Unification was just the start to repairing open wheel racing

When the great open-wheel racing unification (or merger or semi-hostile takeover) occurred last month, it was a big story here in the racing capital of the world.

But beyond Indy's borders, it was greeted by a massive yawn. On ESPN, in papers around the country, it was a small story, a back-page mention, reduced to small agate type right next to the news that Joe Schmo was hired as Towson State's men's volleyball coach.

The best news is, finally, there's hope for open-wheel racing in this country. No longer will fans and sponsors be confused by which circuit is which. No longer will drivers be forced to make a choice between the leagues. And maybe, just maybe, the exodus of open-wheel drivers to NASCAR will slow or even stop. The bad news is, it wasn't big news, except in Indianapolis.

After 12 years of civil war, America has turned its lonely eyes to NASCAR, and it's not going to return its gaze to open-wheel racing for many years — if ever. The merger won't bring back Dario Franchitti, Juan Pablo Montoya or Sam Hornish Jr.

In the great race to earn America's attention, NASCAR has a 10-lap advantage on the late-starting folks from the Indy Racing League and Champ Car World Series.

"Is there going to be a miracle change overnight?" asked IRL team owner Michael Andretti during an interview with WNFI-1070 AM. "No. But now we have something positive to build on. We've had a lot of positive things happen the last few years, but there was always that black cloud hanging over us. Now we can expose fans to the good things we've been doing, and we can move forward without explaining why there's two series and all the rest.

"I don't know how long it's going to take to get the sport back to where it was (before The Split), but I'm hoping in three to five years, it's significantly bigger."
There is work to be done.

A lot of work.

"We've got a long, long list (of things to do), and right now, we're trying to get some (Champ Car) guys down here (to Florida) for some testing," IRL founder Tony George told the station last week. "We hope that all of those who want to come have the ability to come.

"The good news is, we're finally all together and we're going to work together to get the best positive result." More at Indy Star

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