Cancel the funeral

  CART's back with a vengeance

 by Steven N. Levinson
January 20, 2003

Go to our forums to discuss this article

General Carl von Clausewitz, the 19th-century military theorist taught that "war is the continuation of politics by other means"

When Honda announced they were going to the IRL, Tony George was quoted as saying he brought his hammer to work everyday when asked if he had nailed CART's coffin shut

On May 23, 2002, Robert Clarke sat in the IMS media center and delivered what amounted to an "Ich Bin Ein IRL'er " declaration. To me, he looked uncomfortable, ill at ease and a bit nervous.  Others said that he was "sweating". For Anton Hulman George, this had to be the final "Coupe De Grace" in his "WAR" against CART. For CART was a Manufacturers based series, and George now had two of its three remaining engine suppliers and biggest sponsors in his camp. Plan the "Funeral" he thought, for CART cannot possibly survive, especially with Roger S. Penske on his side.

I felt sympathy for Clarke, for he was only the "good soldier" , the infantryman going into the trenches following "orders" from his Generals. Such is the nature of "WAR", someone has to do the dirty work.

Why the "defection", many wondered? Honda had consistently voiced its antipathy to building anything resembling IRL's low-tech rev-limited antiquated power-plant. Honda had won the coveted Formula One Manufacturer's Trophy numerous times aided by the prodigious talents of the late Ayrton Senna and Alain Prost. Anyone doubting Honda's commitment to high-tech excellence only need to visit the Honda Collection Hall at Twin Ring Motegi to stand in awe of their massive accomplishments at the highest levels of international motorsports competition. The sight of Senna's Lotus-Honda and the McLaren-Hondas stand as virtual monuments in the annals of motorsports history.

Now Honda, in the words of Paul Tracy, are building a rev-limited engine for formula "CRAPWAGON"? Why the sudden reversal? Yes, we know the cover story about being angry at CART for the 2001 Detroit GP fiasco and specifically J. Kirk Russell's inept handling of the entire affair. This was a matter that could have been handled "privately" instead of ensuring public embarrassment.  Speaking of politics and war, Detroit had all the intrigue of a CIA/KGB intelligence operation. CART management and officials were bitterly attacked by Honda even though Honda won the race.

Honda said that it no longer had faith in CART or its management.  Reality or subterfuge by Honda?  Who knows, but Chris Pook even went to Japan and personally apologized to Honda for the matter.  To no avail, they had already invited Anton Hulman George to visit Motegi...Yes, On the weekend of CART's race!  Such is the nature of "WAR".

If history is any guide at all, may Honda expect or be afforded better or more reasonable and "Professional" management and officiating from IRL? Surely this is a "red herring" diversion. Consider the 1995 Indy 500 with Tasman Motorsports Honda driver Scott Goodyear leading with a scant few laps remaining and "jumped the restart" and was summarily black flagged and disqualified. It was a draconian remedy, causing many to wonder why the restart could not have been waved off, and restarted the next lap.  Steve Horne was outraged and believed it was nothing more than a blatant device to deny Honda a "500" victory.

The victory instead went to eventual CART and F1 Champion Jacques Villeneuve, ironically driving for Barry Green. In a strange bit of irony, Goodyear later became one of the IRL original stalwarts, then its TV/Analyst/Apologist. On the other hand, Villeneuve, along with another 500 winner and F1 driver, Juan Pablo Montoya, developed the nasty habit of defecating on all things IRL.

Who could forget the debacle that befell last year's Indy 500 that ended in protest, appeal, and then with "Chief Justice Anton Hulman George's mumbling, bumbling and stumbling "Final Decision" that defied not only the facts, reality and logic, but any notion of fairness or legal rationale. It took nearly 7 weeks for George to say that Barry Green's appeal was not subject to appeal despite the fact that his "Protest" was considered appealable by Brian Barnhart.  Some internet discussion forums were saying that this was in consideration of Roger Penske's defection to the IRL. (See article "The Unappealing Appeal. George Reigns in Georgetown").

Such is the nature of war.  IRL was not going to allow CART to come on to its turf and win for the third year in a row. The final results of the 2002 Indy 500?  Barry Green was livid; Paul Tracy became an "overnight folk HERO";  Roger S. Penske expanded his "Doctrine of the Unfair Advantage" by withholding the throttle mapping on Helio's "WINNING" car with the excuse that it had somehow been "erased."  That was a novel explanation that left many incredulous.  In fact, not since Richard Nixon's missing "18 minute gap" on the Watergate Tapes have we seen such implausibility.  In both cases, the obliteration of highly probative evidentiary material remains under suspicion.  As for the IRL's rules/appeals process? This type of Kangaroo Court justice hasn't been in vogue since the time of Josef Stalin's military tribunals in the frozen "GULAGS" of Eastern Siberia.  Lest we forget the real victim.....the legitimacy and integrity of the once sacrosanct Indy 500.

And Honda has no faith in CART Management or Officiating?  Hmmm.....surely thou doth protest too much. They want to get to NASCAR's "Promised Land".  The Winston Cup and it's marketing/merchandising bonanza because their chief rival and competitor Toyota is on it's way and they do not want to be left out of the US domestic market.   Who can blame them?  They can still reach their Global and upscale markets through Formula One.

The question that many are pondering is "What becomes of the IRL, after Toyota and Honda become card carrying members of Winston Cup? The IRL's tracks are either redundant with NASCAR, or, are in secondary or tertiary media markets.  Those markets are saturated with NASCAR, leaving slim pick en's for the IRL.

Honda's defection, however, cannot be viewed as an isolated event, but must be considered in the continuum of events that unfolded from April 2001 through its announcement on May 23, 2003, and beyond.  Consider the chronology of events;

  1. In April of 2001 at the Long Beach GP, Toyota announced that they would only build an IRL Spec 3.5 liter engine beginning in 2003.

  2. October 2001 Houston GP CART Franchise Owners Meeting. They voted, under threat of "defecting to IRL" from Penske and Ganassi , to adopt the IRL engine.  All Owners also raised their right hands and swore allegiance to CART").

  3. December 2001, Penske defects to the IRL citing business/sponsor reasons 1) not wanting any overseas venues, 2) leaving the NY market (Nazareth Speedway).  (A prominent CART team owner told me quite simply.  "What Roger did was wrong".)

  4. April 26, 2002 Anton Hulman George magically materializes at Twin Ring Motegi the day before CART's race.

  5. May 16, 2002, Roger Penske in a Skip Myslenski Chicago Tribune interview says that there will be only one open wheel series in the US, and that the "SPONSOR" will make that decision.  (NOTES; 1) this was a change in his views from his CART days, when he said he preferred a "merger",  2) How could he be so prescient about the future?  Did he have a crystal ball?

  6. May 2002, ABC TV's Howard Katz says that only one open wheel series can survive.  There is not enough money to support two series (was Mr. Katz reading off the same script as Mr. Penske?).

  7. May 23. The Honda IRL bombshell announcement.

  8. Penske moves to Toyota IRL engines for 2003. Lets see, Penske dumps Honda in 2001 to run Chevys in the IRL in 2002; He dumps Chevy in 2002 to use Toyota in 2003; He dumps Ford in NASCAR to use Dodge in 2003.  Should he be cited by the EPA for illegal dumping?.

  9. Chip Ganassi announces his complete defection to the IRL with two cars

  10. Michael Andretti and co-owner Kevin Savoree announce they are taking Team Green's 3-car CART team to the IRL (now called Andretti Green Racing) with backing from Honda

  11. Even though there is no IRL race in Mexico, Fernández Racing announces they will field a car in the IRL with backing from Honda

  12. Bobby Rahal enters a car full-time in the IRL for Kenny Brack

  13. Mo Nunn moves both of his cars to the IRL with backing from Toyota

  14. December 2002 -  Toyota and NASCAR announce Toyota's move to the NASCAR truck series for 2004. (note; NASCAR websites are running rampant with rumors that Penske and Toyota will join forces in 2007 in Winston Cup. Again, this would necessitate Penske "Dumping Dodge").

  15. Rumors of both Toyota and Honda to NASCAR Winston CUP are rampant on racing discussion forums.

For Chris Pook and Paul Tracy the transparency of these events were more than a sequence of inexplicable coincidences and clearly smacked of orchestration.  They called it a CONSPIRACY TO KILL CART. To me, it resembled Hitler's World War II plan for the Holocaust..........The Final Solution. To Chris Pook, who was born in Somerset, England during WW II, it looked like the German Luftwaffe's London Blitzkrieg.

The hearse and coffin were ready, but they had no corpse

For Fred Nation, he said that Pook was seeing a "Grassy Knoll,"  implying that he was suffering from a form of paranoia.  In the meantime, Anton Hulman George was planning CART's funeral.

At this point, Pook took off the gloves and abandoned any thoughts of reconciliation.  Just before the 500, CART countered with a move to Indianapolis, right in the backyard of the IRL (i.e. CART had a Indianapolis address now too, which probably raised the hair on the back of Anton George).  At Portland, Pook announced his survival plan. The return to a 2.65 turbo engine and the Entrant Support Program (ESP).

The summer met with the inevitable Michael Andretti "defection" and with it the perfunctory 'it was just a business decision' used by Penske and Ganassi.  Many CART fans were angered over what they considered Andretti's treachery and disloyalty. These misguided fools actually believed that loyalty and friendship has some currency in today's societal values. Friends, in this "WAR" you will be swept aside in a tidal wave of greed and avarice.

In war, and racing , politics make for some strange bedfellows, remember the US once supported Saddam Hussein in their war against Iran, and we also supported Osama Bin Ladin and his Mujahadeen fighters in their battle against the Soviet Infidels in Afghanistan.  And remember, "PUCK FENSKE" tee shirts were sold on Georgetown Road when Roger was a CART team owner.  In Geo Politics, bizarre political alliances are justified as expedient and necessary for "National Security."  In racing, it is "just business" borrowing a phrase from the "Cosa Nostra" "it's business, not personal".

Early fall, and things were still fairly sedentary, Anton Hulman George continued to prepare for the funeral. He put his Pall Bearers on "Stand By Alert".

Then came the Bridgestone announcement at Fontana; The 176,000 fans at Mexico City; The Rahal, Walker and Gentilozzi Team Announcements (Gentilozzi forsaking IRL); FORD announced in December. 

January arrived, and with it, Stefan Johansson, and, none other than former BAR F1 Principal, Craig Pollock announced his team..... Bernie's former right-hand man David Clare was summoned from his work in South Korea and came on board as CART Chief Operating Officer to run day-to-day affairs in Indianapolis. There must have been some substance to it, because, Roger S. Penske now referred to Chris Pook "as a very shrewd business man".  A change in tone from his previous "Unilateralist" One Series rhetoric.

At this point it became clear that CART wasn't "DEAD".  Too bad for all the journalists who wrote the doom and gloom stories.  On January 15, 2003 Anton Hulman George told the Automotive World News Conference that there would be no merger with CART, meaning that CART would survive, as if CART needs his "APPROVAL" to conduct business.

The driver and team defections have been dismissed by Chris Pook as nothing more than a necessary sanitary cleansing process to rid CART of its most self serving , disloyal members.  In other words, there's nothing like an enema to cleanse the body of excrementitious elements.

To our friends who have given CART the black flag and taken the "GREEN" in the IRL; Andretti, Franchitti, Kanaan, Dixon and Brack.  We wish you God Speed on your journey into the IRL's school of hard knocks.  You'll need it (see Article There's more than handwriting on the wall...and here's the concrete facts") Your health and safety are beyond our mere mortal assistance. From now on, you'll have to rely on Medical science for any future help.

As for Anton Hulman George and his hammer.... well the coffin has been returned to Flanner & Buchannan; the flowers were sent to the trash, the stale Pork Rinds, moldy Chili Dogs and Chicken Fried steaks were dispatched to the hogs down at the farm in Terre haute.  The Tuxedos were returned, even the size 55 one for the guy from Texas. Oh yes, the music has been changed from  "If I had a hammer, I'd hammer in the morning" to Led Zeppelin's "DAZED and CONFUSED".

Recurring nightmares of being attacked by a corpse

JANUARY 20th News Bulletin From WIBC Radio in Indy;

Marion County Sheriff Deputies Jack Newton and Ralph Boswell found a homeless man wandering near the 30th and Georgetown Indianapolis Motor Speedway entrance. When they arrived he was climbing the fence and appeared to be shivering, disoriented and very incoherent.  They reported that he initially refused to come down from the fence and was heard to be mumbling and repeating " half a billion dollars and the bastards are still alive....half a billion dollars and the bastards are still alive". he was taken into "protective custody" without further incident, but complained of recurring nightmares that a corpse was after him.

Cancel the funeral, CART has survived, and its back with a vengeance.

The author can be contacted at SteveL@autoracing1.com

Go to our forums to discuss this article


Others by Steve

Carroll Shelby Children's Foundation

Salem Speedway: When the High-Banks were on the road to Indy

Bothwell Ranch Automotive Collection

Does NASCAR have a chance in the global marketplace?

For Kalkhoven it's 'Game On'

A tribute to Phil Hill and the 24 Hours of LeMans

Shanghai Triad - 2004 Sinopec Chinese GP

Under the Emilia-Romagna Sun - Imola 10 years later

Lost in Translation

Sepang Diary - 2004 Petronas GP of Malaysia

Open Wheel Racing needs a win by OWRS - Part 2

CART/IRL Armageddon - Where the three horsemen of the Apocalypse meet the axis of evil

A Family "Thang"

Cancel the funeral

Love affair in Mexico

There's more than handwriting on the wall.....and here's the concrete facts

Labor Day weekend 1952...A weekend I'll never forget

An Unappealing Appeal, George reigns in GEORGE-town

Back-Breaking work

IRL at Fontana - a victim of friendly fire

Has anyone noticed?

Remembering Bob Estes

Will CART get Shanghaied?

CART - a stranger in a strange land

The inevitable globalization of CART

An open letter to Roger Penske

e-mail us:

Back to the top

AutoRacing1 is an independent internet online publication and is not affiliated with, sponsored by, or endorsed by CART Inc., NASCAR, FIA,  FedEx, Winston, or any other series sponsor. This material may not be published, broadcast, or redistributed without permission.
User agreement & disclaimer

Copyright 1999 - 2001, AutoRacing1, Inc., Hamilton, NJ