Friday, April 18, 2008

So, it ends

In awkward, shotgun wedding style, this weekend officially ends the 12-yr. Indycar civil war. Champ Car will run its final race (with the DP01) in Long Beach, while the IRL runs in Motegi, Japan, Honda's track.

As a result, both fields will be small and full of fillers who have no business on a race course. Ultimately, though, it provides one FINAL chance to "choose sides" in this mess. The haters have one last moment in the sun. From this point on, the decision is this: Do you leave the sport (perfectly reasonable), or do you stick it out and see what happens? "Us vs. Them" will no longer matter.

Thank goodness. This mess will finally end.

Before it does, some final thoughts. First, a great history of the split by Trackforum and OffCamber contributor ChrisB. Indeed, it is vital to recall that the seeds for this mess were not sewn merely in the '90's. In reality, it was Le Mans 1955, the deadly accident that came the closest to killing worldwide motorsports, that started a chain of events that led to 1996. Following that race, AAA (Yes, THAT AAA) pulled out as a sanctioning body. That, in turn, led to USAC's formation (with heavy IMS influence) as the new Championship sanctioning body. USAC's (with help from IMS) incompetence led to the formation of CART in '79. Ever since, we essentially had a battle, in several iterations, between the car owners and IMS, eventually "won" by IMS.

It was rather pointless and, in the end, I ended up disliking everyone but the drivers. The formation of the IRL came at the same time that NASCAR began it's rise. Needless to say, American motorsports is now solely identified as NASCAR.

Even worse, the reasons for the IRL's formation- ovalcentricity, lower costs, grassroots racers, etc. strike me as total frauds. Soon, as this article indicates, expect more road/street courses in the unified IndyCar series, thus invalidating the ovalcentricity and making it almost impossible for dirt trackers to make it. Such a path is fine by me. Shame we had to waste 12 yrs. to get right back where we started.

CART, though, had it's issues too. As a racing series, it was great.

How could you not enjoy those cars, the action, and the drivers? Yes, many oval-only fans did not enjoy it, and I respect that. But CART still had solid attendance at most of it's events, oval, road or otherwise.

Unfortunately, CART as an organization SUCKED. Sure, when all was going well, it was easy to look competent. Post-split, the flaws became manifest. Having a bunch of greedy, narcissistic owners with diverging agendas try to run an organization is, well, a cluster****. CART's decisions from 96 and beyond were phenomenally horrible and led to it's demise.

TGeorge is certainly not the man I would have chosen to be put in charge, but the clarity of structure is oddly refreshing. Because, in the end, you need a strong executive to run anything, sports included. The NFL, NBA, MLB and NHL are technically run by the owners, but the appointed commissioners have the real power. No one is challenging Roger Goodell anytime soon. Tony, the ball is now in your court.

There are many memories from the split era:

Zanardi at Cleveland (my home race), and of course, "The Pass" at Laguna Seca.
Greg Moore (RIP) beating him at Rio.
Alex surviving Lausitz '01.
Michigan '00: Andretti v. Montoya
CART guys dominating Indy in 2000-01
Indy '02: Debacles 'R Us
Attending my home race 4 times
PT v. Dario
And more...

In the end, though, it all seemed overshadowed by the dark cloud of the split. It is tremendously unfair to the racers involved, but the last 12 yrs. are defined by one thing: negativity. Bickering, dwindling attendance, awful TV ratings, and organizational incompetence are what will likely be remembered.

That is over now. As Andrew Sullivan might say "Goodbye To All That."

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