CHAMPCAR/CART: Release of 2006 schedule press conference, part 1

CHAMP CAR WORLD SERIES 2006 SEASON SCHEDULE PRESS CONFERENCE TRANSCRIPT MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everybody. I'd like to thank everybody for coming by for the announcement of the 2006 Champ Car World Series schedule. Participating today in...


MODERATOR: Good afternoon, everybody. I'd like to thank everybody for coming by for the announcement of the 2006 Champ Car World Series schedule. Participating today in the front here to talk about the schedule is the President of Champ Car, Dick Eidswick; Co-owner of Champ Car, Kevin Kalkhoven; and the Executive Vice President of Development, Governmental Affairs and Planning, Joe Chrnelich.

I'll turn it over to Joe. He's going to show you what's going to happen during the upcoming season with Champ Car.

JOE CHRNELICH: Good afternoon, everybody. Before we get into the actual schedule, if I may, I'd like to make a couple general comments just to establish a base of understanding, so you have a better understanding of where our thinking is moving forward.

First of all, if you recall last year when we had our unveiling, we talked about making sound business decisions as we assemble a schedule. We are maintaining that policy this year. I'm very pleased to inform all of you that the decisions we're making are paying off. We're seeing better fiscal performance as well as event performance at our venues.

Today also you'll see a slight increase in the number of venues that we've added to the schedule. This is due to our policy of not announcing a race or putting it on the schedule until we have a firm deal. We think that's good for credibility and that's something we try and build on and maintain as we move forward.

Heading into next year, you'll also see us moving or shifting, if you will, our self-promoted events into independent promoter hands. We think fundamentally this is a better strategy for growing an event and creating more energy at the local level. It certainly is much more in line with our business model.

Lastly, I think we all would agree we are making some very significant progress, and it's showing in the level of energy, strength, and the remarkable growth at the venue level. The attendance numbers are very strong on the whole and it tells us that the Champ Car product is not only attractive, but that our business model is working.

This progress, mind you, is directly attributable to our loyal family of promoters. Without them, it is very hard to rebuild this business. We'd like to at least acknowledge them publicly, let them know we're proud of them and we appreciate their performance.

With that, why don't we begin the presentation?

As we go through each of those, I'll make a few comments about each of our venues.

(Video presentation)

JOE CHRNELICH: Obviously this year, Long Beach, there was some high drama over the future of Long Beach and Champ Car. To our delight, and just about everyone's delight, I stress just "about everyone," Mr. Champ Car and the home team prevailed, and that was good news for Champ Car.

With that now complete, our new cousin, Mr. Jim Michaelian, has promised us that we will see a new energy and a higher level of performance at Long Beach than we've seen in recent years. Jim is very energized. He is very pleased to join our extended family of partners. We believe he and his team will do nothing but deliver on that promise.

(Video presentation)

JOE CHRNELICH: Needless to say, folks, we are all very excited about Champ Car coming back to Houston. In particular we're very excited with our choice of venue, Reliant Park. We did a lot of research and homework down in Houston. Ultimately, with the work of our promoter, we came to the conclusion that was the best place for us to be. It gives us everything and the promoter everything we need to put on a first-class event with the backdrop of the Astrodome, the Texans stadium, and under the lights in particular should be spectacular.

Speaking of promoters, as we went through this process, we had to find a promoter. Little did we know we had one right within our own Champ Car family. Right now I'd like to acknowledge and introduce our new promoter, Mr. Mike Lanigan of Mi-Jack Products. Stand and wave, please.

I do want to say publicly, this would not have happened were it not for Mike Lanigan stepping up. We learned early on he was interested in the promoter business, but Mike has done a whale of a job making this happen. We certainly appreciate it and won't forget it.

Also along with Mike are two of his promoter team members moving forward. One is Mr. Chuck Kosich, who some of you probably know, work with Mike for Mi-Jack. Chuck also had a history with the Texaco/Havoline Grand Prix in Houston. He has a lot of historic experience which will lend a lot of strength to the effort. Also here is Robert Dale. Pretty impressive credentials from Houston. More importantly, he was the CEO and President of the Super Bowl in Houston, also lead the charge in Atlanta for the Super Bowl. He knows where the big fish are that you need to do to hook in for those events and get involved. I think Mike has really built a hell of a team for us. We'll bring them up at the end of the presentation; give you a few words on Houston.

(Video presentation)

JOE CHRNELICH: Monterrey, as you know, folks, is the race that serves as our strategic linkage, if you will, to create awareness in our northern Mexico markets, but it also serves as a bridge into our Hispanic constituents in the US. This race traditionally has tremendous support from both Tecate, which is their hometown, and also the telephone giant Telmex.

The way we look at this, this creates a lot of energy early on in that market as we build towards obviously the Mexico City race at the end of the year. We're delighted to be back and we've got a great promoter down there.

(Video presentation)

JOE CHRNELICH: Milwaukee, as you know, has a little bit of a connection to me. We're happy to be returning again this year for the 105th, I believe, running, which is one heck of a track record, if you will, probably second only to Brett Favre's record of games played.

It hurts me to say we took a big step backwards this year.  It did not
perform anywhere near what we had the year before.  We were quite excited
at the night race.  Obviously, that's got our attention.

As a partner, we share some of that responsibility. We went to a Saturday afternoon race for television reasons. Obviously, it did not pan out well. But we were concerned also on the promotional effort. To be sure, we're going to be working very closely next year with the promoter on their advanced marketing plans and how they're going to rebuild this because we do need to see the trend turn upward again.

We all love The Mile. I know everybody in the room does. As I said, last year we had to make some tough decisions. Unless we see that trend turn up, which I have confidence we can. But if it doesn't, we're going to have to make some tough business decisions about our presence in Milwaukee.

Again, we're going to, work very closely with them. We are moving the date back to Sunday, which traditionally in Milwaukee is a good attendance day. We're looking forward to that performance moving forward.

(Video presentation)

JOE CHRNELICH: Speaking of history, Portland obviously holds a very warm spot in our heart. Best I could tell, that was our first race in 1909. We were very, very encouraged this year in what we saw in Portland. There was a new energy. We saw a lot of people coming back to the race. In fact, Mike is here today. He and his team did a great job of creating new business coalitions. He got the Governor and state government back involved. He also brought some sponsors. GI Joe's was terrific. We have Chevron, Intel, Red Bull, high activation mode in the market. That's the kind of signs we look for in terms of rebuilding. Mike and his team deserve a lot of credit for doing that.

Next year we're already planning on a wider strategy which we find unique, which is a state-wide strategy tied to economic development. The Governor is very keen on this idea, marketing the state to bring businesses in, but also to tell businesses out there who's already there. They have some tremendous industries. We look for him and those companies to join the effort.

We also, as you know, have a Pacific Rim strategy. Portland, the Port Authority in Portland, does a lot of business over there. Mike and his team are also looking at establishing linkages between our Pacific Rim events and the City of Portland.

On the whole, we like what we see. It's headed the right direction. We're pretty excited about where it's headed for next year.

(Video presentation)

JOE CHRNELICH: Seems a little bit like history is the theme here for a while. 25th anniversary is impressive. We think it will be a very exciting marketing vehicle for the event, but we also like what we see. This year Cleveland showed very well. I say "showed very well" because there is a difference between showing well and when you get down to the business of our business, you also have to produce well. There are some things we need to tune-up there, and we're going to do that. But we were very pleased with the job our team did in terms of reenergizing the event. It really did look good. The stands were full, the suites were up closer. A lot of people do more standing elevations for quick pit stops, things of that nature. We like what we see there.

We're also encouraged. We've been getting a lot of support of letters from the government officials. One indicator in particular that's of interest to us is the sponsorships. US Bank, Sherwin-Williams, Budweiser, has spoke loud and clear. They want to step up. They want to do more. They are toying with getting involved at the series level. Those are the kinds of things we like to see. Even the Cavaliers have talked about getting more involved. That's a good sign for us. It means they want to tag on to us for some good exposure.

All of these again are positive indicators. We have cautious optimism this thing is going to start to bear fruit moving forward.

(Video presentation)

JOE CHRNELICH: Nobody throws a party like Molson Sports Entertainment. They put on a first-class event every year. They do a fabulous job of energizing Toronto, which is obviously one of our strongholds. Although some of our team owners may take exception to this, this year's race we think produced some of the most riveting drama, last 25 minutes of the race, that people have seen on TV in a long time. It was one of those times where we could just not leave the screen. Those are the kind of moments that tell us that our product on TV shows well and can grow our viewership base.

We're also very encouraged with the merger that's now complete between Coors and Molson. We think that's going to add additional strength and some leverage in terms of growing our relationship with Coors a little bit closer.

On the whole, obviously we're delighted with Toronto.  We're delighted to
go back.  We look for nothing but even greater things out of Toronto.

(Video presentation)

JOE CHRNELICH: We could say electric, incredible, amazing, astounding. Quite frankly we ran out of descriptives for that weekend event. Edmonton by all measures just blew us away. 55,000 on Friday, 67,000 in the rain on Saturday, and 78,000 on Sunday. It was truly a magnificent event.

Tom, I'm not sure if he's here today, but he and Greg McDonald chased us relentlessly, if you recall, to give us a chance for Edmonton. I'll tell you, folks, they delivered on the promise. We trusted them to deliver, and they did it.

The way we look at it, it is going to be a mainstay, a stronghold for Champ Car for many years to come, and actually a great model for our decisions moving forward.

(Video presentation)

JOE CHRNELICH: With the pressure being on our promoter, because San Jose is a hometown of Mr. Champ Car, the Canary Fund folks delivered a winner. They obviously had Bob Singleton at the helm, one of our most seasoned promoters. Bob did a whale of a job. The Bay Area was buzzing. Not only San Jose, but you look at San Francisco, Oakland. The Grand Prix event of San Jose and Champ Car, it was out there. People were talking about it. There was excitement.

I will tell you that the date -- I know we experienced some problems there logistically, obviously on the circuit, and we will work side by side with the promoter and fix that. But on the whole, we think it was a Grand Slam home run. In fact, day after the race, Mayor Gonzales, who was a little tepid going into this, wasn't sure quite would happen, grabbed Tony the next day and said, "Give me a list of what has to be improved and it will be done for next year." That's how excited he was about this. That's the power of what we can bring to a community.

All the positives aside, folks, I think probably the most remarkable success indicator of that event was an article that was in a NASCAR publication. The heading on it said, "Champ Car shows NASCAR how to draw fans in northern California." That is a tremendous compliment, especially given the prominence of NASCAR and how good they are. But more importantly, that's a testament to our promoter, too. They delivered for us.

In short, San Jose is going to be better every year.  The wrinkles will
be ironed out.  That event will grow to much larger heights than even you
saw this year.  We're proud to be there.

(Video presentation)

JOE CHRNELICH: Last year, I don't know if you were aware, but we had co-promoted this race with Centrix Financial. From the outside looking in, it was a great race and quite a success. As I mentioned earlier, behind the scenes we knew we had a lot of things to fix.

As part of our shift towards a traditional model, we met with Bob Sutton and his team and put the proposition on the table that they take full control of the event as an independent promoter. Bob agreed to step up.

Since that time, the Centrix team has done an amazing job. Last year there were six sponsors. This year they had 56. All the suites have been sold out. They were building new ones to try to keep up with additional demand. Ticket sales are very brisk and healthy. Now that we're into the weekend event here, the look of the event is improved over last year.

It's crisp, it's first-class. That, again, is a credit to Bob and his team. We think Denver is going to be a great market long-term for us. Certainly all the excitement leading up months before this, Champ Car and the Grand Prix got the attention of the Denver market. Those are the elements we look for and those are the things we need to feed our promoter and help them continue to maintain.

We're delighted to be here. This is going to be a great weekend. Certainly, it's long-term for us.

(Video presentation)

JOE CHRNELICH: Well, obviously we're very pleased to be going back to Montreal again. It's a charming city, great setting, and great circuit.

The thing I'm not sure if you're aware of, this year marks the return of our former promoter, Norman Legault. Norman, if you don't know him, is one of the sons of Montreal, one of the most respected men in that city. But he's also one of the most respected, experienced F1 men in the world. He is a terrific individual, very seasoned, and the fact that he has come back on to our team I think speaks volumes for the business plan, the vision that Kevin and the owners have established as well as the philosophy that we as a management team has adopted. He's linked on to that. He has told me all indications are this year is going to be a great, reenergized event in Montreal. We're delighted to have him back in the family.

(Video presentation)

JOE CHRNELICH: Well, if you haven't noticed, we've added Las Vegas onto the schedule with an asterisk. The purpose of that, and the reason we put it up there, is both Chris from Las Vegas Motor Speedway and I agreed we would hold off until we talk after this year's event. Obviously, this combined event is a different approach for us. The objective or the goal was to see if we can't somehow help attract those 80,000 fans for that race into Champ Car fans. We've only had one year, we had some hiccups last year in terms of the transition between the events. Chris has worked very hard to make sure that transition time is minimal, at best, so we get right into the Champ Car event. But we will sit down afterwards, talk about it and see how it performed.

We need to talk about the economics of it from Champ Car's perspective. At the end of the day, make no mistake about it, Champ Car will be in the Las Vegas market long-term. It's a market we are in and will stay in.

(Video presentation)

JOE CHRNELICH: Obviously, our business model, as Kevin has articulated many times over, it puts a strong focus on the Pacific Rim. Korea plays a very important part of that plan. Now, I know there's a lot of trepidation out in the public about is the race going to come off, because obviously it didn't last year.

We've been working very closely with the promoter to make sure it does happen. But what we can tell you candidly, we try to do that as a matter of course with all of you, is working on the new venue all the way around the globe with language barriers and time zone barriers is a very challenging task. Obviously, it's something we have to fine tune because we're going to be doing a lot more of that.

But safe to say it is a challenge. We're working with it. The reason we're very confident we'll get it done and done right is because we believe we have the best staff in the world. We've done long-distance events, very talented. We will not let the promoter fail. We're looking forward to getting there for the first inaugural event. Kevin and I visited, had quite a welcome for the ground-breaking ceremony. We're anxious to be there. We are looking forward to being there next year as well.

(Video presentation)

JOE CHRNELICH: Well, our race at Surfers, folks, hands down is the most dynamic event production on our schedule, second to none. It has grown to be the single largest event in Australia, second to none.

The one problem we have there is we're running out of room in Surfers Paradise for more people. Some of you have been there, it's an amazing event. We're happy to be a part of it obviously, and it shows our pride very well. The fans there love our product. Obviously, we're happy to be back in Australia. We can't wait get to get there.

(Video presentation)

Continued in part 2

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About this article
Series IndyCar
Drivers Jim Michaelian , Kevin Kalkhoven
Teams Williams