No one goes to Long Beach and says they're never coming
back. That's simply not possible. Whether you go back every
year, or in ten years, you eventually go back. There are many Long
Beaches on the CART circuit, and CART is poised to grow with them.
The naysayers would have led you to believe CART was going
to fold after 2001. We didn't buy it. We have been saying all along that
CART had all the ingredients to be the premier road racing series in North
America, and to someday rival Formula One's worldwide popularity. In
Long Beach, California last weekend, we witnessed a hint of things to come.
Monterrey, Mexico above
and Long Beach, California below, exhibit everything that is right about
CART. Fans pack the grandstands and line the circuit all the way
around, and they are wildly enthusiastic, the natural settings are
breath taking and the nightlife has something for everyone.
Photos courtesy of
Long Beach had it all, a Monaco-like waterfront setting,
packed grandstands, wildly cheering fans, close racing action, drama, and a
win by this sports biggest name, Andretti.
If you are a true racing fan, and you haven't been to Long
Beach yet, you haven't lived. The place is electric. No, I take
that back, it's on fire.
It's the type of race every CART fan dreams about going to.
There's something there to stimulate all your senses, and we do mean all.
The marina district where the race takes place is postcard
picturesque, in part thanks to the success of the Long Beach Grand Prix over
the years. The money this race pumps into Long Beach has enabled the
city to make significant improvements that make attending the race even more
The hotels around the track are first-class, the convention
center lends itself well to a big indoor expo, boats and yachts line the
waterfront, there's a new aquarium, restaurants that overlook the water and
Queen Mary, perfect Southern California weather, and of course beautiful
There's something for everybody. People are in a
festive mood. There's parties everywhere. Great food, plenty of exotic
drinks and wild music.
But on Sunday afternoon at 12:30, when it's time to go racing, the
parties take a two hour time out, and Long Beach comes alive with racing. The
cars roar, the fans
cheer, shout, and stand up and wave.
It's a contagious racing utopia. It
permeates your skin. Even the track announcer, Bruce Flanders, is the best.
He's funny, witty and he pulls clichés out of nowhere that make you
sometimes laugh a minute or two later when it finally sinks in.
People argue that NASCAR is so popular is because people identify
with driving a Ford Taurus, Chevy Monte Carlo, Pontiac Grand Prix, or Dodge
Intrepid. Open-wheel race cars aren't something the average fan
connects with, especially driving in circles on an oval track.
However, people do identify with driving on city streets or
on a natural-terrain road course, not unlike the real roads you drive on
every day. There's a connection there, turning left and right,
shifting and braking, driving up and down hills. This connection
between the real world and CART's road and street circuits is real, and the
attendance figures just don't lie.
Think about all the venues that connect with the fans.
Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, Miami, Surfers Paradise and St. Petersburg all
play out in a beautiful city surrounded by plenty of water. Road
America, Mid-Oho, and Laguna Seca have beautiful countryside, and real-world
hills and bends. The two road races in Mexico and the ovals in
Germany, England and Japan have international character of their own.
Open wheel racing on ovals in the USA is having a difficult
time succeeding for a
multitude of reasons. 1) NASCAR has a monopoly on the oval market, 2)
fans don't identify with driving an open-wheel car like they do a stock car,
3) real world streets and country roads don't go around in circles, 4) the
cars are small and hard to pick out for all but the most serious fan, 5)
they are so fast they almost make you dizzy going around and around, and 6)
it can get awfully hot sitting on those aluminum bleachers with no place to
go to seek relief from the sun like trees or a cool breeze off the water.
NASCAR has become a religion, their fans groupies, who
worship the sport and drivers as if nothing else matters. While CART
may never reach NASCAR's popularity in the USA, it certainly is well
positioned to become an international force to be reckoned with, by putting
on a better show on the track than F1 and by having a schedule filled from
end-to-end with hugely popular events.
CART had all these ingredients, but now, finally, it has a
leader in Chris Pook who understands the sport, has the respect of sponsors
and manufacturers, and has a vision for CART's future that is clear.
Look at what Pook has accomplished in five short months.
He's turned CART around from being a sport everyone said was dying, to one
in which everyone now says has the best chance of succeeding. If he
can do that in five short months, imagine what he can do in five years.
CART is once again hitting on all eight cylinders, and it's
brand of racing, primarily road and street circuits, is clicking with the
fans.....just like Walter Mitty......1st gear, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th...I'm
wide open down Shoreline drive in my Vette. Hard on the brakes, down
through the gearbox into 2nd, left, right, watch that apex....that's
Andretti in front of me, I'm going to get em this lap......Honey!
Honey! Watch the light is changing!.....Screeech. Damn, why'd
you that? I almost had him.
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