Monday, February 25, 2008

Some Heads are gonna Roll

With the consolidation of Open Wheel Racing finally underway, just who are the winners (whiner’s) and losers in this horrendously long wasting of ego’s ‘N greenbacks…

As usual, the larger fish tend to eat the minnows in the aquarium, as reports suggest that all of the remaining “Heavy Hitters” (Knuckle Draggers?) in Champ Car will be joining the Indy Racing League, as Brian Barnhart will begin the festivities with an IRL Orientation meeting today at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

According to Kurt Cabin, representatives from Conquest Racing, Forsythe Pettit Racing, Newman Haas Lanigan Racing, PKV Racing, Team Minardi USA and Walker Motorsports should hopefully be attending the meeting. Pacific Coast Motorsports, located in California is expected to miss the meeting due to the short notice, but Team Manager Tyler Tadevic of PCM has stated that they intend to be on the Homestead grid (“With bells on”) with a two car entry.

Barnhart is expecting Conquest, Forsythe Pettit, Newman Haas Lanigan and PKV to field two car teams, while Kieth Wiggins And Derrick Walker are set to run one car operations. This leaves just Dale Coyne and Paul Gentlozzi left out of the mix, with a total of seven of the nine CCWS teams making the jump with an estimated 12 cars joining the IRL circus.

While initial reports speculated that PCM would seek refuge in the American Le Mans Series, Tadevic is claiming that Tony George is sweetening the pot for former Champ Car teams to not only join the series, but contest the Long Beach Grand Prix as the CCWS’s farewell party by offering two Dallara tubs for every Panoz entered. Oh, crap! Why is that song Tiny bubbles coming to mind here? Can you say Sayonara Champ Car…

Meanwhile Paul Gentilozzi has apparently thrown in the towel, (HURRAH!) saying he can’t make the numbers work; which he’s also been unable to do with the Trans Am series and the various guises of his Champ Car operation. Let me be the first to wish Gentilozzi Good Ridance!

Yet unfortunately it looks like Dale Coyne, a longtime and staunch supporter of CART/PPG and CCWS is being left out in the cold? While consistently running a shoestring effort, Coyne has never lacked for enthusiasm, along with offering a truckload of talented drivers a place to shine. It would be nice to see Coyne potentially merge, err, join forces with one of the “floundering” single car teams on the IRL side of the ledger, i.e.; Citgo/SAMAX, Dreyer & Reinbold, Sarah Fisher or Panther.

Originally I was going to suggest that AJ Foyt merge operations with Wiggins, who always runs a first rate organization and took two wins last season on its way to winning Rookie of the Year with Robert Doornbos. As the Dutch ex-Formula 1 driver is seriously talented, but I was afraid I’d get decked by Super Tex! And hopefully “Bad Bobby D” (Doornbos) will indeed be the pilot of Team Minardi USA’s single car effort.

And if Dale Coyne doesn’t answer the bell, does this mean Bruno “Whiney Bags” Junqueira will land the second seat at Forsythe Petitt which previously looked set to hire ex-Formula 1 ace Frank Montagny. Psst, hey Booby Ruble, don’t you need a second car to keep up with Ganassi, Penske and N/H/L?

On the plus side, we’ll at last once again have a decent Television package, as we’ll get to dump that atrocious third rate deal CCWS was paying for, while I assume the sport will prosper as we’ll have a single direction for Open Wheel Racing, including quality fields at the Indianapolis 500.

Yet, the losers in this deal seem quite significant. I mean for starters what about all of the race promoters and tracks who’ve lost events: Houston; Laguna Seca; Zolder, Belgium; Jerez, Spain; Cleveland; Mont-Tremblant, Quebec; Toronto, Ontario; Portland; Elkhart Lake; Assen, Holland and Mexico City.

While I can understand the dropping of the European events, I’m sure that Spain is really glad that they decided to join Champ Car this season, eh? And from David Phillips reports last year, the Zolder and Assen tracks are wonderful, proper. Permanent Road Courses which would put many of our vaunted North Americana tracks to shame…

And how can you skip Road America? Or decide to cut ‘N run from major markets such as Cleveland, Houston and Portland? Okay, I know that Portland’s been being lambasted by CCWS over it’s poor attendance figures the last few years, but then again, look at the SORRY show they’ve been forcing us to partake the last five years. Yet, how can Indy Car skip the Pacific Northwest! Guess I’ll need to look into Sears Point, although it’s a real BUGGER for me to access…

And then, what about the Champ Car Atlantics championship, as well as the employees who stayed loyal to CCWS and reported for work everyday at Champ Car HQ in Indianapolis only to receive pink slips for the start of their weekend, not to mention the work forces at Cosworth and Elan Motorsports.

In case you were unaware, the Atlantics is an excellent feeder series and I find it much more palatable then the Indy Pro Series, which is essentially Indy Lights, as in they’ve hired ex-Indy Lights boss Roger Bailey to run it.

Last year the Atlantics regularly showed up with 27 entries featuring some great talent such as James Hinchcliffe, Robert Wichens, John Edwards, Kevin Lacroix, Frank Perera and Rafael Matos just to name a few. Thus, what happens to these teams, who many ironically are also run by Champ Car owners, i.e.; Eric Bachelart, Gerald Forsythe and Derrick Walker. (Hinchcliffe, Lacroix and Wickens are rising Canadian talent, while Edwards is from Little Rock, Arkansas)

Perhaps, although I doubt it’ll happen? Why not have a new and improved Indy Pro Series east and West divisions, which would double the amount of upcoming talent to race in the Indycar World Series, although I’ve seen a story claiming that the Atlantics will indeed continue,just under a different sanctioning body.

Well, at least Paul “Chrome Horn” Tracy will get another shot at winning the Indy 500!