CHAMPCAR WORLD SERIES, 1979-2008

As sponsors kept falling off, teams’ and drivers’ future in weekly doubt, many lesser drivers signing to one-race contracts just to make sure there was somebody in the car when it was possible to run, and draconian rule-changes intended to drum up viewer interest, all the signs were in place; as much as I liked it, I should have known the ChampCar Series would not survive CART/IRL schism.

This is a clear case of VHS defeating Beta to be the leading videotape format of 80’s and 90’s, because there are several reasons why Indy is not the superior product, but I suppose I’ll spend the next year or two figuring it all out.

The series was making inroads to become a true and serious international phenomenon, as last year a short stint in Europe proved to be remarkable, the cars visiting facilities and areas that have not enjoyed that sort of racing for a very long time.  Formula 1 dare not visit the place where Gilles Villenueve died, their current car needs much more distance and run-off space, but a ChampCar’s controlled motor and ground effects handled the course well, in an atmosphere that could not be duplicated on US streets.

The final ChampCar World Series event was the Grand Prix of Long Beach last weekend, the only event of the series known to have a future, next time as an IndyCar series event.  There are efforts to try to include other perennial races, such as Surfer’s Paradise in Australia, but there is nothing in writing at this time.

Long Beach became an exercise in Will Power dominating using familiar methods in a familiar car, one without fuel and traction control, but with a turbocharger and a large engine.  It was probably the second or third-to-last race for Jimmy Vasser, and unless somebody starts talking and dealing sooner, it may have been the last race for Paul Tracy, who has a sponsor but no team.

I feel very badly for the promoters, race marshalls, and safety crew that were preparing for an entire season of racing, but instead were at a single race, and that’s it for them.

It was very odd to me that the senior ChampCar World Series lost its engine sponsor (albeit, not the engines themselves), and the title sponsor (though not the tires Bridgestone supplied) yet the junior Atlantic series, which I expect to soon be known as Cooper/Mazda Atlantics in the way they were Toyota Atlantics before, solidified their sponsorship in long-term deals, deals which are why they will keep racing in their brand instead of being sold off to Tony George and the IndyCar folks.  Then again, Atlantics are much cheaper cars than ChampCars were, which themselves were cheaper than IndyCars are now.  The Atlantic series is only a couple of regulatory changes away from being considered a FIA Formula 3 series, and I hope the owners that still have a stake in it will consider this- it will carry on the uniqueness that the street races of ChampCar brought without having to worry about needing a sponsor or large gate receipts and media attention.

That, and Indy boss Tony George seems to be warming up to street racing, and there seems to be a lot of talk that IndyCar teams want to absorb many of ChampCar’s competition rules when street racing.

Of course, a rant like this wouldn’t be complete unless I mentioned Danica Patrick becoming the first woman to win a major auto race, which I couldn’t watch on account of the rain delay messing up the TiVo.  The future seems interesting, at least.

Hope everyone is doing well.

See you next time.

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