One of the IRL problems on ovals is the lack of support races for their races. I'm not really sure who usually runs with them at oval asides from ICS and FIL cars but obviously 2 races isn't enough to keep the schedule filled up. Back in the day, CART used to run Atlantics, Indy Lights, Star Mazda then run the feature race. That usually managed to fill up the race weekend schedule pretty well and gave the fans a bang for their buck.
But the last few years in the IRL, fans would either be forced to sit around between the FIL and ICS race because there were no other series on track. Gaps for 2 to 4 hours would and still do haunt the series because they just don't have any other oval series to help them fill up the schedule.
The Atlantic series has just been sold to Ben Johnston, and he is plunging some dough into the series. He just put up $3 Million in cash purses for the entire season while the Champion will receive $1 Million to do whatever he chooses with (unlike the past Atlantics/CC driver "sponsorship" of $2 Million). While the announcements have been slow in regards to drivers and teams entering the series this year, it is starting to come around, and once the tests today and tomorrow at Palm Beach International Raceway are completed, I expect the announcements to pick up substantially.
However, as what is still primarily a feeder series, Atlantics doesn't have a clear series to feed to. Many of the drivers want to progress in AOWR, however, their old link to Champ Car is now gone. Meanwhile, the series is now sanctioned by IMSA, who also runs the ALMS, so that connection is now available. However, the drivers still want to run open-wheel when they are done Atlantics.
Tony George, if he can swallow a little pride, would be considered genius if he would welcome Atlantics (and Star Mazda) to run a couple of their oval races, maybe Milwaukee, Richmond, and one of the 1.5 mile tracks. In one invitation, if the Atlantics accept of course, he would help fill the race weekends, he would create another semi-feeder series in the Atlantics series, since drivers and teams would see a direct link to the IRL once they start running the same tracks. He would create a larger talent pool for teams to draw from. On top of that, he doesn't have to fund anything in the Atlantics series since Ben Johnston seems to be doing that just find.
The Atlantic series is part of the history of AOWR and deserves to still be involved for developing drivers for the I500 and the IRL needs to recognize that. And while TG and the IRL can allow the Atlantics that rightful place in AOWR, he can also use them at the same time, to encourage series winners and standouts to look towards the IRL with their prize money and at the same time, teach some young North Americans to run ovals which will populate the ICS with more talented drivers.
The only question is, can Mr. George swallow some of that pride from the split and ask the Atlantics to join them now and then? If he can, I think it would be considered a major win for the development of Americans, and all drivers in open-wheel. If he can't, it just shows that TG refuses to put the past in the past and lose a valuable opportunity.
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