Quotes of the week
KEVIN KALKHOVEN, co-owner, Champ Car World Series
In regard to talk that there is dissention in the management of Champ Car, Kalkhoven said "We all spend many hours of every day discussing issues related to Champ Car. I think it is safe to say that we are in agreement 98% of the time. In every business there are always going to be discussions and not everyone always agrees. However, we are very much cooperating with one another." When asked about the new Panoz DP01 car not being reliable, Kalkhoven replied "Bulls&%#. We have had very few mechanical issues in the races." With regard to the lack of American drivers Kalkhoven commented, "We have invested so much in our Atlantics program to cultivate young Americans like Graham Rahal and Jonathan Bomarito. You do it from the grassroots up. That way it will work long term. I am very proud of what we are doing in this regard." When asked how much longer the current owners were willing to support Champ Car, especially since they are businessmen who are used to making profits on their investments, Kalkhoven replied "How long is my life?"
PAUL GENTILOZZI, co-owner, Champ Car World Series
Regarding the seven week gap in the race schedule after Houston in which the series essentially goes into hibernation and there will be a long media void, Gentilozzi said "We have a lot planned. We have a big open test at Portland in early May and we are going to send some folks to Europe to do some running and PR. Some teams are going to Road America to test, others to Sebring. The teams can test 400 to 600 miles in-season. There is a lot of work to do on small technical issues. With the new car the seven week break is actually good for the series so we can address any issues uncovered from the first three races." Regarding the reliability of the new Panoz DP01 he said, "Each failure has been different (i.e. not any systemic problems). Scot Elkins has done a good job of keeping everyone in the same box - i.e. all on a level playing field. That is what we promised everyone and everyone is working together to solve the issues. Yes we had some fuel venting issues in the first couple of races. Did you ever hear of Dan Jones? He did all the fueling pieces for Champ Car teams for years. He's the best in the business. Dan is making some new pieces for the Panoz and all the teams will get them during the seven week break and the refueling issues will be completely behind us."
Regarding TV coverage and the lack of promotion from ABC and ESPN, Gentilozzi explained "You have to remember that by contract the first two races were on NBC. We could not get out of that. Because they were NBC races ABC and ESPN could not promote them. Now that we are on ABC/ESPN the rest of the year you will see that change." Gentilozzi said regarding driver turnover, "There are a lot of drivers who want to come to Champ Car to race. Results here are not determined by a computer, but by driver and team ability. We give everyone a level playing field. You are never going to stop some drivers from wanting to go to Formula One. Do we want to lose Sebastien Bourdais to F1 next year? Of course not, but you know what? If he goes to F1 and does well that is good for Champ Car." Gentilozzi added, "Sure it would be good to have the two biggest American names, Andretti and Rahal, doing battle here. If not for the politics (between the IRL and Champ Car), and I don't want to speak for Michael Andretti, but I bet Marco would want to be here honing his road racing skills in case he wanted to follow the Andretti tradition and go to F1 some day. Was losing AJ Allmendinger bad for Champ Car? Sure we would have liked to keep him but athletes change teams in every sport. How was it any worse that Kimi Raikkonen leaving McLaren and going to Ferrari. I didn't hear anyone say that would be the end of McLaren."
ROBIN MILLER, Motorsports Journalist and TV Analyst
"Back in the 1930s, a guy named Joel Thorne bought his way into the Indianapolis 500. Thankfully that didn't become a habit until the '70s and '80s at Indy. Well here we are in 2007 and it's become the rule rather than the exception especially in Champ Car. You don't have to have a lot of talent, but if you've got a checkbook and you've got a sponsor, you're going to have a ride. Case in point: Oriol Servia, Andrew Ranger, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Nelson Philippe. All guys that spent a couple years in this series. They won races. They had a little bit of fan identity. They're on the outside looking in -- Servia, though, more than anybody. He was runner-up in the series a couple years ago as Sebastien Bourdais' teammate. He jumps in Forsythe's car last week. He has ten laps of practice. He goes from 14th to 2nd in the race. And after today's race here in Houston, he has no guarantee that he's going to be in a car for the rest of the season. That's what is wrong with the Champ Car series. You don't know who the drivers are from year to year. And you sure as hell don't know who the good drivers are because a lot of them don't get a chance. And they keep saying we've got a good series. Here's what's wrong with Champ Car. Get some guys with talent in here. And don't worry about how much money they bring; worry about what helmet they have."
SEBASTIEN BOURDAIS, Champ Car driver, Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing
"This split has been going on forever," Bourdais said. "But we all know there's only room for one series when we have two. We need to be one, but those are things I don't have control over, so I've stopped worrying about it." On not being able to test his skills against the stars of the IndyCar Series, Bourdais said, "Not to show how good I am. Just to be in a strong series. It would be an awesome series and put us in position to challenge NASCAR." If he wins that fourth Champ Car crown, some people still will say the record wouldn't have happened in one open-wheel league. "That's fair enough," Bourdais said. "It would have been tougher, no doubt about it. Records only make sense if they are hard to get, not that it's been easy. But it would have been much harder." He also said, "I don't want to go to Homestead or Texas [Motor Speedway] or any of those tracks that don't make sense for open-wheel cars. Ovals can be fun if you actually have to drive the car. But if it's flat-out all the way around, and any silly idiot can be as quick as you are, then what's the point? It just comes down to how stupid you're willing to be in traffic and the chances you're willing to take with your life and everybody else's life. It gives me chills. I don't want to see that. It's all right in NASCAR, but banging wheels is not what we're all about."
“I think I am the kind of guy that admits when I have done something wrong and I do not think this is the case. The only reason why Walker protested is because they saw the potential that they could nail us, not because they were quicker because they were slow on that lap. It would not have changed the outcome whether I interfered on that lap, tried to or tried to get out of the way or anything. They don’t care about that. It’s just like a payback that goes on and on and on. If they can nail us they are just going to nail us. They protested and Champ Car ruled in their favor but the truth is the only reason they protested is because they could nail us. That lap would not have changed the outcome of qualifying.” (Commenting on being penalized for blocking Will Power during final qualifying and losing the pole position for the Grand Prix of Houston. Bourdais' penalty moved Will Power up to pole position)
CRAIG GORE, Champ Car team co-owner, Team Australia
"Firstly, if Sebastien is the kind of guy that admits when he has done something wrong then he will admit that he blew a fuse at Surfers Paradise last year," said Gore. "I think Sebastien should pay some more respect to Derrick Walker. At the very least, he should at least call him Mr. Walker, rather than just 'Walker'. He's obviously a little hot-headed at the moment and it seems that Will has seriously rattled his cage." (Commenting on Sebastien Bourdais' statements after being penalized for blocking Will Power during final qualifying and losing the pole position for the Grand Prix of Houston. Bourdais' penalty moved Will Power up to pole position)
GRAHAM RAHAL, Champ Car driver, Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing
"You have two people [George and Kalkhoven] who don't want to give up their 51 percent [ownership] for decision-making," said Rahal, who is clearly wise beyond his 18 years. "And you've got Tony, who in my opinion is a little bit caught in the mind-set that his series is OK. Frankly, if they [the Indy Racing League] didn't have grid-fillers, as I call them, they would be looking pretty bad right now," Graham said. "I don't know how many teams in this series are being propped up by Kevin, but I know a lot of teams in the IRL are held up by Tony. Once he quits doing that, those teams will disappear. None of them can afford to go race and crash cars the way they do." It frustrates Graham that he can't compete against Marco Andretti who is racing in the IRL series. "I would love to do that," Graham said. "I've raced Marco in the past [at lower levels]. It was exciting for everybody. It brings back old rivalries and makes it fun for the fans. I think it's going to come together," Rahal said. "They have to. But it won't happen until one of these two series dies. Who knows? That could be within the next year, but I don't think Kevin is going to give up on this side of things."
TONY STEWART, NASCAR driver, JOE GIBBS RACING
On his post-race comments on being "ready to retire" after a frustrating day at Texas Motor Speedway, Stewart said "I love the Home Depot team. I love my guys. We've still got unfinished business with the Daytona 500 and four other tracks that we haven't won at, I guess. I don't know. It's just kind of a weird deal. I didn't mean to put all of our fans in a three-alarm fire situation. It was more just emotion speaking than it was common sense. Trust me. There's one thing I can promise you. I'm not retiring before my contract is up in 2009. I've made a commitment to Home Depot and Joe Gibbs Racing. Even as disappointing as it was we've been in this situation before and we've battled back and won championships with it. So there's nobody on our race team that will throw in the towel, myself included. It's definitely tough when you have a car that you think you're going to have a really good weekend with and all of a sudden the next day it kind of washes away. After you've been at the racetrack for five straight days it's easy to let that emotion get to you."
KYLE PETTY, CEO Petty Enterprises, NASCAR driver
“Sometimes we overlook what could be considered a monopoly,” said Kyle Petty, a third-generation NASCAR driver. “We overlook what could be considered price-fixing with the purses and stuff like that. We overlook it because, in the end, we make a good living and they make a good living.” Kyle Petty cited NBC’s decision not to renew its television contract with NASCAR as a warning flag. “That’s a big, big story that someone walked away,” he said. “That’s a huge blip on the radar.” Petty also said, “It’s not about the tickets or the TV ratings. It’s all about how many Cokes we could sell in that market.”
CHRIS ECONOMAKI, Legendary Motorsports Journalist, National Speed Sport News
“I think NASCAR has gone too far,” Economaki said. “They're overwhelming the public. They have activities on Friday, activities on Saturday and activities on Sunday and all of it takes up a lot of time and it costs a lot of money to attend. The cost of flying to the location and having a hotel room and everything is a staggering price for the customer. Their philosophy is that the guy's in town anyway and what's he going to do? So we'll have something for him. But the cost to do a weekend of NASCAR racing today is staggering for the fan. So attendance is falling off and television audiences are coming down: it's too much. This announcement (last week in Washington state) that there's not going to be a track in the Pacific Northwest ... I think they recognize that the bloom is off the pumpkin."
AL PEARCE, award winning NASCAR Journalist, AutoWeek
"Television ratings are headed through the basement. Thousands and thousands of fans show up each weekend dressed as empty seats. NASCAR has backed off plans to build speedways in New York and Seattle and reportedly is having second thoughts about Denver. It's suddenly chic for message boards and bloggers to examine the flattening out, if not the total bottoming out, of Nextel Cup racing." (Comments made about NASCAR pricing itself out of the market)
MILKA DUNO, IRL driver, SAMAX Motorsport
"The normal race car driver, in the road course racing, has a screw loose. To drive on an oval, we have two screws loose." (Milka Duno will make her debut in the Indy Racing League in one week at the Kansas Lottery Indy 300)