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Thursday, June 20, 2002
No race? Let's talk

By Robin Miller
ESPN.com

Robin Miller A weekend without an IRL or CART race can only mean one thing: time to empty the closet of all the rumors, observations, questions and little known facts since the Indianapolis 500.

You can get some of the answers by watching RPM2Night on Wednesdays or listening to RPMNow on the radio.

  • Here's a scenario that would cripple CART, strengthen the IRL and make Thanksgiving dinner in Nazareth, Pa., a little uncomfortable. Michael Andretti retires from CART after 13 more races, takes Motorola sponsorship, a bunch of cash and engines from Honda, buys Team Green and goes to the IRL. Trust me, it's not just a rumor.

  • Last weekend's open-wheel showdown on network television was almost a draw: CART got a 0.9 on CBS while the IRL registered 0.8 on ABC. Neither side should brag, test patterns usually get similar numbers.

  • Let's go over this one more time: Michael Kranefuss and Kenny Anderson are going to build IRL cars next year, along with Dallara and G-Force. Hmm, Anderson is a designer, but has no wind tunnel and, last time I checked, Kranefuss had never built anything except a relationship with Roger Penske in NASCAR. Oh, that's right, Anderson used to be Penske's shock man. Gee, Penske wanted to build an IRL chassis but was turned down. You don't suppose he might be using his shop and people in Poole, England, to help his old buddies out? Nah, that wouldn't be in the spirit of the IRL, would it?

  • The IRL's debut at California Speedway last March was the most embarrassing crown (less than 10,000 in 90,000 seats) in modern day motorsports but next week's CART show at Chicago Motor Speedway could rival it. Less than 5,000 tickets sold as of a week ago.

  • Help me out here. Starting next year that all-American series will have Honda and Toyota, mandatory engine leases, a race in Japan, a franchise system and road racers in almost every ride. Is that IRL or CART?

  • Hope CART is smart enough to keep its arms around Danica Patrick for the foreseeable future and not abandon her. You all remember Sarah Fisher? The IRL's most popular and visible driver who has made two starts this season and currently is without a ride or any prospects?

  • Which top-level IRL team got caught measuring a car and taking pictures inside another top-level IRL team's garage at Texas?

  • Tony George went away to deliberate on the Indy 500 result and help O.J. look for the real killers.

  • If CART changes its engine rules one more time before August, it will break the USAC record set in the late '60s.

  • What ever happened to Buddy Lazier and Greg Ray?

  • Chip Ganassi is still very pro-IRL, but I understand his partner, Target, wants to stay in CART and continue running Indianapolis.

  • Chris Pook has done a good job of trying to dig out of the rubble from past CART's disasters, but he needs to quit using that "quality over quantity" phrase because 18 cars are not enough.

  • With Sigma Racing all but toast in CART and IRL regulars Bradley Motorsports, Cahill Racing, Fred Treadway and Todd Brayton in financial freefall, just think how nice it would be if everyone was under one roof. Can you say 30 good cars?

  • Imagine how exciting it would be to see Tomas Scheckter at Elkhart Lake?

  • Nice to see Alex Barron having some success in the IRL after CART turned its back on him.

  • Sad to see 2000 Toyota Atlantic champ Buddy Rice struggling in his old series because nobody in CART gave him a chance.

  • If Indy's observers (in the corners) were allowed to punch on the yellow light when there was an obvious accident, there would be no appeals or controversy.

  • The hot rumor in NASCAR is that Penske is leaving Ford for Dodge. But that was first reported last summer on RPM2Night when my well-known source, Anthony Joseph Foyt Jr., told me The Captain would be with Toyota and Dodge.

  • Some of CART's owners were actually congratulating each other on the decision to keep turbocharged engines for the next two years. Genius. If they'd stuck to their rule book, they'd still have Honda and Ford, and maybe Toyota.

  • Speaking of Toyota, it's kicking butt right now in CART but it took a kick to the groin when CART opted to dump the normally-aspirated formula. Toyota was counting on 10 CART teams to pony up $2.6 million apiece in 2003 to help subsidize its IRL program.

  • Cristiano da Matta and Bruno Junqueira grew up together in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, racing go-karts and, small world, now they're running 1-2 in CART's FedEx Championship.

  • How sick of Team Penske will the IRL regulars be by the end of this season?

  • Why all the print advertising for the third U.S. Grand Prix at Indianapolis on Sept. 29? Could it be because less than 50,000 tickets have been sold?

  • Got some e-mails from people in Texas who claim they received free tickets and pit passes in the mail to the Texas IRL race. Maybe that's why there were 80,000. But CART is giving free seats to Chicago with a fill-up at any Shell station. So the question, is it better to give or play before empty seats?

  • True or false? John Menard has had more drivers than Arnold Palmer.

  • Nissan is out of the IRL at the end of 2002. How far behind is General Motors?

  • Glad to see Jeff Ward finally get that elusive win. That guy is a racer.

  • What exactly does CART get out of FedEx?

  • Honda needs some IRL allies and Eddie Cheever needs an engine.

  • How long before a big dog like Ganassi makes a run at Sam Hornish Jr.? I hear it's already happening.

  • Will it be cheaper to run CART than the IRL next year?

  • Finally, Southwest Airlines will start charging real big people for two seats. Hope A.J. has a lot of frequent flyer miles.