Editorial

Team owners show support for CART, Pook guarantees at least 18 cars

 by Mark Cipolloni
September 1, 2002

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Front: Pat Patrick and Team Rahal's Scott Roembke
Center: Chris Pook, Tom Anderson and Carl Haas
Back: Gerald Forsythe, Derrick Walker and Cosworth's Ian Bisco
Photo: Mark Cipolloni

CART rounded up six team owners and a few manufacturers that were willing to show a commitment to CART for 2003 and beyond during a press conference at the Shell Denver Grand Prix today.  Much of the media has been speculating about CART's future.  By bringing the team officials together, Pook said he hoped to silence the ''spin doctors'' who have hinted at CART's possible demise since 1996 when the IRL was formed.  The highlights are below.  Full transcript here.

Highlights

  • Chris Pook promised that a minimum of 18 cars will run next season, and possibly as many as 21.  He also thanked the media for all the coverage of the series, and apologized for coming down so hard on The Rocky Mountain News on Thursday.

  • Team owners of Newman/Haas Racing, Fernandez Racing, Patrick Racing, Players/Forsythe Racing and Walker Racing and the manager of Team Rahal all announced their commitments to CART next season and expressed confidence in the circuit's product.

  • Noticeably absent were Target/Chip Ganassi Racing; Team Kool Green, soon to be owned by CART's Michael Andretti and Kim Green, and Morris Nunn Racing. All three are expected to field teams in the IRL next season, but all have stated to AutoRacing1.com there is still a possibility they could also run in CART, it's just too early to commit right now.  Pook noted that you don't see the IRL teams making announcements yet, so why does the media think all the CART teams have to commit by the end of August, September 1st timeframe.

  • Pook stated - ''We will continue to grow the series, we will continue to put it on new tracks, we will continue to go to new markets and we will continue to be the best sports-marketing delivery vehicle in North America."  We will be back in Texas in 2004 (read that Dallas or Houston) as well as two other major markets."  I said in December when I took this job, the objective is to stabilize CART in 2003 and 2004.  "We will be going back to Australia and Europe and we plan on going back to the Orient after 2004."  ''That we've done by doing the relationship with Cosworth (CART's lone engine supplier beginning next year) and with our major events,'' he said. ''Then, in 2005, we'll come into a new engine formula and new cars, and you'll see a new CART moving on down the road.''

  • Pook also said he was committed to bringing more American drivers into CART, which is dominated by foreign drivers. Andretti and Jimmy Vasser were the only Americans in Sunday's 18-car field and both drivers are not yet committed for 2003.  Pook said he expects one or two new teams from Europe, a returning team to CART who had left and a team moving up from another USA racing series.  Today you see commitments for about 14 cars and we have months to get four to seven more.

  • Gerry Forsythe of Player's/Forsythe Racing confirmed he would field two cars next season, adding, ''reasonably sure of a third car and speculation on a fourth car. We are committed. CART is the best, most diversified type of open-wheel racing. Why wouldn't we want to be involved in it?''

  • Derrick Walker, who said he will be back ''certainly with a one- and hopefully with a two-car team,'' agreed that CART ''is in transition. There are major changes happening in our sport. There is a perception of uncertainty. This is not a six-month slide-through and then we're out of it. This is a couple years of transition from where we are right now to where the CART of the future is going to go.''

  • Tom Anderson of Fernandez Racing said his team will return with one car for sure for Adrian Fernandez with sponsors Tecate, Telmex and Quaker State and is negotiating with sponsors on a second car.

  • Pat Patrick said he was confident there will be 18 cars in CART races next year, and ''we expect to be one of them and we are working on a second one."'

  • Carl Haas reiterated his long-time involvement in CART with his partner, Paul Newman, and said he was committed to continuing the relationship.  We are pretty certain that will be three cars, one with Mario Andretti.  ''I can't tell you my whole program right now, but we're going to be there and we're going to be there with a first-class program,'' Haas said.

  • Cosworth's Ian Bisco said "I think just to expand a little bit on when we made the announcement in Portland, we at Cosworth are committed to CART. We have been developing the engine since we made the announcement. We have done a lot of testing and setting up, getting the engine parameters correct for what we think is going to be necessary next year. I think the big thing that I should say is that this is by no means a low-tech engine. This is still a complicated, high-tech engine that we will be supplying next year and it will be the same engine that everybody will get. I think right now, we have got parts loaded for 20 cars next year. We are committed doing this.   We think it's going to be a very exciting series. We are not underestimating that the teams are going to be very demanding. I think it's going to be fun. I think that the level of competition is going to be very, very close. I realize that there will be a lot of demand put on us, but we've been around, we have been in this series a long time. We have supported CART for 20-odd years right now and this brings something new to us. As I say, go back to the engine a little bit, we have been developing the engine. We have got sort of, I call them, the "real" parts. We'll be going together and we'll be track testing probably in October, and we'll be supplying engines probably towards the end of November. In fact, I think probably by Rockingham, we'll be handing out contracts for people to get teams signed up. Teams have been asking for contracts. It's a delay on our part, really. I think what we are really doing is we are going through, this we are trying to cover every infinite detail to make sure all of the costs are controlled so everybody knows how much the program is going to be, cover every little detail. It's a very comprehensive contract. I think that it's going to be exciting and it's going to be very reassuring when the teams do get these..

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

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