Newswise — The long-awaited unification between the Indy Racing League and the owners of the Champ Car World Series is merely a first step, but it offers genuine hope for open-wheel racing to regain some of its lost audience and financial support, according to a sports marketing expert at the University of Indianapolis. "There's no question that open-wheel is in disarray in the U.S., but this might be the turning point to reverse the negative momentum," said Larry DeGaris, Ph.D., an associate professor of marketing who conducts surveys on fan support and sponsorships in auto racing. "Critics might argue that this deal is a dollar short and a day late, but I think it's still a great opportunity to grow the sport," he said. "The NASCAR juggernaut seems to have leveled out a bit. It's still the 800-pound gorilla, but about 40 percent of its fans say they are primarily fans of auto racing in general rather than NASCAR in particular." Also, support for the expanded IndyCar Series doesn't have to come at the expense of NASCAR, DeGaris noted. "There's a lot of room for growth," he said. "I think a rising tide lifts all boats here. College football and the NFL peacefully co-exist, for example."