Joe Heitzler, CART president and CEO, held a press conference at the Cleveland event on Saturday. Following are the highlights of that press conference. JOSEPH HEITZLER: "I felt the best thing to do this morning is--there is a lot of ...
Joe Heitzler, CART president and CEO, held a press conference at the Cleveland event on Saturday. Following are the highlights of that press conference.
"I felt the best thing to do this morning is--there is a lot of information out there, some of it accurate, some not so accurate--let me bring you up-to-date on a few things. (President) Truman used to have something on his desk that said, 'this is where the buck stops.' I've inherited a lot of issues, but pretty soon, these will be my issues, and I'll have to deal with them. I arrived at CART long after the issue of being [a] public or private [company]. This is the job of a lifetime for me, and I want to do a good job."
"We have a television contract that is up after the last race of this year. We now have the opportunity, for the first time since 1994, to work with our promoters, our sponsors, our drivers, and our networks to build a schedule, which is why this is taking so long. The property will be CART's. Number one, we are going to own the asset and deliver a finished product to our network partners for them to broadcast. Number two, we've heard from our fans that they don't like timed races, so we are looking at two-and-a-half and three-and-a-half hour windows. Finally, we need to be somewhere where we're wanted and where we'll be promoted. We need to use the opportunity to build our brand. In England on Monday,
ON EUROPEAN RACES
"CART is being honored at the House of Commons and I will be there. In Germany, the government has put all the funds into the track, and we are very happy to hear that. There will be no interruption of activity at the track. We've been told that our next sanctioning payment (from Germany) will be received in the next 10 days. In England, we're told that ticket sales are on the rise. The Eurospeedway and Rockingham management have been very attentive at each event here. We were concerned about the ticket prices, and we expressed those concerns, and they were attentive to that."
ON MICHIGAN INTERNATIONAL SPEEDWAY
"On Michigan, when I arrived at CART I was informed that there was a grievance (from International Speedway Corp.) with the way (CART's decision not to return to) Homestead was handled. With Roger Penske's help, I met with the Frances, John Saunders, and Bill Miller, during which we asked them to build a strategic partnership. We agreed when we left that meeting to meet again, and in Nazareth, I met with Jim France. We talked about Nazareth, MIS, and Watkins Glen. Knowing the past, I immediately assembled Kirk Russell, Tim Mayer, Chris Kneifel, and several people on the staff, and we went to Watkins Glen. Kirk Russell pointed out some safety improvements that needed to be made, but if those improvements are made, that is a good opportunity for CART to race at a permanent road course with a lot of history in a very important part of the country. There are a lot of fans in the Northeast. We subsequently met with John Saunders about Michigan. There were some substantial capital improvements that CART wanted. These conversations were not fruitful. We then expressed an interest in promoting our own races and rent the track, and leasing the track was not an option."
ON CONTINUING TO RUN ON VARIOUS TYPES OF CIRCUITS
"The vision for CART is being articulated but we have some differentials in the types of tracks that we run. We run on ovals, temporary courses, and permanent road courses, and no one else offers different tracks. We don't want to disrupt that. It is a fact that we are not going to Michigan, but the relationship between CART and ISC is important because we have their most major open wheel race at Fontana. We've asked Dover Downs to help us with some street races, and the first one was Denver. They're also working on Washington, D.C., and interestingly enough, New York City. Miami Beach has also contacted us, and there is some interest from Tampa/St. Pete."
ON THE FUTURE OF CART IN BRAZIL
"It is essential to CART, with the skill sets of our Brazilian drivers, and TV coverage, and the fans, we have every intention of returning to Brazil. We are presently looking very seriously at an opportunity in Mexico City. We've also been contacted by people in China and Malaysia. The good news is, CART is not short on places to go."
ON THE DAYTON INDY LIGHTS CHAMPIONSHIP AND THE TOYOTA ATLANTIC CHAMPIONSHIP
"A major part of CART's branding is its ladder series. We went to Formula One and studied that ladder series, and we went to (NASCAR) Busch Grand National and studied that. We have two options, one is continue with two series, the other is to combine the two and have one series. We've been talking with Toyota about engines, and in all the interviews we've done with the Indy Lights team owners and the Toyota Atlantic team owners, we've had buy-in that we have one super series."
ON THE SEARCH FOR A NEW PRESIDENT OF RACING
"There is an executive search being conducted as we speak (for a new president of racing). The executive search firm is meeting with me this afternoon. This is the number one priority for me. We are also in the throes of retaining a new Vice President of Sponsorship Partnerships."
ON HONDA'S PROTEST AND APPEAL ON THE DECISION TO REQUIRE SPACERS ON POP-OFF VALVES
"To the extent I can comment, there is a hearing on Monday (regarding an appeal by Honda). I do not believe CART acted in any other manner than as a sanctioning body and being the interpreter and enforcer of its rules. All three engine manufacturers are vital. They are the lifeblood of our series, and we need to make sure they are happy."