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Fontana Diary:
Day Two
You Can’t Get Here From There

Fontana, CA, November 2 — The people who live in Ontario and Fontana deserve a lot of credit. They put up with roads that dead end without warning, roads that suddenly turn into freeway on ramps, and most of all detours. The end result is – you can’t get here from there.

After a busy day at the track, Lisa and Jeff made their way to their hotel. At the other end of town, the two other blondes, Julie “Jules” and Michele did the same. We figured we were about 10 minutes apart and agreed to meet at our hotel to figure out dinner. The only problem is, the roads in Ontario, the detour capital of California (if not the nation or maybe the world), were definitely not cooperating.

So, instead of those plans, the four of us ended up at Marie Callendar’s restaurant located off Interstate 10. Once we got seated, we talked racing. The whole day was like this – a constant change of directions.

Chris Pook held a press conference Saturday to announce that Bridgestone will be the presenting sponsor for the series in 2003. Pook has stated publicly that CART’s major sponsors – particularly its title and presenting sponsors – must have a retail tie in that CART can help to market. Thus, he made it seem that CART no longer wanted FedEx because they are a bad fit in this sense – rather than the other way around.

CP did make it clear that “we are in the automotive business”. So the title sponsor, one would presume from this, will necessarily be in the automotive business, too. Stay tuned for this and other news.

What I was able to figure out from the Bridgestone deal is that sponsorship dollars are getting increasingly scarce in all of auto racing. This is the most likely reason why there have been so very few deals actually announced and so many whispers and rumors. No one wants to appear so foolish as to announce a deal that doesn’t actually happen. So, my guess is that driver and team deals are going to trickle out little bit by little bit over the coming months. Of course, this is assuming that the drivers I talked to actually know what’s going on.

I did wonder about that after attending the “Top Three” press conference Saturday afternoon – how much do the drivers actually know? We had pole-sitter Tony Kanaan, joined by Bruno Junqueira and Cristiano da Matta. All three kept talking about how the race was going to be involved with staying with the lead pack as opposed to leading the race. When we in the press questioned them on this – given the wing package and the new mandatory pit stops – they backed off from this and started talking about saving their cars for the end of the race, which is pretty standard driver talk when discussing a 500 mile race. How much of this is actually “phoned in?”

You have to wonder about this because press conferences at these events can be amazingly tame. At times, a reporter will be able to actually ask a well-focused question and something other than a canned answer will emerge. You can always tell when this happens because the room gets really quiet and you can hear people quickly jotting their notes down to take it all in. And, some drivers are better at handling the press than others. Da Matta, for example, plays most of us like a Stradivarius. His hometown friend, Bruno, on the other hand is very shy and has had to work at talking to the press.

This proved handy as we three blondes covered qualifying. All of the drivers were herded into “the bullpen” near the hot pits. Stantions kept the spectators behind the ropes, while others kept all the reporters except three (guess who?!) away from the drivers. So, there we were - Michele, Jules, and me, standing right next to Bruno. The video guys want to talk to Bruno because it looks like he might get the pole. But he’s talking to us.

Michel Jourdain Photo I know some of the press is wondering how we got there, front and center, with Bruno. I ask Michele to get a picture of Bruno with his sister, Diana. They pose – it’s a cute picture. Michel Jourdain comes over and hugs Diana after his qualifying run. Is he a friend or is this a romance? Hmm, don’t know about that.

Patrick Carpentier Photo We are herded over to talk to the Players boys, Pat and Tag. We talk to Patrick about one less “beach day” (more on this later). Scott Pruett smiles, because now he can do his “waiting to see if he gets the pole” interview with Bruno – no blondes around. And he doesn’t get the pole. Bummer.

So, as the day winds down over Interstate 10 and our little dinner for 4, I’m thinking, yes, this is the land of “you can’t get here from there”. I’m glad I have Mapquest directions that don’t have any road closures to get from our hotel to the track tomorrow.

Sorry I don’t have more driver deals to report, but it’s all about the direction the economy is taking, and that’s not up. Still, maybe there’s more going on here than mere directions. After all, Patrick Carpentier loves coming here for the beach days. We were all hoping maybe a two day event rather than three because that would mean – one more beach day!

Copyright © 2002 by Lisa Davidson and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

 
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