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CART Media Conference

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Open Wheel Racing Topics:  CART

CART Media Conference

Carl Haas
Paul Newman
October 9, 2002


MERRILL CAIN: Good afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us today in this week's CART media teleconference. We have a very special championship teleconference on tap for us this afternoon as we welcome to the call the co-owners of Newman/Haas Racing, who of course clinched the CART FedEx Championship Series title on Sunday in Miami with Cristiano da Matta winning the CART Grand Prix Americas and taking home the Vanderbilt Cup Trophy. Carl Haas and Paul Newman join us today. Congratulations on the victory and championship this weekend. Thank you so much for spending a few minutes with us this afternoon.

CARL HAAS: Thank you.

PAUL NEWMAN: Same here.

MERRILL CAIN: Before we go any further, we have a special guest, CART president and CEO Chris Pook. Chris wanted to call in quickly to offer up his congratulations to Paul and Carl. Can you hear us?

CHRIS POOK: Absolutely. Carl and Paul, many congratulations to both of you on a splendid performance with a great driver, Cristiano da Matta, great team. You set the mark early in the season, you let the others have a run at it, and they did, and you prevailed. As always, Newman/Haas put forward a tremendous effort. It's yet another championship that both of you so richly deserve. On behalf of all the CART fans around the country and the world, the entire CART team, its shareholders, management, our sincere congratulations on a tremendous championship.

PAUL NEWMAN: Thank you.

MERRILL CAIN: Well said as always. We appreciate it. We know you're busy in Chicago.

CHRIS POOK: Have a great conference. Thank you.

MERRILL CAIN: We'd like to focus today's questions on this season's performance by the team. We ask you to refrain asking questions about the team's plan for next year, including driver, sponsor, series speculation. I think both gentlemen would agree with me at this point it's purely speculation. They've agreed to spend some time with us this afternoon and we ask the media to respect those simple guidelines for the call. Carl, if we could start off with you. This was in many ways a dream season. It has been a dream season for the team. Not only did the #6 Chevron Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone come home with its seventh win, the #11 Lilly Toyota/Lola/Bridgestone driven by Christian Fittipaldi has had a great year. That was the second time the team had a 1-2 finish, the first coming at Laguna Seca earlier in the season. This is the fourth title for Newman/Haas Racing, the first coming in 1984 with Mario Andretti, 1991 with Michael Andretti, and 1993 with Nigel Mansell. Can you give us an overview about what this particular championship run has meant to the team? Can you compare this title to the other three you experienced in CART?

CARL HAAS: I don't know if I can compare them. I would say from my point of view this is probably somewhat our finest moment because the whole team was so together, that's from the engineering and the crew, the drivers. It just was a terrific run at it. It all worked really well. Everyone worked together. Everyone was part of it. Obviously, Cristiano did a fantastic job. Both Paul and I rate him very, very high. He never made a wrong move. He certainly deserves the championship.

MERRILL CAIN: We're joined by Paul Newman. Paul, can you talk about what it's been like working with such a talented driver like Cristiano da Matta over the past two seasons. How special was it to capture the championship in Miami, and being able to do it with a win like you did on Sunday, not having to secure it with a second or third place finish or waiting till later in the year?

PAUL NEWMAN: Well, I don't know. By and large, if you take all the ingredients that go to make up a team, I don't think we've had a finer combination. Cristiano gives credible and accurate feedback. That was interpreted by the crew. Cristiano made one mistake all year. The team made a couple, or we would have gotten there earlier. For me it's exciting for a driver who is sitting there, knowing the operation is absolutely critical, and not make any mistakes. To go out there and not make any mistakes, and still win the race, is a pretty hot combination.

MERRILL CAIN: Let's open it up and take some questions.

Q. Carl, I was told that Justin Wilson was going to be testing one of your cars at Homestead yesterday. Did that actually happen? Can you tell us how the test went?

CARL HAAS: We did do a brief test with Justin at Homestead. I haven't had a chance really to talk to our engineers. They're on their way back. The outcome of it, I understand it was a good test.

Q. Carl, Cristiano was under a lot of pressure when he joined your team last year. He had some big shoes to fill, replacing Michael Andretti. Can you talk about how he came through that and how he's really stepped up his game even more this year?

CARL HAAS: I've been watching Cristiano some. I watched him somewhat when he was in Indy Lights, then when he drove Champ cars for Toyota, Cal Wells. I was fairly impressed with him. Made a great effort, both Paul and I did, in order to hire him. I think he did a great job last year. I don't know if my records are right. He won three races in a row. He won the last two at the end, won the race in Australia and he won the Fontana race, then it carried over, he won the first race of this season. It looked really good. Last year it took a little while to get everybody together, engineering and so forth. We made a few little changes for this year, brought in Rocky, one of our engineers, brought in some new blood into the thing, molded very, very well with our current engineering group. It was certainly a factor. We did some testing with Cristiano going into this year. That all was going very well. We kind of got everything sort of figured out. Paul said it. We were just really all together. Probably the team was more together than any time that I can remember, and that goes not only for the engineers, but for our crew and our team managers and everyone. I'd like to give you all the names, but it would take too long, and there's too many. But we saw the potential from what Cristiano could do obviously from last year with the success he had late in the season.

Q. This is actually the 20th season for your team, Newman/Haas Racing. I think it's fair to say that one of the strengths of the team is the stability, personnel. Your team manager, John, has been there from the start. You have a lot of guys that have been there a long time, a lot of experience, a lot of stability. Could you both talk about what an important element that is to the team, and if you've really deliberately tried to maintain it that way, how the team works in that way.

PAUL NEWMAN: Carl, that's your baby.

CARL HAAS: I think you're being modest. You certainly know. If you want me to answer it. Yes, I think it's important. You know, like you say, there's a lot of people that have been here a long time. We're all family. We do occasionally get some new people, and some people leave. But the core has been there a long time, which is good. We've gotten some new, young guys, you know, got some training from the current people, all the people we have. I think it's important. The other thing that's helped, Brian, who was one of our top engineers for a long time, took a management position. He's kind of the general manager. He's brought a lot to the table. He's been doing really, really well because he's been able to get all the people more together. We've had a few shortcomings. Sometimes our pit stops weren't the best, and other times they were the best. But we've been doing a lot of pit stop practicing, too, to improve that. It's paid off many, many times. But the major things in racing today, I guess it's always been it somewhat, obviously the top of the list comes the driver. With Cristiano, that speaks for itself. Probably at an equal basis, but not as much glory, is the engineering department. The engineering department we have with the guys that we have, I think it's certainly second to none.

PAUL NEWMAN: I would wager that our turnover at Newman/Haas is less than any other team in the series.

Q. Paul, you've done your racing, you are a student of driving, you've had great drivers like Mario and Nigel Mansell. How do you see Cristiano's development in the two years that you've had him in your team?

PAUL NEWMAN: Well, I think the talent was maybe always there. I remember watching him in Detroit before he joined us. My God, moving from the back of the pack, he was 3/10ths quicker than anybody on the track. I think the talent was always there; I think it just needed to be joined with proper engineering, responsive engineering, that would bring his talent to life. We got the right combination.

MERRILL CAIN: Paul, I happened to be at the first test where Cristiano joined the team. It seemed talking to the crew members that there was a sense of I guess renewed vigor with the team from Cristiano's personality. Can you talk about the personality he brings to the team?

PAUL NEWMAN: He's incredibly positive in his attitude. And even when the car was behaving badly, there was no gloomy kind of response to that. He was always kind of looking forward. That's critical to the crew. I think that was a very, very important aspect of how well they worked together. There wasn't that negativism or sense of criticism.

CARL HAAS: Good point.

Q. Carl, just to expand a little bit on the changes that you made, I don't think we can underline the way that the engineering department really got in behind this thing, and as Paul said, made the whole combination work. You talk about adding drivers. Could you talk about how important it was to bring Rocky in, his new ideas, vitality to work with Brian and Peter, get that engineering department to sort of improve? It was certainly very good, but you needed that extra thing, always making sure that the infrastructure behind the driver improves along with the driver. If you're going to make a change there, sometimes behind the scenes with the engineering department is just as important to your success as the driver is.

CARL HAAS: Just a little background. Peter has always been our top engineer in a way. He ran Cristiano's car last year. We made some changes this year. Peter became chief engineer overall, being involved with both Cristiano's car and Christian Fittipaldi's car. We did bring in Rocky, never can pronounce his last name, and we made him chief engineer in charge of Cristiano's car, working with Peter and everyone else. We used Craig on Fittipaldi's car. Those guys kind of work together. It was very much a team, which is hard to put together. You know, everybody is running for their own car. It was a very free exchange of information between the drivers and between the engineers, which normally is a very difficult task to be able to accomplish because, after all, they are sort of competing against each other. We don't have any number one or number two driver, number one team, number two team. That's been working very, very, very, very well. Is it a hundred percent? Probably not. But it's much closer than we've ever had it before. I think that's a big factor. Again, Rocky was welcomed by the rest of the engineering department because he brought some new things. Like you say, all the people have been there a long time, and you get a little bit ingrained with ideas. Rocky brought a little bit of new blood to it. That was welcomed. It probably helped, brought some things that we were looking at differently. I don't know if I'm answering it. That's about it.

Q. Paul, I remember reading an old quote attributed to you. I don't know if this thing has been bent over the years. I remember someone quoting you as saying that if you had discovered the sport of auto racing before you became an actor, you may have had a much different career. Has that quote been bent over the years? Were you serious about that?

PAUL NEWMAN: I can only say baloney. I have to be honest. I had a very minor talent. I started late.

CARL HAAS: Paul, if you would have started a little earlier, you could have been as quick as any of them. You amaze me because you still do some racing, and not bad, not bad.

PAUL NEWMAN: Not bad is not good (laughter).

CARL HAAS: You're very, very clever. You understand the sport very, very well - probably more than anybody realizes it.

PAUL NEWMAN: Well, thank you. But if I look back on everything, I got into it at exactly the right time. There were very, very little expectations from me. I was 47. I was lucky enough always to have the best equipment. I was secure enough in my occupation to be able to take enough time off to really try to do it. I think for 12 years I never did anything from May until October except drive. That was very helpful. It turned out just fine the way it was. I don't think I'd want to change anything.

MERRILL CAIN: Paul, I think you're being too bashful. You did drive to victory at Road Atlanta, Easter Sunday, in the rain no less. You still have quite a bit of talent.

PAUL NEWMAN: Thank you.

Q. I realize each championship is unique, but you won the previous three with big-name drivers. Is this one more rewarding because you kind of brought Cristiano along through CART? Do you understand what I'm getting at?

CARL HAAS: From my point of view, I don't know if Paul feels the same way, I don't know if it's more rewarding. What was rewarding to me was what I've said earlier, how much the team has come together. You know, it was 60, 65 stars. Every time you win a race, it's terrific. I'm on a high. It doesn't last too long - probably till Monday afternoon maybe (laughter). In the previous championships, they were wonderful with Mario. Michael won a championship with us, too, I believe. Mansell brought a whole new experience. Mansell was incredibly talented, very quick, very much accepted by the press. He was somewhat different, somewhat different. Not the same. But it was fun to win that one. The year later that he stayed was not too great. But the da Matta one, you know, it was almost too easy, almost too easy, because it started off with the first race in Monterrey, Mexico, and it really continued. Then he had that streak of four races in a row, three that were kind of bad luck or thrown away. Those three races, he could have won any one of those. He made one mistake there. Any of those three races he could have had a victory in. Right afterwards it picked up again, went forwards. I'd say the whole season, usually it's very high pressure. I must say it wasn't like that. I won't call it easy, but it all worked together.

PAUL NEWMAN: And the measure of that is how much of his cigar he eats during a race. He ate and chewed less cigars during this season than almost any season I can remember.

CARL HAAS: That's absolutely true.

Q. Paul is probably the most modest star I've ever run into in my life. Can you tell us what he brings to the team?

CARL HAAS: What Paul brings to the team?

Q. Yes.

CARL HAAS: Well, first of all, you know, if you would have asked me when this started, would we stay together for 20 years? I wouldn't have bet on it. I think he brings a lot to the team. We said it earlier. Paul is a great partner. He's involved. He goes to almost all of the races. He's on the telephone with our engineers, drivers, he talks to Cristiano, speaks to Christian. He knows what's going on. All of us are proud to be associated with him.

PAUL NEWMAN: I actually bring sponsors, too.

CARL HAAS: Absolutely, which helps.

Q. Without necessarily straying from the objective of focusing on this year, Christian is going to be leaving the team at the end of the season. It remains to be seen what's going on with Cristiano. The two of them knew each other, developed a certain chemistry, even before they got together. I guess if I could ask either/or both of you to comment on how difficult it's going to be to try and capture that same sort of chemistry with whatever pairing it's going to be next year, just how important that chemistry is.

PAUL NEWMAN: Will you say that again (laughter)?

Q. Cristiano and Christian had a good chemistry. I think it probably spread through the team. They knew each other before they even raced against each other. This was a good thing for the team. Christian is not going to be there next year. It remains to be seen about Cristiano. Can you talk about what it is, apart from driving talent, that you look for in the character of a driver, putting together a cohesive team?

CARL HAAS: Do you want to take that, Paul?

PAUL NEWMAN: Listen, they both have very, very positive personalities. I think that brings the whole team up. Even when things are difficult or not going well, they still seem to maintain a positive attitude. The fact that they were friends beforehand might have made it a little easier to communicate, but I don't think that in the long run made any specific difference that I could finger. That kind of positiveness spreads like wildfire through the team. It's critical. It's great fun to watch.

MERRILL CAIN: Carl, did you want to comment?

CARL HAAS: I'd have to think that out. I don't have the answer for it. I think the only thing I can say is that it's fun when you win races,the rest of it is hard work. The history of Paul and my team has been that we are motivated to try and win races. That's what we're going to do next year.

Q. I want to go back to when this partnership was formed. I know in forming partnerships, every individual has their own personal goals that they want to see out of it. Could you talk about what you thought might happen in the future and how close are you to reaching those goals, or did different goals pop up as you went along?

PAUL NEWMAN: Carl was focusing on making money, and I was focusing on staying alive. This is the longest partnership I've had aside from the salad dressing. This is a tough house, guys. I don't hear any laughter out there (laughter).

Q. I'm laughing, Paul.

PAUL NEWMAN: Okay.

Q. Why do you think that is?

PAUL NEWMAN: Well, I think above and beyond all of our personal differences, and they have been many, and we have had some scraps, but in the final analysis we were both smart enough to know that the team was simply the most critical thing. It was us working together, putting those differences that we had aside for whatever the best interest of the team was. We may be dumb in some areas, but in that area I think we're extremely smart.

Q. Carl?

CARL HAAS: Rephrase your question again. I was listening to Paul. I forgot what you asked.

PAUL NEWMAN: That's the nicest thing you ever said to me, Carl (laughter).

Q. Your personal goals when this partnership was formed, have you reached those goals or have the goals changed at all?

CARL HAAS: The only thing I can say, you know, the goals, the goals, we certainly reached our goals for this year. Every year is like that. You have goals for that year. You have engineering plans for a long time, okay? They take lead time, and programs develop. But my goals I guess start at the end of the season for the next season. It's very easy to know if the goals are accomplished or not accomplished by whatever performance you come up with. The idea of racing is for us to be competitive and try to win races. I guess that's about it. The goal is to get your share of wins.

Q. Paul, you mentioned the salad dressing. Yesterday you were with Kyle Petty and the groundbreaking of Victory Junction. Can you talk about that?

PAUL NEWMAN: If you have 45 minutes, I might get a start at it. Listen, we have a family of camps now. Kyle's, that is the latest one in that family. They are going at this with hammers and tongs. It is going to be a wondrous place. Richard is excited about it, is deeply involved. They're putting a camp up where it's really needed. I'm very excited by that. Boy, it happened like a rocket ship. They've done all their homework. They have great medical backups there, they're hacking up the land, going at it in a first-class manner. They will be open next summer.

Q. That has to be gratifying for you.

PAUL NEWMAN: Yes.

Q. The remaining races, you have three races yet to go. Although you said it was not a pressure-filled season for you, the pressure has to be relaxed a little bit. Do you expect more fun results or a letdown or the same?

PAUL NEWMAN: I think this is the largest single number of races ever won in a CART season. If he's going to be loose and easy, he just is going to do that.

CARL HAAS: You're right, the season is not over. Our people are still working on it. We're getting ready for the Australian race, which they have to leave I think next week. We're getting ready for that. I agree. I think Cristiano and Christian for that matter are going to have a goal. Christian, by the way, is still fairly far up in the championship. I think currently he's -- I'm not sure. Is he fourth?

MERRILL CAIN: I believe he is.

CARL HAAS: I think he's got a chance, mathematical chance, for second, which would be difficult. He will give it a good try.

PAUL NEWMAN: He's driving very, very, very well now.

CARL HAAS: But I think Cristiano is going to try and win some races here. I never predict how many races we're going to win or not. We give a try at every one. You can't predict it. I'm too superstitious to predict it. I didn't talk about the championship until it was over. You keep hearing about the championship, that you got it made and everything. Well, you didn't have it made until the end of the race at Miami. We did have a good lead and all that, but you never know until you have it. I guess what I'm trying to say is that we're going to try hard, but I don't predict how we do.

MERRILL CAIN: You mentioned, Carl and Paul, that Cristiano has a chance to tie the CART record with eight wins in a season and even best it with nine wins. We had him doing a few interviews on Monday, he said that's important to him. Now that the pressure is off, he has to look for his next goal. Do you think that would punctuate the great year he's had if he were able to tie or surpass that record? Is it such a special season he has had that you hope he gets that mark?

CARL HAAS: Absolutely.

PAUL NEWMAN: A record is a record no matter what you call it.

CARL HAAS: Right.

MERRILL CAIN: We certainly hope he can go for that record.

Q. Paul, when it comes to racing, at least with this team, you seem to have taken the backseat to Carl. Carl is out front with the media and so forth. We haven't heard a lot from you in the years in the past about your involvement with racing. Do you derive more pleasure out of racing than acting? Do you view acting as a job and racing as a hobby?

PAUL NEWMAN: I can't tell you right now. But Joanne had the smartest observation. She said, In the late '70s, I watched you run out of steam and kind of just enter into new films, go into new films with kind of a dull enthusiasm. But the second you started racing, your enthusiasm for racing led back to your profession. It was interesting to watch that come alive.

Q. You both have been in the sport a long time now. CART has had some hard times recently. How do you feel about the future? Are you bullish on the future of CART?

MERRILL CAIN: We kind of decided we're going to comment on this season. I'll leave it open to you guys if you want to make any kind of general statement on CART.

CARL HAAS: I don't want to get into that too deep. From my point of view, I've been with CART, as Paul has, for 20 years. Before that I had some involvement in some ways. I'm very pro CART. We are going through difficult times, but I'm very high on the job that Chris Pook and his team are doing. It's fair to say next year will be a pivotal year. I think it has an excellent chance of getting better.

PAUL NEWMAN: It's hard to lose enthusiasm for the best racing in the country.

Q. When was the first moment that each of you knew that auto racing was going to be a part of your life?

PAUL NEWMAN: 1970.

Q. What triggered that?

PAUL NEWMAN: The film "Winning."

MERRILL CAIN: Was it a love affair when you were making the film; you realized this was something you needed to be involved in?

PAUL NEWMAN: There were cars and Joanne, so I had two things I could fall in love with.

Q. And Carl?

CARL HAAS: As a kid, I really wasn't into automobile racing. A friend of mine dragged me up to Elkhart Lake for a race, a road race. At that time Elkhart Lake, this was in the '50s, they raced around the lake, the middle of the town. I was mesmerized by it. That's what grabbed my interest. I went from there. I did quite a bit of driving myself. But that's how it started.

MERRILL CAIN: We'd like to thank both Paul Newman and Carl has for joining us on the teleconference today. Congratulations on a great season thus far, it's not over yet, and the fourth CART title for Newman/Haas Racing. Thanks for joining us today.

PAUL NEWMAN: Thank you.

CARL HAAS: Thank you.



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