CART is the most Extreme form of motorsports

CART Fan Forum Highlights

 by Mark Cipolloni
August 11, 2000


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Mario Andretti, Hal Whiteford, Barry Green, Rick Mears, Bobby Rahal, Parker Johnstone and Paul Page (not pictured) meet the fans

CART held it's first Fan Forum today at MidOhio and, by all accounts, it was a huge success.  It was a chance for fans to speak to some of the key players in CART, to ask questions and get some frank answers.  In attendance were Barry Green, Mario Andretti, Bobby Rahal, Rick Mears, Hal Whiteford, Paul Page and Parker Johnstone along with about 400 fans.  Below are the highlights of what was stated, paraphrased from our memory and notes.

Green: We were 1/2 way there with Dario's negotiations, but we took a small step backwards after his test with Jaguar.   We have an option on Paul Tracy for another year.  However, things are going very well and I think you will see Team Kool Green look very much the same as this year in 2001. 

Fan:  Don't dumb down the engines just to get back to the Indy 500. Big applause.  Rahal: We recognize that we must keep Champ Cars as the most sophisticated race cars in North America.

Over 400 fans turned out to ask questions

Andretti: Tony George has it all wrong with the IRL formula.  Open Wheel cars have always been state-of-the-art thoroughbred race cars.  Trying to make them like NASCAR is wrong.  The IRL is nowhere...even with the Indy 500.  Imagine where it would be without it.

Mears: Car ownership is not for me.  I tried it once with Indy Lights.  I like it better what I'm doing for Team Penske.

Q for Green:  Do you pray before the races?  A: Where I have Paul Tracy and Dario Franchitti for drivers...you bet I pray alot.  Laughter.

Rahal:  We will have more Fan Forums

Rahal:  We will do a third 500-mile race when the right opportunity presents itself.

Andretti: CART must never loose sight of the fact that road courses are its meat and potatoes.

Whiteford: I'm meeting with Watkins Glen officials in two weeks to discuss a possible future Champ Car race there.  Rahal: Watkins Glen, Road America, Mid-Ohio, Laguna Seca and Road Atlanta are the best road racing circuits in this country.  We are taking a serious look at possibly racing at them all eventually.

Page: ABC with ESPN and ESPN2 gives us the ability to to show pre-race, race, post-race and replays.  From that perspective they are a good partner.

Rahal:  I just came back from Germany and I can tell you that Eurospeedway will be the best racing facility in the world.  I was very impressed.

Rahal: We are looking at Detroit, the City wants the race to stay at Belle Isle, and there is the Fairgrounds proposal.  We will go back if the right opportunity arises.  Belle Isle as it is does not meet our needs anymore.

Andretti: I came back to CART after F1 because my first love is road racing and CART provided that.

Andretti: In my day drivers could be more versatile because driver contracts were three pages long and nobody could tell me where I should or should not race.  Today contracts are 75-pages long and the team owner almost owns the driver.  The owner does not want to risk his driver getting injured elsewhere.  Plus drivers in CART are so busy racing and testing, they have very little time doing anything else.  If you race in the IRL of course you have plenty of time on your hands.

Whiteford: We have employed Parker Johnstone to help us assess safety of each of our tracks from a drivers perspective.

Andretti: I saw the replaceable foam type energy absorbing walls NASCAR is looking at when I was at the Brickyard 400 last weekend.  CART must do something to make the walls softer.  The HANS Device is good, but it's not enough.

Andretti: Christian Fittipaldi hit the wall at 102 G's in Chicago.

Rahal: In some TV markets, CART actually has better ratings than NASCAR.  He used Houston and LA as an example.

Rahal:  CART needs a series sponsor like RJ Reynolds.  NASCAR did not promote its product, RJ Reynolds spent a lot of money selling NASCAR.  Tobacco companies can't advertise on TV and they saw NASCAR as the vehicle for them to sell the Winston name.

Rahal, Whiteford, and Page - we all read the internet discussion forums (several of them) to get a pulse of the sport.

Rahal: 3/4 of the drivers in CART have led a lap this year.  No other series can claim that sort of competitiveness, even NASCAR.

Rahal:  Believe me, I recognize how important a good TV package is to CART.  It will take some time but I can assure you that the TV partner we have in 2002 will be one that cares about CART and invests in the series.

Rahal: CART is the most extreme form of motosport in the entire world.

Page: We were close to a deal whereby races could be broadcast commercial free (except for yellow flaf periods) by placing a small, semi-transparent sponsor logo in the top corner of the TV screen for an entire race.  Sponsors were interested in that sort of exposure and would pay for it.  Ultimately it was the advertising brokers who nixed the deal, but it still makes a lot of sense.

Rahal:  I recently met with the ESPN folks are we are looking at more 2.5 hour time slots in the near future.

Page:  Football and Baseball negotiate their TV schedules 5-years in advance.  CART looks ahead only 14 months.  Therefore, sports like baseball and football eat up all the good time slots.  CART must do better than 14 months.  Recently Rahal stated the 2002 schedule will be out in 90 days.

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