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Sunday, February 17, 2008
Owner Ganassi hoping open-wheel split finally ends

By Terry Blount
ESPN.com

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. -- NASCAR team owner Chip Ganassi, who also owns an IndyCar Series team, is hopeful that the rumors are true and the 12-year split in open-wheel racing finally is over.

"You guys know as much as I do, believe me," Ganassi said Saturday. "I just hope it happens. There can't be five people on the planet that don't want it to happen, so let's hope it happens."

Juan Pablo Montoya, whom Ganassi brought to NASCAR last year from Formula One, isn't sure it matters much at this point. Montoya won the Champ Car title in 1999 and the Indy 500 in 2000.

"Is it too late? Don't know, don't care," Montoya said. "I raced there many years ago. Is it going to bring open-wheel back to greatness in America? I really doubt it. People in America are a lot more interested in NASCAR than they are with open wheel.

"It's good for the general sport, and maybe for teams to find sponsors for that series. But all the good teams right now are in IndyCar, apart from Newman/Haas, so it isn't going to change that much."

Ganassi said he's not in the loop on the negotiations between the IRL and Champ Car, but did get one encouraging phone call recently.

"The only consultation I had was I got a call that said if we get this thing back together, they might need a car [a spare chassis for Ganassi]," he said. "I said no problem."

Ganassi was told that Montoya didn't think it made any difference, but Ganassi disagrees: "That's why they call him Juan and me Chip," Ganassi said. "We're two different people."

But Ganassi knows all the problems in open-wheel racing won't magically disappear in a merger happens.

"If they were to get back together, that's when the work would begin," Ganassi said. "It's probably like the 1994 baseball strike. The work really begins once you get all of the problems behind you.

"It would be nice to get all of the issues in one place. Get all of the rules makers in one place. Get all of the promoters in one place. Get everybody at one table instead of two. It would certainly end a lot of confusion in the marketplace."

Terry Blount covers motorsports for ESPN.com. He can be reached at terry@blountspeak.com.