TMS REACTION TO THE UNIFICATION BETWEEN THE INDY RACING LEAGUE AND CHAMP CAR
* Historic News That Ends Split That Began In 1996 Should Provide Boost To Open-Wheel Racing, Bombardier Learjet 550k At TMS
FORT WORTH, Texas (February 22, 2008): Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage provides reaction to the unification of open-wheel racing in America and what effect it will have on the sport. Texas Motor Speedway plays host each June to the Bombardier Learjet 550k and the event annually attracts a race-day crowd second only to the Indianapolis 500 in the IndyCar Series. This season's Bombardier Learjet 550k will be held Saturday, June 7 and "America's Original Nighttime Race" remains one of the preeminent events in the series.
General reaction: "The fans have won and we have to give Tony George and the Indy Racing League credit for making a generous offer to resolve this issue. This is spectacular news, but we all have to be cautious because the act of unifying open-wheel racing in America is not a cure for all that ails the sport. It is a necessary and huge first step, but there is much work to be done."
Promoter perspective: "The most important aspect is that the unification brings the promoters the stability of full fields with a depth of talent. Last season, we had a 19-car field and we have not had more than 22 starters since 2002. I'm hopeful that this will provide us with those large fields in excess of 25 cars that used to be commonplace in open-wheel racing. The combination of the larger fields with the talent depth should ultimately result in even more exciting racing for our fans. Fan interest both at the track and on television remains critical to growing the sport from this point on. We'll continue to do our part to make it flourish."
What Champ Car brings in terms of talent: "The majority of their stars already have come to the IndyCar Series or in the case of Sebastian Bourdais gone to Formula One, but they still have one of the best personalities in the sport in Paul Tracy. There also is a young talent pool led by Bobby Rahal's son Graham that could benefit from the marketing of the IndyCar Series and help the group emerge as future stars. With the loss of some key IndyCar stars such as Sam Hornish Jr. and Dario Franchitti to NASCAR, this also should immediately help in replenishing the talent pool."
The fans: "To win back its fans, Indy-car racing now has to be humble, stabilize its schedule, solidify its driver lineup and feverishly market its stars. Every decision by everyone in Indy-car racing needs to be made for what is in the best interest of the fans. Today, the unification of the sport best serves the fans."
The future: "I hope everyone involved doesn't immediately think that the unification on its own will have Indy-car racing challenging NASCAR anytime soon. It will help unify the interest in the sport, but it will take everyone in the series to make sacrifices to grow the sport and take it to another level. Promotion, marketing, public relations, driver accessibility and sponsor activation are just a few of the many aspects that will have to take advantage of this long-awaited opportunity."