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CART MEDIA CONFERENCE
August 6, 2002
TOWNHALL MEETING: COLUMBUS, OHIO
ADAM SAAL: Ladies and Gentlemen, please give a warm Mid-Ohio welcome to the host of tonight's CART town meeting, an analyst for CBS and SPEED Channel for FedEx Championship Series telecasts, and a former CART Champ car driver, Mr. Derek Daly.
DEREK DALY: Thank you. Doesn't that just get your heartbeat going? Don't you love to see stuff like that? Particularly in Ohio, right? Thank you all so much. You know, I enjoyed being part of these videos so much as a driver, having come from F-1. I got to know oval racing. It was so unique. A dangerous element. When I moved away into television, particularly with ESPN for 10 years, I learned a whole new way to look at racing. I'm telling you, this year is so different. Everybody like the different coverage this year? Isn't it just energized? You know, people say, they ask me, "What's it like on live television? Is it scary?" The interesting thing about live television is as the words are leaving your mouth, sometimes they don't quite match the picture on the screen. And I've fallen into this trap many, many times. For those of you who may be Formula 1 fans, any F-1 fans here also? I could say any type of racing in Ohio, and there's fans somewhere because they love it. They're a bit like the Canadians. I did Formula 1 on SPEED Channel for about five years. I really stepped into it big time. Actually, it was at the Grand Prix at Monaco, when Michael Schumacher had a dominant victory, in fact Ferrari finished 1, 2. Of course, myself and Bob were there talking about how great Ferrari were. When Schumacher went across the line, he put his hand in the air, just did that punch in the air like he normally does. Eddie Irvine finished second. There we are saying how great it was, what a great deal for the Ferrari team. They're just across the border in Italy, church bells ring every time this team has a Grand Prix victory. We're, of course, lauding the praises of this great team. Right as I'm going through this big dissertation, how great they are, I actually look down on my cheat sheet, we have a cheat sheet of notes we gathered during the weekend, things you might want to throw in about a particular team. I looked on the Ferrari page. Right as I looked down, the director changed to a picture of this girl on a yacht who has this these huge blue eyes, she's barely concealed by this bright red bikini, and it's right as I said, "There's two impressive red Ferraris." And it didn't quite fit the picture. She was pretty nice, though. But that's the theme for tonight. We want to have fun tonight. We are here to do a question and answer session with you. We're here to enjoy ourselves. We're here for you to enjoy yourselves. We have a wonderful panel of experts, of famous people, who have done just about everything in motor racing. They come here to Ohio because really this might be the heartbeat of CART Champ car racing. Just up the road you have Lakefront Airport. Anybody attend the race at Cleveland? And, of course, next weekend you have the Grand Prix of Mid-Ohio, probably one of the finest road courses in America, almost a favorite for everybody. There is such an involvement, such a support for CART here that when Chris Pook came up with the idea, it was a natural to come right here. Of course, it's no fluke that the support is so big here for Champ car racing because of our first guest. Our first guest, of course, has won just about everything. He went to Champ car racing, won I believe 23 races. He won in Cleveland in 1982. Was anybody there at Cleveland for Bobby Rahal's first win? Of course, his team is based here. He now moves away from being in the cockpit, retired, now he's a team owner trying to win championships as a team owner. But he has meant so much to Ohio. He appreciates all the support he gets from the people here. He's the first member on our panel tonight. Please give a very, very warm welcome to one of your own, Mr. Bobby Rahal. Bobby. The next member on our panel carries the hopes really of all CART FedEx Championship Series supporters because he now has taken the reins of this public company, he's the man that's going to make a lot of decisions. In fact, today he was making a decision about Chicago. But our next panelist really went to Long Beach, California, back in the mid '70s, took a seedy town that was famous for its strip clubs and brothels, brought a Formula 1 race there. Today it is just a giant cosmopolitan metropolis in Long Beach. Of course, it is one of our biggest events. Please welcome the new president and CEO of Championship Auto Racing Teams, over here, Mr. Chris Pook. Thank you, Chris. Let's hear it for Chris. Our next guest, of course, is a legend. He has won 52 Champ car races, had 57 poles, went to Europe, won the Formula 1 world championships, he won the CART championships, he won the Daytona 500. The only one he didn't was win was the LeMans 24-hour race. If he could go back again this year, he'd try to win it. He is a legend of our times, one of the two ambassadors of motor racing, waves the flag so proudly for CART's Champ car racing, please welcome Mario Andretti. Mario. Our next panelist of course is no stranger to the Ohio area because he spent quite a bit of time as one of the chief instructors up the road at the Mid-Ohio Racing School. He is now about to take on a really difficult job because he, at the moment, trails Wally around and is about to take the reins as the chief steward. He spends every week in the paddocks and of course in race control. He went to Daytona not too long ago and won the Daytona 24-hour race in the Corvette. Please welcome Chris Kniefel. Chris. Before we get started, we're just going to try something here. For those of you who watched the race last weekend at Vancouver, Adrian Fernandez was injured in a late race crash. He's currently in a hospital in Indianapolis. He requested that he be part of the event tonight. So we've arranged, if we can hook it up, to get Adrian on the phone because he would like to just address everybody here. Adrian, this is Derek Daly. Can you hear us?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: Yes.
DEREK DALY: We can hear you. Thank you so much for even taking the time because I know you're going through therapy. First of all, tell us, how are the injuries and how is the therapy going?
ADRIAN FERNANDEZ: (Inaudible).
DEREK DALY: Adrian, thank you. Go back to bed. We want to see you in Mid-Ohio the weekend after next. Thank you. I'm sure he can hear the applause. Thank you, Adrian. What we're going to do here is have an informal chitchat with some of the people on the panel. We're going to open it up for questions on the floor. We have Adam and John, who is over here, who have microphones. If you want to ask a question at any time, just put your hand up. John or Adam will see you, pass the microphone to you and get things off and running. We are also on a live web chat on the Internet as we speak. I know Mario and Bobby and Chris Pook have done quit a few television interviews before we even started here. I'm going to start the proceedings off here. We will have a break, just to stretch your legs, just to pay a visit, if necessary, about halfway through. I want to start it off first. Obviously, I want to start with Bobby. Over the last 20 years, CART has grown enormously. They followed your career, every move. But living here in the middle of Ohio, being part of it, now being the team owner, what type of growth, Bobby, even in the last 20 years would you say you've seen with CART Champ car racing?
BOBBY RAHAL: Well, first off, I'd just like to say what a fantastic showing. I think this just -- I'm so proud to be here in central Ohio. The passion for CART and this type of motor racing is obvious. Columbus, this area, central Ohio, has always had a very strong motorsport heritage anyway, particularly in sports car racing, road racing, but even dirt track racing, you name it. A lot of it has to do with the fact that Mid-Ohio started in the early '60s. But I think if you look at 1982, it was really the dawn of these new types of circuits. Cleveland was the first for CART, the first of many. Long Beach came not soon thereafter. Bringing in road racing brought a lot of new teams in. In 1982, Jim Trueman brought me into CART. He was a road racer. The next year Carl has came in with Mario and, of course, Paul Newman who actually had his own team joined with Carl. Doug Shearson, who I saw not too long ago, he came in with Danny Sullivan. The list goes on and on. I think if you look at the growth, I really look at the growth of whatever you want to call it, Champ car racing, really coming from the inclusion of the road races and the street races into, you know, this great heritage of open-wheel racing in this country.
DEREK DALY: Incidentally, he said thanks to everybody for being here. When I was told about this, there were 400 people preregistered. Within about five days, there were 800 people. At the last count, there were 1100 people. It escalated that rapidly, the amount of people here in this state, that wanted to be part of this town meeting tonight. I'm so glad everybody is here. Next question is for Chris Pook. Maybe one of the biggest developments in CART, in recent years certainly, is the appointment of Chris Pook as president and CEO. I think a measure of respect that people have for Chris Pook is Chris Michael told me earlier on, "Watch when Pook walks in here. I bet he gets a standing ovation," which he did as soon as he walked in the door here. Chris, you have a difficult job. There are a lot of decisions to be made. You've made a lot of them. How are things going? Are you pleased? Is it more difficult? Do you still enjoy it?
CHRIS POOK: Nice tie (laughter). Well, thank you. I, too, would like to thank all of you for coming tonight. I think the turnout is terrific. Absolutely delighted. When they told me about the concept of this town hall meeting, I said, "Gosh, you guys are really thinking. That could be great. We can really now talk to our fans and talk to people who are so meaningful to us." I thank you for coming tonight. I also want to thank my fellow panelists, Bobby, Mario and Chris, for joining us here tonight. You have three guys that know what they're talking about. Before I do answer your question, I would like to acknowledge, she's hiding in the back, but Michelle Trueman is here tonight, who is the promoter of Mid-Ohio. I'd like her to step forward.
DEREK DALY: Michelle, where are you?
CHRIS POOK: She's here. There she is, up top up there. Thank you, Michelle, for what you do for motorsports, not only for CART, but for all the forms of racing, motorcycle and four wheels, that takes place at Mid-Ohio. It's a great tradition at the racetrack. You do it well. You do it very proudly. I'm very, very grateful to you. Thank you. Derek, the answer to the question is, it probably is a little harder than I thought it would be. There were probably a couple more skeletons in the closet than I estimated to be there.
DEREK DALY: Are there any more?
CHRIS POOK: I hope not. We got most of the closets clean. We moved from Detroit, Michigan to Indianapolis, so the closets are still there. The most important thing is that I have been able to surround myself with some very, very good guys on the management team, who are now running the day-to-day of the company. That's the most important thing a CEO can ask for, is to have good solid folks that can get the job done. It goes throughout the whole company now. So we've got that all stabilized. The onslaught that took place in May on us was probably not to be unexpected. I mean, we didn't race in the month of May. It just -- it's a mistake. We need to race in the month of May. Although we do need to respect the Indianapolis 500, it is truly a great race. We don't need to be on top of that, we need to stand back, but we do need to have some activity going on. The fact that the timing of us not racing, then the whole plethora of announcements of where they were going, added fuel to the media fire. But the sad thing about it was, and I was chiding a couple members of the media tonight, I mean, nobody bothers to talk about a quarter of a million people in Monterrey, Mexico, the opening of the season with CART. Nobody bothered to talk about, you know, almost a quarter of a million people at Long Beach. These are the small little facts that got buried. We had a record crowd at Motegi in Japan. Even today, when it comes down to hard numbers, as you all know I come out of the "butts-in-seats" business. I know what counts and what doesn't count. We went over a million people at Toronto. Our friendly rivals on 16th Street, including Indianapolis, with the same number of events, they were around about 700,000. Nobody bothered to say that CART had gone over a million people. It was just sort of buried. We continue to have writers, who as I characterize tonight, there were writers that were lazy, they didn't bother to go check out facts for themselves, they just repeated what was written five, six or seven weeks earlier, didn't do any research. That's one of the things we battle, the perceptions we battle, Derek. And that's very hard to deal with, perceptions. But hopefully tonight, after this evening, the good folks in this room, you will become proactive. When you find a lazy writer, no matter whether it's an AP writer, UPI writer, Reuters writer, one of your locals, you see something that's been rehashed that isn't accurate, let them know, because there are two sides to the sheet of paper.
DEREK DALY: You can use Chris' phraseology if you like, "butts in seats" (laughter).
CHRIS POOK: That's a long-winded answer to a short question.
DEREK DALY: That's good information. Mario Andretti, among all his wins, four National Championships. Mario, you've won it all. You've seen it all. You've been everywhere. Tell us about the importance, in your mind, of the CART FedEx Championship Series to American motor racing.
MARIO ANDRETTI: Well, first of all, I also want to add my thanks for your all being here. I certainly appreciate the invitation to join this panel. To answer that question, this really goes with the reason why, for one, I support the CART series and what it stands for. I go back to my Formula 1 days, and the stint that I did back in the '70s, and I was really craving for some good road racing. I certainly wanted to devote part of my career to Formula 1. But USAC was already touching on the mix, such as road courses and ovals for a season. CART was formed while I was in Formula 1, 1978. I'm glad that I didn't have to be part of that politics. When the marquee changed name from one day to the next, first the same players stayed in place, all that sort of thing. Really from that point on, I really, really liked the direction that CART was taking because it was maintaining the core of the oval races, but it was expanding its horizons in honest and true road racing, where before with USAC, you were racing on road courses with basically an oval car, bulky gearboxes, brakes that weren't working, and all that sort of thing. So it was going in the direction, for me as a driver, that really appealed to me. I didn't want to end my career in Formula 1. I wanted to end my career here in America. And CART provided a perfect form for me as a driver to come back and do the things that I loved the most, again, a mix of things. As some of you know, obviously I always appreciated the versatility, the challenge, the versatility aspect really brought on for a driver. CART, the product, I think over the years strengthened open-wheel racing incredibly to the point that everyone was benefitting, including Indianapolis. The Indianapolis 500 was obviously -- I think the depth of the field was improving. So with that, obviously the competition. So everybody was benefitting from all of this. What you were having is really a series that would appeal to a wide range of audiences, the pure road racer all of a sudden started saying, "You know what, I like these guys. They're following their hero, they're driving CART." They were going to the oval races and vice versa. The mix obviously was very healthy. Again, even when the IRL series came on, I maintained my support for CART mainly because of the product. So, again, this continues. I think in the competitive world, we all love motor racing, I love motor racing in general. You know, a lot of people seem to want to categorize some of us, myself included, of course, to say, "Oh, gee, you know, you probably don't like the idea that NASCAR is so popular." I absolutely like the idea that NASCAR is so popular. Motor racing becomes popular. If you have more motor racing fans even that prefer that category, the chances are that they obviously will become curious and try to expand some of their desires to see how other formulas operate. That part is wonderful. There's nothing wrong with it. The only problem that I had obviously is with the formation of another league parallel to what we had, mainly because you don't fix something that's not broken. It was not needed. I think I have to get it out. In my perspective, what it has done, it has really brought sort of the quality of open-wheel racing down a few notches because that series had Indianapolis, the star of the show. This is where you were selling -- I mean, it was probably your best seller for the sponsors for the season, because of obviously the incredible exposure that you receive for that race. So when the IRL brought that race down a few notches, it hurt the overall quality -- not quality, but perception of open-wheel racing. So, again, that's what we're dealing with today. But going back to the strength of the CART product, I've been critical of the politics in CART from day one. I kind of tell it like it is. Until today, I think in recent times, quite honestly, not because Chris is here, but I think he's probably the first one, the first individual leading this parade that has really taken charge, and rightfully so.
CHRIS POOK: Thank you, Mario.
MARIO ANDRETTI: But I don't want to deviate from what I was trying to say. The reason that I think we have -- I certainly stand firm on CART's side, because I just look at it this way: if CART as a series did not have the appeal, do you think it would still be around five years after the IRL had been operating and with Indianapolis, on and on and on? No way. On the other hand, without Indianapolis, do you think the IRL would still be alive today? No chance. That's the way I look at it. That's why we press on in a positive way. Again, I think it's time to turn the tables as far as attitudes. We've heard, you know, so many negatives, "CART, will it be around?" You're damn right, it will be around, and it's because of you.
DEREK DALY: I could just listen to that Italian accent all night. For a second, I thought we were going to have to (laughter). You're full of shit, there is no politics in CART, right, Chris? Anyone ever looked up the word "politics" in the dictionary? It means blood suckers. Okay, Chris Kniefel.
CHRIS KNIEFEL: Tough act to follow.
DEREK DALY: Chris, of course, is involved in a lot of the rule making. There's been many different rules this year, Chris. Some good, some controversial. How have the rule changes gone? Have they been beneficial? The pits and the stops are probably most visible on television.
CHRIS KNIEFEL: Well, I haven't had the rule book thrown at me yet this year. That's a good thing.
DEREK DALY: It's only halfway through the season.
CHRIS KNIEFEL: Finally qualifying is back. That's a good thing.
DEREK DALY: On SPEED Channel.
CHRIS KNIEFEL: I think by and large, the rule book is always a work in progress. But, you know, hitting on some of the important things, we put the excitement back into Friday. It's been fun watching the guys go through their deal in qualifying. We've seen the (inaudible) where everyone was waiting for the last five, 10 minutes, go out there and get that perfect lap. Then, of course, last week in Vancouver, Cristiano goes out there, first guy on the track, pow, nails the pole lap. I think that just changed everything. So it's really taking on a very exciting, exciting form there. We just never know what to expect. So that's a good thing. Of course, the racing, you know, with the elimination of nursing the fuel, the fuel economy runs, it's not at all uncommon, you know this from being in the TV booth, it's not uncommon to see the fastest laps of the race come down to the last 10 laps. That's just good stuff. The guys are out there pushing hard, and that's what racing is all about.
DEREK DALY: I think Rahal won most of his races with economy runs, didn't he?
BOBBY RAHAL: You know, back then, they didn't have that little thing you could turn. Whatever you had is what you had.
DEREK DALY: We could easily talk all night. Of course, that's not what we're here for. I do want to open it to the floor. I started it off with questions for everybody. Who had their hand up first? A gentleman over here. We'll try to answer the questions as quickly as we can and get straight to the next one.
AUDIENCE: Originally Irish, living here in Columbus. Two questions, because I have the luck of the Irish.
DEREK DALY: As long as you're Irish, that's okay.
DEREK DALY: He's not drunk, so he's not really Irish.
AUDIENCE: How do you know?
DEREK DALY: Remember, you're not really drunk as long as you can still lie on the floor without holding on.
AUDIENCE: First question for Chris Pook. Why not bring a race back here to Columbus, Ohio?
CHRIS POOK: Gosh, never thought about it till you asked about it. Sure, Bobby, get a check out, write it for us, we'll be back. I'm not sure that Michelle would be too excited about that. We certainly will talk to her about it, if she'd care to promote it.
AUDIENCE: She'd get plenty of volunteers here, I think.
CHRIS POOK: I think there's a real delicate balance here. We have to respect the permanent forces we have left in this country. We've really got to work around these issues. It's important to do street racing, but it's equally as important to make sure our permanent courses remain healthy, because that's where the bulk of the testing takes place. We have to have places for these teams to test. We've got to keep them healthy. That's really critical to us.
AUDIENCE: Chris Kniefel, on the issue of safety, why not bring in tire warmers like F-1? It's a really cheap thing to do from a safety standpoint.
CHRIS KNIEFEL: Personally, I'm a big fan of tire warmers. It was something we used in the sports cars when we were racing in LeMans, whatnot. From the driver's standpoint, it's great stuff. But obviously there are cost ramifications. Again, that's something that we have dialogue on all the time. I certainly wouldn't close the door to it.
DEREK DALY: I know it is being seriously discussed as a potential option for the future.
AUDIENCE: I'm from Troy, Ohio. I just wanted you to know that our family that has expanded to 12 now has been going to Mid-Ohio for eight years. This year I had to make three weekend reservations because we did not know when the schedule was coming out. Do you have an idea when next year's schedule will be made?
CHRIS POOK: I hope to announce it at Mid-Ohio. We've just got one glitch we're working on right now with one venue.
DEREK DALY: Michelle Trueman, isn't it?
CHRIS POOK: We just have one glitch with one venue. We get that out of the way, I'm intent on announcing it. If we have to have a date tentative in there for that particular venue, so be it.
DEREK DALY: Do we know when the Mid-Ohio race is next year?
CHRIS POOK: Michelle does.
DEREK DALY: She wants to make her group reservations.
CHRIS POOK: What's the date next year, Michelle? Same weekend, there you are.
DEREK DALY: As soon as you leave the hotel, just leave your credit card.
CHRIS POOK: You see how obedient we are to our promoters?
AUDIENCE: I'm from Columbus. My question is, if we're going to really compare -- show people what we are versus that other series, let's really do it. How about two commercials. The first one we line up one of our cars versus one of their cars. Let them go one lap from a standing start and say, "Any questions?"
CHRIS POOK: You're going to get my butt kicked, aren't you?
AUDIENCE: Commercial number two. We start them up going down the hill at Road America. They go to the right-hander. The other car has to stop; they don't turn right. "Any questions?"
CHRIS POOK: When we go to the road courses, every time we have a right-hand turn, we'll cut a hole in the fence so they'll know where to go.
DEREK DALY: I think you ought to hire him for the marketing department.
AUDIENCE: I'm from Cincinnati, Ohio. I'd like to thank you guys for providing this opportunity for us tonight. This is awesome. My question is for Mario. I'd like for you to be able to assure us that you're going to keep Michael from going over to the Dark Side next year.
MARIO ANDRETTI: Well, I wish Michael could hear this applause or this reaction. Obviously, there's no decision made on his part. But, you know, it's pretty tough to control your kids anymore. Obviously, I'm doing everything possible. But, again, I think from his perspective, I think a lot of it is going to be dictated by his sponsors. There's no question Michael's heart is in CART. That even rhymes. But, again, in the business world, sometimes the way he has committed himself for that team, and the sponsors that are already there, obviously, again, some of that is going to be dictated by them. I know that the Greens themselves, they obviously feel the loyalty to CART. They are all basically background road racers. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, like anyone else, that even if he has to field a car or two in the IRL, that they will at least keep one in CART. Those possibilities, from what I understand, exist. They've done budgets for both sides. But to answer the question the best I can, I think the sponsors are going to be the ones that are going to have the last word on this one.
DEREK DALY: Mario, recently we read you may be involved as a team owner yourself. Would you like to start a collection right here?
BOBBY RAHAL: Mario, the water's fine. Come on in.
MARIO ANDRETTI: Well, after watching the way Bobby dresses and everything, as an owner, what he's driven up with, yes, it's very attractive.
DEREK DALY: You have to remember, he's spending the money Jaguar paid to get rid of him.
MARIO ANDRETTI: Again, you know, as a driver, as you can see I still am, you can see the way I'm dressed. No socks. So all that I think may change. I think Carl may be able to dress me. Seriously, we've been talking in terms of potentially me joining the Carl Haas team. I say, "Well, if I joined the team, I think we need to do something different, something that obviously would serve CART best, which would be add another car." This is what we're working on, that we could potentially field -- not potentially, that's what we want to do, field three cars. Of course, I would take a specific responsibility to one of them on a different franchise, have that one to look after in every way, have the most to say about how that is run. Again, yeah, we're working toward that very seriously. I can't see that not being able to happen. I'm always optimistic that whatever we are setting out to do I think will become a reality.
DEREK DALY: You heard it officially here.
AUDIENCE: Thank you for having this. I don't get a chance to go to any races because of my job. I took a day off today to come up here. I just really think this is wonderful. My question is for Mr. Pook or Mr. Kniefel, that we have lost some engine manufacturers. I know it was announced earlier that MG was coming on board. What have we as CART done to let the engine manufacturers out there or car makers feel like, "Okay, we went from a three and a half liter normally aspirated back to a turbo"? What are we doing to tell the manufacturers, "This is what we want to have" in order to attract them as well as other manufacturers or engine makers?
CHRIS POOK: Well, the first thing, you know, we made the change from the -- well, we never had a V8 normally aspirated, but the decision to go with that for two reasons: Number one, the financial burden that was going to be on our teams; number two, we were clearly being drawn in closer and closer to the vortex of the Dark Side, as I think it was referred to a little earlier. The more we had similarities, the darker the day became. So the third thing was that we were going to deal with a brand new engine at the end of the year, which we probably wouldn't get until December at the earliest, which put our teams in a real box, because we have a February race this coming year. So the decision was to stay with the turbo for two more years. At the same time we are talking to manufacturers around the world about what should be the engine maybe in 2005. And the conversations at the moment are leaning in the areas probably of a V10 or something like that that would be gasoline powered that is more akin to what the world's manufacturers are doing with their passenger car tires. Those conversations will continue over the next 120 days. We are talking to numerous manufacturers, getting their input. At the end of the day, what we've got to remember is that when a manufacturer invests in motor racing, they're investing it for one reason, and that's to sell automobiles to the public, no matter where the public is in the world. We have to listen to these manufacturers and make sure the climate is right. Maybe they'll all come back to us in 60 days and say, "We think you should stay with the Cosworth turbo forever." Maybe, maybe not. But we are talking to them. We are listening to them. And rest assured, by January the 15th, you will know what the engine formula is for 2005 going forward.
AUDIENCE: I'm from Columbus, Ohio. This is for Chris Kniefel. I just wanted to make a comment that I think it was great as far as your holding off on the weight issue till next year. I think it's nice that we start out a new year, "That's the decision I wanted to go with." My last comment on that, other than the compliment, is to ask kind of a rhetorical question, is are you going to add weights to Derek Daly?
CHRIS KNIEFEL: If you saw the teetering in the TV booth, there's plenty of weight up there already.
DEREK DALY: I am exactly how I raced... last week. Can I make a quick announcement here? I know we mentioned we might have a break. Do you want to have a break or continue to go straight through? We're happy to go straight through, absolutely. I do want to take a chance to tell everybody here, for those of you who are going to go to Mid-Ohio, there is on Friday, August 9th, at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, you can go and sample a taste of CART, actually enjoy some food. It is charities that will be there. There is a small fee I believe to get in because it is a charitable event. For those of you who ever see CART Friday Night, our magazine show, we're actually going to shoot CART Friday Night at the event. So please come along to see how we do our TV show. You'll see some of the drivers come in and out and enjoy a taste of CART. Let me move on to the next question.
AUDIENCE: I'm from New Washington, Ohio. I have two questions. The first question, with all the engine manufacturers going to the IRL, also I assume they're taking sponsorships with them. What is CART doing, because without money obviously you guys don't operate, what are you doing to replace that lost revenue that you'll be losing to Ford, Honda, KOOL Green, whoever else goes, to ensure the future stability of CART?
CHRIS POOK: Well, one of the things that the board has asked me to do in preparation for our board meeting on August the 27th, is to present them a plan of how I'll spend some of CART's treasury to reinvest in the company over the next two years. That's what we intend to do. Simultaneously in our marketing department we are talking about restructuring some of our relationships with sponsors who are in the series, staying in the series, to see a more structured investment from them in the sense that we can do things for them that they've not been able to get done before. We're being pretty innovative here. They can get a greater return on their investment as a result of spending with CART. It's a tough one to replace, both the Honda, Toyota, all the money they're throwing at it. But you have to understand that part of the reason why CART got into some of the difficulties it's in is because it allowed two major manufacturers to come in, throw their checkbooks around, and dominate and dictate the series. I want to remind you that once upon a time, there was a great motor racing series called IMSA that existed in this country. IMSA got in trouble because back in the very early '90s, there was a dollar-waging fight between Nissan, Jaguar, Toyota and I think Porsche was in there a little bit, but they weren't nearly as big as the other three guys. Then those three guys woke up all of a sudden one morning and said, "We're tired of putting our money in here, we're going to leave." When they left, there was a huge vacuum. So we've learned from that. I have learned from that. My staff, my team has learned from that. In our restructuring that we're doing for 2003, 2004, we're taking this into consideration so that when we stabilize this company and we reintroduce manufacturers to the program, there will be a very, very strict discipline and a protocol that will deal with the issue of who is throwing money in and who is not throwing money in. Is there a real commitment to the series or is this just buying a win and leaving afterwards? Candidly, the difficulties we've encountered over the past two or three years as a result of this money-heaving operation, it's just gone over to the Dark Side and they're going to have their fun with it now in the next two or three years.
AUDIENCE: My second question has to do with the type of courses we ran. Avid fan of Mid-Ohio, Cleveland, and I was an avid fan of the Michigan 500. First off, I'd like to (inaudible) because that provides an opportunity to take my whole family to that. I don't think Cleveland necessarily does. I can take a four-year-old and a six-year-old there. Michelle, you have a truly great family-oriented track. With the Dark Side, Michigan, Nazareth, Homestead, since we don't have any great CART (inaudible) races in America, (inaudible) what are we going to do to replace them?
CHRIS POOK: Well, one of the difficulties that we face is today on ovals, in open-wheel racing, is whether or not we can compete with NASCAR on ovals for audience attention. We have to deal with that issue. I've said since day one, Mario said it earlier tonight, you know, one of the great assets of CART is the combination of ovals and streets and permanent road courses. But when we do go to ovals and we're running, you know, in a 100,000 seat stadium such as Michigan, we're only drawing 20 some thousand folks as I think happened last Sunday, it really is a downer for those in attendance. No matter how good the racing is, it's a problem. So we've got to work our way through this issue and see, you know, how we can make it work. There's no doubt about it, that CART had some incredible races at Michigan on the oval there. And they had some incredible races at Fontana, as well, on the big oval there. But whether or not we can make the economics work for our teams and our sponsors, that's a huge question that we need to sort through. To be very candid with you right now, it's on my list, and it's more than on the radar screen, it's on the list. But I've got to do some other things first before I come back and deal with those issues. You know, we've got to make sure that all of our other venues are holding solid and hard, then come back and take a look. Whether or not we're going to be able to sit down and talk to the owners of those racetracks, see if they want to have us back, that's another issue that we have to deal with. So the chemistry in the sport is tough at the moment. We've got to work our way through it. But the first thing that we've got to do is to continue to right this series and get it back and real strong. When we get this series back up to the level where it was three or four years ago, I suspect that someone will come knocking on our door to go places as opposed to us having to go knock on their door.
DEREK DALY: The important point to remember is, like every business, what we all would like to see happen very quickly won't happen overnight. So it's a step-by-step that Chris is working through which will take, you know, years to put the whole plan into place. It may not all happen, what you specifically want, immediately. Interestingly, when Chris mentioned IMSA, I was part of the IMSA problem. I was part of the Nissan GTP team. We won just about everything. In fact, my last race at Mid-Ohio, Nissan and Jaguar left the same year, Toyota stayed one more year, I'm not sure sports car racing has survived yet and ever come back up again after the manufacturers left that particular series.
AUDIENCE: I'm from Columbus. I would like to preface my comment with the Speed coverage is awesome.
DEREK DALY: Particularly me.
AUDIENCE: The multiple-day coverage is great. With that said, I guess this is to Mr. Pook. Has the viewership on race day increased or decreased with moving to Speed, and has that had an effect on the sponsorship leaving because you can't market to people who don't have Speed?
CHRIS POOK: The viewership has increased. Let me just give you some numbers, if I may. First of all, every CART race now enjoys five and a half hours of television versus two hours last year. The second part of this equation is that Speed Channel, as it's now known, is owned by FOX. FOX is probably the most powerful media company in the world today. Just bear with me on a little anecdote here. If you recall when FOX said they're going to create a separate network, they created the FOX channel, particularly with sport. Everybody said, "That will be a disaster. It won't work. It's impossible to compete with ABC, NBC and CBS." Guess what happened? They're now the leaders in sports on television. FOX is just doing an incredible job. They created FOX News. Everybody said, "You can't compete with CNN, it's not possible." Guess what? They blew by CNN and NBC, and they're the leaders in the cable news business. Now we come to the Speed Channel. They took Speed Channel over, they had about 38 million homes last October, I think it was. So today they're at 52 million homes. By the end of the year, they'll be at 60 million homes. By the end of 2004, they'll be in 70 plus million homes. By 2005, they'll creep into the 80 plus million, where ESPN is today. Second point I want to make to you is that currently, with only 52 million homes, FOX Speed Channel is outrating ESPN and ESPN-2, who have almost 80 million homes on head-to-head broadcasts between races for Championship Auto Racing Teams in the FedEx Championship Series versus the Dark Side. They've only got 52 million homes and they keep getting better races. I suspect that answers your question about, "Has viewership increased?" The sponsors are understanding it because it's quality again. It's all about quality. It is not about quantity. Our viewers are very loyal, as you folks here tonight are incredibly loyal by giving up a Thursday evening for us tonight. So that's what it's all about. One last thing. Rest assured, rest assured, they will get these clearances done. Some of the cable folks are charging premiums now for Speed Channel. FOX is going absolutely berserk on it. They will gradually strangle it down and those premiums they're trying to charge some of the cable networks will be eliminated because they pushed the company over here to get over here.
DEREK DALY: From being involved directly in the television broadcast, one of the comments I get on a regular basis, in fact I have them here tonight, Amy, Mario's assistant was here, she said, "I love the energy you guys bring. You seem to enjoy it so much more." I will tell you, working with ESPN, one of their underlying themes was, "We're pretty good and we know what we're doing. We'd like you just to do your job and do it as best can you." FOX are the complete opposite. They say, "We're open to anything you want to do, any suggestion you want, anywhere you want to go. We're open to all those suggestions." That's why you see me in unusual places. That's why you see us doing unusual things. That's why you see us more open with drivers, and, quite frankly, them more open with us. I think the drivers now trust us so much better. We can poke at them, they can poke at us. I think it makes good, entertaining television. That is one of the biggest things that speed has brought to this whole television coverage of the CART FedEx Championship Series this year.
AUDIENCE: We live in Logan. I'm an Andretti fan to the death. Indianapolis '86, I was there. It was awesome. Anyway, my question for Mr. Pook is, there are lots of rumors going around, which I'm sure other people have heard, too, about the Dark Side and CART coming back together. I would like for you to address that. Personally, I hope that never happens.
DEREK DALY: Tonight?
AUDIENCE: No, in the future. First of all, I would just like to see the Dark Side fall off the face of the earth and be gone forever. Then as a fan's comment, I also agree that Derek, you guys drove the cars. How much better commentary can you get than that? I would like to see Speed more brought back into the form of CART. As a fan, that's why I watch CART and not the Dark Side, because street circuits, road courses and superspeedways. You have to be a jack of all trades to win at this game.
DEREK DALY: Somebody mentioned TK over here. He may not have driven Champ cars, but he is so off the wall. He is good entertainment.
CHRIS POOK: The answer to -- let me make a comment. These guys are good. The PGA has these series of ads that says, "These guys are good." Let me tell, our guys are good, they're damn good, they do a good job. Not only the drivers, but the team, the whole combination, they're very, very good. Again, I'm probably going to get in trouble here, Adam will lecture me afterwards. We tried awful hard. CART, before I came here, I think Bobby knows well, they went over and tried to make a settlement with the IRL a couple years ago. I think they really tried awfully, awfully hard. I wasn't present, but I've heard a lot about it. Basically they laid it down, and there were no takers. We tried to gain a little bit about the engine thing, then with the chassis thing. As I said in Toronto, we went over there, we dropped our trousers, there were no takers, we pulled them up and moved on. That's what we're going to do. We're going to get on and run our series. We've got to go on. We'll keep trying. We'll keep outreaching. This doesn't do any good really with all this stuff. In the meantime, we've got a business to run here. We've got excellent racing. We're not going to compromise the racing. We're going to keep just growing this company. Hopefully one of these days we can all get back together and move on down the road.
AUDIENCE: Chris, I'm from Ohio. For Michelle, I've been going to Mid-Ohio since Les owned it, opened the gates. It's a wonderful place. The improvements she's made are fantastic. My question for Chris is, I can't imagine how hard your job is, but I know you guys are doing a good one, we're all grateful for that. What I'd like to know is about the pit strategy where you open and close the pits, then you make mandatory pit stops. I'm wondering if that's an improvement or if it's a safety reason or if we just quit doing that, let them pit when they want to pit, that would be more interesting. We get a gaggle in at one time because of that strategy. I'm wondering if we thought about not doing it that way.
DEREK DALY: Before you answer that, I don't know whether we have a stage manager in charge of the lights, but could we bring them down a little bit. It's very bright and warm, if possible. I don't want Mario to pass out here.
MARIO ANDRETTI: Not me.
CHRIS KNIEFEL: I'll go ahead and address a couple of the questions. We don't have "mandatory stops." What we've done is gone ahead and established some pit windows. In other words, you cannot run more than X number of consecutive laps prior to coming in and taking on a fuel stop. All I do is just subtract the race distance back. You can determine how many number of stops, what the maximum number of consecutive laps are. Example last week at Vancouver is the lap number was 32. That's proven to give the teams multiple strategies. Again, like I said earlier, it's clearly a work in progress. There's some tweaking that can definitely be had in there. Going to the pit open, pit closed deal, what he's referring to is if we have to go full course yellow on a road course, ultimately you never want to close the pits, that's for sure. On the ovals, any time you get a yellow, the pits are automatically closed. That's automatic. In road racing, we try not to close the pits. But if we have a big crash, I'll give you an example, last week again where we had a huge deal there towards the end, you have to go full course yellow immediately without regard as to where the leader is on the track, you close the pits. The purpose of that is so you're not creating a disadvantage situation to the leader of the race. You try and get him at least 180 degrees from pit lane so you can go ahead and open the pits, that gives them ample time to get themselves in. Clearly there are other ways of doing it. In sports car racing, the pits are always open unless there's a problem in the pit lane. They're always open. You win some and you lose some. I can tell you at Daytona in 2000, we got caught out, and pow, we lost a lap. We went from leading the race to a lap down just because of catching it wrong. The way that we're doing it is trying to not disadvantage the leader of the race. It's clearly not a perfect deal, but the way that we need to work towards it is to be able to just not close the pits. You know, hopefully if we don't get bad wrecks, that helps us out.
DEREK DALY: Bobby, obviously you haven't been in the seat for so long, you watch everything from behind the pit wall. Has it worked? Do you like this? Is there something you might change?
BOBBY RAHAL: Well, I think, you know, I don't know if there's much to change really, particularly on the road circuits and street circuits. It does disadvantage the leader. In fact, I lost a race or two just because I was past the start/finish line when the yellow came out, the guy who was second wasn't there yet, he could get into the pits. I got penalized for leading the race in effect. I think you want to do everything not to close them. Let's face it, it is riskier having everybody come in at one time. If you've ever been in a pit, it's the most violent thing you'll ever see, one of those pit stops. It looks pretty peaceful from outside. I have to tell you with the cars sitting revving at 14,000 rpm, people, you kind of hold your breath. It's a very risky period of the race. But on the ovals, obviously there's not such thing as a small incident on the ovals. I think you have to control it a little bit more. But I think it's probably a no-win situation. There's probably examples where it pays off and examples where it doesn't. But I think overall it's worked pretty well. I think this year the fuel windows, the maximum number of laps you can run, has worked very, very well. People can still use strategy to get ahead in the pits. Obviously, with everything being so close, it's difficult to pass on the circuits. You know, one of the things I'm pleased about with the common engine in the future is we can get rid of things like traction control which I think have done nothing but ruin the racing. There will be other things, like you could conceivably take the fuel knob out of the car, not have the driver adjust the fuel metering. That way it gets us back to a little bit more just pure racing. But all in all, I think it's worked out pretty well so far. It's the best of maybe a bad situation. I will say one thing I was real pleased, I said it to Chris, I thought stopping the race at Vancouver was absolutely the right thing to do. It really made the last eight laps exciting.
DEREK DALY: Chris, who in race control made the call?
CHRIS POOK: Chris made the call. He's the man. This is a very difficult subject because it's a very delicate balance all the time. I want to assure you, we're constantly challenging Chris and his team, John, the operations vice president, to work with the team owners and the team managers and the engineers to see how we can tweak it just a little bit better. You know, we probably have to cut qualifying down just a little bit next year because it's a bit long with the hour, put a little more pressure on them to get out a little bit earlier, push the window a bit harder. We're going to look at the window thing and the fuel thing, definitely going to look at getting rid of the knob, adjusting the fuel. I mean, but we're not going to do drastic things. We're going to do things carefully. We're going to challenge the guys and make sure we think it through and that we've got consensus from the people who are in the trenches running the race cars during a race, because we're very sensitive to the product that you see out on the racetrack.
DEREK DALY: Mario, when Michael won Toronto two years ago, came from the back with pure strategic moves. He won Long Beach in a similar fashion. Now that you have to change tires, stay longer sometimes, doesn't that take away the chance for Michael to maybe try and do what he did in Toronto or Long Beach? Or is it better the way it is now? Would you rather see it back the way when Michael won Toronto?
MARIO ANDRETTI: I think even the way it is now, the way things fell, the way things happened his way, you know, that's the only way he could have won. Everything just went perfect. Again, no matter which way -- the present rules would not have affected the situation really, quite honestly. But I'd like to add or explain a little more this pit window that's in place right now. I, as a driver, and watching Michael struggle, trying to save fuel and everything else before, by having this mandatory lap count that you must pit, you cannot go beyond so many laps, and that's determined at each course because of the length of the lap, I think that's good because it totally discourages saving fuel. I'm so sick and tired in the pits sitting there and listening to Green tell Michael not to go fast, "Save fuel, save fuel." I've been so sick and tired of that. It changes that part which, again, you know, we're back to racing. You're back to seeing the lap times quick, quick lap times set throughout the race, you know, because nobody's holding back. That part I think is very, very healthy. I think they're definitely in the right direction in creating the type of racing that we need without holding back. Then here and there, I'm sure these guys can look back and see what happened throughout the season and maybe reassess a couple areas. But I think they touched on some very, very good points here as far as improving the competition, improving the aggressiveness of the race. I've been watching from the sidelines, too. Some of the races, even if there wasn't as much passing as you would like to see sometimes, which you can't control, but, man, were they ever, I mean, intense. Cars, everything, right there, right there, right there. That means everybody can just let it all hang out and get the maximum out of the car rather than worrying about rolling out of the throttle, closing the throttles early, doing the thing about fuel. There's a couple of guys out there that are real artists in doing that without losing a lot of time. But many others can't. So, as you could see, I think that part was really annoying, irritating, and obviously you had to do it. But now it's out of the equation so that is a great step forward. Again, I think with Chris Kniefel coming on in his position, directing the race, it brought a whole new perspective of experience in assessing the situation. I'll say it publicly, even I said it privately, I think the one thing they need to work on now is to have a green at every start no matter what, and penalize the drivers that are out of line. Again, not penalize the guys out of the race, just like a stop and go which cost you the race. If the guy's out of line, if he's the culprit of an infraction at the start, once the dust settles and you determine that, after watching the tape over and over, during the race sometimes you say, "Guy, drop back two positions," like penalize the guy two positions, so you don't kill him out of the race, but you slap him on the wrist. I guarantee you, a lot of guys will behave at the start. I think at this level the start of the race should be a green no matter what, unless you got a disaster, you know, that blocks the track, of course. But just because the cars are misaligned, you know, I feel that the integrity of the race suffers when you have these yellow starts. That's the most exciting part of the show, and it should be a definite green, so work on it.
DEREK DALY: My vote on all road courses, standing starts, right? Work on it. Work on it, right?
CHRIS POOK: They're working on it.
DEREK DALY: I don't think we'll have it by Mid-Ohio, but it might be a point of discussion.
CHRIS KNIEFEL: One thing we can't forget about Toronto 2000, 2001, with Michael's win, is we got to remember the guys that totally blew the pit strategy of the guy that had that race in his pocket. What was his name, Roger something or other? I remember Gil had that race won. Penske went down with the ship.
DEREK DALY: Do you know why we don't have standing starts? I believe the turbo chargers were so bad in the old days, you couldn't get them off the lines anyway. Nowadays the technology is so good, they make perfect starts out of the pits every time.
CHRIS POOK: We do three standing starts every race, they come out of the pits three times for standing starts, so they can do it on the grid.
DEREK DALY: Standing starts? If ever we end up with standing starts, it's because of you people in Columbus right here.
AUDIENCE: I'm from Wadsworth, Ohio. I'd like to give a general synopsis to all of you to think about. I'm a businessman, as most people are here. I do a lot of entertaining. My entertainment is through CART and golf. CART is No. 1, golf is No. 2. When I bring my clients to a race, I'd like to see more free race publicity throughout the region or the surrounding place so they're aware of it. Secondly, at the race, for newcomers, a lot of my people I bring have never seen a race. If there were more instant replay screens or more boards giving positions of the cars, to draw someone in as a new prospective fan, it would be better if you think about things like that. A lot of people I get come back and get tickets on their own.
DEREK DALY: Great point. Chris, when a race is at a city, is that up to the promoter? Does CART do separate promotions?
CHRIS POOK: We rely very heavily on our promoters. We are in the process right now of going through an interesting discussion with our promoters about whether or not the money that we spend should be spent more in concert with our promoters in the regional marketplaces, as against our spending on a national basis. The challenge before us is that, as a sanctioning body, you know, we're not in the retail business, like Proctor and Gamble, someone like that, who has a $200 million a year budget to spend on promotions. We have a limited budget. We really have to work with our promoters and see how we can maximize the yield for both parties. I think your comment's extremely valid. We will, as we move forward, take it into consideration as we look at how we create the greater awareness of our product in advance of the races and how we present it to the live audiences at our races, more visual boards at races, but we'll work that out with our promoters and come to a system. It's certainly not going to be 2003, but a good chance in 2004 that we'll get going in that direction.
DEREK DALY: I know exactly what you mean about the big screen TVs. In Canada they're big on them. In Vancouver they were all over the place. I mean, everybody in the pit lane, as soon as any of their cars go out, they're glued to what goes on on the big-screen TV. It is a great way to stay in touch with everything.
AUDIENCE: Bobby, looks like you're kind of bored, I'll open it up to you. I just wanted you to address the driver development program that you're into now with Patrick, and how is that going to help the CART series?
BOBBY RAHAL: Danika is here.
DEREK DALY: She finished fourth in Vancouver.
BOBBY RAHAL: She did a super job. I tell you, I had one guy say -- Cleveland was her first race, the Barber Dodge series, this one guy said, "Do you think she's a real racer?" I said, "Yeah, I'm pretty sure she is." Of course in the race, some South American fellow didn't take too kindly to her passing him, started banging wheels with her. She gave it right back to him. That pretty much shut him up. It's fun to see. She's a great young lady. I'm very pleased that she's joined us. I'm a big believer in the ladder program that CART has. I think it's the best one in the country, especially now with karting, the stars of tomorrow taking a bigger and bigger role, into Barber Dodge, then Toyota Atlantic, then on the Champ car. I've always felt that Atlantics is just a great category to train drivers. All have you to do is look at who was there in years past. For me personally, I think I was here -- I got into racing or was able to succeed in it through the generosity and the belief of a guy named Jim Trueman. His example is a very strong one for me personally. I think Danika is the first of several that we'll try to assist over time. I'm a great believer -- everybody complains about all these drivers from outside of the country. I'm a great believer that may the best come and compete. It's up to us to create the drivers that can compete on an international level, no matter where they come from. Karting is the beginning of that. Of course, Danika came from karting. You know, I'm a big believer in homegrown talent. I was given opportunities. In our team, Jimmy Vasser, three years ago, they tried to get him, he finally saw the light and came to our side. And there's others very interested. I'd just like to see more of our teams embrace it. Every football team has some association, every baseball team, with minor league teams. I think every CART team should do the same because all you're doing is raising your own talents. I think that's a lot more beneficial. I'm very pleased that we've taken this first sort of jump with Danika, and next year of course she'll be -- she'll be at Mid-Ohio next weekend in Barber Dodge. We've got a pretty extensive testing program for her in Atlantic. A fellow here in Columbus, Stan Ross, is helping us help her. He's a great guy. So there will be more of it. As I say, I think you have to invest in the future. The ladder system is one way of doing that.
DEREK DALY: Thanks, Bobby.
AUDIENCE: Dublin, Ohio. Fontana, right now there's only 18 teams racing in the series. Could be a possibility where a high attrition rate (inaudible). Are you going to encourage teams to run a backup car, give other drivers an opportunity that aren't currently in the series to maybe boost the field?
CHRIS POOK: Yes, I think the teams do tend to at the end of the year run an additional car. I think we've got at least two teams now that are thinking about it. And we have a team that has not participated yet this year who wants to run -- definitely run Fontana and Miami as well. So I suspect we'll see some more cars when we get there.
AUDIENCE: I'm from Columbus. I wanted to ask Chris Pook, do you think that CART has benefited from being a public corporation or was that a mistake to start with? Is there any possibility of taking it private again in the future, if so?
CHRIS POOK: It's hard for me to comment whether public company or private company. From my perspective, it is what it is. When I got there, that's what I was dealt, and I've got to work within the system. It may work better as a private company. But, again, we won't know that. It's something that I have to not concern myself with at the moment. What I've got to focus on are many more important issues. If we turn the business around, the share price will go up, and everybody will say, "Isn't it a great thing it's a public company?" If we continue to have our share prices down, then I'm sure I'll get some heat from analysts and investors. But it's a very difficult equation whether you should be public or private. I haven't really stopped to find the answer to that question.
MARIO ANDRETTI: I'll answer that. I think it was a mistake for CART to go public personally because it puts certain pressures on the company, a public company, that sometimes are very difficult to deal with. But, having said that, that's in the past. I mean, it's happened. We must do the right thing, the best thing that we can at the moment to go forward. As I said earlier, I don't think we can dwell on past mistakes. I think it will take too much positive energy that's needed to go forward with what we have.
DEREK DALY: Thank you, Mario.
AUDIENCE: Mario, Michael is not too old for a spanking.
MARIO ANDRETTI: Agreed. I can't catch him.
DEREK DALY: Maybe we can do it at Mid-Ohio. Anybody volunteer to spank Michael?
MARIO ANDRETTI: I think the fans' expression of their wishes as to what they would like to see him do could probably at this stage, especially while they're still deciding, could be very interesting in seeing how the sponsors view the situation. I'm a great believer that -- and I know there's a lot of emotion that goes with all these things. The sponsors, they don't have the answers either. You know, you have a few spin doctors in there, a few people that work for the company. Depends who influences them at the time. And they obviously make the recommendation. At the end of the day, there's no stronger message than what can come from you, the wonderful fans that love the sport like we do, expressing it. I think at the end of the day, it can make all the difference in the world.
AUDIENCE: The CART fans that went to Michigan, it was a parade.
MARIO ANDRETTI: Michigan, we've seen -- there's no -- talking about some of the oval races, Fontana, Michigan, we've seen in the past with CART. That's the part that perplexes us to some degree as far as, "Okay, we're out of Michigan." Obviously, I wish we still would be there because it's one of the traditional tracks that has been part of the Champ Car Series since the very beginning. I raced there the first race, 1970 - or '68 actually it was. Again, you hate to lose that tradition. We should have fought for it, no question. But it would have been easy to fight for it if we would have had 70, 80 thousand people in the stands like we used to have in the past. It's a very difficult situation. Exactly the same thing happened in Nazareth, in my hometown. A lot of people are coming to me and say, "Gee, save Nazareth." I said, "I can't save Nazareth, you can. You can by being there, by supporting it." CART would never walk out of any venue that's successful. So there's a cart and a horse here. That's a dilemma that we've been facing in some of these venues. When you look at what some of these road races provide, three days attendance, strong attendance. Sometimes you love to see the Friday attendance at Long Beach, on Sunday for some of the ovals. I don't know why the fans for some reason don't show up. Is it because, again, the CART/IRL thing? Again, a lot of it could be the emotions and the division of loyalties, so forth and so forth. Like what Chris says, that's probably what has to change to some degree. You know, if the fans, again, will go to some of these ovals, CART will be there forever.
AUDIENCE: We have a CART club here in Columbus. If you're interested in joining, we're in this area. Bobby, we're happy to still be in Cleveland. We know we have one more year. What does the future hold for us?
BOBBY RAHAL: About Cleveland? Are you asking me?
BOBBY RAHAL: I love Cleveland.
DEREK DALY: Sure did a couple weeks ago. The New York Yankees were in town just down the street and Cleveland was still jam packed with race fans.
BOBBY RAHAL: It's a great racetrack. That track is so much fun. It's rough, you can't see very well where the braking areas are. But, man. Mario and I had a couple of great races there. It just promotes super racing.
DEREK DALY: When Michael told me at the weekend he was going to wait for his sponsors to tell him where he's going to race, I thought, "Isn't that a bit dangerous to have somebody dictate your future?" I happen to disagree with that. I think the future of the sport is the teams. Look back on the history of motor racing. Sponsors and manufacturers come and go. When they go, your team might be left sitting there. I thought it was a poor foundation for a new team to be dictated as to where they may or may not race.
CHRIS POOK: Let me defend Michael for a second. It's difficult for Mario to do it. Michael is a great champion in the CART series, in the CART FedEx Championship Series. He has done some incredible things in this series, is a talented race car driver. He is also 40 years old, has to look at the next stage of his life. He has to address that. He's made a decision to become a team owner. I think where his heart says, "I want to stay and drive here," he also has a family to raise, he wants to run a successful business. He's going to be driven by business decisions. It's very unfortunate, it's very difficult, puts Mario in a very difficult position, puts us in a very difficult position. I think we have to respect the fact we've had 20 great years with Michael as a driver and he's obviously looking at the next stage of his career. I think we have to respect that. As difficult as it may be, we do need to step back and say, "Michael, we understand. Thanks for the great time you gave us. Good luck as a team owner. By the way, stay with us."
DEREK DALY: For those of you who saw our live qualifying show from Vancouver, I was interviewing Michael. I said, "Your old man Mario raced until he was 54. Would you consider doing the same?" His answer was, "No fricking way," on national television.
AUDIENCE: Gentleman in the back here wanted me to congratulate Paul Tracy on winning the Indy 500.
CHRIS POOK: And he did.
AUDIENCE: Now to my question. It was directed towards you, Mr. Pook. Obviously, a lot of teams want to be in the CART series, but without the sponsorship dollars, like Derek Daly was alluding to, they can't afford to be in the series, as we know like with Sigma Auto Sports and other teams. My question is, the great attendance figures are one thing. The other side of the coin, what these corporations are looking for is high television ratings. It's great that you're on the Speed Channel. With FOX Sports owning the Speed Channel, are they going to eventually put them like NASCAR on FOX, bring the dismal ratings up to high TV ratings so you can get some of these big companies to take a look at it and say, "They have great attendance figures, high TV ratings, let's throw our budget this direction because we want to (inaudible) this and be at these venues"?
CHRIS POOK: Well, one of thins we're doing is bringing the cost of racing down, which is important. So the amount of money that companies have to invest in teams hopefully will be slightly less. We're very sensitive to that issue. We're moving forward. It's not going to happen this year. We're not going to get the ratings back to the twos and threes. Across the board in television now, I think you have to look at other sports, what their ratings are. Nobody is enjoying, with the exception of probably golf, a little bit of NASCAR, nobody's really enjoying the ratings they enjoyed five or six years ago because there's just so much competition. On the television channels, you folks choose to look at other things. There's a different economic equation coming out. We're constantly creating value for sponsors and making a good argument for them to stay in the sport. We're sensitive to it. CBS is our partner on the over-the-air side. We could do 50% of our races on CBS or another network. We're working that area right now to bring bounty back to our sponsors. We're working very hard. We were down in Mexico City last week, one of Bobby's sponsors, working hard with them. Bobby knows that we're available to him for anything he needs to help his sponsors justify their investment in the program. I said the same to Mario tonight, "Whatever we can do, A, to get you in as a team owner, and B, to help you get sponsors for your team, we'll do it." We have to work through this process. It isn't just us. Just look at what happened to the NBA. The NBA made a value judgment, a value decision, that they didn't want to be on network television. They've gone to all cable. That was simply because they were concerned about the ability to deliver value to their sponsors with the cost of a 30-second commercial on over-the-air network. This whole television equation is changing rapidly. The whole economy of our country is changing rapidly. We have a different economy this year than we had last year. It's completely different. We're going to have to, you know, change the way we do business, change the way we present, change the way we show value to sponsors to bring them into sports. But we do have very good sponsors in the sport right now. I believe the majority of them are returning to us, and there are new ones coming in. We will grow the business to a new platform as we go forward with our television partners.
AUDIENCE: Eventually do you see it going from 12 races to all the races seen on a major network such as CBS?
CHRIS POOK: I don't think you're ever going to see that. We have this situation at the moment with this phenomena starting about August 15th called the NFL. The NFL is awfully hard to compete with. That's why the NBA left network television, because they could not see charging their customers $30,000, $40,000 for a 30-second spot when they were up against sport television with the NFL who were just completely outrating them. We will increase the network, but I don't think you'll ever see a hundred percent of any motorsport totally on network television, NASCAR being the exception at the moment, although their ratings are starting to wane, certain areas, certain races. You probably noticed last year there were a few of their races that went off of network, onto cable, there are a few more going off next year onto cable. It's a very delicate balance that we have to arrive at. What we have to do is have a very good relationship with our television carriers and a good communication so we understand the nature of their business and listen to them. I'm not sure in the past that CART really listens to the networks enough. If they're very important, they're very astute, smart, they know what they're doing. We need to listen hard to what they have to say.
DEREK DALY: Also think back to the early and mid '80s, a company called NASCAR went to a cable company called ESPN and said, "Would you make a commitment to our series and help build NASCAR?" ESPN said, "Yes." They were exclusively on cable while they built this freight train that has then gone on to over-the-air network. They were in a building process. I think CART is almost in the identical situation now. I don't think you can have a better cable network than Speed Channel for the sheer enthusiasm they have for actually showing how good the product is. I personally think it's a very good situation to build on.
CHRIS POOK: We're ecstatic about the relationship. They're passionate about the way they televise the sport. Terry Linger, Linger Productions, out of Indianapolis, he lives and breathes this stuff. The stuff he's doing with the in-car camera, the helmet camera, gear shift camera, we're still pushing real hard to get the floor lit so we can get what goes on with the feet. I challenged him, "We want to see the in-car of the driver coming into the turn, going out of the turn, three separate split screens below that to show what the other hand is doing on the steering wheel, the other hand is doing on the gear shift lever, and what the feet are doing (inaudible) below with the pedals." If we get that, then we'll be telling the folks at home what a racing car driver really has to do when he's at work.
DEREK DALY: Terry Linger in the early '80s was one of the producers working at ESPN when NASCAR knocked on their door and said, "We need some creative television to build our series." He's now using the same creativity for CART Champ car racing. One final question.
AUDIENCE: I'm from Reynoldsburg, Ohio. 15-year volunteer of the Detroit Grand Prix. Having watched the movie Driven, we talked about the teams, the drivers. One thing we haven't mentioned is the (inaudible). They deserve a big round of applause because they keep our drivers safe. The movie did them a big disservice because it showed like the drivers (inaudible). CART safety team is usually there before the cars stop rolling. Mr. Kniefel, if you bring the race back to Detroit, I promise I'll let you between the fences this time.
DEREK DALY: If I can make a comment about the CART safety teams. I was the driver who desperately needed the CART safety team in Michigan in 1984. Steve, who knelt down to look in my eyes to make sure I wasn't dead, is still the director of safety today. He is that passionate about controlling and directing the finest - finest by far - safety team in all of motor racing. Let me talk about the movie Driven just for a minute.
BOBBY RAHAL: Let's talk about that.
DEREK DALY: I got a call from Emerson Fittipaldi one time who said Sylvester Stallone wants to come to a driving school to learn how to drive a racing car to do a movie called Driven. I spent about 10 days with Stallone at various times in Las Vegas going through a lot of race car activities. I did a show then for Speed Channel after the movie came out, it was called the making of the movie. One of the scenes in it, as I'm sure for those of you who have seen the movie, was the Chicago (inaudible), I don't know what his name is now, made that big of an impression on me, had a fight with his girlfriend, jumped in the race car and just went down the street of Chicago. I thought, what a hokey piece to have in a movie. So I said to Stallone in the show, I said, "Wasn't that a dangerous and risky scene to put into a motorsports movie?" Do you know what he said to me? He said, "If King Kong had stayed in the jungle, would it have been as good a movie?" I thought that was a great answer from a Hollywood guy, because he said we were trying to show people down the street just how violent and rapid speed can be if a racing car is driven down the local streets. I would never have thought anything like that, but that's a Hollywood brain that thinks up stuff like that. I know Driven didn't set any records. Listen, we cannot stay any longer. I want to say thank you so much for hosting our first CART town meeting. It's the first one we've done. I would say we will end up doing this again maybe in different parts of the country with the type of reception we got here. I do want to say a quick thank you to the people at Simple Green who support the safety team, because they have specifically sponsored the event tonight, as have Pioneer. There are gifts for everybody as you leave. Pioneer and Simple Green did help sponsor this event. So please, please, again, say thank you to Bobby Rahal, Chris Pook, Mario Andretti, and Chris Kniefel. Thank you. I'm Derek Daly. It was such a pleasure.
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