While open wheel racing thrives elsewhere
in the world, in the USA it faces possible extinction, not only because
of stock car racing's popularity, but because open wheel racing is its
own worst enemy. The entire sport is in disarray and one has to
question whether there will be any open wheel racing in the USA ten
years from now.
How can a sport that dates back to the
early 1900s (first Indy 500 in 1911) and has a much longer history than
stock car racing, which essentially started in 1950 when NASCAR was
formed, all of a sudden be faced with possible extinction?
body of open wheel racing leaves open wheel
riding dead into the sunset
The sport is self-destructing on
all fronts and it all started on that fateful day in 1994 when
Tony George set the wheels in motion for his Indy Racing League.
In what can only be described as the stupidest move in the
history of the sport, George drove a stake through the heart of
open wheel racing. In essence he cut off the head (the top
rung of open wheel racing) and now the body is dying.
The divide and be conquered disease has now hit the
World of Outlaws Winged Sprint Car (with the formation of the
National Sprintcar League and then the National Sprint Tour) and
USAC's non-Winged Sprint Car Series with the rumored breakaway
dirt track series. Because USAC is hell bent on the
Superspeedway Sprintcar idea, and because most team owners can't
afford the new cars, or detest moving away from the sports
dirt track roots, a new breakaway dirt track series is
supposedly in the works.
Wheel Racing is dividing and dying
IRL and Champ Car
Atlantic and IPS
WoO and National Sprint Tour
USAC Sprint Cars
USAC and rumored new dirt track
Because Tony George destroyed the
top-rung of open wheel racing, the sponsors and manufacturers
have slowly left the sport of Indy Car Racing. Sponsors are smart
enough to avoid getting involved in the open wheel civil war when they
can move to a much more harmonious environment in NASCAR where everyone
is rowing in the same direction.
Even the fans of open wheel racing
despise each other. Numerous fan discussion forums on the internet
are fraught with hatred for 'the other side' and are continually trying
to tear down the so-called opponent. Open wheel racing has become
its own worst enemy with the various factions caused by the split
rejoicing each time something bad happens to the other half.
Infighting over bragging rights,
sponsors, tracks, teams and even drivers is like a cancer that is slowly
killing the sport.
What would happen to the sport of stock
car racing if all of a sudden NASCAR was broken up, and what is now such
a strong focus at the top of the sport became a tit-for-tat battle for
supremacy? The same cancer we see destroying open wheel racing
would begin to permeate throughout stock car racing.
Racing, while a much bigger sport today
than it was 20 years ago, simply isn't big enough to be able to
survive a breakup. Racing by its very nature is an expensive
sport. There simply is not enough sponsorship money to go around
to ensure a multifaceted effort.
Behind the scenes the France family was
smart enough to head off a possible breakaway league a couple of years
ago. The TRAC league was announced and it even had NASCAR legend
Cale Yarborough as one of its key figures. Mysteriously TRAC
quickly faded away and everyone suspects that the France family did
whatever it had to behind the scenes to see that the league never saw
the light of day.
There must be a merger of the IRL and Champ Car, or one must soon
die, for the sake of the sport's future
Unless the key principals in open wheel
racing step back, realize that their sport is under attack (both from
outside competition as well as its own internal divide-and-be-conquered
cancer) and unite, I simply don't see America's oldest form of
motorsport being around at all 10 or so years from now unless the head
of open wheel racing is put back on its body by reuniting the IRL and
Champ Car. The longer the two stay divided, the better the chance
open wheel racing will eventually become extinct in the USA.
And the history books will point to that
fateful day in 1994 when one Anton George sliced off its head.
Copyright 1999-2012 AutoRacing1 is an
independent internet online publication and is not affiliated with, sponsored by, or endorsed
by the IRL., NASCAR, FIA, Sprint, or any other series sponsor.
This material may not be published, broadcast, or redistributed without