CHAMPCAR/CART: Pook and CART owners announce 2003 plans

CART President and CEO Chris Pook brought an all-star panel of CRT's team owners and representatives to meet with the assembled media at the CART Grand Prix of Denver today. The purpose of the gathering was, as Pook said: "to stop some of the...

CART President and CEO Chris Pook brought an all-star panel of CRT's team owners and representatives to meet with the assembled media at the CART Grand Prix of Denver today. The purpose of the gathering was, as Pook said: "to stop some of the spin that's been going on all year long."

Pook's opening statements were very pointed concerning negative statements from some members of the media and even some CART participants about CART's future. "I want to very respectfully remind everybody that when we came on board with this administration at the beginning of the year, we told you that we would do certain things along the way. Every single thing that we told you that we would do, we have done and we continue to do that in spite of the fact that there continues to be those in our paddock that want to justify their departure."

With Pook on the panel were team owners Jerry Forsythe, Carl Haas, Derrick Walker and Pat Patrick, Fernandez Racing co-owner John Anderson, Team Rahal's Scott Roembke, and Ian Bisco from CART engine supplier Cosworth.

The issue of 2003 series car counts was a major focus of the discussion. Before turning the floor over to the team representatives, Pook admonished the media for the continued speculation about the numbers for next year. He warned: "The gentlemen here today are long-time car owners in our series. They are not going to be forced to tell you who their sponsor is or who their driver is in August, beginning of September; that is not the way this business works. They have every right to announce who their sponsors are and who their drivers are in their own time. That is value to their sponsors, and we are not going to try and take that value away."

Despite that disclaimer, Pook stated firmly that CART would have 18 cars for 2003 and added: "it could well be 21 cars."

The team owners all agreed with Pook's claims and many did reveal their intentions for 2003. Forsythe claimed plans to increase his team's car count: "I want to confirm today: two cars, reasonably sure a third car and speculation on a fourth car. We are committed."

Walker said that he would have one or two cars; Anderson claimed that Fernandez would be back with their primary car, and rated the second team as a strong possibility. Patrick was another owner with expansion plans, planning to go back to a two-car team. Haas and Roembke were not ready to announce car numbers, but both reaffirmed their teams' commitment to racing with CART.

In addition, Pook said that there would be at least five new teams in the 2003 series: "Absolutely there will be some new teams, two from North America and two from Europe. There will be teams coming from other series in this country, moving up the ladder, and I believe you will see the return of a past team."

The team owners were unanimous in their continued support of CART. Some more of their comments:

- Patrick said "I think CART has the best racing product in the world."

- Forsythe commented: "CART racing is the best, most diversified type of open wheel racing, and why wouldn't we want to be involved in it?"

- From Derrick Walker: "I think nobody can deny it, and certainly no team owner that I've ever talked to in CART, has any hesitation if they are able to compete in this series and be here.

Pook closed the press briefing by reiterating his prediction of 18-21 cars for 2003, commenting: "[CART] management's job is to work with all of you guys and to make sure that you understand what is fact and what is fiction. 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.'"

Other notes:

- Pook announced that CART would be back in Texas and in "the Orient" in 2004.

- In response to a question about his pursuit of Jacques Villeneuve to drive for his team next year, Forsythe said: "I found out late last week that the written offer was not made to Mr. Pollock, Jacques Villeneuve's manager. It was offered verbally. 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 am expecting to receive a call from Mr. Pollock or from Mr. Richards by tomorrow."

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Jacques Villeneuve , Carl Haas , Chris Pook , John Anderson