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Keeping It Off the Wall
by Ed Donath

Conceptually Speaking

Athens, NY—"We've agreed conceptually (to share ownership)…now we have to agree on how we would go about resolving differences that might come up.”

That’s the latest gobbledygook being served up by the inheritor of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on behalf of his Champ Car counterpart, Kevin Kalkhoven, as most of the American open-wheel racing community and its journalism contingent desperately seeks any straw of reunification optimism at which to grasp.

Also reported in a recent Indianapolis Star story by Curt Cavin and Steve Ballard “…One of the key issues at stake in their talks is how they would get past disagreements. They've discussed appointing someone who could break ties when necessary. Individuals who could fit that bill include former Indianapolis 500 winners Mario Andretti and Rick Mears…”

Have you ever heard of businessmen solidifying a partnership based on their future ability to resolve disagreements?

Have you ever heard of a business partnership in which a third party arbiter was appointed before the new company ever wrote a check, cashed one, or added employee #1 to its payroll?

And wasn’t it “disagreements” among the democratically voting shareholders of CART—including the Speedway inheritor—that caused this whole split mess in the first place and, in light of that, do you really think that anyone who was ever involved in either or both series could cast an objective, impartial swing vote, let alone one that the splitter would be honorable enough to abide by?

Another “new wrinkle” according to the Indianapolis Star story is that the splitter says that “…he and Kalkhoven have discussed plans to bring the Champ Car teams to the Indianapolis 500 next year, although details have not been finalized…”

Hasn’t that hypocritical game been played since 1997 despite de-unification?

A 6/25/06 SPEED piece corroborates Cavin’s and Ballard’s reportage, pointing to the more tangible chassis/engine issues involved in a merger and reminding us that Kevin Kalkhoven is adamant that Champ Car’s planned Panoz chassis, scheduled to be unveiled at the CCWS’ San Jose Grand Prix next month, be used in a unified series and citing this KK quote from the Star’s original story: "You don't throw away that kind of development…it will be extremely economic to operate."

The aforementioned aside, why has the splitter suddenly begun issuing merger updates to the press after making like Marlene Dietrich for the last five months? Recent comments by another series owner—a tenant of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway—might just have lit a fire under him.

F1 boss Bernie Ecclestone recently dropped this bombshell: "It does not matter to Formula 1 if there is no Grand Prix in the U.S. What do we get from America? Aggravation—that's about all. If you say 'good morning' over there when it's five past twelve, you end up with a lawsuit," said Ecclestone.

For good measure and to make it perfectly clear that the USGP at Indy would soon be scratched from the ForMoola One schedule, Bernie the Boss threw in these one-liners: "We have never got any sponsors out there…The television has never taken off…We have more viewers in Malta than over there…Why do we need to worry so much about America? It has never really taken to open-wheel racing…They talk about the big audiences for NASCAR, but we get as many viewers in Italy alone as they do for NASCAR in the States."

What series could come close to filling the void at the $20 million IMS road course after F1’s contract expires? What other series would want to?

Perhaps a “partner” series would—especially if its currently active past and present stars could all be on hand to fill the field in reciprocation of those same drivers helping to revive the Indy 500.

Since Bernie Ecclestone’s pronouncements about America’s open-wheel illiteracy are essentially true, it would certainly be as good as a merger—conceptually speaking— if the Champ Car World Series and f-inheritor were both able to say, “We’re the American open-wheel racing series that races at Indy!”

Road Rage! An op-ed feature by Ed Donath.

Copyright © 2006 by Ed Donath and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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