INDIAN WELLS, Calif. — Johnny Capels, former mechanic and car owner in his first month as chief operating officer of Championship Auto Racing Teams, Inc., moved Monday to close the breach that has divided Indy car racing for the past 12 years.
Roger McCluskey, director of racing for the United States Auto Club, was named to the CART rules and technical committee, which is headed by Roger Penske, one of the leaders of the group that left USAC and formed CART in 1978. It is the first time either group has officially recognized the other, much less made a gesture of cooperation.
"All of us should have the best interests of Indy car racing at heart, on both sides, so I am moving toward a restoration of friendship with USAC," Capels said during the opening day of the CART winter meetings at the Hyatt Grand Champions Resort. "We must unite for the common good."
Capels was named to his post 26 days ago, after John Frasco and John Caponigro were ousted as chairman and president, respectively.
In the often confusing world of Indy cars, 15 races are run by CART, but the big one, the Indianapolis 500, is run by USAC. And the championship, the PPG Cup, is a combination of both.
In other breaks with tradition, Bill Donaldson, Indianapolis Motor Speedway director of marketing, was named to the CART marketing committee; and two members of the IMS board, Tony George and Steve Krisiloff, attended the CART meetings.
The friction between CART and USAC hit its peak in 1979, when the USAC board voted to reject Indianapolis 500 entries from six major teams because of their part in founding CART. It took a lawsuit filed by CART members in a U.S. District Court to get the six into the race.
Even the decision to have a single Indy car champion was held together only by Jim Chapman, director of racing for PPG Industries, the series sponsor.
"There were very strong feelings on both sides about the breakup, and there was a good deal of opposition to the idea when it was proposed," Chapman said. "I think having USAC and CART people working together on the same committees is something that has been a long time coming, and it can't be anything but positive."
Capels also revealed that CART is expanding into foreign countries.
A race has been scheduled for 1991 in Brisbane, Australia, and another in Japan is targeted for 1994 on a track to be built to the exact dimensions of Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The facility and the race will be a joint venture of CART, IMS and the Gomi group of Japan.
"The contract for the Australia race is finalized and will mark the first real venture by CART outside this hemisphere," Capels said.
Indy car races have been held in Italy, Japan and Argentina in the past, but all were before CART was formed. The only foreign races in the past decade have been limited to Canada and Mexico.
Two races will be held in Canada this year: an established race July 22 in Toronto and a new one Sept. 2 in Vancouver.
"We also look favorably on running another 500 in the country of Japan," Capels said. "The track, which will be near Tokyo, will duplicate Indy right down to using the same trademark. We will be involved as consultants in the track construction."
As expected, the first order of business was to extend PPG's involvement with Indy cars, which includes a $2.6-million prize fund, for another three years.
"I am glad to report that CART waived its option to cancel our contract," Chapman said. "PPG looks forward to continued association with Indy cars through the '90s."
Indy Car Notes
Eddie Cheever, a longtime Formula One driver from Phoenix, has been named by Chip Ganassi to drive for Ganassi's newly formed Indy car team. Ganassi recently split with Pat Patrick from the team, which the two of them directed to the 1989 CART championship with Emerson Fittipaldi driving. The team went three ways--Fittipaldi to Roger Penske's team, Patrick to the Alfa Romeo team with team manager Jim McGee and engineer Mo Nunn and Ganassi to his own team with the Chevy engines and Penske PC-18 chassis that Fittipaldi drove.
Twenty-eight drivers are here, a number of them looking for rides for the season, but conspicuous by their absence are the three Penske pilots, Fittipaldi, Rick Mears and Danny Sullivan. They are in Phoenix testing the new PC-19s, which so far are the only 1990 model Indy cars delivered.
Porsche and Alfa, which use a March chassis but their own power plants, both hope to field two cars this season. John Andretti, Mario's nephew and Michael's cousin, will drive the full 16-race schedule as Teo Fabi's Porsche teammate. Patrick hopes to have a second car ready for the 500-mile races for the Alfa team, which only entered the Indy car picture in mid-season last year.
Roberto Guerrero, a native Colombian who will become a naturalized United States citizen in ceremonies Jan. 19, will drive the No. 1 Alfa car. . . . The rich Marlboro Challenge, an end-of-season, non-points sprint for pole position and race winners from the season, will probably be held at Penske's oval track in Nazareth, Pa. All previous Challenges have been on road courses. Marlboro, the sport's richest sponsor, recently switched its backing to Penske, making the Nazareth race a natural.