CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland Champ Car Town Meeting, part VI

Champ Car Cleveland Town Meeting Transcript with Christopher R. Pook, Bud Stanner, Jim Liberatore, Patrick Carpentier and Joey Hand Part 6 of 6 Q: I'm Mark from Mansfield. I'd like to thank SPEED Channel for their coverage. It's great and...

Champ Car Cleveland Town Meeting Transcript with Christopher R. Pook, Bud Stanner, Jim Liberatore, Patrick Carpentier and Joey Hand

Part 6 of 6

Q: I'm Mark from Mansfield. I'd like to thank SPEED Channel for their coverage. It's great and such an improvement over what you had before. For Pat, I was wondering from on the Cleveland race that pavement is usually really hot and flat and you were talking about the braking zones and all that, but before when you were racing in the sun, wasn't there mirages for the drivers going across the pavement like that? I wonder if that affected you at all?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: No, it seems like from the car when you go at speed, you don't -- but are you talking about...

Q: From the heat?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: No. You don't see that when you are going at speed. It's when you are standing still and looking at it then you'll see it. But then when you are in the race car driving at those speeds, you see absolutely none of that. So at night, we'll see probably even less. If there's enough heat to have that there, whatever you call that, then we are going to be in trouble during the daytime. But it's not something that we see in the race car.

Q: I heard a rumor there was going to be a name change in the series, to incorporate the CART series name back into it?

CHRIS POOK: Well, we have introduced the Champ Car brand and the CART name will stay the same. CART is the parent company. That's the company that owns all the series. So that Championship Auto Racing Teams will stay there and we will transition to Champ Car. But don't forget it's not only CART Champ Car, it's CART Toyota Atlantic as well and then we have a relationship with Stars of Tomorrow and the go-cart series Joey was talking about earlier that he was starting his career. And of course we also sanction the Barber Dodge Pro Series, but the CART name will stay.

Q: My name is Terry and I live here in Lakewood. My question is for the drivers and it's continuing on the braking zone issue. I remember a story, I think it was Jimmy Vasser who talked about at Laguna when he got to the top of the corkscrew, and there was a big pine tree that you used as a reference for braking when you got down into the corkscrew. So he gets in his car, goes around the top and gets to the top the corkscrew and the tree is gone. I was wondering since we are going at night this year, what you guys actually use as braking references for the turns and how that's going to change now that you're under the lights.

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Well, I'm going to talk to these guys where they install the light points, but they are going to be my reference where I turn.

No, for me, no reference. I never had really a lot of reference. I'm just looking at the brake marks to see where the corner is and that's all basically we would need here. But I never used any reference for braking, turning, or looking for a corner. I just look ahead and just brake when I think it's about time to do that.

JOEY HAND: I'm really the same way, I don't like using references as a tree for that reason, they could fall down or whatever. At Sears Point in California is one of my home tracks and a lot of instructors tell you to come over the rise, Turn 6 and look for a tree up above the hill on Turn 2, I never saw it, I was never looking that way.

At Cleveland, or a lot of racetracks use spots, there's always lines that mark the track out and sometimes there's a blotch in the line or there's a new piece of pavement and a lot of times you can see where the cars start braking, especially Champ Cars will start bottoming and you can use that for reference.

At night I think it's going to definitely change for those guys use you are going to have some glares off of those parts where the Champ Cars bottom. You are going to have some glares off of that. It should be interesting for them. Cleveland is unique, I remember when I was a kid, when I was younger - (Laughter) - I was waiting to hear something from Bud there.

I used to play the Champ Car game on the computer. It's called Indy Car with Paul Page or whatever and Cleveland, I always drove Cleveland because it's the most difficult for me on the computer. It was so difficult to find a reference. I was always blowing through the chicanes. When I came here for the race in 2001, I thought it was awesome.

But it is a very difficult place to see and pick up the corners, especially one in particular, coming from turn one to Turn 2, it's a big, long sweeper and you never seem to stop turning. You are always turning. You just kind of let the car go way out on the edge of the runway and you've just got to find that taxiway that you drive across. It could be 10, 12 cars wide down there, so it's quite an interesting place, again, for passing and all kind of other things. But it's one of my favorite places to come.

Q: You developed a relationship last year with the ALMS league and ran the race at Miami and will do so again this year. Any chance of looking at Road Atlanta and Sebring?

CHRIS POOK: The ALMS contract we had, we actually inherited and it has two years to go, so it is going to be what it is for the next two years.

Q: My question is more CART-running because I think that's a fabulous relationship, and given the direction sports car is going, is exactly what open-wheel is going through. They have a big split that's presenting them with the same kind of problem. I know the track at Miami was horrible, Patrick will probably agree with that.

JIM LIBERATORE: They had a lot of problems with the conditions of the facility and they are going to change that I know. But I think the combination of the two, the demographics are the same. Racing is fantastic. I think that CART should do more races with them. What do you think?

CHRIS POOK: Well, we certainly talk a lot to Scott Atherton at the American Le Mans Series and the race at Miami worked out well for both of us. We are talking on a couple of other racetracks where we can cooperate together. Road Atlanta is a wonderful racetrack, but it's pretty daunting for our guys. We'd have to have major safety improvements there particularly in the downhill portions. These guys will be coming down that hill at 250 miles an hour. It's just so fast and there's no place - if something brakes, there's no place for them to go. That's what we have to worry about. It's not their ability to drive through the corner. If the race car brakes, where is it going to go? That's what we worry about.

At Sebring, we did a Spring Training this year there and that worked out for us. Whether we will be able to run on the Sebring weekend or not, I don't know. That would be an interesting thought process.

You're right about the demographics. We line up on demographics and a lot of other areas. It's in the cards. We are talking about it and seeing how we can expand the relationship.

Q: My name is Tim from Medina. Jim, with SPEED, thank you for everything you are doing, especially the Paul Tracy helmet camp, it's outstanding especially under the lights at Milwaukee. I can only imagine seeing that same view from here at Cleveland. Keep that same camera style; keep it up, as well as the American Le Mans Series. Thank you for Le Mans, Daytona, the 12 hours at Sebring.

JIM LIBERATORE: You're welcome, you're welcome, you're welcome, you're welcome. (Laughter).

Q: Perhaps, Mr. Pook, you look at California right now they are talking about NASCAR going their Labor Day under the lights. Is there a potential to put when the CART race returns to the end of the season at California to put that under the lights?

CHRIS POOK: That would be very interesting to run there under the lights. I think that again, that's up to the promoters at Fontana, whether they would like to do that. I don't think we would be adverse to it, although I haven't talked to any of our drivers about it. That would be the first protocol, what they would feel about it. You know going around there at 185 miles an hour is one thing, going around there at 240 miles an hour is another thing. I think that we have to talk to - maybe Patrick can answer it better than I could.

November would be a bit tough at night because it would be kind of like Milwaukee, bloody cold. Maybe with some other time of the year would be a solution for us.

Patrick, what do you think about it?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: For sure, I wouldn't run a superspeedway if there's a chance of it being cold at night. It's completely different. Going sideways at 190, it's still all right but sideways at 240 is a little bit different. Plus on a superspeedway usually when you go sideways, that's about it. Next thing you know you're on the wall.

And at those speeds, with the lights, I think we'd have to run it, bring a couple of cars and have the lights and test it before we do it because it's a little bit different.

Q: Just want to congratulate you for walking out on that Indy Open Wheel Summit they tried to have in Indianapolis. I thought that was a joke. (Applause). Having said that, I was wondering if you or the board of directors had given any thought to moving the CART head quarters out of Indianapolis and maybe to more of a CART-friendly atmosphere like, well, Columbus or Cleveland?

BUD STANNER: Could probably set you up at the IMG center and you would be all ready to go.

CHRIS POOK: Actually it's very interesting in Indianapolis. The people of Indianapolis are he very, very friendly to us. In fact, it's almost difficult to go out to dinner there because people walk up to you and just say: Thank you very much for what you're doing and thank you very much for moving your company to Indianapolis. We really love what you're doing and you need to succeed.

This is not all about playing with one man's toys. This is about doing something across the board for everybody. So they are very, very friendly. The town is very divided on this whole thing, I can tell you that. The restaurateurs are hurting badly. Actually this is a bit of a travesty and it is very sad.

The Indianapolis 500 was one huge race and it was the whole month of May there. It started when the racetrack opens, the first day you would have 25,000, 30,000 people would show up for the first day of practice and then on the first qualifying weekend, Saturday, there will be 225,000 people there. Now, maybe 15 people show up when the track opens on the first day and I think they said there were 20,000 people there for the qualifying. And Carburetion Day, it was like 40,000 people there. It's terrible. The hotels and the restaurants who really counted on that segment of business in the month of May, it's just completely gone in the traffic and dropped off horrifically. Even the 500 itself, the rating, 4.6, I think it was, and that's come down from 8 or 9, what it was a few years ago. There were seats available. I was there - I went back to California on the Friday night, but Thursday night I was there and some guy was trying to sell me four seats to the Indy 500 on Sunday.

It was just - it's terribly sad. It's terribly, terribly sad that such a huge, tremendous event, and for the whole community, could have slipped as badly as it slipped.

Hopefully one of these days, I suppose either side will be able to endure a bit more pain and try to get back together. I have been trying to find a solution since I came on board CART. Unfortunately, I don't get my phone calls returned, and I have seen zero interest from them in getting back together with us, particularly on the 500. That's not to say I want to subject Patrick and Joey to racing ovals every single weekend; I'm not going to do that. But there does seem to be common ground around the 500; the way Jimmy Vasser was treat in the telecast was appalling, you would not even know he was in the race for God's sake. Admittedly, he had a mechanical failure- the fact that Paul was there and won it but was not allowed to be announced was another issue.

Hopefully we can cure it and we will get back together because the race - The Indianapolis 500 - is bigger than all of us, and we need to respect it and both sides need to respect it and we need to put our differences aside and honor that race and let the best racing car drivers participate in that race as they did in the past.

Q: My name is Tom Fink and I'm from Cleveland. Historically in Cleveland, we have seen many a promising races end on that first turn, coming off the start or any subsequent restarts. Are we going to change anything for that first turn? I remember one year you had cones out that forced the cars into a single-file line instead of bouncing like ping pong-balls out there. Any ideas on that?

CHRIS POOK: From my perspective you've got to talk to Joey and Patrick about this, and also Jim who has to respond to the television viewers. I think that's a great free-for-all, the first turn, and it's one of the really characteristic things about this race circuit. These guys are always professionals and they have got to figure their way through the turn. That's their job. That's what they get paid for. You know, if one of them makes a mistake, his colleagues will talk to him about it later, I'm sure.

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, it's our job. Sometimes you do, sometimes you don't get out of that turn. I remember Greg [Moore] came in a little bit hot one time and I did too, along with some other times. Sometimes you want to make an approach that's not really there and you think it's there, and then you see that it's really not there. That's racing. That's what happened.

I did one of those in Mexico. I was lucky Adrian [Fernandez] was watching his mirrors because I think I would have taken him out. I passed three guys in one turn, it was fantastic, but I needed like 200 feet more of racetrack to complete it. But that's part of racing and whatever turns we have, we've just got to try to go through it with everybody.

JIM LIBERATORE: I can assure you, you'll never see cones again.

ADAM SAAL: Joey, your thoughts on getting through turn one?

JOEY HAND: I agree. I think every track has some character. Long Beach has a long straightaway with a big draft. You could come from the eighth row and bonsai Turn 1. Cleveland is the same way.

I think, leave it be. If you can't get through there, you don't deserve to get through it. And it makes for good advertising. There's a good Toyota Atlantic commercial on the SPEED Channel with the car flying through there. That was Cleveland Turn 1.

ADAM SAAL: As long as it's not you. And you can tell my life as a PR guy, I think Townsend Bell had a pretty good result in his Formula 3000 race this weekend. You may see Townsend Bell back some day, too.

We want to thank everybody for hanging in there a little bit extra, along with our panel. We would also like to thank all of the volunteers, we couldn't do it without them. Thanks for helping us out with this.

Part I

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Joey Hand , Townsend Bell