CHAMPCAR/CART: Portland Town Meeting report

Portland Town Meeting brings key members of the 2003 Champ Cars World Series out to meet racing fans in advance of G.I. Joe's 200. PORTLAND, Ore. (February 27, 2003) -- If the first two ground-breaking Champ Car Town Meetings are any indication,...

Portland Town Meeting brings key members of the 2003 Champ Cars World Series out to meet racing fans in advance of G.I. Joe's 200.

PORTLAND, Ore. (February 27, 2003) -- If the first two ground-breaking Champ Car Town Meetings are any indication, the organization just might have a hit on its hands.

Following up on a very successful initial Town Meeting in Columbus last season, some of the key members of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford traveled to Portland Wednesday night to meet with another building full of Champ Car racing fans in a forum that included CART President and CEO Christopher R. Pook and 1996 series champ Jimmy Vasser.

The panel, which also included Champ Car Director of Safety Lon Bromley and Portland race organizer Bill Hildick with Pook, Vasser and program host Scott Pruett, talked with the throng of fans for over two hours, taking questions about everything ranging from the upcoming G.I. Joe's 200 at Portland International Raceway to the benefits of the successful Ladder System.

The race on the 1.969-mile permanent road course has been a staple of the Champ Car World Series since 1984 and has seen some of the greatest drivers ever to turn a wheel in the series stand on the victory podium in Rip City. Mario Andretti, Bobby Rahal, Emerson Fittipaldi and Alex Zanardi have all tasted victory champagne in Portland and the race organizers are looking forward to seeing another name join that list of greats in 2003.

"I can't impress enough upon everybody in the audience the support that Portland, Oregon has had from CART from day one. I mean, it has been unequivocal," Hildick said. "We've always gotten the best. We may not have been a Long Beach, but the race fans in Portland got what everybody else got, the very best. As I look at this coming year, Portland, the Northwest, we really need this event. I mean, we want to have the very best kind of racing that we can have at PIR. And Chris and his group are going to give that to us."

Pook reiterated his passion for keeping the series at the Portland track, noting that the track and the race fits perfectly with the urban outreach that helped spur Champ Car to an all-time record for attendance last year.

"It's a very important market," Pook said of Portland. "It's a fantastic place because you're downtown in 10 minutes. When we're trying to bring world corporations and national corporations to our series, these are the sort of things that they're looking for. Portland is a wonderful racetrack and Bill has played a major role in that, as has the Rose Festival over the years. That's why we're working so hard with (Portland race promoter Global Events Group President) Mike (Nealy) to continue this racetrack because we want to be here for the next 20 years."

Vasser, who came off a strong race in last week's season opener in St. Petersburg as he rebounded from a problem on the starting grid to finish sixth, assured the fans that they would continue to see the world's top talent when the series comes to Portland June 20-22.

"Make no mistake about the guys that are coming up, they're very, very talented," Vasser said. "That's the one thing about CART, is that it's always been highly respected for the talent that's in there. We've had some names leave the sport, but the guys that have come in to fill those seats are well-respected throughout the world, not just here on our own soil. You know, always be proud of the fact as a CART fan that the talent out on the field is second to none as far as formula car driving goes."

The question-and-answer period went on for over two hours, long enough to even allow some very young fans to get their first chance to talk to some of the key members of the series, helping to build the next generation of Champ Car fans. Those young fans and about 90,000 of their friends and neighbors will get a chance to see the 750hp open-wheel machines at their best in June when the series visits for Round 8 of the 19-race championship.

Interested parties can listen to the entire audio broadcast of the Portland Town Meeting by going to www.champcarworldseries.com and following the link on the front page. In addition, video highlights will be available in the coming days on the official website of the Champ Car World Series.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Bobby Rahal , Scott Pruett , Mario Andretti , Emerson Fittipaldi