CART Media Conference
MERRILL CAIN: Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you for joining us today. I'm Merrill Cain with CART Public Relations, and I'm very pleased to be joined today by three of the most distinguished men in motorsports: CART President and CEO Chris Pook, and legendary champ car drivers Mario and Michael Andretti. We won't waste a lot of time with introductions as we want to take advantage of all the time we have today with these gentlemen, so let's get right to it. In December our first guest was elected by the CART Board of Directors to the position of President and Chief Executive Officer of Championship Auto Racing Teams. He is the founder of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, one of the most successful and popular motorsports events in the world today, and a race that both of our other guests are more than a little familiar with. He has established himself as one of the most knowledgeable and well-respected businessmen in auto racing. Since coming on board with CART, he has restructured and redefined the way the company does business, re-establishing CART as the premiere open wheel racing series in North America. With that, we say hello to Chris Pook. Chris, thanks for joining us today.
CHRIS POOK: Good afternoon, Merrill. Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's great to be here. I'm particularly honored to be here with the Andrettis, Mario who I've known since 1975 when he first came to Long Beach in '74, and Michael I've known since he was driving go carts with his dad giving him tutelage. It's a great honor to be with them. I just want to remind everybody, apart from Mario's career in Champ Car racing, he was one of the greatest world champion drivers in the world, and certainly the greatest motor racing ambassador that America has ever had when he was World Champion back in 1978. And Michael has continued the Andretti family tradition of holding up the standard of professional motor racing in every category.
MERRILL CAIN: Chris is stealing a little bit of my thunder here as I finish up our introductions.
CHRIS POOK: Sorry about that.
MERRILL CAIN: Let me go ahead and complete that, then we'll open it up for questions. Our next guest is the driver of the #39 Honda Reynard for Team Motorola in the CART FedEx Championship Series. He will be entering his 19th season in champ cars next week at the 2002 season opener in Monterrey, Mexico. His 41 career victories are the most ever in CART history, he won the Series Championship in 1991, and he's the only driver to be named a FedEx Championship Series All-Star for three consecutive seasons. We're happy to be joined today by Michael Andretti. Michael, thanks for joining us.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: My pleasure. Good to be here.
MERRILL CAIN: Finally, what can you say about our final guest, considered by many to be the best driver in the history of auto racing. He won a remarkable 109 races over a career that spans five decades. He's won the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis 500, the Formula One World Championship and the CART Series title, which he captured in 1984. He's been named Driver-of-the-Year in a remarkable three different decades and was also selected as Driver-of-the-Century in the year 2000. Since retiring from full-time driving in 1994, he has established himself as a very successful businessman off the track, and he remains a true ambassador of the sport of auto racing. It's my pleasure to welcome Mario Andretti.
MARIO ANDRETTI: Thank you. Thanks. Hello, everyone.
MERRILL CAIN: Now that the formalities are out of the way, let's open it up for some questions.
Q. My question is for Chris. If you could talk a little bit about the season and some of the challenges that you face, especially with the loss of Roger Penske to the IRL.
CHRIS POOK: Well, let me deal with the loss of Roger. Obviously, we're very disappointed to lose Roger. The CART FedEx Championship is an extremely competitive series. I believe last year we had 11 different winners out of all of our races. That tells you just how competitive it is. There's some tremendous teams in it. I mean, Michael's Team Motorola, and his two teammates with the KOOL cars, Franchitti and Tracy, as Michael and Mario will attest, are no slouches. You've got Rahal with a strong team. You've got Ganassi with a strong team. I think that one of the tremendous things about the CART FedEx Championship is the diversity of this championship. I mean, you know, you're talking about guys, teams that have to run on ovals, on street courses, on road courses. They have to be extremely adept. They have to be very adept in their driving skills, and the team has to be very adept and very smart in its preparation skills. The fact that Roger did not dominate the championship last year, although he won it, and he's moved on to IRL, I think speaks to the strength of our teams. Now, I think that as you look forward, you have to see what he is going to do in the IRL. And, you know, is he going to receive the same level of competition over there that he received over here when he won this championship? That's a question mark that's out there. As far as we're concerned, we're obviously disappointed. We would have loved to have de Ferran and Castroneves here. I'm sure that Michael will reiterate that; although as a racing car driver, I think sometimes you want to see the competition go away. Fair enough. We'll miss them, yes. But will the competition be less intense? Absolutely not. Absolutely not. It will be as fierce and as hard as it ever was with a highly, highly competitive series of motor car races.
Q. Has it caused you to kind of reassess things and maybe try to alter the structure a little bit to try to keep maybe more teams in the fold, keep them from leaving? Or is this just maybe part of a process where both circuits may eventually come together at some point?
CHRIS POOK: No, it's part of the whole thing that caused us to restructure, you know, the company. I mean, we've changed this company in the last two months from just being a sanctioning body to being a marketing and servicing company that creates a platform whereby all the sponsors, be they the sponsors on the cars or sponsors of the series, the engine manufacturers and suppliers, they can all get a return on their investment. We have changed our whole outlook of the way we do business. We have the same strong operational element and the racing part that takes place between the walls. But outside of that, we've changed the whole environment. Clearly, yes, we're focusing on making sure that car sponsors get value. We met with Michael's sponsor, Motorola, and we're starting to understand fully what they want to achieve from their sponsorship with him and his race car. We're doing the same with all the other sponsors. We are friendly now in that area, and we want to create the right environment so everyone can be with us and stay with us and get a return on their investment.
MERRILL CAIN: Let's move on now.
Q. This is for Chris. One, is there any new news on Chicago? Because the rumors are that you folks are going to take that race over and run it. And, two, somebody said that there's been more changes in CART in the last two weeks than they've seen - or three weeks - than they've seen in the last five years. Do you see any other changes down the road?
CHRIS POOK: Well, I can't comment on Chicago other than it's a great market; it's the corporate home of Motorola, Michael's sponsor. It's the home of three of our teams. It's the number three ADI in the country. CART needs to be in Chicago. Now, with regard to other changes, the only changes that you will see, I would suspect, is the pick-up in the standard and level of service that we provide to you folks in the media and we provide to all the sponsors. You won't see that as a dramatic change, but you'll see it as an ongoing change throughout the year and as we position the CART product and the marketing platform we're creating for sponsors to do business in. Going back over the last five years, I'm probably not the one to ask about the change in the last five years, probably Michael and Mario are the better ones, they've been more closely involved in it than I have certainly. I'm just a new boy on the block. But they may want to comment on that for you.
MARIO ANDRETTI: May I? It's Mario.
MERRILL CAIN: Go ahead, Mario.
MARIO ANDRETTI: It's basically right now we're beginning a new season, and we have a new leader a long time coming in my opinion. I will be quite blunt about all those things obviously. I'm not working for anybody, you see, so (laughing)... And what I know of CART, what I've seen and the reason personally that I've supported this Series is the fact that - I think Chris eloquently explained that earlier - about the value of the Series as a very versatile series that provides, as I said, I think entertainment for different -- for all the fans, the aficionados of road racing and oval racing. It's the only real series in the world at this level that provides that. Now, because of that, I think that CART as a product, I mean, is second to none. That's why CART has survived even in the face of adversity such as having had the Indianapolis 500 taken away from its Series. The product is strong, is that strong. And the politics in CART as I've known it from day one, I mean, to me, left a lot to be desired, no question. This is the first time that I know that we have someone leading the parade be in charge of CART that understands all the important aspects of a sanctioning body. I have heard so many people complain in the past about the arrogance of CART, you know, toward promoters, toward this and that and the other, manufacturers, some of the sponsors involved. And, again, it's bound to catch up to you. But it's never too late to make it right, either. And, again, I've been a supporter of Chris, myself, mainly because I felt you needed someone that's been on all sides of this wheel that understands, has been on the receiving end, as to what needs to be done. I've never seen as much movement in that direction until now, positive movement. So, again, the engine manufacturers, if CART would have taken the leadership position like they've done now, it would have been certainly a different delivery from them as far as how they felt about CART, whether they want to stay or leave or whatever. There's so many things that would have been different. But, having said that, we must move forward. And, again, we are experiencing a cycle. We have seen cycles throughout the eras. You know, the cycle may go into, for instance, a lot of engines being pretty much the same. There's nothing really wrong with that. I've seen Formula One thrive under that, where it was all (inaudible). I've seen CART thrive when it was all (inaudible) or a majority of Ilmors and so on and so forth. Again, I think what we have to look forward to in my opinion is at least a lot of the things that, to me, represent a negative are going to be -- are being addressed.
MERRILL CAIN: Mario, thank you for your comments. Let's move on to the next question.
Q. Chris, I just wanted to ask you, I'm sure you're aware that the perception around the country pretty much is that CART is in serious trouble. And whether that's the reality or not, how do you go about changing a perception that is years in the making at this point before it does become the reality?
CHRIS POOK: I think that, you know, you have to put changes into effect, both changes in personnel and management, and changes in presentation of your product, and changes in how you deal with people. You have to put them into effect. And when you say something, you have to back it up with action. It's as simple as that. There's no -- I mean, the tough thing about perception is that perception often occurs without basis of fact. It's kind of like rumor, you know. How do you deal with it? You've got to be sensitive to it. You've got to recognize that it's out there, but you can't let it get in the way of what you're trying to achieve in your plan, in your vision. So all I can do here is affect change. We've put a management change in in the company. The first thing, we put the people in place to move the company forward. We've addressed the issue of rules and indecision and all this stuff that you and your colleagues in the media thrive upon because it gives you great areas of speculation to write about. And we're, one by one, if you look at what we've achieved here in the last two and a half months, taking away all of those elements of speculation. We will move on. And we'll be in Monterrey, Mexico the weekend after next, and you will judge us in the media at that time. You'll judge us whether we put on a good race or a bad race; you'll judge whether the crowd is a good crowd or a bad crowd. Some of you will say, "Oh, it's a second-year race, the crowd will be down," all doom and gloom, similar to what was said at Indianapolis this year after the F-1 race. That's what happens sometimes at motor car races or any other major events. Others of you will look at it and say, "Gosh, it was a great race, a great crowd, the whole standard of presentation was better and things are changing." Neither I nor Mario or Michael have any control over what you see through your eye or you write about. But we do have control over our own actions and what we do every day. And we, as a company, will go out there and do our best to demonstrate to you that it is not all doom and gloom as some would have said, it's very positive in going forward. Michael will go out and push the pedal as hard as he can push it to win the race, and Mario will be being the cheerleader and giving good counsel and advice not only to his son, but to me here as I run this company. So, you know, I don't know quite how I give you a very, very definitive answer on how to answer this perception issue.
Q. Do you feel, Chris, a sense of urgency, that you don't have the luxury of a five-year plan or a three-year plan or whatever, but --?
CHRIS POOK: Yeah, I do, actually. I'm 61 and I want to stop when I'm 64, so that's a sense of urgency (laughter). Yeah, of course I feel a sense of urgency. I think those people that know me will tell you that I'm a pretty hard-driving character, that I don't have time to mess around with all the niceties and the semantics. We've got a great product here - a superb product, as Mario has articulated to you, and we want to let you and your colleagues in the media know just how great it is. And folks like Michael are going to go out there and demonstrate just how great it is. I mean, you know, you've got to look at the product and say to yourself, you know, "Steve, just look at this product. I mean, where else can you find this product?" I ask you that question. In the standard and quality it's presented. That's what I would ask you.
Q. Let me ask you one last quick question if I could. If you could just update on the status, there's been a lot of talk about perhaps CART headquarters moving here to Indianapolis. If you could tell me where that stands right now.
CHRIS POOK: Well, it's in the business discussion process at this time. I think we're getting fairly close to a decision. As you know, I'm on record as saying that I believe we need to be in Indianapolis alongside our teams. We also need to be in Indianapolis because it's the home of Open Wheel Motorsports. Just like NASCAR is based in Daytona Beach, opened a huge office in Charlotte because that has become the home of stock car racing. We think we need to be there. There's a lot of good people in Indianapolis that have indicated they'd love to go to work for us if we move there. It's a very nice city, good quality of life, good schools, good housing, all the things that a CEO needs if he's going to have a successful team of people around him. So that should give you a hint (laughter)...
Q. Question for Michael. With the relaxation of the fuel restrictions, is that going to change the strategy in how you drive a race?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Oh, no question. I think it's going to be more -- the way racing has been the last few years just, to me, has not been racing. You know, we've been going out, and whenever you're not driving 110%, to me, that's not what racing is all about. But now with the fuel restrictions lifted, we're going to be able to go out and, you know, just drive as hard as we can for the whole race, and I think that's going to make for a better show. So I'm really looking forward to that, the new rules. I think that's one good example of what Chris is trying to do as well to try to help improve the show and things like that. Because I don't think people come to watch a fuel conservation test. I think they come to watch us out there driving 110% all the time. So this is a good example of what Chris has been trying to do.
Q. Will that spur you on, Michael, to do the best on the track, as you always try to do all the time? And, what other changes would you like to see Chris try to do?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I don't know. He's made a lot of changes right now. I really haven't thought about other things. I know Chris is trying to figure out a way to help limit yellows. I think that's another problem we do have, and I think there's a lot of it in the road courses mainly. So those are things that I know Chris is looking at, and we'll see what they come up with. Right now I don't think they have a 100% answer yet. So, hopefully, they will be able to come up with something to make that better, because the yellows do definitely hurt the show for sure.
Q. For Mario, if you were in Chris' position, what other changes would you like to see in CART?
MARIO ANDRETTI: I think I'd like to see the changes that are in place, I'd like to see the effect of those quite honestly. And I think the plate's pretty complete in that direction. I'm able to comment on these things because even sitting on the sidelines, the frustration that I've experienced knowing what these guys have to go through and how the drivers have been evaluated, let's take the fuel situation first. A lot of guys, you know, the biggest premium they were putting on some of these guys was how capable they are of going fairly quick and saving fuel; not how fast it can really go. And, quite honestly, as you say, it was just watching some of the 500 mile race in Fontana this last time, nobody wanted to lead because you wanted to be on the slip screen to save a considerable amount of fuel to put yourself at an advantage in that respect. So all of a sudden, you know, at the end, you got enough fuel, you know, to just really go 10-10s with your horsepower. Well, again, I think it's behind us, which should be huge. And the other part is the road courses. I've been, you know, trying to preach a long, long time that you don't run a road course event like you run an oval. An oval, obviously anybody sneezes somewhere, you don't want to wait to see if there's a cold somewhere. (Inaudible) you go, no matter what, at a constant high speed. But that's different. On a road course, the cars disappear for several minutes under the yellow, and it's a disruption that should not prevail. There are ways, better ways, of handling that. The international community does a lot better job than us, and that's an area that Pook is very familiar with and he has addressed that. And so local yellows must be maintained. And if there are corner workers that are afraid, this and that, then you got to pose severe enough penalties to the drivers out there that disregard that yellow. And all you have to do is have one or two of these penalties out there, and then the whole thing will quiet down and you will implement that properly. The other thing is about ending wonderful races under the yellow. I mean, I'm sure NASCAR is going through a lot of these things. And, for a paying public, there should be no race unless, you know, something happens the last lap. They shouldn't end under the yellow. And these are all important aspects of having people walk away after paying for an event to witness something exciting; not to go home, "Oh, gee, the most important part of the race, the finish, was a blah and a yellow." That's criminal. It's about time that someone that has the authority and is really addressing this. That's the reason it's never been addressed - because we did not have anyone who had any sense of the sport who was leading this parade before. That's what I said from day one, from John Frasco on down. So, finally, I think we have people that understand, and that's the exciting part. I can't wait for the season to get underway just because of that.
Q. Along that line, Chris, NASCAR goes with red flags. Is that an option for you, or alternatively open up the pits so everybody can get some more fuel? Any idea of which way you want to go?
CHRIS POOK: We're not going to end up on the yellow. If we have the red flag, we'll end up on the red flag and we'll look at the fuel situation. Wally will be up there making sure that happens. But if we red flag it, and we start again, you know, the challenge is going to become, you know, we red flagged, how many laps do we do behind the pace car before we go green. These are some of the things that Michael was referring to that we still got to get right. I mean, you know, we go through these scenarios, we're going to give our chief steward the leeway to make sensible decisions here. He absolutely knows that these races are not going to end up on yellows, and we will address those issues one by one. Will we make a couple of mistakes on the way? Absolutely, we will. But, you know, we're going to get it right. We're going to do what's right. We're going to do what's right by the drivers, what's right by our fans, and right by television and the media. And we're not going to be shy in making decisions. We're going to not make hasty decisions. We're going to get input. We're going to listen. And we'll get through with our new qualifying procedures at Monterrey that we put in. In the drivers meeting, I will ask the drivers for their opinions. We want the input. When we get done with the race, if we have a situation with the yellows that's bothersome, we'll listen to the drivers. I mean, the opinions will vary, but we will get a sense of balance and we will address the issues. And we will refine the product until we get it right. We've got to get it right for the guys sitting in the cockpit. Those are the guys that put it on the line every week and try 110% to get home to that checkered flag first. We got to make sure it's the right environment for them to do their job in. I think you'll find that when we create the right environment for them to do their job in, we will have sold the issues for the other constituents - that's the fans and the television audience.
Q. First of all, I want to say, Mr. Pook, congratulations for everything you guys have done so far in preparation for this year. You guys have done a lot. It all seems to be on the right side of the ledger. I'm curious as to there was a lot of talk at the end of last season about some of the track promoters that were unhappy with the way things were going and were threatening to pull out, this, that and the other. I wanted to get an update on how you're dealing with them.
CHRIS POOK: We're all a loving bunch (laughter). You know, sometimes you get a driver that steps over the edge a little bit, and Michael will tell you this, but sometimes the other drivers go have a chat with him, go talk to him and find out what his issues, his problems are, talk them out. I'm an old promoter. I had a visit with some of my colleagues. I don't think you hear them complaining too much. They've become very silent, which I hope is a good sign. I hope it's not the sign of a tornado coming (laughing). I think we're solving them, addressing them. Just like the previous question that was asked by Steve Mayer, we will be tested every inch of the way. There will be different situations after different racetracks that we will have to address. But we will address them, and we'll address them in a cooperative, constructive manner, and not in an arrogant take-it-or-leave-it manner.
Q. Quick question for Michael. We just talked about how they're not going to end the race under yellows this year. It's good for fans, good for television, and everything like that. There are a couple tracks out there, I mean some of the street courses, Vancouver comes to mind off the top of my head, where having a green and white checkered kind of thing with five guys in the lead on a racetrack that's really tough to pass might not be the most fun place to be in for a driver. Just curious to hear your thoughts about that.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think it all depends where you're sitting (laughter). If you're sitting second, you know, you're salivating. If you're the leader, you're swearing at these guys with their new rules. It's just the way it will be. But in the end I think we all have to take the responsibility that, "Hey, we've had to make this Series the best it can be for the fans, because they're the reason why we're out there." So we have to do what's best for them. A lot of times it might not work in your favor, but I think you just have to realize why these rules are going to be put in place and what the reasons are, and just accept it and know that it's for the best of the Series.
Q. Thank you and good luck.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Thanks.
Q. Good afternoon to Chris, Michael and Mario. I guess a question to Chris is certainly and, understandably, a lot of attention is focused on the departure of Marlboro and Penske to the IRL. And, again, the stated reasons for that was that Philip Morris and Marlboro, you know, wish to be involved in a Series that is 100% focused on the domestic market. But the flip side of that is that about a month ago there was a new sponsor that came into CART, namely Gigante, the chain of sort of super-stores in Mexico which, I believe, is now starting to kind of get a foothold in the United States and California. I wonder if anybody, you know, could talk about ultimately the significance of that. And, as a second question, sort of Part B to this rambling question, maybe talk a little bit about the fact that CART has a very significant presence both with races in Mexico and with three Mexican drivers. And do you think that CART has done enough to capitalize on the presence of Adrian Fernandez and Michel Jourdain in the past, and now with Mario Dominguez, do you see CART trying to make more hay of that within that growing population in the United States?
CHRIS POOK: Thanks, David. First of all, let me just point one thing out to you, okay. I mean, we're all talking about Roger Penske's departure from our Series. But there's one thing you don't know. For some reason, he has still reserved his car numbers 2 and 3 in the Series for this year and asked for them to be held all year. I don't know what that means, but it means something. (Inaudible) either value at 2 or 3, and we haven't discovered how to charge for it yet (laughter). The second part about Gigante and the third part about, you know, the positioning of CART and the Mexican drivers, Gigante, actually, the arrival of Gigante is perfect, the timing is perfect. I think that just really underlines what I've been talking about with regard to the North American free trade association between Canada, Mexico and the United States. Here's a very good example of a company that's racing in our country, has got an affiliation with a major U.S. outlet, a retail outlet in this country. They're taking advantage fully of the NASCAR regulation and using CART as a marketing platform, a marketing vehicle, to achieve it. It won't be long before they're up in Canada. Office Depot is their relationship in this country. They're clearly going to leverage those relationships together, and Canada will be the next market that they'll move in to. So the whole marketing platform concept, I think, is being borne out in this instance with this particular company, as it is with Tecate, by the way. We should not forget Tecate. By the way, Quaker State Mexico is funding one of the teams this year, the Herdez Team, and they're using the Canadian/U.S. platform to further their national brand name. So that whole thing is starting to come together, and I suspect that you're going to see many more countries that will take advantage of these three big marketing platforms that we've got. That's the European economic community, represented by our races in Germany and England; the Pacific rim communities with Japan and Australia; and, of course, the North American with Canada, Mexico and the United States. Now, moving on to the third part of your question, if I remember correctly, that was the issue of the three Mexican drivers that are in the Series. We see this as, once again, another huge cross-marketing opportunity, a cross-pollination opportunity. We are in the process now of getting our Spanish language broadcast distribution in the United States television network put together. As you know, there are two now, and a third emerging, Spanish-speaking television networks operating in this country. And we are now going to - very shortly you'll see an announcement about us putting our races on the Spanish-speaking networks in domestic United States to reach our Latin American customers who are resident in this country. So that clearly has come about as a result of the three Mexican drivers who are here participating in our Series. And it will be the opening of the doors, if you will, of the CART FedEx product to the Latino, resident Latino community of our country, by delivering the product to them with a Spanish language broadcast. I hope that covers the three questions. Was there a fourth one buried in there that I didn't get?
Q. There may have been. If there was, I forgot it. That's fine. Thanks very much, Chris. I appreciate it.
CHRIS POOK: Thanks.
Q. First, I want to say hello to Chris. You and I have walked the racetrack many days here in Memphis. One of the things, Chris, that I noticed about you is you do everything when you're at the racetrack from park the cars to pick up trash as we walked along the garage. I'm wondering, with that type of hands-on approach that you have, when you sat down and you talked to the Board members at CART about coming on board, was that part of what you said, that if "I can't have control and hands-on, I don't want this job"?
CHRIS POOK: Well, I don't think I said that, Ron, to them. I think that probably they knew that's the sort of way I've operated over the years. I mean, Mario's seen me when we first started. I am very passionate about this business.
MARIO ANDRETTI: I don't think that needs to be said at this stage.
CHRIS POOK: You got to be hands-on. I think this is the type of sport where you have many constituents, and you really do need to -- I have an expression about getting my arms around people, getting my arms around projects. You've got to get your arms around every aspect of this business. You've got to be sensitive to it, and you've got to be understanding to it. I think that's just what I've learned over the years. And, you know, what you see is what you get. I mean, my stage in life, you're not going to make too many changes. I'm sure I'll be driving people crazy if I see trash lying on the ground around the racetrack or I see things that aren't presented in the right way. I'll be a pain in the rear. But that's just the way I'm built. At the end of the day, that's how I get the job done.
Q. I've noticed in the press conferences, one of the press conferences that was held at Sneak Preview, that a number of the members of the media kept bringing up the IRL/CART situation, what have you. And I sat back and kind of looked at it. Maybe my warped sense of looking at things, I thought that maybe -- is it the media in your mind that is creating this alleged war between CART and the IRL instead of there actually being a war between CART and the IRL?
CHRIS POOK: Oh, absolutely, it's the media that's having a field day with this thing. And CART's, you know, certainly over the past few years, as Mario has pointed out, has fueled the fire. But, you know, they are two very different Series. You can ask Michael about it and ask Mario about it; they're much more experienced and adept at answering this question than I am. But we are a multi-venue Series: road courses, oval courses, street courses, in key major markets around the world. And, you know, we do go overseas and we do go to other places, and we are different. We're totally different. They're two entirely different products. The fact that the racing cars have got four wheels and are powered by engines and we burn methanol is probably the only similarity, and they're driven by human beings. That's the only similarities. I think it's because of those similarities that your colleagues in the media like to build up the, you know, the paper man and see if they can knock him down. But, you know, I mean, I think Mario and Michael should comment on that. As I said, they're more experienced in that than I am.
MARIO ANDRETTI: Can I comment a second? You know, we have to go back to say 1994, for instance, Indianapolis, pre-IRL, when CART was still going through Indianapolis and it was sanctioned by USAC. I don't know if anybody can argue that those were definitely the best days to date - the best, the most successful events at Indianapolis. Indianapolis has changed so dramatically. Tony George, you must respect him for having a vision, but I could never understand why he would try to fix something that wasn't broken. He made comments about he had problems with the -- he was hearing rumors that CART was not very pleased with being three weeks there, and on and on. And he was afraid that probably they would boycott or whatever. I've been there since 1965, and always bellyached as a driver about being there three weeks or four weeks. But did I ever miss a day? I mean, we're allowed to bellyache. But, you know, at the end of the day, were we ever glad to be there? You're darn right. Were we always there? You're darn right. Would we always support it? You're darn right. So, again, all of these things that Tony thought that were potentially a threat to the stability of what he had there were just a pipe dream. You know, the race as we knew it had been destroyed until, in my opinion, some of the CART drivers started going back and it created some new excitement. And by creating this alternate Series, I think, if anything, that idea is what forced many fans to obviously make choices which became emotional. So, you know, okay, we can blame the media to some degree, but it was the idea of this alternate series that I think created all these problems. And you can't tell me that motor racing, you know, open wheel racing, is better today because of the IRL. The IRL created - or damaged it, you know, to an incredible level. Everybody's trying to make the best of it now and so on and so forth. But, you know, a lot of people don't realize that as far as open wheel cars, single-seaters, USAC was beginning to see the future back in the middle '60s by going to road racing. And they could see that that was the natural way for this type of racing to go and to be more attractive and attract a wider span of fans. When CART came on, they expanded on that. A lot of road racing teams, you know, like the Newman/Haas team used to say - and Paul Newman had never been involved in oval racing - they were basically with a racing background, and they brought in that other flavor. That's what made the Series great. From a driver's standpoint, I would have never come out of Formula One, I would have ended my career there for better or worse, if I would have had to come back to an all-oval series in the United States. And, again, we can go back and beat this dead horse over and over and over and put blames all over the place, and the big problem was when this alternate series was started, which was not needed.
Q. I do have a question for Michael. Traction control, Michael. Is there time to understand it before Monterrey, or is it a shooting gallery?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, I don't think there's going to be as much in it as everybody thinks, especially lap time. I think the advantage of traction control is going to be more in saving your tires type thing. I think, yeah, we did a lot of testing with it the last test, and, you know, these manufacturers have been using traction control for many, many years. I mean, I used traction control back in Formula One back in 1993. So it's not like it's something new, so it's not going to be a huge deal.
CHRIS POOK: One other point, let me just say to make it very clear, we have the greatest and utmost respect for the Indianapolis 500 and Tony George. We have cleared our calendar so that our troops can go back and run at the Indianapolis 500. If Tony decides to create a Triple Crown and gives us another couple 500 races to put into the mix, I assure you we will not get in the way of our racing car drivers running there. The greatest thing that could happen for us this May is for Team Motorola and Michael to go back to the Indianapolis and go home and take the Indianapolis 500 checkered flag. I'd be the happiest man in the world if that happened.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: No, you wouldn't (laughing).
CHRIS POOK: Second or third happiest.
Q. Question for Chris. Obviously, last year the engine rules were a very contentious issue, and Honda and Ford announcing that they wouldn't be carrying on for differing reasons. But, nonetheless, that was the case. You have announced the new engine rules. You've been working very hard with both Honda and Ford to possibly get them back in the Series. Both parties have made some very positive comments about the improved relationship with CART under your leadership. What can you tell us just about the future in general as you see it as far as engine manufacturers and CART? And is there anything specific you can say about Honda and Ford, Chris?
CHRIS POOK: I can't talk specifically about them because I'm not privy to what their plans are. But I can tell you that, first of all, obviously we're extremely grateful to have had the participation from both those manufacturers over the years. As I've told both of them, in 2002, we are going to work extremely hard to deliver the value to them that they are seeking as a result of their involvement with this Series. We hope they'll change their mind. We suspect that maybe they can't. But be that as it may, we will demonstrate to them this year that full delivery of value. And, you know, the decision they make will be what it is. In the meantime, we continue to enjoy extremely good, positive conversations with I believe it's two other manufacturers on a very, very solid footing. And a third one, the conversations are heating up. That is in addition, of course, to Toyota, who have already committed to building a normally-aspirated engine - supply houses, excuse me, that are out there. You have TWR Engineering, you have Judd, and, of course, you have Ilmor who are all making normally-aspirated engines. So those conversations continue, those availabilities will be available to us. But on the manufacturers' side, I continue to be extremely encouraged.
Q. One quick one for Chris and then one for Chris and Michael. International TV package, is that going to be announced soon, Chris?
CHRIS POOK: It will be. It will be, Mark. We are approaching it in a completely different manner. We have some very good developments occurring in addition to the standard ones that are out there. But we are going to get the international television distribution correct. We're going to do it properly. We're going to do it so it's a value to all the participants in the Series, and not just something that you've got to have for the sake of having international television. We're committed to creating a one-hour highlights program which will be distributed free to any international television carrier that wants to have it. Then, as we move through country by country, with an extremely experienced marketing agency who we've not announced yet but are working at it flat out, you will see that our international television package, when it emerges, will be probably one of the finest. Will it be as good as Mr. Ecclestone's in Formula One? No. But will it be along the same lines and the same penetration and the same coverages? Absolutely. But like a lot of things here, if you've noticed under the last two and a half months, we don't like to talk about stuff till we've got something really to talk about.
Q. Thank you for the update. Question: In the past we've had the great names in the sport. Michael's getting up there in age --?
CHRIS POOK: Michael, you have anything to say to that?
Q. I didn't say he was retiring yet. But we've seen them coming up. We've seen the Graham Rahals the Alex Gurneys, some of which are in the CART system, and others like the Marco Andrettis and the Graham Rahals who are in shifter carts and not that far away. Is CART going to try to do what it can to bring these people along and keep these great names in the sport?
CHRIS POOK: Absolutely. Absolutely. One of the initiatives you will hear from CART over the season is one which we've entitled "Our Heritage is our Future." And we have an incredible heritage. Two members of our heritage you're talking to this afternoon. We want to make it such that the Andretti name will stay involved in Indy Car racing with championship auto racing teams in the FedEx Series. Little Al - not Little Al, but what's Al's boy's name, Mario? Mini Al, they call him. You know, he's coming through the ranks. We've got our eye on him. You mentioned Alex Gurney. There's a ton - a ton - of kids coming out, Rahal's kid. We're keeping our eye on these kids and creating an environment.
MARIO ANDRETTI: How about Marco?
CHRIS POOK: Marco, yeah. We've embraced the Barber Dodge Series We've embraced that, and we've created the relationship between Barber Dodge and Atlantic and our Series. You will see us reach very shortly into the Shifter kart series to create the relationship from Shifter kart to Barber Dodge. In fact, there is a relationship between Shifter kart and Barber Dodge because Barber Dodge has a great scholarship out there. It's probably not as much as it should be. We should probably visit that very shortly in one of our press statements.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Also, you have "The Stars of Tomorrow."
CHRIS POOK: And "The Stars of Tomorrow." So the system is there. We just have to get our arms around it and talk about it and make it such that it's easy for these -- you know, Michael and Mario will tell you that in Europe, the system they have for bringing young guys forward is incredible. I mean, not only in Europe now, but New Zealanders have a system, the Aussies have a system, the Japanese have a system, the South Americans have a system. We are backward in this area. We have to get it together and really make it work. Because, believe me, there are hundreds of young Americans out there who can drive racing cars very well, indeed. They just need a break to get into the system.
Q. Michael, Marco's getting up there in age. Do you see him moving in to the official CART ladder system soon?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Absolutely. I think this year is going to be a go-karting year, and next year he's going to be 16 and able to actually race cars. The first thing we're going to look at is the Barber Dodge thing. We're talking to Skip right now, actually.
CHRIS POOK: Great. That's good news, Michael. I didn't realize he's going to be 16.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: He will be 16, yep.
Q. Chris, you expanding marketing agreements and licensing agreements for licensed products this year? I know last year it was all kind of on hold .
CHRIS POOK: Yes, we are. There are marketing agreements being expanded, licensing agreements being expanded, which it's being done internally at the moment in the sense of the strategic plan is being written by a marketing group, and it will emerge here I hope in the next 60 days.
Q. Okay. So at that time we can petition or make an application for those?
CHRIS POOK: Absolutely. But like everybody, as I said, we want to get it right first before I launch it.
Q. Oh, I quite understand. Michael, this is not an old question again, but how do you feel kind of being the senior statesman now that Mauricio is retired?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Actually, I was older than Mauricio. It was Moreno I really miss the most. I don't know, it's no different. I don't really think about that at all. I think when you are one of the older guys out there, there's a little bit more responsibility. You just try to take it over. The newer drivers look up to you for things, and, you know, you try to use your experience the best you can and, you know, try to do what's best for the Series.
Q. Are you going to be kind of taking over Mo's place on the safety area, or do you know at this stage?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: No, I'm not sure what Mo's doing, to be honest with you. I assume he's going to still stay involved with the CDA. I don't know what the status is on that. But there's a lot of other drivers, not just myself, in terms of the safety. A lot of our guys are very much involved in that, and they'll continue to do what they've been doing.
Q. Quick one for Chris. How's your son coming along?
CHRIS POOK: He's doing okay, thank you very much. He's got (inaudible) and he's got another six weeks in his halo, then he'll be ready to get back in to shape and see if he can get back into a race car. I'm not sure he's going to be able to get into a stock car again because it's too rigid. But he'll be able to make a living.
Q. Mario, we're waiting for the new vintage to come out.
MARIO ANDRETTI: It's on its way.
MERRILL CAIN: That will do it for questions today. I want to offer it up to the gentlemen on the phone call, Chris, Mario, or Michael, if you guys want to make any final comments here Michael?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: All I can say is I think with the leadership we do have now, I think it's the best chance CART has had in many, many years to get to the point where it needs to be and deserves to be. As we've all said, we feel that the product we have is second to none. And, you know, I think what's been missing has been the leadership. I think now we have that. So hopefully, you know, it will all be able to play itself out and CART will be around for many, many years.
MERRILL CAIN: Thanks Michael. Mario?
MARIO ANDRETTI: I'm going to make sure that Chris takes all the proper vitamins so he stays healthy and with us for a long, long time to come. Because, again, it's a breath of fresh air. It was a long time coming. And it brings just renewed excitement, renewed energy that was quite lacking in, you know, in an area that is exciting to begin with. So I'm looking forward to this next season, like I have for quite some time personally. It's primarily to look for some of these different rules that are in place that used to really, really bother me - you know, things that we talked about. Even the, you know, the timed races. I'm sure that you must have the discretion to, you know, to conclude an event in case of extraordinary circumstances. But timed races were, you know, pretty much the order of the day on many of these road courses, which was not good. So everything that is in place now is something more positive, something that we can really look forward to, and it will definitely enhance the excitement of our events. As a spectator the last few years, I've been thriving on one thing, and it's the electricity all the practice sessions and all the races have been providing. I think some of the obstacles there that were prevailing in many ways are going to be eliminated. And that, to me, is probably the brightest thing of all as far as what we have to look forward to as aficionados of the sport.
MERRILL CAIN: Thanks for your comments, Mario. Chris?
CHRIS POOK: I just would like to thank everybody for participating this afternoon. I particularly want to thank Mario and Michael for giving up their afternoon to be on with us. And to you members of the media who participated, I thank you very much. Keep an eye on us. When we do wrong, give us a kick. When we do right, maybe just give us a small pat on the back, because the troops are working awfully hard here, and they truly believe in the product. As Mario said, it is just the greatest, and it's full of excitement and fun. We're really enthusiastic about where we're going and what the future is for us. So I thank you all very much indeed, and I bid you a good afternoon.
MERRILL CAIN: Thank you, Chris. Thank you very much for joining us on the CART teleconference this afternoon.
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