8 to 12 Champ Car teams to make switch
Now comes the hard part: making the merger between America's two major open-wheel series work. "It'll be long and tedious and expensive and a lot of work to put it all together,'' car owner Derrick Walker said Monday after an orientation meeting for the Champ Car teams that are expected to make the switch to the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series this season. But everybody on both sides of the aisle are 100 percent behind the merger and want to make it work. That's the main thing,'' Walker said. "It'll work ... it will just take time.''
IRL founder Tony George, the owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Champ Car co-owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe announced the agreement to end the 12-year split in open-wheel racing last week. With the season-opening race at Homestead-Miami Speedway less than five weeks away, there's a lot to be done, and not much time to get the former Champ Car teams ready.
The IRL will make engines and chassis available, possibly as early as Tuesday, and within the next week or two will announce an expanded schedule that will likely include some of the former Champ Car races, IRL president Brian Barnhart said.
Monday's meeting, which included representatives of all of the major Champ Car teams and some of its drivers, was the IRL's first opportunity to detail the nuts-and-bolts operation of the series to its potential new members. The IRL has scheduled preseason testing Wednesday and Thursday at Homestead, although none of the Champ Car teams will be there.
"We want to make everybody feel welcome, get them up to speed as quickly as possible,'' Barnhart said. "We've assigned an existing IndyCar team as the point relation to a potential Champ Car team that is joining, and they're going to be the liaison with regards to chassis builds, to cornering loads, gear ratios, baseline setups, to try and help facilitate the transition of equipment as easily as possible.''
The number of cars added to the IRL's current 16-car grid could range from eight to 12.
"It's still too early to tell. This was the first meeting they got information,'' Barnhart said. "There was a high level of interest. I think anything we get from eight cars and above is an absolute home run and the best situation we could hope for, and I think that's very reasonable and something I think will be achieved.'' More at SI.com