Editorial

Interview with RuSPORT Team President Jeremy Dale
 
by Mark Cipolloni

 July 18, 2005

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Jeremy Dale

Formerly the Managing Director of the Barber Dodge Pro Series for three seasons, Dale took the reigns of RuSPORT in the fall of 2002. His professional driving career spanned 10 years, winning in multiple disciplines, including open wheel racing and sports car endurance racing.

• 2000-2002, Managing Director, Skip Barber Racing School, LLC, Lakeville, CT
• 1996-2002, Network Sports Television, auto racing analyst
• 1989-1995, Multiple IMSA race-winner as a factory driver for Dodge, Nissan, Oldsmobile
• 1986-1988, Barber Dodge Pro Series driver, accumulating 7 wins
• 1985-1990, Driving Instructor, Skip Barber Racing School, Lakeville, CT
• 1978-1984, Driver campaigning Formula Ford and Vintage racing series
• Born in Toronto, Canada, 1962

AutoRacing1.com sat down with RuSPORT Team President Jeremy Dale to talk about the future of RuSPORT as well as candid discussion on some issues facing the Champ Car World Series as it begins its steady comeback.

MARK CIPOLLONI: Thanks for taking the time to talk with us today Jeremy.  There has been some speculation that RuSPORT's recent success will spur the team to expand to 3 or 4 cars.  Can you comment on that.

JEREMY DALE: -- We have absolutely no plans to do anything beyond two cars for 2006. That could change. But, I mean, I put the possibilities of that changing at 1%, and here is why. As you know, we jumped into Champ Car in '04 with a one-year-old team that really, you know, in our minds we had thought to really get the foundation of the team where it needs to be, two years in Atlantics minimum, maybe three, but probably two. And we decided to jump into Champ Car in '04. But we were absolutely going to do one car. I mean, there was no two ways about it. We were going to do one car.

And we thought, okay, we can take the two-car Atlantic team, transition ourself into Champ Car as a one-car team, bring AJ along. We know we're going to pay a price for that, but we can do it pretty much with the same number of people and we can continue to build the foundation. And then in '05, we'll go back to two cars, which provides the symmetry that we know we need.

Well, then the whole Jourdain thing came along, and we had to jump in. I mean, there was no one else that was going to take that on. And, as you know, we ramped that up in about four weeks. And we paid for that all year last year. It cost us all year. Actually, we're still paying for it.

And, you know, you can look at it and you can say should we have done it, should we not have done it. It's like, at this point it doesn't matter, we did it. We knew it was going to compromise us. We did it. So the great thing about '04 to '05 for us was that in the short history of RuSPORT, it was the first time that we went from season to season without any radical change, you know, Atlantic to Champ Car. So it was an opportunity for us to take the same program through from year to year. And it was like, okay, this is great, this is some consistency. This is now going to allow us to start fine-tuning what we do.

And, you know, obviously there were changes. There was a driver change, which was a key part of us developing the team. We went and hired Todd Malloy. That was a key part of us bringing the team along.

MARK CIPOLLONI: David Brown, too?

JEREMY DALE: No, David we hired in January of '04. But, of course, David had very little Champ Car experience, almost none.

MARK CIPOLLONI: Wasn't he with Ryan Hunter-Reay prior to coming to you?


Jeremy Dale (R) with team owner Carl Russo (L)

JEREMY DALE: For three or four races with the Reynards. But prior to that, he had no Champ Car experience. Mostly F1, some sports car, but mostly F1. So it was a great opportunity for us from '04 to '05 to say, okay, we're going to take the same basic program and transition into '05. And now we're going to start to put some development programs into place and fill out a few key positions and start to refine what we do. We're a long, long, long way from where we need to be in terms of refining a two-car team, and I mean a long way.

MARK CIPOLLONI: You're certainly competitive already, so what's to stop you from expanding on that?

JEREMY DALE: Well, but here's what -- so, not to digress, but I look at, for instance, this weekend so far and I say here is what I'm most proud of about this weekend. We all started from the same place. No one's been here. No one's seen it. And so to me it's a strong sign that we have put a great group of people together that can figure this stuff out. And we clearly yesterday, when we unloaded the cars, we were in pretty good shape. And so that to me is the greatest part about yesterday, was that we were able to achieve that. Now, watch us, you know, fall on our faces in San Jose next week when we're going to do the same thing, to a racetrack that no one's ever seen.

So to go into '06 and do anything but two cars right now to me would be a big mistake. We've built some momentum in '05. We're getting better at understanding why we're quick. We're getting better at understanding why we're able to achieve whatever it is we achieve, and we don't want to mess with that.

And what also happened last year, Mark, was when we did that big expansion in such a short period of time, when you take an organization, and every company has a culture that exists within it, we spend a lot of time thinking and talking about culture, and you add 20 people to an organization of 25 over a four-week period, you're going -- you have the potential to break the culture. And we didn't break it. And that might have just been luck. Who knows? But we didn't break it.

And so now that we have some of that consistency and we're trying to refine that, if we were to do an expansion again to three or four cars, we would potentially break it, and I don't want to break it.

MARK CIPOLLONI: But this time you would have more time if you decided to do it now.

JEREMY DALE: You're right. But I just don't see us doing it. I don't see us doing it, especially in -- I mean, if you look at the way everything is lined up right now, we're gaining really good traction with commercial partners, and that's important, and we need to do that. We are figuring out this Lola, but next year is the last year of the Lola.

What we really want to do is take next year to really refine the team so that when a new car does land on the shop floor in hopefully December of '06, we know how to figure it out.

MARK CIPOLLONI: How do you explain Andretti Green's change to a four-car team, when they went to the IRL - they became a four-car team almost instantly. How were they able to achieve that success? Is that because they're in Indianapolis where there's a lot more personnel available?

JEREMY DALE: A couple of things. Number one, it was already a mature organization. Not a new team. I mean, Michael was new to the team. But Team Green became Andretti Green, so it was already a mature organization, number one.

Number two, it doesn't take quite as many people to run an IRL program as it does to run a Champ Car program.

MARK CIPOLLONI: Why is that?

JEREMY DALE: Um, because the -- well, let me -- let me go backwards on that a little bit.

When they started in the IRL, it didn't take as many people. It's now getting to the point where it does because the technical development has ramped up.

MARK CIPOLLONI: They have road courses now, too.

JEREMY DALE: Right. But when they joined, the technical development wasn't as strong as it is now, and they weren't road racing, so they weren't turning these cars back and forth (between oval and road course configurations). So I think it was easier for -- you know, Ganassi did a big layoff when they went from Champ Car to IRL in '03. They were staffed at about a hundred and they went down to about 65 or 70.

MARK CIPOLLONI: It was a two-car team.

JEREMY DALE: Two-car team, yeah. Two-car Champ Car team in '02. Two-car IRL team in '03. They made a transition.

Now, the technical side has ramped back up. Andretti Green, what they're doing is interesting in the world of open-wheel racing because it's never been done. It's a NASCAR kind of model. You know, if you get it right, it can be really effective and really powerful, and if you don't, you're going to -- you're going to dig a grave for yourself. So certainly running more than two cars does not guarantee success. You know, look at Ganassi this year. I mean, they're not having any success.

MARK CIPOLLONI: I think a lot of that has to do with Honda versus Toyota engines. Part of that problem is the Penske Toyota is better than their Toyota.

JEREMY DALE: Look at Rahal. You know, three cars, Honda engines.

MARK CIPOLLONI: They've had some success.

JEREMY DALE: No doubt. They won the 500 last year, and Buddy won some races last year. But this year, boy.

MARK CIPOLLONI: They've been there. Danica was there at Indy.

JEREMY DALE: But at the end of the day, the job is to win races.

MARK CIPOLLONI: Well, of course.

JEREMY DALE: Anyway, so we're going to stay where we are right now. Could I see us, you know, three or four years down the road as we're able to bring commercial partners into the fold that are showing interest in Champ Car? I'll tell you, a lot of people are paying attention to this, they're not all jumping in yet, but it's got their attention. The model that has been created here which you know what it is, I don't need to explain it, this NAFTA model with a Pacific Rim focus has really got a lot of people's attention. Europe is nice, but it's Formula One country. It's saturated. You know, we don't need to go to Europe. We have a lot of fans in Europe. We get a lot of fan mail from Europe, a lot.

MARK CIPOLLONI: So does the HVM team. I hear the HVM team gets bombarded with fan mail.

JEREMY DALE: Yeah, we get -- I wouldn't be surprised. We get a lot of fan mail from Europe. But we get a lot of fan mail from all over the world. Not as much yet from the Far East.

MARK CIPOLLONI: Language barrier there, too.

JEREMY DALE: Yeah. But this model has got the attention of commercial partners. And I could see, as we're able to -- you know, listen, if we had two fully funded absolutely, you know, title sponsors for the whole year, fully funding the program, we're not going to stop looking for sponsorship.

MARK CIPOLLONI: Nobody would.

JEREMY DALE: We will be out there trying to create relationships and trying to build partnerships. You know, if we can find the funding to do it as this thing matures a little bit and as we mature as an organization, and to your point, as we find enough -- I mean, you're right, we don't have enough space.

MARK CIPOLLONI: What is the status of that, of your new building?

JEREMY DALE: Our new building, we had a deal all put together. We were supposed to have shovels in the ground back in March. It all blew up in January. It's a complicated story. But, you know, I mean, building development, real estate development is tricky business. And the deal blew up. It was a piece of land down in Broomfield, which is, you know, kind of halfway between downtown Denver and Boulder there, by the airport, by the Jefferson County private airport, and the deal blew up. So we decided to push the pause button and regroup. And we decided at this moment -- we haven't moved too hard on anything yet. We've been out looking around.

MARK CIPOLLONI: For an existing property or a new building?

JEREMY DALE: Anything. We've been out looking around at what's available in the real estate market. But the problem is, since the tech crash, the real estate market in Colorado, in Denver specifically, has been --

MARK CIPOLLONI: Soft?

JEREMY DALE: -- very soft. There are no buildings. There isn't a lot of empty existing stuff available that would be suitable. There's a lot of empty, existing stuff, but it's just not suitable. So we pretty much have to build. And that is, you know, at least an 18-month process. So we're probably going to be where we are -- I can almost say we'll certainly be in the building we're in for '05 and '06. There just won't be any opportunity.

MARK CIPOLLONI: Unless you happen to find an existing building.

JEREMY DALE: If something pops up. So we'll keep our eyes open, but right now we decided to push the pause button because the real estate market is one that is not easy to navigate. The problem is you would think that in a soft real estate market, the prices would be low, but they're not that low.

MARK CIPOLLONI: High demand in that there's not a lot of supply?

JEREMY DALE: Right. Right. You would think in a soft market, you'd be able to go in and find some cheap space or find some cheap land. So we're moving carefully with that. And we learned to live in the small building we're in. It's about 14,000 square feet. We're not able to keep our trucks inside. That's a disadvantage. But, you know, we've come to grips with it.

MARK CIPOLLONI: Apparently, given your recent success.

JEREMY DALE: Well, you can make an argument that it actually forces you to become better in how you operate your business. You don't have as much space. You have to be more efficient. You know, we use our space very, very efficiently, and we're always looking at ways to make it more efficient, do this, do that, do this, do that. We run into each other a lot. I mean, it's tight. I'd be telling a lie if I didn't say it was tight.

Yeah, we had a whole mezzanine area over the office that when we ran the Atlantic program, it was just wasted space, we didn't do anything with it. And now it is full. You know, we've got shelving up there. I'm worried it's all going to come down through the ceiling. But, anyway.

MARK CIPOLLONI: How about sponsorship? The last two years, you have run a number of different sponsors on the cars, races here and there. Do you feel any of them are close to possibly coming on board as a full-time sponsor? Or are there others in the works?

JEREMY DALE: Yeah. So there's always a lot -- there's a lot in the works. There's a lot going on behind the scenes that no one sees. Obviously, when we're ready to put something on the car, we put it on the car. As you pointed out, we've done that, we're in the midst of that with CDW right now. We ran an Intel car at Portland. Western Union's back on the car, that's four races. You'll see SanDisk come back on the car.

And what this is, it's easy to figure out, it's these companies are looking at Champ Car, looking at RuSPORT, looking at the markets, looking at the models, and they're trying to figure out, "Does this fit with what we're trying to achieve, with what we're trying to do with our business? Does it work? Does it fit?"

We think we offer something very unique. It's not Formula One; it never will be. It's not a global brand name play, if you will. We have good global television reach, but it's not Formula One. Having said that, we can offer something Formula One can't possibly offer at a fraction of the cost, which is events, touching people, getting close to people, bringing people in and letting them see the cars, touch the cars, meet the drivers. You don't have that kind of access in Formula One.

NASCAR can't offer what we offer. NASCAR is an incredibly successful business, from a corporate sponsorship standpoint, but NASCAR is primarily a Sunday afternoon or Saturday night in the corporate suite experience. There's less on the ground, close to the cars, meet the drivers, walk through the pit lane, there's less of that that can go on in NASCAR, for two reasons: one, they allow less of it, and two, you have so many more people, and so many more constituents involved, the garage access is very, very limited. So we can offer something they can't offer.

MARK CIPOLLONI: They offer a lot of TV eyeballs.

JEREMY DALE: Again, they're better on the branding side, but they can't be -- you know, they can't make as compelling an argument from a technology standpoint that we can make to an Intel or to a CDW. They can't speak the way we do for Western Union to the global movement of money in and out of Mexico, in and out of Canada, to the Far East. China is a booming market for Western Union.

MARK CIPOLLONI: That's where you and I don't agree about the worldwide global reach potential of the series. I feel as long as you keep half of your races in North America, the other half can easily be a global reach. In my opinion, most companies nowadays are looking to do sales globally, especially in China.

JEREMY DALE: No, I think we do agree, 'cause we look at that and say that's an important part.

MARK CIPOLLONI: The problem is, I don't think Champ Car still to this day has figured out what they want to be. That's my opinion. I hear a South African race is possible. Then South America has to happen because of the Ford contract. South America, South Africa, China, South Korea, Australia and maybe Japan. Champ Car will be as global as Formula One. So why not use that?

JEREMY DALE: Just about.

MARK CIPOLLONI: No, not just about. The only thing you're missing is Europe.

JEREMY DALE: That's why I said "just about." You're also not in the Middle East. You're not in Bahrain or anything like that.

MARK CIPOLLONI: That's also in the works, potentially.

JEREMY DALE: But you're right, and I think one of the flaws for many years with CART is CART did not know what it wanted to be.

MARK CIPOLLONI: Exactly.

JEREMY DALE: So I think the direction -- and honestly, Mark, I don't know about a race in South Africa. I hear the same things you hear about the potential of, you know, races in South America. It's like, you know, if that's the direction, that's the direction.

I think the direction -- I think the path we're on right now with this NAFTA anchor, three in Canada, two in Mexico, seven, eight, whatever the blend is, in the US, got to get the right markets, got to get into the Southeast, got to get into the East.

MARK CIPOLLONI: Northeast, you mean?

JEREMY DALE: And Southeast. We've got to get East. Got to get East. You know, San Jose is a home run, it's going to be a home run. Long Beach is a home run. I mean, you know, and then, you know, the markets that are China and South Korea, and whether it's Japan or somewhere else, you know, APAC-wise, it makes sense, it makes sense. If we dilute ourselves too much in trying to be all things to all people, whether that's going to South Africa or going to South America or going to the Middle East, I think we will fail.

MARK CIPOLLONI: If it's not done properly, I agree with you a hundred percent.

JEREMY DALE: I think we'll fail.

MARK CIPOLLONI: I see already some signs that they're not doing some things the way I would have done them. You're actually right. At the same time, many economists are predicting that China will surpass the United States in GNP in 10 years. If that happens, all of a sudden we're not the biggest economy any more, companies are going to want to sell in China.

JEREMY DALE: You've got to admire -- I mean, Formula One had the foresight to go there. You know, they will beat us there by a couple of years. And obviously everyone's looking at it. The NBA's looking at it. The NFL's looking at it. I mean, everyone's looking at it. But at the end of the day, we can go in there and bring a world class event to Beijing, and that will have a big impact from a corporate sponsorship standpoint.

MARK CIPOLLONI: It could.

JEREMY DALE: It really will.

MARK CIPOLLONI: Like I said, Champ Car has to figure out what they want to be. If they really do want to be an international company, they had better organize to be that. Right now they're organized as a United States company with their fingers in some foreign locations. So they have to decide what they really want to be. If they don't want to be international, then don't be international.

JEREMY DALE: No, no. You're international just by the fact that you cross into Canada, Mexico.

MARK CIPOLLONI: Yeah, you're right, but...

JEREMY DALE: I mean, aren't there other leagues that would like to have the foundation we have in Canada/Mexico right now?

MARK CIPOLLONI: Absolutely. It's fantastic.

JEREMY DALE: So we've got to take care of that, not neglect it, nurture it, keep going. Got to keep Canadian drivers in the series, got to keep Mexican drivers in the series.

The one thing I keep coming back to, and I think you're going to agree with me about this, is that people continue to underestimate Kevin Kalkhoven. I'd say Kevin likes it that way. He's a guy with a lot of vision, he really is. And he can see -- I think he can see how this plays out over the next 10 years.

MARK CIPOLLONI: I share his visions.  He's the first Champ Car boss who shares the global vision I have been writing about for years.

JEREMY DALE: No, he is a -- he is a visionary guy. And, fortunately, he understands that you need to make the right investments in the right areas to get things done. It doesn't mean you are indiscriminate with how you spend money or where you invest. You make those investments very, very carefully.

You know, I've heard Kevin talk about -- I've heard him talk about Champ Car may be profitable by the end of 2005. Well, if Champ Car is profitable by the end of 2005, then we're now -- we're in a whole different area because now Champ Car has -- Champ Car is a profitable company that can continue to invest in the areas that it needs to invest in to continue to grow.

So to me the approach looks very disciplined, very focused, and it looks right now like a -- it looks like there are holes, but it's only because they're not trying to do everything at once. They're trying to pick one thing off at a time. And I think we saw it this year with TV. The TV will move up another notch and it will just keep moving. That 1.0 at Toronto, it held at a 1.0, that's a big deal. That's a big deal.

MARK CIPOLLONI:  It's not a great rating, but it's much better than it was the year before. And the trend is in the right direction.

JEREMY DALE: And the trend is in the right direction. I don't know if you got to see the race, the quality of the production.

MARK CIPOLLONI: It was good. So was Cleveland. It's getting better. Still not as good as what FOX does with NASCAR, but it's getting better. I had a good talk with Rick Benjamin before Toronto. They seem to be listening because it's getting better. It's still not perfect.

JEREMY DALE: Well, again, right. You just keep going. You just keep plugging away. You knock one down at a time.

MARK CIPOLLONI: Still, in order to get above the 1.0, as I've said for a long time, as Danica Patrick proves with the IRL's ratings, if you don't have heroes, you exist, and you'll exist, and that's all you'll do. Champ Car will be a 1.0, 1.1, 1.2 TV rating  company. That's all you're ever be without heroes. The big events are nice, you have to have them, but parallel to that you have to develop your heroes or buy heroes. You know, you can't develop a hero overnight. Danica was an anomaly.

JEREMY DALE: I agree.

MARK CIPOLLONI: And before AJ becomes a hero in the United States or Justin Wilson become as real hero, you might have to buy some heroes. The series has got to have heroes. I can't stress that enough.

JEREMY DALE: There's a chicken and egg element to it, which to me is you've got to have the longevity. You can't have -- you know, one of the most popular drivers ever in CART was Alex Zanardi. He was only here for three years. Didn't matter that he wasn't American. People loved him. They loved him.

MARK CIPOLLONI: Because Target promoted him properly. He was personable.

JEREMY DALE:  He was a personality. People could identify with him. People connected with him. And then he was gone.

MARK CIPOLLONI: That was the fault of the series for not being able to keep him.

JEREMY DALE: And also Jacques Villeneuve was not as well-loved, he was still on his way to becoming a hero. So what I like about a guy like AJ and what I like about a guy like Justin, it's one of the reasons that we thought Justin would be a good fit for us. Justin has done his Formula One thing. It's done and he's not going back. He likes it here. This is what he wants to do. He can have, you know, a nice tidy career here for quite a few years. AJ doesn't have any eyes on going to Formula One. He likes this.

MARK CIPOLLONI: I think if a driver could make a good living here salary-wise, they would stay. I don't think Alex Zanardi would have gone back to Formula One if there was enough money on the table. There wasn't that effort made. They didn't understand how valuable he was, how much money he was really worth to the series. You can't replace a hero.

JEREMY DALE: I'd be careful with that.

MARK CIPOLLONI: You can't replace a hero.

JEREMY DALE: I agree. But I'd be careful jumping to conclusions about Zanardi and money.

MARK CIPOLLONI: With most businesses, nobody is irreplaceable, okay, pretty much. You can usually always find somebody. But it's hard to find another hero in sports, sports and entertainment. It's hard to replace a Mickey Mantle or Willie Mays.

JEREMY DALE: Michael Jordan.

MARK CIPOLLONI: And Tiger Woods, who helped to make the sport a success.

JEREMY DALE: Wayne Gretzky.

MARK CIPOLLONI: When they go, as we saw with hockey, as we saw with basketball, the sport goes down. How do you put a price to that? So in my mind, my humble opinion, what the series is missing, everything else appears to be on the right track, and it's going at the right pace, but what's missing is I think we're behind in heroes right now.

JEREMY DALE: I agree.

MARK CIPOLLONI: We have good drivers. But Champ Car hasn't figured out how to make them heroes yet.

JEREMY DALE: No, but you need some critical mass before you do that or else it feels manufactured.

MARK CIPOLLONI: But you can buy a big-name driver or two which can help to draw interest in the series. It's finding that right driver, and what's the price.

JEREMY DALE: Yeah, I mean, in your mind, who would that be?

MARK CIPOLLONI: Well, it could be a NASCAR driver or it can be a Formula One driver. I mean, there's a number of NASCAR drivers who have very big names. Kurt Busch came over and tested the Rahal car. I don't know if you were there at the time. He did pretty well. Whether he can handle it or not, I don't know. Tony Stewart, there's no question he's an open-wheel driver. What would be the price? He has a big fan following now. I mean, how would he do in a Champ Car? We don't know, right? He does very well on the road courses in NASCAR. The question is, can he do well here? Looking at Formula One, you're not going to get Schumacher, that won't happen. But we had Juan Montoya.

JEREMY DALE: There's another one.

MARK CIPOLLONI: He was a big name. We lost him. Will he ever come back? Probably not now. But David Coulthard has proven he's still pretty quick. A pretty big name. Maybe he's not the right superstar.  I haven't really thought about who exactly, but there's a number of big-name drivers out there. Even Verstappen. Verstappen has a huge fan base. HVM for whatever reason didn't pick him up. They picked up Bremer, who is a good driver. But Verstappen doesn't have sponsorship right now. Chicken and egg. But because his fan base is so big, TV ratings would go up in Europe which would then draw sponsorship to him because the TV ratings would be up in Holland and in Europe. He's not a superstar hero, but in Holland he's a hero. Here he is on the sidelines. It's key hires like that that you have to study what they can possibly bring.

JEREMY DALE: It's a big risk.

MARK CIPOLLONI: If you want to start looking at having more interest from Europe. Now, maybe you don't want to. Maybe Europe's not important. Who do we get from China? Is there anybody in China that can be made into an overnight hero?

JEREMY DALE: We need to get some Chinese drivers over into Atlantic.

MARK CIPOLLONI: What about Marchy Lee? He's from Hong Kong. I was told they want a driver from mainland China. Guess what? Right now you don't have a driver from mainland China who can handle a Champ Car. He's from Hong Kong. Guess what, he did very well in his Formula One test. Guess what, can he probably drive a Champ Car. For now, in preparation for the race next year in Beijing, why isn't he in Champ Car, as a Chinese driver from Hong Kong right now? Then when somebody from mainland China is developed, you can replace Lee with the guy from the mainland.

There's things like that that the company is not doing. No South Korean driver either. They can fail. Champ Car is not a known quantity in China. Champ Car isn't a known quantity in South Korea. Nobody knows who Champ Car is. And there's no driver to root for. So how are you going to succeed? Yeah, you can try to say, okay, it's an American event, come and see this big American event. That may work. It's hard to say.

JEREMY DALE: Yeah, it may. It may work. It may not work. You know, at the end of the day, it would be great to have, you know, a Korean driver and a Chinese driver. Certainly having Canadian drivers has made the Canadian events a success. Having Mexican drivers has made the Mexican events a success. There's no doubt.

MARK CIPOLLONI: Exactly.

JEREMY DALE: There's no doubt.

MARK CIPOLLONI: Australia was an anomaly. Australia is a party? They could be even more successful with an Australian driver.

JEREMY DALE: Again, you knock these things down one at a time. Would you say that it's more important to have a Korean driver or to have great television production on CBS?

MARK CIPOLLONI: In my mind, it's two separate things.

JEREMY DALE: But you've got to -- I mean, it's just an example of how there are always decisions to be made about where to invest time and money. Kevin is making an investment in Katherine Legge.

MARK CIPOLLONI: That's European.

JEREMY DALE: But, I mean, he's made an investment in Ryan (also European). So I think that people are aware of it, but at the end of the day what you've got to do is you've got to make sure that, for instance, that Korean event and that Chinese event are going to be good events. Let's start there.

MARK CIPOLLONI:   Champ Car has made a statement that they want to be in the Pacific Rim.  From where I sit I don't see everything being done to make sure they don't fail. Those are the kinds of things I just don't see. Formula One is known worldwide. Champ Car still is not. Even in this country, Champ Car is not really known that well. How can you expect Chinese and the Koreans to know what Champ Car is?  I don't see journalists coming over here from China and Korea, following the races, starting to get ramped up to have stories back home about what Champ Car is about. I see none of that and that concerns me. I should be having this conversation with Kevin.

JEREMY DALE: Sure. You know, it's --

MARK CIPOLLONI: So Champ Car has to figure out what they really want to do.

JEREMY DALE: Well, I think it's clearer now than it's been in the last 15 years.

MARK CIPOLLONI: Yes.

JEREMY DALE: Because there was a time there when I felt that Champ Car, CART, felt like they were going to take on Formula One.

MARK CIPOLLONI: Yeah. But unfortunately they had sponsors who were really focused on America, the United States. They had the wrong sponsors, the wrong group from those organizations, for what their vision was.

JEREMY DALE: Right. But there was a real dissonance between what the ownership -- the direction the ownership wanted to take, the direction the partners wanted to take, the corporate partners wanted to take, and the direction the engine manufacturer wanted to take.

MARK CIPOLLONI: Right.

JEREMY DALE: You know, it was a total dissonance. And right now it's more in harmony than it's been in a long, long time. Our commercial partners are telling us, "We love what we see from a schedule standpoint. We love what we see." That's good.

MARK CIPOLLONI: The engine manufacturers, Honda and Toyota, were saying they didn't want to go overseas, right? Lo and behold, they went to Formula One after that. If CART had gone to Japan and talked to the Japanese and convinced them that CART can become like Formula One, they may have stayed in CART, and instead of being American Honda and American Toyota, Japan would have gotten behind it.

JEREMY DALE: Maybe. But Honda was in Formula One well before they were ever in CART.

MARK CIPOLLONI: Yeah, they were. They have a long history, that's true. They do.

JEREMY DALE: You know, the last Formula One program started in I believe '83 with the turbo motors.

MARK CIPOLLONI: For Honda they continued in F1 until the early 90's.

JEREMY DALE: No, what, '92? They've always done it that way. Jump in for a period of time, jump in, come out. But it's an interesting historical study to look at it and go, "Where were the mistakes made? Why did it go wrong? How could you take something that was so good and so right and so strong and block by block, brick by brick, deconstruct it?

MARK CIPOLLONI: Well, part of that I believe was because the IRL was formed. When the IRL was formed, they were trying to steal away from the CART paddock, and  now there was an option, and money was thrown at people. You know, Honda and Toyota were convinced to go over there. That pretty much was the downfall of CART, right? If the IRL was never formed, and Tony George had stayed and tried to work with CART, I think CART would be in business right now and be doing just fine. Yeah, it would have to have undergone some change, it would have had to. But the fact of the matter is because there was another option now for people, it led to the downfall of the entire sport.

JEREMY DALE: Yeah, I mean, I don't know.

MARK CIPOLLONI: CART's marquee event was gone - the Indy 500.

JEREMY DALE: I agree. I agree. I don't know how -- I don't know the extent to which the path that it was on was a sustainable path anyway.

MARK CIPOLLONI: Why did they go public? The only reason why they went public was because the IRL was formed and they needed the cash to go up against the cash that Tony was spending in the IRL.

JEREMY DALE: But they never spent any of that money. And that money sat in the bank until -- I mean, the owners all got rich.

MARK CIPOLLONI: It was stupidity. That was stupidity. If not for the IRL I don't think they would have ever gone public. That never would have been entertained that idea because Roger Penske was very much against that. It was sold to them as, okay, we need this money to, you know, grow the company and fight off the IRL, and they agreed to do that. They went and did that. But they never approved the budget to spend it, for whatever reason. I wasn't privy to those conversations as to why the board never approved to spend any of that money. I do know that I spoke to every marketing manager that CART had, and they told me they put in this big proposal to do marketing, and it never got approved, never had the budget to do anything. It was never marketed. It was never spent. The money sat in the bank. I can't explain why. I don't know the answer to that.

JEREMY DALE: Well, it's interesting to look at it. I mean, you can have intellectual conversations -- we can have intellectual conversations about were they on a sustainable path or not? I tend to believe they were not, with or without the IRL. And it's the same thing you hear people say all the time: Oh, wouldn't it be great -- won't it be great when it gets back to where it was? No, because where it was in the late '90s and the early -- early in the 2000s.

MARK CIPOLLONI: Are you talking about where it was in '95 before the split or where it was after the split? There's a big difference in my mind.

JEREMY DALE: It continued -- it didn't peak until after the split.

MARK CIPOLLONI: It peaked around '96.

JEREMY DALE: I would say it peaked around '99.

MARK CIPOLLONI: It's hard to say. What about the Indy 500?

JEREMY DALE: I mean, this is just me talking out of my ass, but I think that the first crack was Ganassi going back to the Indy 500. That was the first -- that was the first crack in the armor, as it were. Everyone had maintained solidarity. Everyone had stayed away and not supported the IRL. And once that started, it just opened up the floodgates.

MARK CIPOLLONI: Let's be honest, let's face it, if Toyota and Honda had stayed, all of the teams that followed that money to the IRL would still be In Champ Car.

JEREMY DALE: That's right. But, so, here is where you make the argument that it was not sustainable.

MARK CIPOLLONI: I was told by Toyota and Honda they wanted to be at the Indy 500. They didn't have it anymore. They had it in CART through 1995, and then Tony George took it away.

JEREMY DALE: But the investment they were making in CART was not commensurate with the return.

MARK CIPOLLONI: Not after the split it wasn't. Up until the split, there was never talk about it being not worth it. It was after the split where they didn't have the marquee event any more.

JEREMY DALE: Toyota was never in CART prior to the split.

MARK CIPOLLONI: The fan base was split. Oval track fans went with the IRL. The fan base was split between the road racing fans and the oval fans. The two sides, including the fans, were certain their side was the right side to be on.

JEREMY DALE: Mark, I agree with that. But what I'm saying is split or no split, you know, what's made NASCAR successful is that the investments that the manufacturers and the commercial partners are making are getting bigger and bigger all the time.

MARK CIPOLLONI: But the TV ratings in NASCAR are huge.

JEREMY DALE: It's not just TV. But the value for them continues to exceed the investment.

MARK CIPOLLONI: Yes, of course.

JEREMY DALE: And any time you get upside down with that, you're going to be -- you're falling off a cliff. And CART was falling off that cliff in about 1995, '96. That's when all that started.

MARK CIPOLLONI: I'm not real sure I agree with that. All measurable indications, attendance and TV ratings, which are the two biggest measures of return of value for the sponsors, both were still going up.

JEREMY DALE: But I can tell you that sponsors don't just measure TV ratings in tennis. They measure all sorts of other things. They measure, you know -- if CDW is here today, which they will be, although I wouldn't blame them if they were not here today, but you know what I mean. If they bring a customer into this paddock, and that customer has a good experience, and that customer now does more business with CDW because CDW is able to build a better relationship with that customer, that's all the stuff you never see.

MARK CIPOLLONI: Of course, yeah.

JEREMY DALE: If the folks at CDW meet the folks from Western Union, and the folks from Western Union become a customer of CDW, that's the stuff you never see. They're in this paddock doing business.

With that Jeremy Dale got called off to a meeting and our interview concluded.

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

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