View Full Version : Open Wheel war is over?

02-08-2008, 08:20 AM
The long, costly war between Champ Car and the Indy Racing League is close to being over and, for the first time since 1995, there could be one open wheel series for 2008. But there

02-08-2008, 08:20 AM
Indy and Open Wheel used to be a lot bigger then NASCAR until a struggle between owners, drivers, tracks and sponsors caused a fracturing of the sport. A merger of series would be great for racing.

02-08-2008, 10:48 AM
Merger discussions between Champ Car, IRL hit roadblock
By MIKE HARRIS, AP Auto Racing Writer
February 8, 2008

The latest merger discussions between Indy Racing League and the rival Champ Car World Series hit a snag over race dates.

Series founder Tony George has offered Champ Car teams free Dallara chassis and Honda engines, along with the $1.2 million in incentives it is paying each of its own teams to race in the IndyCar Series in 2008, IRL spokesman John Griffin said Friday.

The IRL also would absorb at least three of the 14 races on the Champ Car schedule -- Long Beach, Calif.; Edmonton, Alberta; and Surfers Paradise, Australia.

The biggest hurdle appears to be the head-to-head scheduling of the Long Beach race, Champ Car's season opener April 20, and the IRL's April 19 event at the Honda-owned Motegi track in Japan. Long Beach officials say they cannot change their date because of contracts with the Long Beach Convention Center, around which the street circuit is set up. Motegi officials have refused to move their date.

"As long as Honda won't move Motegi, there won't be a merger," Champ Car co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven told The Associated Press on Friday. "It's certainly a major hurdle, but not the only one.

"I believe there are significant advantages in doing (the merger), but I believe there are also significant advantages in not doing it. At this moment in time, there are no discussions until they move Motegi."

Griffin was more optimistic about the negotiations with Kalkhoven and Champ Car co-owner Gerald Forsythe.

"This thing is moving forward, but there's still some work to be done. I don't know how long it's going to take," he said. "We are looking to add some teams and some races. (Retired Honda racing boss) Robert Clarke and Tony are going to head to Japan to talk to the Japanese about coming off their date."

George founded the IRL in 1995 and the series began racing in 1996. Champ Car, then known as CART, continued as a separate series. Both sides have struggled to find sponsorship and acceptance and have lived with meager car counts and television ratings.

Most recently, each series lost its top stars -- four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais to Formula One and 2007 Indianapolis 500 winner and IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti and three-time IndyCar champion Sam Hornish Jr. to NASCAR.

Numerous attempts to unite the groups over the years have failed, mostly over who would hold control. Longtime racing star Mario Andretti has made several attempts to get the sides together.

"It's the only solution we have to save the sport we love so much," he said. "The bottom line is that this is desperately needed. There's no losers in a situation like this, starting with the fans."

02-20-2008, 02:00 PM
IndyCar resolution to come Friday

February 20, 2008
By Bruce Martin PA SportsTicker Contributing Editor

IndyCar officials have tentatively scheduled a press conference for Friday as early as 11 a.m. in Indianapolis, where they will announce that the long American open-wheel racing war has come to an end.

Series officials had hoped to make the announcement Thursday. But Champ Car principle Kevin Kalkhoven will not be back from England, where he is tending to family business.

Friday's announcement will end the 13-year feud that began when Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Tony George announced the creation of a new racing series on March 20, 1994. At that time, most of the teams that competed in the Indianapolis 500 were in CART, a series that went bankrupt and would later be revived as Champ Car.

George's original intention was to have CART teams participate in what was then known as the Indy Racing League. But most of those teams refused, starting a lengthy and divisive battle for supremacy in North American open wheel racing.

But Champ Car has agreed to cease operations, which will allow its teams to accept George's offer of a free Dallara car and free Honda engines to make the transition to the new series.

As part of the agreement, IndyCar will purchase Champ Car's "intellectual properties," including the historical database.

For example, Sam Hornish Jr. is officially listed as the series' all-time wins leader with 19. But under the new agreement, the all-time lead would be returned to A.J. Foyt, who has 67 career victories.

In addition, IndyCar is expected to get Champ Car's race dates for the Long Beach Grand Prix along with street races in Edmonton, Alberta; Surfer's Paradise, Australia and Mexico City.

This would not be a merger of Champ Car and IndyCar because the IndyCar Series will be the only series in competition. And it is not technically an acquisition because IndyCar will not be acquiring the assets of Champ Car.

The proper term would be an "amalgamation," which means Champ Car closes up business and its teams join IndyCar.

In recent weeks while George was making his offer to bring the two sides together, Champ Car's principles, which include Kalkhoven, Gerald Forsythe, Paul Gentilozzi and Dan Pettit, have considered one last effort to stage the 2008 season or to file bankruptcy.

Either way, the IndyCar Series will now have the opportunity to lead this form of racing into the future with the Indianapolis 500 as its cornerstone event.

But the agreement does not necessarily mean a large contingent of Champ Car teams will be joining IndyCar this year. Some teams may close up or enter a new form of racing, such as sports cars.

Champ Car teams Walker Racing and Newman-Haas-Lanigan are expected to join the IndyCar Series but some of IndyCar's current teams, such as Dreyer & Reinbold and Vision Racing, which ironically is owned by George, may have to reduce the number of cars it fields this season.

Dreyer & Reinbold campaigned two cars in IndyCar last season but may run just one car in 2008. Also, Vision Racing has 10 cars in its possession and will be the main source of cars that will be heading to Champ Car teams that decide to join IndyCar.

Larry Curry is the team manager at Vision Racing and will be in charge of preparing the cars that will be going to the new teams joining the IndyCar Series, as well as his own effort for his drivers.

"I think certainly we've anticipated this was in the works and I want to say that we are prepared," Curry said. "If and when we get the final word that we need to get some of that stuff distributed we'll be able to answer the bell. It hasn't been totally defined exactly yet how all of that transpires - if and when it becomes official to tell you the truth.

"You're going to expect more of your people and things of that nature, but to me the sooner it's official the better. You want to get done what you need to get done for that and then move on because you are 100 percent right. ... If they announce this thing tomorrow, it's not too soon for me."

Curry said his crew at Vision Racing will be working throughout the weekend to get all 10 of its cars prepared for use at next week's IndyCar Open test at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"It adds work to the plate for sure," Curry said. "Even though you have all these cars, they are in a cycle and you have to bring that to the forefront quicker than anticipated. What Vision was doing with all of these cars was the 2008 modifications with the anti-intrusion panels. We're installing those on all 10 of those cars. That's a process in itself that is new to us and has added more time to the physical build of the cars.

"We're going to run two cars full time. Tony George needs to officially announce his driver lineup with that but what we would do beyond that is yet to be determined."

If the IndyCar Series began racing tomorrow, there would only be 16 cars, and that's assuming Rahal Letterman competes this season along with Marty Roth running two cars.

It remains unclear which Champ Car teams will actually join IndyCar.

"I hope they all come," Curry said. "If you have eight cars plus the 16 you have and get to 24, that would be pretty big. Once we get it and get it done, it's who all is really going to come. Hopefully, they all do.

"I want to see open-wheel racing gets back to where qualifying actually means something. That would be pretty cool. It hasn't been that way in a long, long time."

Curry has been involved in the IndyCar Series since it was called the Indy Racing League in 1996, when he was the team manager at Team Menard and Tony Stewart was one of his drivers.

Prior to the 1996 season, when CART and the IRL went separate ways, a case could be made that IndyCar racing was the dominant form of racing in the United States over NASCAR in terms of general, broad-based interest.

That was before NASCAR pulled away from the field.

Now that IndyCar could be one unified group, Curry is hopefully the building process can begin.

"Once this announcement comes down, let's everyone focus on what needs to be done to make this series the best it could be," Curry said. "Let's make a single focus about where we need to take this thing for the future. That's the only way we are ultimately going to get to where we need to get.

"I want people in open-wheel racing to always believe they have the best guys in one series and not in another series."

As former CART and IndyCar driver Robby Gordon said at last week's Daytona 500 "Getting the cars together is the easy part; the hard part was getting the two sides to finally agree to become one."

Even with one unified IndyCar Series, it may be difficult to compete in the racing world with NASCAR's huge sponsorship, media and fan base advantages.

But at the very least, it will help restore stature to IndyCar's premier event, the Indianapolis 500.

"I just hope it happens," said Chip Ganassi, who owns teams in IndyCar, NASCAR and Rolex Grand American Sports Car Racing. "There can't be five people on the planet that don't want it to happen, so let's hope it happens.

"If they were to get back together, I think that's only when the work would begin. It's probably like the 1994 baseball strike. The work really begins once you get all of the problems behind you. It would be nice to get all of the issues in one place. Get all of the rulesmakers in one place. Get all of the promoters in one place. Get everybody at one table instead of two. It would certainly end a lot of confusion in the marketplace."