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Racing Roundup: IndyCar sucked in by NASCAR – again

Norris McDonald
Written by Norris McDonald

Latifi sounded unhappy Sunday, ROVAL leaves much to be desired, and all the news

Welcome to the Monday racing roundup on Tuesday. And because it’s Tuesday, we’ll just publish Notebook Jottings about all the racing that took place this weekend, because it’s sure not news by now. But first, the Sermon.

On Aug. 6, 1994, the NASCAR Winston Cup Series cars got the green flag to start the first Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. I sat in front of my TV and when it happened, I said: “That expletive deleted expletive deleted.”

That “expletive deleted” times two was Tony George, chairman of the board of IMS, who had made an agreement with NASCAR to run a stock car race at the Speedway that, until that moment, had been the sole preserve of the Indy cars that got their name from that hallowed ground.

After calling him more names, I said to my wife: “You watch. NASCAR talked that nitwit into letting it into the inner sanctum and the war is officially on, whether people realize it or not. NASCAR is out to kill Indy car racing and this is the first shot. NASCAR is not looking to take over Indy car racing, it wants to eliminate it.”

Egged on by NASCAR executives and, some say, Bernie Ecclestone, Tony George then spent much of his family’s fortune perpetuating a civil war that pitted his Indy Racing League against, first, CART and then the Champ Car World Series. This could have gone on forever – or as long as auto racing is around – except the partners who owned Champ Car had a falling out and one of them went to George to throw in the towel.

But the damage had been done. After that, with some exceptions, IndyCar races struggled to attract an audience at both the circuits/speedways and on television. The series was the butt of jokes: question – what time does the IndyCar race get the green flag? Answer – what time can you be here?

The schedule was never the same two years in a row. Alleged “fans” would beg the series to include oval-track races on the schedule and then not show up to watch them. Races like the Molson/Honda Indy Toronto that once upon a time would attract 70,000 real people on race day would struggle to attract 30,000. If it wasn’t for multi-car teams owned and operated by fans like Roger Penske, Michael Andretti and Chip Ganassi, fields of 12 or fewer would be the norm.

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