George scraps offer to help merge series
The window of opportunity has closed for Champ Car World Series teams to receive Tony George's financial assistance to join the Indy Racing League for 2008, George said Sunday.
|Tony George: am Indy|
George, the IRL's chief executive officer, said that in meetings last fall with Champ Car's leadership, he offered to help its teams pay for IRL cars on the condition they participated in his series for at least two seasons. When none came forward in a timely manner, George chose to scrap his plan.
"Teams started coming to me in December and January, and there's not much I can do at that point," George said. "I needed to know earlier so we could get the cars ordered."
Champ Car co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven said George never formally made an offer to either him or partner Jerry Forsythe.
"I never, ever saw an offer from Tony George," Kalkhoven said. "We never received anything in writing." (See related rumor that we reported as 'false' last week for the same reason)
Champ Car's machines are different from the IRL's and not able to be integrated. George said the two-year stipulation was made because the IRL will introduce new cars for the 2010 season.
"For me to make the investment, it makes sense to do it for two years, not one," George said.
George said his offer came "back when there was time to do it for '08."
The IRL season begins March 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Champ Car's season is scheduled to open April 20 in Long Beach, Calif.
There have been two open-wheel series since George founded the IRL in 1996. Both are based in Indianapolis.
George said he told Kalkhoven and Forsythe in separate meetings that he would help teams acquire a new car and a used one as a backup for each full-season driver supported by a proper budget. He would not have bought the cars outright.
"I wasn't going to wholesale make that offer," George said. "I would make sure they had equipment; it would not necessarily be free."
Forsythe could not be reached for comment. Kalkhoven insisted he hasn't spoken with George "in nine months."
George said he made it clear the IRL would be the sanctioning body in a unified series. He offered to include several of the events that Kalkhoven and Forsythe own, such as the Long Beach (Calif.) Grand Prix, in future IRL schedules.
"I tried to get all those guys to consider not having ownership in the series; rather, they should make their other racing-related businesses a more profitable part of a unified series," George said. "I told them, 'Let us own and operate the series, and we'll make sure everyone is able to transition into equipment for the remainder useful life of the equipment.' " Indy Star