CHAMPCAR/CART: Denver: Pook, team owners press conference, part I

CART press conference CART CEO Chris Pook, CART team owners: Carl Haas, Gerald Forsythe, Pat Patrick, Tom Anderson and Derrick Walker, Team Rahal Representative Scott Roembke and Cosworth Racing's Ian Bisco. Part 1 of 2 Merrill Cain: Thank...

CART press conference CART CEO Chris Pook, CART team owners: Carl Haas, Gerald Forsythe, Pat Patrick, Tom Anderson and Derrick Walker, Team Rahal Representative Scott Roembke and Cosworth Racing's Ian Bisco.

Part 1 of 2

Merrill Cain: Thank you very much for joining us this morning. We are joined today, as you can see, by CART president and CEO, Christopher Pook, as well as many of our distinguished members in the CART FedEx Championship Series. We wanted to gather here this morning. There's been a lot of speculation recently about the future of the teams currently in the series, and we are here today to address that and put to rest some of those concerns. This is the first of what we expect to be several announcements involving teams making a commitment to CART and the CART FedEx Championship Series for 2003 and beyond.

First, let's introduce the gentlemen who are here with us on the podium today. Starting in the front row, Bobby Rahal was hoping to be here, but he could not join us because of sponsor commitments. Scott Roembke, chief executive officer of the team has graciously joined us today. We are also joined by Pat Patrick, owner of Patrick Racing and one of the founders of CART. To my immediate right is and Carl Haas, co-owner of Newman/Haas Racing. Tom Anderson, co-owner of Fernandez Racing. We are also joined by Christopher Pook at the very end there.

Up to the back podium starting on the far right: Gerry Forsythe, owner of Player's/Forsythe Racing. We are also joined by Derrick Walker, owner of Walker Racing. And on the far end, Ian Bisco of Cosworth Racing joins us here today. We'll get each one of these gentlemen to talk about their commitment to CART. First off, we want to begin with CART president and CEO Chris Pook. Chris, with the support of the gentlemen around you here today, talk about where you expect the extremely competitive CART field to be in terms of cars and teams as we head into 2003.

Chris Pook: Thank you, Merrill. Before I get to that point, my comments, if you'll bear with me, I just want to give you a bit of an overall update because we are going to be away from the United States until get back to Miami in the first weekend of October. I think there's an overall update I'd like to do for you this morning. First of all, I want to thank the media for the coverage they have given us this year. They have worked with us and I appreciate that very much. Particularly in this market, I want to thank the Denver Post for their coverage, which has obviously been terrific.

I want to thank the Rocky Mountain News. I was pretty rough on them in Thursday's press conference, but their coverage has come back and been terrific and it's been balanced and I'm grateful for that. If you get on someone's back and you complain about one thing, they need to be complimented when they do other things; and I want to compliment them for their efforts there. I also want to thank our sponsors, particularly, Bridgestone for their supply of tires to us in the series; FedEx, for their continued sponsorship of the series; and of course Shell for supporting this event this weekend.

I think that one of comments I want to make to you, and I understand that you are under a certain amount of pressure from time to time, but one of the things I want to do here today is stop some of the spin that's been going on all year long, and I want to very respectfully remind everybody that when we came on board with this administration at the beginning of the year, we told you we would do certain things along the way. I would remind you very respectfully, every single thing we told you we would do, we have done and we continue to do that in spite of the fact that there continues to be those in our paddock that want to justify their departure. We don't want to get into that, we don't want to discuss that and we don't believe it deserves discussing in our paddock.

But what we would ask you to look at is what this administration does and what this series is all about, and this series is all good going to major markets and putting on competitive motor car racing. If you look at the delivery vehicle that CART provides to sponsors who wish to come into the series, be they sponsors of racing cars, be the sponsors of the event or be they series sponsors, you start to look at the markets and capability that CART has to be a delivery vehicle for corporations that want to come to our series, it is second to none. We control the three largest markets in Canada, the two largest markets in Mexico and we are in ten of the top 30 markets in the United States of America.

We will be in Miami next. Next year we will be joined by Tampa/St. Pete, and you can see us back in Texas again in 2004, along with two other major markets. We firmly believe that is our responsibility as a company to take our product to the markets and not have the markets come to us. That is the delivery mechanism that CART offers and will continue to offer. Let me speak to the issue for a second of racing cars. I continue to hear speculation about the number of cars in our series. It's the same sort of speculation that I heard in Long Beach in 1976 and 1977 when the spin doctors were out there saying there with would never be a Long Beach Grand Prix.

Same sort of conversation I heard in 1983 when we stopped doing Formula 1 and we went to CART in 1984: It wouldn't work, be impossible, rejected by the public, you could not put it together, the city would not want it, etc., Etc. Well, spin doctors were wrong on both occasions. They fabricated a story, think built the paper man up and it got knocked down, and today we have the same spin doctors doing the same thing in this series. I am here to tell you that we will have 18 cars in this series next year. I am here to tell that you, also, it could well be 21 cars. These gentlemen who are here today are long-time car owners in our series. They are not going to be forced to tell you who their sponsor is or who their driver is in the middle of August, beginning of September; that is not the way this business works. They have every right to announce who their sponsors are and who their drivers are in their own time. That is value to their sponsors, and we are not going to try and take that value away.

I am sure you're welcome to try and ask them who they are going to have, and some might care to answer you. Some of them may not. But it is not fair for us as a sanctioning body to ask them go out of the normal rules of business. So, that having been said, we will continue to grow this series, we will continue to put it on a new track, we will continuing to go new markets and we will continue to be the best sports marketing delivery vehicle in North America, as well as we will continue some of our European venues and we will certainly go back to Australia and we'll go back to the Orient one more time. That will not occur before 2004. And we will continue to develop the series and bring new types of product to you starting in 2005. The objective of this company is to stabilize it in 2003 and 2004; that we have done by doing the relationship with Cosworth, we will stabilize it with our major events and in 2005 welcome into a new engine formula, and you'll see a new CART moving down the road.

Merrill Cain: That said, as Chris pointed out, these gentlemen may or may not be able to announce their drivers, sponsors for next year, but I think they want it announce their commitment to CART going forward. We'll start with Gerald Forsythe. Talk about CART's Canadian Triple Crown. We added a new race in Montreal this year, very successful event last weekend. Talk about what that means to your team and sponsors and your plans for next season.

Gerald Forsythe: Well, hopefully many of you did make the Montreal Grand Prix. It was one of the best events I think of the season, and will continue to grow. As far as my sponsors are concerned, it was all about the Player's team. If you read the newspapers, if you watched TV, and if you listened to the media, it was a Player's race and we are very appreciative of that. I've been one of CART's biggest supporters, as most of you know. CART racing is the best, most diversified type of open-wheel racing, and why wouldn't we want to be involved in it? I want to confirm today: Two cars, reasonably sure a third car, and speculation on a fourth car. We are committed.

Merrill Cain: Excellent news. Thank you very much. Derrick Walker, I know the high-tech nature of the series is something that really appeals to you, and if you could talk about that, what appeals to you about racing in CART, and also the financial incentives that CART has put forward, announced recently, entrance support program, how that makes it more affordable for teams to compete in the CART FedEx Championship Series.

Derrick Walker: Well, certainly high-tech is a big part of auto racing. I think what you have seen over the last few months is CART's attempt to try and manage the cost of that and incentivize the teams in whatever way it can to be able to participate. And I think it's important to realize what it really happening here. CART is in transition, and there are major changes happening in our sport, as you are well aware of, and these are having a knock-on effect to the race teams. So, there is a certain perception of uncertainty. There's a lot of teams that probably are working very hard on trying to know where they are coming from in the future.

I don't hear from one end of the pit lane to the other that if people have any doubt about whether CART would be where they want to be if they could be here, so there are commercial concerns. I think CART and certainly the board has been very effective in working through some of these issues to try and actually incentivize the teams, or cap some of the costs as we get through this transition period. I think there's also a realization in CART, certainly at the board level, that this transition is not a six-month slide through, and then we're out of it and we get on down the road. This is a couple of years of transition from where we are right now to where the CART of the future is going to go. So I think you've got to give the current management time to evolve and work on the issues of today.

But I think nobody can deny it, and certainly no team owner that I've ever talked to in CART, has any hesitation if they are able to compete in this series and be here. It is, as Gerry (Forsythe) points out, it is a complete series and it has such a lot of benefits that really deserve to be saved. And I think what you see here is a number of team owners, and you will see others in the future who will step up and reiterate their determination to try and compete in the series. As far as Walker Racing is concerned, it my intention to be back next year, certainly with a one-, and hopefully with a two-car team. We are working very hard on doing that. Getting a lot of help from CART's front office to try and add some value to the sponsorship. But I think we've really got to focus on what the benefits are of the series and sell on the strength of the benefits. I think all too often, we get distracted by looking at the short-term objectives. And certainly, all of the team owners are here today -- and you'll see others -- that are going to come up and say the same thing: There is benefit here, and they do want to be here. And I am certain they are going to add my name to the list.

Merrill Cain: Carl Haas, your team is the most successful team currently competing in the CART FedEx Championship Series. You have won three titles and you are going after a fourth with current series leader Cristiano da Matta. Talk a little bit about your success in CART and how you plan on continuing that success going forward.

Carl Haas: As you all probably know, I've been racing in CART for a long time alongside my partner, Paul Newman. We expect -- we are certainly committed to continue racing in CART. I can't tell you my whole program right now, but we are going to be there and we are certainly going to continue to be there with a first-class program. But getting back to -- besides what we are going to do, what Chris earlier said about having at least an 18-car field, I absolutely believe, and some of the things I've looked at that I don't particularly want to go into, I'm convinced that will happen. If that happens, CART certainly will have a transitional year in 2003. But I think as it goes forward, it's going to get straightened out again. It's a difficult time right now in all forms of racing. I'm involved in other forms of racing, and the economy is as bad as I've seen it, and the first thing that gets cut is sponsorship and advertising. But we are going to have 18 cars, and I'm going to be there with you again, and I hope for a long time. Thank you.

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Team owners press conference, part II

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Bobby Rahal , Paul Newman , Carl Haas , Tom Anderson , Chris Pook , Gerald Forsythe , Cristiano da Matta