The Callahan Report: The Future Of Indy
6 June 1997Editor's Note:The Indianapolis Star asked for public opinion regarding "The Future Of Indy" this past week. The following article was submitted by Terry Callahan, The Callahan Report and The Callahan Racing Page
The Future Of The Indy 500
I went to my twenty-seventh Indianapolis 500 this year (1997). How did it compare with "500s" from the past? It was one of the closest finishes in Indy history. There were five cars on the lead lap. There were great battles throughout the field all day. There were cars racing side by side in the corners. There were high budget teams and "little guys" all racing each other. In my opinion, this year's race is in the top four out of all races I have seen live at the Speedway. The future of the Indy 500 and the Indy Racing League is bright.
As for the "continuing feud" between CART and the IRL, I say, what feud? Championship Auto Racing Teams and the Indy Racing League run under two entirely different sets of rules. The only similarity between the two series is "open wheel" racers. The engine and chassis packages are entirely different in specs and cost. If you want to go racing in either series, the rules are clearly defined. The rules are very different and the equipment is not interchangeable, with the exception of "the drivers". The "feud" is over. There are two excellent open wheel series for the fans.
Nothing more needs to be done to "heal the rift" between the IRL and CART. The controversial 25/8 qualifying rule has already been abandoned. I understand the rule was needed as an insurance policy for teams participating in the league. With the new equipment rules, it should have been trashed in 1997 instead of next year. The IRL knows it and got bit by it on the last day of qualifying for this year's race. A lesson learned. The IRL should continue to build on the philosophy on which the league was founded. The league should continue finding new ideas that keep costs down for the all oval, open wheel racing series. If these new ideas are pleasing to existing CART teams, fine. The IRL's commitment should be to the customers (fans) and their series sponsors.....not their competitors.
The Indianapolis 500 has always been full of drivers that run "Indy only". By next year, there will be enough equipment available for CART drivers to run the 500. The IRL is designed so that equipment will not be obsolete after one year of use. As recently as 1993, several "big names" ran Indy only. Names like Andretti (John), Andretti (Jeff), Bettenhausen (Gary), Bettenhausen (Tony), Brabham (Geoff), Unser (Al Sr.). There were ten other drivers in the race in 1993 that ran "Indy only". The IRL has opened the door for the return of CART drivers. The "big names" of CART will be welcomed if they decide to come to Indy. The rules will be fair. The equipment will be equal. It is CART's turn to make a move. It is in the hands of the team owners and sponsors. They need to decide if they want to race at the greatest race course in the world.
As a race fan, I will continue to watch and support both series. I refuse to let the politics and the business side of the sport ruin my enjoyment. I don't have a financial stake in the sport. There are many people that depend on the sport for a living. They are the ones that need to be at the table discussing their business. In the meantime, I will enjoy the high speed, open wheel, racing shows the IRL has provided to me.... the race fan. I wish them continued success.
Terry Callahan -- The Auto Channel