CHAMPCAR/CART: Milwaukee Champ Car Town Meeting, part 5

Q: Two questions, one for Adam. If you can settle a bet for me, there's a lot of talk about all of these new street races or whatever, and there have been people that have said they are going to fade out other races in CART. I specifically ...

Q: Two questions, one for Adam. If you can settle a bet for me, there's a lot of talk about all of these new street races or whatever, and there have been people that have said they are going to fade out other races in CART. I specifically remember hearing Chris Pook saying that street races fit the profile or whatever you call it is to build a fan base; it's not to replace anything. It's just a style; it's not to replace. A few comments on that. My question is for Paul. Just curious; is that a new watch up on your arm?

PAUL TRACY: No, this watch I've had for five years so I'm hopeful that I'm going to win driver of the year but that's up to you guys, the fans. We've got to keep doing well, winning races and stay in that voting category and then it's up to you guys, but I hope that I'll be able to follow Cristiano and win that on

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Hey, Paul, when are you going to dye your hair blue again?

PAUL TRACY: I can't dye it anymore, they're telling me it will fall out (laughter)

A.J. ALLMENDINGER: Everybody is joking about me having no spare parts and I get booed for that.

ADAM SAAL: I think we need to clarify that basically the urban concepts and maybe I've confused it earlier. It is a marketing concept but you don't need a street course to do it. Certainly the street festivals built our fan base, no question about it, races like Toronto, even St. Petersburg, Brands Hatch. The Milwaukee Mile fits our urban model. The road course in Portland fits the urban model. Key is location, make sure you can easily get out, have public transportation, get out, do whatever you can and make it be part of the fabric of a major urban setting. So it isn't just -- it isn't just street courses.

DAVID HOBBS: Obviously some road races tracks are better situated -- Road America, there's only about 150 miles for 10 million people so it's going to be pretty good, no doubt about it. Chicago, people drive 110 miles to go to work every say. So certainly --

Q: First of all I wanted to congratulate Paul and A.J. on their good starts this year. I'm one of many who make the trip up to Road America every year. One of many Chicago people who make the trip up but I was one of the few who was at the White Sox this weekend. Can you talk about the current relationship with Motor Speedway and any possibility of racing down Lake Michigan or downtown somewhere --

DAVID HOBBS: I think your question is should we have a downtown street circuit here in Milwaukee racing up and down Lake Michigan. Just so happens --

ADAM SAAL: We certainly don't need one here, but Chicago -- so contemplate a return to Chicago Motor Speedway -- Chicago remains an important market for us, absolutely. We are not sure that Cicero qualified as Chicago. They kind of have the same problem that the Meadowlands faced where everybody thought they would do a New York event when we were over in East Rutherford in a parking lot at Giants Stadium in New Jersey. Never really was embraced as a New York event. We had the same problem at Cicero. Cicero has made some improvements over the years but it still has a negative connotation: People didn't want to go there, we had about three months to bring an event back from the dead. We gave it a shot. I think if we returned we could definitely deal with a different type of format.

DAVID HOBBS: Have you ever done any site surveys of Chicago, New York, L.A.?

ADAM SAAL: L.A., no, we are covered there. But New York and Chicago, certainly.

PAUL TRACY: Well, I know that there was a lot of effort that went into Chicago. I know myself I went up there last year three times to do three different promotions to try to promote the race and go around downtown Chicago and do interviews and just when it came to race weekend, just didn't really happen. So it wasn't for a lack of effort on CART's part or the teams and the sponsors involved because, you know, for me last year, for KOOL, Chicago was one of their prime markets where they wanted to promote. Both myself and Dario went three times each to try to promote the race. Just one of those things that just can't happen.

ADAM SAAL: That was definitely a case where the crowd reports by some of our critics were actually lower than what we had there. It was a very hot day and we had thousands of people actually down below the grand stands watching the race on the same video system they used for the horse races. It was actually pretty nice. The crowd was good. Again we gave it a fair shake and if we go back to Chicago you'll definitely see a different format.

DAVID HOBBS: Tough to take on those big urban areas. So much going on in those big cities, it's very difficult to get the interest up no doubt about it, despite the fact that Paul and Dario went down there and really promoted hard. Another question.

Q: I had a comment on the Chicago venue, how about Meigs Field right on the Chicago lakefront. I hate to say this, but the IRL race, when you watch them, there are so many of them that are just very exciting. To race the last 20, 30 laps, you've got two, three, four guys vying for the lead.

DAVID HOBBS: For Winston Cup is one thing, those tracks like Rockingham, to me it seems highly dangerous. You get lazy because they are side by side --

PAUL TRACY: For me, I've raced at all sorts of tracks. That stuff is not a race, you go around, you come out of the pits, you put your foot on the floor wide open, you just sit there and go around and around and around. It doesn't matter if you have a good car or a bad car; you're not going to go anywhere. It's basically turns into a crapshoot on the last lap who is going to win. It's basically pot luck whoever is going to win, and to answer your question on the road and street courses I kind of went into that a little bit before.

That said, I mean, there are a lot of things that make it a lot easier for the drivers to negotiate around the track and I think what CART has done this year with Ford, they have eliminated a lot of the cheating that goes on and the cars are much more difficult to drive this year and much harder to keep control of and much harder to keep the tires underneath. I think there's been a lot of passing on the track this year and there's been a lot of excitement going on like in Mexico with guys coming through the field and making passes. So I think just keep watching.

ADAM SAAL: We have definitely taken steps to address that (passing). Are you going to see much passing for the lead on a tight street circuit? Probably not in the recent past but you have to take into account the fact that these cars got too high-tech, they are too tweaked out and now we have got them to where they are and should have been and I know I've seen some great passes this year already. And as Paul says, stay tuned.

A point about the IRL. If we wanted to basically put some down force on these cars and make them be skateboards, we could do it by tomorrow and we could get that package out there and run like that very easily, and some people say, well then why don't you do that in order to have that type of closer racing. Again, that's not what we are about. We're about building a good format. Again, we don't want to lower the mountain top to make it easier for everybody to achieve. That's contradictory to what motor sports is all about. While it is perhaps racing, it seems to be racing that sifted through the NASCAR model, we want to have rules-based competition; not managed competition where you make it racing for everybody. Racing shouldn't be easy for the competitors and we'll continue to do that. But I appreciate your question, sir, and you definitely have a right to ask it.

PAUL TRACY: I remember when we did our first Hanford Race at Michigan and it was like 150 passes for the lead and everybody thought that was the greatest thing since sliced bread and then we went to Fontana and everybody said, hey, wait a minute here, this isn't -- it doesn't make sense. It became boring because there wasn't a real race. It's just people just filing around in a draft and it became -- I read the Internet and I read everybody on seventh gear and all of these other sites, people saying after the first race it was great and the race later at Fontana, hey, wait a minute here and we went back to Michigan and everybody hated it. They didn't like the way it was.

So, you know, I prefer being able to go out and race and go hard and go flat out and if you have a good car, you have the best car in the field, you could win the race. With those type of wings that we were running on the superspeedways and what the running in the IRL, you are not going to drive away from anybody. You basically just have to wait until the very last lap and hopefully you are in the right position and you've got a shot at it. Really during a 500-mile race it comes down to the last mile and that doesn't seem like a race to me.

DAVID HOBBS: You do get racing if you are standing at Road America or Milwaukee Mile and you see some guy come into turn one there side by side at 185 miles an hour and take the lead going into turn one at Milwaukee without any help from banking, now that's a real pass. (Applause) Tires smoking, you get it wrong -- and then you have to do it all over again and it takes them 20 laps to set it up and you have to do it all over again. That's real passing for me. I think we have time for one more question.

Q: I have a question regarding the Milwaukee Mile itself. Obviously the grandstands have been greatly improved. They are even taller and chair backs at 400 level. But I also heard about a scoreboard. Apparently they are going to have a new scoreboard. I'd like you to comment on the scoreboard, also the concessions, rest rooms, looks a lot higher in the stands. But the scoreboard, where is it going to be located; is it going to be multiple, digital? Will they be able to see lap times and speed? Can you talk more about it?

JOE CHRNELICH: I would tell you that ultimately we will see a new scoreboard. I don't think we will see it this year for a couple reasons. One is budget but the second is we've run out of time. In terms of next year what you'll find, new scoreboard, new media center, leaderboards, you'll see a lot more amenities this year in terms of additional concession stands. Obviously it will be a lot easier to get to a concession stands from wherever you are sitting in the complex. The infield there will be new restrooms next year as part of the media center. I think you'll see a lot more amenities for the drivers as well.

So every year, this is just probably the biggest piece you will see in terms of change, but every year moving forward here we'll keep adding one more piece or several pieces to ultimately get to the point where we can be viewed as a top-notch facility top to bottom no matter what aspect of the track you want to talk about. And that includes a road course, bringing the road course back and possibly a mini-oval.

So all of those things are on the drawing board and those are things we are planning for in terms of budgeting dollars and bonding. I hope that answers your question. I told everybody, be a little more patient with us as the dollars become available given our larger budget situation at Madison. That's obviously slowing us down a little bit but it wouldn't stop us; we'll get it done in good time.

Q: Are you looking to have an idea of just one; is it going to be -- obviously it's not in the budget this year but when you do it's just going to be one in the center. It's going to have more than a top-five car positions or can you tell me a little bit about what your insights and thoughts are on what you will have?

JOE CHRNELICH: The details I know at this point in terms of the type of scoreboard we would have is you'd be able to see it from anywhere and wherever you're sitting you'll be able to see the scoreboard. How elaborate we get with it in terms of the Fan-A-Gram and things of that nature. We have not made that decision yet. I think we're going to want to probably -- and I would defer probably more to our new general manager, Mark Perrone and his staff in terms of some of the things that they want to see, that they feel will make it a very, very good addition, especially for the fans, for the people watching to be able to see the information where it's meaningful. Those are things we have to incorporate. We don't have the answer for you yet in terms of exactly what it will look like but at the end of the day it will be very, very big scoreboard, large and visual from anywhere on the track.

DAVID HOBBS: Will you be able to see it from the lakefront? (Laughter).


DAVID HOBBS: Well, I think that wraps up tonight. Some of our panelists have had a long travel day today. They will stick around for a few moments afterwards and if you want to ask more questions feel free at that time and also like most racing drivers they will be scuffling out the back if you don't nail them before they move out of the room. We really do appreciate all of you fans coming out tonight because you are the guys that make racing what it is and we appreciate you coming. Some great questions and obviously we want to thank our panel for answering so well.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Chris Pook