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Keeping It Off the Wall
by Ed Donath

From Right On to Write-off?

Cairo, NY—Who didn't know that, as a consequence of his inexperience, insincerity, and lack of control, the ineffectual, malfeasant Joe Heitzler would plunge the Champ Car Company and its "stakeholders" into a crevasse from which there could be no escape or rescue?

Apparently Gerald Forsythe didn't know because he continued to acquire shares of depreciating CART stock throughout Uncle Joe's tenure. Even as Heitzler's successor Chris Pook was forced to burn most of the corporation's remaining resources (of which, by then, nearly 25% had been invested by Gerry Forsythe) in order to enable the completion of that final publicly owned Champ Car season, Forsythe's CART stock acquisition mysteriously continued.

Soon Forsythe was amassing stock at an ever-decreasing share price that, one might guess, enabled him to somehow rationalize that the average price of each of his shares was getting more cost-effective? Either that or he had discovered some wonderful rich guy’s tax write-off for the capital losses he was taking.

But most of the old CART gang sold their shares and took their profits around the time that the Champ Car Company’s stock opened at an overvalued NYSE share price. While Gerry Forsythe was positioning himself to be the leader of the pack, most of his fellow CART team/franchise owners were packing it in. They had become co-conspirators in the unholy Axis of duplicitous Japanese automakers and the Inheritor of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

That Forsythe didn't bail along with Roger Penske, Bobby Rahal, Adrian Fernandez, Chip Ganassi, and Michael Andretti has always been considered admirable by stalwart Champ Car fans. Frankly, there would be no series today had he not partnered-up with Kevin Kalkhoven and Paul Gentilozzi to purchase CART's physical and contractual assets in post-bankruptcy proceedings.

Nonetheless and despite the devastating government-imposed loss of his team’s long-standing major Canadian tobacco sponsor Players, the failure of Forsythe and partners to make sponsorship cultivation Job #1 for their new iteration of the Champ Car World Series is truly incomprehensible.

While, as part of the price of Indy 500 Poker, most of CART's former liveries bee-farted past near-empty grandstands at unheralded oval events, the OWRS troika must have assumed that the turbo siren songs of their urban Festivals of Speed would magically lure fans, sponsors, and media attention to each urban venue.

How could these businessmen not intuitively anticipate that curiosity seekers would try anything once and probably only once — like checking out the big racing party downtown — while Champ Car aficionados would always crave the diversity of circuits, if not technology, that the series had once epitomized?

Experienced racing people like Forsythe and Gentilozzi should have also known that an aficionado’s preferred seat for any street race is the one right in front of his own boob tube. Certainly not in front of a Jumbotron opposite a grandstand with a view of perhaps two tight, low-speed turns. Not that the TV ratings for street races were ever anything but disappointing even during the pre-split heyday of our beloved speed sport.

Venue diversification and sponsorship cultivation, therefore, should have topped the OWRS to-do list. Especially in light of the fact that f-inheritor had not yet morphed into a more CART-like series than our own as a result of the influx of some of Champ Car’s most competent road racers and team owners.

Of course Gerald Forsythe’s investment in Champ Car venues South of the Border was an excellent idea. With the Brazilionaires of the previous decade out of the picture, strong, sponsored Mexican drivers undoubtedly offered growth potential to the struggling series.

So what did Gerry Forsythe do to protect his investment? He hired Bayonne New Jersey’s own Joseph Heitzler to manage the Mexican operation, fired Mario Dominguez after a few miscues, and opted not to hire another full-time shoe from Mexico for Mario’s vacant seat…

…until now, faced with a serious lack of Mexican drivers and sponsors plus lagging ticket sales for the upcoming Mexico City race, Forsythe recently showed his best driver the door in a hypocritical last-ditch effort to have the minimum number of Mexican drivers in the field. Mexicans aren’t buying it — or tickets for that matter — and Oriol Servia’s legions of fans are plenty upset.

Of course it is difficult to know exactly what Gerald Forsythe is thinking because, as has been reported, he hasn’t been around for too many Champ Car press conferences this season. Speaking of reportage, each and every one of the hard-carders discussed here in recent previous rants plus a couple more have done the 180-degree flip from cheerleading shill to disgruntled realist.

Certainly, similar criticism can be heaped on Forsythe’s partners, but it is Gerald Forsythe, as a result of his long history of investment in our beloved speed sport, who seemingly has the most to lose should the Champ Car World Series fail. On the other hand, Gerry may just have discovered the best write-off that money can buy.

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

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