CHAMPCAR/CART: CART's day in court, the saga continues

Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc.'s representatives and attorneys were in attendance today at the Birch Bayh Federal Building and Courthouse in Indianapolis for their emergency motion hearing after filing Chapter 11 papers on December 16, ...

Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc.'s representatives and attorneys were in attendance today at the Birch Bayh Federal Building and Courthouse in Indianapolis for their emergency motion hearing after filing Chapter 11 papers on December 16, 2003.

The day before filing the Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization papers, CART reached an asset purchase agreement with Open Wheel Racing Series (OWRS). The agreement hinges on court approval.

Presiding Judge Frank Otte held a preliminary hearing on December 19 and today's meeting was to hear from all involved parties regarding the swift disposition of all aspects of the bankruptcy filing.

The courtroom was filled with CART's lawyers, representatives and lawyers from OWRS, attorneys representing two race tracks -- Road America in Elkhart Lake, WI and ISC for California Speedway in Fontana, CA -- as well as several other concerned parties.

Road America and California Speedway have a stake in the outcome of this bankruptcy filing as both have current issues against CART. The Road America venue was on the 2003 CART schedule, then off, then back on with a date that was not of their choosing. They feel that their ongoing discussions for a 2004 race date are in jeopardy.

International Speedway Corp. argues that California Speedway should not pay 2003 sanction fees after they postponed the season finale event due to the California wildfires and CART moved to cancel the race. Also in question is the 2004 race date for which CA Speedway is contracted but has canceled on their schedule.

Due to teams/owners/drivers/promoters/tracks needing time to prepare for 2004, OWRS attorneys stated that the final date to allow the Champ Car World Series and the Toyota Atlantic Series to commence a 2004 schedule is February 13, 2004 and even that would be stretching it.

January 28, 2004 has been set as the date that Judge Otte will give his decision - a day of possible fireworks.

With the racing season only months away, the question to many fans is whether there will be a season opener in April at Long Beach or if that event will go the way of the original season opener. The St. Petersburg Grand Prix has already been postponed.

Remaining questions to the transaction will have to wait until the court's decision, including what happens to the CART stockholders, whether the issues with tracks and promoters can be resolved and, of the 2004 tentative schedule released by CART stand up, what events will happen, what venues may be added and which will fade away.

One of the vital questions in this entire ongoing CART dilemma is: Will Champ Car continue to exist? Will the new ownership be able to perform magic and pull that rabbit out of the hat?

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Series IndyCar