Here's hoping that American open-wheel racing is on the right track.
Can't we all just get along?
That's the question fans of American open-wheel racing have been asking for about ten years. Ever since Tony George, owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, decided to take his ball and go home we've been suffering through two competing race series in this country.
As if open-wheel racing didn't have enough problems. Fortunately, Mr. George's plan seems to have backfired. Recent Indy 500 races have had a tough time filling the traditional 33-car grid. If you showed up in May with a car, you were just about guaranteed a spot on the grid. Getting eliminated during qualifying wasn't much of a danger. What a sad turn of events for one of the world's premier races.
What Tony George's hubris hath wraught his pocketbook may again make whole. The newly humbled Mr. George has apparently been speaking with Mssrs. Kalkoven, Forsythe, and Gentilozzi about reuniting their two series. That's a Good Thing, and racing fans can't help but hold their collective breath and hope these boys come to their senses.
Neither the IRL nor ChampCar has been a raging commercial success, as most casual fans can't tell them apart. ("Which one has Danica?" is the usual selection criterion.) For that matter, most casual observers can't tell ChampCar from Formula One, but that's another rant. The point is, all parties concerned seem to have realized that they'll be more successful running one series together than two separately. Again, obvious to fans, not so obvious to those in charge.
A combined series could re-attract engine builders, chassis designers, and sponsors by combining the market, fan base, and TV time. There'd certainly be enough drivers to go around. We might even have full grids at the Indy 500 again without resorting to hired guns. Again, the advantages are obvious. Let's just hope the folks holding the purse strings see it that way.