Mears, Bell interview 2000-10-10

MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us today. Our guests today are Dorricott Racing drivers Casey Mears and Townsend Bell who will join Scott Dixon, our points leader, in a championship and season-ending race on California Speedway on...

MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us today. Our guests today are Dorricott Racing drivers Casey Mears and Townsend Bell who will join Scott Dixon, our points leader, in a championship and season-ending race on California Speedway on October 29. It is the closest points race we have had in the history of Dayton Indy Lights championship involving three drivers: Scott Dixon who was going to be on today's teleconference but is already en route to Australia/New Zealand leads with 134 points. Townsend Bell trails with 130, while Casey Mears is just one point behind at 129. Both Townsend and Casey are here. Townsend, welcome. TOWNSEND BELL: Thanks for having me.

MODERATOR: And Casey, you're on the east coast, we'll talk about that in a second. CASEY MEARS: Thank you.

MODERATOR: Townsend, we're going to start with you because you are second in the championship, but equally important you clinched Rookie of the Year honors with the result of your result at Houston one race ago Congratulations on that. Coming into the year obviously the rookie championship was a goal for you, but at the same time were you also thinking that you had a chance to win the overall title. TOWNSEND BELL: I knew that we were aiming for the overall championship, maybe if we fell short, we could still win the rookie. So now we're in a situation where, you know, with only four points out of the lead going into the final race, we have already locked up the rookie deal, which is great. But there is certainly no reason why we can't be at the very top at the end of the season the way things stand right now.

MODERATOR: Now you're with Dorricott Racing, the team that won the championship last year with Oriol Servia and the team to beat the last couple years. Casey has been on the team, completing his second season, was in a familiar situation when he battled with Oriole for the championship last year. How important has it been to have such an established team in your first season? TOWNSEND BELL: It has made all of the difference. I don't have a whole lot of worries, other than what I'm doing in the car. That's what I have to focus on. And having a team with so much experience provides just an excellent foundation for me to come in and just focus on driving. And having two experienced teammates also makes a difference. Jason obviously is a rookie in the series this year, but has got more experience than I do coming into this year. And Casey has obviously been in the series for a while and was a huge help in sort of explaining the car and what it likes and just helping me with a lot of the little things that you typically have to learn your first time in a series and that has helped me get up to speed.

MODERATOR: Now, Jason who Townsend mentioned is Jason Bright, the third Dorricott driver who has also won a race and he debuts this weekend in champ car down in Surfer's Paradise. He'll be running with Elepana (phonetic) Motor Sports and we wish him well. And Townsend, are you going to be able to see him? Tell us about what you are doing the next couple days? TOWNSEND BELL: I leave I guess tomorrow night for Australia. I get there Friday, I think at about noon to surfers and I leave Monday at 6:00 AM. Just a quick visit. And make sure I'm still circulating around and in front of all of the CART owners and also, to support Jason and maybe have a little bit of vacation at the same time. Although two days isn't much of a break.

MODERATOR: This will be a fairly lengthy question as much as we're going to ask you about your background, and feel free to go into detail. But you've been racing for several years how were you able to make the jump from Barber Dodge to the Indy Lights championship so quickly . You have a good sponsor with Direct PC, but just talk a little about the path that you've taken to the top rung? TOWNSEND BELL: Really, I know several drivers that have had good sponsors that wanted to drive for Dorricott and really the most important thing is that Bob Dorricott, Sr., The team owner, was just looking for guys that were capable of going out and winning races and contending for the championship, and I think I was able to demonstrate that I had -- while I didn't have as much experience as some of the other guys I was competing with for the seed, I was able to show that I was pretty quick in the car the first time out. And also, I'm really hungry to win races and win championships, and I think I was able to convince him of that when we tried out for the ride. There was, I don't know, probably eight or ten guys that were all competing with me for that opportunity, and so I think the most important thing is demonstrating in Barber Dodge that I was quick and capable, and then when I got the opportunity to test with the team, doing the same sort of thing.

MODERATOR: We'll have several more questions for you throughout the teleconference, but right now, we're going to shift it to your teammate, Casey Mears. Casey, second your in a row you're going to Fontana battling for a championship with a teammate, but this year you have the added element of a third driver, Scott Dixon, who had a 42-point lead in the championship and just about everybody except the people at Dorricott Racing thought Dixon was going to wrap this title up two races ago. Instead he has not toward points in the last couple of races while you and Townsend have had respected clean sweeps. Townsend won from the pole at 22 points and finished second to you at Houston, where won from the pole after leading the most race laps. You both learned 38 points in the two races while Dixon did not earn any. Did you think that you would be in the same situation again? Was there ever a time that you thought you would not be? CASEY MEARS: Well, to be honest, the end of the season hasn't really come to my mind until the last couple races now. I think going into the season, I expected to have a couple better races than I did. But all in all, it has been a great season. Obviously we are at the top of the championship again and to be here is a big deal. I'm glad to see that Townsend the first year out has gotten up to speed so quickly, and, you know, it has just been a good year so far. Trying to predict what we were going to do a couple races ago or how Dixon was going to finish was not really in my mindset as much as putting the race together myself. It's finally good to get that win, which is going to be a huge help on my end as far as moving up, and, you know, I'm just happy to be where I am right now. And obviously like Townsend feel like we have a good shot at winning that championship and that's what we're going to go do.

MODERATOR: Casey is in his fifth year running Indy Lights, but if you look at the numbers, you'll see he is only completing his third full season. The first year he ran one race in Cleveland in '96 and then had a couple budget-strained years with the Team Mears and that was later combined with Dorricott, and that has now given Casey the full-time support, testing elements that he needs to continue with the program. Casey, we've asked you before but we're going ask you again, how critical has it been, the addition to the Dorricott team and what has it done for your career as you try to make this stuff up? CASEY MEARS: It's been huge. It's made all the difference in the world. Obviously, Bob Dorricott, runs a first-class operation, and gives us all the right stuff to go fast. And the first couple years, struggling with Team Mears, that's exactly what it was; it was a struggle. We didn't have the engineers, we didn't test, and it showed on the track. We ran toward the back. And you know, stepping in last year and getting on Dorricott Racing was a really big deal, and right away, I started doing really well on races and did very well in the championship.

MODERATOR: Now, the goal that you had this year was to win at least one race. You've accomplished that, but you've also met other goals that you needed to. You've bled race laps and qualified on the pole twice now. A lot of your success has come on road courses; a lot of people labeled you as an oval track driver because you do such a good job on the big tracks. You're always a contender on the Super Speedway events. Talk about your background. Does it include just as much road racing as well as oval track racing? CASEY MEARS: It's kind of funny. We did well on the ovals, but it's funny because my background is mostly road racing, and as far as asphalt curves go, I spent a lot of time at Laguna Seca. And it has been fun this year because this year and last year, I've had cars that have worked well enough that -- on the road courses that it has allowed me to perform like I knew I always could and the results are starting to come in now.

MODERATOR: Prior to your Houston event where you did score your first win, you had an opportunity to test not only with Team Rahal at Fontana but also with Target Chip Ganassi racing at Firebird; you also tested on two different occasions with PacWest. You've had a lot of seat time in champ cars. Talk about what that did for your confidence. You ran two days with Rahal at California Speedway, and then the third day with Ganassi and went over to Houston and basically won your first race and a pole. CASEY MEARS: The cars, a lot of what you do is in the cars -- there's a lot that's really similar, but I think the biggest advantage, if any, was just the fact that I was in a car that was going faster. So everything slowed down a bit when you get back in the Lights car, and, you know, you feel like you're on top of your game a little bit more. But it is a car that you have to drive a little bit differently when -- once you get in the Lights car, you realize you're in the Lights car and you have to start applying the techniques you have learned towards that car. But, if anything, yeah, definitely it is obviously good to get seat time in something that is a little bit faster. And you know, things worked really well. Thanks a lot to Jason Bright, actually, and Gerald, for testing the week before the race. And actually we found a lot of gains. We used their setup and Townsend and I ran up front and Jason just ran into bad luck.

MODERATOR: That was going to be my next question. He's going to make his champ car debut in Surfer's Paradise, and he'll be the first driver since 1987 who is going to step up to champ cars in the midst of an Indy Lights season. He actually led the championship for a brief period after round five but has now been eliminated from the title run after being sidelined with a back injury. Do you feel kind of like, oh, boy, here he is, he's on the sidelines, not really involved in our Indy Lights battle, or do you want to be in his shoes getting in the champ car? CASEY MEARS: Well, obviously, I'd like to be in the chap car. I'm not thinking about -- too much where Jason is at this time. But I've got to tell you that, you know, he -- as far as Townsend and I being up in the championship, Jason would be there as well he just ran into a string of bad luck. He is extremely talented and obviously deserves a shot to be in a champ car, and I'm glad to see him get that opportunity.

MODERATOR: We'll be pulling for him this weekend and I believe he lives there in Surfer's Paradise; is that correct, Townsend? TOWNSEND BELL: I don't know, he didn't offer me a room to stay.

MODERATOR: Where you are going to be staying when you are down there? TOWNSEND BELL: I'll be at the Versace Hotel, I guess, the promoters down there hooked me up. Supposed to be a pretty nice place. I can't say that I wear his clothes, but I can wear the sheets for a night.

MODERATOR: No tears for Townsend, that's for sure. Have a good time. We'll go ahead and open up for questions.

Q. Casey, the tests that you had with Ganassi, first of all, I assume you knew going into that test that it was basically a competition for one of those two seats; is that correct? CASEY MEARS: Yes.

Q. That was made clear to you? Was there a lot of pressure? Did you feel a lot of pressure being in that situation or was that a fair way to win a ride? CASEY MEARS: It was different than anything I've been involved in before. One of those deals where you're in the pits and all of the drivers are there standing in front of the car and when you leave the pits, they all go out to the corners. When I came into the pits, you know, it bothered me a little bit because I wanted a little one-on-one time with the engineers and all that, but once you get out on the track, you just do your thing and it didn't really bother me that much.

Q. So then you're saying all of the other drivers were there at the same time. Did you get a chance to meet the other drivers and talk to them? CASEY MEARS: A bit. It was really competitive deal. Everybody was very friendly, but there wasn't a whole lot of talking and things going on between the drivers.

Q. When do you expect on answer from Ganassi as to who his choices are going to be? CASEY MEARS: After we did the test, he said it would be a couple weeks after. So I'm sure that some time after -- sometime after Surfer's, they will give us the final answer. From what I hear, everybody was very close. They are happy with everybody. It is hard to say, you know, how the cards are going to fall.

Q. There was some talk of you possibly running for Team Rahal at Fontana in the last race of the year. Is that going to happen? CASEY MEARS: There's some talk at the moment. It's getting very last-minute. It's hard to say exactly what is going to happen. As of right now, it's just great to get the opportunity to test with Bobby. And he lived up to his word; told me that he would put me in the seat some time about mid-season, and he did, and I got some very valuable experience. If something could come together, that would be great, but right now, it's just great to get that opportunity to test.

Q. Last question for both of you. The jump up in horsepower from Indy Lights car to a champ car is quite a bit, more than double. Do you feel with the new Indy Lights car that is going to be coming out in a couple years, do you think there should be an increase in horsepower, to get it a little bit closer to champ cars, or do you feel it is okay where it is at right now? CASEY MEARS: It's okay where it is right now. It would be nicer if it had more. You know, you've got to consider, not only the step from Indy Lights to champ car, but you've got to consider the steps from, you know, Dodge or Atlantic to Lights. There's quite a horsepower difference there, too, and if you start making too big, then it is going to be a really big step for those guys as well. I definitely think that they could handle more horsepower. It's all a matter of adapting and getting used to what you're driving. Jumping from the Lights car to the champ car, obviously, a lot of horsepower, and in a way it is just better. And once you get accustomed to the speed, accustomed to the power, it's just a better car to drive.

Q. Could I get your opinion on that, Townsend? TOWNSEND BELL: I think horsepower is just one of the issues. I think there's a whole other host of technical upgrades that could be made to make the cars a little bit more similar to a champ car. And yeah, it would be nice to have more power, but there's other things like the gear box. It's still a conventional H-banner gear box and it could be sequential, no cockpit, adjustable bars right now. There's things like third spring and some other more sophisticated parts to the suspension that could be brought more into the -- sort of the current element. So I think there's sort of a wish list or an informal sort of survey of a lot of the engineers and people in the series to try to get everybody's input to see what everybody thinks might be the way to go, and more power would be nice, but like I said there's other parts of the car that I think need to be considered, as well.

MODERATOR: Just to give a little bit of background on Mark's question, we will end the current package that includes (inaudible) as well as our third generation Lola chassis. That will come to an end at end of the 2001 season, and presently, job one for Roger Bailey, our president is working on the package that will debut 2002. Let's shift gears.

Q. I believe that both of you were nominated for the Greg Moore Award this year. Can you tell me your thoughts on that, both Casey and Townsend? CASEY MEARS: Well, obviously it is a big honor to be put in the same category as a guy like Greg Moore. He was a great person. Obviously an accomplished driver. You know, it feels good to be put in that same category and I hope that -- I hope that all of us that were nominated can take something from what Greg Moore has done with his short champ car career and learn from it and try to carry some of what Greg has brought into champ cars and carry it on. TOWNSEND BELL: As far as it goes for me, I never met Greg and didn't know a whole lot about him other than what I saw at the track, which I thought was pretty impressive. I certainly remember 1998 at Homestead in qualifying, I think he was last to go. He was probably quickest in practice or something. There was three or four cars before him that were all on like (inaudible) Greg went out at three or three and a half miles an hour faster on his qualifying lap right up to the wall and just really, really special. For me, that's a big honor, just based on my -- witnessing his driving ability on the track, and just to be mentioned with his name in the same sentence is quite an honor. So I'm looking forward to being there for celebrating that.

MODERATOR: Only five drivers out of the CART community are selected every year, and it would include one perfect each support series, but not necessarily -- there's a lot of pride within the Dayton Indy Lights championship to know that two of our drivers made the cut this year, along with Helio Castroneves, Roberto Moreno and Andrew Bordin from Toyota Atlantic.

Q. Heading towards Fontana, that is the second of the big ovals. How do both of you like Michigan and Fontana? Do you enjoy it or is it a little scary or just what are your feelings about the two tracks? CASEY MEARS: For me personally, I really enjoy them. It puts us in a tight bunch, which can get a little chaotic sometimes, but at the same time being forced to be around a bunch like that, it forces you to learn about the draft. And I have learned so much over the past couple years now getting an opportunity to run in some of these big races. And although you won't be able to run in the draft in a champ car like you do in the Lights car, it gives you a lot of firsthand experience on what to expect, you know, and I really enjoy them. It is kind of a crapshoot at the end of race, but it is really a mental game, to get up to the front and stay up front. TOWNSEND BELL: For me, it was the first time on a Super Speedway in Michigan, and you can talk to a lot of people, and I sure did, trying to get advice and input on how the race might play out. I talked to Casey a lot about that, but it didn't -- it didn't quite prepare me for the experience of running around with 18 cars, all that close together. And in the end we ended up finishing fourth. I had contact, I think three or four times with other cars during the race, which is pretty interesting. But now it's nice having that experience under my belt going into the last race, especially, with a chance to win the championship. It certainly is enjoyable. It is I guess a little frustrating for me in the sense that -- and for a lot of the other drivers, that you don't really feel like you have the ability to pull away from the pack. In fact, you just can't. So it is a lot more about tactic and strategy than it is about just car control and driving talent, per se. So there's a lot more tactic and strategy involved, which still makes it very challenging, and you really have to focus, especially running that close together. But it is a totally different type of challenge from, say, a short oval or a road or street surface.

Q. Townsend, I have a question for you. You said that when you go to Australia, of course, you'll be enjoying watching Jason run, but also, keeping contact with some of the CART owners. Are you looking for a ride in CART next year in the champ cars or are you just making contact for the future? TOWNSEND BELL: Actually, I signed a three-year contract yesterday to drive the Gravedigger -- no. I'm just kidding. No, I'm certainly very anxious to get to CART as soon as possible. You know, there's so much movement right now that -- with the way things are going for me this year, I've put myself in the hopper, if you will, for all of the drivers competing for a ride and an opportunity, and we'll just have to see what shakes out. I've certainly been talking to everybody, and I'd like to get a test here shortly and we'll see if that happens. But more importantly, I'd like to be running 22 races next year in CART and winning the championship would certainly help that. However, I think Casey would agree that through the first 11 races of the season and Indy Lights, that is sort of what the CART owners have to judge us by, because Fontana, anything can happen. And it is more of a crapshoot or lottery, if you will. So I think if we win the championship, great, we're certainly planning on giving it our best. But right now, they have got these first 11 races to judge us on, and we'll see what happens.

Q. Casey, was wondering if things do work out and you are able to race in a champ car at Fontana, how do you think that will affect your Indy Lights run for the championship? CASEY MEARS: I don't think it will affect it that much at all. Really, like we were talking about earlier, Fontana is a pretty easy flat. You are wide open, like the second lap out of the box. We have a setup that we have not changed much there over the last couple of years. I think I'm going to be able to suffer a little bit of the Lights practice time so that I can focus more on the champ car. I'm obviously going to need more seat time in the champ car, or as most as possible. As far as the race goes, I don't think it is going to be just like any other race that I've ever had on a Super Speedway. I'm just going to focus on getting to the front, and I don't think it will have too much bearing on how the result turns out in the Lights race. TOWNSEND BELL: If you end up running; right? CASEY MEARS: Yeah, that's if I end up running.

Q. Townsend, do you have it already in your mindset where you wrapped up the rookie title, possibly the championship, and you're going to be racing in your backyard? How do you set yourself up for the fact that you could take all three -- I mean, both the championship and the rookie title and racing in your backyard, how do you set yourself up for that mentally ? TOWNSEND BELL: Frankly, it is just not -- there's not a whole lot that you can plan to do. Like I said there's so many things that are out of your control, and really, I feel like there's the least amount of pressure on me of the three of us going into that race. Obviously, Scott and his team have done such a great job. And like Adam had said at the beginning, a lot of people just assumed that he was going to score a few more points and just automatically lock up the championship. And I think me and my guys and Casey and his guys just had a sort of never-say-die attitude. And here we are now where anybody can win and the three of us going into the last race. So I think there is a lot of pressure on Scott to finish, and get points and win because he was certainly the clear-cut favorite a few races ago. And Casey has been in the series for a few years now, and I don't think he's planning on coming back to Indy Lights next year, and I know he'd like to leave on top. For me, it is my first year, and I'm just out there trying to get to the front like everybody else, but it is your first year, so there is less expectations there. And that certainly doesn't mean I'm going to be trying any less, but I just don't feel a lot of pressure. Everybody, my sponsors, friends, family, fans have been really supportive, and I don't think that changes at all going into Fontana. I'm just looking to have a good time and be there at the end.

Q. As far as strategy, are you going to be sharing setup, or are you going to hold back or -- obviously because you are both in the championship chase -- TOWNSEND BELL: We have been sharing information all year long, and I actually haven't seen the setups just yet that my engineer -- that we're going to start with and what Casey is going to start with. I think they will probably be pretty close but I don't know yet. But, if -- if at some point during the weekend if we want to start opening up somebody else's notebook, Casey's or Jason's and look at what they are doing, that's sort of been the policy all year long, and we have certainly done plenty of that. I don't expect that to change.

Q. Casey, when -- back in Laguna Seca when you first -- the first Indy Lights televised race, did that add any pressure because you were on the pole and possibly going for your first win and that was televised live? Did that add any pressure? CASEY MEARS: Not really. Because for us it's a race weekend just like any other weekend. We are not watching it on TV. It's just a race weekend. Obviously being on the pole, I was very excited, and I was wanting to win my first race. So I was trying very hard. It was unfortunate there that we miscalculated on the fuel load and the car was bottoming out a little too much early on and I couldn't get in underbraking going into 2; that's where Scott ended up getting by me. All in all it was a good weekend. Obviously, awesome that it was our first live televised event. And if Indy Lights and CART keep putting together those packages for Lights, it will start getting the exposure that it deserves.

Q. As far as the Target Chip Ganassi test at Firebird Raceway in Arizona, when you go to do a test like that, obviously, you're aware that there's three other drivers. You know what you can do. But do you look at their credentials, their track record, to see who you are going up against? CASEY MEARS: No. I really didn't have to. I heard from a lot of the guys and obviously some of the accomplished 3000 guys -- I knew Buddy, I know him really well. So I didn't have to do any investigating on how they were. And to be honest, that doesn't on enter my mind about who they are or where they come from. I just go there and try to do the best that I can and try to put the numbers on the board and get some results and make you guys happy and that's what I did.

Q. As far as the rules for Lights and CART go, is there anything that states that you can't do both races on the same day at the same track? CASEY MEARS: No, there isn't.

Q. Townsend mentioned that Casey didn't plan on being in Indy Lights again next year. Townsend, were you trying to tell us something that we don't know? TOWNSEND BELL: You'll have to ask Casey.

Q. Casey, there's a question for you. CASEY MEARS: There's no hidden secrets under that comment, unfortunately. Right now at the moment, you know, I've been in Lights a few years now and I've had my few good opportunities, as far as seasons go and I'm looking to move on. And I'm talking to all of the CART guys, talking to NASCAR guys, IRL guys, I just want to do move on and do something different.

Obviously, Indy Lights has been great to me, and I've had a lot of fun here and learned a lot and I think I've accomplished quite a bit, and I'm just looking to move on. And getting these CART tests and opportunity are great. Hopefully that keeps coming long and you'll see me in CART next year.

Q. So that's a definite; we won't see you in Indy Lights. I assume that if something doesn't materialize in champ cars, you are pretty confident that something will happen in IRL or NASCAR? CASEY MEARS: It is hard to say. My confidence level is up there because obviously I feel like I can move up and move on. There's a lot of things that are going to have to fall in place to make anything happen whether its IRL NASCAR, CART. There's a lot of work involved. You can never say for sure what's going to happen. But things have gone well. I've got to get -- I've got a good record behind me now and I'm going to take what I've got and try to move on.

Q. There's talk of the IRL and Indy Lights running some joint races next year. What's your feeling on that? Is that something that would be good for the series? CASEY MEARS: I believe so. To be honest, I haven't really thought too much into that. Obviously, Indy Lights has some good reasons behind it. Maybe it is one step closer to getting CART and IRL together. If they blend the two, maybe something good can come out of it. There's a lot of confusion right now in the general public's eye between CART and IRL. CART is starting to get very established in its own right. And CART is already established -- it is hard to say. Obviously, going to some different venues will be nice for Indy Lights. It will be fun, I'm sure. I'm not sure of all of the reasons behind it, but I'm sure there will be good races.

        Q.  Townsend, your opinion? 
        TOWNSEND BELL:  I've been trying to come up with an answer while
Casey was talking.  I still didn't have one.  I was a little surprised when
they announced that, but  -- I don't know if they have announced that.  I
don't know where that stands.  Did they announce that?

MODERATOR: We have not announced a schedule yet, but it is pretty much a known fact that we have been in discussions with the IRL to run in a couple of their races next year, and we are just putting the finishing touches on it. It is looking very good it is going to happen at a couple of events. TOWNSEND BELL: I was a little surprised when I heard about that, but, you know, these are race cars and those are racetracks; so we go where they tell us. I certainly -- my goal is to get into CART, and I like the fact that this year, all 12 of my races have been in front of the champ car community, as that is where my primary focus is. I don't know that I was thrilled about that, but it is just one of those things, and if I need to go and win a race in front of the IRL crowd to win an Indy Lights championship, that's what you've got to do.

Q. Does that mean next year's Indy Lights schedule will expand by that number of races -- MODERATOR: At the moment we are planning on the same 12-event schedule. And polling teams over the past couple years, we found 12 works best for the owners, putting together budgets and working with drivers and sponsors to finalize it. We've ran as many as 14 races in the past. Now, if you ask drivers, I imagine the drivers want to run as much as possible, but we seem to come up with a dozen races as the magic number.

Q. Casey, when is the deadline for you to find out if you get a champ car ride in Fontana? CASEY MEARS: Shortly after Australia. Once they get through Australia and see how things work out, then we'll know what's going to happen for sure.

        Q.  So that would be Monday or Tuesday of next week? 
        CASEY MEARS:  Exactly.

Q. And anything after that is too rushed, too hurried to do? CASEY MEARS: Yeah. You're getting ready to run in a champ car events, you need to know exactly what's going to happen and what times and when. You know, obviously, waiting until after Australia, it is already three months late, for me. You know, to get an opportunity like that, you have to take it while you can and that's going to be the deadline.

        Q.  Is it just going to be with Bobby's team or do you think Chip
would add a third car?  What direction do you think it may fall in?
        CASEY MEARS:  Right now, things are so vague on exactly what's going
to happen that I'd actually rather not comment on it right now.  We'll know
more after Australia.  Everything will be out then. 

Q. Indy Lights cars are very close in terms of specifications to Formula 3000 cars. I believe they have a little less horsepower, and I believe the chassis is a little bigger and so forth. But for the most part, it is like a Formula 3000 car. The Formula 3000 drivers seem to get a lot of recognition around the world, what's known as a formula that people recognize. And if you do good in Formula 3000, you're known as somebody who can maybe drive a Formula 1 car or a champ car. Because of specifications so close, what do you guys think about -- if CART were to either move to a Formula 3000 specification and call it something that the Formula 3000 -- name it so that it got that recognition, or do you think it should just stay unique as it is and call it Indy Lights? Either driver? CASEY MEARS: That's kind of a tough question. Obviously Indy Lights is Indy Lights. It's been Indy Lights for quite a few years now. It has got a name actually established in its own right that it is producing, you know, great champ car racers. And if you look at half of the field right now, most of the guys that are in champ cars have come out of Indy Lights and done very well. You know, I know what you're saying; that people do know 3000. It's a little bit different because Formula 1 guys don't consider Lights like we consider 3000, where champ car drivers will look at a 3000 guy or a Lights guy and they both come over and have done equally as good. You know, I think it's more of a reputation. It's more overrated in Europe; that the Lights doesn't carry much weight, but I think here in the States, it carries quite a bit.

Q. Townsend, how about you? TOWNSEND BELL: I don't think changing the name of the series makes the drivers any better or worse, but I recognize that that's an issue. It certainly bothers me at times when you read stuff about how F3000 or British F3 is sort of the end all, be all of driver development, when that is just absolutely not the case. And there's a rather long list of guys that have come out of some of those European championships as champions or as front-runners that have gone on to do poorly in CART. And so, you know, Juan Montoya has certainly upped the status of F3000, I think, a lot. Kenny Breck came from there. Like I said, people tend to want to forget a lot of the guys that have not done well that did excel in those series. And I think as far as Indy Lights goes, if you look at some of the guys in CART right now that came up through our series, it speaks pretty well for the level of competition that Lights produces. Tracy, Herta, Hernandez, all of these guys are front-running champ car drivers, and they are sought after. Somehow, that seems to get lost in the mix every now and then. But I think that everybody should really survey all of the results and statistics before you can pass such a quick judgment. MODERATOR: I appreciate you staying here for the better part of an hour. We'll let you get back to it. Townsend, you can pack your bags. Casey, you can continue on with your work. And best of luck in the nest couple of weeks as we prepare for Fontana. Have a good time.

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Series Indy Lights
Drivers Casey Mears , Helio Castroneves , Roberto Moreno , Scott Dixon , Oriol Servia , Townsend Bell , Andrew Bordin , Jason Bright , Chip Ganassi , Roger Bailey , Greg Moore