North American Open-wheeled Merger Talks - IndyCar and Champ Car to Reunite?

Fans of the pre-1995 CART Series (Championship Auto Racing Teams) may be feeling a glimmer of hope for a return to those heady days when open-wheeled motor racing in North America could hold its head high on the world stage. Since CART was dismantled into the Indy Racing League (now the IndyCar Series) and Champ Car (the former CART), there has been little interest in the two watered-down series.

On February 9th, Toronto’s Globe and Mail Newspaper reported that Tony George, boss of the IndyCar Series, “offered free cars and engines to Champ Car owners who sign up for the full season and $1.2-million (all currency U.S.) in cash and incentive support for each car to move to the merged series once a deal is done.” Sounds like the merger is in the bag doesn’t it? Well, not so fast.

In what has become the usual dithering, reports that by “mid-day on Friday the 8th, the Champ Car World series issued a release indicating that the talks were at a standstill” even though Champ Car co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven continued to lead many in the media to believe otherwise.

It seems that much of the dispute centers on conflicting IndyCar and Champ Car race dates. For example, the IndyCar race at Motegi is an important stop for title sponsor Honda, but it falls on the same date as Champ Car’s crown-jewel, the Grand Prix of Long Beach.

If the merger is successful, the real losers could be the Canadian fans who have been some of the most ardent supporters of CART and Champ Car for decades. The Grand Prix of Toronto shares its date with the IndyCar race at Watkins Glen and the Champ Car event at Circuit Mont-Tremblant vies for attention with the IndyCar race at Richmond International Raceway.

Only time will tell if fans of North American open-wheelers can get excited or be forced to live with the status quo.

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