Marti update: Marti is getting treatment for a bone infection which was just identified over the weekend. She is recovering as we still search for an answer to her orthostatic issue. The best news- no cancer was detected in the MRI last week.
Pride. Ego. Stubbornness. There ay be other apt descriptors, but these three sum up the behavior of many of the main figures in Indy Split by John Oreovicz. Oreovicz , a former writer for ESPN and other racing publications, has been hooked on Indycar racing since he was ten years old and living with his parents in West Lafayette.
Oreovicz writes in a crisp, concise, easy to follow style which allows event he most casual fan to take in the history of the politics in racing through the years. I remember much of what happened, but I learned some details I was not aware of, especially in the early years of CART. The author presents a nice refresher study for those of us who were around then, and it is also a good accounting for newer fans.
From Dan Gurney’s White Paper, which leads to the formation of CART in 1978, to Tony George’s formation of the Indy Racing League in 1996, Oreovicz presents the tale of the battle for control of the soul of the sport in great detail. While everyone claims to have the best interests of the sport in mind, the splits are a matter of money and control. Should Indycar racing revolve around the Indianapolis Motor Speedway or should IMMS simply be a part of the overall series?
The question remains unresolved. I think it is a miracle the sport survived at all, as the two rival series presented a confusing picture of racing to fans and sponsors.
Oreovicz maintains a somewhat neutral tone as far as the protagonists are concerned, but Tony George does not come out looking good. The 25/8 rule he institutes for the 1996 Indianapolis 500 is a shot that set the split in motion and probably prolongs the feud for several more years.
After twelve years and many talks that come close to ending the split, , the sides agree to unify in 2008. The story of the split could have ended here, but Oreovicz goes on to chronicle each year after unification. I think his narrative bogs down here. it may just be due to my familiarity with the series, and perhaps a younger fan will find this part of interest.
The book ends with Roger Penske buying the Indycar Series and IMS. The purchase receives nearly universal praise. In my opinion, it is one of the few things over the years Indycar has done correctly.
Perspectives from seven key figures in racing follow the text. Essays from Mario Andretti, Chip Ganassi, and Dario Franchitti, among others give different viewpoints of the split and the state of open wheel racing. There is unanimous praise for Penske’s purchase of the track and the series.
As far as the split goes, Dario Franchitti sums it up best.
“When people get so entrenched in their positions, it’s difficult…Th split hit a lot of people hard. It hurt them, and some people still can’t get over it. That’s a shame, but we have to move on.”
Indy Split is available through Octane Press.