from YAUMB: a motorsports blog
The bad news keeps flowing out of the motorsports industry at an alarming rate. The good news? The IndyCar series ironically has already proved it can continue competing with no money and 18 cars.
That’s right - in these hard recession-smacked economic times, a case could be made that the 10 years of the Split actually might prove to be worth something for open-wheel racing.
You could look at it this way - Tony George spent a decade learning how to operate open-wheel racing with very little corporate or fan interest, low car counts, and spending money out of his own pocket just to keep his series alive. Then unification happened, bringing just enough additional involvement from the defunct Champ Car series to keep car counts at their pre-unification levels going into one of racing’s leanest years in recent memory.
Make no mistake. If the two open-wheel series hadn’t unified before this economic crisis had hit, it would look a lot worse for IndyCar than it does right now. Champ Car would have still gone out of business but it’s questionable that the ex-Champ Car teams and drivers would have had the werewithal to move to IndyCars without the concessions George and the IRL had to make in terms of purses and subsidies in order for the unification to happen last season.
Now, let’s not give Tony any credit for having some sort of prescient foresight about this, because he didn’t. Rather, he got lucky again, just like he did in 1996 when the US 500 became a nationwide debacle and again when Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi decided to defect at the turn of the century. Still, you have to have done something right to be in a position to capitalize on luck, and it turns out that the current state of the IRL - no American automakers involved, no failing US corporations or banks taking critical sponsorship money away, and so forth - is one that is far more stable than many other domestic racing series such as ALMS and even NASCAR.
And it turns out that the 2011 introduction of the new IndyCar may be a delay that saves the series itself, since sinking that much capital into one’s inventory certainly doesn’t look as appetizing now that everyone is so pinched for cash.
No, Tony George isn’t the brightest bulb in the box, but you gotta admit that he’s a serendipity magnet.