Champ Car Media Conference
CALVIN FISH: Thank you very much. Welcome to the fifth Champ Car town meeting of 2003. Certainly these Champ Car town meetings have proved to be very popular and successful over the last year. We really broke new ground here in Columbus just under a year ago. You really set the trend. I'd like to give you a round of applause right now for making these things happen. Congratulations, everyone. We're certainly pleased with our exciting panel of guests this evening, attracted such a turnout. Pretty nasty weather. This Englishman certainly attracts bad weather wherever he goes. It is really a true indication that Champ Car's upcoming event at Mid-Ohio will certainly attract a very strong crowd, as usual. For myself, Mid-Ohio has always been one of my favorite circuits when I was competing in the Atlantic Series and Indy Lights championship. Since that time, my affinity has certainly grown as now I'm the chief instructor up at the school there, so I certainly have a special interest on the upcoming event. I'm not sure how many in the crowd have really attended any of the events, maybe some of you were up at Cleveland. Certainly it's been a very exciting start to the season, and if you haven't seen any of the events live, hopefully you've had a chance to catch some of them on SPEED or on the CBS network via their broadcasts. Certainly myself and the boys on the broadcast team have had a great time enjoying bringing the action to you in your own living room. This season we have a lot of great things going for us. The Ford-Cosworth engine program, strong rules stability program, cost-cutting measures have really created a level playing field and a strong platform for new teams to compete on. Certainly new operations such as Rocketsports, Conquest, the American Spirit Team Johansson teams have made their mark very early in their season. We of course have an exciting crop of new young rookies in the series, as well, who are rapidly establishing themselves as the future stars in this sport. I think names such as Ryan Hunter-Reay, Darren Manning, Mario Haberfeld and the sensational Sebastien Bourdais have the potential to follow the likes of Alex Zanardi and Juan Pablo Montoya, creating their own public recognition in the Champ Car series as those guys did. Certainly the championship is at a boiling point right now. We have a handful of drivers with a legitimate shot at this championship. By the time we get back here in a couple of races I'm sure things will really start to heat up. Once again, I'd like to thank you for taking the time to join us this evening. Our program will be a simple answer-and-question session for the next hour and a half. We have a lot to get through. We're going to try to charge straight through this without a pit stop. I'm used to working down in the pits, but there's no pit stops this evening. Afterwards, we'll certainly have a chance to meet some of the stars here on the panel this evening. Right now we want to get things going so we're going to drop the green flag, take a look at the video screen once more. (Video shown.) Two of the bright young stars in our series, both Sebastien Bourdais and Danica Patrick. Right now I'd like to introduce the guests to you. Joining us to represent the CART Champ Car operation is vice president of racing operations, Mr. John Lopes. Please welcome John to the stage. Next I'd like you to welcome the top rookie in the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, Sebastien Bourdais, driver of the #2 Lilly Ford-Cosworth/Lola, with the Newman/Haas team, three-time winner in 2003. We're also very pleased to have a driver for the Columbus-based Team Rahal. She's a rookie in the Toyota Atlantic championship, certainly garnering a lot of attention this year, Ms. Danica Patrick. Last and certainly not least, we'd like to welcome the president and owner of Walker Racing, he's a member of CART's board of directors, he's one of the owners who possibly has a little more here than our own Bobby Rahal, please welcome Mr. Derrick Walker. We certainly appreciate Derrick joining us this evening. Bobby was going to be here on stage. Unfortunately, he had some business that he had to take care of over on the West Coast. We believe that we should have Bobby on the phone right now. Is Bobby with us?
BOBBY RAHAL: I'm with you, Calvin. How are you?
CALVIN FISH: Good, mate.
BOBBY RAHAL: I'd like to thank everybody at CART for really working hard to make sure I could participate. I'm sorry I can't be there in person. I'm happy we could at least participate in this way.
CALVIN FISH: It feels like I'm on Who Wants to Be the Millionaire game. You're out there with some sponsorship negotiations. Did you get the check today?
BOBBY RAHAL: Not yet. We're working hard on it. I have to say there seems to be some real interest in the series. For a year or so, it seemed like all you heard was bad news. I think CBS is doing great things for us from a television standpoint, I think it's generating some interest. We're certainly hopeful it will be successful out here.
CALVIN FISH: Bobby, I'll pose a question to you right now. A big year for you. You have teams in three major championships. You have your son competing and winning in the Stars of Tomorrow series. You have a lot of plates to keep spinning. How do you manage to keep it going?
BOBBY RAHAL: It's not easy, as you can imagine. I'm never quite sure which time zone I'm in. But all kidding aside, it wouldn't be possible without having great people in our team. Scott Roembke, who is really my right-hand man and runs the team on a day-to-day basis, takes a lot of the load off of me, allows me to do the things like I'm doing currently. But also we're a fairly mature organization in terms of people who have been with the team for a long time. Ray Leto, who was one of our chassis engineers, race engineers, has now taken over as team manager of Michel's program and has done a very good job. He and Todd Bowland, who is a race engineer, have done a great job with Michel. And Don Halliday is back with us. Frankly, it's just having good people that allow us to pursue all these different activities.
CALVIN FISH: That's great. Quick question for John. I'll get the ball rolling. I'll pose a question to each of our panelists, then open up the floor. John, it was really a goal to have more affordable and competitive racing for this season. Seems you really pulled that off. The racing has been very competitive, indeed. It seems it really has come at a more affordable price than ever before. Are you pleased with the on-track performance thus far?
JOHN LOPES: We are. We're very pleased. It can always be better. We're working on a few things we might talk about tonight. I think a couple good examples of this year would be the elimination of traction control and some of the wing packages that we actually have used. In fact, when I think of a wing package, I think about this young man's first win, Sebastien's first win at EuroSpeedway. I don't know if any of you saw, but it was the most nail-biting race that I've ever seen. You came out of the car shaking I think at the end of that race. But literally it was wheel-to-wheel, nose-to-tail the entire time. Those of you who saw the Cleveland event, there was an exciting podium pass with Paul Tracy there at the end that got the fans to their feet. So ultimately the goal is to provide better entertainment to the fans. This year with the Cosworth format we've put together, as well as the elimination of traction control, it's helped there. Do you feel things have improved on your side in terms of team owner?
DERRICK WALKER: Very much so. I think if you look at the financial output that you have to put to run one of these cars, I think we've cut the budgets by (mumbling). Wish you heard that, right (laughter). You can see it's quite a lot of money. I had to be careful what I said because Scott is over there. I don't want to give away any secrets. The budgets, seriously, they've been at least 30% cut out of the budget. I think that's all due to the CART leadership, and taking charge of the situation, getting us to see some sense.
CALVIN FISH: Next up, Sebastien Bourdais. The man who won Cleveland last year went on to win the second race in Ohio, Patrick Carpentier. Sebastien, I'm sure you'd like to do the same thing. But talk about what John mentioned with the lack of traction control this year, the cars are really being driven flat out for over two hours at times. I know at the end of Cleveland, both you and Paul Tracy, who finished second, were absolutely exhausted.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, it's true. Hi, everybody. I'm pleased to be here. It's true that this race in Cleveland has been qualifying time for two hours. It's been very physically demanding. And it was a great show. I hope those who went there had a lot of fun because I think we gave a lot for this race. It's true that it's really spectacular due to the fact that we have no traction control, basically no assistance on the car. But from the inside, it's also really fun. It's a really good package for Champ Car racing.
CALVIN FISH: Certainly a very spectacular evening up there in Cleveland under the lights. First time we had a serious road racing championship being conducted under the lights in Cleveland. By winning his third event, he is the first rookie since Montoya to do that. Certainly a great feat for Sebastien. Next we have this young lady being based here in Columbus, from Illinois, Danica Patrick. Danica competes in the Toyota Atlantic championship. You've have four top six finishes, started the season with a podium finish. This championship this year is really, really tough. How are you finding it?
DANICA PATRICK: Other than the two yellow cars, as I like to call them, which is AJ Allmendinger and Aaron Justus, everybody else has two or three -- (Hang up tone.) Bye, Bobby (laughter). They all have tons of experience. I found it to be up and down for that matter. We kicked it off with a really good result at Monterey, found our way back there sometimes after that. I think Milwaukee we were in a good position to get fourth there, which would have been good. But, you know, due to lap traffic and things like that... The competition is really tough, and there really are no other people in it that are bad. If they're not good, they don't find the money, other than one or two stragglers at the end.
CALVIN FISH: I think you're supposed to mention Bobby's name first. I know you would have gotten to that. Is Bobby still on the line? We don't have him back yet. Hopefully Bobby will join us. Again, he has limited time.
DANICA PATRICK: It's the weather.
CALVIN FISH: That got us started certainly. I want to turn it over to you. We have Mr. Adam Saal on stage joining me. Welcome Adam to the group this evening. He's the CART Champ Car vice president of communications. Very appropriate that Adam is going to get down there in the crowd with you and try and get some of these questions answered for you. Adam, anyone lined up?
ADAM SAAL: Go ahead with the first question.
Q. Pete Metzger, Columbus, Ohio. Question to John. In the March 24th issue of Auto Week, Chris Pook stated he didn't particularly care for natural terrain road courses. I happen to be a fan of Mid-Ohio. I like those courses. What are CART's plans for the future as far as like Elkhart Lake, Mid-Ohio, courses like that?
JOHN LOPES: Well, I'll break it into two questions. The first question has to do with natural terrain courses. We will continue to run on natural terrain courses as well as street circuits, speedways and short ovals. It's part of the diversity mix that really sets CART Champ Car apart. We will continue that. With respect specifically to Mid-Ohio, because there's been a lot of questions, and I think it's important we mention it tonight, Michelle Trueman brought it up earlier today that a lot of fans have approached her. There is no decision with respect to next season. Michelle has made it clear she'd like us to come back. And certainly Mid-Ohio has been a great course for us over the years. We've been racing here since 1980. The fan base here is as strong and as loyal as anywhere. It's an important circuit, very important circuit, on the championship. So after this year's event, we're going to sit down with Michelle and discuss the future. At this time, there really is no decision. But certainly it's a circuit that we feel is very, very important. And natural terrain courses, in general, will continue to be part of our format.
ADAM SAAL: Next question.
Q. Jeff from Pickerington, Ohio. I've been a CART fan for quite a long time. Quite honestly, the last couple seasons, I've been a little disappointed with the inconsistency of the penalties. I know Sebastien is not going to like this particular example, the race he won in Germany, I'm still personally trying to figure out what the difference was between Mario, when he was called for blocking, and Sebastien seemed to make a little bigger move. The other particular example that I was curious about was a couple weeks ago in Portland, it took CART eight laps to figure out that what Paul Tracy had done was a penalty. To me it either is or it isn't a penalty. Why is this taking so long? It seems to be happening more on a regular basis. Once it was deemed a penalty, I was curious why Michel wasn't allowed to slot back up into the first position where he should have been.
CALVIN FISH: We'll put this to Derrick as a team owner. I know up and down pit lane, guys get frustrated with. Chris Kneifel and the team, with the question over in Germany with Mario and Sebastien, what they tried to do was to give Mario a penalty that wouldn't really ruin his race. Unfortunately, at the end of the race, when what was deemed Sebastien was doing the same moves on Mario, he didn't have another pit stop to make. To do a drive-through and a stop, they would have effectively taken Sebastien out of the race in terms of a real result. Derrick, you see it happen. Sometimes there's a lot of controversy down there. I think the guys in general are doing a pretty good job.
DERRICK WALKER: I think overall the quality of officiating is actually getting better, believe it or not. I think when you look at the chief steward and the job he has to do, with the tools he has to do it, he goes overboard to try to be fair and make sure the evidence he has is absolutely clear so that he makes a call, it can stand up and be judged correctly. Sometimes there is a delay as he goes through and tries to ascertain what the penalty was or if there should be a penalty. The other thing I will say, these guys up here will all testify to the fact that a lot of the push for change and more control and more regulations is actually coming from the drivers. The drivers are voicing their opinion in these drivers' meetings like you wouldn't believe. They're not shouting at the chief steward, although they are looking for leadership from the chief steward to make those calls as crisp and quick as they can, and fair. But they're actually talking to each other saying, "No longer is it acceptable to do blocking. No longer can you chop the guy up and win the race." I think every incident you see nowadays, certainly this year they go under the magnifier ten times more than they ever did.
CALVIN FISH: Sebastien, would you like to comment? Since that time we've implemented the no blocking rule. Just so everyone understands, the stewards would allow one move, so you can move from one side of the track, your normal line, make one essential blocking move. Since that time they've now stopped that. It really seems to have created some better racing. Sebastien, coming from Europe where you probably blocked five or six times, I went through the same thing, this is a big change.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, I don't know. I think for the show, and I hope that I deserve the race in Germany hopefully, but basically it's a point which happened with Mario. He started to fight very early in the race, was changing line very quickly, which basically when I got the lead, I was just dropping from outside to inside and looking straight towards the inside. So it's not blocking actually; it's just choosing your line. No, but I'm really serious, you know. It's something that basically you were allowed to do, and you're not anymore because now you cannot change your line even once. If the Germany race would have had to do it again, I couldn't do what I was able to in the rules. You know, I think we've seen really warm races in US. I was the first to enjoy it when I was a kid watching Champ Cars, as all of you I think. It's just to try to make in it a safe manner. Germany race has been pretty exciting. At some point during the race, it got pretty dangerous, especially when I had to cross the grass. Basically I was right there, and he didn't see me. That's why he got penalized. I didn't do the same, at least I hope so. You know, about the fact that it needs to have really quick decisions, you know, it's also to try to make it fair for everybody. That's why sometime it takes some time to make the decision and make the call, because if you do it too quickly, with just the reaction, it's better sometimes to watch the tape once, twice, three times before to make the decision.
JOHN LOPES: Maybe I could add to that, Sebastien. On Paul's call in Portland, it would be great if we could invite all of you to race control sometimes. Unfortunately, we're usually in a confined area with no air-conditioning. In that particular situation, we don't have instant replay on demand in race control. We work with the television producers on one of the screens to give us instant replay. But in Portland, in particular, we were trying to get a replay. The reason is last year, there was a couple of bad calls that we made. One was in Motegi on Dominquez' car when he was coming into the pits. The other was on Franchitti at Toronto when we had three course observers tell us he had four wheels over the curb. We flipped him back, it was very controversial. What happened in both those instances after the race, we went back and we could not recreate the violation by video from all the cameras. So now the standard is, if there is a violation, or we get a call from a course observer, because in the streets sometimes we don't have a proper TV camera angle or eyes on the actual violation, what we will do is we will call and actually get a replay where they can verify what happened. In Paul's instance, we had the call from the pit lane official, and John Anderson, former manager of Team Green, now heading pit lane officials, they're a top-notch bunch. We grade them on a weekly level just like the NFL grades their officials. Once that call comes up, we ask for the replay from a couple different angles. Once we get the replay, there's an analysis of what the penalty will be. In that situation, what happened, if you remember in Germany, when Lemarie was taken out by Michel, we gave Michel a 10-second penalty because he took somebody out of the race. In retrospect, in grading ourselves in the after action, we would have been more severe in that penalty. In Paul's situation, he didn't take somebody out. It was a lane violation. So half as severe, gave him half the amount of time. Actually that difference ended up allowing Michel to make the pass. So it gives you a little bit of an idea of what the steward's philosophy is.
CALVIN FISH: Do we have Bobby back?
BOBBY RAHAL: I'm here.
CALVIN FISH: One thing you want to say is Bobby is with us for a limited time this evening. Hopefully Danica --
DANICA PATRICK: Did I make you mad with my comment, Bob?
BOBBY RAHAL: I didn't even hear it (laughter).
CALVIN FISH: Let's go to the crowd again with Adam.
ADAM SAAL: You may want to help each other with Derrick's microphone. It's crackling. We want to hear every word he has to say.
Q. I'm Mike, I'm a Champ Car fan. Anyhow, most people here know about the split. Myself and a whole bunch of other people I see in this room that I've seen at races over the years, we were around for the first split back in 1978. We started out as USAC because that's where Champ Cars ran, then Dan Gurney came one the white paper, made the idea for CART, then we saw the sport grow, go through some difficult times. Actually what I'm getting to, I'll get to the punch line quick, one track owner in 1980 had a vision to make a showcase for CART. Michelle, if you're here, your dad, Jim Trueman, my hat is off to him. He spent untolled personal millions of dollars making Mid-Ohio a showcase. For 25 years, roughly, we've had just a wonderful, wonderful event there. I just want to see it keep going. I understand the vision. I totally understand the vision of making event-based things. You know, Long Beach, I've been there. I've been to every CART event in the country, not every year, but I've hit every one. The street races are great, Cleveland is fun, Long Beach is wonderful. But please, please, please, keep Mid-Ohio. Thank you.
ADAM SAAL: Thank you.
CALVIN FISH: Maybe we'll get Bobby to comment on that. Certainly Bobby has a strong association with Mr. Jim Trueman. Bobby, I know you love Mid-Ohio. Talk about what the fans have meant to you here, both yourself, your career, your racing organization now.
BOBBY RAHAL: Well, I think, first off, I couldn't agree more with the gentleman. You know, I remember the first day that Jim took me up there when he had bought it. It was a mud hole. He was really recreating the entire place. Every time I go up there, I just can't think of a better road racing circuit for the fans in particular, which was his whole motivation, with all the mounding that took place, to create a great place for the fans to watch road racing. You know, as Derrick well knows, Derrick and I fought long and hard for Mid-Ohio, Elkhart Lake, Laguna over the years in the board meetings. There were some people who weren't supportive of road racing, but there have been an awful lot that were. I'm not on the board anymore, but I'm hoping Derrick can still exert all his influence. Without question, I mean, Jim Trueman brought me to Columbus in 1981. I so often think how would racing be different today if he were still alive. I think there's no question his impact was great, even in the small amount of time he was here as an owner and as a track promotor and what have you. Certainly Michelle has carried I think the baton very well. You know, I look forward every year to going to Mid-Ohio. It's always nice to have the level of support we've had over the years there. Certainly it was kind of like, you know, that gave us an extra little horsepower, whatever, to do well. I look forward to coming back in a couple weeks. Of course, with Danica now there in Atlantic, hopefully we'll end up with two victories.
DANICA PATRICK: Good plan.
CALVIN FISH: I'm sure, Danica, you'd like nothing better than to win here on Team Rahal ground this weekend, home turf, next month when we come back. How are things looking down the road? I know you've been testing hard. You've had a change in the engine program. What do you foresee for the rest of the season?
DANICA PATRICK: We are working through it, and we'll get there more consistently. I think that's been the problem. We've been up and down. That's frustrating as a driver because sometimes you go into a weekend, you know, like the first race, you have a great one, and then you show well again, and then all of a sudden you hit somewhere like Laguna Seca and you go, "Why am I here? What am I doing wrong?" It's so frustrating. I think that's just the things that you go through when you're a first-year team and when you don't have anyone else to base yourself off of. I was never a fan - Bob, you know - of teammates. I kind of have never been put in first place when it's been teammates, especially my time in England.
CALVIN FISH: They like being a teammate with you, especially when you put your overalls on.
DANICA PATRICK: We all do change in the truck at the same time. It's weird. It's remarkable how all of a sudden they come out of the woodwork and at mechanics have to grab something (laughter). I'll, you know, fess up to it and say we probably would have been better with a teammate.
BOBBY RAHAL: I heard that, Danica.
DANICA PATRICK: You're always right, you know that, right? You're like a mother.
BOBBY RAHAL: Thanks.
DANICA PATRICK: But a father.
CALVIN FISH: Another question.
Q. My name is Tony. I'm from here in Columbus. I had two comments that really come off of some suggestions from last year's town meeting. There was a lot of good, productive conversation. Two of the things, one of the them involves looking at the road courses, really embracing what that is about, really seriously looking at the standing start. When you look at a grid, look at the road race, a standing start is an exciting beginning to a race. Something that CART needs to go back to. John, I'll have you comment on both of these since you have authority for that.
JOHN LOPES: Less than I'd like actually.
Q. You can pass my thoughts along. That's fine. The other thing I'd really like to look at is, how we're looking right now, I really feel that these mandatory pit windows is sort of killing some of the power of the race. I really think that pit strategy, you look in Formula 1 what that's doing, is creating a whole other dimension. When we take it out of there, we're trying to make this parade into the pits, everybody is coming out, like this little competition in there. I'd really like us to look at the point where people can look at all the strategies from a team perspective and start a whole different dimension, go back to the racing as it was.
CALVIN FISH: We'll let John answer the first one on the standing starts and Derrick can answer the second one. John.
JOHN LOPES: There are a couple of things we're looking at for next year to improve the racing overall. We took it to one level this year certainly with the things we've discussed earlier. We are discussing standing starts for next year. Just out of curiosity? (Applause.) This weekend, we didn't have the prettiest start, for example. But in a place like Toronto, the only way you're going to prevent that with a running start, without having five restarts, is to have a standing start. The other thing that almost assuredly you'll see next year is the push to pass button be reintroduced. We're talking with Cosworth about that right now.
CALVIN FISH: Derrick, talking about the pit windows. Last year we really saw a lot of races become economy runs. That was two years ago we saw a lot of economy runs. The beginning of the 2002 season, these pit windows were introduced. There's really two sides to the coin on that one. Which side of the coin do you stand up on?
DERRICK WALKER: In some respects, the strategy is probably -- there's more involved now than there was before. When it was an economy run, it was very simple: you just had to save fuel and stay out as long as you possibly could and hope you found a yellow when you could come in and do a pit stop under the yellow. Right now you have a maximum number of laps and you have a mandated number of stops. So every time there's a pit stop, there's an opportunity to overtake. So we've got a little bit of strategy. Granted, we're only playing with 10ths of a second when it comes to the pit stop at the moment. We're trying to shave some time off to get round somebody. But it's very difficult to actually, you know, have a race where you can't have some sort of chance of having a segment where it's just totally boring and nobody is overtaking, everybody is just running around and around and around. When you actually introduced the mandated pit stops, we actually run flat out all the time. There's nobody saving fuel out there. They're just trying to see how the yellows fall, and when they come in, how can they do something as quick as possible to get round somebody. So if you didn't have that, we would all be doing fuel economy runs. The fuel control is no longer in the car, so that's helped some. But there's still a lot the driver can do. If we were left to our own devices, and we didn't have the mandated pit stops, we'd be out there training and practicing to see how far we could stretch a gallon of gas. It is a problem you're always going to have in some respects where you have cars that are fairly even, and you're dealing with a race the way we are, and fuel stops being a feature of it. You want more rather than less pit stops. That's where the mandated number I think helps a little bit. But it's not a magic bullet by any means. It's just another variation. Formula 1 have a different situation altogether. They have a totally different starting point, which is also something we should consider, too. That's not a bad idea either for our racing.
CALVIN FISH: Sebastien, from a driver perspective, one race this year at Brands Hatch where we actually did have that, which you liked of course, because you won that race.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Actually, no. I think with all the respect, I have to remember this race because I won it, it was my very first race in Champ Car. I felt this race probably the worst of the season. You know, there was no mandatory pit stops and we were all saving fuel. Cool, I've been the best on that day. But, you know, it's not a lot of fun in the car, just driving, cruising around, trying to keep the gap consistent with the car in front of you, and expect that you're going to do one or two laps more on the stint than the guy in front of you. I think actually strategy with mandatory pit stops is really important. Because, as you've seen, maybe not all of you understood what happened in Cleveland, but if we've been in a position to pass Paul Tracy, just because the strategy was going on. Basically at the end of the second stint, I was not completely close to Paul Tracy, so the team decided to fill the car with fuel, so we were in a position to do a short fill for the next stint, and that worked. You know, I think it's better to do a full stint flat out and to show a great race for the fans than to cruise around and try to save fuel. The biggest difference with Formula 1 is actually that there is a lot of yellows in our races because of safety reasons, so everybody's trying to catch a yellow stop. If you do that, it's just really, really boring from inside. And I think it's less spectacular for you.
CALVIN FISH: Some different points there. Adam, who is next up there?
Q. I'm Peter from Cincinnati. Yes, you're going to be back at Mid-Ohio. I'll give you 70,000 reasons why you're going to be back at Mid-Ohio.
CALVIN FISH: Best fans in the world, right?
Q. I was going to ask something about standing starts, but since that's already been talked about, how is the V-10 situation looking in 2005, 2006?
JOHN LOPES: We have gone into a bit of a quiet period on engines. We felt that perhaps early on we might have talked a little too much about it. In the past, when CART was getting ready to do an engine change, it was hotly debated in the press. The nature of our business, since we are in competition, we have to talk to manufacturers on a quiet basis. So we're really not at this point publicly talking about it. What we can say is we've had a lot of interest from manufacturers around the world who are taking a look at us, particularly since the formula is starting to grow again and develop some exciting racing. So there is interest out there. Other than that, at this point we're not going to make any public statements about the engine formula until we have something definitive to tell you. I couldn't venture to guess when that's going to happen, but certainly it's going to be in the not too distant future, we're going to let you know where we're at.
DERRICK WALKER: However, if you guys can keep a secret, I'll break a board rule and I will tell you all about it (laughter). No, seriously, there is need for change. There could be an advantage in change. It's a question of when the change comes. Obviously, to make change, it costs money. If you look at the cycle for the engine manufacturers, when they pull the trigger to go build an engine, there's an 18-month cycle before they can roll out engines ready to test. Any decision we make, you have 18 months to think about it before it happens. You have to look at the sport and the marketplace, where the money is going to come to pay for a new formula. Choosing the time that you decide what you're going to do is very important both from manufacturing and being able to pay for it. But I think you could see that there's a lot of interest in looking at some new alternatives. I think sooner or later we're going to get there, whether it's five, six, seven, whenever that is. As John says, it's kind of being looked at. That's about where it is at the moment. But don't tell anybody. It's not the official line.
ADAM SAAL: I think you should give Derrick an extra round of applause. We invited him to attend when Bobby had to go to his important meeting just yesterday, and he didn't miss a beat. He said, "I'm coming out." Thank you, Derrick.
DERRICK WALKER: Bobby owes me.
ADAM SAAL: Having said that, Bobby is out there in between meetings, he has to go. Bobby, any final comments before we say farewell?
BOBBY RAHAL: I just look forward to seeing everybody in Mid-Ohio. I think these town hall meetings have been a great idea. Obviously, there's a lot of very knowledgeable and enthusiastic fans of Champ Car racing. You know, we're all working hard to try to make it better and to see it grow. Without question, without the fan support, it wouldn't exist. I personally just want to thank everybody. Look forward to seeing them up there. Thanks, Derrick, for standing in. I just wish everybody the best. We'll see you in a couple weeks.
CALVIN FISH: Thanks, Bobby. We appreciate it.
ADAM SAAL: Thank you.
CALVIN FISH: Quick technical question for Derrick, as well. One of your drivers has these long sideburns. Every week they're getting longer. Is there a point where this becomes a weight penalty and the engineers get concerned?
DERRICK WALKER: Actually, he's gone over to the British Grand Prix. I told him to come back with them off. We'll see if I've got any clout. But I just hate guys with hair (laughter). Girls are okay, guys are horrible.
Q. Jason from Columbus, Ohio. My question is for John. On Thursday evening, will Chris, Bernie, Gerald, Kevin and Paul be sharing champagne and cigars? Secondly, who is picking up the tab?
JOHN LOPES: That will be a hell of a poker game for sure. I think we should throw the tab on Chris for that one. But certainly, no comment (laughter).
CALVIN FISH: Stay tuned.
Q. I'm Mike Clark. I'm treasurer of the Tony George, surely the Antichrist fan club of Arlington. I'm really pleased for everybody that's here, Danica, Sebastien, all of your talent. But I took all of our funds in the club and invested in CART stock about a dollar ago. So, Mr. Walker, Champ Car stock, buy, sell or hold? And thank you for being here.
DERRICK WALKER: Let me say, how shall I answer that one?
ADAM SAAL: Not at all, Derrick. Let the PR guys talk about it.
DERRICK WALKER: Let me think. You've got to do what you've got to do.
ADAM SAAL: You understand, everybody, it is a delicate situation. Any of those important and valid yet sensitive questions, they don't want to duck them, we're here to talk about it, but they are duty bound in many ways.
Q. I'm Aaron from Virginia, I go to school here at Ohio State. My question is more for the off-track contingent up there. I live on the eastern seaboard. Among the major media markets that are Boston, Philadelphia, New York and Washington, there's not really a race that close by. I think whatever it takes to get a race on the eastern seaboard, I-95 corridor, whether it means mending rifts with track owners, whatever it takes, is that a priority right now for CART to get a race somewhere in that area? There used to be two, and there are none currently.
JOHN LOPES: The answer is yes and yes. When we're looking at our market distribution around North America, it's a glaring omission right now, particularly the eastern seaboard. So we are actively looking at prospective venues and attempting to mend relationships with promoters in that part of the world. Look for us at some point, probably in the next couple of years, to try and secure a race in that part of the world. I couldn't help but notice, the gentleman who asked the question before you. Sir, could you stand up, the gentleman with the goatee. He is a Paul Gentilozzi look alike there.
CALVIN FISH: A kinder, gentler Paul Gentilozzi.
ADAM SAAL: Please, sir.
Q. Joel from Columbus. I speak for everybody by saying that CART is not our favorite sport, it's us. Clap, clap! I want to hear from everybody on that stage, there was a poll conducted in Cleveland by Paul Gentilozzi. V-10s or turbos. Not a hand was risen for V-10s. Keep the heritage of the sport. I want Danica to run in a car with a turbocharged engine. I want to hear everybody's input on that stage. It makes the sport great and it's what keeps us different from every form of racing.
CALVIN FISH: You drove that Ferrari a couple weeks ago. How did you like that?
DANICA PATRICK: It was a fast car. It was almost as fast as the prototype. I see a Ferrari shirt out there. As far as my answer to that, you know, I just want to drive one of them. I just need to get there first, and then I'll have an opinion. So I'm going to pass it on.
DERRICK WALKER: I'm a V-10 man, I have to say. I would like the technical aspect of it, the multi-cylinder. The sound, although I like the V-8 turbocharge, it's done us well, I think V-10 would be it for me. I think it would really knock your doors off when you see that running around all these tracks we go to. I'd be for that.
CALVIN FISH: John, when you're negotiating with some of the manufacturers you're talking to, that is really where they're looking, is that where they want to be, the V-10 configuration?
JOHN LOPES: Interesting, it's been all over the map. It's really been all over the map with the manufacturers. The European manufacturers particularly are focused on the V-10 format, for sure. You know, there are V-10s out there ready to go for us. But the sentiment conveyed by the fan here tonight, there's a lot of that out there. I think it bears mentioning, not to differ with Derrick, I agree that a V-10 would be spectacular, in terms of dancing with the one that brung you, what Ford and Cosworth have done for Champ Car is absolutely phenomenal. They don't get thanked enough. I'll just leave it, when we were watching on the screens in race control during Cleveland, the flames started kicking out the back of the car, we all came unglued. It was great.
CALVIN FISH: I hear you.
Q. Frank, from Dublin. Earlier this year, Chris Pook made a comment about the ladder system, that a driver coming from Toyota Atlantic is not qualified to move up into CART. If you have a feeder system and you have the person running the series not believing in it, how can you grow the drivers move into the series and not have them go off to NASCAR?
DANICA PATRICK: Do you want me to answer this? I don't think that it matters really. If you can drive, you can drive. Look at what's happened with Formula 1. Kimi Raikkonen, he did very little before he went into Formula 1. Jenson Button, the same way. You look at these drivers, if they're talented and they're put in a good car, they can prove to everyone the fact they have lack of experience really, you know, isn't the major part of it all. I mean, I guess I would like to see it be a bit of a smoother transition between Atlantic and Champ Car with the power. But, you know, I mean, I went from a Formula Ford and tested in Indy Lights and went quicker than most of the guys. I drove Ferrari the other weekend; never drove that before. There have been a lot of situations that I've been put into where I probably should have been, you know, a little out of my league for a while. But if you can drive, you can drive.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I would agree. It's been pretty much the same for me. Between Formula 1 and Formula 3000, it's twice more horsepower, and still after 50 laps, I was something like 5-10ths off. It's no big deal. If you know how to do it, you know how to do it in any car.
CALVIN FISH: I think it's a lot more than just driving these days, I think Derrick will agree, working with some young rookies. It's the technical ability, feedback. Certainly the Toyota Atlantic championship, there may be a need for a few more horsepower, but I think they're technical race cars, they have to be set up. The guys winning races, it's not just because they're great race car drivers in that series, it's because they have a solid team, great chemistry between the driver and the team. Bringing them up through this ladder system is not just about what car you're driving, it's developing the chemistry to work with an engineer and give the feedback. I know working with rookies, Derrick, I know that's a big issue for your.
DERRICK WALKER: Yeah, giving them the experience so they can make that transition. I think John will agree with me, having listened, sat through many meetings and heard Chris bark away about his theories on racing, I think he is slightly misquoted or misunderstood in his remarks regarding Atlantic. I think Atlantic has been a great series for us. So was Lights. They were good workhorses for us. I think if you look at the future, as we look at all of our assets, you look Atlantic, "What would you do with Atlantic?" It's not saying that it's no good, get rid of it, it doesn't do the job. It's really, How can you enhance it? I think that was Chris' point was. Atlantics needs to be jazzed up, to be hyped up, put a bit more power in it, stretch the drivers a little bit more than they're currently being, put some pit stops or other variation. He's talking about enhancing the Atlantic Series or the feeder series as it would be. So it's not necessarily Atlantics is a waste of time. It's saying, "We need to do more for our feeder series." Wouldn't you agree, John?
JOHN LOPES: Yes. Chris' comments have prompted an awful lot of meetings, particularly with Toyota, another great partner in the Atlantic series, been supporting the series for years and years, we're in discussions with them right now on cost-cutting measures for the teams to try and get costs down, and to do some things with the current formula, be it with the tires, some of the competition-related rules to spice things up a bit and talking about the future formula with them which will probably feature almost a hundred more horsepower in the car. Right now, I think they certainly deserve a round of applause for what they've done for Atlantics for all these years. They've supported all the drivers who have come up along the way. You can start rattling off the names, Rahal, Villeneuve, people who have moved up and been very successful, Danica, and one who is coming up in the near future, AJ Allmendinger, who is the real deal. It's an important CART property and we're going to continue to stand behind it.
CALVIN FISH: Steve, another question.
Q. Jim, from Marion, Ohio. Sebastien, what is your first impression of the Champ Car series? Do you have any comments to what Bruno Junqueira has been saying during his interviews after the races?
CALVIN FISH: I'm not sure Sebastien is aware what Bruno said on Saturday. How many people watched the qualifying show on Saturday? As Bruno tends to do a little bit after he doesn't have a great run, he gets a little frustrated at the end of the session and either Derek Daley or myself has the opportunity to try to wind him up a little bit. He actually said on that day that he took your setup from the morning session and it didn't work for him, so obviously you know nothing about race cars. Paul's comeback was that Sebastien has had four poles and won three races and Bruno hasn't won any or had any poles yet. So there you go. Maybe talk about the team atmosphere in Newman/Haas. They're one of the most intense teams out there. Certainly when we try to break into their communications during a race broadcast, we get very little out of them. Do the teams work as one? Certainly Bruno said you shared some information on Saturday. Or do you really compete against one another on a race weekend?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Oh, definitely, mostly I'm there because they wanted the second driver with technical abilities. So they choose me because of the test in Sebring for the first time in my career, in a Champ Car. Actually, the difference between Ricardo and I was they analyze, and the way I was speaking with the engineers, try to improve situations. We definitely working as a group. We all share the informations. Unfortunately, sometimes it doesn't work for one or another. But, you know, it's kind of situations when you jump out of the car, you're a bit frustrated, you say something you shouldn't. Actually, he went to me and said, "I'm sorry. I shouldn't have say that, but I was just frustrated." I think also sometimes, and I don't want to say anything bad about anything, but it's just, you know, we all try to make a show, as you and everybody, just try to make a hot mix.
CALVIN FISH: We try and stir it up a little bit, yes, we do.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Tom, he's pretty good for that. It's no problem. It's no-brainer. Everybody is doing his job and we have a lot of fun. This team, I can tell you, Newman/Haas Racing, is a big family. It's not a small word to say. I really enjoy to be there and expect to stay there for a long time.
CALVIN FISH: Something else, when you have two drivers on a team, sometimes they have very different driving styles. Talking to some of the engineering squad at Newman/Haas, and Sebastien can correct me if I'm wrong here, but they say Sebastien is very smooth, drives a car very similar to Cristiano da Matta last year, whereas Bruno really attacks the corners. Sometimes a setup that works on one car will not work on the other. Derrick, you run a two-car team quite often. Is that a problem when you have two drivers who like a car that's completely different?
DERRICK WALKER: Yeah, it is. Sometimes there's almost nothing you can transfer over from one to the other because their style demands a different setup. Last year we had Tora Takagi. He was very aggressive going into the corner. We could never get the car to be there when he wanted it. We fought long and hard to try to give him a stable car on entry, but he just went in so deep, it was just very hard. So this year we're sort of suffering. All of the setups we had from last year, these real aggressive, stiff setups, don't work with either of our two drivers. Fortunately, our two drivers actually have similar comments, although they drive a little bit differently. One is more aggressive than the other. But their actual interpretation of what the car is doing we find is actually very similar, and the feedback is good from both of them, so it helps us in the long run.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: The biggest difference between Bruno and I, he doesn't really care if the car is a bit unsure on the entry. I prefer a really stable rear. Sometimes it's a bit difficult to achieve with the Lola, which is a nervous entry. It's pretty much why they choose me, because still we can drive and start with the same baseline car, try to get a read on some changes and try to compare and go ahead.
CALVIN FISH: On the subject of having a teammate, maybe, Danica, we talk about you and your rookie season in the Toyota Atlantic championship. Is it a steep learning curve, jumping into the championship, as competitive as it is? Jon Fogarty last year's champion drove your car in a test here at Mid-Ohio. Do you think in some ways it would help to you have a baseline on the team, someone to confer with?
DANICA PATRICK: You know, that is one of the issues, is having a teammate that doesn't drive like you. I think it can help in a sense that you can know if your baseline is somewhere close or somewhere miles away. You can test things like wing packages, different set of shocks or something. You can really go through stuff. I guess it goes a bit quicker, and you can also look at speed traces on a graph and just see, is it because I'm just braking entirely too late and the car cannot get into the corner? I think for me, it's a matter of being able to see on speed traces where you're better, where you're worse. Maybe it's just a matter of carrying three miles an hour more which produces more downforce, then all of a sudden you have a settled car. That I think is what for me would be the biggest gain as a teammate. As far as setup goes, I've never been the same as anyone else. I think that's pretty common within drivers. You can't really run the exact same setup as someone else.
ADAM SAAL: Question.
Q. Julie from Plain City, Ohio. I want to thank you for being here again this year. I have a couple of questions. One is, when will we see a finalized schedule for 2004? And as an avid Mid-Ohio fan, should I be concerned that the respected Chris Pook is not with us this evening?
CALVIN FISH: I'll let John answer both of those.
JOHN LOPES: No. Chris was actually out of Indianapolis today, meeting with one of the series sponsors about extending the relationship. Then we have board meetings coming up over the next couple days. So he is stuck in spreadsheets tonight and dinner with board members. We've got some important annual meetings coming up over the next couple of days. That's where he's at. In terms of the schedule, we have a big board up in the conference room upstairs. It's got these little Velcro strips on it. We're really trying to fit TV dates with venue dates right now. We made the CBS announcement where they've made available 10 dates for us this year. So we're trying to fit that in as well as negotiate the other TV dates. Our intent is to do them both. While I have the mic. Someone asked a question about Newman/Haas. I have to tell you a great story about your owner.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Great stories about my owners. There's no truth to the rumor he was actually in the Ronald McDonald suit at Cleveland.
JOHN LOPES: Carl is one of the all-time classics. He always has a cigar in his mouth. Have you ever seen Carl bless his car before the race? Have any of you ever seen that. In Mid-Ohio, really check it out before the race. Scott Roembke from Rahal is here. He blesses your car before the race, right?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yes. But this time he blessed the wrong car.
JOHN LOPES: Yes. He comes up to the car and he touches the nose and the tires and he puts his cigar down, the only time he takes it out, he touches the car and he blesses it. This one time he blesses the car, and he looks up and Bobby Rahal is in the car looking at him.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: The funny story is Bobby won the race this time and Carl was absolutely sure it was his fault.
CALVIN FISH: Another question from the audience.
Q. I'm Duane from Columbus. I have a question I was hoping to ask Bobby, but I was a little too late. I thought it would be a good question for him because of his perspective as a team owner on both sides of the fence. I believe Derrick has also been on the other side so I'll throw it to you. It's the old topic of a merger. Do you agree with Robin Miller that a merger is necessary for long-term survival or is it not necessary or is it flatly impossible?
DERRICK WALKER: The million dollar question. I think if you look at open-wheel racing in America, it would certainly be a lot better off if there was only one series and we all concentrated our efforts on one series. However, the chances of that happening are probably slim to none unless one of the series takes a dive and doesn't recover. I don't see that. We've had many, many meetings that have never been reported by Robin Miller with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to try and find a way to resolve the future of open-wheel racing to everybody's gain. It's not that the speedway is so anti-CART or anti-doing an amalgamation. It's just there's been so many complicated issues to pull together to satisfy everybody's needs to actually make it happen. It is that complicated that it never happened. I think we're resolved for the foreseeable future to just get on and make it work as best we can. Probably with some work on the part of both series to try and coexist as opposed to go against, head to head, each other, we could probably successfully do that. At the end of the day, maybe you the fans are the winner of the contest. When all is said and done, you get a lot more racing. And that's unfortunately how it's going to be for a while, but it would be better if we were all together. But I don't see the mechanism for that to happen at the moment.
Q. Thank you, John. Special thanks to Chris Pook for fighting off the Evil Empire of Tony George. Heard a lot of complaints lately during qualifying, drivers being held up by cars either on their in or out laps, holding them up, messing up their fast lap.
CALVIN FISH: Did Paul Tracy's name ever come up in any of this? 
Q. I was thinking of Carpentier. But Paul's name came up, too. Can CART do anything about that?
JOHN LOPES: I think it would be Sebastien.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: We had a long discussion in the last racing briefing before the race in Toronto. Actually it came up that they were going to issue a rule to try to avoid blocking during qualifying session. Obviously, I do think that in the street course a single-car qualifying would be better because basically everybody's trying to make a lap, every single corner is blind. Even if you don't want to block someone, sometime it happens because you slow down, you try to make your gap, and suddenly somebody arrive in your back and it's too late. It's a very, very difficult point. I think it always happened, and it will always be like that. But for sure, some drivers doesn't help, that's sure.
CALVIN FISH: John, are you looking at different ways of achieving that next year and beyond? We have Scott Roembke in the group from Team Rahal. He shared an idea with me at dinner the other night, creating a super five at the end, giving them a burnout at the end, where the guys have to qualify in the top five or ten, then have a one-lap shootout, each guy having a clear lap at the end. Have you looked at other ideas?
JOHN LOPES: Actually, we have. It all surrounds giving the fans the best possible show we can. Ultimately, that's what we're out there to do. In the past, when we had two sessions, it didn't work out, it wasn't fair to the competitors, it wasn't as exciting a show. The all-skate qualifying as we call it was designed to give the fans an hour on track. It's created some unique problems, like Sebastien said. On the street courses it's tight. One of the things we have tackled is exactly what you're alluding to. And that is have the first half of the session be an all-skate, and then you take the top five or the Top 10 at that point for the second half and they have a shootout single car to see who is quickest for the top five or top ten positions. That's sort after DTM type way of qualifying. In certain tracks, Miami this year we're going to be single-car qualifying because the circuit is so tight. So there's always ways to skin the cat. Certainly if you have any ideas, we'll be around, and we certainly listen to them.
Q. Scott Woodard from Arlington, Ohio. First, Derrick, thanks for staying with CART this year. That was a big boost when I read that on the Internet, that you were going to be here. Thank you. My question is for John. You might not even know this. On CBS' coverage last week, we only got to see about an hour of the race. For some reason, we have to live around Ohio State Buckeyes here. Is there any plan to do anything like, I hate to say the word NASCAR, but they have the pay-per-view, diehard fans want to watch the race, I would gladly pay to see a race and not ten zillion commercials?
JOHN LOPES: The discussion is still in its infancy. There is some discussion of having two types of race format broadcasts: One being a very traditional type of broadcast, and the other being a little bit of a spiced up show to show the fans the other things that are going on. There's so much happening at a place like Toronto that the fans don't see. You know, the parties, the things that are going on in hospitality, literally people 10 deep in the crowd. Sometimes you don't have time to really capture everything that's going on. There's a discussion about the network broadcasts having a little more zip to it, if you will, a more traditional broadcast on a pay-per-view or cable type situation. That's something that Terry Linger and his group, a very talented group who I think you would all agree have really raised the bar in terms of race broadcasts. That's something they're looking at for the future.
CALVIN FISH: The key question is, did you see the beginning when Derek Daley fell over during his standup? You got the good stuff.
JOHN LOPES: We kept replaying that in race control with the TIVO.
ADAM SAAL: On our website, on CART.com, you can download complete race broadcasts on SPEED. To be honest with you, John, I don't know if you know either, I don't know if that includes our CBS races. We can check that out. That is something else that is fairly unique. It's very difficult to go on a site, just download it for free. You need to have a high-speed Internet connection to make it worth your while. Please check that out if you have it. Cathy, I think we have the race, do we have a copy of the race here? We'll cue it up at least until Derek falls for you. We'll be able to show it. As an Ohioan, I understand why they did that. It happens on occasion and so forth. John went to Duke, so I don't know if you can relate to it.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I'm not a technician. Actually I have a question for you. My parents missed two races this year, Cleveland and Milwaukee, because it was in Europe not live because of the changing time by night. Do you think there is a chance at some point on the website we will have the races live?
ADAM SAAL: Live on the website, I don't know if you can do that now out of respect to your television broadcast rights. Most television entities, they consider the Internet, quite rightly, another form of broadcast medium. I don't know if anybody is doing that now. You may have some sporting events that are only shown on the website. I think it would have to be a fairly popular, like maybe the Super Bowl you could probably show live on the Internet, then live without hurting your television audience. But we're probably a long time away before that can happen. I'll give you some tapes to bring back. Question over here.
Q. My name is Heidi. Thank you for making an effort to be here with us again. I see a lot of familiar faces from last year. It's very good to have and be honored to support and have you here. I don't really have a question. We went over the Derek Daley. I'm glad he's okay. Hope there's nothing wrong. I just want to say thank you for CART allowing Alex Zanardi to finish the last few laps of the race. I think that was wonderful. It's a team effort. The support and love from CART, the safety team, everyone involved, was tremendous. Thank you.
ADAM SAAL: Thank you.
CALVIN FISH: Sebastien is working on his. The ones in Cleveland were probably the best yet, right? He was down to the cords on those bridge stones. Not much left at the end.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Actually, I think the team was pretty upset about me because I burned the differential.
CALVIN FISH: Did Carl take the prize money check? I'm sure he will.
ADAM SAAL: Before Steve cues up the next question, the lady right here quite correctly mentioned on SPEED Channel you won't have a break-in if something happens at Ohio State. It's one of the advantages. You also don't see people rushing to get off the air, lose a driver interview. We get complete coverage. It is outstanding. I was happy when a lot of you raised your hands about the qualifying show. Sounds like you're getting the SPEED Channel here. If you're not, call the cable channel.
Q. I'm Curt from Lancaster. I wanted to know, this is addressed to John, I realize the situation is delicate, you can't do any disclosure or anything right now, but we've followed CART, Champ Car, a long time. Derrick has had the luxury of going with everybody, know both sides of the fence pretty deep. In the past two or three months, though, it seems like, does CART have a sense of urgency of getting through these negotiations and establishing a title sponsor? It feels like we're being disillusioned a little bit, like we're kind of going off, fading away from an internal fan's perspective. It's hard when I have other people questioning. You see some pretty good sponsors to the other side. Does CART have it on a priority as far as once we get this worked out in the next week or two, to sit down and let's get some title sponsorships?
JOHN LOPES: Well, title sponsorship is always, always a priority. The company's been working very, very hard on it. There's been some recent changes in marketing at the company. David Claire, our chief operating officer, is now overseeing the marketing. He came back from South Korea where he headed up the whole Asian sports marketing side of things. That part of our business is in good hands. We have some very talented young people in marketing. I can tell you, they're beating feet all over the country. I should point out, we're not void out of new sponsors. Sebastien decided to win Cleveland with McDonald's. McDonald's is a great new sponsor. We actually had to pull Ronald McDonald off the truck. He wanted to take a ride with Sebastien. It is a priority certainly. To go to the heart of your question, we're going to be here talking in the future. I mean, Champ Car's not going away. We're going through a tough couple years. We're going through a tough couple years, but there's a lot of very, very successful drivers, owners, sponsors who have all hunkered down for the fight. You know, we're going through a fight right now. But we've pushed off the bottom of the pool. Certainly we're on the way back. The crowds are coming back. New sponsors are starting to sign up. We're going to be around for a long, long time.
CALVIN FISH: Great news. Steve, a question on that side?
Q. One major question. Has it been looked into setting things up like Formula 1 in that you start the race with the tires and the fuel that you qualified with? Might throw a little more strategy into things. I like how that has improved Formula 1. Instead of watching the red cars run away, it's more of a chess match. The other thing is, gee, I'd really love to see CART approach Zanardi about running the whole 500 next year in Germany. There's some guy named Gordon who has open-wheel fever since he drove Montoya's car.
CALVIN FISH: Derrick, would you like to address the first one.
DERRICK WALKER: I don't know. I mean, there's a lot of work to be done to really get everything in place for next year. We're obviously working on all of those issues. Improving the racing is very high on the list. Certainly what Formula 1 is doing has not gone unnoticed in our group. Probably, without embarrassing some of the folks that are here today from CART, probably haven't been around through them all. In the history of CART, I think CART front office collectively as a group working together and looking at the issues and tackling the issues are probably the best group we've ever had in CART. So when you look at some of these issues, title sponsorship was one that was brought up there, there's a tremendous lot of work being done behind the scenes on all of these issues. The guy that seems to have got a fair amount of flak here tonight, Mr. Pook off and on, he's like a bulldog in a china shop. But he is a leader, and he is a visionary. I think probably CART wouldn't be as well off, not that we are well off right now, but we wouldn't be where we are today without Chris Pook actually jumping in the deep end when he didn't really need to. He could have moved on down the road and gone over to Montana with his camper or something. He stayed and fought the fought. There's a lot of issues being looked at. Improving the racing is definitely top of the list. Certainly Alex Zanardi, who wouldn't want him back in the series? He's everything that CART is. I think what he represents is the spirit of racing. And CART I think, when you look at what they did in putting that car together and the Eric Bachelot Team Conquest did a great job in getting him out there, for those of you who weren't there, I'm sure a lot of you weren't, it was a special moment in racing. That's more of the spirit that CART needs to showcase because it's there. It's just being trodden over the years from abuse from, you know, a lot of turmoil, a lot of money along the way. We've hit bottom and we're sort of rallying around and starting to focus on, "How do we turn this thing around?" The issues about Mid-Ohio is just one of the many, where we go, what we do, how do we get there. It's a tremendous amount of work. But I can promise you, there's nothing not on the table right now that's being looked at by the group. Just the enormity of the issues and the job at hand is huge. I know it's a bit off of your question, but I took the liberty to rabbit on a bit for a while.
CALVIN FISH: Sebastien, you were certainly there that weekend in Germany, winning the race. I believe Alex presented you with the pole winning flag. I'm not sure if you've known Alex for a long time or not. Put into perspective the emotion of that day when he did those first few laps.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: This guy is completely amazing. I met him the year before in Monaco for a go-kart race. I was driving actually. It was pretty amazing, too. I hope he's not going to drive because he's going to win this event.
CALVIN FISH: He's too fast. I think the fourth lap he was flat out.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: It was really intense. I think Jimmy and all the drivers who were there when he had the crash in 2001 were really, really touched. You know, everybody got caught in this moment. It was a lot of emotions. I just, yeah, think this guy is completely amazing.
JOHN LOPES: Alex was actually supposed to do his 13 laps and stay out and lead the pace lap for the race. And we were actually going to have Alex be the pace car. But in the meeting he said, "Guys, if I'm on the track when they throw the green, I'm going to go." And we said, "No, Alex, come on." He goes, "No, I'm going." But then after he came in, and the night before, Daniella, his wife, said to him, "Alex, do you know what the checkered flag means tomorrow?" And he said, "I think so." She said, "That means it's a checkered flag, that's it." She said this to him at dinner the night before the event. He's like, "Yes, dear." But he'll forget about that.
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Actually, I mean, it was even more a surprise because he's been on the track the first with this new package and he had no idea how it was going to be. He was flat out with more power than us. I'm not kidding, he was flat out after five laps. He did 13 laps. So, you know, it's the kind of idea just to show you how talented is this guy.
ADAM SAAL: Just to add to that, what we did a couple days before he made the actual run to complete his race is we did a top secret shakedown in front of 300 people, but it was supposed to be top secret. I think he was even quicker in that one. He came out of the box swinging. It was at the end of the day on Thursday or Friday or something like that. It was incredible. He literally for his first time going at it on the track, he never put a wheel wrong. He probably could have contended in that race there, no question.
JOHN LOPES: In that session, he went out, hadn't been in the car since the incident. He went out, did a couple laps, came in, said, "Give me one Turner front wing." He went out, he would have been position six in qualifying.
ADAM SAAL: Outstanding. Actually, you all can relive that moment next Tuesday, I believe. Check your listings. On HBO Real Sports with Bryant Gumble, Bryant came over to Germany and did a whole feature. I don't know how many of you are familiar with that show. It gets behind the scenes. Bryant himself said, "I want to do this story." So he joined us. We worked with that group. That airs on July 22nd, which I believe is next Tuesday. It's definitely coming up on HBO. Let us know how you like it and definitely let the HBO people know how you like it. We know there's a lot more stories in our paddock that need to be told on these shows. They'll go after them with your help.
Q. I'm Peggy Scott from Plain City. Thank you for being here. I have a question. You talk about wanting to make it exciting for the fans. What I like about Champ Car is the diversity of the different tracks, the road, the street. The street courses sometimes can get just follow-the-leader. Is there anything you can do to widen some of the areas of the street courses so there can be more passing, so it can be more exciting for us to watch?
CALVIN FISH: Certainly we had some new events last year. Being honest with you, they got their fair share of criticism, both Miami and Denver in terms of the overall layouts. Very bumpy in Denver. Obviously, you're restricted by the width of the street. You can't go in there and knock down buildings. Normally the local council doesn't like that. We have some great street circuits on the agenda right now, Surfers Paradise which Sebastien hasn't been at yet I believe. Toronto is certainly a great street track, as well. You ran over in Europe. How did the circuit this weekend compare?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: I think the US tracks are a bit more bumpy. Monaco and Peau are really smooth layout. But it's not easier to pass. Street courses will always be street courses. I do believe that it's very, very difficult to pass because the line is narrow and if you push a bit too deep on the brakes, you're going to crash. You cannot really afford that and lose the race. So it's always a big problem with street courses. But I expect the view and the cameras in the walls and the way that the car are behaving on the track is also at least as interesting as on a road course. For sure, you're never going to see as many passing as on a road course because it's just simply way harder to make a move.
CALVIN FISH: Certainly a great atmosphere and spectacle for the fans on these street circuits.
Q. Chip Ashinger from Columbus. Is sponsorship getting easier to sell? Are you getting more money? To me the series is getting better if that's happening. Also I'd like to comment, the off-shore races, I read this past week we might lose the European races. I've been to Mexico City, Monterrey, Toronto, Vancouver, Brands Hatch this past year. There's a ton of people there that attend those races. I think that would be a unique opportunity to sell more sponsorship. How come more people go to a CART event and not the Evil Empire? You look at their broadcasts, no one is sitting in the stands. CART races are packed. Got to be something there. My third comment is in regards to the safety team. A lot of people here don't know, but I'd like to thank Carl Horton of Columbus, Ohio for starting that program about 10 years ago. We don't mention him much at all. I know he's retired, but thank you, Carl.
CALVIN FISH: Derrick, the first question was talk about the series and how easy is it. I know it's not easy, but are the doors starting to open a little bit?
DERRICK WALKER: I don't think sponsorship finding has ever been easy, to tell you the truth. Certainly it's gotten harder since the economy took a bit of a sag and since open-wheel has two series now. It's not that the money -- contrary to what you might believe, I'll explain in a minute, but it's not that the money has gone all over to the IRL and we're sitting here with nothing. The IRL, if you look below the surface, is still in the same situation as it was, which is it's struggling to find money, as well. And the competition has changed a little bit, so the price has gone up there. They're running roughly about the same price as it costs us to do an average program. You know, sponsorship is really driven by the fans. Whenever we get the fans and we get an event, then we have companies who want to advertise in front of them. When we have TV numbers and great TV slots, great shows, people watch it, that's where the sponsors want to be. So when you look at some of the lack of sponsorship we've had, it's been because of the money that's gone somewhere else because the fans have dwindled in certain places. It's directly proportional to that, I believe. But talking about the money, the IRL particularly, the Evil Empire as you call it, the story behind the story on what's happened over the last couple of years, if you look at sponsorship, one series versus the other, my personal theory is that when I used to be sponsored by Valvoline and Cummins, we used to go out and buy the best drivers, we had Gil de Ferran, Robby, guys like that, we could go out and do our business because we had the money to do it, and we had the typical sponsors. After a period, the price went up. The guys that really replaced them were the engine manufacturers. They came in, spent a lot of money on the series, and we all thought, "This is great." This is income, subsidies that came in and filled a lot of void in our sponsorship needs. Probably if you were adding it all up, between Toyota and Honda, I'm sure conservatively they were pumping in about $150 million a year into CART, one way or another, whether it's paying for drivers, paying for teams, putting signage up or paying for advertising. All of a sudden one of them and the second one decided the other side of town would probably be more an advantage for them so they moved to the other side of Indianapolis. Certainly there's a gaping big hole. So when you look at CART's problem or the difficulty to get back on track, we have to go back and fill in that hole there. We have to go back and put value back into it and entice the traditional sponsors to our series, and they're going to come if they see us putting on responsible events. If we put on good TV shows, we have great TV production, now we need to get it on in time slots where you guys want to be in front of the television. We need to be in front of fans where they want to see our racing and see good racing. So the job is not that complicated. It just takes time. It takes a lot of resources. You can't change over night what happened. Over a period of time when the manufacturers really did a lot for our series, put a lot of money into it, they moved overnight, we can't replace that overnight, so it's going to take us a while to get back. It's a long answer to your question, but that's the story behind the story. You'll probably pass it over to somebody else with the other question. Old-timers has kicked in and I can't remember what they were.
CALVIN FISH: John, it was mentioned about the overseas races. Do you see a limit to the number you'd like to be at next year and beyond? What's the balance there? What's the ideal?
JOHN LOPES: Well, I think we're pretty much at critical mass in terms of number of races. In fact, in an environment where there's less sponsorship available, the quickest way to provide relief to the teams is fewer races. Europe has been a strong market for us. I mean, the German event was a huge event. Brands Hatch was packed. We'd like to be there. But those markets have to work financially long-term for both CART and for the teams and their sponsors. So our focus being the NAFTA market, I think Chris has been very clear in his vision, that being North America, Mexico, United States and Canada, are really the linchpin. Australia is a stand-alone, Super Bowl type event. We'll be in Europe if it makes sense and if the right venues complement both CART's and the teams' sponsors. It's a stay-tuned type of situation.
CALVIN FISH: Final question was on the safety team. Sebastien, certainly NASCAR right now is taking a lot of heat for having individuals on each race weekend be different, who is coming out, attending to the drivers. Danica, as well. How do you feel on having a consistent safety team that's there every weekend for you?
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS: Yeah, I don't know much about the safety of the other series in the US. For sure, the safety we have in Champ Car is great. They are doing a tremendous job. It's always very difficult to compare this thing. We're pretty lucky that we don't have big crashes. I mean, if we are not in the (inaudible), it's for sure because we don't want to get hurt. I think that's one of the keys. That's also why we don't have so many races on ovals, right? You know, I enjoyed a lot the Germany race. I enjoyed to be in Milwaukee. But I think even the Andretti say even three or four laps on a oval, you're big enough risk to get hurt. When you start to have 18 races on an oval, you improve so much the possibility and probability to get hurt. I think the safety reasons just are playing in our favor. When you see how many crashes we've seen in IRL this year, I mean, I'm a racer for sure, and I don't want to get killed. I'm pretty well in Champ Car.
JOHN LOPES: For those of you who don't know, our safety team is comprised of firemen, EMTs, paramedics from all over the country. They do this every day. When we send a safety truck out to a car that's been hit, there's four guys jumping out of that car who are trained medical professionals, and typically the guy first to the car and straddles the tub, you see him reach in and talk, often is Dr. Terry Trammell, who is our chief orthopaedic surgeon. You might notice, it's never mentioned in the press releases, but you'll notice that Terry performs surgery on drivers from all series, not just Champ Car. Safety is an issue that cuts across all series. When someone's hurt, our team and our doctors are available for anybody, doesn't matter what they race.
CALVIN FISH: Starting to wind things down, but we'll take a couple more questions.
ADAM SAAL: We're well past 8:30. We might be able to coax out a few more answers here. This is a family show, but this woman has a very important question.
Q. I just wanted to point out a lot of female fans are looking forward to Mid-Ohio this year, especially if Patrick Carpentier has set a precedent for nude parading after the race.
CALVIN FISH: I mean, Danica...
DANICA PATRICK: If I win, I'd do it. Everybody has pretty much seen me in that amount of clothing. I have nothing more to show (laughter).
CALVIN FISH: I was going to call it a spread, but I guess I can't use it, the pictorial maybe we could call it, certainly got some attention. I'm sure if Danica wins the race...
DANICA PATRICK: It was a spread, though.
CALVIN FISH: Yes, it was
Q. Cindy from Shelby. First of all, I want to commend the drivers and the owners and everybody for all your availability with the fans, with the autographs and stuff. I know a lot of times you have little kids running up to you that want autographs, it's not always an opportune time, but you're always gracious. At Cleveland you did something with your driver introduction. You brought your over-the-wall crew up on the stands. I know it might have been a time filler maybe. Do you have any plans to do that again in the future?
CALVIN FISH: John, do you have any idea, or Adam?
JOHN LOPES: Absolutely we plan on doing that in the future. Just so you know, it was a time filler. We were trying to let the sun go down over the horizon so the drivers wouldn't have the sun in their eyes in turn one at the start of the race. We were thinking, "Somebody could do a hat dance. Let's introduce the crew." It actually worked out great. They were pumped up. So, yeah, it's going to be part of the future.
CALVIN FISH: I think your first comment you had about the access to the teams and drivers was really brought up at Montreal last year. Certainly that's the only circuit we currently share with Formula 1. The crowd's response there at that event was just overwhelming. They couldn't believe the access they had to the teams. The drivers were certainly willing to spend time with them, talk to them, sign autographs. Formula 1 is the pinnacle. They get paid a little bit more than Sebastien right now anyway. Certainly great access to the teams and drivers.
Q. Change that commercial you put on during the ads. Puts me to sleep every time. Put that one you started the show off with, gets your attention. CART is a great racing series, let's show it. Any chance of a highlights program, end-of-season DVD?
CALVIN FISH: I would certainly be up for that. We had something running there. We did our CART round table, and we certainly had a review show at the end of the season on SPEED. I believe the intent, Adam, is to do it again this year.
ADAM SAAL: The intent is to do one again, keep shoring the ship. We had to reluctantly cut back on some programming in order to take a bigger step in the future. That is why we lost the popular CART Friday night. I'm not sure about the season review show. We can certainly get back to that. I believe that's still in the works. If it isn't, again, we can put our video. If you like that opening video you just saw, we can put that on the website and make it available. Those are what we call eye-openers. They really help. We can get them going. Would we like to get back to the level of shoulder programming we call it we had last year? Certainly we want to get there again. We have to make sure we are very deliberate with what we do in our budgeting as we move along.
Q. My name is Craig. I really would like to suggest if we can try to put split screen TV on local cities like Columbus, Ohio, so we don't have to see about educational issues with football players. It was really awesome. We had a whole bunch of crew people to watch this game. It was quite embarrassing after we went through the trouble to make the event so successful. I really feel Champ Car has a very successful season this year. I got to travel to some of the cities, see the teams forehand, team owners up to some of the drivers. Everyone is going well. I could tell that the stands are filled. I think some of the concerns with Champ Car is the coverage is very weak. It's going to continue to be weak if we can't correct local city issues changing our programming. Sponsorships have really burned their eyes because they look at numbers. They want to see numbers like our competing circuits to really put the money up. I work as a product producer for Hollywood companies and some other ones. I actually brought them out to Long Beach to really see the races, really got them energetic about becoming part of the program. They actually had a lot of interest in Danica and have continued focusing on our programs to see what we might be able to do to bring Hollywood TV programs to help promote your companies on other networks to prove that we do draw viewers, that Champ Car draws viewers, Toyota Atlantic series draws viewers, to warm some of the networks to say you can have better time slots. I brought the vice president of Universal Motion Pictures to your gig. He was quite impressed not only with the drivers but the team owners and so forth. I think there's a lot of opportunity that they can really do to help leverage the program itself without it being parted up due to television viewerships. SPEED does a wonderful job on getting the program seen, heard and watched throughout the whole program. It's just -- I really feel there's a lot more that can be done. As far as the DVD selections or any of that goes, if you need help making that work, we're more than happy to get that direction to go.
ADAM SAAL: New twist on the town meetings. Happily we are going in the right direction, everybody. Our SPEED telecast from Milwaukee was the best numbers we had all year, as well our last two CBS races, we had a 1.1 rating, which is well over a million households. I think we're going to hold with our current rating, which is a 1.3 overnight. They always drop a little bit as the final markets come in. We're going the right direction. Are the numbers going to be what they ever used to be? No. Television universe is changing. As you know, you all have more channels available to you now than you had even five years ago. That naturally fragments the audience. Happily we're going the way we need to go. We're going to keep working on it.
Q. I'm Roger from Columbus. I've had an opportunity to travel around the country to some other racetracks, too. I keep wondering in the back of my mind why CART doesn't go to Watkins Glen, Road Atlanta, some of the of very good road courses, actually give the cars a chance to stretch their legs instead of running on a one-and-a-half-mile street course.
CALVIN FISH: John can certainly address this. This is really getting back to Chris' philosophy, we're taking to the races to the markets in some way.
JOHN LOPES: Yeah. We are focused on the urban event, the urban event venues in terms of selecting new venues. However, I can tell that you both of those tracks that we've actually had discussions about, not necessarily that they're going to crop up on the schedule any time soon, but certainly in searching for a northeast venue, Watkins Glen always comes up. Great circuit. Not to rule it out. It's always possible.
Q. My name is Angie. I have just an observation about sponsorship. I'm not a NASCAR fan particularly. One thing I have noticed that NASCAR drivers do that is different than Champ Car drivers is at the winner's circle, the car takes on a personality of the sponsor, just as the Bud Light car or the Interstate Battery car. I find it interesting in our series, the drivers are the ones. Quite honestly, if I were having the choice in where I'm going to get the most money going, I can remember the days when Michael Andretti was in the Kraco car or when he was in the Kmart car. The sponsorship was always put out there first. I'm not saying what we're doing now is wrong, but quite honestly, if I have a car that's a Bud Light or Interstate Battery car who happens to be driven by this driver, I'm probably going to put my money where the car lands up taking its own personality. Thank you.
CALVIN FISH: Great comment. Derrick, from a team owner's perspective, I'm sure the sponsors come to you and want to get as much value as they can from being involved with the team. How much discussion actually goes on in terms of some of those things in terms of identification, sponsor mentions, things like that? Do they drive that at all?
DERRICK WALKER: Well, they certainly want to know it's going to happen. I think you would find that all of the teams actually title the car with the sponsor's name. That's the way they call, that's the way they enter the car. It's out there in the public domain. It's these bloody TV announcers who just don't get it. I mean, they go straight for the drivers, and the car and the sponsor is nowhere. Seriously, we do that. We do call it that. I think NASCAR has just made a big thing about it, worked on it a lot more than we have. It's certainly something that is part of the package, but it's not necessarily always adopted by the TV or the media right away as calling the car "blah blah blah." But we do enter it that way and always call it that way for our sponsors and give them as much exposure and recognition as possible.
Q. My question has to do with possibly what fuel has to do with sponsorship in a series. I've heard some talk maybe bringing gasoline back with the fuel companies, could fuel some more money coming in the series. How is that progressing?
CALVIN FISH: I think this is something Chris brought up a couple weeks ago, John, talking about getting back to gasoline, bringing back petroleum companies possibly.
DERRICK WALKER: This is another issue from the maddog, bulldog, Mr. Chris Pook, in his vision of how to make this sport grow. There's a lot of companies out there, gas companies, that now have a lot of concession shops, stands in their gas station. They have a lot of companies doing business, not just pumping gas. He's looking at it from a commercial standpoint saying, "Why not? Why shouldn't we go with gasoline?" Then there's another angle to that story. If you're looking for engine manufacturers, that's a heck of a lot more of them out there with gasoline engines than methanol engine. Certainly from a safety standpoint, number one, methanol any day of the week. I think there has to be a damn good reason to go away from methanol as a usable fuel. Some of the mentions that have just gone over are really the argument to say, "Come back and consider it." Other than that, there's really no other earthly reason why gasoline versus methanol. Methanol is a lot easier to handle when it comes to safety.
CALVIN FISH: I think that's it for questions this evening. A couple of quick announcements here. We have a Champ Car Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio FanFest right here in Columbus, Ohio, Thursday, August 7th, taking place at the arena. We'll have autographs from the drivers, driver question and answer sessions, live music, great food, I'm not going to sing, and scheduled to appear we have Sebastien Bourdais, I'm not sure he's been given that information yet, Paul Tracy will be there, good for a quote no doubt, Patrick Carpentier, won the race here last year, Team Rahal's Michel Jourdain, Adrian Fernandez, won in Portland, Darren Manning who drives for Derrick Walker, and Oriol Servia and Thiago serve and Tiago Monteiro. We certainly appreciate a great crowd coming out this evening. We know you have a lot of other things you could be doing this evening, I'm sure. It's a nasty night out there. We appreciate your attention. Right now I'd like to thank all of the panelists for spending their time with us. We look forward to seeing you race weekend. If you want to stick around for a bit, we'll be here, have some refreshments, chat with these people. Thanks for coming, everyone. We really appreciate your support.
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