SAAL: We sincerely appreciate everyone coming out to what I have
been told is in the coldest day of the year, coldest day of March.
I'm Adam Saal, I'm the CART Vice President of Communications. I'm
joined to my immediate left by Rena Shanaman, who is CART Vice
President of Promoter Operations, who will talk about what will be a
very aggressive role with her in a few minutes in regards to what we
think is a very exciting new project here in Chicago.
To my immediate right is Tom Wieringa, CART owner of Sigma Auto
Sport, based here in Chicago. To his immediate right is Jimmy
Vasser, the 1996 FedEx Championship Series champion, former podium
finisher here at Chicago Motor Speedway, and Bobby Rahal, three time
CART champion, 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner and the defending
winning team owner of the CART Champ Car Race here at Chicago Motor
We sent out a press release earlier this morning before the stock
market opened basically clarifying what had been rumored for a
couple months. There will be a FedEx Championship Series CART event
here at Chicago on the announced date of June 30th, with live CBS
television coverage. This basically states CART's commitment to the
Chicago marketplace. We couldn't afford to lose the momentum we
built here in this market. We had three exciting races and we think
we can continue. With some of the rules enhancements that Bobby can
talk to us a little bit about, we think we've got a great product
here. We think we can continue and we plan to continue here. We'll
do just that.
We appreciate you coming out here basically so we can talk a little
bit about how we're going to do it and why it will be so exciting.
This is an in house promotion for CART. It's very unique for us to
take this approach, but again for Chicago, it's certainly a business
model that we need to promote, encourage and build upon. We've
announced as recently as even last Thursday several joint venture
operations with other existing events: The Cleveland Grand Prix,
which has been raced for 21 years, is now a promotional partnership
with CART and IMG. We also announced last year an all new joint
venture arrangement with Dover Downs Entertainment Group for a
cooperative promotional race in Denver.
The idea of bringing race promotion in house to CART is something
that we want to explore, it's something we want to build upon, it's
definitely a core business model for our new president, CEO, Chris
Pook, who apologizes he couldn't be here today, he had some personal
issues to deal with on the West Coast. Certainly this is something
that fits in with his vision since he's taken on with us since
Who is going to do the work for an event like this? We're fortunate
to have on our staff a woman who has served general manager of many
racing events before, she ran our race in Vancouver, I guess several
years ago, Rena, we can talk exactly when. She is charged with all
the joint venture operations. Any venue where we establish a
cooperative relationship, Rena Shanaman will head up and will be the
promoter on behalf of CART for this event. Here is your new promoter
for the Chicago Motor Speedway event, Rena Shanaman.
RENA SHANAMAN: Thank you, Adam. It goes without saying that
this is going to be a rather challenging experience for all of us
that will be working on the CART Grand Prix of Chicago. I was just
asked the question a little bit ago about ideally how long would it
take to promote such a race. Ideally, an annual event, you'd like to
have 12 months. Then we are faced with one third of that time, only
Certainly we are not going to be doing this all by ourselves, and
we're not going to be successful in organizing the race from
Detroit, Michigan, wherever CART might be headquartered over the
next four months.
We are going to call on talent locally here in the Chicagoland area
that have considerable experience in special events. We're going to
call on people that specifically are experienced in promoting and
organizing the race out at Chicago Motor Speedway.
Also we have a very supportive and cooperative landlord in Chicago
Motor Speedway. I'm pleased to see Pete Merkel, the executive vice
president, general manager, here today, in support of that. And we
also have several of the team members that we're going to be
building, so this will be a Chicago based organization. I expect to
be flying in and out of Midway an awful lot, looking to rent an
apartment, so the economic impact positively starts with me.
Obviously, it extends hundreds, if not thousands, fold because the
good news in reinstating the race into the CART schedule this year
is that all those hotel rooms, all those restaurants will be filled
the last week of June. We're going to create jobs and create
business here in the Chicagoland area.
Most importantly, I feel very complimented that somebody like Chris
Pook, who has so many years of extensive promoter experience, will
entrust this important race to me, and hopefully we're going to be
able to deliver great value to our fans and to all of the
corporations that both support CART presently and hopefully through
their experiences here will be attracted to become supporters and
sponsors of CART in the future.
There are some other people here in the room that I will be asking
to be members of our team here. We already have our CART sales
manager, Charlie Legeman, and Patrick Ambs has joined us on Friday
effectively at CART, but he will be working here in the Chicago
area. We have C Saw Marketing will be our agency of record in
supporting us on the advertising and promotions. I'm thankful that
Laura Davis has agreed to contract with that organization.
Probably most importantly in terms of the day to day operation of
the race, I'm pleased to announce that Tom Doloughty has agreed to
serve as our director of operations.
We have a lot of experience already joining the team. We're going to
be seeking more support out directly with people living in Chicago.
I truly look forward to working with all of you, meeting an awful
lot of fans out in Cicero on June 30th. Thank you.
ADAM SAAL: Thank you, Rena, get your sleep for sure. We're all going
to be working hard, as we've been working hard since Chris took over
CART in December. We'll have time for questions at the end. We'd
like to give everybody their opportunity to speak about today's
announcement because I know it's very exciting for all of us,
including three gentlemen to my right. One owner, one of our newest
owners in CART, which is a franchise/owner run organization, much
like other major league stick and ball sports. The team owners run
the company from a franchise board. We're also a public company, we
have a board of directors operating as a public company, as well.
The participation of our team owners is key and critical to the
success of this organization. One of the newest owners of a
franchise is Tom Wieringa, who can talk to us a little bit about his
team and his Chicago roots and why this race is going to be extra
special for him. Tom.
TOM WIERINGA: Thank you. I appreciate the opportunity to talk to you
folks. As you might know, I grew up in Cicero. Chicago Motor
Speedway has a special place in my heart. I also used to drive in
the Atlantic. In the first inaugural year, I was one of the first
guys out on the track. That was a special occasion back then.
So to come back this year with three full teams, two Atlantic teams,
and also a Champ car team, is really an honor. We appreciate it.
We're glad to see that Chicago Motor Speedway is going on as
successful as it has been.
ADAM SAAL: Thank you, Tom. Again, everybody will be available for
Rena just asked me to mention, Tom does have Atlantic roots,
definitely a product of our ladder system in CART. There will be a
Toyota Atlantic Championship support race that will be part of the
full weekend's action in late June at Chicago Motor Speedway.
Atlantics have run here before. It will be a great show. It's where
driver Bobby Rahal got his start. Jimmy Vasser also raced and won an
Atlantic, did a great job. I thought he won the championship many
years until they corrected me in the media guide. He went on to win
a championship in CART.
We'll ask Bobby to join us now. Really, to say he needs no
introduction is commonplace, but at the same time I think Bobby's
got a soft spot in his heart for Chicago, too. He can also talk
about how important it is for us to continue with this race, just
another positive step as we continue to move forward with CART.
BOBBY RAHAL: Thank you, Adam. Good afternoon to everyone. Like Tom,
I'm a native Chicagoan, I suppose. I'm very pleased that this race
has taken on a new face under CART management. I have to say that I
think this whole model is something that we spoke about for the last
year or two in CART, about CART taking a much more proactive
position in promoting its own races. I think that certainly other
series have shown that it can be very successful to do so. And I
think with Chris at the helm, I can pretty much be rest assured that
it will be successful.
In fact, I really do feel, and I can honestly say that six months
ago I worried considerably about the future. But since Chris has
come on, and I'm glad he finally decided to take on the job. A year
and a half ago or so we talked to Chris, and while he was
interested, he wasn't quite that interested, I suppose. But
thankfully he changed his mind.
I think can I tell you internally, as Tom would admit, in the
owners' meetings and what have you, this guy has the support and the
backing of the owners. Frankly, it's the first I've ever seen that
support as strong and as uniform as it is. I think it's going to
allow Chris to really take the sport as he knows it, knows how it
can be, and take CART forward to really a new high.
It's not going to happen overnight certainly. But I think this race
and some of the other things that Rena was talking about with
Cleveland and what have you, I think this race is just the first of
many indicators of where Chris is going to take this company and how
successful it will be.
I'm going to let maybe Jimmy talk about the cars. But certainly
we've changed the rules this year to help make the racing more
entertaining. I think it will be more honest in some ways. The fuel
game that has been played so much in the past I think is pretty much
something of the past now thankfully for everyone, particularly the
fans. I think the drivers will probably like it a lot more, too.
But I think in the end, Chris has asked for some pretty wide
reaching changes in how we go about these races, in recognition of
having to make them better for the fans. A by product, of course, is
to make it better for the teams and the drivers.
But as Tom I think would agree with me, when we had the last board
meeting at Laguna Seca, sneak preview, everyone pretty much handed
the baton to Chris and it's like, "Go for it." I have to say I'm
very, very optimistic. I think it's just going to go from strength
to strength. And as I say, I think Chicago is one of the first
indicators of that.
I'm looking forward to it. Last year, unfortunately, I was feeling
miserable in England, I think, watching the race on TV, and watching
Kenny win. Of course, people said you couldn't pass in Chicago. I
saw Kenny make some pretty gutsy passes, and he wasn't the only one.
Of course, I was glad to see that.
Now this year I'm hoping that it's Jimmy over here that will be
making those passes, and hopefully not such risky ones. Hopefully
we'll do that much better than everybody else.
It was great for me as a Chicagoan to win the race, and we want to
come back and do the same for Shell and for Jimmy.
I look forward to your questions later. Thank you.
ADAM SAAL: Thank you very much, Bobby. Jimmy, let's talk a little
bit from the driver's perspective. You got on the podium here in the
very first year, it's a good track. But more importantly, when a
driver comes to a city to race, is it important to be in a major
market like Chicago, knowing that you're in a sports town and you're
going to do your part to add to the matrix of what goes on in a
great city like Chicago? Jim.
JIMMY VASSER: I've been doing my part for this race, it's going to
be the fourth year now (laughter). I was at the groundbreaking for
the Speedway and announcement of the race, then burnout and pit stop
competition at Navy Pier with Michael Andretti. My support has been unwavered for this race.
Obviously, Chicago is one of the top markets in the country, and
home to many of our sponsors on the series. It's been a fantastic,
very exciting race every year, in my opinion. With the announcement
that the race was going to go away, it was very disappointing to me
obviously because Chicago is such a great town, such a great racing
A lot of our fans that follow our series all over the country,
primarily in the Midwest, all the fans come from Chicago. So it's
great to have it back on the schedule.
Like Bobby said, I think it shows the commitment of our new
president and CEO, the vision that he has, what he feels is
important, and obviously Chicago is a very important marker.
For me personally, ovals are very important to me as a driver and
also to our series. I think the mixture that we have of road
courses, temporary circuit, and small ovals, short ovals and
superspeedways is what makes CART a series that's second to none on
the planet as far as ability of the drivers and the teams to adapt
to all the different circuits.
It's good to see that there is another oval on the circuit and keep
that balance I think is important for the future.
Bobby alluded to the fact a little bit that there are going to be
some changes to the cars. One of the major changes that's going to
be to the car, that pertains to this race, is the aerodynamic
package. We had been racing over the last few years with a rear
wing, everybody familiar with, called the Handford device. While it
has been successful in slowing the car's overall speed down, it has
created a great bit of turbulence for the other drivers behind it
that makes it more difficult to pass. Those issues are being
addressed. I think they're going to open things up for more
competitive, exciting racing for the fans.
Also there's been a reduction in horsepower. Our cars have a
tremendous amount of horsepower, upwards of 900, you know, which is
in comparison to the 700, 750 area for all the rest of the top
motorsports in the world. So it makes it very difficult on the
drivers. As the tires go away, with all the horsepower coming off
the corners, you actually get wheel spin. With the horsepower
reduction, and even I think traction control can come into play,
which is now legal in CART, at a track like Chicago, traction
control can be advantageous and help the driver ride up on the
gearbox of the car in front, be able to be a little more aggressive
on the power application.
All these things I think are going to lead to a more exciting race.
Just, you know, it's great to be back here. With all this hard work
that I've been doing for the race, now for my new sponsor, Shell, I
think the track owes me one (laughter).
ADAM SAAL: Jimmy, we'll make sure you don't get out of practice
here, believe me. We'll keep you lean and mean doing work here.
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