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11/6/03

Panoz Batmobile tests LeMans  The sound of the Elan Power Products V8 may have had a familiar ring, but sportscar fans this week have been treated to the sight of the Panoz "Batmobile" for the first time since 1998.  JML Team Panoz has completed two days testing on the Le Mans Bugatti circuit in preparation for this weekend's Le Mans 1000km.

The American-based JML squad has teamed up with the French DAMS team, which is assisting in running the car this weekend. The French DAMS mechanics are very familiar with the American Coupe with the team having run the car during the 1997 and 1998 seasons in the FIA GT Championship.  With extensive experience in sportscars and open wheel formulas including Formula 3000; DAMS recently claimed the European Formula Renault V6 championship.  Their assistance proved vital in yesterday's session with the JML squad arriving late after having their flight cancelled from the US on Monday night.

The team sat on the plane for four hours while repairs on an engine problem were undertaken. After the repair proved unsuccessful, their flight was postponed until the following night. After initially looking like the team would miss Wednesday's activities, David Saelens took to the track with only the DAMS crew and his usual engineer and engine man on-site.  Olivier Beretta took over testing duties today with the full complement of JML and DAMS staff on hand.

Wednesday and Thursday's three-hour testing sessions proved valuable in preparations for Saturday's two qualifying sessions and Sunday's 1000km event.  The car ran faultlessly throughout both days with the only problem coming at the end of the second day when contact between Beretta and a slower car damaged the right hand side bodywork.

OLIVIER BERETTA
"The car is quite quick around here but this weekend will be pretty tough because the opposition is very strong.  "Teams like Pescarolo know this track very well because they are based only about 100 meters from the start-finish line. "For us it is an entirely new experience because this is a new car for David and I and it is the first time we have run on this circuit. "I don't know whether we will have the outright speed in qualifying, but over a race distance I think we will be very strong.  "David and I have had a great string of podium finishes in the American Le Mans Series and we would certainly like to continue that run this weekend."
DAVID SAELENS
"Wednesday was quite a strange day because I didn't think we were going be running because the guys had trouble with the flight, but I am certainly glad we made it on track.  "We improved the car quite a lot during the session and found about 2 1/2 seconds during the afternoon.  "The car is running exceptionally well and the progress we have made is quite extraordinary.  "The tires Michelin have provided have been ideal for these conditions and I am really confident we are going to be quite strong on race day.  "Our American Le Mans Series program was very strong and I think we can continue that here."

11/6/03

Busch Jr. to start first Cup race  Hendrick Motorsports owner Rick Hendrick today announced that 18-year-old Kyle Busch will attempt to qualify for the Nov. 16 NASCAR Winston Cup Series season finale at Homestead-Miami Speedway. In his first-ever Winston Cup event, Busch will drive Hendrick's No. 60 Chevrolet with primary sponsorship from ditech.com, which has backed the Las Vegas native in the ARCA Series and NASCAR Busch Series this year. "This is an excellent way for Kyle to gain some additional experience," Hendrick said. "Our goal is for him to spend as much time behind the wheel as possible before next season and this is a great way to accomplish that." If he makes the field, Busch, who turned 18 on May 2, will become one of the youngest drivers to start a Winston Cup race in NASCAR's modern era. "It's important for me to spend more time in the seat," Busch said. "This is an opportunity to make some laps with the best drivers in the world and build toward the 2004 Busch Series season. It will be, first and foremost, a learning experience." Busch has earned a pair of runner-up finishes and five top-10 starts in six Busch Series appearances this year. He will compete in his final Busch Series event of 2003 on Saturday at North Carolina Speedway before joining the circuit full-time next season in the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolets. After joining Hendrick Motorsports in February, Busch also competed in seven ARCA Series events, posting two victories and two pole positions.

11/6/03

Engineers agree: Change is needed  UPDATE  A reader writes, In regards to this topic, I know we have gone over this before but to me there is only ONE solution to the rubber to rubber launching issue with oval races. Keep the rubber to rubber contact from happening. Wider side pods and either a rear nerf bar or front fairing is all it takes. I know, I know, "it will be ugly". Frankly Scarlet, I don't give a damn. It won't be as ugly as some driver's broken body in the stands! Gary Shell  11/6/03 - This RPM.ESPN.com article is good in that it brings to light the huge problem the IRL has, that of flying race cars and injured drivers.  However, the people interviewed in the article don't grasp the root cause of the IRL's problem.  The idea of slowing the cars to 200 MPH and adding more downforce will make them even easier to drive (is that possible?  Is anything easier than the 100% throttle racing they already have?)   The real problem is the IRL's flawed concept of "pack" racing like NASCAR.  Running open wheel cars at even 200 MPH with rubber-tire-to-rubber-tire contact possible is still fast enough to cause devastating destruction to the cars, the drivers and worse yet, the fans.  Even if they manage to slow the cars to 200 MPH they will still be running fast enough to launch into the fencing above the wall or into the grandstands.  Some interesting tidbits from the article -

1) Walker, who's run cars in IRL and CART during the past eight years, said it's simple physics. "These cars are a big, flat surface and if you point them into the wind at the right angle they will take off," he said. "There's nothing new about this, it has happened in sports cars, NASCAR and we have seen more of it lately in open wheel racing.

2) It's a given that oval-track racing is inherently dangerous and, since its inception in 1996, the IRL has seen 76 drivers suffer significant injuries. But a new problem surfaced this season.

3) "What Mario ran over wasn't much and he went from generating downforce to generating lift," said Watt, who estimates that on a low-drag track like Indy an IRL car creates 1,000 pounds less downforce than a CART car. "We're always trying to trim the car out as much as possible at Indy to reduce the drag. That forces us to do unconventional things like running the nose up in the air to unwind the rear wing. Last May some guys were running minus eight degrees on their rear wings and that's like taking the wing off. The best way to stop the cars from flying is to increase the downforce."

4) Gugelmin, who spent nine years in CART where he also was president of the Championship Drivers Association, told Autosport magazine it's a lethal compromise. "Clearly, in open-wheel racing, when you have an over-downforced car the easiest thing to do is to keep raising the ride height, especially the front end. That creates some lift, and they run negative degrees of front wing to make the front kind of 'hide' that big rear wing. You're basically pushing your luck -- you're running a lethal weapon at that stage.

5) "If the driver is happy, you keep taking downforce away and gaining more speed. But, invariably, when it does go wrong you're done." Of course the cornering speeds of IRL and CART cars on ovals are insane. In a recent test at Indy, two-time winner Helio Castroneves topped 230 mph and was reportedly clocked at 226 through the turns on that lap. There is no reaction time for a driver and no chance to just spin and miss the walls like back in the '60s and '70s. Before his latest round of surgery on his spine, Brack talked about knocking 30 mph off the speeds.

6) "But this is not just an IRL problem. It's more of an oval issue and oval tracks are uniquely American. America should have some sort of committee or council to develop a proper safety system for oval tracks. They should all have the same kind of fencing, for instance, with standard posts, netting, etc. The tracks, teams and sanctioning bodies don't have the individual expertise but together they could.

7) Gugelmin feels like the specter of fear permeates the IRL paddock but many drivers won't voice their concerns. "The saddest thing is that a lot of talented drivers were forced to go to a series (for the money) where they have to hope and pray every time they go out on the track that they're not going to be the next one. I know that for a fact," said the Brazilian, who practiced at 242 mph at Fontana, Calif., in 1997. "I hope some of the drivers have the courage to step up and say this is unacceptable. Gil de Ferran certainly didn't say those words but I'm pretty sure that's why he is stopping. He still loves to drive but it got to the point where you look at life and you look at the risks, which are tremendous in this case. "He stood up and said, 'Look, I'm out of here.'"

11/6/03

Tracy's victory tour keeps him running  Paul Tracy received a ton of hardware including a Ford SVT Mustang Cobra and a check for one million dollars at Tuesday night’s CART Champ Car Awards Ceremony after winning the 2003 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford title, but the champ wasn’t quite done racing around the world. The day after the award ceremony, Tracy jetted off to begin the customary CART Champion’s Tour which started in Toronto Thursday. Along with the Vanderbilt Cup, Tracy was greeted by a large throng of reporters anxious to speak with the first Canadian to win a Champ Car title since 1995. After satisfying the home-country crowd, Tracy headed to New York City to prepare for a pair of national television appearances. He will be the featured guest on Friday’s popular The Late Show With David Letterman as he joins the talk-show icon and co-owner of Team Rahal on his nightly CBS show which airs at 11:30 p.m. Eastern. He will be joined on the program by Gilmore Girls star Lauren Graham and musician Wyclef Jean. Tracy will also appear on Cold Pizza Friday morning, the new catch-all sports morning show on ESPN2, hosted by Jay Crawford.

11/6/03

DSTP team shuts down operations  After struggling to find the necessary funding to continue their participation in the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, Dede Rogers, Owner of DSTP Motorsports, announced today that the Chesterland, Ohio, based team will immediately shut down operations and sell their existing equipment.  “It has been one heck of a blast,” said Rogers on her four years in the series. “I made it clear to the guys on the team throughout the year that this would be our last season unless we could find some help on the financial side. Unfortunately, that just didn’t happen. I hate it came to this because I love this team and the series; but it was just not feasible to go at it like this any longer.”   Rogers was one of the few Atlantic owners that gave aspiring young, American open-wheel drivers a chance in an Atlantic car without having to worry about bringing money to the team. Her passion and vigor for her team, along with the thousands of friendships forged over her tenure in the series will be the legacy she leaves behind as the familiar yellow and purple colors exit the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship.  People interested in equipment at DSTP Motorsports can contact Team Manager, Natalie Hand, at the team’s Chesterland headquarters at (440) 729-2700 during normal business hours. Photos of the equipment will soon be place on the team’s website.

11/6/03

Bourdais to drive sports car race  CART Champ Car Rookie of the Year Sebastien Bourdais will return to the Pescarolo sportscar team for the Le Mans 1000km race this weekend.  The 24-year-old Frenchman, who drives for the Newman/Haas Champ Car World Series team, will share Henri Pescarolo's Courage C60 in this weekend's inaugural event on the Bugatti circuit with regular drivers Stephane Sarrazin and Franck Lagorce.   “I wanted Sebastien back because I know how good he is,” said Pescarolo. “He was available and was happy to come back to the team.”  Bourdais was a regular with Pescarolo Sport in 2000-02. He was part of the driver line-up that claimed fourth in the Le Mans 24 Hours race in 2000 and scored two FIA Sportscar Championship victories last season.  For more on this story, get this week's AUTOSPORT Magazine, on sale now.

11/6/03

Heidfeld meets with Jordan  Nick Heidfeld has visited the Jordan Grand Prix headquarters near Silverstone to negotiate for a drive with the team in 2004, according to this week's AUTOSPORT. The former Mercedes protégé was released from his Sauber contract at the end of the season and is desperately searching for a way to stay in Formula 1 next year.  The Jordan chance is a massive boost for Heidfeld, who told the German media last week that he was seriously concerned about his chances of landing a seat next year. His race options are running out and he has too much experience to qualify for a Friday testing role.  “It would be terrible if I am not in Formula 1 next year,” said Heidfeld. “I believe I am a good driver and I refuse to accept that it is suddenly all over. I am only 26 and these are the worst months of my life. “  Jordan has made no secret of his interest in Heidfeld who is also linked to the vacant Jaguar seat. McLaren test driver Alex Wurz is favorite to land the Jaguar drive, which is thought to require a budget, but Heidfeld, Jos Verstappen and Justin Wilson are all in the running.

11/6/03

Yoong to drive at Macau  Former Formula 1 and CART driver, Malaysia's Alex Yoong will contest the final round of the inaugural Porsche Carrera Cup Asia series at the 50th Macau Grand Prix on November 16, it was confirmed today (November 3, 2003). Yoong will be at the wheel of the Porsche Asia Pacific VIP Porsche 911 GT3 Cup car for the 10 lap race on Macau's legendary Guia Circuit, bringing his considerable skill and experience to an already competitive field. "I'm delighted to be coming back to Macau, and particularly in the Porsche Carrera Cup Asia. I've been following the series this year, and there are some good drivers in the field," said Yoong, who first competed at Macau in the 1993 Guia Race at the age of just 17. Finishing an astonishing third in his class that year, Yoong returned to Macau twice to compete in the Formula 3 Grand Prix.

11/6/03

Stoddart offers parachute to Wilson  Paul Stoddart is hoping that Jaguar retain Wilson – but would be happy to have him back if they decide against the move. He told Motorsport News: “Jaguar would be well advised to retain what I regard as an extremely powerful driver line-up. “With a full winter test program under his belt, Justin will be in a position to demonstrate the natural talent that we know he has. “I sincerely hope that he won’t need a Minardi safety net, but if Jaguar elected not to retain him he would definitely be at the top of my shopping list. “The usual commercial considerations apply of course, but we would welcome him back with open arms. Wilson’s manager Jonathan Palmer added: “We are fully committed to carrying on in F1 and Jaguar is our number one priority. “If that doesn’t come off I’d have no hesitation in returning to Minardi because the team does a fantastic job on limited resources and sometimes in this business you have to take one step back to move two forwards.”

11/6/03

Newspaper identifies Toyota engineer in stealing controversy  Italian sports newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport has named Angelo Santini as the former Ferrari employee who allegedly stole design details from the Ferrari factory when he left to join Toyota. The report says Santini spent seven years with the Italian team, before being tempted away by a rather generous pay offer by the cash-laden Toyota team in 2002. Santini was interviewed by Gazzetta dello Sport at the start of the season, where he admitted that the Toyota Formula One car bore quite a few similarities to the Ferrari, but went on to say that they were in fact quite different.

11/6/03

Australian Webber puts down Aussie drivers  The Herald Sun reports that the Australian was involved in an argument with a driver whilst he was exiting a taxi in Melbourne. "I'm trying to pay for a taxi and the guy's 'beeeep, beeeep, beeeeping'," said Webber. "I said, 'Look, mate, just give me 10 seconds'. He mouthed off and drove up the road like his life depended on it. I cost him probably 10 seconds of his day and he had to carry on like that. There's some very, very aggressive drivers out there," he added, though not referring to Fernando Alonso. Webber went on to launch an astonishing attack on Australian drivers and traffic laws: "In Europe, if someone flashes their lights it's because they're trying to let you in and be co-operative. Here, if someone flashes their lights it's because they're trying to get stuck into you. There is a lot of frustration (in Australia). You can't do 63km/h, otherwise you get fined. It's the only country in the world like that."

11/6/03

Renault looks to China and USA  Renault chairman Louis Schweitzer has told French radio that the company is planning to become a manufacturer of vehicles in China in the next few years and plans to announce its strategy for China next Spring. Schweitzer said that the recently announced $5,000 car to be built in Iran is going to be aimed primarily at the Iranian market where the company hopes to have sales of up to half a million cars. Schweitzer also said that Renault has the long term goal of getting back into the US market although this is not expected until after 2010. Renault will lean heavily on the network set up in the United States by Nissan.  Grandprix.com

11/6/03

NASCAR signs hotel deal  NASCAR has signed up its first ever ‘official hotel’ partnership. It has agreed a three-year deal with Best Western International for the sponsorship beginning on January 1, 2004. Best Western will also serve as an associate sponsor of reigning Daytona 500 champion Michael Waltrip and the number 15 NAPA Chevrolet for the 2004 NASCAR Nextel Cup season. Tom Higgins, president and CEO of the hotel chain stated: “The power of NASCAR is tremendous. Many Best Western guests are already fans, and our association with the sport will help us create opportunities to attract new customers." Brett Yormark, vice president of corporate marketing at NASCAR stated: "Through its official NASCAR sponsorship and its relationship with Dale Earnhardt Inc., Best Western will be fully integrated in our sport.” Best Western plans to leverage its NASCAR sponsorship with a variety of marketing and promotional initiatives, including a sweepstakes, at-track hospitality, cross-promotions with other NASCAR sponsors, advertising, special NASCAR room rates, race tickets at reduced rates and the creation of a unique loyalty program.

11/6/03

F1 race costs taxpayers $10 million  The taxpayer subsidy for the Australian Formula One Grand Prix has blown out to more than $10.6 million, according to a report to the Victorian Parliament. The Australian Grand Prix Corporation's 2002-03 annual report, tabled today, showed the Albert Park race made $49.4 million this year but cost nearly $60 million to run. The $10.6 million deficit - up by nearly $2 million on the previous year - was made up by the state government. The report also showed the Australian Motorcycle Grand Prix, held at Philip Island, lost $6.9 million in the last financial year. This was slightly down on the previous year's deficit of $7.3 million. But the report said despite the operating losses, the state reaped significant benefits from both events. "The operating result should be considered in conjunction with substantial benefits to the state of Victoria both in the form of economic benefits and the significant branding and advertising exposure generated by widespread television coverage," it said of the Formula One race. An analysis of the 2000 event showed it boosted the state's economy by $130 million, the report said. The corporation said the 1997 Motorcycle Grand Prix was estimated to have had a $54 million economic benefit.  Courier Mail

11/6/03

Phoenix could be next to get SAFER wall  At some point, probably next year, PIR is expected to add an energy-absorbing, soft-wall system in the turns at the 1-mile oval, a safety feature already at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, New Hampshire International Speedway, Richmond (Va.) International Raceway and Homestead-Miami Speedway.  "It's fair to say that at some point in the future we want a SAFER (Steel and Foam Energy Reduction) barrier, but I can't tell you the timetable right now," Sperber said.  Should the energy-absorbing wall be installed at PIR, it likely would be the only major modification between now and next year's Checker Auto Parts 500, scheduled for Nov. 7.  A $10 million project, which included altering Turn 2 and construction of a vehicular/pedestrian tunnel beneath Turn 4, was completed this past summer. Both projects were a hit with NASCAR officials and drivers.  Arizona Republic

11/6/03

Penske vs. Hendrick for title  Hendrick Motorsports remains tied with Penske Racing for the most Winston Cup wins this season. However, the two teams have gone about winning in an entirely different fashion. Ryan Newman has each of Penske's eight victories, while all four of Hendrick's full-time teams have won at least once this season.

11/6/03

***Reader Comment***I don't understand Manning's move  A reader writes, Dear AR1, I cannot understand the reason for Manning's decision to leave CART for the IRL other than: 1) A significant amount of money, 2) A promise to be considered as a prospect for Toyota's Formula One team in the near future. Ganassi made an aggressive move to fill the empty seat left by Tony Renna otherwise he would have been in trouble to find a good driver in that second car. I am sorry to tell Darren Manning that he just threw away any chance to go to F1; and I wish he can stay alive and in one piece for many years. Roberto Reyes Dear Roberto, Ever since CART lost Honda and Toyota to the IRL we have seen many of the top drivers go to the IRL for the money.  Honda and Toyota are throwing significant financial support behind the series and the drivers and team owners are jumping at the money.  All the teams have had a lot of their equipment destroyed in the numerous horrendous accidents we have seen, and a high percentage of drivers go out on stretchers and will continue to do so.  They are big boys capable of making decisions on their own.  100% throttle "pack" racing on high-speed ovals with rubber-to-rubber tires inches apart will only lead to many more severe accidents in the future, we just hope too many of them don't end up like Kenny Brack or Tony Renna.  What's alarming is the fact that despite cherry-picking the CART paddock of teams, sponsors and drivers, the IRL TV ratings plummeted last year.   With this kind of racing, we do believe that eventually the IRL will launch a car over the catch fencing and into the crowd.  The cars certainly fly high enough.

11/6/03

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11/5/03

***Reader Question***Why do IRL teams keep hiring CART drivers?  A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com,   Good to see the IRL teams are looking to the good ole American short track boys to drive their cars. I feel sorry for Darren. It is anyone's guess when he will be injured. Perhaps you guys should start a betting pool. "Who will be injured when" Dan Thomson.  Another writes, How come IRL teams, supported by Honda and Toyota, continue to hire drivers out of CART and its ladder series and not the IPS or from the short track dirt series? I thought the IRL was all about American drivers.  John Long, Charlotte, NC  Dear John, Almost the entire IRL grid is made up of drivers from CART, even Sam Hornish.  CART drivers are simply better prepared and usually faster drivers than IPS or dirt track drivers because they were trained on road courses, a far better measure of a driver's talent. Early on the IRL teams tried some dirt track drivers, but they failed miserably once the good drivers from CART came over.  Sarah Fisher and AJ Foyt IV are examples of strictly oval racers who simply can't compete at the same level as the ex-road racers in CART.  Both can't get out of the way fast enough once the green flag drops, it's almost laughable.  Imagine them on a road course!   Mark Taylor is moving up from the IPS next year, but he was road racing trained back in Europe way before that.  Ed Carpenter is moving up, but one never knows about him since he's Tony George's stepson.   Mark C. 

11/5/03

IRL tidbits  Andretti Green Racing driver Tony Kanaan will marry fiancée Daniele Loiola on Nov. 7 in Sao Paolo, Brazil…Kentucky Speedway will host its “Drive The Track Sale” on Sat., Nov. 8 from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Guests who purchase a minimum of $40 in merchandise at the speedway Fan Center Gift Shop in Turn 3 will be able to turn three paced laps in their own vehicle on the 1.5-mile tri-oval…Red Bull Cheever Racing teammates Eddie Cheever Jr. and Alex Barron will participate in the SCUSA Supernationals on Nov. 15 in Las Vegas. The celebrity go-kart event, held in the parking lot of the Rio Hotel and Casino, will feature the Red Bull Cheever Racing go-karts used by RBCR in various markets throughout the year. Former Red Bull Cheever Racing driver Buddy Rice will also participate…With two events remaining in national competition, Aaron Fike holds a 136-point lead over J.J. Yeley in the National Midget Driver of the Year point standings. If he can maintain the advantage, Fike will become the first repeat winner of the National Midget Driver of the Year Award presented by Arizona SportShirts.

11/5/03

Panther Racing withdraws from Infiniti Pro Series  Menards Infiniti Pro Series veteran Marty Roth has purchased the race cars and equipment from Panther Racing’s Infiniti Pro Series team, Roth announced Nov. 5. Two-time IRL IndyCar Series Champions Panther Racing entered Pro Series competition in 2003 and won the championship with British rookie Mark Taylor. “I was in the process of negotiating with (team co-owner) John Barnes to run their car for the 2004 season,” Roth said. “John called me the other day and regrettably informed me that, due to their commitment to run a two-car IndyCar Series program for next season, they had decided to withdraw from the Infiniti Pro Series.” Taylor, who earned seven wins and four pole positions to claim the 2003 Menards Infiniti Pro Series title, will drive the No. 2 Menards/Johns Manville IndyCar Series entry for Panther Racing in 2004. “Having recognized the value Panther Racing has created through their R&D over the past year, I jumped at the opportunity when their Infiniti Pro Series program went on the market,” said Roth. “Now that I have the equipment, the next phase is building the team. The equipment is just the first step; it’s what you do with it that counts. I’m after the 2004 championship, and everything has to be right.”

11/5/03

Brack in good condition after yet another surgery  Kenny Brack is in good condition after undergoing successful surgery on his back and right ankle Nov. 4 at Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis, said Dr. Henry Bock. CART's Dr. Terry Trammell oversaw the procedure to further stabilize Brack’s back. Brack had back surgery on Oct. 13, which involved a spinal fusion of the L2, L3 and L4 vertebrae. “Everything went very well, and we were able to further strengthen Kenny’s spine,” Trammell said. “This shouldn’t slow down his rehabilitation process at all.” The surgery on Brack’s right ankle, performed by Dr. Kevin Scheid, involved a bone graft to complete reconstruction of the ankle. It is anticipated that Brack will be transferred to the Rehabilitation Hospital of Indiana later this week to continue his rehabilitation.

11/5/03

Ortelli offers Villeneuve LeMans drive  According to Canada's National Post newspaper, endurance expert Ortelli has suggested that he and Villeneuve rekindle the friendship that they forged in Formula Three and team up to contest the Le Mans 24 Hours. "I think that Formula One is not good for Jacques any more," Ortelli explained, "He is a wonderfully fast driver, and he is very good at marketing and image and bringing a lot to Canada and to racing. He is more than welcome in our kind of racing. I know he loves Le Mans and he would love to do it one day, so why not be team-mates again in Le Mans? When I started to drive my first long-distance race, I fell in love," he admitted, "I had to make compromises with teammates. I had to share things. I am much more excited when I can share success with people that I really like to work with than just doing it on my own. I don't have to be jealous. I am still driving one of the fastest cars in the world and the only thing I have to do is beat the others. And I like to beat them and I hate to be beaten. This is much more important than just to be part of the Formula One circus. It's cool."

11/5/03

Coca-Cola signs 5-year deal at Sebring  Coca-Cola has signed a five-year extension of its sponsorship with Sebring International Raceway. The agreement continues a relationship between Coca-Cola and America's oldest and most prestigious sports car race that began nearly five decades ago. The 52nd Annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring runs Saturday, March 20. The opening race of the American Le Mans Series attracts the world's leading sports car teams to the historic road racing circuit located adjacent to Sebring Regional Airport. "Having Coca-Cola extend its sponsorship as the official soft drink of Sebring International Raceway helps solidify our long-term marketing goals," stated Sebring Raceway President Tres Stephenson. "This further indicates the confidence our marketing partners have in Sebring and the American Le Mans Series. It has been my pleasure, since I started working with Coca-Cola in Highlands County, to be associated with Sebring International Raceway. Our company has been associated with the race, continuously, for over fifty years and we are pleased to have inked a new five year agreement," confirmed Ted Kudlinski, Sales Center Manager for Highlands Coca-Cola. The agreement with Coca-Cola includes the production of a second Sebring International Raceway commemorative bottle. In 2002, Coca-Cola produced the Sebring 50th Anniversary bottle that proved to be very popular with race fans.

11/5/03

CART popular in Germany  Although CART has nixed a return to Germany in 2004, it remains popular there.  One of Germany's biggest sport websites www.sport1.de has a poll where you can vote which Motor Sport Series are you most interested in DTM, CART, Moto GP; World Rally Championship; and Formula 3.  Surprisingly, at the moment CART is on top (29%) with over 6,280 votes cast. Whether it remains on top or not, these results are most shocking considering how well established those other series are in Germany.  CART & EuroSpeedway officials might want to rethink their European strategy in 2004, though we suspect it's too late now.

11/5/03

Manning joins Target Ganassi  Target Chip Ganassi Racing today announced that Darren Manning will drive the #10 Target Toyota Panoz G Force next year in the Indy Racing League IndyCar Series. Manning, 28, spent this season driving for Walker Racing in the Champ Car World Series. Team owner Chip Ganassi is excited to have the Englishman join the 2003 IRL Champions.

“Darren has shown over the years that he is an extremely talented driver,” said Ganassi. “We’re excited to have him on board with us for the 2004 season. He’s a guy that really fits in to this organization. I have no doubt that he’ll adapt quickly to these cars and compete for a championship.”

Manning spent last season with Walker Racing and scored his best finish of the season at the season finale in Surfers Paradise, Australia, coming home 2nd. In three races on oval tracks in his career, he has finished 9th or better in each one including a 4th place finish at Milwaukee this season. The former F1 test driver is ready for the challenge.

"Team Target has proven that they are one of the premier organizations in all of motorsports," Manning said. "Their legacy of winning championships is amazing and it’s an honor to drive for them. What they did this year proves even more that they are the team to beat and I’m truly excited to be a part of their team. I’ve fared pretty well on ovals so far in my career, so I’m confident that I’ll be successful next year in the Indy Racing League.”

Manning began his racing career in karts at the age of ten and quickly moved into the more powerful open-wheel formula cars in England. After numerous victories in Formula Vauxhall and in F3, Manning went to compete in the All Japan F3 championship. Manning won the title with 6 victories that season, including leading every lap in winning the prestigious Macau Grand Prix. That caught the attention of the BAR Honda Formula 1 team, who made him a test driver for the 2000 through 2002 seasons. In 2002, he made his Champ Car debut at Rockingham Motor Speedway and led 18 laps on the tricky 1.5-mile oval, en route to a 9th place finish for Team St. George.

Manning joins 2003 Indy Racing League IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon who led the series in laps led (748), wins (3), poles (5) and races led (14). Dixon is looking forward to having Manning as a teammate.

“I’ve raced against him before and I’m impressed with him,” said Dixon. “He’s a good guy and he’s going to be a good teammate as well.”

Dixon and Manning resume a busy off-season testing schedule next month at Texas Motor Speedway in preparation for another title chase in 2004.

11/5/03

Jaguar extends Wilson's contract  Jaguar Racing have extended the contract of Justin Wilson by 6 weeks to allow him to take part in a head-to-head test against Mark Webber in a final bid to prove his worth for the second Jaguar seat

11/5/03

Racing to be on Reality TV Show  [Editor's Note: Spike TV is rumored to be one of CART's new TV partners, and this is another example of their interest in racing.] Taking reality television to unmatched heights, Holigan Racing will field a NASCAR Busch Series car and an AMA Motocross team in 2004. The day-to-day efforts behind both teams will be part of a national television series on Spike TV, a national network. The team will run 15 NASCAR Busch Grand National races, the full 16-event AMA Supercross schedule and the full 12-event AMA Outdoor Nationals. Holigan Racing is owned by Michael Holigan, an expert home-builder and contractor with his own nationally-syndicated television series. Holigan is purchasing the assets of TKO Motorsports, a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team based in Ft. Worth, and will run the NASCAR and AMA teams from his new facility in Dallas. David Starr, one of the top names from NASCAR's Craftsman Truck Series, will drive the Busch car, and will continue driving the Truck for Spears Racing. Todd Myers, a veteran who has worked previously with such names as Jamie McMurray, Brendan Gaughan and Starr, will serve as crew chief. Lifekey Health Care, Inc. will sponsor the Busch team through its brand of Enzyte, the Once-A-Day tablet for natural male enhancement. Team Enzyte will be featured each week in "The Reality of Speed," a 52-week reality show debuting on the Spike TV network beginning Saturday, January 3rd at 10:30 AM. The series follows the lives of drivers, riders and members of both the NASCAR and AMA Holigan Racing teams as they prepare and compete on the grueling circuits. "This is a unique positive position for a motorsports team and for a motorsports sponsor," Holigan said. "Bringing talents like David Starr and Todd Myers together, incorporating immediate, automatic national television exposure and bringing in a high-quality corporate sponsor like Lifekey Health Services and a product like Enzyte may very well be a first for this sport. We are proud to break ground with this exciting new series on Spike TV, and with an exciting new race team," he added.

11/5/03

NASCAR Busch Series first?  Kevin Harvick can clinch the owners' title for Richard Childress with a 26th place finish or better this week in The Target House 200. If Childress wins the owners' title, it would mark the first time in NASCAR Busch Series history that a different owner and driver win the title. Harvick and Johnny Sauter have split time in the No. 21 PayDay Chevrolet this season, with Harvick collecting three wins and Sauter winning one race. The unusual feat has occurred only two other times in NASCAR's history, both in what is now known as NASCAR's Winston Cup division: owner Herb Thomas and driver Lee Petty in 1954 and the Wood Brothers and Joe Weatherly in 1953.
The Dash for Cash  While Kenseth has his first title within his grasp, five drivers are separated by only 113 points as they battle for the second through sixth positions in the standings. Dale Earnhardt, Jr. remains in second place after his popular win at Phoenix International Raceway last weekend and is followed by Jimmie Johnson, Jeff Gordon, Ryan Newman and Kevin Harvick. When the smoke clears after the Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400, those drivers will be closer to determining who has the fatter wallet after the season ends at Homestead-Miami Speedway next weekend. The difference between finishing second and sixth in the final standings is $920,000, while the difference between finishing second and third is $425,000, third and fourth is $200,000, fourth and fifth $150,000 and fifth and sixth is $45,000.
Victory Lap Tribute  Prior to the Pop Secret Microwave Popcorn 400, Bobby Labonte and Benny Parsons will be part of a special "Victory Lap" tribute to honor NASCAR Winston Cup Series champions during R.J. Reynolds' 33-year tenure in the sport. The 2003 NASCAR season is the final for Winston's title sponsorship of NASCAR's top division, which they have held since 1971. Labonte will represent "active" NASCAR Winston Cup champions in the "Victory Lap" tribute. He will drive a specially painted No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet alongside the #72 Chevrolet driven by Benny Parsons during pre-race ceremonies. Parsons, who once lived in nearby Ellerbe, NC, was the 1973 NASCAR Winston Cup champion.

11/5/03

Schumacher leads all drivers  Forbes Magazine published their top 100 celebrity list using various criteria.  Three racing drivers made the list, Michael Schumacher was 19th (but #6 in money earned), Jeff Gordon 59th and Jacques Villeneuve 69th.  Actress Jennifer Aniston was #1 and David Letterman was #24.
Schumacher: The world's highest-salaried athlete pulls in $35 million a year from his racing contract with Ferrari ($75 million with endorsements). While rumors swirled that the carmaker wanted the German to take a pay cut, Schumacher just signed a contract extension through 2006 with a reported 10% raise. Licensing income and personal endorsement contracts with companies like Vodafone also add to the coffers.

Gordon: NASCAR's top endorser ($18.5 million total earned for 2003) saw his ontrack earnings drop more than 40% in 2002, to $6.2 million. His clean-cut image has also been scuffed up a bit due to a high-profile divorce.

Villeneuve: The Canadian driver earns a base salary of $20 million from British American Racing ($23 million with endorsements). But he's in the last year of his contract—he'll have to take a pay cut to keep racing next year.

11/5/03

Lauda back in airline business  Three-time Formula One champion Niki Lauda said on Wednesday he was getting back into the discount airline business, buying a majority stake in the Austrian arm of bankrupt German charter carrier Aero Lloyd.  Lauda, who launched an eponymous charter airline in Austria in 1979 and then sold it in 2000 to Austrian Airlines, said he wanted to launch a "discount airline with quality" with the two jetliners held by Aero Lloyd Austria.  "Basically I believe we can start flying this year," Lauda told a news conference.  It would be the latest in a series of sport and business comebacks for Lauda, considered one of the all-time greats of motor racing, who crashed so badly in 1976 at Germany's Nürburgring that he was read the last rites.  Badly scarred, he was back on the circuit 42 days later to finish fourth in the Italian Grand Prix and the following year secured his second world title for Ferrari.  Lauda said he was personally putting up four million euros ($4.59 million) as start-up capital for the as-yet unnamed airline, which will fly to European destinations not yet served by discount flights from Vienna.  Reuters

11/5/03

Delphi to increase NASCAR sponsorship   Delphi Product & Service Solutions, part of Delphi Corp. announced today that they are renewing their relationship with Hendrick Motorsports and will become a major associate sponsor of the #5 Chevrolet in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series beginning in 2004. "We are very excited about the new sponsorship agreement with Hendrick Motorsports on the No. 5 car," said Francisco A. (Frank) Ordonez, president, Delphi Product & Service Solutions and vice president, Delphi Corporation. "Our relationship with Hendrick Motorsports has been successful both on and off the racetrack during the past three years, and this new agreement demonstrates our commitment going forward. We are thrilled about having the Delphi brand associated with the winning tradition of the No. 5 team." Delphi will be prominently featured on the #5 Chevy in all Nextel Cup races during the 2004 season. In addition, Delphi will be the primary sponsor of the car at the Brickyard 400, along with three other events, yet to be determined. Yahoo Biz

11/5/03

IRL tidbits  Hard working IRL and Indy Speedway Communications Chief Fred Nation, one of the best in the business, fell recently and broke his kneecap, which is a rather painful injury.  We wish him a speedy recovery.  In other news, Imagine putting yourself, a client or an employee in the cockpit of a two-seat IRL® IndyCar® Series car for laps around the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Or imagine standing on the Speedway’s famous “Yard of Bricks” as the start of the Indianapolis 500 approaches and seeing an advertisement for your company in the Official Program of the “500.”  More.....

11/5/03

Would Phoenix have been practical for CART?  Some consideration was given to moving CART's season-ending King Taco 500 at California Speedway to Phoenix Int'l Raceway, about 300 miles east. "We offered to explore every possible avenue, including running the event on Monday or Tuesday at Phoenix Int'l Raceway -- which is owned by California Speedway's parent company International Speedway Corp. -- or running at the California Speedway track sometime next week, allowing us to run this race in a safe manner and have a proper end to the 2003 season," CART President Chris Pook said last week. "All in all, I thought it was a ridiculous idea," Phoenix President Bryan Sperber told National Speed Sport News. "How do you tell somebody who bought a ticket to their hometown track in Southern California that in order to see the race that they paid for -- the track may have been 20 minutes from their home, but now they've got to drive six hours east to see the race? That's not fair. Logistically, after a week of activities here around the Winston Cup weekend, to pack in two more days with no notice would have been absolutely impossible," Sperber said. "From a staffing standpoint, a lot of folks who work at our event, from sheriff's deputies to emergency crews to ticketing, a lot of folks take vacation time a year out to have the opportunity to work at our event. On three or four days' notice, you can't ask their employers to give them a couple of extra days off. Logistically, it's absolutely impossible. From a customer service standpoint, it's not a good idea. From a competition standpoint, it's not a good idea to put Indy cars on the track after the stock cars have put down so much rubber, basically thousands of competitive laps from NASCAR cars and trucks," Sperber said. "That's not an ideal situation."

11/5/03

Michael Keohane to test for Coyne  Recall that we reported from Mexico City that Dale Coyne had secured good financing for one of its two cars for 2004 such that they can now afford to hire the best driver available in an effort to get the team challenging to win races every week.  It looks like the audition process has begun.  Irish driver Michael Keohane will test for Dale Coyne Racing at Sebring next week.   The British F3 race winner, who made his F3000 debut at Silverstone this season, will conduct two days of testing November 13th and 14th.  "This test is very important," he admitted, "Champ Car is where I want to be next year, and a strong test will help progress my plans. Dale Coyne is giving me a chance to prove myself and I intend making the most of this fantastic opportunity.   The Champ Car World Series is a proven route to F1, and a top level professional series in its own right," 23-year old Keohane confirmed, "I truly hope to be a part of it next year."

11/5/03

Tracy honored, Dominguez and Bourdais too  At Tuesday night's CART Awards Banquet, Paul Tracy accepted the Most Popular Driver trophy in addition to his series title in Indian Wells, Calif.  The Canadian received $1 million as the champion in addition to his $1 million in race earnings.  Rookie Sebastien Bourdais received the Greg Moore Legacy award, honoring the driver who epitomizes the character, desire and passion of former driver Greg Moore, and Mario Dominguez was voted most improved driver.

11/5/03
Industry News

Ex-BTCC champ revealed as Brands bidder  UPDATE Said Cockburn: “As well as a new grandstand, new pit complex and new leisure facilities, Brands Racing Limited will invest in the sport itself.  Introducing exciting new championships to the UK as well as improving the existing seasons racing events.”   Hmm....Chris Pook said that if CART were to go back to Brands someday it would expect a new pit complex. 11/5/03 - Former British Touring Car Champion Robb Gravett has revealed himself as one of the five contenders bidding to buy four of Britain's racing circuits – Brands Hatch, Oulton Park, Snetterton and Cadwell Park.  Gravett, who won the BTCC title in 1990, has formed a company named Brands Racing Ltd with his former manager Kimmy Cockburn. The pair claim that the finance for their bid has been secured.

The Interpublic group, which owns the four tracks through its Brands Hatch Circuits Ltd arm, has drawn up a shortlist of five bidders after a lengthy process of elimination from the applications that were made when estate management firm Jones Lang LaSalle was commissioned to find a buyer in July.  The final five must submit binding offers for the circuits by Friday this week. The successful bidder will be notified on November 17.

Gravett said: "There has been a lot of talk about the buy-out, so we feel it is correct for us to announce our intention. We have completed due diligence on the circuits and our plans extend way beyond simply buying them.  Brands Hatch itself is in a sorry state and we have a lot of plans to develop the circuit for British motorsport into something good. We want to put something back into British motorsport.  Everything I have done in the past, I have won, and I hope that will be the case this time too. We are reasonably confident. What we offer is good for everyone in motorsport. We are looking at championships, club racing – everything in UK motorsport. We have radical, positive plans."

Cockburn added that Brands Racing Ltd believes it has the highest bid of the five. Rival bidders include former grand prix driver Jonathan Palmer and BTCC team owner John Batchelor. The bids are said to range between £10million to £30million, although sources have also indicated that the highest is in the region of £70million. Neither Gravett nor Cockburn were willing to reveal how much they are offering, but confirmed that it is a "high bid".  Autosport

11/5/03

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11/4/03

Congratulations David Letterman  Congratulations to 56-year old CART Champ Car and IRL Team Rahal co-owner and CBS Late Show host David Letterman and his girlfriend Regina Lasko on the birth of their first child today, a baby boy.  Letterman's girlfriend, Regina Lasko, delivered a baby boy late Monday night. He weighed in at 9 pounds, 11 ounces and is 21 inches long, Letterman announced on his show Tuesday night.

"I could never imagine ever being a part of something that turned out this beautiful," Letterman said, according to a transcript from "Late Show," which is taped earlier in the day.

Letterman, 56, said the baby,  his first child, is named after his father, Harry Joseph Letterman, who died at 57.

"So God bless dad and God bless Harry," Letterman said.

The talk show host joked: "I don't know, maybe I shouldn't have done this. First thing I took him home and dangled him over the balcony," a reference to pop star Michael Jackson briefly dangling one of his children over a balcony.

11/4/03

ISC files for return of $2.5 million  International Speedway Corporation (“ISC”) (Nasdaq/NM: ISCA; OTC Bulletin Board: ISCB) today announced 88 Corp., a wholly owned subsidiary of ISC and parent of The California Speedway Corporation, owner of California Speedway (“Speedway”), filed a Complaint for Declaratory Relief with the U.S. District Court, Central District of California against CART, Inc. The Complaint seeks a declaration that wildfires throughout San Bernardino County, California, and surrounding areas beginning October 21, 2003, constituted a “force majeure” as described in the Official Organizer/Promoter Agreement (“Agreement”), which led to the cancellation of The King Taco 500 event scheduled to occur on November 2, 2003, at California Speedway. Per the terms specified in the Agreement, ISC is due back the $2.5 million Organization and Rights fee previously paid to CART, less a mutually agreeable amount for legitimate expenses reasonably incurred by CART in preparing for the event.

On October 24th, Speedway officials began coordinating with local authorities and agencies regarding the nearby wildfires, including the advisability of proceeding with the race events scheduled for the weekend of November 1st and 2nd, and how the Speedway could assist in emergency and relief efforts. Speedway officials held multiple discussions with CART regarding postponing its race but CART insisted on delaying a decision until closer to the event. Speedway officials disagreed with CART’s position, as to continue delaying a decision would have put a tremendous burden on fans and competitors, as well as fire safety, medical and security personnel.

On October 28th, at the request of several government officials including James L. Brulte, the Senate Republican Leader of the California State Senate, and the desire to not burden safety and rescue personnel nor endanger employees, guests, volunteers or participants, Speedway officials announced the postponement of the coming weekend’s events. CART announced the cancellation of the event on October 29th. Ultimately, the Speedway became host of a “Race for Relief” effort, transforming itself into a drop off site for items to aid those affected by, or fighting, the wildfires.

The Company hopes the dispute with CART will be resolved quickly.

11/4/03

***Reader Opinion***More evidence ISC wanted CART race to fail  A reader writes, Dear AR1, If everyone else had as much difficulty as I did in purchasing tickets, I can't imagine that ISC would have been afraid of CART attendance at the California Speedway for the scheduled November 2 race. Although I have attended every CART race at Fontana since the speedway was built, I received absolutely zero information from the Speedway this year regarding the CART event or renewing CART tickets. I did however, receive a number of brochures from the Speedway featuring IRL and NASCAR events. When I telephoned the Speedway six weeks ago to order CART tickets for the 2003 race, the ticket salesperson didn't have the faintest idea of what I was talking about when I asked for tickets for the CART Champ Car King Taco 500. Indeed, she seemed unaware that any such event was to be held at the Speedway on November 2. After a series of discussions and my being put on hold several times so the ticket saleswoman could "check things out", she finally acknowledged that a CART race was indeed occurring at the Speedway on that date, but she informed me that tickets were only available in the lower rows. Given the lack of promotion for the event, I knew that this could not possibly be the case, so I asked to speak to a California Speedway supervisor. Finally, a full 30 minutes after the start of my phone call, the supervisor came online and apologized (citing "computer glitches"), confirmed that upper level tickets were available, and took my telephone order for the tickets.

Incidentally, 2002 was the only time during the past five years that something significant didn't happen at the California Speedway to discourage fans from attending future CART events. In 1998 and 1999, the weather was unbearably hot. Additionally in 1999, Greg Moore's death sent everyone home feeling lower than low. In 2000, a rainout occurred and more than half of the attendees were unable to attend the rescheduled Monday event and lost out on the $80-$100 value of their tickets. 2001 was even worse, thanks to last second and largely unpublicized "9/11" security measures that resulted in all carrying cases and bags being confiscated from fans upon entrance. To top it off, the "Great Train Fiasco" occurred during 2001 as rail-traveling fans (which represent a significant portion of the overall attendance) were repeatedly ordered to board their departure trains by 4 pm whether the race was over or not "or be left behind". After the trains were packed with irate fans cheated out of being able to see the last part of the race, fans were kept on board and the trains remained stationary for almost two hours in case "someone stayed behind to see the end of the race". Onboard the trains that day was the closest I've come to seeing a riot at an auto race. Michael Welch, San Diego, CA  Another writes, Dear AR1, While promo material certainly was skimpy and late, I had no trouble when I called California Speedway to purchase tickets. In fact I found the person I dealt with to be very helpful and thorough. Same as in the three previous years. Jeff Skinner, Northridge, CA

11/4/03

IRL tests at Homestead - Big Speed jump  IRL champion Scott Dixon and Tomas Scheckter tested Indy cars Monday at Homestead-Miami Speedway's newly-reshaped track and, according to witnesses, hit speeds approaching 220 mph on the 1.5-mile oval.  The new configuration features increased banking in the turns, from six degrees to 20, and thus the increase in speed. Tony Kanaan won the IRL pole position in 2003 at 203.5 mph.  For the third time in its history the track south of Miami was torn up to try and make NASCAR races more competitive.  The IRL opens its 2004 season at Homestead.  RPM.ESPN.com

11/4/03

CART announces new testing rules  The annals of Champ Car history are filled with names that made their way to the top of the sport by first starting in feeder series such as the CART Toyota Atlantic Championship, and CART Champ Car today announced testing rules for 2004 that will entice teams to keep that legacy alive. The new testing incentives are designed to reward Atlantic teams that aspire to the Champ Car World Series, and also benefits existing Champ Car teams that give Atlantic drivers a chance to test the 750hp turbocharged machines of the Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford. For 2004, Champ Car teams will have eight days of testing for veteran drivers and 12 days for rookies. In addition, Atlantic teams moving up to Champ Cars will get an extra pair of days, while existing Champ Car teams are eligible for two extra days of testing per car, provided that they use those days to test with a driver that finished in the top 10 in the 2003 Toyota Atlantic standings. "We are making a commitment to the next generation of Champ Car drivers and we expect our teams to embrace the chance to aid in their development," said CART Senior Vice President of Operations John Lopes. "We are also creating incentives for our Atlantic teams to move up, which is equally important to our future." Rules have also been put into place that will ensure that a number of different drivers get the opportunity to test the Champ Cars as none of the drivers on the list can run more than four of the new test days. Series champion A.J. Allmendinger heads the list of drivers that are eligible for the new program along with Ryan Dalziel, Michael Valiante, Jonathan Macri, Aaron Justus, Danica Patrick, Joey Hand, Luis Diaz, Alex Figge and Kyle Krisiloff. CART is also looking at a Spring Training-type of preseason test which would include three days of on-track action, with dates and times to be announced in the near future.

11/4/03

Steadman new Crew Chief for #45   Veteran Greg Steadman will serve as crew chief of the #45 Georgia-Pacific/Brawny Dodge for the final two races of the 2003 NASCAR Winston Cup season.  Steadman, who has previously served as crew chief of the #43 and #44 Dodges at Petty Enterprises, had been serving as shop foreman. “Greg has done a great job in the shop but he realizes we need him back on the road,” said Kyle Petty, driver of the #45 and CEO of Petty Enterprises. “As a crew chief with both the #43 and #44, he did a tremendous job, and is a great leader. We are fortunate to have him available. “We have not been able to build on our improvement in 2002. We feel Greg can help us get back on the right track,” Petty added.

11/4/03

CART-Barber Dodge Karting finalists announced This year's "sweet 16," an elite group of karters vying for six scholarships worth a total of more than $100,000 to race in the Skip Barber-run Formula Dodge National Championship Presented by RACER magazine in 2004, were named following the Snap-On.com Champ Car Stars of Tomorrow karting season finale at Moran Raceway in Beaumont, Calif. With the World Karting Association (WKA) and the CART Champ Car-run Stars of Tomorrow organizations working hand-in-hand with Skip Barber Racing, the following drivers have been invited to the Barber-Champ Car Karting Scholarship Run-off January 4-5 at Sebring International Raceway:

[in alphabetical order]
Andrew Alfonso, 21, Danville, Calif.
Jason Bowles, 21, Ontario, Calif.
Travis Firing, 19, Charlotte, N.C.
Mike Giessen, 16, Deer Park, N.Y.
Chris Giumarra, 21, Canoga Park, Calif.
Kevin Glover, 21, North Vancouver, B.C., Canada
Nicolas Green, 16, San Jose, Calif.
Josh Hunt, 18, Gold Coast, Australia
Seth Ingham, 19, Moxie, Wash.
Christopher Larson, 18, Trinity, Fla.
Lorenzo Mandarino, 17, Flower Mound, Texas
Benny Moon, 19, Shingle Springs, Calif.
Corey Reeves, 16, Franklin, Wis.
Alan Sciuto, Orange, Calif.
Tommy Van Cleef, 17, North Port, Fla.
Jan Velez-Walter, 17, Guaynabo, Puerto Rico

Today, many of karting's top runners are coming from both the WKA and Stars of Tomorrow ranks, and the Barber-Champ Car Karting Run-off is the beginning step of an officially designated ladder system (Stars of Tomorrow and WKA karting to Formula Dodge National Championship to Barber Dodge Pro Series to Toyota Atlantic to Champ Car) that identifies and cultivates tomorrow's Champ Car racing stars. Champ Car rookie Ryan Hunter- Reay, winner of last month's Lexmark 300 Champ Car race in Australia and a nine-time WKA karting champion in the mid-1990s, accelerated his open-wheel career by winning a Formula Dodge scholarship at the very first Karting Run-Off in 1997 and then climbing that precise ladder.

In addition to these 16 elite picks, the January Run-Off will include other WKA, Stars of Tomorrow, SKUSA and IKF karters who meet certain eligibility requirements. The expected total field size will be something on the order of 25 to 30 top-flight karters.

One final note: Another element of the Skip Barber-Champ Car karting alliance is that every year, Champ Car names one karter from the Stars of Tomorrow series to receive a fully funded scholarship to compete in the Formula Dodge National Championship Presented by RACER; Champ Car will announce that winner soon.

11/4/03

Bahrain to warm-up with non-F1 event The Bahrain International Circuit which is due to host its inaugural Formula One race next April, will run a full system check two weeks earlier when it hosts a round of the Superfund Euro 3000 Championship. For next season two new races are added to the Euro 3000 series, both of them in the Middle East. On March 19 the season kicks off in Bahrain while in late October (17) Dubai, which is also hoping to host a Formula One Grand Prix in time, will host the penultimate race.  PitPass

11/4/03
Industry News

October Auto Sales Report  The world's two largest automakers reported that sales of new cars and trucks fell more than expected last month, the payback for three months of strong sales.  Year-over-year sales fell 7 percent at General Motors Corp., to 359,842 cars and trucks, and 2 percent at Ford Motor Co., to 281,630 units, as demand for new cars and trucks slowed down from their fever pitch to a seasonally adjusted annual selling rate of 15.6 million cars and trucks.  Several Japan-based automakers reported major gains this month. Mazda Motor Corp. sales improved 52 percent, and they jumped 18 percent at Nissan Motor Co. and 12 percent at Toyota Motor Corp. Honda Motor Co. sales were off 3 percent.  Several luxury brands also reported major gains. Porsche sales increased 84 percent, while BMW demand grew 16 percent.  DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group was the only local automaker to report an increase in sales. Chrysler sold 166,262 cars and trucks last month, an increase of 11 percent that was driven by a strong performance in the Jeep division, which was up 10 percent, and by the Dodge Ram pickup. Detroit Free Press

11/4/03

Bid to save Canadian GP fails?  2nd UPDATE The Montreal newspaper La Presse reported on Sunday that Montreal Canadians owner George Gillett and Molson Inc. failed to gain control of the race from promoter Normand Legault, ending their efforts to raise the cash needed to keep the race on the F-1 calendar for 2004. But sources close to the deal told The Toronto Sun yesterday it was a demand for more money from F-1 officials -- in addition to the $20 million to the teams ($2 million per team) to add an 18th race -- that really pushed the bailout plan to the brink. In spite of the passing of the Oct. 31 deadline to come up with the cash, efforts still are under way to save the race. It is believed, however, that the cost of bringing back the GP to Montreal is now in the range of a whopping $65 million -- $20 million for the teams and $45 million for Bernie Ecclestone's Formula One Management. "Every time the Canadians reached a number, F-1 bosses raised the stakes," the source said. ($65 million? If true, stick a fork in this race, it's done) Toronto Sun  11/2/03 - The report on TSN is an incorrect translation. What failed is Molson and Gillette's attempts to buy the promotional rights for the GP out from under Legault. In the end Legault has the financing in place and Bernie preferred he continue to run the GP rather than what Molson/Gillette were offering. You can view the proper article at www.rds.ca/f1.  It says the Legault and Bernie's deal should be finalized shortly and Labatt will be the main sponsor, which is interesting because Molson sponsors all the CART races, including the Montreal round.  It looks like Labatt will muscle in on their monopoly.   11/2/03 - A report says Molson Inc. and Montreal Canadians owner George Gillett have failed in their attempt to save the Canadian Grand Prix. Molson and Gillette were hoping to either buy or become major shareholders in the race. Earlier, they had pledged to work with Grand Prix promoter Normand Legault to come up with solutions for funding. However, the Montreal newspaper La Presse says their talks with Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone failed because the compensation package asked for by the F-1 teams was too expensive. The Canadian Grand Prix was initially removed from the 2004 schedule because of Canada's anti-tobacco laws, which prohibits tobacco companies from sponsoring sports and cultural events. The race was provisionally reinstated on condition they reach a compensation package with the teams that have tobacco sponsors.  Canadian Press

11/4/03

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11/3/03

Yes Virginia, they can race in the rain  Many readers have written to ask if CART races in the rain.  Most fans have become accustomed to watching the cars following the pace car as soon as the track is wet.  It's always one excuse or another.  In case you doubt whether Champ Car drivers can actually race in the rain, here's a photo from Vancouver 1999.  Heavy rain, blinding spray, but yes, Champ Car drivers used to race in the rain.  Perhaps Bridgestone will provide their F1 rain tire tread design for CART in 2004 and we will see real racing in the rain once again.  We don't know if CART and Bridgestone will agree to an intermediate hard tire and a soft rain tire, because if the single rain tire compound for road courses stays as hard as it is, the cars will continue to tiptoe around the track behind the pace car, the drivers saying it's too slippery to race.  Mark C.

11/3/03

***Reader Comment*** ISC was afraid of CART attendance  UPDATE A reader responds, Dear AR1, I just had to crank out my video tape from the 1998 CART race from Fontana tonight after reviewing those photos. In 1998, Page, Johnstone, et al from ABC announced the attendance I believe at around 98,000. Last year less than 60,000. Where did 38,000 race fans go to? Especially with the Hanford device CART used in later years to make for better racing. I suppose the death of Greg Moore might have driven them away, or the fact that ISC didn't promote the CART race after they got NASCAR involved. Then, the fiasco surrounding this year's CART race. It's a damn shame. It's all just a damn shame. Paul Richards Des Moines, Iowa  Dear Paul, you are almost correct, the attendance was a stout 97,000 but the year may have been 1999 - see photo upper right - that was four short years ago - it was pretty much a sellout. ISC is in bed with the IRL.  Maybe they will get a crowd like that someday, but we doubt it.  Mark C. 11/2/03 - A reader writes, Dear AR1, here are some photos from last year's CART race at Fontana where 60,000 showed up on race day.  Despite almost zero promotion by ISC for this year's CART race, I believe they were worried that CART was still going to draw more people than the IRL if this year's CART race ran this weekend. (Top row CART 2002, bottom row IRL 2003)  Marco Santoyo
 

 

11/3/03
Industry News

BMW USA sales up  The BMW Group (BMW and MINI brands combined) has set a sales record for the month of October. With sales of 22,685 vehicles, the company is up more than 15 percent from the 19,634 sales of October 2002, itself a record. The BMW Group also recorded year-to-date sales of 226,868, an increase of 10% percent over the 206,791 vehicles reported in the first ten months of 2002.

11/3/03

Brack to undergo another major surgery  Injured IRL driver Kenny Brack has a long road ahead of him.  This AP article says Brack's surgery Tuesday will involve placement of a bracket on his spine and probably some bone fusion to stabilize the back, Dr. Robert Gregori said. "Without that, there's an increased risk of developing some deformity and possibly nerve injury," Gregori said. Brack had surgery on his back the day after the crash. Normally, the stabilization is done at the same time, but it was delayed because there was a tear of a membrane that covers the brain and spinal cord, causing a leak of spinal fluid, Gregori said. Brack has seen photos but remembers nothing about the crash. He said he only recalls waking up four days later with a tube down his throat. Gregori said it probably would take three to four months for Brack's ankles to heal and three more months before he is able to carry weight on them. Car owner Bobby Rahal said he would talk with Brack about a replacement driver for the team during the winter testing period. "But first things first," Rahal said. "We're just anxious for him to get strong, get better. I know he's in good hands there." Brack said he normally has three one-hour rehabilitation sessions each day, including occupational therapy to teach him how to perform routine tasks such as moving himself from one chair to another or from his hospital bed to a wheelchair. He also lifts weights. The 1998 IRL champion and the 1999 Indianapolis 500 winner said he would decide whether to resume driving after he has healed. "I don't have any thoughts about quitting now, but that's a decision I'll make when I get to that stage," Brack said. "Right now, I'm determined to get back 100 percent."

11/3/03

CART decides no relief necessary for Reynard teams  The last few races of any season are a time for teams and drivers to build momentum for the coming year, momentum that could boost prospects throughout an entire race team from drivers to sponsors to fans.

The last few races have yielded much promise to those teams running the Reynard chassis, but none have been as enlightening as last week's Lexmark Indy 300 in Surfers Paradise, Australia. Reynards swept the podium for the first time since Vancouver in 2001, and helped rookie Ryan Hunter-Reay to his first-ever series victory.

Furthering the cause for optimism in the Champ Car paddock are the results of a recent CART wind tunnel test that showed that the much-maligned Reynard is performing on a par with the Lola when similar road-course aerodynamic configurations are compared. CART conducted testing two weeks ago with the latest versions of both chassis, determining that the Reynard actually has slightly more downforce and slightly less drag than their counterparts.

"The tests showed us the great potential of the Reynards and we believe that any further development that might aid the Reynard cause would have to come outside of the aerodynamic package," said CART Director of Technology Lee Dykstra. "We believe that it is very possible to realize that potential by modifying the aerodynamic components of the car without changing the shape mandated by the aerodynamic freeze."

Reynards had shown strength at many stops along the schedule before last week's sweep, including the first race of the 2003 season when Mario Haberfeld of Mi-Jack/Conquest Racing scored a fourth-place finish in his first-ever event. Jimmy Vasser followed that with a fourth-place run at Long Beach while his American Spirit Team Johansson stablemate Ryan Hunter-Reay qualified second and finished third in the Reynard at the demanding Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Walker Racing's Darren Manning set a new CART record for rookies by scoring eight consecutive top-10 finishes while piloting the Reynard and Fittipaldi-Dingman Racing's Tiago Monteiro carried his Reynard to a front-row starting spot in Mexico City after leading Saturday qualifying. A Reynard has either started or finished in the top five in five of the last six events and has scored 11 top-five finishes this season.  CART

11/3/03

CART announces most-popular driver finalists  Tuesday's CART Champ Car Awards Ceremony at the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort and Spa in Palm Springs will see a number of racing dignitaries on the stage both presenting and receiving awards as the series brings an end to the exciting 2003 season. Thanks to MCI and CART Champ Car, one lucky fan will be joining the list of racing names to go on stage for Tuesday night's ceremony. Janet Hunt from Mission Viejo, California will present this year's MCI Most Popular Driver Award. Hunt was chosen from a random drawing of fans that voted for this year's award winning driver, and will be a guest of MCI and CART at this week's ceremony. The Californian will be handing the award to one of three finalists that were announced today - defending award winner Paul Tracy, two-time 2003 race winner Michel Jourdain Jr. and Australia podium sitter Jimmy Vasser were the top-three vote getters in the season-long balloting. In addition to bragging rights, this year's MCI Most Popular Champ Car Driver will receive a $25,000 donation to the charity of his choice on behalf of MCI. By being chosen from the fans that cast ballots, Hunt receives the ultimate fan prize package including a flight for two to Palm Springs via an exclusive Bombardier Skyjet private VIP plane, two nights at the luxurious Renaissance Esmeralda Resort and Spa, two tickets to the Champ Car Awards Ceremony on 11/4. The prize package also includes roundtrip airfare and hotel accommodations for two to any Champ Car World Series event in North America in 2004 along with rental car, $500 spending cash and VIP passes to the Champ Car Hospitality Suite. "Winning this prize was a wonderful experience especially during such a thrilling race season," Hunt said. "I can't even imagine what it will be like to be on stage at the Awards Ceremony but I'm excited."  CART

11/3/03
Formula BMW

Juan's brother to race Formula BMW  Federico Montoya, the younger brother of Williams driver Juan Pablo Montoya, will drive in the German Formula BMW series next year. The Berlin-based Muecke team said on Monday that the 19-year-old would drive for them in 2004. "He is a great talent and will go places in motor racing," team chief Peter Muecke said of the Colombian, who had a promising run in the Florida Easykart series this year.  Reuters [Editor's Note: Perhaps he will run a few races as part of CART's Formula BMW series as well].

11/3/03
Super Bikes

Rossi leaves Honda  On Sunday at Valencia, Valentino Rossi and Honda formally announced that their relationship is over.  After a partnership spanning four seasons, Rossi revealed that he felt he had achieved everything he possibly could with Honda and added that he was looking forward to racing against it next season.

"I have to say thank you very much to Honda. It is true. Next year we don't race together," he began. "For sure it has been a fantastic period for me to work together for four years. It's been unforgettable. We've won 50% of the races when we have been together. The story is only four years but for me it seems much longer.

"Together we start in 2000 with a new challenge with the 500. There were many problems to start with. Straightaway we were working with HRC and it as amazing. To work with HRC for a rider is like a dream. If you are able to give the right information to the engineers they are able to change.

"At the end of the first year we arrive in second position in the championship and take more podiums than anyone else.

"The next year I have a new NSR – after six or seven years of the old NSR. We win 11 races and the championship. It was a great championship as it was the last of the 500's. The 500cc was the story of the sport. To win the last 500cc race was like a dream. Maybe one of the best races of my career.

"After, we sign a new contract and we start another time from zero with the new 4–stroke. I first ride at Suzuka in 2001 in August. It was already a good bike. But even at the beginning I was wondering if it was as good as the 500's as it was not as fast. We work hard and the bike was ready for the first GP and we win. At the end of last season the Yamaha was at the same level and we make a good step over the winter in testing and arrive this season in good shape.

"This year was great for me. We make many emotional races. We had a good second part of the championship. At a point after Sepang the idea arrived about making a change because we win in the dry, we win in the wet, we win at circuits I like and like today, we win at circuits I have not had such good luck at in the past. We finish our work with the bike.

"My work on (the RCV) is now finished. I am a HRC rider until the 31st December so I cannot comment yet on which bike I will be riding, but I can say that it will be a big challenge - it maybe even seems a little crazy right now!" was all Vale would say of his future - almost certain to be with Yamaha. "I think all the journalists, fans and everybody involved in this sport is very happy because next year will be a great fight.

"I have just one more small request, would Honda please let me test the new 2004 machine before I leave!" he joked.

"Everyone in this room knows; indeed anyone with even the slightest interest in motorcycle racing around the world will know that we at Honda have been in contract negotiations with Valentino Rossi's management for much of this season," stated HRC sporting manager Carlo Fiorani .

"We at Honda have done everything in our power to secure Valentino's services for next year. In the end we understand that it is not about money, sponsor obligations or any of the standard issues that are negotiated over in more general contract discussions. The area we have had difficulty in, is one of providing Valentino with a new challenge and it is an area we at Honda totally understand. This is totally a Valentino choice.

"Throughout his career Valentino has moved onto a new challenge every season and in the end, it is this that Valentino seeks. In many ways his driving force is reflected in the spirit of this great company. Soichiro Honda who founded the business over 50 years ago understood and rejoiced in this spirit.

"So, on the evening of the final Grand Prix of 2003, and Valentino's 64th with Honda, we announce officially today that Honda and Valentino Rossi will not be renewing any contract for the 2004 season.

"We are obviously very sad on the one hand to see Valentino go but feel that we as a manufacturer and Valentino as a rider part company as friends with the best memories of our time together. We now have to look forward to next season when we will gather a team of riders capable of retaining the World Championship for Honda.

"I'd like to publicly thank Valentino for all the success and fun we've had over the last four years. The Honda / Rossi partnership has been an incredible one. Together we have won three World Championships, three Manufacturers Titles and 33 races in four very special years.

"We have had this situation before when riders either move teams or retire. Mike Hailwood, Freddie Spencer, Wayne Gardner, Eddie Lawson, Mick Doohan and now Valentino Rossi.

"On behalf of all at Honda, the racing community and fans world-wide I thank you for your efforts Valentino and I wish you well in the future and we look forward to the challenge of 2004 and beyond," concluded Rossi.

11/3/03

CART Cosworth Ford tidbits  This CART.com article reveals some interesting facts:

  1. CART will implement the push-to-pass button in 2004.  This is excellent news and something AR1 lobbied for heavily.  Plans are in the works for modest developments to the Ford/Cosworth XFE for ’04, including soft- and hardware tweaks enabling a “push to pass” function giving drivers a fixed amount of time (we hear 60 seconds total) during races when they have a little extra power at their fingertips. Other software development is in the works that will make the engines a little more “driver friendly” on pit road when the cars are running at a comparatively slow speed limit.

  2. In 180,000 miles of racing, practice, qualifying and testing, there were just five engine failures. Or how about this? In 342 race starts from St. Petersburg in February to Surfers Paradise in October, there was one - count it - one, engine failure.

  3. “Overall, the failure rate was less than one percent,” says Ken Daigle, who manages Cosworth’s trackside support operations in the Champ Car World Series. “0.78% to be exact. In seasons past, we generally saw a failure rate between seven and three percent, with seven a bit on the high side.

  4. Cosworth’s engineers took the Ford/Cosworth XF engine that, in ’02, had produced well in excess of 800 horsepower at upwards of 17,000 rpm for single race distances, no more, and massaged it to develop 750 hp at 12,000 rpm and run up to three race weekends between routine services.

  5. All in all, though, the planned changes are minor indeed. After all, as the old adage goes “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” And as the numbers show, for 99.22% of the 180,000 miles run during the course of the ‘03 Champ Car World Series, the Ford/Cosworth XFEs weren’t “broke.”

11/3/03

***Reader Comment***Drivers must put an end to the IRL  A reader writes, Dear AR1.Com, Noting your comments on Dario working every angle he can muster before committing to another death-defying season risking life and limb in the "Injury Racing League" and, noting comments made suggesting Michael "Show Me The Money" Andretti retired from active driving duties deliberately to avoid the "Bass-O-Matic" fencing surrounding TMS and, noting de Ferran's “retirement” from racing, which now appears to be a retirement ONLY from the IRL given speculation he may be driving elsewhere soon and, yes, given the IRL's overwhelming interest in nothing more than "a good show" regardless of the price paid in broken bones, concussions, deaths and the angst of loved ones, I think it's time the fans spoke out to the drivers and their families to implore them, beg them, to stop the insanity that is the IRL because, in the final analysis, the drivers are the ONLY ones capable of bringing an end to this absurd excuse for a motorsport!

Hey Scott: What does the IRL Championship really mean in the total context of a career in professional motorsports? Winning the IRL championship is like practicing law at Bendini, Lambert and Locke. It's a progression to nowhere. Will your 2003 IRL Championship plus another season running 'round in circles help or hinder your chances at a seat in F1? How much interest will Frank or Ron show in you if you get injured? Hey Helio: Is the IRL Championship worth spending the rest of your days punch drunk (see: Ali, Muhammad; Brain Trauma - suffered by some IRL drivers) from having your bell rung too many times? The IRL is nothing more than one long support race for the Indy 500. Is a support race worth not being able to remember the names of your family and closest friends? Mr. Kanaan: Is the IRL Championship worth living the remainder of your life as a quadriplegic? Maybe Alex could set you up with a BMW like his . . . and a handicapped parking placard. Mr. & Mrs. Renna: Was the prospect of an IRL Championship worth your son's life? Kenny: Is an IRL Championship worth the worry you’ve been putting Anita through each and every time you stepped into the cockpit of a race car whose crashworthiness is becoming just a bit suspect? How could you ever, EVER consider putting her through that again?

You drivers are in control of this. Not Anton George. Not the IRL front office. Not your team owners. Not your sponsors. Not the fans. You're in control. Isn't it time to start thinking long and hard about this while you're still blessed with the ability . . .. to think.  Respectfully, J.N. Anderson, Chicago, Illinois

11/3/03

#24 cleared of Traction Control   Perhaps you noticed last week’s race winner Jeff Gordon having difficulty completing a proper burnout after winning last week’s race. You might have also noticed Gordon was able to run through Atlanta Motor Speedway’s corners so high that he was kicking up dirt and dust, but never pulled the car’s rear end into the wall. If so, you were not alone as a vast number of those who toil in the Winston Cup garage noticed these things as well, including NASCAR officials. According to NASCAR PR staff, Gordon’s car was torn down, inspected with a fine toothed comb and special attention paid to the ignition system. NASCAR officials did take the rear end from Gordon’s car into the Conover, N.C., R&D center, where the unit, away from the prying eyes of the competitors, was cleared later in the week. This confiscation was not widely publicized within the industry, but few were surprised when they did hear the news. One driver simply said of the impounded piece, “It doesn’t surprise me. I was running as hard as I could and I certainly couldn’t pull half the moves that [Gordon] was. Nope. It doesn’t surprise me, that they took it and that they didn’t find anything wrong.”   Ford Racing

11/3/03

Dale Jr. gets an eyeful   After winning the Checker 500, Dale Earnhardt Jr. conducted a press conference in the infield media center, which is located behind pit road in the Phoenix International Raceway infield. One side of the press-conference area is bordered by windows. Early in the question-and-answer session, a young woman walked up to the window and bared a part of her anatomy that is typically concealed by clothing. A large contingent of the media — and, of course, Junior himself — witnessed the incident, which set off quite the raucous scene. Earnhardt Jr. waited for the whoops and laughter to subside; then, with a sense of timing that Bob Hope would have envied, leaned into the microphone and said, “The demographic of this sport is changing.” Meanwhile, the ample young woman was being led away outside. Gaston Gazette

11/3/03

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11/2/03

CART Stars action in California  The final race in the season-long 2003 Snap-on.com Champ Car Stars of Tomorrow presented by RACER Magazine national karting series lived up to the hype Sunday at the all-new Moran Raceway with some sensational wheel-to-wheel action on the one-mile road circuit.

In addition to the spectacular racing in the “Stars Karting Championships,” six national karting champions were crowned after the 17-race national campaign. Sunshine greeted the 200-plus racers Sunday morning after rain showers played havoc with the competition on Saturday.

Veteran racers Darren Elliott, 35, of Canyon Country, Calif., and Bobby Wilson, 21, of Dousman, Wis., dueled for 23 laps Sunday in the ICC (125cc shifter) division in a classic match-up that saw the two national stars pull away from the rest of the 44-driver field. Polesitter Wilson dove into the first turn at the green light but couldn’t hold off the aggressive Elliott on the outside through turn one. More.....

11/2/03

Tagliani to sign autographs at SEMA show  Rocketsports Racing driver, Alex Tagliani, will appear at the SEMA show in Las Vegas to sign autographs for primary sponsor Johnson Controls on Thursday, November 6, 2003. Tagliani, driver of the No. 33 Johnson Controls Lola, will sign between 12:00 and 3:00 p.m. at the Johnson Controls display area in the North Hall of the Las Vegas Convention Center .

11/2/03

Roush & Wood Brothers swap crew chiefs   Roush Racing and Wood Brothers Racing announced today that they will switch crew chiefs on the No. 6 and No. 21 racing teams. Effective Monday morning (Nov. 3) Ben Leslie will become the crew chief of the No. 21 Motorcraft Racing Team with driver Ricky Rudd, while Pat Tryson will take over the crew chief duties for the No. 6 Viagra (sildenafil citrate) Racing Team with driver Mark Martin.

11/2/03

***Reader Question***How can CART be like F1?  A reader writes, Dear Mark C., You proposed CART coming up with a new car that is like a F1 car, both in size, weight and sound.  How can CART teams afford such a car?  Hector Rodriguez, Monterrey, Mexico  Dear Hector, First let's start with the chassis.  CART fans don't buy Lolas or Reynards to drive, so the make of the chassis does not matter.  If we ran CART we would contact someone like the Renault F1 team, who has the best handling F1 car, and ask them to bid to supply their 2003 F1 chassis for the entire CART grid.  We might ask a couple of others, plus Lola to do likewise.  We would expect the bids to be reasonable because the cars can be mass produced with no competition - i.e. the winner would have an exclusive contract.  They would also get all the replacement parts sales throughout the year.  We would make it a 3-year contract and negotiate the lowest price possible. They would supply everything on the car sans the engine.  With the chassis and transmission standardized, CART teams could afford a F1 car. What about the engine?  Here there are three possibilities to make it affordable - 1) Contract with someone like Cosworth to design a spec V10 15,000 RPM engine that can be 'badged' by any car manufacturer per our previous proposal, 2) Open it up to any manufacturer to supply their own V10 15,000 RPM engine design within a very tight set of rules, and set a price cap per engine like the IRL does, so the teams never have to pay more than a set price, or 3) Open it up to any manufacturer to supply their own V10 15,000 RPM engine design within a very tight set of rules, and set a requirement that an engine must last three race weekends between rebuilds.  Of the three scenarios, we like #1 the best because it is the most economical and allows any manufacturer instant entry into the series for a tolling fee.  In all three scenarios CART would supply the ECM for all the engines to prevent traction control and the like. Tires can be provided by a single manufacturer, though to stir things up and create some passing, multiple manufacturers might help, as long as a price cap is established.  To conclude, CART can compete with cars that are like F1 cars - light & nimble for CART's tight street and road circuits, and scream like a F1 car, but at a much lower cost through standardization.  CART is not F1.  Every team does not have to build their own car. The drivers should be the heroes, not the cars anyway.  The above proposals do not preclude a manufacturer from getting involved in the series in a major way, it just prevents them from having to spend an enormous amount of money to compete and it keeps costs reasonable for the teams. Fielding cars that are F1-like separates CART as far as possible from the IRL, whose cars are downright ugly, are not made to road race, are balky and overweight to protect drivers when they impact concrete walls at over 200 MPH, and they take flight at an alarming rate.  We feel the scream of a V10 engine alone, which runs chills down your spine, will win back a lot of fans CART lost and win over a lot of new fans. With the NASCARization of everything in American motorsports, having a series that, at least from the outsides looks and sounds like a high-tech, sophisticated series, will fill a serious void in North American motorsports and really excite the fast and furious tuner crowd who very much like cars that 'scream.'  This talk of a merger between CART and IRL is preposterous. The IRL is going to want the cars and engines to be pretty much what they have now, and that has proven to be a complete and utter failure.  CART must stand on its own feet and forget about this merger talk.  Tony George doesn't want a merger and CART doesn't need it.  For what?  The Indy 500?  Do your own survey - walk down the street and ask 50 people who won the 2003 Indy 500.  If you find one person who knows quick buy a lottery ticket, it might be the luckiest day of your life.  Why would CART teams want to run on say, 50%, of the IRL ovals, and risk the danger of driver injury as well as the catastrophic destruction of so many expensive race cars? It's time for CART to set its own future.  Mark C.

11/2/03

Pennzoil & Roush announce partnership   Acting to position Pennzoil motor oil squarely at the forefront of NASCAR competition, Roush Racing and Pennzoil have announced a lubrication sponsorship and technology partnership across all Roush Racing teams in all NASCAR series.

The program will include Pennzoil participation and associate identification on all Roush Racing NASCAR Nextel Cup (NNC) teams, beginning with the Daytona 500 in 2004. Additionally, Roush Racing will feature a special Pennzoil design and paint scheme on the #16 Greg Biffle NNC entry at Pocono Raceway next June.

 

Capping the sponsorship announcement was the news that Mark Martin, the winningest driver in the history of the NASCAR Busch Grand National (BGN) Series will 'unretire' to race the Pennzoil colors as part of a three driver Busch Series 'Pennzoil Super Team' consisting of Martin, Matt Kenseth and Jeff Burton. The three drivers will combine to race different Pennzoil entries in nine BGN events during 2004, beginning with Mark Martin at Daytona in February.

"To say that we are thrilled at the prospects this relationship provides for Pennzoil would be a tremendous understatement," said Andy Coccari, VP North American Marketing, Shell Lubricants, in making the announcement. "We are proud of Pennzoil's heritage in all forms of auto racing, and this partnership with Roush Racing promises to add some more hardware to our trophy collection. Our customers and trade partners have already given us a big 'thumbs up', and we look forward to kicking things off at Speedweeks in Daytona next February."

The Pennzoil-Roush partnership draws on Pennzoil's advanced lubrication technologies, and will provide Roush Racing with not just lubrication products but also with the expertise to maximize the performance side of the engineering equation.

"You know I'm still an engineer at heart," commented Jack Roush, "and I am really excited about working hand-in-hand with a lubricant partner across all our teams to maximize our performance on the racetrack each and every weekend. Coincidentally, my first sponsor all the way back in my drag racing days was Pennzoil, so you might say this is a 'homecoming' for all of us!"

11/2/03

Theissen likes revised F1 testing and engine rules  In the 2004 season all teams will have to test in the same conditions again. A move that has been welcomed by BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen.

The FIA has decided to cancel the so-called ‘Heathrow Agreement’ for more equal opportunities in F1. In 2003 the BMW WilliamsF1 Team and some of its competitors were testing at selected circuits between the races, while some other teams – those who had signed the ‘Heathrow Agreement’ – did only few days of testing between the races but had the right to do some testing on the GP weekends, early on Friday morning, before the first free practice session was started at 11.00 AM.

For Mario Theissen it has been a step in the right direction, to cancel the Heathrow agreement. “This year the ‘Heathrow teams’ had the opportunity to do some free testing on Friday morning. All those spectators who aren’t deeply involved and don’t know all the current regulations, must have been wondering why there were only six or seven cars out on the track and why there were drivers behind the wheels who weren’t part of the grid. On the other hand there were teams, among them the BMW WilliamsF1 Team, who made an extensive testing effort on the days after the GP weekends – under the eyes of nearly no spectators at all. From my point of view this wasn’t a satisfying situation. I’m delighted that we have been able to return to a standard schedule.”

In 2004 each F1 team will be allowed to do 48 days of testing. At these days each team may use as many cars as it likes to do.

Another – far more important – new regulation has been welcomed by Mario Theissen.

“I think the ‘one engine per weekend’ rule is a good move. This has been discussed already last year, a discussion the engine manufacturers have been involved in. And already that time we said: ‘We are going to support this plan'. We are going to develop an engine that will be able to run some 800 kilometres.”

“So we all started developing this engine nearly one year ago, so it’s important that this regulation has been really introduced now. This is the only way to achieve a cost reduction on the technical side”, Theissen adds. [Editor's Note: and a 6-race engine as proposed by Max Mosley would save even more money]

The development of the new BMW P84 engine has progressed even faster than scheduled in the ambitious BMW development program. Already as early as in September the new engine for the 2004 season made its race track debut. Now the main goal for the winter tests will be to keep on improving its steadfastness. BMW Motorsports

11/2/03

Heidfeld has one eye on CART, but wants to stay in F1  Recently sacked Sauber driver Nick Heidfeld says he wants to remain in F1 in 2004, either as a driver or a test driver.  Keen not to be seen as a 'pay driver', Heidfeld says that he will do whatever it takes to get an opportunity to show what he can do.

"He who pays once, pays always," the former F3000 champion told German newspaper Die Bild, "I have earned well over the last few seasons, but that will probably change because of the bad economic situation. But, to be honest, the money is not what I am concerned with. I simply want to remain in Formula One. I want to show what I can do."

"I made a few mistakes," he said, "Perhaps I grasped too late that being in Formula One does not only rely on what you do on the track. Perhaps I could have sold myself better, behaved differently and spoken out more. But I have been at Sauber for three years and the situation was always changing - at times my outlook was good. I am still only 26, and I still consider myself to be a good driver. I haven't suddenly lost my ability to drive."

"So far, it has not come to look to another series," he said, "Next to F1, there are a couple of series where I would find it relatively easy to get a place - Champ Cars or the DTM for example - but that is not my ambition. I am only 26, and I do not see myself in either of those series yet."

"I will be in Melbourne, Malaysia, Bahrain....," he said, "I want to show everyone that I am still around..." [Editor's note:  With German Kaffer already coming to CART (Team Rahal rumor) and German's Frentzen and Heidfeld looking for rides, a CART race at EuroSpeedway would be a 120,000 seat sellout if CART were savvy enough to land all three German drivers.  If CART had three German drivers of that caliber, the EuroSpeedway promoters would be able to offer CART more money because they would more than make up for it in ticket sales.  As it is they have done rather well with no German drivers in CART (86,000 first year, over 60,000 the second but that was after it was reinstated in the 11th hour after being cancelled).  If Heidfeld and Frentzen knew Bernie Ecclestone was a part of the CART series in some capacity, they would likely jump at the chance at CART.  AR1 readers know why we think Bernie eventually will be.]

11/2/03

Sun Trust to sponsor Wayne Taylor team SunTrust Banks Inc has announced that it will be the primary sponsor of sportscar veteran Wayne Taylor's entry in the Grand American Road Racing Series next season.

Operating as SunTrust Racing, the team will have a single car entry in the Daytona Prototype class, the premier category in the Grand American series. The team will run a new Riley & Scott chassis.

"With our team's vast experience in sports car racing, we see the Grand American Rolex Series as the series of the future," Taylor admitted, "Our decision to run in Grand American is only possible because of the commitment of SunTrust to be our partner. With Riley & Scott, we have the hardware and experience to be a competitive team, and now have the sponsorship commitment to be a successful marketing program. It's definitely a win-win situation for everyone."

The Rolex Sports Car Series will run a twelve-race schedule in 2004, opening with the legendary Rolex 24 At Daytona next February. Subsequent races will be held in other SunTrust markets in Florida, Virginia and Alabama.

"Our sponsorship of SunTrust Racing's entry in the Grand American series is an excellent means to introduce SunTrust's private client and corporate banking services to the individuals and corporations involved in the fast growing sport," said the finance company's executive VP of marketing, Craig Kelly, "This is an opportunity for SunTrust to be on the ground floor of an exciting racing league that we believe will grow rapidly."

11/2/03

Fontana race could have absolutely run  UPDATE Another reader responds, Nice of Jeff Skinner of Northridge, CA to share his vast experience in race promotion with us all. If only he had a clue, or had even worked a race sometime in his life. I was at the track today, and in fact I've been at the California Speedway every day for every race since they opened. And furthermore, I've worked on and off mic at every Southern California race track and with every sanctioning body in the past 20 years. Somehow I missed Jeff along the way. Sure the cars could have run at Fontana today. But nobody would see them because there wouldn't be any workers - they are on the fire lines or helping the displaced. There wouldn't be any police to handle traffic because they're busy dealing with the worst disaster in California's history. Crowds returning to sporting events? 14,000 at a Kings game 60 miles from the fire zone is a lot different than 50,000 five miles from the fire line. Maybe next week, but no one would be there this weekend, and the track couldn't handle it if someone did show up. I didn't see Jeff Skinner or any of the other conspiracy idiots today at the airplane hanger where the displaced folks are forced to stay if they can't afford motel rooms during their mandatory evacuation. I did see and talk with people from Dewalt and Lowe's, but they're NASCAR sponsors and were doing what they could to help. Not some arrogant businessman from Indianapolis saying he knows more about this place than the local law enforcement and track promoter. Funny how NASCAR immediately stepped up and did the right thing. A non-points race over Thanksgiving as a tribute to emergency workers and victims? Absolutely brilliant! We'll have to see what Matt Kenseth thinks about that when he comes in to lend his support Monday. Joe Benson, KCBS-FM, Los Angeles  11/1/03 - A reader writes, I have lived in Southern California for 31 years. I’ve been here for five major brush fires and three horrific earthquakes. But as before, so it is again. Everything is back to normal. The California Department of Forestry is cleaning up – albeit with some major help. But the crews are back sitting outside our local fire stations and except for a few rescheduled high school football games, sporting events are starting on schedule. The skies are clear. Looks like a perfect weekend for a Champ Car race. Just like the days following 9/11. The folks at the California Speedway have seen it all before too. I cannot be shaken from the firm belief that they used the fires as an excuse to cancel the race – perhaps to “drive another nail”, but also to save the IRL from a devastating attendance comparison. Jeff Skinner, Northridge, CA  Dear Jeff, As we learn more facts of what really happened with this race, it's becoming clear you are probably correct.  Most of the fans who were attending were driving to the race.  There was no reason to cancel the race so early, and from what we hear, although the California Speedway press release stated they "postponed" the race, there is a lot more to the story that went on behind the scenes that will come out eventually.  For now, CART has ISC's $2.5 million and it's not likely ISC will get it back.  Mark C.

11/1/03


Some say if you ignore the paint, the 2003 Toyota looks just like the 2002 Ferrari, which is what alerted Ferrari to contact police authorities

Toyota rocked by espionage allegations  A member of the Panasonic Toyota F1 Racing team has been arrested and charged with industrial espionage in relation to the championship winning Ferrari squad after police raided the factory on Friday morning.  Police spokesman Reinhardt Schuettler said: "It's correct that Toyota was searched and one person was taken into custody."  Police secured computers, technical plans, CD-ROMs and diskettes for evidence.

Gazzetta dello Sport confirmed that German police searched the residence of an Italian engineer who is actually working for Toyota and is a former (less than 2 years ago) Ferrari employee.

"Toyota motor sport is not the target of the investigation,” Toyota team boss Ove Andersson was quoted as saying in the Koelner Express before the arrest. “It involves an employee of the aerodynamic division.”

"He was briefly questioned and they looked at his computer (on Thursday). He resumed his work normally the next day," a spokesperson for Toyota told Reuters (he was later arrested, we believe Friday or Saturday). “This has nothing to do with Toyota and for that reason we will not make any further statement. The company is not subject to any investigation.  Investigators simply wanted to talk to this man, who happens to work for us. There will not be any sanctions from Toyota against the man because from our side his behavior is absolutely correct.”  [Editor's Note:  If the Toyota F1 car made use of the stolen intellectual property from Ferrari, don't be surprised if they don't get charged as well.  Pretending they didn't know probably won't sit well with Ferrari.  If found guilty, it's conceivable Toyota could be kicked out of F1.]

11/1/03

Musgrave battling cancer   Truck series championship contender Ted Musgrave battled cancer early this season, his team owner revealed Saturday. "We were winning races while he was going to the doctor on Monday getting chemotherapy," Jim Smith, owner of Ultra Motorsports, said in an interview with a publicist for Dodge. Musgrave, 48, formerly of Franklin, Wis., was not available a day after finishing second at Phoenix International Raceway in the series' second-last race of the season. His wife, Debi, was stricken with leukemia years ago. Musgrave has won three times this season and ranks second in the standings, 26 points behind Brendan Gaughan, and has scored 13 victories since coming to the series three years ago. "I think if anybody's deserving of (a championship), it's Ted Musgrave," Smith said. ThatsRacin.com

11/1/03

Borcheller wins season finale Bell Motorsports captured the North American Road Racing Championship and Terry Borcheller took the first-ever Daytona Prototypes driver championship with the No. 54 Chevrolet Doran JE4's victory today in the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series 250-mile finale, part of the Grand American Champions Weekend presented by Brumos Porsche at Daytona International Speedway.

Several teams took turns at the front of the field during today's race. Bill Auberlen started the No. 27 Toyota Doran JE4 of Doran-Lista Racing on the pole and held the lead for the early part of the race. A pit stop by the Toyota allowed the Brumos Racing No. 59 Porsche FABCAR of Hurley Haywood and JC France a stint at the front.

After retaking the lead, another pit stop by the Doran-Lista team put the other Brumos Racing entry, the No. 58 Red Bull Porsche, in front. However, David Donohue was unable to hold off Justin Bell in the Derhaag Racing No. 40 Corvette, who took the overall lead on lap 38.

Another GTS entry, the Sky Blue Racing/GardenIron.com No. 29 Mustang of Eric Curran and Stu Hayner, took over at the front of the field on lap 53 when Bell brought the Corvette into the pits. But, the Mustang's time in the lead was short, as Borcheller moved into the lead for the first time one lap later.

A third GTS entry, the Heritage Motorsports No. 48 Mustang of Dave Machavern, Tommy Riggins and Joao Barbosa, claimed the lead for a single lap before disaster befell the team. Barbosa was at the wheel of the Mustang when he cut its right front tire, taking most of the cars front and side bodywork with it. The incident put the Heritage team out of the race, but it still took the GTS team championship, and drivers Machavern and Riggins tied for the drivers' title.

Once Borcheller retook the lead after the Mustang's trouble, there was no looking back, and he cruised to a 13.998 second victory.

11/1/03

In-depth with Lead Mechanic Dave Sharpley Hello, My name is Dave Sharpley Jr.  I am writing this Bio to let everyone interested know the why, how and what it takes to be on the road with a CART Champ Car team. The most commonly asked question about the job is “Do you like to travel and be away from home?” My answer is yes, I love it. I have always wanted to be a professional racing mechanic and I want to see the cars I build run every lap. As far as being away from family, I have a very special kind of family and that’s a plus. My long time girlfriend (fiancée) Tina and I met at the dirt track so I knew then that she was my kind already. She and our two children Jeremy and Jamie have been racing since we met that day in Pennsylvania. They are wonderful and support me to the fullest in whatever I do. They get asked by a lot of people, “Wow, your Dad is a Champ Car mechanic that’s cool huh?” My daughter and son both always reply, Yeah I guess, but that’s what my Dad does, it makes him happy and he makes his living that way, no big thing.

I am very proud to be working with this team, Emerson and Jamie as well. Jamie is fun but very business like. He lets the team operate around him because he knows we were hired to do that job and he respects that as well as we know his place and respect that the same.

Now Emerson on the other hand is a bit different. He is “Emerson Fittipaldi” for goodness sake. When he asks a question I always first, find the most intelligent answer and give it to him and then second, pray that it is the right one. His presence around the garage, paddock and track is phenomenal. He is smart, very pleasant, and always enjoyable to be around. When he comes to the track everyday, he is there to win and that is all he thinks about from the moment he wakes up. It is hard to believe that when I was growing up watching him win the Indianapolis 500 that now today I work with him daily and sometimes he asks me questions and has full confidence in the answers. That’s scary.

The best thing that we have at our facility is a great management group. The team manager and the two Chief mechanics are incredible. They have all been perfect in every way to help build a great team and most of all a nice, smooth atmosphere at the workshop and on the road. I have learned more about being a better leader and a team player this year than ever before in my life. I am a better person to work with and for sure a better mechanic because of their dedication and guidance through the 2003 season. I am looking forward to the 2004 season because elevating to the next level with this group will be an easy task. Thanks to everyone involved.

To all the young men and women wanting to get to this level. Go after your dreams and don’t ever give up. You will succeed.

Sincerely,
Dave Sharpley Jr.
#1Lead Mechanic
Fittipaldi/Dingman Racing

11/1/03

Bridgestone donates $10,000 to fire relief  Bridgestone Motorsport has announced a $10,000 donation to the "Race for Relief" effort, a disaster relief initiative to benefit those affected by the wildfires in Southern California.

"Race for Relief" has been organized by California Speedway and monetary contributions made to the initiative will be donated to the Southern California Fire Disaster Relief Fund, which benefits the American Red Cross relief efforts. California Speedway was to be the site of the final race of the season for Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford, which was scheduled to take place on Nov. 2. The race has been canceled, and the speedway and others in the Champ Car community have now focused their efforts on assisting those in the area who have been displaced or otherwise affected by the wildfires.

"This is a community where we, as part of the racing industry, have spent quite a bit of time over the past few years," said Al Speyer, executive director of motorsports for Bridgestone/Firestone North American Tire, LLC. "It's a beautiful area with warm, friendly people, and we're all incredibly saddened to see the devastation that has been caused by the fires. Our hearts go out to everyone who has been affected, and it was important for us to do something to help. The speedway has done an incredible job of putting this initiative together, and we're glad to be part of it."

Those interested in making a contribution to the fund can do so by mailing it to California Speedway, 9300 Cherry Ave., Fontana, Calif. 92335. Donations can also be made in person at the speedway between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 1 or Sunday, Nov. 2. Some items needed include nonperishable food, baby food, diapers, blankets, and clothes. These items will be donated to the local Salvation Army and other area shelters, such as the Inland Harvest Food Bank. For more information on the "Race for Relief," visit www.californiaspeedway.com.

Bridgestone is presenting sponsor and exclusive tire supplier for Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford.

11/1/03

Montoya at Petrobras event  Juan Pablo Montoya was in Sao Paulo last weekend for the Petrobras Motor Sports Day. The event, coordinated by the BMW WilliamsF1 Team's fuel supplier, brought together Petrobras' broad portfolio of motorsport activities in celebration of its 50th year in the industry.

The event attracted over 20,000 spectators to the Anhembi Sambadrome, a purpose-built facility within the city itself. Visitors were treated to a variety of breathtaking displays from a wide range of motorsport categories including Kart, Mini-Baja, Stock cars, Formula Truck, TC 2000 and Pick-Up Racing. Also demonstrating their skills were the Petrobras Team, who are competing in this year's Paris Dakar Rally.

The highlight of the day's events was the appearance of Juan Pablo Montoya, who took to the track in his 2002 race winning FW24 and entertained the crowd with high-speed demo runs, controlled starts and plenty of spectacular doughnuts. The effervescent Colombian then took to the wheel of a very different machine. For the first time ever, Juan Pablo drove a Formula Truck vehicle, to the delight of the spectators.

In a press conference later that day, Juan highlighted the importance of the role Petrobras plays in motorsport: "Petrobras has the best fuel in the world. A good part of the BMW WilliamsF1 Team's performance in the Championship is due to the quality of the fuel. A good fuel is directly related to a Formula One car's power, consumption and performance. It is impressive to see a company that is so large and good for automobile racing in Latin America such as Petrobras."

The day, however, was not all about motorsport. Before the press conference, Montoya handed over a check for R$150,000 to José Graziano, Brazil's Minister for Food. The impressive sum will be used to help support the Federal Government's "Programa Fome Zero" (Zero Hunger Program). The amount was raised through the sale of driver caps in BR petrol stations over the Brazilian Grand Prix weekend. Williams BMW

11/1/03

More on traction control in NASCAR   When Jeff Gordon couldn't do a decent post-race victory burnout at Atlanta, rivals were quick to question whether he might have been running traction control, the illegal system that prevents rear wheels from spinning out of control. Many teams suspect use of traction control is rampant this season, and one driver says he suspects as many as 16 teams [none named.....again] have used the device, which is believed to be impossible to detect. Some wonder why NASCAR couldn't modify its engine chassis dyno to detect traction control. Others say that NASCAR uses a sophisticated sound analysis system that can detect traction control. Robbie Loomis, Gordon's crew chief, says Atlanta wouldn't be a very good track for traction control, and some fellow crew chiefs agree. "I don't really know enough about it," Loomis said. "Obviously it would work at the short tracks and anywhere you have a lot of wheel-spin. But at Atlanta the car stays pretty hooked up and you have a lot of traction. Me personally, I don't think it's out there that much. Somebody might slide in and use it every now and then on you. But my hat's off to any team that's got an engineer good enough to dial that stuff in." The chassis dyno wouldn't be a good detection system, Loomis said, "because they talk about the driver being involved in putting it in the car and taking it out." One question rivals had was about the sometimes erratic performance of Gordon's car off the corners at Atlanta. Loomis said that was a fuel line problem. "Unfortunately we were having trouble with the fuel system. It scared me early in the race. We've got some stuff out here to look at it, and hopefully we've got it fixed."  Winston Salem Journal

11/1/03

NASCAR calls Stewart on the carpet again   UPDATE Tony Stewart had a "productive" meeting Friday with NASCAR officials regarding his failure to meet media obligations following Monday's race at Atlanta, said Jim Hunter, NASCAR's vice president for corporate communications. After finishing second at Atlanta, Stewart failed to attend a post-race news conference, which is required of the top-three finishers of each race. ThatsRacin.com  10/30/03 - NASCAR officials plan to meet with #20-Tony Stewart this weekend at Phoenix to discuss his failure to meet media obligations following Monday's race at Atlanta, said Jim Hunter, NASCAR's vice president for corporate communications. Stewart finished second in Monday's race, won under caution by Jeff Gordon. He did a brief TV interview immediately after the race, but did not report to the media center, a requirement for the top-three finishers in a race. This is the second time in four races NASCAR has had a driver who finished runner-up in a Winston Cup event fail to meet media obligations after a race. Bill Elliott refused all but a brief interview after his second place run at Kansas on Oct. 5. ThatsRacin.com

11/1/03

NASCAR yanks Busch's hard card   Kurt Busch declined to comment on NASCAR's decision to revoke his "hard card" - an annual credential used to gain access to tracks - in response to a pit road incident during the Oct. 19 race at Martinsville, Va. Throughout the day Friday, Busch directed questions regarding the matter to NASCAR officials. Busch's hard card was revoked last weekend at Atlanta by NASCAR President Mike Helton. For the rest of the season, Busch must pick up paper credentials outside the track each weekend, as well as a hot pass - used for garage access - from Winston Cup series director John Darby. ThatsRacin.com

11/1/03

CART Stars take to track on Friday  The all-new Moran Raceway was a spectacular backdrop Friday for the opening day of the Stars Karting Championships, the final event on the 2003 Snap-on.com Champ Car Stars of Tomorrow presented by RACER Magazine national karting series.

The three-day karting extravaganza was moved to the new facility in Beaumont, Calif., after the massive wildfires in the Southern California area forced the 200-driver field from the previously scheduled California Speedway weekend. A complete day of practice runs highlighted Friday’s activities.

On Sunday (Nov. 2), champions will be crowned in the ICC (125 cc Shifter), ICA (100cc direct drive), 80cc Junior Shifter, Junior Super Box (100cc Clutch), Rotax (125cc Clutch) and the Grand Products Cadet divisions.

Practice, qualifications and pre-final races will run on Saturday (Nov. 1) with all main events set for Sunday.

Close to 60 drivers in the highly competitive ICC division hit the track Friday with six practice sessions.

Veteran Darren Elliott of Canyon Country, Calif., posted the fastest time of the day and was the only driver to better the 62-second barrier. Elliott recorded a time of 61.879 seconds to jump to the favorite role for Saturday’s qualifying and pre-final race.

Trailing Elliott in the ICC clockings Friday was Ron White of Santa Clara, Calif., at 62.071 seconds followed by Stars Eastern Division points champion Bobby Wilson of Dousman, Wis., at 62.142, David Jurca of Federal Way, Wash., at 62.270 and local favorite and Stars Western Division points leader Jason Bowles of Ontario, Calif., at 62.300.

In the ICA category, Bowles, 21, paced the 40-driver field with a time of 64.180 seconds. Sebastian Moreno of Scottsdale, Ariz., took the No. 2 spot Friday 64.221 seconds followed by 15-year-old Joel Miller of Hesperia, Calif., at 64.223, veteran Jordy Vorrath of S. Surrey, B.C., Canada at 64.242 and 16-year-old Michael Giessen of Deer Park, N.Y., at 64.256.

The other top class runners on Friday included Kevin LaCroix of St-Custache, Quebec, Canada, in 80cc Junior Shifter division, Nicholas Johnston of Tarzana, Calif., in Junior Super Box, Clark Sanchez-Figuera of Shadow Hills, Calif., in Rotax and young Garrison Masters of Thousand Oaks, Calif., in the Grand Products Cadet category.

11/1/03

Milwaukee Mile sale considered  This Milwaukee Channel article says, The Wisconsin State Fair Park should consider selling the Milwaukee Mile racetrack and Pettit National Ice Center if they can't turn a profit within two years, the board chairman recommended in a report released Friday.

Chairman Martin Greenberg said ultimately it could mean the end to an official U.S. Olympic training center for speedskating and a track that boasts it is the oldest operating automobile speedway in the world.

The ice center has been home to Olympic athletes like Bonnie Blair and Casey FitzRandolph and closing it down would be detrimental to the U.S. Olympic team as it trains for the 2006 games, said Pettit executive director Cindy Yomantas.

But Greenberg said the steps could be necessary to end the drain the two operations have on the Wisconsin State Fair, which continues to turn a profit. All three have financial ties to the state of Wisconsin under a complex operating arrangement.

"My goal is to do everything possible to make those ventures successful," Greenberg said in an interview with The Associated Press. "But I come back to the same themes over and over again. The core mission is the State Fair. That's what the park is there for."

Greenberg's report comes more than a month after a state audit reported the park had jeopardized its financial condition through questionable business practices. The report found the park's expenses have exceeded its revenues for four of the last five years, putting it $4.4 million in debt as of June 30.

The 13-member park board was scheduled to meet Friday to begin discussions on Greenberg's report.

Greenberg said he sees a bigger potential for the Milwaukee Mile. For most of the past 75 years, the park has contracted with racing promoters to run the Milwaukee Mile. But it bought out the latest contract earlier this year to assume full control of the track. The audit questioned the move because it gave the park $1.6 million in assets but $3.2 million in debt.

But Greenberg said the racetrack, which hosts a CART race each year, has unlimited potential.   The park board is trying to bring four national races to the track next year to increase its usage. Along with the CART race, it has signed contracts with the IRL and NASCAR, and Greenberg said the park is working on a fourth national race.  He also hopes to increase the use of the track to include bringing back go-karts, motorcycles and stock cars.

Still, Greenberg said he is prepared for the possibility the track and the ice center could be sold or used for different purposes once the two-year period is up if the board embraces his recommendations.

11/1/03

NY Times article on Fast & Furious crowd  This NY Times article talks about CART's new marketing focus, the "Fast and Furious" crowd - high tech enthusiasts with a bit of brains and disposable income. Turbochargers and Superchargers are common add-ons for this crowd, making that 1.8L Turbo CART proposal look better by the day. - -   Les Wong's car looks like something straight out of the "Fast and Furious" movies. The bright red 1993 Mazda RX-7 has a giant blue panther leaping along the passenger side, a tweaked 348-horsepower engine under the hood and an elegant winglike spoiler off the back. In fact, Dr. Wong, who has spent close to $60,000 customizing his car, could be a classic "import tuner" — a young, car-obsessed street racer with a souped-up compact. Except for one thing: He's a 35-year-old dentist with a wife, two children and a house in Sacramento.

Meet the new tuners: men and women over 30 who trade notes on intercoolers and superchargers while trying to figure out just who or what Ludicris and Outkast are besides misspelled words. Some "mature" tuners, like Dr. Wong, who says his car is akin to a woman's designer shoe collection, look to show off their own personal style. Others say they are reliving or extending part of their youth, when they raced big V-8 American cars. Though their younger counterparts flock to car shows like Hot Import Nights to ogle models, dance to hip-hop and show off their customized Hondas, Mitsubishis and Subarus, older tuners tend to settle for a little friendly competition on the streets.

"All I have to do is stop at a red light and have a youngster pull up next to me," said Barbra Craig, a 54-year-old Detroit office manager whose $16,000 Ford Focus has $10,000 worth of add-ons, including a turbocharger, custom 17-inch wheels, and Recaro racing seats. "I wouldn't want to stand around and look at my car," she said. "I just want to drive."

The tuning craze began more than a decade ago, among young men in the Asian-immigrant communities outside Los Angeles. The car of choice then was a hand-me-down Honda Civic, with the four-cylinder engine modified, or tuned, to boost the horsepower and turn a cheap Japanese import into a street racer capable of hitting 60 miles an hour in less than five seconds.  More....

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