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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
CART President and CEO Chris Pook and American Le Mans Series founder Don Panoz teamed up to answer questions from the media in advance of this weekend’s Grand Prix of the Americas—the first double-header event featuring both CART’s FedEx Championship Series and the American Le Mans Series, as well as the Trans-Am, which the Panoz Group also operates for SCCA Pro Racing. Here are some of the highlights:

DON PANOZ: First of all, I think the concept of the Grand Prix of the Americas coming back to race on the streets of Miami is just reliving history again, and a history I think that was built over the years as one of the most exciting races in the United States.

I think that this ability to come back to Miami and resurrect the great street races in Miami is a fabulous opportunity. Of course, as far as our cars go, I think the fans are going to be very well served by our format of Le Mans Racing, four different classes of cars, racing on almost 1.6 miles of circuit there in Miami. The top class [LMP900] being about 60 miles an hour faster than the GT class. I think that with the drivers and the show that we will put on, I think the fans will really be excited and I think they will see a great race.

CHRIS POOK: First of all, I think it is important to reiterate what Don said that, the city, downtown here has a great history. It started here when [racing entrepreneur] Ralph Sanchez put on the old—what was IMSA and it was the same type of—virtually the same type of racing cars that Don's series operates today. And that was incredibly successful over the years. Then the Indy Cars came in and then they moved back to the streets here in Miami. The combination of the two series I think reach out to the fans of the state of Florida and even further north.

I think the fact that the two of us are cooperating this weekend and racing together, clearly shows a very high level of cooperation between two major sanctioning bodies. I think it also demonstrates that we can reach out to a set of demographics that's truly unique in motor racing. The demographics of the CART FedEx Series and the demographics of the American Le Mans Series. And while there might be a little bit of crossover in certain areas, I think you look at those demographics and it is a very, very wide set of demographics that we're reaching. And what better place to do it in Miami ,while being an incredibly important city in the United States in the sense of the size and capacity of its market and market reach. Also we must remember it is the cultural and corporate gateway to Latin America, Central America and the Caribbean.

So, if you look at the two products that are on track—well the three products, excuse me, because I have overlooked the Trans-Am, which is a very, very important part of our weekend as well, look at the three products that are on track, look at the market reach of Miami, and then you look at the heritage of what is here in downtown Miami, I think that you do, as you said, have a very unique combination and a combination of huge value today and of incredible marketing ability in the future.

Q: Would you classify this weekend's marriage as exploratory, and if each of you can sort of maybe itemize the advantages to doing this and maybe some of the disadvantages of bringing two major series to one venue at the same time?

DON PANOZ: Well, I think it's not just exploratory, it is an opportunity for us to show our wares. As Chris very ably said, we both cover, with very little crossover, a unique demographic. That's point number one. And we’ll certainly be able to show our respective supporters each other's show.

I think that with us getting together in Miami—and anybody that has been reading the newspapers for the last eight months, would know that us joining together was a response that was necessary because of a lot of the opposition that was presented against us—I think it is a good opportunity for us to turn that challenge into a real opportunity to put on a great show.

CHRIS POOK: I echo what Don says, I would term this certainly more than exploratory. This is an effort that we have put on together to see what the challenges are of operating two major series on the same weekend at the same venue. And what are the yields that both series can get from the combined opportunity in the marketplace.

Now, as far as the challenges are concerned, absolutely there are challenges. We have two different types of race cars, two different sets of disciplines in the pits. We have a whole—both of us have a whole bunch of support equipment and the various things that make up, if you will, the circus, and the logistics of putting all this together are a test of both our staffs. The key I think for Don and I though is to show the leadership that we want to work together and that the staffs must work together if we're going to succeed. And I think that once we do, as we go through this process, and it is going on already because both staffs have been down here, both management teams have been down here all week and we're working through the issues together one by one.

It is a lot like a marriage, where if you want to have a successful marriage both parties have got to give 60 percent. And we're working in that vein here, and at the end of the day, what our responsibility is, both of our mutual responsibilities is one to the other to make sure that the other one has all the breathing room in the world to demonstrate the quality of their product, of each one's products. My responsibility to Don is to make sure that his management team has all the room and space to demonstrate the quality of their product and his management team to us vice versa.

The real delivery vehicle, who both our mutual responsibilities really lie with, though, is with the city of Miami, because the city of Miami is our partner. We're using their streets, their city, and it is our mutual responsibility to deliver not only the economic impact to the city of Miami that our two mutual series can bring to this city. But it's also our responsibility to deliver all the marketing opportunities that the city of Miami is seeking both from its port, from its airport, from its hotels, its restaurants, its redevelopment agencies, its community development agencies, its government relations agencies, this is what we have to do. We have to deliver and make sure that the city of Miami gets the value out of the investment that they have made in their time and effort in allowing us to use their city as our venue.

Q I wonder if both of you can talk about the bigger picture as to how you see the future of this partnership developing, and could we see combination races at places like Washington D.C., Road Atlanta, Sebring even, for example?

DON PANOZ: Well, I think that certainly what we'll see this weekend—we already know, Chris has shared with me, that hospitality and everything else is really sold out and that we expect a very good crowd and a very good support group of fans that have come in and not only are just buying tickets, but they are buying all the other things that are important for a race.

Chris said it so well a while ago, he said that this isn't exploratory. This is an opportunity for evaluation. And I think that it is like anything else in business—if this kind of model shows a good result, both of us will be looking at how we could explore that and what other venues it could make sense that we could do a show like this.

It could be that maybe the event would be limited when we evaluate them and maybe only be a couple of street circuits or it could be that it could be something bigger. But I think both of us will be having and our staffs will have our eyes open to look at all of the events that are going on there this weekend. How they play out; how they are accepted by the fans and the media, and to look at what we can turn that into for the future.

I think we'll be going into this with eyes wide open and we'll be there to judge it based on the facts. And that's the way - I think that's the way we'll be responding. Chris can speak for himself.

CHRIS POOK: I agree absolutely with what Don said. I think that we have to evaluate which venues make sense for both of us. We can't overflood the market, if you will. There are certain markets and venues where the American Le Mans Series will stand alone and has a very good track record and will work it. Likewise, for CART, but then there are other markets—and this is a very good example here because, let's face it, this market has seen both of our types of racing before, and has been very responsive to both our types of racing, and had very successful events. So, this is a good one as a starting platform. I think there are indeed other markets. But I think that that's for Don's management team and my management team to evaluate together and to come back to the both of us to say, look, it makes sense here; it doesn't makes sense there.

We have to thread very constructively together down the road and we have to look at the impacts of what these sharing of markets or joining together in a market means to our respective sponsors and are we able to deliver increased value to those sponsors by combining together in a single marketplace. I think that's the real key.

DON PANOZ: I think that we could be looking at a possibility of a formation of what is really a super race weekend, and where it's not just a Sunday afternoon main show with support racing, but just really a whole super weekend which includes Saturday and Sunday and value and entertainment; the fans can really get their money's worth and can enjoy it. And also, a great deal for the sponsors.
 

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Discussion Starter · #2 ·
Q. Chris, I have heard some concerns about the track, that's perhaps it's a little too tight and narrow and so forth. You are a street racing expert. How does it shape up from what you have seen so far?

CHRIS POOK: I think those concerns are valid. Both Don's team and my team have concerns in those areas. We have to work our way through them. We have already got a track layout for 2003 that I believe will work even better for both sides, but this is the deck of cards that the city of Miami have so graciously provided with us this year and we're going to work with that deck of cards. And yes, it is tight in parts and yes, maybe it is a little slow in parts, but I know our drivers will adjust. A couple of them will have a little bit of indigestion but they will adjust. And I am sure Don's drivers will adjust.

We have to look at these venues, these types of venues as not what it is exactly today. It's what we can develop it mutually into in the future. That's what this is about. This is about building a business, building a franchise. I think that's what we and the American Le Mans Series want to do together. We'll have a couple of hiccups and we'll fix them and we'll move on—nothing that we haven't endured in the past. You have seen these hiccups come and go. We had them at Long Beach when we started. We had a hiccup at Denver. We had a hiccup when we first did Las Vegas. When Toronto came on board, it had one. Montreal, when it first came on board it had one. It's the nature of the beast.

At the end of the day, we have got to remember that for 362 days a year these streets are for normal passenger cars to drive on and buses and trucks and what have you. It's only for three days that we turn them into a racetrack. So, we have to make the necessary adjustments in each city we go to.

Q. You guys are talking about going into it with eyes open and Chris brought up the word "marriage" and Don brought up looking at a few events down the way. Has there been any discussion of Don taking more of an active hand with CART; maybe buying some CART stock or helping in the series more in a leadership role? What do you look at as being the positive of CART and being involved with it?

CHRIS POOK: It is a hell of a deal right now!

DON PANOZ: Chris said it, it is a good opportunity for us to work together. As far as me looking at doing a leadership role in CART, I can tell you I have got my hands full doing a leadership role in the American Le Mans Series. And I don't think that with the expertise that Chris has had over the years in not only putting on races but now being CEO of CART, that there's much that I can contribute except moral support and "attaboys," so let us go make some great racing.

My opinion is that CART shows a special type of show, open-wheel racing on road courses. It is exciting. There's passing opportunities that are coming up. Drivers have to be skilled in that, as our drivers have to be skilled in it with our different classes of cars.

So, I think that the show itself and the combination with us, we'll see this weekend at Miami how it turns out, and we'll go forward looking at what we can do together to make racing better and to provide a better show for certain venues, if it happens to work out that way.

But I am a supporter of CART. I am a supporter of racing. I think that racing is important. It's an important part of American life, and I have said many years ago when we first started our series and the USRRC [United States Road Racing Championship] cropped up opposite, I said then that I believe in racing and for that first year my cars raced in both series, the American Le Mans Series, and in the USRRC. Of course, when Grand-Am cropped up after that, that became a different story….

But I do believe that good racing is what American people want to see. It's the largest sport in the country, and our job is to provide our segment of that type of racing in the best and professional fashion as we can. And anything I can do to support CART and also providing good racing, I will be there to do it.

CHRIS POOK: I’d welcome having Don Panoz be a holder of stock in CART, and would welcome his involvement, his breath of knowledge of business is unprecedented and I can only tell you that he'd be a huge addition to us. So, if Don has got a few minutes to come and participate with us whenever he can, we would welcome it with open arms in our company.

Q. You guys talked earlier about making it worth it and some of the challenges involved in having a dual effort and that you are going to have to see what the yield is. Do you have specific numbers, goals in mind as for sponsorships and economic yield? And, as a two-part question, going into this was there any economic challenge that you did not foresee that you have run into since you started the effort?

CHRIS POOK: Obviously economic yield we sincerely hope that we'll be able to yield in the first year somewhere between 25 and 30, 35 million dollars yield, direct yield to the city of Miami, the greater Miami area. I mean, after all, that's why they have invited the two of us back. In gross yield, you know, somewhere in the area of 150 million dollars gross economic impact. That's what we—hopefully we'll deliver to the community.

As far as economic yield to our sponsors are concerned, that's something though that would have to be evaluated afterward. We can think what we can deliver to the sponsors, but at the end of the day, the sponsors will tell us what they see the value in. But just looking at the older sponsors that are involved, not only in our series but at the venue here, and I suspected in Don's series, we have got folks coming from the Miami market area. Now, for the Miami market area, let me remind you that is not only the southeastern part of the United States but it's the Caribbean, and Central America and Latin America. You look at the folks that are entertaining here and who are involved in cars and sponsorship, etc., you will see a huge, huge wide range of sponsors, probably the widest range of sponsors to ever appear in the United States in the recent decade.

So, all those things are very important to us as we go forward and how we measure it. And we'll get a feeling certainly I would say to you by the middle of the day Sunday, certainly the latest Sunday, I think that Don's management team and my management team will be able to give us the read on what folks are saying about the value of the experience for them.

Q. Chris, have you got any new teams for next year ready to announce?

CHRIS POOK: I am not going make announcements on behalf of my teams as to who their drivers are and what they are doing. But I can just tell you that we're on target again for 18, possibly 21 cars. We have two new teams coming here to Miami to discuss with us joining our series. We have a team in the past that missed this year that will be coming back next year with two cars with us. And we have three one-car teams, the three that are in the series this year who I can tell you will be returning in—at least two of the three will be returning with two-car teams as against one-car teams. So, things are moving pretty rapidly. The last 24 hours has been a lot more movement and progress, and we got an interesting array of drivers who want to be in our series.

I think what is really important to us now is that there is a recognition taking place that the CART series can produce drivers for Formula 1, and the reminder of the [Juan Pablo] Montoya and [Jacques] Villeneuve experiences, the products that have come out of our series is resonating at home; obviously underlined by [Cristiano] da Matta and the high level of interest in him in Formula 1 as we speak, that's ringing the bells throughout the Formula 3000 series, the Formula 3 series and various Formula 3 series in Europe. There's a fairly interesting array of drivers and managers and backers who are appearing here this weekend.
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
Q. You spoke earlier of certain opposition from other sources in Miami. That group is opposing CART in particular and in some sense ALMS. Do you two have to unite in order to fight off that opposition?

CHRIS POOK: Well, I mean, I don't think we have to unite but we seem to have a common foe here, that with regular occurrence seems to be beating on us, and it's a little disappointing. I am simply disappointed down here in Miami because, you know, the city of Miami wouldn't be doing this race if they didn't feel there was a need to use automobile racing to create some economic impact for their downtown area.

When we started Long Beach, there was opposition from Riverside [Raceway] and a little bit of opposition from Ontario [Motor Speedway]. We reached out to both of them, and we established a working relationship, albeit, the first year tenuous, but whereby we worked together and we promoted their races and they promoted our races. Suddenly, they found that both of them had a whole new load of fans that were going to their racetracks, because the Long Beach folks, 80 percent of them, had never been to a motor car race before. And it turned into a successful relationship.

And I picked up the phone here about three months ago to Jim France and said to Jim, “Jim, let's work together as a team here, let's not fight. Let us promote Homestead here and work together, you know, because the two of us working together, can help. Certainly we can help Homestead and I think that Homestead can help here a little bit.” But that offer was rejected.

It’s unfortunate, but the opposition continues and it is disappointing, because this is a free and open marketplace. At least I believed America was a free and open marketplace where one had the right to compete where one wanted to. And I am not sure that an exclusive franchise for motor racing has been granted to Homestead. And if it has been granted, by whom was it granted?

This is all very disappointing, because at end of the day if we in motorsports all work together as a team, we're going to be much more efficient and much more effective. But it is what it is. We have got our business to run at Championship Auto Racing Teams. Mr. Panoz has got his teams to run at American Le Mans Series. While I don't want to speak for him, I suspect that his philosophy is the same as ours— we're going to get on and run our business and run it the way we want to run it, and by "we" that's to say "we" CART, and "we" ALMS, and when we work together as we are this weekend, we arrive at the same mutual policy together of how we've got to operate this event. So the "we" becomes the two of us. And we're not going to allow other folks to dictate to us as to how we run our lives.

DON PANOZ: I just ditto everything that Chris said. I'd like to add that it's amazing to me that the guise of objections from that camp, a lot of it was on the basis that it was doing a great harm to Homestead and people in racing. And I am sure you guys in the media know that the people and the demographics that go to these two venues are quite different. Point number one.

Point number two is that a lot of the people who will be coming to this race in Miami are not the ones who go down to Homestead. The real victim in this is—and the delays of this and part of the injury will be the city of Miami, which was a great supporter of Homestead. I just feel it's completely unjust and I think that those people who keep pursuing this line of attack and although I must say, I am pleasantly surprised that from the figures that we see and stuff, the fans are ignoring that and are coming to the race. But the fact is that I think Miami is an unwilling victim in this and I think that the people are being very short-sighted.

Q. What you think hope thisevent will do for your series beyond just the media market of Miami?

DON PANOZ: Well, from my point of view, the first, outside of Adelaide, Australia, first city race, a downtown race we had in the American Le Mans Series was Washington D.C., and certainly it turned out to be a really good show. It had a great television presence and it helped our series tremendously. I would hope that the same will result from the Miami race.

CHRIS POOK: That's the same answer I would give, I think, to this situation. What we're both trying to do is to build television ratings, and if we can show the rest of the country that we have on Saturday 35 to 40,000 folks and Sunday 35 to 40,000 folks that are sitting here in the sunshine of Southern Florida watching a street event, having a great time, I think that bodes well for other venues. It bodes well for the folks up in the mid-Atlantic region that will be going out to Washington D.C. again to see Don's cars race there, next year. It will bode well for our fans who are sitting up in Tampa, St. Pete, some of whom will be here taking a look, but some will be watching on television, and they will be able to see what they can expect next February in that market area.

So, the game plan here is to build attendance at the city events and then eventually the television ratings will come along. It's a game plan that quite candidly the NFL adopted 30 something years ago and it has worked out very well. I suspect that both ALMS and ourselves are conducting a little plagiarism in following that same game plan.

Q. I am a little confused by the numbers here. There's been a lot of discussion about the different demographic audiences or demographics of the audiences for the two series; yet you are only projecting 35 or 40,000 people on Sunday, which is not a bad crowd for either series but I wish somebody could address why you are not getting twice as many, and how the promoter is supposed to make out paying two sanctioning fees with one crowd?

CHRIS POOK: Since we're on the hook here with the promoter, I will explain that at the same time the discussion we had in Denver and the discussion we'll have in Tampa, St. Pete. The most important thing we have to do here is to manage the number of people we have in attendance and make sure that we manage them well, in the sense that they get in and out effectively. They don't have parking problems; don't have ingress and egress problems; they don't have standing in line at bathroom problems, and concession standing-in-line problems, and that the food service through the hospitality goes extremely smoothly.

I come from a school where you live and die by the stand of the product you present the first time out. We intend to limit the number of people we have here. This is not a one-year shot in the dark. It is a long-term project here. And like any other business, it will take at least three years to build and get up on its feet and we'll take the steady growth approach, but it will be a steady but firm and solid approach and we'll do things properly. We have little interest in jamming volumes of people in and having a mess on our hands.

Q. 40,000 doesn't represent the demand?

CHRIS POOK: I don't believe 40,000 represents the demand. We won't be able to answer that question until Sunday or Saturday, but we said that Denver when we first started Denver and Dover the same thing that we were going to limit Denver to 45 to 50,000 people on Sunday and they successfully did that and they ran a very successful weekend, and we intend to do the same thing here.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
ok i know all of you didnt just read all of that. so i just spent the last 10 mins reading it for you.

heres a summary:
-chris pook, from CART, and DON PANOZ from the le mans series are planning on a "marriage" of the 2 series.
this means that possible taht DON PANOZ could buy some of the stock of CART.
- this team up will run the miam downtown area. possibly 3 series going in one action packed weekend. CART,LeMans, adn TramsAM.
-this partnership could extend to other cities. but only in consideration right now.

-the rest is just jibberrish.
 

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divinewisdom said:
ok i know all of you didnt just read all of that. so i just spent the last 10 mins reading it for you.

heres a summary:
-chris pook, from CART, and DON PANOZ from the le mans series are planning on a "marriage" of the 2 series.
this means that possible taht DON PANOZ could buy some of the stock of CART.
- this team up will run the miam downtown area. possibly 3 series going in one action packed weekend. CART,LeMans, adn TramsAM.
-this partnership could extend to other cities. but only in consideration right now.

-the rest is just jibberrish.
I heard the other track they''re teaming up is the D.C race. I think it's great both are teaming up. Most fans who follow CART also follow ALMS and vice versa. So it makes good business sense. Obviously, both series struggled one way or another. Sports car racing went into nonexistent with the split of IMSA back in the early 90s but with the help of Don Panoz and LeMans, they have brought back the haydays of sports car racing. Hopefully with the help from ALMS, CART could get out of this black hole and bury Tony George's minor league racing once and for all.:)
 

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I really like the ALMS-I've been to the 12 Hours of Sebring and it was so sweet.You can walk around and be within four feet of the cars.Get there early enough and you can stand where the cars come off the track for practice and practically feel the cars.

I heard today that the length of the CART race won't be determined until they find out the qualifying speed.:confused:My only guess is that they want at least a two hour race to go with the normal fuel amount they consume at a city course, and for the television block/time that they will have.

Viva la CART!!!
 
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