not just for our race, but for, for all the races that we think will add some excitement to it.
Bruce Martin (23:04):
You've expanded your footprint of stores. You're opening one in the Zionsville area, which is right outside of Indianapolis. You're going to open in Louisville, plans to open in the Nashville area and also in Birmingham. And those are all four areas that are either host IndyCar races, or in Louisville's case is very close to Indianapolis. How important is IndyCar to help drive the growth of Hy-Vee as a company?
Randy Edeker (23:30):
Well, we think it's an important part of our strategy, and it's not one that's lost on us. As we started looking at where we were going, where we want to expand, we have the construction that you speak of starts, in the middle of next year, year in 23, we'll start building in Zionsville and down in the Nashville area. Those will all get started. It's obviously played into our strategy in Decar fits all of the areas that we're looking at it, it dominates in, in Indiana. And so we, we think it's going to be crucial for us to have a, our voice out there in IndyCar and, and be a part of that. And that's a part of really the tapestry of the, the Midwest is open wheel racing. And we think it's a good investment for us, and it's part of our, our growth strategy to invest in every aspect of it.
Bruce Martin (24:22):
Indiana has the Indianapolis 500, Kentucky has the Kentucky Derby. A lot of states have signature sporting events that are once a year happenings that fans, the citizens of the area really look forward to every year. Are you envisioning the Hy-Vee IndyCar weekend of being Iowa's signature sporting event?
Randy Edeker (24:43):
"Well that's definitely our goal. We have some other, you know, great opportunities. We have the Knoxville Speedway, uh, where, you know, that really focuses on dirt track racing and they've done a phenomenal job. But yeah, we see, uh, this level of racing with IndyCar coming in the middle of July. We think that it will be a huge destination event, uh, for us, for we're hoping for years to come. Um, and, and so yeah, we think that it can be built into an event. I don't think two years creates, an event like that. I think it takes years. I mean, obviously the 500 has been around for decades, right? And really just consistently been the biggest race in the world. And so we, we think that that's going to continue to be that, but we think that we can grow and, and make our event much more substantial and really in Iowa be the biggest race in Iowa for sure. And I believe that we've already done that.
Bruce Martin (25:41):
As far as working with Bud Denker and with Anne Fischgrund who was the general manager, the point person of the Iowa race, how important has it been to the effort that those two have put out to really work with your people to have a collective group that is moving this event forward?
Randy Edeker (25:58):
Well, Bud has been phenomenal. I'll just tell you. He's a business guy. He understands our needs. He understands what we need to get out of the event and how we need to go about it. He's moving his people forward with us. We think that that's important. We also have a group that focus every day on the Indy race. And I, I think that we know exactly what we want to get accomplished and how we want to do it. And I think that we've done a good job of merging IndyCar and Hy-Vee together. Tthe influence of Penske and racing, I think has been a, a really good influence. I think there's kind of the Penske Way of doing things that I think is, is really influencing, IndyCar. And I think that's a great thing. They're very good business people. They're very trustworthy and they're very good to work with. And so we, we think that it's a good fit for us.
Bruce Martin (26:54):
And also, how has your role changed? Because when you started this event, you were the CEO at Hy-Vee. Now you've turned that position over and you've, you're now more on the board of directors. But has your role with the race in any way, shape, or form changed?
Randy Edeker (27:11):
No, not at all. Actually. I'm more involved in the race this year than I was last year. And that's really what I've done here. Jeremy, Gosch, I appointed Jeremy as our CEO. He's a phenomenal guy. I worked with him for years. Timing-wise, I've just decided personally, this is the best time for me to move Jeremy into this new role. My role with the company really has not changed right now it will down the road. But right now my role really hasn't changed. And I'm pretty much doing what I've been doing. Jeremy's running the day to day operations. He is the CEO of the company, and I fully support him, and I am here to help him keep Hy-Vee moving forward and growing strong. I mean, we can't put races on, we can't do big things if Hy-Vee's not strong. And that's the, the bottom line. The grocery industry is ever evolving. It's just amazing. It changes every single day. And so it was time for me just to pick somebody to be the future of, ive Jeremys it and I'm going to support him, really in this in a different capacity, moving forward.
Bruce Martin (28:20):
You had portable, Hy-Vee stores in the infield at Iowa Speedway last, well, not in the infield on the grounds at Iowa Speedway in the camping areas. So if people wanted to go grocery shopping to fire up the grill, you had all the supplies there. You could have even meat shipped from local Hy-Vee stores for them. How successful were those portable stores?
Randy Edeker (28:40):
Oh, they did fairly well. I think it was just something new and something unique. You'll, you'll see those possibly at a few other races coming up. We think that it was a good idea. It's a good convenience for our customers. As far as volume goes, you're not going to do huge, huge volume. But I think it was a, it was a great, point of difference for us and we'll continue to do that. Do it again. And possibly, as I mentioned, look to expand that maybe to some other races.
Bruce Martin (29:10):
You also had, I believe, several hundred food trucks there. Will that be back?
Randy Edeker (29:15):
We're going to do the food truck challenge a little bit different. We're going to bring some of the food trucks back. We're going to have a, a big new food truck that we're going to introduce to produce Wahlburgers. We'll have that on site. It's an entire semi that produces quantities of burgers. And so we're going to be serving burgers in the suites and selling burgers on the grounds. We'll have several of the food trucks back. We're not going to do the food truck challenge like we did last, last year, but we think that we'll probably have 20 or 30 food trucks, that really sit more in the center of the race rather than off to the sides.
Bruce Martin (29:50):
And when you think of just the tremendous success the first year had, did it exceed your expectations?
Randy Edeker (29:57):
Oh yeah, absolutely. I mean, going into it, we've done other big events in the past, so I know we know how to put on events. Yeah, I think we had a lot of people involved. And so, we're going to take a look at how we structure just a little bit different, where some things we'll keep doing, some things we won't, but I think that's always the case with big events like this, as you kind of sort out what you want to keep doing, what you shouldn't do, it definitely, in total we think that it w it came off exceptionally well and you're going to see us keep working at that. We're gonna keep working to bring more celebrities, to the event. We think that's important. If you watch Formula One that's just filled with celebrity attendance. In the middle of Iowa, that's more difficult. But we think that's gonna be a crucial part of the event that we can help grow also. I think it was a very, very good event. We'll just keep working to add to it.
Bruce Martin (30:51):
And also, do you see even increasing your involvement with IndyCar down the road?
Randy Edeker (30:55):
Well, I think in select spots, you know, we're a sponsor, right now of the Nashville Grand Prix because we're there. We've discussed the possibility of sponsoring and being a bigger sponsor of the Indy 500. We'll see that coming down the road. There's a few other tracks that we'll take a look at and, and maybe have some presence, Road America's one of them that we'll take a look at coming up. Where it makes sense, we'll definitely get more involved. And if, you know they're out, if they're working on some new events, then we would definitely see.
Bruce Martin (31:29):
And wrapping up here with Randy Edeker of Hy-Vee, you talked about growing the sport, how important that was to be able to bring new fans in so that they were exposed to IndyCar racing at Iowa Speedway. I don't know what your background is. I know that you were relatively new to IndyCar racing, but how did that really change your view? How has IndyCar changed your view?
Randy Edeker (31:52):
Well, to be frank, I've looked at racing in general for quite some time. I've studied Formula One and I know if you talk to somebody who's into Indy and, and there's, there's people see different sports, different, you know, Formula One really is a marketing machine and they have just grown the sport immensely with individuals under 30 years old. If you look at their demographics and the growth strategy that they've had has really been phenomenal. They continue to add US races. I believe that Indy and we went into Indy believing, uh, with Roger Penske entering into the sport, that there was a shot for Indy to continue to grow. It really fits our footprint of our 12 states in the Midwest. And so we believe that it's the right place for us to invest. And we believe that, that Roger and Bud and the whole team are focused on how they're gonna grow the entire sport.
And that's what we're about. You know, if it was just gong to be Indy like always, then it's a nice thing. I'm a fan, but we probably wouldn't invest here. But we believe that there's a growth strategy and there's a growth opportunity that is real and could make IndyCar really, uh, just a phenomenal sport in the US and that's what we're here to support. So how have I changed? You know, me personally? I just love watching Indy racing, but it's not about what Randy likes. It's about what sells and what is the great place to invest. And so we believe that we're helping build a great place to invest for the future.
Bruce Martin (33:29):
Well, I know that last year was quite a success. It was a spectacular weekend. One of the highlights of the year, if not the highlight of the season, look for even bigger things coming from you in 2023. Randy Edeker, executive chairman and executive director of Hy-Vee, good luck in 2023 at Iowa Speedway and thank you for joining us today on Pit Pass Indy.
Randy Edeker (33:51):
Yeah, thanks Bruce.
Bruce Martin (33:55):
Next up is my interview with Penske Corporation President Bud Denker, who plays a vital role working with Hy-Vee to ensure the Hy-Vee Indy car weekend at Iowa Speedway is a success.
Joining us now on Pit Pass, Indy is the president of the Penske Corporation, Bud Denker. Bud is calling us all the way from London, England. It just goes to show that there never is an off day or an off season for this guy, but it is the off season in IndyCar. But I also know it's an important day cuz Monday, December 5th is when ticket sales for the Hy-Vee IndyCar weekend went on sale. And that is an event promoted by Penske Entertainment, a very important event for you. And how excited are you now that ticket sales for next year's race are rolling out?
Bud Denker (34:49):
Thanks Bruce. And we're, we're very excited to announce today along with our partners at Hy-Vee, that ticket sales are now open to the public. We've had a tremendous response from our folks that attended the event last year, who have already renewed. We of course give our fans that were there last year, the opportunity to renew ahead of time, and now they've done that. And now we're going out to the public and, and we'll talk, I'm sure about the entertainment and the, the value that people have to come to the event this coming July. But boy, people saw what happened last year when you create an event and we're gonna make it even better and bigger this year with the support of Hy-Vee.
Bruce Martin (35:25):
One of the things though, with any time you have a big time event such as the Hy-Vee IndyCar Weekend, which has got four of the biggest acts and musical entertainment that are going to be performing both pre-race concerts each day, which will be an hour long, followed by two post race concerts after each race, which will be 90 minutes long, the ticket prices did increase over last year, and that has created a little bit of controversy among some ticket buyers. You being a promoter, how do you explain to them sometimes that if you want to promote and market that sometimes, these acts aren't performing for free?
Bud Denker (36:01):
No, you're you're right, Bruce. And, if you look at the, at the value of what people are getting from the tickets, it truly is that word value. To go to an Ed Sheeran and concert, by the way, this past year, it's going to be $100 or more easy, or Kenny Chesney, a $200 Act and more just for one show. If you think about our cheapest price we have of a hundred dollars for the grandstand seat to view three shows, $33, if you break it down, $33 for to see Carrie Underwood, $33 to see an IndyCar race and $33 to Kenny Chesney. Where can you find the value of that kind of event festival? Hy-Vee is helping us create a festival. This is not a race, this is an event. There's a big difference between the two, as we saw last year when we had 35,000 people plus each day at the event. And I would bet between 60 and 70 percent of the folks that were there, I think hadn't been to a race before. So we're going to see that same thing again with Ed Sheeran and the second day with Zac Brown as well. It's truly a value. But it is a change, certainly a change from what it was last year and a change from what some of the IndyCar fans may have seen. But in terms of what we're going to create, it's still a great value.
Bruce Martin (37:13):
Do you feel that in some ways, as successful as last year's race was what the four big name acts that you had then a lot of people thought, well, how are you going to top that? But in many ways this coming up in 2023, you are gonna be able to top it.
Bud Denker (37:28):
Well, you're absolutely right. In fact, that was the question we had for Hy-Vee. How can you top what they did? I mean, the acts we had last year from Florida, Georgia line to, to Blake Shelton and, you know, Gwen Stefani and Tim McGraw are all A list act that pack arenas and pack out stadiums. Now we have two stadium performers, meaning people that go to large football arenas that sell it out. Kenny Chesney and Ed Sheeran, and of course Carrie Underwood and Zac Brown, who sell out arenas time and time again, we have well exceeded our expectations what Hy-Vee told us they were going to do, which was to make the event even bigger in 2023. In fact, they surprised me. They held it pretty close to their vest until about two or three weeks ago when Randy invited Roger and I to come to Des Moines and to meet with them for dinner aend they showed us these acts. We didn't know what we were walking into before that dinner. And I tell you what, I had a smile on my face and I was so excited. Think about Ed. Sheeran, Bruce, I saw on an MTV concert with him recently. So the demographic that he has, there are in many cases a bunch of younger females think about filling the Iowa Speedway up with a whole new demographic we haven't had before that are gonna like what we put on in terms of concerts, but also hopefully get attached to racing and come back time and time again to watch an Indy car race, unlike anything we've ever done.
Bruce Martin (38:55):
For years, we've seen street courses be able to have a festival like setting by having all types of other entertainment surrounding the street race itself. Meanwhile, you'd go to an oval race other than the Indianapolis 500, and there'd be a lot of downtime. There wouldn't be a lot of other things for the spectators to do. And oftentimes we would see that reflected with the ticket sales for the races. The street courses seem to have more buzz and a greater vibe than some of the oval races. A lot of fans would say Indy car needs to market, Indy car needs to market well, Indy car now is marketing and a lot of people seem to be upset because the marketing is coming at a higher price. So how do you grasp with that concept.
Bud Denker (39:42):
It's rue in terms of what the street courses and urban markets in particular urban markets, attract a great audience, right? It's just a natural easy way to come down to a downtown market and perform. We're going to see Detroit this year. Last year giving an idea of Detroit. We had 23 chalets behind Pit lane for sale 23, and they were sold out this year by coming to downtown Detroit. We're gonna have 70, 70 and 60 have already sold. It shows the excitement when you come downtown. And now we're going to create that same kind of atmosphere on an oval, which we did for the 500 course every year. And now we're creating for Hy-Vee here. If we just had a race at Hy-Vee's event that weekend, we would charge a lower price. But the fact that is we're providing a much higher, greater value by providing unbelievable entertainers. And that obviously will come with an increased price, but still the value was there when you break it out ticket by ticket and event by event. Um, as I said before, for a $100 ticket, you get two great events per day and you also get a great race
Bruce Martin (40:50):
For the diehard race fan who may not be interested in the musical acts. A lot of them may be saying, well, I'm not interested in any of those acts, I'm just there for the race. But as you know, that if IndyCar only depended on diehard IndyCar fans, you're not going to fill the stands that way very often, maybe for the 500, but, and in a lot of ways you get a lot of nouveau fans at the 500, too. How important is it to bring in new eyeballs, new fans, in order for the sport to grow?
Bud Denker (41:18):
Well, the sport has to grow. We want to thank our, our diehard fans, of course, our loyal fans that come around and see us all the time. But as you mentioned too, we have to grow the sport. We need more eyeballs on the IndyCar series, it is the most competitive motor sports in the world. You look at our qualifying times, they're, they're a tenth of a second apart for the whole field, not seconds apart. That other series have our, our sustainability efforts are, are the best in any motor sports around the world. And our athletes are some of the best athletes in all of motor sports in the world as well too. So we need more people to see those eyeballs. And by having people come to the event that have never seen a race before, as we saw last year in Iowa, and as we're going to see again as we're going to see for the first time in Detroit, over half our race circuit will be open to the public for free that brings new fans to our sport. And by the way, for Iowa, the diehard fan that comes and only wants to watch a race, they may also see an entertainer they want to begin following as well. So the same holds true for the race band that comes to the event and sees the entertainment as it does for the entertainment fan that comes and watches an IndyCar race for the first time. So it goes both ways. Hey, put it this way, we are blessed to have Hy-Vee, Randy Edeker and his team, the passion they showed at IndyCar Series. We're so fortunate for that. We can't lose sight of that. And what they're going to do for the communities of Iowa, what they're doing for the state of Iowa, the Governor Reynolds is, is providing for partnership with us as well. We're very blessed for that. We're very thankful for that. We're gonna put on a great show for them and the fans.
Bruce Martin (42:49):
And also if you wanted to talk about the price of the tickets, if you compare them to a major league baseball game at Wrigley Field, or if you compared those to an NFL game at Lambeau Field or Soldier Field or Ford Field in Detroit or Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, you're going to pay a lot more to go to a regular season game at those venues than you are going to Iowa Speedway, even with the increased price for the entertainment.
Bud Denker (43:16):
No doubt about it. You go to, I live in Detroit, of course, I go to a Detroit Lions game and I want to be on the 50-yard line. I wanna be four rows up. I'm paying hundreds of dollars for a seat like that. To come watch Kenny Chesney in a typical concert and be on the floor, you're going to pay $1,000 dollars and up. We're not charging that. We're charging $100, not thousands of dollars on top of the fact you see Carrie Underwood the same day and you get to see a great race. So, hey, we're excited about it, we're bullish about it. I hope and I know we're going to have a great opening day of ticket sales today because people want to come to events. Again, we've seen that concert sales are way up where they were in 2019 pre-pandemic. We're gonna see, hopefully see that again for the Iowa Hy-Vee event too, here in July
Bruce Martin (44:02):
And last year. How many new fans would you say you attracted to your race?
Bud Denker (44:08):
The numbers that we can show by people that had bought tickets before, whether they were at an Indy race in Indianapolis or any other that we had in our database or had been to a Indy race before in Iowa, we show that 70 percent of the folks who came that weekend were not in our database, were not part of that loyal crowd following ahead. So I would say between 60 and 70 percent were new fans through our series because they wanted to come see this entertaining event full weekend.
Bruce Martin (44:36):
And finally wrapping up here with Bud Denker, the president of the Penske Corporation, were you a little bit surprised by some of the comments from some of the fans when the, ticket prices were released?
Bud Denker (44:49):
No, I wouldn't say that because it's a change, right? It's a change. And, um, the change is that people need to understand that it's still a tremendous value for what Hy-Vee is offering for that weekend. And, because it may be a change, what they saw last year and what they saw something new this year. We're still relying, if they go back and do some research on what any of these events cost on a, on an individual basis and they add it up, they're going to see tremendous savings from what they could do if they were to see one event on its own. Remember, we're going to have a pre-race concert. We're going to have one of the most exciting races in the IndyCar series. I'd love to point out that last year in 550 laps, we had to work 1500 passes. That's unbelievable. So they're going to see this exciting race track that's like no other. And they're also going to see great entertainment like no other. And for that, I'm very proud.
Bruce Martin (45:45):
And also like no other, Team Penske had a tremendous year in 2022. It's the first time in Team Penske history that the team has won both the NTT IndyCar Series Championship and a NASCAR Cup series championship in the same season. You've had seven years throughout the team's history where you had multiple championships in different divisions, but never the two big ones at the same time. How great of an accomplishment was that for the organization?
Bud Denker (46:14):
Well, I'm proud of the people of the Team Penn organization. I'm so happy for Roger. Just last night here in London, Roger received the highest award from the Autosport, recognition banquet. And of course no one's more deserving than than him of that. And of course, his reflection is to push up all back on the people that made it happen to human capital for our company and for for Team Penske. And yeah, that's a heck of an accomplishment, Bruce. No one's ever done it, let alone Team Penske. But our job is to put those trophies away, that's the past and focus on what's ahead of us, including our, new alignment with our Porsche program, both in the WEC series and the IMSA series. We've got a lot more races, a lot more trophies ahead of us. Our goal now is four championships, not two.
Bruce Martin (47:00):
Well, the thing about Team Penske is success isn't, uh, so much celebrated. It's expected, but, uh, raising the bar is one reason why Team Penske's been so successful. Bud Denker, president Penske Corporation, thank you for joining us today on Pit Pass Indy, and good luck next year at the Hy-Vee IndyCar Weekend at Iowa Speedway and the entire IndyCar series season.
Bud Denker (47:24):
Thanks Bruce, and thank you to all your, uh, listeners as well. We appreciate your support. Bye-bye.
Bruce Martin (47:28):
And that puts a checkered flag on this edition of Pit Pass Indy. We want to thank our guests, ive executive chairman and executive director Randy Edeker and Penske Corporation President Bud Denker for joining us on today's podcast. Along with loyal listeners like you, our guests help make Pit Pass Indy your path to Victory Lane for all things IndyCar. For more IndyCar coverage, follow me at Twitter @BruceMartin_500.
This has been a production of Evergreen Podcasts. A special thanks to our production team. Executive producers are Bridged Coyne and Gerardo Orlando. Recordings and edits were done by me, Bruce Martin, and final Mixing was done by Dave Douglas. Learn more at evergreenpodcast.com. Until next time, be sure to keep it out of the wall.