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Keeping It Off the Wall
by Ed Donath

What are the odds?

Athens, NY—High rollers in America have got it made.

With Atlantic City’s emergence as an Eastern alternative gambling destination combined with the more recent advent of a burgeoning Native American casino industry plus Canada’s strategically located border cities’ provincial gambling palaces, the wide-open Wild West state of Nevada with its Mecca of Gambling, Las Vegas, no longer enjoys exclusive gaming rights in the USA.

On the other hand, American Champ Car fans are severely destination challenged—particularly as that relates to traditional oval and super speedway racing venues.

Co-opted from successful stick-and-ball sports promoters, CART’s/OWRS’ whole-hearted adoption of Grandpa Chris Pook’s metro-venue marketing strategy has created a dangerously counter-productive paradox for latter day fans of our beloved speed sport; one that has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that auto racing can never be a sport for which the citizens of competing cities root for bragging rights as much for their favorite hometown athletes.

Nonetheless, street event ticket sales have, thus far, enabled the current CCWS management to not only keep the bills paid but also to predict an earlier date of completion for their business turn-around plan. Be prepared, therefore, for more of the same venue strategy, at least for the foreseeable future.

While any Champ Car fan would be ecstatic over the ability to attend “destination races” in Mexico, Europe, Australia, and other talked-about international locations, one North American street race venue, alas, looks all too much like the next one; especially from a grandstand seat that enables line of sight of at best 2 ½ corners of any given urban circuit.

Sadly, street venue ambiance differential accrues ostensibly from subtle changes in backdrop—the predominant natural or structural landmark(s) of this week’s versus last week’s city—rather than from course uniqueness.

Therefore, in conjunction with the artificially quickened extinction of previously available natural road course and speedway events, those fans who do not live in or near a current downtown venue are most likely to have their living room sofa and/or computer room be their “destination” on race day; an option that is certainly no more attractive than the view of 2½ racing corners and a grandstand tan.

It is ironic that a bejeweled casino destination city in the toniest quarter of Europe serves as the icon of open-wheel racing for most of the world while Americans long ago chose a distinctively un-scenic former cornfield of an industrial Mid-Western city as their long-standing motorsports capital.

Enter Las Vegas, which, while it no longer enjoys its former gambling exclusivity, is more than ever before one of America’s premier destination cities. Las Vegas is also one of a very small handful of US tourist towns that has a first class superspeedway on the premises.

Las Vegas is a perfect match for a series that desperately needs a variety injection if it wants to retain its defining multi-disciplinary racing title. The city is also a perfect match for any sports company that wants to emulate the major leagues’ model of doing business downtown.

So what are the odds that the Champ Car World Series has done everything in its power to turn the cards it has been dealt this weekend into a full house at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway?

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

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

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