Today the two top open-wheel racing series in the US — the Indy Racing League and the Champ Car World Series — agreed to merge, effective with this coming season. Actually, it’s not so much a merger as it is Champ Car shutting down:
After 12 years of bitter rivalry that confused fans, promoted apathy and nearly buried the sport, Champ Car agreed to cease operations, giving the surviving IRL the opportunity to rebuild open-wheel’s lost prestige.
Champ Car clearly came out the loser in this deal, but considering they went bankrupt a few years back, they’re probably lucky to get any money out of the buyout. Not so lucky will be the majority of tracks expecting to hold Champ Car races this year. It looks like only a few Champ Car races will be added to the IRL schedule this year, most likely Long Beach, Australia, and Edmonton.
While these two series competed since 1996 for drivers, fans, and TV ratings, Nascar’s popularity grew rapidly and easily became the most popular auto racing series in the country. The exodus of open-wheel drivers over to Nascar continues as well — out of 53 current Sprint Cup drivers, 5 of 6 rookies came from an open-wheel series.