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Keeping It Off the Wall
by Ed Donath

Product-ivity
10/26/04

Athens, NY—Anyone who believes, at this juncture, that the Champ Car World Series is the greatest thing since sliced carbon fiber, let alone a reasonable facsimile of CART even in any of its most mediocre former manifestations, needs to be batted upside the head with a wet, rolled-up US 500 sweatshirt.

True, a factually sentimental case can and should be made that OWRS is viable—thriving, according to some reports—despite "split" and financial conditions which pre-existed its formation. Even in the wake of the desertion of traitorous team owners who waited until the last minute (read: highest bid) to bail, Champ Car racing continues to exist as its own freestanding entity and with its own albeit lesser-known personalities and venues.

Nonetheless, shortcomings in both the OWRS sports/entertainment product as well as its highly touted business/marketing plan could ultimately cause the yearling company to suffer the same financial fate as its predecessor.

Except for rare moments in which unique conditions have enabled drivers to capitalize on the formula’s quirkiest potentialities, CCWS racing has, for the most part, been a yawner. Its hollowness, ironically, is precipitated by the very same manufactured gimmickry that has occasionally kicked up its heart rate. Additionally and more importantly, however, the Champ Cars are severely hampered by engine/chassis limitations and by a street course-heavy schedule.

Does the OWRS troika have any intention of ever reestablishing the once-sacrosanct multidisciplinary racing format that, for decades, set our beloved speed sport apart from all others? If so then the time to show us the blueprints for the re-build is now.

Where once there was a plethora of chassis/engine/tire combinations and a circuit-type musical chairs game was continuously in play, the series’ defining formula currently suffers from double emasculation; the victim of venue sameness plus excessive and contrived rules. Furthermore, it is being sabotaged by the very incapables who are charged with enforcing those rules.

Champ Car racing’s devolution is a turn-off to many of its long-time fans. But even when history-worshipping geezers are removed from the mix, the dumbed down tech elements, repetitive urban parades, and laughable TV package have done little to further the cause of coalescing a corps of TV-watching newcomers and event attendees.

First and foremost the anemic racing product must be strengthened so as to position the series better against competitors. Champ Car racing’s product must stand for itself, especially if f-inheritor makes good on its threat to create and/or steal street racing venues.

Once an improved racing product is established, the hard selling of it must replace the current Mardi Gras marketing program. That which appears to be the series’ savior because it promotes strong street racing event ticket sales can just as easily be used against the Champ Car World Series to convince fickle casual fans of the existence of a better party elsewhere.

Before you denounce this renegade scribe for what will immediately be labeled as heretical criticism by knee-jerk reactors, rest assured that there is absolutely no intention here to diminish anyone’s interest in what, even on its worst day, continues to be the only American open-wheel series worth supporting.

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

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

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