While it is difficult and frustrating for fans of the Verizon IndyCar Series to cope with the scenario of teams ceasing operations in advance of a new season, one needs to realize sometimes the landscape of the sport and previous shortcomings can sometimes make such a result inevitable.
Before one is quick to throw the book at KV Racing team owner Kevin Kalkhoven, keep in mind the former co-owner of the ChampCar World Series has had a difficult road to travel before, during, and after the reunification of the sport prior to the start of the 2008 racing season. It has been far from a joyride for the racing entrepreneur and one needs to give the longtime supporter some space if indeed his organization does not return to the full-time starting grid when the premiere open-wheel circuit in North America opens in March 2017 at St. Petersburg, Florida.
In this edition of Embury’s Outlook, I will look at the top three reasons you cannot blame Kevin Kalkhoven for KV Racing’s current dilemma.
The first reason is clear – of the three owners of the former ChampCar World Series group, Kalkhoven is the only member still involved in open-wheel racing. His two partners Gerry Forsythe and Paul Gentilozzi are either involved in other forms of auto racing or have completely exited the sport.
After running multiple operations in IndyCar racing since the 1980s, Forsythe did not follow Kalkhoven into IndyCar, electing to make one final appearance at the ChampCar finale race at Long Beach in 2008 and then decided to back out altogether. Since then, despite rumors pointing to a possible return over the years, Forsythe has had zero involvement in any racing entities related to racing in general.
As for Gentilozzi, he also elected to end his involvement in open-wheel action after Long Beach 2008, and has since run limited factory programs in sports car racing for Jaguar and starting at Daytona in late January a GT Daytona class effort with Lexus.
So considering Kalkhoven was willing to stick it out for at least eight seasons since the merger should earn him some accolades, rather than scorn.
Reason number two is related to his current situation – a lack of outside support. With James Sullivan pulling his backing of the operation after 2016 and
with Jimmy Vasser reportedly also withdrawing his role with the team, KV Racing is now in a financial mess. The situation could have improved if Trevor Carlin had elected to join as a supporter; however, insider information suggests even Carlin may be planning to look elsewhere in terms of a supporting anything related to IndyCar competition for 2017.
Of course, even if backers were still in place, it has not necessarily been a fruitful situation over the past decade in terms of money available, which leads to the final reason. Kevin Kalkhoven before and after the merger was forced to extend himself further to the benefit of both ChampCar and IndyCar than others, and that can sometimes lead to situations like this.
Before ChampCar and IndyCar merged in 2008, Kalkhoven worked hard to keep the former circuit in business even purchasing the Cosworth Engine Company alongside Gerry Forsythe to ensure teams would have powerplants in ChampCar. Following the merger, Kalkhoven has also had to field multiple entries out of his own pocket, minus any major full-time sponsorship. He even had to handle this step for two of his three full-time entries in 2010 to ensure seats for both Nario Moraes and E.J. Viso and stepped up on his own again two years ago to field a full-time effort for Stefano Coletti.
Add to that, Kalkhoven has often stepped forward to field extra entries to ensure a full field for the Indianapolis 500. This past year, Kalkhoven entered three cars at the Brickyard and provided four in 2015.
So it is clear based on these three factors, that not all the blame for KV Racing’s potential downfall rests solely on Kevin Kalkhoven’s shoulders. The entrepreneur has been put through the wringer over the past decade and if indeed he is unable to continue his operation for the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season, one should give him credit for lasting as long as he has in North American open-wheel racing and also for showing the willingness to tough it out in the sport, when his two partners elected to back out post-merger.
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