CHAMPCAR/CART: Cleveland Champ Car Town Meeting, part I

Champ Car Cleveland Town Meeting Transcript with Christopher R. Pook, Bud Stanner, Jim Liberatore, Patrick Carpentier and Joey Hand Part 1 of 6 ADAM SAAL: Hi everybody, that's what we call an eye-opening video to get you pumped up, which is...

Champ Car Cleveland Town Meeting Transcript with Christopher R. Pook, Bud Stanner, Jim Liberatore, Patrick Carpentier and Joey Hand

Part 1 of 6

ADAM SAAL: Hi everybody, that's what we call an eye-opening video to get you pumped up, which is basically the purpose for this Town Meeting here in Cleveland: and to get you pumped up for the U.S. Bank Presents The Cleveland Grand Prix under the lights. It is my job to be up here and promote the race as Vice President of Communications for CART Champ Car, but at the same time it's with a lot of personal pride because I am a native of Cleveland.

ADAM SAAL: We'll go in the order in which the panelists were introduced. Jim Liberatore, the first question is, did you come to this race before you left town?

JIM LIBERATORE: To be honest, no I never came to the Cleveland event before I started working at SPEED, but I can tell you I have attended more CART races than any other series since I joined the network. In fact, most of the races I've attended have been CART events. This included Cleveland last year, and it was a great event. Great to be back in my hometown.

ADAM SAAL: It is true, SPEED Channel has been a great supporter of ours and Jim feels the passion we feel for racing. But how's it going with the telecast? We had the first night race here last weekend, were you able to gage in any way how the telecast went?

JIM LIBERATORE: We haven't seen the final ratings yet, but it looked very good and made for great television. We think this format has some potential and I'm pretty confident our viewers liked it as well.

ADAM SAAL: Well it was definitely a great show from where we sat and we thought it came across well. SPEED is growing, adding households every month. I know there's always a question about the distribution and how to get the channel. But the action we saw at Milwaukee, we are also going to see for our race here July 5th in Cleveland. It's going to be great.

Another one of the driver's whose definitely made some fireworks here before, in one of the most exciting races we've ever seen in the 22-plus year history of the event is Joey Hand. Joey, I think it was Hoover Orsey you were battling with a couple years ago, literally going wheel-to-wheel kind of like Emerson Fittipaldi and Nigel Mansfield in 1993.

Back in the cockpit you went back to Milwaukee last year, talk a little bit about how it went at Milwaukee.

JOEY HAND: Struggled a little bit, but yeah, looking forward to getting back on the road course. As you know, we go to [Mazda Raceway] Laguna [Seca] and Portland [International Raceway] and then back here for 4th of July weekend. I love this place. I missed it last year unfortunately because I was hurt, but it's great to be the hometown race. And we had a close one in 2001. Almost won that thing and got away from me in the last corner. So should be fun.

ADAM SAAL: Well, you are definitely healthy, back in action. You're looking real good and you're going to come back swinging this year. Tell everybody what the injury was, how you recovered and how you are feeling.

JOEY HAND: It was at Milwaukee. I had a testing crash before the race last year, broke three vertebras and my knee, a rib and my tailbone. Took 70 days; it was the minimum allowed by the CART doctors, but I was back driving in 70 days, just missed the Cleveland race by a week. So got back in for I think Three Rivers and finished the last four races last year. Started out strong this year, but I feel really good physically, probably the best shape I've been in in a long time and just ready to go racing now. We've had some bad luck starting this year, so hopefully we can get on a roll, get in a couple wins for the halfway point.

ADAM SAAL: That rally just to get back in action deserves a round of applause. Great to have you back where you belong this year.

This next driver got on the podium this past weekend in Milwaukee, but he was two spots removed from where he was last year at Cleveland and Mid-Ohio. We've talked about it before, Pat, if you are going to run naked here for us, when you win a race, we are going to end up making you an adopted Clevelander. Outstanding run and your team has done well this year. Do you think you can repeat in Cleveland this year?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Hopefully we can do that, but this time if I run naked, I'll ask them to turn the lights off.

Yes, hopefully we can do that. The team is running pretty strong. Paul has had a few good races and I'm just coming off of a pretty good one [third] in Milwaukee and that was at night also. It was a lot of fun and I'm really looking forward to coming back here.

ADAM SAAL: You were very complimentary of the lights. You said it was great we tried something new and you said even though you could see clear as day; it's a different experience. Even though it's just as bright, what is different?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: The way you approach the other cars seems to be a little bit different than when you are in broad daylight. It's just again -- used to one of my guys in the pits was wearing a vest with some lights on, that's probably because I came in the wrong pits a few times, so they wanted to make sure that was not going to happen again.

Yeah, the guys had the lights all over on the pit board and everywhere, but it was fun. I really liked it. All of the drivers liked it. It was a little bit cold, but the Bridgestone shoe is a pretty good compound and we had a lot of down force. The series changed the downforce and we could make some passes and have a lot of fun on the track. I had one of the best seats because I was behind Paul Tracy and Oriol Servia, we almost took each other out about 20 times during the race and we were battling pretty hard. It was a race that I think I'm going to remember for quite a while.

ADAM SAAL: Pat being the gentleman he is, it wasn't a little cold; it was a lot cold. It got down to maybe 46 at the highest and it was amazing. A testimony to the drivers that we were able to have as few incidents as we had. It was a great race, not to mention the great fans. One columnist wrote they had no choice to stay because their butts were frozen to the seats. We are not going to have to worry that on the Fourth of July, but it's a testament to the fans of Milwaukee, but they come from the same caliber as all of you, so, thank you so much.

Bud Stanner who has been called many things, "wheels deals" and so forth, but nobody has been around to see Cleveland grow as both a sports town, as well as see the race grow, although IMG got involved 12 years ago.

BUD STANNER: This will be our 13th year.

ADAM SAAL: He was definitely aware of the race. He has seen it go through good times, bad times, consolations and relaunches and now we head into under-the-lights with the Fourth of July. Talk about the growth you've seen in the race and how important it is to the fabric of Cleveland.

BUD STANNER: Thanks to the people in this room and other Cleveland race fans that aren't here, this race has been going 22 years every year. It's because of the tremendous support we get from the fan base in this town, Cleveland is a racing town, always has been, and hopefully always will be. This is our 13th year, and there was another change this year because Championship Auto Racing Teams actually owns this event. We are their caretakers, we are their managers, but we work for CART to make this hopefully the best one ever. We are convinced that racing under the lights and the availability of the Fourth of July weekend will be just what we need to give everybody the entertainment that they are looking for.

We have run on the Fourth of July a few other times, it's always been successful. Those of you that have been here a long time will remember when Chuck Newcam started this race and it ran on the Fourth of July, I believe and certainly when Roger Penske and his team owned it, it ran on the Fourth of July. But never, ever, ever, has it run under lights. This will be the largest outdoor lighting facility for a temporary sports event in the world. We are going to set some new records here.

So that's about where we are. We are all loaded with anticipation, and in this business, like so many of the businesses you're in, you can't look back so much because you have to look forward, and we are cranked and looking forward to this year's race.

ADAM SAAL: How many of you were at the first race in 1982? Right on. How many came back and boiled the following year in '83? There we go.

Again, as you can tell, we remember all the races and we are definitely going to have a memorable one when we come back here on Fourth of July weekend. Believe it or not, this race is the oldest temporary venue on the CART tour. Everybody would think it would be Long Beach because Long Beach is the premiere street race, temporary circuit venue - I'm buttering up my boss here and the microphone goes dead, that's perfect for me. Chris [Pook] probably turned it off.

Long Beach in 1975 did set the groundwork and to say that's the foundation we operate under today is 100% true. It's urban racing, it was done in Cleveland but started in Long Beach and we have been fortunate to have at CART Champ Car - to make sure that the great product that we know and love will continue to be that way and get the ship righted. He's done a great job at it. Chris, you've heard people say: Wow, things seem to go going well, but at the same time you can never quit working hard and which is one of the reasons we are introducing new innovations such as the lighting here in Cleveland and Milwaukee. How is it going in general, and give us your take on the lights this past weekend in Milwaukee and what you think you can look for in Cleveland?

CHRIS POOK: Thank you very much for coming out tonight.

Well, we've made considerable progress over the winner as you probably know. We had a lot of pressure on us whether we were going to put 18 cars on the racetrack or not. We've actually as you know put 19 cars out on the racetrack and what other venues were going to come and what venues weren't going to come. We dealt with all of those issues and we are very fortunate to have Bridgestone and Ford join us as series sponsors, two substantial multi-national companies who stepped up and believed in our vision and where we were going, so that's very, very fortunate.

SPEED Channel has been very loyal to us and has continued to show our shows, as has CBS. So when all of these things are working well for us, we are trying to be a little bit innovative from time to time. I think the Milwaukee event, some said it would be very high-risk. I suppose if you consider racing in 40-degree weather, it's fairly high-risk.

But what was amazing there is that once we got started, the audience did not move at all and they stayed around. And it was cold. I will tell you, it was cold. They stayed there until the bitter end and I was talking to Patrick a little earlier and he said on the victory lap that he did with his two colleagues, Michel Jourdain and Oriol Servia that the fans were still cheering them at the end. It was very, very meaningful I think for all of us, indeed. Here at Cleveland - these Musco lights, by the way, are truly incredible. They are remarkable what they do. You will not believe Burke Lakefront when you see it at night under these lights, just amazing.

I think this will be a completely different atmosphere, completely different feeling. We were here I think in February or something and we tried the lighting, and I tell you what was really amazing is looking out on the lake was one thing, but then when you turn around and you see the backdrop of the city behind you, it's just truly spectacular. I think it's going to be very, very good for Cleveland, indeed, because it will be shown all over the world, the show will, and I think that it will be a very good race. The only thing that we have got to be concerned about a little bit is - and I'm sure Patrick is going to talk to us about it pretty quickly, but his depth perception for the corners at night, at nighttime when the light - you'll probably have to have some other type of markers put in place for the braking zones because it will very hard for them to get the full depth perception working efficiently for them indeed. We will address those issues.

But I can tell you when the brakes start glowing and the cars go on compression and the blue flame starts coming out the back and whether we put skid plates on the bottom of them or not, that's a debate that's going on at the moment, I'm for it. I would like to put skid plates underneath the bottoms of the cars because there are a couple of bumps out there and those skid plates will make it even more of a light show. Whether he likes it or not is another matter, but we won't ask him. (Laughter).

I think it's going to be very interesting and very dramatic, and I think the fact that the City has its fireworks show on the Fourth of July night, and those of you who are at the racetrack just have to stay in your seats because you'll have the best seat in the house for your fireworks display at the same time. I'm hopeful that it will be a wonderful evening. I was here last year and it was a nice, warm, balmy night, the night before the race, and Cleveland was a lot of fun and we really enjoyed ourselves. We can't wait to be back here and enjoy this race.

Adam, with your help, if we can introduce some of our sponsors. I know Mr. Randall came in I saw him over there, and just acknowledge them. As you know, there are two elements to putting on a motor car race: Yourselves and sponsors. So I thank you for your support, and if you'll allow us now, maybe we should just thank our sponsors for a second.

Part II


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Patrick Carpentier , Paul Tracy , Oriol Servia , Joey Hand , Emerson Fittipaldi , Roger Penske , Michel Jourdain