We’re now a few days out and the most lasting fallout from Robin’s latest merger rumor/news piece centers around this quote by Newman/Haas/Lanigan co-owner Carl Haas.
“It hasn’t happened yet but we’ve certainly considered going,” said Haas, who along with Paul Newman and Mike Lanigan own Champ Car’s most visible and successful operation. “It may not happen this year, but it’s highly probable we’ll do it in 2009 because there needs to be one series.”As the defending championship team of the CCWS (several times over), NHL carries quite a bit of weight. Not only are they one of the few teams who has a solid sponsor in McDonalds that actually allows them to pay their drivers, but they also have been entrusted to help develop the talents of young Graham Rahal. The smart money says if they were to leave Champ Car then other teams would follow, and then there wouldn’t be much Champ Car left.
A few news sources have seized upon this as well with headlines from NHLR 'consider' switch to Haas plans to move team to IRL. Nothing like a feeding frenzy off a single quote, eh?
This shouldn’t be entirely a surprise given that Mr Haas has a solid relationship with the George family – he’s the team owner for the stock car driven by Mari Hulman George’s grandson. It’s widely thought the only reason Mr Haas hasn’t already come over to the IRL is because of the bitter Mr Newman, who may or may not be recuperating from some mystery surgery. Either way it’s Haas doing the talking and not Newman, which speaks volumes in and of itself.
The net result is that with the words “it’s highly probable we’ll do it in 2009” there may as well be an expiration date on Champ Car. If no deal is in the works for any exchange of assets by the end of their final event on November 9th of this year then the CCWS “leadership” will be faced with an exit by it’s main team and probably more than a few others. And as much passion as they have for racing, I don’t think Kalkhoven and Forsythe want to field two teams of eight cars each.
While in the past the demise of either series has been greatly exaggerated, it now looks like the clock is finally ticking on whatever leverage for a unification Champ Car may have. Either they take whatever Tony George offers in the next 10 months or they sit on their pride and watch their assets go to zero.