CART's 2003 race venues #1 in the world

 by Mark Cipolloni
March 21, 2002

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CART is #1 when it comes to delivering the key consumer markets to a sponsor

CART's lineup of races for 2003 is shaping up to be its best schedule to date.  One by one CART is trashing the races with low attendance, and replacing them with absolute winners - races that not only deliver a large attendance, but ones that are conducive to wooing sponsors.

It's no secret that racing is expensive.  It costs a lot of money to run a race team, and sponsorship is the lifeblood of the sport.  CART and its teams have to fight NASCAR, IRL, F1 and ALMS for its share of sponsor dollars.  The consumer markets that a race series can deliver is important when trying to land the next big deal.  Sponsors like to use races as a backdrop to entertain its most important employees and customers. They also like to go into a market before and during an event and use the race as part of their marketing strategy. In that regard, CART is #1 in the world.

No other race series in the world can deliver to a sponsor, the value CART can bring.  Not only does CART deliver the powerful #1 consumer market in the world, the NAFTA market (USA, Canada and Mexico), it also delivers Europe (Germany and UK), the Pacific Rim (Japan, Australia and eventually China) and is poised for a possible return to Brazil and the South American market.  Certainly F1 brings almost the same global reach, but the cost to enter F1 and participate as a sponsor is astronomical.

In today's global economy there are not too many sports that can deliver a sponsor the multitude of markets CART and F1 can.  Most sports, and even the IRL and NASCAR, are strictly domestic products that appeal to a single domestic audience.  Because CART can deliver the same worldwide reach that F1 can, but at a bargain price, it's just a matter of time before sponsors stand up and take notice.  Some already are.  However, CART shot itself in the foot for 2002 by not having its International TV package in place by the start of the season.  Now they are scrambling to get it done by the 2nd race in Long Beach, and even then, it won't be anywhere near as far reaching as it needs to eventually be.

With that said, CART is on the right track toward building a solid 22 race schedule in the coming years.  In the table below, we analyze CART's 2003 (we include Brazil, but that race is iffy at best for 2003) venues and what they offer an existing or potentially new sponsor coming into the series.



GNP Rank


St. Petersburg/Sebring, FL

Spring Training Early Feb



Spring Training in 2003 will start in St. Petersburg for the off-track activities and then move to Sebring (long course) for the on-track stuff.  See below for more discussion on this market.

St. Petersburg, FL

February 21-23, 2003



The St. Petersburg/Tampa Bay market in and of itself, it has the 14th largest profile in terms of attractive marketplaces. And when you combine that with what's available in the Orlando, Daytona Beach market, you end up with the fifth largest DMA in the country, which speaks to the strength of that central Florida region and ability to attract a very strong and substantial audience.
In that regard, not only do they have strong demographics, but there's a very large and growing Hispanic market there, too, which as you know plays into the strength of the CART FedEx Championship Series.

Monterrey, Mexico

March 7-9, 2003



Monterrey has turned out to be one of the top-3 best attended races on the CART circuit.  It's situated just 2-hours south of Texas in probably the wealthiest state in Mexico.  Very industrial and very much in tune with the USA.  Toyota will begin selling cars in Mexico soon, and they are very happy CART races in Mexico.  NAFTA is beginning to have a significant impact on Mexico, and I would expect it will climb in the GNP rankings in the next 10-years.


Salvador street course

South America


Whether CART goes back to Brazil again and tries to rebuild what was a fairly successful race, remains to be seen.  CART still has a fair number of Brazilian drivers, but the economy in South American is quite weak at the moment, so companies are not knocking down CART's door for a Brazil race at the moment.


Houston, TX

Street Course (Revised)



Houston has the potential to be an excellent market for CART, and Texaco Havoline, the sponsor for Newman Haas is headquartered there. However, the original Houston layout was very Mickey Mouse and needs a serious overhaul. We expect this race to move from the Autumn to the Spring starting in 2003.

Long Beach, CA

1.99 Mile Street



Long Beach is CART's premier event.  Though several other venues draw a bigger 3-day crowd, it's still hard to beat the ambiance of LB, with the movie stars, fantastic weather, and a long history.  It is America's version of Monaco.  LB is in the Los Angeles basin, one of the most populated and wealthiest regions in all the USA.

Motegi, Japan (Sat.)

1.549 Mile Oval

Pacific Rim/ Japan & China


Japan has the 2nd largest GNP in the world.  Not only do Toyota and Honda compete in CART, there's talk of Mazda coming in too.  Japan is important to many CART sponsors, and the race in Motegi has been growing in size, with last years race day attendance capped at 73,000.  We hear this year the cap will go higher as they learn how to move that many people up and down the mountain top where Motegi resides.  We expect CART will eventually add China to its Asia venues.

Indianapolis, IN

2.5 mile Oval (IRL race)



Although not a CART race, but an IRL race, many of CART teams compete in The Greatest Spectacle in Racing, and it's the one race every sponsor wants to win.  Except for tobacco sponsored cars that are limited to one series or the other per the tobacco Master Settlement Agreement, a sponsor in CART gets to go to Indy as icing on the cake.

West Allis, WI

1.032 Mile Oval



One the the oldest venues on the CART circuit,  it certainly has a history of some great races.  Unfortunately attendance in recent years has shrunk, as it has on most oval tracks.  Miller Breweries, headquartered in Milwaukee, used to sponsor a car in CART, but not any longer, they only do the Indy 500.  Therefore, it's questionable how many CART sponsors are that keen on the Milwaukee market.  If they could fill the grandstands again, then racing there would make a lot more sense than it does now.

Monterey, CA

2.238 Mile Road Course



About 1.5 hours from San Francisco and 1-hour from Silicon Valley, this venue should be good for high-tech sponsors.  However, attendance has been down since the race is no longer the season closer, and it remains to be seen whether a move to June can increase the gate.  The track is undergoing some major improvements, including the addition of F1-style garages and corporate suites, which should help to pamper the corporate guests.

Portland, OR.

1.967 Mile Road Course



Portland is a popular stop on the CART FedEx trail, with over 70,000 usually in attendance on race day.  Not the best venue in terms of generating sponsorship in the series, it does serve the important NW USA market.

Chicago, Il

Street race?



Chicago is one of the biggest consumer markets in the USA, and has all the makings of a fantastic venue.  CART just needs to get away from the oval and onto the downtown streets, preferably in conjunction with the Taste of Chicago weekend (1 million + people) and this race will turn into an overnight success and a sponsor magnet.

Toronto, Ontario, CN

1.721 Mile Street Circuit



Toronto is one of the best attended races on the CART calendar, and is one of three key events for CART in the Canadian/NAFTA market..  It's a fantastic City, perfect for entertaining corporate guests, and the City really gets behind the event.

Cleveland, OH

2.106 Mile Airport Circuit



When the race promoter tried to bring in the IRL instead of CART, the Cleveland fans got so mad and put so much pressure on the Mayors office, that the City reversed their decision, cancelled the IRL, and brought back CART.  The airport layout makes for one of the best road course events of the year, and Cleveland is now a booming City and of great interest to sponsors.

Vancouver, Canada

1.802 Mile Street Circuit



The continuation of this race has been in doubt several times in the past 10 years, but somehow the City always finds a way to work the race around the nearby development.  Usually it's a packed house when CART comes into town, and along with Toronto and now Montreal, helps CART deliver the Canadian piece of the NAFTA market.

Lexington, OH

2.258 Mile Road Course



One of the oldest stops on the CART FedEx tour, this track is a fan favorite.  It may not be the best place to entertain a corporate guest, but it certainly helps CART maintain its road course heritage.  However, this track is in serious need of widening (it's way below F1 standards) if it's ever going become anything more than a follow-the-leader event for the powerful Champ Cars.

Elkhart, Lake, WI

4.048 Mile Road Course



Undoubtedly the most popular track from the drivers standpoint, this 4-mile circuit is one of the best natural terrain road courses in the world.  If you haven't been to Road America and stood in the woods as the cars blast past, listening to the sound of 17,000 RPM, 900 HP turbo engines bounce of the tall trees, you haven't lived yet.  The only thing holding back this great circuit from becoming a sponsor magnet, is the lack of pit row garages and corporate suites so sponsors have a place to entertain their customers.  Bernie Ecclestone would never allow a track to get away with it, and CART should not either.

Montreal, Canada

4.421 km Road Course



This new French-Canadian addition to the CART circuit is sure to be a fan and sponsor favorite.  Montreal has the atmosphere, the track is in a beautiful locale, and the Montreal fans love their racing.  It's quite possible this race might become the largest of the three Canadian races in a very short timeframe.  The downtown City of Montreal is a perfect place to entertain corporate guests.

Denver, Co

2.2 Mile Street Course



CART has certainly gone one better than the IRL in the all important Denver market.  While the IRL races way out in Colorado Springs, Colorado (a tertiary market), CART brings the races right downtown adjacent to the new Pepsi Center (can you say Motorsports Expo?) and all the best restaurants in the City.  With the backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, this Labor Day event is sure to be a huge success.  Plus, the college students move back into town right around that time and they're looking for some real entertainment.  CART delivers the USA's future business leaders and technical minds right into the lap of a sponsor.

Rockingham, England

1.5 Mile Oval (Sat.)

European Union


The inaugural race at Rockingham last September was so exciting, it left the critical British motorsports press breathless.  Andrew Baker wrote in the London Daily Telegraph "YEARS from now, graying petrolheads will bore their grandchildren with tales of the day at Rockingham Motor Speedway that changed British motor racing for good."  In Sunday's London Daily Telegram, one of the more respected London newspapers, the Brough Scott race report stated, this racing, referring to de Ferran's last corner, last lap pass for the win, made F1 look like a walk in the park.  England is F1's playground, and if CART would open a European office to help promote this race and the German race and make them sellouts, perhaps many of the manufacturers will look at what they're spending in F1 and say, what are we nuts, CART's where it's at! 

Lausitz, Germany

2.0 Mile Oval (Sat.)

European Union


With 87,000 people on hand for the first event in 2001, this race is in the 3rd largest GNP market in the world, Germany. It was a rousing success by all measures, this despite the tragic events of September 11th and Alex Zanardi's near-death accident.  However, the track is in the former Eastern Germany while most of the corporate world is in Western Germany.  This has made it difficult for the promoter to attract corporate involvement, but we think the addition of a German engine manufacturer back into CART would solve that problem overnight.

Mexico City, Mexico

TBD Mile Road Course



Without a doubt, this race will become the biggest on the 21-race CART circuit overnight.  Mexico City is home to almost 30 million race starved Mexican's and a key market in the NAFTA domain.  As with Monterrey, Mexico this race, with the potential to draw over 300,000 on race day, has Toyota rubbing their hands with delight. 300,000 people will leave all sponsors awe, and is sure to attract new sponsors into the series.  With the addition of this venue, CART delivers the NAFTA market, and the growing Hispanic market, in a very very big way.

Queensland, Australia

2.795 Mile Street Circuit

Pacific Rim/


Everyone who goes to this race comes away saying what a spectacle it is.  The entire town gets behind this event, and it's one non-stop weekend long party.  While it's pretty far to fly a corporate guest from the USA, it you do, you've probably landed a customer for life.  The only complaint about this venue, has been CART's inability to land a sponsor from Australia.  However, as we have seen with F1, give an Australian driver a ride and the corporate sponsors will follow.  Attendance tops well over 200,000 people for this event, and the only thing missing is back-to-back weekend races with Adelaide and the V8 Supercars.

Fontana, CA

2 Mile Oval



Fontana serves the large Southern California market from LA down to San Diego.  The race track makes for some of the most exciting race action of the year.  Fontana is also a great place to entertain corporate guests as their suites are first-class.  Built at the site of the old Kaiser steel mill, the surrounding area is largely industrial, so to entertain corporate guests at night, you are looking at a short ride to nearby San Bernardino.  CART once drew over 100,000 at Fontana but the attendance has dwindled to the 65,000 to 75,000 range in recent years, which is still respectable.

Miami, FL

1.54 Mile Street Course


Miami! Need I say any more? This cosmopolitan City is still a favorite vacation destination, but it also servers as the gateway to South America and the Latin America communities. Miami is the commercial center of Florida, and it's large Hispanic population have many a CART driver to cheer for. The nightlife in nearby Miami Beach is hopping, and this new venue (combined weekend with ALMS and TransAm), is going to be a huge success story. Chris Pook wants to eventually make Miami CART's season finale. For a sponsor, Miami is sure to please.
GNP Rank Country Merits for a 'future' CART Race
4 France CART doesn't race there, but we have suggested they do so at Bernie Ecclestone's Paul Ricard circuit.  And we know for  fact that Paris has expressed an interest as well.
6 Italy Imola may lose their F1 race.  CART should be ready to jump in quickly. Monza would like another big race too.  That would make Maserati and Ferrari very happy.
7 China 7th now, but it is expected to grow by leaps and bounds over the next 10 years.  Is CART ready to pounce on Shanghai now?

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

Go to our forums to discuss this article


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