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

Champ Car Cleveland Town Meeting Transcript with Christopher R. Pook, Bud Stanner, Jim Liberatore, Patrick Carpentier and Joey Hand Part 4 of 6 Q: My question I guess would be maybe directed at Chris about Lola being back in the picture and...

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

Part 4 of 6

Q: My question I guess would be maybe directed at Chris about Lola being back in the picture and then to Patrick, the difference in physically driving a Reynard versus a Lola. Pat?

CHRIS POOK: Well, Lola is very much in the picture right now. They are very important to us, indeed, at the present time. As you know, Reynard unfortunately had a bad turn of events last year. We had teams with Reynards that we are trying to help improve, and Lola actually is helping us in that area. Lola is actually taking some bits and pieces for the Reynard to see if we can get the Reynard just to move up the ladder a little bit. Although I think Patrick will probably tell you he doesn't want the Reynards to go any quicker because a couple of them were going pretty fast at Milwaukee.

PATRICK CARPENTIER: The Reynard is a chassis that's fast on the high-speed tracks, tracks that have momentum, like Mid-Ohio. It's a chassis that needs to run close to the ground to create good downforce. The Lola, the advantage the Lola has is that it's a chassis that you can run low or high and which makes basically the same downforce. So for a team, it's a lot easier to work with a Lola, especially when you go to racetracks that are slower.

To drive the Reynard was actually fairly difficult because it's a very nervous car. It's a car that's fairly loose by nature, and to make it decent, it's got to push a lot. Pushing means when you enter the corner, the front doesn't stick. It just keeps pushing and gets slow ed down more to go around the corner.

The Reynard was difficult to set up. The window is quite a bit smaller. To run it, to be competitive with it, we found that it has to be fairly stiff with springs and stuff, so it's a lot tougher to drive.

I remember in Denver, I couldn't even see where I was going on some of the corners because it was so hard to drive. It was fast that way.

The Lola is a little bit more forgiving and the window to set it up seems to be a little bit wider and it's a really well built car and very easy to work on.

Q: My name is Yvonne. I'm really from Toronto where I saw my first Molson Indy. Two questions. First of all what's going to happen with the Player's sponsorship at the end of this year, is that still in jeopardy? And how come we don't see Molson or Labatt sponsoring a car?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: There are many laws in Canada that they don't exist in the United States. One of them is that after this year, I think its October; most likely tobacco will be illegal to advertise anything that resembles a tobacco name or something close to that. Even if you build a lighter and put the same name as Player's, you're never going to be allowed to advertise it.

So I know they are battling to try to fight it so they can keep sponsoring. But at the moment, it's not looking very good. It's not final, but at the moment, it's difficult on that.

The beer companies, there are also some laws that keeps them from sponsoring individual drivers, I don't know exactly what they are, but I know that's one of the reasons why they cannot sponsor events. They can sponsor events but not teams.

ADAM SAAL: Labatt is the official beer of this event and it's also on Adrian Fernandez's car.

PATRICK CARPENTIER: If they have a plan that's outside of Canada, then they can do the sponsorship.

ADAM SAAL: I don't know what the exact relationship is, but if you look closely on Adrian Fernandez's car, you will see a Labatt logo on there and he's carried them for a couple of years. It works well.

Q: My name is Mark McDonald; I'm a rising driver myself in go-carts right now. My question is really about how we are struggling in the ladder series to get to Champ Cars.

CHRIS POOK: I should just tell from you the overview we have, and I'm on record here and already in deep trouble in various places for saying it, but I just think that we need to put more horsepower into our secondary series so the transition isn't so great for these guys to go from 270 horsepower to 750. Formula 3000 is upping their horsepower a bit over in Europe as well and the Telefonica series has also upped their horsepower and narrowed the width of their tires and made the cars more difficult to drive.

My personal opinion is I don't think we do any favors as a sanctioning body to our youngsters by putting them in the cars that they are in now. We need to make the car more powerful and more difficult to drive, and then Joey will be able to get out of his car and jump straight into a Champ Car and go quickly right away versus having to spend four or five hours on getting used to that horsepower transition. It's not that he's not capable of doing it; it's just that we haven't given him the right training, right tools to be able do it, but that's just my opinion. Patrick and Joey can talk to that issue.

PATRICK CARPENTIER: There's still a few guys this year that have been a Formula 1 test driver because it's a very similar car in a way and very similar in horsepower and they are hoping to jump in and be quick right away. [CART Toyota] Atlantics was a really good school because it's built the same way, but I agree with Chris. With a little bit more power, it would shorten the learning curve once you get to the CART series.

JOEY HAND: I think Champ Cars could use some more power, too. It would be more fun for sure. I think also, no offense to some of the guys that have moved up to Champ Car this year, there's definitely no Patrick Carpentier, or Memo Gidley. When they moved up from Atlantics those guys were ready to go and I don't think some of those guys that you saw that moved up to year are really ready to go.

I feel like personally I've paid my dues and I've done a lot of racing in Atlantic now. This will be my third year. I know the tracks and I know a lot about setting up a race car at these tracks and shocks and springs and that's all part of it. That's what Champ Car guys are looking for. They don't really want that - they want raw talent but you also have to know how to set the car up every week. I think you are going to see some possibly newer guys, hopefully myself; there are also a lot of strong guys running Atlantics this year that will make some bigger waves in Champ Car if given an opportunity. That's my feeling but more horsepower would be good, too.

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Just so you know, Chris, if you give these guys a bit more horsepower we want more, too.

CHRIS POOK: He never misses his chance, does he? (Laughter).

Q: I'm Brad from lake wood Ohio. My question is for Joey. Given your fairly quick comeback from your incident in Milwaukee last year, how important would you consider consideration to your series and to CART as well?

JOEY HAND: Well, I think it's very, very important. Probably more than I can understand at this point. Patrick can probably tell you since he's made the jump from Atlantic to Champ Car our series - we only run around 80 miles every weekend. So for me, it seems fairly easy. I feel like I'm in very good condition for driving an Atlantic car, but I know it's a whole other level when you run to Champ Cars and you're running two hours, two and a half hours with a lot more downforce, a lot more tire, a lot more horsepower.

So since my accident I'm in pretty good shape and being able to sit out for those 70 days doesn't sound like that long but I missed six races. When you go from running and think you're invincible to being hurt like that and having to sit out, there's no choice, you get to see both sides. And looking from the outside in, I decided that possibly I wasn't doing as good as I could as far as physical stuff and being in the gym. So I stepped it up another level just in case I do get that chance to run a Champ Car at the end of this year.

For me, if it's going to happen at Champ Car, it's going to be the end of this year and that means September, October, November. So I have to be ready to show my stuff when the time comes. I think it's very important.

Q: I'm here from Cleveland, my name is Keith. Earlier you mentioned something about depth perception being different at night. Could you speak more about that and the challenges by running under the lights?

PATRICK CARPENTIER: Yeah, it's just a little bit different when you run on the natural light or light that's been put up afterwards in the dark. You get some - not really dark spots, but it's just different, the way you see is not necessarily the same as during daytime. You get used to it. But the way the car comes, it's a little bit darker than what it's normally is. Like with the sun, everything is bright, the back of the car, and just as an example, during daytime if you turn our rain lights on, you don't really see it. But under the lights at night, the guys that turned it on, you really can see it so that just shows you, whether you want it to or not, it's a little bit different.

But once you get used to it and everybody knows, it's pretty much the same. Only here in Cleveland, like Chris said, we're just going to have to work on the braking, making sure that you've got some marking so that we know where to stop because the racetrack here is basically flat, so it's very difficult to see and judge where the corners are. So that's going to be that, and then it should be fine afterwards. After a few laps, you get in a rhythm, get used to it and then it's fine.

Q: Two questions for Chris. A couple years ago your stock trading on the New York exchange was about 15 a share and now it's coming back from a low, I think it's around 2.50 a share. How do you explain that positive performance? And secondly...

CHRIS POOK: Very carefully.

Q: Would you consider going private, taking CART private?

CHRIS POOK: Well, I am on record as saying that I don't believe CART should be a public company. I can't really talk any more than that about it because every time, as a public company, I make a statement that has not been made before to any group of people, Adam usually has to rush and put out a press release to the world and tell them that I said this. Otherwise, I am considered giving privileged information to a small group of people versus giving it to the whole universe. I know I'm not answering your question but I will leave that part there.

The other part is the stock price. The stock price is what it is. I can't do anything about it. What I can do though is fix the company, and when I fix the company the stock price will come back. If I start worrying about the stock, looking at my screen every day and what the stock price is, that will be totally unproductive of the company and I would be worrying about that instead of the real issues, and that's rebuilding this company.

Q: I was wondering, you mentioned about bringing young drivers up and keeping drivers in the fold and serving in that and I was wondering if Champ Car or CART can do anything to encourage that to get the Joey Hands and A.J. Allmendingers in and have some corporate support for them; in other words, have maybe a contingency or something set so that Ryan Hunter-Reay does not have to have Ryan on the side of his car and Jimmy [Vasser] on the side of his car , if there's something that you can do as a corporate level to encourage that.

CHRIS POOK: Well we do have a program underway right now where we are out in the marketplace looking for a company to come in and sponsor a top-finishing American driver in the Atlantics series so they can go on up to the big series and take some money with him as he goes up. That program is underway. We are marketing it, selling it hard and we think it can be meaningful. We clearly know we have a responsibility to bring the youngsters up. Canada has a great program that has helped develop Patrick and Alex [Tagliani] and Paul [Tracy] when they were young, and Mexico has got an incredible program for their young drivers. We don't in this country, and we are putting it together right now because we need to do it; it's our responsibility and we will do it.

ADAM SAAL: It could be a young woman stepping up from Atlantic as well, unless Joey has something to say about that. Danica Patrick did well in her debut this weekend.

Q: We see the chassis changes and all this coming in 2005, you've talked about gasoline, and this combined with reading last week in Auto Week, you were hopping all over Europe visiting manufacturers. Will this bring new manufacturers into the sport to get real competition going again, beef up the competitive juices?

CHRIS POOK: Yes, well, one of the things we want to do is bring the chassis prices down to a sensible level where guys can buy a chassis for 250,000, 265,000 for a rolling chassis versus 400,000 today. That's one of the things we are doing.

Second thing is, it's public information, we are out there anxiously soliciting engine manufacturers to come to the series, and we have a great story to tell because we deliver North America, Canada, the United States and Mexico, which is the largest automotive buying market in the world; and by 2007, this market will be two and a half times larger than any other auto buying market in the world. We have something to offer to an automobile manufacturer who comes to our series and we are out talking to a lot of them and encouraging them and showing them out, by coming to this series, they can sell automobiles.

Part V

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Memo Gidley , Adrian Fernandez , Patrick Carpentier , Joey Hand , A.J. Allmendinger , Danica Patrick