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Old 11 Aug 2003, 07:16 (Ref:684719)   #1
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¡As-de-mim! should be qualifying in the top 10 on the grid
New owners could focus on streets - RM

Robin on Owners, PT, Dario, and Ciggys

New owners could focus on streets
By Robin Miller
Special to ESPN.com

LEXINGTON, Ohio -- Championship Auto Racing Teams figures to get some new owners in the immediate future and will have a new look in 2004, providing all the dominoes fall into place.

It will still be called Champ Car and feature all turbocharged Ford/Cosworth engines, but what has been the most challenging test in auto racing for the past 24 years will no longer sport four types of tracks or as many dates, according to various sources within the CART paddock.

For the first time in its history there will be no superspeedways and only one oval as CART circles its wagons and tries to play to its strengths.

The European stops at England and Germany will be dropped, in addition to the two-mile superspeedway at Fontana, Calif. And it appears CART will be all road courses and street circuits next year except for the legendary Milwaukee Mile.

"We've got to do whatever is necessary for our series to get better and if it's better to run all road races then lets do it," said Alex Tagliani. "Sure, all of us drivers love the different disciplines but this isn't about what we want.

"It's about what makes the best business sense."

Since the open-wheel racing split in 1996 attendance at oval tracks in CART and the Indy Racing League has suffered. CART staged some of its best racing ever at Michigan from 1997-2001 but saw the crowds plummet from 80,000 to 30,000. The IRL drew 30,000 two weeks ago at Michigan.

Even though it makes for CART's most exciting shows, only three ovals (Germany, Milwaukee and Fontana) are on this year's schedule.

"I love Phoenix, Michigan, Fontana but look what the fans are telling Tony George," said Jim McGee, president of Patrick Racing who is in his fifth decade of Champ Car racing. "They're telling him they don't want Homestead, Nazareth, Phoenix, St. Louis and Michigan.

"We all want to run ovals but not at the expense of putting yourself out of business."

Paul Tracy has excelled on all disciplines during his 13 seasons but understands the change in priorities.

"There's a lot of stuff going on at street races. Concerts, volleyball, beer gardens, pretty women," said Tracy. "And it's easier for people to get in and out of the track.

"We haven't been able to translate that kind of fun to our rural tracks and, as much as we like to run them, you can't afford to have a great track that's an eyesore for TV coverage."

Adrian Fernandez, the lone owner/driver in CART who also fields a team in the IRL, doesn't think it will be that big a departure from 2003.

"We've only got three ovals this year so I don't see it a big deal if we go to all road racing," said the 40-year-old veteran. "It certainly wouldn't bother my sponsors and I think it would be better for CART.

"It wouldn't be so confusing for people. The IRL runs ovals and we road race. I think it would be a good thing."

As of today, eight street circuits (Monterrey, Long Beach, St. Petersburg, Toronto, Vancouver, Australia, Denver and Miami) are signed up for 2004. The permanent road courses of Laguna Seca (which has requested a return to the fall because of its terrible turnouts the past two Junes), Montreal, Mexico City, Portland and Elkhart Lake have contracts for '04 while Mid-Ohio's ended Sunday. There is a contract with Cleveland (airport layout) but no promoters at the moment.

CART promotes Miami and co-promotes Denver and St. Pete and will likely have to take over Cleveland to keep it going. Milwaukee, which hosts its initial IRL race next July, is in the first of a three-year deal with Champ Car.

There is also a possibility a street show in Houston could be added for 2004.

Bobby Rahal doesn't have a problem with segregating but also doesn't want to hear that Elkhart Lake, Laguna Seca or Mid-Ohio might be endangered species.

"I don't think Elkhart Lake or Mid-Ohio have anything to do with the situation CART is in," said the three-time CART champion who fields a car in each series, plus Toyota Atlantics.

"They're the crown jewels of this series and it would be a crime for us not to be here or at one of those permanent places in CART's history."

Of course many people figured CART would be history at the end of 2003 since its bank account has been drained by an estimated $70 million to fund several new teams and pay for televising its races.

If new ownership injects enough money into the kitty to keep the current 19 cars on track and pay for TV, CART is banking on a reduced schedule, reduced costs and successes in Canada, Mexico and Australia to restore a little balance to the budget.

"We don't need 20 races and if we have 16 races at good venues where everyone can make some money then maybe we wouldn't need CART's help," reasoned Tagliani.

"I know we've got the right people in our paddock right now and if this thing doesn't work with them then it won't work."

The new order
Gerry Forsythe, Paul Gentilozzi, Paul Newman and Kevin Kalkhoven are thought to be the heart of CART's new order and, along with a couple of other owners and outside partners, are expected to buy CART's remaining public shares and take it private within the next few days, according to sources in the paddock.

Whether they can pump enough cash and clever marketing into this series to see it through its 25th year remains to be seen.

But it's rumored that Gentilozzi, whose first-year team with Alex Tagliani already owns three podiums, is leading the logistics of CART's makeover. Supposedly, at least at street races, it will include Trans-Am races on Saturday (Gentilozzi owns Trans Am), major rock concerts on Saturday nights and Champ Car as Sunday's main event following Toyota Atlantic.

"I share a vision with a bunch of other smart guys in what open wheel racing can be," said Gentilozzi when asked Saturday about his role in CART's future. "I think we've got a great product and the biggest asset CART has is its fans.

"But I am not the leader."

Asked if Trans Am would be CART's partner in 2004, he replied: "Trans Am has always been a part of CART's history so I don't know why we'd lose that."

Jamie Rose of Motorock, a concert promotion company, has been hanging with Gentilozzi all weekend and he's thought to be the entertainment connection in CART's future.

Tracy, Franchitti rumors

NASCAR owner Richard Childress reportedly met with Tony George last week in Indianapolis, supposedly to talk about a potential IRL effort but with Paul Tracy as a possible shoe?

"I've talked to Richard several times about testing one of his stock cars any time I was ready to quit open wheel," said Tracy when asked about the rumor. "But I've never talked to him about the IRL."

Tracy has a contract with Gerry Forsythe for 2004.

Meanwhile, his former teammate at Team Green, Dario Franchitti, is rumored to have signed with Newman-Haas for the 2004 CART season.

The 30-year-old Scotsman is recovering from back surgery and couldn't be reached for comment while Carl Haas, who tried to sign Franchitti this season but lost out to Honda, denied there was any deal for 2004.

Canadian smoke screen?
The Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal has reportedly been removed from the 2004 Formula One schedule because of Canada's tobacco legislation, which forbids advertising in motorsports after Oct. 1, 2003.

Considering F1 domo Bernie Ecclestone is the co-promoter at Canada and its one of the biggest races on the F1 calendar, a lot of people are having trouble believing it's going to happen.

"I don't believe Canada is going to lose its F1 race," said Quebec native Patrick Carpentier. "I think it's just Bernie putting on the pressure."

Ecclestone took away the Belgium Grand Prix this year at Spa because of similar tobacco restraints and, surprise, that legislation has been rewritten to allow motorsports signage so Spa is back on the card in 2004.

If Bernie could make Canada change its laws, it would also give new life to Player's, the cigarette brand that has sponsored races, teams and programs since 1961 and is being forced out of CART participation in two months.

"We've all got our fingers crossed," said Player's general manager Neil Micklewright.
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Old 11 Aug 2003, 10:49 (Ref:684856)   #2
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f1manoz should be qualifying in the top 5 on the gridf1manoz should be qualifying in the top 5 on the gridf1manoz should be qualifying in the top 5 on the grid
CART have to go to where the fans are. And fans simply don't appear to enjoy oval racing - except for NASCAR...

The fans DO show up at road course and street events. I guess that's the way the cookie crumbles so CART will target that. Although it may be unpopular, it's a business decision that simply has to be made to keep the series viable.
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Old 11 Aug 2003, 10:55 (Ref:684862)   #3
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BootsOntheSide should be qualifying in the top 3 on the gridBootsOntheSide should be qualifying in the top 3 on the gridBootsOntheSide should be qualifying in the top 3 on the gridBootsOntheSide should be qualifying in the top 3 on the grid
Yea dropping the ovals is, sadly, proibably the right mve. The onyl popular ones are taken by the IRl. It helps to ahve the 2 championships looking significantly different.

It may also be a good time to consider scheduling CART races on different dates to IRL ones, to allow drivers to do both races.

If Dario's signed, I wonder if Bourdais alreay ahs an F1 deal? Personally I don't like or especialyl rate the guy, but it'd be good to have a big name back. Helio, Scott and Tony would be the bigger catches though.
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Old 11 Aug 2003, 11:30 (Ref:684897)   #4
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Liz should be qualifying in the top 10 on the gridLiz should be qualifying in the top 10 on the grid
I think that's all smoke and mirrors. Who can believe Tracy would be discussing Craapwagons with Tony George? But I do believe that Bernie is going to try to put pressure on Canada to change its laws, although this is a lot like putting a pressure on jello.
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Old 11 Aug 2003, 11:40 (Ref:684911)   #5
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BizTeacher should be qualifying in the top 10 on the grid
[i]Helio, Scott and Tony would be the bigger catches though. [/B]
Having some of the drivers that excelled in CART coming back would be awesome for the series and bring back more credibility like Helie and Gil, but Dixon and Kanaan....they didn't exactly set the series on fire. In my opinion, they are overrated drivers. Maybe Newman-Haas will have a three car operation for next year???
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Old 11 Aug 2003, 20:16 (Ref:685463)   #6
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Omega99 should be qualifying in the top 10 on the grid
I mostly agree with the article. The best way to keep a business alive is not to lose money... So for now while CART is in the rebuilding stages it's best to have reduce it to profitable events to gain fans to allow the series to once again to spread to venues that aren't as accessible. I'd be some kind f upset if we lost Laguna Seca, Elkhart Lake, and Mid-Ohio, and I totally agree with Rahal that those are probably the three best road courses in the US. Hopefully Mr. Rahal can be one of the peopel lobbying to keep those events on the schedule.

Dropping the European dates is a good move. CART just wasn't ready for that step. But for the love of God, add a race in Brazil! You could run them on consecutive weekends to save transportaton costs. It's a big enough country that it would attract different audiences both times. It works in Canada. Races in Brazil would be like events in Mexico: wildly successful the first time! A rio street race, and maybe a road course somewhere... I dunno

I would hope Bourdais sticks around in CART for one more year. It would give him a chance to win a championship and enter F1 as a more mature driver and be successful right away, like Montoya. But if the right contract offer comes up, I can't blame him for leaving.
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Old 11 Aug 2003, 23:07 (Ref:685680)   #7
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gttouring should be qualifying in the top 10 on the grid
more road courses yes more street courses-uh no
Miami sucks it did last year and this year i am sure.
Denver is bad, if they want another street course go to trois-rivieres, and make 4 stops in canada.
and add road atlanta for crying out loud and teh Glen.
and why not VIR, and Barber park. if CART is going road racing then go road racing crazy, it is easier tostage an event at a Race Course than build one i am sure, and why not stop by Fuji? or Tsukuba? and Philip Island in Oz?
and argentina- that would be ery welcomed in the series, so would brasil.
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Old 12 Aug 2003, 00:03 (Ref:685716)   #8
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Flatspot should be qualifying in the top 10 on the grid
I can buy into this.

* Keeping the name Champ Car is the smartest move to come out of CART in a while.

* Keeping the turbos, at least through '04, was already the plan but I like it and hopefully it will stick beyond.

* Running with Trans-Am...great! I hope that they or ALMS follow CART to the road courses too. When CART used to team up with the IMSA GT Series it was always a full weekend of great racing. Trans-Am and/or ALMS could do the same.

* Moving Laguna Seca back to Fall. I sure hope so. Then I won't miss it again.

* Adding some concerts to give it an event atmosphere. I think this has merit.

* Bringing back Franchitti... Does he promise to bring his wife along?

* People truly passionate about thier racing at the helm. You can't ask for more.

* Telling Tony George to take his ball and stuff it. It's a no-brainer and about time.

In fact this is about the best news I've heard on the direction CART could go in a couple of years.

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Old 12 Aug 2003, 00:30 (Ref:685728)   #9
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Snrub should be qualifying in the top 5 on the gridSnrub should be qualifying in the top 5 on the grid
I was very opposed to dropping the ovals and any almost race for that matter, but I don't think there is a choice. Dropping the European races is probably a BAD idea. CART probably needs to focus on making money at any track before expanding. Tag's comment about the number of races makes sense. (although I like see more races)

Dario comming back is a VERY good thing for CART. The real question is who's leaving and where are they going?
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Old 12 Aug 2003, 01:39 (Ref:685753)   #10
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Flatspot should be qualifying in the top 10 on the grid
I don't really like seeing the ovals dropped either but it sends a clear signal that CART intends to be its own distinct and separate series. This is important not only because of my previous comment about TG but rather, more importantly, to sponsors. It makes their choices clear. Leaving one short oval on the schedule also leaves the door open for CART to return to significant oval scheduling once they've completed the rebuild and regained audience should they choose. Attendance numbers at ovals for open wheelers is dismal no matter which major series your in. I love the road courses and still really enjoy watching ChampCars on ovals, however, (I may be in the minority here and flog me if you will)in reality if I am going to watch open wheel cars burn circles I'd just as soon attend a good Sprint Car race.

I don't see leaving Europe as a bad move, instead I see it as unfortunate. I think most of us recognize that it is just too costly for the series right now. If they were drawing 200,000+ people like they do in Australia the races would still be on the schedule.

CART is getting down to basics now and it is the only way it will survive. I'm quite confident that in the end we will get a stronger and more viable series than ever before.

Last edited by Flatspot; 12 Aug 2003 at 01:42.
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Old 12 Aug 2003, 03:43 (Ref:685790)   #11
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¡As-de-mim! should be qualifying in the top 10 on the grid
It is also probable that the turbos will be around for quite some time. Woohoo!!! C^RT will have to stabilise and show potential engine suppliers that it will be around for them to go to the effort and expense of developing new engines.
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Old 12 Aug 2003, 03:47 (Ref:685792)   #12
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And if Gentilozzi can save and build up Trans Am, he can probably help a great deal with CART. It would be the right move to put the series in the hands of the owners, as long as they're all on the same page about what to do.
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Old 12 Aug 2003, 18:03 (Ref:686456)   #13
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I think that saying that gentilozzi is saving trans am is a bit of a broad brush overstatement. Car counts there are waaaayyy down compared to even two years ago. Robert
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Old 12 Aug 2003, 18:15 (Ref:686471)   #14
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Really, is there a road racing series that's car count ISN't way down from two years ago?

Possibly Fran-Am...because it's new. But already has 20-something or more.
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Old 12 Aug 2003, 22:58 (Ref:686729)   #15
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GP Racer should be qualifying in the top 10 on the gridGP Racer should be qualifying in the top 10 on the grid
I like the way its all shaping up, new ownership by real race people, T/A racing on Sat., concert that night, and CART on sunday, all at great city venues with plenty to do. Sounds like a perfect getaway weekend to me!

The series needs to go where the people and the media are, and thats the big cities. Now bring it to the north east will you, we're starving for Champ Cars here!
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