Jan 19, 2004
Not a Done Deal YetBy JR Nerad
This week is decision time for the potential takeover of the remains of Championship Auto Racing Teams by a new group of CART team owners called Open Wheel Racing Series (OWRS.) But, as we predicted here several weeks ago, that deal might not be as solid as OWRS and its supporters would have you believe. The two key monkey wrenches that might upset the plans of Messrs. Gerald Forsythe, Paul Gentilozzi and Kevin Kalkhoven both emanate from California. (And we all know what they say about California.)
First, also as we predicted here, Tony George and his Indy Racing League minions have decided to eyeball what remaining CART assets there are to see if there is some good meat to pick off the once-proud racing series' dying bones. It turns out there are, with the most obvious asset being CART's promotion contract with its crown jewel event, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Originally a Formula One race created, ironically, by present CART president and lone remaining board member Chris Pook, the Long Beach Grand Prix evolved into CART's premier event. Further, this year it has evolved into what is planned to be OWRS's premiere event, since the April 16-18 race weekend is the first on the recently revived Champ Car schedule that OWRS hopes to inherit from CART. (The previously scheduled season opener in St. Petersburg, Florida, has already been cancelled.)
Our speculation is that Tony George would love to add the lucrative and high-visibility Long Beach race to his IRL schedule, and it seems that contract might be up for the highest bid. Should the IRL pick off that race, you have to wonder what kind of racing schedule the OWRS group could cobble together for this coming season.
If that isn't enough for OWRS to worry about, there is also the matter of California Speedway and the cancellation of CART's last Champ Car race of 2003. International Speedway Corporation, the owner of California Speedway, has filed suit to recover $2.5 million in sanction fees it believes CART owes it after the scheduled November 2 race was cancelled while wildfires ravaged the area. CART claims that California Speedway cancelled the race and thus is owed nothing, while California Speedway asserts CART cancelled the race after the Speedway simply "postponed" it. This potential $2.5 million liability is obviously another guillotine blade hanging over OWRS' neck as it tries valiantly to get a Champ Car race series going this year.
So stayed tuned to this space. Come Friday we'll know more. Much more.
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