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Uncensored CΛRT Commentary
by Ed Donath

Starting Over
2/18/03

ATHENS, NY—The outpouring of sympathy messages about the passing of my dear wife has been truly remarkable. Dozens of e-mails from every region of the USA plus those from New Zealand, Mexico, Australia, UK, Brazil, and Canada have truly been overwhelming.

To each and every person who has taken time out of his/her busy life to send messages of consolation, love, and encouragement, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. One thing Dorothy realized long ago; whenever I would refer to the Champ Car community as “my friends” she had no doubt that I meant it sincerely. Words cannot express my gratitude for the compassion and comfort that you, my friends, have provided.

So, in many ways, both this renegade scribe and the Champ Car World Series are about to be starting over—pretty much from scratch, at that. As a result of my own loss I may be better able now to identify with Chris Pook’s ongoing predicament. However, there are still some issues that make me wonder whether CΛRT has the ability to weather the yet-to-come strongest winds of the storm.

Perhaps my mind will change once the new season is underway—especially if the series’ co-promoters’ expected show of advertising/marketing force actually kicks in to promote affiliation with Champ Car racing—but, thus far, it has been a disturbing silence from Ford and Bridgestone.

Being personally involved with a company that runs Ford, Dodge, and Chevy dealerships, please accept my first-hand testimony that both of the latter brands are far ahead of Ford in point of purchase promotion of their motorsports involvements. Thus far, even insider auto industry trade publications have not been a source of PR information about Ford’s exclusive connection with CΛRT. Bridgestone’s silence, to date, is also deafening.

Of course we know that there will certainly be more Ford and Bridgestone spots than ever before shown during Champ Car World Series race telecasts. But—and this is another worrisome issue—the potential TV audience for future CWSPBBPBF events is not exactly comparable to that of network reality shows and sitcoms, let alone NASCAR and the stick and ball sports. We can only hope that the Presenter and the Power Supplier will kick it up a notch or two beyond merely preaching to the choir in their new roles.

While SPEED’s production has been more than adequate and is, inarguably, a vast improvement over CΛRT’s former TV package, their reach, nonetheless, is woefully short. CBS, like ABC/ESPN before them, also has way too much on its plate to worry about the placement and promotion of our favorite struggling niche speed sport.

Last year’s Sigma/PacWest debacle casts an ominous shadow over the six-or-more upstart teams that will comprise more than a third of Grandpa Chris’ promised 18-deep starting grid for this weekend’s ’03 season opener in St. Petersburg, Florida. Sponsorships can so suddenly become jeopardized by the tenuous world economy and changes of heart and loyalty of corporate stockholders and directors.

Is the Champ Car Company truly prepared to fund any team(s) that runs into mid-season sponsorship difficulty? Can CΛRT survive financially beyond 2003 should such emergency action become necessary?

Finally, there is the issue of promoter relations and its sub-issue: facility poaching. One or both of CΛRT’s recently-departed former engine suppliers—in conjunction with the inheritor of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and perhaps a couple of ex-Champ Car team owners—have stirred up the hornet’s nest in an attempt to weaken relations, if not usurp traditional CΛRT venues.

To avoid embarrassing lawsuits and the potential loss of productive venues, Grandpa Chris must immediately go into fence-mending mode. He must also demonstrate a commitment to cooperate with facility owners and race promoters that is every bit as strong as his promise to cut costs and increase subsidies for CΛRT team owners has been.

Starting over is always a bit scary. However, it also presents the opportunity to wipe the slate clean and to forge ahead without making the mistakes of the past. Please wish us both well.

Copyright © 2003 by Ed Donath and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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