Champ, IRL teams pair off

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:01 AM ET

The official IRL-Champ Car unification press conference was held yesterday in Miami. But the real unification took place Monday and Tuesday in Indianapolis.

"It was fantastic," said Rexall Edmonton Indy race manager Jim Haskins of the experience.

"It was 100% attendance from every team in Champ Car to take part in driver and team orientation and learn all the details," said Haskins.

"The way it all went down just blew me away.

"I was really impressed with the sincerity of everybody in the Indy Racing League to reach out to all the Champ Car guys to make this work. You could tell they were excited about it.

HISTORY

"And there was a sense with everybody there that they were taking part in history."

And the most exciting part for Haskins was picturing his own race in Edmonton, almost certainly now on July 25-27 which will be the first of only two, and potentially perhaps even the only Champ Car series race this year in which everybody will run.

"Newman-Haas-Lanigan with Graham Rahal and Justin Wilson were there and they're going to race two cars. Derek Walker of Team Australia was there and they're going to run two cars.

"Gerald Forsythe, with Canada's Paul Tracy back, will run two cars as will Kevin Kalkhoven, Conquest and Pacific Coast Racing. Menardi and Dale Coyne Racing will run one each.

"That's 14 cars from Champ Car joining 16 from the IRL.

"In an ideal world, we could have 30 cars on our grid!

"How fantastic will that be?

"Turn 1 is exciting enough with 17 cars barrelling down there at full speed at the start of the race. On our track, when everybody in the stands can see the whole race, this is just going to be amazing."

When he wasn't thinking about that, Haskins was marvelling at how these two outfits - who have been at war for a dozen years - fit into each other's arms.

"The buddy system they developed says it all," he said.

Each Champ Car team has been given a IRL buddy team to help them through the transition time to the first race," he said of a month from now when they race the Homestead-Miami Speedway together.

For each Champ Car team joining the series, they'll be provided with two new Dallara chassis and a Honda racing engine lease as well as $1.3 million in support money.

The Champ Car teams will go back to their old DP01 chassis with Coxworth engines to race the Long Beach Grand Prix April 18-20 while the IRL cars travel to Japan.

Paul Newman's team, which features Bobby Rahal's son, will be buddied with the Letterman-Rahal team from IRL, for example.

"As they explained it, it's a buddy system to get the Champ Car teams up to speed.

"They'll be volunteering a lot of information about the set-up specs so there is not as big a learning curve," he said.

Not that that will make the road course guys ready to run the ovals which dominate the early part of the schedule including the Indianapolis 500.

'ALL THE ANSWERS'

"The Indy people had all the answers for all the questions. I was quite impressed by that. It was a real study with the owners, drivers, engineers and everybody else learning about the new world they were about to join."

Now Haskins is back in Edmonton preparing a whole new marketing plan to sell history being made here with the former Champ Car race which drew weekend total attendances of 200,050, 171,391 and 167,243 with 17 cars starting and 12 cars finishing almost every race.


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