Champ Car Media Conference: Cleveland Town Hall Meeting
Topics: Champ Car
ADAM SAAL: Hi everybody, that's what we call an eye-opening video to get you pumped up, which is basically the purpose for this Town Meeting here in Cleveland: and to get you pumped up for the U.S. Bank Presents The Cleveland Grand Prix under the lights. It is my job to be up here and promote the race as Vice President of Communications for CART Champ Car, but at the same time it's with a lot of personal pride because I am a native of Cleveland. We'll go in the order in which the panelists were introduced. Jim Liberatore, the first question is, did you come to this race before you left town?
JIM LIBERATORE: To be honest, no I never came to the Cleveland event before I started working at SPEED, but I can tell you I have attended more CART races than any other series since I joined the network. In fact, most of the races I've attended have been CART events. This included Cleveland last year, and it was a great event. Great to be back in my hometown.
ADAM SAAL: It is true, SPEED Channel has been a great supporter of ours and Jim feels the passion we feel for racing. But how's it going with the telecast? We had the first night race here last weekend, were you able to gage in any way how the telecast went?
JIM LIBERATORE: We haven't seen the final ratings yet, but it looked very good and made for great television. We think this format has some potential and I'm pretty confident our viewers liked it as well.
ADAM SAAL: Well it was definitely a great show from where we sat and we thought it came across well. SPEED is growing, adding households every month. I know there's always a question about the distribution and how to get the channel. But the action we saw at Milwaukee, we are also going to see for our race here July 5th in Cleveland. It's going to be great. Another one of the driver's whose definitely made some fireworks here before, in one of the most exciting races we've ever seen in the 22-plus year history of the event is Joey Hand. Joey, I think it was Hoover Orsey you were battling with a couple years ago, literally going wheel-to-wheel kind of like Emerson Fittipaldi and Nigel Mansfield in 1993. Back in the cockpit you went back to Milwaukee last year, talk a little bit about how it went at Milwaukee.
JOEY HAND: Struggled a little bit, but yeah, looking forward to getting back on the road course. As you know, we go to [Mazda Raceway] Laguna [Seca] and Portland [International Raceway] and then back here for 4th of July weekend. I love this place. I missed it last year unfortunately because I was hurt, but it's great to be the hometown race. And we had a close one in 2001. Almost won that thing and got away from me in the last corner. So should be fun.
ADAM SAAL: Well, you are definitely healthy, back in action. You're looking real good and you're going to come back swinging this year. Tell everybody what the injury was, how you recovered and how you are feeling.
JOEY HAND: It was at Milwaukee. I had a testing crash before the race last year, broke three vertebras and my knee, a rib and my tailbone. Took 70 days; it was the minimum allowed by the CART doctors, but I was back driving in 70 days, just missed the Cleveland race by a week. So got back in for I think Three Rivers and finished the last four races last year. Started out strong this year, but I feel really good physically, probably the best shape I've been in in a long time and just ready to go racing now. We've had some bad luck starting this year, so hopefully we can get on a roll, get in a couple wins for the halfway point.
ADAM SAAL: That rally just to get back in action deserves a round of applause. Great to have you back where you belong this year. This next driver got on the podium this past weekend in Milwaukee, but he was two spots removed from where he was last year at Cleveland and Mid-Ohio. We've talked about it before, Pat, if you are going to run naked here for us, when you win a race, we are going to end up making you an adopted Clevelander. Outstanding run and your team has done well this year. Do you think you can repeat in Cleveland this year?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Hopefully we can do that, but this time if I run naked, I'll ask them to turn the lights off. Yes, hopefully we can do that. The team is running pretty strong. Paul has had a few good races and I'm just coming off of a pretty good one [third] in Milwaukee and that was at night also. It was a lot of fun and I'm really looking forward to coming back here.
ADAM SAAL: You were very complimentary of the lights. You said it was great we tried something new and you said even though you could see clear as day; it's a different experience. Even though it's just as bright, what is different?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: The way you approach the other cars seems to be a little bit different than when you are in broad daylight. It's just again -- used to one of my guys in the pits was wearing a vest with some lights on, that's probably because I came in the wrong pits a few times, so they wanted to make sure that was not going to happen again. Yeah, the guys had the lights all over on the pit board and everywhere, but it was fun. I really liked it. All of the drivers liked it. It was a little bit cold, but the Bridgestone shoe is a pretty good compound and we had a lot of down force. The series changed the downforce and we could make some passes and have a lot of fun on the track. I had one of the best seats because I was behind Paul Tracy and Oriol Servia, we almost took each other out about 20 times during the race and we were battling pretty hard. It was a race that I think I'm going to remember for quite a while.
ADAM SAAL: Pat being the gentleman he is, it wasn't a little cold; it was a lot cold. It got down to maybe 46 at the highest and it was amazing. A testimony to the drivers that we were able to have as few incidents as we had. It was a great race, not to mention the great fans. One columnist wrote they had no choice to stay because their butts were frozen to the seats. We are not going to have to worry that on the Fourth of July, but it's a testament to the fans of Milwaukee, but they come from the same caliber as all of you, so, thank you so much. Bud Stanner who has been called many things, "wheels deals" and so forth, but nobody has been around to see Cleveland grow as both a sports town, as well as see the race grow, although IMG got involved 12 years ago.
BUD STANNER: This will be our 13th year.
ADAM SAAL: He was definitely aware of the race. He has seen it go through good times, bad times, consolations and relaunches and now we head into under-the-lights with the Fourth of July. Talk about the growth you've seen in the race and how important it is to the fabric of Cleveland.
BUD STANNER: Thanks to the people in this room and other Cleveland race fans that aren't here, this race has been going 22 years every year. It's because of the tremendous support we get from the fan base in this town, Cleveland is a racing town, always has been, and hopefully always will be. This is our 13th year, and there was another change this year because Championship Auto Racing Teams actually owns this event. We are their caretakers, we are their managers, but we work for CART to make this hopefully the best one ever. We are convinced that racing under the lights and the availability of the Fourth of July weekend will be just what we need to give everybody the entertainment that they are looking for. We have run on the Fourth of July a few other times, it's always been successful. Those of you that have been here a long time will remember when Chuck Newcam started this race and it ran on the Fourth of July, I believe and certainly when Roger Penske and his team owned it, it ran on the Fourth of July. But never, ever, ever, has it run under lights. This will be the largest outdoor lighting facility for a temporary sports event in the world. We are going to set some new records here. So that's about where we are. We are all loaded with anticipation, and in this business, like so many of the businesses you're in, you can't look back so much because you have to look forward, and we are cranked and looking forward to this year's race.
ADAM SAAL: How many of you were at the first race in 1982? Right on. How many came back and boiled the following year in '83? There we go. Again, as you can tell, we remember all the races and we are definitely going to have a memorable one when we come back here on Fourth of July weekend. Believe it or not, this race is the oldest temporary venue on the CART tour. Everybody would think it would be Long Beach because Long Beach is the premiere street race, temporary circuit venue - I'm buttering up my boss here and the microphone goes dead, that's perfect for me. Chris [Pook] probably turned it off. Long Beach in 1975 did set the groundwork and to say that's the foundation we operate under today is 100% true. It's urban racing, it was done in Cleveland but started in Long Beach and we have been fortunate to have at CART Champ Car - to make sure that the great product that we know and love will continue to be that way and get the ship righted. He's done a great job at it. Chris, you've heard people say: Wow, things seem to go going well, but at the same time you can never quit working hard and which is one of the reasons we are introducing new innovations such as the lighting here in Cleveland and Milwaukee. How is it going in general, and give us your take on the lights this past weekend in Milwaukee and what you think you can look for in Cleveland?
CHRIS POOK: Thank you very much for coming out tonight. Well, we've made considerable progress over the winner as you probably know. We had a lot of pressure on us whether we were going to put 18 cars on the racetrack or not. We've actually as you know put 19 cars out on the racetrack and what other venues were going to come and what venues weren't going to come. We dealt with all of those issues and we are very fortunate to have Bridgestone and Ford join us as series sponsors, two substantial multi-national companies who stepped up and believed in our vision and where we were going, so that's very, very fortunate. SPEED Channel has been very loyal to us and has continued to show our shows, as has CBS. So when all of these things are working well for us, we are trying to be a little bit innovative from time to time. I think the Milwaukee event, some said it would be very high-risk. I suppose if you consider racing in 40-degree weather, it's fairly high-risk. But what was amazing there is that once we got started, the audience did not move at all and they stayed around. And it was cold. I will tell you, it was cold. They stayed there until the bitter end and I was talking to Patrick a little earlier and he said on the victory lap that he did with his two colleagues, Michel Jourdain and Oriol Servia that the fans were still cheering them at the end. It was very, very meaningful I think for all of us, indeed. Here at Cleveland - these Musco lights, by the way, are truly incredible. They are remarkable what they do. You will not believe Burke Lakefront when you see it at night under these lights, just amazing. I think this will be a completely different atmosphere, completely different feeling. We were here I think in February or something and we tried the lighting, and I tell you what was really amazing is looking out on the lake was one thing, but then when you turn around and you see the backdrop of the city behind you, it's just truly spectacular. I think it's going to be very, very good for Cleveland, indeed, because it will be shown all over the world, the show will, and I think that it will be a very good race. The only thing that we have got to be concerned about a little bit is - and I'm sure Patrick is going to talk to us about it pretty quickly, but his depth perception for the corners at night, at nighttime when the light - you'll probably have to have some other type of markers put in place for the braking zones because it will very hard for them to get the full depth perception working efficiently for them indeed. We will address those issues. But I can tell you when the brakes start glowing and the cars go on compression and the blue flame starts coming out the back and whether we put skid plates on the bottom of them or not, that's a debate that's going on at the moment, I'm for it. I would like to put skid plates underneath the bottoms of the cars because there are a couple of bumps out there and those skid plates will make it even more of a light show. Whether he likes it or not is another matter, but we won't ask him. (Laughter). I think it's going to be very interesting and very dramatic, and I think the fact that the City has its fireworks show on the Fourth of July night, and those of you who are at the racetrack just have to stay in your seats because you'll have the best seat in the house for your fireworks display at the same time. I'm hopeful that it will be a wonderful evening. I was here last year and it was a nice, warm, balmy night, the night before the race, and Cleveland was a lot of fun and we really enjoyed ourselves. We can't wait to be back here and enjoy this race. Adam, with your help, if we can introduce some of our sponsors. I know Mr. Randall came in I saw him over there, and just acknowledge them. As you know, there are two elements to putting on a motor car race: Yourselves and sponsors. So I thank you for your support, and if you'll allow us now, maybe we should just thank our sponsors for a second.
ADAM SAAL: Absolutely. Thank you so much. We would like to recognize Ann Randal from U.S. Bank. Thank you for being here, we could not do it without you. We appreciate the fine support you bring. It's hardly a small list and I'd like to list all of them quickly and give another round here. Sheraton Cleveland City Center Hotel, Convention and Visitors Bureau, Bridgestone, Belat, Coca-Cola Bottling, The Ohio Lottery, Ikon, Kellogg's Keebler Snacks, Cleveland Public Power, Korbel, Tower City, BrightNet and Ticketmaster. Please put it together for them. It's great. (Applause). Now before we go out to all of you to ask questions, again you've heard us say already we could not do it without the fans so please give yourselves a round of applause, too. You are the ones that make this happen, and all of these companies. Thank you so much.
Q. My name is Maria, and this is for Jim. We want to know if you're going to bring back CART Friday night because we really enjoyed that.
JIM LIBERATORE: Well, this is really, the decision was made to try to make sure that all of the funding went into the racing and qualifying. As you know, the finances to actually televise a race is upwards of $300,000 $400,000. When we looked at the finances and Chris was okay with this, the decision was made and that's why it was cut out. Will it come back? I mean, it all depends on if the ratings can go up and if the interests can continue up. Personally, I hated to see it go because I thought it was a fantastic show. It really was part of the mandate and the charter why Champ Car decided to come with SPEED is to try to show drivers their personalities off the track in this country, how the drivers are the stars and that's what attracts people. I would love to see something like that come back. We have had conversations with David Clare and we are looking at things like that, but it's not going to be this year.
CHRIS POOK: It was our decision. We had obviously heard from a lot of people around the country that they would like to see CART Friday back again, and it was just a question of prioritizing for us this year and we just had to make that decision. As we go forward, I am hopeful that we will be able to reinstate that, but I'm not going to tell you that tonight. It's been looked at and Jim and his troops have had conversations with our chief operating officer, David Clare and they are looking at it one more time.
Q. I'm from Solon, Ohio. I'll ask Patrick, do the lights that you used last week, do they present an exceptional hazard to the drivers on the track, an additional hazard?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: No. Actually, it was really well done. The way they did it is the light posts were really high out. It was so high that it was like same thing as the sun. So it was pretty bright on the racetrack, but then we couldn't really see the lights so it was out of our vision. So the way they did it was perfect.
Q. I'm not aware of what the situation was, if there was an accident could it hit one of the lighting units?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: If one of these cars would have hit the lighting units it would have been like - there's no way that the car could have hit one of the lights. It was outside the racetrack and all of them were even behind the grandstands. So if a car were to hit one of those, you would have heard about it. (Laughter).
Q. That eliminates my second question then. Thank you.
ADAM SAAL: Anybody from this side?
Q. Bob Lane from Erie, PA. A couple questions. One of my big thrills in life was taking my wife, who is now probably one of your biggest fans, to a high speed track like Michigan. We used to go to Michigan every year, season ticketholders, met a lot of people camping and there's a certain thrill that comes with that, that high-speed track. I don't know if Patrick enjoys that type of racing or not, but from my own perspective, it's quite thrilling to see people go wheel-to-wheel at 230 miles an hour for 500 miles. I was wondering, what happened with Michigan and is there any other venues in the future, such as maybe Watkins Glenn? I don't really care about Indianapolis; you can't see anymore there, anyhow. (Laughter).
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Michigan was a lot of fun. We had good races there, wheel-to-wheel and it's very similar in Fontana. But you may enjoy watching drivers race and actually sometimes at speeds of up to 250 miles an hour, with wheel-to-wheel action. We may not enjoy it as much as you do. We do enjoy it. It was fantastic. But we didn't seem to attract a lot of people and we had a lot of races in this area, and I guess maybe I can get Chris to answer this one as to why we don't really go. But we like racing in front of big crowds and we didn't seem to get too many there, so we go to places where we get a lot of people.
CHRIS POOK: Well, I think that obviously we would like to be on superspeedways. We just came from a superspeedway last spring in Germany which was fairly quick. Although Milwaukee wasn't slow by any means and at Fontana, where we had an excellent race last November, was on a superspeedway. We drew quite well. I think that what happened in Michigan was basically the attitude of some of my predecessors in dealing with the promoters there didn't help things in their relationship with the facility. I think also at the same time, the NASCAR phenomena started to come on very, very strong. The crowds for open-wheel racing dropped off. You're quite right; we had some incredible races at Michigan. I think that there's an element of the promoters out there today that are not convinced that open-wheel cars on big superspeedways and can compete in attendance with stock cars. I think that's really what it boils down to. You know we don't want to force feed any of these venues. We want to be sure that what we provide to the customer is what the customer wants. That's why our decision to run in Milwaukee under the lights - I think that decision proved correct. In the future our doors are not closed to that at all. We'll be happy to talk about that and run on the superspeedways but the conditions have to be right for everybody. I mean, the promoter has to be able to make money, our guys have to feel safe and we have to have the right aerodynamic package to go on the track. We have an open mind.
ADAM SAAL: Who won that last time we raced there at Michigan, Pat? Who won that race? Just checking. (Laughter).
Q. Chris, my name is Mike. Are you planning to have a street race in Las Vegas?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yes, he is. (Laughter).
CHRIS POOK: Well, you know, there's been a lot of talk about it. (Laughing) there's been a lot of talk about it, but I think we have too many drivers that live there, so probably better not do it. It would be an unfair advantage for three Canadians that live there, one of which is in front of you tonight. Obviously there have been inquiries from Las Vegas. I've been getting inquiries from a lot of cities. We have to be very, very careful how we go about these street races. You've got to do them right and they have to be the right conditions, and we have to be able to present the product correctly to our fans and also let the drivers be able to drive and do what they have to do on their part correctly. So we look at these things very, very carefully and there's a lot of discussion about them and we've also got - like Houston, I don't know if any of you ever went to Houston, but one of the problems Houston had, the city was great and all that stuff, but the fans couldn't move around. You're either in your grandstand or you're out on the street. There was no movement. You couldn't feel or touch the racetrack. So it was very unsuccessful because the customers. They came and said, okay, we sat on the seat and just looked and there was nothing else to do. As you know, one of the things about the racing we do isn't just about the racing cars on the track. It's the whole level of atmosphere and the midways and the entertainment and the hospitality and villages and the paddock and all of that stuff that is important to making an enjoyable experience, either for the day or the weekend. So those are important ingredients that have to go in and we have to be sure that our fans can move around and touch and feel the whole facility and the whole racetrack.
ADAM SAAL: It's interesting; you made the point about the drivers living in Las Vegas. Jimmy Vasser lives there, too, and he saw him at Milwaukee and he's good friend with Alex Zanardi, and if anybody saw Alex in the cockpit - it's probably one of the most moving things we've seen in this sport. (Applause) it was truly incredible. He's a magnificent human being and he hasn't missed a beat and he's just the way he is. It's interesting how these things work. Bridgestone/Firestone has their annual dealer meeting in Las Vegas every year, and it's either a week before or a week after our Fontana race. Alex would love to come over for that Bridgestone/Firestone meeting. And I said, well, what's he going to do when he's not at the meeting? Well, maybe we will see Alex over here, maybe we don't, but the fact is, in Las Vegas, definitely. I think Alex would tear up Las Vegas.
Q. Roy from Westlake. Lifelong fan and never missed a Cleveland race. My question primarily is to you, Chris. You've heard a lot of conversation and press about Bernie Ecclestone and Formula 1 and secondarily, the talk about CART becoming a feeder series for Formula 1?
CHRIS POOK: Well, we'll never be a feeder series for Formula 1, I'll assure you of that. One of the things we do want to do is we do want to be sure that we will help young racing car drivers who can drive and get on with their careers. It's no different than any sport. Every sport, if the youngster has got talent, you want him to come in the door and play in your forum, be it baseball for football or basketball. A very good example of the Cleveland Cavaliers with this young LeBron James from Akron, Ohio, a guy with a great talent that's been accepted into the NBA right away. We want to be in that same position. There are a lot of racing car drivers around the world who do have aspirations to get to Formula 1. It's very hard to do that. We have been a conduit over the years where they could come here and run and demonstrate. [Cristiano] da Matta is a very good example. [Juan Pablo] Montoya who won yesterday in Monte Carlo. Jacques Villeneuve is another example, and that is good for our sport to bring the young talent on. Patrick will tell you he's got his hands full with this young Frenchman Sebastien Bourdais who is a terrific talent and got great potential and that is where we want to be. Patrick and his former teammates, Alex Tagliani as youngsters - not that they are old, but they came out of Formula Atlantic and they had a great talent, so CART accepted them. And we will do that no matter where the series is, if the young guys can push the button and drive, that's what we want to do. I think Joey had a very unfortunate experience last year at Milwaukee when he got hurt, but here another young man is perfectly capable of driving one of our Champ Cars and we want to get him up the ladder, too. He belongs in the same forum as Patrick, competing with Patrick. Now it will take him a couple of years to get the experience, and whether he's going to run buck naked around Ohio is another matter, but that's where we are. So we are not going to be a feeder series but we do believe in developing talent. I think it's healthy for our series, and I hope it's healthy for you, the fans to see these young guys and come and race, and if they can go on - I mean Formula 1 is definitely the top in the world. I don't think anybody here will tell you it's not. It's up there. I'm sure if someone said to Patrick Carpentier, that's a good racing car over there, would you like to go drive it, he would jump at the offer immediately to jump in a Formula 1 car, but that's just the nature of the business. As far as our relationship with Bernhard, I have known him for 30 years and he's a very good friend and I talk to him regularly. We discuss a lot of stuff together. He's having a hard time with his series at the moment, and we had a hard time last year and are sort of on the rebuild. We exchange ideas and exchange information and that's very healthy. We would like to see the Formula 1 race in the United States be very successful and it would be good for us. I would love for you all to attend that Formula 1 race and see that part of the sport, because it is a different part of our sport. It's open-wheel racing, but it's different. It's at a level that is incredibly expensive. It costs our teams 5.5, $6 million a year to run one car in. Formula 1, it costs $110 million to run one car. There's a huge difference in the two. It will never be the same but there's nothing wrong with having a relationship with them.
Q. Doug from Worster, Ohio. I wanted to say, for Chris, I thought the best thing you did when you came in was to keep the turbo. I know and I understand why you want to go to gasoline but since turbo gas is a vehicle that worldwide...have I lost you yet?
CHRIS POOK: We're having a hard time hearing you.
Q. I was asking that since you are looking at trying to go to gasoline, is that possible, have you put a thought into still keeping the turbo and running gasoline?
CHRIS POOK: We won't have the turbo with the gasoline engine. It will be a straight formally aspirated engine but we really believe it's time for us to move on to the gasoline engine. The methanol engine was great and served its purpose but most of the world's manufacturers today are building cars that run on gasoline. They don't run on methanol. Some are still building cars, particularly in Europe that run on diesel, turbo diesel most of them. We think it's very important to line up with the automobile manufacturers of the world and have gasoline engines, and by the way, bring the gasoline companies back to our sport because the marketing money today is not in lubricants. It's in gasoline. We need the Shells and the Texacos and the Chevrons and the BPs the Petros from Brazil and all of these other companies into our sport because they will help support it. They will support the teams, they will spend dollars on television and advertising and they will get there. Now, with gasoline companies, it's not all about selling gasoline, it's about selling goodies in the convenience stores and that will help other products into the sport as well, the chewing gums and the potato chips and the soft drinks and all of the bits and pieces that you find. At the end of the day the business equation as Jim Liberatore will tell you, what drives his business and our business is companies advertising. That's what really drives our business. We have a responsibility to create a forum so they can come back in and spend their money and get a return on their investments. There are a lot of reasons why we need to go to gasoline, but I don't think they will be turbocharged.
Q. My name is Jerry from Columbus. Mr. Pook, my question is for you. There have been some rumblings about Mid-Ohio and the future of that race. What is happening with Mid-Ohio, is it going to continue to be on the schedule?
CHRIS POOK: Well, this is the last year of Mid-Ohio's contract and we are looking at that very carefully. We are in discussions with the Mid-Ohio folks as to how we continue, under what format we continue. At the end of the day, as you know, it's about economics. We've got to be sure that the economics are good for them and the economics are good for us. We need to work through that process and we will do that, either over the Mid-Ohio weekend or right after the Mid-Ohio weekend. It's one of great road tracks of this country. We are clearly on record saying that one of the important things about our series is our diversity, the diversity of being on ovals, both one-mile ovals and on Super Speedways, being on street courses and being on permanent road courses. That's what makes our series so unique, so good and that's what makes us develop really talented racing car drivers. I think that if you talk to any of our drivers, Patrick or Joey, our Atlantic guys run on ovals and road courses as well. They will tell you, for them, they may not like some parts of it, but I think they all can see that it makes them a much better racing car driver by having to conquer all of those disciplines. And, quite frankly, if you win a championship in our series, having raced on all of those disciplines you have really accomplished something and I think the rest of the world is starting to realize that our drivers and our teams are really, really typically better. And a champion has accomplished something - certainly seeing da Matta who has surprised them greatly because they thought he would be way at back. He's the guy that's got the points for Toyota, not [Olivier] Panis. It's da Matta that got the points. You saw where he was in Monaco yesterday, those of you who followed. Everybody thought da Matta should be at the very back, he had never seen the place, and here he was, he qualified 13th and he was running as high as 8th at one point; and I think he slipped back and finished 10th but it was extremely respectable run. Clearly his training on street courses in CART helped him a lot in that process.
ADAM SAAL: You've got to love that little guy. I haven't watched Formula 1 in years and I'm tuning in to watch da Matta.
Q. Appreciate you coming here tonight. This is a time of some intense competition for CART from both NASCAR and from the IRL. Three questions. One, what would you say is different about the Champ Car series from those two, particularly if you're going to go with gasoline from the IRL series? Secondly, how do you sustain that difference? And for us here in North America what does that mean for us as race fans and our opportunity to see your cars?
CHRIS POOK: Well, there's a huge difference between ourselves and IRL and NASCAR. There's a big difference in the majority of our fans. First of all, we are not an all-oval series. We do race on a variety of circuits. We are diverse. We are very diverse in where our venues are. We have three in Canada, two in Mexico and ten in the United States. So from a marketing perspective, we are completely different. We offer a whole different set of dynamics. I don't consider the IRL any competition at all. I just want them to go do their thing and leave us alone. (Applause). We are not going to be drug into that fight. We have moved away. That's why we reversed the decision on the normally aspirated methanol V8. That didn't make any sense to us. That was like getting pulled into the lion's den, we don't need to be in there. Move on. Our cars of different. Our drivers are different. They have got some of our drivers over there from last year and we wish them well. I'm going to take care of the guys that are taking care of us and work with our guys. Those guys are loyal to us; I'm going to stay loyal to them. How do we sustain it? We sustain it by putting on good races. We sustain it by keeping our openness and our communication with you folks and all of your friends and pals that come and attend our races. We sustain it by putting on good racing. We've had some excellent races this year. We have control of the engines again, we will have control of the aerodynamics and we are listening to what the drivers have to say to us. We are listening to what the chief mechanics have to say to us and the engineers, not necessarily listening to all of the owners. Because at the end of the day we have a responsibility as management to give the fans and the sponsors a quality product; that's our job, good racing, fun racing and we need to be accessible. We need to be accessible to all of our fans. Our autograph sessions are quite remarkable. The things we do, Patrick was part of this last year at Montreal. Some of the spontaneity of our guys, the autograph session at Montreal last year - this, our autograph session, there must be 10,000 people trying to get these autographs. The line was huge. They went on and on. The autograph session was scheduled for 30 minutes, and after an hour they still didn't have them all going. They didn't have everybody lined up. All of a sudden, I don't know which one of them it was, either Patrick or da Matta. But here was a bandstand with instruments on them and there as a little meeting between them and all of sudden they get on the bandstand and start playing music for them, and that was better than signing autographs. That's just the sort of guys we've got. Those guys are spontaneous, and in the end, they have a relationship with their fans. So that sort of stuff differentiates us. The camaraderie in the paddock is terrific. I mean, no one was more happy, I think the other night for Michel Jourdain and the guys in the victory track - they didn't win but they were awful happy that Michel Jourdain got his first win. They really were genuinely happy. You don't see that in other sports. When another guy wins, the other guys usually look down their nose: What did he win for, it should have been mine. That is not the way these guys are. It's this sort of differentiation that is going to make us different and doing things like coming to Cleveland, running under the lights on the Fourth of July weekend and fireworks and motherhood and apple pie, that's what will make us different and that's what will sustain us and that's what will grow this business. Jim's company is doing our qualifying and hopefully putting pressure on us to bring back CART Friday night and things like that. That's how we will sustain and grow this business. That's how we will deliver value, value to you and value to Ann Randall and his bank and all of the other sponsors. That's what our job is and that's how we'll move forward and that's how we'll grow this company, and we are growing this company as we speak. This company is far, far stronger now as I sit here today than when we were here last year in Cleveland. We are far stronger.
Q. I'm Mike from Aurora. I have mixed emotions about CBS's partnership with CART. I was concerned about the tape-delay with the German race being shown a week later, and now that the Cleveland race will be a tape delay the day after. I think that kind of hurts Cleveland. I thought we really would have been in the spotlight, prime time race on one of the national channels, as well as I think it's hurt the sponsorship as far as with the cars themselves. I'm wondering what can be done to correct that and work with CBS and get a better partnership.
JIM LIBERATORE: If I could just address one part of that. All tape-delays are not necessarily bad, and I know because I'm on line on SPEED message boards all the time, and I know for fans, existing fans and the diehard fans that they absolutely hate it, of course. But in efforts to grow the sport, there are times that it makes sense to move it out of a competitive window. I'm not particularly talking about the Cleveland race I'm just talking about tape-delays in general. Because you want more people to watch it and you want more people to get involved. If you continue to run it up against NASCAR I think what is the death nail for open-wheel is up against Tiger Woods, you are not going to get the viewership that you need. I think what CART - and I'll let Chris address this, at the Champ Car races the ones that have been tape-delayed, they have had some of the higher ratings, and that is unfortunately something that we are looking at with them. I think it was Einstein that said the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. This is where Champ Car has done a great job is they are not doing things the same old way they have done them over and over. So what we looked at is okay with can he take a series of races if we move them into prime time. Some will be tape delayed and I think there will be seven or eight races with a consistent time slot that will be in prime time that we are talking about. So while I appreciate how much some of the diehard fans hate it, there really is some good business sense behind some of the tape-delays.
CHRIS POOK: You're right on. It is a balance. The pendulum has to swing evenly to both sides and we have to do that. Sometimes it just is not possible to do total live of live races. EuroSpeedway Lausitz, if we had done that, it would have been 6:00 in the morning or a bit later, 8:00 in the morning here that race would have gone on. It is a balance and you are trying to get consistency. We also have to be sensitive to all of our sponsors who invest in it. They are the first guys to look at the ratings and what the returns are because that's how they measure their investment. It's a real balancing act and we spend a lot of time talking to Jim and his colleagues at SPEED Channel about what is the best time slot, how can we satisfy this. He hears from the viewers immediately whether they like or dislike a tape-delayed race, so we try and set a balance and satisfy everyone. We will never please everyone, I can tell you that, but we'll give it our best shot. We hear what you're saying and this voice over here, but I'm sure in the other room there's another voice over there that will say, gosh, if you run it at 9:00 at night - because we are going to run some races on Jim's network this year, that you will definitely get a better rating. So the voices that are investing in the television show will say 9:00 at night, it gets a better racing, that's what we want you to be. We are not going to win either way but try to find a right balance that satisfies everybody.
ADAM SAAL: It regards to a prime time network Saturday night race, Jim you probably know, I think NASCAR only tried that for the first time in 2001 with their summer race in Daytona.
JIM LIBERATORE: That's their highest ratings in prime time. Now there's a lot of people who don't want NASCAR to run on prime time because they think it's going to kill the short tracks around the country, but the bottom line is whether you're really Champ Car or IRL or really getting into baseball and NBA, the current racing broadcasts have got to better. So you have to try every possible thing. Right now the Champ Car guys are the only ones I see trying different things to make that happen. It's unfortunate but it is really probably a very wise decision.
Q. My question I guess would be maybe directed at Chris about Lola being back in the picture and then to Patrick, the difference in physically driving a Reynard versus a Lola. Pat?
CHRIS POOK: Well, Lola is very much in the picture right now. They are very important to us, indeed, at the present time. As you know, Reynard unfortunately had a bad turn of events last year. We had teams with Reynards that we are trying to help improve, and Lola actually is helping us in that area. Lola is actually taking some bits and pieces for the Reynard to see if we can get the Reynard just to move up the ladder a little bit. Although I think Patrick will probably tell you he doesn't want the Reynards to go any quicker because a couple of them were going pretty fast at Milwaukee.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: The Reynard is a chassis that's fast on the high-speed tracks, tracks that have momentum, like Mid-Ohio. It's a chassis that needs to run close to the ground to create good downforce. The Lola, the advantage the Lola has is that it's a chassis that you can run low or high and which makes basically the same downforce. So for a team, it's a lot easier to work with a Lola, especially when you go to racetracks that are slower. To drive the Reynard was actually fairly difficult because it's a very nervous car. It's a car that's fairly loose by nature, and to make it decent, it's got to push a lot. Pushing means when you enter the corner, the front doesn't stick. It just keeps pushing and gets slow ed down more to go around the corner. The Reynard was difficult to set up. The window is quite a bit smaller. To run it, to be competitive with it, we found that it has to be fairly stiff with springs and stuff, so it's a lot tougher to drive. I remember in Denver, I couldn't even see where I was going on some of the corners because it was so hard to drive. It was fast that way. The Lola is a little bit more forgiving and the window to set it up seems to be a little bit wider and it's a really well built car and very easy to work on.
Q. My name is Yvonne. I'm really from Toronto where I saw my first Molson Indy. Two questions. First of all what's going to happen with the Player's sponsorship at the end of this year, is that still in jeopardy? And how come we don't see Molson or Labatt sponsoring a car?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: There are many laws in Canada that they don't exist in the United States. One of them is that after this year, I think its October; most likely tobacco will be illegal to advertise anything that resembles a tobacco name or something close to that. Even if you build a lighter and put the same name as Player's, you're never going to be allowed to advertise it. So I know they are battling to try to fight it so they can keep sponsoring. But at the moment, it's not looking very good. It's not final, but at the moment, it's difficult on that. The beer companies, there are also some laws that keeps them from sponsoring individual drivers, I don't know exactly what they are, but I know that's one of the reasons why they cannot sponsor events. They can sponsor events but not teams.
ADAM SAAL: Labatt is the official beer of this event and it's also on Adrian Fernandez's car.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: If they have a plan that's outside of Canada, then they can do the sponsorship.
ADAM SAAL: I don't know what the exact relationship is, but if you look closely on Adrian Fernandez's car, you will see a Labatt logo on there and he's carried them for a couple of years. It works well.
Q. My name is Mark McDonald; I'm a rising driver myself in go-carts right now. My question is really about how we are struggling in the ladder series to get to Champ Cars.
CHRIS POOK: I should just tell from you the overview we have, and I'm on record here and already in deep trouble in various places for saying it, but I just think that we need to put more horsepower into our secondary series so the transition isn't so great for these guys to go from 270 horsepower to 750. Formula 3000 is upping their horsepower a bit over in Europe as well and the Telefonica series has also upped their horsepower and narrowed the width of their tires and made the cars more difficult to drive. My personal opinion is I don't think we do any favors as a sanctioning body to our youngsters by putting them in the cars that they are in now. We need to make the car more powerful and more difficult to drive, and then Joey will be able to get out of his car and jump straight into a Champ Car and go quickly right away versus having to spend four or five hours on getting used to that horsepower transition. It's not that he's not capable of doing it; it's just that we haven't given him the right training, right tools to be able do it, but that's just my opinion. Patrick and Joey can talk to that issue.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: There's still a few guys this year that have been a Formula 1 test driver because it's a very similar car in a way and very similar in horsepower and they are hoping to jump in and be quick right away. [CART Toyota] Atlantics was a really good school because it's built the same way, but I agree with Chris. With a little bit more power, it would shorten the learning curve once you get to the CART series.
JOEY HAND: I think Champ Cars could use some more power, too. It would be more fun for sure. I think also, no offense to some of the guys that have moved up to Champ Car this year, there's definitely no Patrick Carpentier, or Memo Gidley. When they moved up from Atlantics those guys were ready to go and I don't think some of those guys that you saw that moved up to year are really ready to go. I feel like personally I've paid my dues and I've done a lot of racing in Atlantic now. This will be my third year. I know the tracks and I know a lot about setting up a race car at these tracks and shocks and springs and that's all part of it. That's what Champ Car guys are looking for. They don't really want that - they want raw talent but you also have to know how to set the car up every week. I think you are going to see some possibly newer guys, hopefully myself; there are also a lot of strong guys running Atlantics this year that will make some bigger waves in Champ Car if given an opportunity. That's my feeling but more horsepower would be good, too.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Just so you know, Chris, if you give these guys a bit more horsepower we want more, too.
CHRIS POOK: He never misses his chance, does he? (Laughter).
Q. I'm Brad from lake wood Ohio. My question is for Joey. Given your fairly quick comeback from your incident in Milwaukee last year, how important would you consider consideration to your series and to CART as well?
JOEY HAND: Well, I think it's very, very important. Probably more than I can understand at this point. Patrick can probably tell you since he's made the jump from Atlantic to Champ Car our series - we only run around 80 miles every weekend. So for me, it seems fairly easy. I feel like I'm in very good condition for driving an Atlantic car, but I know it's a whole other level when you run to Champ Cars and you're running two hours, two and a half hours with a lot more downforce, a lot more tire, a lot more horsepower. So since my accident I'm in pretty good shape and being able to sit out for those 70 days doesn't sound like that long but I missed six races. When you go from running and think you're invincible to being hurt like that and having to sit out, there's no choice, you get to see both sides. And looking from the outside in, I decided that possibly I wasn't doing as good as I could as far as physical stuff and being in the gym. So I stepped it up another level just in case I do get that chance to run a Champ Car at the end of this year. For me, if it's going to happen at Champ Car, it's going to be the end of this year and that means September, October, November. So I have to be ready to show my stuff when the time comes. I think it's very important.
Q. I'm here from Cleveland, my name is Keith. Earlier you mentioned something about depth perception being different at night. Could you speak more about that and the challenges by running under the lights?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, it's just a little bit different when you run on the natural light or light that's been put up afterwards in the dark. You get some - not really dark spots, but it's just different, the way you see is not necessarily the same as during daytime. You get used to it. But the way the car comes, it's a little bit darker than what it's normally is. Like with the sun, everything is bright, the back of the car, and just as an example, during daytime if you turn our rain lights on, you don't really see it. But under the lights at night, the guys that turned it on, you really can see it so that just shows you, whether you want it to or not, it's a little bit different. But once you get used to it and everybody knows, it's pretty much the same. Only here in Cleveland, like Chris said, we're just going to have to work on the braking, making sure that you've got some marking so that we know where to stop because the racetrack here is basically flat, so it's very difficult to see and judge where the corners are. So that's going to be that, and then it should be fine afterwards. After a few laps, you get in a rhythm, get used to it and then it's fine.
Q. Two questions for Chris. A couple years ago your stock trading on the New York exchange was about 15 a share and now it's coming back from a low, I think it's around 2.50 a share. How do you explain that positive performance? And secondly...
CHRIS POOK: Very carefully.
Q. Would you consider going private, taking CART private?
CHRIS POOK: Well, I am on record as saying that I don't believe CART should be a public company. I can't really talk any more than that about it because every time, as a public company, I make a statement that has not been made before to any group of people, Adam usually has to rush and put out a press release to the world and tell them that I said this. Otherwise, I am considered giving privileged information to a small group of people versus giving it to the whole universe. I know I'm not answering your question but I will leave that part there. The other part is the stock price. The stock price is what it is. I can't do anything about it. What I can do though is fix the company, and when I fix the company the stock price will come back. If I start worrying about the stock, looking at my screen every day and what the stock price is, that will be totally unproductive of the company and I would be worrying about that instead of the real issues, and that's rebuilding this company.
Q. I was wondering, you mentioned about bringing young drivers up and keeping drivers in the fold and serving in that and I was wondering if Champ Car or CART can do anything to encourage that to get the Joey Hands and A.J. Allmendingers in and have some corporate support for them; in other words, have maybe a contingency or something set so that Ryan Hunter-Reay does not have to have Ryan on the side of his car and Jimmy [Vasser] on the side of his car , if there's something that you can do as a corporate level to encourage that.
CHRIS POOK: Well we do have a program underway right now where we are out in the marketplace looking for a company to come in and sponsor a top-finishing American driver in the Atlantics series so they can go on up to the big series and take some money with him as he goes up. That program is underway. We are marketing it, selling it hard and we think it can be meaningful. We clearly know we have a responsibility to bring the youngsters up. Canada has a great program that has helped develop Patrick and Alex [Tagliani] and Paul [Tracy] when they were young, and Mexico has got an incredible program for their young drivers. We don't in this country, and we are putting it together right now because we need to do it; it's our responsibility and we will do it.
ADAM SAAL: It could be a young woman stepping up from Atlantic as well, unless Joey has something to say about that. Danica Patrick did well in her debut this weekend.
Q. We see the chassis changes and all this coming in 2005, you've talked about gasoline, and this combined with reading last week in Auto Week, you were hopping all over Europe visiting manufacturers. Will this bring new manufacturers into the sport to get real competition going again, beef up the competitive juices?
CHRIS POOK: Yes, well, one of the things we want to do is bring the chassis prices down to a sensible level where guys can buy a chassis for 250,000, 265,000 for a rolling chassis versus 400,000 today. That's one of the things we are doing. Second thing is, it's public information, we are out there anxiously soliciting engine manufacturers to come to the series, and we have a great story to tell because we deliver North America, Canada, the United States and Mexico, which is the largest automotive buying market in the world; and by 2007, this market will be two and a half times larger than any other auto buying market in the world. We have something to offer to an automobile manufacturer who comes to our series and we are out talking to a lot of them and encouraging them and showing them out, by coming to this series, they can sell automobiles.
Q. Mr. Pook, you talked about loyalty, and you were just speaking of the engines. If you could comment on the logic of one of your major investors, Ford, there's some talk of them teaming up with Chevy and IRL to assist them with their under performing engine. Not really understanding the logic behind that, if you might comment on that. Then I have I question for Mr. Stanner who seems lonely up there tonight. (Laughter).
CHRIS POOK: I'm not going to hold his hand.
Q. Just wanted to get your comments about the decision a few years ago to initially go with IRL then step away from IRL and how your organization feels about the decision that it made. Finally, for Mr. Liberatore, I won't ask an embarrassing question though I did want to ask you where you got that Einstein quote earlier. Your parent company, obviously, FOX manages or is involved with the 800-pound gorilla and wanted to find out what their thinking is about your station, your cable program's involvement with CART and how they see the relationship, how they view the relationship.
JIM LIBERATORE: This wouldn't be George, by any chance, is it? The person who taught me to swear in Hungarian growing up in Bay Village. There's only one word I remember and I'm not going to repeat it, but it's one of those weird things that sticks with you. FOX, when we first took over, FOX bought SpeedVision. The idea in some people's minds, it would be an all-NASCAR channel. A lot of people were aware of that at the time. We successfully got that completely turned around. Now we have a heavy percentage of NASCAR. (Applause). But the bad news - and this is not a Champ Car issue, that is an issue involving everything we are doing. They look at ratings, that is what our company looks at, it looks at ratings and revenue. And we have a meeting once a year with Mr. Murdock and he asks me how the Champ Car series are going. He's one of the guys who flips back to the final page and looks at one number and you're either good or bad based off of that one number. And so, we have a responsibility, and this is something that at SPEED Channel, we really, really feel this way is that we have a responsibility to make these things work for everybody, from a business standpoint, which is first and foremost. It's been great because I've hardly had anything to say which is how it should be because normally we are talking about ratings and distribution and all that stuff. It's great to hear actually racing conversation going on. But they are concerned. They are concerned about a lot of the non-NASCAR racing series that we have, but we think we can turn it around. We think that showing the pre-race and the post-race and showing qualifying. Again, this is a credit to the Champ Car guys because that they understand you're just not going to show a green to checkered flag and just expect that the ratings are going to go up. As everyone saw, Indy's ratings were down again this year. I personally look at that as a bad thing only because I think - I don't think the open-wheel fans, we want as many of them as we possibly can get. But to answer your question, they will be committed to it as long as we can make it work, which we are in the process of doing I think right now.
BUD STANNER: The then current management of CART literally priced themselves out of the market for temporary road courses and fortunately, we had an alternative which we used to the best of our ability to pound some sense into the then top-management of CART. We were never going to run an IRL race. (Applause).
CHRIS POOK: Actually it's Cosworth doing it on their own, who have approached Chevy and offered to help them see if they could solve their problems. Maybe they can, maybe they can't, but Cosworth must be a glutton for punishment because they have spent last three or four years getting the crap kicked out of them by Honda, and now they want to jump back in again. Maybe the financial reward is such that it's so enticing and they need to do it. That's fine with us and we don't care. They can go do that. It doesn't bother us. It's not Ford. In fact, the folks from Ford made it very, very clear to us this last weekend in Milwaukee that they had nothing to do with it whatsoever. It was strictly a Cosworth business decision. It doesn't bother us one bit. As I said, we are completely separating ourselves from that over there. They do their thing and our guys do everything, uphill, downshift, braking, change gear and all that other good stuff, day or night. Completely different. Very talented group of people we have.
Q. My name is David. I'm from Pittsburgh. My question is for Chris. Looking at the calendar we have got about 20, 21 months until St. Petersburg 2005. My question is how many of those months do the engine and chassis manufacturers need to get ready for the new specs?
CHRIS POOK: The chassis guys can do it a lot quicker than the engine guys. The engine guys, probably they need to be in the design process by, I would say, August or September. And then the chassis guys can move very, very quickly comparatively. We are doing this whole process, however, in concert with the chassis guys. We are talking to all of them. We are explaining to them what the engines will look like, the mounting points and all of the bits and pieces that you've got to talk to them about. So they are being kept up to speed on all of those discussions and developments. The objective will be to have by October 2004 to have the first test taking place of what the 2005 engine chassis package.
JIM LIBERATORE: I'm disappointed that in a room of Clevelanders, a guy can say he's from Pittsburgh that and there's no reaction at all. (Laughter).
CHRIS POOK: Well, thanks for driving up here anyway. We appreciate it.
Q. Ed from Ohio. Mr. Stanner, I wonder if you could make a comment about the economic impact of the Grand Prix race coming to Cleveland? And for Mr. Pook, my question has to do with comments made on a number of occasions, again tonight, about CART being a private organization, as opposed to public. My understanding is a public organization has access to capital that a private organization does not and given the fact that you're burning through it pretty quickly and maybe public funds are a good thing to have; and another follow on to that, with regard to cash generation, it's entirely with regard to the racing, have you given any thought to the possibility of holding out kind of a CART car a retail operation sort of thing, restaurant, retail using CART as the drivers, the product, the brand that you have and expanding this thing to a 365-day a year operation, as opposed to 20, 22 events a year?
BUD STANNER: The highest economic impact this race as generated was four years ago when it was 33.8 million. We are projecting 28 million this year and we think we might do a little better. Economic impact models are - they vary, depending on how you look at the numbers. We use the model developed by Ernst & Young and we think we are pretty accurate. That begs the question, why doesn't our city do more to help this event? And maybe they would get it if anybody in this room wrote 12 letters once a month for the next year to our honorable mayor, Jane Campbell.
CHRIS POOK: Thank you. Bud. He's going to become a lobbyist in his next career. We laid out a very clear plan for this company in the early part of last year. It was basically a five-year plan and we are executing on our five-year plan. It has two branches to it. Whether they are public or whether they are private, each one has a strategy and I can just tell you that we are on-course where we need to be. Again you have got me in an area I can't really talk too much about, but thank you for your question.
ADAM SAAL: I think we need to say that the mayor has been pretty supportive - that's me talking over here, the PR guy. I think the mayor has been one of our best supporters here, definitely getting involved in a lot of the events we've got.
Q. Name is Doug. Patrick we've been talking about how the IRL is doing everything and we are doing this. Last year when you guys were at Texas, you guys went there and you kind of got on the track and then something happened where the drivers either, the cars obviously were creating a problem, the high speed there at Texas. Can you kind of go into detail what happened?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, what happened was in a few weeks, the week before I think it was an F-18 - almost lost consciousness there and something was happening on the race track, actually because the G-force that we were pulling, the speeds were pretty high. This year, actually is going to be interesting because with the involvement of Toyota and Honda, and maybe the IRL will get closer to the speeds we used to reach there. And it became a little bit of a problem for the drivers, like I think it was Tony Kanaan that was driving around - and started, his vision started to get narrow, which is what happens when you blackout. When you blackout, the blood that's in your brain just goes down your body and then you just blackout. If you whiteout, it's opposite, the blood goes up and you lose consciousness, also. For us it was a blackout situation. What happened was that we had two G-forces, one was sideways and because the angle of the racetrack, the other one was pushing down, and when you combine the both of them, it was actually really high and it's hard for somebody who has a good understanding of those forces and what the human capacity is. They said they recommended that we do not do the race. I'm pretty certain that a few guys would have passed out during that race. But now if we go back there, we just slow the engines down a little bit or have a little bit less downforce. But basically it was so fast that it looked like a video game. I remember Paul Tracy tried to make a change in his dashboard and it was like quarter of a lap behind me and almost rear-ended me. I couldn't even change my swing bar. I didn't even have time to play with that. So it was really, really fast. The cars were basically faster than what our brains could process. So it was fast. I remember going out of the pits when we first started the weekend and I think on lap four, I was flat-out. The car was like - it could do it easy, but for me it was like I couldn't even see, there was a wall in corner one, it was fast. My car, it went sideways between corner three and four. I didn't do anything, it just came back by myself and we ended up on the front. But by the time I realized we went sideways, we was across the finish line, so we had a good time but it was fast.
CHRIS POOK: The unfortunate thing there was the management team did not do their due diligence. They knew the place was going to be quick and they didn't go down and do a proper test at full speed. They did a test but the teams at the time and the drivers were not comfortable about their suspension capabilities at the time so they never really got on with the program. When they got to the weekend, everybody had beefed up their suspension and tires and stuff and these guys got on with the job. It was a very, very difficult situation and I could just tell you that our business is tough enough as it is, but this management team is not going to put their drivers at that sort of risk ever without some real thorough testing before we do those sort of things.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Plus in between the time we did the test, I think they repaved the corners so we got another five, six miles an hour. So that was enough to throw it overboard.
Q. Erica from Cleveland. Cleveland is unique in that there's a live airport up to the first few hours of on-track activities. What are your thoughts on the safety factors of Cleveland in regards to the barriers and what do you find most challenging about Cleveland?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Safety has always been very good. One of the reasons is that it's an open racetrack using an airport field. So basically if you go off the track, you just skid across the grass forever and then finally come to a stop. So it's not too bad. There are a couple of walls around there but some of the tracks we go to, there are walls basically all over the racetrack. I believe this track is really safe. We have run-offs where we need them to be and quite a few tires where we think we don't have enough run-off. So far the driver has been pretty happy. Every year we make improvement. There used to be a wall coming to the pit lane, where if something happens, you can hit the wall head on. They took that away. Every year they tried to make a lot of improvements and we are actually pretty happy with this circuit. It's been pretty safe.
Q. I'd just like to thank everybody, I attended your Champ Car meeting in Columbus last year and this is a great venue and along with your fan forum, I think those are some great things that bring more fans to you, to help them understand the whole process. I'm going to put Joey Hand on the carpet here and tell me a little bit about Danica Patrick and how you visualize her as a competitor? I've met her as a fan, and from the fan's perspective, she looks like the real deal. Just tell me where she's at after three races.
JOEY HAND: You know, I'm always looking at what's best for the sport because I want to be in this sport for a while. I think as far as for the sport, I think it's probably one of the better things that have happened in a while. If she beats me to a seat, I won't be too happy about it. (Laughter). But I would say for the sport, it's a good thing. She's definitely one of the better females I've ever seen driving a race car. As far as how she stacks up right now, as I said she stacks up pretty well. There are a handful of guys that are quite a bit quicker on any given day, but that doesn't mean she's not good. I haven't got to race with her much. We've had our fair share of bad luck starting this year, so we'll see what happens. I think we just got started this year and she started out well. I think it's going to be a real testament to the teams and the drivers when we get to Race 12 to see who is still standing. Overall, though, to answer your question, I think it's a good thing.
BUD STANNER: We really need your help to support the sponsors for this event and tell them how much you appreciate what they do by giving them your business and when you talk to them, tell them how much you appreciate what they do. And for those sponsors that are here, tell them they ought to be.
Q. I'm Mark from Mansfield. I'd like to thank SPEED Channel for their coverage. It's great and such an improvement over what you had before. For Pat, I was wondering from on the Cleveland race that pavement is usually really hot and flat and you were talking about the braking zones and all that, but before when you were racing in the sun, wasn't there mirages for the drivers going across the pavement like that? I wonder if that affected you at all?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: No, it seems like from the car when you go at speed, you don't - but are you talking about...
Q. From the heat?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: No. You don't see that when you are going at speed. It's when you are standing still and looking at it then you'll see it. But then when you are in the race car driving at those speeds, you see absolutely none of that. So at night, we'll see probably even less. If there's enough heat to have that there, whatever you call that, then we are going to be in trouble during the daytime. But it's not something that we see in the race car.
Q. I heard a rumor there was going to be a name change in the series, to incorporate the CART series name back into it?
CHRIS POOK: Well, we have introduced the Champ Car brand and the CART name will stay the same. CART is the parent company. That's the company that owns all the series. So that Championship Auto Racing Teams will stay there and we will transition to Champ Car. But don't forget it's not only CART Champ Car, it's CART Toyota Atlantic as well and then we have a relationship with Stars of Tomorrow and the go-cart series Joey was talking about earlier that he was starting his career. And of course we also sanction the Barber Dodge Pro Series, but the CART name will stay.
Q. My name is Terry and I live here in Lakewood. My question is for the drivers and it's continuing on the braking zone issue. I remember a story, I think it was Jimmy Vasser who talked about at Laguna when he got to the top of the corkscrew, and there was a big pine tree that you used as a reference for braking when you got down into the corkscrew. So he gets in his car, goes around the top and gets to the top the corkscrew and the tree is gone. I was wondering since we are going at night this year, what you guys actually use as braking references for the turns and how that's going to change now that you're under the lights.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Well, I'm going to talk to these guys where they install the light points, but they are going to be my reference where I turn. No, for me, no reference. I never had really a lot of reference. I'm just looking at the brake marks to see where the corner is and that's all basically we would need here. But I never used any reference for braking, turning, or looking for a corner. I just look ahead and just brake when I think it's about time to do that.
JOEY HAND: I'm really the same way, I don't like using references as a tree for that reason, they could fall down or whatever. At Sears Point in California is one of my home tracks and a lot of instructors tell you to come over the rise, Turn 6 and look for a tree up above the hill on Turn 2, I never saw it, I was never looking that way. At Cleveland, or a lot of racetracks use spots, there's always lines that mark the track out and sometimes there's a blotch in the line or there's a new piece of pavement and a lot of times you can see where the cars start braking, especially Champ Cars will start bottoming and you can use that for reference. At night I think it's going to definitely change for those guys use you are going to have some glares off of those parts where the Champ Cars bottom. You are going to have some glares off of that. It should be interesting for them. Cleveland is unique, I remember when I was a kid, when I was younger - (Laughter) - I was waiting to hear something from Bud there. I used to play the Champ Car game on the computer. It's called Indy Car with Paul Page or whatever and Cleveland, I always drove Cleveland because it's the most difficult for me on the computer. It was so difficult to find a reference. I was always blowing through the chicanes. When I came here for the race in 2001, I thought it was awesome. But it is a very difficult place to see and pick up the corners, especially one in particular, coming from turn one to Turn 2, it's a big, long sweeper and you never seem to stop turning. You are always turning. You just kind of let the car go way out on the edge of the runway and you've just got to find that taxiway that you drive across. It could be 10, 12 cars wide down there, so it's quite an interesting place, again, for passing and all kind of other things. But it's one of my favorite places to come.
Q. You developed a relationship last year with the ALMS league and ran the race at Miami and will do so again this year. Any chance of looking at Road Atlanta and Sebring?
CHRIS POOK: The ALMS contract we had, we actually inherited and it has two years to go, so it is going to be what it is for the next two years.
Q. My question is more CART-running because I think that's a fabulous relationship, and given the direction sports car is going, is exactly what open-wheel is going through. They have a big split that's presenting them with the same kind of problem. I know the track at Miami was horrible, Patrick will probably agree with that.
JIM LIBERATORE: They had a lot of problems with the conditions of the facility and they are going to change that I know. But I think the combination of the two, the demographics are the same. Racing is fantastic. I think that CART should do more races with them. What do you think?
CHRIS POOK: Well, we certainly talk a lot to Scott Atherton at the American Le Mans Series and the race at Miami worked out well for both of us. We are talking on a couple of other racetracks where we can cooperate together. Road Atlanta is a wonderful racetrack, but it's pretty daunting for our guys. We'd have to have major safety improvements there particularly in the downhill portions. These guys will be coming down that hill at 250 miles an hour. It's just so fast and there's no place - if something brakes, there's no place for them to go. That's what we have to worry about. It's not their ability to drive through the corner. If the race car brakes, where is it going to go? That's what we worry about. At Sebring, we did a Spring Training this year there and that worked out for us. Whether we will be able to run on the Sebring weekend or not, I don't know. That would be an interesting thought process. You're right about the demographics. We line up on demographics and a lot of other areas. It's in the cards. We are talking about it and seeing how we can expand the relationship.
Q. My name is Tim from Medina. Jim, with SPEED, thank you for everything you are doing, especially the Paul Tracy helmet camp, it's outstanding especially under the lights at Milwaukee. I can only imagine seeing that same view from here at Cleveland. Keep that same camera style; keep it up, as well as the American Le Mans Series. Thank you for Le Mans, Daytona, the 12 hours at Sebring.
JIM LIBERATORE: You're welcome, you're welcome, you're welcome, you're welcome. (Laughter).
Q. Perhaps, Mr. Pook, you look at California right now they are talking about NASCAR going their Labor Day under the lights. Is there a potential to put when the CART race returns to the end of the season at California to put that under the lights?
CHRIS POOK: That would be very interesting to run there under the lights. I think that again, that's up to the promoters at Fontana, whether they would like to do that. I don't think we would be adverse to it, although I haven't talked to any of our drivers about it. That would be the first protocol, what they would feel about it. You know going around there at 185 miles an hour is one thing, going around there at 240 miles an hour is another thing. I think that we have to talk to - maybe Patrick can answer it better than I could. November would be a bit tough at night because it would be kind of like Milwaukee, bloody cold. Maybe with some other time of the year would be a solution for us. Patrick, what do you think about it?
PATRICK CARPENTIER: For sure, I wouldn't run a superspeedway if there's a chance of it being cold at night. It's completely different. Going sideways at 190, it's still all right but sideways at 240 is a little bit different. Plus on a superspeedway usually when you go sideways, that's about it. Next thing you know you're on the wall. And at those speeds, with the lights, I think we'd have to run it, bring a couple of cars and have the lights and test it before we do it because it's a little bit different.
Q. Just want to congratulate you for walking out on that Indy Open Wheel Summit they tried to have in Indianapolis. I thought that was a joke. (Applause). Having said that, I was wondering if you or the board of directors had given any thought to moving the CART head quarters out of Indianapolis and maybe to more of a CART-friendly atmosphere like, well, Columbus or Cleveland?
BUD STANNER: Could probably set you up at the IMG center and you would be all ready to go.
CHRIS POOK: Actually it's very interesting in Indianapolis. The people of Indianapolis are he very, very friendly to us. In fact, it's almost difficult to go out to dinner there because people walk up to you and just say: Thank you very much for what you're doing and thank you very much for moving your company to Indianapolis. We really love what you're doing and you need to succeed. This is not all about playing with one man's toys. This is about doing something across the board for everybody. So they are very, very friendly. The town is very divided on this whole thing, I can tell you that. The restaurateurs are hurting badly. Actually this is a bit of a travesty and it is very sad. The Indianapolis 500 was one huge race and it was the whole month of May there. It started when the racetrack opens, the first day you would have 25,000, 30,000 people would show up for the first day of practice and then on the first qualifying weekend, Saturday, there will be 225,000 people there. Now, maybe 15 people show up when the track opens on the first day and I think they said there were 20,000 people there for the qualifying. And Carburetion Day, it was like 40,000 people there. It's terrible. The hotels and the restaurants who really counted on that segment of business in the month of May, it's just completely gone in the traffic and dropped off horrifically. Even the 500 itself, the rating, 4.6, I think it was, and that's come down from 8 or 9, what it was a few years ago. There were seats available. I was there - I went back to California on the Friday night, but Thursday night I was there and some guy was trying to sell me four seats to the Indy 500 on Sunday. It was just - it's terribly sad. It's terribly, terribly sad that such a huge, tremendous event, and for the whole community, could have slipped as badly as it slipped. Hopefully one of these days, I suppose either side will be able to endure a bit more pain and try to get back together. I have been trying to find a solution since I came on board CART. Unfortunately, I don't get my phone calls returned, and I have seen zero interest from them in getting back together with us, particularly on the 500. That's not to say I want to subject Patrick and Joey to racing ovals every single weekend; I'm not going to do that. But there does seem to be common ground around the 500; the way Jimmy Vasser was treat in the telecast was appalling, you would not even know he was in the race for God's sake. Admittedly, he had a mechanical failure- the fact that Paul was there and won it but was not allowed to be announced was another issue. Hopefully we can cure it and we will get back together because the race - The Indianapolis 500 - is bigger than all of us, and we need to respect it and both sides need to respect it and we need to put our differences aside and honor that race and let the best racing car drivers participate in that race as they did in the past.
Q. My name is Tom Fink and I'm from Cleveland. Historically in Cleveland, we have seen many a promising races end on that first turn, coming off the start or any subsequent restarts. Are we going to change anything for that first turn? I remember one year you had cones out that forced the cars into a single-file line instead of bouncing like ping pong-balls out there. Any ideas on that?
CHRIS POOK: From my perspective you've got to talk to Joey and Patrick about this, and also Jim who has to respond to the television viewers. I think that's a great free-for-all, the first turn, and it's one of the really characteristic things about this race circuit. These guys are always professionals and they have got to figure their way through the turn. That's their job. That's what they get paid for. You know, if one of them makes a mistake, his colleagues will talk to him about it later, I'm sure.
PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, it's our job. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't get out of that turn. I remember Greg [Moore] came in a little bit hot one time and I did too, along with some other times. Sometimes you want to make an approach that's not really there and you think it's there, and then you see that it's really not there. That's racing. That's what happened. I did one of those in Mexico. I was lucky Adrian [Fernandez] was watching his mirrors because I think I would have taken him out. I passed three guys in one turn, it was fantastic, but I needed like 200 feet more of racetrack to complete it. But that's part of racing and whatever turns we have, we've just got to try to go through it with everybody.
JIM LIBERATORE: I can assure you, you'll never see cones again.
ADAM SAAL: Joey, your thoughts on getting through turn one?
JOEY HAND: I agree. I think every track has some character. Long Beach has a long straightaway with a big draft. You could come from the eighth row and bonsai Turn 1. Cleveland is the same way. I think, leave it be. If you can't get through there, you don't deserve to get through it. And it makes for good advertising. There's a good Toyota Atlantic commercial on the SPEED Channel with the car flying through there. That was Cleveland Turn 1.
ADAM SAAL: As long as it's not you. And you can tell my life as a PR guy, I think Townsend Bell had a pretty good result in his Formula 3000 race this weekend. You may see Townsend Bell back some day, too. We want to thank everybody for hanging in there a little bit extra, along with our panel. We would also like to thank all of the volunteers, we couldn't do it without them. Thanks for helping us out with this.
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