Editorial

NASCAR/ISC gets dirty in Phoenix, out to destroy open wheel racing?
 
by Mark Cipolloni

 May 27, 2006

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Being rather appalled that one racing organization would try to hurt another racing organization, we decided to piece together a chronology of the misdirections and misconceptions NASCAR and ISC is using to try and hurt open wheel racing in Phoenix, and more specifically Champ Car.  It's clear from their actions that they are out to destroy any form of racing that isn't what they think it should be, i.e. NASCAR style oval racing.

Not only are the actions listed below an attack on Champ Car, it is an attack on the IRL as well since many believe the current talks of a merger will eventually lead to one unified Indy Car Series again.  If Tony George thinks that the France family and NASCAR are an ally, he needs to think again. NASCAR is out to monopolize all racing in the USA.  Their actions speak for themselves. 

They may pray to God before every race on Sunday but the other six days of the week they use their influence and deep pockets to run roughshod over all other USA racing series to get what they ultimately want - a NASCAR monopoly.

The City of Phoenix wants to start an urban development project that will include an Entertainment Center and new arena and they want to hold a big festival race weekend to highlight the downtown redevelopment.  NASCAR and ISC are trying to stop Champ Car and are in turn are defeating what the city is trying to accomplish.  The monopoly called NASCAR/ISC has now gone so far as to have an attachment to a bill going through the state legislature to institute an urban noise ordinance that would effectively ban racing from city streets. They have hired another four lobbyists to rush it through.

If successful in Phoenix what's to stop NASCAR/ISC from introducing similar bills against all Champ Car and IRL street races to have street racing banned and ensure that they control all racing in the future?

List of misdirections and misconceptions by NASCAR/ISC in effort to stop Phoenix street race

1. May 22, 2006 – Phoenix International Raceway (PIR)/Manzanita Letter to Phoenix Mayor Gordon
a. Stated that the race will surely fail, as do nearly all other street races. Fact: Champ Car has staged over 100 successful street races in the past 30 years.
b. Calls Champ Car minor league.  Fact: No, Champ Car is a professional race series.  Its Atlantic series is minor league.
c. States that Champ Car cancelled a race with only two days notice. Fact: That has never happened to a Champ Car street race and it was ISC's Fontana that cancelled a Champ Car race within two days of a race.
d. States that PIR representatives were kicked out of a public meeting with city officials.  Fact: We can't substantiate this.
e. Says that businesses and residents within the track will be “stranded” for at least 5 days.  Fact:  The race is proposed around arenas and their parking lots.  Very few businesses will be affected.
f.  Insinuates that promoter is seeking tax dollars as a subsidy. Fact: The promoter has gone on record that they are not asking the city for any subsidies.
g. Says that Champ Car  “often” runs races at facilities such as PIR. Fact: Often is not accurate. Also, Champ Car was forced out of PIR in the '90s, in order for ISC to make way for IRL.
h. Questions the safety of Champ Car street races and insinuates that they are unsafe as compared to permanent facilities. Fact: Champ Car has had very few injuries on street circuits and in fact it has been NASCAR and the IRL that has many serious and fatal accidents on their oval tracks.

2. May 23, 2006 – Phoenix Business Journal – Downtown Car Race Proposal Draws Criticism.
a.  PIR President Bryan Sperber states that “Whatever resources they put into that are resources that are going to be directed away from legitimate road improvements somewhere else in the community.”  Fact:  Sperber has no proof of this and in fact it is his opinion, and nothing more.
b.  Sperber states that Champ Car raced at PIR until the mid-90’s when the “industry underwent changes.” Not a lie, but this makes it sound like there was some sort of market force at work. However, the reality is that PIR chose the IRL over Champ Car and hasn’t drawn a decent crowd since.

3. May 24, 2006 – Arizona Republic – Green Flag Sought for Downtown Race.
a. PIR president Bryan Sperber states, “This thing has been developed under a cloak of darkness….Let's get out of this other hokey street race and develop a strong relationship between NASCAR and downtown.” Fact: Nothing “hokey” about 150,000 fans watching race cars at 180mph on city streets, with Phoenix as a backdrop. As for “cloak of darkness,” that is nothing but an insult to the businessmen putting this project together, the community leaders who have been involved and the City of Phoenix that has played this strictly by the rules. The City of Phoenix was initially contacted by the promoters and City staff informed the promoters that the initial work must be performed by the promoters as City statute allows no more than eight hours of work on an event without City Council approval. The promoters met with all impacted downtown parties and received their support and subsequently, took that information to the City which then determined it was appropriate to move forward with the public process. The public process began with the Council subcommittee meeting on May 24th where the City staff was authorized to continue working on this project. There has been no attempt to hide the plan.

4. May 25, 2006 – Arizona Republic - City to Examine Impact of a Car Race Downtown
a. Sperber states that the City shouldn’t be working with this "rinky-dink race (but) with NASCAR, the premier brand in motorsports." Fact: There is no way that NASCAR will award Phoenix a third Cup race and PIR is not about to give up one of its two.  So to say the City should be working with NASCAR to bring a race downtown, is simply a lie to try to discredit Champ Car.

5. May 25, 2006 – Pat McMahon Show (KTAR-AM Phoenix) – Interview w/ Bryan Sperber
a. Said that the project is being fast-tracked without proper government scrutiny. Fact:  See 3a above.
b. Said it will have a negative impact on taxpayers, through the havoc caused by construction and disruption.  Fact: Downtown street races bring millions of dollars more in revenue that expenses to a local community.
c. Says he’s the expert, as he’s been in the business for 16 years. Fact: Sperber has never managed a street race and knows absolutely nothing about the business.
d. Says the event surely will fail. Fact: Champ Car has staged over 100 successful street races in the past 30 years.
e. Says the “Legacy of street racing around this country is failure. They fail all over the United States and leave taxpayers holding the bill”  Fact: Champ Car has staged over 100 successful street races in the past 30 years.
f. Says street racing causes too much traffic congestion. Fact: Races are run on weekends when downtown street traffic is minimal.
g. Says Long Beach model has never been replicated. Fact: Can you say San Jose, Toronto, Vancouver, Monaco, Macau?
h. Says Long Beach is heavily subsidized by the City.  Fact: In fact the Grand Prix Association in Long Beach pays the city each year.
i. Says street racing can’t make money.  Fact: All Sperber's Open Wheel and Grand-Am races have lost money on his oval tracks that he has managed at Nazareth and Phoenix.

The author can be contacted at markc@autoracing1.com

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