CHAMP CAR MEDIA CONFERENCE
October 6, 2005
ERIC MAUK: Welcome to everyone joining us on today's Champ Car media teleconference. We have a very exciting announcement today. This announcement has to do with the HVM Racing team, a team that has been part of the Champ Car World Series for many years now. We are joined by the managing director of HVM Racing, Keith Wiggins. Thank you for joining us today.
KEITH WIGGINS: Thanks a lot.
ERIC MAUK: We are joined by a well-known name to most of you on the call, a man that needs little introduction, but I'll give him one anyway. One of the top comedians in the business, a man that many of you may know as one of the original kings of comedy, has been very busy in the last couple years making movies. You may have seen him in the Barbershop movies or Honeymooners or Johnson Family Vacation. We're pleased to be joined by the Cedric the Entertainer. Thank you for joining us today.
CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER: Glad to be here.
ERIC MAUK: We are here to announce that Cedric the Entertainer will be joining Keith and HVM Racing as a partner on what will now be known as the CTE HVM Racing Team. They will be partnering on one of the team's Champ Cars for the remainder of the 2005 season, and will be on both HVM or CTE HVM machines in the 2006 season and quite possibly beyond. Very exciting announcement. First of all, Cedric, just tell us a little bit about what interested you about Champ Car, what interested you about HVM, how it is that you got here today.
CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER: I actually got involved, just really excited about the world of auto racing. Had an opportunity to check out a few races in the last year, mainly at Long Beach. Really became excited about the opportunities of the live audience participation and the world of the Champ Car Series, seeing how appealing it was both in the United States and abroad internationally. We started talking. Met Keith, Wiggy as he's affectionately known around my friends and my crew (laughter). We started to talk about the possibilities of partnering up, adding a little excitement and flair to the Champ Car Series with my celebrity. As we continued to talk it out, it just seemed like a good fit. I was really excited about joining these guys as far as creating a race team, just mixing that with my world.
ERIC MAUK: Keith, obviously very exciting announcement for HVM and your team. Tell us about this relationship from your standpoint.
KEITH WIGGINS: Well, I think, as Cedric said, it's very exciting. We're in a world of entertainment, but it's very different to theirs. Of course, we're always looking at new angles to enhance what we're doing. Ultimately the goal is to make a championship-winning team. The opportunity to work with someone like Cedric is a great opportunity. It just gained momentum and excitement, of the potential of what we could be doing, the crossover between the industries, the excitement we could bring and the fun we could have doing it. I think since we took over the team in 2000, 2001, as you know, a great relationship with Herdez, and how the team was created and developed. I think we were pretty much -- we had a flair in the paddock. Our hospitality was always a popular place to be. This year has been a big change for us, as you know, because things have changed. We were looking for the next opportunity to take us to that next level. An opportunity to get involved with someone with Cedric's profile, work hard together to develop a really exciting team and, as I say, mix the two worlds is something we see as an opportunity and something we've worked hard to try to achieve.
ERIC MAUK: Cedric, looking at your body of work, not only in the last few years, but what you've got coming up, you have three or four projects in preproduction and filming right now. You just wrapped up filming a movie in Vancouver just last week. Can we expect to see you out at the racetrack in '06? How hands-on can you be with this squad, given your schedule?
CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER: Oh, I definitely plan to be involved according to how my schedule permits. I enjoy the races. I definitely am excited about the opportunity of making our hospitality fun and entertaining when we're at the races and I want to be a part of that, to get in and mingle with the crowds, these huge crowds that come out to see the auto racing, to be part of that energy, that live energy. As much as my schedule will permit, I will definitely participate at the races and come and be a part of the events, as well. You can expect to see me there for sure.
ERIC MAUK: Welcome to the Champ Car World Series. We're very excited about the potential of this relationship.
CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER: Thank you very much.
ERIC MAUK: We'll take questions from the media.
Q. Cedric, were you interested in getting involved in racing, period? Did the momentum of this series have anything to do with your decision to join Champ Car rather than IRL or NASCAR or any other thing? Most series are very interested in gaining a measure of diversity, yet it seems Champ Car would be out front right now.
CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER: I definitely would say that Champ Car was the most appealing to me. One, I thought it offered me the most opportunity. Especially here in the United States, the NASCAR series people are attracted to and know about as far as racing. People are attracted to that. But the Champ Car Series, it seems to offer the most opportunity for me to come in and be able to make a difference, make an immediate mark and bring something to the team. The profile of the Champ Car Series is definitely growing. I also found it beneficial to me in the sense that it had international appeal. I thought that that would really help. I could use that in both ways, both as a movie star and also being involved in the world of racing to be able to just increase the profile of the Champ Car Series, mixing it with my celebrity status, as well as taking my celebrity status and using it in this international media of racing and be able to gain appeal all around the world like that. I was excited about that and thought it offered me the best opportunity, then the opportunity, again, to make an immediate impact in this world. That's why I really looked at Champ Car. We did look around. There was a lot of people starting to get involved. Nelly is involved with the Truck Series. A few people are starting to be involved in different racing. We looked at all of them. This, along with our relationship with Keith and Kevin, just started to be something that was the most interesting for me. That's why I got involved with these guys.
Q. Cedric, how did you ever get Keith Wiggins to smile? To think we paired an entertainer with a man that never smiles, is this just part of your charm?
CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER: He still hasn't smiled yet, man (laughter). I tried to do a whole run on the different names. Wiggy, the Wigster, the Wigmeister. It didn't work. No, he's actually having a good time. I've introduced him to the new CTE lady racing girls. He seemed to have a really big smile about that.
Q. Will you use some of your past connections? Obviously the Bud Light commercials, will you have your marketing people try and maybe pursue them to help out with the sponsorship of this team?
CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER: Oh, definitely. I mean, that's really one of the main things that I'll be participating with is bringing those relationships that I have with many of the other business entities, to bring them into the world of sponsorship for our team. I'm excited about that, of course, the Anheuser-Busch, Bud Light family. I've done McDonald's, many financial agencies, just a lot of people we've done business with here. And even also looking at the opportunity of, again, promoting movies and films on the cars and having a good time with that, introducing these major studios to the opportunities that are in front of them where you have an auto car that is out there with their movie printed all over the place, the advertisement all over the track. We're going to definitely take those relationships and try to mesh these two worlds together.
KEITH WIGGINS: And I do smile - occasionally.
CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER: Occasionally (laughter).
Q. Are you going to be contributing any of your own money? What is the team setup now?
CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER: You know, the partnership I guess financially is mainly that I'm here to participate in helping to gain funds here. I did not, no, not at this time, did not look at putting any of my own money into the situation. We are going to make sure we have a winning team here, any way necessary to make sure we have a top team. Maybe Keith can talk to you a little bit more about that.
KEITH WIGGINS: My only comment on that obviously is it's a partnership. The two groups have joined together. We're putting 50/50 each into this program with their own companies to achieve a common goal.
Q. You probably haven't even sat back and thought about it yet, but basically have you two owners, you and Paul Newman, who are arguably just as popular as many of the drivers. Do you think your partnership in this is going to help get the drivers' names out there as much as the owners?
CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER: That is one thing we're excited about, the opportunity of doing this, especially with Champ Car and the series, is to bring an added profile to the drivers and make those names become household names as well so people can get more excited about who they're rooting for as well as the team names as well. I think it will allow an opportunity to tie us in with the drivers, people can become more familiar with the drivers and hopefully bring that kind of recognition to Champ Car and the series.
Q. I gather you had some conversation with Paul Newman about this program. Is that the case? Can you tell us about that?
CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER: I did have a short conversation with Mr. Newman. I mean, he is a true auto racer, auto driver, definitely an auto racing enthusiast. He's excited about that world. Again, it was just a short conversation really where I was asking about it, his interest in it. You know, Mr. Newman is not much of a talker. It was enough to get me excited about it and be a part of this world. As well as, it's a different series completely, but as well as, again, another conversation with Mr. Letterman who had interest in the world of auto racing. These are some of the people I spoke with that came from my world that had me excited about just being involved with an auto racing team.
Q. In the past we've seen Bill Cosby trying to help out. We see in NASCAR this diversity program where they're trying to turn what has historically been an all-white sport into being more diversified. Do you see yourself maybe trying to help out here with Champ Car, bringing in some diversity as far as drivers go?
CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER: You know, I think we're approaching this as an opportunity to really bring some excitement into the world of the Champ Car Series. I think it would be only natural for me to look for opportunities to increase the minority participation in here, not be a martyr for it, but definitely look for the opportunity to introduce, you know, some minorities into this world from the mechanical end, team ownership, drivers. All of these things we will definitely try to look at as something that will be a part of my involvement and participation. Keith, do you have anything on that?
KEITH WIGGINS: Obviously, we're all focused on the same goal, which is to win races and take the best drivers, whatever is necessary to do it, the same as we always have. That's an important ingredient which we're all on the same plane there. At the same time, because we're always interested to make it more interesting, there's opportunities to help drivers at different levels to come up, you're always looking at giving opportunities in areas where there might not normally be, where we can all help. Again, we're pretty (inaudible) in our own histories to even do a junior team or a ladder system to help drivers develop. When you find the right guys, they're ready to take on the challenge. We're always looking.
Q. Keith, you've struggled with finding sponsorship here these last two years. Other teams have, as well. As Cedric said, he's going to try to bring sponsorship to the team. Are you close on any kind of announcements yet?
KEITH WIGGINS: Want one more today? We've already done one (laughter).
KEITH WIGGINS: Yes, we are. As you know, the team was in pretty good shape at the end -- this year, from February onwards, we knew the big picture had changed. This year has been a tough year. We've battled through it. The whole team has been a team. The good guys have stuck together to work through it. In the meantime, we've been working very hard this year, as I mentioned earlier. Kevin has worked hard on this with us, Jason, the other group. Vince has done a great job keeping the whole program together. We've been working in the background on a number of deals. Some of those are looking very good. I think in the background obviously we've been talking about this situation for quite some time. You know, Cedric's group brings a whole heap of resources and contacts and their own marketing that more than doubles what we have. Those deals have been bubbling, as well. There's going to be a lot more momentum now after today's announcement.
ERIC MAUK: This is a team that's improved as the season has gone on. Rodolfo Lavin, one of the HVM drivers, has put up a pair of top fives since joining the squad, giving the team one of its best finishes of the 2005 season. Keith, you've talked about always wanting to give drivers some opportunities, always looking for projects, ways to help out guys, along that vein. Talk about Mexico City and fielding a car for Homero Richards?
KEITH WIGGINS: We developed ourselves as a Mexican team, of course. We have relationships there which are still strong. Obviously, there's a lot of big changes at the beginning of this year. We started the season obviously with no Mexican drivers. We've had to chop and change due to finances, which is no secret. But, you know, Rodolfo has come in and done an excellent job for us. We had a relationship with some of the partners that are supporting Homero over the period of the last couple years. Of course, Mexico City is a big event. You only plan to have two drivers, so you can't always make all of the programs work together. Mexico is a big one. There's the partners there in NEXTEL that want to support him. We're very happy to work with those guys, give him an opportunity. It's the last race of the year, go back to somewhere where we have good memories of being strong, do a good job for those guys, basically do a good service, see how he gets on.
Q. When you came to Long Beach, was there one certain thing that said, "I want to be out here, this is something I want to be a part of"?
CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER: One, it was just really looking at the amount of people there that come to this event. I thought that the opportunity for marketing, the opportunity of having a good time with a live audience, from the world of stand-up, you get that energy of having people right in front of you. I looked at that and saw the potential in the series. I met one of the owners of the series at that event. I just saw that Champ Car was growing. There was a lot of growth potential and opportunity there. It was that that made me the most excited about it. Plus I got to drive a pace car. I didn't go very fast, but I drove one (laughter).
Q. Do you have a favorite Champ Car driver?
CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER: Just starting to get the drivers. Not at this time. Not any one favorite. Whoever is going to be driving my car is going to be my favorite so far.
Q. You're going to help with one of the cars this year. Which car are you going to be helping with?
CEDRIC THE ENTERTAINER: The #4 car.
KEITH WIGGINS: That's purely a temporary situation because of the agreements we have this year. Obviously, CTE HVM Racing will be the complete team. For the last couple of races, due to some contractual issues, we're just starting it off with the one. Of course, in Mexico City there will be two cars out of the three.
Q. How important is it that this series bring in new owners? The other series has gotten a lot of new owners because of defection. How important is this decision by Cedric to come in and join in the grand scheme of things?
KEITH WIGGINS: I think it's always important to have new owners coming into a healthy environment. As you say, some have moved, maybe some will move back. You know, you need new blood. Again, we're not at the same level as Cedric, but we're still an entertainment business. Having new owners is good for the series, good for competition. But having people that are high profile of course raises the profile of the series and the awareness. There's the crossover between the different industries. I think it's invaluable to be able to, as the series grows, bring in people that are recognized, raise the profile, and everybody wins from it. I wouldn't want to say, "Priceless, for everything else there's MasterCard," but it's the right thing to do.
Q. Am I to assume this is through 2006 or is there any sort of commitment beyond 2006? Is there an interest in Cedric becoming sort of a lifelong guy like Paul Newman?
KEITH WIGGINS: This is a partnership for the long-term. Our goal is to make a business and keep going. Providing he doesn't hit me, we'll continue.
ERIC MAUK: We'll go ahead and finish up today. Thank you for your participation.
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