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Keeping It Off the Wall
by Ed Donath

Circumstantial Evidence

Cairo, NY—Kevin Kalkhoven’s attorney, Michael Shepard, made the following statement to the press after the Champ Car honcho’s innocence of alleged insider trading and related wrongdoing as former CEO of JDS Uniphase was pronounced by a jury, putting an end to the lengthy, well-publicized litigation: "After five years of examining every e-mail and employee at JDS Uniphase, plaintiffs could not lay a glove on Kevin Kalkhoven. As I predicted in my opening statement, all the plaintiffs could prove was that Mr. Kalkhoven is rich.”

Well, Mr. Shepard, after four years of examining and analyzing each of your client’s moves in the Champ Car World Series, all that this renegade scribe can prove — based purely on circumstantial evidence — is that Mr. Kalkhoven is rich.

Not that anyone is looking to "lay a glove on" the series’ co-owner or to accuse him of any Champ Car wrongdoing, but aside from his part in acquisitions that were arguably strategically necessary to keep the series operating (i.e. Cosworth, Pi Group, various venue-securing measures) there really isn’t any evidence of the genius that presumably helped create the Australian venture capitalist’s vast wealth.

To the contrary, the popularity, fiscal health, and intrinsic value of Champ Car have not been improved by the aforementioned expenditures. Unless I’m overlooking something, our beloved speed sport had taken a nosedive in almost every sporting and business category by the time the truncated 2007 schedule concluded.

Whereas other more creative measures might have had equal or better success, the partners merely wrote some checks to make their problems disappear. Of course, as is almost always the case with throwing money at problems, the writing of additional checks will be necessary.

Recently-updated Wikipedia ® information about Kevin Oscar Newton Kalkhoven could leave disenchanted Champ Car fans with an even worse taste in their mouths: ...It has been observed that Kevin Kalkhoven has exhibited a decreased interest in the Champ Car series, reducing his visibility and taking a two-month sabbatical in Antarctica after a disagreement between series owners...

This creates quite a contrast with earlier statements from Kalkhoven such as: "When Gerry and I took over we wanted to eliminate this concept that open-wheel racing is over or dead, because it's not. Our strategy of a three-day festival is working and we've got some exciting things in the pipeline. Gerry and I also plan to be around for quite a while. I've got a hammer, too!"

That now-famous hammer quip was meant to counter an earlier remark about "bringing a hammer to work every day" [to drive nails into Champ Car's coffin] uttered by the inheritor of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway after his bankruptcy court bid to obtain the remaining assets of CART’s defunct Champ Car Company was rejected.

The unfortunate reality of the current situation in open-wheel racing is simply that f-inheritor has become more CART-like by virtue of the addition of temporary and permanent road course races to its previously all-ovals format and CCWS’ diversity has been significantly diminished by the loss of oval racing. While some of Champ Car’s festival events are indeed popular and successful, the advantage of a marquee event has, of course, always accrued to the competition.

When Kalkhoven’s detachment is coupled with the extended absence this past season of his partner Gerald Forsythe — for whatever reason [possibly a family health crisis] — a case can certainly be made that CCWS has become an absentee-managed company.

In and of itself, absentee management may not be the worst thing in the world. Nonetheless, it would be more comforting for fans to know, in these precarious times, that the owners are not at odds with each other and that they are devoting every possible moment to strengthening the condition of the Champ Car Company and its product in a hands-on manner.

This is all especially sad because the only thing that anyone has ever been able to prove about the Speedway's inheritor is that he is rich. You'd think that a couple of smart rich guys who aren't afraid to write checks would have been able to lay a glove on him by now.

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

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