It’s almost May, so it must be time for Tony George to start wearing an “Ask me about Champ Car!” button.
Scanning the newswires I came across this story discussing possible Champ Car entries at this year’s 91st Running of the Indianapolis 500. I was shocked (shocked, I say!) to discover CCWS Overlord Kevin Kalkhoven had mentioned to the media how he recently chatted with Mr George about bringing a half dozen CCWS drivers ton compete at Indy if the IRL comp’d them some free engines.
Free engines? To drivers in another series? Excuse me?
Of course I had to solicit opinion on this subject from Mr Unification himself, our friend Pressdog. (That picture is from the rear
wing window of his ride.) Experience indicates the My Name Is IRL readers are on different sides of this kind of debate, so in move of glasnost I thought it best to give voice to both sides of this idea – even though it’s got no chance of actually happening since Big Tony has already dismissed it.
Normally I’m not so self-indulgent as this, but I thought you might enjoy reading this civilized discussion of such matters while we all pass the time until the cars hit the track at Kansas.
MyNameIsIRL: did you see that KK said he made TG an offer to get some Champies at Indy?
MyNameIsIRL: "if you give us free engines we'll buy some chassis" kind of thing
Pressdog: Your favorite, Robin Miller, with a pretty good idea, I think.
Pressdog: Since CCWS and IRL fans hate each other, why not turn the 500 into a big battle royal, super bowlish show down between the two?
Pressdog: Everyone makes mongo cash off that.
MyNameIsIRL: I don't see this as a "win" for the IRL. What do they stand to gain?
Pressdog: um, tons of cash. packed IMS. increased ratings. maybe even new teams who get a taste of the IRL competition.
MyNameIsIRL: I'll let you know when I'm there, but IMS is already pretty well sold - no?
MyNameIsIRL: I mean, do the numbers bear out that there are THAT many extra CCWS fans out there who would watch or attend?
MyNameIsIRL: Doesn't it seem counterintuitive to unity if they are PROMOTING the split?
MyNameIsIRL: I mean, if there were some big name drivers in Champ Car, then I can see the benefit. But other than maybe Bourdais and Rahal, who would know the other drivers from say Jacque Lazier?
MyNameIsIRL: I can see how this would benefit CCWS, but I'm still reading to see Millers "analysis"
Pressdog: here's the main argument FOR turning the I 500 into a big Champ Car/IRL super bowl.
Pressdog: The Cowboys would not be as great a team without the Redskins.
Pressdog: A bitter rivalry increases interest. It makes fans spend their asses off to watch and root and pray that Team X beats the shit out of Piece of Shit Team Y.
Pressdog: Champ Car vs. IRL. Does it get more passionate than that?
Pressdog: Toss them together and, 1, you get MONSTER press. Bitter Rivals Square off in the Indy 500.
Pressdog: You get Bourdais the Champ Car King against Hornish/Wheldon (is there a difference?) the IRL Kings.
Pressdog: Ratings balloon. That's money in the bank for IMS.
Pressdog: If you believe that IMS sells out every year, you still putt teeth under your pillow. It doesn't.
MyNameIsIRL: ok, the rivalry argument i get
MyNameIsIRL: but that doesn't apply in this case because no one was suggesting the cowboys and redskins merge
MyNameIsIRL: and Champ Car WENT to Indy earlier this decade, and it wasn't exactly a huge ratings bonanza
Pressdog: Right now you got, um, Wheldon vs. Hornish? yeah, that's bitter. IMS is trying to get Danica vs. Sarah going, but the two are in such unequal teams that it's a stretch.
Pressdog: IRL and CCWS isn't going to merge any time soon. Accept it. KK and TG just won't do it.
Pressdog: real bumping
MyNameIsIRL: plus - and this is important - if you give them free engines AND chassis there is still no way ANY part-time team comes close to Penske, TCGR or AGR
Pressdog: That is Forsythe's point.
MyNameIsIRL: it's more like a flogging then a rivalry
Pressdog: Would having CC teams in the 500 improve it? Not make it perfect, but improve it?
MyNameIsIRL: sure, but not to the point they need to give them free engines
MyNameIsIRL: free? come on.
Pressdog: Can TG give engines to the rival league, politically? Probably not.
MyNameIsIRL: out of pocket expense to promote another league? come on.
Pressdog: He could have done it behind closed doors. The current teams hear about it and they're all pissed about TG helping the Hatfields.
MyNameIsIRL: do you think D&R would like some free engines?
Pressdog: Promoting the 500. he's investing in improving his product.
Pressdog: How does this promote CC?
Pressdog: the run no ovals.
Pressdog: so fans from IMS are going to rush out and tune in to watch them run street races?
MyNameIsIRL: if he acknowledges CC he promotes them. he doesn't need to give them money to watch drivers from the ICS kick their tails on his track.
Pressdog: I disagree with your first sentence. It gets back to the bitter rival rationale. Both sides benefit.
MyNameIsIRL: why not give free engines to Robbie Gordon or some NASCAR driver?
MyNameIsIRL: that would have as much or more of a ratings boost.
Pressdog: how do you know TG doesn't give the equivalent of free engines to the field fillers.
MyNameIsIRL: I don't - but field fillers are not products of another racing league
MyNameIsIRL: in fact, I'm almost certain he kicks in cash to fill the field.
Pressdog: of course he does.
Pressdog: because it's a good investment. the end product (the 500) is better for it and repays his investment handsomely.
Pressdog: what he took some of that money and gave it to KK to get the evil, hated, bastard other team to his home race? you're saying that wold be a bad business move.
Pressdog: Derek Daly put it pretty well. Unification is being held up because people are making emotional decisions rather than business decisions. Including CC in the 500 is a great business decision from both perspectives.
Pressdog: Tony gets a great show. IRL fans get a villain to hate and scream at. CC drivers get a much bigger stage than they will ever sniff in CC.
Pressdog: PLUS, CC fans get the same benefits as IRL fans. They can say "we're taking down those bastards in their own home track!"
MyNameIsIRL: I don't see how CC drivers bring that much to the table individually. first off, these drivers do not have a great deal of oval experience.
MyNameIsIRL: I mean, say what you want about Marty Roth but he has more time on ovals in the last two years than anyone in CC
MyNameIsIRL: second - individually they have nearly no name recognition among most fans. if they are simply "the CC drivers" they may as well be Tyce Carlson or Townsend Bell
MyNameIsIRL: last, this idea is counterintuitive to the ICS long term goals. it's no secret they are hoping to achieve a merger by having CC disappear, and promoting them does the opposite towards achieving that.
Pressdog: good points.
Pressdog: Sebastien Bourdais is a brilliant driver. I'm not a huge fan of his, but he's The Shit. He proved that pretty well in the 2005 500. OK, sure, he crashed, but he had moved up about 7 spots before then. Junk got taken out by Quattro or something. Not his fault.
Pressdog: So driver quality is not an issue. Tracy. Wilson. They all can wheel it.
Pressdog: You promote the rivalry. Don't even be slightly oblique about it. "Champ Car's Best INVADE the Indy 500 to show the IRL who is king of open wheel." NASCAR it up a little.
Pressdog: Your last point is the best one, I think. If Tony's strategy is to just let Champ Car gag and die, then, no, he probably shouldn't go for this idea. But, again, I don't see a lot of Indy 500 fans and viewers tuning in for a street race any time soon.
Pressdog: That's one of the reasons they moved Snorenoma from the race following the 500, to keep any viewers who tune in to the next race after the 500.
Pressdog: Street races are great and I enjoy them, but I'm among the 5% of Americans who care about them.
MyNameIsIRL: I wasn't meaning to infer Bourdais and Tracy can't drive - they certainly can - but that oval skills are different and they haven't been honing them recently.
MyNameIsIRL: The main thing for me is that the rivalry argument makes no sense. At this point it would be like having the Colts play an Arena Football League team. Two different forms of racing.
MyNameIsIRL: Wouldn't you rather see TG hand free engines to TCGR or Penske and say "pick any driver you want" and see if they can get a big name driver from ANY series in a quality ride?
MyNameIsIRL: I mean, get Michael Schumacher in here if we're handing out free goodie bags.
Pressdog: not real realistic. no champ car driver or NASCAR would be able to say yes to that deal. and it wouldn't be sweet enough to attract a Schumacher-esque driver.
MyNameIsIRL: How about Jacques Villenueve?
Pressdog: I think you exaggerate the talent/ability gap between CC and IRL on ovals. The best champ car drivers lap the IRL field fillers.
Pressdog: again, you remove the hook. "Tune in to see Villenueve challenge the IRL's best."
Pressdog: The hook is the league rivalries.
Pressdog: Like AFC/NFC. Maybe that's the key to unification. Have divisions but then have common races. So it's AFC vs. NFC all the time. Then TG controls the Super Bowl but shares a bit of the cash flow with KK.
MyNameIsIRL: I ain't seeing it.
Feel free to add your thoughts in the Comments.
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