Chris Pook is the right man at
the right time at CART. Anyone who really knows Chris will tell you
that. However, CART has managed to get itself in such a pickle,
every move Pook makes in 2002 must be the right one, it's a matter of
survival. We take a look at some of the most important items that
should be on his agenda.
his Business Plan - Chris promises to present his 5-year CART
Business Plan to CART's Board in 2-weeks. It must be solid and
layout where he plans to take CART. His vision must be clearly
stated to CART, all of its constituents and its fans.
the series - His #1 goal for 2002 is to stabilize a business that
has been severely compromised by poor management. Once he
stabilizes CART, he can start to build it up in 2003. That's not
to say that 2002 is a do-nothing year. Quite the opposite.
The foundation must be laid in 2002. In order to keep current
sponsors happy, and attract new sponsors, he's going to have to keep
them in the loop.
the 2003 rules - how are manufacturers going to supply engines and
chassis' if the rules still are not ratified. I would expect
this to happen at the January Board meeting.
network TV exposure - If FOX was serious about CART, Speed Channel
wouldn't be so dominated by NASCAR programming in 2002. That
being the case, and the likelihood that CART is not going to be the #1
priority at Speed Channel, Chris would be wise to move as many races
as possible to FOX (FOX owns Speed Channel). CART needs more
races on Network TV, and pronto. When FOX shows the commitment
with Speed Channel that ESPN did to NASCAR years ago, then CART can
think about Speed Channel being a true partner, but until then, CART
needs eyeballs tuning into its races and Speed Channel does not reach
the local newspapers to publish CART material - CART is not
reaching the grassroots of America and one of the reasons is because
it is not on the radar screen of the majority of sports editors of the
local newspapers. And what about overseas publications?
Does CART provide translated articles in Italian, German, Japanese,
French, Spanish and Chinese? If it doesn't how does it expect to
get column space in overseas publications? Make it easy for
the drivers the heroes - How many times do we have to say
this? NASCAR figured this out a long time ago. If you
don't believe that NASCAR drivers are heroes, just think back to Dale
Earnhardt. It's not easy to make drivers heroes, but it all
starts with having them on TV, be it RPM2Night, David Letterman, Speed
Channel, Fishing with Orlando or Oprah Winfrey. CART must get
the drivers known with the men, women and children. For their
part, the drivers are going to have to go above and beyond what they
do today (if I made that much money I would work 7-days per week,
NASCAR drivers do) and really reach out to the fans. How popular
was Indy Car racing when the likes of AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti and the
Unser's did battle against Jimmy Clark, Graham Hill and Jackie
Stewart? How many different types of cars did these guys win
in? Drivers today are so specialized they are exposed to a
smaller population of people. NASCAR drivers race 38 weekends a
year. They get much more exposure than CART's measly 20-race
CART merchandising - I don't mean some 2nd-rate trash, I mean a PC
Simulation that CART can be proud of. Shirts, jackets, hats,
drivers, window stickers, etc. This is how you reach fans and
get them involved.
with the ALMS and TransAm - yes, you heard me right. It's time for
some consolidation in motorsports. It's over saturated with
competing interests. Merge with the ALMS, make Don Panoz a Board
member and Scott Atherton in charge of the ALMS division. Why
merge with the ALMS and TransAm? It's simple, NASCAR is the
premier oval track organization in the USA. CART should be known
as the premier road racing series in the USA, that happens to do a few
oval races now and again. With Champ Cars, ALMS, TransAm and
Toyota Atlantics, plus Skip Barber racing (CART should buy them too)
CART will control the entire gambit of road racing, from go-karts all
the way up to Champ Cars, just as NASCAR does with oval racing.
You then can sell a whole package of racing to a TV broadcaster and
mix and match the various series to fit the market/venue.
CART to Indianapolis - it's centrally located and when you move to
Indy, you immediately become associated with the Indy 500, just by
your address. It also means that if Chris Pook wants to have
lunch with Tony George every other day to discuss a rapprochement (a
sort of merger - see merger
article), they can. CART's teams are also in Indy, so it
doesn't hurt to be close to them.
new teams and sponsors for 2003 - losing Team Penske was
bad. Losing Marlboro was even worse. CART is going to have
to replace them and get its grids back up to 28 cars, a size
considered ideal. It wouldn't hurt to get more manufacturers
involved, and it certainly will help if the IRL engine formula they
are likely to adopt reduces cost.
the 2003 schedule by June - and it should include St. Petersburg,
Miami and perhaps Shanghai. If Houston, Chicago and Milwaukee
continue to under perform, jettison them. The series must have exhilarating
events from the first race of the year to the last. Why by
June? So TV times and sponsor dollars can be secured for the
manufacturer participation - CART needs to get Honda and Ford
back, and Audi and General Motors in. Certainly it would not
hurt to land Maserati, Ferrari or Renault either. A stable, cost
effective engine formula with a solid TV package will do the
trick. I still think my idea of a CART issued bottom half of the
engine, with individual manufacturers heads and intakes, is the most
cost effective way to get manufacturers to compete, much cheaper than
even the IRL formula.
promoter relations - some CART promoters are unhappy with CART's
sanction fee structure and marketing effort of the series. A
happy promoter is a financially successful promoter. CART must
work closer with promoters to ensure 1) their race is properly
promoted, 2) drivers are available for local PR work, 3) the fees are
in line with what the market can bear, 4) every race has a title and
presenting sponsor. CART must also set track standards that
ensure the drivers can actually pass. Follow-the-leader parades
don't accomplish anything except clicks on the TV channel remote.
CART's sponsors - Ads by CART sponsors should 1) promote the
sponsors product, 2) promote the series, and 3) promote the drivers,
i.e. make them heroes, all with a consistent message. Also, many
team sponsor contracts in CART end after 2002. CART must move to
get them to renew by mid-year.
to negative publicity - CART must aggressively confront negative
news and disinformation. It's about time CART put a stop to all
the negativism surrounding the series. Taking the high road and
ignoring it just doesn't cut the mustard nowadays, in this dog-eat-dog
a European office - CART must be well represented both in Europe
and Asia. It needs people locally to help the overseas race
promoters, to find overseas sponsors, and hook some big name
talent. They can also try to lure some of the weaker F1 teams
like Prost, Minardi or Arrows into CART, where a winning budget is
perhaps 1/5th that of F1.
16 ideas off the top of my head. There's probably 16 more.
Chris Pook has his work cut out for him, but as he puts it, "there's
no magic to making this sport work, you just have to have a solid plan and
grind it out."
you at the races.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
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