One of U.S. racing's longest-serving individuals, there's been very little Derrick Walker hasn't seen in the entirety of his career. Formerly with Team Penske, Walker's own team thrived for more than a decade in the CART and Champ Car ranks. Walker gave current IndyCar stars Will Power and Simon Pagenaud their respective starts – the two were teammates in the 2007 Champ Car season under the Team Australia banner.
Yet as that season drew to a close, the calendar shifted into 2008 with uncertainty about how the open-wheel landscape would shift. When a shotgun marriage – difficult to call a true merger as much as absorption of Champ Car by the Indy Racing League – occurred in 2008, Walker's team was left on the sidelines. Although that didn't mean Walker didn't show what he and his team could still do – Alex Tagliani qualified second in the Champ Car swansong at Long Beach and Walker prepared the Vision Racing entry that Paul Tracy piloted to fourth place at Edmonton (coincidentally, Tracy's best finish from 2008 through 2011 in IndyCar).
Walker's been back, busier than ever in 2012, serving in the dual team manager roles at Team Falken Tire in the ALMS for a second season, and with the first-year Ed Carpenter Racing team in IndyCar. He discussed the potential ramifications of what the sports car merger between Grand-Am and ALMS will mean for 2014.
“This is of course the difficult part, but I would like to see them merge as many series as possible into a manageable number of classes and try not to leave anybody behind, including suppliers such as Falken,” Walker said of how to put the technical regulations together. “Maybe it will take a few years to truly merge them all into a reasonable number, but 'leave nobody behind' would be my thought.”
Walker believes the technical regulations should be outlined and released by the middle of next year.
“Let's assume the new series front office is on the ball; the new formula's should be announced by May of 2013, and that would give manufacturers and teams a chance to get commitments and development under way in time for the new season,” he said. “But as we know change takes time and money – something we all don't have a lot of in the racing world.”
Lastly, having been left out without a full IndyCar program when the IRL and Champ Car merged in 2008, Walker offered some insights on what lessons these two series should learn from open-wheel's unification.
“I would say it will be twice as hard as you think and will require strong smart leadership to steer through the difficult transition,” he said. “The sad part will be that not all will come through unscathed, so it will be painful now the wall has come down.”