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CART FedEx Championship Series: Miller Lite 250

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  Miller Lite 250

CART FedEx Championship Series: Miller Lite 250

Chris Pook
June 1, 2002


WEST ALLIS, WISCONSIN

ADAM SAAL: Good afternoon. We wanted to take the time just to meet with the press. This is our first time racing in more than a month and quite a bit of news. In fact, some of it even positive has been out there on behalf of CART and may not be readily apparent, but we just wanted to take the time to say hello; not the best of weekends for Chris, he did lose his mother Thursday night but still wanted to be here to basically get the balance of the season off. Thank you, Chris, we appreciate it.

CHRIS POOK: Good morning, thanks Adam. I apologize for not being here yesterday. As Adam said, I lost my mother on Thursday night, but I know a couple of the members of the press read into the fact that I wasn't here yesterday; that I was trying to stop from meeting with you. I just want you guys to know, I know exactly who you are. (Laughter) I will make your life as miserable as you managed to make mine yesterday with your evil thoughts. Very disappointing. We need to sell tickets to this thing. We have this number of people in the room and probably have a gross of about 100 grand here. I wanted to chat with you a little bit. Obviously the month of May is a tough month for CART. We're problem obviously out of the limelight, although we manage to get drug into the limelight. It is the month of the Indianapolis 500 and we all do respect that. (Inaudible) The race is still undecided in the fact that we happen to have one of our drivers in the appeal mode, I believe is the correct terminology. That will work its way out. I know all of you suddenly got very surprised by the Honda announcement which was surprising to me in the sense that you were surprised because this announcement came out in October last year at Laguna Seca. And we knew it was going to happen. We worked very hard with the Honda folks. I personally apologized to Mr. Amameya (ph) about the treatment that Honda had received last year during the year. And I must say also that a few other manufactures weren't treated as well as they should have been last year as well. But Honda was particularly on the end of the brunt of some pretty difficult rulings, so they made their statement in October and they stood by it. We're obviously disappointed to see them leave. But as I told Mr. Amameya and Mr. Elliott, we will honor our relationship with Honda through this season and make sure that they get true value out of their relationship with the series. I think the fact that Motegi goes away with Honda should not come as a surprise. Disappointing. We built it up; we had a very good crowd there this year; a couple of you were over there for it. But they are owned by Honda and Honda is going to do what Honda has to do in their own corporate culture. And on that point, CART is going to do what it has to do to run its own business. I think I've talked about the difficulties of the past. I have talked to you about some of the management deficiencies in the past. That doesn't come as any news to you. But we are now managing this company and running this company, and we intend to build this company. We still have some of the finest venues in the world. We still have the finest racing car drivers outside of Formula 1. We still have some of the finest teams outside of Formula 1. And we intend to build on that and build with them. And build this business back. It's too good. Our audiences are still good. Believe it or not, if it doesn't pouring rain tomorrow we're probably going to see 25 or 30,000 people at an oval race. That will be novel, won't it, to have something over 10 or 12,000 people. And in talking to the fans this morning coming in, it's because they want to see our guys perform in these cars on this particular oval which is a very unique one because it's wide and flat, and our drivers can excel under these true tests of driving conditions. So we will move forward. We will have, you are aware of two engine agreements between Judd and Cosworth. We will have another announcement, I would say to you, in a week or ten days; that's more definite in that area, and we will continue to move the company back to the level where it should be and beyond.

ADAM SAAL: This weekend we debut on CBS. we have been in the position of having to extend our TV package and we're quite proud of it. Tell us what that means from our point that we actually have had the seven CBS races as well as the Fox race for Long Beach.

CHRIS POOK: We are very proud of what Terry Lingner has done in the production side with the Speedvision group. The comments coming back from our customers who -- those are the people that really count as far as we're concerned, are very, very positive. They like what they are seeing. As Fox grows its Speedvision channel, so will we grow with it. The emphasis is on quality; not necessarily on quantity, but on quality and the same production team that has been producing the first races for us on Speedvision will be producing the CBS race this weekend albeit with the director being from Terry Hubert from CBS. So the two of them are working extremely well together - the production side and the network, and we're confident that we'll have a really super quality television show. Hopefully we don't get very, very low cloud cover so we don't get our in car knocked out as what happened to us in Long Beach, but I think to -- take a look at it. See how we're growing that side of our business.

Q. The field is down under 20 cars. Does that have some ramifications as far as the (inaudible) are concerned?

CHRIS POOK: Our current tracks are basically 16-car, 18-car, some are -- We do have some 20-car contracts. They are overseas' races. We have talked to our overseas' promoters who -- or last year were crying the blues about the large number of cars we insisted on bringing because they have to pay the freight on the airlines tickets, and they really want those numbers cut down. So on the overseas races we want to be able to put our show in two 747s and to do that that really caps us out at 20 cars. We have to ship some stuff by scheduled freight. So everybody is on board. I should remind you that CART has run races before with 16 cars (inaudible) and I am on record of saying to you that anywhere between 18 and 22 cars is where we want to be. We can put on an excellent show with 18 cars. We have got 15 guys that can win, I think out of those 15 on any one weekend and again this is not about quantity. This is about quality. That's the focus we're going to have on going forward. Overseas races shipping more than 20 cars is a big problem for us.

Q. Following that up --

CHRIS POOK: Can't hear you.

Q. Comment on where Milwaukee fits in. Do they get a rebate or something?

CHRIS POOK: No. Why should they?

Q. I don't know.

CHRIS POOK: It's within the contract.

Q. Conversation yesterday about the stock, (inaudible) what would happen if it bottoms out; is that a bad thing? Taking it private again, is that in the plan at all?

CHRIS POOK: I don't know. I am not going to worry about that right now. The stock is what it is. And people who buy the stock, I appreciate it very much, but buy stock in a company might as well back up a horse in a horserace sometime. I am going to work hard as far as I am concerned. Yes, we are concerned about some of our shareholders, all of our shareholders, but I am going to focus upon the issues that really count at the moment and that's give me the management team moving in the direction we want to keep them moving forward and keep the selling operation going and keep the teams happy and bring in new life into the series.

Q. (Inaudible)

CHRIS POOK: You've got to run a business by the business discipline and the business disciplines are the same for a private company or a public company. I don't know if it would make my job less easier - maybe I would get less phone calls - but you know, the disciplines of running a business are the same, public or private, that's what is going to count.

Q. (Inaudible) Talk about the progress for next season on trying to get a new venue into --

CHRIS POOK: Our teams working at it. They are working on it. I can't comment anymore than that, but Japan is an important market for us as is China. I told that to you before. And these countries are an important market for us as well, so we'll keep pushing. You are going to see new race, two new races, Denver and Miami, and another new race next year is Tampa, St. Pete, and Montreal so I mean, we're continuing to go into bigger and better markets. I hope you guys haven't overlooked that. You seem to sometimes overlook some of those things.

Q. I can't see you from back here, Chris, it seems to me that there's sort of a balancing act here on the one hand saying that CART needs to do what is good for CART and yet at the same time, come away from about a six-week layoff where CART wasn't racing and everything was happening at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Again, a lot of that was done so that some CART teams could participate in the Indy 500, but in the interim, a lot of them lost momentum, CART, correct me if I am wrong, seems to have been a loss (inaudible) do you have a different perspective on the calendar for next year, or as we go into the future about clearing much of the calendar for Indianapolis or what?

CHRIS POOK: Well, the answer is yes and no. Final answer is stay tuned. I owe you a beer, David.

ADAM SAAL: We'll have a happy hour reception in the next couple of races then.

Q. (Inaudible)

CHRIS POOK: Steve, you are in a rock and a hard place on that one -- we are in a rock and a hard place. My predecessor left the month of May because it was suggested that it would be good to have our drivers back at the Indianapolis 500. Since I have been in Indianapolis, living there, I am stopped from time to time by Indianapolis people who think it's unbelievably good that our drivers are there, and thank me for them being there. The hotel guys call and say, you know, geez, it's really great that your guys are here, you know, we're finally getting our hotel room counts back up to where they should be. So all that's positive for Indiana and positive for Indianapolis, and positive for the 500. On the other hand, as David so eloquently put it, there's a big hole in the schedule. So we are in a rock and a hard place on that and we need to go back to our teams. But on the other hand, we intend to manage this company ourselves and not be managed by others and I think part of our problem has been that there have been one or two individuals or companies who have tried to manage CART in the past for their own personal gain. We're going to take a look at that whole thing.

Q. (Inaudible)

CHRIS POOK: You are really trying to get me in the mix, aren't you?

I don't think there could have been a better driver under those particular circumstances in the position challenged for the lead, Mr. Tracy, and I certainly wouldn't want to have been Mr. Castroneves with Mr. Tracy up my ass with two laps to go.

Q. (Inaudible)

CHRIS POOK: You got to be concerned about it. I mean, depends who is doing the takeover. I can't deal with the issue of worrying about what our stock price is. I have zero ability to manage that. What I can manage is the team of people who are running this team. I can manage them and let them grow and build this company and at that particular point, those that own the stock will see the results. But if I have to sit and look at a computer and watch the stock jump up and down, I might as well watch looney tunes. That's unproductive.

Q. (Inaudible)

CHRIS POOK: Today if you are going to have companies come into motor racing you have got to be able to create an environment so they can promote and market and sell their products. That's the sanctioning body's responsibility. Now, we have not done a very good job of that in the past. But we're doing an excellent job now and you have just got to go look at some of the business to business stories that are going on inside CART. We are putting companies together. You can go talk to Simple Green; talk to Pioneer, talk to these folks. We are actually putting people together so they are doing business deals and growing their businesses. That's what we're supposed to be doing as a marketing company. Yes, we're a motor racing company, but to make the motor racing work, you have to have the marketing, you have to have the corporate side of it working as well. That's why we're a marketing service company; still a sanctioning body.

Q. There has been a lot of talk about teams leaving, following Penske over to the IRL. We've heard all the names there. They are big teams, if they do go, obviously it will hurt CART to lose them. Where are the replacements? This is obviously a major issue for CART that you -- where are the replacements for these teams going to come from? Do you have a clue at this point where they are actually going to come from? We have not had any --

CHRIS POOK: I don't think anybody has had a new team recently. I think the team issue is not only just in CART, it's everywhere. It's an issue in NASCAR, as I am sure you are aware - it's at all the levels, so -- and I suspect it's going to be an issue as we go down the road -- the IRL goes down the road to the end of season. At least in the past it has been because after Indy's gone over, they've had a fairly major attrition. But we are focusing on where the new teams are coming from, and the first thing that we need to do is we need to get our costs under control. Because what's happened, yeah, you have had companies involved in sport that have been hand-grenading volumes of cash around, so we need to understand that we have got a process to go racing with a budget under control. We have got a model where we need to be now. I am not making any announcements for any of that, I am just telling you that that's what we have got done. Now, having got that under control, we have something to go back to motor racing teams around the world and talk about. That process is underway. Bear in mind, we are not all ovals. We are a combination of road, street, and oval. So the predominance of the motor racing in the world takes place on road courses. So there's a huge number of teams around the world who we can go talk to. That process is underway.

Q. In the past CART has made a number of attempts to get closer to the IRL. The most recent being -- they attempted to adopt the same engine formula (inaudible) a chassis that was somewhat similar and (inaudible) how do you view that and going forward what do you think you are going to do in terms of CART? (Inaudible)

? CHRIS POOK: I can probably give you the answer you don't want to hear but there's ladies in the room. We're going to move on and run our business the way we are going to run our business. And not the way others run our business. I mean, we -- we made an overture very clearly by trying to take on the same engine and take on the same chassis. That was to try and see if we can get down a road of commonality see if we can -- there was a way to come back to. As you had pointed out that apparently has been sadly rebuffed. On to the next (inaudible) of distress.

Q. If I could get back to the issue of (inaudible) one team packed up its stuff and hauled out of here. (Inaudible) I assuming you are working with teams to try and keep them on board. Have you talked to the people at TWR and are they coming back --(inaudible)

CHRIS POOK: I have not talked to -- I did meet with Mr. McCaw in Monte Carlo the weekend before last. I have not talked to Mr. Lowry. I did happen to notice that Mr. Dixon was fairly fast this morning in the Target car and I can only assume with reasonable discussions in those areas. They said they were going down to one car. I think they made that announcement ten days ago so they -- obviously they had some level of disagreement with their driver who is a very talented racing car driver. And the good news is that the folks at Milwaukee are going to see Mr. Dixon do what he does very well and that's drive a racing car.

Q. Following up, everybody says there's not enough room in this country for two open-wheel IndyCar type series. How do you respond to that and what does CART do to ensure that its model works, given the oversaturation of the market so to speak?

CHRIS POOK: Mark, there were -- I like to look at it in North America. It's not just the United States and Canada, United States and Mexico. There were over 250,000 people in Mexico, 230,000 people in Long Beach. If the weather holds they will have 30,000 plus people here tomorrow. You will get to Laguna you will have 60, 70,000 people at Laguna. We go to Portland and we will have 60, 70,000 people. We'll be in Toronto with probably close to 200,000 thousand people. Vancouver with God knows how many people. Cleveland with 50, 60,000. We'll be in Mid-Ohio with 50 or 60,0000. Montreal, great new venue, soldout next Saturday and Sunday for their F-I race. I have got a huge advance for the end of August. Denver's got a huge advance for Labor Day weekend. I can only say to you that on our side of the map with the number of spectators that are showing up, something must be right. I can't focus on the other side, the 10s and the 15,000's that show up for those race, I can't deal with those. That's not my business. Focus on what we've got. So I think what we have got to look at is make sure that our spectator business model continues to work well, which it is, and if we have got a glitch in any of the places we go to, consistent glitch where the numbers are not good, we have got to look at it and see why. This world works by supply and demand and right now we have got demand from the public and our television ratings are coming back thanks to Speedvision, Doug Sellars is in here someplace, Doug, thank you, congratulation to you guys, at Fox. That's why Fox is the fastest growing and best television network in the world today all over the world. Thanks to guys like Doug Sellars who make the shows work. Our numbers are coming back there. Mark, I can't answer your question about if it's oversaturated. I really can't. Our promoters are getting done what they have got to get done.

Q. (Inaudible) CART has all these spectators showing up at the races and in some respects, might be the stronger series, but yet everybody is saying CART is going to die. How do you counteract that kind of --

CHRIS POOK: We have been talking about that. Poor Adam is under the gun because I have been hammering his rear about this.

ADAM SAAL: You get used to this.

CHRIS POOK: There's two avenues to public relations now - public relations that deal with the sport which Adam is extremely good at and his team is extremely good at and political spin stuff that you have been watching for the last few days, and we are going to have to get a political-spin-person to guide us through this storm. Some of you have been writing factually about our numbers and how good attendance we've got. Others of you have been deciding to go ignore that, dealing with doom and gloom. That's your style, you do what you have got to do. At the end of the day, the facts are going to be the facts. The customers will read the material and look at the material and will judge about what they read.

Q. Is there a movement within your team to try and get (inaudible) with another team like Derrick Walker said yesterday (inaudible) he put his name in the hat, is that what you'd like to do here in the next month?

CHRIS POOK: Well, yes. Obviously we'd like to have a 20th car, okay. On the other hand, at what cost and what stretch and we have got to be sensible in how we approach this; make sure it's being done in a sensible manner and that we're just not throwing race cars on the racetrack. We're about quality, Robin, not quantity.

Q. (Inaudible)

? CHRIS POOK: Every sanctioning body does that, they work hard at trying to keeping a full field. If 20 is the magic number in everybody's mind, that's what we have got to live with. As I have told you before, anywhere between 18 and 22 as far as I am concerned is a good show.

Q. We keep hearing from Carlos telling us that there are some other teams besides TWR that are in financial difficulty and might not make it through the season which would obviously affect the car count even more. You are saying even 20 is an ideal number. But there's always the possibility that it can go below that this year because -- (inaudible) -- do you have a thought or thoughts how to combat this? Is there some plan to help these teams so that they don't follow TWR out the door?

CHRIS POOK: Well, I think that TWR's situation is somewhat unique. The answer to your question is we are aware that there is one other team that's got some concerns and we're working with that team. But the TWR situation is very unique; and obviously complicated one as you probably gathered, and I don't think it behooves me to go down the road on that situation because obviously there was pretty substantial miscommunication somewhere. So it is what it is. I mean, absolutely we're sensitive to that.

Q. I'd like to first say I think you are doing a great job. You have taken this division quite far. What do you think about the Star of Tomorrow's program?

CHRIS POOK: I think that it's important to start with the youngsters at seven and eight years old and to let them develop through the go-kart process. I think that that's where all racing -- all good racing drivers emanate from and I think you have to embrace the go-kart program. I think we are doing that with our Barbara Dodge program. We have got Barbara Dodge made a huge effort to bring go-karters up through their series and get them into Barbara Dodge, and then from Barbara Dodge we get to get them to Atlantic and from Atlantic we need to get them in the big car series. CART has not done a good job at this in the past. We have got to work at this. In Long Beach I spent 15 minutes talking to the young guys who were in the Barbara Dodge program, who had come there and they -- actually been to Fontana having a race. They came over on the Sunday morning. We visited with them, and we did have some tremendous young folks in there, I mean, great bunch of young drivers, including young Unser, you know, a name you know. But equally there's a lot of talented 17, 18 year old kids in there that want to become professional racing car drivers. We have been nuts if we ignore that and where they came from. We have to do one thing at a time, put one foot in front of the other and one pad on the leg at a time. Can we embrace everything all at once? No. Can we work at it? Yes. Will we work at it? Absolutely. Do we have staff on board to work at it? Yes.

ADAM SAAL: Among Chris's scheduled appointments today after he goes on our qualifying show on speed channel he will go right over and address the Atlantic drivers. As a former Indy Lights guy I can tell you wasn't a lot of time you get from the league office, so it will be time well spent. We appreciate it. This is time well spent as well. Chris, thank you very much.



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