CHAMPCAR/CART: Pook's take on present and future

Chris Pook, talking candidly and confidently with a group of reporters at the CART Chicago Grand Prix, laid out some more clues about Championship Auto Racing Team's future direction and his take on how things currently stand in CART's world. In...

Chris Pook, talking candidly and confidently with a group of reporters at the CART Chicago Grand Prix, laid out some more clues about Championship Auto Racing Team's future direction and his take on how things currently stand in CART's world.

In his (or CART's) clearest statements to date about the shape of the rules package for 2005 and beyond, Pook said that CART would go the direction that the manufacturers want to go. Specifically, he said they would be using normally aspirated, gasoline-powered engines with onboard starters and that they would not be a V8 configuration.

In regard to the interim package to be used in the 2003 and 2004 seasons, Pook was asked whether the Cosworth-supplied engines would be badged by any auto manufacturers. He responded that the engines would carry the name of "one or more than one" manufacturer.

Several questions were asked about the 2003 CART schedule. Pook said that the schedule would be announced in about two weeks and would include 19-20 races, with eight or nine of them on network television. He said the there would be races scheduled in May, but they would not preclude CART teams from racing at Indy.

When asked if the financial troubles at the Lausitzring would jeopardize CART's race there this fall, Mr. Pook said that the court proceedings in Germany over the next week should make the status of that race clear. He did reveal that CART has made plans to replace that event with one at another track in Europe should the race at the German oval become impossible.

As the Chicago race was promoted by CART, Pook was asked if CART would like to continue in that role. He explained that it held many advantages for CART, especially allowing the organization to do a better job of managing its relationships with the series sponsors. He did allow that co-promoting events, such as the relationships CART has set up to co-promote in Cleveland (with IMG) and in Denver and St. Petersburg (with Dover Downs) would always be preferred over promoting the races in house.

When asked about moving the Chicago race to Meigs Field (an airport on a peninsula in Lake Michigan) in future years, Pook said: "There are political challenges to doing that and it is a very small area to do that kind of event the way it should be done." When asked about having a race on downtown streets after a previous proposal was rejected by city officials, he responded: "When you first started asking girls out on dates and were turned down, did you stop asking?" On the Chicago market in general: "It is our absolute desire to be here."

About other urban markets, Pook commented: Cleveland: "The secret of urban races is for people to be able to get out and around. In Cleveland, that is maximized." Detroit: "If we were going back to Belle Isle, no. If we were invited back to Ren Cen [Renaissance Center, where the Detroit Grand Prix was once based.], yes, certainly." Denver: "We did it wrong back then, versus doing it right now"

When asked about his happiness with recent changes in CART and what he would still like to change, Pook answered: "We are changing a culture here." He did say that he would like to tweak the road course qualifying procedure a little to get rid of the idle time that is now occurring early in the qualifying sessions, perhaps by shortening the sessions and adding an open warm-up period to the beginning of them. Beyond that, however, he wants "people to understand our sport" so he wants the rules to stabilize.

In answer to questions about the possibility of teams moving from CART to the IRL or the reverse, he said that there has been dialogue between CART and some IRL teams, and a great amount of talking to CART's teams by the IRL.

The best part of having Chris Pook at the helm of CART (for a reporter anyway) is that he is always good for some wonderful quotes for any report. Therefore, I'll close with a few random Pook quotes about:

Meeting CART fans at the Chicago Fan Forum: "We certainly have some enthusiastic and demonstrative fans"

Oval races: "The question must be asked, 'Can open wheel compete with NASCAR on the ovals?' Should it be our mission to force feed these races?"

Are 22 cars fields large enough? "Let me answer it this way: four marginal cars can ruin a race."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Chris Pook