NASCAR and the Champ Car/IRL merger

UPDATE A reader writes, Dear, It will be interesting to see how this all plays out. I'm sure you are right with your speculation of NASCAR trying to sway Tony George, but I think NASCAR abandoning IMS would be a huge mistake for them. I don't care how successful they are at their other events there is only one Indy.

But Indy means more to open wheel than NASCAR. A unified American open wheel series could run two races at IMS one in the Spring on the oval, otherwise known as the Indy 500, and one in the Fall on the road course. Furthermore, if the F1 race is failing, why not replace it with a 12 or 24 hour ALMS race? It seems to me that Kevin Kalkhoven has helped create better relations between Champ Car and ALMS. In my opinion this will create a nightmare situation for the France family as ALMS will be getting more exposure than their Grand Am series by running on the famed track and the unified open wheel series will provide even more reason for sponsors to return by running two races in Indianapolis.

For Tony George's part he will still have three races and a percentage in the series that runs two of them. It seems that if things can get worked out properly, then we are perhaps on the cusp of a change in American racing as open wheel and sportscar racing will be able to turn the tide against the NASCAR dictatorship that is currently in place.

Thanks for your speculations and news coverage. Joe Yack

04/19/06 What does NASCAR have to do with the recent Champ Car/IRL merger talks you ask? Well, if the rumor mill is to be believed, some folks from down south are putting pressure on Tony George. Why you ask? Why would NASCAR and the France family care?

Our answer would be, of course they care. What do they have to gain from a revitalized open wheel racing? Nothing – since very few IndyCar races are run on ISC tracks. If we were in their shoes, we would not want to see a merger either as it could bring unwanted competition for NASCAR.

But how can they influence Tony George's decision to merge or not? One scenario would be a threat to pull the Brickyard 400 from Indy. Never!, some would say, it's too big a race for NASCAR. Our response would say NASCAR has 38 big races a year, if they lose one, the percent impact on their bottom line would be minimal. And of course new races are waiting in the wings that would easily replace much of the lost revenue from the Brickyard 400.

That is not the case for the Indy Speedway. They have just three races a year. Of the three, the USGP loses money and the Indy 500 does not turn the profit it once did. That leaves the Brickyard 400 as their biggest moneymaker and one of only two races that adds to their bottom line. Imagine the percent impact to the Hulman George profits if the Brickyard 400 is pulled out from under them.

And what about the Brock Yates column in a recent edition of Car and Driver magazine where he said he heard the Brickyard might be for sale and the France family might be buying?

However, if any of this were to be what is going on, Tony George has an ally in Kevin Kalkhoven, known for being a master strategist.

This all would make for a great Soap Opera…..As the World Turns, er….or is it As The Big Dogs Play Chess? Mark C.

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