Has George doomed open wheel?

Officials for the Indy Racing League are pretty pleased with the way the first half of the season has gone. Last week at Watkins Glen, they announced yet another new series sponsor, Izod. Earlier this year, IRL officials inked deals with DirecTV, Coke and Frank’s Energy Drink.

Efforts to secure additional category sponsorships and a title sponsor are in full swing. The league’s sales efforts have increased dramatically and now include an individual whose sole responsibility is working directly with teams to assist in their efforts, said Terry Angstadt, who heads up the IRL’s commercial division.

Attendance has been up at almost every race, and races have shown television ratings increases in six of nine races to date, and ratings are up across the board on ABC (+4 percent), ESPN (+61 percent) and ESPN2 (+42 percent). Overall viewership is up 17 percent season to date compared to 2007.

IRL officials expect strong attendance and solid TV ratings at their next race in Nashville July 12. It airs at 8 p.m. on ESPN.

But fans of open-wheel racing seem split on the overall impact of the IRL unification with Champ Car, with one camp saying the series is better than last year and still improving, while another camp contends IRL boss Tony George has done irreversible damage to the sport.

So tell us, what camp are you in?

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