©2002 SpeedCenter Publishing
DETROIT (January 25, 2002) - Taking the first step in creating an improved environment in which automobile manufacturers and sponsors can justify a long-term business commitment to the FedEx Championship Series, Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc. (NYSE: MPH) President and CEO Christopher R. Pook announced today a new four-year period of CART Champ Car rules stability that was overwhelmingly supported and adopted by both the Board of Directors and the CART team owners Franchise Board in a pair of meetings held Tuesday and Wednesday in St. Petersburg, Fla.
The rules "freeze," which applies to both engine and chassis regulations, will commence in 2003 and will extend through the 2006 racing season. The move was recommended by the Board that met on Tuesday and received solid majority approval in the opening session of Wednesday's Franchise Board meeting.
"I am deeply grateful to the Directors on both of our Boards for creating the necessary infrastructure that will allow the CART management team to approach existing, returning and future manufacturers, sponsors and suppliers with the assurance and confidence of a stable and long-term platform on which to conduct business," Pook said. "We presented to both boards of directors in the St. Petersburg meetings several concepts and new ways of doing business that essentially will change and evolve CART into a marketing company that will position its open-wheel motor racing series as essentially 'delivery' mechanisms for national and multi-national corporations in which to conduct business. This new way of doing business will only work, however, if our constituents can establish trust and faith in CART as a viable business entity. The actions of both boards this week have given us the opportunity to do just that and I must again convey my gratitude and thanks as we begin a new CART business era. With the establishment of the North American Free Trade Association (NAFTA) act, CART is one of few international sports marketing organizations that can truly deliver the United States, Canada and Mexico to multi-national corporations seeking to reach those critical markets."
In addition to the stability ruling, the Franchise Board also approved a simple majority voting procedure for all issues other than bylaw amendments. The move is intended to allow the Franchise Board to action critical competition issues in a more timely manner by requiring only a 51% majority vote for approval. Combining this procedure with the new rules stability clause gives the Board the ability to take swift action on necessary issues while also providing reassurance to manufacturers, sponsors and business partners that the core rules on which the CART Champ Car formula are built will not be changed within the four-year stability period.
"Although rules stability and simple majority are not at all new concepts within the Franchise Board, the combination of these two policies is a good fit for where CART as a business organization is at the moment and for where we need to take this company in the future," Pook added.
With approval of a 3.5 liter engine formula by the Franchise Board last October, immediate issues for the group going forward will be engine enhancements and the finalization of the new chassis specifications that will debut in 2003. The target date for completion of the total chassis/engine package is by the end of the CART FedEx Championship Series Sneak Preview event scheduled for Feb. 7-10 at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.
· 22 FRANCHISES FOR UPCOMING SEASON
Annual CART franchise allocations were among the first order of business in Wednesday's Franchise Board Meeting in which 22 of the available 24 franchises were voted on and approved. Among the new franchise holders are Sigma Autosport and Fernandez Racing, two teams that made their debuts in the 2001 FedEx Championship Series season.
"CART and the teams together have worked hard in the off season to develop sponsorship packages and strengthen our teams going into the 2002 season," said CART Vice President of Racing Operations John Lopes. "We are pleased to have 22 allocated franchises heading into the 2002 FedEx Championship Series racing season and now our mission is to ensure that these franchised teams translate into regularly competing entries throughout the season. Our overall target car count for 2002 appears to be going in the right direction and we prefer to maintain 20 - 22 solidly sponsored entries rather than a higher number of marginally funded entries. We will continue to work closely with our teams to build a strong list of entries for the FedEx Championship Series."
Fernandez received a pair of franchises and is now one of eight teams with at least two franchises. The list also includes Target Chip Ganassi Racing, Newman/Haas Racing, Team Rahal, RaceSport (formerly PacWest Racing Group), Dale Coyne Racing and Player's Forsythe Racing. Additionally, Team KOOL Green/Team Motorola has been granted three franchises although one is a non-voting franchise.
Walker Racing, Mo Nunn Racing, Herdez Competition, Sigma and Patrick Racing each hold single franchise teams.
"This is great news," Sigma Autosport Team Owner Tom Wieringa said. "We want to thank CART and all of our team members for making Sigma Autosport a success story. We're very proud of our relationship with CART and we look forward to building our franchise with the Sigma name and becoming a force in the world of auto racing."
"Adrian (Fernandez), Don (Halliday) and I are extremely excited about being granted the two franchises Wednesday," said Fernandez Racing Team Manager Tom Anderson. "It gives us two votes in the voting process of the Franchise Board, so we now feel more a part of the CART community than we did last year as we were allowed to observe but not vote."
· POOK APPOINTMENTS
After being elected to the position of CART President and CEO last month, Pook was named to a pair of additional posts within the organization during the St. Petersburg meetings. He was elected to the CART Board of Directors and named Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Board. In the latter capacity, Pook will be joined on the Executive Committee by James F. Hardymon, U.E. "Pat" Patrick and James Grosfeld. The Executive Committee is designed to provide streamlined action between the CART President and CEO and the overall Board of Directors.
"I once again find myself in the esteemed position of having the Board of Directors place their faith and trust in me with additional and critical responsibilities in regard to the operation of their company," Pook said. "I am pleased to accept both of these appointments."
· STEWARD RESTRUCTURING
Legendary CART Chief Steward Wally Dallenbach will be back on the job in 2002, while last year's Chief Steward Chris Kneifel moves to managing new projects for CART. The Franchise Board approved Dallenbach's return to the CART Chief Steward position Wednesday, the first time since 1999 that he has held the top tower job in the FedEx Championship Series. Kneifel will serve as a CART Steward for both the FedEx Championship and CART Toyota Atlantic series in addition to focusing on driver development in the support series. Kneifel, who competed in the FedEx Championship Series from 1982-84, will assist Dallenbach at the Champ Car level and work with Chief Steward K.C. Van Niman in Toyota Atlantics.
"We have deliberately created an apprentice-style structure in order to give Chris some time working with the leadership qualities and guidance of a veteran like Wally Dallenbach and an equally experienced official the caliber of K.C. Van Niman," Lopes said. "As Chief Stewards, Wally and K.C. will each have bottom-line responsibility for the operation of their respective series while Chris focuses on driver development and tuning his skills and experience as a race official."
· ST. PETERSBURG SHOWCASED
This week's CART Board Meetings were held in St. Petersburg in order to showcase the city on Florida's west coast that is working toward hosting a FedEx Championship Series race next season. The Grand Prix of St. Petersburg Association - affiliated with the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, a subsidiary of Dover Downs Entertainment Inc. - proposed a downtown and waterfront circuit to civic officials in November and the project was given full support of the city located south of Tampa. St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker was among those addressing each CART Board and CART Management this past week, and two separate tours of the proposed race track area were provided each day of the meetings. The proposed layout is a combination of downtown streets circling Pioneer Park, the Bayfront Center and runways at Albert Whitted Airport that overlook the Bay and St. Petersburg Harbor and Marina.
"I was very impressed with the course," said Wieringa who made a second tour of the proposed track with local media in a passenger car. "They wanted someone to give them a driver's perspective and since I've had some experience behind the wheel, I was happy to do so. The course is a lot like Cleveland and a lot like Long Beach in its presentation. There are a lot of unique elements at the course with the marina and airport serving as the backdrop. It should be a very nice course to race on."
Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc. (NYSE: MPH) owns, operates and markets the FedEx Championship Series. Former series champions Michael Andretti and Jimmy Vasser are among the stars who will battle for the 2002 FedEx Championship Series title on ovals, temporary street circuits and permanent road courses. The 2002 CART FedEx Championship Series season kicks off March 10 at Monterrey, Mexico and the 19-race schedule will be broadcast by new television partners, CBS and Fox Cable Networks Group, including Speedvision/Speed Channel. CART also owns and operates its top development series, the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship. Learn more about CART's open-wheel racing series at www.CART.com.
Statements made in this release that state CART's or management's beliefs or expectations and which are not historical facts or which apply prospectively are forward-looking statements. It is important to note that CART's actual results could differ materially from those contained or implied by such forward-looking statements. Additional information concerning factors that could cause actual results to differ materially from those in the forward-looking statements is contained from time to time in CART's SEC filings including, but not limited to, the 10-K and subsequent 10-Q's. Copies of those filings are available from CART and the SEC.