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Keeping It Off the Wall
by Ed Donath

History Writes Itself

Athens, NY—Tweaking history to fit, promote, or validate any number of sociopolitical agenda has become fashionable during the coincidental timeframe corresponding with the post-split open-wheel racing era. Never to be considered un-trendy, Champ Car jumped on the fact-altering bandwagon with "historical" promotions and pre-race TV montages, which feature some of auto racing’s most traitorous personalities, as if they had ever been its own.

Can you picture the Daughters of the American Revolution running a recruitment spot that highlights the military heroism of Benedict Arnold along with that of George Washington, Horatio Gates, and Anthony Wayne?

If you think that Champ Car racing was born of Vanderbilt Cup-chasing Long Island road racing enduros and New England wood-plankers of the early Twentieth Century, guess again. If you consider the pounding of Judge Frank Otte’s gavel on January 27, 2004 as the true beginning of the Champ Car World Series you, likewise, are not celebrating the actual "July 4th" of our beloved speed sport.

May 25, 1996 was the precise date that security guards carried the Vanderbilt Cup into Michigan Speedway. Displayed for the first time and for the remainder of that weekend of glorious US 500 protest, 100,000+ attendees spontaneously adopted both the trophy and the venerable V-Cup inspired term "Champ Car" as first fruits of a proud new identity.

Eyewitnesses to history have a perfect right to be offended by peoples’ attempts to re-write it.

It is aggravating enough when the f-inheritor spin machine denigrates Champ Car racing by pointing out that most of its former heroes have deserted it in favor of "historic" Indycentrism. But when our own side hypes the feats of a talent rich, technology-gone-wild yesteryear to conceal the fact that the current deal is a one-engine, one-chassis, one-tire, 18-car spec series populated by precious few known personalities, those of us with a deep appreciation for pure history are unable to remain silent.

Granted, CART’s post-split history was recorded as anything but a solid sports management business effort. However, the continuation of its multidisciplinary racing format, larger fields, more varied technologies, and a deep talent pool certainly made for some of the most exciting and competitive open-wheel racing ever seen.

Where CART management’s productivity was non-existent, its product somehow remained intact right up until the day the money and the rats ran out. Conversely, first class management and deep pockets do not an exciting racing series make.

To its credit OWRS is sticking to a discernable business plan. The partners and their trusted employees have, thus far, lived up to their promise of being more marketing conscious and attentive to fans. Especially, they deserve to be commended for addressing serious officiating and stewarding deficiencies and for meeting attendance projections. Even the ridiculous current TV package is somewhat improved when compared with 2004’s abysmal coverage.

There are no stories to write, this summer, about CEO’s hoodwinking fans and stockholders and running the series into the ground. Likewise, the double-dealers are gone and remaining team owners display solidarity in their determination to help keep the series alive.

History, however, will not record this as a summer during which the Champ Car World Series’ product lived up to its potential, let alone its history. In the absence of venue diversity, techno superiority, and a more credible talent pool, the historic Vanderbilt Cup remains, unfortunately, half full.

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

Copyright © 2005 by Ed Donath and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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