CHAMPCAR/CART: Champ Car Town Meeting entertains Milwaukee fans

Milwaukee fans turn out to support CART Champ Car World Series as year's third Town Meeting meets with strong crowd approval. MILWAUKEE -- (April 28, 2003) -- The City of Milwaukee and CART Champ Car racing have one of the longest complementary...

Milwaukee fans turn out to support CART Champ Car World Series as year's third Town Meeting meets with strong crowd approval.

MILWAUKEE -- (April 28, 2003) -- The City of Milwaukee and CART Champ Car racing have one of the longest complementary relationships of any racing series in the world, with the Champ Cars having done battle at the venerable Milwaukee Mile since 1933.

That history is evident in the passion that the Wisconsin fans have for the sport, and was evidenced again Monday night as a large crowd turned out for the CART Champ Car Town Meeting where a panel of insiders from the series and the Milwaukee Mile took part in a 90-minute discussion with Champ Car fans.

The fans took the opportunity to meet and ask pointed questions of the four-man panel which included CART Champ Car World Series points leader Paul Tracy, Toyota Atlantic driver A.J. Allmendinger, Wisconsin State Fair Park CEO Joe Chrnelich and Champ Car Vice-President of Communications Adam Saal. The fans fired queries at the panel for the entire 90-minute program asking about everything from television ratings to how to better drive the race car.

Local racing great and SPEED Channel commentator David Hobbs was the host for the evening's festivities and kept the lively discussion at the Wisconsin Exposition Center moving between the drivers and the executives, providing fans with an inside look at where the series is headed.

The series conducted its third Town Meeting of the year Monday night in advance of what will be an historic 2003 Champ Car event at the Milwaukee Mile, as the May 31 event on the one-mile oval will take place at night for the first time. The event will be the showpiece of a year that saw the Wisconsin State Fair Park invest more than $20 million in renovations to create a better showcase for the fans.

"We had to ask ourselves, 'Do we want to be in the business of racing or not?'", Chrnelich told the fans. "When we talked to the drivers and they told us how important the Mile was, we felt that the proper thing to do was to make the investment and keep Wisconsin on the racing map."

Tracy, who is the defending champion of the Milwaukee Mile Centennial 250 Presented by Miller Lite, discussed many topics with the fans, giving his insight on reunification with the IRL, talking about why the cars saw aerodynamic changes in the mid 1990s to slow them down as well as what he tells critics that downplay his three-race winning streak to start the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season.

"I don't discredit what guys like (2000 and '01 CART champion) Gil de Ferran has done in the IRL just because I don't like it and they have a handful of good drivers, but we have good drivers over here too," Tracy said. "I don't care if you are winning in Formula Ford or club racing, if you are winning a lot, you can't discredit anyone's effort."

Saal addressed a number of issues dealing directly with CART, told stories of the late Greg Moore who won his first Champ Car race at Milwaukee in 1997, and also pointed directly at Milwaukee as the weekend that sparked the turnaround that the series has made over the last year.

"There was a lot of insecurity in the paddock last year, but it is gone," Saal said. "Last year we came to Milwaukee and there was a lot of doom and gloom but we had a guy (Tracy) win a race and say that this is where he wanted to be. Then Bridgestone and Ford-Cosworth stepped up and a lot of drivers and teams said that this was their sport and they were going to keep it going."

Allmendinger, who will be competing at the Mile in the Toyota Atlantic series in May with his new RuSPORT team, told of the assistance that he has gotten from his celebrated relationship with Tracy and warned fans that he was gunning to become the next American driver in the Champ Car World Series.

"People talk about the lack of American drivers in the series but I'm here to tell you that I am hoping that there will be at least one more next year -- me," he grinned. "Because of everything that Paul has done for me, I've been able to grow and our team has grown quickly due to what CART has done. The things they have done have helped everyone grow and should help us go well into the future."

The fans also voiced great appreciation for the recent restoration of the Road America event to the 2003 series schedule, which took place last week with the announcement of the running of the Mario Andretti Grand Prix at Road America. The support from the large crowd led to the meeting going on past the scheduled 90 minutes and provided a strong lead-in for what will be the sixth round of the 2003 series when the Champ Cars race at Milwaukee from May 29-31.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Gil de Ferran , Paul Tracy , Mario Andretti , David Hobbs , A.J. Allmendinger , Greg Moore