Agreement to merge the IRL and Champ Car? UPDATE #9 This new USA Today article says, While Champ Car World Series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven characterizes discussions with Tony George as informal meetings at ski resorts, he says they have broadened communications between the series enough that they plan to continue talking in the coming months. But he suggests it would be 2007 at the earliest before any settlement.
"I think we all recognize the virtue of bringing the two series together, but the most difficult thing isn't doing (the deal) but what happens afterward," Kalkhoven says. "It's a matter of Tony and me getting to know each other. We keep talking, and that's good and things are moving forward. I can't say if it's this year or next, but progress is being made."
"The most important thing is to get it right, because the worse thing is for a merger to fail. All the details have to be agreed upon."
Kalkhoven says being new to ownership and not having a personal history of the animosity between the series have helped him keep an open mind during talks with George, whom some blame for the split that has allowed NASCAR to become racing's premier series. And in acknowledging that fans on both sides might maintain hard feelings even with a resolution, he believes the enmity will evolve into acceptance whenever racing's longest standoff finally ends.
"It's been 10 years since the split, and you're not going to repair that overnight," Kalkhoven says. "But we've got good teams and good partners and the spirit of willingness and cooperation, which is great." More at USA Today03/03/06 Some readers chime in, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Bravo to Derrick Walker, somebody inside finally speaking the truth that both sides need each other. Also, Robin Miller is dead on with the comments about the marketing efforts on both side. The marketing has been insulting the intelligence of all open wheel fans for the last 10 years. Tim Shaw, Wheaton, IL
Another writes, Just read Robin Miller's article on the latest hope for unification- as ever he speaks complete common sense and I find I agree with him 100%.
It's been clear for sometime (well ever since 1995) that one series was the way to go, I guess both sides had to reach a point where they could see the writing on the wall before common sense prevailed. Frankly I don't see much of a future for OW racing otherwise- the Indy 500 will survive in one form or the other but am not so sure about the rest.
To my surprise I've seen the odd comment on the forums claiming that reunification wasn't needed, each to his own I guess, personally I am hoping that TG and KK can put this thing back together again as what's left of CART/CCWS isn't really hitting the mark for me anymore- which is a shame as the old PPG CART Indy Car series used to be compulsive viewing, nowadays I get my US racing thrills from NASCAR.
Here's hoping 2006 will bring an end to the CART/IRL war and the forums will be talking about racing and not the tedious politics behind the split. Derek Parkinson
Dear Derek, Anyone who doesn't agree a merger is necessary are simply walking around with rose colored glasses on. As we wrote in this recent article, 'Headless Open Wheel Racing appears Doomed,' 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. Mark C.03/03/06 In this latest Robin Miller article he agrees with AutoRacing1.com that a merger of the IRL and Champ Car must happen. Some interesting quotes:
"We so desperately need each other it isn't funny," said Derrick Walker, an owner who's competed in both camps during the past decade of decomposition and also tried to orchestrate peace in 1998. "Tony (George) can't be happy with where the IRL is right now and we certainly can't be satisfied with Champ Car.
"There's no better time than right now because misery loves company."
03/01/06 This article is one author's opinion on the potential for a merger and why it is needed. The author is spot on regarding one point - if George and Kalkhoven care about the future of open wheel racing in America it's time to drop the hammer, i.e. end the split.
02/25/06 Dr. Jerry Punch, an IRL ABC pit reporter stated on ESPN Radio yesterday that the merger deal will get done for 2007. The way in which he presented it left the listeners believing he knew something was definitely in the works.
AutoRacing1.com has been a proponent of a merger for a very long time and we are firm believers it must happen. The long-term existence of the sport is at stake. We believe the rivalry between the teams of the two leagues in a merged series will be very healthy for the sport. There will be a real passion from the fans cheering for their side to win, something the sport needs badly. Rather than the negative passion we see today in a divided scenario with the other side wanting destruction of the other side, we will see that passion funneled onto the race track in a positive sense - may the best team win.
02/24/06 Tony George wants the hubbub following news of his recent meetings with Champ Car World Series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven to subside.
"It was a one-day story," the Indy Racing League's founder said Thursday. "I don't expect anything extraordinary to come of it." George said he and Kalkhoven are not close to striking a deal to merge the two open-wheel series, as both sides have business commitments to honor.
"(The IRL) just signed a four-year agreement with Honda, and we've got a four-year agreement with our broadcast partner," George said. "We're looking into entering long-term agreements with our (event) promoters so all the teams, sponsors and constituents can have an idea where we're going."
Asked if a deal with Champ Car was still possible for the 2007 season, George paused before answering. "I have no idea where to go with that (answer) because we're not really trying to make something happen," he said. "So I don't know if it's possible for 2007 or not."
On a personal level, Kalkhoven tried to convince George to return to skiing after years of snowboarding. "We're two guys who have the best intentions of open-wheel racing at heart," said Kalkhoven, who had been in George's company only twice prior to a dinner in Paris in December. "We've met, talked, skied a little and drank wine, but so far that's about it." Indy Star
02/22/06 Tony George was unavailable for comment but IMS vice president of communications Fred Nation said the AutoWeek report was far from accurate. All that stuff about what had been agreed on and a letter of intent -- none of that is true," said Nation. "What is accurate is Kevin's quote that there is no deal.
"Have they talked? Yes and that's a good thing. There may be an opportunity here but it comes down to the chemistry between Tony and Kevin. Right now it's the same old song and we've all heard it before."
But Tuesday afternoon Kalkhoven admitted the AutoWeek story came at a bad time.
"This was not a good time for this because Tony and I have made a lot of progress in getting to know each other and understanding each other's viewpoints." said Kalkhoven, who has skied and met with George several times in the past months. "Both of us are committed to the future of open wheel racing in North America and we're trying to build bridges for the future.
"Tony has been extremely professional and I can't emphasize how important it has been for both of us to understand each other. If people truly care about open wheel racing in America, then please go away and leave Tony and I alone." More at SPEEDTV.com
02/21/06 This IndyStar.com article has more quotes about the rumored IRL/Champ Car deal. “The only way it can happen is if everyone goes away and leaves us alone,” Kevin Kalkhoven said of recent discussions he had with Indy Racing League founder Tony George.
Kalkhoven acknowledged he and George have met several times since their unscheduled meeting at the Race of Champions event in Paris in December. Kalkhoven said he and George have even skied together, providing another opportunity to discuss the future of the sport they control in North America. But Kalkhoven said they are not actively negotiating a deal, and discussing a potential merger via the media is not an option.
“Both sides have to come out of this as a winner,” said Kalkhoven, who rescued Champ Car from bankruptcy two years ago.
“Whether we come together now or a year from now or never, I really don’t know.” The sport has been divided since George started the IRL in 1996.
George could not be reached for comment today. The recent discussions have raised the hopes of several in the sport, including Eddie Cheever Jr., who today announced his return as an IRL driver.
“I’m confident that the big pot is being stirred,” the 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner said. “That’s good for all of us, and it could be good for our business.” 02/21/06 Kevin Kalkhoven confirmed with AutoRacing1.com that he and Tony George have had several social meetings, and that there is no agreement in place for a merger, but that Tony and he have developed a good working relationship. Other than that Kalkhoven had nothing more to say for the record. Mark C.
02/21/06 This is almost certainly the one. More than a decade after Tony George cut ties with CART and launched the Indy Racing League, after years of declining popularity and failed efforts to end the rift in Indy-style racing, all indicators suggest there is essential agreement to merge the IRL and Champ Car World Series for the 2007 season.
Indeed, George and Champ Car co-owner (and front man) Kevin Kalkhoven may be ready to sign a letter of intent.
Kalkhoven downplays any pending deal, but concedes that he and George have met several times in the last month.
"There is no letter of intent, and absolutely, completely no deal,'' Kalkhoven told AutoWeek. "We met in Paris at the Race of Champions and on a couple of occasions since, socially. Certainly I expect there will be more meetings in the future. I quite enjoy (George's) company." More at AutoWeek.com