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Keeping It Off the Wall
by Ed Donath

My Name is Mud
8/21/05

Athens, NY—Negative reaction to my previous rant was particularly acerbic. That entry’s punch line summed up the genuine feelings of concern that had prompted me to write it:

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.

Unlike some of my recent detractors, long-term devotees of Champ Car racing are not apt to doubt my loyalty to our beloved speed sport. For while those with fan longevity might disagree with my opinions—and I certainly wouldn’t have it any other way—they would never consider them to be heretical because they know full well that this renegade scribe is not merely a recent jump-on-the-bandwagon critic of the inheritor of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and his astigmatic vision but, by far and away, the most prolific commentator on that subject since Day One of the split—period.

Need proof of the absence of venue diversity in Champ Car? How about this statement of policy from Kevin Kalkhoven that was cited in Jeff Pappone’s 8/18/05 Globe and Mail piece and posted at the official Champ Car website. Read it and weep:

"If we bring racing close to the urban centers, whether it's a track like Montreal, which is very close to the center, or whether it's a street circuit, and if you turn it into a three-day festival, the fans will come, the families will come," said series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven. “It's been argued equally that it's kind of a shame that we're leaving behind some of the history of Champ Car, some of the old circuits. We could just not rely on the history of the series because we had seen that that was not necessarily a winning formula."

In another fresh John Oreovicz ESPN-RPM story, the co-owner with the Acquiring Mind stuck to his newly wrought talking points, adding a wise-ass kicker that might appeal to yuppified newcomer festivalites but will disturb most of the purist dinosaurs in the audience:

"The fan base is developing very rapidly," said Kalkhoven. "I think it's obvious that if we bring racing close to urban centers, whether it's a permanent track like Montreal or Portland or a street course, if you turn it into a three-day festival, the fans and the families will come. You don't have to stand out in some mud-ridden field to watch cars come by."

Regarding techno superiority the only point of clarification I would add to my original statement …the current deal is a one-engine, one-chassis, one-tire, 18-car spec series…is that it was intended to be a historical comparison of the current iteration of Champ Car racing to its former self—not a comparison to f-inheritor or any other specific series. Anyone able to disprove my observation is invited to step forward.

Finally, there was the extremely controversial topic of a credible talent pool.

Of the 18 drivers on the grid for any given race perhaps 10 would be competitive racing with the likes of Alex Zanardi, the late Greg Moore, Jacques Villeneuve, Juan Pablo Montoya, or even Mark Blundell. Please take notice that none of the names of former CART drivers who crossed over to the dark side in the name of saving their careers have been mentioned. Draw your own conclusions as to why the former CART stars that remain in the series aren’t obliterating the rookies and ride-buyers.

Even incoming Champ Car president Steve Johnson [not to be confused with Stefan Johansson’s pit scooter alter ego] realizes that the series’ “…outlook isn't completely rosy…” Johnson, who is leaving his executive’s chair at the SCCA to take over most of the “retiring” Dick Eidswick’s duties rightfully lists, as one of his first priorities, adding cars to the grid in 2006.

Mr. Kalkhoven’s sincerity in his desire to perpetuate, proliferate, and profit-ize the Champ Car World Series and his hands-on experience and knowledge aside, he is, nonetheless, a relative newcomer himself. While he cannot be faulted for not having a history of standing out in mud-ridden fields—let alone driving through them—his flippant negation of our glorious multidisciplinary history is inexcusable.

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

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

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