CHAMPCAR/CART: Columbus Town Meeting notes

CART Champ Car Town Meeting plays to supportive Columbus crowd COLUMBUS (July 15, 2003) -- The popular CART Champ Car Town Meeting series returned Tuesday night to the site of its genesis as the stars of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car ...

CART Champ Car Town Meeting plays to supportive Columbus crowd

COLUMBUS (July 15, 2003) -- The popular CART Champ Car Town Meeting series returned Tuesday night to the site of its genesis as the stars of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford met the fans of Columbus, Ohio for the second consecutive year.

The Town Meeting series began in Columbus last year, and played to a supportive crowd Tuesday night that poured into the Scarlet Ballroom of the Buckeye Hall of Fame Cafe near the campus of The Ohio State University.

The crowd got the chance to fire questions to a number of the principals of CART Champ Car including team owners Derrick Walker and Bobby Rahal, CART Champ Car driver Sebastien Bourdais, CART Vice-President of Operations John Lopes and Toyota Atlantic driver Danica Patrick as well as SPEED Channel's Calvin Fish.

Rahal joined via a phone hookup, as he was on the West Coast taking care of a business commitment, but supplied the fans a reason for optimism as he gave an update on his sponsorship hunt for next year.

"There seems to be some real interest in the series from the sponsors," Rahal reported. "In the last year, most of what we heard was negative but a lot of good things are happening now with television and the racing and people are taking notice."

The Columbus Champ Car fans showed themselves to be very knowledgeable and grilled the panel with tough questions ranging from the timely calling of penalties to the future of the nearby Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course. The fans also paid homage to the late Jim Trueman, who built Mid-Ohio into one of the finest permanent road courses in the United States, with a rousing round of applause.

Lopes gave fans some key insights for next year including alerting the gathering that CART Champ Car was looking at using standing starts next year along with the fact that the series is considering giving drivers a push-to-pass button, which gives drivers an extra bit of horsepower to make a pass. He also confirmed that the series will use single-car qualifying on the Grand Prix Americas street course in Miami. Walker gave the owner's view on the mandatory pit windows, telling fans that they enhance the event.

"If we didn't have the pit windows I think we would all be making fuel economy runs which is not very exciting for the fans," Walker said. "It's not a magic bullet but it is doing what it is supposed to do for us."

The two drivers fielded many questions and regaled the crowd with some behind-the-scenes stories including Patrick discussing why she likes her current situation in the Atlantic series with Team Rahal.

"I've never been a big fan of having a teammate because I have never felt like I am the number one driver on the team, especially when I was in Europe," she said. "Now I feel like we are making gains and getting better every weekend and are trying to catch those yellow cars of A.J. Allmendinger and Aaron Justus."

The fans were then given a chance to meet and greet the panelists after the 90-minute session, taking the opportunity to ask one-on-one questions with the drivers and officials of the series. The CART Champ Car Town Meeting series will continue August 5 with a trip to Denver, site of the August 31 Centrix Financial Grand Prix of Denver.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Bobby Rahal , Calvin Fish , Sébastien Bourdais , A.J. Allmendinger , Aaron Justus , Danica Patrick