Like most American kids that grew up in the 80's I watched the Indy 500 every year and became interested in motorsports thanks to that race, but I didn't really get hooked until I started watching Formula 1 racing in the late 90's. My favorite era were those years with the great Mika Hakkinen/Michael Schumacher battles. (I was a Mika Hakkinen fan) So my fondness for Formula 1 waned once Mika retired and Schumacher started winning everything, even at the expense of his teammate Rubens Barrichello. My interest in F1 has only been lukewarm since.

Then I turned to Champ Car racing here in the US for my motorsports fix. However that was quickly extinguished once Champ Car and Indy Car merged and we were stuck with Tony George and his many foibles. (It was entertaining to watch the Hulman/George drama I'll admit.) My interest has been less than lukewarm with Indy Car lately, even without Tony George at the helm.

Over time however, the excitement I once had for motorsports has slowly gone. Maybe it has to do with my age, I don't know. But I think I will pour my efforts into my Trooper and my interests in the outdoors to add excitement to my life.

Thanks for checking out my blog, I hope you enjoy it. I will still post racing news when I find something interesting or noteworthy.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Obi-wan wisdom

( 8-29-09
(regarding who had the worst business model, CART or the IRL)

Hayden Fan
The IRL was really just a political tool by FTG to gain control of CART. I would almost guarantee that if you went to up Tony in 1996-1997 and said, "Here, you control CART." FTG would have killed the IRL. I doubt Tony had planned for the IRL to really work anyway.


Yes, probably true, but the more important question is: If FTG had been given control of CART circa 1996-1997, would he have retained its status quo?

It’s only my opinion, but I don’t think so.

Tony George may be an idiot but that doesn’t mean he is without ideas. Spectacularly bad ideas to be sure, but ideas nonetheless.

Before he launched the IRL, George actively tried to reform CART to be more in tune with his NASCAR-like vision for American open-wheel racing. I am convinced that he thought – probably still does – that an oval-centric open-wheel motor sport utilizing outdated (read cheap) technology allied with the magic of the “Indy” name was a sure-fire recipe for success.

It is evident (at least to me) that Tony operated under the belief that NASCAR’s rise to national prominence had been made at the expense of AOW. Specifically, I think he harbored the notion that if IndyCar had beat NASCAR to the punch with regard to its series outline – namely, cheap technologically-backward racecars competing mostly on speedways in stage-managed “spectacles” which featured side-by-side racing with photo finishes and at least one, big multi-car accident every race – that there never would have been a NASCAR as we know it. In other words, George believed that the CART team owners had stolen the sport from the Hulmans and IMS/USAC circa 1979 and NASCAR, in turn, had afterward stolen the thunder from a misguided CART; which strayed increasingly far away from his concept of an oval-centric ideal.

So, I think if he had succeeded in buying CART in November 1991 and merging it with USAC into “Indy Car Inc,” that he would have immediately moved to change the sport into something resembling his later Indy Racing League.

In light of this probability, I think George’s infamous “25/8 Rule” was an attempt to do more than establish the IRL; namely, I think it was designed to give Tony control of the money-making speedway portion of the sport.

A lot of critics, mostly the Gomer brain trust, endlessly chastised CART’s team owners for not seeing the handwriting on the wall in 1995 and giving into Tony’s 25/8 demands. Had they done so, in their view, the owners would have removed the reasons for the existence of George’s IRL and killed the league before it had a chance to establish itself. This assumption is completely illogical, IMO. If CART’s team owners had acceded to Tony’s demands and participated in his WDW race (at a newly constructed speedway owned and operated by George) and/or the one at Phoenix as a condition of competing in the 1996 Indy 500, their participation would have been the functional equivalent of putting all three races on CART’s schedule. This would have immediately put George in control of three events on a combined schedule of nineteen races. In actuality, though, 25/8 would have also forced the Loudon, NH and Las Vegas, NV speedway events on CART’s calendar as well; handing Tony control of five oval races on CART’s 1996 schedule.

However, those are not the only changes that giving in to George would have brought about. CART’s own Homestead race (on March 3rd) would have been in direct conflict with Tony’s WDW event (on January 27th). Two races in South Florida a week apart would have oversaturated the local motorsports market and, given the mandatory 25/8 attendance requirement at WDW, probably would have caused abandonment of the Homestead race.

The same is true of CART’s inaugural Rio de Janiero race, which was held the same day as Tony’s Phoenix race. With the logistical problems and reverse seasons in the Southern Hemisphere, George’s Phoenix race also would have played havoc with CART’s Queensland, Australia race (held on March 31); possibly causing its cancellation as well.

Of course, if the team owners had given in to 25/8 rule, it would have been because of their desire to take part in the Indy 500; so the 1996 U.S. 500 at MIS would have also been moribund.

Then, too, George’s event at Loudon was held on the same day as CART’s Elkhart Lake, WI race, so some adjustment would have been required there.

Finally, Tony’s LVMS event (the second race of his “1997 season,” held on 15 September 1996) would have become CART’s de facto season ender (and thereby a more profitable race).

Consequently, if CART’s team owners had given into George’s 25/8 Rule in 1996 they would have essentially given Tony the power to schedule new CART races whenever and wherever he wanted ever afterward (always under threat of being locked out of the Indy 500).

As noted, in all probability acquiescing to George would have immediately resulted in the cancellation of CART’s Homestead, Rio de Janiero and U.S. 500 events; so instead of growing the sport’s calendar, it would have likely contracted it with an increasingly prominent role for Tony’s oval racing events. This is entirely in keeping with what George and his Gomer followers wanted: foreign events and road/street races being dropped in favor of speedway events in the U.S. and a skewing of CART’s emphasis on diversity in favor of oval races. Moreover, where series speedway specifications were concerned, the Indy 500 would naturally have set the rules, so Tony would have had an effective backdoor approach to moving the IndyCar outline in the direction of a NASCAR-like sport and as he dictated more or more speedway events as a requirement for Indy participation, this emphasis would have eventually taken over the sport.

The real payoff, from Tony’s point of view, is that if his 25/8 Rule worked in cowing the CART team owners, George would have had ownership/control of most of IndyCar’s oval races (which he clearly believed would be the most profitable). Additionally, Tony and Jack Long had a plan already in motion to build a string of “temporary” speedways all across the country; so George would have been more or less guaranteed a place for them on the CART schedule as soon as they were completed (which would have helped finance their construction in the first place).

Had events transpired as Tony anticipated, he wouldn’t have needed the IRL for more than a very few years. Both CART and IRL events – which no doubt would have been eventually merged – would have had the benefit of participation by the “cars and stars” of CART, ensuring their popularity. Instead of standing in line and bidding to hold a CART race, George could have paid himself a sanction fee (for all the IRL events forced on the CART calendar) and he would have had a leg up over any promoter or team owner in placing his events on the series schedule (which would be a huge advantage in negotiating for use of facilities which were not yet his own).

As already noted, the icing on the cake was that the Indy 500 and Tony’s other oval races could have then been used to transform the IndyCar Series specifications by forcing adoption of George’s cheap (e.g. stock-block engines and ‘spec’ price-capped chassis), retro-technology formula for the entire sport.

For those who think that the Idiot Grandson is, well, an idiot and incapable of thinking up such a intricate plot, it should be pointed out that cunning and greed can often masquerade as complex thought; to dream this up all Tony would have had to do is “follow the money” and scheme to get more of it. For instance, it is far easier to observe how a Roger Penske made money off of his IMS and then simply ape him, than it is to actually think like Penske.

In fact, I think it took far more intelligence to think of a way to successfully get around the 25/8 Rule (and all it entailed) than it did to dream it up (and essentially try to tax the sport). All George had to do was plop his Brickyard down on a prosperous caravan route, obstruct it and demand a pay off -- any two-bit crook has the "smarts" to do that; but a CART mover-and-shaker like Penske had to figure out a way to capitalize his threatened holdings (see CART's IPO) and pull the wool over the France's eyes long enough to sell out to them at a premium. The latter course of action took a touch of genius to accomplish.


(follow up)

Well, it may be a small point but I think the Indy Racing League was more than a tool for gaining control of CART. Tony George wanted to reorder the sport to more closely fit his and his Hoosier followers’ vision of it. That’s why I said the important question about Tony’s attempts to take over CART was what he would have done with it after he gained control of it; namely, would he leave it pretty much “as is” or would he have set about trying to create something resembling the IRL? As I said, I think the answer is the latter.

One of the most obvious things about the IRL is its name; meaning its inclusion of the ‘Indy’ label. George was obsessed (IMO) with the idea that the sport needed the ‘Indy’ moniker attached to it in order to succeed (to the same extent as NASCAR). When he tried to force the sale of CART (to him) in November 1991, he proposed that both CART and USAC be dissolved and reformed under the ‘Indy Car Inc’ corporate banner (and brand). When the team owners declined to sell him CART, George went ahead in February 1992 to incorporate ‘Indy Car Inc,’ anyway; supposedly as an “advisory” committee to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. CART’s team owners immediately suspected an attempt by George to grab off their ‘IndyCar’ brand, so they made preparations to go to court and win the trademark outright (rather than pay IMS a fee for its use). CART’s owners had invested more than a dozen years of sweat equity by that point in establishing the IndyCar brand – where, importantly, little recognition had existed before – and consequently they had a good chance (IMO) of winning the trademark outright; especially as Tony made no secret of the fact that he wanted to apply their brand name to a new, rival open-wheel motor sport. Someone obviously alerted George to that probability, because he suddenly proposed a compromise on the “IndyCar” brand issue: he asked that IMSC be allowed to register the IndyCar mark unopposed and, in return, he agreed to lease the name to CART for perpetuity (supposedly). CART’s team owners, unfortunately, accepted Tony’s offer.

This compromise came back to haunt the CART organization in 1996 when the scheduling of the U.S. 500 opposite the Indy 500 on the same day gave George’s legal team the opportunity to claim that CART had broken the terms of their IndyCar licensing agreement. Here, the situation was the reverse of the one which occurred in 1992: CART was attempting to establish a new, rival event to the venerable Indy 500 and obliquely apply the IndyCar brand to it. I think the inherent strength of CART’s claim to the trademark was demonstrated by the fact that the parties agreed to a settlement whereby neither group would be allowed to use the trademark for six years.

George, of course, was pleased with the agreement:

"As we embark on the second season of the Indy Racing League, it will be clear to sponsors, fans and the general public that 'Indy' cars are the cars that participate in the Indianapolis 500," George said.

CART had established the ‘IndyCar’ name as a global brand in motor sports. By the time that George was allowed to use the trademark as his own, it had been reduced in recognition and importance such that (as George said) it was “clear to sponsors, fans and the general public that ‘Indy’ cars are the cars that participate in the Indianapolis 500…,” only. In other words, the trademark had ceased to be a widely-recognized, international brand name and now mostly applied to an annual race held in Indiana.

Of course, one doesn’t need hindsight to know that loss of its brand name immediately crippled CART; a blow from which the sport never really recovered or compensated for. The sanctioning body lamely reverted to its ‘CART’ moniker and the series was at sea (in terms of recognition) for a year before it adopted the ‘Championship’ trademark in December 1997. I believe this was made possible only by George’s earlier ouster of the United States Auto Club as the sanctioning body for the Indy Racing League. I think there is little doubt that USAC laid claim to the ‘Championship’ name after the AAA abandoned it in 1955. If USAC had still been sanctioning the ‘big cars’ of the Indy 500 at the end of 1997, I think CART would have had difficulty laying claim to the trademark; but by then USAC was officially out of the sanctioning business for America’s top-tier open-wheel motor sports.

Anyway, back on topic, I think the IRL was important to Tony George for a lot of reasons (and uses). As discussed above, I think it was important to him as a vehicle to establish his ownership of the ‘IndyCar’ trademark. If he had succeeded in acquiring CART at any time, he would undoubtedly have changed its name to an ‘Indy’ something and the IRL facilitated this.

Also, without ownership of CART, the IRL structure allowed George to negotiate for his own races. For example, let’s say that Tony had succeeded in forcing CART’s team owners to participate in one or more of the IRL’s 1996 races. This would have resulted in the “stars and cars” of the well-established IndyCar World Series running in support of Tony’s new races; which would have greatly increased their chances of success. However, the track owners and/or promoters of those races would have paid their sanction fee to Tony George; not CART. Consequently, as long as ownership of CART remained outside of Tony’s grasp, his ownership of the IRL allowed him to mint new races and his ownership of IMS and the Indy 500 allowed their use as a means of forcing CART to support the new races.

The situation is not unlike the one whereby the larger IndyCar teams, like Team Penske, suppressed the amount of sponsorship dollars going to rival teams by undercutting the price of associate sponsorship. If CART’s team owners had elected to stay independent of George but agreed to participate in two or more of his races (as dictated by the 25/8 Rule), the IRL could have undercut the sanction fees going to CART. The Loudon, NH race was a perfect example. Tony George convinced the Bahre family to switch sanctioning bodies for their open-wheel speedway race in 1996. If the CART teams had continued to participate in the race, Tony George would have benefited from their support and the Bahres would have paid Tony a sanction fee; not CART. If so, this would have put Tony in a position to provide NHIS with its traditional open-wheel race (including CART’s stars and cars) at a much lower cost; say half the cost of a CART sanction fee. In actuality, I think this was the tactic that George used in convincing the Bahres to switch sanctioning bodies (from CART to IRL) and the gamble that the family took (meaning the possibility that Tony could deliver them an IndyCar race with CART team support at a much lower cost). Which begs the question: how long could CART have survived with FTG being in a position to siphon off most of its sanction fees?

Hence, barring ownership of CART, George needed the IRL operating as a sanctioning body in order to perpetrate this tactic. Ah, you say, but that just proves the point that George would probably have dropped the IRL as soon as he gained control of CART. Here, though, it is important to differentiate between control and ownership because these dictated most of Tony’s actions. As was seen time and again during the 13-year war in American open-wheel racing, George refused to share ownership of the sport. It was not enough for him to control the sanctioning bodies – he was offered that option several times -- he had to own them lock, stock and lug nut. Hence, he needed the IRL to act as tool to undermine and eventually destroy CART.

George’s real weapon, however, was always his checkbook. First, he tried to buy CART outright. When this failed he put in place an alternate sanctioning body (IRL) with the expectation that he could force the CART teams to participate in its races. As outlined above, if the CART teams had given in to Tony’s demands to support his races, George would have quickly expanded the number of his races and quickly bled CART dry of its vital sanction fees and bankrupted the company. As it turned out, Tony had to lay siege to CART and it cost him and his family something on the order of $600 million to complete the task. By the time that George breached the city walls (so to speak), however, all the prominent team owners had burrowed out of the besieged organization and made good their escape; leaving Tony with an empty shell to conquer.

Back on point, another important function of the IRL was the elimination of USAC and its sanctioning of the Indy 500. Tony is nothing if not a cheapskate and he is loath to pay fees to anyone; much preferring to collect them. So, by presenting the IRL as a racing league or series, he gained USAC’s support and sponsorship of the IRL in ACCUS. After the requisite year trail period had passed with the FIA’s representative body in the U.S., Tony was free to have the IRL replace USAC as his sanctioning body; and he quickly moved to do so.

Finally (at least until I think of more), establishment of the IRL allowed Tony to dictate his changes to the sport – aimed primarily at “improving” the sport’s oval racing component – without having to compromise with anyone. If he had succeeded in buying CART at almost any time before its bankruptcy, he would have been forced to deal with the road-racing segment of the sport. There were road- and street-racing events on CART’s calendar at all times, backed by iron-clad contracts, and Champcars were optimized for road racing, not necessarily speedway racing. Likely the teams would not have had the resources to make a wholesale change of equipment and Tony has demonstrated an unwillingness to spend money when he isn’t forced into it. Consequently, he probably wouldn’t have been willing to buy new equipment for many of the teams and his reluctance to spend would, in turn, have led to a need to compromise. We know this because that is basically the path he chose within the IRL. For nearly a decade Tony stubbornly clung to his outdated, technologically-backward specifications for the IRL, until he was forced to add road course events. This, in turn, necessitated a conversion of the IRL’s speedway-focused equipment into something that could function on a road course. The teams, naturally, didn’t have the money to make the conversion; so George had to pay for the changes. However, he likely wouldn’t have done so anytime up to the moment when he determined that he had no choice.

In sum, the IRL was more than a tool used to defeat CART. It was the very embodiment of Tony George’s philosophy and his vision for the sport. It was the only place where Tony’s dictates were law and nobody countered his fantasies with logic and/or a discouraging word. Without the IRL there would have been no ‘split’ and the AOWR landscape would be very different today.


Saturday, August 29, 2009

To Brazil or not to Brazil

(posted on July 20th after it was reported the IRL is trying to solidify a race in Brazil for the 2010 season)

Associated Press
SAO PAULO -- Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves met with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva Monday to seek support for an Indy Racing League event in the South American nation next year.

Castroneves said the race would help Brazil promote its ethanol, which is being used in IRL cars.

The IRL has been racing with 100 percent ethanol fuel since 2007, and Brazil is the second largest ethanol producer in the world after the United States. It is also the largest exporter of the fuel.

Castroneves, who gave Silva the helmet he wore to win his third Indianapolis 500 in May, said the president promised that the federal government would do what it can to get the race to Brazil, which has five regular drivers in the series.

Terry Angstadt, president of IRL's commercial division, said last month it was 90 percent certain that a race would be held in Brazil.

The race would likely be the first of the season. The location has not been decided yet, but cities likely to host the event are Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia, Ribeirao Preto and Campinas, the official government news service Agencia Brasil said.

The last time Brazil hosted an Indy race was in 2000 in Rio de Janeiro.

(commented on by poster #54 - July 20th)
I've had a long day. So I will replace words in the article to make it sound better.

SAO PAULO -- Tax cheat Hélíó Névés met with Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva Monday to seek support for making Brazil a tax-free haven just for him.

Névés said "he pass me under yellow!"

The IRL has been racing with 100 percent jizz since 2007, mostly supplied by rejected NA$CAR "journalist" Jack-A-Roo and his handy airbrushed pics of one-time fourth-place winner Manica.

Névés (because every friggin paragraph has to start with that since the HURL gets journalism as good as its parade), who gave Silva the condom he wore when sleeping with the right people to win the Spindianapolis 497.5 in May 2002, said "he pass the federal government under yellow!"

Terry Angstadt, president of HURL's non-existent commercial division, tried to say something, but no one cares, and chances are he can't put a coherent sentence together anyway.

The parade would likely be the first and only of the season. The location has not been decided yet, but the HURL will look in to important factors like areas where they can draw the least amount of people, areas with high crime rates, and areas that don't mind large quantities of trash on their streets.

The last time Brazil hosted an Indy race was never, because no one has ever hosted an Indy "race," just an International Inbreds Convention with a parade of castrated formula car wanna-bes.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Indycar madness

Ed Carpenter at Sonoma, like the colors, hate the car.

Indycar still struggling with right hand turns, this time at Sonoma.

Sarah Fisher feeling sassy. Why has her body gone all "exorcist" though?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Obi-wan wisdom

( 8-19-09)
(as the discussion continues on the IRL's future and their current problems)


I agree with your short term assessment in that I think the family is only beginning to come to terms with the mess they find themselves already hip-deep in. I believe the tendency will be to try a “white knight” or two to head up the organization and save them; which will continue right up to the magical 100th anniversary in 2011. After that – assuming they get that far – all bets are off.

That gives the family plenty of time to plan an exit strategy. Where the promoters are concerned ISC is already operating on one-year contracts for the most part and is showing a disturbing (if you’re a Gomer) tendency to withdraw races as soon as its contract is up. ISC accounts for four of seventeen races in 2010. Andretti-Greed Productions is obviously subsidized by Honda yen and HoMoCo accounts for another three races on the 2010 schedule. If the Hulmans turn the 500 into a stand-alone event, as I expect, Honda is unlikely to object as long as it is the league’s exclusive engine supplier and continues receiving lease money; really, Indy is the only race that the Japanese care about (as they have always been brand conscious). If the Hulmans go it alone with the 500, expect Honda to assuage the hurt feelings of Andretti and the Greed brothers on their own; anyway, there are strong indications of a breakup of AGR in the very near future and the team principals might have contract troubles of their own with Honda.

Assuming the rumors of an outrageous sanction fee and appearance money for Brazil are true, one running of the race will be enough to convince the locals that they’ve been had; they’d probably welcome a cancelation of their contract. Both Toronto (a Honda race) and Edmonton lost money for their promoters (the city fathers), so I don’t think they would put up much of a fuss about cancellation of their deals. For most of the remaining races on the 2010 calendar, I think Cave-in and the Gomers are dreaming about $1.2 million sanction fees. I wouldn’t be surprised to find that many of the races are either free or nearly so. Cave-in, for example, estimates that it takes 42,500 paying customers at an average ticket cost of $40 to break even on a race with a $1.2 million sanction fee; how many IRL races even approach that many spectators (especially in the tiny venues Angstat feels comfortable in)? I mean, Barber and Iowa paying million-plus sanction fees on five-year contracts? C’mon, let’s get real.

My guess is that most of the SMI-promoted events are track rentals or about to become so; consequently they probably are running on short-term leases; all except Texas, that is. Expect Eddie Gossage to cry crocodile tears to his hometown audience and try to wring out every last cent in damages from the hapless Hulmans. Long Beach could be problematic, too; it depends. I think the family would be wise to buy the race contract from the remaining two ah-me-goes and then shut it down.

Where TV is concerned, as long as The House of Mouse has the Indy 500, they’ll be copacetic with a further “condensing” of the League. As for Versus, who knows? Their high hopes for a flagship motor sport to take them to the next level are certainly getting a dose of reality; they’re doing better with bicycle racing.

That leaves sponsors. With their current ROI, how many marketing boys does one suppose are going to get a hard time from their BoD’s when they tell them the company won’t be having to lay out any more cash on a bad investment in the worst recession since the Big One circa 1929-1941?

I see the “short term” survival of the IRL only until 2011, if the league can last that long. After that, the league is gone and the Indy 500 is stand-alone and/or IMS is up for sale. That is, of course, unless Mari slips on a liquor bottle and falls down the stairs or some such; if that happens, then it’s bye-bye, baby, bye-bye for IMS (if for no other reason than inheritance taxes).


Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Obi-Wan wisdom

( 8-18-09)
(during a discussion about the IRL's future and their current problems)


In engineering and mechanical design there is a belief that “form follows function.” That’s as true of the products of the IRL and NASCAR as it was of the old CART series. The problem for American motor sports at the present time is that the intended functions for the IRL’s Indycar and NASCAR’s Car of Tomorrow and Daytona Prototypes were primarily political and financial in nature.

If one looks at the late, great Champcars and the current ALMS prototypes, one sees racecars that were shaped to be the optimum design solution for their form of auto racing (open-wheel road/speedway racing and sportscar road racing respectively). By way of contrast, the racecars of the IRL and NASCAR were primarily designed to achieve political goals -- like Indycars being incompatible with Champcars in order to ensure a separation of the two rival series – or financial aims (like an attempt to out-compete rival series like CART and the ALMS with lower-cost racecars).

It is not coincidental that the ugly racecars of the IRL and NASCAR were brought into being by speedway owners; while the racecars of CART and the ALMS were created by team owners and automobile manufacturers. The former were mainly concerned with maximizing the financial returns of their speedways and the racecars in the series they established were simply one of the means toward that goal. Conversely, the latter group of race team owners and automobile manufacturers were more concerned about the actual competition (racing) and their primary goal was winning (at any cost); and the racecars they produced reflect this.

To answer your question, the people inside IMS may or may not be aware that the root of the evil that afflicts them is reflected in the ugly, poor-performing racecars that their rule book mandates but they are ill-prepared to address the issue. The IRL leadership, IMO, is made up of people who are not fans of auto racing or of interesting, high-performance racecars. The current IMS president and CEO of the IRL, Jeff Belskus, for example is unrecognized by IMS and IRL track staff and racing personnel because he has attended so few races in his 20 years at the center of decision-making for both organizations that he is a strange sight at their races. This is a clear indication of the level of his disinterest in the motor sport he now heads. I’m sure he will be attending more races now that he has been made the boss, but his promotion should do little to affect his fundamental lack of caring for auto racing.

The same is more or less true of Mari Hulman George and the George sisters and attorney Jack Snyder; who now rule over IMS and the IRL. In her day Mari liked to sleep with sprint-car drivers and party with them and she sponsored a couple of racecars for husband Elmer George but she, too, is a rare sight at the auto races under her command. The sisters also, with the possible exception of Josie, are noted for their lack of involvement with auto racing.

So, how are all these disinterested people supposed to know a good racecar from a bad racecar? For them, racecars are more about ideas and less about design ideals and they are ill-prepared to know a good idea from a bad one.

As if that weren’t bad enough, the facility and the series they head are performing poorly and paying little by way of financial returns. This circumstance limits their ability to make capital investment in the sport; and new racecars of any sort (good or bad) would certainly require a substantial capital investment.

Unless, of course, they stick with the racecars they have already subsidized and cut loose the IRL and return the Indy 500 to its former stand-alone status. Then, the event would immediately become profitable and they could start to open up the rule book in two or three years and let the innovation of the team owners and manufacturers take the sport from there.

Candidly, the foregoing is the only way I see the sport surviving past 2010 or 2011.

P.S. If anyone is interested in knowing the genesis of the fugly Indycars of today, one has but to look at the cast of characters responsible for specifying them: failed racecar driver Tony George, NASCAR agent provocateur John Cooper, USAC kingpin Richard King, banker and cousin Don Smith, college buddy Jeff Belskus, hardware co-op head Dan Cotter, clueless Mari, the hippy-dippy George sisters and something less than a legion of dumbass Hoosier Gomers. Even the old Coyote-maker A.J. Foyt deserves some blame.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Straightening the ladder

(by Marshall Pruett 8-12-09)

Page 1
If you’ve read my column, you know I have a soft spot for the Atlantic Championship. I’ve spent my fair share of time with Ralt RT-1s, RT-4s, Swift DB4s, and Swift 008s as a mechanic or an engineer. It remains one of the most important series for a young driver to build or solidify their skills.

The Swift 016.a launched with great fanfare under ChampCar's ownership. Without the protective cover of ChampCar now a thing of the past, the Atlantic Championship could be in trouble if the IRL's plans go forward. (LAT) » More Photos
And all of that could be changing if what I heard last weekend in Mid-Ohio comes to fruition. IndyCar is reportedly interested in building its own ladder to straighten the path for young drivers to follow step-by-step as they work upwards towards the IRL. Sadly, Mazda’s Atlantic Championship isn’t in their plans, possibly making it the final casualty in the open-wheel wars.

More than a few owners, drivers and journalists involved in open-wheel racing have argued that a lack of a properly established ladder is what’s keeping more drivers from making it into IndyCars. And if what’s being discussed ends up taking root, all that could change for 2010.

“There are just too many junior series out there to choose from,” one IndyCar official told me. “The Atlantics are cool little cars, but we need a clear path. Having cars that are too similar [on the same ladder] doesn’t do anybody any good.”

With their plan in place, a hand would be extended down through the junior formulas to build a progression that starts with F2000, moves to the somewhat faster Star Mazda class, makes a significant leap to Indy Lights and then, hopefully, into to the IndyCar Series.

And their plans aren’t as simple as tagging existing series with an ‘official ladder series’ moniker; their plans are to align the rules, driving standards, officiating and the curriculum to steer kids towards IndyCars as smoothly as possible.

F2000’s have a rich history of running on ovals, and the Star Mazda series visited ovals twice this year. IndyCar’s plans would call for drivers to get a stronger oval education before graduating to Indy Lights – something the Atlantic Championship doesn’t offer.

While I think IndyCar should be commended for their efforts to straighten a path that’s become painfully crooked, I don’t believe their ladder gets stronger by leaving Atlantics out of the equation.

It's fair to say IndyCar’s decision to leave Atlantics out of their ladder follows the “It’s business, nothing personal” adage, and there’s plenty of history to support their position. The Indy Lights series is owned by the IRL – it’s no great surprise they’re backing their own horse rather than the privately owned Atlantic Championship.

Prior to ChampCar going bankrupt, the ChampCar Atlantic Championship was their pride and joy. While it simmered below the surface, the rivalry between Lights and Atlantics was just as strong as the one between IndyCar and ChampCar.

And It wasn’t so long ago when Indy Lights (under CART ownership) was regarded one notch above Atlantics. Its budgets were also higher. Over the past few years, much of that has changed, making the two classes far too similar. Today, according to two of the top Lights and Atlantic team owners, the costs of running a proper single-car effort in either series is nearly identical. As a result, and with car counts on the decline across the whole of motor racing, Lights and Atlantics now find themselves fighting over the same customers.

Grids have been deleted almost everywhere in 2009, but Indy Lights have remained one of the stronger feeders series. Their ranks could swell in 2010 under IndyCar's new ladder system.

Let’s be clear – the Atlantic Championship wouldn’t automatically disappear if IndyCar leaves them off of their designated ladder system, but faced with the question of where to spend $700,000 on your child’s open-wheel career, where would you put your money?

Would you go with the series that’s owned and sanctioned by the same people that own and sanction the IndyCar Series, or do you spend the same amount on a series that has been publicly shunned by IndyCar, and has no direct support or ties to North America’s only top-tier open-wheel series?

“It’s business, nothing personal.”

All isn’t lost for Atlantics – not at the moment, at least. Series owner Ben Johnston is reportedly talking with the FIA about becoming a recognized step in the European ladder system – the official American path to GP2. For parents with kids hoping to make it in Formula 1, it could be the salvation the series needs, but unless an agreement is made and announced quickly, Johnston could have a mess on his hands.

The thought of establishing itself as the pipeline to GP2 has its merits, but I’d wager that while most young American open-wheel drivers dream of going overseas, the serious ones move to Europe and join the familiar ladder system there.

Going back to an earlier point, the Atlantic Championship isn’t helping itself by offering a calendar without oval racing. IndyCar teams owners can’t afford to hire a kid straight out of Atlantics with little or no oval experience. Teaching a GP2 or F1 driver the ropes is one thing, but that’s not an exception they’re likely to make elsewhere.

Team owners don’t want to waste their time and money writing off cars or finishing last while their Atlantic graduate earns the education they should have gotten prior to the IndyCar Series.

It made sense when ChampCar owned the series and both raced exclusively on road courses, but with ChampCar now a distant memory, leaving oval racing out of an Atlantic driver’s education is part of the reason why Johnston’s series is being pushed out of the marketplace.

Speaking of Johnston, he didn’t do his series any favors last weekend when he made a highly visible visit to the Indy Lights paddock in an attempt to entice Lights owners to defect to Atlantics.
The IndyCar Series told me Johnston’s trolling the Lights paddock didn’t bother then, but I can’t help but think it only served to shift their mindset from “It’s business, nothing personal” to "hell yeah, it’s very personal."

I can’t blame Ben for trying – Atlantic car counts have been around 12 at each round -- but his ham-fisted (and very public) cruise through the Light paddock on an Atlantic Championship golf cart was always going to end in tears. After listening to Ben’s pitch, most of the Lights owners made a beeline for the IndyCar transporter to make series officials aware of the predator in their midst.

Tony Cotman was reported to then raise hell with Johnston and the Atlantic officials, which likely sealed the door shut on being ever being considered in IndyCar’s open-wheel ladder plans.

I’ll admit that I don’t have the answer for the Atlantic Championship right now. How the series attracts drivers to pay their teams to put cars on the grid in 2010 is an even bigger uphill battle than it took to get 12 cars this year. While the FIA angle is promising, Johnston is reportedly tired of writing big checks to bankroll the series.

He deserves immense praise for stepping up to purchase and support the series, and he has a well respected staff that run the series for him, but if the Atlantic Championship is to continue, leaving the Indy Lights recruiting trips to Vicki O’Connor would be a wise decision. Not only would Vicki have avoided such a public display, she’d have drawn on decades of relationships to pose a compelling argument for Lights owners to consider.

Provided all of this plays out next season, the impact in the Atlantic paddock could serious. It’s filled with quality teams like US RaceTronics, Newman Wachs, Condor, Genoa, and others that have made the series their home. A lot of people make their living in Atlantics – it’s how mortgages, car loans and daycare is paid for.

So why don’t Atlantic teams just sell their cars and make the switch? The economy is keeping Atlantic teams where they are because no one is buying used Swift Atlantic cars, and as a result, they don’t have the extra cash to buy a Lights car. Johnston and company are currently trying to get the current Swift chassis accepted by the SCCA for Club Racing use, and if that goes through, a used car market could open up. If and when that will happen is unknown.

Atlantics weren’t picked up when unification happened in 2008, and now that the IndyCar Series is looking to ‘unify’ the open-wheel ladder, my favorite junior formula appears to have some incredibly tough times on its horizon. From an entirely selfish standpoint, I grew up loving CART but that’s gone. I grew up loving the IMSA GTP series and that’s also gone. I really hope I won’t have to say the same about the Atlantic series.

As if they didn’t have enough hurdles to overcome, there’s one more problem that’s troubling the Atlantic Championship – the supposed $1,000,000 prize money the 2009 championship is due to receive.

I’ll save that story for the last page.

Page 2
I’ve had the Rolling Stones’ song “Satisfaction’ playing in my head all week whenever I think of the complete cluster-bleep the Atlantic Championship is facing with its year-end prize money situation.

Someone with a bigger brain than mine (and a bigger wallet) will need to come up with a plan to pay one of these three the $1,000,000 prize that was announced for the Atlantic Championship. (Phil Sedgwick/Atlantic Championship) » More Photos
Without rehashing much of what I wrote earlier, the 2008 Atlantic season happened at the last moment and only through some extraordinary efforts by Ben Johnston, Vicki O’Connor, Mazda, Cooper Tires, the teams, and a few other sponsors to keep it alive when it wasn't retained during unification.

IMSA was eventually drawn in to sanction the series, a TV package was assembled, Johnston put up a solid prize money package for each round, and off it went.
The series and the season were salvaged.

In case you missed it, and many did, a young Finn named Markus Niemela won the title, but in an ugly dispute with his team over prize money, he came away with little to show for his efforts. He's back in the series again this year, but isn't likely to repeat as champion.

With an air of stability going into 2009, and despite the financial crunch felt throughout the racing world, an idea was hatched – one that came from the teams. It would prevent another 'Niemela' situation where the title winner only has the prize money from each race to use to move up with. Their plan was to create a separate payday for the series champion. They vowed to put up a seriously impressive prize for the 2009 titlist of (say it in your best Dr. Evil voice): One Meeeel-ion dollars.

$1,000,000 would not have impressed anyone back when ChampCar owned the series, but now in private hands, it is a big deal. The $1M prize figure was arrived at after consulting a GP2 team, with the aim to create a prize that could be used to buy a ride overseas, but there were no restrictions placed on where the money could be spent.

And how exactly would that big prize fund be generated? Here’s where the Atlantic Championship fills the boilers with coal and aims for the nearest iceberg.

The owners hatched a plan where each entry would contribute $50,000 to the pot, and with the wildly unrealistic hope that 20 cars would show up in 2009, they allowed themselves to believe their champion would be cashing a check for One Meeeel-ion dollars to take to GP2 or Indy Lights. They even figured 22 to 24 cars would appear, and everyone would get a rebate of sorts when that surplus of cash came in.

If we step back from fantasy land and look at the 12 cars that started the Mid-Ohio race last weekend, and accept that 11 to 12 cars have been the norm in 2009, the math leaves us well short of the announced $1M the champion is supposed to receive eight weeks from now.

But that’s not even close to the reality they're facing. I couldn’t get exact figures, but one entrant says that as soon as teams realized they wouldn’t get close to the 20 cars needed, those that originally offered to fork over the $50K tore up their checkbooks and abandoned the program.

The prize money scheme – and that’s all that it is, a scheme – should have been nixed from the beginning. So here we are with the open-wheel equivalent of a raffle with with no tickets sold and a big announcement made that the 2009 champ would have the financial horsepower to buy a bigger ride in 2010.

Let’s be clear – we can’t blame this one on the series. They made the bonehead move to go along with the plan and to put out the press release announcing the big $1M prize, but this situation is FUBAR thanks to the entrants.

So how does this get solved? Great question – no one knows at the moment. I’m told it’s being worked on, but what that means isn’t really clear.

As I’ve already mentioned, Johnston is tired of writing checks, and it’s unfair to expect him to take the hit on this one. Mazda’s done everything short of harvesting and selling their internal organs to keep the Atlantic Championship afloat, and Cooper Tires has no real need to empty their wallet anymore than they already have.

The teams hatched this Three Stooges-esque ‘get rich quick’ scenario, but at the moment, it looks like the one to pay for that mistake will be the kid that wins the championship and walks away empty-handed.

How this problem gets fixed is one of the biggest questions in open-wheel that doesn't have an immediate answer. Three of the strongest Atlantic drivers we’ve seen in years now face the possibility of earning a title that’s worth little more than the paper it’s printed on.

How they get the real paper -- One Meeeel-ion dollar’s worth -- is beyond me.

cool Atlantics pics

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Cool NASCAR pic

Patrick Carpentier restarts his car after a shunt at Watkins Glen.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Team US F1 lays the foundation for its inaugural season

(by Tim Tuttle 8-6-09)

Team US F1 mobilized this week for the 2010 Formula One World Championship.

Announced in late February, the team founded by Ken Anderson and Peter Windsor finally completed the lengthy F1 approval process with the signing of the Concorde Agreement.

"Until we signed the Concorde Agreement, we weren't really able to push the buttons, pull the trigger on actually being a Formula One team that can live, breathe and sleep Formula One," Windsor explained on Monday.

"We're two days into being this official team and we're just now in the process of pulling a whole lot of legal and organizational triggers."

There will be important meetings involving sponsorship and technical partnerships because US F1 needs both to succeed financially long term. The substantial start-up costs have been funded by private investors, who sources have called very deep pocketed.

"We haven't gone out proactively and done what race teams normally do [chase sponsorship]," Windsor said. "We are lucky. We are a team that bears the name of a country and that country is the United States of America. It's got a great racing and Formula One heritage and beyond that, it has a huge economy. To be able to take that name onto the world stage, it gives us a great advantage in terms of marketing and presence in Formula One."

US F1 hasn't been standing still the past six months. It has secured a three-year contract with Cosworth to supply engines, and moved into a headquarters in the Charlotte, N.C., area in April. Anderson, the technical director and team principal, has hired a team of designers and engineers to produce the first American-built Formula One car in more than 30 years.

Building the cars is the next priority. Anderson has been chief designer and built them before in Formula One and IndyCar, and he's also built the manufacturing facilities a couple of times. He's also a first-class race engineer with Indy 500 victories on his resume at Penske Racing. Anderson also designed the first G Force, which won the 1997 Indy 500 with Arie Luyendyk.

"We're in the original Joe Gibbs [Racing] building and when we moved in, it was still a NASCAR-type building," Windsor said. "We've knocked down a whole lot of walls and we're just installing machinery right now. We've had a team of engineers and designers working on the car and luckily, we're in an era when they can just crank out their work from two or three offices working with very sophisticated CFD [Computational Flow Dynamics] coding, that's what Formula One design and engineering is about these days.

"We haven't lost any time at all, to be honest. We'll start manufacturing the car in the next couple months. We don't have to have the car built until early January. In reality, we've got a nice time frame and have it ready. In general, the design is completed, but you never say it's completely done."

Cars and sponsors are essential, but the question the racing public wants answered is: Who will be the drivers?

Danica Patrick, Kyle Busch and Scott Speed have ruled out their involvement. Windsor has a short list, but he's not revealing who is on it. It seems likely that in the first year, US F1 will have a young American teamed with a veteran F1 driver, and a second American will be the reserve and test driver. The team likely would evolve into two American drivers by the second or third season.

"We're looking at that scenario right now," Windsor said. "We need to make the effort to get Americans in our car. That was always our goal and it still our goal."

Jonathan Summerton, Graham Rahal and Ryan Hunter-Reay are the leading American candidates, according to sources. Summerton has a European racing background, with a victory in Euro Formula 3. He's also the only American to have won in A1GP World Cup of Motorsport. Other drivers who have raced in the series for A1 Team USA include Speed, Marco Andretti and Buddy Rice. Rahal and Hunter-Reay have both won IndyCar races.

Windsor admits to have spoken to Austrian Alexander Wurz, who has raced in 69 Grands Prix and has been a long-time test driver in Formula One.

US F1 also has been approached by non-American drivers who can contribute substantially to the budget.

"We've been offered well over three-quarters of our racing budget by two drivers already, neither of whom have raced in Formula One but both have won races in GP2 (F1's primary development series)," Windsor said. "Both of them have massive sponsorship they can bring us from their home country. Ken and I have got to be very strong, look one another in the eye and say, 'No, we're not gong to accept that money, we're not going to hire those guys because we're going to remain true to our convictions.'

"This team is about helping young Americans (drivers) as much as it is about anything else. But it is tempting when you see all this money dangled in front of you to take it and decide the first year we'll run two guys who aren't Americans."

American drivers in Formula One have been few an far between in the past 20 years. Michael Andretti didn't make it through a full season at McLaren in 1993. Speed drove a season and a half for Toro Rosso in 2006 and 2007.

It has been generally accepted that for an American to reach F1, they must go through the European development system to be accepted. Many have tried, but they typically run out of financial support before getting to GP2, the final step on the ladder. That was the case with Summerton, Charlie Kimball, Patrick Long and Phil Giebler.

"There are very good American drivers out there," Windsor said. "To be honest, shame on Formula One and shame on American motorsport that some of these great young Americans with single seater talent have not been nurtured more and given more opportunity. If they'd all been out there racing Formula Renault, Formula 3, GP2, we'd be in a different ballpark right now.

"The ultimate example is Danica Patrick. She's gone to Europe, she did reasonably well in Formula Ford. She made the commitment, then went back to America and she's done very well in the IRL (IndyCar). You could argue she's probably the best placed American in he premier single-seater American championship right now, give or take a Graham Rahal or two. Yet not one F1 team the last three years has bothered to give her even a test. I find that unbelievable.

Why doesn't US F1 approach Patrick, who is in the final year of her contract with Andretti Green Racing?

"A lot of people are saying to us, 'Are you interested in Danica? and my reply is in some respects, Danica is too big for us now. She'll probably go to NASCAR and she'll probably do very well there and she'll probably make a fortune. For her to do Formula One, it's a huge commitment at this stage of her career and her expectation level would be very high.

"We're not going to be fighting for the World Championship in year one. Reliability is going to be very important for us and driveability and just getting the car designed and built and a while new group working together as a team."

Needing to build interest, IRL heads down the wrong road

(by Peter Pistone 8-6-09)

Remember all that excitement after the Champ Car-IRL merger last year?

Me neither.

Despite bringing the open-wheel world under one umbrella when the two sides finally came together, IndyCar racing continues to be pretty much an afterthought on the American motorsports scene.

When the unification deal was announced, there appeared to be some momentum for open wheel to regain the audience and prominence it lost during a civil war that lasted more than a decade.

Car counts shot up, with nearly 30 machines showing up at several races last year. Interest in the Indy 500 was high -- fans finally got a chance to see all the sport's best stars back at the Brickyard competing in "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing."

Overall it seemed like the foundation was in place to bring the sport back, at least partially, to the popularity level of the early 1990s, when IndyCars actually outdrew NASCAR in attendance and television ratings.

Unfortunately, I don't see that happening.

To be fair, the economy is hitting the series even harder than what NASCAR has experienced. Fields are smaller in the 2009 IRL as teams struggle to find the funding necessary to compete.

Television ratings aren't quite at test pattern levels, but moving the bulk of telecasts to the Versus Network -- away from the ABC/ESPN partnership the series enjoyed for years -- has dropped the visibility factor immensely.

And with the release of the 2010 schedule, it's apparent providing the best possible backdrops for close competition and tight racing is not a priority for league officials.

How else can you explain the decision to move further away from high-speed oval track racing and toward more street circuit events and road courses?

One of the positive fallouts of the open-wheel split was the IRL's inclusion of high-speed oval tracks like Texas, Las Vegas, Chicagoland, Kansas and Kentucky to its schedule.

Every time the series competes at one of these lightning-fast tracks, the action is almost impossible to follow.

Photo finishes became the norm, and last week's incredible finish between Ryan Briscoe and Ed Carpenter at Kentucky was the latest example of just how thrilling this kind of racing can be.

It seems to me creating a series to highlight such competition would be paramount in selling IndyCar racing to all fans, those who have followed the sport for years or those who have just discovered open-wheel racing.

But next year's schedule doesn't reflect that line of thinking. Two oval tracks have been dropped -- Milwaukee and Richmond -- in favor of a road course in Birmingham, Ala., and a new circuit in Brazil.

Milwaukee, the oldest oval track in North America, is in the middle of financial issues that might shut the historic facility's doors for good. And Richmond's management reportedly decided not to bring the IRL back for financial reasons.

But the dropping of ovals has been a pattern in recent years, and rather than giving fans nearly guaranteed excitement by adding Vegas, Michigan, California or Nashville to the schedule, officials believe the answer is more road racing.

New Hampshire Motor Speedway has nearly begged the IRL for a date the last two years, only to be shot down as the series pursues ideas like a possible circuit around Gillette Stadium or downtown street races in Philadelphia or Denver.

While those events do draw people and generate a festival-type atmosphere, the racing leaves much to be desired. In the end, the product on the track is what will keep fans returning -- or watching on TV -- not just a party being held in the middle of an auto race.

It's a mistake many inside the industry say will not only stifle the series' growth but could lead to its downfall as well. With Tony George ousted by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway board, the funding that has come to the series through IMS will slow down significantly if not stop completely. The series has never had a title sponsor worth much, and it doesn't appear to be one on the horizon.

So while the financial picture isn't rosy, the best thing the IRL could do is provide the best possible racing and competition possible.

Sorry to disappoint, but unless you like single-file parades around temporary road courses better than wheel-to-wheel action -- lap after lap at nearly 200 mph -- the future of the Indy Racing League is not for you.

That's more than disappointing and a decision one hopes will be reversed before the open-wheel war years start to look like the good old days.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Please don't sugarcoat this schedule

(by George Phillips 8-3-09)

I hate to interrupt all of the feel-good, warm and fuzziness coming off of the great race in Kentucky — but there actually was a downer that came out of the weekend, and I don’t mean the weepers. Amidst all of Friday’s non-track time, the IRL announced the new 2010 schedule, with everyone trying to put their best spin on it. I must say it was a disappointment on several fronts.

First of all, the omission of Milwaukee is a mistake. There were too many last minute developments in Milwaukee to completely remove them from consideration. There had been problems with the previous race promoter in Milwaukee. NASCAR and the IRL are still owed money from races that took place at the Milwaukee Mile this season. But the Wisconsin State Fair Park Board finalized a deal with a new race promoter late Thursday night. Terry Angstadt, President, Commercial Division of the IndyCar Series claims that they worked up until Friday morning to get a deal done before crossing Milwaukee off of the list.

To me, this is unacceptable. Who set the deadline that the final schedule had to be announced by this weekend? I believe it was Terry Angstadt. There was no reason that this was a hard and fast deadline. With the last-minute developments with the Fair Board in Milwaukee, why could they not push the announcement back or call this a partial schedule? After all, it’s a partial schedule anyway since a solid date had not been decided for Kentucky in 2010 (it’s now Saturday, Sep 4), and the season-opening race in Brazil doesn’t even have a venue yet.

Milwaukee is almost as much a part of open-wheel heritage as the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The rhetoric from Terry Angstadt is that the matter is closed, but they may return sometime in the future. My thinking is that the league should keep its options (and collective minds) open to work something out with The Milwaukee Mile for 2010. History has shown that once the IRL leaves a track, it doesn’t return.

Another great disappointment is the loss of Richmond, although I understand why that was dropped. ISC had no interest in renewing the deal since title sponsor SunTrust had pulled out, even though the race was well attended. Although this year’s race at Richmond was a boring parade, the IRL had a history of putting a good product on the track there. That didn’t stop ISC from landing a cheap shot citing “…here at Richmond we just didn’t have the racing that our fans have come to expect." Yet another shining example why the IRL needs to get out of bed with ISC and NASCAR.

Another example of bad dealings with ISC is the fact that Kansas will be run on May 1, which is a Saturday night. I have no problem with running a non-Indy race in May. It’s been done before. The ill-fated Charlotte race in 1999 was also run on a May 1 Saturday night. My problem is that the IRL essentially will run as a support race for the Sunday afternoon Camping World Truck Series. What???

But the biggest slap in the face to the fans; is the fact that of the seventeen races listed, nine of them are on non-ovals. Do the simple math and that means for the first time, street/road courses outnumber ovals. This was the final domain for the “vision” that was launched in 1996 as an oval-based series. Now that the majoirty of the races are now non-ovals, the transformation into CART-light is complete. Now every single reason for starting the destructive split, is now gone.

I am not a CART/Champ Car fan, nor an IRL loyalist. I am an open-wheel racing fan. But to see the IRL morph exactly into what was called the path of destruction of open-wheel racing, defies all logic. What was it all for? Now no one is happy. The IRL faithful are mad that the IRL has abandoned all of its originals intentions, while the Champ Car fanatics continue to whine that their brand of racing has been watered down. What we are left with is a family-run organization that seemingly cannot help tripping over themselves.

Earlier this summer, we were told that the IRL was starting with a clean sheet of paper and they would do their best to incorporate more Champ Car venues into the schedule. In the process, they dropped two traditional ovals and added two new road courses that neither series has ever raced on. In the meantime, we are left to wonder what happened to Cleveland, Houston or Road America, as well as New Hampshire and Las Vegas. There is no way to successfully spin this.

This schedule has the potential to alienate all fans of the sport. The season starts thousands of miles from the US. Six weeks will elapse before visiting the first oval. The IRL apparently refuses to work with one of the most traditional venues on the schedule and moves further away from its core values by making oval racing the minority. I am depressed.

Terry Angstadt didn’t help matters with his interviews on Versus by essentially telling us all to pay no attention to that man behind the curtain, and that this is an exciting and well balanced schedule that we can all embrace. Right. This continued arrogance and condescending attitude on the part of the leadership of the IRL is what continues to drive fans away, instead of bringing in new ones. I just wish they could see it.