Apart from the beginning of the NASCAR season with Toyota as a viable competitor, the rumored alignment of the IRL and CART racing series is one of the most interesting sports developments on the current horizon. After slowly fading into popular irrelevance over the past 20 years, the two open-wheel racing series are finally getting their acts together to combine forces.
The current public face of open-wheel racing is Danica Patrick, who is also current front person for the notoriously politically incorrect GoDaddy.com.
Danica Patrick’s GoDaddy Super Bowl “beaver” commercial, available only on the Web, is risque.
To say the least.
Through the 1970s, American “Indy car” open-wheel racing was the pre-eminent racing series in the U.S. Then, the sport got bogged down in difficult-to-watch road racing and the drivers gradually became unfamiliar to American audiences. Meanwhile, the popularity of NASCAR exploded.
The split between IRL (Indy Racing League) and CART (Championship Auto Racing something or other) in the 1990s was the death knell because it created two series – the former mainly on oval tracks and the latter on road courses – in a sport that probably only had one audience. As a result, they both sunk below professional wrestling in terms of overall relevance to the American audience.
So the budding reconciliation is a big deal. Even though some prominent former IRL and CART drivers have already gone over to NASCAR, there is now an opportunity for the venerable open-wheel segment of the auto racing sport to really take off.
Danica Patrick clearly will be a major personality in the revamped circuit. The thing with Danica is, she needs to win some races to be considered a bona fide representative – but she is an attractive front person, and at her level that goes quite a long way. And maybe as the legitimacy of the sport grows, building popular interest will be possible without the sex commercials.