Keeping It Off the Wall|
by Ed Donath
ATHENS, NY—What has been the outcome, thus far, of Mario Andretti’s repeated efforts to be perceived as the precipitant and hero of American open-wheel racing’s reunification? Allow me to enumerate the results:
1. His son bought into a Champ Car team and immediately turned it into an Indy Car team, further widening the ever-growing chasm between CART and the IRL.
2. Despite occupying a chair on CART’s Board of Directors at the time, Mario stepped into one of Mikey’s cars at Indy and had a spectacular testing crash—promptly giving the Speedway the biggest shot of motorsports media exposure since the death of Dale Earnhardt. The clip of Mario’s crash was shown on every TV sports highlights show and newscast around the globe; further confusing the uninitiated about the split in open-wheel racing and reinforcing the belief of some that motor racing is too stupid and deadly a sport for them to care about.
So at best, Andretti’s employer—CART— was ignored during this fiasco; at worst, Champ Car racing’s individual identity was further compromised. In either case, Mario came off as being an over-the-hill geezer going through a late mid-life crisis to people both in and out of racing.
3. The inheritor of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway has never acknowledged Mario’s attempts to bump-start the reunification process.
4. Sales of Andretti’s Napa Valley grape products have increased as a result of all the free publicity that Mario gets himself by beating the re-unification drum here, there and everywhere. One undeniable fact: Mario has always made a fine w(h)ine.
And now, despite realizing the necessity to insert this disclaimer…
“I feel I have some solid reasons to be optimistic, not just because I am a Dr. Feelgood or in la-la land.”
…Mario continues to spew empty rhetoric in his role as self-appointed re-unifier. The beat goes on.
"We can revisit the whys and wherefores of the two series and the way the breakaway happened. But the way I would like to look at tomorrow is [to see] if there's any possible way to find a compromise between the two and have an agreement between them to merge together," Mario explained to Michael Lynch of Melbourne’s The Age newspaper during last month’s race weekend in Australia.
"Maybe it's too much to ask because of the compromises that would have to be made, [but] I know that there are some efforts going on. For the benefit of the sport, it would be a win-win situation. It would be for the benefit of open wheel racing in North America and definitely everyone would benefit if the two would pool their resources and race on the best tracks with the best drivers."
So who, exactly, would benefit most at this point?
Guys like Mikey—or at least his teammates and the employees of his fellow CART-deserting IRL team owners—who could risk their necks less often in the Injurious Racing League while resuming their successful erstwhile street and road-racing careers at some of the world’s most glamorous venues.
"The group that's coming in are not idiots," Mario says. “They know how to put together two and two. They are making a commitment with their eyes wide open.”
Well Mario, long-time Champ Car fans aren’t idiots either. Our eyes and ears have been wide open every time the single obstacle to reunification—the very splitter of our beloved speed sport himself—chanted his “the Speedway doesn’t need to negotiate with anyone” mantra.
When we put two and two together it adds up to the conclusion that the only chance of reunification ever being accomplished by Mario Andretti and/or any of the incoming OWRS partners would be over the dead body of the aforementioned proprietor of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Actually in that regard, Mario, we are all definitely rooting for you.
Copyright © 2003 by Ed Donath and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.
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