Full transcript: George Bruggenthies and Derrick Walker as INDYCAR returns to Road America

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ELKHART LAKE, Wis. – Road America track president George Bruggenthies and INDYCAR president of competition and operations Derrick Walker, who also runs and operates the Team Falken Tire team in the TUDOR United SportsCar Championship, held a press conference Saturday morning at Road America to confirm INDYCAR’s return to the track in 2016.

The full transcript from the press conference is below.

Derrick Walker: I’m pleased to be here along with George at Road America. We wondered how we could make it happen. And now we have. We’re here today from an INDYCAR perspective to let you know it’s happening. We’re back.

George Bruggenthies: Derrick and his team have been great to work with. Obviously there were numerous details to work out to have the Verizon IndyCar Series be able to race here. A lot of details to go through. We have reached a date, June 23-26, 2016. It’s a multi-year agreement. We understand that the future of IndyCar needs to be here at Road America. Thank you to Derrick.

Moderator: We’ll open up for some questions.

Q: Having a race here in Road America in the Wisconsin state, what that does mean for status of Milwaukee?

DW: Good question. Milwaukee is very similar to Elkhart Lake to us. It’s a classic track, a track INDYCAR does really well. We don’t see Milwaukee going off our schedule. We want it to be part of our schedule.

We’re not breaking any secrets, but George has been looking at it with us to see how we can co-produce, co-promote both events. Because there’s a lot of fans in this region for IndyCar. We want to see it continue. The schedule is still being worked on Milwaukee is still very much on the list.

GB: Absolutely, back in the Champ Car days, Road America and Milwaukee Mile worked together and co-promoted events. We’re very open to that.

Q: Having this race here in June, what will happen with the race in Fontana? Will that change dates?

GB: I don’t do the schedule, that’s for Derrick.

DW: The event… Fontana has its problems in the sense of the time of year of when you have that event, temperature there. What we’re trying to do is keep Fontana on the schedule. But finding an available date and putting it in the best chance to succeed is what we’re working on right now. I’d say it’s still a work in progress. I don’t have a definitive answer. I’d say negotiations are still in progress. I think IndyCar can work for it to still keep it on the schedule… which incidentally happened to be one of the most exciting races for someone as old as I am has ever seen, Fontana this year.

Q: Is there going to be a test for IndyCar prior to the June date?

GB: I understand several teams have been calling us. We’ll probably have some testing after the IndyCar season this year, late September I expect, and then probably in the spring.

Q: With it being a four-day weekend, does this include Pirelli World Challenge?

GB: Yes. Pirelli World Challenge GT and GTS series will be combined as a support series for the Verizon IndyCar Series.

Q: Why is this happening now, what triggered it come together?

GB: We completed the agreements about 15 minutes ago. Literally 15 minutes ago. It’s been very complicated and only just been completed.

Q: For a lot of business reasons it’s taken this long…

GB: Initially it was scheduled. We don’t have a lot of room on the schedule. June became possibly available. Working on the details has a lot of requirements on both sides. Understanding the capabilities of what they can do.

We’re offering a special ticket promotion to our fans, today and online at the retail store. It’s $100 for four-day admission, garage access, free program, free parking. Limited time offer.

DW: One other comment I’d be remiss not to mention. We have with the IndyCar Series the Mazda Road to Indy, so all our feeder series on the schedule. So a full contingent of open-wheel racing on the schedule.

Q: Are there any other type of open-wheel events here?

GB: A lot of series that come here have open-wheel cars. F1 and F5000 at the vintage weekend in July. Some of the Sports Car Club of America ones are open-wheel. Those with IndyCar.

Hunter and Jett Lawrence walk a delicate balance between winning races and favoring the fans

Hunter Jett Lawrence fans
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ANAHEIM, California – Hunter and Jett Lawrence are two of the most popular riders on the Monster Energy Supercross circuit, with fan bases that established and grew immediately when they came to America to ride for HRC Honda. Connecting with those fans came naturally for the charming Australian brothers, but it has not come without cost.

“It’s cool they’re there and it’s one of the things we try to do is give the fan that interaction,” Hunter told NBC Sports during Supercross Media Sessions ahead of the 2023 season. “It’s why we do ride days, meet-and-greets, press conferences  – all that stuff, because it’s exciting for them. We are trying to bridge the gap so they get personal interaction. Because that’s all they’re after. It’s all about getting that fan to think, ‘I know that guy. I didn’t meet him, but I get him. I get his humor.’ ”

There is no artifice in either brother. Their fan appeal is directly attributable to who they are at their core. And it’s that very genuineness that has throngs of fans standing outside their hauler, waiting for just a moment of their time.

“It’s about being yourself – talking to people,” Hunter said. “It’s not like I turn it on or turn it off; it’s just about being yourself. This is who we are, this is who you get and this is how it will be. You can’t portray something you’re not. If you keep saying you’re an orange, but apples keep popping out, it’s only a matter of time [until they figure it out].”

The key word is ‘throngs’, however. One person wanting just a few moments of time is incidental. Dozens are an entirely different matter.

“It’s tough in Supercross because it’s such a long day,” Hunter said. “The recovery side of it’s tough to do everything. We get stuck outside the grid; we can’t be there for like 10 minutes. We’re stuck there for like an hour. It gets overwhelming at times.

“You feel bad because you want to sign everything, but you’re still here for a job. Every race day is like that. We do the best we can, but there are so many people who wait out front. They’re screaming for you. Even when we’re coming off the sessions, they’re already yelling before you put your bike on the stands. You don’t even get time to take you helmet off.”

It can be a double-edged sword. Personality is only one part of the equation. A much bigger part of the brothers’ fan appeal comes because of their success. Hunter finished second in the last two Supercross 250 West title battles and third in the past two Lucas Oil Pro Motocross Championships.

Jett won the last three titles he competed for, including last year’s 250 East Supercross Championship and the last two Motocross contests.

“I think they expect me to have nothing else to do on a Saturday and that I have unlimited energy,” Jett said. “But, I’m trying to recover for the next race.”

It’s a matter of timing. Jett has gained a reputation last year for handing out hundreds of donuts before the races during Red Bull fan appreciation sessions. And after the race, once the business at hand has been settled, Jett is equally available to the fans.

“After the race it’s fine; I’ll stay behind.” Jett said. “My job is done on the racing side of things, but until that last moto is done, my main thing is dirt bikes. The fans come along with it. The fans are part of the job, but main job at hand is the racing side of things. After the race, I’ll stay there for an hour or so. It’s a lot calmer.”