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Keeping It Off the Wall
by Ed Donath

Merging Traffic

Athens, NY—In a larger volume of e-mail than normally results from published rants, readers have been asking for my take on the recent AutoWeek story that launched the latest rumor/speculation that the inheritor of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and Champ Car’s Aussie Acquirer have reached entente that could merge their open-wheel series beginning with the 2007 racing season.

For similar reasons to those which have spawned unusual bi-partisanship in the halls of our nation’s Capitol Building—a groundswell of congressmen/women from both sides of the aisle protesting the real possibility that a company owned by the United Arab Emirates will soon be supervising cargo operations in America’s largest port cities—this renegade scribe stands firmly in the camp of those who will protest and refuse to support any company that might result from the merger of the Champ Car World Series and the Indy Racing League.

This excerpt from the aforementioned AutoWeek web story explains what that publication believes to be the conditions of the alleged merger:

Points of agreement include 50/50 ownership of the merged series, which will be independent of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, with George and Kalkhoven acting as co-chairmen. Both Honda (IRL) and Cosworth (Champ Car), with or without Ford badging, are in. Bridgestone is in as tire supplier, though it's not certain whether that would be with the Bridgestone or Firestone brand. There may already be agreement on more specific points, but those who know are unwilling to share that information for fear of scuttling the process or enflaming the sensitivities of self-interested parties in both camps before the deal is done.

Based on the current state of affairs, several other things are apparent. The more traditional 2.65-liter turbo V8 currently used in Champ Car seems the more likely choice, as opposed to the IRL's normally aspirated 3.5. Champ Car has a new chassis well into development with Panoz (one of the IRL's current suppliers), scheduled to debut in 2007.

For a long decade one person has stood alone as the impediment to normalcy in American open-wheel racing. This "visionary" has not only resisted every attempt at reconciliation but has been militant, if not terrorist, in his attitude that his series would prevail to the very death of CART and, more recently, its replacement Champ Car Company.

To believe, as Robin Miller recently commented about the AutoWeek story, that "…a merger would equally benefit the Speedway and Champ Car in May, as well as the future of open wheel…" is an ill-conceived and potentially dangerous philosophy.

Why? Because the very essence of any agreement hammered out at this juncture would obviously be resultant of the inheritor’s growing weakness and not from an imminent threat to the survival of OWRS.

So while it is certainly true that Champ Car is no longer a synonym for "the cars and the stars", that its fields are under-sized, that its owners are too much involved with out-of-pocket team ownership and, saddest of all, that it is a mere shadow of its former self as relates to high-tech multi-disciplinary racing, the splitter’s series is actually in dire jeopardy of losing even its own coveted signature event due to a lack of participation and spectatorship.

The smell of the competition’s blood should have a buy-out shark like Kevin Kalkhoven excited over the prospect of acquiring the rights to race at IMS if outright ownership of the facility itself is unattainable. One hundred percent ownership and total management of Champ Car should remain his company’s ultimate goal—especially if the alternative means partnering with someone who has nothing but disrespect for open-wheel racing unity and whose track record is one of egotism and self-aggrandizement.

Yet, according to Miller, Kalkhoven is optimistic about a merger and has asked him to issue this plea: "If people truly care about open wheel racing in America, then please go away and leave Tony and I alone."

No problem Kev. Having boycotted the splitter of our beloved speed sport for the last 10 years it will be easy to allow equal time for his new endeavor to prove whether he has turned over a new leaf and whether your partnership will be worthy of my support.

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

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

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