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Keeping It Off the Wall
by Ed Donath

The Bandwagon
12/23/07

Cairo, NY—Admittedly, during my 10 years of presenting Internet commentary, an inordinate quantity of cyber ink has been poured into criticism of the CEO's and owners of the Champ Car Company. At times, many readers questioned my loyalty and sanity especially when I was among the first to rant about the stupidity, duplicity, and/or hypocrisy of Joe Heitzler, Bobby Rahal, Chris Pook, Kevin Kalkhoven, Gerry Forsythe, and a long list of other Champ Car team owners and stockholders.

Ultimately though, and perhaps without even realizing it, most fans at some point "do the math" and end up on my bandwagon. By then, however, this renegade scribe is ranting about some new injustice while everyone has forgotten when it was that they first realized so-and-so was messing up big time.

But that was then and this is now.

When the entire corps of Champ Car shill literati did their one-eighty some months ago, open criticism of the series’ owners and their strategies—or the lack thereof—became commonplace. Other staunch loyalists have since jumped on that media-shift bandwagon. At this point, even the Internet fan forums are chock full of critical content.

Apologists for Champ Car racing, like media hard cards for critical writers, have become an endangered species.

The latest flap concerns Gerald Forsythe's demand of Paul Tracy that he renegotiate the $2.5 million per year five-year contract they inked just last year to keep Tracy away from NASCAR. Forsythe's business ethics and the team's new co-owner's interest aside, the latest wave of commentaries warns that the loss of Paul Tracy could doom our beloved speed sport.

This would be especially true, they say, if PT were to end up in an f-inheritor ride. While PT has always maintained that he'd rather be riding on the Champ Car bandwagon than driving a "crapwagon," the best chance of making anywhere near his current pay would be to do the latter.

Then there's the "having something to prove" angle stemming from the controversial finish of the 2002 Indy 500. It has been argued that the finish was rigged by the Speedway owner's henchmen at the last moment so the "outsider" Tracy, who was in P1 at the time, wouldn't be declared the winner.

In any case, Tracy, along with even a fraction of the cadre of Canadian fans that might support him, could certainly cause a loss of attendance, revenue, and perhaps even venues and, conversely, could create a boost for the other side.

How many Canadian sponsors might finally pony up some strengthened loonies for PT if he were to campaign an Indy 500 car? How many fans would boycott Champ Car if PT winds up out of the series? How many once-loyal Champ Car fans would cross over to the other side? Does the Champ Car Company's co-owner realize what may be at stake? Does he care?

For me, however, the larger questions are:

  • If the Champ Car World Series collapses and its viable teams and talent join the Indy Car series, will American open-wheel racing finally have been reunified?
  • How many, thus far, have kept their promise to boycott any endeavor from which the inheritor of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway might realize as little as a penny’s worth of profit?

As one who would never jump on the f-inheritor bandwagon under any circumstances and speaking for my like-minded cohorts, the day that Champ Car folds will be the day the music dies.

Copyright © 2007 by Ed Donath and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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