Andretti again calls for merger
John Korobanik, CanWest News Service
EDMONTON - A burying of the sword and a reunion between the Champ Car World Series and the Indy Racing League would be a win-win situation for everyone involved, says legendary race car driver Mario Andretti.
The former four-time Championship Auto Racing Teams champion, who will act as the Grand Marshal for the Edmonton Champ Car race on July 22, said the two sides have got to get back together for the good of the sport.
"There's no other way," Andretti said. "Neither side can really prosper to the level they deserve by themselves. They need all the assets together, to go back to the way it used to be with open wheel racing in North America. There would be no losers, it would be all winners. This has to happen and it should be sooner than later.
"Edmonton would be a bigger event if you had everyone participating."
Andretti, who has won more than 100 races including the Indianapolis 500, has been involved in the on-again, off-again negotiations between the two groups. He said the problem is the sides haven't yet found an acceptable compromise.
"I know because I've been somewhat in the middle of it. We seem to get close, we seem to agree on a lot of huge issues and then everything just comes apart."
At times, he admitted, both sides just need a good smack up the side the head to get them to realize the damage they're doing to the sport he loves.
"Get a nice little hammer and give them a bong ... see if the light goes on."
Andretti won his first IndyCar championship (precursor to Champ Car) in 1964 and his last in 1984, won IndyCar or CART races in four decades, is one of only three drivers in IndyCar/CART/Champ Car history to win on paved ovals, road courses and dirt tracks in a single season, and was the first driver signed by the then fledgling Newman/Hass Racing team in 1983.
He's never been far from the scene and as a former driver said it's not fair to today's drivers to have the split continue.
"The drivers have one career and you don't want to go through your career with the perception that, 'You know what, you won some races, but what if so and so from the other side had been there, maybe you wouldn't have won?'
"That's lingering out there and that's why I will never, never stop trying to be some sort of force to try to bring them together, one way or another."
IRL split from CART in 1996 over qualifying rules for the Indianapolis 500. CART, which itself had split from the United States Automobile Club in 1979 over a dispute about promotions and purses, was renamed Champ Car in 2004.
Sounding a little frustrated over the situation, Andretti said team owners, drivers and officials on both sides all seem to agree the merger has to happen, but can't find the solution to keep both groups happy.
"Speak to any team owner and they all agree this needs to happen. Speak to the principals and they agree. It's just a matter of finding the formula ... it's a matter of being resilient and not giving up because ultimately we all know that needs to happen." Edmonton Journal