SBRS: CHAMPCAR/CART: Barber CART scholarship team press conference, part I

2002 Barber CART Scholarship Team press conference June 8, 2002 An Interview With: Chris Pook Skip Barber Townsend Bell Ryan Hunter-Reay Barber Cart Scholarship Winners Part 1 of 2, Chris Pook, Skip Barber Adam Saal: We appreciate you...

2002 Barber CART Scholarship Team press conference
June 8, 2002

An Interview With:
Chris Pook
Skip Barber
Townsend Bell
Ryan Hunter-Reay
Barber Cart Scholarship Winners

Part 1 of 2, Chris Pook, Skip Barber

Adam Saal: We appreciate you taking time for joining us for an informative media session about the CART ladder system and what Championship Auto Racing Teams and the Skip Barber organization are doing together to develop future driving stars. Again, we thank you for coming today.

At this point, we would want to take the opportunity to formally introduce the eight 2002 Barber CART Scholarship drivers. Two groups of four flank each of our center panel of graduates, as well as two presidents, Chris Pook, and Skip Barber, who we will each hear from shortly.

Each one of these drivers has received a full-paid season in either the Barber Dodge Pro Series or the Formula Dodge National Championship.

Before we meet them, we would just like to formally introduce President and CEO of Championship Auto Racing Teams, Chris Pook. Next to him is Skip Barber Racing School founder, President Skip Barber.

And now let's meet our scholarship drivers from Barber Dodge, which is the official entry level professional series of CART, in no particular order, please welcome Rafael Sperafico. He is the 2001 Barber Dodge Pro Series Rookie of the Year and he is from Toledo Pollana Brazil. Also joining us is the 2001 Barber CART scholarship winner from Miami Florida, Leonardo Maia. Also with us today is the 2001 Formula Dodge National Championship winner from Curitiba, Brazil, Julio Campos.

Next, our scholarship drivers in the Formula Dodge National Championship, which is the official Amateur National Championship of CART. The first four drivers to win the Barber CART Karting Scholarship Shootout in January to secure their spots, from North Hills, California, Colin Fleming, from Bentonsport, Iowa, Craig Baltzer, from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, Ward Imrie and finally from San Mario, California, Charlie Kimball. Welcome, gentlemen. We appreciate you being here.

As well we have a fifth driver. He is the recipient of the National Championship Barber CART Scholarship, from Deerfield Beach, Florida, Scott Poirer.

In all these drivers are receiving $825,000 in full season scholarships to further their careers and move up to the CART driver development ladder series. No small chunk of change in racing, and it's good to know we have a system in place for this.

With us also are two drivers who have used the scholarship and the driver development system to advance their careers. One is the 1998 Barber CART Karting Scholarship winner, the 1999 Barber CART Scholarship winner, and the 2000 Barber CART Pro Series Rookie of the Year. After two successful seasons in the Barber Dodge, he is now competing with Hylton Motor Sports in the CART Toyota Atlantics Championship. Welcome from Boca Raton, Florida. Ryan Hunter-Reay.

Sitting next to him, alongside Chris and Skip is a driver who came up through the ladder system starting with his very first Skip Barber Racing School in 1996. He competed in the Formula Dodge Regional Championship in 1997, the Barber Dodge Pro Series in 1998, 1999 and the Dayton Indy Lights Championship in 2000, 2001 and he won the championship last year, clinching it right here at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca. He is now competing in the CART FedEx Championship Series with Patrick Racing and Visteon. From San Luis Obispo, California, Townsend Bell.

We'll start with questions. I'll field a few, but we'd like to start with Chris Pook. The CART driver development ladder system is unique in the world of motor sports. Can you explain CART's commitment to developing assisting drivers in the ladder and why this exists?

Chris Pook: Thank you, Adam. Before I answer that question, I think we should point out, too, that Skip Barber not only develops drivers, but he also develops PR people. Adam started his first job with the Barber organization, and you can see that Skip is multi-facetted in how he serves our motor sports industry.

Well, clearly, if we are to continue to develop professional motor racing drivers in the United States, the starting point has to be the Barber operation. The kids come out of go-karts and if they are going to learn to drive race cars they are going to start in go-karts and there needs to be a system to pull them out of go-karts. And Skip has successfully developed that system. Whether they go straight to the Skip Barber Formula system or go straight into his Barber Dodge system doesn't matter. They go into the hands of a very good organization that puts their arms around their drivers and develops them. I think you've got two really classic examples sitting before you today.

CART feels very strongly about this. CART is committed to this program and this concept. I'm not sure that we've done as good a job as we could have done in the past nurturing the relationship and the process to take drivers up through from Skip's organization into Atlantics and up to Champ Cars, obviously Townsend Bell is a good example of that today. I think we need to do a lot more, and the CART management team has been directed that they need to focus on this and to continue to work at it very hard.

So we feel it's really important. Hunter did a hell of a job last weekend and he's going to do a hell of a job this weekend. Here is an example of a guy who has come through the system. I hope you'll all make a note of the names sitting before you today and I hope you'll track their progress. Because these youngsters that are on either side of Skip and I, I'm sure in two or three or four years, that you're going to be seeing a few of them sitting in Hunter's position here and Hunter is going to be sitting in Townsend's position.

And that's the way it should work. If you look at karting in Mexico right now, they have got a tremendous development system down there. We have got three Mexican drivers in the CART FedEx Championship Series and they have come through the system. You go to Europe and see the systems that are over there; that's how they get developed.

So we are tardy in the United States in getting Skip's concept of bringing in these new drivers, but we are now embracing it and it's at hand and CART believes in it and we are going to go forward.

Adam Saal: Chris, some of our critics these days are saying that we do not have a development system. What do you attribute that to? Obviously, we have produced an incredible amount of drivers who practically spent swept the top spots in the Indy 500, and what you see before you today. Do you think it's a matter of we're just getting started, or just failing to recognize what we have?

Chris Pook: Well, I think what happened, Adam, over the years, one of the difficult things about motor sports, the higher you go up the ladder, the higher the costs are to go racing.

I think that one of the things that has happened is that the sanctioning body has not created the right environment for a youngster to come to the system and have the availability to either get into a completely funded team where he can race, or, the ability to put him together with a sponsor who can help him get into that team. I think that's the real issue here.

We have been shown up pretty well by our neighbors to the south - I'm talking about South America now, the Brazilians, who have the ability to get supported by Brazilian corporations and then come into the series heavily funded or partially heavily funded and get into one of our high-profile seats. It's not to say that they are not talented. They are extremely talented, and with all due respect for them, our guys are just as talented as they are. But we just haven't used the mechanism properly or haven't got our arms around it and grasped it properly to get the job done, and that's what we have got to do and I think that's what we are doing.

Now what we want to do is have good competition. It's great to see a young man from Brazil with us here today. We still want to encourage Brazil and Columbia and Chile and Argentina and Mexico and all of the countries of the world to participate and come over here and run. But at the same time, we have also got to understand that we have got to create the right environment for our own kids, Canadians or Americans, to get across the goal line and realize their dreams. And then demonstrate their skills, which they are very able to do.

Townsend, his rookie year, that's pretty respectable, in a one-car team, which is a handicap for a rookie driver. Not to give him any excuses, but having a team partner in the level of competition that we have today is important, and to do it on your own as he has is significant. So I hope that answers your question.

Adam Saal: I think Skip can certainly add a lot to it. An accomplished driver in his own right, Skip is an inspired American who had great success in his career but realized there was a need to establish opportunities for drivers.

And the proof is in the pudding, you're doing a great job here. Your official relationship with CART was established a couple of years ago and you have a good program in place, but what has the relationship of CART added to the already successful program.

Skip Barber: I think the only thing Chris missed in that is that we have to really promote these kids as they come along. It's not really a talent issue. When you look at any other sport, be the NBA, with the playoffs going on right now, every NBA fan knows who the next stars are, the kids that are in college, and some of those real fans know them when they are in high school. And we have got to really create that environment. This is the start of that, where hopefully you'll get to see these guys for three or four or five years before they get in a Champ Car and really know who they are.

As a great supporter of all of the Brazilian kids that we do get, and one who hears the criticism of lack of American drivers, yes, we need the American drivers, but we have to know who the Brazilians are, and that's something this will take care of. That's part of the issue, I think, for CART, guys that seem to fall out of the sky.

Adam Saal: Skip, you've got enough experience, I think to speak to this issue. You see in baseball an international talent such as Ichiro come over and captivate baseball in the city of Seattle. Or you see the jockey from Mexico, Victor Espinoza, who may win the Triple Crown today; he's become an instant superstar. International folks in just about every other sport are both received and celebrated and not questioned. Nobody said Sammy Sosa's accomplishments a couple of years ago were not any good but he's not American. But occasionally we see that in this sport. Do you attribute that to this sport or do you think it's a train of thought that just needs to be completely battered down and done away with?

Skip Barber: I don't think it has anything to do with the sport. In fact, it is ironic when you look the starting grid in the IRL where most of those folks come from.

We need more Americans, but we absolutely need the best competition in the world. And as Chris said, we need the fastest cars, if they come from Brazil, that's great, that pushes the guys.


Barber CART press conference, part II

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About this article
Series IndyCar , Other open wheel
Drivers Ward Imrie , Townsend Bell , Ryan Hunter-Reay , Julio Campos , Leonardo Maia , Rafael Sperafico , Skip Barber , Chris Pook