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Bizarro World

Suppose you are an open wheel fan. Okay, that part is easy. After all, you are reading this essay.

Now, suppose you are Rip van Winkle. Let's say you started taking your nap in 1996. Maybe 1997. And you just woke up, or you woke up early in the 2003 season.

After your long slumber, you are eager to talk with your fellow open wheel racing fans on the Internet. You hop right onto Usenet, always a bastion of crazy fanatics. You soon discover nothing has changed. In fact it has gotten worse. You feel right at home.

You read a post about how idiotic it is to have a one engine manufacturer series. Ah, yes, you think, the CART fans are still after the IRL for that one. Then you notice the signature, and you recognize that one -- it's an IRL fan. A convert?

You read another post, one about how their series is so much better because it has the best drivers from all over the world, raving about the great Brazilians, Helio Castroneves (where did that hyphen go?), Gil de Ferran, and Tony Kanaan in their series, not just a bunch of oval hacks. But again, you are puzzled. The signature is definitely that of an IRL fanatic you remember reading before you took your extended shuteye.

Yet another post. This one extolling the fact that their series is so much cheaper to get into. That the costs are being held down, so the teams being "locked" out of the other series can come to this one. The little guy is being helped out -- the true roots of racing. You smile, knowing another IRL fan continues to go on and on about this financial model and how it is somehow going to save open wheel racing. Then you notice who wrote it. A staunch CART supporter.

Just what is going on?!

You figure that Usenet has simply gone completely over the edge, and this is no longer the place for sane ... well at least semi-sane ... conversation about American open wheel racing. So, you leave Usenet, and start surfing the web.

You find this site called seventhgear.com. You go straight to the forum section. There, you read all about how great it is that one engine manufacturer is supplying a "spec" engine, how the costs are being reduced to attract new teams, how opportunities are going to be opening up for American drivers, how it is good the old has-beens like Unser and Andretti are not in the series. You figure this has got to be an IRL fan site.

Then, you look around the rest of the site, and soon discover to your horror that seventhgear.com is a dedicated CART site. Your stomach is in knots. You start breaking out in a cold sweat. Just what is going on since you went to bed?

You remember a site called trackforum.com, a hangout for the most zealous IRL religious freaks. You go there, knowing you will find your answers. Knowing you will find the world the same as you left it.

Instead, you read posts about how great it is that the top engine manufacturers of the world are all coming to the IRL, bringing with them top money for top teams leaving the lesser teams out in the dark, reinstating engine leases -- the most evil of all CART's evils the last time you were awake -- and the greatness of foreign drivers never before seeing an oval, and doing so well, because the IRL attracts the best drivers in the world, regardless of whether they are American or from the Midwest dirt track environment.

By now you're shaking. The full realization has struck you. This was never about a war of ideology. It was a war for control. Where money wins, and everybody else, especially the fans, go to hell. Open wheel racing has been torn asunder for the egos of a few war mongers. A war that can only produce a Pyrrhic victory.

You turn off your computer. You walk over to your bed and fluff up the pillows. You lay down, gently pulling the covers over yourself.

You say a prayer, asking God not to wake you until open wheel racing has gotten its house back in order. Until open wheel racing returns to the heydays of the mid-90s. Until open wheel racing is at peace.

Suddenly, a fear penetrates you as your eyes close. As you, Rip van Winkle, drift into unconsciousness, you fear that this time, it will be a very, very long sleep.

Copyright © 2002 by Russell Jaslow and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.

 
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