THE JUDGE WAS WRONG
Champ Car Comes Full Circle
The old Biblical story about King Solomon having to decide between two arguing women, each claiming a child as her own, often comes to mind while pondering the actions judges undertake from the bench when deciding a person's fate or, in the case of U.S. open-wheel racing a few years ago, the action deemed best for a particular business.
Case in point: the Jan. 28, 2004 decision by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Frank J. Otte to hand CART over to what at the time was called "Open Wheel Racing Series" (OWRS) -- the Kevin Kalkhoven, Gerald Forsythe and Paul Gentilozzi partnership that paid a relatively cheap $3.2 million for the defunct series' assets.
This writer -- in one of those "I-remember-exactly-what-I-was-doing" moments -- remembers word of the decision spreading the following morning like a virus through the 2004 Rolex 24 At Daytona paddock, with an overwhelming majority of those participants -- from owners to crewmembers -- expressing astonishment.
Mostly, their surprise centered on two aspects: mathematics and experience.
In the thick of the battle for CART, Indy Racing League founder Tony George and his series stood ready to pay $13.5 million in cash for CART's assets - $10-million more than the cash amount paid by what would soon become "The Champ Car World Series."
Often having overlapping interests in sportscar, stock car and open-wheel racing, many in the Rolex 24 paddock -- while also many times recalling encounters with once-totally-enthralled "racers" who would later up-and-pull-out of the sport faster than a NASCAR pitstop -- cited the George-Hulman family's deep, multi-decade involvement in motorsports.
"I don't see them (Champ Car) having much of a chance of being successful," George himself said after the decision was handed down.
If not on the very day Judge Otte announced his decision, the beginning of Champ Car's end started in March 2004 when Adrian Fernandez and Bobby Rahal severed their Champ Car connections and moved over to IRL.
If everything goes according to what Champ Car and the IRL laid out last month, all of what's left of Champ Car will finally make that move, too, by the end of 2009.
Ironically, Champ Car's last race at the April 18-20 Grand Prix of Long Beach will be at the very same event and almost to the very day it held its first on April 18, 2004.
DC Williams, exclusively for Motorsport.com