Friday, April 12 -- In the paddock at the Grand Prix of Long Beach, CART team owner Bobby Rahal sat down for a chat with several media representatives. Motorsport.com writer and photographer John Francis was there and filed this account.
Q: What is the biggest problem facing CART?
CART, like all racing series, is suffering from the cutback in available funding.
Even in Formula One, money is harder to come by. The top teams (Ferrari, McLaren, Williams, and perhaps Renault) have less to worry about, but beyond that everybody is feeling the pinch.
Q: CART only has 20 cars on the grid this year. Is this enough? What happens if any more drop out?
Look back over the history of American open wheel racing; not just CART, but the USAC days too. Twenty cars would have been considered a pretty good field for much of that time. Maybe the recent years should be considered to be the anomaly, and now we're getting back to more typical numbers. There are even questions as to whether NASCAR will be able to grid as many cars as in recent years.
Q: What does CART need to do to survive?
Nobody underestimates the problems CART has faced over the last year, or will continue to face over the coming years. CART should continue to concentrate on what it does well, and give the fans the racing that they want. And the races that fill the stands are the road course and street course events, not ovals, so perhaps that's where CART should focus.
Q: Wouldn't this turn CART into a niche product?
CART is already a niche product. To get beyond that we have to learn how to attract a wider audience. That's something NASCAR do really well - there's much more fan identification with the drivers. But to widen the appeal we need to reach a younger audience. That's something events like Long Beach can do well - with concerts on Friday and Saturday night there's something to attract more than just the race fan.
Q: Will there ever be a reconciliation between CART and the IRL?
"Ever is a long time, and never is even longer" I don't see how it could happen any time soon.
Q: If Sam Hornish walked through the paddock today, helmet in hand, could he get a ride? How well would he do?
I don't know, but I'd like to be able to find out.