CHAMPCAR/CART: Steve Johnson teleconference transcript, part 2

Continued from part 1 Q</I>: There's a couple of announcements that we've been kind of waiting for. One is the new car. One is whether or not the schedule is final at 15 races or whether it might go to 16. Of course, next year's TV package.

Continued from part 1

Q</I>: There's a couple of announcements that we've been kind of waiting for. One is the new car. One is whether or not the schedule is final at 15 races or whether it might go to 16. Of course, next year's TV package. Can you comment on any of those yet or is it too early?

STEVE JOHNSON: I can comment, but I probably won't give you any more information than you already have. The new car, we're probably two weeks away from announcing the '07 chassis. Without tipping our hat, we haven't selected yet who that is going to be. Whichever way we go, it's going to be a major win for the series as well as for the team owners. The car looks fantastic. When we announce that, we're going to have a separate press conference on that so you can see it and be a part of that.

As far as the schedule goes, yeah, we are looking, it's no secret we're looking to add another race for '06. If Philadelphia has a secret, it's probably the worst-kept secret there ever was. But we are in discussions with Philadelphia as a market. The TV package is just not done yet. Again, as I said, they're on a call right now. We're working towards finalizing that and getting out very soon. The good news, all three of those are very positive. We look to have those done here in the real short-term.

Q</I>: In your five years with the SCCA, I know that you were very involved in bringing new members into the car club, into racing, into working the races. How much of that that you've learned over that time frame will you carry with you into your goals for Champ Car?

STEVE JOHNSON: Well, I think, you know, probably all of it. With the SCCA, when they got involved with drifting, Champ Car is involved with drifting now, the same organizations. You know, we're going to partner with SCCA in certain areas. We already do from a race official standpoint to corner workers. Many of the members of the 60,000 SCCA members are avid fans of Champ Car. We're going to continue some of our partnering efforts with the SCCA.

If you take a look at the festivals we put on during the weekend, it's not just racing. There's BMX competitions going, there's car shows going, there's a number of things, video games. There's a number of things to get the youth involved and educated on what open-wheel racing is and what Champ Car is because we have to do that. That's tomorrow's fans. Those are tomorrow's drivers for us. You're going to see a lot of areas towards the youth initiative as well as to our loyal fans that have been following us forever. We're not going to abandon them. They're very important for us.

Q</I>: What is the first thing that you will change? You're mentioning about focusing and things like that, but is there something significant you've earmarked to change once you gain full day-to-day operations?

STEVE JOHNSON: I don't know "change." Everything's changing that we have. One of the things I'm working on right now, and I've been working on for the past several weeks, is working on the strategic plan for the organization. You know, we're not there yet, but it will be out soon. It's not going to be anything that we keep secret locked up here in the cabinets. We're going to share it with all of you. I think you're going to see that, and that's going to drive a lot of the decisions that we make. Again, it comes back down to being focused and being unified as an organization with the same goals and objectives in mind.

You're going to see a lot of things from me initially on the marketing side because, quite frankly, that's my background, is sales and marketing. I'm already jumping in on that right now. We've got some meetings lined up in Las Vegas that are pretty far down the road. If we can get these finalized, you'll see some big announcements coming out of Champ Car. A lot of that. Then communication. It's another area that I don't think anybody can do good enough in, and you're going to see us continue to improve our communications, both internally and externally. You, as the media, will definitely feel it and see it.

Q</I>: With regards to what was going on in Montreal the last couple weeks, the Champ Car event has confirmed they will be there in '06, but what sort of work is being done for '07, perhaps another area for Champ Car to continue the presence in Canada?

STEVE JOHNSON: That's a great question, but it's one that I don't have the answers for yet as being in day two. I haven't been fully debriefed on what's going on in Montreal. I do know that we're planning on being back in '06. It's a great market. If the question is, "Would we want to be there in '07?" Absolutely. It's a great market for us. I hope everything gets worked out and we'll give it our best efforts from the Champ Car side to make sure that we put our best foot forward and make that happen.

Q</I>: To put things in sort of a historical perspective, over the last many years, the Champ Car World Series with CART, when there has been a new president or CEO or chief executive that's come in, many times this person has not sort of had a lot of background within the motorsports industry. Obviously you do. Could you maybe talk a little about that. Obviously, there's some sort of learning curve here, but you hit the ground pretty well running, where other people have not. Historically the Champ Car World Series has perhaps not been as well integrated into the fabric of the American racing scene with the SCCA, let's say with NASCAR, all the other organizations. Do you think it's important to sort of increase that kind of integration?

STEVE JOHNSON: Well, I do. That's a great question. Champ Car is again doing a lot of things right. It's not an accident they have 150,000 people per event. The operations side of the business with Tony Cotman and his group, I think have increased the confidence level in what Champ Car is all about. You don't hear those issues any more. Last year and in the past, when people talk Champ Car, it was operational challenges, bad calls, things like that. Whether they're right or wrong, I don't know, I wasn't here.

They've done a lot of really good solid things. They've put together a great executive team that I'm very comfortable with. I was fortunate to be able to know these guys because I'm in the industry. I've known them prior to taking this job. That was another one of the reasons why I wanted to become a part of the Champ Car World Series. Anybody that's in motorsports for a long time has a large Rolodex, and we bring that with us, a lot of contacts.

We need to get more mainstream, we need more sponsors, we need to be more involved in line with SCCA, ALMS, with NASCAR. And I think I bring that to Champ Car. I've got good relationships with every one of the sanctioning bodies because I haven't had to compete against them in the past. NHRA really was kind of out there on their own without much competition. SCCA, we flew the Swiss flag, we got along with everybody, because we didn't have to compete with them really on the pro level. We added a lot of value when we would bring World Challenge to ALMS. We raced with Champ Car, we raced with IRL. I'm proud to be able to say all those guys are my friends. So I plan on working with them.

Again, to help make Champ Car more mainstream and to bring the ultimate entertainment value to the motorsports and sporting enthusiast.

Q</I>: Do you think the schedule presents any big challenges for you? Champ Car was the sort to announce the schedule weeks ago. You saw the IRL come in and really tighten the schedule up. They left off Southern California. Do you think the length of the season, starting in Long Beach, do you think the schedule as it stands today for '06 presents any major challenges for Champ Car?

STEVE JOHNSON: You know, the answer is probably yes, but they're ones that we'll get over. I haven't had a chance to review the schedule enough to see are we running side by side with the Masters and with some other major sporting events. The schedule was announced prior to my coming in.

Yeah, we'd love to have a more tight, compact schedule, but the schedule is what it is for '06. I had a meeting this morning to start talking already about the '07 schedule with Joe. We're going to do our best to make sure we put the best schedule out there and make sure that it works not only for us and for our teams but for the fans and for all our track partners, as well. There's a lot of complexities when you put a schedule on. There's a lot of people that you're serving when you are do that.

I know they used their best efforts. I applaud them for getting the schedule out as early as they did, because that's always a challenge. I think you hit it. I think they were probably the first or second major series to have their schedule out. Boy, what a difference a year makes.

Q</I>: We have the race in Vegas this week. Race is not starting till 8:30 at night. Probably even the West Coast newspapers may not get it in their paper for Sunday. You are pretty much out of town till the end of the season. Is there any way you think you're neglecting the US fan over the final few races of the season?

STEVE JOHNSON: Well, I wouldn't call it neglecting them. Again, the schedule is what it is. I can't talk about why we've got the international swing at the end of the season versus the first part of the season. I don't know why.

We do have a lot of fans. We are viewed in 160 countries with our broadcasts. Although it is a late event in Las Vegas, I don't think that's the time we would ideally pick to be on. Again, it's something that we'll work towards improving in the future. As I said, we're already working on the '07 schedule and looking at different alternatives to possibly juggle some things around so we don't lose a two-month period or a one-month period of the US presence.

Q</I>: You talked about focusing on your model. Does Champ Car have any interest in expanding its programs to include fendered cars such as the World Challenge?

STEVE JOHNSON: That's a great question. They do have Trans-Am that you see that races with them. Including racing or owning? I don't think we're looking to own anybody. To race with, we raced with World Challenge at Cleveland and Denver this year. I think World Challenge add a lot of value. Trans-Am obviously has been out there adding value. From fendered cars, and then in Mexico City we're going to have Grand-Am. There's been talk about possible running of ALMS -- running with ALMS in the future.

I guess the answer is yes, we are looking at, again, creating the best entertainment value for the weekend. It's not just about going out and running a race. There are many parts to that, so there is a fendered piece associated with us.

ERIC MAUK: Thank you very much. That will bring an end to our Champ Car media teleconference for the day. We appreciate everyone joining in talking to Mr. Johnson today.


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Series IndyCar
Drivers Steve Johnson