Tony George says unification doubtful UPDATE #2 Here is a transcript of the fan's question to Tony George and George's response:
Chief’s Q: “Mr. George, Eleven years ago, your insistence to create the IRL began a crippling downward spiral for open wheel racing in this country. When, Mr. George, are YOU going to address the needs of the open wheel community as a whole instead of this senseless power play YOU launched in 1996? Fix it or forget it......fans like me are walking away from the sport… Chief”
George: “I don’t know, umm. Ya know it’s, it's a I guess it’s a burden to carry it around on your shoulders when it’s put like that. Umm, I heard someone on the program earlier where the caller said that they’re they’re tuning out of NASCAR (clears throat) and starting to tune into IRL and Champ Car, Formula One. I mean everybody’s got an opinion. I don’t think that the events of the last 10-12 years have fairly been placed squarely on my shoulders. I think, ya know, there’s a lot of dynamic in there. If I could wave a magic wand and make it all right, I would but that’s impossible. So a, you know, I don’t know. I, eh fans like that are obviously passionate and, umm, are consumers and are able to make a choice. He seems to have hung in there this long. I hope to keep him involved, a, a little longer and maybe it’ll all work out to his satisfaction.”
Despain: “You know what I would like to hear your perception of what lead you to do this (create the IRL) ‘cause I don’t recall having heard that since way back in ’96. What was the IRL intended to fix? What was wrong?”
George: “Well, for one thing we were wanting to encourage an investment into new permanent oval facilities in some new markets. When we announced it in ’94 and launched out first race at Disney in ’96 all the new tracks that were running NASCAR, NASCAR is doing that today. Most of them, all the new ones obviously weren’t here. There’s been a couple of billion dollars put into that, arguably, ah, NASCAR has driven a lot of that, but you know those tracks need inventory and uh, profitable activities to sustain them. And we want to offer that and I think that clearly CART at that time was going more and more towards street racing and, and ah, as, as the ‘90s late ‘90’s wore on into the early 2000s the balance, or ratio I’d say of ovals versus road courses became more pronounced towards road racing. So, umm you know I think it’s filling a niche, I think we put on good competitive exciting racing on ovals. We’re an oval track over here across the street. And uh, we wanna, we wanna be a part of, of the future. We want to provide some leadership. It would have been my hope that a lot of the CART teams would have not taken the position that they did, but rather, you know, found some opportunity to have dialog. And there has been some dialog over the course of the last 10 years, we’ve just not been able to resolve anything. I think it really comes from looking at things from two different perspectives.”
Despain: “The most recent dialog with Kevin Kalkhoven.. Have you and Kevin Kalkhoven stopped talking about a possible merger?”
George: “Umm, we stay in touch, in fact I owe him a call. He called me a few weeks ago while I was in St. Louis at my daughter’s horse show, and posed a thought or question which I haven’t gotten back to him on. But I think last Fall we agreed, you know that unification wasn’t eminent, it wasn’t likely in the next couple years. We need to keep the lines of communication open. And I enjoy his company socially. I believe he does mine. Uh, when the opportunity presents itself, we interact. But we have to deal with each other on a professional level as well. And we kind of agreed that we, ya know sticking daggers in each other’s back, and, but admit that it wasn’t likely. Now, something could change. I don’t foresee it, but, umm they’ve sort of got their vision, and the plan they’re pursuing, they have a new car which won’t work for what we do. Umm, perhaps in a few years when things run their course we could, umm, make some progress getting it back together.., uh into one single series, but uh, who knows? By then they may have achieved or realized some success as will we. And, uh, perhaps it will just mean more and better racing all the way around.03/18/07 We forgot to include the letter from a fan that was asked of Tony George.
Eleven years ago your insistence to create the IRL began a crippling downward spiral for open wheel racing in this country (USA). When are you going to address the needs of the open wheel community as a whole instead of this senseless power play you launched in 1996? Fix it or forget it.....fans like me are walking away from the sport.
03/18/07 Tony George was interviewed on SPEED Channel's Wind Tunnel Sunday night and said that a merger with Champ Car is not likely in 2 to 3 years and made it sound as if by then both series may meet with their own success and a merger will never happen. He stated that he still talks to Kevin Kalkhoven on occasion and that he owes him a call on an idea Kalkhoven presented to him.
He basically said the two sides still had differences in philosophies of how the sport should look and used the excuse that the new Champ Car won't work for the IRL without giving specifics. He also said that in the late '90s CART was going away from ovals and moving toward street racing. Just to prove that he continues to lie about why he created the IRL we checked the records and found that CART went from 6 ovals in '96 to 7 in '97, to 8 in '98, to 9 in '99. Clearly CART was not abandoning ovals. His reason to create the IRL was always about control and one of these days George will admit it like a man rather than blame CART, which had elevated Indy Car racing to its highest worldwide status before George stepped in and destroyed it all.