IRL - Cart Merger
This would be good for the both as they try and compete with Nascar,
Tony George, CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, announces that the Unit...
By MIKE HARRISAP Auto Racing Writer, AP
6 hours ago
The latest merger discussions between Indy Racing League and the rival Champ Car World Series have apparently ended in yet another failure.
Or have they?
After information leaked Thursday that the rival open-wheel series were close to unification, with a snag over race dates the biggest hurdle, Champ Car co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven was irate.
``Unfortunately, leaks and media reports about a possible unification of Champ Car and the Indy Racing League have significantly hampered discussions,'' Kalkhoven said in a statement Friday. ``Over the past three years, we have fielded and offered several proposals regarding unification of the two premier U.S.-based open-wheel racing series, but we have been unable to reach an acceptable solution. Discussions currently are at a standstill, and we therefore are proceeding with plans to continue as Champ Car.''
The story originally was reported by speedtv.com.
IRL founder Tony George has offered Champ Car teams free Dallara chassis and Honda engines, along with the $1.2 million in incentives it is paying each of its own teams to race in the IndyCar Series in 2008, IRL spokesman John Griffin said Friday.
All of the IRL entries race Dallaras with normally aspirated Honda engines, while Champ Car teams race Panoz DP-01 chassis with turbocharged Cosworth engines.
If the latest deal were to go through, the IRL also would absorb at least three of the 14 races on the Champ Car schedule - Long Beach, Calif.; Edmonton, Alberta; and Surfers Paradise, Australia.
The biggest hurdle prior to Kalkhoven's statement appeared to be the head-to-head scheduling of the Long Beach race, Champ Car's season opener April 20, and the IRL's April 19 event at the Honda-owned Motegi track in Japan. Long Beach officials say they cannot change their date because of contracts with the Long Beach Convention Center, around which the street circuit is set up. Motegi officials have refused to move their date.
``As long as Honda won't move Motegi, there won't be a merger,'' Kalkhoven told The Associated Press Friday, hours before his statement was released. ``It's certainly a major hurdle, but not the only one.
``There are significant advantages in doing (the merger), but I believe there are also significant advantages in not doing it. At this moment in time, there are no discussions until they move Motegi.''
Griffin was more optimistic about the negotiations with Kalkhoven and Champ Car co-owner Gerald Forsythe.
``This thing is moving forward, but there's still some work to be done. I don't know how long it's going to take,'' he told the AP. ``We are looking to add some teams and some races. (Retired Honda racing boss) Robert Clarke and Tony are going to head to Japan to talk to the Japanese about coming off their date.''
George founded the IRL in 1995 and the series began racing in 1996. Champ Car, then known as CART, continued as a separate series. Both sides have struggled to find sponsorship and acceptance and have lived with meager car counts and television ratings.
Most recently, each series lost its top stars - four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais to Formula One and 2007 Indianapolis 500 winner and IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti and three-time IndyCar champion Sam Hornish Jr. to NASCAR.
``I think if both series can get together satisfactorily it would be the best thing for both parties,'' said Derrick Walker, a current Champ Car team owner who also has been an IRL team owner. ``It's the best possible solution for open wheel racing. It's long overdue and it has my approval 100 percent.''
Numerous attempts to unite the groups over the years have failed, mostly over who would have control. Longtime star Mario Andretti has made several attempts to get the sides together.
``It's the only solution we have to save the sport we love so much,'' he said. ``The bottom line is that this is desperately needed. There's no losers in a situation like this, starting with the fans.''
Eddie Gossage, president of Texas Motor Speedway, which has a race on the IndyCar schedule, also issued a statement that said, in part, ``Reports that open-wheel racing is close to unification is the best thing to happen to the sport since Rick Mears, Mario Andretti, Al Unser Jr. and Danny Sullivan were battling each other in front of huge crowds 20 years ago. I hope this deal can be wrapped up and we can all focus on stabilizing the schedule, teams and sponsors, and ramp up the promotion.''
George McNeilly, senior director of communications for ESPN, which along with sister company ABC televises both open-wheel series, said, ``Certainly we've seen the accounts in the press and are in favor of any dialogue that is in the best interest of sports fans and fans of open-wheel racing.''
The Associated Press