Agreement pending to end open-wheel split

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Agreement pending to end open-wheel split

A reported "agreement in principle" to merge the two major open-wheel racing series based in America is in the works. If it happens the stage will be set for the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500, allowing all of the top racers a chance to...

A reported "agreement in principle" to merge the two major open-wheel racing series based in America is in the works. If it happens the stage will be set for the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500, allowing all of the top racers a chance to drink the milk in Victory Circle.

Brian Barnhart congratulates Dario Franchitti on his win in the 91st Indianapolis 500.
Photo by Michael C. Johnson.

John Griffin, vice-president of Indy Racing League public relations said on Tuesday (February 19th) that "talks were ongoing, but no definite timetable or press conference announcement" of the details has been set.

Reports earlier on Tuesday indicated an agreement could be revealed as early as Wednesday (February 20th) depending on the availability of Champ Car World Series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven.

Motorsport.com learned over the weekend that lawyers for both entities were in private meetings to iron out the details. When the news first broke by Robin Miller (speedtv.com) on February 7th, CCWS issued a statement faulting the media for causing the discussions to continue. In their words, the media had "significantly hampered discussions". Yet they continued to leak tidbits to the press.

On Tuesday (February 19th), we were informed that a press conference will confirm reports that the two warring factions in the decade-long split between the former CART and the Indy Racing League have reconciled. CCWS' Executive Vice President, Communications, David Higdon has not confirmed or denied the possible merger at this time.

Team members of Indy Racing League competitors have been told that their Champ Car counterparts will be readying IRL-spec machines for pre-season testing. The 2008 IndyCar Series schedule will be revised with added events.

In a story updated Monday morning, ESPN's John Oreovicz speculated that the talks were entering their final stages. Another report Tuesday indicated that league officials were hastily engaging a frantic effort to accommodate the new teams that may make the switch.

"There is so much to do I haven't been able to sleep," said Brian Barnhart, the IRL president in charge of competition, as told to Autoweek.

The feud between the two racing organizations comes with only thirty-odd days remaining before the first race of the season at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 29th.

The Indy Racing League has scheduled an all-teams open test for next week (February 26-28th) at Homestead, and several of the newly-arriving teams are expected to participate including Newman/Haas/Lanigan, PKV, Forsythe Racing and Walker Racing. Two of the four teams are owned by two of the main principals in the ownership of CCWS: Kalkhoven and Jerry Forsythe.

Derrick Walker indicated in an article on Motorsport.com last Thursday that he also will participate in a merged open-wheel racing series, having already made plans to return to the IndyCar series.

A second pre-season test is scheduled one week later, at the Sebring International Raceway short-track from March 3-6.

If the two series do finalize a merger for the 2008 season, that will leave Elan Motorsports Technologies, the CCWS chassis manufacturer and Cosworth, engine manufacturer, out in the cold.

For the tire manufacturer, it truly does not affect them as Bridgestone and Firestone are one in the same. The IndyCar series teams use Dallara chassis and Honda spec-engines.

No word on the fate of the Atlantic series has been indicated. However, rumors have the American Le Mans Series' sanctioning body IMSA in negotiations to buy the open-wheel ladder series currently owned by CCWS. The Indy Pro Series is owned by the IRL.

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Series INDYCAR