Tuesday, March 4, 2008
Unification - And The Long and Winding Road To It...
Finally, it took 12 years, hundreds of races, many gallons of fuel, and sets of tires to make it happen. The Indy Racing League's Tony George and Champ Car's (Formerly known as CART) Kevin Kalkhoven has reunited after a 12 year split, that has damaged the fabric of open wheel racing in North America. When I was a little kid, around 13 or so, I first had my real glimpse of open wheel racing with the Indianapolis 500 in 1995 - 1 year before the split. I was flipping through the television one Sunday afternoon, and i got to this channel, showing the beautiful Indianapolis Motor Speedway...as soon as Scott Goodyear passed the pace car, and lost the race due to a black flag penalty. Jacques Villenuve won that year, but the next year would be completely different. Of course i didn't know either series well, or the ramifications of what the split caused at the time. to me it was just more racing to watch on the television. So in 1996 I sat there, tape recorder in hand, to watch Buddy Lazier, a no name compared to the likes of Unser, Andretti, or Mears, win the famous race.
Over the years, I began to notice certain things about CART & The IRL - like the attendance being down at most, if not all of the IRL & CART events, Indy was slowly losing its infamous luster, and most fans were complaining about the Dallara & G Force chassis in the IRL being powered by the likes of Oldsmobile (soon to be Chevrolet) and Infinity, not sounding like "real" race cars. CART, on the other hand, had Unser, Zanardi, Andretti, the best road courses, street circuits, and ovals (except Indy) and Turbocharged Honda, Toyota, Ford & Mercedes Benz power with Reynard, Lola, & Swift chassis. Real race cars as some might have said, but this was all before CART CEO Andrew Craig resigned, and a succession of stand in CEO's came through the boardroom- Bobby Rahal, being the most notable, followed by the series eventually filing for bankruptcy in 2002, along with most of the well known Champ Car teams at the time, moving over to the IRL
In 2000, However, the very first sign of unification was a relatively small one - Chip Ganassi Coming to Indianapolis with Juan Pablo Montoya and Jimmy Vasser to race in the Indianapolis 500. Montoya Won the race, a feat no rookie has done since Graham Hill in 1966, but little did he know is that he, Jimmy, and the team started sowing the seeds of unification. years followed along with more CART teams coming to Indy (Roger Penske came the following year, winning with Helio Castroneves - Former CART driver) along with rumors, talks and statements....some true, some not so true, but they were all leading to the moment Robin Miller, of Speed Channel, leaked the story to the general public, earlier this year
So after realizing the years of politics, and angry fans, and watching both series crumble to NASCAR's overall dominance of the sport in North America, am I happy they got back together?
but my only thing is that some people will unfortunately be left out in the cold, and it seems unfair, somewhat. Engine builder - Cosworth, has no where to go, along with a majority of Champ Car employees, and Panoz - chassis manufacturer to champ car. several tracks will also feel the blow, such as Toronto, Cleveland, Laguna Seca, Assen, and Edmonton, with Long Beach being one of the few tracks spared on the schedule. Time will tell on how far things will go between both series, and who knows...It may give NASCAR a run for its money, in the top spot of #1 morsport in North America.
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