Engine Manufacturer's Forum Friday, June 25, 1999 Cleveland Grand Prix Participants: Sam Scott, Ford Racing Marketing Manager Steve Potter, Supervisor, Sports Marketing Mercedes-Benz Les Unger, National Motorsports...
Engine Manufacturer's Forum
Friday, June 25, 1999 Cleveland Grand Prix
Participants: Sam Scott, Ford Racing Marketing Manager Steve Potter, Supervisor, Sports Marketing Mercedes-Benz Les Unger, National Motorsports Manager, Toyota Robert Clarke, General Manager, Honda Performance Development
QUESTION: WHEN WE HAD THIS FIRST FORUM IN HOMESTEAD EARLIER THIS YEAR A BIG TOPIC OF DISCUSSION WAS TELEVISION RATINGS. MY QUESTION IS HOW DO YOU MEASURE THE SUCCESS AND VALUE OF YOUR INVOLVEMENT IN CART AND HAVE YOU SEEN AN IMPROVEMENT SINCE THE BEGINNING OF THE YEAR IN TERMS OF MARKETING VALUE?
POTTER (MERCEDES): "One of the main issues in sports marketing in general is measuring the results of your involvement. Corporations are, out of necessity, focused on if you spend a dollar do you get back a $1.75 or do you get back $.85? Every kind of sports marketing faces that challenge. All of us in the CART community are aware that there are challenges that we face for a number of reasons, some are internally some externally. All of us have close conversations with CART and we are certainly, from our perspective at Mercedes-Benz, CART has clearly gotten a different awareness of what the problem is over the last 24 months. Things don't change overnight, CART is taking the right steps and the organization is taking the right steps and moving in the right direction so it can turn into something that we all want it to become so that everyone's investments are being better rewarded."
UNGER (TOYOTA): "I think Steve speaks to a point that all of the major sponsors, whether they are in the form of engine manufacturers or team sponsors, whether they are involved in car racing or other types of sports and so forth. I don't think anybody is happy with the current state of television viewership including CART. It's a big problem. Declining television viewership is a problem that not only affects auto racing but sports in general. Depending on the poles you look at and the surveys that are taken, even the NFL and the National Hockey League are suffering in terms of ratings. I think the key is can we all agree and come together and come up with some sort of concrete plan to improve those ratings and the exposure. The easiest thing to measure in regards to television is how many people are watching the show. Obviously another yardstick is the number of spectators at the events and the benefit you may get sponsoring the brand awareness and so forth . Television is very important, there's no questions about that."
CLARKE (HONDA): "Basically I want to echo Steve and Les's comments. But beyond that it is very difficult to measure the value of exposure. It is even compounded by the quality of the coverage, not just that it is watched but that people actually getting anything out of the broadcast? I would say that Honda uses its internal resources to gauge the value or the quality of the broadcast, not just inside corporate Honda but inside the dealerships too. We host groups of dealers at basically every event which gives us an opportunity to interface with them, to hear, ask them what they are getting out of it, what they see the value of CART racing as it gives us feedback from a captive audience."
SCOTT (FORD): "Television is obviously important but we are also looking at some other things that are important as far as media is concerned. There are over a hundred racing programs on TV every single week apart from the actual race broadcast when the cars are on the track. When you look at the coverage that we get from those programs, the internet, magazines, the papers etc., I think you will find that it is about equal to every other racing series there. I my opinion it is about equal in coverage to NASCAR from that perspective. I would say that, yes, the TV rating is less than what we want it to be but I think that's something that everybody is suffering from. Especially because we air the races on the weekends it interferes with people lifestyles. One other thing, along the same line as Robert's philosophy, we try to judge, aside from all of the technological advantages that the series offers, our dealers response and how they can effectively use the program and cascade it down to the showroom. That's where we make our sale. Over the past few years we have been benchmarking a lot of the consumer companies that are coming into racing. Most of you know that prior to 1990 most of the manufacturers in racing were primarily auto related companies. Since then there has been a tremendous influx of consumer related companies and these companies view racing a lot differently than we do and they are a lot more focused on how they use the program and go to market. So, we are trying to take advantage of some of the things that they are doing and it is clearly reaching and going out and touching the consumer at the point of sale."
LES, A QUESTIONS TO YOU. IN LONG BEACH TOYOTA STEPPED WITH AN INTERESTING STRATEGY DURING THE RACE, CAN YOU BRIEFLY TOUCH ON THAT?
UNGER (TOYOTA): "Sure. One of the things that is of concern to us at Toyota in terms of the brand and image is whether or not people feel good about the types of sporting events that Toyota gets involved with. One thing that we hear back from our advertising agency and the mail and phone calls we get is, and this doesn't just focus on CART but automobile racing in general, is that you have a race going on and there is no time out. You have all of these commercials that go on throughout the race and a lot of times you miss action during the commercial brakes and one of the things we decided to do again this year, we started doing it in 1998 during the Toyota Grand Prix broadcast, we basically got with the network indicating to them that we would convert a couple of the spots that we purchased to air during the broadcast to what they call commercial free minutes. We wanted to do something to pay off the fans who were watching the race and make sure that the last five or ten minutes of the race would run commercial free and we got some very good feedback from that. We are all looking for things that can be done to make the sport more viewer friendly and perhaps that's on of them. Again, that is a tough call to make because as a sponsor you are paying x number of dollars to run the spot and you are still paying that money but you are basically not getting your quote unquote message across. So we have worked with ABC a little bit, we have put some crawlers at the bottom of the screen and have the announcers mention the race is being brought to you commercial free by Toyota. But, it is a tough one to sell to upper management."
THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF TALK REGARDING THE RECONCILIATION BETWEEN CART AND THE IRL. FROM A MARKETING STANDPOINT HOW IMPORTANT IS THAT SOMETHING HAPPEN?
UNGER (TOYOTA): "I don't think you are going to find anyone involved in this sport or racing for that matter who doesn't think that it is something that in an ideal world needs to happen. I think that if you read the newspapers and watch television it is not just the people in open wheel racing that feel that it is a necessary thing to happen. But sometimes what you may think makes sense logically is very difficult to pass because of the emotions and feelings that are involved. Basically we have two sanctioning bodies, from what we hear, that have been having a lot of discussions and we as manufacturers and sponsors are trying to be as supportive as we can and we will do whatever we can to move everything along. It is definitely a thing that will make the sport better."
SCOTT (FORD): "There is no question, we have stated many times that we want to make this thing happen. From a manufacturers' perspective, all of us involved in the sponsors council support this and want to do everything we can to make this happen. It has to happen because this is one of the best racing series in the world and NASCAR and Formula One are at Indianapolis now so without question we all need to be there."
CLARKE (HONDA): "I think the only thing that I have to add is that their series would benefit from joining operations and I think that is key that both sides recognize that they have weaknesses than can benefit from working together."
POTTER (MERCEDES): "It was clear in 1996 that there wouldn't be a reconciliation unless both sides critical issues were addressed. The other side of that is that both sides have to want a reconciliation and will probably have to make some sacrifices and give up some things of significant value for this thing to work. Discussions are taking place and if there is to be a reconciliation it probably wouldn't happen as quickly as everyone may want. At the end of the day there is not much point of coming back together if the series is not going to work. And there are fairly dispert but sincerely held opinions about these things and there is going to be a lot of work to make this happen. But, the original question as I recall it, and I think I speak for all of us, to have one series and be able to compete at premier open wheel racing in the United States is definitely a plus. There isn't one of us that wouldn't like to see that happen. But it has to work for everyone. It's got to work for CART and it has got to work for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway or it is not going to happen."
THIS QUESTION IS PRIMARILY TO SAM AS AN AMERICAN MANUFACTURER. THERE HAS BEEN A LOT OF TALK OVER THE LAST COUPLE OF YEARS ABOUT TV RATINGS AND THEN THERE WAS THIS SPLIT. AM I MISSING SOMETHING HERE? THE TV RATINGS WERE NOT GREAT BEFORE CART SPLIT WITH THE IRL. IT SEEMS LIKE PEOPLE OFTEN TALK ABOUT THE GOOD OLD DAYS WHEN CART HAD GOOD TV RATINGS. CAN ANY OF YOU CITE WHAT THE CAUSE OF THE PROBLEM IS BECAUSE IT SEEMS LIKE WE OUGHT TO HAVE SOMETHING TO BLAME FOR IT?
SCOTT (FORD): "I think you are right, Steve, to a certain extent. The Indy 500 carried the IRL and CART when we raced there. But, first of all they weren't on the same TV package as we are now. In our opinion CART has the best television package going, it is a far superior TV package than NASCAR has when you consider that every race is on ABC or ESPN and none of the secondary cable networks. We are disappointed that with the growth of the sport the numbers should be bigger but you are right, if you look back you will see that they are on the same plane as they were before the split but we expect them to be better."
KIND OF ON THAT NOTE, ARE YOU SAYING THAT WHEN YOU HAVE MEETINGS WITH OTHERS AT FORD THEY DON'T SAY TO YOU THAT, WELL CHEVY IS NOT IN THE SERIES AND CAN'T WE KICK THEIR BUTT AT EACH RACE AND WE SEE THE RATINGS , IS THERE ANY PRESSURE TO NOT BE AS INVOLVED IN THE SERIES? I MEAN PEOPLE WITHIN FORD WHO MAY ASK IF THIS IS REALLY A SOUND DECISION?
SCOTT (FORD): "If you take a look at the casual racing enthusiast, the Ford and Chevy rivalry is the biggest rivalry in the country. Maybe even bigger than the Michigan/Ohio State rivalry. But in this series it's a bit different because it is more high tech, more sophisticated and attracts a little different audience. From our perspective we are very proud to be competing against what we consider to be the best engine manufacturers in the world."
BUT YOU SELL VEHICLES. DON'T YOU HAVE PEOPLE IN THESE MEETINGS THAT ASK IF WE ARE SELLING ENOUGH CARS THROUGH OUR INVOLVEMENT IN THE CART SERIES?
SCOTT (FORD): "You could probably say that we could be doing a little better. But, because it's not a Ford car out there so to speak it is a little more fragmented but now that we own Cosworth we have a lot of marketing opportunities with new products and I think that is going to broaden our horizons a bit. I mentioned earlier about working with our dealers. We just got our dealer group in Chicago which consists of ninety some dealers in metro Chicago to be the official vehicle of the new Chicago Motor Speedway. And they favored that over the new track in Joliet, Ill., just because of the opportunities that this track is going to afford them with this particular series. That's an area of the country that typically hasn't been that involved in racing but were excited about that opportunity. I guess to answer your question when we can cascade a program down to the dealers, get them involved and get them to spend their money to support something then we are very pleased. For the most part dealers are like any other retailer. They are going to spend their money if it going to help them sell product. They are not doing it for exposure. They think the exposure part should come from us."
MIKE ZIZZO (CART): "Steve, to follow up regarding CART. Since 1996 we have restructured our organization to address those concerns. We have a vice president of television and a full marketing staff as well."
POTTER (MERCEDES): "If I can add something to that, television is certainly important but sometimes it seems that the illusion is all it is is a TV show. Sam eluded to the fact, and I think this is critical, that there are ways that all of us leverage our involvement here. It's a simple mathematical fact that every time that one more channel is added to the average American household that the average rating for a TV show is going to go down . We are all going to live with decreasing overall television ratings. But we are also going to live with much ramped up interaction with the internet. Marketers are looking more and more at dealing with individuals more than a group. Television is a mass medium, but, if you are selling a high tech consumer durable, the trend is talking to individual consumers and television is a pretty poor way of doing that. So, television is something that we are all concerned about, we all want more ratings rather than less, but when we look out at the long term, television becomes less and less salient. It will never be unimportant, but the other channels that we speak to and interact with customers will become more important. Television is becoming less of a determining issue."
UNGER (TOYOTA): "If I can just add something. I think when you look at perhaps Toyota's involvement in motorsport, and perhaps the same for Ford, Honda and Mercedes, it is a form of advertising. You can advertise in television, billboards and newspapers and/or if you want to enhance your brand image are there other ways to do that. One of the ways you do that is going out in front of the public. In some ways it does a better job of representing your company to that audience than perhaps an ad. You turn things on and turn things off, glance over things but when you are out there competing real time in front of spectators and in front of a TV audience, there is an awareness there and an enhancement there in terms of the brand. You bring that brand down to a certain geographic area, to a certain group of dealers, through other sponsors through a business to business relationship it allows you to focus on certain segments of the public geographically and demographically. Television is important but it is not the singular focus of marketing as it was ten years ago or twenty years ago."
YOUR FOUR COMPANIES ARE LARGELY RESPONSIBLE FOR THE GROWTH AND SUCCESS OF THE SERIES, OBVIOUSLY ANY RECONCILIATION HAS TO MAKE SENSE TO YOUR COMPANIES. MY QUESTION IS WHAT WOULD MAKE SENSE IF IT CAME TO THE POINT WHERE THERE WAS SOME KIND OF EXCHANGE?
POTTER (MERCEDES): "I don't think a public statement at this time, from the perspective of Mercedes-Benz, would be counter productive. Andrew has said many time that these are things that need to go on behind closed doors. I understand why you want us to answer that question, but, I hope you prefer that eventually a solution emerges rather than talk about it and have something said in public wind up being a barrier to a solution rather than providing facilitation."
LET'S TALK ABOUT CLEVELAND FOR A MINUTE. THERE HAS BEEN SOME TALK ABOUT THIS RACE GOING AWAY. FROM YOUR STANDPOINT HOW IMPORTANT IS THIS RACE?
POTTER (MERCEDES): "It's always great to be in a major metropolitan area. I love going to natural road courses, as a club racer they are great races to drive. But when you race on the natural road courses we are on the third or fourth page of the sports section. But, when we are in Cleveland or Detroit this event owns the town for a week. There isn't a person, who is not in a coma that doesn't know that CART is racing in Cleveland this week. It is the biggest thing going on in Cleveland this week. From a local standpoint all of these type of events are terrific."
SCOTT (FORD): "This is probably one of the best races on the circuit. Like Steve said, being in a metropolitan area is very important to the series."
UNGER (TOYOTA): "It gets into the bigger picture. How many races is the optimum number of races, 16, 18, 22, 24, 26? What is the optimum to have within the United Stated, in North America and other countries? Then to have to balance that between how many short ovals, how many superspeedway races, how many road circuits, how many temporary circuits? It is a very fine balance. There is no doubt that it helps the visibility of the sport to be in a major metropolitan area. I don't think there is anyone who can argue that. The issue comes from one of balance. Is there a better opportunity out there somewhere? Perhaps not. If you are getting good exposure, on TV throughout the week, getting coverage, getting newspapers and getting fans than it makes sense to stay where you are. Unless something two or three times as big come along then it doesn't make sense to stop coming."
CLARKE (HONDA): "Obviously it is a large metropolitan area second only to the exposure that we get in Long Beach. It is a unique race in that it is a road course but everyone can see the whole track. It is a very appealing race to Honda and from a competitive standpoint I know that all of our drivers love it. It offers so many opportunities with different lines through the corners and braking patterns. It would be a shame to move it."
IT WOULDN'T BE MOVED IS ALL FOR OF YOU GUYS WANTED IT, WOULD IT? YOU GUYS ARE SAYING WHAT A GREAT EVENT IT IS BUT AT THE SAME TIME YOU WALK OUTSIDE AND PEOPLE ARE TALKING ABOUT IT ENDING. HOW DO YOU EXPLAIN THAT?
POTTER (MERCEDES): "Well we are not race organizers. That decision is between CART, IMG and the city of Cleveland."
IT DOESN'T INVOLVE YOU GUYS?
POTTER (MERCEDES): "Not in a direct fashion. I would like to think that CART calls us up every time they go to make a decision. I can tell you though that is not the reality. I think CART knows our position on what kind of events we think are good for us. We have those general discussions but at the end of the day, all kidding aside, it's really IMG's decision and CART's decision and you know what, it's a business decision. If it doesn't make sense financially to the primary parties involved, those being CART and IMG, then it won't happen. If it does make sense than it will. It's a market economy."
YOU HAVE ALL SAID IT IS A TV SHOW. I HAVE A TWO PART QUESTION. AS SOON AS THE RACE IS OVER THE COVERAGE IS OVER. IN NASCAR YOU SEE FACES AND IN CART YOU SEE HELMETS. HOW CAN THAT BE ADDRESSED? NUMBER TWO, WHEN WILL WE SEE GREG MOORE SELLING A MERCEDES OR SCOTT PRUETT SELLING A TOYOTA OR JIMMY VASSER SELLING A HONDA OR ADRIAN FERNANDEZ SELLING A TAURUS? THE MENTALITY IN AMERICA, AND TONY STEWART IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF THAT, IS THAT YOUR CAN'T UNDERSTAND THE DRIVERS IN OPEN WHEEL RACING. AT LEAST IN NASCAR TONY STEWART SAYS HE CAN UNDERSTAND WHAT THE DRIVERS ARE SAYING, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF WARD BURTON OF COURSE, BUT I WOULD LIKE YOU TO ANSWER WHY WE ARE NOT SEEING YOUR DRIVERS SELLING CARS?
SCOTT (FORD):"Well we struggle with that very point and it has to do with priorities within our division and budgets. Right now we are wrestling with our TV package because we have six new vehicles to launch next year. You have only so many dedicated TV commercials. Where you are probably going to see these drivers, and where we are using them like our NASCAR drivers, will be in PSA's similar to the ones we are developing right now with NHTSA and Michael Andretti. But also through our Tier 2 advertising, which is our local dealer organizations, because again, we are trying to get our advertising down closer to the actually customer that is going to buy the product. It is a concern and something we want to do but there are priorities within the company related to how money is allocated on vehicle products we have to launch. When you start going down to thirty second commercials from sixty second commercials and you have a lot of things to say it is difficult to do that through a racing message. If it has to do with safety and certain things like that then I think we can use it and we want to do that but again priorities within the company that make it difficult to do that."
SAM, LET ME ASK YOU QUICKLY, HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO FOR MICHAEL ANDRETTI TO SAY THAT THE THINGS THAT MAKE ME GO FAST ON THE RACE TRACK IN MY FORD POWERED RACE CAR ARE THE SAME THINGS THAT MAKE YOUR FORD TAURUS A MORE RELIABLE VEHICLE?
SCOTT (FORD): "Maybe this is a good example of what we are doing now. We have a TV advertising campaign with John Corbert who is a spokesperson so to speak, even though he is not a Michael Andretti, there is a commonality there that he affords us in our advertising across our product lines. So, for us to take and all of the sudden slide in a celebrity for one car and one ad it breaks up the continuity. That is the advertising agency and our position right now. I know what you are saying and we fight this battle all the time. As close as all of us are to the sport, racing is very popular, and I think it sells on almost every level, and I wish we could use them more there but there are just priorities that preclude us from doing that."
SAM, DOES YOUR ANSWER MEAN THAT IT IS CART'S JOB TO GET MICHAEL ANDRETTI'S FACE OUT THERE, NOT YOURS?
SCOTT (FORD): "No. It is the responsibility of all the sponsors and corporations involved in CART. One of the things that we do is work with groups like NHTSA and our other sponsors. We have this major campaign in the development that is going have Michael Andretti helping us sell cars in Chicago when we race there and we are going to be doing things in the showroom. So, we try to work with the K-mart's and the other sponsors so we can maximize our involvement and leverage ourselves together as opposed to individually."
CLARKE (HONDA): "I don't know if you have seen any of the new spots we have with Jimmy Vasser and Gil de Ferran and there is one coming out with Tony Kanaan. Our print ads now recognize the drivers. It is a difficult thing to sell management. Obviously we are in the engine business and the automobile business and we want to focus in on the technology of the engine but you have to develop that by association. Definitely Honda as a corporate entity recognizes the value of promoting the drivers and getting our value through association."
THE BUDGET AND THE MENTALITY DOESN'T SEEM TO BE THERE. ISN'T IT YOUR JOB TO PROMOTE THAT TO THE MANAGEMENT LEVEL?
UNGER (TOYOTA): "Again it is part of the overall strategy for the company on a corporate level. We have in the past had our individual dealer groups at the local level use our drivers in promotions and advertising. When you talk about it on a national basis you have to kind of integrate the dollars you are allocating with the overall message. But that being said, like our friends at Honda we are trying to put faces on drivers who are piloting Champ Cars. If you look over the past couple of years you notice that in just about all of our Champ Car ads we try to feature individual drivers, driver's personalities, and driver's faces, not just in our print ads but in our TV spots that we run. For the drivers, we have determined through our research and others that are out there, it is very important to see the faces of these guys. But there are things that make that difficult to do on television during the race because of safety obviously. They are behind a helmet in a guided missile if you will. In basketball, baseball and football, although football is a little different but they still stand on the sidelined for a part of the game, that is part of our challenge. How do you get that name or face recognition out there. It's difficult."
POTTER (MERCEDES): "I think there are issues there which are salient to all of us. Mercedes-Benz motorsport advertising is essentially geared to the motorsport audience. Motorsport for us is primarily about brand recognition. But in a larger sense I am not so sure our upper management would buy into the notion that the purpose of our advertising budget is to promote a sport. The purpose is to leverage that. If you look at the breakdown of what customers are interested in, to be candid, racing is still a niche sport. Even NASCAR, it's a big niche sport but still a niche sport, it isn't the NBA or the NFL. It doesn't have that broad appeal that necessarily makes an athlete in that sport the appropriate spokes person beyond the borders of that sport. That's my opinion. The other thing you mentioned in regards to Tony Stewart and not being able to understand a foreign accent strikes me as kind of nativist statement."
BUT THAT SEEMS TO BE THE MENTALITY OF A LOT OF AMERICAN RACE FANS. . .
POTTER (MERCEDES): "These four brands here have two things in common. One, we are all auto manufacturers and two we are all global companies. You may think of Ford is a U.S. brand, and it is, but it is much more than that. Ford is a global brand. We are all global brands. Our world doesn't end at the Atlantic and the Pacific. The world is round. Tony Stewart may not recognize that but as companies we do. Here is another piece of news, that's the direction that the world is going. You know, Tony has a sponsor that is a U.S. company and that's good and NASCAR is a very efficient way for them to reach their audience. But frankly, people in Japan don't go to the Home Depot but people in Japan all buy our brands. Yes, we are international, guilty as charged, but for my brand Mercedes-Benz, that isn't a bad thing. We are sponsors of CART and I am charmed by Gil de Ferran's accent. You know what, I can actually understand what he was saying on his cool down lap despite his Brazilian accent. There is a very powerful emotional attachment which I felt was extremely powerful. That struck me much more genuine and real than seeing a guy get out of his car, put on his hat and say my whatever, whatever, sponsor, sponsor, car company sure ran good today. I would much rather have something that is real than something that is contrived."
ZIZZO (CART): "On a lighter note, there was a driver who had an answer to Tony's statement. It was Raul Boesel and he said, 'I am sorry but english is my third language. How many does Tony Stewart speak?'"
BUT YOU ARE NOT A TYPICAL RACE FAN. THE TYPICAL RACING FAN WANTS TO SEE THAT GUYS FACE AND SEE THAT REACTION AND HEAR WHAT HE HAS TO SAY. THE FAN WANTS TO SEE THE FACE OF THE DRIVERS WHICH IS WHY NASCAR IS HAVING SUCCESS. IS IT POSSIBLE TO SAY, AND MAYBE DIFFICULT TO SAY, THAT MAYBE CART HAS MAXED OUT TV WISE IN THIS COUNTRY AND NOW THE FOCUS IS GLOBAL?
POTTER (MERCEDES): "If you look at some of the research that Chilton did, it is a year old now, that the split between the IRL and CART has split the audience. When you talk to those people who prefer the IRL then they will watch the IRL races if they prefer CART then they will watch CART races plus the Indy 500."
IT SOUNDS ALMOST IN ANSWERING THE QUESTION YOU ARE SAYING THAT IT'S TOO BAD THE RATINGS ARE NOT BETTER BUT WE ARE GLOBAL AND THAT'S WHAT WE REALLY CARE ABOUT . . .
POTTER (MERCEDES): "You made the wrong connection. We are not saying that we are global so it doesn't matter, there are two separate issues. One is television and it's declining role an a communication medium with our prospects and the other issue is that we are global companies."
I THOUGHT THAT THE QUESTION IN REGARDS TO TONY STEWART RAISES A GOOD POINT. IF YOU LOOK AT THE TOP-TEN OF TODAY'S FIELD YOU SEE TWO AMERICANS. I AM NOT SAYING THERE SHOULD BE TEN BUT WON'T YOU GUYS AT LEAST BE HONEST ENOUGH TO SAY THAT IT WOULD BE NICE TO HAVE FIVE AMERICANS IN THE TOP TEN AND WE DO BETTER IN AMERICA. INSTEAD I AM HEARING THAT WE ARE BIG IN BRAZIL AND THAT KIND OF HITS ME FUNNY.
UNGER (TOYOTA): "I don't think there is anyone that would say that it wouldn't be better to have perhaps more Americans in high visibility and high positions in the sport. We are a company now that produces a lot of cars and trucks in the United States and we are going to be producing more and more. It would be nice to have some additional American drivers out there. But, then take that answer aside and ask why do that? One of the things that makes CART attractive to a company like Toyota is that the sport has gotten tremendously competitive over the past five years. Much more so than it was back in the '70's or '80's or early '90's even when you had three or four or five cars that were capable of winning and all of the others were in the back of the bus. So what has happened in the last five years that has changed that? You look down he roster and say my god, we have some tremendously talented drivers in the series now, who, by the way, some of them aren't American drivers. But how did they get here, well, they are damn good drivers. So then you are faced with the decision of putting a quota out there and limit the number of Brazilian drivers, Italian driver and drivers from Argentina and have a quota there for American drivers. I don't think you want to do that. You want to have the best competition out there and I think CART does. But again, that being said, we need to look at how we make these drivers become better known not only on race weekend but away from the race. It starts by getting them out there, on talk shows, television shows, at a ball game, a football game, a grand opening, just getting them out there in front of the American public. That's the challenges and what we are all striving to accomplish."
SCOTT (FORD): "I think it goes beyond the drivers too. The sponsors council just did a survey that showed us a couple of things that go beyond the drivers. Unfortunately CART racing is not appointment TV such as NASCAR. You don't turn the TV on every Sunday and get a race. The average race fan may also not understand the sport and point system like there is in golf with dollars and cents. We also want to enhance the manufacturers' rivalry. For instance we want it to be known that the Ford of Michael Andretti is competing against the Honda of Jimmy Vasser similar to the rivalry we have in NASCAR with Chevy and Pontiac. I think it can enhance the sport."
ZIZZO (CART): "If I can add something. We are harping on Americans but it didn't hurt Mario Andretti, an Italian from becoming and American hero or Emerson Fittipaldi who is a Brazilian."
WELL FINDING THAT PERSONALITY TO TRANSCEND THE SPORT IS THE CHALLENGE HERE . . .
POTTER (MERCEDES): "To your point, our colleagues at Honda and Target did a great job of leveraging Alex Zanardi's personality to motorsport fans and to others who are just tuning in. As is the case with Dale Earnhardt, Jeff Gordon and others within NASCAR, people know them as if they have been to their homes without ever having shaken their hands. In CART, if a driver has been around for five years he has been around a while. In NASCAR, they are still a boy. One of the challenges that faces the entire CART community is that we need more drivers, as they do in NASCAR, and say there are a lot of places I could be but no other place I'd rather be. But, until we meet those challenges we are never going to build the personalities that are going to grab peoples attention."