Dan Gurney's White Paper

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Dan Gurney - The White Paper

Note: To understand the split that lead to the mess that is now American Indy Car Openwheel Racing one must understand how it all came to be. Up until 1978, Indycar racing was under the control of USAC. Dan Gurney wrote the White Paper that became the foundation of the Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART) that unified the team owners to take control of the sport from USAC. Indianapolis ownership and die-hard IMS/Indy 500 race fans consider this action the "First Split."

While team owners Roger Penske and U.E.'Pat' Patrick are regarded as being the founding fathers of Championship Auto Racing Teams, the genesis of CART actually began in early 1978 when team owner Dan Gurney composed a white paper and sent it to all the owners . Gurney was frustrated over trying to earn a living in the racing business and decided that an analysis of the current state of affairs was greatly needed. Car owners had little or no control over the direction of the United States Auto Club's National Championship Series, and Gurney saw the 21-member USAC board as a major obstacle in moving the Championship racing agenda forward. Gurney sat down to write the white paper and thought of what the possibilities were for Champ car racing. Based on the potential of the sport, he then jotted down the beginning of the organizational plan.

The White Paper was released in early 1979. The first CART race was held in March 1979.

Here is the text of The White Paper as written by Dan Gurney:

Dan Gurney - Formula One, Indy car, Sports car, Stock car Driver - Car Constructor and Manufacturer: All American Racers / Eagle

Over the past 3 or 4 years I've had conversations with almost all of the car owners and team directors. I've had talks with drivers, with sanctioning body directors, with track owners and promoters and big sponsors and fans and other interested parties. Generally there is agreement that something is wrong with our sport -—it is not reaching its full potential by any means, and there is great need for a change!

Early in my discussions I realized that we are so intent upon racing each other, that we do not stop to look and analyze our situation. In frustration I decided that things must get worse before we will all wake up. Our sport has the potential to be financially rewarding and healthy from a business standpoint for all participants. Many of the car owners and team directors are excellent and very successful businessman in their own lives outside of racing. We as businessmen should be ashamed of ourselves for being involved in a prestigious sport such as Championship racing with all its potential while it is as weak and disorganized (sick) as it presently is. It is truly strange that with all these 'heavyweights' involved, we still do not have our act together. ("Divide and conquer" still seems to be working doesn't it?).

O.K.! What shall we do about it? First let us digress for a moment. Let's study some history. Back in the early 70's, the status of Formula 1 Grand Prix racing was similar to our own USAC Championship racing right now. The crowds were quite small, sponsors were hard to find, the news media was not overly interested, expenses were high and going higher and the entire scene was one of disorganization.

It was at this moment in time that the desperateness of the situation made them unite and form an organization called the Formula 1 Constructors Association (FICA or FICA). They appointed a man named Bernie Ecclestone as the chief of operations officer and negotiator and they made a solemn pledge to abide by his decisions 100%. They rolled up their sleeves and proceeded to up-grade the entire sport to the point where the paying spectator crowds are much, much larger, sponsors are numerous and happy to be involved, the media is vigorous in covering all the events on TV and so are weekly magazines and daily newspapers on a world wide basis, and money is coming back to the constructors and track owners in the form of larger ticket sales, more sponsorship, more prize money and expense money and the spectator is getting a much bigger, better spectacle for his ticket money.

The obvious fact is that the FICA has transformed the Formula 1 Grand Prix racing scene from what was a weak and scattered group of teams without any bargaining or negotiating strength into a bona fide business. They did it by uniting and making that 'no turning back' commitment. They speak with one voice (that of the Chief negotiator) and that voice has gained authority by leaps and bounds.

Now, it is true that the Championship racing scene is somewhat different from Grand Prix racing and therefore it will require a slightly different organization to bring about an improvement. I only mention the FICA organization as an example of something that has succeeded, on no uncertain terms. I think everyone agrees that the cost of Championship racing has escalated to the point where it is virtually ridiculous, and at the same time, many of the rewards have not increased at all, but have actually declined when you consider the effects of the general inflation in the U.S. economy.

At the moment we the car owners are the ones who have put forth by far the most effort, by far the most financial stake with little or no chance for return and yet, because we have been so busy fighting with each other, we have let the track owners or promoters and the sanctioning body lead us around by the nose while they reap the benefits. USAC for instance negotiates with TV as though it had the TV rights which in fact, if it came to a showdown, would turn out to be ours. (The car owners and teams).

It is obvious that if Long Beach can afford to pay approximately $1,000,000 per race after only 5 years of existence (established 1974) and maximum paid attendance of 70,000 so far, that Indy with its 600,000 plus audience (200 1st weekend qualifying, 100 2nd weekend qualifying, 300 Race Day for 600,000 paid attendance) and its 60 year tradition and international TV coverage, could afford to spend over $2 million on the purse, if it were to be fair. As Mr.Lindsey Hopkins said, "We are the ones who did more to build the stands at Indianapolis than anyone else. IMS should thank us each year, in addition to our thanking them".