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Penske doesn’t want merger Although Roger Penske says he wants a merger between Champ Car and the IRL, if you read between the lines, one has to question whether he really does want a merger. After all, he is heavily tied to NASCAR and the France family, i.e. the oval track cartel. Given that it's easy to see he would prefer open wheel racing be run on all oval tracks, though that was tried by the IRL with very mixed results and many injured drivers, some fatally. When the Marlboro giveaways cease it remains to be seen how well some of these races draw attendance wise.
In the September issue of Road & Track magazine, Penske is interviewed and asked whether he sees a Champ Car/IRL merger happening. You be the judge of what he says.
"I was involved in discussions with Gerald Forsythe and Kevin Kalkhoven two years ago and it just seemed so difficult based on things they wanted to have happen and what Tony George had to do in order to be able to come to an agreement. Mario Andretti tried a year ago and that fell on deaf ears. I've heard a lot of rhetoric in 2006.
"There was a lot of concern because the IRL was all ovals; there's a transition now to four or five road courses. With St. Petersburg , we're getting some traction at some of these tracks in new markets, and to me that's going to help us and our competitors. The biggest factor is cost I think Tony and Barnhart have really looked at cost, and with this single engine program in 2006, and also a common chassis for the next three years, we're running cars today in races that we owned last year. That was unheard of three or four years ago. So today the cost of the product is much better." [What he fails to say is that the IRL copied this model from Champ Car and in reality would still have high costs with head-to-head manufacturer battles had Chevy and Toyota not dumped the IRL. So as usual Mr. Penske paints a picture as he wants us to believe, but in reality how it happened was in no way a reflection on the IRL's great thinking.]
"The TV deal that the IRL has is superior to Champ Car's. [Agree] Now Champ Car has some great markets like Long Beach, which I think are great markets to race in, but there might be alternatives to that. [Why does he not just say that the IRL is trying to get into the nearby LA market in an attempt to marginalize Champ Car.]
"Kevin Kalkhoven wants to build a brand-new car. We have many, many cars here in the IRL, which we have proven to be safe, they're inexpensive, they're reliable on both ovals and road courses. It would be foolish to come up with a brand new car that everyone would have to spend hundreds of thousands to buy. So that's obviously a critical point. [So what Roger is saying he would prefer to keep what most in the industry call ugly 'crapwagons' (a term first coined by Paul Tracy after he drove one) and have been a coffin with 4 wheels for a number of drivers, instead of everyone switch to a newer, less expensive American Panoz. What Roger prefers is to use the car issue as a barrier to a merger. If the Champ Car teams can afford a new car with the little sponsorship they have, surely the better funded IRL teams can afford it. 2007 would have been the year to do the merger with everyone buying new cars and everyone being on equal footing.]
"Then, what's going to happen to the engine? From my perspective Honda has a great program and if someone else wants to come in with an equal engine I think we can do that. If Kalkhoven wants to run a Cosworth and we have the Honda, it would be great for the competition, and you make the choice. [Yes, Roger's Ilmor company has a great business rebuilding those normally aspirated Honda engines that are so loud they are unacceptable on street circuits. As long as Cosworth runs their ex-Chevy normally aspirated engine against the Honda it's OK, but it's not OK for Honda to instead roll out their ex-CART 2.65L turbo.]
"I'm less optimistic than most people that Champ Car and IRL can come together because you've got strong business people in Kalkhoven and certainly Gerald Forsythe, who is committed to maybe not see it come together without holding onto a whole lot of control, and I don't think that is going to happen with Tony George." [What Roger is saying is that a 50/50 deal is not acceptable, his side, i.e. Tony George, must control open wheel racing and he tries to blame Gerald Forsythe from stopping the merger because all he wants is a 50/50 deal. Roger's remarks are so transparent.]
"I have a good feeling right now coming out of the race in St. Petersburg. We had a strong showing in Motegi. And I think that's the only international race we'll have. Most of the US sponsors want to see us racing here. Canada would be fine. Mexico would be fine, kind of NAFTA. [Last time we checked Roger, Canada and Mexico were international too. It's only international if Roger says it is we suppose.] I think with the schedule we have, the TV ratings are not the greatest, but they're better. [No Roger, they are not.] I think Danica has brought a lot of interest to the sport, which is what we need. [Agree] I think the IRL has a solid management team with Barnhart and his people [The same team that lost Chevy and lost Toyota]. They'll stay the course. If we get together with Champ Car, it would be a great solution, but what would happen? You would have four or five teams moving into one series or the other. I don't think it would be a mass exodus. There would be more competition. But the racing today, the top teams in IRL means 10 cars at every race can win the race. I think that is pretty amazing." [10 cars. Really Roger? Is that why four cars, yours and Ganassi's, have won all but two races. Sounds like a nice convenient little fiefdom whereby you have the ability to pretty much win at will and make a handsome profit on all those exclusive Honda rebuilds as the perfect scenario for Roger Penske.]
But don't let us influence your decision on what Roger said, you be the judge. From our perspective, however, Roger seems to want to keep things just the way they are. And we're sure the France family (NASCAR) couldn't agree more.
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