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Keeping It Off the Wall
by Ed Donath

Cap’n Kangaroo

Athens, NY—Attempting to keep one’s eye on the Captain, Roger Penske, as he self-servingly hops about, can cause not only nausea but outrage as well. In the latest installment of Penske’s Search for Tomorrow soap opera, the double-dealing geezer attempts to manipulate the movers, shakers, and other key players on both sides of the open-wheel racing war to blindly follow him down a yet-to-be-defined money trail that, apparently, has recently been cleared for his use.

And if this ever-increasingly disinterested renegade scribe is outraged over Cap’n Kangaroo’s most recent “it’s for the fans” pronouncements, one can only imagine how twisted out of shape the inheritor of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway must be after he learned that Penske led story-hungry Robin Miller to believe that he—Penske—would function as f-inheritor’s official emissary in “reunification talks” with the OWRS troika.

This excerpt from Miller’s 6/24/04 piece includes the most laugh-provoking on-the-record comment ever made by the generally serious Gerald Forsythe:

…During the two-hour meeting in Pontiac, Mich., an 8-man board of directors was discussed (four from each side) as well as a schedule (10 ovals and 10 road/street courses) that combined each series’ strongest venues and retaining the IRL's normally-aspirated engine formula.

"If it would happen, everybody would win—sponsors, fans, teams—and I would certainly like to see it happen and go to the next level," said Forsythe, who has fielded Champ Cars on and off since 1982 and now operates a three-car team. “But, at the end of the day, if there isn't a meeting of the minds and you run into a brick wall, you've got to turn left."

In the last decade the single obstacle that has blocked open-wheel racing’s normalization, if not unification is, of course, the aforementioned Speedway proprietor. Roger Penske’s 10-year track record includes only acts of selfishness and abandonment.

Thus far, Forsythe’s subtle “brick wall” reference to the splitter of our beloved speed sport in comments to Robin Miller is the single factual bit of information that has emerged from this most recent episode of the Roger Penske serial.

#  #  #

And speaking of Kangaroo stuff, the irony that the three race winners of our four-race-old season currently slot into the third, fourth, and fifth positions in the Championship Points behind two non-winners not withstanding, shortcomings in each of the “artificial excitement-producers” currently being employed by the Champ Car World Series have had little, if any, impact on the fan pleasing-ness of its racing.

Actually, such innovations as Push-to-Pass, Quirky Qualifying, and Peculiar Points have, in my opinion, had a deleterious effect on the quality of the racing, thus far.

"We wanted to give our drivers more of an opportunity to make passes and compete for position…we think this will play a key role in that,” techmeister Lee Dykstra proclaimed when P2P was announced by OWRS during the pre-season. “Champ Car Director of Electronics Kevin Vander Laan and others in our organization have worked very hard to develop this new application and we expect it to make for more exciting racing.”

While I readily admit that my initial fears concerning malfunction and/or cheating have been allayed, my prediction that incessant chatter in the announce booth about prominent drivers’ seconds of P2P time remaining would be a distraction from other important ongoing racing strategies has proven accurate.

Furthermore, other than a few seconds of button pressing excitement before the first turn on the first lap of the first race, Push-to-Pass has proven to be a disappointment…

…unless you believe that the stealing of a Championship Point to score the fastest lap of the race or the prevention of a front-runner from lapping a back-marker makes sense.

Copyright © 2004 by Ed Donath and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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