Champ Car Media Conference
Topics: Champ Car
JEFF MOTLEY: Welcome. I'm going to begin by introducing our head table. I'll just go from my left to right. Chris Powell, the general manager of Las Vegas Motor Speedway. Mr. Kevin Kalkhoven, one of the owners of Champ Car World Series. And the 2003 Champ Car World Series champion and Las Vegas resident, Mr. Paul Tracy. Also on line we have another one of the owners of the Champ Car World Series, Mr. Paul Gentilozzi. And we also have another Champ Car driver and Las Vegas resident, Mr. Jimmy Vasser. At this time I'm going to hand it over to Mr. Kalkhoven, who has a very exciting announcement to make.
KEVIN KALKHOVEN: I'm an Australian, and the significance of that is only that last night when I was coming in, I saw this huge billboard that says "Thunder from Down Under" with a lot of good-looking Australians. Well, I'm not one of them, but we are going to bring you a lot of thunder very shortly. In fact, I'm delighted to say that the Champ Car World Series is pleased to announce that it's going to add the Las Vegas Motor Speedway to its 2004 race schedule with a two-day event on the 24th and 25th, sharing the weekend - and this is a first - with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. That's most definitely a first. Champ Cars are going to race under the lights on the oval, taking the green flag on the Saturday night at 9 p.m. following the truck race, which we anticipate is going to make a great doubleheader for all the fans of both series that are going to be here. When we talk about Champ Car World Series, we have found it very important to develop a partnership with the superspeedway oval, and we found that in Speedway Motorsports and the Las Vegas Motor Speedway. We're pleased to share the weekend with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. The addition of this event completes the ultimate Champ Car competition package, which is racing on superspeedways, on ovals, temporary street circuits and permanent road courses, making it the most unique and definitely the most challenging driving experience and driving championship anywhere. We're well-suited for this particular speedway. We've got a good history on superspeedways, and this track we believe is very, very well-suited to make some very exciting racing with the Champ Cars. One of the things that is kind of fun about it is it's also home for four Champ Car top drivers: Paul, of course, Jimmy Vasser, who is my co-owner in PKV Racing, and driver of the No. 12 car, and veterans Alex Tagliani and Patrick Carpentier. From a business perspective, it's important for Champ Car to be in this Las Vegas market. It's the fastest growing market in the United States, with an average of 100,000 new residents a year. Its population has increased from 400,000, according to the 1990 census, to 1.8 million now. When we look at demographics, both the audience and the television audience, we consistently enjoyed very strong TV ratings in this marketplace and we believe that is telling us that the fans who are here are strong supporters of Champ Car, but as importantly we believe that this will attract many, many fans from all the surrounding states and cities. To celebrate our inaugural race at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a special Champ Car ticket package is going to be available. Champ Car fans can purchase a Saturday reserved grandstand seat in the Earnhardt Terrace, which is that fabulous terrace that always looks as though it's completely occupied courtesy of the brilliant painting organized by Chris. Has anyone actually seen it? It really does look as it's completely full, even though there's nobody there. We have 20,000 people out there watching this press conference. Quite impressive how he's done that (laughter). To give everybody a chance to experience the thrill of the Champ Car racing, Friday will be free, and the Champ Car paddock purse and reserve grandstand seat is $61.50. Why $61.50 rather than $62, I have no idea. But then I'm just a dumb Australian, so what the heck. That is a thrilling announcement for me. I personally love these superspeedways and I absolutely love the thought that we're going to have four Las Vegas racers actually racing here - and hopefully this time all four of them will actually finish it. That's an inside joke, I'm sorry. So that's the announcement. Thank you very much.
JEFF MOTLEY: Thank you, Kevin. At this time we'd like to ask Mr. Powell if he will come up and say a few words on behalf of Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
CHRIS POWELL: Thank you, Jeff and Kevin. When we're done today, I'll give you name and address of every member of the Nevada state legislature, who you can thank for that extra $1.50 on that ticket price. This is a great day for Las Vegas Motor Speedway. It's been a long time since we hosted open-wheel racing here in Las Vegas. We believe that we have the world's most diverse racing facility. To bring open-wheel racing back to Las Vegas is very meaningful to us. We're very glad to partner with Kevin and everyone at Champ Car because we do think we're going to put on a tremendous show for the fans that night with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series starting at 7:00, and followed shortly thereafter, we think somewhere in the range of 9:00 p.m., with the Champ Car World Series cars, the most technologically advanced and fastest cars ever to compete here in Las Vegas. Glad also to have Paul Tracy here with us today and have the opportunity for four locals to compete. I know I can speak for them and say I think they're very excited about the opportunity to compete here, as well. Again, we've gone through the ticket prices. We just think that this is good not only for this speedway but this is excellent for our community as a whole because, as everyone knows who is local here in Las Vegas, the annual NASCAR event in March makes a tremendous impact on this local economy, and we're looking forward to the impact that the Champ Car and NASCAR Craftsman Truck weekend will make, as well. We will be more prepared from a traffic ingress and egress standpoint this year. We were certainly surprised and excited to have such a great crowd for the Craftsman Truck event in 2003. We think that number should only grow in 2004. So we will certainly make the traffic pattern just as accommodating to the fans as it has been in our NASCAR weekends in March over the past three or four years where we have had no problem with having everybody onto the property well in time for the event and expeditiously departing, as well. With that, Kevin, I just want to thank you for joining with us. Paul, thank you for being here. I'll pass it back over to Jeff.
JEFF MOTLEY: At this time we'd like to ask Paul Tracy if he'll come up and say a few words as both driver and local resident here.
PAUL TRACY: Hi, it's great to be here. I guess from my standpoint, I'm speaking for not only myself but the other residents that are Champ Car drivers that live here in town, I can say we're very, very excited to be racing here. All four of us have done various things here at the track, whether it's entertaining sponsors or customers or some personal things, whether it's driving at the go-kart track or myself, I've ridden at the motorcross track here, and I relish the opportunity to have a race out here. I've talked to CART in the past about: Why don't we race in Vegas? I guess the opportunity really wasn't the right opportunity. But now partnering up with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and our race on a Saturday night, a doubleheader, I think is a first for any motorsports to pull off two races at night. I'm very much looking forward to it. This is a first class facility, a world class event we're going to put on. I think we're going to help draw from the NASCAR fans and also show them a different type of a sport and hopefully bring in our own crowd. It's going to be a tremendous success. I'm very much looking forward to it in September. Thank you.
JEFF MOTLEY: Thanks, Paul. At this time we're going to go to the phone. We should have Paul Gentilozzi on line.
PAUL GENTILOZZI: Thank you. I want to echo the words spoken by my partner Kevin Kalkhoven. People around the world know about Las Vegas, and they know it as a great tourist attraction. We think that they know it a great deal for its motorsports, and Las Vegas Motor Speedway has done a wonderful job about bringing that emphasis to the world. I think that Champ Car brings a new emphasis to Las Vegas from its fans and drivers in Mexico, in Canada, from Brazil, from all over the world. Several drivers from Europe with us this year. I think we're going to bring an international focus to what can be a great motorsports event to fans all around the world. The idea of being able to run around the speedway at speeds in excess, average speeds in excess, of 210, 215 miles an hour are going to be very exciting for the fans. The privilege of racing on the same weekend as the Craftsman Truck Series is certainly ours. But my main emphasis is the fact that we're going to bring a whole new spectator to the race in Las Vegas and a worldwide audience that perhaps it hasn't seen before.
JEFF MOTLEY: Thank you, Paul. Jimmy Vasser also should be on line. Jimmy, everyone can hear you if you want to make a couple of comments.
JIMMY VASSER: Well, you know, it's hard to add any more to what's already been said by Kevin, Paul and my colleague Mr. Tracy. You know, I think it's going to be great. I've been in Las Vegas for eight years now and I've seen the speedway erected. I, too, like Paul, have been out there many times for many of the various types -- you know, there isn't another motorsport facility that has so many different types of motorsport. I've been out there for the drag races, fantastic night earlier in the year this year where the records were broken, great side-by-side 447s, I believe they were, top fuel. I owned a Sprint car for a few years with the World of Outlaws and had my car racing out there. But I'm really excited about the opportunity to come to Las Vegas Motor Speedway and actually race. Equally as excited that Champ Car was able to do the partnership with the Motor Speedway to give us a superspeedway race on our calendar, which I think is very important to our series and to myself. I really enjoy superspeedways, had some success on them, but for the championship, to round out what has always been the most challenging and the most diverse motorsports series in the world, are the road courses and the street circuits. We had a short oval at Milwaukee, and now a Superspeedway, I think it's a very, very fantastic thing for the Champ Car series. You know, really looking forward to it.
JEFF MOTLEY: Thank you. Now, we're going to take questions from here at the press conference first. If you have a question, say it and I'll repeat it so those on the teleconference can hear it, then we'll go to the teleconference.
Q. Two-part question. How long is the agreement with Champ Car to race here?
KEVIN KALKHOVEN: This year only at the superspeedway. But depending on how things go, we can happily extend this. It's very exciting for us. We love having a superspeedway event on the calendar. We'll see how it goes.
Q. The race distance?
KEVIN KALKHOVEN: It's 300 miles.
Q. Talk about why that particular date and the marriage between the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series and the Champ Cars, why the decision to run both races on the same date.
KEVIN KALKHOVEN: Well, we wanted to run on a superspeedway, that was one thing. We certainly wanted to be in Las Vegas, that was the next one. And this just seemed a tremendous marriage, which I'm certainly looking forward to very much.
Q. Will you have national TV coverage?
KEVIN KALKHOVEN: We will have the cable channel that we currently use, which is Spike. I guess it's also going to be broadcast live on HD.
PAUL GENTILOZZI: Yes, it will be broadcast life on HD Net. We're in discussion about a same-time broadcast on our other television partner.
Q. Could you address, for people who aren't familiar with that style of racing, a lot of people are coming out that are NASCAR fans, what is the appeal of this style of racing compared to what NASCAR presents?
PAUL TRACY: Well, I think one of the key things that I think brings us and doing this race with the NASCAR crowd is they're going to get the opportunity to get up close and personal with the cars and the drivers. They'll have the opportunity to get a paddock pass, to get close to the cars, see the cars up close. That really doesn't happen in NASCAR. As you guys know, it's virtually impossible to get in the garage area unless you're a team member. That's something we've always had, an open-door policy. We want the fans to be able to interact with the drivers and the teams and see the cars up close. Really on the racetrack, I'm sure it hasn't been decided what aero package we're going to run. As Paul said, they're planning on having speeds of around 210 to 215 miles an hour. We'll have an incredible race. It's a Hanford style wing like we used to run at places like Michigan or Fontana. You'll see a pack of eight to ten cars all dicing for the leads for 300 miles. It's going to come down to the very end, the guy who positions himself. So really a very similar style of racing to NASCAR but at a much higher speed.
Q. NASCAR runs a different type of tire rubber than you run. Is that going to have any effect on your cars?
PAUL TRACY: Oh, I don't think it should. I mean, the intention is to right after the race blow the track off with the jet dryers, clean it, sweep it. I'm sure it will be slippery for a few laps, but once our cars get running, you get everybody going, you know, after a few laps, the rubber will change. As the race progresses, it will be quicker and quicker.
Q. For Paul or Kevin, what is the future in your minds of oval racing in Champ Car? Is there going to continue to be a mix of races? Will we see more ovals in the future?
PAUL GENTILOZZI: I think that ovals have always been a significant part of Champ Car's history, and we haven't forgotten that. The emphasis was on road racing as we got the company reorganized. Now we're spreading our horizon. I think you'll see a larger number of ovals as we look forward.
Q. Two-part question. First of all, it's a one-year deal. Either Paul or Kevin, is it difficult for you to do a multi-year deal just because of the uncertainty surrounding the series? Paul Tracy, do you see things going in a positive way for Champ Car? How long will you hang on in the series if you see things aren't going the way you'd really like them to?
PAUL GENTILOZZI: I wanted to say, there is no uncertainty about our series. We're very certain where we're going with the series, and I think have made huge gains this year. Go ahead, Kevin.
KEVIN KALKHOVEN: I want to reemphasize that. The owners are absolutely committed to the future of the series. No one is in any doubt about that whatsoever. We knew what we were going into when we started. We're actually ahead of our business plan. Things are motoring along very nicely. We're very, very comfortable with the future. The second part of the question was for Paul Tracy.
PAUL TRACY: Well, I guess to answer the question, I feel very comfortable with the direction -- from my standpoint, I'm very comfortable with what my owner, Gerry Forsythe, Paul and Kevin are doing. I'm very pleased with how the series has been going this year. Adding races like this is only a bonus. As we sign races up for longer term in the future, like Cleveland last week has resigned for three years, and I know that they're in negotiation with the races in Canada. I would like to continue doing it. I guess from my standpoint, my motivation is always to win. This year has been a bit of a bumpy road for us. I won the first race, but we've had a bit of an up-and-down go at it. Hopefully my team owner is going to offer me a job here in the next month or so. I'll just wait and see.
Q. Kevin and Paul, this takes care of one of the two tba dates open the 2004 calendar. Can you shed any light on when we might see an announcement about the other?
PAUL GENTILOZZI: Well, I would hope, and Kevin can certainly jump in here, I would hope we get this other tba resolved in the next two weeks.
KEVIN KALKHOVEN: Anticipation is we'll have a 2005 schedule out by September, and we'll have the rest of this year sorted out very, very shortly. We're already looking very much to the 2005 season and believe that we're going to have a very exciting and interesting season.
Q. Can you comment on whether St. Petersburg is the favorite for that final slot?
PAUL GENTILOZZI: No comment on that.
KEVIN KALKHOVEN: Keep your ears and eyes open, but we're concentrating on Vegas today.
Q. Paul or Kevin, have there been any rules as far as what kind of aerodynamic package will be used?
PAUL GENTILOZZI: Well, Lee Dykstra, our tech director, is doing simulations and reviewing that package now. We'll release something to the teams pretty shortly. But it is under study. We want to be very careful about what that final aero package is based on our experience the last two years.
Q. Paul and Jimmy, is there going to be a hometown battle between the four of you in this race? Will that make it extra special and maybe little side bets going on because you are in Vegas?
JIMMY VASSER: You can count on that. You can count on that. There's been some bragging rights being thrown around for many years, so you can count on that kind of a battle.
PAUL TRACY: I guess from my standpoint, I've won a couple of races already in my hometown in Toronto. I guess I call this my second hometown here. I'm very motivated, as well as Jimmy is. I think Jimmy's got the highest success rate on these types of tracks, the superspeedway. I'll take him out to dinner a couple times to see if I can learn some tricks. You can hear him laughing at me.
JIMMY VASSER: I might need some tricks here in Toronto this weekend, Tracy, so we'll go to dinner and talk before the race weekend.
JEFF MOTLEY: Thank you. We'll break it up here for some one-on-ones.
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