Anyway, FTG apologists everywhere are quick to cite the old manifesto that said that road courses were a possibility in the future. But there was a heck of a lot of quotes, in which the vision was clearly in promoting an oval-centric series, where American drivers could go from the short tracks to Indy.
So from the April 2001 issue of Automobile Magazine, entitled “One Brick at a Time,” and subtitled “Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony George and Indy 500 winner Eddie Cheever discuss the state of racing in the United States.”
EC: Michael Andretti is uniquely talented. But no matter how long he tested with McLaren [before his abortive F1 season in 1993], there were certain things he didn’t know—that he couldn’t know. It’s like racing on ovals. A road racer turns up at an oval and sees it as four different corners, which is the wrong way to look at it. Kids in midgets and Silver Crown cars race on ovals 200 times a year. They’re always turning left. It becomes a habit. They get used to starts and passing and running in traffic. They can develop a driving style without spending exorbitant amounts of money.
TG: That’s one of the problems with guys who come up from driving schools or road racing: They’ve learned how to drive, but they haven’t learned how to race, because the cars tend to get strung out. The guys who come out of midgets and spring cars are used to eight-lap heat races and fifteen-lap semis and thirty-lap features, where positions—and the racetrack—change all the time. This really teaches you to change your style, your line, the way you attack the track. And, all the while, you have to stay aggressive.
TG: Now that the league is established, we have to focus on developing drivers. The support systems in Europe and Brazil create ladders to help drivers advance. They also get sponsorship very early on. We’re not just looking at driver development programs; we’re looking at driver development series/ And we want to find a sponsor who’ll help support it. People forget that, for a while, NASCAR struggled with where its stars of tomorrow were going to come from. Then Bill Davis picked up Jeff Gordon and opened everybody’s eyes to the pool of racing talent in USAC. At the time, given the road-racing orientation of CART, a lot of those USAC drivers had soured on CART. That’s one of the reasons we formed the Indy Racing League—to fill that vacuum and create opportunities for American drivers.
TG: Right now, we’re seeing young drivers capitalizing on the opportunities available to them in NASCAR. But, eventually, we hope once again to get open-wheel drivers who aspire to Indianapolis to consider the Indy Racing League a destination. I think we’re going to see the Indy Racing League and CART continue to move in different directions. We’re very narrowly focused on ovals, and we’ve developed a formula specifically for that purpose. CART tries to be all things to all people. We’ve had discussions with them about a common formula, but we’re not interested in compromising our engines or chassis.
EC: IRL should do ovals. CART should do road racing. There’s a market for both.
TG: Back in 1994, when we announced that we were going to start running a new series in January 1996, we were committed to developing a product that would be entertaining both on television and in person. Ovals make it easy for the fans. They can see most of the action from their seats. It also makes for easier, more productive coverage on television. And, obviously, there is a much greater opportunity for close side-by-side racing.