Tuesday, February 23, 2010

TELECON: Penske first to the Barber



Today began the continued frenzied building of excitement towards the fast approaching 2010 Indy Car Series, as Team Penske held a Press Briefing which included a Teleconference that I was able to participate in thanks to Team Penske and the IRL as part of Media Day at Barber Motorsports Park.

Thus sitting on hold with some Don’t Worry – Be Happy musak playing in the background I thought to myself how odd that the Teleconference was starting late as a voice came on the line at 4min past the appointed time telling us to please be patient, before we switched over to hearing the Star Penske personnel getting into their seats in an overly noisy venue as Will Power told somebody about having done some racing/driving(?) somewhere; 6 or 10 laps? While Helio Castroneves’s smile could be heard thru the phoneline as he jubilantly said Hi as he entered the arena, while Ryan Briscoe got asked to slide down…

before Team Penske President Tim Cindric kicked off the Briefing at 8min past, which I mused to myself that it seemed so Un-Penske-like as I thought he ran with Military precision. Perhaps they had trouble getting thru the DannaCar media scrum?

But it was very COOL getting to partake in eavesdropping on the Media briefing, which I’d heard the news about somewhere prior, claiming that Team Penske would be changing colours, but it was interesting to hear Cindric confirm that indeed it was the start of a new era for Team Penske, who will no longer be running its long standing traditional red & white (BAD HABITS) Marlboro livery…

As Phillip Morris has effectively left the sport, which Cindric noted that the Tobacco Giant had first sponsored racetracks way back in 1987 before joining Penske in 1990, when “EMMO” (Emerson Fittipaldi) brought the red ‘N white cigarette brand to The Captain’s Ship along with the No. 1 plate after leaving Patrick Racing, co-owned by somebody named Chip.

So I found it entertaining how Cindric coyly noted how the team will now be representing the Altria Group instead, in some sort of Corporate Services role, as when asked, Cindric said the simplest way to explain it was. If you were at Daytona you saw a massive Red Tent there, which had a bunch of Penske Racing memorabilia, as a backdrop to promote Altria’s various entities, with the Red Tent traveling to approx. 15 venues this year, 10 NASCAR and 5 Indy Car…

Thus, in case you didn’t know, Altria Group Inc is the parent company of Phillip Morris, having changed the companies name in 2008 to divert attention away from the worldwide name recognition that Phillip Morris and its synonymous red & white branding carries.

Yet Altria still controls Philip Morris USA, US Smokeless Tobacco, John Middleton and Ste Michelle Wine Estates, along with a 28.7% interest in UK based Brewer SABMiller and Phillip Morris Capital.

And apparently Altria’s current portfolio includes a massive 42 Cigarette brands, including such names as Marlboro, L&M, Virginia Slims, not to mention Smokeless Tobacco giants Copenhagen and Skoal.

And I was totally unaware that Altria owns the very upscale Chateau Ste Michelle Estates which are right in my backyard, so to speak, as in nearby Woodinville, WA, which holds a great yearly Outdoors music concert series… Not to mention once hosting the Steam locomotive Dinner train. As Altria currently possesses 22 different Vino brands, including Chateau Ste Michelle, Columbia Crest and Snoqualmie, (all local names) not to mention three Champagne brands including Domaine Ste Michelle…

So it’s interesting that Anheiser-Busch long ago snapped-up Redhook Brewery with Altria grabbing Chateau Ste Michelle, yet NO major Motorsports events out here in the Pacific Northwest. But I digress, eh?

Cindric also noted it’s the first time Penske has run a 3-car Operation full season since 1994, which I’m certain they’d like to emulate that season this year, when Penske simply obliterated the CART competition with ‘Lil Al, Emerson and Paul Tracy racking up some 15 wins and Al Unser Jr. claiming his second Indy 500 and CART Championships…

Otherwise it was seemingly the typical Pre-season banter, of how all the drivers expected to do great, beat the competition and leave everybody in their wake whilst “Working Together!” Although Bruce Martin did get a chuckle outta Hulio when asking him how he felt by getting ganged-up by two “Aussies” on the Team… While Will Power eluded to the fact that Qualifying will be crucial at Barber since it’s really difficult to pass there… As in NO word on whether or not they’ve done anything about installing passing zones? Yet we’ll have to wait ‘N see. While I was politely surprised to hear Hulio mention Justin Wilson’s name when asked about if it was going to be another typical Penske vs. TCGR season on track again?

as that concluded the audio portion of the event while everyone was invited to go downstairs and take a look-see and snap pictures of the new Verizon liveried Penske racecar’s… Although I believe NO tyre kicking was allowed!

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