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Keeping It Off the Wall
by Ed Donath

Re-vision of History
2/26/08

Cairo, NYWhether you ultimately choose to support f-inheritor Version 13.0 or not is a matter of your own conscience. Just don't try to convince yourself or anyone else that open-wheel racing is going to be just like pre-split 1995 CART simply because the Indy 500 issue has been resolved -- even if you're bread is now being buttered on both sides by both sides.

That's part of what Jeff Olson has done in his current SPEED-TV piece. I'm already on record as being a fan of Olson's writing style [see disclaimer] but once again he has mixed apples and grapes to concoct a commentary; particularly aggravating since he presents us with a mini-history lesson as part of his opinion.

"What we have in 2008 is almost exactly what we had in 1995, Olson writes. "The only differences are a new leader, naturally aspirated engines and more ovals. Oh, yeah, lest we forget: We also have a much smaller audience."

  • Dude, what about team "package" strategy that included the combination of an engine (select from Mercedes-Benz, Ford, Toyota, Honda) with one or more chassis (select from Lola, Reynard, Eagle) and the right tires (select from Goodyear, Firestone)?
  • Dude, what about closed circuit lap speeds pushing 240 mph and technology, second only to ForMoola One's "naturally aspirated engines" and chassis aerodynamics?
  • Dude, what about racing stars known to most folks not only by their names but for their racing accomplishments as well?
  • Dude, who in America didn't know AJ Foyt and Mario Andretti? Who in Europe didn't know Nigel Mansell and Arie Luyendyk? Who in Canada didn't know Scott Goodyear and Jacques Villeneuve? Who in Australia didn't know Geoff Brabham? Who in Brazil didn't know Emerson Fittipaldi and the gaggle of Brazilionaires that followed him?
  • Blog me with any "Dude, what abouts" that I've overlooked.

Here's more revisionism from Jeff Olson [cue the last verse of The Who's Won't Get Fooled Again]:

"Yet, for all the bitterness and blame he receives, George is not the sole cause of what went on the past dozen years. Hes not the monster hes made out to be. Hes also not the same person he was in 1995. He isnt rigidly stuck to any misguided notions about what open-wheel racing should be, a claim that couldnt be made 10 years ago. Hes shown a willingness to compromise and adapt. Hes surrounded himself with sharp people. Hes created something far more nimble than old-school USAC, something better equipped to react and adjust."

Of course the splitter isn't solely responsible for the sad state of open-wheel racing today. However, while this renegade scribe and Jeff Olson may both have been critical of those who ran CART and the Champ Car World Series during the last decade, Olson has not only continued to give the Speedway inheritor a pass, but has written about his series as though it was "almost exactly what we had in 1995" all along.

I know. A guy's gotta make a living and good writing gigs are tougher than ever to find.

As for the "new leader" and his kinder/gentler nature and "willingness to compromise and adapt", I can only ask Olson why he didn't tell us about this remarkable change sooner? He could have helped make it not look so much like an eleventh-hour-last-ditch decision when the splitter finally capitulated and busted his mergification move?

As a big fan of The Honeymooners a particularly great Gleason retort always comes to mind at moments like this one. Ralph Kramden's future brother-in-law, Stanley -- about to marry Alice's sister, Agnes -- tells Ralph he thinks that the girls' parents are "nice people".

"Sure they're nice NOW. Boris Karloff seems like a very nice guy when he's dancing on The Red Skelton Show. But Karloff in Frankenstein -- that's the real Karloff."

One thing Olson did get right is the title of his commentary...Open-Wheel Fantasy.

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Copyright © 2008 by Ed Donath and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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