It has been 12 years since American Open Wheel Racing split into two series. Today it was revealed that Champ Car has already ceased operations and operations will fall under the Indy Racing League.
The cars are very much different. Champ Car has used a Panoz chassis and will need to switch to a Dallara chassis. Reportedly as part of the deal Champ Car teams will be offered free Dallara chassis and Honda V8 engine lease programs. Also the teams will be offered the Team Enhancement and Allocation Matrix (TEAM) which pays teams at least $1.2 million for full-season participation.
Testing was to begin at Homstead but no Champ Car teams are expected to be ready. An extra test session possibly at another track may be offered to those teams to help with the entry with the Indy cars and into Oval Track racing.
Several teams have already discussed making the move including: Newman/Haas/Lanigan, Walker Racing, PKV Racing and Conquest Racing.
While exact details are unclear, reports are, there will still be a race at Long Beach for the Toyota Grand Prix. This was considered a major issue with reaching the agreement. That weekend conflicts with the IndyCar race at Motegi, Japan. Expect the Regular IndyCars in Japan and the former Champ Car teams at Long Beach.
Each series since 1996 has had its share of good and bad points. But for open-wheel racing in general it was all bad. Poor car counts, confusion for the fans and a lack of direction for many in driver development series has led to poor television viewership and even poorer ricket sales. From my math we could see from 25 to 30 cars enter some races. I also look to this year’s Indianapolis 500 with a full field without resorting to tricks or cars that should not have even made qualifying attempts. Bump day may even involve actual bumping this year!
There are some people that believe that the CART/Indy split is what is responsible for the big expansion for NASCAR. It also has been a factor in the movement of drivers from Open-wheel to NASCAR. That and the $$$$! Now will any of those drivers want to move back to Open-Wheel?
This will probably (hey I am no fortune teller!) be the biggest story in motorsports this year. I personally look forward to this year and some exciting racing.