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DATE News (chronologically)
05/13/07
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Champ Car needs Rahal to become a star UPDATE A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Attached is an image of a TV test pattern that the author of this article (below) mentions. It should become Champ Car's new logo since its latest ratings are below that of a TV test pattern. Just like in the off-season, Champ Car has again become invisible in this 7-week hiatus between the Houston and Portland races. Hello, is anyone home?

Just like all the positive assets CART once had, and just like we saw happen to AJ Allmendinger when he started to make headlines, the oval track cartel or F1 will pluck Rahal right out of the Champ Car paddock in the wink of an eye. You see those series have real sponsors and there is money in the series to pay a driver well. In a ride-buyer series like Champ Car the driver lineup is a constant revolving door.

I say Champ Car's popularity is falling because of this. Although Champ Car's TV ratings were up slightly from last year, what their press release didn't say is that Champ Car was on SPEED most of last year and ratings on any channel beat SPEED's. I saw a lot of empty seats at Vegas and Houston. Coupled with the test pattern TV ratings and it's no surprise to me why Tony George didn't even return Kevin Kalkhoven's phone call on the idea of running some Champ Car drivers and teams in this year's Indy 500. Tony, like everyone else, sees Champ Car as a weak and failing entity. And they fired Robin Miller for telling the truth in his article. They should fire the current Champ Car management. Kalkhoven and Forsythe had better take off their rose-colored glasses before they trip and fall and bloody their nose with a dose of reality. Christine Lewis, losing faith in Washington

05/13/07 In about four weeks, Robert Doornbos, Simon Pagenaud and Ryan Dalziel will be in the area.

So, too, will Tristan Gommendy, Matt Halliday and Neel Jani.

As well as Dan Clarke, Justin Wilson and Will Power.

Huh?

Welcome to more than half of the field for this year’s Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland, which makes its annual stop at Portland International Raceway on June 10. They may be talented drivers, but I could have written that these people played professional table tennis, and a lot of you would have said, sure, that makes sense.

Which is one reason Champ Car desperately needs Graham Rahal to become a star.

Rahal has it. He’s young, reasonably handsome, well spoken, American, has a racing pedigree, and is apparently talented like his father Bobby.

Did I mention he was American?

“I’m not going on a limb by saying he’s already a star on this circuit,” Champ Car president Steve Johnson said of the 18-year-old Rahal. “He’s one of the most talented drivers I’ve seen in many, many years.”

Rahal alone can’t save Champ Car, but he is the sort of driver this struggling series needs if it is to survive its stubbornness, and some might say, stupidity.

Champ Car is committed to going forward without merging with the IRL, series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven revealed to reporters a few weeks ago. After more than a year’s worth of talk and rumors that the two open-wheel series were finally getting their heads together and starting to make some sense, they have split.

“It is a completely dead issue,” Kalkhoven said. “I don’t think I can summarize it any clearer than that.”

To which most of us say, of Champ Car and IRL make their money? Because they’re sure not cutting it in professional sports, at least in the modern era.

American sports fans want to see the best take on the best. That can only happen when a sport has one major league. It was true in football when the NFL eventually swallowed the AFL, and ran the USFL out of business. It was true in basketball when the ABA folded after sending its cream to the NBA.

Every year Champ Car and IRL continue as rival leagues, open wheel racing becomes more irrelevant.

Champ Car will say this is not true, pointing to the numbers of their early season races at Las Vegas, Long Beach and Houston. Attendance was up modestly at each race. The television rating for the Las Vegas race was the best Champ Car season opener in five years.

That rating? A 0.83, which beats a viewership of a test pattern, but not by much.  More at The Columbian

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