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Uncensored CART Commentary
by Ed Donath

Why the Dispassion?
12/8/02

ATHENS, NY—Despite this being a week during which my most recent commentary spawned more Internet reaction, if not controversy, than most—the majority of reactors implying that I enjoy disloyally kicking the underdog CART while it’s down (even more shamefully so, during one of its finest-ever PR moments, SPEED’s CART-A-THON premier)—it was quite surprising that a rare face-to-face meeting with a regular reader prompted this comment:

“Your rants just don’t have the same edge they had when I first started reading them,” Steve Beaver of Latham, NY complained.

At first I was in denial. “Imagine the nerve of this guy getting in my face for not being edgy enough,” I thought.

However, after a night of restless introspection I finally came to the conclusion that the Beave is probably correct. But why the dispassion from such a notoriously vitriolic renegade scribe?

Well, when my CART writing career began in 1997 “the split” was the hot topic. It provided the impetus for me to switch my focus from newspaper editorials about Road Rage and other socio-political issues to writing about my true passion—Champ Car racing, a.k.a. our beloved speed sport.

While what the inheritor of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway had done was upsetting to most fans of open-wheel racing, there were precious few of us who publicly vowed never to accept his self-aggrandizing plan and to write-off completely the memory of our many years of prior devotion to an annual event that had given CART its very identity.

Incidentally, how many of you have unswervingly kept that solemn vow? I’m proud to say that I have and, therefore, claim the right to be an outspoken critic of CART. Constructively, I have submitted countless suggestions over the years—several of which have been instituted by the powers-that-be—for which I have neither sought nor received so much as an “attaboy”.

Today, however, despite saddening economic woes and the detestable capitulation of many movers and shakers, it is hardly a challenge to get the far-flung global fans of CART to say: “That was then and this is now…CART will arise from the ashes with its own identity and a full schedule of events in May…there will be a replacement for every defector!”

After awhile, there came the constant talk of re-unification—despite you-know-who’s “The Speedway doesn’t have to negotiate with anybody” mantra—followed, incredibly, by the beginning of CART-sanctioned dispensational Indy one-offs for well-funded CART teams. When I railed against the machine and further suggested that attending the Indianapolis 500 or even NASCAR and F1 events at the Speedway was tantamount to supporting the IRL owner’s death wish for CART, there were few who took my admonitions to heart.

When I decried the hypocrisy of the series’ co-founder abandoning CART with two of its most talented drivers in tow, it only served to anger those who whined: “We have a right to follow our favorite CART drivers and to root for them wherever they happen to be driving—it’s not their fault.”

But since Paul Tracy was dissed and dismissed by the IRL and his subsequent “crapwagon” analogy helped propel him to his unlikely new fair-haired boy status, the chorus of “Indy 500; Never Again!” pledges has become almost deafening. With anti-Speedway sentiment running so high, even Bernie the Boss is now openly shopping for a new American venue for his ForMoola One circus.

Then there was the year-and-a-day fiasco known as the Heitzler regime. Beginning around the fourth week of his occupation of the CEO’s office, I passionately warned that Uncle Joe was a self-serving buffoon in search of a golden parachute with no concept of what the racing business is about. Week after week I called for his immediate ouster in favor of a savvy take-charge racing pro with management and marketing skills.

For my concern, I was vilified by most readers—“Give the guy a chance…everything will be okay…don’t be so negative”—and demonized, de-credentialed and forced underground by Heitzler’s flaks and shills, including media editor-type collaborators. But who, today, would argue, as I have since day one, that what CART really needed all along was a more dictatorial potential savior, the likes of Chris Pook?

What’s left for a bitter beer face like me to do but to seize on insignificant issues like driver and pit crew safety and to lament the fact that one of the world’s potentially most entertaining racing series didn’t feature 19 on-track lead changes in the 19 races during the season that just concluded?

So, Steve Beaver, perhaps my rants are reading a bit namby-pamby these days. There’s hardly anybody left in CART for me to pick on, and it is now merely an exercise in preaching to the choir when miscreants of the past are re-chastised for their part in Championship Auto Racing Teams’ current predicament.

If you want edgy Donath writing stop by the office again some day and read some of my Sunday Gazette and Daily Mail op-ed pieces about people who drive too slow, historic neighborhood preservationists, medicos and pharmaceuticos, neo-hippie protestors, the E-ZPass scam, Indian Nation-run casinos, cops as revenuers, our carpetbagger female Senator…

(Editors Note: Ed Donath will be on vacation for the next week-or-so. It’s likely that he’ll be an even bigger softie when he returns from a visit with his beloved grandson in North Carolina, but it’s also quite possible that hearing “The Wheels On the Bus Go ‘Round and ‘Round” hundreds of times may jolt him back to his former edginess. Stay tuned.)

Copyright © 2002 by Ed Donath and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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