Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Open Wheel Racing is Dying

As many of you who have read my columns over the years may remember I have never been a proponent of any form of joining together of the two series. It has been my opinion that the two operate as businesses and that one or the other would flourish and grow and the other would wither and die. The survivor would be strong and would pick up the pieces of what was left of the other and OWR would flourish as before - before the split that is.

I've always been a supporter of Champ Car and have openly hoped that they would be the growth winner, and have said so. Well, reality is suggesting that I have been wrong. Actually my entire premise that one would grow and one would wither is being proven wrong, at least the one would grow part. Neither side has grown, it can be easily argued that in recent years they have both continued to shrink.

Indy is showing its skeleton like an emaciated horse. The old pole day audiences are no longer there. They struggle to get 33 cars for the event. Race day reveals many aluminum fans. And this is the IRL's premier event. I suspect that the profit from this event and the brickyard 400 support the IRL.

At Champ Car things are no better. Although we can never know, I doubt if profit is a familiar term at the headquarters. The gang of three has failed to raise this phoenix from the ashes. They have wandered aimlessly through the meadow of OWR without consistency or direction and 2008 will show the results of that. Walker racing suggesting CCWS might not be the place to be in the future and considering to pulling one entry this season. Matos is foregoing the 2 million dollar prize he won in atlantics and will return to Indy Pro. The TV schedule is in shambles with tape delays and 1 hour summaries. Tony Cotman is reported to be leaving. These are not growth examples these are withering examples.

So where are the sponsors, neither side is able to land enough sponsors to support their series. Neither side has a series sponsor. The IRL appears to have an edge on CCWS for recognizable sponsors and that is largely due to the Indy 500. The industry manufacturers are non-existent save for Honda and they are doubtful after 2009.

So what happens when one dies? Half of open wheel racing is gone. There will be very little for the other to salvage. It wouldn't help much if there was because after 11 years of negative growth there isn't much left on either side to work with and I doubt the remaining one will be able to save themselves.

I would love to hear what the old Cart guys say when they first see the weeds growing up through the cracks in the track at Indy a few years after the implosion!

Yes, I think open wheel racing is doomed. Damn you Tony George!