Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin talks victory in the Grand Prix at Barber Motorsports Park, team Penske’s Will Power, Romain Grosjean, Mark Miles and Gene Hallman
PIT PASS INDY PRESENTED BY PENSKE TRUCK RENTAL – SEASON 3, EPISODE 18 –Team Penske’s Scott McLaughlin talks about his big victory in the Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix at Barber Motorsports Park. Also, Team Penske’s Will Power, Romain Grosjean, Mark Miles and Gene Hallman.
May 2, 2022
As the NTT IndyCar Series races into the most important month of the season, the “Month of May” at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Pit Pass Indy Presented by Penske Truck Rental gets you up to speed heading to Indianapolis.
Show Host Bruce Martin has exclusive interviews with Team Penske star Scott McLaughlin, winner of the Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix. Second-place finisher Romain Grosjean and third-place Will Power of Team Penske give their thoughts after the race.
Martin closes out the show with exclusive interviews from Penske Entertainment CEO Mark Miles and ZOOM Motorsports CEO Gene Hallman, after IndyCar and Barber Motorsports Park announced a five-year extension that will continue the popular Children’s of Alabama Indy Grand Prix into the future.
Hear this, and much more, on this edition of Pit Pass Indy Presented by Penske Truck Rental.
For more INDYCAR coverage, follow Bruce Martin at Twitter at @BruceMartin_500
"Penske" means performance ... and winning
For good reason. Since 1966, Team Penske has won 43 national championships, 17 IndyCar alone. Its 18 Indy 500 victories are a record. And last year, Penske was the first team in history to win both the IndyCar and NASCAR Cup Series championships in the same season. Those are results that are tough to top.
Speakers: Scott McLaughlin, Bruce Martin, Romain Grosjean, Will Power, Mark Miles, & Gene Hallman
Hi, I'm Scott McLaughlin, driver of the No. 3 Team Penske Chevy, and you're listening to Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental.
IndyCar 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 Indy is to give racing fans an insider's 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 Sports Ticker, 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 presented by Penske Truck Rental.
We are proud and honored to bring Penske Truck Rental to the show is the presenting sponsor of Pit Pass Indy. We will continue to cover the entire NTT IndyCar Series community, and our new partners at Penske Truck Rental will help us tell those stories.
One of the big stars at Team Penske is Scott McLaughlin. On Sunday, April 30th at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama, he proved why. The 29-year-old from Christchurch, New Zealand drove a brilliant race and had a spectacular battle with Romain Grosjean of Andretti Autosport.
These two drivers were also, involved in a great fight in the season opening Firestone Grand Prix of St. Petersburg on March 5th. But that battle ended with both cars stuffed into the tire barrier.
In Sunday's race at Barber Motorsports Park, the two drivers renewed their battle, but in a very clean race.
Mclaughlin passed Grosjean in turn six with 19 laps to go, and went on to win the Children's of Alabama Indy Grand Prix at Barber Motorsports Park.
It was McLaughlin's fourth career NTT IndyCar Series victory. He won three races for Team Penske in 2022. Mclaughlin's No. 3 Chevrolet finished 1.7854 seconds ahead of Grosjean's No. 28 DHL Honda. He became the fourth different winner in the NTT IndyCar Series this season.
McLaughlin used a brilliant three pit stop strategy and that allowed him to race full speed ahead while Grosjean's team elected to go with the two stop strategy, meaning he had to conserve fuel. Mclaughlin described the decision to go with three stops instead of two, the happy driver strategy after climbing out of his car in victory lane.
The winning driver from Team Penske joined me after his victory in Alabama to tell me how he did it in this exclusive interview for Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental.
Joining us now, on Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental is the winner of the Children's of Alabama Indy Grand Prix at here, Barber Motorsports Park is Scott McLaughlin of Team Penske.
Scott, that has to go down as probably one of your more satisfying victories of the four that you've had in IndyCar this year. Describe the strategy that it took to really track down Romain Grosjean and pass him for the lead.
Thanks, Bruce. Look, that was definitely, like you said, one of my most complete races in IndyCar, and we managed to win. And yeah, it was a happy driver strategy. It was drive as fast as we can, and not worry about fuel, and hopefully, we have the tire life towards the end. And we did.
And we had such a fast car. Benny and the team gave me a great car, one with good ranches on the car for the very first time. And it's their first time on the car. So, it's a hell of a way to bring them into the fold.
There was the one key moment in the race where you and Romain were racing side by side, came very close to touching. It was a brilliant race through the turns five, six, seven area. Just how fierce of a battle was that? And how close did you get to him?
Oh, we were touching, for sure, rubbing on each other, but it was great. I think we had to be firm, but fair and it always is like that with Romain.
So, I had to give up, I had to relinquish that. And I just accepted the defeat and then it was all about resetting, building my ties up to temp, and then come back at him again because I knew I had to pace.
So, that's why I was really proud of that because I just settled into a rhythm and didn't rush anything. And I'm really proud of that.
When you have the speed like that and you don't have to worry about fuel savings, just how important is that to have that edge while the guy trying to chase you is out of push to passes and he's got to save fuel?
Well, you can't be car pace, Bruce. At the end of the day, you got to have that, that's key. And we managed to have that all race. And I was able to save fuel, but also, be able to punch out numbers, and that was the main thing.
How much does a victory like this here help make up for what should have been your first victory at St. Pete?
Yeah. It's just monkey’s off the back now. It's nice to get a win the start the year. It's still the first quarter of the year and managed to get a win before the month of May is also, a big thing.
So, yeah, I'm excited for what's ahead. I think we've got a really good, strong car heading into the month and hopefully, we can have a really good run at the road course and then into the oval.
And speaking of that, Kyle Moyer, the IndyCar general manager at Team Penske says, “You can't beat momentum going into the month of May.” This gives you some tremendous momentum, and how do you turn that momentum into a result at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
Hey, it takes a perfect day. As you know, you've seen countless times, we've got to make sure that we're perfect and keep working hard and hard. I feel like I got the car, I got the team to do it. It's just a matter of the driver of doing the job, and we'll be okay.
You brought a new sponsor to Team Penske with your victory. Good Ranchers.
Did they give you a year's supply of steaks for this sponsorship and what's it like to be able to take a new sponsor into victory line?
Oh, this is a great thing. We work very hard on the sponsor side. I've got a tremendous amount of support from a lot of different partners. But to have a first win with Good Ranchers, they didn't have their customers here this week, and they had their staff.
They're just a very cool company and very proud of themselves and very proud of them to win for them. And hopefully, this is to many more.
I believe you said earlier in the week, that you have to drive a perfect lap around here. It's more demanding than Mount Panorama or you-
Yeah, yeah, yeah.
As demanding as Mount Panorama, which in your Supercars series days, just what is it about this course that's so demanding, and how much do you like that?
Yeah, I think just the commitment level is how much runoff. You've got to be really pinpoint accurate with all your positions, your apexes, and whatnot. And if you make one mistake and find yourself wide, you can easily find the fence. So, a lot of high commitment, but really cool.
And also, I would think you'd have to put today's race as far as how fast it was, how competitive it was, probably one of the better IndyCar Series races on a road course that we've seen in a few seasons.
How did it look from your view? It always looks great when you're the winner, but how did it look from your view?
Oh, look, it was great. It was a lot of fun. I thought, “I'm sure there was different strategies going on.” I looked at the big screen a couple of times down the street and looked like there was a lot of battles going on as well.
So, we got a great product. We don't have a professional product like this morning's race. We've got a really good series and I'm very excited to be a part of it. And world's best racing.
To have two Team Penske drivers on the podium with Will Power finishing third. What's it like when you see Roger Penske in victory lane and you see that look of pride on his face?
Yeah, he's proud, everyone is here. Bud Denker, and Greg Penske, and obviously, Roger. But yeah, proud moment. Would've loved to be one, two, but you just got to take in in these times. IndyCar’s tough, you need to get one and three is fantastic.
Scott McLaughlin, the winner of the Children's of Alabama Indy Grand Prix at Barber Motorsports Park, congratulations on your win. Good luck at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Thank you for joining us today, on Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental.
Thank you, Bruce.
Romain Grosjean appeared on his way to his first career NTT IndyCar Series victory in his 34th start after starting 179 Formula One Grands Prix in a 10 year career.
He led the most laps in Sunday's road course contest, but after running out of push to pass with 20 laps to go, he couldn't hold off McLaughlin's charge. One lap later in turn six, McLaughlin made what turned out to be the race winning pass with 19 laps to go.
Here are some comments from Grosjean after the race.
Romain, you alluded out there on pit lane that the push to pass surprised you a little bit, that it went from like 99 seconds to zero. Have you gotten any explanation of what may have happened?
Maybe I just thought of brain freeze and it actually went down, but that's what I thought. I thought I was 99 and then the next thing was zero. So, we're just going to have a look. Maybe there was a glitch in the dashboard, maybe there was a glitch in the software, I don’t know.
I don't feel like I used 200 seconds, so I just want to make sure that we understand what happened. Anyway, I don't think it would've changed a lot as the two guys, Scott and Will were much better in fuel than the last team.
So, it would've been tough to keep them behind.
In the first lap, you had a really fierce fight with Pato and with Alex. Were you surprised it was that fierce that early?
Yes. I thought, “What are they doing?” But I didn’t actually keep the lead. And then they suffer more than I did. So, I guess it was the right call to stay at the front and dictate my pace.
No, I know with Scott and there's few guys out there that I'm really not worried about racing. And Scott made a mistake in St. Petes, but I know he doesn't raise that way, so it was all clean.
It's quite funny because you reminded me on the podium that last year I got him at the same spot. So, probably next year, I won't get him there if he's in front.
You know what, you need to do everything perfect to win. And today, we didn't have the right strategies. So, it is what it is. Control what you can control. And that's what we did.
We executed really well this weekend. We had a fast car. Got Palou I think with 20 seconds ahead of the two stoppers on the race finish. So, that shows how fast we were, but we just didn't have the right strategy today. So, second is not too bad. Which mean P4 in Championship, big picture.
Yes, I wanted to win today and yes, it hurts not to do it, but we've got a lot more occasion and if I can win Indy and maybe one another 500, then it'll be good.
I think when your team boss come to see you and told you that it’s probably the best ride we've seen in IndyCar and he is been around for a long time, (Michael) you take that as a win.
So, I think very proud of my engineer, very proud of my team mechanics. We meet FP1, so we bit on the back foot. We got Palou and we had a fast car there. With the few number we had to hit doing the time we're doing, it's pretty amazing. So, I'm really happy with that.
I saw Will coming, but I knew it would be at the end of his red tower light, so I knew when he would been in dirt, it would be hard for him. So, I was just trying to not make any mistake and keep a little bit of fuel for the last two laps.
It's probably one of the most frustrating type of racing because you know you can go faster, you just want to still keep the throttle pin in, but you can't.
And I think today, what probably didn't play in our favor is the wind direction because there are two big places where you're going to do lift and go. So, basically you lift the throttle before the end of the straight line, and then you leave the car rolling until you get to the breaking point. But it was 12 and 5 and both of them were at the headwind.
So, I think it was slowing down the car more than it should have and probably that played a bit of a role in the lap time. So, probably something to keep in mind for the future.
But yes, I was tailing. Out of 90 laps, I think I did three laps while I was flat out, that's it. And all the rest of the laps I just had to lift, and coast, and save fuel. So, it's not the most exciting, but it's a strategy we decided as a team before the race and we thought we could win with it. But obviously, no. Yeah.
Yeah, I guess I'm glad I'm not the engineer on the pit while making a call about the fuel number. They just give me a number and I try to hit it. That's all I do. But for them, it is a lot of pressure.
I think in Long Beach we're a bit too conservative, so we could have burned some more. But yeah, on the in-lap, I think Josef Newgarden stopped by me. I think Colton was out of fuel, but there's a lot of cars that were out of fuel on track just because everyone pushed it hard. And yeah, almost made it to the pit, missing like 150 meters.
Yeah, I guess so, anyway, it's done today, so onto the next one. In the GP, it was fast in ’21. Last year, it was a bit more difficult. But the two races we finished this year, finished 20 seconds. So, we're knocking on the door and eventually the door will open, so I'm not too worried.
I think as we always say it's super competitive, it's tough. We have to push every single lap hard.
And now, let's hear from the third place finisher at Barber Motorsports Park, Team Penske's Will Power.
Honestly, in the first team when I saw everyone saving fuel, 8 to 10 laps in, I said to the guys, “Maybe we should switch to a three stopper here. Do you want me to push?” And yeah, it was the best thing to do at that time. And yeah, it worked out well.
I mean, we had a very fast car and anytime we had clear air, we were pumping out some seriously quick times. And during that last sequence is where we gained a ton of track position. Was able to do 67s in those last few laps.
And yeah, I used my tires up trying to get to … I was just nice, I could be on the tires for the lap time, but as soon as I started getting Romain’s dirty air and he was doing a really good job of sort of saving fuel and also, getting big exits and not making mistakes.
I did everything I could to get to him and I just couldn't get there.
And Will, did we see you go back to maybe last year's championship strategy where it was like better to get a third than to push it?
I mean, I did everything to get to him and try to get him. Yeah, obviously, there's that fine line. You can overdo it, which I did have a big moment in turn two where I saw flee opposite like that. I saw it in the mirror side, [crosstalk 00:15:13] I thought he was gone.
But so, yeah, I mean, just had to weigh that up and I simply couldn't close that gap. Yeah, he was doing a good job, and my tires were sort of used up, and dirty air. And tried with push to pass, there's nothing I can do and that's the most I could get out of the day and I was extremely happy with it. Extremely, extremely happy to finish third.
And two Team Penskes in the top three without one of them being Josef, kind of shows how fast this McLaughlin kid is coming up here.
Yeah, it's two races where I followed him on the same bloody strategy and he's ended up ahead. But as you know, that all ebbs and flows in the season if you're doing a good job. If you're doing your job, you'll get what you deserve. Whether that's good or bad, just depends how good you do your job.
Look, if I finished fifth, I would've been happy, or six, even eighth, honestly. Because there are days that it's a bad days that get you. And I would say the start of my season's just been pretty good. I wouldn't say it's a bad start of the season at all.
I've been happy with all the results except for one, which was Texas, so yep. You can't win them all. In fact, it's very difficult to win more than one or two in a season. So, you just got to keep racking up good position, good finishes.
Yeah, I mean, it's good for the whole group on the car and obviously mentally for yourself, it's a very positive thing. Everything's heading in the right direction. Indy's very, very different animal in terms of the 500, obviously, you got the Grand Prix before that.
But yeah, the 500 is a very standalone, tough, unique event. And yeah, we're hoping to be in the game this year. We've been pretty disappointed with the performance of the last few years, so we'll wait and see. You don't say anything because we've done a lot of work.
Yeah, I mean, last year, I did the two stop, and was doing what he had to do. I mean, he went from 19th to 4th. And this year we did the opposite thinking that the fuel mileage will be harder and if there's no yellow the numbers are going to be too big and the lap time deficit's too much.
And yeah, it kind of turned out like that. I think the yellow helped the three stopper a bit, would've saved those guys a little bit of fuel. It was perfect timing for our pit stop, but yeah, it's a lot more fun when you get to just go all out qualifying laps every lap. I really enjoy that sort of racing.
But I have to say what he did is extremely difficult and technical. So, to finish 20 seconds ahead of the next guy is pretty impressive.
We'll be right back to Pit Pass Indy after this short break.
This is Will Power of Team Penske and you are listening to Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental.
Welcome back to Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental.
Since the first time IndyCar has competed at Barber Motorsports Park in 2010, the annual trip to Birmingham, Alabama has become a highlight on the IndyCar schedule.
And that will continue into the future as IndyCar and ZOOM Motorsports, which promotes and conducts the annual race at Barber Motorsports Park, announced a five year contract extension before the race on April 29th.
Here is my exclusive interview with Penske Entertainment, CEO, Mark Miles, as he talks about the contract extension, his thoughts on the 100 Days to Indy documentary on The CW, and the upcoming 107th Indianapolis 500 on this Pit Pass Indy exclusive interview.
Joining us now, on Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental is Penske Entertainment CEO, Mark Miles.
Mark, this past Sunday at Barber Motorsports Park, big announcement as you announced an extension with what has become one of the hallmark venues on the IndyCar Series schedule, Barber Motorsports Park.
If you could tell our listeners a little bit about the extension, how excited you are to know that IndyCar will be racing at Barber even into the future.
Yeah, well, we are excited. For 13 years now, if it's Spring, IndyCar's going to be at the Barber Motorsports Park and they're going to have a great crowd. And this is just such an awesome place. It's gorgeous. Fans have a great time, they have a great experience. It's technical, good racing for us, and they're great partners.
So, to be able to extend this through 2027, I think the same length as their new extension with a new title partnership arrangement for the race is big for us.
And I want to thank Mr. Barber who built this gorgeous place and who's been a fabulous host since our first day here.
In 2009, when this venue was added to the IndyCar Series schedule that predates you, you were busy at that time bringing the Super Bowl to Indianapolis. A lot of people thought it was quite a gamble for IndyCar to come to the deep South. Talladega is only 35 miles away. They thought this is more of a NASCAR crowd.
But you look around the venue and this has created its own unique set of fans, a lot of upscale technologically driven fans that come out to see higher technology race cars.
What do you think of the way that IndyCar has been able to attract such a successful audience here at Barber Motorsports Park?
I think it's kind of the best of both worlds. We certainly benefit from the overlap that exists between some NASCAR fans and IndyCar fans, but as you say, we're developing our own fan base and our own audience, and these are people who appreciate our style of racing, the technology that goes into our cars, the speed.
And they love sitting out on the grass, and being with their families, and having just a wonderful Sunday.
It's been called the Augusta National of Motor Sports. And in a lot of ways, this really does look like Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Georgia, home of the Master.
Yeah, we say it's verdant, if I go back to my college days in vocabulary. It's green, it's almost lush. It's beautiful. It's got a lot of up and down topography. They've done a great job with their museum. They've done a great job with public art around the campus. And it's just a fabulous I think family oriented atmosphere.
And it certainly looks like whoever's in charge of the weather couldn't have picked a more beautiful day than the race day that you had on Sunday. It was originally supposed to be rainy, but I don't think you could have picked a better day than what they had on Sunday.
Cool conditions, blue skies, sunshine’s out, really makes for a spectacular backdrop.
Yeah, there's no substitute for things being positively ordained or luck, whatever it is. And having had such a great day was fabulous.
Look, it's the Spring and so whether it's at Barber or Texas or not so much Long Beach, but certainly Indianapolis in May, we're always looking at the radar. But we've been very, very fortunate.
This race, it's always been in April, but sometimes it's in early April, other times it's been at late April. The last couple of years, it's settled into the position before the month of May begins, the last race going into the Indy 500 or the GMR Grand Prix will be Barber Motorsports Park.
Do you think that that has become its traditional race date?
Yeah, I think so. We're always calibrating between Easter this time of year when that pops up, Talladega, NBC windows for network coverage. But we really like, and they really like being the last IndyCar race before we head to Indianapolis for May.
And how important is it to get this road course race here and then go to the GMR Grand Prix, which in a lot of ways you have to take great pride in the way that event is now, going to have its 10th anniversary.
Because I will say that you are the father of the GMR Grand Prix. You're the one who pushed for that to be added to the schedule back around when you began working as the CEO of IndyCar.
Well, it is great that the guys are on a road course just before the break, before they get to the GMR Grand Prix in Indianapolis. Just it works out very well.
No way to squeeze an oval in there after this and after the Grand Prix and before the 500, but we did that at Texas. So, we like the way that the first kind of quarter of the series sets up.
Of course, this is the first show of the month of May and anybody who works in your position and in my position knows how important the month of May is, especially at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the Indianapolis 500, the GMR Grand Prix, and auto racing in general.
How do you even begin to describe the importance of the month of May?
Well, not obviously, in a chronological point of view, but in a sense, it's our Super Bowl, and the 500 is … you could say May is the playoffs and the 500 is the Super Bowl.
It's not a perfect analogy for obvious reasons, but it really is the biggest event that creates the broadest global attention for us. It attracts the most television viewers in this country and obviously that huge crowd. So, it's very, very important.
But our attitude is that it's one company, one league, and we care equally about the success of … we really do. Every event needs to be good, getting better. The 500 is great, needs to grow, and they need to reinforce each other so they're really part of one product.
It's like if you went to the NFL and you said, “Which is more important, the regular season, or the playoffs, or the Super Bowl?” I don't know, maybe they'd say the Super Bowl, but in fact they're all parts of the same whole and that's how we feel about it here.
On April 27th was the debut of 100 Days to Indy on The CW. I'm sure there was a lot of excitement on your end because it's been a passion project for the series. What did you think of its debut?
First of all, personally, I love it. I thought they did a really good job with the first episode and I've had the privilege of seeing the second and I think it's even better.
The feedback's all good. If you watch the Twitter sphere during that first airing last Thursday night, it was very positive. This show is high quality, well produced, gets behind the scenes off the track, and is punctuated by whatever exciting things are happening in the races leading up to 500.
So, I think it's a magical combination. We need to think about it like entertainment programmers as opposed to live race. What these guys look for is their cumulative audience for a week and then for 10 days, and even there's several ways to see it after the first episode is aired.
Mark Miles, Penske Entertainment CEO, I'm sure there's a lot of big things coming up for the 107th Indianapolis 500. We'll catch up with you before that. But congratulations on the renewal of Barber Motorsports Park and thank you for joining us today, on Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental.
Gene Hallman is the CEO of ZOOM Motorsports and overseas promoting and conducting the Children's of Alabama Indy Grand Prix at Barber Motorsports Park.
Hallman shares his thoughts on the series and why the relationship between IndyCar and Barber Motorsports Park is such a success on this Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental exclusive interview.
Joining us now, on Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental, is Gene Hallman, CEO of ZOOM Motorsports.
Gene, on Sunday you made a big announcement with a contract extension to continue having the NTT IndyCar Series event here at beautiful Barber Motorsports Park. Just how exciting is it to be able to continue what is proven to be a very great relationship?
Well, it has been. This is our 13th year and we were looking for a way to take this event to the next level.
A local company, this international Medical Properties Trust agreed to meet the title sponsor. Then they turned around and gave the title sponsorship to Children's of Alabama, a world-class children's hospital based right here in Birmingham that does such great work for so many kids.
And so, it's a showcase event for them. It allows us the resources to make this event one of the best on the IndyCar Series.
And remember back in 2009 when IndyCar came here to test, a lot of people thought, “Well, it's a nice course, but it's a motorcycle track. IndyCar won't be able to put on a very good race. And an IndyCar race in Alabama 35 miles from Talladega, that won't work.”
You've proven that it will work. It's become one of the hallmarks on the schedule. What do you see as being the real reasons this event has been such a huge success?
When you start with the product, the IndyCar Series is phenomenal. And the first couple years they came here, there wasn't much passing. But now, because of the tire changes, the push to pass, and the fact that they've learned this facility and where the passing zones are, it's become so much more exciting.
Then you take this park, which is more than just a race course, it is a beautiful park-like setting with so many places to watch the action from grass banks with your picnic blanket and your pop-up tent.
And then you've got the world's largest collection of motorcycles and a lot of these cars over in the Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum located right on site. So, this has become a bucket list item for a lot of IndyCar fans.
It also, proves that there's more to Alabama than Talladega. Birmingham is a very technological city in terms of the companies that have moved to Alabama to Birmingham.
It really seems to attract and appeal a lot of the more upscale, technologically advanced connoisseurs of racing and of just the automotive industry. And how important is that?
Well, you've got Honda, Hyundai, Mercedes, Toyota, all with large manufacturing facilities now, in our state. Alabama's third in the country in vehicles produced. When Mercedes first came to this state back in 1995, we produced zero cars.
So, it has been a big shift with all that technology and expertise moving into our state. You have UAB here with its big medical apparatus, which is bringing a lot of engineers and medical technicians to our state. So, our economy's been transformed over the last 30 or 40 years.
Birmingham used to be known as the Pittsburgh of the South, produced a lot of steel and iron ore. Now, it's a very modern economy based upon technology. And this IndyCar event fits nicely with that.
I believe you've said you have ticket buyers from all 50 states and 12 foreign countries. How have you been able to achieve that? Because a lot of people might look at this as more of a local event, but in a lot of ways you've been able to broaden the exposure much further than that.
How have you been able to do that?
Well, we have a lot of fun things for fans to do, whether they're a race fan or not, but I think it's the park, the Barber Motorsports Park and the museum that brings in so many visitors from out of state.
They want to come and see this facility, they've heard about it. It becomes a bucket list item for motor sports fans. And you got to start with this park as being the primary draw.
Of course, this park wouldn't be here without George Barber. Started in the dairy business, very successful in the dairy business. And when he sold out, he loved cars, he loved motorcycles, he started this museum.
The interesting thing about George Barber is he will stand back in the background and let you guys be the leaders in this event. What can you say about what George Barber has really meant to this event, into this facility?
Well, he's the reason why. He donated 125 million to a foundation that owns this place. Have not for that donation, it would not exist. It was his vision that went and built this. It's busy, virtually year round hosting a wide variety of events.
But this IndyCar event is the signature event that puts this place on the map nationally and internationally.
Now, I believe you've been involved with this event since the first year, and what was your expectation level that first year of what this event could be?
I was scared to death. I was listening to some of the cynics that were talking about IndyCar won't work in the deep south, 45 minutes from Talladega, but it's far exceeded my expectations.
We've grown the IndyCar fan base here in central Alabama. We can look at the 500 TV ratings and see that it is going up because we have more IndyCar fans here.
What happens is a lot of people come out here for the festivities and the social atmosphere and they get hooked on the racing. So, that's great. We're converting a lot of folks to IndyCar.
I believe your company is also involved in some of the golfing tournaments that are popular around the Birmingham area, the Bobby Trent Jones trail, these great golf courses in the state. Do you see a lot of similarity between the fans that go to your golf tournaments and the fans that come out here?
Yes, I do. This is very much a demographic that likes things that are first class. This is often called (this facility) the Augusta National of racing, and you have to see it to believe it.
Every tree indigenous in North America is on site here at the property. All the flowers, and the shrubs, and everything's immaculate. So, when you come out, you get this feeling of a first class golf facility that's a world class racing facility.
The other great thing about what you guys are able to do was, I talked to some of my NASCAR friends that were out here last week for the race at Talladega Super Speedway, and they were talking about all the commercials that were on Birmingham TV promoting this event. So, you guys aren't afraid to go out and expose this to the masses.
We want to, we want to keep pulling people out here for a lot of different reasons. Be it social, be it family, and ultimately, turn them into race fans so that they keep coming back more and more.
This year is going to be such a big year from a crowd standpoint. We've got beautiful weather and I predict we'll have the largest Sunday that we've had since maybe 2014 or 2015.
Do you like the race day being the last race before the month of May begins at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway?
I love that. I never want to change that. The excitement for the month of May is so real. You can feel it among the drivers, and the teams, and the series executives because tomorrow is May 1st and we love that build to the world famous Indy 500.
And as far as the contract itself, can you reveal how many more years it'll be?
Five years. And this being the first of five years, so we're very, very excited that we're able to build for the future and grow with IndyCar and keep making this better and better.
And in a lot of ways, I believe it has become in the top five of all IndyCar races on the schedule. And you have to feel really good about that because you took what some people considered a gamble and it was able to pay off.
Very blessed, very excited about how well this has been embraced. And frankly, it puts a little bit more pressure on us to keep delivering, to keep making it better and better. And we're going to do that.
Gene Hallman, CEO of ZOOM Motorsports, congratulations on the contract extension and thank you for taking some time to join us today, on Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental.
Thank you, Bruce.
And that puts a checkered flag on this edition of Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental.
We want to thank our guests, Children's of Alabama Indy Grand Prix winner, Scott McLaughlin of Team Penske. Second place finisher, Romain Grosjean of Andretti Autosport. Third place finisher Will Power of Team Penske. Penske Entertainment CEO, Mark Miles and ZOOM Motorsport CEO, Gene Hallman for joining us on today's podcast.
Along with loyal listeners like you, our guests help make Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental, your path to victory lane for all things IndyCar.
And because of our guest and listeners, Pit Pass Indy presented by Penske Truck Rental is proud to be the winner of The Best Podcast by the National Motorsports Press Association.
For more IndyCar coverage, follow me at Twitter @BruceMartin (one word, uppercase B, uppercase M)_500.
This has been a production of Evergreen Podcasts. A special thanks to our production team. Executive producers are Brigid Coyne and Gerardo Orlando. Recordings and edits were done by me, Bruce Martin, and final mixing was done by Dave Douglas. Learn more at evergreenpodcasts.com.
Until next time, be sure to keep it out of the wall.