New book chronicles the internal drama leading to the civil war that rocked IndyCar

Indy Split IndyCar drama
Octane Press
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After exhaustively cataloging decades of political infighting and intrigue that threatened the foundations of IndyCar and the Indy 500, author John Oreovicz arrived at an impasse.

It wasn’t unlike the same crossroads that sits at the center of “Indy Split,” his new book that chronicles the dramatic and compelling forces that ripped apart major-league open-wheel racing in a schism that pitted the Indy Racing League against the Championship Auto Racing Teams series.

“I had it almost done and I’m thinking, ‘Well, how the hell am I going to end this thing?’ and then Roger Penske gave it an ending,” Oreovicz told in a recent interview. “And I think he gave IndyCar racing a new beginning.”

With the NTT IndyCar Series and the Indianapolis Motor Speedway on an upswing in their second year of ownership by Penske (the motorsports icon who purchased both in November 2019), the timing is felicitous for the release earlier this month of “Indy Split” (which is available now for purchase and shipping through Octane Press).

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MONTH OF MAY SCHEDULEWhen cars are on track at Indianapolis Motor Speedway

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the inaugural IRL season and the infamous May 26, 1996 doubleheader of the Indy 500 and the U.S. 500 (the counterprogrammed CART race at Michigan International Speedway that endured the embarrassment of an aborted start because of a massive crash).

Over the course of charting the 74-year trajectory of Indianapolis Motor Speedway under family control (after Tony Hulman purchased the then-dilapidated track in 1945), Oreovicz highlights the underlying divisions and viewpoints that led to the divorce.

Having worked for nearly 30 years as a reporter and in media relations, the author relied on his own archives of primary source material but also conducted a few dozen interviews. “Indy Split” also includes the first-person perspectives of several principal characters on both sides of the story (some of whom crossed over), including Chip Ganassi, Mario Andretti, Dario Franchitti and former CART president Andrew Craig (longtime motorsports journalist Robin Miller wrote the book’s foreword).

Ganassi, who was the first of the CART team owners to return to the Indy 500 (winning in  2000 with Juan Pablo Montoya), memorably describes The Split in this passage: “Everybody knew that if we weren’t careful, we would be two factions who were like two bald men arguing over a comb. I don’t care what sport it is, you see the kind of damage these rifts cause. It took baseball ten years before they recovered from the 1994 strike. No sport can withstand a split, a strike, a work stoppage—whatever you want to call it. IndyCar racing was a Harvard Business Review case study of how to watch ice cream melt on your plate.”

Though the book is called “Indy Split” for the civil war between CART (and later Champ Car) vs. the IRL that lasted from 1996-2008, Oreovicz identifies that there actually were three key fissures in IndyCar history– and the first was what originally helped turn him into a fan.

After a family move to Indiana in the mid-1970s, Oreovicz became a 9-year-old subscriber to Road & Track, where he first read about the 1975 Indy 500. He was at IMS for the 1977 Bump Day when Janet Guthrie qualified for her first Indy 500.

Oreovicz became an annual infield regular at the Brickyard (which he attended on his own for the first time in 1983 after winning a pair of tickets as a JCPenney salesman).

“You drive down in the afternoon day before the race, pack your cooler, get your fried chicken and party all night long,” he said. “It was a rite of passage for college students, teenagers and high school students in Indianapolis and the Midwest in the ‘80s.”

But beyond the partying, he also became fascinated by the politics – particularly after the formation of CART in 1979.

“It wasn’t just the cars, drivers and personalities,” Oreovicz said. “There was a conflict that drew me in as a teenager. I was a fan throughout the ‘80s and covered it professionally since 1993. ‘The Split’ never went away. The ’79 Split never got resolved. It fired back up in 1996, and I had a front row seat to be part of it from then on.”

Oreovicz, who used an IMS media center internship in 1993 as the springboard to a sportswriting career that featured his work in several outlets (National Speed Sport News, Racer and, believes his book’s topic is the most important IndyCar story of the last 50 years.

“You can say A.J. (Foyt), Rick (Mears) and Big Al (Unser) won four Indy 500s, and Scott Dixon has won six championships,” he said. “But the key theme or storyline of the last 50 years has been this conflict and the inability of everybody to work together for the good of the sport. For me, it’s been such a huge part of my life, but for so many people, you see how big the Indy 500 is around the world, and you see the passion The Split brought on because people love the Indy 500 and IndyCar racing, but there are a lot of different visions for what IndyCar racing should be.

“Everyone wants to see the sport succeed, but it didn’t for a long time, which allowed NASCAR to pull ahead in the overall scheme of things in American motorsport. It’s an important topic. I looked at it as a great responsibility to try to cover it and do it in a fair way. It’s a lot like politics in there are two parties or philosophies. I know the way I covered it and viewpoint isn’t going to resonate with everybody, but I hope it comes off as a comprehensive and fair look at it all.”

Being objective is tricky in documenting a conflict that burns with the passionate viewpoints of hardliners on both sides. Oreovicz worked in 1997-98 for PacWest, a CART team, and expects some might accuse him of “being a CART guy. Well, no, I didn’t love CART.

“What I love is what CART the organization did to IndyCar racing,” he said. “Taking it from the late ‘70s where it was this backwater series with 10 oval races a year that nobody went to, that wasn’t on TV. And within 15 years, they turned it into a world-class series. It was almost as big as NASCAR in the USA. It was getting Formula One’s attention on the world stage.

“It became this fantastic amalgamation of American racing and international racing. It just hit a perfect note. And so what I loved about the CART series is having a different vision for IndyCar racing, and (IRL founder) Tony George’s vision was lower costs, oval tracks and American drivers with a sprint car background. … Ultimately, the 1996 Split came back to the fact that Tony George didn’t respect what CART did for IndyCar racing and the Indy 500. The CART owners did not respect Tony because he was the young punk kid coming in, and they took the Indy 500 for granted. It was this lack of respect from both sides that ended up in this standoff that lasted for 13 years.”

For those who want to label him as a CART apologist, Oreovicz (who resides in Indianapolis near the track) says “fair enough; I can live with that” as long as they respect his primary concern has been the health of IndyCar since its 2008 reunification.

“That’s an important point that IndyCar racing has trended positively over the last 10 years,” he said. “People think I’m an IndyCar hater, but this has been my mantra: Look, it’s growing. I’m not an IndyCar hater. I’m an IndyCar lover. I want the sport to grow. I want to see it succeed.”

IndyCar champion Will Power completes ‘Victory Lap’ at ceremony in Indianapolis

Will Power Victory Lap
Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment

INDIANAPOLIS – Will Power went on his “Victory Lap” last week to celebrate his second career championship as the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series champion.

It began with several media interviews in Monterey, California, the day after he won the championship with a third-place finish in the Sept. 11 Firestone Grand Prix of Monterey.

From there, it was off to Los Angeles for more interviews and personal appearances that included a VIP Tour at the Petersen Automotive Museum, several appearances on SiriusXM and lunch at The Ivy, where the Team Penske IndyCar Series driver was treated to Wagyu Beef.

“It was one of the best steaks I’ve ever had in my life,” Power told

From L.A. back to Power’s North Carolina home, near Team Penske’s home base of Mooresville, there was one stop left on Sept. 17 — the Victory Lap Celebration at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Museum, an invitation-only banquet where Power and his No. 12 Verizon Chevrolet crew at Team Penske were honored for the 2022 NTT IndyCar Series championship.

They didn’t even have to check into a hotel and spend another night on the road. Power and his team left on a Team Penske plane from the Statesville, N.C., airport at 4 p.m. ET Saturday to fly to Indianapolis. On arrival an hour later, a limo bus took the team to IMS.

Power led the 2022 season with five NTT P1 Awards for pole, earning the NTT P1 Award as the best qualifier of the season for the fifth time in his career. Power also made history with his 68th career pole, breaking the all-time mark held by the legendary Mario Andretti.

Power and Scott Dixon also became just two of only five drivers to complete every lap of every race in IndyCar Series history.

“What a year,” Power said as he was awarded his personal Astor Cup trophy (the second in his collection after the 2014 championship. “What a phenomenal year coming off one of my worst seasons personally. We came back with a vengeance.

“I want to thank Roger and Kathy Penske for everything they have done for me over the years. I wouldn’t be standing here and have the numbers I have without what Roger has done for me. I’m given a car every week that is capable of winning the pole, races, championships, and Indianapolis 500s. I’m so grateful for that.

“Also, to Greg Penske, you are there every week now at every event and I know we will be in good hands moving forward with the Penske Family.”

There are many on Power’s team and at home, that helped support Power throughout his career. None is bigger than Power’s wife, Liz, who told Power before the season that he would win the championship and break Andretti’s record.

“I must thank my wife. I’m so lucky to have a wife with that crystal ball that can tell me what is going to happen,” Power said. “I can’t think you enough, babe. I love you so much and you have been a big support to me my whole career. We’ve been together 17 years, and I’ve been in the series 17 years. She has been such a huge support to me. The mother of our child and she is a fantastic mother.

“She can’t tell the future. She just had faith in me.”

Liz Power’s premonition came true and that allowed Power and his No. 12 Dallara-Chevrolet team to celebrate Penske’s 17th IndyCar championship and 42nd title in the racing team’s history.

“The 12 crew this year, I’ve never had such a great group of guys,” Power said. “Trevor Lacasse (chief mechanic) is such a calm guy, but he does such a meticulous job on the preparation of the car. He is very, very good at keeping the whole crew happy. It feels as if there is no pressure on us. That’s a huge part in getting the most out of people. It was our first year together with you as a crew chief. What a great year to start our relationship.

“Dave Faustino (Power’s longtime engineer), we’ve worked together for 15 years. He’s almost like a wife to me, a partner … apart from sleeping together. We have a very good working relationship. Sorry Dave, I’m an awkward person and you are not.

“The things we have been through in our years together, it’s crazy that we continually improve and get better. We are standing on the podium after winning the championship and we are talking about the car, the race, and the tires. We weren’t talking about the championship.

“We never stop. The other boys were laughing at us, but I’m already thinking about next year.

“Ron Ruzewski (Team Penske IndyCar Managing Director and strategist) on the radio, always calm. He has actually made me a calm person. I rarely get upset on the radio anymore.”

Power also recognized the fans who helped boost attendance at many venues on the schedule this season as NBC Sports enjoyed its largest IndyCar audience yet.

“This series is growing,” Power said. “With open wheel racing now so popular because of Formula One, it’s really our time to push and put money behind it and go now and take IndyCar to another level because we have the best racing product in the world.

“I have to thank my teammates and (Team Penske president) Tim Cindric. I can’t tell you how hard we push each other. We are ultracompetitive and love each other and push each other hard, so thank you.”

Power won the championship by 16 points over hard-charging teammate Josef Newgarden, who finished second in the standings for the third year in a row.

“Overall, I’m filled with a lot of pride for our team and what we were able to do this year,” Newgarden said in his banquet address. “Any year that you step in the championship, you can easily see the challenges it presents everybody.

“It’s a very difficult challenge for the teams and drivers. To be a part of it, make it through it and for us at Team Penske, to topple it, is a very big deal. We’re all competitive.

“The tough thing about being in a championship fight, especially with teammates is we all want to be the best. That’s how it should be. We are competitive people and want to be the best. But it’s a team sport.

“Will, tremendous season, great, great job. I think the world of everybody on our team. It’s a big group. I’m so happy for all of you on the 12-car crew. There is so much we can take into next year.”

Six-time NTT IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon was unable to attend the banquet because of the Goodwood Festival in England but sent congratulations to Power via a video message.

“I really want to congratulate Will Power,” Dixon said. “You drove a tremendous season this year. Even with some of the lows that you had, some of the mistakes with qualifying, you bounced back tremendously. I know how tough these championships are and to see you do it in the style that you did it in the last race of the season, massive congratulations.”

Power’s championship formula included one victory, nine podiums and 12 top-five finishes. Teammate Josef Newgarden was second in the championship with five wins but only six podiums.

Cindric saluted Power’s season in accepting the championship team owner award.

“Will, you took it to another level this year,” Cindric said. “You are the complete package. You completed every lap, had nine podiums, finished out of the top 10 just four times, broke Mario Andretti’s record, and you did it all without cussing at the officials on national TV.

“One complaint I do has is while most of us think you might be from another planet, you never told us your wife was a fortune teller.”

Cindric also honored the seasons of Penske drivers Newgarden and Scott McLaughlin, who won three times in his second full season (“You are one of only two full-time IndyCar drivers that has driven for us in the past 23 years that hasn’t won an Indy 500 or an IndyCar championship. Your time is coming.”).

Kyle Moyer was named team manager of the year (his fifth time and Penske’s sixth). Pennzoil presented Lacasse with the chief mechanic of the year for the first time, the sixth time for Team Penske. The No. 12 crew also won the Firestone Pit Performance Award for the most pit stop performance award points in 2022.

Power, Newgarden and McLaughlin delivered nine of Chevrolet’s series-leading 11 victories this season, helping Chevy win the Manufacturer Award for the seventh time since it returned to the series in 2012 and the first time since 2017. Jim Danahy, U.S. vice president, Competition Motorsports Engineering for Chevrolet, accepted the award on behalf of his team.

Christian Lundgaard was honored as the 2022 NTT IndyCar rookie of the year. Lundgaard, from Denmark, scored one podium, two top-five finishes and seven top-10s in the No. 30 Honda fielded by Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing. He edged David Malukas of Dale Coyne Racing with HMD by 18 points in the standings for first-year series drivers.

Christian Lundgaard (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

“It’s been a tough season and looking at how it panned out, we struggled so much at the beginning of the season and how we were able to turn it around means so much to me and the team,” Lundgaard said. “It’s the one thing that you only get one shot at. I’m happy to have it.

“Being the first Dane at the Indy 500 certainly helps. Competing here for me is quite important and also special. To win this award and to be here in future years means so much to me. I have a chance to compete for wins and championships.

“This team gave me this opportunity at this track one year ago. We came back and got redemption. We got our first podium here. This year was 40 years ago that Bobby Rahal won the same award. It’s pretty special to keep it among the team.”

Sweden’s Linus Lundqvist was honored as Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion after a dominant season for HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing. Lundqvist won a series-high five races in the No. 26 HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing entry and clinched the Lights championship with a race to spare, ending with a 92-point advantage over Sting Ray Robb. HMD Motorsports with Dale Coyne Racing owners Henry and Daiva Malukas accepted the team championship.

“I’m very proud of that,” Lundqvist said. “It’s cool to see. We are starting to look to the future, and this might not be doing too bad. It’s been great. As most of you can guess with Henry and Daiva Malukas (team owners), it’s been an incredible journey. So much fun that we’ve had. To be on the grid this year was so much of a struggle for us. I didn’t even know I would be doing this until January.

“To be able to pull out the season that we had, I cannot thank this team enough. We will celebrate this for a long time. I’m so happy and proud about that.”

Outgoing IndyCar Director of Medical Affairs Dr. Geoffrey Billows also was honored as he is leaving that role while battling cancer.

“When I think of Dr. Billows, I think of two words,” IndyCar president Jay Frye said. “One is selfless and the other is tough. He’s gone through a lot these last couple of years, and he didn’t want anybody to know. He’s an amazing man, and we are very grateful for what you have done.”

Dr. Geoffrey Billows with IndyCar president Jay Frye (Chris Owens/Penske Entertainment)

Billows was presented with a framed checkered flag signed by all drivers in the series as well as other IndyCar officials and dignitaries.

“I was not expecting this at all,” Billows said. “This means so much for me to be part of this family for the past 30 years. I’ve been presented with opportunities I never thought I would ever have. I can’t tell you how much I love all of you guys and care for all of you guys.

“Thank you so much. I want to also thank my wife, Tammy, who has been a pillar of strength as I continue on this journey with cancer for the past two years as well. You will still see me as a consultant because I love this too much to quit altogether.”

When the evening concluded, Team Penske boarded a bus to the airport for the short return flight to Statesville. They were home by midnight.

Power’s Victory Lap was complete.

“The best thing about this is I get to sleep in my own bed tonight,” Power said.

Follow Bruce Martin on Twitter at @BruceMartin_500