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!


Blogger Tim Wohlford said...

Actually, we can say that the needed treatment... for one series to die... is at hand.

The Indy 500 alone was bigger than the entire CCWS / CART series ever was in any measure you can name. Either series w/o Indy is half a series, and not viable beyond SCCA club level (a la Star Mazda) status.

Sadly, the nature of auto racing is mis-understood by the last of the CART die-hards. While I sympathize with them, the truth is that the old CART formula was in need of change in 1995, and it totally unworkable today. That fact, combined with the lack of an Indy 500, has doomed the noble, if naive, efforts of CCWS.

While going to IRL races, I compare them to NASCAR in the 1980's, before they went nuts in growth. Whether they can find their version of Winston to market them is a huge question, but at least they've got many of the fundamentals in order these days (finally).

6:23 PM  
Anonymous jake said...

Did you see who is sponsoring Milka Duno in the Rolex 24 hour race at daytona?

8:31 AM  
Blogger Bill Sheets said...

How can the IRL be finally be poised for growth with the same formula that you say CART needed to change in 1995. Again all they have is the skeletal remains of INDY.

9:04 AM  
Blogger Tim Wohlford said...

Indy's "Skeletal Remains" is still bigger than the entire CCWS season, still twice as many people as the Daytona 500, and still bigger than the balance of the IRL season.

CART guys thought that they could live w/o the Indy 500. Sadly, they learned that the Indy 500 was the ONLY trump card in their deck of cards.

10:15 AM  
Blogger Bill Sheets said...

Ok, so you think that the remaining series which ever that may be only needs to run Indy and that will save OWR. Never happen!

There is no growth on either side. Business is about growth! It's time for out of the box thinking, both sides have clearly demonstrated the old formulas don't work.

That goes for A1GP and GP2 as well.

8:49 AM  
Blogger Tim Wohlford said...

Bill -

Open wheel racing, in more than club levels, runs thru Indy. It's been that way ever since Indy was founded.

For decades, F1 only existed in the USA at Indy. F1 looked to Indy for Mario et al, and it was to Indy that Colin Chapman brought his Lotuses.

Ditto for sprint cars, etc., as for decades those series ganed popularity when Indy 500 drivers ran short tracks all over the county.

Indy is akin to the Kentucky Derby... nay (pun intended), the entire Triple Crown... in horse racing. Indy is akin to LeMans in endurance racing. Indy is the akin to Winter Olympics to figure skating, or the Summer Olympics to gymnastics. It's that big. It might not be enough to power a series, but no open wheel racing series can live w/o it.

Hell, read Michael Knight's stuff. Hardly an IRL apologist, Knight sat in on the decision to run the US 500 at MIS. He knew what Indy meant to CART, and predicted that w/o huge investments into an alternative race, the thing was doomed.

Finally, Indy was sufficient to take the rag-tag group that showed up to the first IRL race at the Mouse Oval and make them the "winner", over the world-class teams that ran on the same weekend at Miami. If you remember those teams, won't have thought that the IRL would still be around, and we'd be discussing the death of CART... for a second time?

9:22 PM  
Blogger Bill Sheets said...


I agree with you completely, and to further your senario I remind you of the years that Indy sat idle with weeds growing up through the bricks. And what happened after the War.........growth.

I believe Indy is a business just as I view OWR as a business. Further a business can be compared to a plant. They are living entities and must grow to survive. Without growth both plants and a business will wither and die.

It is for this reason, lack of growth, that I suggest that OWR is dying.

If managed properly the facility may live on, because it is it's own entity, however it could soon be seeking something to replace an OWR event.

10:20 AM  
Anonymous driving lessons Gloucester said...

Every thing has its own time. Just like in fashion trends. Today, loose pants are in, later on, fit jeans will come out. It's just a cycle.

4:01 AM  
Anonymous party bags said...

I guess that's what business is all about. Growing, development and sometimes, leaving some of the things need to be left behind.

5:35 PM  
Anonymous Double Glazing said...

Constructor's championship will go to the strength of Red Bull yet again. Let's hope that we have a more exciting and less predictable season than what I've just posted. Thank god open wheel racing is back in business!

1:06 AM  

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