IRL and Champ clueless |

IRL and Champ clueless

Roger Diez
Nevada Appeal Motorsports Columnist

I just don’t understand it. Last Sunday, the Indy Racing League televised its race at Kentucky at the exact same time as Champ Car aired its Denver race.

With TV ratings for both series in the toilet, you would think that they might consider not going head to head and dividing up what viewers they have. I mean, Tony George spent a ton of money before the season started, hiring a media consulting group headed by Gene Simmons (formerly of KISS) to advise him. Well, other than the “We Are Indy” song, the firm hasn’t done much in the way of promotion, if the sparsely-populated grandstands at Kentucky are any indication.

With only 19 cars starting the IRL race and 16 in the Champ Car field, it’s no wonder that fans are tuning out in droves. Given the normal race attrition in open-wheel competition, a finishing field in the double digits is problematic.

And although rumors of reconciliation between the two rival series surface periodically, there has never been a real, concerted effort on both sides to make it work, despite the best efforts of racing legends like Mario Andretti and Dan Gurney. But if the two organizations were to join up, just think: no more conflicting races; fields of 30-35 cars; Newman-Haas and Forsythe teams mixing it up with Penske, Ganassi, and Andretti Green; actual drama on Bump Day at Indy. Why, it would be almost like . . . 1995!

Paul Tracy is showing his Canadian roots, as for the second weekend in a row he turned a race into a hockey game . . . or at least a fistfight. Although it wasn’t quite as breathtakingly stupid as his San Jose torpedoing of Alex Tagliani, Tracy’s last lap, last turn attempt to re-pass Sebastien Bourdais was incredibly optimistic, and resulted in the diminutive Bourdais storming up to Tracy and giving him a hearty shove.

Tracy took a half-hearted swing back at the Frenchman while trying to remove his helmet. I guess Paul will never learn rule No. 1 about post-race fisticuffs.

I don’t know how many of you readers remember when the Mustang came out as a 1964 model in the spring of ’64, but it was an instant hit. A couple of years ago Ford brought out a retro version of that first Mustang design, and it also proved popular.

General Motors took two years to answer the challenge with the Camaro in the fall of 1966, and shortly thereafter the TransAm series for “pony cars” was born. So here we are 40 years later, and the new/old Mustang has been around for two years and surprise! Along comes the retro Camaro from GM!

It will be based on the concept car that appeared at the North American International Auto Show, which is an update of the 1969 model (the last iteration of the original body style). The difference is that the first time the Camaro was kept pretty much under wraps until the assembly lines started cranking it out.

This time, it will be early 2009 before consumers can get their hands on one. I find this personally interesting, because I took delivery on a 1967 RS model in the fall of 1966. It had a 327 V8 and a Muncie 4-speed, and I wish I still had it. I’m pretty sure the new Camaro will be a lot pricier than the $3,400 and change I paid for my first one.

Once again I’ve had inquiries about the Reno-Tahoe Grand Prix. Not being a professional skip-tracer, I don’t have any more news. The website is down, the phone number I had is not working, and there is no record of Rick Strandlof, the erstwhile promoter, that I can find. So I can only conclude that another race promoter has overstated the facts and I gave him the benefit of the doubt.

It’s not the first time I’ve been led astray by a race promoter, and it may not be the last. The race promoter’s motto seems to be a paraphrase of one of Abraham Lincoln’s famous statements. “You can fool all of the people some of the time, and that’s usually good enough.”