This is the fourth year I have written a "pre-season to-do list"
of things which I believe CART needs to improve upon to become a better
and more successful product. As usual my annual review of
CART includes - what's right, what's wrong, and what needs to be done to
fix it. More importantly, we hope this "To-Do-List" makes
its way into the hands of CART's new President and CEO.
This year we decided to go
back and look at last years list to see what has been done and what
hasn't. We also evaluate whether or not last year's recommendation
still applies, or whether something more important needs to be
addressed. The result is a list of twelve recommendations which we
deem vital to CART's long-term success.
All is not doom and gloom as some would lead us to
believe. Yes, the USA TV ratings continue to decline, but that is
not unique to CART. Ratings for all sports are down. In fact CART is still a fantastic series, and the
competition and level of professionalism are on the rise each year.
We didn't think 2000 could top 1999, but it did. This years
championship battle between 5 or 6 drivers speaks wonders for CART's
competitiveness - the most competitive of any open wheel racing series in
the world. CART has an excellent formula, excellent drivers, excellent engine
manufacturers, excellent sponsors, and some great team owners, engineers
and managers. A solid baseline is there.
missing is a clear vision of where CART is headed, something only a strong
leader can provide. As good a job as Bobby Rahal did as interim
President, changing President's mid-season has been disruptive.
Right now CART seems to be on-hold while Rahal transitions to F1 and while
the Board continues to choose the next President.
While we wait for an announcement, below we provide the key issues (in order of importance) as we see it that CART's
new President should concentrate his efforts. It's no coincidence, TV issues are the
top-3 on the list.
They remain the most important.
Negotiate a better TV contract
1999 Ranking #2
An area that CART continues to get
hammered on in the press are TV ratings. Yes, they have declined
since the IRL split, and yes they must be turned around, and
quickly. However, what is being overlooked by the bean counters is
that CART races are broadcast worldwide. While it is difficult to
determine just how many people watch each CART race around the globe, I
would venture to bet that more people watch each CART race worldwide
than watch NASCAR, since outside the USA NASCAR has little
following. Assuming I am correct in my assumption, and I would be
willing to debate this with anyone, then why isn't this pointed out to
those that say NASCAR ratings are so good and CART's so bad. If in
fact CART gets higher TV ratings on a worldwide basis, the argument that
NASCAR is so grand begins to fade in terms of TV contract value.
Yet NASCAR was able to negotiate an incredible TV contract recently and
my hats off to them. This is where the marketing prowess of NASCAR
beats CART hands down.
With more and more CART sponsors selling products around the globe, the
ability to reach a worldwide audience is no small matter. CART's current
TV contract is up at the end of 2001. They have less than four
months to educate the ABC's and CBS's of the world that in fact they
bring just as much value, or more, on a per race basis, as NASCAR.
CART, through a 3rd party, is trying to position themselves to receive a
similar bid as NASCAR, whereby the network pays CART to air its races and
the network sells the advertising. If successful, this could ultimately become a defining
moment in CART's history.
What makes good ratings is what's on the screen not
so much the way it gets there. The production reflects the product. If a race is good TV is all over it.
If it sucks the assumption is TV screwed up. However, the production
is not yet where it needs to be either.
CART TV isn't capricious. Every bit of coverage is carefully thought out. When CART coverage is compared to "other better coverage", it would be good to remember that in the past 7 years CART TV has twice changed talent, been produced by every production crew doing auto racing for every network, and tried every idea CART management had. Ratings come from what's on the screen. What's on is CART racing. When it's good, TV is too.
While the gross CART ratings are down, they follow a general downturn in
all TV ratings. The advertisers don't count gross as much as the demographic rating.
Here CART is solid. NASCAR reaches a lot of beer drinkers and t-shirt buyers. The "bubbas" as NASCAR insiders call them.
CART reaches people with a much higher disposable income. That's more important than gross.
Remember too the ratings don't count VCR viewers. If you watch your CART racing on tape it will never figure into the system. The ratings need be more realistic.
CART's TV ratings need fixing across the board. However, it
is clear that it's overall USA TV ratings are directly tied to how
many are broadcast on Network TV vs. cable. CART's TV ratings on
cable are around 50% of those network TV. Although baseball and
basketball, which have games every day are broadcast on both network
and cable, NFL games, which typically are on Sundays only (similar to
CART races), are, for the most part, broadcast on Network TV
The next CART President needs to understand all the above, and always put the best interest of good racing and the fans foremost. If he puts the stock price of CART ahead of racing, he will fail himself and CART may fail with him.
Whereas this article addresses the 'big' TV related issues, another
article outlines in detail what needs to be fixed with CART
TV in the USA.
From what we have read, both Welts and Heitzler have the savvy and
experience to negotiate a much better TV contract for CART.
Welts worked for FOX and his marketing successes in the NBA are
noteworthy. Heitzler was a former senior VP for CBS. Some would argue that CART's President and CEO must
be a 'Racing' guy, someone who understands the sport. We
disagree. CART already is a great racing series. It's not
the product that needs fixing (that's where a 'racing' guy would
help), it's the packaging and selling of the product that is woefully
broken and the plunging TV ratings point that out. Nothing is
more important than having a strong TV partner to package and sell
that product. It is hoped, should CART hire him, that he will
deliver that TV package. This is CART's #1 issue related to its
success, and more importantly, its survival.
Fix the TV problem in Europe and elsewhere
No 1999 Ranking, new for
This recent article
by Scott Dryden summarized CART's woes in Europe with regard to
TV. Europe is home to F1 and the FIA. Although some
Americans may disagree, F1 is recognized around the world as the pinnacle
of motorsports. A lot of state-of-the-art motorsport technology
as well as safety ideas originate in Europe. Europeans love
automobile racing. It ranks second to Football (American Soccer)
in popularity. Racing is so powerful in Europe, F1 team budgets
are 10-times those of CART's. One of the reasons Mercedes gave
for dropping out of CART was to funnel more of their money into
F1. Europeans are crying for better TV coverage for CART, and
every year CART manages to let the situation get worse. CART
will be racing in Europe for the first time (yes we know USAC held a
two races there in the 70's) on ovals in England and Germany.
Does CART want to race before half empty grandstands in Europe as it
does at its USA oval races (probably the worse image one can portray
to the public), or does it want enough race fans to be interested in
CART to fill the grandstand? The critical European crowd, Bernie
Ecclestone included, would like nothing better than to point a finger
at CART and say, "I told you so". How on earth does
CART think European fans are going to develop a following for CART if
their races are shown as short highlight pieces on Wednesday nights
while the IRL and NASCAR are broadcast live in Europe? The
continued success of CART's overseas expansion hinges on the outcome
of these two races. CART must not fail.
Europe is by no means the only international TV market
CART must pay attention to. Every overseas market is important
and CART just does not have enough staff devoted to looking after
them all. It isn't enough to just let ESPN distribute the TV
rights for CART. CART must get news about their series out to
the local newspapers worldwide (see #6 below) so fans, or potential
fans, can follow CART news between races. The demand must be
there for foreign broadcasters to agree to broadcast CART races.
The emphasis and location of RPM2Night must change
1999 Ranking #3
weekly CART show won't do. As
partners, CART must work
with ESPN to change RPM2Night to have an Indy/Champ car emphasis. The power and influence of RPM2Night is
underestimated. Night after night they hammer the NASCAR product
into race fans' heads. To NASCAR's benefit and open wheel
racings detriment, 90% of the material is devoted to NASCAR. Some say
that is because most of the viewers are NASCAR fans. Very true,
but many became NASCAR fans because of RPM2Night's years of NASCARism. The show is based out of
Charlotte and almost every night they have a guest NASCAR driver or crew
chief on the show. Fans watching the show identify with the people
aspect of the sport, i.e. they become household names. That is important
and contributes to the success of Winston Cup racing.
They could and
should do the same for CART. The production of RPM2Night must move
from Charlotte to Indianapolis, the home to a majority of Indy Car
teams. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to realize RPM2Night
should NOT continue to promote NASCAR so NBC's and Fox's NASCAR ratings
go higher. And if ABC/ESPN are not willing to change RPM2Night,
then they aren't partners at all. We are certain CART's existing
sponsors would be willing to buy more ads on RPM2Night if it primarily
covered CART news and personalities. That fact should be sold to
ABC's Mr. Katz.
Market heavily around the DRIVEN movie
No 1999 Ranking,
new for 2000
The movie DRIVEN will be released this coming spring. CART must implement a strategic marketing plan based around that movie. It is CART's best opportunity to finally get the terms
CART and FedEx Car branded (see # 8 below, although unfortunately a lot of
the filming already done may contain the phrase Champ Cars...perhaps it
can be dubbed out and replaced with FedEx Cars). Not only should CART market to race fans, it must market to the millions of moviegoers who will go to watch the movies. Most movie theaters now show advertisements and movie trivia before the feature movie starts. If there ever was a time for CART to dig into its war chest to promote its product, now is the time. CART must buy advertisements in every movie theater across the country (and the world) tying CART to the movie DRIVEN so people can identify CART and
FedEx Cars with the cars they see in the movie. Remember, the
goal here is make the term CART and FedEx Cars as
recognizable to the average person on the street as Indy Cars and Winston
So moviegoers can learn about CART's heritage, some of the movie trivia that is shown before the
DRIVEN movie should be CART trivia.
The movie DRIVEN
is a Warner Brothers movie. CART must work with Warner Brothers to come up with merchandise tying CART to the movie. If CART can find a sponsor to help with the cost, every moviegoer should get a free tee-shirt with the DRIVEN logo and CART's logo on it. Then every moviegoer who wears their
free shirt becomes a walking billboard for CART. Working
together CART, FedEx and Warner Brothers should be able to come up with an
extensive year-long merchandising strategy that would see CART, FedEx
Cars, DRIVEN merchandise advertised on TV, in magazines, on the
radio and on the internet.
As soon as DRIVEN
is released start working on the sequel, DRIVEN II that would be
released about 3 to 4 years later. A follow-up movie and marketing
effort would give all parties involved repetitive and long-term name
recognition so when you ask someone on the street do you know what CART
or FedEx Cars are, you get the response 'Oh yeah, that's the really
cool racing series with the fastest race cars in the world. I love
it and my favorite driver is ..........!
Is CART's future here or abroad?
1999 Ranking #5
Both Bobby Rahal, and Andrew Craig before him, have gone on record
as saying that CART is an American product that they export. This is
area where CART has an identity problem. CART thinks it is
American because that is where it originated. However, CART thinks
it wants to also be international because the world is very much a global
marketplace and F-1's 16 to 17 races per year surely can't satisfy
everyone's appetite. Does CART try to go
after the global market with a global array of drivers and risk losing some of the USA market, or does it
just stay in North America with predominately American drivers and compete head-to-head with NASCAR and the
plethora of American sports? I think the answer is obvious.
Although CART is better served playing to the international arena with
drivers of various nationalities (just like the Olympics), there
is little doubt that CART needs a few more good American drivers in the
series to help its sagging USA ratings. The fact that CART is a melting pot of international
talent is fantastic, but CART today still runs most of its races in the USA,
hence American fans do need more drivers to cheer for. A lot
of sponsorship money that might otherwise go to potential CART drivers
is being siphoned off by NASCAR and other American sports for
advertising dollars. Sponsors from other countries give more
support to their drivers because outside of soccer and auto racing,
there aren't many sports for them to spend it on. By developing a
better farm system and negotiating a better TV contract, American
drivers will begin to look more toward CART as a career initiative and
American sponsors will begin to kick in more support.
Up until a few months ago CART was restricted by the FIA to only running on oval tracks outside of North America for fear of detracting from the Formula One series. They threatened stiff penalties to CART and it's participants if they disobeyed that agreement. However, now all that has changed because the FIA, under pressure by the
European Union (EU) for monopoly practices, finally recognizes CART as an official 'World Championship' series, which means it can race on road courses
or ovals outside of North America. And although the FIA would prefer CART
become 'the' oval-track world championship, CART stands more to gain by not restricting itself to oval tracks. We examine what this can mean to CART, if they play their cards right.
Except for Australia that was grandfathered in, CART abided by their agreement with the FIA to restrict their overseas races to oval
tracks. Hence, CART made agreements to race on ovals in Japan, Brazil (although that is changing), the new Rockingham oval in England, and the new Eurospeedway in Germany. Unfortunately,
to date CART has had mediocre results at its overseas oval races. The primary reasons are simple - 1) until recently CART and its drivers were largely unknown to most of the world, completely overshadowed by F1, 2) outside of the USA, the world races on road courses. Ovals are purely an American
tradition. Fans around the world better identify with road course racing. Whereas oval races in Japan and Brazil have had mixed results (although this years RIO races was a sellout), when CART races on the streets of Surfers Paradise, fans flock out in droves.
No sooner did the FIA announce their change of policy towards CART, promoters (Emerson Fittipaldi et al) in RIO, Brazil jumped at the chance to move their race from the oval track at the Nelson Piquet Speedway to the Jacarepagua road course
(also at the Nelson Piquet Speedway) that hosted F1 from 1978 to 1989. Why would a promoter ask to move their race from an oval that attracted a sellout crowd last year, to a road course next year? It's quite simple, they believe that 1) they can attract even more fans with a road course event and, 2) if it rains the race goes on. It is a major undertaking for CART to move all of its equipment to an overseas race. If an overseas oval race were to be postponed because of several consecutive days of rain, CART could not afford to fly the entire circus back again another weekend, and the new 22-race schedule is so tight, when would they find the time?
This years race in Motegi Japan was rained out on Saturday, but luckily for CART and the promoter, they were able to get the race in on Sunday, the designated rain date. What would have happened if Sunday were wet too?
I am not suggesting that CART move
all its overseas races to road courses because of the threat of rain. Although one can use that as a valid argument, there is another reason that is far more important. There is an abundance of world renowned road course circuits around the
globe that either can't get a F1 race, or are begging for a another big race each year in addition to their one F1 race. Monza, Nürburgring,
Sepang, Malaysia, and Spa-Francorchamps come to mind. The list is long and the possibilities endless, but does CART want to be a true international series, someday on par with F1, or does it want to continue to be a North American series, butting heads with NASCAR and the IRL, with an occasional overseas foray?
To read more about
this topic click here.
Better grassroots daily newspaper coverage
No 1999 Ranking,
new for 2000
Get the message to the major daily newspapers and not just to the racing publications. One might ask how this will improve TV ratings?
Local TV sportscasters base their weekend assets (i.e. tape machine allocation) on what they read in the dailies on Wed / Thurs as that's when they must put their facilities requests in to the editors.
It's quite simple; more media exposure means more fans. Currently you would be hard pressed to find CART mentioned in most daily newspapers, and then only as a paragraph or two, i.e. as an afterthought behind the lead NASCAR story. NASCAR is beating CART very badly in this area.
CART made a grassroots attempt to call all the newspapers in the
general vicinity of each race throughout the weekend to feed them
info and ask for coverage, and they are to be commended for
starting this. However, were all newspapers called for every
race, or only those where CART was racing nearby. From what we are
told, only when they were racing nearby. What about the other
19 races? Of course it is impossible to call every newspaper
in the country every weekend, that task would be daunting.
That's what we have e-mail for. E-mail press releases to every
darn newspaper sports editor in the USA and abroad so they can use
the material without retyping it. If CART doesn't have the
e-mail address for every sports editor in this country, than hire
someone to get them. And if they really want to get better
newspaper coverage overseas, the press releases should be translated
into the native language of the recipient. It's called going
that extra mile.
Develop a global unified marketing
1999 Ranking #12
This year we continued to see full-page Honda advertisements in
the USA Today newspaper touting the success of their engines, yet the
word "CART" was not even mentioned! Honda was
not alone. Is the right hand even talking to the left? Texaco, Honda, Ford, Toyota and Target do a lot to promote their
about the rest? All CART sponsors should be brought in for a week-long
marketing planning meeting. The purpose - to plan when, where and
how all will advertise and promote throughout the year. There
should be a joint, well coordinated campaign, not the disjointed, every
man for himself effort we see now (or at least that is the way it
appears). After the week-long intensive planning meetings, there
should be 30-minute bi-weekly teleconferences with all the sponsors to
tweak the plan and discuss relevant issues that need immediate
CART is be commended for establishing a Promoter Relations department,
headed by Rena Shanaman, designed to provide dedicated, high-quality service to the 22 event promoters on the 2001 FedEx Championship Series schedule.
The new department will focus on building upon current relationships with CART's race promoters while striving to meet strategic and tactical objectives in the presentation of its events to fans. As the primary liaison between CART and its race promoters, the new department will actively participate in the planning of each race weekend, working alongside CART's Racing Operations and Marketing departments to develop consistent standards for marketing communications and on-site event presentation.
Bravo for CART! Now lets take it one step further and take the
efforts of Rena and Pat Leahy and tie it into a cohesive year-long worldwide
marketing and communications campaign. We stress the word
'worldwide' because if CART is going to play in the global arena, it
had better start marketing globally as well.
Branding of CART and its cars
No 1999 Ranking,
new for 2000
In our opinion, and most race
fans we talk to, CART as a name for a racing series leaves a lot to be desired. There is a lot of confusion among the general population between 'CART' and your average grocery 'shopping cart' or
go-'kart'. Before the split with the IRL, CART had the right to use the name
'IndyCar', a term people on the street could quickly identify with them. The reaction you were likely to get
then was 'oh yeah, those are the cars that race at Indy right?'
Since the split and the loss
of the right to use the term 'IndyCar', CART has made an attempt to use the term
'Champ Cars' to identify their racecars. The terms 'CART' or
'Champ Car' are far from what we would call
good 'racing' names. The majority of people on the street have no idea what you are talking about when you say those terms and that is
hurting CART. Everyone knows what an 'Indy Car' is........It's a car that races at Indy.
Everyone knows what a stock car is..........It's a car that looks a lot like a
stock street car (although you and I know it' far from
stock) and races in NASCAR at places like Daytona.
The idea is that people can easily relate to 'Indy' and 'Stock' cars by the very nature of their name. What on earth is a
'Champ Car'? Sure the hard-core race fan knows what a Champ Car is,
but is that who you need to win over to grow your fan base? To a casual or potential new fan, the word 'Champ' has no relation to racing. Mention
'Champ Car' to someone who doesn't follow CART and see what reaction you get. "Huh? What's that you say?", will likely be the answer. CART
and Champ Car just don't have that name recognition. The
public just doesn't connect with them. They don't 'click' as they say.
NASCAR spent a lot of money to educate race fans when they changed the name of their top series from NASCAR
'Grand National' cars to NASCAR 'Winston Cup' cars because the word Winston
Cup has no real relation to racing either. They entered into a
long-term agreement with RJ Reynolds (RJR) to rename their cars 'Winston
Cup' cars to correspond to their sponsor Winston cigarettes. RJR paid a lot of money for that.
Both RJR and NASCAR made a concerted effort to brand NASCAR's top series
as Winston Cup cars. To have the word 'Winston' uttered out of every fans mouth whenever they talk about NASCAR has got to go down as one of the most brilliant marketing strategies of all-time. That
strategy would be equivalent to CART calling their cars CART 'FedEx' cars
corresponding to their title sponsor FedEx. We suggest the 'Champ Car' designation
be faded into the background just as the term 'stock car' has taken a back
seat to Winston Cup cars. The term Champ Cars just doesn't work. Nice try CART. CART would then brand their cars 'FedEx' cars
and every piece of literature and every mention of the cars that race in
CART would be CART 'FedEx Cars'.
In turn, FedEx would put a
picture of a FedEx car on every single truck and plane they
own......moving billboards seen by millions of people everyday. TV
advertising by FedEx and CART would feature 'FedEx Cars'.
Through a cohesive marketing strategy, the term 'FedEx Car' would be
marketed by both FedEx and by CART into a name known around the world,
just like 'Winston Cup' cars are recognized around the world. We
know that in the past when CART asked FedEx to place an image of their
cars, or their logo, on their trucks they said no because they sponsor a
lot of different sporting events and they could not favor one over the
other. However, we wonder if CART ever offered to rename their cars
after the FedEx company. That would, we feel, bring a lot of added
value to FedEx and possible get them to agree to such a deal. In a true CART and
FedEx partnership, the deal to brand the term 'FedEx Cars', would mean all the
FedEx trucks and planes would carry a CART FedEx car logo. To read
more of this article, click here.
Announce new engine package for 2003
1999 Ranking #9
turbocharged engines are not common in motorsports today, but they give
CART a unique identity from the IRL and F-1. There has been a lot of
debate lately as to whether CART should convert to normally aspirated
engines or change to a 1.8 liter highly turbo charged engine. NASCAR,
the IRL and F-1 are all normally aspirated. Does that mean CART should
follow suit? The sound of a turbocharged Champ Car engine at full song
is music to the ears of every fan. Everyone loves the sound, and the
turbo keeps the noise levels reasonable for the street circuits. Why
mess with success? Turbochargers have become very reliable and not a
high expense item. They are a great way to
control engine power as speeds continue their annual creep upward. If
CART owners are ever going to return to the Indy 500, it is not going to
be with CART equipment anyway. They will need to purchase all new
equipment for that event. The internal debate over this issue has
prevented CART from releasing new engine specifications as planned. The
powers-to-be must stop procrastinating and announce a turbo formula, one
that the engine manufacturers recommended two years ago, unless.....
We have heard that one or more of CART's current engine manufacturers
might now favor a normally aspirated engine, possibly even to IRL
specifications. This would be a
grave mistake by CART. If it were to adopt the IRL formula, the
rest of the world would thumb their noses down at CART as being
inferior (not state-of-the-art) just as CART is about to burst upon
the international scene with races in Mexico, England and Germany in a
big way. CART can't afford to adopt the F1 N/A formula as that
would be too expensive. The only way CART could adopt a normally
aspirated formula and be well respected worldwide, is if it were to
lobby all the current F1 engine manufacturers to force the FIA into a
lower cost engine formula, one that could be used by both CART and
F1. The engine manufacturers would then be able to supply the
same engine to both CART and F1. Does anyone think a Ferrari on
a CART grid would be bad?
The timing is right now to lobby the F1 engine manufacturers for a
lower cost common formula for CART and F1. Peugeot recently
spoke out saying the cost to develop a F1 engine and be competitive is
ridiculous. As the economy cools and car sales fall off, other
F1 engine manufacturers are going to look to bail out of F1 if costs
are not reduced. With engine manufacturers now owning F1 teams,
the FIA can't afford to have any drop out. CART must act upon
this opportunity immediately if it wants to adopt a normally aspirated
engine formula, even if it means V-10's instead of V-8's.
It will be a tough sell to the F1 faithful, so unless CART is willing to
campaign hard to bring F1 and CART to a common
engine formula, CART engines must remain unique, state-of-the-art,
turbocharged engines, an important part of its heritage. If it
adopts the IRL engine formula, it's cars will essentially be IRL cars
in all aspects (overall dimensions and weight are the same), leaving one to ask the obvious question -
we need CART?
Establish safety and race track standards
1999 Ranking #11
CART is faced with two lawsuits as the result of the Greg Moore
and Gonzolo Rodriquez fatalities in 1999. Safety standards, or
the lack thereof, are in question. This recent article
discusses the implications of those lawsuits. There are really two questions
to consider here. 1) Do tracks have to continually upgrade their facilities
every year to higher safety standards? and; 2) Whose responsibility is it
to define and impose those standards, the race track or the sanctioning
From our perspective, it is up to the sanctioning body to set and
impose the safety standards by which the tracks must abide. The
FIA does an annual review of its tracks and tells the track owner what
must be upgraded. They either abide by the recommendations or
lose their F1 race. CART has plenty of track owners begging for
a race. If a track owner can't afford to make the necessary
upgrades, then perhaps they should not have a race. If they are not
drawing enough fans to make a profit, then perhaps CART should
question why they are racing there. Packed grandstands are what CART should be striving for.
The insurance companies are likely going to raise their insurance
rates through the roof as a result of the Moore and Rodriguez
lawsuits. Track owners are either going to have to pay for
safety improvements or, pay higher insurance premiums. If CART
can't afford to have its own fulltime safety inspection staff, then it
should outsource it to another firm or hire the FIA to do it for
them. If a track owner can't afford to make all the necessary
safety improvements now, and it feels the venue is too important to
lose, then help them by offering some relief on their sanctioning fee
structure. Allow them to pay less now, but make up for it in
Safely upgrades aren't the only track upgrades needed. Press
facilities vary widely, from working out of mobile trailers at
Milwaukee, to State-of-the-Art facilities like we will see out
Eurospeedway in September. All press facilities should contain
high-speed internet access for journalists to upload their work to
their home base. Last time we checked, this was the 21st
Century....wasn't it? In many cases, journalists have to share
one dial-up modem line between three people. There is no
consistency and no standard. CART must establish consistent and
mandatory press room standards.
We understand that many of the current contracts CART has with tracks
preclude them from making such demands. However, all contracts
that get renewed should stipulate that CART will review and mandate
annually, within reasonable limits, safety and press room facility
upgrades needed for a track to retain their rights to a CART race.
Elevate the status of the Indy Lights series
1999 Ranking #8
Just as the Busch cars look identical to the Winston Cup cars, so too
should Indy Lights look like Champ cars, in size, and in weight.
The only difference should be the engine - lower HP and less
computerization, maybe even IRL engines and chassis'. This would
enable Indy Lights to look like the real thing instead of some
miniature version. If Indy Lights were run to IRL specs, there
could be some cross-pollination between Lights and IRL teams. In
addition, Champ car teams that buy equipment for the Indy 500 can then
turn around and run that equipment as a Lights team. And the
equipment can be maintained under the same roof with the Champ cars
eliminating redundant costs where possible. Many
of the NASCAR Busch teams and SPONSORS move up from the Busch series
to the Winston Cup. It gives the sponsors a chance to get involved in
racing without making a big leap. Race weekends are a lot more
exciting when the support series is worth watching. Using
the IRL spec for Lights would also give some of the IRL teams a series
to use their equipment if the IRL folds.
If CART were to go this route (we think they will go the F3000 route
instead) it must first talk to the IRL about rules changes coming up
for is series. CART doesn't want the situation where teams
purchase IRL spec cars for Indy Lights, only to find one year later
the equipment can't be used at Indy. We don't see the IRL making
any drastic changes to its rule book because many existing IRL teams
don't have the financial resources to buy completely new cars.
drivers race in the Bush Grand National series all the time. The Bush
series now gets better TV ratings than CART Champ Cars. When was the
last time a Champ Car driver raced in Indy Lights? Never! That needs to
change, and change soon. Every Champ Car team should try to have a
Lights team. Not only to give their sponsors more exposure, but also to
give their teams a good training ground for new drivers, mechanics, crew
chiefs, engineers, and managers. Imagine what Andretti and Tracy could
do for Indy Lights if they ran an occasional race. Ditto for the other
drivers. CART must have a minor league series that is strong enough to
retain new talent until an opportunity opens up in the Champ Car series,
or a place to go for drivers like Raul Boesel, who lost his ride, yet
was still competitive. A place to go so they might get a second crack at
Champ Cars, should the opportunity present itself. It has been suggested
that the IRL could have been the ideal ‘Indy Lights’ series, but
there is too much hate and ego clashing between the two camps for that
to ever become reality. Quite unfortunate.
And lest we forget, please change the name of the Atlantic and Lights
series to CART Toyota Atlantic Series and CART Indy Lights
Series. The CART name needs to permeate throughout the CART
Develop a 5-year strategic business plan
No 1999 ranking, new
CART's new President must commission a body to develop
their 5-year Business Plan. Every company has one, yet we have
heard some people say one does not exist for CART. And even if
one does exist, it's probably time for a new one as the current one
doesn't seem to be helping CART grow, certainly not in TV ratings
which continue to fall.
So there you have it; our year-end recommendations
for CART and its new President to consider.
The author can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org
to discuss this article
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