Reaction And Fallout From The Open Wheel Re-Unification Announcement

Reaction and fallout from the open wheel reunification is coming fast. Walker Racing issued a press release in which Derrick Walker, owner of Walker Racing was quoted, “it’s back to the future, it’s been a long road, but it has finally come together. From a fan and sports business point of view, one open wheel racing series in the United States has long been recognized as what fans and sponsors want to have both series together and I’m happy to say that Walker Racing embraces the decision. I also want to give a special thanks to all the past and present CART/Champ Car officials for all their hard work in giving us some great seasons.”

A veteran to the sport, Walker has over 40 years of racing experience, and 17 of those years have been as a team owner. Walker Racing opened its doors in Indianapolis in 1992 and has been competing in open wheel racing ever since. The team has run the likes of Willy T. Ribbs, Robby Gordon, Gil de Ferran, Scott Goodyear, Christian Fittipaldi, Darren Manning, Sarah Fisher, Alex Tagliani and Will Power.

Walker Racing did compete in the IndyCar Series earlier this decade. The team ran Sarah Fisher in 2000 and 2001. Walker Racing made history when Fisher became the first woman in the record books in Indy-style racing when she finished second at Homestead. She also went on to earn two top ten finishes, including a pole position to her credit.

The path won’t be easy in the beginning, but Walker Racing is ready for the challenge. “It’s going to be a rough old ride, because we don’t have the familiarity with the Dallaras and it’s a more experienced formula, but the bottom line is that it’s great news to put this thing together,” commented Walker. Walker Racing will be in the line-up at the IndyCars Series opener March 11-14 in Homestead.

Upon hearing of the signing of the agreement, legendary driver and IndyCar Series car owner A.J. Foyt said: “I’m glad that they were able to get it done. It’ll eliminate the confusion for the race fans and the sponsors because there’ll be just one type of car and one type of motor and everyone will be running together. May the best team win.”

Steve Ballard of the Indianapolis Star interviewed Hall of Fame driver, Mario Andretti via the phone. “I think we can finally begin to move forward,” Andretti said by phone from his office in Nazareth, PA. “I’m no longer going to have to do interviews where the first question I get asked is, ‘Why is this thing broken?’ It’s not going to be easy, but we finally have something to look forward to.” Andretti was a part of previous reconciliation efforts but sat this one out. He said he never lost hope this day would come. “Whenever there was a reasoned effort on both sides, they’d agree it was the right thing to do,” he said. “So as long as that was the mind-set, I felt sooner or later it’d get done.”

Jimmy Vasser, former CART champion and a partner with Kevin Kalkhoven in PKV Racing, had admiration for both sides for getting it done. “I really have to hand it to Tony and Kevin for working tirelessly. Knowing how many issues there were and dodging the torpedoes from people who didn’t want this to happen, it’s been a strange couple of weeks,” Vasser said. “The guys on the IRL side went beyond fair. It would have been easy for either side to back out, but this time they wouldn’t take ‘no’ for an answer.”

The future may be unclear for Paul Tracy, as the Indianapolis Star reported, Paul Tracy, the 2003 Champ Car champion and one of that series’ most recognizable drivers, welcomed the news, though he’s not sure what it means for him. “As of right now, I don’t know if I’m competing. The team has given us no indication we’re going to the IRL,” said Tracy, who drives for Gerald Forsythe, a co-owner of the Champ Car series. “It’s a great thing and I hope I can be a part of it.

The Champ Car World Series event in Edmonton, Alberta in Canada is expected to be absorbed into the united IndyCar series. The Edmonton Sun reported, “It’s very good news for fans of open-wheel racing in North America,” Jim Haskins, president of general manager of the Edmonton Grand Prix said. He’s admitted all along, ever since he was appointed as general manager of the Edmonton event, a racing fan is what he has always been. “We’ve all felt for many years that unification was the only way we we’re going to be able to grow open-wheel back to the glory days that we all remember.”

Craig Stoehr, President of Milwaukee Mile Marketing, LLC promoter at the Milwaukee Mile echoed a recurring theme to Dave Kallman of The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, “This adds a lot now with only one open-wheel series. It brings fans together and makes a more interesting event with a stronger group of teams and drivers.”

Eddie Gossage, president of Texas Motor Speedway is excited about going from a 19-car field in last year’s IndyCar Series race there to the prospect of having 25 cars or more is going to be an enticement to fans. “To win back its fans, Indy-car racing now has to be humble, stabilize its schedule, solidify its driver lineup and feverishly market its stars,”

Two of the tracks/events on the outside looking in are the Cleveland Grand Prix and the Road America track located in Elkhart Lake, WI. “I’m prepared for a little bit of pain this year to ultimately host the next generation of open-wheel racing that would be better than what we have today,” said George Bruggenthies, president of Road America commented to Kallman. The Cleveland Grand Prix, which was scheduled for the weekend of June 20-22, 2008, has been canceled because of the merger. reported, “We are excited about the prospect of bringing this new series to Cleveland in 2009 and we are already in discussions about that possibility,” Michael Lanigan said in a prepared statement.

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