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Divide and be conquered
Posted October 14, 2005

Tom Anderson
LV Life Editor

Abraham Lincoln once said, “A house divided cannot stand.” Honest Abe was, of course, referring to the American Civil War, but he could just as easily have been talking about the present state of professional motor racing.

Now before you start whining and say, “Tom, shut up, racing isn’t a sport,” name one stick and ball sport where participants are repeatedly subjected to more than twice the force of gravity for an hour and a half or more, or one where the athletes are strapped into 130+ degree saunas while wearing three layers of fireproof clothing.

How many stick and ball sports are there where the risks of serious injury and death are constant threats, no matter how many safety measures are taken?

If your answers to all of the above questions were “None,” then congratulations, you’re an ignorant twit.

Hemingway didn’t group racing together with bull fighting and mountaineering as sports and label everything else “mere games” just for yuks, kids.

Anyway, back to the original purpose for this pile of verbage. Ten years ago Tony George, president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, became fed up with the condescending, thick-skulled personas of the directors of Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART, North America’s premiere open wheel racing series which contested the Indianapolis 500 at said Speedway), picked up his toys and declared he would build his own sandbox to play in. A man of his word, George formed the rival Indy Racing League (IRL), which contested its inaugural season in 1996.

Well, one decade and countless pointed fingers later, American open wheel racing’s Hatfield and McCoy saga has allowed NASCAR, the series with Stone Age tech spec racers and eclectic mix of personalities and backgrounds, a painfully easy romp to the top of the average American’s motorsports awareness chart. This might not be so bad if this political infighting stopped at open wheel racing. Problem is, it didn’t.

Fast forward to 2000. The France family, the same clan that started NASCAR way back in 1948, decided they didn’t like what Don Panoz, inventor of the nicotine patch and boutique sports car builder, was doing with American sports car racing through his recently established American Le Mans Series (ALMS). In fact, the Frances were so peeved that they set up a rival sanctioning body called Grand American Road Racing.

Thus big league sports car racing in North America, already a shadow of its late ‘80s/early ‘90s glory days where factory-backed teams from Nissan, Toyota and Jaguar battled for supremacy, was split into two even tinier pieces. With two series competing for one small core audience (Of which I am a proud member; keep your wine and cheese Eurotrash remarks to yourself and I’ll keep my mentally-challenged country bumpkin remarks to myself, okay?), you don’t need a degree in mathematics to figure out that this feud has destroyed this once thriving motorsports discipline.

And it’s still not over. A new winged sprint car series, co-founded by the Petty family of – you guessed it – NASCAR fame is set to give the established World of Outlaws a run for its literal and figurative money. Even Formula One, the absolute pinnacle of international auto racing, is being threatened by a possible politically-motivated breakaway series run by such automotive juggernauts as Honda, BMW, DaimlerChrysler and Renault.

Seriously, people, enough is enough. Can’t you all just lay your egos, gigantic as they are, aside long enough to talk this over like the adults you claim to be and reach some oh, I don’t know, compromises?

The pie can only be sliced into so many pieces before the person with the biggest slice, i.e. NASCAR, walks away satisfied, leaving the rest of you bozos to fight over the crumbs.

The point is that, in war, there are no winners, and these civil wars between racing series are no different.
Can’t we all just get along?

Tom Anderson, a junior journalism major, is news editor of the Campus Times. He can be reached by e-mail at tanderson1@ulv.edu.