CHAMPCAR/CART: Milwaukee Champ Car Town Meeting, part 4

Q: As a driver, can you tell us about the changes from your standpoints since Mr. Pook has come? PAUL TRACY: What he has been able to do from a racing standpoint, just talking about getting around, the paddock, getting in and out of the track...

Q: As a driver, can you tell us about the changes from your standpoints since Mr. Pook has come?

PAUL TRACY: What he has been able to do from a racing standpoint, just talking about getting around, the paddock, getting in and out of the track and what Chris has been able to do with just working with promoters and working with drivers has been great.

DAVID HOBBS: I drove into the first Grand Prix of Long Beach in a Formula 5000 race -- right then you could tell that Chris Pook was a treasure, and he's not only a great leader, but he's also great promoter you get lots of people to promote very well and they are not very good marriages and Chris is one of those guys that got these two, he's a great leader great manager and he's a terrific promoter -- hope he's around for a long, long time, and Adam Saal.

Q: I'd like to ask A.J., I was at your race in Long Beach and has your transition been as easy as it seemed to be at Long Beach?

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Fortunately enough my team RuSPORT gave me a great car and my crew all weekend did such a great job and the car was fantastic during the race. The transition between the Barber Dodge and the Atlantics it's tough, they are definitely two different cars, two different driving styles go into, so much more mechanical and technical aspects go into it so trying to set it up, I really had to learn a lot but the learning curve has been just such a big help with the team that I've had because there's a lot of experience with engineers and -- hired the coach from Barber Dodge last year -- gave me a car there I could win every race of the season because the car was just remarkable and hopefully they can. We carry on for the rest of the season and hopefully it all plays out into my favor like it did last season.

DAVID HOBBS: I just have a quick question for Paul, you were talking about a driving coach. Have you ever been involved with a coach or have you done coaching?

PAUL TRACY: I've never had a coach other than my dad beating me over the head with a stick. After I'd crash a car he would look in his wallet and pulled a stick out of the back to whack me over the head with it, but I never had a coach and I don't try to -- I helped A.J. out in go-karts and he knows that I'm always there if he has any questions. But I don't try to push things on people because I don't like it when people push things on me and I think it's even better to sometimes learn on your own to figure things out through trial and error but it seems to be something that a lot of guys are doing now and sometimes having eyes and ears -- I have people I have always talked to, somebody if I had a problem, I could go and ask for some help and that would be Rick Mears when I was at Penske and later on, now, Tony Cicale, who drove cars in the 70s. For me I don't like stuff getting forced on me so if I need to ask something, I'll ask, and that's kind of how I'm treating A.J. I don't say, go do this; go to that. If he asks me a question, I'm there.

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: I think for me, what has made such a big deal for me is that he understands my driving style and he kind of talks the same language as I do. It makes it easy and he is remarkable with going out on the track to be able to watch all of the cars go by and watch the drivers put their hand in the car and see their characteristics and see what they are doing. It's not that -- I come into the pit and as Paul says he doesn't force anything on myself or my teammates. Just he's real calm, gives me an idea of what everybody else is doing and he knows when I'm getting frustrated, kind of just trying to make up for something that's wrong with the car and overdriving to really settle me down and I think that's the big deal, being able to speak the same language and understanding the driver that's in the car and how to work with him because myself and my teammate are two totally different driving styles and he knows how to work with both of us. To me I think that's what makes a great driving coach is he's real good with just taking the tendencies that we each have and working them into the best car that we can make it. For me, Barry has been a big help over the last two seasons and that's why RuSPORT hired him and I think we are going to continue that success because of that relationship that we have built.

DAVID HOBBS: Interesting. I've never had a coach either. It showed in my results. Let's go on to the next question.

Q: I was talking about the topic with American Idol. This was also brought up, you had the 45-second spot -- why wasn't there any, what was the reason there was no CART logo or anything on the screen?

ADAM SAAL: That's all it was intended to be was a video. Did we want it to be more? Of course you want it to be more but I don't know if you noticed or if anyone watches the show but it's something they will do right when they go to commercial or right when they come back to the commercial but they are not even allowed to mention Ford and Ford has its logo on there. It's all placement. It's all logo placement and so forth. So that's why we had the banners up in the background involved. We didn't get as much placement as we wanted. This show alone, each episode they have about 20 million people just making phone calls.

Q: Was it maybe time for CART to run a commercial? It seems like a wasted opportunity for CART; you talk about PR opportunity, time to get it done --

ADAM SAAL: We'll take it. I mean, you have to take every opportunity that presents itself and while of course we would have loved to have a feature in there, it just wasn't what was out there. But we are not going to say no when a show like that calls. It was very important to Ford and I know that the people from Visteon Patrick Racing, they were very happy as well.

Would we want more? Sure, we'll want more and we'll keep working on getting more. You'll see some of what I call additional accent programming throughout the year. There's a National Geographic special coming out that focuses on safety that has all of the sanctioned bodies mentioned in it but as we should, our guys feature most prominently and so we'll get more out there. I don't think you can call it a wasted opportunity when you get that much exposure out there. Did I want it to be more? Sure, you bet. But we have one every week, we would certainly take it.

Q: I was referring more to commercials for maybe the next race.

ADAM SAAL: I see what you're saying. You're saying if we buy a commercial to support it. Yeah, exactly. But should we have a commercial on American Idol every week? Absolutely, but it comes down to cash flow and we have a responsibility to make sure that we keep this company afloat. Right now we don't have that type of revenue but as we continue to build, hopefully some day we can do a national consumer programming ad campaign. I'm afraid the dollars are not there. We have to focus on what we can do and that would be very difficult to do anything beyond that right now. I hear your point. Thanks for clarifying.

DAVID HOBBS: Does anybody have a question for Mr. Chrnelich? He's sitting there nodding off at the end of the table. I think somebody should ask him about his investment in the Mile. Maybe I can ask him about the investment in the mile.

JOE CHRNELICH: In case all of you wondering, this does feel like the dating game. If you want more commentary -- I think all of the fans here know over time that we put in over 20 million into the track and that's predominantly the grandstand and into the bleachers and I'm sure everybody misses the old wooden bleachers with the splinters but it's a lot of money. Prior to making that investment we did a lot of due diligence. We had to do a little soul searching because not everybody wanted to do this but at the end of the day we asked ourselves if we want to be in the business of racing or not.

When you look at the long-storied history here of the Milwaukee Mile, you talk to the people on the circuit, especially the drivers they come back and tell you how important the Mile is, they told us that in and of itself is a good investment and we told Paul if he would support that decision by coming out to support people -- it's a big investment, to be sure, but we think it's a proper one and personally I think it puts Wisconsin on the map, keeps us on the map, and when you talk about racing hot beds around the country, this stays one of them. We've got 26 dirt tracks out across the state, best oval around and it's coming back strong. We are a little bullish about our feelings on it and at the end of the day, I make my payoff.

DAVID HOBBS: Well, 20 million is a lot of money but it's pretty small compared to just down the road from the fabled baseball park which has as many as 500 people there tonight.

ADAM SAAL: I'm not going to touch that one but on behalf of Chris and the board of directors, we want to thank Joe and it's been an incredible investment and property and we are going to be delighted to come here in a month and light it up. It's going to be great. Thank you very much for all of the improvements; it's been great. It will be incredible.

Q: My friend is asking questions about increasing the wing size for the ovals like they used to have in the early 90s, on the road racing; does today's CART car not generate as much downforce as let's say a '95 CART car or is it familiarity, because the track changed?

PAUL TRACY: There's a lot of them. I think what you're asking is why is there more capacity than there was maybe ten years ago, maybe because drivers, their driving style. I think it's a combination of things. The cars now I would say are fairly similar on road courses because of the wing size that we run and the template that they have to manufacture the car under -- they are actually fairly similar at downforce level. They have not really changed a lot over the years.

Granted, right now, the under wings is much smaller than it was five to seven years ago but we've been able to make substantial gains in the bodywork and the pieces that go on the car, winglets, side winglets and little pieces here and there. I think what you see, really, now, it's because it's so much more difficult to pass, during that time period, the tires got better. The tires are more consistent than they were.

Back when I first started running, we had tremendous amount of grip loss over the duration of a run and you really had to be good at managing your tires to get through a run without going substantially slower by the end of the run. The tires have improved dramatically in the last ten years. During that time period, with the manufacturer involved in different companies; whether it be Toyota, Honda, Ford, Chevy; up until they legalized traction control, since about 1994 everybody -- that's why it was legalized it would all be done under the table and it was unpoliceable, there was no way CART could catch the manufacturers doing it and that's ultimately why they have legalized traction control -- and I think it was probably Formula 1. It's not something that you can't control. You can't control electronics; there's only so many codes you can get around trying to find it.

So that I think made it easier for the drivers throughout the -- less tire wear, car was easier to drive and now I think this year, more passing this year in CART because now we have -- Formula eliminated traction control -- we have a one-tire manufacturer of Bridgestone, great tire very; durable but with the power that we had, we still have to conserve your tire. Like I said, forms of traction control since 1994 when I was with Penske, so this year, even though people say we didn't have traction control we actually had it but we were not allowed to say or else you would have your arm cut off by your engine supplier. I think this year you'll see a lot of passing. You'll see a lot of action on the track. I think that's probably one reason why I've been more successful.

ADAM SAAL: This might be a good time to introduce our new retroactive fine program...

PAUL TRACY: I think by stabilizing chassis, the configuration that you are running, it's still expensive to go racing nowadays. For a company like Lola or Reynard which is kind of disbanded right now to develop a new car every year takes massive amounts of money -- at this stage of the game, be it in Formula 1 or in CART, you know, it's a cash business and without the sponsors, there's just not the cash there to do that kind of development. So what CART is trying to do -- they are in under a crunch right now and they are trying to lower the cost of racing, stabilize the cost of racing. There's nothing wrong with what we had so I think maybe Adam can elaborate more but what we need do is make the cost of racing cheaper so that we can have new teams come in to support us. If you look over the last ten years there's really been no new involvement in open-wheel racing for the team owners and now is a time when we need to bring new people in to make it affordable.

ADAM SAAL: Paul is right. We have to stabilize what we have and after going through a volume of having a common tub with the IRL and realize that was not going to be embraced, what we have works, I think if the fans like it, I think you all do like our turbo-charged cars right now. Again we had to get these cars back to what they are supposed to be but right now the aim is 2005 and as we speak there's a talented group of people and we are very fortunate to have some of the best people in the business in our competition department right now who are working on -- they focus on our 2005 package. We will go to Europe and talk to some manufacturers from a variety of competition-related engines and passenger cars and see what we want to have out there. Sure enough CART with our current package was definitely the way to go. I think the last thing you said will drivers have input; no way.

DAVID HOBBS: Absolutely.

ADAM SAAL: Paul was working on me, even on something tonight. You could not prevent the drivers from having input -- Jimmy is the driver representative and he told on us about something already.

DAVID HOBBS: Chris Economaki said to me years ago, he said, "When I started racing in 1939, Jimmy Smilliville (ph) drove the same car for ten seasons. He said now they have a new car every year, it's insane." I told him, you're not going to get a new car until 2005. Stability is very important but consumers, people like Lola and Reynard basically can't survive on spare tires but if A.J. is going to be driving like he did at Mexico... next question.

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Rick Mears , Chris Pook