Open Wheel predicted to make advances on NASCAR

"I believe the IRL is heading in the right direction," said Dr. Jerry Punch, who patrolled pit road Sunday in Watkins Glen. "I think NASCAR has done a good job of putting stock car racing on the map. I believe in the very near future that there will be unification between the IRL and the Champ Car World Series and that is good news.

"America can and should follow more than just one racing series. Let NASCAR handle the stock car racing and a new, unified series cater to those who like Indy-type racing. Hopefully interest in Indy car racing will grow and share in some of the limelight now reserved for NASCAR only. Auto racing overall benefits when fans become followers of more then one series."

Even with the split series and some views there are not enough American drivers in the series, IRL is still a very engaging type of racing.

Despite his Brazilian heritage, two-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves has gained popularity with many fans due to his colorful personality, fast driving style and "Spiderman" wheel-fence climbing antics.

"We absolutely have space for both series," Castroneves said as he prepared for his start from the pole Sunday. "NASCAR is a different type of racing and Indy Cars are a very different type of racing. The good news is that yes, we are getting more attention. I'm glad we came back to Watkins Glen. We were here already last year and you could see in practice a lot of fans just to watch us. It also shows that people enjoy road courses and it's not just about ovals."

"Back in the 1920's and 30's, you had European drivers although they weren't as dominant," explained Watkins Glen chief historian Bill Green. "Sterling Moss' dad raced at Indianapolis once. You had some of the top Italian drivers that came over and were there. They weren't racing Indy cars on a regular basis as they are today.

"After [World War II] there were several Italians. Later, when the rear-engine boys took over the sport you had Jim Clark [of Scotland] winning the Indianapolis 500 in 1965 and Graham Hill [England] in 1966. From then on, there were European and South American drivers as well."

Motorsports industry insiders as well as some IRL officials feel that unification within the next two years between the IRL and Champ Car World Series seemingly is more certain than ever. Indy car racing has a real and legitimate shot at rebounding in popularity. More at Buffalo News

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