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

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 2 of 2 Merrill Cain: Tom ...

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 2 of 2

Merrill Cain: Tom Anderson with Fernandez Racing. CART has expanded two races in Mexico this year, one coming up in Mexico City, and that is obviously key for your sponsors, Tecate and Telmex. Talk about your team's plans for their competing in CART next year, and what the series offers you and your sponsors.

Tom Anderson: Well, for 2003, obviously, sponsor value, demographics, a key part of why any sponsor is here. And for Tecate, Quaker State and Telmex, they will be back next year in CART, with Adrian Fernandez. Very extremely excited about the two races that they have in Mexico. They are very happy to be here in Denver, and judging by the crowds we've had so far this weekend, I think that it's a very positive effect here on the CART series this year. Regarding our second car where we've got real strong negotiations going on, with three different sources right now, no deals are finalized on the 52 side, but we are expecting that that's a strong possibility for next year.

Merrill Cain: Scott Roembke joins us from Team Rahal. Scott, first talk about the success the series has had in urban markets. Diversity is one of the things that makes CART great and appeals to so many people with races stages not only on street courses, but also road courses and short ovals, super speedways. Talk about the diversity of competition in the CART series and how that appeals to Team Rahal.

Scott Roembke: Well, I think Bobby (Rahal) is quite clear on his love of road racing and the various circuits CART participates on. I mean, just walking over here from the paddock, fighting through the people, obviously the formula of taking the races to the people in these downtown areas is extremely successful. And I think Chris has charged (CART Vice-President) John (Lopes) and his crew to make sure that once we get the people here, we can put on a good, competitive show for them, and certainly, that's something that we can work on in some of the areas. But I think the downtown races are just great. I think you get a diversified mix of fans, and it's easy access for them. And as long as we can have circuits that allow the drivers to showcase their skills, I think that's the way to go in the future.

Merrill Cain: Mr. Patrick is one of the founders of CART. You are particularly in tune with the history and heritage of the series. Can you talk about why not only you are proud of the history of CART, but also why you want to be part of its future.

Pat Patrick: Well, thank you. I thank all of you for coming today. I'm surprised we have such a following, after all of the rumors we have heard through the paddock area. Anyway, Patrick Racing is planning to be here next year with one car, which is pretty much funded, and we are working diligently on a second car. I'd like to comment that I think CART has the best product in the world, racing product. We race on road courses, street courses, we race Indianapolis, superspeedways, short ovals, and I don't think you can find any racing series anywhere that can set forth the diversity that's right where you get a lot better than we are denying but that's the right way to describe it. I know CART is here to stay. I know there will be 18 cars on the racetrack, and we expect to be one or two of them.

Merrill Cain: We are joined by Al Speyer with Bridgestone Tires, as well. And Ian Bisco joins us from Cosworth Racing and we appreciate you joining us. Of course, we have an exclusive engine deal with Cosworth in 2003 and 2004. If you would just briefly touch on Cosworth's deal with CART and why the high-tech platform that CART provides to you is such an appeal to Cosworth.

Ian Bisco: I think just to expand a little bit on when we made the announcement in Portland, we at Cosworth are committed to CART. We have been developing the engine since we made the announcement. We have done a lot of testing and setting up, getting the engine parameters correct for what we think is going to be necessary next year. I think the big thing that I should say is that this is by no means a low-tech engine. This is still a complicated, high-tech engine that we will be supplying next year and it will be the same engine that everybody will get. I think right now, we have got parts loaded for 20 cars next year. We are committed doing this.

We think it's going to be a very exciting series. We are not underestimating that the teams are going to be very demanding. I think it's going to be fun. I think that the level of competition is going to be very, very close. I realize that there will be a lot of demand put on us, but we've been around, we have been in this series a long time. We have supported CART for 20-odd years right now and this brings something new to us.

As I say, go back to the engine a little bit, we have been developing the engine. We have got sort of, I call them, the "real" parts. We'll be going together and we'll be track testing probably in October, and we'll be supplying engines probably towards the end of November. In fact, I think probably by Rockingham, we'll be handing out contracts for people to get teams signed up. Teams have been asking for contracts. It's a delay on our part, really. I think what we are really doing is we are going through, this we are trying to cover every infinite detail to make sure all of the costs are controlled so everybody knows how much the program is going to be, cover every little detail. It's a very comprehensive contract. I think that it's going to be exciting and it's going to be very reassuring when the teams do get these.

Merrill Cain: Obviously, with the race coming up at one o'clock, we do want to take a few quick questions from the audience and we appreciate all of your commitments to CART and joining us here this morning.

Q: I want to know about Team Rahal, their plans for next year. You didn't mention that to us.

Scott Roembke: No, I didn't. (Laughter). Team Rahal, we are working very hard on our program for CART. We are committed to CART Formula Atlantics with Danica Patrick, which we announced previously this summer. And we are working with our current sponsor, new sponsors for the CART series, and it's just a little premature right now for us to announce anything on that line. Racing is expensive and this is a tough economy, so we are trying to work with our partners and bring in new partners to make our program possible.

Q: Gerry, you've been in the news the past week, lately we've been hearing that the offer for the former champion in '95 wasn't, as we heard it. Could you explain what's going on or finished with the negotiations to bring Jacques Villeneuve back to CART?

Gerald Forsythe: I found out late last week that the written offer was not made to Mr. Pollock, Jacques Villeneuve's manager. It was offered verbally. However, Craig, declined the verbal offer, but he reported to me that that was part of his negotiation. I phoned Dave Richards on Friday and respectfully requested that he put the offer in writing and give it to Mr. Pollock this weekend. So I'm expecting a call from Mr. Pollock or from Mr. Richards by tomorrow.

Q: Jimmy Vasser may or may not be back; Michael Andretti is gone; you helped Scott Dixon this year -- CART helped him. Is there a program in place -- you keep saying there's going to be 18 cars, is there a definitive program in place that if there are going to be some young American drivers from your feeder system to be in CART next year, and will CART help will CART help pay their bills or help finance their rides?

Chris Pook: We feel very strongly about the ladder system. There's a tremendous ladder system in Mexico, there's a tremendous ladder system Canada; it's a proven delivery system for their drivers. We are working on it very hard here. We are encouraging our owners to look at our Atlantic drivers in our testing, engine testing program with Cosworth. We are suggesting to the car owners and to the engine manufacturer at Cosworth that this is an ideal time to look at some of the young Atlantic drivers that are out there, and we fully intend to make that work. Can we make it work with 2003? I don't know that answer today, to give you. Are we trying to make it work and put a couple young Americans in the series for 2003? Absolutely we are. Will we have it ready in place for 2005 when we re-design the engines and re-design the chassis and things? Absolutely we will have it. We need to have a system that puts young Americans into the program, and we will put that in place. I think we also should acknowledge Mr. Patrick for putting Townsend in this year. It was a very difficult situation for him, and you, you know, he stepped to the plate and did an outstanding job. It was unfortunate that it did not work out, but that is not the team owner's fault and not the driver's fault; that is the series' fault for not putting together the right platform for the driver to make the move from the junior series to the champ car series. And it's only the series that's to blame for that.

Q: Counting up all of the possible cars in here, 14 cars, where are the other cars -- I know you can't talk specifics, but where are we talking about other cars coming from and will there be some new teams, to not only this series, but to North America?

Chris Pook: Absolutely there will be some new teams, two North America and from Europe. There will be teams coming from other series in this country, moving up the ladder, and I believe that you will see the return of a past team. As I told you, it might be we can we can we can see the 18 without a problem and we could see 21. And please remember that I have recommended to our board that at this stage of our board should be 22, and 22 quality cars.

The intensity of the racing here is huge and you just have to look at the grid times, and that tells you something. The people in this series, the team owners who prepare the cars are excellent, and the drivers who drive them are excellent. This is not an easy series to compete in. You've got to be pretty damn good to come into this series, and I think the teams coming in look at this and we certainly look at them and make sure that we can do it. And the new ones that may want to come to the series, if they have not had real depth of experience, we are asking them to talk to some of our more experienced teams here so they can be shepherded into the series. You are seeing, also, that not only did the development of the ladder system for drivers, but a ladder system for new teams, new owners.

Q: Two of the biggest team owners are not here today, Ganassi and Team Green. Should we read anything into that or is it just that they were too busy to come?

Chris Pook: Heaven forbid you guys would ever read in this case into anything. (Laughter). As we said, this is a series of announcements that we will be making and I must say to you, that the timing of this, to come on September 1 that it is today, to ask teams to stand up and say, "Here is what we are doing," is very unusual. These announcements on teams do not come until at least the end of October or November normally. You know, there's occasionally one or two. You saw a NASCAR announcement the other day about Ricky Rudd going over to the Wood Brothers; that was a fairly early announcement. But you don't see a bunch more out there, and you don't see other open-wheel series making any announcements right now, and you see in Formula I at the present time, it's still what they call the silly season.

So, this is very, very premature. And I want to thank these owners for coming forward this morning, because they are supporting management today; and management's job is to work with all of you guys out there and to make sure that you understand what is fact and what is fiction. And the time has come, I think, where this management team is saying, look at our track record, look at what we've done here in the last eight months, that's all fact. Please take us seriously as we go forward, because what we are doing is putting one foot forward at a time, and they are solid building blocks and we are going to be here, as we said with, a minimum of 18 cars, and our good friends at Bridgestone next year, in this series, and we can seed 21 cars, but they will be solid, solid teams and solid racing cars in the series.

Merrill Cain:  Gentlemen, thank you very much for your time this morning,
and we appreciate your commitment to CART.  Thank you very much.

-cart-

Team owners press conference, part I

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Michael Andretti , Jimmy Vasser , Adrian Fernandez , Scott Dixon , Tom Anderson , Chris Pook , Gerald Forsythe , Danica Patrick