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What is an American driver?
Mark Cipolloni
March 24,  2000
This was written by a person which asked to remain anonymous.  We thought you might find his ideas interesting.
Note:  This article was originally printed on 7th Gear.com when I worked with those fine folks

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Go to the forums to discuss this article.                                               Go to Mark's Main Page

What is an American driver? Should we limit this to those that were born here? Well, then Mario Andretti would be disqualified as an American driver, as he was born in Italy. To that you say that naturalized Americans are OK. Then you better include some of the "foreign" drivers that have earned their American citizenship as well. Not that simple I'm afraid. 

Our culture here is the most ethnically diverse in the world. No country in the world has the ethnic and racial mix that the US has. We simply do not have a sense of unity that breeds the sort of loyalty seen in South America, Europe, and of course Japan. 

I defend, to certain degree the notion of American companies that are in racing, to find the best driver available. After all, our country is (in ideal at least) about equal opportunity. Personally, I think that this is not the problem. 

Right now, if a driver wants to be world class, he has to go to Europe. Even Richie Hearn did this. Rahal did it. And now there is a new crop of drivers that are doing it with Team USA. Why don't they stay here? Because the challenges do not exist here. 

The simple fact is that, with the sponsoring American companies, if American drivers were the fastest, they would get the rides. You would see Richie Hearn in the Target car instead of Juan Montoya. American drivers that are of the talent level of the rest of the world's top level simply are few and very far between. Even Jimmy Vasser, a hell of a driver in his own right, found it a challenge beyond his skill to keep up with Juan. Penske hired Gil and Helio, because they are bloody fast. 

Also, you find that these foreign drivers are bringing the company with them, while American drivers are looking to be hired by a team with the sponsor dollars already in place. 

What is hurting us? The prevalence of "American" racing. The dominance of oval racing in this country is killing us. 

We continue to complain about wilting leaves. We attempt to, and complain that nobody wants to help, water the leaves. The problem is the roots of the tree. Lets face it, we simply do not have the talent here to compete on a global market in this sport. So, we've created our own package, limited skill racing here known as oval racing. Not that oval racing does not have its intricacies. But a road racing trained driver can more easily and quickly adapt to oval racing than an oval driver to road courses. 

We need to cultivate the skill, and create opportunity for the talent from the ground up. If CART really is sensitive to this issue, there are many ways they can make this happen. 

I'll say it again. Take responsibility, stop watering the leaves, and water the roots. The effects will not be seen for a while, but its the only way to fix this problem. American drivers will earn the rides from the American companies if they are the fastest. If this is the case, then the foreign companies that hire their countrymen exclusively will quickly become second tier. 

Go to the forums to discuss this article. 

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