SEPTEMBER 7, 2002
The potential impact on F1 of a CART failure
It is becoming increasingly obvious that CART is going to lose the Green, Ganassi and Mo Nunn teams next year, the three following Penske Racing into the rival Indy Racing League series. This is not because of any desire to be there but rather because there is pressure from sponsors for the teams to be present at the Indianapolis 500. CART boss Chris Pook has been trying to stop the gradual slide of entries and is talking optimistically of having a grid of at least 18 cars next year but it is becoming increasingly clear that this is not going to be easy. There are some in the United States who say that the field could be as low as nine cars and that would mean that CART is no longer a viable series.
The truth is probably somewhere between the two but it is clear that in addition to Ganassi, Green and Mo Nunn that the two Japanese drivers Shinji Nakano (Fernandez Racing) and Tora Takagi (Walker Racing) are both going to go to IRL with the Japanese engine companies and it would be foolish for Adrian Fernandez and Derrick Walker to not offer their services to run them. The belief that the six teams that have committed themselves to CART could each run three cars is a nice idea but no-one has yet explained where the money can come from to run them. Currently Fernandez, Newman Haas and Rahal are only running two cars each and Patrick Racing is running just one.
This is largely irrelevant to the world of Formula 1 except that the disappearance of CART would open the way for the F1 circus to expand its involvement in America. IRL does not (yet) race on road or street courses and several major venues would become available if CART stopped operating. The most important would be Long Beach which was a Formula 1 venue long before it became a CART race. This would open up the West Coast of the United States to F1. It is not easy to see how the event could be fitted into the F1 calendar but there is little doubt that if it was available the F1 authorities would have to think very seriously about going for it - and Long Beach would have to consider what it would do with CART or F1.
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