Maybe it is too late.
Maybe nobody outside of open-wheel devotees will care that the IRL/IndyCar Series and CART/the Champ Car World Series finally have called a truce and ended their war that lasted more than a decade.
Those who have remained faithful should be rejoicing, save for select purists on both sides who want nothing to do with the other. But those attitudes helped prolong this mess for far longer than it should have existed.
Sure, there will be some loss from the Champ Car folks' perspectives, as their series and schedule is more being absorbed into the IRL than it is being straight-up merged – at least for this season. Either way, there's virtually no chance going forward that the series will have nearly as many street and road course races, as the IRL isn't about to abandon ovals despite its moves toward right turns the last couple of seasons.
But all that's almost irrelevant at this point. So many of what the sporting public considered to be "the big names" are gone that the remaining ones simply must be in the same series.
We all know NASCAR is king. We all know drag racing, sports cars, bikes, etc., have challenged and/or surpassed – deservedly or not – open wheel in terms of prominence in the American racing world. It would be naive to believe that a merger will erase all that.
But it's a start.
Forget the legendary Rahal-Mears-Andretti-Andretti-Fittipaldi-Zanardi-Unser-Unser-like battles. Long gone.
Adding to it, there's no more Mr. Judd (Dario Franchitti has a solid resume, but the actress connection didn't exactly hurt the series), no more Michael Andretti (at least as a driver), no more Sam Hornish Jr. and only occasional, relatively non-impactful appearances from Al Unser Jr.
But there's Danica. And Paul Tracy still is Paul Tracy. Marco Andretti still is an Andretti. Helio Castroneves still is one hell of a driver – and, apparently, a dancer as well.
And there's been a younger Foyt; there is a younger Rahal. And there is a whole list of other very talented drivers who are household names to open-wheel fans, names like Junqueira, Kanaan, Wheldon, Tagliani – not to mention some younger guys who have made a splash in the last year or two, especially in Champ Car, and some Formula One refugees.
Then add to all of this the regular slate of spectacular finishes the IndyCar Series produces.
In other words, there's potential here.
But that's not quite enough.
The split and the ensuing absurd and shortsighted battle fragmented the open-wheel audience – and talent pool – and was one of several factors in allowing NASCAR to become so popular. And while the Indy 500 and Danica Patrick still garner plenty of attention, the sport needs much more than that to again grow its fan base. Its general failure to do in recent years is proof of this.
In fact, despite putting on good shows and having plenty of talent, it may be near impossible for open-wheel racing to recapture the attention and imagination of the general sports fan, never mind that of the public at large. But there was one single prerequisite for there being even the slightest chance of all that happening.
One step down …