CHAMPCAR/CART: Team Kool Green Sponsor Announcement Interview

Excerpts from an interview done on December 9, 1998 during the Kool Team Green sponsorship announcement in Louisville, KY. BARRY GREEN: I want to thank KOOL for their support over the past three seasons, to say once again how much we're looking...

Excerpts from an interview done on December 9, 1998 during the Kool Team Green sponsorship announcement in Louisville, KY.

BARRY GREEN: I want to thank KOOL for their support over the past three seasons, to say once again how much we're looking forward to our continued association, and a team we are so proud to be associated with KOOL and all the folks at Brown and Williamson. I'm happy to announce today that Dario Franchitti has agreed to an extension of his agreement with us, and he will be driving for team KOOL Green at least through the end of the year 2000. I'm certain that next year we will pick up right where we left off with Dario, after a great run to 3rd in the 1998 FedEx Championship. As many of you know, we recently resigned Paul TRACY to drive for team KOOL Green for three more years. We're all very excited to have him with us throughout the duration of our new agreement with KOOL. I'd also like to welcome a new member to our team, Jonny Kane. Jonny is a friend of Dario's and first came to see us this the middle of last year. Very persistent in seeking an opportunity to test drive our car. We tested him several times in Indy Lights car and we were very, very impressed. He'll be driving for us in the 1999 Dayton Indy Lights Championship. Both in addition to resigning KOOL, I'm very pleased to say that we've also resigned Klein Tools. Klein has been a fantastic sponsor for us since 1994 and we will continue that association. Also, our partners Honda, Firestone, Reynard will be back with this team next year. We are extremely fortunate to have their products -- are even prouder of the names they have on our cars. I have the best equipment. I have the best sponsors. I have a fantastic team. I am really looking forward to 1999 Q. Just to sort of kick things off here, [Jonny,] other than the obvious Dario connection, there must have been some reasons that you wanted to leave Europe. You were very much a rising star on the European Junior Formula to come over here to the States, and it sounds very insistent upon racing with Team KOOL Green. Why are you here? JONNY KANE: Basically, I won the Formula 3 Championship in Britain three years ago, tried to do Formula 3000 this year with not a great amount of success, and looked to America for progression from Indy Lights to championship cars seems to be one that's looked upon very keenly. And the last few champions have all moved on to champ cars and that's obviously what I want to try and do. Q I understand that you have already tested in the team KOOL Green Indy Lights car. You know a bit about the team from now from the inside. What are your expectations for 1999. JONNY KANE: Obviously, Team Green is a fantastic team, too. It is a great sponsor. I am pleased that they have both given me the chance to be here and I think finishing in the Top 3 in the championship is certainly not out of the question. Q. Bert, talk just a little about the tobacco the legislation, your worries, your fears, how it's turned out and what you'll be able to do in the next three years the way you understand it. BERT KREMER: Well, as you can imagine, the recent State settlement in the tobacco company is a very complex agreement, and obviously it will take a bit of time to be able to sort through that agreement entirely and understand it totally. As it relates to the sponsorships, the agreement basically precludes certain types of sponsorships, prohibits those, and it does allow each manufacturer, however, within allowable categories of sponsorship to continue to sponsor one -- have one brand name sponsorship for the foreseeable future. There are obviously limitations that go along with that in terms of how companies can exploit their sponsorship. Those limitations will mean probably in the future companies like us will not get quite as much value out of it, but we are still confident in the program.

Q. If I could maybe continue a little bit on that tack, obviously there's been a lot of uncertainty regarding the continued viability of tobacco sponsorships, in racing in particular. But obviously this agreement would appear to underscore that KOOL thinks that whatever the particulars of the -- of whatever limitations might be coming down or involved in the new -- in the new State agreement, that motor that motor racing and CART and Indy Lights remain a very viable outlet for you. I wonder if you could comment on that, Bert. BERT KREMER: Absolutely. As I said before, the restrictions that come down with the State settlement do not preclude us from continuing our motor sports sponsorship. And I think the fact that we're here today making this announcement exemplifies our confidence in continuing with our Team KOOL Green sponsorship into the future.

Q. Paul, after racing here in Houston, many of our callers were concerned that you were possibly trying to drive to impress a concern Penske person but now it's a steadfast support of Barry Green publicly with KOOL. Do you feel like your driving techniques will change for '99? PAUL TRACY: I think for, myself we've got a long-term arrangement with Barry, myself and KOOL and Klein Tools. And my future in the sport is here with this team. They have supported me through this year. My teammates had have supported me through this year. We've got a lot of work to do over this winter. We've been testing really well, and we've got our new car, and Dario is going to continue to test this week and me the following week. Obviously, you know, to win a championship we -- I need to be consistent, as well as the team to be consistent. We need to have good strong finishes every weekend. And I think we have all the capability of doing that with the team that Barry put together and the group of people that we have. We've hired on some new engineers, some aerodynamicists some new crew guys, truck drivers. We've really put all the pieces together to make this thing work and that's what our plan is and that's what our focus is right now.

Q. The question goes to both Dario and Paul. Paul, over the last three years you've been a championship contender, and now, Dario, you've been a championship contender. Do you guys plan on giving Barry a headache on who is going to be the only champion in 1999? DARIO FRANCHITTI: That would be a nice headache to have to have two people playing for the championship. I think we can both challenge for the championship next season. It's going to take consistency, as Paul said, from the team and from both of us. We're going to have to work together. I think that was one of the advantages and one of the things I was able to take advantage of this year, especially towards the end of the season, was that Paul and myself worked so well together, and we collected information and that worked well for me and maybe it didn't work as well for Paul. But I'm confident that's going to change next year. We're going to have a very strong showing from the whole Team KOOL Green. PAUL TRACY: From my standpoint, I feel that Dario is probably one of the favorites to win the championship. Obviously, he's going to be competition for me and I feel that I'll be one of the favorites. I feel confident about this year. I feel good about the changes that Reynard have made to the new car, that will hopefully help my driving style and hopefully we can give Barry some headaches. And those are good headaches to have, though.

Q. Plenty of aspirin, Barry? BARRY GREEN: Plenty of aspirin, but it's a great problem to have. I think we were strongest in the first part of the season, and I think we'll have the advantage going into the latter part. I'm sure they will both be very strong. Dario was quick pretty much all year. Paul was quick at some places, and certainly later in the season he proved that he could be as fast as Dario and I'm looking forward to it.

Q. I would like to make a question for the president. I would like to know if for Christmas, you know, that Paul Tracy has been exonerated to star in the first race in Miami, which, psychologically, is against cast. But he's been punished; he's punished. Is there any possibility there will be a presidential pardon for this thing so he can start in Miami. ANDREW CRAIG: This is "El Presidente" speaking. Unfortunately, my executive powers don't go that far. I think it's very important to recognize that first and foremost, this is a sporting endeavor and the rules on the playing field are enforced by those officiating the races. And I think in all seriousness, I think it would be a very sad day if we ever lost sight of that. Because when a sponsor becomes involved in a sport, what we want to acquire is the inherent values of the sport, the independent values of the sport and hopefully transfer some of those values to their product and their brand. I think as soon as you start messing with the competition at the management level, then you undermine those values and over time, you dilute the very thing the company wanted to get involved in. And quite frankly, to say it again, this is a sport and it will always remain a sport. There will be good days and there will be bad days. I'm sure that Paul has a terrific season ahead of him. What's in the past is in the past and we're moving on.

Q. Good morning and congratulations to Team KOOL Green. This question is for Bert. I want to know if you ever considered whether or not this would be the only series in which you would compete and whether or not you considered competing in some other series this year. BERT KREMER: With our current brand, KOOL, no, we didn't. We chose this program for the variety of reasons that I mentioned earlier and we have no thoughts planned for anything to change from CART open-wheel racing. We're just thankful that the agreement with the States has allowed us to go forward with this in the future. Q.: And you have to admit, Bert, KOOL looks awfully good on this type of equipment, no question.

Q. Mr. Craig, I want to know if we're any closer to CART returning to Indianapolis or seeing CART in the IRL all together again. ANDREW CRAIG: As you recently, recently there have been some announcements from the Speedway with respect to the IRL and their engine formula. We looked at those very carefully. I think would summarize as follows: We obviously would like a reconciliation with Speedway and I think we made that clear. If that takes a little while to achieve, and that may well be the case, I think that we have to always work to try to find a resolution, but at the same time won't -- but that shouldn't be misread. (Inaudible) but that would be in the best interests of the sport as a whole, CART's interest, Speedway's interest.

Q. Quick question to Dario, and obviously congratulations on being named, I believe, the Auto Sport Race Competition Driver of the Year last weekend. And just if you could share your thoughts on what went into deciding to agree to extend your contract with Team KOOL Green for another year and perhaps longer. DARIO FRANCHITTI: Obviously, as I've said before, Formula One is something I'd like to do in the future. But I was sitting down thinking about it and the first thing I would say is I enjoy myself so much over here. I had a chance to win a couple races this year and I just felt that it would -- it made me happy to stay here, basically. That was the decision. I thought, why would I leave somewhere where I am enjoying it, where I can win races, to go to somewhere that might not be the ideal situation. I'm looking forward to it and Barry made a big commitment to me last year, and I think some people were surprised that he did that, and this year hopefully we can prove those people wrong and do some great things together in the next year.

Q. This question goes to both -- Dario and Paul: I guess, first of all, if they would comment a little about next season with Zanardi's departure. Does this really throw open the title chase and really level the playing field a little bit for everybody else? Your feelings on that. DARIO FRANCHITTI: I think that -- even if Zanardi was here next year, I think the title would certainly be more open than it has this season. The second half of the season, Alex wasn't really the quickest guy out there. He didn't win a lot of races out there, but making mistakes. I think it's going to be a little bit easier now that he's not here because he was one of the guys that you can count on in there day in and day out. For me, it's a double-edged sword. I enjoyed racing against him. I enjoyed the competition. But there's going to be a lot of people, especially this guy on my right here, Paul, we're going to be fighting for the championship next season and it's going to make it exciting and it's what the FedEx Championship is all about. PAUL TRACY: I'd have to agree with Dario. Although Zanardi and I, we had our moments, but I can say that from my heart that he was probably one of the toughest competitors that I've ever driven against. I rate him very highly as a driver. He's a fantastic spokesman for Indy cars. He's a fantastic showman. Somebody that was -- I think is really good for the sport and I think he will be missed by everybody. I know there are a lot of the drivers that are happy to see him to go because he's pretty tenacious. But he's somebody that I think will be missed from our sport. And hopefully he'll do well for us in Formula One.

Q. This is for whoever can answer it. And maybe come from Bert. But given the limitations of tobacco advertising, is KOOL or perhaps Honda going to make better use of Paul and Dario in advertising and marketing in much the same way that Target and Honda took advantage Vasser and Zanardi? BERT KREMER: First of all, in the tobacco industry, as you probably know (inaudible) -- quite some number of years. Little bit more in this recent State settlement, so we will utilize the program and we will market our association in accordance with the State settlement and the bounds that it has set for us.

Q. Barry, maybe you or Paul can answer this question: Are you going to appeal Paul's suspension from that first race? I don't know if we got a direct answer on that. BARRY GREEN: Well, the actual suspension we got is -- cannot appeal as per the rule book. So it will stand and Paul will not drive in the first race.

Q. This a sponsorship question; so it's for Dario and Paul both. A bit hypothetical and in the future obviously, but as you guys must know Bernie just announced that they are going to do a Formula One Grand Prix -- U.S. Grand Prix at Indy now. And I wonder if either of you have first ever thought about the possibility, because I know you both expressed interest in Formula One in maybe at least trying to do a one-off or something for that particular race and, say, it would happen in the year 2000. And also, with your road racing experience, if you have any sense as to how good or how, maybe, Mickey mouse is of a track that they would be able to put that would be a road course cars inside, in the oval. DARIO FRANCHITTI: First of all, I've had no thoughts of a one-off deal to race at the speedway, one race, because I got my plate pretty full trying to win the temp car series. As to how Mickey mouse it's going to be, I think it will be a little bit like more fish swimming in a big pool in the world or something. I think it will be very difficult to identify the cars from the grandstand. I think the track is going to be dwarfed by the speedway. PAUL TRACY: For me, myself, I don't have any plans for trying to compete in that. I'm obviously on contract with Barry Green and Team Green; so it's -- my responsibility, lies with what concerns the team and what our focus is, and that's champ car racing. As for the race at Indianapolis, we'll have to wait to see what happens. I'd like to see a really good race in America for Formula One'. And hopefully if that comes off and every everything is good, then that's great for motor sports in the United States.

Q. This question is for Andrew and for Barry Green. Can you talk about more with the Formula One race coming to the Speedway and how about the facts, your guys plans of trying to get back there, if it does at all? ANDREW GREEN: This is Andrew here. Good morning. First of all, we think that having an all-in-one race, we think it's great news. We think it's good for racing. We think it's good for open-wheel racing in particular and anything that's good for open-wheel racing is absolutely good for us. We think it's terrific news for the sport as a whole to have a Grand Prix in the States. Whether or not it fundamentally changes the nature of the Indy 500 going forward. I'm really not going to speculate about that. Obviously the speedway is how home to three very important races rather than one, but I don't want to get into. That would be nothing more than speculation as to whether it's good or bad or hurts or hinders that event. Your specific point as to whether it increases or reduces the likelihood of return by Championship Auto Racing to the speedway I think it's pretty neutral. I don't think it affects that one way or the other. BARRY GREEN: Really, I think I just echo Andrew's thoughts. I think it's great that they are coming here. I love Formula One racing. In the meantime we've got a 20-race program on our plate and one that we're going to have to focus all our thoughts and efforts to win and that's what we'll do. But I think it's great. I don't really know what sort of effects it will have on the Speedway. They are really the Speedway's problems and we'll just focus on our game.

Q. My question has to do with the litigation, the sponsorship litigation that is in another arena of motor sports at this time, and I wondered if Bert had any comments about -- not getting into the details of his contract -- but does he have any comments on the litigation with a sponsorship requiring a certain evaluation at a certain point in time during the season; in other words, for that sponsorship to continue, do you have any comments on that litigation that's going on right now? BERT KREMER: I'm not sure I exactly know what litigation you're referring to. I mean, the tobacco industry just reached an agreement several weeks ago that does allow us to continue to bring this program into the future as we're announcing here today.

Q. There is -- lit litigation with a sponsor in Winston Cup where the team did not reach a certain status by midway in the season and they are pulling their sponsorship because of lack of contractual commitment. BERT KREMER: Now I understand. We're very, very confident -- obviously, in Barry Green in his arguments and what they can accomplish and I think they have proven it again this year and they certainly have proven it in the past with winning a championship, winning many races in the past. We're going to be with Barry Green for the next three years and been with him through some lean times in the past and think that exhibits that we're going to be with him -- there are if there are lean times in the future.

     Q.  Paul, you referred to the fact that you were going to have some
new members on your team.  Is your engineer, John Dick, going to be back?
     PAUL TRACY:  Yes, he is.

Q. And from there, it took you and he some time to jive last season. Do you feel that this season that you've had together under your best now will stand in good stead into '99, and in what way? Can you sot of talk about that? PAUL TRACY: Well, I think that there's been a lot of growing pains, a lot of adjustment not only from my side by also from John's side the way that he's operated in the past. And it did take us a long time to really get our minds on the same -- on the same track and towards the end of the year, everything started to flow and come together, and, you know, Barry, we obviously had a lot of discussion; had a lot of things going on during the year and we kept that and we kept focusing. Barry has taken a step forward and hired an aerodynamics engineer that we've been doing a lot of wind tunnel work the last couple of weeks. I think we've had an opportunity in this five-, six-week break since the season ended to really look at the engineering program, to get into the wind tunnel, to figure out some missing pieces to the puzzle that we were missing, and we went out and tested a couple weeks ago with the '98 car a couple weeks ago and really had a test with the car and were able to do some work with Firestone and really has put myself and John on the right track for '99 and we'll make a run at the championship. Q. Paul, just a quick follow-up, talking about the start of last year, you come from Penske racing. And all the reports were that car went from being just a different chassis, it also went from being different handling car. Did that play a bit of a role in the adjustment? PAUL TRACY: I think it did. For me, I think it was really the only thing that I had a base of and the only car that I had knowledge of. Basically my whole champ career other than one season was in a Penske car. My mentality or capacity for doing things and changes to the car were based around a Penske. A lot of that didn't translate to what a Reynard needed and what it took to make a Reynard work, and it took a long time to kind of break some habits and try to focus my attention to somewhere else on the car to make the car work. And I think that by the end of the year we started to understand that and performance came. Knowing that now and with the new car that's coming and the changes that we've made with some of the aerodynamic stuff, I think that the car is -- I think I'll be able to get more suited to the car and obviously be able to qualify better. And that's the main thing is qualifying, if you can be up front you can run at the front.

Q. Barry, how many days of testing are you planning to schedule for Indy Lights. As well as Indy Car. And of the Indy Car days, how many are dedicated just to Honda and Firestone? BARRY GREEN: I don't know the breakdown of Honda and Firestone. That will depend on how everything is going with Honda and with Firestone. We'll do 50 days between the two drivers, 50 car days with the two drivers over the season. And then on the Indy Lights side -- we'll do probably at least 30 days on the Indy Lights side, we just test as much as we can without hurting preparation for the next race.

Q. Jonny, explain a little bit about the CART series and the Indy Lights and what aspirations do you hope that this drivership is going to produce? JONNY: Obviously, this season has been very difficult for me and I'm hoping that this will relaunch my career. Up until last season, I had won every championship I'd been in and I don't want next year to be any different. Obviously, I've never driven on an oval before. At Homestead will be my first time; looking forward to that. I don't know how much I'm be looking forward it, but I'm looking forward to it. So this year will be difficult with all the ovals but I do think a good finish in the championships is in the cards and it's in the Top 3, all well and good; and if not, obviously have to try for the following year and build on what we've got this year.

And that's what I want to do. America seems to be the place to be at the moment, although everybody has a dream of getting into Formula One, and Champ Car is an excellent series and the Indy Lights seems to be a good progression to that. Q.: The question, Jonny is do you like high-speed sweepers. JONNY I've had some so far but probably not as high-speed as they are going to be in the future.

Q. Question for Barry: Looking at how the team progressed last year with both Paul and Dario, I'm wondering when you sat down with KOOL, did you lay out some things that you said, okay, now we can make a run for the championship and here's what we need. BARRY GREEN: Well, Ron, I think we went into this last year thinking we could make a run for the championship. While we got off to a fast start we didn't get off to a strong start. We didn't score the points on race day. And we were fast. We were fast in every race with both cars. It was very, very frustrating. I mean, you can be fast -- and not winning races, is hard. When you're slow and not winning races, at least you can go back to work and try and figure out how to get some speed out of the cars and the drivers and get up to the front. But we were fast, and we just couldn't quite get the job done. And we made a couple of mistakes in the pit crew. The drivers made a couple of mistakes. It was very frustrating in the first half of the season, and it was also a point where the team could have changed its plan and stopped believing in themselves, and in this case we kept talking and convincing ourselves and our team members that were doing the right thing and going about it the right way. And we just stuck to our plan and it all turned around for us and we proved in the last half of the season how strong we can be. And I think it's great going into next season. We've made very, very few changes. We've just add a few weapons to the team and looking forward to next year.

Q. Bert, two-part question: With the money that you've committed and the money you've spent going in, had Dario not had some success, would it have been tough to pull this off with your board of directors and stepped up with this kind of money? Secondly, you got in with the CART and IRL split first happened, but even without the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, can you just talk about how you're able to talk to your board of directors and make them believe that this is a $50 million investment and what it's worth to you and what you see it being worth in the future. BERT KREMER: I didn't catch the first part of the question.

Q. Just that Barry had won everything in '95 and went through a dry spell. If Dario had not got hot and won three races at the end of the year and Paul not ran strong, would it have been tough to sign up a three-year $50 million deal like this? Was it a little contingent upon success or was there already a plan in place? BERT KREMER: Well, practically speaking, winning always makes it a little bit easier. There's no doubt about it. But we've had -- always, from the day we entered into our first agreement with Barry Green, confidence that we would get to that level and that we would get there reasonably quick. And I think you have to remember as a sponsor in this sport, really, 1998. As far as our sponsorship of a champ car team, it's only the second year that we've been in the sport. And only two years -- to get the wins that we got in our second year I think is a tremendous accomplishment for us.

Q. The second part was just talk about the value that you have -- when you talk to the board of directors and up this kind an outlay of money -- you don't have the Indianapolis 500; you have 20 races without the Indianapolis 500. Talk about your why you need to do this. BERT KREMER: Obviously, we, like any of the sponsors and has Andrew has echoed we would prefer to be back at the Indianapolis 500 racing there, under the right conditions. But, by the same token we're quite happy with the Champ Car Series. Champ Car Series is a very popular series and it's a growing series, a very professional series. And I think like the series, we keep our eye on what the series does because what's where we are at this point in time. If the Indianapolis comes back on stream in the future, so much the better. Q.: I think one of the reasons for the popularity is -- keep in mind that the FedEx Championship has an annual television worldwide viewership of almost one billion viewers in 190 countries; so it is indeed a very popular series, no question.

Q. Barry, given that it seems that your record -- you're accepting the fact that Paul is not going to be driving at Homestead, I'm wondering what plans you might have for the second car in the opening race at the 1999 FedEx Championship? BARRY GREEN: We haven't sat down and decided what we'll do for that first race. We do know that Paul won't be driving in that race. He didn't finish that race last year; so I don't see that it really is going to hurt his chance from the championship. He'll start the second race in the same positioning. We real don't really know what the answer is yet. We've been very, very busy putting this program together finalizing some of the new crew members and the wind tunnel program and working hard on our off-season testing which is very, very important for the start of the next season; so we need to sit down and face that issue here in the near future.

Q. Paul, my question is along those lines: What will you be doing at Homestead, and will you be going there at all or will you be at home or do you have any contractual obligations to be there even though you're not racing? BARRY GREEN: He's going to change Dario's right front. PAUL TRACY: Obviously, I will be at the race. Obviously, I'm not pleased with what the outcome is and I'll be there. I'll be out there to support the team and try to help out as much as I can. My feeling -- towards the championship I think that one race for me -- it will be a 19 race-schedule and still present a lot of opportunity. There's people that are going to have DNF. That obviously will happen to drivers. So I don't think it's going to hurt my championship. It's just going to have to make us work a little harder than everybody else and have myself work a little harder than the rest of the guys out there, and that's what it takes to win a championship. And if we can achieve that, then we can say that we won a championship with one less race than everybody. Q.: I would think that hard work will come a little easier with the resources KOOL is providing. Barry, one last question I'd to ask: You've mentioned a couple of times in responses, continuity; same drivers, along with the same components to the team. How crucial is that as you develop? BARRY GREEN: I think it's very, very important. Had a very strong team this year but while I wouldn't admit it at the start of the season I do think we were weak at the start of the season knowing, certainly, in Paul's case getting down to the Reynard (inaudible). But really just the people, that's what was missing in the first half of the season. We won't have that problem this year. Really just added a few people. No major changes whatsoever. So everyone knows where there driver suit is and where the helmet is and who the people are working on the team. That doesn't by any means say that we'll be relaxing in the off-season. The off-season is so important in the preparation for the first race. All the guys, I think, on the team well know that the job they did this year to win races won't win races next year. And you've got to look at the big picture and focus on that championship and make sure that we come away in the first three or four races. I'm very, very pleased with last year, just frustrated in the first half and couldn't be more happier with the two drivers that we've got. I think we'll do well.

MRN

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Paul Tracy , Jonny Kane , Barry Green
Teams Williams