As NASCAR’s Big Show moves from Daytona to southern California, news broke this week that IRL and Champ Car are on the brink of announcing a formal merger. The great chimera of reunification of American open-wheel racing is at hand after a bitterly debilitating twelve-year civil war.
Will this desperate, eleventh-hour deal save Indy car racing and mark the beginning of a long road to a successful rebirth? Or will the damage done prove too difficult to repair?
Obviously, it would have been much healthier to have done the deal three or four months ago before both series announced their 2008 schedules with their own contracts and commitments, and there’s sure to be plenty of fall-out from stitching Champ Car’s remnants into the IRL at this late date. What of the dozen Champ Car races and their local fans and media left in the lurch, disenfranchised by reunification?
What about Panoz and Cosworth, also apparently left with the short end of the stick? And it will also be a terrible thrash to get Dallara chassis and Honda engines into the hands of Champ Car’s teams so they can do some basic testing before they start racing the cars and engines against the IRL teams. You can imagine plenty of room for grumbling from many sides.
The big challenge remains the same. Leadership is desperately needed to heal the wounds, get the series going again in the right direction and create the right formula for the future that will attract engine manufacturers, car builders, sponsors, fans and serious media coverage.
The first step appears to have been taken. The next series of steps will be even more difficult.