Last year at this time, when CART announced its intention to go
forward with a 2003 season, I wrote
Cancel the Funeral. By the skin of its teeth, CART was able to put
together a 2003 season by smoke and mirrors and $88 Million. In that article
I referred to both Paul Tracy and Chris Pook's assertions of an IRL orchestrated
"conspiracy" to kill CART. The IRL's chief "spin-meister," Fred Nation, denounced
this as nothing more than some misguided "grassy knoll delusions".
Well, guess what happened on the way to Judge Otte's "forum" of the Bankruptcy
Court? After nearly two years of bizarre inexplicable coincidences,
the IRL's Trojan Horse has finally been exposed. This is much more than
simply reshuffling the deck of open wheel hegemony in the USA. IRL bid on
specific CART assets (engines, Long Beach race, etc.) in the hope of its final and
total extermination. After all Lee White does want the Long Beach race for
the IRL and Grand-Am wants CART's street races.
Speaking of shuffling the deck, who then might be the Ace of Spades and who
might be the Queen of Hearts in this high stakes game of poker? We'll
leave this paradox up to you. But it is clear to many that the equation didn't
change until Roger S. Penske switched Paddocks and series logo patches. For in the
prior five years of IRL's existence it had been a 100% Anton Hulman George charity
Since its inception, IRL
cars have been flying
Wednesday's Bankruptcy Court hearing should provide high drama,
especially for those of us who really love "Real Racing...Real Sport", as opposed
to Tony George's All-American Flying Circus.
The three horsemen of the apocalypse (aka OWRS) are composed of Paul Gentilozzi,
Gerald Forsythe and Kevin Kalkhoven. Individually they are formidable, but collectively, we are
all hoping they will represent an invincible force to secure the future of our
Gentilozzi has emerged as the OWRS principal spokesman. He comes across as a
soft-spoken articulate and very streetwise businessman with one caveat. There is
an undercurrent of resoluteness and no-nonsense directness. In other words, "don't
cross me, you don't know who you're fooling with".
Forsythe has chosen to take the backseat role of "consigliere." He has
many years of experience in this "WAR". Forsythe has that omnipresent smile, but
be assured that he didn't become a multimillionaire Chicago Industrialist by
being a bleeding heart humanitarian. Gerry is all business and totally committed
to OWRS's future. Of the original owners, he is the only one to stick it out
and stay committed to CART when others fled to the oval track cartel and
their fistfuls of money.
Kalkhoven may look like an avuncular Captain Kangaroo, but he didn't become a
billionaire by inheriting his grandfather's money! He is a veteran of
many corporate wars. He earned it the old fashioned way - creativity, hard
work and determination.
Together they have all of the requisite components to make the remnants of the
CART Series work.
When Gentilozzi first announced his intention to join CART in Mexico City in
November 2002, he said it had been a difficult decision because he considered Tony
George a "friend." When I heard that comment in Mexico City, I was
astounded because I never knew Tony George had any friends, other than his
underlings and gophers on the IMS/IRL payroll.
Subsequently, Gentilozzi kept referring to talks with Tony George. Again, many of
us wondered what he was talking about. I remember Barry Green and Bobby Rahal
talking about their golfing and friendship with Tony George that was leading to a
merger several years ago. This happy talk lasted long enough for George to
secure the exclusive ABC Network deal to the exclusion of CART. Lately, I haven't
heard anyone in the OWRS/CART side referring to Tony George as a "friend."
Apparently Gentilozzi has gotten the message that this war has never ended. Yes,
they want to "KILL US DEAD"! Wars never end until all of the enemy is
killed or co-opted, i.e., "bought off"! Can you say Michael Andretti?
Roger Penske and Bill France, Jr.'s roles have remained sub-rosa. Roger loves to
operate in the "shadows". Penske loves the "power game" that is his raison
d'etre for being in motor racing. Many consider Penske to be the Ace of
Spades in this power struggle. When rumors first emerged in 2001 at Cleveland
of a possible Penske/Marlboro move to IRL, Penske denied it. Then came the Detroit
Pop-Off Valve fiasco that angered Honda. Skeptics believe this was engineered by
Toyota. Then came the CART Team Owners meeting at the Houston GP in October.
Penske threatened to leave CART unless they adopted the Formula Crapwagon engine.
CART did so, and then Penske bolted to the IRL anyway.
Conspiracy you ask? What Conspiracy? Remember Penske's big party at the Speedway
in May 2002, honoring him for his many motorsports achievements. At that soiree,
Penske said that he had made up his mind a year earlier to join his friend/partner
Tony George in the IRL. A year earlier? That would be May 2001, a full 6 months
before the October CART meeting in Houston. Why then, many ask, didn't Penske
disclose this to his fellow CART Franchise Board members?
As a fellow owner, he was in a fiduciary relationship with them and
was duty bound to make a full disclosure of all material facts. Oh well, BFD!
Is that "Big Flicking Deal" or Breach Of Fiduciary
Duties? Even high school business law courses make clear that
co-directors and board members must disclose any conflicts of interests to one
another. Penske would certainly say that he had no intention to join the IRL at
the time of the Houston meeting, and that Tony George was a friend and that he
merely wanted to return to the Indy 500 and nothing more. That some time later, he
simply had a change of mind based on business. It would be very difficult, if not
impossible, for anyone to prove. Roger is a brilliant businessman as well as a
master tactician. That is what makes this Wednesday's Armageddon so interesting.
It's "GAME ON"!
Wednesday January 28 will be the day of reckoning. Judge Otte will either give
OWRS and the Champ Car Series renewed life, or issue its death warrant. Some
cynics suggest that this hearing in "GEORGETOWN" will favor the "Axis Of Evil".
Yes, the power of the Hulman George Family Foundation is considerable. Ask Robin
I do not subscribe to that theory. I believe the judge will carefully weigh and
review all of the relevant facts and motives of the competing parties. Let's face
it. Free and unfettered "competition" is part and parcel of the American
capitalist system. Let OWRS/CART survive. Let the race fans decide through the
ticket office. I don't have a crystal ball. I cannot say whether or not my next
article will be entitled Cancel the Funeral, Part Deux or "Requiem for a
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