MERRILL CAIN: Good afternoon, everyone, and thank you
for joining us today.
I'm Merrill Cain with CART Public Relations, and I'm very
pleased to be joined today by three of the most distinguished
men in motorsports: CART President and CEO Chris Pook, and
legendary champ car drivers Mario and Michael Andretti.
We won't waste a lot of time with introductions as we want to
take advantage of all the time we have today with these
gentlemen, so let's get right to it.
In December our first guest was elected by the CART Board of
Directors to the position of President and Chief Executive
Officer of Championship Auto Racing Teams. He is the founder
of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, one of the most
successful and popular motorsports events in the world today,
and a race that both of our other guests are more than a
little familiar with. He has established himself as one of the
most knowledgeable and well respected businessmen in auto
racing. Since coming on board with CART, he has restructured
and redefined the way the company does business, re
establishing CART as the premiere open wheel racing series in
With that, we say hello to Chris Pook. Chris, thanks for
joining us today.
CHRIS POOK: Good afternoon, Merrill. Good afternoon, ladies
and gentlemen. It's great to be here. I'm particularly honored
to be here with the Andrettis, Mario who I've known since 1975
when he first came to Long Beach in '74, and Michael I've
known since he was driving go carts with his dad giving him
tutelage. It's a great honor to be with them.
I just want to remind everybody, apart from Mario's career in
Champ Car racing, he was one of the greatest world champion
drivers in the world, and certainly the greatest motor racing
ambassador that America has ever had when he was World
Champion back in 1978. And Michael has continued the Andretti
family tradition of holding up the standard of professional
motor racing in every category.
MERRILL CAIN: Chris is stealing a little bit of my thunder
here as I finish up our introductions.
CHRIS POOK: Sorry about that.
MERRILL CAIN: Let me go ahead and complete that, then we'll
open it up for questions.
Our next guest is the driver of the #39 Honda Reynard for Team
Motorola in the CART FedEx Championship Series. He will be
entering his 19th season in champ cars next week at the 2002
season opener in Monterrey, Mexico. His 41 career victories
are the most ever in CART history, he won the Series
Championship in 1991, and he's the only driver to be named a
FedEx Championship Series All Star for three consecutive
seasons. We're happy to be joined today by Michael Andretti.
Michael, thanks for joining us.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: My pleasure. Good to be here.
MERRILL CAIN: Finally, what can you say about our final guest,
considered by many to be the best driver in the history of
auto racing. He won a remarkable 109 races over a career that
spans five decades. He's won the Daytona 500, the Indianapolis
500, the Formula One World Championship and the CART Series
title, which he captured in 1984. He's been named Driver of
the Year in a remarkable three different decades and was also
selected as Driver of the Century in the year 2000.
Since retiring from full time driving in 1994, he has
established himself as a very successful businessman off the
track, and he remains a true ambassador of the sport of auto
racing. It's my pleasure to welcome Mario Andretti.
MARIO ANDRETTI: Thank you. Thanks. Hello, everyone.
MERRILL CAIN: Now that the formalities are out of the way,
let's open it up for some questions.
Q: My question is for Chris. If you could talk a little bit
about the season and some of the challenges that you face,
especially with the loss of Roger Penske to the IRL.
CHRIS POOK: Well, let me deal with the loss of Roger.
Obviously, we're very disappointed to lose Roger. The CART
FedEx Championship is an extremely competitive series. I
believe last year we had 11 different winners out of all of
our races. That tells you just how competitive it is.
There's some tremendous teams in it. I mean, Michael's Team
Motorola, and his two teammates with the KOOL cars, Franchitti
and Tracy, as Michael and Mario will attest, are no slouches.
You've got Rahal with a strong team. You've got Ganassi with a
I think that one of the tremendous things about the CART FedEx
Championship is the diversity of this championship. I mean,
you know, you're talking about guys, teams that have to run on
ovals, on street courses, on road courses. They have to be
extremely adept. They have to be very adept in their driving
skills, and the team has to be very adept and very smart in
its preparation skills.
The fact that Roger did not dominate the championship last
year, although he won it, and he's moved on to IRL, I think
speaks to the strength of our teams.
Now, I think that as you look forward, you have to see what he
is going to do in the IRL. And, you know, is he going to
receive the same level of competition over there that he
received over here when he won this championship? That's a
question mark that's out there.
As far as we're concerned, we're obviously disappointed. We
would have loved to have de Ferran and Castroneves here. I'm
sure that Michael will reiterate that; although as a racing
car driver, I think sometimes you want to see the competition
go away. Fair enough.
We'll miss them, yes. But will the competition be less
intense? Absolutely not. Absolutely not. It will be as fierce
and as hard as it ever was with a highly, highly competitive
series of motor car races.
Q: Has it caused you to kind of reassess things and maybe try
to alter the structure a little bit to try to keep maybe more
teams in the fold, keep them from leaving? Or is this just
maybe part of a process where both circuits may eventually
come together at some point?
CHRIS POOK: No, it's part of the whole thing that caused us to
restructure, you know, the company. I mean, we've changed this
company in the last two months from just being a sanctioning
body to being a marketing and servicing company that creates a
platform whereby all the sponsors, be they the sponsors on the
cars or sponsors of the series, the engine manufacturers and
suppliers, they can all get a return on their investment.
We have changed our whole outlook of the way we do business.
We have the same strong operational element and the racing
part that takes place between the walls. But outside of that,
we've changed the whole environment.
Clearly, yes, we're focusing on making sure that car sponsors
get value. We met with Michael's sponsor, Motorola, and we're
starting to understand fully what they want to achieve from
their sponsorship with him and his race car. We're doing the
same with all the other sponsors. We are friendly now in that
area, and we want to create the right environment so everyone
can be with us and stay with us and get a return on their
MERRILL CAIN: Let's move on now.
Q: This is for Chris. One, is there any new news on Chicago?
Because the rumors are that you folks are going to take that
race over and run it. And, two, somebody said that there's
been more changes in CART in the last two weeks than they've
seen or three weeks than they've seen in the last five years.
Do you see any other changes down the road?
CHRIS POOK: Well, I can't comment on Chicago other than it's a
great market; it's the corporate home of Motorola, Michael's
sponsor. It's the home of three of our teams. It's the number
three ADI in the country. CART needs to be in Chicago.
Now, with regard to other changes, the only changes that you
will see, I would suspect, is the pick up in the standard and
level of service that we provide to you folks in the media and
we provide to all the sponsors. You won't see that as a
dramatic change, but you'll see it as an ongoing change
throughout the year and as we position the CART product and
the marketing platform we're creating for sponsors to do
Going back over the last five years, I'm probably not the one
to ask about the change in the last five years, probably
Michael and Mario are the better ones, they've been more
closely involved in it than I have certainly. I'm just a new
boy on the block. But they may want to comment on that for
MARIO ANDRETTI: May I? It's Mario.
MERRILL CAIN: Go ahead, Mario.
MARIO ANDRETTI: It's basically right now we're beginning a new
season, and we have a new leader a long time coming in my
opinion. I will be quite blunt about all those things
obviously. I'm not working for anybody, you see, so
And what I know of CART, what I've seen and the reason
personally that I've supported this Series is the fact that I
think Chris eloquently explained that earlier about the value
of the Series as a very versatile series that provides, as I
said, I think entertainment for different for all the fans,
the aficionados of road racing and oval racing. It's the only
real series in the world at this level that provides that.
Now, because of that, I think that CART as a product, I mean,
is second to none. That's why CART has survived even in the
face of adversity such as having had the Indianapolis 500
taken away from its Series. The product is strong, is that
And the politics in CART as I've known it from day one, I
mean, to me, left a lot to be desired, no question. This is
the first time that I know that we have someone leading the
parade be in charge of CART that understands all the important
aspects of a sanctioning body.
I have heard so many people complain in the past about the
arrogance of CART, you know, toward promoters, toward this and
that and the other, manufacturers, some of the sponsors
involved. And, again, it's bound to catch up to you. But it's
never too late to make it right, either.
And, again, I've been a supporter of Chris, myself, mainly
because I felt you needed someone that's been on all sides of
this wheel that understands, has been on the receiving end, as
to what needs to be done. I've never seen as much movement in
that direction until now, positive movement.
So, again, the engine manufacturers, if CART would have taken
the leadership position like they've done now, it would have
been certainly a different delivery from them as far as how
they felt about CART, whether they want to stay or leave or
whatever. There's so many things that would have been
But, having said that, we must move forward. And, again, we
are experiencing a cycle. We have seen cycles throughout the
eras. You know, the cycle may go into, for instance, a lot of
engines being pretty much the same. There's nothing really
wrong with that. I've seen Formula One thrive under that,
where it was all (inaudible). I've seen CART thrive when it
was all (inaudible) or a majority of Ilmors and so on and so
Again, I think what we have to look forward to in my opinion
is at least a lot of the things that, to me, represent a
negative are going to be are being addressed.
MERRILL CAIN: Mario, thank you for your comments. Let's move
on to the next question.
Q: Chris, I just wanted to ask you, I'm sure you're aware that
the perception around the country pretty much is that CART is
in serious trouble. And whether that's the reality or not, how
do you go about changing a perception that is years in the
making at this point before it does become the reality?
CHRIS POOK: I think that, you know, you have to put changes
into effect, both changes in personnel and management, and
changes in presentation of your product, and changes in how
you deal with people. You have to put them into effect.
And when you say something, you have to back it up with
action. It's as simple as that. There's no I mean, the tough
thing about perception is that perception often occurs without
basis of fact. It's kind of like rumor, you know. How do you
deal with it? You've got to be sensitive to it. You've got to
recognize that it's out there, but you can't let it get in the
way of what you're trying to achieve in your plan, in your
So all I can do here is affect change. We've put a management
change in in the company. The first thing, we put the people
in place to move the company forward. We've addressed the
issue of rules and indecision and all this stuff that you and
your colleagues in the media thrive upon because it gives you
great areas of speculation to write about. And we're, one by
one, if you look at what we've achieved here in the last two
and a half months, taking away all of those elements of
We will move on. And we'll be in Monterrey, Mexico the weekend
after next, and you will judge us in the media at that time.
You'll judge us whether we put on a good race or a bad race;
you'll judge whether the crowd is a good crowd or a bad crowd.
Some of you will say, "Oh, it's a second year race, the crowd
will be down," all doom and gloom, similar to what was said at
Indianapolis this year after the F-1 race. That's what happens
sometimes at motor car races or any other major events.
Others of you will look at it and say, "Gosh, it was a great
race, a great crowd, the whole standard of presentation was
better and things are changing." Neither I nor Mario or
Michael have any control over what you see through your eye or
you write about. But we do have control over our own actions
and what we do every day. And we, as a company, will go out
there and do our best to demonstrate to you that it is not all
doom and gloom as some would have said, it's very positive in
going forward. Michael will go out and push the pedal as hard
as he can push it to win the race, and Mario will be being the
cheerleader and giving good counsel and advice not only to his
son, but to me here as I run this company.
So, you know, I don't know quite how I give you a very, very
definitive answer on how to answer this perception issue.
Q: Do you feel, Chris, a sense of urgency, that you don't have
the luxury of a five year plan or a three year plan or
whatever, but ?
CHRIS POOK: Yeah, I do, actually. I'm 61 and I want to stop
when I'm 64, so that's a sense of urgency (laughter).
Yeah, of course I feel a sense of urgency. I think those
people that know me will tell you that I'm a pretty hard
driving character, that I don't have time to mess around with
all the niceties and the semantics. We've got a great product
here a superb product, as Mario has articulated to you, and we
want to let you and your colleagues in the media know just how
great it is. And folks like Michael are going to go out there
and demonstrate just how great it is.
I mean, you know, you've got to look at the product and say to
yourself, you know, "Steve, just look at this product. I mean,
where else can you find this product?" I ask you that
question. In the standard and quality it's presented. That's
what I would ask you.
Q: Let me ask you one last quick question if I could. If you
could just update on the status, there's been a lot of talk
about perhaps CART headquarters moving here to Indianapolis.
If you could tell me where that stands right now.
CHRIS POOK: Well, it's in the business discussion process at
this time. I think we're getting fairly close to a decision.
As you know, I'm on record as saying that I believe we need to
be in Indianapolis alongside our teams. We also need to be in
Indianapolis because it's the home of Open Wheel Motorsports.
Just like NASCAR is based in Daytona Beach, opened a huge
office in Charlotte because that has become the home of stock
We think we need to be there. There's a lot of good people in
Indianapolis that have indicated they'd love to go to work for
us if we move there.
It's a very nice city, good quality of life, good schools,
good housing, all the things that a CEO needs if he's going to
have a successful team of people around him.
So that should give you a hint (laughter)...
Q: Question for Michael. With the relaxation of the fuel
restrictions, is that going to change the strategy in how you
drive a race?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Oh, no question. I think it's going to be
more the way racing has been the last few years just, to me,
has not been racing. You know, we've been going out, and
whenever you're not driving 110%, to me, that's not what
racing is all about.
But now with the fuel restrictions lifted, we're going to be
able to go out and, you know, just drive as hard as we can for
the whole race, and I think that's going to make for a better
So I'm really looking forward to that, the new rules. I think
that's one good example of what Chris is trying to do as well
to try to help improve the show and things like that. Because
I don't think people come to watch a fuel conservation test. I
think they come to watch us out there driving 110% all the
So this is a good example of what Chris has been trying to do.
Q: Will that spur you on, Michael, to do the best on the
track, as you always try to do all the time? And, what other
changes would you like to see Chris try to do?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I don't know. He's made a lot of changes
right now. I really haven't thought about other things. I know
Chris is trying to figure out a way to help limit yellows. I
think that's another problem we do have, and I think there's a
lot of it in the road courses mainly.
So those are things that I know Chris is looking at, and we'll
see what they come up with. Right now I don't think they have
a 100% answer yet. So, hopefully, they will be able to come up
with something to make that better, because the yellows do
definitely hurt the show for sure.
Q: For Mario, if you were in Chris' position, what other
changes would you like to see in CART?
MARIO ANDRETTI: I think I'd like to see the changes that are
in place, I'd like to see the effect of those quite honestly.
And I think the plate's pretty complete in that direction.
I'm able to comment on these things because even sitting on
the sidelines, the frustration that I've experienced knowing
what these guys have to go through and how the drivers have
been evaluated, let's take the fuel situation first.
A lot of guys, you know, the biggest premium they were putting
on some of these guys was how capable they are of going fairly
quick and saving fuel; not how fast it can really go.
And, quite honestly, as you say, it was just watching some of
the 500 mile race in Fontana this last time, nobody wanted to
lead because you wanted to be on the slip screen to save a
considerable amount of fuel to put yourself at an advantage in
that respect. So all of a sudden, you know, at the end, you
got enough fuel, you know, to just really go 10 10s with your
horsepower. Well, again, I think it's behind us, which should
And the other part is the road courses. I've been, you know,
trying to preach a long, long time that you don't run a road
course event like you run an oval. An oval, obviously anybody
sneezes somewhere, you don't want to wait to see if there's a
cold somewhere. (Inaudible) you go, no matter what, at a
constant high speed.
But that's different. On a road course, the cars disappear for
several minutes under the yellow, and it's a disruption that
should not prevail. There are ways, better ways, of handling
The international community does a lot better job than us, and
that's an area that Pook is very familiar with and he has
And so local yellows must be maintained. And if there are
corner workers that are afraid, this and that, then you got to
pose severe enough penalties to the drivers out there that
disregard that yellow. And all you have to do is have one or
two of these penalties out there, and then the whole thing
will quiet down and you will implement that properly.
The other thing is about ending wonderful races under the
yellow. I mean, I'm sure NASCAR is going through a lot of
these things. And, for a paying public, there should be no
race unless, you know, something happens the last lap. They
shouldn't end under the yellow.
And these are all important aspects of having people walk away
after paying for an event to witness something exciting; not
to go home, "Oh, gee, the most important part of the race, the
finish, was a blah and a yellow." That's criminal.
It's about time that someone that has the authority and is
really addressing this. That's the reason it's never been
addressed because we did not have anyone who had any sense of
the sport who was leading this parade before. That's what I
said from day one, from John Frasco on down.
So, finally, I think we have people that understand, and
that's the exciting part. I can't wait for the season to get
underway just because of that.
Q: Along that line, Chris, NASCAR goes with red flags. Is that
an option for you, or alternatively open up the pits so
everybody can get some more fuel? Any idea of which way you
want to go?
CHRIS POOK: We're not going to end up on the yellow. If we
have the red flag, we'll end up on the red flag and we'll look
at the fuel situation.
Wally will be up there making sure that happens. But if we red
flag it, and we start again, you know, the challenge is going
to become, you know, we red flagged, how many laps do we do
behind the pace car before we go green.
These are some of the things that Michael was referring to
that we still got to get right. I mean, you know, we go
through these scenarios, we're going to give our chief steward
the leeway to make sensible decisions here. He absolutely
knows that these races are not going to end up on yellows, and
we will address those issues one by one.
Will we make a couple of mistakes on the way? Absolutely, we
will. But, you know, we're going to get it right. We're going
to do what's right. We're going to do what's right by the
drivers, what's right by our fans, and right by television and
the media. And we're not going to be shy in making decisions.
We're going to not make hasty decisions. We're going to get
input. We're going to listen.
And we'll get through with our new qualifying procedures at
Monterrey that we put in. In the drivers meeting, I will ask
the drivers for their opinions. We want the input. When we get
done with the race, if we have a situation with the yellows
that's bothersome, we'll listen to the drivers. I mean, the
opinions will vary, but we will get a sense of balance and we
will address the issues.
And we will refine the product until we get it right. We've
got to get it right for the guys sitting in the cockpit. Those
are the guys that put it on the line every week and try 110%
to get home to that checkered flag first. We got to make sure
it's the right environment for them to do their job in.
I think you'll find that when we create the right environment
for them to do their job in, we will have sold the issues for
the other constituents that's the fans and the television
Q: First of all, I want to say, Mr. Pook, congratulations for
everything you guys have done so far in preparation for this
year. You guys have done a lot. It all seems to be on the
right side of the ledger. I'm curious as to there was a lot of
talk at the end of last season about some of the track
promoters that were unhappy with the way things were going and
were threatening to pull out, this, that and the other. I
wanted to get an update on how you're dealing with them.
CHRIS POOK: We're all a loving bunch (laughter).
You know, sometimes you get a driver that steps over the edge
a little bit, and Michael will tell you this, but sometimes
the other drivers go have a chat with him, go talk to him and
find out what his issues, his problems are, talk them out.
I'm an old promoter. I had a visit with some of my colleagues.
I don't think you hear them complaining too much. They've
become very silent, which I hope is a good sign. I hope it's
not the sign of a tornado coming (laughing).
I think we're solving them, addressing them. Just like the
previous question that was asked by Steve Mayer, we will be
tested every inch of the way. There will be different
situations after different racetracks that we will have to
address. But we will address them, and we'll address them in a
cooperative, constructive manner, and not in an arrogant take
it or leave it manner.
Q: Quick question for Michael. We just talked about how
they're not going to end the race under yellows this year.
It's good for fans, good for television, and everything like
that. There are a couple tracks out there, I mean some of the
street courses, Vancouver comes to mind off the top of my
head, where having a green and white checkered kind of thing
with five guys in the lead on a racetrack that's really tough
to pass might not be the most fun place to be in for a driver.
Just curious to hear your thoughts about that.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: I think it all depends where you're sitting
If you're sitting second, you know, you're salivating. If
you're the leader, you're swearing at these guys with their
new rules. It's just the way it will be.
But in the end I think we all have to take the responsibility
that, "Hey, we've had to make this Series the best it can be
for the fans, because they're the reason why we're out there."
So we have to do what's best for them.
A lot of times it might not work in your favor, but I think
you just have to realize why these rules are going to be put
in place and what the reasons are, and just accept it and know
that it's for the best of the Series.
Q: Thank you and good luck.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Thanks.
Q: Good afternoon to Chris, Michael and Mario. I guess a
question to Chris is certainly and, understandably, a lot of
attention is focused on the departure of Marlboro and Penske
to the IRL. And, again, the stated reasons for that was that
Philip Morris and Marlboro, you know, wish to be involved in a
Series that is 100% focused on the domestic market. But the
flip side of that is that about a month ago there was a new
sponsor that came into CART, namely Gigante, the chain of sort
of super stores in Mexico which, I believe, is now starting to
kind of get a foothold in the United States and California. I
wonder if anybody, you know, could talk about ultimately the
significance of that. And, as a second question, sort of Part
B to this rambling question, maybe talk a little bit about the
fact that CART has a very significant presence both with races
in Mexico and with three Mexican drivers. And do you think
that CART has done enough to capitalize on the presence of
Adrian Fernandez and Michel Jourdain in the past, and now with
Mario Dominguez, do you see CART trying to make more hay of
that within that growing population in the United States?
CHRIS POOK: Thanks, David.
First of all, let me just point one thing out to you, okay. I
mean, we're all talking about Roger Penske's departure from
our Series. But there's one thing you don't know. For some
reason, he has still reserved his car numbers 2 and 3 in the
Series for this year and asked for them to be held all year.
I don't know what that means, but it means something.
(Inaudible) either value at 2 or 3, and we haven't discovered
how to charge for it yet (laughter).
The second part about Gigante and the third part about, you
know, the positioning of CART and the Mexican drivers,
Gigante, actually, the arrival of Gigante is perfect, the
timing is perfect. I think that just really underlines what
I've been talking about with regard to the North American free
trade association between Canada, Mexico and the United
Here's a very good example of a company that's racing in our
country, has got an affiliation with a major U.S. outlet, a
retail outlet in this country. They're taking advantage fully
of the NASCAR regulation and using CART as a marketing
platform, a marketing vehicle, to achieve it. It won't be long
before they're up in Canada. Office Depot is their
relationship in this country. They're clearly going to
leverage those relationships together, and Canada will be the
next market that they'll move in to.
So the whole marketing platform concept, I think, is being
borne out in this instance with this particular company, as it
is with Tecate, by the way. We should not forget Tecate.
By the way, Quaker State Mexico is funding one of the teams
this year, the Herdez Team, and they're using the
Canadian/U.S. platform to further their national brand name.
So that whole thing is starting to come together, and I
suspect that you're going to see many more countries that will
take advantage of these three big marketing platforms that
we've got. That's the European economic community, represented
by our races in Germany and England; the Pacific rim
communities with Japan and Australia; and, of course, the
North American with Canada, Mexico and the United States.
Now, moving on to the third part of your question, if I
remember correctly, that was the issue of the three Mexican
drivers that are in the Series. We see this as, once again,
another huge cross marketing opportunity, a cross pollination
We are in the process now of getting our Spanish language
broadcast distribution in the United States television network
put together. As you know, there are two now, and a third
emerging, Spanish speaking television networks operating in
this country. And we are now going to very shortly you'll see
an announcement about us putting our races on the Spanish
speaking networks in domestic United States to reach our Latin
American customers who are resident in this country.
So that clearly has come about as a result of the three
Mexican drivers who are here participating in our Series. And
it will be the opening of the doors, if you will, of the CART
FedEx product to the Latino, resident Latino community of our
country, by delivering the product to them with a Spanish
I hope that covers the three questions. Was there a fourth one
buried in there that I didn't get?
Q: There may have been. If there was, I forgot it. That's
fine. Thanks very much, Chris. I appreciate it.
CHRIS POOK: Thanks.
Q: First, I want to say hello to Chris. You and I have walked
the racetrack many days here in Memphis. One of the things,
Chris, that I noticed about you is you do everything when
you're at the racetrack from park the cars to pick up trash as
we walked along the garage. I'm wondering, with that type of
hands on approach that you have, when you sat down and you
talked to the Board members at CART about coming on board, was
that part of what you said, that if "I can't have control and
hands on, I don't want this job"?
CHRIS POOK: Well, I don't think I said that, Ron, to them. I
think that probably they knew that's the sort of way I've
operated over the years. I mean, Mario's seen me when we first
started. I am very passionate about this business.
MARIO ANDRETTI: I don't think that needs to be said at this
CHRIS POOK: You got to be hands on. I think this is the type
of sport where you have many constituents, and you really do
need to I have an expression about getting my arms around
people, getting my arms around projects. You've got to get
your arms around every aspect of this business. You've got to
be sensitive to it, and you've got to be understanding to it.
I think that's just what I've learned over the years. And, you
know, what you see is what you get. I mean, my stage in life,
you're not going to make too many changes. I'm sure I'll be
driving people crazy if I see trash lying on the ground around
the racetrack or I see things that aren't presented in the
right way. I'll be a pain in the rear. But that's just the way
I'm built. At the end of the day, that's how I get the job
Q: I've noticed in the press conferences, one of the press
conferences that was held at Sneak Preview, that a number of
the members of the media kept bringing up the IRL/CART
situation, what have you. And I sat back and kind of looked at
it. Maybe my warped sense of looking at things, I thought that
maybe is it the media in your mind that is creating this
alleged war between CART and the IRL instead of there actually
being a war between CART and the IRL?
CHRIS POOK: Oh, absolutely, it's the media that's having a
field day with this thing. And CART's, you know, certainly
over the past few years, as Mario has pointed out, has fueled
But, you know, they are two very different Series. You can ask
Michael about it and ask Mario about it; they're much more
experienced and adept at answering this question than I am.
But we are a multi venue Series: road courses, oval courses,
street courses, in key major markets around the world. And,
you know, we do go overseas and we do go to other places, and
we are different. We're totally different. They're two
entirely different products.
The fact that the racing cars have got four wheels and are
powered by engines and we burn methanol is probably the only
similarity, and they're driven by human beings. That's the
I think it's because of those similarities that your
colleagues in the media like to build up the, you know, the
paper man and see if they can knock him down. But, you know, I
mean, I think Mario and Michael should comment on that. As I
said, they're more experienced in that than I am.
MARIO ANDRETTI: Can I comment a second?
You know, we have to go back to say 1994, for instance,
Indianapolis, pre IRL, when CART was still going through
Indianapolis and it was sanctioned by USAC.
I don't know if anybody can argue that those were definitely
the best days to date the best, the most successful events at
Indianapolis. Indianapolis has changed so dramatically.
Tony George, you must respect him for having a vision, but I
could never understand why he would try to fix something that
wasn't broken. He made comments about he had problems with the
he was hearing rumors that CART was not very pleased with
being three weeks there, and on and on. And he was afraid that
probably they would boycott or whatever.
I've been there since 1965, and always bellyached as a driver
about being there three weeks or four weeks. But did I ever
miss a day? I mean, we're allowed to bellyache. But, you know,
at the end of the day, were we ever glad to be there? You're
darn right. Were we always there? You're darn right. Would we
always support it? You're darn right.
So, again, all of these things that Tony thought that were
potentially a threat to the stability of what he had there
were just a pipe dream. You know, the race as we knew it had
been destroyed until, in my opinion, some of the CART drivers
started going back and it created some new excitement. And by
creating this alternate Series, I think, if anything, that
idea is what forced many fans to obviously make choices which
So, you know, okay, we can blame the media to some degree, but
it was the idea of this alternate series that I think created
all these problems. And you can't tell me that motor racing,
you know, open wheel racing, is better today because of the
IRL. The IRL created or damaged it, you know, to an incredible
level. Everybody's trying to make the best of it now and so on
and so forth.
But, you know, a lot of people don't realize that as far as
open wheel cars, single-seaters, USAC was beginning to see the
future back in the middle '60s by going to road racing. And
they could see that that was the natural way for this type of
racing to go and to be more attractive and attract a wider
span of fans.
When CART came on, they expanded on that. A lot of road racing
teams, you know, like the Newman/Haas team used to say and
Paul Newman had never been involved in oval racing they were
basically with a racing background, and they brought in that
other flavor. That's what made the Series great.
From a driver's standpoint, I would have never come out of
Formula One, I would have ended my career there for better or
worse, if I would have had to come back to an all oval series
in the United States.
And, again, we can go back and beat this dead horse over and
over and over and put blames all over the place, and the big
problem was when this alternate series was started, which was
Q: I do have a question for Michael. Traction control,
Michael. Is there time to understand it before Monterrey, or
is it a shooting gallery?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Well, I don't think there's going to be as
much in it as everybody thinks, especially lap time. I think
the advantage of traction control is going to be more in
saving your tires type thing.
I think, yeah, we did a lot of testing with it the last test,
and, you know, these manufacturers have been using traction
control for many, many years. I mean, I used traction control
back in Formula One back in 1993. So it's not like it's
something new, so it's not going to be a huge deal.
CHRIS POOK: One other point, let me just say to make it very
clear, we have the greatest and utmost respect for the
Indianapolis 500 and Tony George. We have cleared our calendar
so that our troops can go back and run at the Indianapolis
500. If Tony decides to create a Triple Crown and gives us
another couple 500 races to put into the mix, I assure you we
will not get in the way of our racing car drivers running
The greatest thing that could happen for us this May is for
Team Motorola and Michael to go back to the Indianapolis and
go home and take the Indianapolis 500 checkered flag. I'd be
the happiest man in the world if that happened.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: No, you wouldn't (laughing).
CHRIS POOK: Second or third happiest.
Q: Question for Chris. Obviously, last year the engine rules
were a very contentious issue, and Honda and Ford announcing
that they wouldn't be carrying on for differing reasons. But,
nonetheless, that was the case. You have announced the new
engine rules. You've been working very hard with both Honda
and Ford to possibly get them back in the Series. Both parties
have made some very positive comments about the improved
relationship with CART under your leadership. What can you
tell us just about the future in general as you see it as far
as engine manufacturers and CART? And is there anything
specific you can say about Honda and Ford, Chris?
CHRIS POOK: I can't talk specifically about them because I'm
not privy to what their plans are. But I can tell you that,
first of all, obviously we're extremely grateful to have had
the participation from both those manufacturers over the
years. As I've told both of them, in 2002, we are going to
work extremely hard to deliver the value to them that they are
seeking as a result of their involvement with this Series.
We hope they'll change their mind. We suspect that maybe they
can't. But be that as it may, we will demonstrate to them this
year that full delivery of value. And, you know, the decision
they make will be what it is.
In the meantime, we continue to enjoy extremely good, positive
conversations with I believe it's two other manufacturers on a
very, very solid footing. And a third one, the conversations
are heating up. That is in addition, of course, to Toyota, who
have already committed to building a normally-aspirated engine
supply houses, excuse me, that are out there.
You have TWR Engineering, you have Judd, and, of course, you
have Ilmor who are all making normally-aspirated engines. So
those conversations continue, those availabilities will be
available to us. But on the manufacturers' side, I continue to
be extremely encouraged.
Q: One quick one for Chris and then one for Chris and Michael.
International TV package, is that going to be announced soon,
CHRIS POOK: It will be. It will be, Mark. We are approaching
it in a completely different manner. We have some very good
developments occurring in addition to the standard ones that
are out there.
But we are going to get the international television
distribution correct. We're going to do it properly. We're
going to do it so it's a value to all the participants in the
Series, and not just something that you've got to have for the
sake of having international television. We're committed to
creating a one hour highlights program which will be
distributed free to any international television carrier that
wants to have it.
Then, as we move through country by country, with an extremely
experienced marketing agency who we've not announced yet but
are working at it flat out, you will see that our
international television package, when it emerges, will be
probably one of the finest. Will it be as good as Mr.
Ecclestone's in Formula One? No. But will it be along the same
lines and the same penetration and the same coverages?
But like a lot of things here, if you've noticed under the
last two and a half months, we don't like to talk about stuff
till we've got something really to talk about.
Q: Thank you for the update. Question: In the past we've had
the great names in the sport. Michael's getting up there in
CHRIS POOK: Michael, you have anything to say to that?
Q: I didn't say he was retiring yet. But we've seen them
coming up. We've seen the Graham Rahals the Alex Gurneys, some
of which are in the CART system, and others like the Marco
Andrettis and the Graham Rahals who are in shifter carts and
not that far away. Is CART going to try to do what it can to
bring these people along and keep these great names in the
CHRIS POOK: Absolutely. Absolutely. One of the initiatives you
will hear from CART over the season is one which we've
entitled "Our Heritage is our Future." And we have an
incredible heritage. Two members of our heritage you're
talking to this afternoon.
We want to make it such that the Andretti name will stay
involved in Indy Car racing with championship auto racing
teams in the FedEx Series.
Little Al not Little Al, but what's Al's boy's name, Mario?
Mini Al, they call him.
You know, he's coming through the ranks. We've got our eye on
him. You mentioned Alex Gurney. There's a ton a ton of kids
coming out, Rahal's kid. We're keeping our eye on these kids
and creating an environment.
MARIO ANDRETTI: How about Marco?
CHRIS POOK: Marco, yeah.
We've embraced the Barber Dodge Series We've embraced that,
and we've created the relationship between Barber Dodge and
Atlantic and our Series.
You will see us reach very shortly into the Shifter kart
series to create the relationship from Shifter kart to Barber
Dodge. In fact, there is a relationship between Shifter kart
and Barber Dodge because Barber Dodge has a great scholarship
out there. It's probably not as much as it should be. We
should probably visit that very shortly in one of our press
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Also, you have "The Stars of Tomorrow."
CHRIS POOK: And "The Stars of Tomorrow."
So the system is there. We just have to get our arms around it
and talk about it and make it such that it's easy for these
you know, Michael and Mario will tell you that in Europe, the
system they have for bringing young guys forward is
I mean, not only in Europe now, but New Zealanders have a
system, the Aussies have a system, the Japanese have a system,
the South Americans have a system. We are backward in this
area. We have to get it together and really make it work.
Because, believe me, there are hundreds of young Americans out
there who can drive racing cars very well, indeed. They just
need a break to get into the system.
Q: Michael, Marco's getting up there in age. Do you see him
moving in to the official CART ladder system soon?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Absolutely. I think this year is going to be
a go-karting year, and next year he's going to be 16 and able
to actually race cars. The first thing we're going to look at
is the Barber Dodge thing. We're talking to Skip right now,
CHRIS POOK: Great. That's good news, Michael. I didn't realize
he's going to be 16.
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: He will be 16, yep.
Q: Chris, you expanding marketing agreements and licensing
agreements for licensed products this year? I know last year
it was all kind of on hold .
CHRIS POOK: Yes, we are. There are marketing agreements being
expanded, licensing agreements being expanded, which it's
being done internally at the moment in the sense of the
strategic plan is being written by a marketing group, and it
will emerge here I hope in the next 60 days.
Q: Okay. So at that time we can petition or make an
application for those?
CHRIS POOK: Absolutely. But like everybody, as I said, we want
to get it right first before I launch it.
Q: Oh, I quite understand. Michael, this is not an old
question again, but how do you feel kind of being the senior
statesman now that Mauricio is retired?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: Actually, I was older than Mauricio. It was
Moreno I really miss the most.
I don't know, it's no different. I don't really think about
that at all. I think when you are one of the older guys out
there, there's a little bit more responsibility. You just try
to take it over. The newer drivers look up to you for things,
and, you know, you try to use your experience the best you can
and, you know, try to do what's best for the Series.
Q: Are you going to be kind of taking over Mo's place on the
safety area, or do you know at this stage?
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: No, I'm not sure what Mo's doing, to be
honest with you. I assume he's going to still stay involved
with the CDA. I don't know what the status is on that.
But there's a lot of other drivers, not just myself, in terms
of the safety. A lot of our guys are very much involved in
that, and they'll continue to do what they've been doing.
Q: Quick one for Chris. How's your son coming along?
CHRIS POOK: He's doing okay, thank you very much. He's got
(inaudible) and he's got another six weeks in his halo, then
he'll be ready to get back in to shape and see if he can get
back into a race car. I'm not sure he's going to be able to
get into a stock car again because it's too rigid. But he'll
be able to make a living.
Q: Mario, we're waiting for the new vintage to come out.
MARIO ANDRETTI: It's on its way.
MERRILL CAIN: That will do it for questions today. I want to
offer it up to the gentlemen on the phone call, Chris, Mario,
or Michael, if you guys want to make any final comments here
MICHAEL ANDRETTI: All I can say is I think with the leadership
we do have now, I think it's the best chance CART has had in
many, many years to get to the point where it needs to be and
deserves to be.
As we've all said, we feel that the product we have is second
to none. And, you know, I think what's been missing has been
the leadership. I think now we have that. So hopefully, you
know, it will all be able to play itself out and CART will be
around for many, many years.
MERRILL CAIN: Thanks Michael. Mario?
MARIO ANDRETTI: I'm going to make sure that Chris takes all
the proper vitamins so he stays healthy and with us for a
long, long time to come. Because, again, it's a breath of
fresh air. It was a long time coming. And it brings just
renewed excitement, renewed energy that was quite lacking in,
you know, in an area that is exciting to begin with.
So I'm looking forward to this next season, like I have for
quite some time personally. It's primarily to look for some of
these different rules that are in place that used to really,
really bother me you know, things that we talked about. Even
the, you know, the timed races. I'm sure that you must have
the discretion to, you know, to conclude an event in case of
extraordinary circumstances. But timed races were, you know,
pretty much the order of the day on many of these road
courses, which was not good.
So everything that is in place now is something more positive,
something that we can really look forward to, and it will
definitely enhance the excitement of our events.
As a spectator the last few years, I've been thriving on one
thing, and it's the electricity all the practice sessions and
all the races have been providing. I think some of the
obstacles there that were prevailing in many ways are going to
be eliminated. And that, to me, is probably the brightest
thing of all as far as what we have to look forward to as
aficionados of the sport.
MERRILL CAIN: Thanks for your comments, Mario. Chris?
CHRIS POOK: I just would like to thank everybody for
participating this afternoon.
I particularly want to thank Mario and Michael for giving up
their afternoon to be on with us.
And to you members of the media who participated, I thank you
Keep an eye on us. When we do wrong, give us a kick. When we
do right, maybe just give us a small pat on the back, because
the troops are working awfully hard here, and they truly
believe in the product. As Mario said, it is just the
greatest, and it's full of excitement and fun. We're really
enthusiastic about where we're going and what the future is
So I thank you all very much indeed, and I bid you a good
MERRILL CAIN: Thank you, Chris. Thank you very much for
joining us on the CART teleconference this afternoon.
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