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CART Podiums - they can be much better


 by Paul Josephson
July 3, 2001

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Although Cleveland is better than most CART events, compare the pandemonium under a F1 podium (above) with the rather blasť CART affair (below).  Where are the flags and air horns at CART events?

One of the many things that contributes to Formula 1's success is the way Bernie Ecclestone, et al, package Formula 1 as a racing spectacle. Each race follows a consistent pattern in the way races are held and shown on TV, and that includes the all-important post-race show. 

Quality and consistency are paramount when presenting a Formula 1 race. For example, the Tag Heurer scoring graphics are the same for every race and have remained unchanged for many years. Another example is the way in which post-race ceremonies are held for the top three divers. After each race, the winners are shown on a podium with a backdrop that is virtually identical from race to race.

More importantly, however, is the fact that virtually all podiums (with the possible exception of Monaco) are strategically placed where a lot of fans can see: a.) the winners, b.) the presentation of the trophies, and c.) the drivers having fun, spraying champagne over the crowd below. The F1 podium at Indy is next to the pagoda at the Start/Finish and is raised so that thousands of fans, up and down the main straight, can see the post-race ceremonies.

I just returned from the Marconi Grand Prix of Cleveland last night. The Cleveland podium was right in the middle of the main grandstands, where it should be. I asked one of the workers if the podium had always been in that spot. He said that, yes, it had been in the same place for at least the last 8 years. The podium was raised so that fans standing at ground level could see the festivities, and there was plenty of room for photographers in front of the podium. Fans up and down the grandstands could also see the winners on the podium. See a Windows Media, or Real Player video of how other CART race podiums should be, courtesy of CART.com.  Still nowhere near F1, but a step in the right direction.

Unfortunately, podiums at several CART tracks leave something to be desired. CART podiums are sometimes tucked in out-of-the-way places where only a small number of photographers can see the post-race podium activities. There are at least three CART events that I'm aware of where placement of the podium needs improvement:

  • At Long Beach the podium is at ground level and is at an angle to the track by pit in. It should be elevated and re-positioned so that the fans on the opposite side of the main straight can see the post-race ceremonies.

  • At Road America the podium is only slightly elevated and towards the back of the Goodyear/Marlboro Media VIP Tower building, hidden amongst the trees. It should be elevated and moved so that it's adjacent to the front of the Administration building. In that way, fans in the adjacent grandstands and across in the paddock could the post-race ceremonies.

  • At Belle Isle, the podium is several hundred yards from the Start/Finish, on the side of the Casino, almost at ground level. It should be elevated and moved to a place opposite the main grandstands by the Start/Finish line.

After Joe Heitzler's press conference on Saturday at Cleveland, I chatted with him a bit about the podium situation. He said that CART is working with a firm that specializes in driver promotional activities and that changes would be made. (He also joked that CART wanted to do something about how driver's dress for promotional events!!)

I was glad to hear that CART is seriously seeking better ways to promote its drivers. After all, like other motorsport series, the drivers are the main products, and they need to be promoted as much as possible. With CART, it's particularly important, now that CART is entering into negotiations for a new TV contract for next year that will be expanded to 2.5 and 3.5 hours, depending on the race. The additional time will be used for pre-race and post-race shows that should include the podium ceremonies. Hopefully, CART will make sure that podiums are strategically placed at all tracks to maximize exposure of the winning drivers for the benefit of the fans at the track as well as those watching on TV.

The author can be contacted at contacts@autoracing1.com

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