CART Media Conference: Speed Channel Announcement
Topics: CART, Speed Channel
MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us today on this week's CART media teleconference. In a few moments we'll be joined by the entire CART SPEED Channel announcing crew and two team members of the production team. Before we get to that we wanted to take a few minutes to touch on a special announcement that was made by CART on Monday. It was announced late yesterday afternoon that CART, the City of St. Petersburg, Florida, and Dover Downs Entertainment Incorporated have reached an agreement to bring Champ Car Racing to St. Petersburg. The inaugural Grand Prix of St. Petersburg will be held February 21st through the 23rd in 2003 and will serve as CART's season-opening race, marking the first time since the 2000 season that the CART FedEx Championship Series will open its schedule in the United States. We're privileged to be joined today by two people who will play significant roles in the development and execution of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Rena Shanaman, CART's vice president of joint venture promoter relations, and Jim McCalin, the president and chief executive officer of the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, who serves the same role with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. We'll ask both Rena and Jim to make a brief statement and then we'll take a couple of quick questions. Jim, we'll start with you. You've been working very closely with the folks in St. Petersburg over the last several months. If you would, tell us a little bit about the marketplace and what the fans can expect to see next February?
JIM McCALIN: Thanks. On behalf of all of us at Dover Downs, let me say how excited we are to be able to be involved in this event. We think it has the potential for being one of the most spectacular street courses and events on the CART FedEx Championship Series schedule. We're excited for a variety of reasons. We think it's a great market. When you take a look at the strength of the St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay market in and of itself, it has the 14th largest profile in terms of attractive marketplaces. And when you combine that with what's available in the Orlando, Daytona Beach market, you end up with the fifth largest DMA in the country, which speaks to the strength of that central Florida region and ability to attract a very strong and substantial audience. In that regard, not only do they have strong demographics, but there's a very large and growing Hispanic market there, too, which as you know plays into the strength of the CART FedEx Championship Series. So the market is very strong. We think we've laid out a circuit there at St. Pete which meets all of the criteria, it's fast, averages over 100 miles an hour, it's competitive, there are at least two major places to pass, which as you know is always a matter of some contention when you're laying out street courses. It's safe. There are major run-off areas to accommodate almost any contingency. Most of all, it has a minimal amount of impact in a negative way on everyday life in the St. Petersburg area. People will be able to conduct their business and also enjoy having a race right in their downtown area. I can tell you, having worked with a lot of the officials from the City of St. Petersburg, they are very excited about having the event there, from the mayor Rick Baker right down to the City Council which passed the agreement with us by a unanimous vote. And the city employees there have all worked very hard at helping us to get to this stage. We're looking forward to working with them. They recognize value of the event, they're looking forward to the infusion of capital that comes in because of the dollars that are expended there. There are tremendous restaurants, hotels, other entertainment opportunities there. It bodes well for being a very attractive venue that a lot of people not only from the racing community but also the CART family will want to attend. Quite frankly, kicking off the season at St. Petersburg, in the United States, that part of the country, is not a bad way to go. There's a lot of racing that's going to be going on in that month of February down in Florida anyway. We're delighted to be able to have our race as a part and parcel of that whole fabric of racing that's going to be conducted in February of 2003. I'd be remiss if in closing I didn't mention the fact that we will be joining with CART in terms of putting all our assets together not only to promote and market this race, but also to present it in a very positive light to the inhabitants of that particular part of the United States, as well as obviously to a national and international TV audience. We think it has a tremendous amount of potential. We're looking forward to getting started on establishing an office there and putting out information with regard to ticket and other hospitality opportunities and are looking forward to a great event coming in February of 2003.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much for your comments. We're all looking forward to this event. We'll bring in now Rena Shanaman, vice president of joint venture promoter relations for CART. The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg is another event that will be co-promoted and co-marketed by both CART and Dover Downs. You'll oversee those efforts. Talk a little bit about the challenges ahead and the importance of CART opening this season with a strong event in a market like St. Petersburg.
RENA SHANAMAN: I, on behalf of everyone at CART, I think we're just as excited to be opening our 2003 season in a market like the Tampa, St. Petersburg, Orlando region of Florida. I welcome the opportunity. Obviously, coming from the Midwest, the idea of working down in Florida for the weeks leading up in February isn't a bad thing. But beyond those selfish reasons for looking forward to it, we were down there in February, and not only were we impressed with the layout of the track and the picturesque background of the water, as well as the openness of the racing that will take place on the airport runway, but beyond that what I think I was most impressed with was the real sense of unity and support that exists, as Jim just mentioned, not only with the Mayor and City Council, but the convention and visitors bureau, a lot of the business organizations that we got to be introduced to and met with. So it's a part of the United States that not only is attractive as a tourist destination and a living, quality-of-life destination, it's being marketed by all those entities around the world. So we see it as a great opportunity in partnering with Dover Downs to make sure that we're presenting an event that is going to be exciting, fan-friendly and easily marketable to our global customers, not just the TV audience but hopefully we'll be able to attract visitors from around the world. To be able to kick off the season in that kind of venue, that kind of environment, and hopefully continue to reach out to customers and fans from around the world, we think will be a great thing.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much for your comments. We have a couple minutes to take a couple questions for Rena and Jim.
Q. Jim, could you explain in more detail about the actual layout, the specifics of the layout, what do you know so far, the length of the track, and its actual location?
JIM McCALIN: It's downtown, right in a similar proximity to where the previous race took place back in the mid '80s when the TransAms were there. It's round the Bayfront Center, goes down Bay Shore Drive, along the waterfront, real picturesque through there. Actually, we've gotten permission to go out on the Albert Whitted Airport. We're going to close down one runway, leave one runway open. Analogous of Cleveland, wide open through there, the pit straight will be there, good passing. It comes back, winds around to 1st Street, which is on the periphery of downtown St. Pete, through the park. It's 1.78 miles around, 14 turns. Average speed on our simulation studies is about 103 miles an hour, so we're over the 100-mile-an-hour mark. And we'll approach speeds of 175 to 180 top speed on the airport property. I can tell you, it is a great circuit. It sort of blends a lot of Long Beach, Cleveland and Vancouver, if you can imagine, you know, some of the best attributes all those tracks have to offer.
Q. Rena, do you plan on working on co-promoting more races this year among the races that have already been set, like any in Europe or others in the United States?
RENA SHANAMAN: We do expect there will be two to three additional co-promoted announcements. Sometime probably in the next several weeks all those will be finalized. There likely will be at least one overseas event included in that.
Q. Sounds like you have your work cut out for you.
RENA SHANAMAN: I do. Adam can vouch for this. We just discussed today that my staff definitely has to be increased because, you know, my hands are full, but at the same time I think it's an exciting opportunity, one that I feel quite complimented about personally that Mr. Pook, being the premiere promoter in the CART FedEx Championship Series, would entrust those events. But we also believe that this is the right direction to go where CART will have a stake and a risk, shared with our promoters, in helping to plan, present and promote each of our events, where we co-promote.
Q. Do you have any idea right now how many grandstands you might be erecting for that race?
JIM McCALIN: We've done a preliminary layout. Obviously, we'll get it finalized as we go along. We're looking at the capability of putting anywhere from 40 to 50,000 seats, primarily in the parking lot around the Bayfront Center and also on the runway, which will be closed on the Albert Whitted Airport.
MODERATOR: I'd like to thank Rena and Jim for joining us this afternoon. We're hearing from our guests from the SPEED Channel next. Thanks for stopping by. We're all looking forward to a tremendous event in St. Petersburg to kick off the 2003 season next February. Again, thanks for joining us, Rena and Jim. We now welcome from the CART SPEED Channel announcing and production team. We'll do a quick rounds of introductions here and get right to questions. One thing I do want to point out here, while the announcing team has one race under its belt as a team, in the Tacate Telmex Grand Prix in Mexico, that was a little over ten days ago, the same crew will be together for the next race in the CART schedule, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the weekend of April 11th through the 14th. As you may have seen from our announcement distributed by CART yesterday, that race will air on the FOX network on April 14th with air time scheduled for 3:30 p.m. eastern time. Both Friday and Saturday qualifying sessions from Long Beach as well as the CART Friday night show will be on the FOX-owned SPEED Channel network. We first welcome in Derek Daly, a veteran motorsports driver of over 17 years. Derek first began announcing in 1985 and serves as both host and commentator on the CART FedEx Championship Series telecast. Derek, thanks for joining us this afternoon.
DEREK DALY: Thank you. Thank you for inviting me.
MODERATOR: We'll also say hello to Bob Varsha. Bob first began announcing in 1980, over the years he's covered a wide range of motorsports, including CART, Formula 1, sports cars, motorcycles and drag racing. He's beginning his fourth year with the SPEED Channel family and serves as play-by-play announcer on the CART telecast. Bob, thanks for participating in today's call.
BOB VARSHA: Glad to be here. Thank you.
MODERATOR: We now move on to Tommy Kendall. What can you say about TK? He began racing professionally in 1986, championships at various levels of motorsports over the years, turning his attention to broadcasting. He joins Bob in the booth on the CART telecast and provides truly colorful commentary. Tommy, thanks for being part of today's teleconference.
TOMMY KENDALL: My pleasure.
MODERATOR: We also welcome in Calvin Fish, another motorsports veteran of the track. Calvin competed and won in the Formula Ford formula trucks and Atlantic and Indy Lite series, just to name a few. He's been associated with the SPEED Channel network for over five years and works in pit lane during the CART broadcast. Thanks for joining us today, Calvin.
CALVIN FISH: Thanks, mate, it's great to be here.
MODERATOR: We also welcome in Scott Pruett. He's won championships in several different levels of motorsports, and he competed in the CART FedEx Championship Series as recently as the 1999 season. He began his career in broadcasting last year, and we're happy to welcome him back to the CART family as a pit reporter on broadcast this season. Scott, thanks for taking some time out to talk with us today.
SPEAKER: Good to be here.
MODERATOR: Those are the members of the FOX and SPEED Channel announcing team. We're also fortunate to be joined today by two of the men behind the scenes who make the broadcast possible, Doug Sellars is the vice president and executive producer for SPEED Channel Remote Productions. He's been producing high-profile sporting events across the globe for over 15 years. Doug, thanks for joining us today.
DOUG SELLARS: My pleasure, as well.
MODERATOR: And last but certainly not least, we're joined by Terry Lingner, a three-time Emmy winning producer whose company Lingner Group Productions works in conjunction with the network to produce the actual broadcast from the track. Terry, we're happy to welcome you to today's call.
TERRY LINGNER: You're awesome.
MODERATOR: Thank you, sir. Let's open it for questions for any of our guests today.
Q. Hi, guys. Pretty darn good debut there in Mexico, a good review all around, lot of space, you used it well. What are the challenges you guys are facing this year, and what particular difficulties did you encounter at Monterrey or challenges?
MODERATOR: We'll start out with Doug and Terry, if can you make a couple comments.
DOUG SELLARS: I think challenges of any new venture are obviously the chemistry between the group that presents the programs. I thought remarkably for a bunch of new people working together, they gel very quickly. We feel I think coming out of Mexico that we're at about 70 percent of where we think we should be. So it's nice to read all the great laudits of our coverage, but we certainly feel there's room to grow and improve. A lot of that comes from the guys working together both on the air and behind the scenes. The challenges of Mexico obviously were with our world feed partners who at the end of the day pulled it off. We've worked with them and helped them as best we could. We will certainly be more comfortable on any US-based race when we control the world pictures. But that's really it. I really have to hats off to the guys on this call along with Terry and his production group who really stepped up and realized we had an opportunity to give back to the CART audience something they hadn't seen for a couple years. I'd love to tell that you Terry and I are absolute geniuses. Really, it was I think common sense television in bringing the viewers what they want to see and want to hear. I think "want to hear" might be the biggest thing in terms of the amount of time we're now committing to these programs, Friday, Saturday and Sunday. With only 20 drivers, 20 team -- ten teams virtually, I don't have my exact numbers, we have an opportunity to really put names to the faces and hear what these guys have to say. I thought the drivers really were the stars of our first weekend. They stepped up and made our jobs easy by allowing us access to them, even when they're walking out of a port-a-potty trying to get to their cars. That's the long answer to your short question. Terry.
TERRY LINGNER: I feel the same way. I think it was a tremendous effort by everyone. I know literally how many calls and how many e-mails and how much cooperation we've had from literally the time of the assignment all the way up to the broadcast. I'm just really jazzed that we had such a good sneak preview and everybody has been so positive, it's been fun to work with the drivers. As I mentioned, the announce team I think is going -- if we can keep this thing rolling and keep the momentum, keep the communications going, it's going to be looked at as one of the best announce teams ever. It's going to be my job to try to see that prediction come true. But I also would say, you know what, no matter what, when you go down and see that much beauty, which I thought the racetrack was gorgeous, Ron did a heck of a job getting it ready for us, amongst several challenges. But when you have that kind of enthusiasm and that kind of crowd, that kind of story line with Adrian on the pole, I mean, how can you not be excited about putting that on the air? So I'm really looking forward to going to the grandkids of them all here at Long Beach for the CART series. You know, hopefully we'll have the same thing going with either Vasser or Michael, we'll get that patriotic theme going that I think really drives a lot of enthusiasm to the broadcast. But we really enjoyed ourselves.
DEREK DALY: Gordon, from the announcer's point of view, there was a couple of things that came to be a bit of a trend during not -- not just during Mexico, but during the time afterwards when the five of us were put together. Although Mexico was good, I firmly believe it's going to take the announcers four to six races to really gel together. But just to give you an idea of the sort of underlying theme that has run through the announcers, the programming, everything, right before the show opened Saturday, Terry came to me and said, "Just make people want to be there with you. You know, relax and just tell them how much fun it is here." And that became a sort of a theme that ran through the whole show and everything we've done. It's almost something you can see and feel. I think that was probably projected during the shows, that we actually loved being there. It was actually a lot of fun doing what we did, and it's going to get even better.
BOB VARSHA: Reiterating what Terry was saying earlier, paraphrasing it, with all due respect to our industry, it's a lot easier to make good television when you have good material to work with. Like Terry and Doug and perhaps everyone else on the team, this was my first visit to Monterrey. I was very impressed with the spectacle and the show. I know for a fact, from experience, how great a show Long Beach is, so I'm really looking forward to that. I'll back up what Derek said about the announce team gelling. I've worked with Derek, worked with Calvin, worked a little bit with Tommy, hadn't worked at all hardly with Scott in the past. I was enormously gratified myself at how we all seemed to feel like old friends working together on that very first occasion in Monterrey.
DEREK DALY: Doug thinks the drivers were the stars. Don't you and I think the announcers were the stars?
BOB VARSHA: I would certainly like to think so.
DOUG SELLARS: You know I can't admit that.
UNIDENTIFIED SPEAKER: I'd like to pat all the drivers on the back, crews up and down pit lane. The reception we've gotten from the series has been so warm. I'm probably the Johnny-come-lately in this group because everybody else was at sneak preview except me. Even at Monterrey, I came in late for personal reasons and didn't have as much opportunity to mingle with the people that I came to know years ago in my previous tenure with the series. I can't wait for Long Beach just to get back out in the paddock and say hello to my old friends.
TOMMY KENDALL: I don't mean to break up this love fest, but I thought we all sucked.
DEREK DALY: Speak for yourself.
TOMMY KENDALL: That's me, Bob.
MODERATOR: Just to expand on Gordon's question, we haven't heard from Calvin and Scott and Tommy, if you wanted to comment. How did you think the weekend went from your perspective?
SCOTT PRUETT: One, I was totally intimidated going down there. My experience in TV is very limited, and it's mainly just been from the analyst side of things, not from interviewers. Heading down there, I was scared to death actually. The guys were real good, you know, Derek and Calvin, taking the time, going, "Just be yourself, just ask those questions that you would like to be asked, and don't ask those questions you're sick of being asked." "You're down towards the end of the race, your engine blows, are you upset?" Well, duh. Don't ask those stupid questions; try and come up with good things. The other thing we can't forget is what has happened within CART. One, everybody sees that we need to make this a great year. It's always been a great product, always been great racing, and now we finally have the opportunity with the commitment from SPEED to bring these drivers to life with extra programming time, to give back to the viewers certainly what they've been asking for. Let's see the start and let's see the podium, let's see the end of the race. Let's see through all the labors of the team and the driver, let's see what happens. Now, especially with the new format for qualifying and the new format for the race, it's brought in such a new excitement and refreshing look to CART that there were so many great things to talk about. I believe it's only going to get better. For us as a team, you know, I think it was pretty rough. I think we have great opportunities to improve. You know, just like any driver stepping into a new team, I mean, it takes a while before you gel together and come out of the box looking strong. But you really don't catch your stride till mid-season. Now, hopefully we can do better than that. I'm seeing four or five races down the road, we catch our stride, not just the announce team, but the directors and the people behind the scenes. I think this is going to turn into something awesome.
CALVIN FISH: From a personal standpoint, I think the challenges going in for me were -- I think everyone's pretty comfortable with the qualifying shots because it's a very relaxed format, you have a lot of time. Certainly on Saturday with the wet session, we were kind of on our toes a little bit keeping it entertaining and filling the 90-minute session. But the race was different for me because, you know, doing sports car racing for the past few years, the pit stops are a lot longer, you're looking at 30 to 60 seconds, you can do a little more story telling there. I was a bit apprehensive going into the race being on the other side of pit wall. Sports car series, you can be out there in pit lane and really get a good look at what's going on. Obviously the pit lane's a lot busier with the Champ cars. So the other side of pit wall, you've got, you know, a much shorter window to get your point across. So I think that was the biggest challenge for me going in. Just to reiterate what all the guys have said. The reception and the welcome that we got from the teams and the drivers has been outstanding. And we all realize it's a very critical year for us all. We have a great opportunity here to make something special. By them stepping forward and giving us the ability and insight to what's going on, I mean, we got some great things on tap for Long Beach with some of the things that were taped in terms of team meetings and strategy sessions which we weren't allowed to show on the same race weekend because it was live, but certainly for next show, Terry's working on putting that together. They've been tremendous in really giving us the access to the information and, you know, you have people like Barry Green and people like that who are really at the top of their game, they're coming forward, stepping up, Derek Walker coming up before the beginning of race, telling me what was going to happen, things like that is what it's all about. From Scott and my perspective being down there in pit lane, and also Derek with his role, it's really about listening to Bob's and TK's story telling upstairs. I try and put my mind -- try to become the person sitting at home and try and fill in the missing links. There's a limit. You do your homework. Once the race starts, Scott and my role is to fill in all the information and answer all the questions that are being raised from the program. Once we get in our stride a little bit, I think that will get better and better.
TOMMY KENDALL: The parallels to racing and this are numerous. Scott touched on that. Like for me, one of the big things is just really feeling comfortable in my surroundings. The more comfortable I get, I imagine the other guys are the same way, the more fun I'll have, and the performance tends to step up as well. I was really proud of the whole team in Mexico. With the rule changes both in qualifying and in the race, I felt like we were not blindsided by anything. We really -- I mean, we're going to obviously get better and smoother, but I thought that everybody, the amount of homework in front of and behind the cameras was evident, and I was really out of everyone there. Heading into Long Beach, being on FOX is just a tremendous opportunity. I have a busy weekend, I'm racing in the pro celebrity race. After having just done a little bit of training out at Willow Springs, there's a big chance I'm going to get my butt kicked by a hundred-pound female.
SPEAKER: That wouldn't be the first time.
SPEAKER: Can we bring a camera?
SPEAKER: In the car or out of the car?
TOMMY KENDALL: I'm either going to be really happy or a little bit ticked off on Sunday. Either way, I will be in rare form on Sunday. I'm looking forward to that. I'd like to thank Doug and Terry for giving me the green light to do that. They're giving me the mornings off Friday and Saturday so I can do what I have to do for the Toyota folks. Being a hometown guy, growing up in this town, Long Beach is, you know, part of my life. Been around for 20 some years. I grew up with it. So racing there in the celebrity race is cool for me personally.
SPEAKER: Leave it on the track. Leave it all on the track.
SPEAKER: If he loses, he's not getting in the booth on Sunday.
MODERATOR: We had kind of a situation that developed at the beginning the race in Monterrey where Townsend and Jimmy Vasser came together. Both these guys are from California. You're in the California mindset out there. I know there's been some kind of heated exchange with them since that incident occurred. Do you have any insight on that, talk to either one of those guys, tell us how the feelings are going into Long Beach?
TOMMY KENDALL: I haven't spoken to either of them, other than what everybody heard on air. I thought Townsend owning up to it like he did -- we didn't have a great view, again thanks to our folks at TV Azteca, in terms of the head on view would have shown a lot more. Townsend was really was wise to not defend himself too strongly. That picture might have told a different story, namely I think it was mostly his fault, but Jimmy probably gave him a pretty good squeeze, which just made it worse. Putting myself in the racer's shoes, whether it's California, New York, wherever you're from, that leaves a mark. You know, Jimmy is a little bit hacked, his race season is off to a horrible start as a result of that. Townsend, you know, has a lot of pressure, wants to prove himself. I mean, those things don't just go away. I'm sure they'll all say everything is fine, it's all forgotten and so forth. The reality is it's probably not.
SCOTT PRUETT: I was right in the middle of all that happening, even beforehand, because I did drive for Patrick Racing before. You know, leading up to it, Townsend was pretty voicey, telling everybody he was going to come down and kick everybody's butt. One of the interviews, we called him on the carpet. Came up to him and said, "Hey, you're talking the talk but can you walk the walk?" After the fact and what happened in the race, you know, Jimmy was the same thing. He was just -- he was using a lot more colorful words before he got on the air about what had happened. No matter how you try and put it behind you as a driver, there is going to be some ill feelings there going into the next race, not -- and who knows what's going to happen. That usually doesn't shake off till mid-season, with all that emotion that runs through drivers. It doesn't go away overnight. You kind of keep your eye out. You certainly will probably help out the other guy if you get a chance to. You're not certainly -- you're not going to, you know, let him get off without any sort of penalty. You kind of know it, it's something going on, a little block in qualifying, whatever the case might be. There's going to be some issues to solve this thing out that we may or may not see.
TOMMY KENDALL: That was a stroke of genius on Terry's part. It worked out timing-wise as well. Earlier on, we were planning on, if a guy is out early, try to get him on head sets. Townsend had just sat down when Jimmy went on the air, and he kept going on and on and on. I kept trying to look at Townsend. He was just stone faced. I was kind of giggling a little bit. He didn't think it was very funny.
MODERATOR: Thanks for your comments. We appreciate that. Obviously a developing rivalry here and something we'll keep an eye on going into Long Beach.
Q. Anyone who wants to answer, but the drivers are training so hard, they're doing a lot of testing these days, what do you guys do between races? You have three weeks off. We heard Tommy say he's been test driving.
SPEAKER: Tommy goofs off most of the time.
Q. I wanted a little more detail. I know there's more to come.
DEREK DALY: I mean, I tend to be busy with my performance driving academy in Vegas. That is almost an everyday assignment that I have to keep in touch with. I do quite a bit of public speaking. So I travel not a huge amount, but over the last three months it's been more than normal. And just -- but although we're not at the track, this occupation actually is somewhat all-consuming. There's something almost every single day that you become aware of or you get a phone call or you get an e-mail from this CART broadcast environment that we're in. I mean, the e-mails are flying back all the time, which just keeps every one of us plugged in. So although I certainly have quite a bit of other activities going on, everyday basis, you're still never far away from being connected to each of the significant players here, which is part of the reason why we'll continue to gel and grow and be better and better as this season goes on.
BOB VARSHA: As the only non-racer in the group, obviously my day-to-day responsibilities are to the SPEED Channel network. I cohost our Saturday and Sunday night SPEED news program. I spend my weekends, whether I'm at a cart racetrack or not, sort of immersed in all sorts of motorsports. Probably like Derek and all the guys on our team, I'm on the Internet just about every day checking as many sources of reliable information as possible. And when I start reading about things that I already knew about, that's the first indication that perhaps I've completed the circle. I also stop into the chat rooms to see what the fans are finding good or bad about our broadcast, what they'd like to see more or less of, and so on. So, as Derek says, it's an everyday sort of commitment.
TOMMY KENDALL: I'm just as committed. As you guys know, racing is very glamorous and the TV side is very glamorous, as well. Being here in Los Angeles, I take that very seriously. I try to have lunch at Fred Segall at least twice a week so can I say hi to Meg, Mel and Arnold. Other than that, you know, I'm -- I'm glad I'm being backed up by some hard-working serious journalists.
SPEAKER: I hope you have all or celebrity buds out at Long Beach to have our guys to interview.
TOMMY KENDALL: All the beautiful people will be there. Jim milk Cale does a good job, and Chris before him, of assuring that.
CALVIN FISH: We got back from Mexico, a day later we were down at Sebring. We did the 12-hour -- actually 13 hours of coverage on SPEED on Saturday. It's been a pretty busy couple of weeks, but we had a great event down there. I still love the sports car racing. Alongside the CART responsibilities for this year, I'll probably do probably another five shows for SPEED in other capacities.
SPEAKER: Don't rub it in.
CALVIN FISH: I know Bob likes to be at as many events as possible. Everyone missed being down at Sebring, we had a good show there. I'm in competition with Derek in terms of running the Mid-Ohio driving school, which gets kicked off next month. The summer months are certainly going to be a challenge and a juggle to keep everything going, you know, stay on top of everything. But, you know, being around Tommy on a race weekend, the biggest problem, biggest work load is really dealing with all the females who keep slipping me their cards and wanting Tommy to call them. I'm still working through that from Mexico.
DEREK DALY: Calvin does have a new girlfriend in Atlanta. He was very descriptive in Mexico about her.
SPEAKER: Can we have an update?
CALVIN FISH: Not for public record (laughter).
BOB VARSHA: Turn down all your celebrity buddies down in Mid-Ohio, Calvin?
CALVIN FISH: Really.
TOMMY KENDALL: In all seriousness, like all these guys, it's obvious we're huge fans. I did what I do when I wasn't on the television, I can't just get enough of the information. Fortunately, that's what I do to prepare, as well. And so it's just, I mean, it's kind of a dream job for me because I get to come to the races and have fun and talk about what I love. And the preparation is something I would do whether I was on the air or not.
SCOTT PRUETT: I'm pretty much doing the same thing. You know, getting up to speed, watching some of the Formula 1 race last weekend. Last weekend was a full event between Sebring and IRL and the Formula 1 race and the NASCAR race. So, you know, pretty much staying on top of all that, and still training, still doing a lot of training, look to do a couple TransAm races this year, maybe a couple sports car races on non-conflict weekends. You know, staying on top and trying to learn more about the whole TV industry. It's been exciting for me personally. And also learning a lot about wine grapes right now actually. I'm up here in Washington, which it just snowed up here yesterday. And within a 50-mile radius, there's thousands of acres of wine grapes, some great Cabernet and Merlot and Sirah coming out. That, as well as my three kids, got me pretty well in hand right now.
BOB VARSHA: I'd like to add one thing with regard to preparation. I'd like to publicly thank all the CART PR people who to my view do a terrific job of writing informative press releases. I know Derek has experienced a Formula 1 press release before, which is a tremendous waste of living trees on virtually every occasion. It's nice to be in a series where somebody actually explains, if they had a problem and how they had a problem, and don't insist they're making progress and have good prospects of a productive weekend if, in fact, they don't. That sort of candor is much appreciated.
MODERATOR: On about behalf of the CART PR teams, we'll accept that compliment and pass it on.
Q. A question for Bob. You do the nightly -- weekly night show, news show, on SPEED Channel. Has there been any discussion of making that a nightly show like RMP Tonight is? RPM kind of got behind the NASCAR drivers and brought them in every night, interview them, kind of make them more well-known. Has there been any discussion doing that at SPEED?
BOB VARSHA: With regard to the CART series, you mean?
BOB VARSHA: Not so much that specifically, to the best of my knowledge. I can say that the long-term business model, if you will, for the SPEED news program does include expansion. How many nights, I don't know. I have heard as many as four nights, perhaps Thursday, Friday, as well as Saturday, Sunday. But that's the extent of what I've heard. So I guess the answer is yes, and a qualified no.
DOUG SELLARS: The other thing to think about in all this is unlike ESPN, SPEED is an all-racing channel, and in any of its news programs will need to service all its constituents in terms of F-1, IRL, CART, NASCAR, World Rally, et cetera. I think that show will always be in its form a little bit of something for everyone. I think it shows, like CART Friday Night, which will start to cater more obviously to specific race series. We see other shows airing on SPEED Channel (inaudible) totally NASCAR -- servicing the NASCAR community. They're out there. Whether the CART Friday Night type show goes to an expanded schedule would be more of the question. At this point there are not plans. But SPEED is certainly a developing major cable channel, as I think we've all seen since the switch-over. I think anything's possible at this point.
Q. Doug, has there been any consideration of showing lap segment times to the viewers, how they compare driver to driver?
DOUG SELLARS: Certainly was one of our big discussions going into Mexico. We continue to discuss with the folks at CART in terms of the data, where traps are around the track and how we can develop a better system, certainly in qualifying of knowing exactly how a guy sits as he goes through traps, which would allow us to do a better job of following guys on hot laps who have a real shot at taking over a pole, let's say, over finding themselves in the Top 5. In terms of races, absolutely, we'd love to see where drivers rank in segment times. It's something that we'll continue to work with the data folks at CART. Then it's always -- the problem always is how does that then translate to a television graphic and how does our system work in terms of interpreting that data quickly?
TERRY LINGNER: Just quickly I'll let you know we're at -- a note that I wrote earlier today, this is without even talking to TK or Bob or the guys that can look at the graphics. But I've asked, if you look at your circuit map for Long Beach, I asked them to -- at least CART timing and scoring, our interface folks, our associate producers, go on to look at in the stretch between turns five and six, which is the split L03 if we're going to be exact here, is a good place for us to start quickly identifying who's on a real flyer and let us react before they get back to the backstretch and find the next driver, start working on rankings that way. I think no matter what, we have -- in this day and age, I think there's always a constant problem between the best telecast you've ever read or the best telecast that has graphics that complement the story line. So my personal philosophy is I love technology, but I want to make sure that it's harmonious. So to answer it more directly, we're working on one specific place on the course rather than just make it, you know, a smorgasbord of information, and hopefully that will help bring the viewer along and let us ease into making sure we can disseminate the information.
Q. I know you guys have gotten a lot of questions about the reach of the SPEED Channel, the number of households it's in. The ratings came out, surprised a lot of people, including myself, higher than I even expected. They're still not necessarily as high as a network rating would be. What do you see in terms of demand for SPEED? Is it month by month, what kind of percentage increase are you seeing in terms of number of households it's getting into?
DOUG SELLARS: Probably talking to the wrong guys on that one. I'm probably the only one who could speak to any of it. All I know at this point, it's really a question for Jim, our president. I believe we have cracked 15 million homes. You know, ultimate goal for the channel is to hit the 70 to 80 magic number. And I don't know what they're tracking at these days. It was quite an increase I know in the last 12-month period, and certainly a huge increase in the last three months. But not really equipped to talk about much more than that, unfortunately. They just tell us, "Keep making all these great programs and we'll get into all those homes."
Q. Especially to the drivers, the travel that is looking forward to the second half of the season, the travel internationally, how arduous is that as a driver to get ready to plan in September, let's say, for what you may need and what you may plan to do in November?
DEREK DALY: I might start off, having initially traveled extensively with F-1 as a driver, then on television. At one stage with ESPN I actually did F-1 and Indy car in the same season. I remember my opening event was in South Africa, and my second event was in Australia. That was the opening weekends of my season. Quite frankly, I enjoyed it. I don't think it's a problem planning. I think when you surprise people, it becomes a problem. But when you have your schedule well set out, you know where you're going, I think everybody's able to plan around what they do. I mean, although the actual travel part, sitting on an airplane, is not glamorous. I think most of these people - certainly me - are still energized by continuing to go that these venues. The beauty about motor racing, it is so unpredictable, so the actual travel part of it does not become a burden.
TOMMY KENDALL: Talking about the international stuff, I can't speak to what it would be like if you did it all the time like in Formula 1. But I find because the overseas trips are not that common, the guys tend to pack extra days in. You're almost I think -- I think people are almost better rested for the international races than maybe they are in the US. They're sometimes catching the last flight out, getting in the night before. Scott could probably speak to that.
SCOTT PRUETT: When you first opened going to Australia the first time, which was the biggest event we went to back in '91, yeah, you plan add few days ahead. Then as you've been there for a couple years, you just plan to be there, "Okay, get there Wednesday, we'll rest up on Thursday, can be on track Friday." I know for the guys last year, especially Australia with Fontana back-to-back, the crew, because they went from a street course to a superspeedway, the guys, especially the crew, were wrung out. I mean, these guys were hurting, I mean, with getting back and late hours and trying to reacclimate to the time. That was a tough grind for them last year. But in general, in doing Indy car, I mean, it's been great. I think what CART has done over the years with the black-out days and having a little respect -- the drivers will do -- I mean, really the drivers -- I mean, it is a grind for the drivers, but it's more so a grind for the crew, especially with these guys having families, wanting to see their kids grow up a little bit and spend some holidays. I was very proud of the fact with how they stepped up and put in these black-out periods so they gave and forced, more than anything forced the time for these guys to spend with their families, because, you know, they just can't help themselves. But from a driver's standpoint, the CART series has been great in what they've been doing, especially going from CART to Cup, when did I did Cup, there was three months I wasn't home a full 24-hour period. That got to be a horrible grind. So I think what is happening now and most certainly with the team owners, the drivers, the crews, I think it's getting to be a very good a balance.
DEREK DALY: To follow up on what Scott just said, when he mentions going from Australia to Fontana, what a challenge to go from street cases to superspeedways. There is no more versatile form of motorsports on this planet, and the skill set needed is unprecedented for crews and for drivers. That is one of the things Chris Pook is harping upon, and one of the things we've known for years and probably have taken for granted. But the skill that is needed is unprecedented if you're to become champion in this series.
Q. Is it affordable for the teams to get the monies necessary to do that kind of travel and have the kind of equipment necessary standing by to go from a street race in Australia one weekend to a superspeedway in Fontana the next?
DEREK DALY: Absolutely. Because as CART has done now is they've taken a domestic market where you can only seek sponsorship on a domestic level, and opened it up, now you can seek commercial backing on a global level. That is a huge door opened up for people. People don't often see it that way, though. They see the negative side of it. But to open up the world as potential sponsors and the large companies on a global level, I think is an enormous opportunity for these teams if they just realize it and not just complain about having to travel so much. Also another point. The last time I drove for Williams was in 1982. That's 20 years ago. At that time the budget was $25 million to run a two-car front-running team. The word at that stage was that Formula 1 is dead, it will never survive, it will never generate that type of commercial backing on an ongoing basis. Nowadays, 20 years later, it's more than $200 million to compete at the front, and it's never been bigger and never been better. So I think that answers the question.
Q. Finally, maybe the television people can come in on this, half the season now is during football season. Do you have any concerns about losing viewership to the mighty broadcasts of the NFL?
DOUG SELLARS: That's always a concern. I mean, competition on any given weekend is difficult, and during football season even more so. We need to make sure that by the time September rolls around we've given people a pretty good reason to continue to want to watch CART racing on SPEED. I mean, that's all we can do, continue with promotion. I think the SPEED Channel, as it continues to grow, the great thing about the SPEED Channel at the end of the day, if you're watching it, you'll see promotion for racing, you'll get more in tune with the CART schedule and the other racing schedules on that channel. Your question, I'm not avoiding it, yeah, it's going to be difficult, it always will be. But, as I say, if we can present a program that people already know before we get to football season, is a great show to watch.
Q. How do you do that, Doug? What kind of program, other than racing, do you continue to try to deal with the personalities of the drivers and hope that that is strong enough to bring people back? How do you make a broadcast that will get somebody to turn back from the 30-second violence of the NFL to the two hours?
DOUG SELLARS: I think we continue to build on what we started in Mexico. A lot of that has to do with the drivers themselves, absolutely, with us presenting races in an entertaining format. We continue to work on things like Terry was just talking about in terms of how we better interpret and present on the screen the data that makes the entire experience of watching a program what people come back for, not just for the race, they come back for the flavor of the event, they come back to listen to our five experts, to hear who TK is going to give a hard time to this week because that driver may deserve it, or Calvin and Derek and Scott, what are they going to bring out of this race today. I think it's not easy to pinpoint on one particular thing. When you do a successful television show, it's a combination of several things. We need to continue to hone our craft and our skill. As the guys talked about, hitting our stride at some point, both from a commentator's comfort level on the air to the behind-the-scenes people and how they direct and produce those people on the air and the package you see. It's how we continue to make the incars interesting. We go from Canada to Mexico. What can we do in Mexico, people watch, say That was interesting enough, I'm going to come back next time and see where they're going to put the camera next week? The thought buzzing through my head right now, maybe we do an Internet, interactive thing where, Where do you want to see the camera go race to race? There's no easy answer. You just have to produce what you believe people want to see. And I think that's what we did coming out of the box in Mexico. Terry and I didn't get to answer the question what do we do between races. We think about all these kinds of things.
TOMMY KENDALL: I will say, Doug, everybody, the beauty of our sport, and I have, you know, been able to cover for a bunch of years, the beauty of our sport is that we do have access. The fact that people saw someone that's running race control physically talk to Tommy and Bob during the broadcast was unprecedented. Where he would need to keep going, we need you guys' help, too. We know this because we love the sport, and, you know, we can get in the locker rooms, we can get in the team briefings. You're not going to do that in the NFL, and you're certainly not going to do it in the NBA. We're going to present these guys as real human beings that love what they do, that's not protected by a bunch of public relations folks that are always beating you away. I hate to bring it up, but I was doing stock car racing when there was nobody in the stands. All we had to do was put Darrell Waltrip, Parsons, Richard Petty, the biggest and brightest stars that NASCAR had, and people start noticing, people start talking, people start saying, "I'm really tired." I can't even tell you who is on the Colts any more except Peyton Manning. Those are the things we're going to continue to exploit that cost us nothing, that makes us just use our common sense, and the ball and momentum gets rolling, and you start creating more fans and more viewers.
DOUG SELLARS: That's a challenge for the broadcast team, is being -- I mean, TV is going to make or break the series, and the people, the drivers, the crews, the team owners, those are the guys that have -- that really understand where we're at, as well. For us to come up and make the viewers want to stay on and see and come back the next week and what's happening, "Wow, that's cool, that's exciting, that's neat," really make them feel like they are there behind the scenes, not just there, but they're behind the scenes, being a part of the actual action. I see that being a huge challenge for all the broadcast team, going out and getting that, and making the viewer feel like they're truly a part of something special, because it is special and it's exciting. And we have to learn how to present it and be willing to adapt and change and move. Just like a race team has to do on any given weekend, they have to come up with a new challenge for the track, what can we do to get ahead, to be a little better in our competition? That's the way we have to approach, certainly the way I'm approaching the whole broadcast, continue week in and week out, okay, we did it this way last week, what was good, what was bad, let's make it better for the next week and for the next week and for the next week.
CALVIN FISH: One final point on that. I think with the time slots that we have, we've certainly got a lot more opportunity to get some of these personalities and connect with the audience at home. When you have people in the series like, you know, Max and Tony Kanaan and Paul Tracy, we now have enough air time to allow the folks at home to meet these people. I think they're going to connect to these folks. I mean, we're fortunate. I mean, everyone on the broadcast team's job is made a lot easier. We don't have that clinical F-1 kind of mega attitude. These guys want to work with us. You know, the other thing is, like Terry said, we have a unique sport in that we have the access. Like Tiger Woods making a bad shot, hitting a golf ball in the water, doesn't do it that much, but you can't speak to his caddie and ask him why that happened. You know, Paul makes a move like he did on the first lap, Jimmy got tagged, whatever, Townsend, you have the ability to go up to their caddie or team manager or engineer and say, "What did he say?" I think that's what is unique.
DOUG SELLARS: Like to circle the wagons and back to the SPEED Channel model. At the end of the day, what SPEED Channel allows for CART is to directly speak -- is allows them to directly speak to a lot of marginal CART fans. Let's say that. Because of the heavy NASCAR on SPEED Channel, which we know, but all the other racing series, as well, people are going to start seeing CART promotion on SPEED Channel, they're going to start saying, "Maybe I better check that out, see how things are going to with CART." Then it's our job to hook them in. We start with race fans and build from there. It's going to take us some time to build. We have to do it fairly quickly. But to create buzz within the racing community, number one, racing fans, the not CART racing fans, to get them over, and that's what SPEED will allow us to do. Then we need to get buzz in terms of promotion, you know, in the media, that we kind of bounce off what we saw the Mexico reaction, becomes a buzz that, "Hey, CART is cool." So that's kind of the overall picture. It's not an easy battle. We're battling this 500-channel universe, not to mention Internet, video games, et cetera, et cetera, et cetera. So that's the basic plan, as I see it.
TOMMY KENDALL: My thoughts on that, I mean, I have a lot of faith in people's intelligence. People try to spoon feed people. But I think, if given a choice, some people -- football is a tough competitor. But I think if given the chance, some people, as they get to know what we do, if you want to party with Max Papis and Paul Newman in Surfers Paradise, or do you want to be transported to Buffalo? Do you want to hang out in Baltimore with Art or do you want to be in So Cal in November with Dario and Max Papis? Some people would rather be in Baltimore. I'd rather be in sew Cal. We're looking to attract those kind of people. There's probably plenty for both.
Q. What you're talking about here is doing as much a television show as covering a race?
TOMMY KENDALL: The race is essential. Some of the other things that maybe get through to people, get them to maybe take a closer look. I think once people look at it with an open mind and it's presented in the way that it is now with much greater depth, I think those people -- I believe in a lot of them that they will like what they see.
BOB VARSHA: I think the operative point here is, remember, ultimately it's the racing that sells the show, which is something I was referring to earlier. There aren't a whole lot of things that you can come up with to make the show interesting if the racing itself is not. You know, after that, you know, it's nothing but bells and whistles. As we've said in this conversation, the racing is definitely there, as Tommy says, it has been for a long time. When we see we're looking for innovative and different and more penetrating ways to hook these viewers and bring them in, ultimately it has to be racing related because it seems to me at least that's our fundamental mission. CART is the show.
MODERATOR: If I could respond quickly on behalf on the CART side of things, we spent the early part of this call talking a little bit about the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg. I think it's going to be CART's effort to try and get as many early-season events like the one you'll see in St. Petersburg, try and fill that gap, early in the season. We're certainly going to make every effort to make sure there aren't so many of the down weeks as we move about forward in the development of the schedule for 2003 and beyond.
Q. Probably on the programming side, local sponsors, venues, TV could perhaps do more to entice and give value back to the local communities and sponsors that would be a part of the events. Are there any plans to do that, maybe follow a driver around as he visits various areas in the community, et cetera?
DEREK DALY: The only reason I want to kick off is, Gigante began in Mexico was a new sponsor introduced to CART and Champ car racing. We made it our objective to show them for an involvement as deep as they've gone that there are multiple returns. One of my pieces was specifically from their suite where they entertained hundreds of people on race day. So as regards to mixing and connection, the local sponsorship there, you know, I think we were aware of it certainly in Mexico and went out of our way to make sure we recognized people who are supporting the series. Now these new people, down the road they'll recognize and support us and continue to support us.
Q. Good luck at Long Beach.
MODERATOR: I'd like to throw it open to anyone we haven't called on thus far if anyone has any questions. Feel free to jump in.
Q. Has there been any consideration given to maybe doing what Formula 1 does in terms of post-race press conference, televising a portion of that? Is that something you think people want to see? Any plans of doing that?
DOUG SELLARS: The big difference between Formula 1 and CART, having done both, I much prefer the CART way, is Formula 1 will not let you talk to any driver until the press conference. The questions are always stilted. They never ask what I want to know. Whereas in CART we get the flavor. If you saw Mexico, obviously you did, it was chaos down there. We'll get a little better control. You get the flavor of this guy getting his helmet off, adrenaline pumping, we did Top 3 right there and Top 5 within about ten minutes. I think that's better than a press conference, from a programming and presentation standpoint. Derek doesn't like it because he gets run over down there.
DEREK DALY: It was good fun. One of the reasons F-1 has to do it is there are so many people who would want to get that immediate interview, that there are so many people, nobody gets it. They have to have this clinically staged and honestly quite boring press conference at the end of it. I mean, anybody who's ever heard Mika Hakkinen interviewed, I doubt SPEED would be running over to get his quotes to entertain the people. Hopefully we can stay with the live action.
DOUG SELLARS: Finnish Sterling Marlin. The other thing we do between races is look for potential new announcers, too (laughter).
MODERATOR: Thank you very much for your questions. I want to see if there's anybody else who would like to ask a final question of our guest.
Q. Are there certain things that you can or cannot show on your Sunday broadcast? For instance, I know Bob mentioned racing is the show, and racing has to sell this overall atmosphere to the audience, but when Scott mentioned something about, "I'm into grapes now," these guys have lifestyles that would also be a good sell. I like the idea of behind the scenes with the driver on the weekend, hanging with his crew members. Can we do more of that, time permitting, on the Sunday show?
CALVIN FISH: I don't know if you saw the prerace from Monterrey. I tried to get Terry to let me go into the port-a-potty.
Q. That was hilarious.
CALVIN FISH: He wouldn't go for it.
SPEAKER: Rule number one, don't ever ask for permission.
DOUG SELLARS: I don't think there's anything in terms of things we wouldn't try to do. Terry, you're trying to get something going with Kenny Brack there in Indy with the blues club, maybe some of the other stuff.
TOMMY KENDALL: It's a tough question. Since the action never stops, it's the kind of thing that I've always -- in trying to set a tone for the way we produce motorsports in general, unless the material is really good, I've always felt like there's somebody running even 18th or whatever with his foot as firmly on the floor as the guy running in first. He's just not -- I'd rather search on the track during the race as often as possible. If I'm doing a Purdue football game, it's 45-3 against Wisconsin, and I think, "This football game is boring, I'm going to give them a lifestyle piece on Drew," we'd get so much hate mail for missing one snap. I try to take that same philosophy into racing. Certainly we need flavor, we need to tell stories. Hopefully that can be communicated by Bob and Tommy, if there's a yellow or whatever. Let's face it, here is the difficulty we have: we want a popular sport, we want it to grow, we want it to be profitable. I've seen this happen with NASCAR, quite frankly. You know, when these guys go on the air, they have so many sales commitments because it's so popular and people want in, you know, before you know it, there's a race that just happened at least in some instances it feels like 50 percent of it was cut out. It's just a matter of common sense again. If the material really drives the story line, if you're sitting there as a producer, you have all your elements there, you're saying, "Gee whizz, Tommy just brought this up, now if I just show him in the vineyards," I'm waffling on it somewhat because you want people to care more. That's really what the prerace is for. In my opinion, that's what long yellow flags might be, as long as nobody is hurt. I've never wanted my people to feel like the only way we're going to get people turned onto this sport is by showing more up close and personals.
DEREK DALY: Just to give you an idea of the type of things we talk about, about how to get to places that people have never been to before and bring action to it, having been involved in a serious crash myself, it's a very scary time for a driver. What I'm trying to do is engineer a situation, and it's in discussion right now where let's say an oval track might be easier. If there is a big crash, we've never been up close before to an event like that. I'm not saying we want to go and report on gory details, but we're discussing right now how I could possibly go with a crew, go the scene of the accident, when you recognize it's not life-threatening, actually do a report on what goes on from there. It is an unbelievably emotionally charged scene that we've never been privy to, and we're going to try to find a way to get people there because it's never been done before. That's the type of versatility we discuss openly about trying to take people to unusual places they've never been to.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much. That will wrap-up our teleconference for today. I appreciate you sticking with us. A little longer than we anticipated. I think we enjoyed hearing your comments today. Thank you for joining us on our call today. We'll look forward to these guys' next assignment, Long Beach Toyota Grand Prix, Sunday, April 14th, air time again scheduled for 3:30 p.m. eastern time. Thanks to all who participated in today's call and have a very pleasant afternoon. Thank you.
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