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Keeping It Off the Wall
by Ed Donath

Way-off Season

ATHENS, NY—With so little concrete information to digest and nothing but a plethora of question marks which continue to baffle fans like so many jellybeans in a downtown merchant’s contest jar, the current off-season has been like no other in memory.

Normal silly season stuff—driver, sponsor, chassis, and venue changes—has, of necessity, been placed on hold as a result of the non-descript and extremely precarious position in which Champ Car teams now find themselves.

It has been difficult even for established owners and their sponsors to make business decisions with nothing more to go on than perhaps a short list of contingency plans. Under-funded and upstart teams are all but dead in the water at this extremely late pre-season date. Unfortunately, there are still weeks to go before any firm answers about the future of our beloved speed sport will be forthcoming.

What will actually happen after CART’s stockholders vote on the acceptability of the OWRS offer? What will Champ Car racing be like if it survives? Will there be a 2004 season, and, if so, when and where will it begin? What about venues? What about TV?

Your guesses at this point, my fellow long-suffering fans, are just as good as anyone else’s. But this renegade scribe’s pet peeve du jour revolves around those who blindly assume that we will be enjoying a new iteration of CART doing business more or less as usual when Spring Training rolls around.

“Certainly,” they assure us, “the OWRS partnership will have everything up-and-running in ample time for the season opener—whenever and wherever that may be.”

In reality, there are scores of engineers, technicians, and all manner of racing team personnel who are being forced to suffer through this ongoing unresolved situation. Those poor folks are definitely not enjoying the same kind of blind faith-driven optimism that cheerleaders and Pollyannas have adopted.

And what of ancillary businesses and organizations that don’t have a clue how to plan for an upcoming season—or whether to plan at all? Imagine being an apparel seller and not knowing what logos or designs to screen-print onto your t-shirts, let alone how many to order and where to find the customers to buy them.

A disturbing letter from Champ Car Ministries* recently came in the mail. It consists mainly of a sad report that the multi-denominational mobile chapel ministry’s income for the upcoming mystery season will be a scant 70% of its already-decreased 2003 funding. As a result of fewer teams and limited supplementary support from the bankruptcy-bound CART last year, it was the first time in the organization’s history that it was forced to miss a few events in order to make funds last through the entire season.

But now, at a time when the Champ Car community definitely needs all the help it can find, even spiritual comfort and fellowship are likely to be a scarce commodity.

And so it goes with a company that managed to mismanage its way into oblivion despite having plenty of capital and a great product to sell. So why would anyone expect such an outfit to put on a halfway decent Going Out of Business Sale?

*Send donations to:
Champ car Ministries
P.O. Box 3088
Indio, CA 92202

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

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