The Mexico City Grand Prix set a three-day
CART attendance record of 402,413, breaking the previous mark of 351,970 set last
year at the event. Joseph Heitzler, President of the organizing company GRAND,
said 221,011 people attended the race Sunday, 113,081 during Saturday's qualifying
and 68,321 on Friday. Sunday's figure was also a race-day CART record. With those
figures, this CART race is now the second biggest race in
the world behind the Indy 500, and if we were the folks at the Indianapolis Motor
Speedway, we would be looking wearily over our shoulders.
After the high of
Mexico City the CART series moves across the Pacific to the white beaches
of Surfers Paradise, Australia. If there is another event on the
CART schedule that is as grandiose as Mexico City, it's Surfers Paradise.
That event has grown over the years and now rivals the F1 race in
Melbourne as the biggest happening in Australia.
After two events of
such magnificent stature, the series moves to Fontana, California for its
season finale. Unfortunately it will be a letdown. Certainly the
racing is good, and CART has been going there for many years, but with little
promotion from the Speedway, the grandstands won't be anywhere near full, meaning the electricity
experienced at Mexico City and Surfers will be noticeably absent.
Why is it that CART
is more popular out of the country than in? It's simple really.
Tony George created the IRL, split Indy Car racing in half, fractured the
fan base and left the door wide open for NASCAR to move right in and
monopolize American motorsports. You can't blame NASCAR. They
saw the opportunity handed to them on a silver platter and they took
advantage of it. They must still be pinching themselves out of
disbelief that anyone could be so naive.
Open wheel Indy Car style
racing has been around for nearly twice as long as NASCAR's stock
car racing. In the early 1900's all the way up to 1950, when NASCAR
was born, open wheel racing reigned king. Essentially that's all there was.
But now Indy Car
racing in the USA is gasping for air like a fish out of water. On life support
waiting for NASCAR to drive the final dagger through its heart.
Those responsible must someday be held accountable for their stupidity.
That's right stupidity. Other journalists can sugarcoat the
situation if they like, but not me. We are talking about people's
careers. Their livelihoods. Their families. But more
importantly, we're talking about the possible extinction of an entire
sport in the USA.
The 'Now What' Part
Despite the near extinction
of the sport, there is hope, at least for CART. It has some great events,
and it will soon have new ownership. Now it needs the right President,
someone with worldwide stature; someone who understands global sports marketing,
because as Mexico City, its three Canadian races and Surfers prove, CART can be a
very successful global sports property in race starved places like Zandvoort,
Brno, South Africa, Seoul and others. (see related article,
The Inevitable Globalization of
Although Open Wheel Racing
Series LLC representatives have indicated they plan a renewed focus on North
America, NASCAR will always be out there like a ten-ton gorilla on its back. The
world is a big place, big enough for CART and F1. Psst, don't tell Bernie
but CART's two largest races rival F1's biggest events, and there's no way F1 can
grant enough race dates to satisfy the world demand.
who should Open Wheel hire as President? Are you sitting down? I would hire
Peter Ueberroth as CART's next President.
Having proven his business
acumen by running Trans International Airline (1959–62), then his own company,
Transportation Consultants International (1963–79), he was tapped in 1979 to
organize the Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984. The millionaire California travel
agent became a public figure for his leadership organizing the 1984 Olympics,
which turned a $215 million-dollar profit by exploiting corporate sponsorships and
media contracts. He leveraged his considerable skills in marketing and
business to make the games financially successful, using the profits to fund youth
athletic initiatives in Los Angeles.
His ability to buck the trend
of heavy debts for an Olympic host city by creating a budgetary surplus earned him
the honor of being named TIME's “Man
of the Year” in 1984. He spent a term as commissioner of baseball
(1984–89), averting a strike by umpires during the 1988 playoffs. He then returned
to private enterprise. Most recently he made a run at being governor of
California, but withdrew from the race after it was deemed now Governor-Elect
Arnold Schwarzenegger was probably unbeatable.
In other words, he's
available and he might be the right person at the right time to turn CART into a
mega-billion dollar global powerhouse. Read this Time Magazine
Ueberroth to understand why I am recommending him. The last paragraph says
it all - "Ueberroth has a way of trying to turn whatever he touches into a cause.
To be involved in difficult problems with difficult goals lifts him up. He is a
promoter with a global mission, a throwback to the kind of American
entrepreneurial zealot who believes unblushingly that his product is a force for
good in the world. And maybe, if he just gets everyone pulling together and
persuades them that the impossible can be done, then maybe everything will be
under perfect control."
Am I out of my mind, what
does he know about racing? Probably nothing, but he understands what to do
with a sports entertainment property that has the potential to command a global
audience. After all, what was more global than the Olympics?
Who do you think should be
CART's next President? I'd like to hear your opinion.
The author can be contacted at
to discuss this article