Winners, Losers and Stepping In It. The Aftermath Of Openwheel Mergification

Tony CastaneiraAnalyst IJune 25, 2008

Winners, Losers and Stepping In It.

    The dust is still settling since last February’s announced merger of the now defunct Champ Car World Series and the apparently victorious Indy Racing League.  The casualty list has still yet to be finally tabulated as bodies are still being pulled from the wreckage but slowly the haze is lifting from the battlefield and now the historians can start assessing who won, who lost and who really stepped into it.

Before continuing to read this opinion piece please realize that the whole story of this alleged merger may not ever be known.  Many strange and bewildering events took place in the months, weeks and even days before it became official.  Business practices that would have made Gordon Gecko types call for their mommies and a misinformation campaign that would have humbled G. Gordo Liddy.   And that is what I know…..which isn’t nearly the whole story.  But that is for another of my future attempts of Motorsports media immortality.

     So here we go.  The Winners, the Losers and those who Stepped Into It all because of the Open Wheel reunification.

Winner: The casual Open Wheel fan is the biggest winner.  Now they won’t get confused about which series is which.  Drivers with household names like Victor Meira, Tony Kannan, Ed Carpenter, Justin Wilson and Frank Perera can all be found together.  Ok.  I am kidding but at least fans can finally watch drivers with some name recognition on the track at the same time and not be confused about which series is which.  Names like Dario Franchitti, Sam Hornish, Sebastien Bourdais………..oh!

     Well at least you have “Twinkle Toes, the 11 year old Korean boy and the Andretti/Rahal kids.


Stepped in it: Tony George.  No excuses.  If you don’t bring Indy racing back to popularity rivaling the “Glory Days” everybody will blame you….and rightly so.  We are almost at the half-way point of the season and the numbers don’t look good.  I guess that the split wasn’t the problem and that the “reunification” isn’t all that it is cracked up to be.


Loser: All the people who lost jobs because of the merger.  This number is easily in the thousands.  Not only some of the great people at Champ Car and the teams but all those who work for the different events that were cancelled and the suppliers for the teams and venues.


Winner: Hardcore IRL fans:  Go ahead and gloat.


Loser:  Hardcore IRL fans:  Well if you believe that real racers come from the dirt tracks in the Midwest, Road racing is for sissies and that CART everything that was wrong with Indy Car racing….I have news for you!  Welcome to CART II.


Loser:  Champ Car fans…..”Pass the tissues along with that beer will ya?”


Winner:  The American LeMans Series (ALMS) is another big winner.  Many of the hard core Champ Car fans are fans of any series that combines road racing and technology.  Oval Racing is not for them.  Driving nose to tail, side by side at full throttle lap after lap is not racing to them.  So the ALMS is a natural choice for them to follow.  The recent 12 Hours of Sebring had a distinct Champ Car vibe to it as I recognized many familiar faces from past Champ Car Paddocks.  Forsythe, Walker and Rocketsports are all rumored to be looking into joining the series.  Combine that with heavy manufacture support and a great TV schedule and things look bright for Don Panoz’s series.  And in case anybody forgot with the demise of Champ Car there is a lot of TV time that now needs to be filled.


Stepped in it: Kevin Kalkhoven:  Hailed as the savior of Champ Car and all that is pure in racing.  You are now reviled as the Judas of the sport.  Now you are just the owner of team.  Well at least you have a backup career as a James Lipton’s impersonator.


Loser: Fans in Cleveland, Houston, Mexico City, Assen and everywhere else that lost a race with the merger.   Hate to say it but I really doubt they are ever coming back.  If they do it will be a tough sell.


Winner: Rally America.  Arguably the most exciting racing series in North America (Actually there is no argument. If you don’t agree I am sure there is a NASCAR show on Speed for you to watch.).  With one less series will it pick up the slack?


Loser: Danica Patrick.   Sure she won a race this year but her arrogant attitude and the ridiculous hype is finally beginning to catch up with her.  Even some of the Motorsports press who use to be her lap-dog are beginning to see the truth.  She won a fuel mileage race under dubious circumstances with a depleted field and then acted like she was the 2nd coming of Fangio.  There will be even more drivers that will have to have mechanical issues and drop out before you can finally win a legitimate race.


Winner: International Speedway Corp is a winner with the fact that with one less series there is one less competitor for the racing fan $$$. 


Loser: The Other IRL teams.  By other I mean the teams that are not Andretti Green, Penske or Ganassi.  You raced for a top 10 finish and the chance at the top if bad luck befell the frontrunners.  Well now you have more teams to contend with.  Do you really think that Newman/Haas/Lanigan will not be competitive by the end of the season and join the Big 3?  They have already won a race this year with Graham Rahal’s St. Pete win.


Winner: Formula 1.  Some people have argued that Champ Car was a more competitive and exciting series than F-1.  Nobody says that about the IRL. 

Why do I have a feeling that Bernie had a hand in this?


Loser:  Mazda.  I bet they are pissed!  With all the news about the merger everybody seems to have forgotten the Mazda Atlantics Series.  Hopefully the announcement of the IMSA (ALMS) sanctioning will save what is a great ladder series.

Stepped in it: The former front office employee of Champ Car who planted false stories and deliberately lied in e-mails and internet postings which was all part of a misinformation campaign to weaken Champ Car.

  We know who you are!