Champ Car Media Conference
ADAM SAAL: Ladies and Gentlemen, would you please welcome the host of tonight's CART town meeting, an anchor member of the Champ Car World Series television broadcast team, former series race winner, winner in TransAm last weekend, Oregon's own Scott Pruett.
SCOTT PRUETT: Hello, everybody. I hope I don't make too many mistakes. I haven't done this before. We'll get up here and get things going. God, what a great crowd, great crowd. I'll start out bay reading just a few points. First of all, thanks to everybody for coming. We're very pleased that you guys have taken time to come and participate in this first town meeting here in Portland. This year marks a season of milestones for the GI Joe's 200 at Portland International Raceway. Champ Car, one of our new series sponsors of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, Ford Motor Company, this year's race marks the 20th running of the GI Joe's Grand Prix at Portland International Raceway. Pretty awesome, very awesome. This event comes with the 25th anniversary season for CART Champ Car World Series. On top of that, Ford is celebrating their hundredth anniversary, which my heritage with Ford, it's pretty awesome to be part of that. That will be in full swing as we move into the race come June this season. All those milestones, let's put our hands together, say what a terrific time it's been, and looking forward to many great races beyond. Just a quick little piece for me. I think I came up here in the early '80s, racing go-karts, then throughout the mid to late '80s in TransAm. A lot of you guys may remember that one race with Willie T. Ribbs and myself got into a little punch-out at the end of the race. Always exciting. Then coming back here through the mid '90s with Champ Car, the Firestone car, the red, white and blue car, which I thought was probably one of the most beautiful cars I've ever seen. 1997, challenged for the pole, got the pole, took home that beautiful knife for achieving that. Love this place so much, decided to call it home. My wife understand I live down in McMinnville. A lot of guys come up here and say, "It's beautiful up here." We love coming, being a part of it. The weather is great. I know it can have a little bit of rain, but with that rain comes all the green that we continually see. We're calling it home and absolutely love it. The track here is probably one of the best in the nation. Good, close racing, high speed. With some of the changes that we're making in the rules, it should even be closer racing this year. Things like traction control makes it easier for the drivers. We'll probably hear more about that this evening. Getting back to the roots of racing, putting it back in the drivers' seats. With all that, I think it's going to be some exciting racing. Tonight's program will be simple question and answer. For the next hour and a half, we'll have a lot of ground to cover, so we're going to take charge, rip through it. We'll not take any breaks, just keep going to the questions. Afterwards we'll invite everybody to stick around. I know Jimmy is going to have to bolt out fairly quickly. I know he's going to be catching a plane, but otherwise I think most of the rest of us are going to be staying around. More than happy for you to come up, we'll sign some stuff or just talk more about the racing. Let's just get on with it. Without further ado, one of the guys that has been a main staple and a good, personal friend of mine coming up here for many, many years, always talked to him about the racetrack and really seen a guy with a ferocious appetite to see nothing but success up here for the Indy car, Champ Car race, Bill Hildick. Come up, Bill. Spent a lot of time, effort and energy.
BILL HILDICK: Thank you.
SCOTT PRUETT: The next man on the panel is really the guy leading this charge. He's had his hands full. Being involved with Champ Car for as long as I have, especially from the late '80s. One of the biggest problems with CART, a lot of you know it, maybe some of you don't know it, has been the owners. They've run the place. We used to joke, "The inmates are running the asylum." Unfortunately, because of that CART hasn't fared as well as it probably should have. I remember in the early '90s CART and NASCAR were head to head with TV ratings, with the number of spectators going to events, with everything. All of a sudden NASCAR is really at the foreground of everything else. Unfortunately, Champ Car has gone through a few struggles. Finally I think the owners realize that they needed to bring in the right guy to run the ship. I don't think they could have brought in a better guy. Really dynamic, a lot of foresight, a lot of good views, and downright just a guy that's willing to get the job done. Let's give a hand to Chris Pook Next we have a hard-core competitor, guy that put on a beautiful race at Fontana last year, just a dynamic guy. Past champion, a friend of mine. Started out last weekend in St. Petersburg. The thing you don't know is the fact that he had to go to the back of the pack because he couldn't get his car started, cut his way up through the field to finish sixth in just a superb drive. Let's welcome Jimmy Vasser. And lastly, but certainly not least, a guy that you really don't want to see on a weekend, but if you know he's there, you're going to be well taken care of. A resident of Oregon, as well. A guy that really sees the opportunity in making sure that the drivers are going to be well taken care of. Believe me, from my position, as well as Jimmy's, all the other competitors, when you have somebody like that on your side, it's good to see them if you happen to get in harm's way, Lon Bromley. Let's get on with the program. Adam Saal will be running around, he and I will be out in the audience getting your questions. I'm going to start off with one question for each of these guys just to get things going. The first one will be for Bill. There's a lot of things I think that a lot of people have been wondering what's going on with CART, where we're going, how does it impact the Portland race. I know we as competitors love coming up here, we love participating in this event. There's an element of rain or shine, which is always good for Oregon itself, but you've been involved in this from the start. From the initial aspects of rolling out the race numerous years ago to where we were five years ago to where we're going, let's hear what are you seeing out there?
BILL HILDICK: Well, I've been asked a lot of questions tonight. I think the first thing I need to say was I was totally misquoted last year, for those of you who remember what happened last year. It's very satisfying to be here with Chris tonight on the potential 20th anniversary of CART racing in Portland. I was mesmerized by CART when I first met John Frasco many, many years ago. I can't impress enough upon everybody in the audience the support that Portland, Oregon has had from CART from day one. I mean, it has been unequivocal. We've always gotten the best. We may not have been a Long Beach, we may not have been a Michigan, but we were treated exactly the same. And the race fans in Portland got what everybody else got, the very, very best. We've had full fields, the best drivers, tremendous marketing support. It's never wavered. It really is I think on a threshold, as I look at this coming year, Portland, the Northwest, we really need this event. I mean, we want to have the very best kind of racing that we can have at PIR. And Chris and his group are going to give that to us. It may be different than we've had in the past. We've had awful good stuff in the past. I have no reason to believe we're not going to have really terrific racing. I think all of you maybe saw St. Petersburg this past weekend. I just told Chris a few minutes ago, the first five laps I thought were as good as anything I'd seen in a long, long time. To be able to look forward to that in June I think is terrific. I think we may get into this as the evening goes on, but you're sitting here tonight, and this event is taking place because Chris said it's going to happen. "We are going to be in Portland." You need to talk to him and ask him questions about that as the evening goes on. But I think it's just totally up from this point.
SCOTT PRUETT: Great. Next on to Chris Pook. Chris, obviously a lot has changed in your life. We rolled out away from Mexico City last year, we knew we could count eight for sure teams that would continue on in this season. I think there was a lot of speculation where CART was going, a lot of people thought CART was dead, it's not going to happen, they're not going to have the teams, not going to have the drivers. We roll out to St. Petersburg, 19 entries, a lot of new drivers, a lot of veteran drivers. That says a lot about where CART is going.
CHRIS POOK: Thank you, Scott. First of all, Ladies and Gentlemen, I'd like to thank you all for being here tonight. I really appreciate your coming out and visiting with us. It's an important evening for us here in Portland. It's a major commitment to this market that we have, and I just happen to love being in this city. It's a great city and a great racetrack. Scott, probably the major reason why you guys could only count eight is because you guys can't count.
SCOTT PRUETT: Come on (laughter).
CHRIS POOK: No. We knew where we were going pretty well. If you remember, it was here at Portland last year we made the engine announcement that we were going to stay with the turbocharged Ford-Cosworths. We could see very clearly out there that we had 18, 19 cars available to us, and we just had to put the packages together to make sure it was viable for the guys to race. A great deal of thanks on this goes to John Lopes, our vice president of operations, because he worked tirelessly literally from last August actually in Denver all the way through to spring training. In fact, when Emerson made his announcement right after spring training, that was the kind of the icing on the cake for John. Bill said it. I mean, there's nothing wrong with the racing in this series. The racing has always been good. Our drivers have always been superb. The combination of our road courses, our ovals and street courses works. Jimmy can talk to that, you can talk to that. Lon can talk to that because he works in all those conditions. The problem quite candidly has been over the last five years, and the troubles with CART didn't happen overnight, this is something that's been coming on for four or five years, the problem is that management was not paying attention to its core business. The company went public, and they just started to get enthralled with Wall Street and got totally distracted, took their eye off the ball. Doesn't matter what you do in life, if you don't focus on the subject at hand, it's going to get off the track. That's exactly what happened. The racing is strong, the commitment is strong. We've got excellent drivers, we got excellent venues. We're going to have a great season. Believe me, with the management team we've got, we're going to take this company to levels higher than it ever was before.
SCOTT PRUETT: Well said. Well said. Next, Jimmy, I know you've had a lot of great memories coming up here to Portland. You were in the driver's seat last weekend at St. Petersburg. A lot of changes with the rules. Ford has come on as the spec engine. I think a lot of it, I'm sure you can answer this better than I can, a lot of it is getting put back into the drivers' hands. No more traction control, no more limiting of the fuel. A lot of those things that were taking the racing away from the race has gone by. How did you feel rolling out at St. Petersburg? Secondly, as you look forward coming to Portland, how that is going to change the racing as we see it in June?
JIMMY VASSER: Make no mistake about it, you can ask anybody that's driven a Champ Car and other race cars, including Formula 1 cars, the Champ Car is probably hands down the most exciting pure racing car that there is on the planet today. Any time you strap yourself into one of these things, it's exhilarating, it's a lot of fun, it grabs your complete attention. Last season we had some tools, the electronics of the engine management system, that really made it a lot easier to drive. A lot of that is traction control. Taking that away this year, getting back to we have full control over 800 plus horsepower with our right foot, with a turbo charging system, getting boosted up, there's a bit more of a lag, it becomes even more and more difficult to drive. I think you're going to see more passing opportunities like you did at St. Petersburg because it's more difficult to control the power application, and thus you're going to have more rear tire wear. With traction control, it controls the amount of rear wheel spin and you didn't have a lot of tire wear on the rear. Now tire wear is an issue again. Some cars don't handle as well, drivers don't know how to utilize that horsepower, they're going to burn the tires off and you'll have more discrepancy of lap time. I think the end product for the fans is you're going to know in your heart that the driver has got full control over the race car, and also you're going to see probably a lot more exciting racing. I think you can expect to see that when we come back again in June.
SCOTT PRUETT: Great. Better racing, closer racing, can you believe it? A resident of Oregon, Lon. We alluded to this earlier. From a driver's standpoint, this is a guy that would be right there, Simple Green Safety Team, right there to get us out of the car, out of harm's way. When you look at what to expect this season, especially looking at the track here in Portland, they made a lot of updates over the years, made this track a lot safer. From your knowledge of a lot of years, how does that unfold here in Portland, all the effort, energy that's gone in on your part?
LON BROMLEY: I think you see a great deal of movement forward in safety with the Simple Green Safety Team here at Champ Car. We're always trying to improve and move forward in our industry. I like to compare safety basically like the medical field. If you don't keep up and you don't make changes, you don't stay on top. That's what you need to do at every racetrack you go to. You have to take each track as an individual place and deal with that place. Of course, some of our drivers do better at certain racetracks than others. After a while, you learn who does good and who does bad (laughter). Anyway, we're looking to improve, improve. We've gone to better head surrounds, the HANS device is in play right now, we're looking at new strapping, we're looking at new materials for helmets right now also. We're trying to stay on top, be a good provider for our drivers.
SCOTT PRUETT: Just to put this in perspective, I raced CART for eight or nine years, went to Winston Cup, as well as all the other series I drove in. It's amazing, I know Jimmy was racing a Busch race down in Daytona. It's amazing to me that a series like that, with all of the resources they have, it's actually a joke, racing there and getting helped off like Jimmy. He's gotten helped off once, I got helped off about 13 or 14 times during that season (laughter). Unfortunately, I had to see the safety team more than I liked. Actually, they didn't have a safety team. They had local doctors. That says a lot for this sport, what it does, the emphasis it puts on the actual athlete, all those elements. Without further ado, let's get into it. Adam Saal is running around right there. I'll jump in the audience myself.
ADAM SAAL: Scott will take that side of the grid; I'll take this side. If you have a question, please raise your hand. This young lady will get us started tonight. You don't have to say your name, but if you could let us know your hometown, whether it be a block away, a few hundred miles away. We are on the Internet with video and audio feeds as well.
Q. I'm Chris. I live in Portland. My husband is from Long Beach. I just want to say thank you to Chris Pook for helping our series. My husband and I, my family, we've been coming to Portland for the last six years. I have two little boys that are big fans, especially my seven-year-old is a big fan of Max Papis. I was wondering, is there any news with Max Papis? Is he coming back to the series? I also heard that Brands Hatch is tape delayed five days. I wanted to know a little about that.
SCOTT PRUETT: Tell the true story about Max Papis. I know it (laughter).
CHRIS POOK: I think Max, if the Fittipaldi team runs a second car, which they're talking about running later on this summer, I think Max is probably lined up for that seat. We'd like to have Max back. He's a great character. The Brands race takes place on a traditional motor racing date in England called Bank Holiday Monday, which is May the 5th. It's a CBS race. It will be carried on the Saturday afternoon, the following Saturday, which I believe is May the 10th, on CBS. It's very tough to get sports on midweek, on all the networks of this country, because the soaps are so demanding in their times (laughter). It will be on Saturday on CBS. Then the next day, again on CBS, you'll have the race from Lausitz Ring. You'll have two days of racing that weekend on CBS. CBS is already making an effort in the series. We actually are building our relationship there, increasing our relationship with CBS almost every week. We're very, very excited about that. But thank you for your question.
SCOTT PRUETT: Right here.
Q. I have a question about the pit stops. I know in the past they've had a few issues from time to time, the fuel probes, the drivers leaving before their car is fueled. Is there a reason why they don't leave those cars up on the air jacks until they're done fueling?
JIMMY VASSER: I get this one, huh (laughter)? I get the fireballs. Well, there is not a reason why. Perhaps they should. It could be a safety issue. You know, it's never been -- it's always been in the way that the team should make the decision when to put the car up, put the car down. It hasn't been controlled in the past. It could be something that could be looked at in the future. That's a very good question.
CHRIS POOK: It is actually being looked at right now by Lee Dykstra and John Lopes, particularly since the Mexico City incident with Tony Kanaan's team. Again, you know, you have different opinions from every team. Some teams who have not had a problem, they want to come in and out just as fast as they possibly can. A team that's had a problem is probably more prone to saying, "This is something we should do.
Q. As a driver, does it matter?
JIMMY VASSER: Yeah, it does. If you're already on the ground when the fueling is over, then you go. If you have to wait for the fueling to get finished, then they drop the car, then hit the ground and go, you can win or lose the race in the pits. It's probably about a second and a half longer to do it that way.
Q. My question is for Chris Pook. My name is Grace Skinner. I'm assistant chief of F&C here in the Oregon region. I'm also about a 20-year volunteer observer with CART, starting with Long Beach. My question is, I understand the business purposes in combining the workers, the F&C workers with SCCA. I'm just wondering why it was necessary at the national convention speech to include the phrase "they can't match the skills and dedication of the SCCA corner workers"? The majority of the workers are SCCA members. That really upset a lot of people.
CHRIS POOK: Yes, I know it did. But we had three or four really bad incidents last year that cost drivers a tremendous amount of time, particularly at Toronto. One was a really unfortunate incident involving Franchitti where he was accused of cutting the corner. He was put back, penalized for it. All four observers in the corner said he cut the corner. His team said he didn't, Dario said he didn't. A half hour afterwards, we reviewed the overhead from the helicopter taking the overheads, and he did not cut the corner. We have three other incidents later in the year where we had this problem. We just basically said that we're going to go back with the SCCA. The observers who are with us on the SCCA licenses are still with us, but we were carrying a large amount of observers. Laguna Seca is a example. I went to the corkscrew last year. There were four CART observers there. Four of them had cameras taking pictures. One was not actually paying attention to the racetrack. You look at that and you look at what drivers put into these events, and the calls that they are subjected to, you're talking about a guy's career. You're talking about a guy, he goes out and races, he races 110% every single time, we have to give him the very best we possibly can. Maybe I was overgenerous in my statements about casting all the observers in one lot. Maybe that's not quite fair and correct. But we are going to fall back to the SCCA and the regions and allow them, they've got certain rules, certain standards that work for the SCCA, and their observers work week in and week out. We think that we should rely upon that cadre of volunteers they have throughout the country because it's very consistent throughout the country to do that level of work for them.
Q. You've used the word "volunteer" a number of times. You have to remember, they're all volunteers, whether they're SCCA or CART. Most of the of the card holders are also SCCA members. I don't know, I wasn't in Toronto, I wasn't in Laguna Seca. I was told there were no hard card holders at the corkscrew at Laguna Seca. Most likely many of the people in Toronto were also SCCA members. That is my point, that many of the CART observers are also SCCA members. You've really divided it.
CHRIS POOK: If we've offended anybody, I'm sorry. But I have decisions to make in this company. I made a decision that we would work closely with the Sports Car Club of America, we would reestablish that relationship with them. One of the things within that reestablishment of that relationship was a much greater use of Sports Car Club of America volunteer officials throughout all of our races. We need to get to a level of consistency. If we've offended you, I'm sorry, but I can't make all the decisions that will make everybody happy all the time. As I told the troops when I started this job, we will make decisions. We will not be indecisive. We will make decisions. Indecisiveness has been one of the problems. I think Bill will tell you it's troubled CART horribly in the last five or six years. My apologies if I offended you, but I've got to do what I've got to do.
Q. My name is Bob. I have a question for Jimmy. First I want to jump on the Chris Pook bandwagon. I want to thank you for everything you've done in the last year or so. As a race fan, I don't know if you remember me in Vancouver, but I came up to you and said, "Thank you for everything you're doing." It's going to be a year or two down the road, we're going to be looking at 20, 30 cars a race. It's going to be great again like the good old days. Thank you very much.
CHRIS POOK: Thank you.
Q. My question goes to Jimmy. With the new Ford power plants, the rpms have gone from 16 to 12. Your horsepower is down from 900 to about 750. You're taking away the traction control devices. We have a lot of new rookies this year, although they're very, very talented, obviously Sunday's race, you could tell that. Is there any thought process going into doing something like Formula 1 does with preheating tires or is Bridgestone thinking about coming up with softer compounds? How far is that going to go? When we get on some tracks that are going to be real tight in the pits, you're going to see guys peeling out. There's already talking about the mid gears are real torquey. Is that going to be an issue or do you think after a couple of races they guys are going to settle down and we won't see any issues? What is your thought on that as a driver?
JIMMY VASSER: First and foremost, there hasn't been that much of a horsepower drop. The engines are still making in excess of 800 horsepower. They did drop the revs from 16 thousand to 12 thousand, which I thought was going to be more dramatic than it is from the cockpit. What they also did is they gave us 10 more inches of boost, manifold pressure. That's where they got the horsepower back. Since the engines are only turning 12 thousand rpms, it's some kind of revelation, now they last much longer, where we used to pull them out practically every day when they had these big manufacturer deals, you know, 300-mile motors, qualifying engines, 500 at the maximum, you'd be shaking in your boots if you found out your engine had 400 some miles on it. But now, we go testing places, and we do the same lap times. Virtually they have the same horsepower. Now the engines go over 1,000 miles, 1,200 miles for an engine. Imagine what this does for the cost. It's all part of Chris' master plan to bring the cost of racing down, and that's how you're going to get to your more cars. That's the case with the engine. It's a fantastic package. With the extra turbo boost comes a little bit of a lag so it's a little more difficult to drive, like I said before. Your issue about the tires, you're spot on. We have been talking amongst the officials and the driver group about doing some things with the tires, particularly the rain tire I think is the first change they're going to make. The rain tire is going to be softer. There hasn't really been a need for Bridgestone Firestone to really be on the cutting edge of rain tire development as it pertains to our series. Since they drove Goodyear out of racing, you know, there hasn't been any competition. We've had just kind of a real run-of-the-mill, not a very good rain tire. But they certainly have the technology and now how to build it. They're going to go ahead and build us a much better rain tire this year. Over the years, the tire warmers have almost been something that we've kind of talked about, have sent up to the board, which is a group of the owners, for consideration, not just on road courses, but on cold days on the ovals. Scott could tell you, some of the most treacherous laps that I end up driving in a Champ Car are the ones I pull out of the pits on new tires. It's really, really difficult, really easy to make a mistake. I think it's something that maybe Chris can talk about a little more, but it's something that's being considered again - at least I hope so. I think it's always been kicked down before because they said, "It's too expensive. Now we all got to go out and buy tire blankets." Little did they know, if they did the math, all the crashes they had over the years on cold tires, they probably could have had a room full of tire blankets. Maybe it's something you'll see in the future.
Q. I'm from Portland, Oregon. First of all, great job so far. In two years or three years, you're planning to go to V-10 normally aspirated. I've been reading about Formula 1, and they are trying to get their engines to last longer. What I'm seeing is possibly a merging of some commonality of engines and parts, chassis. Can you address that?
CHRIS POOK: Well, I think that's somewhat coincidental that the FIA are looking to bring their costs down at the same time. We have to remember the economy now in the year 2000 is completely different than the economy of the 1990s. We're all very sensitive to that. If we can develop a level of efficiency in engines, we will do so. Ours is going to be quite a simple V-10 engine. So far two of the manufacturers that are talking about it are actually going to use the current engine, which is basically a V-8. When the turbo goes away, there will be some space at the back of the car, they'll drop two more parts in the back of the car to make it a V-10. It will probably rev 13 thousand and produce the same horsepower that Jimmy is talking about now. It is all about economics. We do need to bring the costs of racing down, but we can't do it and take away some of the technology. We like the V-10 engine. I don't know if any of you ever heard of a V-10 engine. It's a pretty exciting engine to listen to. One of the good things about our turbocharge engines now, they sound pretty dramatic. It's a wonderful sound. That's part of our sport. I think the V-10 will be an equally crisp, exciting sound. We will work to that end. Are we going to have the same engine as Formula 1? No. They're in a different league to us completely. We always like to be number two. You never want to be number one because you get knocked off when you're number one. If you're number two, it's easier. That's really where we're going.
Q. Welcome to Portland. I have a couple of kudos and comments. But Chris, I'm sure I speak on behalf of most of us, thank you for saving us. It's important. We're glad you're here. To the Simple Green team, thanks for keeping Alex on the planet. That's important. As fans, we very much recognize that. Jimmy, appreciate you being American (laughter).
JIMMY VASSER: Don't thank me. Thank my parents.
Q. With the leadership in place, I know we'll have a lot more Americans behind. Bill, I want to thank you. 19 years ago I was living down in the Bay Area. A buddy of mine said, "You need to come up to Portland, they have a race." 20 years later here I am living. So thank you.
Q. Chris, back to your question about number one, number two, maybe this is premature, because we have a lot of Champ Car conversations to have here, but what is the short-term if not the long-term relationship that we as CART want to have with Formula 1 and maybe you could even speak to the perspective about what Formula 1 wants to have with CART?
CHRIS POOK: Well, I'll try and dance around the answer as best as I can. First of all, I think Formula 1 needs to be back in the United States at a level where it was when Formula 1 was running at Wadkins and then at Long Beach and at Detroit. It's very, very exciting, very good, very high quality. We need Formula 1 to be back in this country strong again, not in decline as it is at the moment. We all need to look up to something. It's a good pinnacle to look to. We're going to work with Formula 1 to see if we can help them get back up where they belong. From our perspective, our relationship with them, I have no difficulty when we can attract guys like Montoya or Villeneuve. I think Jimmy will tell you this young Frenchman Bourdais is pretty special. If we can attract youngsters from all over the world, including from our own country, which is a very high priority of ours, is to get young Americans into our series, effectively into our series, then that's going to raise the entire level of the competition if we do that. So that's good. If we lose them to Formula 1, I have no difficulty to that at all. I think that speaks as an honor to our series. This man to my left here is absolutely responsible for the ability of Juan Montoya to be the rounded driver he is today because when he came over here, Jimmy took him under his wing and taught him how to drive here.
JIMMY VASSER: Montoya didn't need a whole lot of help.
CHRIS POOK: Well, he said on numerous occasions that he is where he is because of what he learned over here. Jimmy did the same thing with Zanardi. He's actual got another pupil now in young Ryan Hunter-Reay, who he's tutoring through the process.
JIMMY VASSER: I have some brochures out in the lobby for my driving school. I'm going to be opening that up (laughter).
CHRIS POOK: Just send me the commission, will you? It would be good for us to have that system. Indeed, we've had Formula 1 drivers on their way back down. One of the guys that was at St. Petersburg was Nigel Mansell, who was world champion, came over here, drove. Emerson came back also from Formula 1. So the door is open. We have Mika Salo hanging around. Any of these guys that are out there, after they're done with Formula 1, if they want to stop by and visit us on the way to retirement, the more the merrier.
JIMMY VASSER: We have more fun. One thing all the guys talk about in Formula 1, it's stale, they don't really have a lot of fun. They know we have a good time. We have great fans like yourselves. I think you can see a lot more cross-pollination over time.
CHRIS POOK: It's healthy.
SCOTT PRUETT: Spent time with Nigel Mansell over the weekend. He is absolutely trying to talk Pat Patrick into driving a car. "Got to get back in this thing." While we're at it, another guy we need to introduce, Mike Neely, Global Events, they've been right in the middle of this Portland Grand Prix forever. A lot of hard work and dedication from he and his whole staff.
Q. Phil from Portland. Chris, how important is Portland International Raceway to Champ Car, being it's the only permanent road course inside a city limits? What can the people here in this room as supporters of that race do to make sure that Champ Car keeps coming back after this current contract, but year after year?
CHRIS POOK: Let me just tell you that Portland is very, very important to our whole business model. It's a critical element being here. We're trying to establish a North American business model. We have three races in Canada, three largest cities, two in Mexico, two largest cities there, and we need to be in the major market areas of the United States. We will never be able to race, I don't believe, in Seattle ever. But Portland for us is the Pacific Northwest. Portland represents that. Mike actually this year is going to be working hard on Seattle with GI Joe's. They have stores up there. We're going to go into the Seattle area and promote that very, very hard. So it's a very important market. Yes, you're right. It is part of our urban model. It is in the city. I mean, it's a fantastic place because you're downtown in 10 minutes, you're literally downtown in 10 minutes, or coming this way you're three or four minutes with these hotels here and the restaurants and things. When we're trying to bring world corporations and national corporations to our series, these are the sort of things that they're looking for. When they entertain their guests and bring them in, they want to be able to take them out to nice restaurants, and they don't want to be in traffic for 40, 45 minutes out in the countryside. Portland is a wonderful racetrack, as Jimmy said. Bill has played a major role in that, as has the Rose Festival over the years. So it's very, very important to us, indeed, the whole presence of being here. That's why we're working so hard with Mike to continue this racetrack for the next 20 years because we want to be here for the next 20 years.
Q. Ken Hatfield, Portland. My question is for Chris. I have about 15, but I'm only going to get one. I'm going to key on what Scott said. NASCAR is kind of a joke. I believe it is. I'm passionate about this series. But CART markets like nobody else. The France family understands marketing. What is CART going to do to try to market itself?
CHRIS POOK: Thanks for the cue on that. I appreciate that. When we were here to announce the renewed title sponsorship of GI Joe's, that was put together by the Oregon Sports Authority. They are very much involved. The Portland, Oregon Visitors Association is also now involved here, as is the Rose Festival association. We're bringing those three groups together, together with the members of the city commissioners, and we are going to engage the city much more in this event. The city really needs to market this event itself. I mean, last weekend in St. Petersburg, for example, the Mayor of St. Petersburg had 600 guests on Sunday. The Mayor didn't, but the city had 600 guests. Those guests were people who could do business with the City of St. Petersburg. There were several cruise line people there because they were trying to convince a cruise line to stop in the city. There were a whole bunch of hotel developers, financial institutions that were brought in, developers brought in. There were folks from Tallahassee, government types, because the city has to have a relationship with Tallahassee. There were federal types that were brought in. There were people from Pinellas County brought in. The city was building its relationship. It's similar things to what Long Beach does, our Canadian friends do, our Mexican friends do. Folks did that in Denver this year and Miami. So we're trying to engage the city more in the event and show the city how they can use this event. When we do that, then we'll bring more corporations to the event and create a greater awareness of the event in a greater market area. Reaching to Seattle is another very important one. We need to market there. We need to market down south to Medford. We need to probably go inland eventually to Idaho and those other population centers, create the attraction here in Portland for those folks to come here. We need the Port of Portland to get engaged. The Port of Long Beach is engaged in the race down there. They measure what they do every year. For the last seven years, they've been able to bring new shipping business into the port. They average about $80 million a year in new business as a result of bringing people to that race, entertaining them, asking them for the order to do business with the Port of Long Beach. That's what we're going to do. It isn't one single thing that's going to grow. This is going to be a whole bunch of things together, where we engage everybody, as we're engaging you this evening. We're hopeful this evening you will listen to all these answers we're giving, you'll go back and be able to talk to other folks about it and let them understand what this is all about. Yes, this is a race, this is an event. What Mike did last year downtown, I don't know if any of you went to the concert downtown last year, those things all make a lot of sense. The pit stop contest he did, that was engaging people downtown, making them aware of what goes on out here. It's an outreach program that we've all got to do. The Frances have been doing it very successfully for 50 years. You mentioned the Simple Green Safety Team, how good they are. I can't tell you how important this is, how dedicated Lon and his troops are, Dr. Steve Alvey, Dr. Terry Trammell, they are absolutely outstanding. This medical unit which I inherited when I came in as CEO is light-years ahead of anything else that's out there. These guys are superb, absolutely superb. Yes, Alex is walking around today, he is walking around today, believe it or not. In Toronto he got up on the starter's stand, climbed up on his own, started the race, took a pit stop break in the middle of the race, went to the bathroom, came up again and gave them a checkered flag. It's thanks to Lon and his crew. Jimmy will tell you, they're in a high-risk business, these guys. It's very, very comforting to the drivers and much more comforting to the management team to know that we've got Lon and his crew out there on the ready, constantly on the ready, to jump in and do whatever they've got to do to take care of our drivers. They don't only take care of our drivers, they take care of all of us when we're on the road. Our mechanics twist an ankle, chop their finger. I'm recovering from a cold and sore throat. It's easier and quicker for me to wait till the weekend to go to the medical unit than hang around waiting for a doctor to come see me. That's how good they are.
SCOTT PRUETT: Following on the heels of what you're talking about, you would be one to answer, the economic impact for the City of Portland when a Champ Car comes to town, touch on that a little bit. I don't think people here understand the kind of economic impact a race like this has.
BILL HILDICK: Well, it's huge. I always used to use a figure $35 million. When you measure economic impact, there are a lot of different ways you can measure it. You take a certain amount of money, you can multiply by two, you can multiply by three. But the bottom line in Portland, Oregon is that it's huge. The best part about it, coming from the industrial east maybe I appreciate this more, is that this thing rolls into town, used to come on Wednesday and Thursday, now I think it comes on Monday or Tuesday, it does its act, it puts all this money in the community, and it leaves Sunday night. There are no smokestacks, there are no problems. It's really pure economic dollars. It fills the hotels. It fills the airplanes. It fills the restaurants. It's the very best economic development that any community could possibly have. That's really why you want to do everything in your power to maintain this event in a city like Portland. I happen to know that there are some concerns, particularly after last year, that some of the hotels weren't as filled up as they had been in the past. They came to management. They came to Chris and said, "What can we do to make this thing work?" It's very, very important.
Q. Jeffrey just from across the creek in Camas, Washington. As a segway actually from the F1 question over here, we talk a lot about F1, I know you and Bernie have at least had coffee, if not beer. Talking about one event that happened last year in Miami, the doubleheader, between you and IMSA, discuss about your relationship with IMSA. Also, is there anything else, any other major organizations that you guys are thinking about pairing up with and running double-headers? I think it's exciting for sport, our sport, to be with different groups of fans running together, except those NASCAR people (laughter)?
CHRIS POOK: You're talking about Jimmy's future employers here (laughter). We'll let him go down there a couple times and run, but we want him to come back in one piece. The American LeMans series ran with us in Miami. It was very successful for both series. That's good and healthy. We're talking to the American LeMans series about potential other venues to run. TransAm we run with, Scott, four or five times this year, right? We're going to run with TransAm, which is another very good, viable series. We think that's positive, and we'll look in those areas, if we can. The more we can vary the menu that we give to you on a race weekend, not all open-wheel, give you closed-wheel at the same time, show you the various disciplines of motorsport, and also show you the young drivers coming through those series on their way up, introduce you to them, I think that's good for all of us. We'll continue to do that.
Q. Gus from Portland. Firstly, what are the prospects of CART doing events on more permanent road courses like Road Atlanta? Secondly, there's a lot of baseball fans here in Oregon that are trying to borrow like a quarter billion dollars to make Portland a major league city. I'd like to on behalf of Oregon offer a fraction of that to make our world class racing facility even better. Thank you.
Q. This is directed both to Jimmy and Chris. It seemed like we lost a lot of camaraderie and talent to the Irrelevant Racing League. What is your comment on that as far as you want to make it more household names like Jimmy Vasser already is? It seems like a lot of the new rookie talent coming up, we're kind of steering towards F1 and the lack of camaraderie.
JIMMY VASSER: I think camaraderie is hard to build. It just kind of has to happen. It's like a chemistry thing. That's going to come and go. Certainly it wouldn't be interesting or fun if it wasn't natural. But I do think that there is still quite a bit of that going on in CART, a lot more than there is anywhere else I see in other racing series. Make no mistake about the guys that are coming up, they're very, very talented. That's the one thing about CART, is that it's always been highly respected for the talent that's in there. We've had some names leave the sport, but the guys that have come in to fill those seats are well-respected throughout the world, not just here on our own soil. You know, always be proud of the fact as a CART fan that the talent out on the field is second to none as far as formula car driving goes.
Q. A fan had asked a minute ago, what about permanent circuits like a Road Atlanta.
CHRIS POOK: We've looked at Road Atlanta because we need to be in the Southeast. It is very challenging for our type of cars. Road Atlanta is very high speed. For the American LeMans series cars, they're a handful there. We just don't think in the current format, layout of Road Atlanta, we're comfortable subjecting our drivers to that circuit. It's a shame, it's a great circuit, it's in a great location. But you cannot underestimate just how powerful and how fast these cars are. I mean, Jimmy talked about it a little while ago. You bolt yourself in one of these things, you're in a rocket ship. We have to respect that. We think about that. Our engineering folks and our operations folks are constantly doing simulations about what turn speeds are, where is the margin for safety. When one of these things lets loose, if a suspension failure happens at a hundred plus miles an hour, they're passengers, they're just hanging on. We've got to take those things into consideration. The sport is tough enough as it is without us putting them one step closer to a disaster. It's a constant discussion, and we discuss it with our safety team, we discuss it with our engineers, we discuss it with our drivers. We need to be conscious of this. We need to be very conscious of this. We'd prefer to err on the side of a little bit of caution rather than bravado, from our perspective.
Q. I'm Mike from Aloha, Oregon. My wife Sandra, we actually met at the race a few years back before we got married. Two-part question. Has there been any more discussions with Tony George about reuniting? What about the teams that have defected to IRL? How long do you think it's going to be because those guys get tired of going around in circles?
SCOTT PRUETT: I know Franchitti is not happy about it.
JIMMY VASSER: Some of those guys are already tired of it.
CHRIS POOK: I'm on record on numerous occasions. My office door is open. My phone is available to be answered. I'm not going to hold my breath waiting for that phone to ring. I'm going to get on and do what I've got to do in this series to get on with what we've got because it's too good to wait around for somebody to pick up the phone and talk to us. It's going to be very difficult. It's going to be a very difficult situation for us if those teams decide they do want to come back because we have got new teams that have come in in good faith, put themselves on the line to join our series and invest in our series. We have got guys that are guaranteeing loans. One guy's got his house on the line. He's really committed to building a team. As much as it would be nice probably to have those teams come back, I don't want to do that. Morally it troubles me that I would push someone that's come to help us when we needed them to then later shove them out the door just because there's a big name that decides they want to come home. If they want to come home, they can come home, earn their way to come home. But I'm not going to trample on someone that's reached out to us and is part of our new family. That's the way it's going to be.
Q. Maybe I should direct this mainly at the fans here, great number of attendants, which I'm really amazed. This is beautiful. I'd like to show my appreciation to Jerry and Trackside Edition that appears Thursday in The Oregonian. I think that's very informative, excellent.
SCOTT PRUETT: Jerry has been a great supporter of motorsports here in Portland, ever since I've been coming up here.
Q. But I think I'm the only one that's calling the sports editor on Monday morning and complaining about the coverage that The Oregonian is giving CART on Monday. Monday's edition of The Oregonian, five paragraphs supporting the NASCAR top column. Colombian, full wide five columns straight across. Excuse me, the first one was paragraphs. Nice picture of Paul Tracy, nice picture of his car, big headline. You know, I call and call and call. I guess it's falling on deaf ears because they refuse to call me back. I think everybody else should be calling, too, to let them know, as stated earlier, this city needs to get behind this, we need to get behind this. They need all the support we can give. The only way you can do that is to voice your opinion. I just feel that instead of sitting home and complaining, bitching like I may be doing now, maybe you should call, e-mail or what have you. I would love to see coverage like this every Monday in The Oregonian rather than Sunday, June the 23rd or 24th, whatever it will be. Thank you very much.
ADAM SAAL: As I'm in charge of the media relations, I can definitely support what Jerry Boone does from The Oregonian. But he is only one person. If you want to see improved coverage, call them and thank them for what Jerry does, but also tell them to grab it off the AP wire and get it in the paper.
Q. Steve Berry, Portland. I have a quick comment for Jimmy, but I have a question for Chris. Jimmy, it's great to see you with a good team again. Hope you win another championship.
JIMMY VASSER: Me, too.
Q. Chris or anyone else on the panel who would care to comment. For us, the local club racers here, Portland International has become very much less user-friendly than it was even just a couple years ago. Assuming that this is happening in some respects with CART, is there anything that we the fans and supporters of CART could do to help out?
CHRIS POOK: Well, that's disappointing to hear that it's becoming less user friendly. That's very disappointing. I would suggest -- I would just call Mark Wigginton, who I believe is the general manager over there. He used to be a newspaper writer in Long Beach years ago. I'd just get on his schedule and go talk to him, discuss it with him. If he's operating in a vacuum, not listening to you guys, that's a remedy for problems. That's kind of what CART did five years ago, operated in a vacuum, didn't listen to anybody. You need to express yourselves, express yourselves. I wouldn't go out there and beat him up too much, but I'd certainly go and say, "Mark, here are our concerns." He's under pressure, too. I'm sure there are people squeezing the budget on his end. Communication is really important here in this sort of situation. That would be my recommendation to you. We'll make a point of just letting him know this question came up tonight. I'm sure Mike will be help to make the call or I'll make the call. We'll pass it on to him. He needs to know that.
MARK WIGGINTON: I know.
CHRIS POOK: Steve Berry, meet Mark Wigginton. He's right here.
Q. My name is Jeff. I'd like to thank you for coming. First of all, Scott, sat on the pole, fast lap, and smoked them. It's a pleasure to watch you drive a TransAm.
SCOTT PRUETT: Thanks. They were talking about that earlier. I think TransAm should be a mainstay of all the CART races, all the road course CART races. What we should do is have -- I'm sure Mr. Gentilozzi will have the house car where we could put on any given weekend, whether it's a current Indy Champ Car driver, where it's a NASCAR driver, whether it's a retired guy. I talked to Bobby Rahal. He said, "I'd like nothing more than to jump into one of those cars." Make an interesting show Saturday or Sunday after the race.
Q. Chris, what are your thoughts about the Stars of Tomorrow program? What is its value to CART? Do you think it's going to help young American shifter kart drivers get into Champ Cars?
CHRIS POOK: Absolutely. That's why we've embraced it. We need to start down in go-karts and create the ladder program, which we've got. Stars of Tomorrow, that's really important to us. We're actually going to end up the season at Fontana, have a Stars of Tomorrow race at that facility, same weekend as the Champ Cars are running. We need to make it easy for the guys out of Stars of Tomorrow to move to Barber Dodge, move from Barber Dodge to Atlantics. We have to start in go-karts. As Jimmy will tell you, you know, the reason the Brazilians are so good, just about every single kid when he's seven or eight years old, he's in a go-kart. He's racing every weekend in a go-kart. It's like little league basketball. That's how you use little league.
Q. It's not little league.
CHRIS POOK: I'm not saying go-karts are little league. I'm saying the kids start in little league. We have to recognize it's before Stars of Tomorrow. It's when kids are eight or nine years old, we put them in a go-kart, take them up through the ranks, move them into the Stars of Tomorrow program. Very important to the series. Very important to the development of American drivers.
JIMMY VASSER: They're out there. They're already there. You know that.
CHRIS POOK: We just got to facilitate it for you. That's all.
Q. Dennis, I live here in Portland, Oregon. Chris, what are we doing to attract better TV coverage? Everybody in this room tonight is the hard core fan. For us to expand our series is to expand the market base, that is like getting better TV coverage. We've lost ESPN, lost Channel 2, ABC. What are we doing to address that issue? Target, Texaco, they've left because they don't think they get the bang for their buck. What are we doing to get that back? With that the money will come back and the popularity and success of our series will come back. Speedvision is 50 to a hundred bucks. That's price prohibitive for a lot of people.
CHRIS POOK: We're sensitive to that issue. We inherited the Speedvision contract when we came in in December of 2001. We're growing our relationship with CBS. More and more you'll see more races on CBS. I think we touched on that a little earlier tonight. We are working with another network outlet for 2004. We do need to bring it back to the mainstream. We have to walk before we run. We have to build. We're sensitive to it. We will get it done. We've got to regain the credibility of the networks. That's what we're doing. I think Terry Linger, who produces the show for us, the standard of production now, we get hundreds and hundreds of e-mails just raving about the standard of the production. As you said, the problem is getting the signal into your living room on an economical basis. That's what we're working on.
Q. My game is Gary. I'm from Ashland. Long time fan. I grew up about a mile from the Indy 500 track. I've been following these cars for a long time. My comment is based on that, as a long-time fan. I'd like to help build this fan base. I think we all would. I hear a lot of comments and references to competing with NASCAR or trying to mimic what they do. That's a whole lot different fan. Maybe we can mimic what they do in terms of their personalities and that sort of thing, but our strengths are, when you go to the Portland race, you see that tent with the cutaway car, you can see the technology, those are the kind of people that are CART fans. That's what sets us apart. When you see the different driving skills that are required here as opposed to IRL or NASCAR, those are the things that set us apart. I just got this feeling that there's a lot of fans out there, a lot of people with those kinds of interests, that don't even know CART exists. Those are the kind of people I'd like to see us somehow reach out to. I know you're limited a lot by SPEED TV, what they can do, all of that, in terms of presenting your product. Maybe they could do something a little bit of Barber Dodge, show how the driving skills are required in this series are so much different than anything else, just focus on the things that set us apart.
CHRIS POOK: If you've heard we're going to try to do mimic like NASCAR, no way we're going to do that. We're going to get on and run our own house. Our racing is very, very good. We'll focus on that. They tried to suck us into this IRL formula with the engines. We're not going there. We're not going there. We're not going to spend the rest of our lives doing that. We know what we've got, and you're absolutely right, we have to do some outreach. I think we talked about it over here, a question over here, we were talking about outreach. A gentleman asked how we were going to grow the market. We will grow the market. We will grow the fans that way. You know, we've just got to do one step at a time. We can't use gimmicks. That's not the way to do it. You just have to build it the old-fashioned way, and that's work hard at it, and that's what we're going to do.
Q. I'm Andy. I'm from Portland. I've been to all of the CART races here since '84. It's a great series, fantastic competition, fantastic memories, great stuff. My question is I guess for some combination of Bill and Lon. I'm thinking back to last year's race when Kenny Brack pulled out of the pits, he went one way, his wheel went the other way, rolled about a quarter mile down the track. Good thing that that happened at low speed, when he was not up at full song heading down the straight. I hate to imagine what would have happened if it had been at full song and that wheel went into the stands. The question is, are you satisfied with the level of safety that we have for spectators at PIR? Are there improvements that are being made, maybe should be made in that regard? Thanks.
LON BROMLEY: I think Bill was hiding from there, I don't know (laughter). I think you should never stop looking to improve on what you've got out there. You know, we're going to one meter block. We've got fence now that is 12 feet high. When you think and look at a race, you say, "Wow, that's really going to cover that problem." We all know in this room that when a race car brakes, you never know what's really going to happen. I guess the answer to your question, I think it's adequate for the time. I'll saying this for all racetracks, not just Portland. But we need to continually look at what needs to be done to improve. The cars get faster. We need to look at how we're going to handle keeping all the parts inside so we don't get anybody hurt.
SCOTT PRUETT: From a driver's standpoint, I can make reference to this, Portland, over the past five years has made huge steps forward in making this track for the drivers and for the spectators a lot safer. There was a big push, I was actually head of the driver's group that had gone and worked with some of these tracks, looking for new improvements, and Portland was one of those tracks that made year after year after year continual improvements, a lot more for the safety of the drivers. You carry some high speeds on this track, you get off, especially in the rain, tire barriers, more barriers in general. From my standpoint racing here, no question that Portland has moved forward in making this track a lot better.
Q. My name is Dan. I'm from Bend, Oregon. Looking back years ago when Scott bought his first ride down in Long Beach, if a thousand Portland fans got together and chipped in some money, could they put somebody like a Memo Gidley or Bryan Herta in a spare car at PIR? If so, would that be feasible? What would it cost? Yes, I did bring my checkbook.
JIMMY VASSER: I bet a hundred bucks for a thousand would probably get the job done, if you found the right team.
CHRIS POOK: Yeah, I think there has been actually a discussion about having a car that would be available from time to time for venues that do want to put a driver in, such as Memo. I think that's feasible. It's possible to do. How far that's going, I don't know. The challenge is just getting the race car ready. Having it set there for one or two races is okay, but it is expensive to maintain that car all year. The problem is it's putting the crew together for the weekend, all this stuff. You've got to be so careful about compromising your safety issues. I mean, just as you heard about the tire coming off on Ganassi's car. That mechanic is on the dark side, so we don't have to worry about him. Those are the sort of things that we would worry about a little bit. But your idea is good. I'm sure if we have enough folks together, it would work. You know, I hate to put the burden on the fans to write checks to put drivers in race cars. It's our job as the sanctioning body to make sure that the economics of our series is such that we can have drivers such as Memo in our series. That's our responsibility. I appreciate it very much, but we're not going to put the burden on our fans to do that. That's not correct. We'd sooner you buy tickets from Mike. Thanks.
JIMMY VASSER: We should have Memo speak for himself on that one.
Q. I'm Scott from Vancouver, across the river here. My question is to the supporting series that could come along with CART to Portland. We used to have the Speedvision World Challenge, the touring cars, GT cars. What kind of say does CART have to attracting those kinds of series to accompany CART to Portland? Outside of CART last year, it was kind of boring. There wasn't a lot else going on on the track. CART was wonderful, but having a lot of those other things to fill up the time between qualifying, between racing, is exciting as well. The Rose Cup, a lot of us go to that. That's good, clean fun, it's good stuff. I'd like to see more of that during the CART racing. Do you have control over that or is there something you can do to bring that kind of racing and influence to those people to be with us?
CHRIS POOK: Yeah, we do have control over it to a certain degree. Obviously, that's a communication issue between ourselves and our promoters. In our plans going forward, we would like to have a tin-top series, apart from the TransAm series that runs with us. We have had some conversations with Ford Motor Company about that, what we can do. I'm a firm believer in varying the menu as you've suggested. I think it's important we do that for the fans. I would say to you we're a year or two probably away from that. It's something that needs to get accomplished. It also gives Ford Motor Company another opportunity to expose their products, which we're very interested in having them do. Part of the job is, the Ford engine, the Ford-Cosworth is in the race car, but we also have to explain that the bridge from the race car, which is open-wheel, to the Ford car in the dealer showroom, Ford stock is a good way to do that. I know Mike is listening to you. I'm sure he'll be bending my ear when I get outside.
Q. I do want to thank you for being here. It's great to have you here so we can spout our wisdom, I guess. To follow up on this gentleman's suggestion regarding fans supporting particular cars or whatever, I suggest maybe -- I helped to sponsor a small formula here. There's a lot of small business people here that wouldn't mind seeing their logos out on a car, and bring their clients to the track, maybe not for a hundred bucks, but maybe for a thousand bucks. Obviously, not too many of us here would be able to pull out a hundred thousand dollar check. Maybe there's some way the smaller companies can sponsor a small logo on a particular car. How can you facilitate that for us?
CHRIS POOK: Well, I think if we adopt the program, we've got to adopt it across the board in every venue we go to. I think that's what we've got to do. I think we have to evaluate that. I hear what you're saying. I can tell there's a level of passion with which you're saying this. The question from my perspective right now is where we are in the company. I've got to really prioritize the immediate things I've got to do which are critical, such as the television issue is a critical one. I need to prioritize that and execute on those priorities. I don't want to brush off what you're saying as not being important. It obviously is important. But to take folks off some of these other issues right now and work on that, which will be very labor intensive, because putting together 25 or 30 people to each write a check for a fair amount of money, just so you know, for a one-off car, it costs about $150,000 a race for a very minimal effort, sometimes up to $200,000. Putting all that together, assembling all that, would be a fairly major task. If we can't do it properly, we're better not to do it at all. At the moment, I don't have the resources that I could say, "Let's go do this in Portland or Vancouver or Milwaukee or Cleveland." I'd love to do it. But I also need to be very honest with you and tell you where we stand today in our order of priorities. I just can't say to you, "Yeah, we're going to do it tomorrow," and not do it. I'm going to say to you very honestly, can't do it right now, we'll think about it, put it on the back burner, keep it there, see if we can do it in the future. I don't have the resources to do it right now.
Q. My question is for Jimmy Vasser. It's rumored that you might be running the Indy 500. Please tell us you aren't going to be riding one of those crap wagons.
JIMMY VASSER: Well, right now I'm not. I mean, I'm going to be in Europe at Brands Hatch, Lausitz the week after that. It makes it very difficult now to plan on that. Although I can't say that I wouldn't either. Make one thing here clear. The Indy 500 is still the Indy 500. It's a special race to drivers. If I had the right situation, with a car that I felt could win the race, rather than just to participate, I don't want to go there just to participate, I might take that opportunity. Right now, I don't have anything for certain sure. I know I'm going to be in Europe racing my Champ Car.
CHRIS POOK: I just want you to know that we at CART have the greatest respect for the Indianapolis 500. It's a great race. It's a fantastic race. It needs to be respected. We would love to have one of our drivers participate. We wouldn't stand in Jimmy's way at all if he wanted to participate there. We would encourage that. Nothing would make us happier than if he won that race. Just as a point of information, we did have one of our drivers win that race last year.
SCOTT PRUETT: The politics weren't very good, but the race was.
ADAM SAAL: We're getting backed up here. I think we'll power through past 8:30. I'm sure it's okay with everybody in the room. If we don't get to your question, I want you to see me, we'll give you an e-mail address, I guarantee you by the weekend we'll have an answer from one of our panelists. We have a Star of Tomorrow over here. We'll make him stand up on his chair and ask his question, show off his new T-shirt.
CHRIS POOK: Great T-shirt, young man.
Q. My questions are to Jimmy. How do you like driving with the new team?
JIMMY VASSER: I like it. You know what's cool about the new team is the theme of the team, and that's American spirit. We've had a lot of complaints over time that there aren't enough American drivers. You know, our particular team is American spirit. My teammates are American. Obviously I am. I'm very, very proud to represent in that fashion. The team is new, but throughout it's got a lot of experience. A lot of the members on the team I've worked with before, people that have been successful in Champ Cars over the years. While we might be new in days old, we're very, very rich in experience.
Q. What's it like driving without traction control on your CART car?
JIMMY VASSER: Well, it's like -- you know when it snows outside, and you live on a hill, and you try to go up the hill and you're wheels are spinning? It's kind of like that. To get the wheels to hook up, you have to back off the throttle until they grab the ground, then you have to apply the power a lot easier. It's a little bit slippery. It's more slippery out there. It's like slipping on a banana peel.
Q. So when it rains, it's going to be slippery?
JIMMY VASSER: When it rains, in fact, we've already addressed that issue a bit. That's part of the reason we talked earlier about a rain tire fix. We're going to have a lot of power. That's why we get paid the big bucks, right? We're supposed to be able to control it.
ADAM SAAL: I understand this young man is starting to race, too. Racing go-karts. A lot of encouragement from Jimmy, Scott and Paul. We'll see you up there in 10 years.
Q. John from Vancouver. Last winter there was a period when, after CART had dropped the Spa, I don't know how to pronounce the second word, that CART might go there. I would love to see Champ Cars running at Spa. Any chance of that happening?
CHRIS POOK: It would be exciting. Not at the moment. We did have some conversations with Spa. There's an interest by the Belgians in us going there, without F1 being there. I think Jimmy would love to drive there. Have you driven there?
JIMMY VASSER: No, I never have.
CHRIS POOK: It's a pretty exciting racetrack. There probably would be a fairly substantial disparity in times between ourselves and F1 there. It's those very high-speed tracks that the F1 cars, with all their downforce, the grip they've got on their tires, their braking capabilities with those carbon fiber disc brakes they've got, can really make the difference bigger. We had a six-second spread at Montreal between F1 times and ourselves. At Spa, we could be looking at as much as 10, 12, 14 second spread. Maybe we ought to wait for a year or so and let the F1 race sort of disappear there for a couple years, then maybe we might appear. You never know.
SCOTT PRUETT: Jimmy, whenever you have to leave, give us a heads up. We'll continue on for a while until we wear these guys out.
Q. I'm Steve Emerson from Salem. I'd like to recognize Mr. Hildick's contribution to motorsports in the Northwest. On that note, I'd like to say how relieved I am to hear that that was a misquote situation in the Tribune. There was a lot of fear in the community because of that. Also to Mr. Pook, I'd like to thank you for the job you're doing and say, you've probably heard this, you can't necessarily comment because of pending litigation, but even though we're a long ways away, Road America is still important to CART fans out here. That's quite a unique course that holds a special place in our hearts.
CHRIS POOK: It's important to motor racing in general. It's a great racetrack. It's one of America's great traditional racetracks. It's a delicate situation, as you pointed out. But thank you for asking me not to comment on it.
Q. Roger Davis, Portland, Oregon. For someone to comment on the television coverage. Frankly, I think when the big three, if you will, cover, their interest isn't in the racing. There's no passion. These guys do it right (pointing to Scott Pruett). My wife Lisa and I were at St. Petersburg for 10 days or so, including the race weekend. We saw the buzz building up. I'm wondering if some sponsors maybe were kind of holding judgment until they saw what was going on? We saw logos going on cars between Friday and Saturday. If the buzz is building, might we see more cars in Mexico? What are your thoughts on that?
CHRIS POOK: I think you're right. There's a lot of folks out there waiting to see. You can't blame them. It wasn't a very good situation last year at all. You're asking a company to come on in and put the money up in October or November. As Scott was saying earlier, they can only count to eight or whatever the number was they were trying to get to. That was a challenge for us. It is a challenge. But I think now people are starting to see what we've got. We came off a very good weekend, as you know. Thank you very much for being there. I appreciate that very much. The confidence is rebuilding. People are prepared to invest. We have a whole series of sponsor announcements coming out from teams here in the next three or four weeks. I think over the year as we move forward, people regain confidence in the series, you'll see sponsors coming back to the series in remarkably pleasant numbers. It's a rebuilding process. We have some solid foundations on this house we're rebuilding. I assure you.
SCOTT PRUETT: On the TV package. The only thing we don't have going for us is exposure like a CBS, NBC, ABC. The heart and soul, Terry Linger is a new group leader for TV, and his heart and soul is racing. It's all about racing. Between Tommy and myself and Bob, Derrick and Calvin, our passion is racing, as well, telling the true story, not flowering it up, changing it. I ran in Winston Cup in 2000, then did some races for ABC for CART in 2001. They were very specific about, "We don't want you to say this, be careful doing this, we don't want you to do this." Yeah, the race goes on at the green flag, goes off they checkered. Being a driver, Jimmy knows as well, when you get to victory circle you deserve those accolades, whether it's on TV or whether it's at the track or whatever the case might be. It was such a rip-off when we didn't get to see as fans the guys pop the Champaign, tell the story, what happened, the exciting moments. We got nothing. We got maybe a little interview on the parade lap. It was total bullshit. Excuse my mouth. The passion is there from the group that's doing it. Now we just need -- as Chris has said, we just need to get the outlet to move it forward.
Q. I'm Vick Wright down from Seattle, Washington, Auburn actually, south of Seattle. Thank you, Jimmy, for stalling the car at St. Petersburg. That was the greatest drive I've ever seen from the back of the field.
JIMMY VASSER: I'll do it again (smiling).
Q. The race was incredible. How about a point for fastest lap? It's usually not the guy that won the race. Let's tighten the points up a little bit. Fastest lap point. Where was Paul Tracy's helmet cam? We missed it. We need foot shots, head shots. Let's see what's going on in the car, like NASCAR does. It's the one thing they do really well, the in-car camera. Great to watch. For anybody that thinks speed isn't doing the job, SPEED Channel has never preempted one of my races so I can watch Tiger Woods' mother wave. Buy a satellite dish.
CHRIS POOK: I think the point for fastest lap is a good concept. It's just on the fix list. I think that will move to the top now that you've jogged everybody's memory tonight with that. The helmet cam. It's ironic you should bring it up. On the airplane coming over here, I was responding to an e-mail, to Terry Linger, about helmet cam, visor cam, additional in-car cameras. They want cameras going forward and back. We fixed the weight rule this past season. Now the guys are saying, "Wait a minute. If I have these extra cameras on, they weigh a pound or two pounds, that's extra weight." Horse manure was going on this last race. My e-mail said, "Exempt cameras from the weight rule situation and get on with it." That's what we'll do.
Q. My name is Nancy. I'm from Aloha, Oregon. Chris, I wanted to know, Ford you said was going to do more sponsorship. Are they going to do more commercials that include CART? I get tired of watching last year FedEx, and they constantly did their thing, but they never said anything about CART. That's something it seems like it would be a good tie-in. And, Jimmy, is there going to be a sponsor on your car anytime soon?
JIMMY VASSER: Yeah, I am. Well, I know my team is working on it. They're in the sport for the long haul. They're focused on getting a real long-range solid sponsor. I think they've been approached by some sponsors that might not be as deep-rooted with a long-term plan. They're going to wait for a sponsor that comes along with those kind of qualities and characteristics.
CHRIS POOK: Ford Motor Company, we've had over the last eight weeks some very productive meetings. I think you will see them start to emerge very strongly. We are now starting to talk to the regions in the Ford Motor Company, to engage the dealers in our program. Obviously, the objective is to drive traffic to the dealers and let people understand the Ford product, and hopefully buy the Ford product. We'll have an integrated conversation with the Ford dealers in the various regions around the country as we go forward. I'm very, very confident that you will see the sort of things you're looking for to emerge from those conversations. This agreement with Ford was only signed in November. We've just got to work our way through that process, as well. But thank you for your input on it.
Q. I'm from Beaverton. I was wondering, one of the things that really first attracted me to CART was the wide variety of tracks, with the ovals, non-ovals, road courses, street courses. I know there are all kinds of different reasons why the ovals have been falling off the schedule. I was wondering, is there a plan to work towards restoring the balance between ovals and non-ovals or is this going to be now more a series that basically focuses on the road and street courses?
CHRIS POOK: No, we really want to have the ovals in the series. We also have to be very careful about where we go. I'm not sure at the moment that open-wheel race cars can compete with stock cars as far as audience attendance on ovals. We've got to find the right circumstance. We had a very good race down in Fontana last November, which Mr. Vasser kindly won for us. It was a terrific show. I mean, the race was a terrific race. The guys could actually race each other, which is something they had not been able to do up to that point on high-speed ovals or even on the one-mile ovals. But we're addressing that issue. But we've got to find the right circumstance to put ourselves into markets that make sense rather than just force feed it for the sake of doing it. That would not be sensible for us to do for the future of our sport.
SCOTT PRUETT: Young race fan over here. What's your name?
Q. Stefan. I was wondering why we don't call CARTs Indy cars anymore?
CHRIS POOK: If you go to crapwagon.com, you'll get the answer. It's a trademark issue. It's a very good question actually, young man. Excellent question. It's an issue that is centered around a trademark, an agreement that CART made a few years ago, I think it was five or six years ago, with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, that they had the proprietary right to the name Indy and Indy Car in the United States. In Canada, by the way, they're still called Indy cars. In Australia, our cars are called Indy cars. It's very confusing. But that is the reason why we can't do it in this country. That's really why we've gone back to our heritage of calling our series Champ Cars, because that's where we came from. Good question, young man. Thank you.
ADAM SAAL: Jimmy, thank you very much. How about a nice round of applause for Jimmy Vasser. (Applause.)
JIMMY VASSER: Thank you very much. What a great turnout. Hope to see you guys in June.
ADAM SAAL: We can take a few more questions, then we want to have time to meet and greet our remaining panelists.
Q. Pat from Hillsboro. I noticed this year in your schedule you have a few night races. Wondering what thought process was going to a couple of those night races? Jimmy isn't here to answer that as a perspective from one of the drivers, maybe we can get that from Scott, the difference.
CHRIS POOK: Let me ask answer the question about why night races. Milwaukee is a great traditional racetrack, but the promotion started to go away a little bit in the last few years. Over this last winter, they've completely rebuilt the racetrack, brand-new grandstand, everything. It's going to have a whole new look. We basically said that these cars are incredibly spectacular. At night, under the lights, when they go on compression, you have blue flame coming out of the back of the turbo chargers, you have the brakes blowing. The paint schemes are incredible on them, they look so beautiful. We've got the ability to light it with Musco Lighting out of Iowa. They said they could light it. We're going to run Milwaukee under the lights, step up the pace and go to Cleveland. The lady needs a new dress in Cleveland. We decided to go to Musco again. They're going to light that entire airport. It will be the single largest outdoor lit sporting event in the world. It will be pretty exciting. If you will, it's repackaging, representing the product in a different format.
SCOTT PRUETT: From a driving standpoint, one, I think every race should be under the lights. Saturday night racing is just one of the most awesome things that I've ever seen or have been a part of. It changes perceptions a bit, doing the stuff in Cup, doing the stuff in sports car, all the times we've run under the lights, I think especially these guys are going to get spoiled. Racing at Charlotte Motor Speedway, for instance, Musco does such a great job at lighting the place, you really didn't know the difference between night and day once you were on the racetrack. The job that's going to happen is going to be terrific. It's not going to be like a Daytona 24 hour where you can hardly see the racetrack, you're trying to drive the car with the headlights. What do they say, you're not supposed to overdrive the car? Impossible. You end up feeling what you're doing instead of seeing what you're doing. How they're going to do it is going to be spectacular. I know we're racing TransAm that weekend. I don't know if we're under the lights. I know it's at that time of day where it might be changing. I think it's awesome for the sport. I think more races should be under the lights myself.
Q. Chris, you talked earlier about Max coming back. Could we expect to see Memo Gidley and Bryan Herta in the series. Last year there was a big announcement about Mario Andretti being more involved in the company, possibly owning a team. We haven't heard anything about Mr. Andretti lately.
CHRIS POOK: Well, Mario is on our board of directors. He was at one point endeavoring to put a team together. That didn't materialize. He's still very much involved with us. You'll see him here when we get to Portland. With Memo and Bryan, Bryan got very close on a package this year, didn't quite get there. We clearly want him back. We clearly want Memo back. We'd like to have Alex Barron, as well, maybe young Phil Hill's young son over in Europe is a pretty capable kid that could drive. We'd like to have Alex Gurney up in the series, Rocky Moran, Jr. There's some good guys out there. The problem we have is putting the right chemistry together with the right teams. The other issue, quite frankly, it's very tough these days for Americans to get in the cars. The Europeans come over, particularly the young Europeans come over, in 10 laps they're on the pace. Our guys, they can drive, but it takes them 60 to 70 laps to get up on the pace. That's a problem for us at the moment. The engineers, they want a driver that comes in and goes quick right away. We're fixing that with our junior series, making those cars more difficult to drive. Our guys will be able to get there. The door is wide open. We would love nothing better than to have the Hertas and Gidleys, Derek Hill, Alex Gurney, Rocky Moran, Jr., Alex Barron in our series. It's just fixing the problem. We'll get it fixed here. Give us a couple years, we'll fix it.
Q. I'm Brian from Portland. With talk about going to V-10s, you asked earlier if we heard of them. I have. The sound will knock your fillings loose, they're wonderful. With that in mind, Portland has always struggled with sound regulations. How do you see that shaping up?
CHRIS POOK: Very quietly (smiling). No, we'll work with at that Portland. Mark will be working with us on that issue. We may have to tone down the noise with them a bit. We respect that, the value of the market, being here, is very important to us. We'll make the adjustment accordingly. Thanks for the question. It's good question.
Q. I'm Don from Portland. This is a question for everybody on the panel. We've heard of improvements in the works at the track here in Portland such as a second pedestrian bridge. If you had a wish list, what improvements would you make?
LON BROMLEY: Mark, will I still be your friend after tonight (laughter)?
MARK WIGGINTON: Bring your checkbook.
LON BROMLEY: Well, I'd like to see a little change in the chicane personally, I think for a couple of reasons. I'm a real race fan. I like to see racing. Unfortunately some of our drivers have trouble getting through that first lap due to that chicane. If we could rearrange it somehow at a very low expense to the promotor, I think it would add to our show and make the race that day go a lot better for us.
CHRIS POOK: I think actually Mark and I have talked a bit about the chicane last year. Mark has it on his dial sheet to get done. I think that's probably where we've got to be. Again, this is a delicate balance about what you do, how much pressure you put on the racetracks to constantly change. Coming from the promotor's side, it's cheaper to change a race car than it is to change a racetrack. We have to have a balance here and a communication. The days of CART just walking in and slamming their foot down and saying, "You will do this, you will do that," are gone. We now communicate and talk, work with our promoters to make sure that what we do is sensible. We also have to understand that we're only here once a year. He's running this racetrack every week with all kinds of different series. We've got to be respectful of the other series that run on this racetrack at the same time. We might want changes that may be good for us, but can't be good for other series. We can't be selfish. We have to understand in today's world, it's a give and take situation. The street has two directions. That's where we will come from in these discussions, arrive at a compromise for everybody.
LON BROMLEY: Mark is safety oriented here at PIR. He's always right on top of things. I'm always asking for new things. What we don't see are all the other small things, the many things that he puts into that racetrack, wall, fencing, dirt work. That's because we just don't think about the little things, but they're just as important as the big ones. My hat is off to Mark.
Q. I'm Howard, Estacada, Oregon. I want to say thank you to Lon and Bill for all the work they've done behind the scenes. Having been out on some of the corners, particularly in the rain on turn seven, all the work it took to get those guys moving again quickly, it's amazing. As far as what we the fans can do, CART stock is at an all-time low, buy some. I was amazed to see it didn't move after that wonderful race last weekend. What does it take to get it moving, Mr. Pook?
CHRIS POOK: You know, I can't do anything about the stock. I don't look at the stock. I'm sorry, shareholders. If I look at the stock, I'll go bananas worrying about that. I just know when we fix the company, we'll fix the stock. That's what's going to happen. The stock will take care of itself.
Q. Alex from Guadalajara, Mexico. Will Champ Car organization support drivers, as they do in Mexico, Brazil, they have the Team Brazil in Europe, sponsor a particular pool of pilots so they can come up and be on the top level?
CHRIS POOK: That's our plan, exactly. By the way, in Mexico they're doing an outstanding job of bringing young racing car drivers up. They have a very, very structured program, excellent program, that starts way down in the lower classes and brings them through. The young driver Luis Diaz that won a couple of our races in Atlantic last year sat in for Adrian Fernandez last year in Mexico City. Unfortunately, the car broke early in the race. He's a talented driver that will come through. That is our plan, exactly that. We need to make our junior series a bit more difficult to drive. The Atlantic series is to easy to drive. Our whole intent is when a guy wins that series, he'll have a chunk of dough to take with him up to the big team, and that will start their career off at the next level. The Europeans and the Brazilians, Mexicans are way ahead of us. The Canadians have a good driver program, too. We unfortunately have not paid attention to that over the years. We're going to pay attention to it now. That will eliminate the problems, we won't have the Memo Gidley problems, Alex Barron problems. We will put drivers up through the system every single year.
Q. Chris, I used to have my own identity. I'm know known as Jason Lapointe's dad. He's kind of come up through the ladder that you're speaking of, the Mazda series, USF 2000. He's won the championships. Basically what we found out, after winning each championship, you had the right then to now spend more money to try to win another one. What you just spoke of over here is real encouraging. The first race in the Toyota Atlantic at Road America toward the end of the season in 2001, put the car in third place against seasoned drivers. He did run two more races, ran Laguna Seca, down through the streets of Houston. I can tell you that most of these young kids out here, they look for that carrot and how can you get there. Right now it is strictly a money issue. It's nothing to get two or three phone calls a week from an Atlantic team that want Jason on their team, they want him to drive for them, but it's a money issue. They'll give it to him for half the price they would a driver they don't think could win the championship. That's probably just one statement. The question I have for you is on this foundation that you're building for CART. You bring up the American driver issue. I think that's possibly where this foundation is. If you want the American fans, the people in this room like myself love the technology of your series, we love the road courses of your series. What we're lacking is the person to go out there to yell and cheer for, pronounce their name. I can pronounce Paul Tracy, Jimmy Vasser and Ryan Hunter-Reay. The rest of them I would struggle with. I think if you went around the room, you'd see the same thing. I kind of got turned on with that through a person I met about five, six years ago who ended up being my stepfather-in-law who is a huge NASCAR and IRL fan. He mentioned to me one day, Jason and I talked to him about why he didn't like CART, and that was the reason. "I can't pronounce any of their names." I think in that foundation you need the AJ Foyts, Al Unsers, Rocky Morans, Michael Valientes, Jason Lapointe, Scott Jenkins is here tonight, Chris Knight is over here. These are some talented kids that could be up there if it wasn't just for one issue, money. Some of these fans out here would love. Jason Lapointe was born in Woodburn, Oregon, editor of the newspaper, captain of the tennis team, valedictorian. The thing they said about his senior clip where they put the things in there, Jason Lapointe will win the Indy 500 five times and put Woodburn on the map. He needs the opportunity to get in the car and go try. If you can get some American drivers in there, get a fan base built up, that's where NASCAR has this series beat, they have the fan base. They're paying for those sponsors to be on the car, et cetera. I think that really should be a priority on your list of getting people in there that can bring a fan base with them and build that up.
CHRIS POOK: We're very much aware of that. It's a pretty high priority. I empathize with you. We have to do two things. We have to bring the cost of sport down at the same time as having a program like that. The costs have been let to get out of control. It's nuts. Absolutely crazy. Atlantic Series is a million dollars a year. That's stupid. Doesn't make any sense at all. We'll fix it.
Q. I'm Robin from Portland. I enjoyed the race. I got a little lost because you didn't really show the new drivers with the new paint jobs and didn't really give us a chance to get to know these new drivers. Is the TV package going to work more on that so we can actually cheer for these people, we'll know how to pronounce their names?
SCOTT PRUETT: There's so many new things about CART going into the season. We don't know their names. We're like, "How do you pronounce Sebastien, Bourdais?" We're going through. You're laughing, but it was the same thing in our meetings. We also talked about, because of all these new paint schemes, new names. We did a clip on Bourdais, we showed his face, then we showed his name on the side of his race car. You could kind of see a bit of the color. That's the direction from the TV side of it that we want to head. There's so many new things about CART that it was just absolutely impossible to try inundate all this information to the viewers in such a small amount of time and cover what's going on, covering all the action on track from qualifying and from the race. We're going to make every attempt to try -- let the viewers, just as we want to know the different colors and considers, faces, names that go with all these different and new teams and drivers, we're going to do whatever we can to help the viewer understand that because we know that's a big issue.
Q. Maybe a Welcome to CART half hour show to get us to know these drivers.
SCOTT PRUETT: There's a lot of things being discussed exactly like that, as well as running around on Friday afternoon -- Thursday afternoon, real little quick clips, vignettes, to try to bring these guys to life. Everything has been so new and so different coming into this season, we're trying to find our way as well.
Q. My name is Jamie. I'm from Aloha, Oregon. We've talked a lot about the Stars of Tomorrow and the driver development series. My question is, within that framework, are there any efforts being made to particularly courage women drivers to come up through the series?
CHRIS POOK: Yes, there are. Her name is Danika Patrick. She gets on with the program. You'll see her in Atlantics this year. She pushes the button. She doesn't take any guff from the guys either. She's quite something. She's quite something.
Q. My name is Jennifer Berry. Actually, I drive Formula 500s here in Portland. But I'm probably too old to be part of your program.
CHRIS POOK: We have lots of programs, my dear.
Q. You're looking for new ideas. You have for years been partnered with SCCA to provide turn workers for your races. Is there anything possibility of you partnering with SCCA club racing to give those of us who do club racing at all of the venues you go to every year a possibility to get involved? Also getting more of our SCCA turn workers into Lon Bromley's safety program, too.
CHRIS POOK: Well, I'll let Lon answer that himself. Part of the discussions when I went to Topeka, Kansas, recently with Steve was to see how we could work together in those areas to showcase in the regions some of the amateur races that go on, and also at the same time to be able to have some dialogue with the SCCA particularly when it comes to the runoffs about people who do well in the runoffs, how we introduce them to the next step in professional racing, be it single seater or maybe going across to American LeMans series. Those conversations are underway. It's part of the whole rebuilding of our relationship with the Sports Car Club of America.
LON BROMLEY: I understand, I've heard a lot of rumors, that Chris may volunteer myself and some of my group this year to do some special instruction with SCCA. I think that's a very special step to get involved with the SCCA. We'll just move on from that point. What do you think?
Q. Sounds great.
CHRIS POOK: Lon actually has to go and do some speaking engagements for us concerning safety because it's very sophisticated, the work that he and his team does. I think people take a lot of this issue for granted from time to time. If you all knew the preparation that goes in not just to the building of the vehicles they have for this safety program, it's truly remarkable. Many long, hard hours of work. When they have to work, the intensity of the level of work they have to do is horrific because they literally are fighting for seconds in some instances, such as the case with Zanardi. We had a situation in Australia where we had all 16 guys or 18 guys fully employed out there flat out working on that situation. We need to understand more that side of it, that side of our business, because it's a very, very important part. It's an emotional part of our business, as well.
Q. Howard from Vancouver. I want to congratulate you on a great job. Also that CART.com is an excellent website for fans. My point I wanted to make was a lot of talk about the feeder program and the American drivers versus the South American and Mexican drivers. I think we're at a disadvantage in the United States. Any of you that have traveled to any large city in those other countries, taken one taxi cab drive, you'll know where they have it up on us, where they have the advantage.
CHRIS POOK: Four-time world champion from Buenos Aires named Fangio came out of a taxi cab, went into a race car. Your point is well made.
ADAM SAAL: Scott, bring it to conclusion. It was a great evening.
SCOTT PRUETT: It was a great evening. As I said, my family, myself, moved to the Portland area, McMinnville. What a great turnout. Give yourselves a hand. Super job. Sorry we couldn't get to all the questions this evening. I know there were a lot unanswered. Also to our guests Lon, Chris, Bill, they've taken the time to come here and talk with us this evening, explain and help us understand where CART is, where CART is going, what's happening with it, some other aspects that we didn't understand before we got here, and hopefully we do as we finish wrapping up the program. Let's give them a hand, as well. (Applause.)
CHRIS POOK: On behalf of the management team, everybody at CART, I would like to thank you all for coming out tonight. I think it's terrific you did this. It's very healthy for us to hear from you, your input, your points, all of you. I'm very grateful to you. I want to assure you that we're going to fight and we're going to fight and we're going to kick ass and take names and we're going to get this series back up to the top again where it belongs.
SCOTT PRUETT: Thanks again. I know we'll be around for a few minutes, milling around. Come by and ask us some questions. Again, thanks so much. We'll see you at the races.
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