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Things desperate in Champ Car too UPDATE Another reader responds, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I have to take issue with Jeff Smith’s suggestion that potential Champ Car drivers who bring money are comparable to wanker baseball players buying their way onto the New York Yankees roster. A couple of points:

- Yes, it would be preferable that Champ Car had the visibility and TV ratings to bring in the team sponsorship dollars that would pay every driver in the field a salary based purely on talent. That’s not the case as Champ Car continues the slow climb back to prosperity.

- In the rest of the world, the two big sports are soccer and auto racing. If auto racing is a major sport in your country, that means there is a strong grass-roots ladder system for drivers that is directly supported by sponsors at each level. In the USA, and in the absence of the strong open-wheel growth the sport saw before the split, NASCAR is getting to that point as a good driver can find local sponsorship to run on the local Saturday night short track, then progress through the ranks. There are a lot of drivers in NASCAR who have close personal relations with corporate sponsors that have helped them throughout their careers. In open wheel racing outside North America, the same thing happens – good drivers develop relationships with corporate benefactors who provide the funding to go race and move up the ladder. As you observe, Mr. Smith fails to make the distinction between personal-wealth ride-buyers and good drivers who bring personal sponsors to the table. This used to happen a lot in pre-split Indy Cars (Provimi Veal, Kraco, etc), but the grassroots of the sport in the USA is not back to that point yet, at least for open wheel. A driver who brings money is not necessarily a wanker. Often, it’s exactly the opposite – he or she has developed corporate benefactors due to success in a ladder series.

- To say that it will be a cold day in hell before he buys a ticket to a race full of drivers who bring money to the table is to say that he will not participate in the rebuilding of the sport. In my humble opinion, that’s his loss. While not many Americans will be able to join the field under this scenario (since there is a lack of grassroots sponsor support for open wheel in this country while it is strong in other parts of the world), some of the best young drivers in the world will be in the field.

- Can Champ Car get back to the point where the majority of drivers in the field get paid a salary to driver? Yes, but it’s going to take years. One of the strongest indicators of recovery is the health of the ladder series. If you look at Atlantic versus IPS, it’s pretty evident that the powers that be at Champ Car have come up with a formula that will bring not just new talent into the racing world, but new sponsor relationships also. Atlantics is not just a training ground for drivers and teams, it’s also a training ground for corporate sponsors.

- The difference between Champ Car and the IRL in this regard is that IRL is on the decline while Champ Car is growing. That’s a huge difference. Has the split damaged the sport? Obviously, it has. Is it time to give up and quit buying race tickets? Hardly; in fact, now is the time to redouble your support if you claim to be a fan. For me, I’m going to attend as many events as I can afford, buy merchandise, be an active participant in the recovery of the sport I love and count the days until the IRL collapses under the weight of its failed smoke-and-mirrors business plan. Trey Wilson, Houston, Texas  To read original letter press

12/04/05 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I noticed your rumor about things being desperate in the IRL, well it's just as bad in Champ Car. I was reading your F1 Silly Season page and noted all the green 'fact' markers meaning the driver has been signed for 2006. I then switched over to the Champ Car Silly Season page and saw a stark difference. Only 4 drivers are signed for 2006 and the rest of the rides are still up in the air. I guess the majority of the seats will be reserved for ride-buyers That's like saying a bunch of wanker (as you call them) baseball players will buy their way onto the NY Yankees baseball team, and not because they are the best players, but because they bring money.

It'll be a cold day in hell before I buy a race ticket to see a field full of wankers race. Is it a sport or is it a show (again I use your words)? Jeff Smith, Dallas Texas

Dear Jeff, No argument from us. The split in open wheel racing has resulted in almost all the manufacturers leaving and going to race elsewhere. The teams know both sides of the war are having a hard time landing sponsorship on their own and much uncertainty exists. Ride-buyers are not always wankers, in fact some are excellent drivers, but they just happen to bring a sponsor with them because they are good.  The lack of announcements from both camps indicates they have nothing to announce, which results in potential sponsors going elsewhere because there s not a lot of good news surrounding the series. The silence is deafening and our Champ Car Silly Season page depicts the sad state of affairs. If we did a Silly Season page for the IRL it would show similar desperation. Meanwhile the war goes on. Mark C.

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