Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Robin Miller on Allmendinger

Sometimes Robin just say's it all!

Reprinted from the CCWS website:

From watching A.J. Allmendinger since he was 18 years old, getting to know him and constantly beating his drum on national television, the one thing I was convinced of is that he had absolutely zero interest in anything with a tin top and closed wheels.

Named after four-time Indianapolis 500 winner A.J. Foyt, the Dinger was groomed for Champ Car and excelled at every level on his climb up the ladder. He made it clear that ovals weren't his cup of tea and that NASCAR held no interest for him.

As he told RACER's (and our web site's) David Phillips in 2004:
"I race not because I want to make a lot of money doing it, that's a perk I'm not gonna lie and it's nice to have, but I race for the passion of winning. Of beating the other guys on the track, knowing that when I won I drove the best that day. And I love doing it on all types of circuits.

"I love this atmosphere and racing in Champ Car, hopefully it can get back to where it was in 1995. I love Champ Car and I want to win the title. I'm not here just to race, I'm here to dominate. I don't get any enjoyment out of running 10th. And it's my dream to dominate Champ Car."

Of course those quotes have turned out to be the ultimate dichotomy.

Allmendinger did dominate Champ Car this season during an eight-race stretch but, obviously, that still wasn't enough to out-weigh the money bags being thrown at him by Red Bull and Toyota.

The brightest young star in open wheel racing in North America is gone to NASCAR and there's no way to sugarcoat it -- it hurts Champ Car, the fans and the future. A.J. was the lone American in the series this year and suddenly our National Anthem was back on the play list in victory lane.

His three consecutive wins in his first three starts for Forsythe Racing had to be the most impressive and enjoyable story in all of motorsports. It even made old curmudgeons like me happy.

After A.J. won his second straight race at Cleveland I confessed to Gerry Forsythe that I hadn't cared about who won a race since the '60s but I'd silently rooted for that cocky Californian because it was sooooo good for him, the series and open wheel racing in this country.

But, even after his third consecutive win at Toronto, the storm clouds were forming because A.J. had hired CSS Stellar Management and they immediately rubbed Forsythe the wrong way.

The two sides went back and forth with the co-owner of Champ Car telling A.J. he wanted a decision for 2007 by Surfer's Paradise. The two of them had dinner following Dinger's win at Elkhart Lake and he told the Chicago industrialist he just didn't feel comfortable talking about money.

About 10 days before Surfer's I called Gerry and asked if there was any good news on the Allmendinger Front? He replied that CSS wanted $3 million a year and there was no way he was going to pay that amount. I actually wrote a story for SPEEDTV.com that was posted for about 20 minutes with the headline: 'Forsythe Accepts Allmendinger Won't Be Back in '07' before Forsythe called and asked if we could kill that story because he'd just heard from A.J.'s representatives and they wanted to re-negotiate.

That was Oct. 13 but, by the time we were in Australia, the handwriting was on the pit wall. A.J. kept deflecting questions about his future and his fiancee told people they were going to NASCAR. One of A.J.'s subordinates even acted liked she was still trying to "negotiate" with Peter Davies, the senior VP of business development for Forsythe, during the weekend. When A.J. got back to the USA he called Forsythe, along with agent Adrian Sussman, to inform the co-owner of Champ Car he was heading south.

I won't tell you the lame excuse they offered for their final decision but I can tell you that Forsythe is still laughing about it.

The diehard Champ Car fanatics now refer to Allmendinger as a "traitor or hypocrite" or worse but, let's be honest, you can't fault him for taking the big NASCAR money. It's human nature, it's security and, unfortunately, it's the trend for most of the good young racers in this country.
And you certainly can't fault Forsythe for not matching that figure. He felt like he not only made a fair market offer, he'd saved A.J.'s career by picking him up after he'd been fired four races into this season. Does he have a right to feel a little betrayed? Damn straight he does.

I think Paul Tracy spoke for most of us when he said that Allmendinger just didn't handle things professionally with the guy who had given him the chance to shine in a Champ Car.

In the final analysis, racing is a business and two business decisions were made. But it doesn't make it any easier to accept. Something none of us thought possible has become a reality:
A.J. Allmendinger, Cup driver. Sickening isn't it?

WickerBill sez;
Thanks Robin you saved me the trouble writing it!


Blogger patrick said...

Disappointing. Wilson and Bourdais are great drivers - I've seen them over this side of the pond in their junior days, but Champ Car needs good American single seater drivers if it is to survive. And Allmendinger ticked that box.

No enthusiasm for NASCAR myself, I almost hope he falls on his face and comes back to single seaters, suitably chastened.

12:46 PM  

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