There are now six days until CART's future is decided, and late this afternoon the Indy Racing League placed what spokesman Fred Nation called "A substantial bid" for certain assets currently held by the company which is liquidating in Federal bankruptcy court here.
Having only a scant two weeks to determine due diligence in this matter, the League had placed a cadre of attorneys on the case, examining papers prepared by CART's attorneys and the findings of IRL staffers who looked at assets during a walk-through two weeks ago tomorrow.
Nation explained that they had to have a two-pronged approach to the possibility of bidding, being prepared to place the League's money on the table but also prepared to walk away should there be untoward problems with the items that the Indy Racing League wished to purchase.
Over the years, CART has been offered to the League at ever-lower prices, beginning with $400 million and decreasing from there. Just a few months ago, Nation intimated, a $7 million offer was placed on the table, but with the legal entanglements, League owner Tony George and his advisors declined.
Now, with CART in Chapter 11 Federal bankruptcy, it's a completely different arena. While unwilling to divulge at this time the extent of the items on which it has placed bids, Nation did allude that the Indy Racing League does "feel positive about the research it has done prior to making this offer, positive about the integrity of the bid and positive about its plans for those assets" which it hopes to acquire.
Papers were delivered to CART lead attorney James M. Carr and to the unsecured creditors' committee attorney, James A. Knauer. The entities will evaluate this and any other bids tendered and make recommendations to Judge Frank Otte, whose decision in the case will be rendered on Wednesday, January 28th in Indianapolis.
Should Judge Otte find merit in offers tendered by parties other than Open Wheel Racing Series (OWRS), who have stated along their intent to acquire CART Inc. assets, an auction will ensue. It is his job to get as much money for these assets to satisfy creditors of the company.
"It's hard to understand how CART, a company that was once $500 million proud is now in bankruptcy," Nation observed. "We're not interested in being CART, but some of the venues are interesting."
Nation believes the Canadian and Mexican race sites could work for the Indy Racing League's IndyCar and Menards Infiniti Pro Series and "any series would be crazy not to run Long Beach," he said.
It's interesting to note Nation's recollection that, until 1981, there were usually two or more major open wheel series operating on the North American continent. The following 15 years were the first time for only one series to take a prominent stand.
He said it is "very unlikely we would, if successful in our bid, have CART races on our 2004 calendar, but you never say never. We believe that 19, 20 or 21 races would be the right number for us, running from February to October. That would give us good presence in our marketplace," Nation noted.
There was, Nation stated emphatically, "a lot of downside to bidding. We didn't want to buy stuff that would cost us money."
The dissemination of CART Inc. assets, then, will be determined next Wednesday. Eight sets of attorneys are expected to be present to stake their claims, including Carr for CART, Knauer for the unsecured creditors, along with barristers for Elkhart Lake's Road America, 88 Corporation and International Speedway Corp., Walker Racing, OWRS and Thomas Begley and Associates.