CHAMPCAR/CART: Milwaukee Champ Car Town Meeting, part 2

Q: I just have two really quick questions. The first is: Why are we giving up the obviously superior coverage of the SPEED Channel and going to CBS for less-than-superior coverage? The second question is to the drivers: Have any of those ...

Q: I just have two really quick questions. The first is: Why are we giving up the obviously superior coverage of the SPEED Channel and going to CBS for less-than-superior coverage? The second question is to the drivers: Have any of those pictures of Danica ended up on anybody's tool box yet?

PAUL TRACY: I think A.J. has a crush on her. They used to race go-karts against each other. He's known her for a while.

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: There's no crush on her. It's wanting to crush her on the racetrack. Just another competitor on the track. Not a big deal.

DAVID HOBBS: Yeah, I've got her on my bedside table. You'll be glad to know that when CBS is airing the race, it's all done by SPEED Channel. They do all the show production and CBS just puts it out on their channel. And having worked with CBS for 20 years, I'm not about to bad mouth them right now. No doubt they do a superior job when it goes to auto racing and it goes right to the guys in the drum, Frank Lewis and Terry Lingner out of Indianapolis, these guys know about racing -- they are really supposed to be TV guys, but they know an awful lot about how to produce a TV show, as well, and they have enthusiasm and it really shows in all their broadcasts. The CBS will be done by SPEED Channel.

ADAM SAAL: Exactly, David. David is spot-on and I don't know if maybe I need to do a better job promoting this, but we will have the same crew who does our SPEED Channel coverage actually do CBS and that's fairly unprecedented in network coverage. Even if you buy a network package, if you have a relationship with the network you have to adhere to their production standards and their people basically, which is what we had last year. And while they did a good job they are not as familiar with our sport as Terry and his company are.

Our relationship with CBS now, one of the things we negotiated in because it's more than just a time buy, it's a total partnership, we were able to negotiate in that our production company does it. You will see the same packaging and not as -- I think the hours, it's maybe a half hour less and so forth, but it will still definitely be good. We look forward to it. We have a preview show next Sunday. I believe it goes off at -- check our Web site, but it's a one-hour preview show with qualifying from Brands on Sunday and then we have back-to-back coverage on Sunday on the 10th and 11th. The Lausitzring race will air on the 11th and I think that's the first time we'll have three consecutive weekend days of programming. I know you all are going to tune in, but tell your neighbors, as well.

DAVID HOBBS: Of course, while you're getting ready for that excitement, you'll be able to watch the Formula 1 race next Sunday morning. I can't tell you who is doing that. (Laughter). Let's move on to the next question.

Q: First of all, I want to say to David, phenomenal work, just tremendous with the uplink coverage; just tremendous (applause).

DAVID HOBBS: Thank you.

Q: I'd like to ask last year's winner of the Indy 500 to comment on this. (Cheering). I've been coming to this facility since 1969 for 34 years. My dad took me when I was a little four-year-old and I've been hooked on it since. What has troubled me over the last four or five years is the -- I think the proliferation of the engines going up to 950, almost 1,000 horsepower range, what's being addressed now that Ford Cosworth has taken over all of the engines with regard to putting on the wings that we used to have back when Paul in '92, '93 when we had tons of downforce came back to double wide, three wide in the corners, I would love to see Paul take people on the outside, that would be great to see and I would like you to just comment.

PAUL TRACY: Well, I guess the only thing I can really say is I need to be honest on this one. About five years ago, really, Michael (Andretti) and Bobby (Rahal) were the biggest guys pushing for slowing cars down on the short ovals. They thought cars were generating too much corner speed, the Gs were too high and really lobbied to have the rules change, and I feel that the racing has been terrible ever since.

You know, ever since that change, it's just been tough to -- we've gone through all of these different wing packages trying to find a solution, and now we are back to where we were five or six years ago. Granted, in that time period, the horsepower did go up. Now we're back down to about 750 horsepower where we were five or six years ago, so it's kind of come around full circle.

I think it's going to make the racing better because with the other wings, the cars were so aerodynamic-sensitive with the small wings that there was so little downforce that there was not enough grip generated by the car from the aero package, and you just couldn't experiment in trying a different line or even getting off the line because you just didn't have the grunt in the car, have enough grip to try something. I think going back now to the bigger wings is a good idea. I think for a year it's going to be good, and for Germany it's going to make it a drastically bigger track, but I was one that never really enjoyed the smaller wings. I always liked running the bigger wings.

ADAM SAAL: Don't miss Germany. It's going to be something.

DAVID HOBBS: Adam, what do you have to say about Paul not liking that rule change when they changed the wings four or five years ago as an executive --

ADAM SAAL: It reminds me of a story about Greg Moore. Greg won his first race here in 1997, I believe in Champ Car --

PAUL TRACY: Greg said, "if these guys don't want to go fast around this track then they should retire."

ADAM SAAL: Paul just stole my copy. But it was Dario's rookie year, I believe, in '97 as well and Greg and Dario got pretty tight pretty quickly and Greg says, hi, Dario, how do you like this place? And he's like, arrggh -- "this place is good for you because you're mad." And the point Greg was making is that these guys did want to slow the cars down, and I used to go over and see them -- when he moved up just like Paul did back in 1990 we would always follow him, and really I think it was just an excuse to come by and have a beer with Ric Moore every night because Greg was too young to drink, not that he would anyway. But I was talking and he was just going off, he was saying, these guys are old, they are old they want to slow these cars down and I want to go faster. I want to go faster.

He went out the next day and won his first race and followed it up the next week in Detroit. It's good to know that guys like Paul keep that spirit going today. It's racing; you want the cars to race. The cars got basically overteched, if you will. We have the benefit of having a lot of very intelligent people from a variety of manufacturers involved in this sport but when you have that many manufacturers, you're definitely going to lose control of it. And we've been able to kind of rid ourselves of some of those restraints and get back to workable package, and I know as a race fan, a lifelong race fan, I love watching these cars and I think we have the good -- like I said, Germany is going to be an eye-opener.

DAVID HOBBS: I know Greg did have the odd adult beverage because I do remember spending a tremendous evening with him and Dario at Road America. The way I remember it --

PAUL TRACY: They weren't drinking, were they?

DAVID HOBBS: Hard to believe, isn't it?

ADAM SAAL: Sounds like Dario's first win.

DAVID HOBBS: Dario, that Scottish accent, after he's had a couple of beers, you can't understand a word he says. And his wife was there, whatever her name is, Ashley something. (Laughter) she and my sales manager were there and she says: I wake up every Sunday morning to your voices chatting away about and we listen every Sunday morning while we're in bed. And when she was gone, I said, "Who was that"? (Laughter). Anyway, go on to our next question.

Q: I certainly don't know what goes into putting together a race schedule or a TV package, but I know a lot of people have been in the stands and the numbers for TV have been ridiculously low, unbelievably low and I was wondering, three races and three months to start the season all on a cable channel, I think is a tough way to get things started. I was wondering if there's any changes to be made for 2004 and earlier network broadcast race or perhaps toward the end of the season to get things rolling starting off, because I think coming up with CBS this coming weekend or next weekend it's a great thing but three races into the season I think a lot of people haven't had the chance to jump on the bandwagon yet. Wonder if you can comment about that.

ADAM SAAL: Certainly looking at a network kickoff would be a viable option. You have to constantly look at your television package. But at the same time, it's a unique year and we've proven that we can get an audience with SPEED. Can we build on it? You betcha. We are not happy with the numbers where they are at right now. We are going to continue to work with our partners at SPEED and get the numbers up. That's our obligation, not only to our sponsors but you as fans and make it available to you.

Yeah, we will certainly take a look at expanding the network package. We have discussed different types of programming, maybe have a race program and maybe have a Monday night or ten o'clock recap show with a couple of characters like Roberto Moreno sitting on a panel while Bob Varsha moderates it. Those are wild ideas we've thrown out there, but we would love to hear some of your ideas, too.

I'm not a big stock car fan but I'll tune in and watch Michael Waltrip and Kenny Schrader on their program because I find it entertaining. God knows we have enough characters in the series that we can probably make that entertaining, as well. If at the end of the day you need good sporting coverage, we'll continue to work on it. We are in good company as far as numbers. It's not excuse-making; that's a reality. Every program short of NASCAR on SPEED has taken a double-digit decrease, and that just means people are tuning in to some 24-hour news cable station to keep an eye on large events in the world. You have to make sure that we don't overreact, but you'd better believe that we are hustling to try to get the numbers up there. Certainly an additional network is something we'll look at.

DAVID HOBBS: The numbers are very disappointing because since -- beginning of last year, gone from about 45 million to 60-odd million and in a couple years' time they want to have 80 million and practically every home in the nation is going to be interested in watching the races. As Adam has said, races have decreased this year, but obviously all this business in Iraq has decimated racing, no doubt about it, IRL they are on a major network and they have very, very, very poor ratings, as well, and with Dario and Andretti jumping ship, it has not helped racing one bit. It's a very competitive world right now in TV.

ADAM SAAL: Even network news are scratching their heads. Old standbys are taking a back seat to 24 hour cable news, and it just speaks to changing universe in television and we are ready to react to it. We have in the past and we will again.

DAVID HOBBS: Let's move on to another question and hopefully not each denigrating SPEED Channel.

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Part 3
Part 4
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Series IndyCar
Drivers Michael Waltrip , Roberto Moreno , Greg Moore