New book recalls the battle that nearly destroyed IndyCar racing

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Just in time for the 105th edition of the Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, a new book will be published on the same day which chronicles the contentious division between Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) and the upstart Indy Racing League (IRL) in 1996.

Indy Split written by veteran motorsport writer John Oreovicz, recounts what the book’s caption so eloquently describes: “The Big Money Battle That Almost Wiped Out Indy Racing.”

A native of Indianapolis who lives just three blocks from the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Oreovicz grew up on Indy car racing from the 1970s. “I had a front row seat for everything that went on.” , Oreovicz said.

Indy Split: the battle for the big money that nearly destroyed Indy Racing

As he entered the professional ranks as a sports writer in the 1980s, focusing primarily on Indy car racing, and in the 1990s as preparations for the eventual split evolved, Oreovicz looked to the president. / IMS CEO Tony George wanted to take. freewheeling in a completely different direction from what CART officials, team owners and riders envisioned.

George sought to transform CART into a series that focused primarily on US-born pilots rather than the foreign pilots who had flocked to CART from the early 1980s, leading to several non-American series champions. George also wanted CART to take a step back from its meaningful inclusion of road / street courses and instead run almost exclusively on oval tracks such as IMS, the world’s most famous racing track and host to the world’s largest. world race, the Indianapolis 500.

The longer George persisted, the more CART officials pushed back, ultimately leading to his ousting from the CART board and, in turn, leading George to found the IRL, essentially taking his ball (the Indy 500) and returning home. him with, leaving. CART on the outside looking for several years.

Indy Split not only chronicles the divorce between CART and the IRL, but it also references an earlier split in 1979 that saw CART form and separate from the United States Auto Club. In writing Indy SplitOreovicz spoke to several of the big names involved on both sides of the CART-IRL dispute. And those who refused to discuss it, more than two decades later, hold a grudge. As such, Oreovicz then used his massive personal historical database of stories he and others have written over the years for context and recollection.

“My growing interest in Indy auto racing in the late 1970s coincided with the original split between USAC and CART,” Oreovicz said. “I was just a kid but I was studying the roots of conflict and was fascinated by politics, personalities and posture as I was by cars and competition.

“The 1996 IRL-CART split was a civil war and a horrific divorce, all rolled into one. No matter how it started or who was responsible for its extension, the split took a toll on anyone who cared about Indy car racing. Friendships have been strained, historic sites and events have been lost, major sponsors and manufacturers have left. NASCAR was the only winner in the Indy car division.

“I started writing this book in 2017, but I’ve been doing research for most of my life. It has been my privilege to attend or cover almost 500 Indy car races. I wanted to tell this important story in an accurate, entertaining, and hopefully reasonably objective way. “

If you are a fan of IndyCar racing, and especially if you are a longtime student of the sport, this book is something you owe it to yourself to read.

Indy Split will be officially released on Sunday to coincide with the 105thHow the Indianapolis 500 works.

To learn more about the book, see: Jerry Bonkowski podcast interview with John Oreovicz

Follow Autoweek contributor Jerry Bonkowski on Twitter @JerryBonkowski

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