AutoRacing1.com would like to
welcome noted auto racing TV announcer Rick Benjamin as the latest
addition to our staff. Rick has been involved in motorsports media
for many years and will bring fresh perspective to AutoRacing1.com
primarily in the Champ Car arena.
What a treat to be asked to return to the
keyboard by Mark Cipolloni and the staff of AutoRacing1.com! It’s been a
few months since we’ve had the opportunity to put together some thoughts
on various motorsports issues on a regular basis, and I’m really excited
at the prospect of adding to AR1’s tremendous content.
I have the rare opportunity to go to dozens of races, big-time and
grassroots, each year…and I’ll do my best to provide some perspective on
key issues, trends, personalities, and more throughout the 2005 season.
After a year covering the Champ Car World Series from the broadcast
booth, and anticipating year number 2 topside, let me first offer
congratulations to all who worked 24/7 the past 13 months or more to
insure that one of the world’s great race series survives.
From the ownership triumvirate of Kevin
Kalkhoven, Gerry Forsythe, and Paul Gentilozzi, to any of the dozens and
dozens of series staffers, through the hundreds of team members who fill
pit roads and paddocks around much of the world, all are deserving of
thanks. I have an entirely new appreciation for those who not only go
into the arena 14 or more times a year to compete…but who also risk
substantial parts of their personal fortunes to insure that Champ Car
stays alive and has a chance to thrive in the seasons to come.
At this point in January there are still many elements of Champ Car in
play….the potential of two more races, the likely team and driver
roster, and the ever-present question of television, just to name a few.
But compared to the IRL, I like Champ Car’s chances.
It’s no secret the IRL has made its name
on incredibly close competition on high-speed ovals, while Champ Car has
chosen to continue to race on a mix of tracks. I agree that’s a plus,
and produces an even more deserving driving champion. And with Kevin
Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe’s recent moves to buy Cosworth and Pi
Research from Ford, Champ Car has secured a quality engine supply for
the foreseeable future.
Meanwhile the IRL, at this writing, faces
huge challenges in that critical department. And it’s not much of a
stretch to say Champ Car, while needing desperately to build its
television product and audience, is capable of selling a lot more
tickets across North America than its competition.
Champ Car still, in my view, needs to find and develop a few more fine
young American drivers; AJ Allmendinger is truly a champion in the
making, and Ryan Hunter-Reay looks to be a worthy successor to drivers
like Jimmy Vasser. But bringing along, say, a Scott Speed or
Michael McDowell would be a tremendous asset. Here’s hoping Champ Car’s
leadership finds a way to help young talent like that find a good ride.
So as teams conduct preseason testing, and wrap up final details, it’s
not a stretch to say the Champ Car World Series is in the driver’s
seat….in big league open wheel racing in America.
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