Graham Rahal, USF1: The Official Death of Open Wheel Racing in the USA

Daniel ZylberkanCorrespondent IMarch 10, 2010

NEWTON, IA - JUNE 20: Graham Rahal driver of the #02 McDonalds Newman Haas Lanigan Racing Dallara Honda during qualifying for the IRL Indycar Series Iowa Corn Indy 250 on June 20, 2009 at the Iowa Speedway in Newton. Iowa.  (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)
Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

I wrote an article here on BleacherReport a few months ago about why I thought that Formula One and open wheel racing was dying in North America and especially in the States. I postulated lots of things; NASCAR, foreign drivers, the auto industry.

But I when I wrote that article I still had hope that reunification, new sponsors, and the possibility of new engine suppliers for the 2012 season and beyond could re-energize and usher in a renewal for open wheel racing in the U.S.

That hope went beyond just IndyCar, I was also hopeful about the new USF1 team.  Peter Windsor and Ken Anderson had so hyped up their theoretical capability, American know-how, and that good ole' go get'em spirit that I, like many others, was blinded to what USF1 was supposed to be from the very beginning.

An experiment, nothing more, nothing less. Windsor made us all believe that USF1 was a realistic endeavor. That the U.S. would actually be able to fund, construct, and run a Formula One car and team when the interest in the sport here is close to zero. Soccer/football is more popular and well known stateside than Formula One has ever or will ever be.

Ken Anderson with his wind tunnel, autoclaves, and CFD software didn't even have a chance to do what Dan Gurney did out of what was basically his shed. It's hard to maintain that DIY ethos of good ole' boy American racers, in the ilk of Dan Gurney or the moonshiners in the mountains of western North Carolina, especially if the team's main financiers are a nerd from Silicon Valley and a failed Argentinian F1 prospect.

The dream that USF1 was from the very beginning was just that: a dream, nothing else. In a way I'm relieved they didn't make to it the grid in Bahrain; this country has enough to be embarrassed about.

But coming back to IndyCar, Graham Rahal—I repeat, GRAHAM RAHAL!!!!—will not be driving an Indy car in 2010. How does that happen? The most promising young American driver will not be suiting to race in the premier American open wheel series? 

Meanwhile, Takuma Sato and EJ Viso will because they were able to backdoor into their seats, bought by Honda and PDVSA respectively.

The financial system that IndyCar has built for itself is failing, even with leased engines from Honda and discounted chassis from Dallara. A team once as powerful and respected as Newman/Haas/Lanigan cant afford to field more than one car.

They fully depend on their drivers for funding in the form of sponsorship and if none can be found, even a driver as talented and promising as Graham Rahal won't be able to race in the series.

IndyCar got a new lease on life in 2008 with reunification, but it's going down the same tubes that CART went down in the preceding decade. The difference is that this time there'll be nobody to save IndyCar from its misery and the big wigs knew it.

Tony George jumped ship as CEO of both IMS and the IRL; now Brian Barnhart is at the helm of a sinking ship. IndyCar's main TV partner, Versus, has been dropped by DirecTV because Versus is owned by the cable company Comcast. IndyCar racing has been barely able to draw any substantial audience at all, both live and on TV.

Helio Castroneves is better known for dancing and tax evasion than racing and Danica Patrick, their "superstar," is now known as "That girl from NASCAR and the GoDaddy.com ads." That is quite a state for a "serious" racing series to be in. It's almost farcical.

What's more, the new controversial Delta Wing concept is another factor that aims to tear this fragile series asunder. Who ever says that history doesn't repeat itself, or more importantly can't learn lessons from the past, is a fool. I'm looking at you, Brian Barnhart.


The latest in the sports world, emailed daily.