The Callahan Report: Fear or Poor Organization; CART makes a bad decisionBy Terry Callahan
Motorsports Editor, The Auto Channel
April 29, 2001
FORT WORTH, TX: CART officials called it fear for driver safety. It should be called poor organization. The CART drivers refused to complete at Texas Motor Speedway Sunday. They made their decision at the 11th hour when the fans that were planning to attend the race were in lines of traffic normally associated with racing at Texas. CART should consider changing their acronym meaningto "Can't Accept Racing Toughness".
CART Officials and drivers had plenty of time to make the decision not to race at Texas. The decision that was made Sunday morning should have been made before CART scheduled a date for the high speed, state-of-the-art Texas facility. Teams with big budgets should have tested and made recommendations last summer.
CART claims to have a high tech advantage over its rival, The Indy Racing Northern Light Series. The Northern Light Series races at Texas twice a year. They race once during the day and once at night, which is even more difficult. In 1998, Northern Light IRL driver Billy Boat qualified for the pole position at Texas at a speed of more than 225 mph, just 8 mph slower than Kenny Brack's qualifying speed for Sunday's race.
During practice for the 2000 race at Texas, the Indy Racing League had concerns about a bump in turn four. The track and the series reacted quickly by grinding the track surface and by flying in spare "strengthened" parts to deal with the issue. The show went on with speed and excitement. The CART FedEx Championship series could not react as quickly as their under-funded rival.
By their quick action in 2000, the Northern Light IRL series and drivers proved a commitment to its fans greater than the commitment shown by CART Sunday. CART participants seemed to be more interested in promoting the new film "Driven" than they were about putting on a show for paying customers. Oddly enough, the film about the CART series depicts a sense of fearlessness.
Driver safety is certainly a concern at any track. Drivers and spectators should not be put in needless danger. However, to do nothing when a problem is known to exist is unacceptable. No on-track effort was made by CART to slow the cars.
Caravans of angry fans left the Texas Motor Speedway Sunday. They were not allowed access to the track. After waiting in their cars for two hours to get into the track, they were directed in one gate and out another. Many fans flew to Dallas-Ft. Worth and spent their hard earned money on hotels and rental cars. They should send the bill to CART.