CHAMPCAR/CART: CCWS, Road America press conference, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q: Can you give us an idea of the scale of the requests from the fans? And was it more of a regional request type fan base or was it a national type effort? STEVE JOHNSON: Well, I would say it was international ...

Continued from part 1

Q: Can you give us an idea of the scale of the requests from the fans? And was it more of a regional request type fan base or was it a national type effort?

STEVE JOHNSON: Well, I would say it was international because everywhere I went, whether it was Australia, Mexico, I had fans come up to me saying, "We would sure like to see you back at Road America." I don't know. You know how it is when you get 100 e-mails, you could swear it was 1,000 or 10,000, and I can literally say I've had hundreds of e-mails and requests from people, as well as teams, because it really is a driver's track. They love it and they've been telling us, "Guys, please go back to Road America." Again, we listen to what our fans had to say, because ultimately, without our fans we don't have a series.

Q: So you didn't get a sense that it was from a lot of people in that area, of that neck of the woods, that would therefore attend the event?

STEVE JOHNSON: Well, we did get some of that, especially from a lot of the local SCCA members up in that area, who I know very well. Many of them have said, "We would love to get Champ Car back." But again, these are e-mails that come in from our local and very avid Champ Car fans that I'm sure a lot of them will make the trek to Road America in September.

Q: That was the most common way to communicate their message, through e-mail?

STEVE JOHNSON: E-mails, phone calls, in-person at the race tracks, because what you find is they're not shy, and they come up and tell us what they think, and again, we listen to them.

Q: Just as a follow-up. You said you're dealing with everything from a business perspective. Does that mean you have a title sponsor for the event?

STEVE JOHNSON: Not currently, but we are working towards one and we anticipate having one here in the next couple of months.

Q: I would just like to confirm if this is a one-year two or a multi-year deal. And when will the Champ Car schedule for 2006 be finalized?

STEVE JOHNSON: This is a one-year deal, because we put it together and wanted to get the announcement out quickly. We anticipate entering into multi-year in the future, but that's something that George and I and Joe have to sit down and work out. We anticipate this being the last adjustment on the schedule.

Q: A question for Steve. I notice there was an announcement for the Atlantic Series to be added to the race for them. Is this in addition to their schedule or was this a TBA on their schedule when it was announced?

JOE CHRNELICH: Well, to be honest with you, I don't know the answer to that. I had informed Vicki on Friday morning that this was coming to a head, so everything moved quite quickly on it. I do know from what Vicki O'Connor told me, she said, "Joe, this is great news for us. Our teams are going to be excited. And oh, by the way, we can also have our banquet there for the last race of the year." I don't know the answer to it, but that's the reason why.

Q: Joe and George, in the past, you struggled with attendance, hence the reason why there was no race this past year or two. You mentioned about a new deal that you're both in it together. What's going to be different about this new deal that's going to make it work this time? What do you have planned? Can you say anything at all?

JOE CHRNELICH: From our perspective, George and I chatted last week when we started getting some meat on the bones of this thing. The one thing that we bring forward this go-around, which we weren't quite there in '04, as we were rebuilding the promoters services department, we want to work a lot closer hand in hand with our promoters, trying new ideas and sharing new ideas between the promoters. Obviously we've had some great successes this year, with Edmonton, San Jose, Denver. These guys blew the doors a lot. Our new philosophy relative to promoters in the series is, we really promote communications between the promoters and the series. So if we have an idea that works, it's a transportable idea. Where in the past, the promoters tended to keep their ideas very guarded. The series really -- the former series really never promoted having the promoters talk. So I think this go-around, and George and I, like I said, we talked about this at length, you're going to see a lot more collaboration of things we can bring to help re-energize the event. George obviously has the years of experience of having been there when Road America was huge, when it was the hottest ticket around. So we'll look at what worked in the past. We're going to bring ideas that we know have worked in the past year. And I think combined -- and I'll let George comment on this, but I think combined people are going to see a new energy and a new look, which are going to tell them, you know what, it's time to get back to Road America.

GEORGE BRUGGENTHIES: This is George. I sense the Champ Car management team that's in place right now, this is a whole new Champ Car that has never existed. I've got a lot of confidence that the promotion cooperation is going to be tremendous. And also now the fans have had a year off and they, I think, have a better appreciation of what they didn't have in '05, and there is some renewed energy on our part also to make this event happen. Your suggestions are always welcome, Mark.

Q: One follow-up for George. Weather-wise, is September a dry month, a wet month, or what's it like up there?

GEORGE BRUGGENTHIES: It's been great. The last two years the weather has approached 80 degrees and been dry. September and October up here are wonderful. You should come up.

Q: This is probably for Joe and George. You guys talked about promotions. In the past, Champ Car had a co-promoter be the sole promoter of races. Will you guys have some financial involvement, and will you be the co-promoters in this, Joe?

JOE CHRNELICH: We're going to be more involved, as I mentioned earlier. There are provisions in our agreement where we can bring things to the party, transportable sponsorship, things of that nature. George is still the head guy here, though. He's our promoter. He's the guy that's going to -- he has the knowledge and experience in the market, so we're going to rely heavily on him. But as I said earlier, you're going to see a lot more from Champ Car, as well.

Q: There seemed to be so much bad blood between what is now called Champ Car and Road America. George, what turned the tied for you to say, okay, I want to do business with these guys again?

GEORGE BRUGGENTHIES: I wouldn't say that there was bad blood. It was all legal and attorneys involved. We've always loved the product of Champ Car open wheel racing at Road America. It belongs here, and that's why it's back here again. Again, there is a management team in place at Champ Car, and the ownership structure, they're able to make decisions quickly for the right purpose, and that's why this deal happened now, because of the team that's in place there, both in management and ownership. That's what's different.

Q: How many meetings did it take for you to realize this is a different series?

GEORGE BRUGGENTHIES: Well, we certainly have been looking at the product and we saw the TV package that happened in '05, again was much better than the '04 season. The '04 season was just the first season for the new ownership. It was so quickly, that series, and amazing that they were able to put a series on in '04 just in the first place. And they really have taken a large step and had a lot of great successes in '05, and we just buy into that. We see great things happening in the future. We hope this is a deal that's going to go on for many years.

Q: Is the schedule pretty much set or do you expect to add more races? And in particular anything on the East Coast or in the south?

STEVE JOHNSON: The schedule is set for '06. Now having said that, if the best deal in the world came around, would we take a look at it? Absolutely. and those are areas obviously in the east and the south that we would be interested in. Really, it's set for 06. We're already working on '07.

Q: Katherine Legge has had her test with Formula One and she's going to be testing in Sebring in December. Is there any comments on how well she did? Is there any comments on, you know, perhaps her being another year in Atlantic and then moving up to Champ Car?

STEVE JOHNSON: Well, I think everybody will agree that Katherine is a rising star and arguably one of the best women racers in the world today. So we'll see. We know she's going to be in Atlantics for this coming season. And if she performs well and does well in her test, the owners, the team owners, always have that option if they want to move her up. But I think they've got her on a very good program right now. She's getting better every time she gets behind the car, and it's going to be one heck of a season in Atlantics this coming here.

Q: Obviously there will be a Champ Car test session in Sebring in December. Does it look like you'll continue to have your annual spring training in Sebring, as well, or has that been set?

STEVE JOHNSON: It has not been set. I need to have some meetings with Tony Cotman who organizes that for us.

Q: George, the announcements that you recently made for upgrades to the circuit, will they be completed in time for the entire season next year, or when do you think they will be done? And are there any other races that you see on the schedule for the Champ Car weekend or is it just going to be the Atlantics and the Champ Car?

GEORGE BRUGGENTHIES: We haven't decided what other support series are going to be a part of that weekend, but I'm sure we're going to add something besides the Atlantics. As far as the facility improvements, that's a several-year project. Some things will be in place. We've already repaved five turns and the paddock expansion, and a new medical building will be in place for all of next season. There are other facility improvements that will take several other years.

Q: The package has been there for the United States. But unfortunately, in Latin America there's no TV package. Is there any plans in the future to get better distribution?

STEVE JOHNSON: There actually is, and we're in negotiations right now with international distribution, and that's one of the meetings I'm having here while I'm in New York. The answer is just stay tuned. It's going to get better. We're committed to our international partners. We're in over 180 countries currently.

MODERATOR: Thank you everybody for calling in today, and we appreciate your coverage of the Champ Car World Series.


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Katherine Legge