Can someone explain the CART v. IRL racing feud?

This feud between open wheeled car racing leagues erupted a few years back. I’ve read several articles about it, but my head keeps spinning, because every one of them seems to delve into engine mechanics, which frankly I’m not very good at.

Can any racing fans, in layman’s terms, explain how this rivalry started, some of the major events in it, and where it stands now? Who are the major players and what are the basic differences between the two circuits?

Or point me to an article on the net that can explain it (I tried google)

THANKS! :slight_smile:

The gist:

IRL was started by a guy who was the grandson of the INDY 500 Racetrack owner (and the grandson is the owner now I believe).

This guy starts his own league and goes retro with the Indy 500 by allowing most open spots for rookies, and reserving few for veterans from other leagues.

He tries to squeeze CART out of existence by only permitting a couple of their drivers in the Indy 500…OR, more could try and qualify if they join the IRL.

Only a few drivers joined the IRL.

That’s how it all started.

To tell the truth, I lost interest in al of it. This guy has really damaged the Indy 500. For a few years, when he stuck to his guns, all the best drivers/teams were not in the Indy 500.

I have so lost interest that I’m not even sure how it works now. Like, who can get in the Indy 500, etc? It is very screwed up now and not as open to the top drivers as it was in recent modern history.

The pig that owns the Indy 500 owns the IRL and he uses that position to force people into his league.

At first, the IRL limited teams not competing in the news series to eight at-large spots in the 33-car Indy lineup. It was known as “The 25-and-8 rule” and was the catalyst for the boycott by the older series.

CART responded by starting a new race – the U.S. 500 – to be run on the same day as Indy. There were nasty exchanges between league officials and team owners.

Fundamentally it’s just a clash of egos between Tony George, owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Roger Penske, leading force of CART, both of whom want to be Mr. Open Wheel Racing in the US. It’s hard to explain the clash in more detail because it’s so silly.

The antecedents of the IRL can be found in USAC (conventionally pronounced “you sac”). USAC oversaw the Indy 500 from 1956 to 1997.

In general terms, USAC was not well liked by the drivers. USAC had a bad habit of playing favorites and regulating away any technological advantages a racing team might enjoy–in mid-season.

I happen to think that the origins of the division arose in the 1963 Indy 500. That year, Colin Chapman showed up ready to school the Americans, with cigar-shaped Lotuses driven by Jim Clark and Dan Gurney. They were harassed, and Parnelli Jones was allowed to run the last part of the race with an extremely dangerous oil leak that had cars spinning out all over the track. As a result of Jones not being black-flagged, Jim Clark came in second that day.

Some blame the death of Eddie Sachs the following year at Indy on USAC regulations, which purportedly forced him to run a narrower tire than his car was designed to use. I don’t have documentation on this.

At any rate, Dan Gurney eventually led the charge for a team-regulated body, which eventually spawned CART.


Here’s the way I understand it…

One side says:
Racing at Indianapolis was too expensive for the independent teams, given the recent technological advances in what were then called “IndyCars”. Also, it was seen that IndyCar racing was becoming an American version of Formula 1, revolving around foreign drivers with Formula 3000 and Formula Ford backgrounds racing on road courses around the world. It was seen as not providing the promotional opportunities for American midget and sprint car drivers, mostly oval track specialists, that Indy had previously done. It was a heartbreaker when Jeff Gordon, an Indiana boy who dreamed of driving at the Speedway, went to NASCAR because there were supposedly no opportunities for him in IndyCar.

With an eye towards NASCAR and the phenomenal job they had done marketing their sport, Tony George, the owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, wanted to create an “open-wheel NASCAR” series. This would feature American drivers on oval tracks, using an close-to-spec formula which would engender competition through reduced ability to modify the “standard” platform, not unlike NASCAR. Obviously, the crown jewel of the new series would be George’s Indianapolis 500. The regulations for the 500 were changed to meet the specs of what was now called the Indy Racing League. This included reduced test and qualifying time to accomodate teams with limited budgets and assigning guaranteed starting spots in the 500 for IRL teams.
Another side says:
Tony George is the spawn of Satan (just kidding… I think).
At the time of the schism, the CART/PPG IndyCar World Series was riding as high as could be expected. They had millions of fans around the world, although internationally Formula 1 ruled the roost. There was a smallish, but well-heeled demographic domestically, although NASCAR had become a colossus by this time, and was what most Americans thought of as “auto racing”.

There was no doubt that IndyCar racing had become a more cosmopolitan series then it was in the days of A.J. Foyt and Bobby Unser, but this was not a bad thing. There was still excellent oval racing to be had at tracks like Michigan, New Hampshire, Phoenix, Milwaukee and of course Indianapolis. Add to that the great American road courses like Elkhart Lake and Mid-Ohio, and street courses like Long Beach. The winner of the PPG Cup had to be a truly versatile team, able to excel at all racing disciplines. Tony George saw Indy becoming just another date on the CART schedule, and decided to throw his lot in with the NASCAR types.

It is truly sad that the Brickyard 400 is now the premier event at Indianapolis, not the 500. Due to the fact that CART can no longer use the marketing clout and name recognition of Indy, and some really horrible management decisions, they are now in a precarious position. Meanwhile, IRL is muddling along, trying to market second-rate drivers as the “stars of the Indy 500”. Meanwhile, the CART teams that have participated in the IRL-era 500s have clearly dominated the event.

I could go on forever about how the month of May has been stolen from racing fans because of greed and ego wars, and how CART has been brought to its knees by stupidity and hubris…

REAL racing is Formula 1 racing cart and indy cars are not as powerful , and F1 has all sorts of tricky corners

When was the last time you saw an F1 car do 235mph? Oh yeah… never.

Also, Champ Cars (as they are known now) can do this thing they call “passing”. In “passing”, a car can take a position from another while they are both on the track at the same time! I realize this is confusing to F1 fans who should really root for the 40 guys on the pit crew rather than the steering-wheel actuator.

Let’s see… Launch control, traction control, ABS, automatic clutch… They might as well be driving R/C cars.

As far as corners go, let’s talk about the Corkscrew at Laguna Seca, or Canada Corner at Elkhart Lake, or the Carousel Corner at Portland. I will grant that Eau Rouge and Parabolica are true tests of a driver’s skill and courage, but an F1 driver could floor the pedal through Parabolica and the computers will do the job of maintaining the knife-edge balance that corner requires.

er wasn’t traction control removed? , Mikka and Couthards cars had them about 2 seasons ago and it was determined to be unfair , also they often lock up their tires , which wouldn’t happen with ABS

Well, my head is still spinning, but not as much! Thanks for the explanations, everybody! :slight_smile:

The FIA legalized traction control for the 2001 season. Cynics claim that the real reason is that they found it impossible to effectively ban. Whatever the rationale, it’s perfectly kosher now.

Just last week, CART teams voted nearly unanimously to adopt the IRL’s 3.5L normally aspirated engine formula in 2003, giving up on the turbo formula that has been CART’s trademark since its inception.

This was a rather odd decision, as CART’s two most loyal engine manufacturers, Honda & Ford, had publically stated that they did not want CART to drop the turbo formula. Toyota, the weak sister among CART’s engines, had already announced that they were going to build IRL engines starting in 2003, and had also stated that they were not going to provide engines to both CART & IRL teams even if CART adopted the IRL specs.

Seemingly this means that no one knows who will be providing engines for CART come 2003, which seems to point to a de facto reunification of American open wheel racing come 2003 under the rules and regulations of Tony George’s Indy Racing League. A sad example of mediocrity winning out over quality.