Racing war is over

DEAN MCNULTY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:49 AM ET

With the stroke of a pen at 11 a.m. this morning, Tony George and Kevin Kalkhoven will end the uncivil war that has divided open-wheel racing in North America for the past 13 years.

A peace accord, however, between the Indy Racing League and the Champ Car World Series may be too little, too late to bring back the glory days when open-wheel racing stood at the pinnacle of motor sports on this continent and the Indianapolis 500 was the most important race in the world.

The final details of the deal, according to David Higdon, executive vice-president of strategic development for Champ Car, were being put together last night by George and Kalkhoven.

"Kevin and Tony George met yesterday to finalize an agreement that all sides wanted to see happen," Higdon told Sun Media in a phone interview from Indianapolis, where the talks took place.

"There will be a public announcement tomorrow," he said.

While the fine print of the agreement was being worked on yesterday, there was one thing that was certain -- Champ Car and its 99-year-history in open-wheel racing dies on the table today.

George, owner of the IRL and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, will keep his position as head of all IndyCar Racing in the new reality.

Even if a last-minute snag -- something that has happened so many times before in these talks -- is encountered it is unlikely that Champ Car will continue as a racing entity.

Champ Car was planning to start its season April 20 at the Grand Prix Long Beach, but had solid commitments for only 15 cars and the IRL wasn't in much better shape with only 16 cars paid up.

This is not a merger, Higdon said, but it is a deal that will allow Champ Car teams to be part of the IRL as soon as March 29 at the season opening race in Miami.

"There will basically be an offer to all the existing Champ Car teams to join the IRL, with the promise of chassis and motors to be provided," Higdon said. "It is not expected that all teams will join right away, but there will be six or seven that will."

The six teams that for sure are joining the IRL are Forsythe Pettite Racing, home of Toronto's Paul Tracy, Newman-Hass-Lanigan Racing, PKV Racing, Conquest Racing, Derrick Walker Racing and Dale Coyne Racing.

Also yet to be finalized is a schedule for 2008.

Although speculation was rampant that only the wildly successful Edmonton Grand Prix would survive a unified series in Canada, Higdon said that the Grand Prix of Toronto -- the mainstay of Champ Car in Canada for more than 20 years -- may still be in play even though the IRL has a race on the same July 4-6 weekend in Watkins Glenn, N.Y.

"The Toronto race is one of the things (Kalkhoven and George) are still discussing," he said.

In the world of motorsports outside the two open-wheel combatants, many felt it would make little difference in the huge gap in popularity that NASCAR has gained over the past decade.

"Is it too late? Don't know, don't care," 2000 Indy 500 winner Juan Pablo Montoya said. "I raced there many years ago. Is it going to bring open-wheel back to greatness in America? I really doubt it. People in America are a lot more interested in NASCAR than they are with open wheel."


Videos

Photos