CHAMPCAR/CART: Pook, Panoz press conference, part II

An interview with Christopher R. Pook and Don Panoz Part 2 of 4 Q: I have heard some concerns about the track that's perhaps it's a little too tight and narrow and so forth. You are a street racing expert. How does it shape up from what...

An interview with Christopher R. Pook and Don Panoz

Part 2 of 4

Q: I have heard some concerns about the track that's perhaps it's a little too tight and narrow and so forth. You are a street racing expert. How does it shape up from what you have seen so far?

Chris Pook: I think those concerns are valid. Both Don's team and my team have concerns in those areas. We have to work our way through them. We have already got a track layout for 2003 that I believe will work even better for both sides, but this is the deck of cards that the city of Miami have so graciously provided with us this year and we're going to work with that deck of cards. And yes, it is tight in parts and yes, maybe it is a little slow in parts but I know our drivers will adjust. A couple of them will have a little bit of indigestion but they will adjust. And I am sure Don's drivers will adjust.

We have to look at these venues, these types of venues as not what it is exactly today. It's what we can develop it mutually into in the future. That's what this is about. This is about building a business, building a franchise. I think that's what we and the American Le Mans Series want to do together. We'll have a couple of hiccups and we'll fix them and we'll move on - nothing that we haven't endured in the past. You have been around quite a few years in this business. You have seen these hiccups come and go. We had them at Long Beach when we started. We had a hiccup at Denver. We had a hiccup when we first did Las Vegas. When Toronto came on board, it had one. Montreal, when it first came on board it had one. It's the nature of the beast. At the end of the day we have got to remember that for 362 days a year these streets are for normal passenger cars to drive on and buses and trucks and what have you. It's only for three days that we turn them into a racetrack. So we have to make the necessary adjustments in each city we go to.

Q: You guys are talking about going into it with eyes open and Chris brought up the word "marriage" and Don brought up looking at a few events down the way. Has there been any discussion of Don taking more of an active hand with CART; maybe buying some CART stock or helping in the series more in a leadership role? What do you look at as being the positive of CART and being involved with it?

Chris Pook: It is a hell of a deal right now.

Don Panoz: Chris said it, it is a good opportunity for us to work together. As far as me looking at doing a leadership role in CART, I can tell you I have got my hands full doing a leadership role in the American Le Mans Series. And I don't think that with the expertise that Chris has had over the years in not only putting on races but now being CEO of CART, that there's much that I can contribute except moral support and "attaboys," so let us go make some great racing.

My opinion is that CART shows a special type of show, open-wheel racing on road courses. It is exciting. There's passing opportunities that are coming up. Drivers have to be skilled in that, as our drivers have to be skilled in it with our different classes of cars.

And so I think that the show itself and the combination with us we'll see this weekend at Miami how it turns out, and we'll go forward looking at what we can do together to make racing better and to provide a better show for certain venues if it happens to work out that way.

But I am a supporter of CART. I am a supporter of racing. I think that racing is important. It's an important part of American life, and I have said many years ago when we first started our series and the USRRC [United States Road Racing Championship] cropped up opposite, I said then that I believe in racing and for that first year my cars raced in both series, the American Le Mans Series, and in the USRRC. Of course when Grand-Am cropped up after that that became a different story. But I do believe that good racing is what American people want to see. It's the largest sport in the country, and our job is to provide our segment of that type of racing in the best and professional fashion as we can. And anything I can do to support CART and also providing good racing, I will be there to do it.

Chris Pook: I welcome to have Don Panoz be a holder of stock in CART, and would welcome his involvement, his breath of knowledge of business is unprecedented and I can only tell you that he'd be a huge addition to us. So if Don has got a few minutes to come and participate with us whenever he can, we would welcome it with open arms in our company.

Q: You guys talked earlier about making it worth it and some of the challenges involved in having a dual effort and you are going to have to see what the yield is. Do you have specific numbers, goals in mind as for sponsorships and economic yield and as a two-part question, going into this was there any economic challenge that you did not foresee that you have run into since you started the effort?

Chris Pook: Obviously economic yield we sincerely hope that we'll be able to yield in the first year somewhere between 25 and 30, 35 million dollars yield, direct yield to the city of Miami, the greater Miami area. I mean, after all, that's why they have invited the two of us back. In gross yield, you know, somewhere in the area of 150 million dollars gross economic impact. That's what we - hopefully we'll deliver to the community.

As far as economic yield to our sponsors are concerned, that's something though that would have to be evaluated afterwards. We can think what we can deliver to the sponsors, but at the end of the day, the sponsors will tell us what they see the value in. But just looking at the older sponsors that are involved, not only in our series but at the venue here, and I suspected in Don's series, we have got folks coming from the Miami market area. Now, for the Miami market area, let me remind you that is not only the southeastern part of the United States but it's the Caribbean, and Central America and Latin America. You look at the folks that are entertaining here and who are involved in cars and sponsorship, et cetera, you will see a huge, huge wide range of sponsors, probably the widest range of sponsors to ever appear in the United States in the recent decade.

So all those things are very important to us as we go forward and how we measure it. And we'll get a feeling certainly I would say to you by the middle of the day Sunday, certainly the latest Sunday, I think that Don's management team and my management team will be able to give us the read on what folks are saying about the value of the experience for them.

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Panoz, Pook press conference, part III

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About this article
Series ALMS , IndyCar
Drivers Chris Pook , Don Panoz