Robin Miller Dropped The Ball
Rochester, N.Y., February 26 — For the past month or so, Robin Miller really ratcheted up his criticism of Champ Car, specifically the so-called leaders running it. It certainly was warranted. Champ Car had become a rudderless ship aiming straight for an iceberg with a penguin at the helm. It ceased operating as a respectable sporting organization since Road America last summer when they decided bullying tactics was preferable over proper media relations.
I've always liked Miller, his writing, his style, his sheer love of open wheel racing, and his no holds barred viewpoints. Even when I don't agree with him.
However, this time, I believe he dropped the ball.
In his zest to see unification happen almost to the point of fanaticism, he lost sight of doing what he does best -- ask the next probing question. And that question isn't will we be better off with one series, but will we be better off with solely Tony George in charge. The first question is obvious. The second question is potentially disturbing.
No, this isn't what you think. It isn't a Tony George started it, so why should we accept this rant. It is simply a question, is Tony George the proper person to move this sport forward from this point on.
Robin Miller says, "Get over it." I agree at some point we all have to. I also agree that this is probably the healthiest thing to do. However, it can also lead one to forget about history. Not simply to rehash the tired old story, but to learn from it. And what we learn, I fear, is that Tony George and the IRL are not the people to lead open wheel racing.
This is the organization that created the 25/8 rule.
This is the organization that downplayed, even lied, about injuries (remember Alessandro Zampedri's severed partial foot described as "minor injuries?").
This is the organization that designed a new racecar with a bulky, solid transmission that stuck so far out it created a tail happy unstable car which crushed backs in rear end impacts.
This is an organization that designed cars with the tendency to go airborne causing the death of Tony Renna, the mutilation of Kenny Brack, and the potential PR disaster of nearly sending Mario Andretti into the grandstands.
This is an organization that despite all those safety issues, put band aids on the problem sending open wheel racing back 30 years with their injury record.
This is an organization that feared the CART owners allegedly wanting to shorten the month of May and ended up shortening the month of May.
This is an organization that blatantly fixed one of the largest sporting events in the world (where was Senator Arlen Specter when you really needed him?).
This is an organization that secretly provided power steering to two of their smallest and weakest drivers, Danica Patrick and Dan Wheldon, against the rules which made them suddenly -- and suspiciously -- faster.
This is an organization that steadfastly refuses to do what every other racing organization does and set the minimum weight of the car with the driver, thus providing smaller, lighter drivers an advantage, which just so happens to potentially provide the IRL with a PR coup.
This is an organization that went against every single one of their philosophical believes in their quest to control open wheel racing.
And therein lies the problem. They have never been interested in the sport. Only the control.
Miller did give us some hope. He mentioned that there are competent people now working for the IRL that will help guide them towards a better vision combining the best of Champ Car with the IRL. People such as Tony Cotman, who is quite capable of doing this. I even think Brain Barnhart is also capable of positive change. From what I hear, he receives a great deal of respect from the competitors and the way he treats them (let's not forget that the Paul Tracy fiasco was beyond Barnhart's control).
However, there are still signs that concern me with the IRL. For instance, they still have Fred Nation, who is the reason why PR workers get such a bad rap.
The clincher was what Tony George said on Wind Tunnel the other day. He described his vision of American open wheel racing and subsequently provided a recipe for Champ Car racing -- "20-race schedule is going to be split between the three different disciplines," "It will be an international series," "...international drivers and manufacturer participation is a good thing."
Miller was on his game at this point when he pointed out to George that he was referring to 1995 CART.
There is your leader for open wheel racing, folks. The man who had a hissy fit because he couldn't be in charge. The hissy fit that destroyed a sport only to acknowledge CART had it right in the first place.
That's why Robin Miller dropped the ball. What makes him think that a single series could possibly be the savior of American open wheel racing when the leader is a man-child who had a $300 million hissy fit?
Copyright © 2008 by Russell Jaslow and Deep Throttle. All Rights Reserved.