Champ Car: merger talks have stalled
|By Jeff Olson||Sunday, February 10th 2008, 04:17 GMT|
As Indy Racing League officials travel to Japan for a critical meeting with Honda officials, Champ Car's leaders released a statement indicating discussions to end the open-wheel split had stalled.
Apparently angered that news of negotiations among Champ Car and IRL leaders was leaked to the press, Champ Car co-owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe blamed the media reports for damaging the possibility of unification.
"Unfortunately, leaks and media reports about a possible unification of Champ Car and the Indy Racing League have significantly hampered discussions," the statement said.
"Over the past three years, we have fielded and offered several proposals regarding unification of the two premier U.S.-based open-wheel racing series, but we have been unable to reach an acceptable solution.
"Discussions currently are at a standstill, and we therefore are proceeding with plans to continue as Champ Car."
Top team owners in the IRL declined to comment on the possibility that the two series might become one. Officials at Andretti Green Racing, Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing all declined to comment. Those who did talk about the situation were cautiously optimistic.
"Two things happen in Indianapolis every spring: the grass turns from brown to green, and there are talks of an open-wheel merger," said John Barnes, co-owner of Panther Racing. "I'll get excited about this when I hear the news from Tony George."
The split began in 1996 when George formed the Indy Racing League with the Indianapolis 500 as its centerpiece. A controversial qualifying rule allowed only eight starting positions in the race for cars that didn't compete in other IRL races, which Champ Car (then known as CART) considered a lockout.
CART scheduled the U.S. 500 at Michigan on the same day as the Indy 500, and the two series have remained apart ever since.
In recent years, the IRL gained momentum as engine manufacturers Honda and Toyota moved from CART to the IRL, bringing top teams like Penske, Ganassi and Andretti Green along. In 2004, George attempted to purchase CART's assets in bankruptcy, but a judge awarded them to CART's leaders and the split continued.
In recent months, several developments have indicated that Champ Car is in trouble. In September, the series suddenly canceled its scheduled December season finale in Phoenix.
Last month, Champ Car's top race official, Tony Cotman, resigned. Weeks later, he accepted a similar position with the IRL. Also last month, George offered Champ Car teams free engines and chassis if they joined the IRL.