Vasser: IndyCar has recovered from "The Split"

The 1996 CART IndyCar champion Jimmy Vasser says the IndyCar Series “has come through the valley”, having learned its lessons and recovered from the acrimonious split of CART and the IRL.

Vasser: IndyCar has recovered from "The Split"
Sébastien Bourdais, Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda, Jimmy Vasser, Craig Hampsen
Sébastien Bourdais, Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser-Sullivan Honda
Mario Andretti, Andretti Autosport Honda signs Justin Wilson poster
Jimmy Vasser congratulats race winner Tony Kanaan
Jimmy Vasser leaves pit lane
Jimmy Vasser
Mario Andretti

Vasser, the ‘V’ of KV Racing which shut down at the end of the 2016, has renewed his partnership with James Sullivan as co-entrant of the #18 Dale Coyne Racing-Honda which won last month at St. Petersburg in the hands of Sebastien Bourdais.

The American rose to prominence in the 1990s, scoring 12 wins from ’96 to 2002 and clinching Chip Ganassi Racing’s first championship.

However, Indy car racing’s 1996 split between Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) and the splinter group Indy Racing League took 13 seasons to heal, by which time Vasser had retired from driving and was a team co-owner with Kevin Kalkhoven.

Their partnership, along with Sullivan, continued through the first two years of the manufacturer aerokit era which was regarded as unnecessarily costly. However, he believes that IndyCar's reversion to spec aerokits and its new TV deal are part of the series’ healthier prospects in 2018.

“I think we learned some lessons,” said Vasser. “We've come through the valley is what I feel, we're on the upswing again.

“The new TV contract [IndyCar has signed with NBC Sports to become the home of the series in 2019], the stability in the rules with the new aero package. 

“I think the leadership at IndyCar with [CEO of parent company Hulman & Co] Mark Miles and [president of competitions and operations] Jay Frye and their teams, with a vision of what IndyCar should be, [is] to give the teams something that everybody can compete with competitively. 

“Both Honda and Chevrolet [with] their commitment as manufacturers, and Firestone tires, they're just second to none, you can trust them. They never let you down like the problems they have in NASCAR losing tires and such.

“I think the future is all right in front of us and on the upswing. The car count is good. We're starting to see some excitement that the car count's going to be up at Indy for the first time in many years [and] have some bumping again.”

Andretti: IndyCar is promoting its drivers better now

American racing legend Mario Andretti added that it was important IndyCar continued to grow its star names to promote the series, pointing to the example of reigning champion Josef Newgarden as a template.

“When you see the cycle of new talent coming on, it's something extremely positive,” said Andretti. “But let's remember that the so-called veterans in IndyCar right now are still very young. 

“As far as the new talent that's coming on, they're already making their mark, they're making their noise. It's something that just has to happen and they have to earn it.

“I think the series has begun to do a really good job of exposing our guys. I've seen even after the championship with Josef Newgarden how much time he spent on the road, how much visibility he's been getting in the off-season. 

“All this needs to be done so the fans can start really gravitating to their favorite driver. That's how you build a solid fan base.

“IndyCar had to do a lot of reconstruction after the disaster of the mid-1990s. It's on a good path right now.”

This weekend's second round of the 2018 IndyCar Series at Phoenix's ISM Raceway marks the 25th anniversary of Andretti's 52nd and final win in Indy car racing, at what was then called Phoenix International Raceway.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Mario Andretti , Jimmy Vasser
Author Tom Errington
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