SBD/22/Leagues Governing Bodies

WHO'S GOT A FAST CAR? CART AND IRL BATTLE MEDIA PERCEPTIONS

          Indy-car's biggest weekend has the 82nd running of the
     Indy 500 on Sunday and CART's Motorola 300 at Gateway Int'l
     Raceway in IL on Saturday.  But analysts and media contend
     that the Indy-car split more than two years ago has diluted
     interest in Indy-car racing as a whole.  A sampling follows:
          EVERYONE LOSES? In Dallas, Holly Cain wrote that the
     Indy 500 "won't be what it could be thanks" to the split
     with CART, and that CART's Motorola 300 "won't garner ideal
     attention either."  Cain: "There's still no winner in the
     Indy standoff between CART and the IRL" (DALLAS MORNING
     NEWS, 5/21).  In N.Y., Richard Sandomir reports that ABC's
     CART ratings of a 1.5 are down from last year's 1.7, while
     ABC's IRL numbers are flat at 1.8.  Sandomir: "The split
     hasn't been healthy for either Indy-car circuit" (N.Y.
     TIMES, 5/22).  In Chicago, Skip Myslenski writes that CART
     is financially more secure than the IRL due to its sponsor
     support from 75 Fortune 500 companies.  Myslenski says that
     "no longer" can the CART and IRL feud "be compared with,
     say, the long war between the National and American football
     leagues.  It is more like how a war would be between the NFL
     and Austrian Rules Football" (CHICAGO TRIBUNE, 5/22).  
          CAN'T COMPARE TO NASCAR? In N.Y., Sam Walker writes
     that the Indy 500 is "fast becoming an also-ran to the
     raucous, fender-knocking racing that shows up in NASCAR." 
     The Indy 500 is "even struggling to remain the biggest
     Memorial Day weekend event in auto racing," going up against
     NASCAR's Coca-Cola 600 (WALL STREET JOURNAL, 5/22).  Barnes
     Dyer Marketing Chair William Dyer, who is involved in auto
     racing marketing, said that NASCAR's growth has helped
     diminish the 500 (INDIANAPOLIS STAR-NEWS, 5/22).  In Dallas,
     Cathy Harasta writes that interest in the 500 has waned and
     that the "greatest spectacle in racing increasingly
     resembles an underdog" (DALLAS MORNING NEWS, 5/22). 
          LOSS OF STEWART WON'T HELP: In Indy, Robin Miller
     reports that the "major selling point" since the IRL's
     inception in '96 "will be missing" in '99 when Tony Stewart
     joins the NASCAR circuit.  Miller adds that the move will
     leave a "big void" for IRL Founder Tony George and that it's
     "unfathomable that George ... didn't try to keep Stewart in
     the league" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR-NEWS, 5/22). 
          FROM THE BRICKYARD: In Indy, Mark Ambrogi writes on the
     media coverage of the 500 and adds that there are "several
     major newspapers that have either stopped covering or
     reduced their coverage of the Indy 500 since the split." 
     The Minneapolis Star Tribune is "staying away from the race
     for the first time in 25-plus years."  Star Tribune Sports
     Editor Tim Wheatly: "There is definitely a dilution interest
     with the IRL.  Frankly, we think our readers are more
     interested in NASCAR."  IMS VP/Corporate Communications & PR
     Fred Nation said that the absence "isn't a trend that
     concerns him" and that there has been no "significant
     change" in the number of requests for credentials (STAR-
     NEWS, 5/22).  Also in Indy, Bill Koenig reported that 500-
     related business has been "mixed."  While some hotels say
     business has returned to pre-split days, that's "not
     universal" (INDIANAPOLIS STAR-NEWS, 5/21).  
          WHAT'S ON CART PATH? CART CEO Andrew Craig is
     interviewed by USA TODAY's Steve Ballard and says that CART
     and the IRL are "two organizations with very different
     philosophies.  The best thing for us is to plan like there
     won't be a reconciliation but remain open to positive
     discussions" (USA TODAY, 5/22).  In NATIONAL SPEED SPORT
     NEWS, Craig said CART is studying a Saturday night TV
     series, but "we have to look at it with great care because
     Saturday, in general, the HUT scores (Homes Using
     Television) is lower primarily. ... It's quite not like the
     panacea it would seem" (NSSN, 5/13 issue).
     
14  NORTHERN EXPOSURE: INDEPENDENT LEAGUES PONDER MERGER
     .    The independent Northern League and the Northeast
     League announced plans for a merger beginning with the '99
     season.  The leagues said they intend to operate under one
     name, most likely that of the Northern League, with Eastern
     and Midwestern Divisions.  Details are being finalized, with
     a merger expected to be completed by the fall.  The two
     leagues currently have 16 teams, with the Northeast League
     awarding an expansion franchise to Quebec City, which will
     begin play in '99.  The leagues had a combined attendance
     last year of just under 1.5 million fans (THE DAILY). 
     Northern League Commissioner Miles Wolff said that if the
     merger is approved, the leagues could play interleague
     series, an all-star game and postseason playoffs.  He said
     that all seven U.S. independent leagues are discussing an
     "off-the-field" alliance (Minneapolis STAR TRIBUNE, 5/22). 

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