Sparks fly over unification talks

February 6, 2008
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Two recent revelations left open-wheel racing fans and sponsors wondering if the unification of the Indy Racing League and Champ Car is finally at hand. What is less clear is if unification of North America’s two largest open-wheel racing circuits will come by mutual agreement or default.

Speed TV recently reported that IRL officials made an offer to financially help Champ Car teams make the transition to IRL. While that deal appears to have stalled for 2008, Champ Car may be taking its last breaths, industry observers said. The series is plagued by a small fan base and smaller sponsor base. Champ Car’s deep-pocketed owners seem determined to continue with a 2008 season, but motorsports sources wonder how much longer the series will last.

One of the IRL’s harshest critics over the years, Champ Car team owner Carl Haas, in January went so far as to tell Speed TV that the time for unification has come. “It may not happen this year, but it’s highly probable we’ll do it in 2009 because there needs to be one series,” said Haas who co-owns Champ Car’s highest-profile team with actor Paul Newman.

Then, on Feb. 1, the IRL named Tony Cotman as vice president of competition. “I’m just going where I think the future of open-wheel racing is going to be,” Cotman told Speed TV.

That’s a telling comment considering Cotman in January resigned as Champ Car’s executive vice president. Cotman was held in high regard in the Champ Car paddock as a fair, straight-shooting race official.

What do you think, is unification at last upon us?
  • The simple fact is they need to unify. If they do not champ car will die. Indy car will attempt to live off the 500, but for how long? It is unify or die for both circuits.
  • Without question it would of great benifit to merge the two together into one Indy Racing League! Open Wheel Racing has the opportunity to come out ahead if this merger happens.

    I think that unification is upon us, hopefully, sooner than later.
  • Robin Miller was apparently about 5 months late in reporting that story and the deal has been taken off of the table, according to other news sources (, among others) that talked to Tony George. The unification needs to happen, but it ain't happening for 2008 and probably not 2009. Too many egos involved. I think they'll all bankrupt themselves (again, in certain instances) rather than concede defeat (which seems to be how they view it). It's sad for the fans and selfish of the owners - all of them - that this continues.
  • If the top brass with CHAMP and IRL had any common sense, the time for unification is now. NASCAR has peaked and will be fighting in the coming years to keep their current fan base/sponsors. Sponsors could potentially be ready to look at new avenues to market their products and what better way than a new unified series. Maybe that's why I don't get paid the big bucks to make tough decisions????
  • Do we have 2 major pro Football, Baseball, Hockey, and Basketball leagues? No, so why would open-wheel have 2 even with NASCAR consuming most of the racing market anyway. This is years beyond needing to happen. I can foresee a PGA style arraingement where there are sanctioned races apart from the main circuit, but it needs to all be under 1 flag: The IRL. Mainly ovals with a few road courses mixed in. Expand the North American stops in Canada, Mexico, and maybe even try South America. They already travel to Japan, maybe add Hong Kong or Beijing.

    Unify and expand. I am not a huge race fan and NASCAR just does nothing for me. To me a race car is an Indy Car, period (well Open-Wheel for that matter). F1 can't make it in the US on a large scale so the IRL needs to create 1 league and try to perfect it instead of playing petty money games between big ego individuals. Plus it is the only thing that can return the Indy 500 back to anything close to its old glory.
  • Unification yes!!!! Merger no!!!!

    I seriously don't want the principals mis-managing ChampCar to have any say in the IndyCar Series.
    Let Champ die an honorable death and let whatever teams that want to play come over.
  • Given the current OW environment, unification/merger aren't the right terms to apply. This will be more of an absorption or assimilation of CCWS by the IRL. I see this as a good thing. The IRL has a stronger sponsorship and fan base than CCWS, and it has better name recognition in the general public. As for whether this assimilation will happen, that's another matter. I for one won't believe it until I see it.

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