Champ Car World Series wants to expand globally, correct? If their
philosophy is strictly to fill the void that Formula 1 leaves by not
being able to race in many more countries, why can’t Champ Car and the IRL co-exist? Why can’t the IRL simply
be a domestic series and Champ Car be an international series and never
the two shall meet?
And let us assume as a premise, that the IRL makes no further overtures
to any perceived cherry-picking of any Champ Car asset or race, nothing
else. Would not this make the most sense then - to just let the IRL do
their thing, and race on the 4-6 road courses and 12-14 ovals here in
America or North America? (let's forget about Japan, since we know Honda
is probably gone.)
One can argue that Champ Car has been
moving to be oranges, and that the IRL will remain apples. These two
fruits are different; no one is trying to make an orange be an apple.
Why do many not think that if the IRL does their own thing (and perhaps shakes
themselves off of manufacturer support) it can be successful, and if Champ Car does its
own thing, it will be successful?
Champ Car owners have stated they plan to always have at least 50% of
their races in North America. That is how they plan to attract overseas
sponsors who want to sell product in the NAFTA market to the series. By
having 50% of the races here plus a decent TV package, they hope the
overseas sponsors and perhaps engine manufacturers will eventually bite.
Would having the Indy 500 as one of their NAFTA races help sell to
foreign sponsors? Of course it would, and it could be under my proposal
to have the Indy 500 as one of the six double points paying races in a
two-division, one-company format, but more on this later.
Knowing that Champ Car is here to stay in the USA, it's safe to say
there will, therefore, always be two "Indy Car" series in the USA. This
will cause fan confusion and make sponsors have to choose. Sure it would
be nice if both series could just go their separate ways, but you and I
both know that won't happen. Why? Because sponsor dollars are hard to
come by and teams (and both series) will all be going after the same few
precious dollars available. With no umbrella organization to control it
all there will be constant fighting and backstabbing to win the
contracts. That will essentially continue the war.
Certainly if Tony George would stop trying to steal from Champ Car and
try to co-exist peacefully that would help matters. But would he? He
made a strong effort to get Long Beach these past few weeks, much
stronger than was reported in the media. I expect he will try to do that
as each and every Champ Car race contract comes up for renewal, at least
for the races he wants - like Toronto, Montreal, and every other one
that has decent attendance or is in a major metropolitan market. I can't
blame him, I would want those venues too, but that will only continue
the war, and the sport isn't strong enough for the "war" to continue.
The backstabbing and underhanded behind the scenes shenanigans that have
been going on is destroying the sport for both sides.
Unfortunately the split has caused people to take sides - the fans, the
media, and even the teams and personnel in the industry. I have talked
to sponsors. They are staying away from both series because they don't
want to get caught in the crossfire between the IRL and Champ Car when
they can easily go to NASCAR where there isn't all that backstabbing.
The fans are particularly emotional about it. Many actually hate Tony
George for what he has done to the sport they loved. They saw a very
successful, though not perfect by any means, CART (nee IndyCar) series
go from a high in 1995 before the split, to what we see today. In the
process even the Indy 500 is being destroyed. Look at ticket sales, look
at TV ratings. Indy Car racing can't afford to have its marquee event
tarnished and withering away.
Why are we so anti-IRL and pro-Champ Car? The reason really is because
we predicted when the split occurred that it would destroy the sport,
that Tony George was going about it all the wrong way. In our opinion
the IRL should never have been formed.
If Tony wanted a strong Indy Car "industry" he should have found a way
to work the existing system and make it better. All the money, all the
effort he has spent the past 10 years creating an entire new series -
imagine if he funneled all that energy and money into CART.
If he put up that kind of money in the CART paddock can you imagine how
much influence he would have had? With the money he spent he could have
easily fielded three 2-car teams in CART. He would have been the biggest
and most powerful team owner, even bigger than Roger Penske. He would
have eventually become "the man" in CART and with it could have guided
the organization to improve.
With the Indy 500 in his back pocket, I believe Tony George thought he
had the trump card, that CART would quickly fold because the teams
needed the Indy 500 to survive. I think he miscalculated the resolve of
the CART, now Champ Car, team owners. Although wounded, they hung on and
the longer they hung on the longer the sport stayed divided. Tony tried
valiantly to kill off CART because he knew two series was a bad thing.
But try as he might, there remains two series. Along the way the
animosity between both sides got worse.
We, and other media have been vocal because we wanted Tony George to
hear and perhaps eventually agree that two separate series was not the
way to go about making the "Indy Car industry" better and stronger. We
were not alone. Many have tried to tell Tony to stop the war and put the
two sides together. Even Roger Penske and Bernie Ecclestone recommended
to both Champ Car and the IRL to end the war and find a common ground.
Bernie is a VERY VERY smart man, as is Roger Penske.
Tony would not listen. I believe he really felt he could be the Bill
France of Indy Car racing. As we know, that is not going to happen now.
Kevin Kalkhoven and his partners have too much money and they are astute
businessmen. I would argue better businessmen than Tony George.
What must happen
Let's fast forward to 2007 with the assumption that two Indy Car series
in this country trying to undermine each other is not a tenable
position. Let's assume that there has to be one organization to put an
end to "the war" so everyone is rowing in the same direction.
If my proposal were adopted, there would be two racing divisions and
hence that much better a chance for a small team to compete. If the two
sides are merged completely, races will have to be dropped and there
absolutely will be no room for small teams. A lot of people will be out
of a job, out of a career, and out of business. I don't want to see that
happen, hence why I push my proposal.
I have no agenda but to see peace in my time, and the sooner the better.
When peace arrives, you will see AutoRacing1.com take a much more
positive slant to the sport, and I am sure other media will as well. We
will focus on the team and driver rivalries between the two divisions
and not the negative politics that having two enemies duking it out causes.
Yes, the media can be very influential, and yes we realize that the
negativity should stop, but it can't stop until there is peace, until a
solution is reached. When the politics between the two sides stop we
won't have anymore negative stuff to write about.
As for the cars and engines in a combined series - I think some of Champ
Car's recent proposals make a lot of sense. Will they abandon ovals?
They say no, but I really wonder. You know my opinion - based on fact,
based on history and based on data, they are simply too expensive and
too dangerous for open wheel cars. Too many drivers have been injured
and too many cars destroyed. The added cost and the added danger does
nothing to enhance the sport.
While I know many don't agree with me on this point, even many Champ Car
fans, I think more people are starting to agree with my point of view
with each and every crash.
Bruce Ashmore concept car for
both Champ Car and the IRL
Champ Car's new car will be more "racy" on street and road courses so
that should improve the "show." Will they still be able to run an oval
such as Indy, of course, but if you minimize ovals you 1) minimize cost,
2) minimize injury, 3) minimize comparisons with NASCAR. (See image to right and
for more discussion on this car that can be used by both divisions.)
Can Champ Car and the IRL together partially fill the worldwide void
left by F1? You bet they can, and with two divisions there will still be
plenty of domestic races. And with a once again popular Indy 500 as the
focal point of a new organization, and with the rivalry created by the
two divisions playing off one another, I see big things possible.....but
first the war must end. And it will never end until there is one unified
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