Thursday, November 16, 2006

What Merger?

While at Surfer’s Paradise, Champ Car co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven threw more cold water on this past summer’s media “hyping” of a potential merger between Champ Car and the IRL. Kalkhoven told reporters: “Yes, Tony (George) and I met and had talks at Indy, but we only “talked.” My primary focus is on Champ Car (obviously) which is growing stronger each year.”
With both series releasing expanded 2007 schedules and Champ Car’s new “non-oval friendly” Panoz DP-01 chassis, DON’T expect an Open Wheel merger anytime in the future…
Kalkhoven spent the Surfer’s Paradise weekend wooing potential 2007 Champ Car team owner Paul Stoddart. Stoddart attended the race as a guest of Kalkhoven’s watching the action from the PKV Racing pit box.
Car count’s still seem to be a major issue for both series. While Champ Car may actually increase its 2007 roster, the IRL appears to be shrinking? Adrian Fernandez’s team appears to be folding as Fernandez Racing driver Scott Sharp has been confirmed at Rahal/Letterman Racing with teammate Kosuke Matsuura having been confirmed at Panther Racing. This will leave the IRL with 16 cars being campaigned by 8 teams…
There are currently two new Champ Car teams planning to debut in 2007. Pacific Coast Motorsports is definite with the second team still undetermined. This could possibly push Champ Cars car count to over 20 entries…
The lone bright spot for the IRL is that Darren Manning has been confirmed at AJ Foyt Racing for 2007. Manning previously drove for Chip Ganassi before being released in mid-2005. Larry Foyt (AJ’s son) will take over as Team Director as “Super Tax” celebrates his 50th season of racing…
Interestingly ALL of the IRL’s “Big Mac’s” err, big name Team Owners are either starting or currently have Sports car operations. The ALMS (American Le Mans Series) is heavily favored with team owners favoring this racing series. ALMS Teams include: Roger Penske; 2 Car Porsche RSR Spider team. (LMP2) Andretti-Green Racing; Single car entry (Courage/Acura LMP2) Fernandez Racing; Single car entry (Acura/LMP2) Rahal/Letterman Racing; 1/2 car entry, Porsche 911 RSR (GT2) Meanwhile Chip Ganassi is the sole team owner to field a two car Grand Am DP (Daytona Prototype) entry... Does this imply that these owners aren’t entirely confident of the IRL’s future success or simply diversifying?

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