Disciple of INDYCAR Weblog

August 16, 2010

Recent Recycled Indy Car Hires: Wise or Unwise?

Filed under: The Disciple Blogs — Disciple of INDYCAR @ 2:05 pm

It feels uncomfortable trying to convince myself that Tony Cotman is really the right person to lead development of the 2012 new car program. On one hand his experience in those types of projects is strong, but on the other he has a strong history with the remnants of cart, which failed. Twice.

I remain uncomfortable because Indy Car is being far too heavily populated with those who ran cart/champcar during the final portions of their respective existences. My gut tells me far better choices would be someone with motor racing experience who does not tote baggage from either cart/champcar or the IRL. Making fresh starts should be more than recycling former cart/champcar employees who have a tendency to revert to the old gimmickry.

Conversely, making a fresh start also involves the urgency to do more than continue allowing Brian Barnhart to rule over all aspects of the on-track product. Perhaps the combination of Barnhart and Cotman will be strong. If it isn’t, however, I certainly wish Randy would actually try to turn a new page.



  1. Although I fall into the category of those that support the hiring of Tony Cotman to shepherd the new car formula rules through the development stages into 2012, I do, to a sense, agree with you. It would be nice to get someone with motorsports experience who doesn’t bring the baggage from either CART/ChampCar; the problem is where do you find such people? NASCAR? ALMS? F1? GrandAm? It’s not as though such people are lining up at 16th and Georgetown, resumes in hand, waiting to come to the rescue of the series.

    I think your post, and your discomfort, shows a problem that still exists in the series. Both among fans like ourselves and, although I hope it isn’t so, in the series itself. Distrust. The IRL fans don’t trust the CART fans…and I have to think that some IRL teams/owners don’t trust the former CART teams/owners.

    Regardless of the fact that it is now ONE series, we still have a tendency to divide ourselves, and have others classify us, into subgroups based on which side of the fence we fell on in 1995. And yes, many of those who came down on the CART side of the ‘split’ have had issues that their (ok, our, I was one of them) ‘side’ didn’t win. And many of those ‘fans’ continue to cling to a dead series, that for many reasons failed, and refuse to accept the fact that while CART was great in 1995, by 2007 it was a Mongolian Cluster F**k (RIP George Carlin) that was a pale imitation of what it had been in its glory days. At the same time, there are those who came down on the IRL side of the ‘boycott’, that refuse to allow the sport to move forward without extracting every last pound of rotting flesh from the two years dead carcass of ChampCar. To them I would say the same thing that they often say to the (frequently infantile) Champcar fans. GET OVER IT. You won the war, CART is dead. (Twice). Stop blaming CART for the problems that currently exist…because to me, such people come off as pretty close to the CART knuckleheads who blamed TG for everything from the split, to declining TV ratings, to global warming, and the killing of cute fuzzy puppies.

    That being said, not everyone who worked for ChampCar/CART was an idiot. Accept it or not, Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi, Carl Haas, Paul Newman, Barry&Kim Green, were good car owners. They were LOUSY at running a series, but very good at running their race teams. (All you have to do is look at the list of Indy500 winners/series champs since the former CART owners came back.) Tony Cotman did a good job for what he did at ChampCar; shepherd the new Panoz DP01 chassis to fruition. It was a good car; again, it ran in what, by that time, was a crappily run, shell of a series, but it was a good car. I don’t think the fact that he did it for a failed series should disqualify him from consideration. Now, if the series considered hiring Chris Pook, Joe Heitzler, or bringing back Craig Gore in any capacity, I’d be first in line with my torch and pitchfork.

    At the same time, not everyone who has worked for the IRL is a genius. Not meaning to bring up a dead horse, but look at TG. He did great things running IMS (bringing in F1, NASCAR, MotoGP, the renovations, et al), managing a series not so much.

    Right now, the series needs to put the best people in position to help the sport move forward. Regardless of where they may, or may not, have worked in the past. A lot of people a hell of a lot smarter than me think Tony Cotman can be a key part of that process. Never mind what the man’s resume lists as his past employers; put the politics and the past aside, and let’s see if the man can do the job.

    Comment by Steve Kornya — August 16, 2010 @ 3:05 pm | Reply

    • Steve, I owe you a significant apology for ripping you in an eariler post.

      As a fellow former CART/ChampCar fan who really didn’t embrace the IRL, I felt exactly the same as you do. However, I have gotten past that for the betterment of the series and the sport. I know not everyone has; having said that, it is really refreshing to see someone with the intelligence to state that both series had their good and bad points, and hopefully the way forward is to take the best of both and mix them together.

      Yours is one of the first-maybe the only-really intelligent post on the subject, and I for one appreciate it very much. Thank you again, Steve.

      Comment by Thesmartestguyintheroom — August 18, 2010 @ 2:02 am | Reply

  2. Cotman seems qualified and at least Bernard’s not putting everything on Barnhart’s plate. The only reason to distrust Cotman is because Robin Miller supports him. And Miller seems to have maybe a bit too much influence on Bernard already.

    Comment by redd — August 16, 2010 @ 3:21 pm | Reply

  3. As you are so fond of telling us, the war is over. To say someone shouldn’t be hired soley on the basis that they worked for cart/champcar is both petty and narrow minded. The only thing that matters is the person they hired is qualified. There are a lot of people responsible for the destruction of champcar who aren’t fit to run a garage sale let alone anythng related to racing, but you can’t count Tony Cotman as being one of them. He didn’t sink that series. Besides, who else has the experiance necessary? We know BB is an idiot and can’t do it.

    Comment by Matt — August 16, 2010 @ 5:13 pm | Reply

  4. This is probably the first post in a long time that I disagree with you. I like many others am a hard line IndyCar, formerly IRL, fan. Although during the split I did enjoy a few CART/Champcar races on long Sunday afternoons. I do not think Tony Cotman is the reason that CART fell into the tank. They had many more inept people at the controls with their own hands in failing the series. One of the first things they did wrong was sell stock, yes it was great for finding funding but once the stock looses failure the corporation it supports also loses value. Another point they failed at their persistence that barnstorming shows from city to city, with great loss to each event I may add, for street races. Great it brought them to many new arenas but it also showcased to everyone that these events, save but for a few, lose money.

    Back to Tony, he was a guy who developed the rules for the highly popular and very well performing DP-01, his push to pass (while a gimmick) rules for Champcar actually increased the HP enough that you could actually pass with it. I do believe Tony will readdress the situation concerning stressed and non stressed engines to create a equalization formula for the two so they compete side by side. By Bernard making him the head, instead of Barnhart it shows that he listens to the fans. That being said, this will be a make or break moment for Tony Cotmans career. If the fans do not like what he comes up with he very may well be burned at the stake for it.

    Comment by TJ — August 16, 2010 @ 7:38 pm | Reply

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