CHAMPCAR/CART: Friday Forum - Rahal Transcript

CART Friday Forum Team Rahal Owner Bobby Rahal joined Barry Green of Team Kool Green, Gerald Forsythe of Forsythe Championship Racing and John Della Penna of Della Penna Racing for a frank discussion on a myriad of topics including health of the...

CART Friday Forum

Team Rahal Owner Bobby Rahal joined Barry Green of Team Kool Green, Gerald Forsythe of Forsythe Championship Racing and John Della Penna of Della Penna Racing for a frank discussion on a myriad of topics including health of the CART series, building CART's ladder system and the expansion of the schedule.

Following is a transcript of Bobby Rahal's comments.

HOW HAS THE TRANSITION BEEN FROM DRIVER TO TEAM OWNER NOW THAT YOU HAVE TWO RACES UNDER YOUR BELT? "I think the transition is going very well. To use an often quoted phrase today it almost "seamless." I enjoy being around and have no regrets. The team could use a little luck, but, a lot of teams can say that. I think all and all I have been really pleased and look forward to the weekend."

THERE WAS A LOT WRITTEN AFTER HOMESTEAD REGARDING THE CART TEAMS SHARING THE TRACK WITH THE NASCAR CRAFTSMAN TRUCK SERIES. DO YOU THINK THE CURRENT ARRANGEMENT SHOULD BE CHANGED? "In all of our races we share the billing with different types of racing series. Here (in Long Beach) it's the Trans-Am series and the Atlantics. So it's not like it was the first time. But in Homestead there were some operational challenges -- the different types of rubber for instance which has been well written about. I think it is worth trying and the only thing you can do at the end of the day is look back and make a judgment on what happened. Inevitably some formulas are going to be better than others. Obviously you can't run Trans-Am cars on ovals so it may be circuit specific to a degree. But at the end of these four events (with the Truck series) we will look back and base our decision on what happened."

THERE HAS BEEN QUITE A BIT OF TALK THIS WEEK ABOUT THE CART STOCK THAT IS BEING SOLD BY MANY OF THE OWNERS? WHAT DO YOU THINK THE RATIONAL BEHIND THOSE DECISIONS ARE? "The overriding thing that I got from (those reports) is the amount of people that are not selling. There has been a lot of talk that come March 10 the stock was going to drop and everyone is going to sell out. Team Rahal sold a very small percentage for basically the same reasons (to pay bills) Barry (Green) spoke about. I plan on keeping my stock for quite some time. I don't know why you would want to sell the stock frankly, unless it was for economic reasons. I do believe in the long term health of CART and I am very pleased the way the stock has been performing as of late. I think that with the more shares out these the possibilities for the stock are good. Historically, I think that racing has done a poor job of taking care of the people who have created it. The people who have spent the money funding the teams, directing the teams or forming the teams. Historically teams have come and gone because they have never built any value out of it. This stock is nothing more that a way for racing to finally provide for the people who work hard at it and actually provide some value. In fact I think more series will end up doing things like this. Right now Formula One and CART are the only places that you can create some value by participation. Otherwise there is no value other than prize money. So I think it's the way to go. I think it was a great move when we did it and I think the stock is performing the way we had hoped and even beyond the expectation of some."

IN HOMESTEAD THE FOUR ENGINE MANUFACTURERS SPOKE ABOUT CHANGING THE ENGINE FORMULA. HOW DIFFICULT IS IT TO COME TO A DECISION ON HOW TO CHANGE THE ENGINE FORMULA BASED ON THE FACT THAT THE COMPETITION IS SO CLOSE? "I guess I would preface the changes by saying one of the unsung stories of CART has been the stability of the rules. The engine package is pretty much the same as it was 20 years ago. I don't know any racing series in the world that can make that claim. Formula One can't, NASCAR went from big block to small block, basically we have had V8 turbocharged, yeah the boost has been up and down but the basics have been the same and that is a comment for the growth of the series and I think that is a positive. So any decision on the change of an engine formula needs to be made with an eye toward long term stability again. I know the engine manufacturers and working very diligently with the Rules and Technical Committee to find out what the best solution for the future it. We have got to take some power out of these things, that is the reality. If we were just on road courses this wouldn't be such a problem. But when the day comes there needs to a common understanding between the parties involved."

THE CART FEDEX CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES IS REALLY DOING A GOOD JOB OF BRANDING ITSELF BUT WHAT CAN BE DONE TO HELP THE INDY LIGHTS AND TOYOTA ATLANTICS BRINGING THEIR VALUE UP AS RACING PROPERTIES? "I feel that it takes effort to build equity on a sports series. NASCAR is really putting a lot of money into the Busch series and the Truck series as well. There is no questions that we have to look at those things and create some awareness. If you look at the sport, there is no questions that if you want to drive a Champ Car that is the best was to get there.

Look at Greg (Moore), Bryan (Herta) and Richie (Hearn), Alex Barron and you see that there are very clear ways to get into Champ Cars. The rungs in the ladder are clear to everyone but we probably do need to work harder to promote those series and make it easier for those people to find money. I am sure that will happen over time. Some of their races are on Sunday which is a real positive for them. Within the industry I don't think there is any question that those two formulas are two very important ways to get to the top."

SOME OF THE ENGINE MANUFACTURERS HAVE SAID THEY WOULD RATHER SEE LESS FOCUS ON CULTIVATING RACES OVERSEAS AND HAVE 15 TO 16 GOOD, SOLID EVENTS THAN HAVE A 20 RACE SCHEDULE WITH A FEW SO-SO EVENTS. WHAT ARE YOUR THOUGHT ON THAT AND DO YOU FEEL A NEED TO RACE OVERSEAS? "I think our sponsors and our fans demand more that 15 to 16 races. I think the international flavor of the series is important. If there is not a real strong business reason for us to be there then we need to look at it, but, for instance, going to Japan makes complete sense for us when you consider that Honda and Toyota race in that series and Miller sells been in Japan and Shell sells oil and gas there so I think that it makes sense for events like this. The same for Brazil and Australia. I do believe that we need to embrace opening up more strong events in this country. To be honest with you though they have to measure up. As much as I like Sanar because I won races there and qualified well we never really belonged at Sanar. Because a track has an oval or a road course should not be a reason we go there. It should be because the race is professionally presented, it's a great circuit, it's a great market and that it creates value for our sponsors. I know we are all discussing how we can expand this series responsibility and all the various constituencies and agendas that we have to take account of. I know that there is no other racing series in the world that have four engine manufacturers, two tire companies and five chassis manufacturers all with their own ideas. To take all of these things into consideration is a time consuming process. I think we all want to create the best possible series we can. And expansion is a part of that process but how it's done and where it's done are subjects for discussion."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Bobby Rahal , Alex Barron , Barry Green , Gerald Forsythe