Home Page About Us Contribute
LuckyBug LifeStyle
















CART Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  CART

CART Media Conference

Michael Andretti
Mauricio Gugelmin
Joseph Heitzler
Bryan Herta
May 1, 2001


T.E. McHALE: Thank you. Good afternoon and welcome to the CART Media Teleconference. Thanks to all of you for taking the time to join us today. This past Sunday, Championship Auto Racing Teams announced that it was postponing last weekend's Firestone Firehawk 600 presented by Pioneer at Texas Motor Speedway due to concerns over the physical demands of speeds of over 230 miles an hour and gravity loads in excess of 5 Gs were placing on its drivers. With us today to discuss that postponement are Joseph Heitzler, President and Chief Executive Officer of Championship Auto Racing Teams and drivers Michael Andretti of Team Motorola; Mauricio Gugelmin of the PacWest Racing Group and Bryan Herta of Zakspeed/Forsythe Racing. Gentlemen, good afternoon and thanks for being with us today. A couple of quick notes on our guests before we begin. Joe Heitzler has been CART's president and CEO since last December, prior to which he had built a successful career in sports television production. Michael Andretti, driver of the Number 39 Motorola Honda Reynard, is CART's all-time victory leader, with 40 wins, and is one shy of tying Al Unser Jr.'s CART 273 career starts. Mauricio Gugelmin, driver of the Number 17 Nextel PacWest Toyota, is the president of the Championship Drivers Association and has made 130 consecutive FedEx Championship Series starts, tops among active drivers, since his 1993 debut at Mid-Ohio. Bryan Herta, driver of the Number 77 Zakspeed/Forsythe Racing Ford Reynard, owns two victories, seven poles and nine podium finishes in his eight-year Fed-Ex Championship career. Before we start with questions, I'd like to remind you all that the Lehigh Valley Grand Prix Presented by Toyota, Round 3 of the FedEx Championship Series, will be telecast live from Nazareth Speedway on ABC-TV this Sunday May 6th, beginning at 1 p.m. eastern time.

Q. Michael, I'd like to first get your thoughts about canceling last week's race, and then secondly just talk a little bit about racing this weekend at Nazareth.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I applaud CART for taking the stand that they did. We are in an area -- we have found an area where we can say what is too fast for the physical element. I think we finally found that area. And we didn't get to that area until 4:00 -- we didn't realize it until 4:00 Saturday afternoon in the drivers' meeting when we found out that 21 of the 28 drivers or whatever, I don't know the exact number, but had symptoms of the problems that Doc Olvey talked about of dizziness, of potential blackout situations. So I guess the point I want to stress is that this is something that we did not know. There was no way we could have forecasted this. It's something that -- it's an area that we've never been before, and now we know. Now we know where we need to go. We know we couldn't pull more than four and a half vertical Gs, and more than five lateral Gs. So we are at that point, and now we will be able to learn from that. So because of this, CART decided that we were in a very dangerous situation, and it would not be wise to go on with the show at this point because there's a potential of drivers blacking out and anybody blacking out at 230-some miles an hour, could be a little bit of a dangerous situation. So I applaud CART, as I said, and also Joe Heitzler for standing up for the drivers' safety on this. And so to answer your question, yes, I'm very happy that Joe took the stance that he did, and we were able to postpone this event. It is a bad situation. We apologize to the fans and all that, but the potential of losing the life of a driver is definitely not worth the risk of going on with the show at this time. To answer your other question, I'm looking forward to coming back to Nazareth here. It looks like it may be the last race, which I'm quite disappointed about, obviously because it is my hometown. We're going to try to make the best of it if we can. Nazareth has been a pretty good racetrack for me, and I'm hoping that I can finish where we started here at Nazareth. We were able to win the first one in 1987, and it would be nice to win the last one.

Q. Joe, in talking with Burton Smith and Eddie Gossage yesterday, do you get the sense that the door might remain open to maybe run another one of their tracks in Las Vegas, or do you think what happened over the weekend is maybe going to end your relationship there? How do you think it stands right at the moment?

JOSEPH HEITZLER: Well, right now at the moment, obviously, on Saturday when this was brought to our attention, and the process that we went through to conclude that we had to do -- that CART had to make a decision that was in the best interests of the safety of our drivers and of our fans and all the other attendant issues at the track, once that decision was made by myself and Dr. Olvey and Kirk Russell and Chris Kneifel and in discussions with Mauricio as president of the drivers association, it was my decision, and my decision only to postpone this race. Once that announcement was made the entire focus of CART now went to all the issues attendant with our fans who support us and who have allowed us to get to where we are today. And I stayed in Texas yesterday to have several meetings with Texas Motor Speedway, and it is fully our desire to find a means by which our drivers and our business associates and our sponsors can thank the people of Texas for their patience during these unprecedented and unchartered water times. And we have every intention of dealing strictly, No. 1, right now our priority is the fans.

Q. Do you get the sense that Burton stole is open to try to open a deal to go somewhere else? You have two years left on the contract. How do you think they perceive their relationship with CART?

JOSEPH HEITZLER: I think yesterday at least my impression, and others on my business associates here from CART when we met with Eddie and his management team, was that the fans were the No. 1 priority. We were looking at schedules and the date to return there. We were looking at the criteria associated with that. We slowed the cars down to be on the tracks where the G forces are not recreated, and we're going through all of those issues as we speak.

Q. Joe, is there a possibility that the event could be rescheduled -- looking at the schedule there aren't a whole lot of opportunities of open dates. Could it be rescheduled after the California race?

JOSEPH HEITZLER: That is one of the potential scenarios that we discussed yesterday.

Q. For Mauricio, have you gotten a chance to look at the telemetry that indicates exactly what some of these G forces were, and particularly interested in the lateral G forces, because that keeps getting brought up? And on a banked track, I understood that lateral G forces weren't quite as much of a factor?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Not in our case. I mean, these cars are the fastest cars in the world, and we had lateral forces above 4 Gs, but what I have to bring your attention to that when you have a combination of vertical, very high vertical loads and lateral loads combined is when you reach problems and Dr. Olvey has explained that quite a few times. And we have data to confirm this. But it has been impossible -- to make a matter simple, your blood goes to your socks and it leaves your brain and you start having problems. Particularly if our cars probably doing 22 second laps like some cars did there, doing the 18 seconds of those laps, you roughly pulling very high Gs above five in some areas, and in some areas less, and that creates a lot of the problems, basically.

Q. When you say above five, are you talking about combined?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: Yeah, combined. Say, your vertical is high and your lateral is low sometimes, but sometimes they're both high, especially when you're coming out of the bank, your vertical gets light, but it still gets some lateral into it. And depends on where you are on the circuit. They move a little bit. But during all the time it's on your body, and that's what causes the problem.

Q. Joe, out here at Fontana, the Winston Cup has really applauded your guys move, but the one thing they questioned was the timing, they said, with a new track. And you expressed some safety concerns. Why didn't you go there and have a group test earlier and maybe some of these problems could have been exposed at that time?

^ MICHAEL ANDRETTI: This is not an issue of speed. It's not an issue of any of that, and this is an area that we never suspected. We knew we were going to be at high speeds here, and we could accept that. We were dealing with that fact. But what we did not know and we never even thought of and never entered anybody's mind was the physical side of it, the physical element. That's what this is all about. It's about guys blacking out. And we never, ever had experienced anything like this, like Doc Olvey, in 25 years of racing, he's never seen it, and I've never seen it in my 25 years of racing. It's not about the speeds or anything like that. It's about something that we could not anticipate being a problem.

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: I have to stress that we did test at Texas, but to explain a little bit how this thing goes, that test was done during the winter. Of course the circuit is very busy. We are also busy finishing our seasons. We only get our new cars late in the year, and it's virtually due to the scheduling and how busy everybody is, including engine manufacturers, getting new engines ready, to get enough cars together in a place that we're going to race like early in the year, but when the weather was different. So when I tested the temperature was at least 20 to 30 degrees cooler than when we ran. We didn't run with enough cars. And until you get everybody with racing minds on it and 28, 26 cars out there together, you can see the speeds that you're going to achieve. And, of course, there was another two months to develop on everything. And as Michael said, the speeds wasn't the problem, and the track design wasn't the problem, it's just that we found the limit of our human bodies. It's just that the combination of what we had brought us to a place that we've never been before. And I tell you, feeling dizzy in one of those cars is not a pretty sight.

JOSEPH HEITZLER: I think what I would add at this particular point is that in the issues relative to the process that was incorporated here, we -- this was not a speed issue, this was a physiological issue. And the merits of CART's position on this is that it stands on the strength of its medical staff, its chief steward and its race competition department that all of these factors came to play in a process where the No. 1 concern is the safety of the drivers and the safety of the fans. And once these issues were demonstrated we even sought outside counsel from physiological doctors that specialize at NASA, as Dr. Steven Olvey referred to in his comments at the conference, and all of this together, all the stakeholders, and I think the real message here is that not at any time did any driver say he would not drive. But with the combination of the partnership between drivers, owners, sponsors and medical, we had a system in place that identify a concern, and we were in territories that were not chartered, and we made the right decision under those circumstances. And that's the focus of the message that we have is that this is a sanctioning organization that's faced with the relativity of these dynamics reacted in a unified, orderly and safe manner. And I think that's virtually unprecedented for a sanctioned organization involved in the kind of sport that we're involved in.

Q. One other thing, you said you're looking at things to slow these cars down. What are some of the ways you're thinking of it, or is it too early to talk about that yet?

JOSEPH HEITZLER: Prior to this new phenomenon, we have as chairman of our engine committee, Mr. Jim Henderson, and we have a member from each team that represents each engine manufacturer on the engine committee, we feel that Mr. Henderson's most immediate past position was chairman and CEO of Cummins Engine Company. He and I have met with all three of the engine manufacturers, and in a guidance phone call to Wall Street three weeks ago, I listed the five objectives of the pending engines decision facing CART, and the first one was to reduce the speed of the cars to the point where it's more competitive racing, more lead changes, more passing, et cetera. And the engine manufacturers are all in agreement with this. But once again I have to reiterate that all the systems associated with speed, all of those issues were addressed by Texas Motor Speedway and by CART. It was this unexpected, unprecedented phenomenon with the G forces that came into play. And there are precedent-setting issues in other applicable industries to point to what responsible companies do when they arrive at these thresholds, be they a space program, be they an automotive testing program. So we felt that with these unchartered waters, this was the best decision for our drivers, our sport, our sponsors and our fans.

Q. I was wondering, compared to a series like NASCAR, is there a certain sense of pride in taking into account driver safety? And this is a question for everybody on the call. Do you look at it that way, where you compare one series to another?

JOSEPH HEITZLER: I could answer that first. I am proud to say that from the very first time that I was announced as CEO of this company, my first meeting with the drivers in Fontana was a closed-door meeting between the drivers and myself. And in that meeting my objective was to express to them that they are the stars along with their teams and their cars of our sport and of our product. And that there was nothing more important than the relationship between the drivers and management. And it was that atmosphere that allowed this decision to be made. And it's an atmosphere where the drivers trust that their management is listening to them, is taking their input and putting it in with other valuable resources and input. And so when a Dr. Steven Olvey and a Dr. Terry Trammell see a phenomenon occur that professional athletes trust, and I must say on behalf of the management of CART, to be in a room and ask a very difficult question of professional athletes and to see the honesty among themselves as to what they were experiencing is the essence of professional. And they have an obligation to the fans, too. I've never seen such agony amongst our drivers as I've experienced in the last 72 hours, as to the inconvenience that this phenomenon has caused their fans that have adored them, followed them, watched them over all these years. We are where we are because of the fans, and yet professional enough to understand that they didn't want to hurt any of those fans. And so I say that the trust between the drivers and management that started in Fontana was personified in this environment.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I agree a hundred percent. This showed a lot of trust of what I think the drivers have -- over the years because of the way the series has been and the way it's paid attention to safety, we as drivers feel very safe and very -- and get the feeling like that the sanctioning body cares about us as drivers and will do whatever they can to take care of us. And Joe showed that for sure this weekend. He took the driver's safety first over anything else. And from a driver's standpoint, I can tell you one thing, that makes you feel very good because that was a very difficult situation. And if I was told to go racing, I was going to go racing, but I'll tell you what, I didn't sleep very good the night before. I mean, it was just the worst thing to agonize over. The decision like should I get in the car? Is it being responsible for my wife and kids and all that? It was a very tough decision. And I felt like I was going to have to make it. But I didn't have to make that. And I know in the end I would have been in the race car, because I'm a race car driver's driver. I'm a racer. And that's what it's all about. But it would have been a very, very difficult situation, and I thank CART for what I they did, so we didn't have to go through that.

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: I'd like to add a little bit, if I may. If our group goes on into racing, especially since Joe has joined CART, and I have read some comments that mentioning boycott and strike, and I want to make it very clear now that's two words that doesn't belong on the driver's vocabulary. We are part of CART. We feel very comfortable with their decisions. We sometimes make our recommendations and those are welcome, and most of the time Joe wants us to participate in every single detail of the company, even when it's not driver related, which is something that we really admire from this new management, and what happened last weekend was just an example. We all felt that if CART decides it's safe for us to race, we would race. But they made a decision that it wasn't and we totally support them. And that is something new for the sport. I don't like to compare different sports, but in this case I think there is no comparison.

BRYAN HERTA: I think Mauricio and Michael have so far just done an excellent job of trying to get the drivers' points across, and I think that's why you see myself and Michael and so many of the drivers doing so many interviews and things these last couple of days, because it's really important to me, it's important to us that our fans understand what happened and why we couldn't race, and that we wanted to race and that we didn't do this because we didn't care that they drove out or flew out to the track, that like Joe said, we agonized over it. Our fans are everything. Without them we don't have a sport. So I think just trying to hammer that point home, that we owe the fans one, and we know that. But hopefully I think after you hear the situation, and I think 24 drivers or something talking about having these dizzy symptoms, I think if you don't have a head on your shoulders, you know that you can't go racing thinking I might pass out or black out or the guy I'm running next to at 240 miles an hour might pass out. In a place like that you're probably not going to wake up. So there was really no -- there was only one decision to be made, and CART made it. But it wasn't made hastily, and I think that's why some people have had some criticism is because everybody was trying to not have to make this decision, but in the end it was the only one left.

Q. This is for Joe. Somebody had touched on the Vegas issue, and I was just wondering what is the status of your negotiations with Las Vegas Motor Speedway and how confident are you that there could be a race here starting next year?

JOSEPH HEITZLER: Understandably I've been focusing on the Texas Motor Speedway and CART issue. I have not raised the issue since about a week ago with Chris Powell at the Las Vegas Speedway, but I will be talking with him prior to me going to Nazareth, and I anticipate because of the public nature of both of our companies that it's in the best interests of both of our firms to see racing, see CART racing at these facilities under the right conditions, and as you know, that your track there in Vegas is significantly different than the track at Texas Motor Speedway. We feel that that time zone and some interesting broadcasting options that we have available to us necessitates that we work closely with Burton Smith and Chris Powell to see a race in Las Vegas.

Q. Mr. Heitzler, I just was wondering, right about now people are anticipating a big boost in popularity for CART with the release of the movie Driven. Do you think this incident will take some of the steam out of the boost that you were anticipating from that film? Also I've heard that people in CART are quite upset that there's no mention of CART in the movie. Do you feel that way?

JOSEPH HEITZLER: Let's deal with the first part of the question. And I think that what you're saying is would there be an adverse effect to the movie by what we did at Texas Motor Speedway? I must tell you that I have been tremendously enthused by the number of e-mails and phone calls that I'm getting that are complimenting us on taking a stand for the safety of our drivers and the safety of our fans and for the reputation of a publicly traded company and addressing specific issues in its responsibility to the publicly traded company. Those have been running 4 to 1 in our favor of the decision that we made at Texas Motor Speedway. Its negative effect on Driven obviously is not there, because I receive daily financial printouts -- financial printouts is probably an overstatement -- I receive a number of theaters that are showing it and the revenue that's being derived out of that, which is available in the publications of I think Hollywood Reporter and Variety, and it shows that Driven was the No. 1 movie over the weekend. And we expect that that's a very competitive environment. I know that Warner Brothers is concerned that the debut or the premiere of the movie, Mummy II, and Pearl Harbor are coming up, so those are the marketing environments that those products have to matriculate in. And I'm not a movie producer. I hope that Driven continues to show its popularity. As for the fact of the reasons behind why CART was not mentioned in the movie, I think there are two issues that we need to address there. The first issue is that this particular negotiation happened on somebody else's watch. And the particular skill set in that decision-making process looks and appears to me that it didn't have as heavy of an entertainment broadcast, managerial environment that my administration has, and therefore, we probably could have put ourselves in a position where we could have, with that expertise on hand, brought pressure to bear to be mentioned more as CART in the movie. It also has -- the second issue is financial overtures. Hollywood doesn't do anything for free. If you want a bottle of Evian in front of Jay Leno, I think it's going to run you about a half a million bucks. You can only imagine what Warner Brothers was asking from CART for it be to a CART documentary. I think Warner Brothers and franchise pictures should be complimented on the tremendous exposure for the fans that follow CART. Because it's obvious to everyone in this that it was the CART series that the movie was based upon, and that at every location Warner Brothers focused on the ambiance and the entertainment contingent to the racing. And so the fact that it wasn't mentioned in there had an expertise issue and had a financial issue. But the bottom line is that what we're trying to do is to foster and expose our brand of racing to those that have not experienced it. And so from CART's perspective on the premiere night in Los Angeles, we had 176 members of the media there who traditionally don't follow auto racing. So we think for the betterment of auto racing, the movie serves the purpose well. I'm sorry I took so long to explain that to you.

Q. Did you like the movie?

JOSEPH HEITZLER: I've seen it seven times, and each time I go, I like it more. And it's escapism, and I enjoy the movie, and I'm most appreciative of all the people that have supported it to date. I think it's going to help our racing and our drivers and our sponsors see the benefits of their relationship with our company.

Q. Joe, the drivers have said they couldn't -- they didn't experience these conditions in testing because there wasn't enough cars there. Okay. So it seems to me you need to go back there with a full complement of cars to test. Have you spoken to Eddie or got anything going in the direction of putting together a full, open test somewhere, at some point this summer or wherever, before you even come back and race?

JOSEPH HEITZLER: I'm going to let one of the drivers answer that, but I would humbly submit that I didn't hear anybody here say that. I don't think that that's -- the first part of your question -- if you can repeat that for me --.

Q. Well, it seems before you can race here, you need to come here with a full complement of cars to test whatever you try to do to make the car slow down so you don't run into the same problems again. If these problems only appeared with a full complement of cars, seems to me you need a full test.

BRYAN HERTA: Could I just jump in? Because of the way the development goes on our cars and is an ongoing process, say that we even had an open test with all the cars present two or three months prior to the race, I know from my experience the Ford engine I have now has a pretty significant amount more horsepower from the development they've done than it did two or three months ago, and also aerodynamically the Reynard, we've got a lot of development that's just in the last couple of weeks that took a lot of the aerodynamic drag out of the car, which increased the speed. So there's a lot of things that happened in the development that made the cars faster. There's no assurance if we had been there at a group test that this problem would have manifested itself. It may have. But for people to assume that if we had tested here three months ago that we would have known this, I think that you're jumping the gun a little bit, because of the nature of the type of physical, physiological problem we're dealing with in that we don't know where that line is. We know that the IRL ran at a certain speed and none of their drivers had this problem, but nobody knows how far above that is okay. Maybe they were one mile an hour away from starting to create this problem or maybe they had a six-mile-an-hour cushion. But it's really now I think it's a lot of conjecture after the fact. But I think that you can't assume too much that CART could have done a whole lot that would have necessarily prevented this from happening.

Q. If I could ask Mauricio the comment about going back there to test. How critical is this in your eyes as the president of the CDA?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: First of all we have to sit down with all our departments and see what are the viable solutions that we can come up with to implement to our cars to slow them down enough to be able to go there and test. The other thing is, correct me if I understand wrong, but Texas is a pretty busy place in terms of racing schedule. They're very busy. And the other thing as I mentioned before, weather is another factor. We tested there early in the year. When I ran there, it was about 40 degrees. The air is a little more dense. That creates more drag; the car doesn't go as fast. So you have a lot of variables that we still haven't sat down with to decide which changes we can implement and when can we go and put everybody together to see if we can see the window that Bryan mentioned that we can physically support the race of the distance and nature that we are planning to have.

JOSEPH HEITZLER: The other complication, to follow up, is that we were just informed yesterday by Eddie Gossage that the track will be closed between 6-9 and 9-15 for changes that need to be made to the track by request of NASCAR. Some sanctioning body has asked for some changes to the track. So I'm looking into that. But 6-9 to 9-15 the track is being closed for upgrading and repair.

Q. It's probably too hot to race there anyway.

JOSEPH HEITZLER: Yeah. When would you like to see it?

Q. Let's do it in the third week of September. Probably be cool by then. I don't know. I know it's very tough. But it seems to me you need to come there and test full bore there this time with more than just a few cars, but I know it can be difficult.

JOSEPH HEITZLER: John, our priority now is to come and have a race that is safe, and also to reiterate with our fans there in the Dallas, Fort Worth and Texas area that all of our energies right now are being exercised to research all the issues that allowed that to happen.

Q. I wanted to talk to Michael a little bit. Michael, you had discussed a long time ago actually about going to that track, and you expressed some concerns, I think the banking and it just didn't seem maybe like a good CART track, that should have been a red flag maybe. Also the dizziness of 22 drivers, the vertigo on Saturday, it just seemed like a no-brainer to call this thing off then. And I don't understand what the delay was?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Let me try to explain that to you. The delay was we were still trying to figure out how could we put a fix on this thing to try to slow the cars down enough that we would be out of the danger of it, to bring it down in between the 220 and 225 range. But unfortunately we just couldn't come up with -- every time we came up with an idea, there would be another reason why you couldn't do it, most of the time because of safety reasons. To give you an example one of the suggestions was let's just put a rev limit on the car and rev them around 13,000 rpm's, but it puts you in a torque curve of the engine, which would put more stress on the crank, which in turn could lock the crank up and lock the engine up and put cars in the wall another way. So there was all kinds of inside like that going on, all through the night to try to figure out how can we try to save this show, but in the end there was no way to do it. But you've got to give everybody credit for at least trying to still make this thing happen, because we didn't want to have to cancel it. But in the end we had to cancel it. To answer the other part of your question, yeah, I was critical about going to this place, and I still don't think it's the greatest place in the world to race at, from a safety standpoint. But that wasn't the issue here. It was more an issue of a physiological issue, whereas we're at a point where physically the drivers were not going to be able to perform. And so it's a different thing. It's not because of going too fast, because I can tell you reasons why we shouldn't be to Michigan and Fontana, as well. But those are my opinions on the speed and the things like that. And that's all it is, is my opinion. But it's not because of the physical element where we're at a point where we can't do it physically. Does that answer your question?

Q. Yeah, it does. Except what were your other safety concerns?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think it's a very, very fast track. And I had safety concerns like with a place like Michigan as well, which is an area that Joe told you they know they need to try to address this with the engine manufacturers and still to figure out how to slow these cars down. This is not a new thing. Ever since I've been in this sport it's been a game to try to slow these cars down. But it's called technology, and you're always up against technology. And as soon as you come up with a rule to slow them down, the engineers figure out a way to make them go quicker. It's something we're trying and striving to fix. But the problems with the track are it's just a very fast track, and our cars on high banked tracks are just extremely fast, and in my opinion very dangerous. But this is not the problem. I was going to race there with the dangerous side of it. But when the physical element came up, then it's something that you just can't mess with. Now, I got to say that we as a group put in a long list of changes that we wanted to before we did race at Texas, and I've got to say Texas did every single thing we wanted to do and more. So I commend them for what they did in terms of catch fencing and things like that, that they did, in actually a relatively short period of time. And they did a really good job of it. So I guess to answer your thing also, it was not the racetrack's fault for this. This is just something that could not have been foreseen as a problem. Now we know. Now we have data. Now we know. Next time we go to a racetrack, we know what we need to do and look at to try and not let this happen again.

Q. Maybe start with Joe. You guys should be four races into your season at this point. Everybody knows what happened at Rio, and everybody knows what happened at Dallas. But those were -- Rio, Brazil is one of your strongholds for fans. And Dallas routinely has gotten some of higher marks among television racing for CART races, even though we never had a race there. Do you feel a little snake bit in your position right now about the problems that have basically come out of thin air, and to a certain extent out of your control.

JOSEPH HEITZLER: I look at these for opportunities for the company as long as it's making the decisions that are in the best interests of the fans and the drivers. And I look at the relativity of the Rio situation, that was totally out of our hands, and that situation is just regrettable and unfortunate, and it has implications that have caused one franchise team not to be able to field their car. I wish that the mayor of Rio had realized the economic impact of his decision, because I think it hurt our teams. It hurt the image of open wheel racing, and it certainly negatively affected the economy of Rio. As it relates to Texas, as I said, the process is the most important thing that a company has in its trust with its fans. We need to ever, ever be cognizant of that. And so I don't feel snake bit at all. I feel that these are opportunities to grow for management. They're opportunities to grow as a team between the drivers and the sponsors and our owners, and most of all I feel the fans, at least as I said earlier, all the messages I'm getting and phone calls and e-mails and letters are in support of what we did and said -- are saying finally someone's taking an action that is responsible.

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: I would like to follow on Joe. I think our start of the season has been different, but rather than being snake bit, I feel that I'm very proud of the way CART has stopped the season. I know Rio was out of our control, as Joe said, totally political matter, and that was very unfortunate, especially for Brazilian drivers, like myself. But we had two basically great events at Mexico, which was our first race, and Long Beach. Those events were incredible. And now we had a situation this weekend that really proved how serious this whole company is. And we made a very smart decision in a very unique situation. And I'm very proud to be part and be a driver in a series like this that really cares about their individuals. So I think it has been a great start all in all.

Q. I'd like to ask Michael and maybe Bryan, it's almost like you need to have a speed limit if you ever go back to Texas, because you now know what the threshold is of what your body can handle. How can you have a speed limit? It's kind of like a double-edged sword there at this point.

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: It's called science. It's going to be up to the engineers to come up with a way to slow these things down that makes sense. I mean, it sounds so easy to slow a car down. I had somebody come up to me and say why didn't you guys go out there and just not go flat out? You can't do that. We're racers. We're going to go out there and go as fast as we can. And so the engineers are going to do everything they can, once they come up with this rule to slow them down to make them go faster. But it's going to be up to them to do it in a way that it will take a long time to get back to those speeds. In my opinion the way -- the only way you're really going to do it, I don't think you're going to do it aerodynamically. I think you're going to have to do it with the engines. It's going to come down to the engine manufacturers are going to have to figure out a solution to slow those things down, basically get rid of horsepower. They're going to have to get a minimum of a hundred horsepower out of these engines and be able to do it safely without creating other problems of reliability with the engines.

BRYAN HERTA: This is Bryan. My job as a driver is to make the thing go as fast as possible. We want to take the rules given and maximize it. It's really going to have to be CART and their suppliers' job to figure out a way to do that safely. And I think that's one option is to slow the cars down. And the other one is to look at how many tracks do you want to slow the cars down? At a few tracks? Because there's really only maybe three or four tracks where the speed is getting to a point where it's out of hand. I think a lot of the tracks we go to the cars are great to drive. They're fun with a lot of horsepower in a lot of the street courses and road courses. They're great to drive with the horsepower they have, the grip level we have and the performance we have. And I think we're able to do that within a very comfortable safety window. So do you want to emasculate the cars for a few tracks that maybe we're too fast for? And I think that's the balancing act that CART has to deal with in the future.

Q. The term that's been used is that the race has been postponed, and yet the comments from the drivers and to some extent even Joe, it sounds -- I don't hear an awful lot of optimism for being able to develop the technology to get this race back on to schedule this year. I'm wondering if I'm misinterpreting what I'm hearing or not?

JOSEPH HEITZLER: Our goal is to get this race back on the schedule. And I think we've been very clear that we've reached a threshold, we're aggressively looking at the threshold right now. I'm meeting with all three of the manufacturers and we learned a lot about ourselves as we explored all these options. And if the Texas Motor Speedway will work with us and give us some dates, we believe that we can respond in a very safe and diligent manner, and we look to do this.

Q. First to Mr. Heitzler, have you or will you return the sanctioning fee to Texas Motor Speedway?

JOSEPH HEITZLER: It's not even something I've even thought about at this moment.

Q. Second one, clear up how the process, as you call it, was initiated? There have been some media reports that suggest that this was a drivers revolt, that the drivers banded together and demanded that they not race when it didn't seem to be that way at all. Who started the process that led to the postponement of the race?

JOSEPH HEITZLER: I can do that in a very clear and succinct and direct manner. On Friday when Mauricio had his incident, I had dedicated this weekend as the CEO of this company to race operations, as the previous race I had dedicated it to television. I participated from the moment our safety crews arrived at his car. I rode to the hospital in the back of the ambulance with Mauricio, and I was at the hospital with him and we cordially some incredible conversations of two men involved in a sport they love. And we are very fortunate that our safety systems and our requirements for those systems played an instrumental part in Mauricio being with us today and ready to race in Nazareth next week. That as a preamble, the following took place: On Saturday around noon, Dr. Olvey got in touch with me on my walkie-talkie and suggested that I come to the medical unit, that he had some things he wanted to talk to me about and educate me on. And he was beginning to experience several drivers saying to him that they were experiencing some light-headedness and some dizziness. He took that under tow. I then decided that I would start to find as many drivers as I could and team owners and team crew chiefs. By the time I got back to the medical unit, we were nearing a 4:00 drivers meeting, and the 4:00 drivers' meeting took place and in that meeting a direct question was asked, how many drivers are experiencing light-headedness and dizziness. And 21 out of 25 expressed their opinions that they were experiencing this and I must say this was a seminal moment in our company, because these are professional athletes having to share with their competitors in the same room what they felt was a diminished capacity situation. At that particular moment Dr. Olvey advised all of us of what was going on, and that he had contacted NASA and other doctors that he has in his network, and that they had concluded, along with some charts that we had on G forces, that this was the phenomenon, as he described in his comments at our press conference. At that particular point the drivers -- we had a franchise owners meeting where I explained what we were experiencing. And then I had a meeting with the engine manufacturers and we all begun to explore every option that we had available to us that would allow us to have a race, because that's what we came to Texas to do, and that's what we all do for a living. We worked well into the night until about 8:00. I then informed Mr. Burton Smith and Mr. Eddie Gossage that we were having some difficulties and explained what the difficulties were to them, but that we were going to work through the night. We felt we could come up with some options that would be reasonable with the goals of driver safety and fan safety. At approximately 9:00 in the morning we had another drivers meeting. We discussed the options that we had available to us, and it was at that time, as the CEO of this company that I listened to the owners, I listened to the drivers, I listened to the two sponsors of the race, and I listened to the three engine manufacturers, and I decided that as the CEO of this company that under all the conditions as expressed to me by all of the stakeholders that the best decision on behalf of all of us, and as the team leader for all of those stakeholders, that I would call management of the track, express to them that we had exercised every viable option known to us at the time and that it was in my judgment and my judgment only that we would need to postpone the race. We then subsequently had a media conference as you know, and that's the order in which all of this transpired. At no time did any driver ever say he would not get in a car and go race. And I did ask them the question, and they said they would go race. And I said, as your CEO, I do not think that's the right thing to do, and we are going to postpone this race. Thank you for asking.

Q. I'd ask Mauricio how he's feeling, but I don't want to burn up a question. But my question is for Mauricio. We haven't talked about this. This was the first time that the HANS device was required. And I spoke to Dr. Hubbard this morning, can you tell me how you think it worked, didn't work, your experience in using it?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: That certainly was the most important piece that I was wearing on that Friday afternoon, I have to say that. According to Dr. Olvey, I sustained 66 G of frontal impact for over a tenth of a second of duration, which is quite a long duration, and that's the highest G load ever sustained without major injury to a driver. And then after that I still went across the track and had another impact at 113 G backwards. So to be able to walk out of the hospital Friday afternoon in the company of Joe and my team members is quite remarkable. And that's another thing that I have to applaud CART to make these a mandatory device to use on the oval tracks, and among our driving group, we basically tried to develop that piece to be a little bit more comfortable and make sure that we all wear on the road courses, too, even before we make it mandatory, because I would say comparing from once the leather helmets were dropped to the current helmets, this is another step like that.

Q. How do you feel today?

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: I feel great. I've been swimming a lot to get my muscles to relax, and I'll be ready for Nazareth.

Q. For the drivers, I'm just curious, I understand that this didn't come down to an organized effort with you saying we don't feel comfortable racing, but if you could speak about -- there's got to be some comfort level knowing that there is an organization of you that will address safety concerns, and there is that safety net, other forms of racing don't have something like that. And if you could make a comment on how nice it is to know at least there is that organization there that had it come to that you had it in place.

MAURICIO GUGELMIN: I basically can speak on behalf of the drivers. We feel very comfortable with CART, with their whole management, and how they go about business. They have a full understanding of what it takes to have a professional series. We make decisions together. And we all live in a fast world, and not always a perfect world. And a lot of heads thinking together can always make better decisions. And I think Joe has been very instrumental in getting the company in that direction. And as drivers we are very proud of being part of this sport that we love so much. It's certainly something that is very gratifying to go back home and see your family and have good days every time you go out with these guys.

Q. Is there, though, that safety net knowing that you all are kind of in that together, that you do have an organization where you can express concerns, if it ever came to that?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Absolutely. I think we all -- it just gives us that much more peace of mind. Just the way CART is the only organization, for instance, that has a medical staff and safety crew totally on the payroll. Things like that that really, as a driver, make you feel comfortable. When you go to every racetrack you know you're going to have the best care available there in case something goes wrong, and that's so important. That really gives you a good peace of mind. And it is a safety net there. And then now to have leadership like Joe, what he did there to make this decision for the drivers, I mean it was just -- it just gives you, again, another really good feeling about the whole organization and the way it's run.

JOSEPH HEITZLER: This is not a management statement, this is a human element statement, but I think it will demonstrate, and answer your query. I was there when Mauricio's car finally came to a stop. And the first voice, and the first face that he saw was the face of five or six men that he knows, and the first voice of concern is a familiar voice. And when you're in an incident like that where you don't know what happened and where you are, you may be disoriented for a moment, but something about your life has changed, and to be able to have a relationship, a personal relationship with someone who's there that cares about you and knows about you, and then every second after that you're being touched in a human way by someone who cares about you as a human, first and foremost, and not as a race car driver, and then to be taken to our medical hospital where the proper diagnosis can be made and in few of a history. And in Mauricio's case, Dr. Olvey knows the spinal setup, the vertebrae setup for Mauricio from when he was a much younger man, these are personal issues that allow him -- he, Dr. Olvey to call the hospital that he's going to, where Steven Olvey already has a relationship with that emergency room, to say don't worry about the 4th vertebrae, because it's smaller from a generic point of view on Mauricio, so don't be concerned about that when you take his photo. I mean that's unprecedented from a medical point of view, but from a human point of view, as a CEO of this company, I was taken aback by that level of trust these drivers have when Terry Trammell shows up or Lon Bramley shows up and they're placed in the hands of Steven Olvey and others. I just wanted to mention to you that there's no amount of money or no amount of paperwork or plans in life that create a human trust when your life and your well-being is at stake, like these drivers have with CART and the safety and medical services that CART is clearly the leader on.

Q. My question is for Joe. You mentioned a couple of times the importance of addressing the fan concerns, particularly with supposedly 57,000 people inbound to the speedway and whatnot. How come on Sunday there was nothing done in terms of compensatory activity, no autograph session, no open paddock, nothing done on behalf of the fans that had traveled down for the race?

JOSEPH HEITZLER: That's a great question, and I am so glad you asked it, because CART was willing to open up the pit, the paddock area, we offered up every single driver. We offered up tours of haulers, we offered all this up to Mr. Gossage and his staff, and on two occasions we were turned down.

Q. Did Mr. Gossage give you any reason or background for that?

JOSEPH HEITZLER: He seemed to be concerned about the well-being of our drivers. And I commend him for that. He felt that perhaps the fans may have been a bit upset at the lateness of which the announcement was made. And we trust -- he trusted us to make decisions relative to the safety of our drivers, the integrity of the race, and the safety of the fans. And at this particular point after we asked a second time we trusted him that he knows his fan base and we abided by his decision.

Q. Michael, in 18 years you've been doing this, have you ever seen anything like this before in terms of the symptoms you were dealing, is this all just completely new?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I can tell you that the forces I was feeling on my body was completely new. I had an idea I was going to be really fast and we were going to have some forces on us, but I didn't even imagine that it was going to be the way it was. I mean it was just incredible. And that's pretty incredible for someone like me that's been around as long as I have to feel something new like that. And it was truly an incredible feeling. The forces that were put on your body when you went through a corner were just incredible. Like all your organs were smooshing down in your body, and it was just a real strain on your body and the whole bit. And so it was quite interesting.

Q. Were you ever experiencing any dizziness in California or Michigan?

MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I've never experienced that, no.

Q. Question for Joe. Joe, you indicated in going forward with the Texas Motor Speedway you stated our priority is the fans. Can you elaborate on that, please?

JOSEPH HEITZLER: Well, our priorities are the fans. I suggested earlier that without the fans that we don't have a sport. And so my priority is how can we return to that market, and in the meantime what can we do to help restore the inconvenience that we caused at Texas Motor Speedway.

Q. How do you envision being able to restore that, what sort of options are you exploring?

JOSEPH HEITZLER: Well, No. 1, there will be appearing in the next day or two, we're taking out full page ads to apologize to the fans for this inconvenience, No. 1. No. 2, we're working with some of our sponsors to see if we shouldn't have an occasion where we could work together with the fans to see if they'd want to go to the Houston race. We've even talked about a fan sweepstakes where we could have an environment where a lot of fans could win a trip to a CART race outside of the Texas marketplace. And this is why myself and my business associates stayed in all Sunday and all of Monday to do these -- to research these issues and also to meet with Texas Motor Speedway, and also all of this is to reschedule the event.

Q. Do you have a date for rescheduling?

JOSEPH HEITZLER: No, we don't.



Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library

The Crittenden Automotive Library at Google+ The Crittenden Automotive Library on Facebook The Crittenden Automotive Library on Instagram The Crittenden Automotive Library at The Internet Archive The Crittenden Automotive Library on Pinterest The Crittenden Automotive Library on Twitter The Crittenden Automotive Library on Tumblr  
 
 


The Crittenden Automotive Library

Home Page    About Us    Contribute




By accessing the The Crittenden Automotive Library/CarsAndRacingStuff.com, you signify your agreement with the terms and conditions on our Legal Information:  Disclaimers & Privacy Policy page.

To notify The Crittenden Automotive Library of errors, suggest topics, contribute information, make a comment on a page or to ask a question e-mail us.