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Portland Diary:
Day Three
Stupid Is as Stupid Does (Part Two)

Portland, Oregon, June 18 — In our last report, we exposed the dastardly deeds of Portland’s NIMBYs as they worked to undermine one terrific road racing facility. Stupid. Very stupid. We talked about the tremendous pressure that’s put on everyone involved with competition in the Champ Car series. Business as usual.

Then, there is the business of running the business of racing. We now hear that unification with the IRL is unlikely to happen in 2007. By our reckoning, there are about eight weeks before the announcement of the 2007 race schedule. The sand seems to be sifting through the hourglass for Tony George, who is under pressure from Firestone, Honda, most of his team owners, and maybe his sisters to unify the IRL with Champ Car.

Kevin Kalkhoven has only the pressure of expectations with which to deal as talks with George continue. Goodness knows how George will manage to fill the Indy 500 grid in 07 without any Champ Car drivers. My sense is that this merger could have been done already had Tony simply realized that Indy alone does not merit owning all or most of a unified series. Yes, stupid is as stupid does.

One place “The Inheritor” is not very popular at all is Portland. I am told by one of the Portland race volunteers that without unification, PIR has a contract, which will return Champ Car to the Pacific Northwest in 2007.

In the meantime, it appears some winnowing has taken place in the Atlantic field. By my count, at least five drivers who took the checkers at Long Beach were not in the field at Portland. In our sixth year covering the Atlantic series, we have seen drivers come and go. But, this class of 2006 we believe is the strongest yet and can only hope the most talented of them will get rides in Champ Car. It is essential for the well being of the series that talented young racers are attracted to and retained by Champ Car. Business as usual.

In this NASCAR nation, one hears nary a whisper about the advent of much higher salaries for everyone who is going to work for Toyota. While the reasons for CART’s eventual decline and implosion were many, including loss of a paid television package and the corporation going public are two big ones, little is said any more about the corrosive effects of big money which infected CART as Toyota entered the fray in the 1990’s intent on winning races.

This is not to say that those who make their living in motorsports are not entitled to fair compensation. The real problem with the stupid money that comes with Toyota is the dependence it creates in the series that it enters. Toyota, unlike most US manufacturers, is not in it for the long haul. Thus, as we saw in CART, rather than being loyal to a series or a manufacturer, the Toyota effect creates a loyalty to the money itself. And when Toyota decides to split, and they always do, they leave a series with fewer car makers than they started with and teams and drivers that will follow the money like a junkie follows his dope dealer. So, what we can expect once the two open wheel series do unify—and they will—on Kevin’s terms, NASCAR will probably be in much worse shape than they are now. This in turn will give Champ Car an opportunity to once again dominate American motorsports. Stupid is as stupid does.

Sunday at Portland was rather compressed due to not being able to run warm-ups on race day. The photographers’ meeting is at a breezy 9 AM, and the Atlantics are gridding as its going on. The media lunch is very early, right after the Atlantics race, and we are hoofing it as the Champ Car race is starting at an also early 12:45. With Allmendinger’s very popular win, we do not get away from the track until about 3:30. The sun doesn’t set in Portland at this time of year until around 10 PM, so Jeff’s Father’s Day dinner at the Chart House, overlooking the entire city, takes place during daylight even though we did not return to our hotel until almost 9 PM. Business as usual.

Oh, one more thing. About that “controversial” start. The starter did not wave the green flag that I saw the first time around because the cars were bunched up. He waved it when they came around again when everyone was lined up and ready to race. A.J. rockets to the lead. Pretty cool in my opinion. I’m sorry it made Sebastien mad, but it looked like a fair start to me. It’s just what I observed. I’ll let the reader decide whether or not this is “business as usual” or “stupid is as stupid does.”

I’ll write some more when the series goes to San Jose! Meanwhile, Russell and Angelo take over for Cleveland and Toronto.

Copyright © 2006 by Lisa Davidson and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

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