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Montoya and Bowyer like new tire for TMS
History was made today at Texas Motor Speedway as NASCAR Sprint Cup Series drivers Juan Pablo Montoya and Clint Bowyer made the initial laps with the Car of Tomorrow (Now Car of Today) at the 1.5-mile, high-banked superspeedway.

Montoya, the 2007 series rookie of the year, and Bowyer, who finished third in the 2007 Chase for the NASCAR Sprint Cup, are participating in a closed, two-day Goodyear tire test in preparation for the April 6 Samsung 500 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race at TMS. This two-day test is critical as it will be the only time the COT will have track time at TMS prior to the Samsung 500 race weekend scheduled for April 3-6.

“The new car is a little tight in the center, but I think it’s pretty exciting,” Montoya said. “I wasn’t sure what to expect. You’re going to see about the same thing I think. I don’t think it’s going to change much. Whoever has a better balance is going to the front and whoever has a bad balance goes to the back. Give us a couple more months in this car on the big tracks like here at Texas Motor Speedway and people are going to be happy.”

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Toyota decals feel same as Chevy decals to Stewart
Tony Stewart said he’s only officially been driving Toyotas for two days now, so it’s awfully early for him to start making judgments. “I wouldn't know the difference so far,” Stewart said.

“You're on a two-and-a-half-mile track and you're holding it wide open. You're not going to really feel it until you get around other cars. Any driver who says he can is a heck of a lot better driver than me because I can't tell the difference.

"If we went ahead and made this change a year ago, it would have been a lot more dramatic than it is this year with the car that's the same for everybody. It's just, literally, a decal package and a motor package for the most part.”

“We all want to go out and win races and that's what it boils down to at the end of the day. Like I told you guys last year, I don't care if it's Kia decals or Toyota decals, I just want to win races."


Ryan Newman tops speeds in afternoon at Daytona
Ryan Newman boosted his effort once drivers started drafting at Daytona International Speedway. The Penske Racing driver posted the fastest time in the Tuesday afternoon NASCAR Sprint Cup test at the track.  Newman's lap of 188.013 mph put a Dodge on top of the speed chart for the first time during this week's four sessions. The Toyotas that dominated the opening trio of non-drafting practices fell back a bit, earning only three of the top 10 spots.


No Name Make Best Time Best Speed
1 12B Ryan Newman Dge 47.869 188.013
2 01A Regan Smith Chv 47.968 187.625
3 15B Paul Menard Chv 47.976 187.594
4 29B Kevin Harvick Chv 47.992 187.531
5 40A Dario Franchitti Dge 48.038 187.352
6 20A Tony Stewart Tyt 48.043 187.332
7 22 Dave Blaney Tyt 48.046 187.320
8 9B Kasey Kahne Dge 48.093 187.137
9 83A Brian Vickers Tyt 48.099 187.114
10 88A Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chv 48.109 187.075
11 31A Jeff Burton Chv 48.136 186.970
12 10B Patrick Carpentier Dge 48.170 186.838
13 44B Dale Jarrett Tyt 48.227 186.617
14 55M Michael Waltrip Tyt 48.248 186.536
15 43B Bobby Labonte Dge 48.253 186.517
16 6B David Ragan Frd 48.255 186.509
17 66H Scott Riggs Chv 48.275 186.432
18 21B Bill Elliott Frd 48.288 186.382
19 77A Sam Hornish Jr. Dge 48.337 186.193
20 09A Sterling Marlin Chv 48.345 186.162
21 34A Eric McClure Dge 48.434 185.820
22 11B Denny Hamlin Tyt 48.442 185.789
23 55 Michael Waltrip Tyt 48.523 185.479
24 44A Dale Jarrett Tyt 48.601 185.181
25 40 Dario Franchitti Dge 48.606 185.162
26 83B Brian Vickers Tyt 48.724 184.714
27 22B Dave Blaney Tyt 48.757 184.589
28 11A Denny Hamlin Tyt 48.780 184.502
29 10C Patrick Carpentier Dge 48.856 184.215
30 88B Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chv 48.858 184.207
31 38A David Gilliland Frd 48.925 183.955
32 38B David Gilliland Frd 48.952 183.854
33 87 Jeff Fuller Chv 48.969 183.790
34 21A Bill Elliott Frd 49.055 183.468
35 20B Tony Stewart Tyt 49.062 183.441
36 15A Paul Menard Chv 49.092 183.329
37 77B Sam Hornish Jr. Dge 49.111 183.258
38 12A Ryan Newman Dge 49.120 183.225
39 6A David Ragan Frd 49.122 183.217
40 43A Bobby Labonte Dge 49.150 183.113
41 01B Regan Smith Chv 49.186 182.979
42 29A Kevin Harvick Chv 49.233 182.804
43 60B Boris Said Frd 49.242 182.771
44 26A Jamie McMurray Frd 49.345 182.389
45 60A Boris Said Frd 49.396 182.201
46 50A Stanton Barrett Chv 49.471 181.925
47 9A Kasey Kahne Dge 49.473 181.917
48 31 Jeff Burton Chv 49.514 181.767
49 26B Jamie McMurray Frd 49.541 181.668
50 49A Ken Schrader Dge 49.576 181.539
51 09B Sterling Marlin Chv 49.797 180.734
52 49B Ken Schrader Dge 49.954 180.166
53 08A Carl Long Dge 50.192 179.311
54 57A Norm Benning Chv 50.466 178.338


Q&A with Dale Earnhardt Jr.

HERB BRANHAM: Dale, if you can just start off and tell us how your first day and a half and gone testing with your new team.

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: It's been great. We've had great speed in the car. We've had Casey's car from last year and a car that we built this year, and we're real happy with both of them, happy with the guys and their work ethic and their attitude, and it's went great, it really has. We've been pretty happy with the speeds and the things we've seen the car do and how it's reacted to the changes we've been trying, so it's been really fun.

HERB BRANHAM: You have one Daytona 500 victory. This year is the 50th running of the great American race. Talk about what it would mean to win on the 50th anniversary.

DALE EARNHARDT JR.: Yeah, just to get a win here any time, no matter what it is, whether it's a Shootout or 125s at the Daytona 500, it's a great feeling to go to victory lane at Daytona, and I really appreciate it every time it happens to me. It's going to be – you know, it's going to be quite a spectacle with it being the 50th, so it'll be a pretty big deal. Whoever wins it will get a lot of fanfare and whatnot. I think it'll be great for our team, great for our season to start off like that, and I'm sure we want to win as bad as anybody right now.

Hopefully we're preparing well, and I think we are. I think the cars are – I haven't drafted yet, so I can't really comment. I don't really know how it's going to be, but I assume it'll be all right, probably about like it used to be.

If my car drives around the track and handles the same, characteristics are the same as far as how the car goes around the racetrack it feels like to me, but I heard some things from last week's test that I should be aware of and whatnot, so I don't know, might be a little bit more of a handful than we're used to. But the characteristics of the cars – the problems and issues the guys were having last week were sort of the same old problems, just a little worse, so we'll just have to see over the next day and a half. 

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Q&A with Tony Stewart

HERB BRANHAM: We're going to move on with our next driver this afternoon. We are joined by Tony Stewart, driver of the No. 20 Home Depot Toyota. If you could just start off by telling us how your first day and a half of testing has gone down here.

TONY STEWART: Pretty good. We've not missed a shift yet, and that's the hardest part of what we've done the last day and a half. So other than that, it's just hold it wide open and ride around.

HERB BRANHAM: This year we have the 50th running of the Daytona 500, always an important race to win. Talk about what it would mean to win the 50th edition.

TONY STEWART: The same as what it would have meant to win the 49th edition last year.

Q. I know it's just testing, but Toyota has been posting top speeds, something they weren't able to do last year. What's changed in the last year or maybe just even in the off-season?

TONY STEWART: I don't know, I just started working for them yesterday. I mean, yesterday was my first real day, other than a tire test at Vegas. So I don't know. I mean, I haven't been with the program a year to know where they started and how they got to where they are today.

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Eury Jr. & Earnhardt Jr. Keyed For Hendrick Motorsports Debut

Eury Jr. and Earnhardt Jr. in their DEI days

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla.  Tony Eury Jr. said he could hardly wait for this week to get here. Following his early exit from Dale Earnhardt Inc. last season, Eury says he was especially eager to get started on his new venture as crew chief for the No. 88 Mountain Dew AMP/National Guard Chevrolet with Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Hendrick Motorsports.

“It’s good to be back at the track and working on these cars and being around these guys,” said Eury during Tuesday’s lunch break at Daytona International Speedway. “The guys are getting pumped up. That’s what this week is about – getting the atmosphere of your team and getting them in the right frame of mind.”

For Eury that means putting those long hours since the close of the 2007 season to good use.

“It’s been full bore to make sure everything’s in line,” Eury said. “We’ve got one shot at this 500 and you’ve got to start the first weekend of December to make that happen.”

This year’s Daytona 500 takes on added significance. Not only is it the 50th running of “The Great American Race,” it’s the first for Earnhardt and Eury with a new race team. Earnhardt also parted ways with DEI following the 2007 season and begins his first season with Hendrick Motorsports.

NASCAR Preseason Thunder, which begins the lead-up to the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 17, is the first superspeedway test for Earnhardt with his new team.

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industry news

Nissan to have its own hybrid by 2010
Nissan Motor Co. is developing a hybrid for 2010 that will provide better acceleration and fuel economy than hybrids on the road today, said Mitsuhiko Yamashita, Nissan executive vice president of research and development.

Among full-line automakers, Nissan has been near the back of the pack in bringing hybrids to market. Last year, it began selling an Altima hybrid that uses Toyota technology.

In 2010, Nissan will launch a new hybrid using its own system, said Yamashita, who was in Detroit this week for the North American International Auto Show. The automaker has not said which car will get the system, but it will be a rear-wheel drive vehicle, he said.

Nissan also is designing the hybrid to use more electric power than current hybrids, extending the range that can be driven without using the gas engine, Yamashita said.

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Dodge plans to phase in new Sprint Cup engine
Dodge officials expect to have a new engine on the track sometime this summer.
The new engine should improve water flow and the ability to make power reliably, said Howard Comstock, Dodge's Sprint Cup program manager.

Gillett Evernham Motorsports, Penske Racing and Chip Ganassi Racing build their own engines. Petty Enterprises uses Gillett Evernham motors.

"We did the initial development in-house at Chrysler and made parts available to the teams," Comstock said. "Now they have got parts, and they can get their engines put together and run them for the first time on their dyno.

"We will get some additional feedback and make some engineering changes as we go along and make sure that everything is solid before the engine actually sees competition."  Scenedaily.com


Earnhardt Jr. fastest but Toyotas dominate
Dale Earnhardt Jr. moved to the top of the speed chart in the morning session of NASCAR Sprint Cup testing at Daytona International Speedway Tuesday.  The Hendrick Motorsports driver topped the field of 31 drivers with a lap of 185.820 mph. Toyota drivers continued to be fast, with five of the top six speeds and eight of the top 10.

NASCAR Sprint Cup speeds from Tuesday’s early preseason testing session at Daytona International Speedway:

1 88B Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chevrolet 48.434 185.820
2 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota 48.555 185.357
3 83A Brian Vickers Toyota 48.744 184.638
4 44A Dale Jarrett Toyota 48.754 184.600
5 20A Tony Stewart Toyota 48.758 184.585
6 55M Michael Waltrip Toyota 48.823 184.339
7 40 Dario Franchitti Dodge 48.843 184.264
8 83B Brian Vickers Toyota 48.854 184.222
9 44B Dale Jarrett Toyota 48.866 184.177
10 11B Denny Hamlin Toyota 48.893 184.075

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Alonso smokes everyone on Renault return


A clear sky greeted the teams as they took to the track for the second day in Jerez, Spain this morning, with 13 drivers taking part Fernando Alonso on Tuesday took his first step towards securing a third Renault-powered drivers' title, by going quickest of all on his testing return with the French team at Jerez.

On his first day of driving action since the Brazilian grand prix with McLaren last October, the 26-year-old Spaniard headed the field of thirteen wearing a new helmet livery that features depictions of two 'ace' cards -- one for each of his titles in '05 and '06.

Raikkonen in his new Ferrari

Alonso, a deft hand at card and minor magic tricks, completed 70 laps at the wheel of last year's R27 with a best lap of 1.19.503; marginally quicker than Pedro de la Rosa's new McLaren, and a few tenths ahead of Kimi Raikkonen's best lap of Monday with the F2008 Ferrari.

Alonso will get his hands on Renault's new car next week.

"I was a bit tentative to begin with because it has been a long time since I have driven an F1 car, but I could not wait to start working with the team," he said at Jerez.

"Of course, this was the first time that I have driven without traction control, but towards the end of my runs I started to gradually take a few more risks with the car," Alonso added.

Panasonic Toyota Racing continued to put the TF108 through its paces on day two of testing at Jerez, with Timo Glock getting his first opportunity to drive the new car today. After a roll-out and one day of testing in the experienced hands of Jarno Trulli, Toyota newcomer Timo took the wheel and quickly continued where Jarno left off. Timo's task was to continue systems checks and gather information on how the car responds to set-up changes. He was joined by third driver Kamui Kobayashi, who tested the 2008 gearbox and electronics on the TF107.

Tuesday's Jerez Test Times:

Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Alonso Renault 1:19.503 70
2. De la Rosa McLaren-Mercedes 1:19.650 111
3. Raikkonen Ferrari 1:19.708 90
4. Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:19.756 81
5. Massa Ferrari 1:19.772 85
6. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:19.780 130
7. Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:20.305 86
8. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:20.346 76
9. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:20.392 80
10. Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:20.526 66
11. Glock Toyota 1:20.598 109
12. Fisichella Force India-Ferrari 1:20.764 76
13. Kobayashi Toyota 1:22.060 55
Bold = 2008 car


NASCAR team owner reports to prison
NASCAR team owner Gene Haas has begun a two-year sentence for tax fraud at the Federal Correctional Institution in Lompoc, Calif., according to the Federal Bureau of Prisons Web site.

Haas owns two Sprint Cup teams, the No. 66 now driven by Scott Riggs and the No. 70 now driven by Jeremy Mayfield, but the case did not involve the teams, which are continuing operations as normal.

Haas pleaded guilty to one count of tax fraud in November and was required to surrender to authorities Monday. He is required to serve 85 percent of the sentence before being considered for release, so he likely will serve at least 20 months and 12 days in prison.

Haas, who was arrested in June 2006 after a lengthy investigation, agreed to pay $34.2 million in back taxes for the years 2000 and 2001, as well as a $5 million fine. With statutory penalties and interest on the back taxes, Haas has paid more than $70 million to the government to resolve his tax issues for 2000 and 2001.

Haas is the owner of Haas Automation, which is the largest dollar-volume machine tool builder in North America and the largest unit-volume builder of CNC machines in the world. Scenedaily.com


Q and A with Alonso after first day with Renault

Alonso climbs into his Renault at Jerez Tuesday

Double World Champion Fernando Alonso, came in action for Renault for the first time today since he rejoined the French team after a year with McLaren. The Spaniard talks about his expectations for the 2008 season and the R28.

Happy New Year Fernando. What have you been up to since announcing that you will be driving with Renault in 2008?
"I spent Christmas relaxing with family and friends in Spain. For the rest of the time, I have been in Switzerland starting to work on my physical training. At this time of the year, we follow quite an intensive program."

What training have you been doing over the winter to prepare for the new season?
"During the winter, the important thing is to develop solid basic fitness so that you can always perform to your maximum. Of course, we continue lighter training between the races as well, but the work we do at the start of year is much more intensive. The main areas I work on are running, swimming and training in the gym."

Photographers shoot Alonso as he prepares to exit garage in Jerez

If you could have three wishes for 2008, what would they be and why?
"1. Good health for everybody, and especially for those close to me, because I think this is the most important thing. 2. Happiness, because it is the second most important. 3. To have a good year in my job so that my hopes, and those of many others on my behalf, are achieved in 2008."

2007 was a controversial year in many ways, for Formula 1 and for you personally. What will be your approach to 2008?
"It will be the same as I have always had. At the start of any season, the only thing I want to do is work hard, and to give maximum effort to achieve my potential. I know I can do this successfully with ING Renault F1 Team, because we have managed it in the past. I want to give everything I can, and I know the team will do everything to win; this is always our approach to the sport."

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Corvette Racing Goes Green with E85 Ethanol
DETROIT - Corvette Racing will be powered by E85 ethanol, a high-octane, renewable alternative fuel, in the 2008 American Le Mans Series. As part of the series' "green racing" initiative, the most successful team in ALMS history will use a blend of 85 percent ethanol and 15 percent gasoline in the demanding arena of endurance road racing.

After winning its seventh consecutive GT1 manufacturers and team championships in 2007 using E10 (10 percent ethanol), Corvette Racing's twin Compuware C6.R race cars will make the transition to E85 for the 2008 season.

"Since its inception, Corvette has always been a platform for Chevrolet and GM to introduce and develop new technology," Chevrolet general manager Ed Peper said during today's announcement at the North American International Auto Show. "Like the Corvette Z06 E85 concept car that will pace the 2008 Indianapolis 500, the use of E85 ethanol fuel by America's premier production sports car racing team in a high-profile, high-tech racing series like the ALMS shows that Chevy is continuing to lead by example.

"By showcasing the capabilities of E85 ethanol before an audience of knowledgeable and technically astute race fans, we can demonstrate the benefits of a renewable fuel that helps to reduce dependence on petroleum, helps to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases, and helps to create greater diversity in energy supplies," Peper said. "Of course, performance is what counts in racing, so E85 ethanol's higher octane rating than gasoline wasn't overlooked by the Corvette Racing engineers."

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Without Alonso, McLaren and Hamilton may face defeat
(GMM)  Damon Hill fears that McLaren and Britain's Lewis Hamilton will be unable to challenge for the 2008 world championship.

The 1996 title winner, who today is president of the British Racing Drivers' Club, said Ron Dennis' Mercedes-powered team is "being made to fight with one arm tied behind their back" in the after-effects of the espionage scandals of 2007.

Woking based McLaren was fined $100m by the FIA last year for possessing secret Ferrari information, before self-imposing a moratorium on certain aspects of development of its newly launched car, the MP4-23.

Hill, 47, said he believed McLaren had been "obliged" to agree to the development freezes, presumably in a bid to simply move on.

But he also observed to Nuts magazine: "Even when they had everything going for them last year, they lost the championship -- I find it hard to see how this year's winner is going to be anything other than a Ferrari."

Knowing the experience of narrowly failing to win F1 titles, however - as he did in 1994 when he lost in a controversial battle with Michael Schumacher - Hill thinks Hamilton will have no problem with motivation this season.

"Getting so close, and losing, whetted my appetite and made winning all the more appealing," he told the Mail on Sunday.

"I think Lewis will be similarly driven."

Hill also thinks Ferrari has been unscathed by the 'Stepneygate' affair, despite the Italian team's widely reported anger about the airing of its secrets, and the ongoing court litigations in Britain and Italy.

"Ferrari acted aggrieved but their budgets and their reputation have been unaffected," the Englishman said.

"From a morale point of view, they have also made the transition from the Michael Schumacher era," he added.

[Editor's Note:  With the experienced Alonso, McLaren and Hamilton may be lost when it comes to developing the new car into a winner.  Time will tell.]

Industry News

Chrysler shifts ads away from primetime TV
Chrysler LLC is shifting its television advertising dollars to live sports and the Internet and out of primetime programs as the Hollywood writers' strike heads into an 11th week, Bloomberg News reported today.

The temporary move may become permanent, because primetime commercials don't have as much viewer impact they did a decade ago, marketing chief Deborah Wahl Meyer told Bloomberg Sunday in an interview at the North American International Auto Show. Meanwhile, Chrysler is reaching buyers on car-enthusiast Web sites, she said.

The strike "is changing the whole broadcast model," Meyer said. Unlike the last writers' walkout, in 1988, "the biggest thing we've noticed about the strike is that nobody is talking about it," she added.  Detroit News


Yesterday's news
Reminder:  Yesterday was a busy news day.  Don't forget to check the archives at the bottom of this page for news from late yesterday that has already scrolled off this main Hot News page.


Alonso makes Renault track return at Jerez

Alonso is all smiles in the Renault cockpit

(GMM)  After a one year absence, Fernando Alonso returned to the wheel of a Renault single seater on Tuesday at Jerez.

In dry conditions at the Spanish circuit, the 26-year-old former double world champion joined the action at the first major group test of 2008, in a 2007-specification R27.

Wearing the French team's overalls design of last year, but a modified helmet livery, the Spaniard left the garage amid a flurry of photographer's lenses and a harmless puff of smoke from the rear of his car.

Alonso in last year's Renault at Jerez this morning

Alonso, wearing his official number five for this season when he entered the track, had arrived in the sherry-producing south of Spain late on Monday evening.

Also in Spain on Tuesday, Robert Kubica was on duty as BMW-Sauber gave its newly launched F1.08 a track debut at the Valencia circuit.

industry news

Feel the Green Need for Speed

Click image to watch video

Environmentally friendly sports and performance vehicles take center stage at this year’s North American International Auto Show as automakers prove that you don’t have to drive a gas guzzler to step on the pedal. While manufactures are focusing on taking consumers close to 200 miles per hour, others are figuring out ways to make high horsepower a little more responsible. Two examples include the Corvette ZR-1. Built entirely of lightweight material, aluminum, magnesium, and carbon fiber, it has one of the best fuel economies in its class. The Cadillac CTS V is 550 Horsepower and 550 pound feet of torque.

industry news

Breakthrough Biofuel Fuel Technology Announced

Click image to watch video

At this year's NAIAS, General Motors is announcing their partnership with Coskata, as they believe in taking the first step toward producing a new biofuel. Called A Next Generation Ethanol Company, they have patented microorganisms and bioreactor designs that produce ethanol for less than a dollar a gallon, about half the cost of producing a gallon of gasoline. Household garbage, old tires, and even plant stalk after harvest all contain carbon which can be turned into fuel for our cars and trucks, cheaply and efficiently. This new technology also reduces CO2 emissions up to 84 percent compared to gasoline. The partnership builds on the automaker’s 25 years of biofuel research and approach to providing energy alternatives for automobiles.

industry news

Hybrids' higher cost worries automakers
From plug-in hybrids to biofueled supercars, automakers at the North American International Auto Show say they know how to build environmentally conscious vehicles.

What they don't know is how many customers will buy them, and at what price.

Every automaker has given a glimpse over the past two days of its strategies for dealing with tougher U.S. fuel economy regulations, rising oil prices and a surge of global warming rules around the globe. While Toyota Motor Corp. and Honda Motor Co. have pledged new hybrids, General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC have touted a variety of approaches. Ford Motor Co. has bet big on a single technology.

But in interviews with the Free Press, Detroit executives said the technical hurdles to meeting a 35-m.p.g. standard by 2020 were less difficult than getting customers to accept the changes and extra costs that come along with the goal.

GM Vice Chairman Bob Lutz told reporters at the show that the new U.S. rules would cost the industry $5,000 to $7,000 per vehicle, with much higher costs possible for some models.

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I feel very welcome in the team says Heikki

Heikki Kovalainen

After launching their new car last week and undergoing a private three day testing session at the Jerez circuit in Southern Spain, the McLaren Formula One team is back on track this week alongside their main rivals for the impending 2008 championship season.  Regular drivers Lewis Hamilton and Heikki Kovalainen will be on duty this week, with Heikki kicking off the session yesterday. Speaking to the team’s official website after last week’s test, the Finn explains how positive things are looking at this stage…..

You have had three days in the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes MP4-23 this week, what are your first impressions of the car and the team?
I am really excited after my first test with Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team. Everyone has made a huge effort to get two new cars out on track this early in January and I have really enjoyed every day so far.

Are you settling in well with the test team and your engineers?
Absolutely, everyone has been really helpful and I feel very welcome in the team.

What has been your focus at the test in Jerez last week?
The most important thing has been to become familiar with the way the team operates and to get to know all the people in the test team. It is also important to get the feel for MP4-23 and to understand all the systems in the car.

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industry news

Honda plans 3 new hybrids by 2011
Toyota Motor Corp. may be dominating the U.S. hybrid market so far with the Prius, but Honda Motor Co. has ambitious plans for its hybrid lineup, adding two new hybrid-only vehicles and an upgrade of an existing hybrid in the next three years.

Honda officials at the North American International Auto Show said today the company was on track to deliver in 2009 a new dedicated hybrid priced below the Civic hybrid, which starts at $22,600. It expects to sell 200,000 of the new hybrid-only vehicle worldwide in the first full year, including 100,000 in the United States.

In addition, Honda President Takeo Fukui said the next-generation Civic hybrid and the CR-Z, a hybrid sports car on display at this year’s Detroit show, are expected by 2011. Honda has not said whether the CR-Z will be available in the United States.

“Around 2011, all those three models are ready to go, so we’ll be achieving 400,000 to 500,000 global production” of hybrids, said Fukui, speaking through an interpreter.

Honda did not give pricing details, but Fukui said the new models should be more affordable than current hybrids.

“These models we worked on the cost to reduce their costs because MSRP is very important to customers, so we think these vehicles will be very appealing,” Fukui said. More at Detroit Free Press


Dale Jr. to appear in Super Bowl Ad
Dale Earnhardt Jr. will go bumper-to-bumper with his former backer before the Feb. 17 Daytona 500 if he makes the starting grid in a Feb. 3 Super Bowl ad for the company sponsoring his new ride. Earnhardt recently shot two ads for Pepsi's Amp energy drink, sponsor of his race car this year. Pepsi is the No. 2 Super Bowl ad spender this year behind Anheuser-Busch, which was Earnhardt's sponsor last season. "There's only a few Super Bowl spots and it's limited on what celebrities get chosen; after a while, you start to understand the competition between the brands," Earnhardt said by phone from a commercial shoot in Los Angeles, where he said he and a crew of 30 took over a "nice woman's café. You start to see how big a deal it is not to bomb," he said. "It's important to be at the top of the list. When they go out and spend all this dang money, they don't want to bomb out." Pepsi shot two ads with Earnhardt and they're in a pool of ads in testing to see which will get a piece of its two minutes of in-game ad time. With that time valued at about $10 million and more than 90 million people expected to be watching, Pepsi is testing to see if they are game-ready. Either way, the Earnhardt ads will air in the telecast of the Daytona 500. Pepsi marketers think Earnhardt's appeal can help the Amp ads top soft-drink rival Coca-Cola and end Anheuser-Busch's Super Bowl Ad Meter winning streak. A-B has taken the checkered flag for the most-liked ad for nine games. Before Anheuser-Busch began its Ad Meter run, Pepsi reigned as king of Big Game ads for six consecutive Super Sundays. With the Earnhardt ads, Pepsi's formula has mixed in some of the traditional ingredients of crowd-pleasing Super Bowl ads: celebrity star power and animal antics. In one of the ads, Amp gives Earnhardt the energy to take on a camel (real), in the other a gorilla (human powered). The beasts are meant to represent the forces that drivers endure on a race track at 200 mph. USA Today


Goodyear to run tire test at Texas this week
Two Sprint Cup teams will conduct a tire test Tuesday and Wednesday at Texas Motor Speedway, a Goodyear spokesman confirmed today. #42-Juan Pablo Montoya and #07-Clint Bowyer will participate in the two-day test. Goodyear wants to come up with a tire that's suitable for the track, where NASCAR’s new car will be raced for the first time this year. SceneDaily.com


LaJoie participates in NASCAR seat testing
In an ongoing effort to improve race driver safety, NASCAR, General Motors and a select group of safety equipment manufacturers recently met to further evaluate ways to improve racecar seat standards for NASCAR racing at all levels. Randy LaJoie, owner of "The Joie of Seating", was one of just a few manufacturers invited to participate in a discussion and seat testing conducted at a Delphi facility. Other companies represented included: Hendrick Motorsports, ISP, Richardson, and HANS Performance Products. According to LaJoie, the purpose was to further research ways to establish seat standards for the racing community and further reduce driver injuries contributable to poor seat design, materials and installation. LaJoie's willingness to participate in this effort further reflects his passion to improve racer safety. LaJoie has been an activist in much of the safety R&D that NASCAR has conducted over recent years and has been working to see these innovations transcend beyond the top 3 NASCAR series. In his own effort to do just that LaJoie began touring around the country in 2007 with an interactive unit to help bring safety education and innovations to all levels of racing. Still seeking a Title Sponsor for "Randy LaJoie's Safer Racer Tour", LaJoie plans to continue this tour in 2008, and for years to come, in hope of getting racers to use safer equipment and practices. The North Carolina Motorsports Association presented Randy LaJoie with their 2007 Industry Safety Innovation award for his work in helping to improve auto racing safety with the racecar seats designed and manufactured by The Joie of Seating. Press Release


Why F1 is virtually impossible for David Richards
Prodrive boss David Richards says that starting a new Formula 1 these days is "virtually impossible". Richards blames "the new Concorde Agreement" which he says means that each team has to be a constructor. The investment necessary to get to a point where one can build an F1 car is very substantial - Richards says the barriers to entry are "horrendous" - and there is no real justification for such action if one is looking for a return on the investment, unless the F1 team is to be used for other purposes such as selling unrelated products like Red Bull has done with the old Jaguar Racing and Vijay Mallya is attempting to do with Force India. This does not mean that Richards is going to give up the ambition, which has long burned within him and led to stints as team principal of Benetton and then of British American Racing.

Formula 1 has never been easy and even if the amounts of money involved have risen constantly the ambitions of those who want to own F1 teams have not diminished. There are several course of action still open to Prodrive: the company came close to raising the money needed to begin in F1 as a customer team and so could possibly be able to raise the money to buy an existing team at some point in the future, particularly if there comes a point at which the manufacturers start to leave the sport and wish to divest themselves of such operations. The other possibility is that Richard and his partners at Aston Martin can build up the business to such an extent that it would be able to consider an F1 program at some point in the future as a marketing process for the cars. Aston Martin is a wonderful brand, which enjoys brand values that include high performance, exclusivity, luxury, style, design, a British kind of "class" and a little of the sense of adventure epitomized by the fictional Aston driver James Bond. It is a brand that has beauty, power, style and soul. It is very much a British version of Ferrari, albeit without such a rich racing heritage. This means it is down to good management to exploit the innate value that exists. Ford has done the hard work, investing in new models and production facilities but did not have the staying power to reap the benefits. Richards and his backers are well placed to do that. More at Grandprix.com


New sponsors for DEI
Dale Earnhardt Inc. has secured two new sponsors for the 2008 season, Steak-umm and Cub Cadet. Both deals are for mostly associate positions on DEI cars but also involve primary positions in select Sprint Cup races. Terms of the deals were not available. Steak-umm's sponsorship will involve a full season of associate sponsorship on Mark Martin's #8 Chevy, as well as a primary for the June Pocono race. In May, Steak-umm will be the primary sponsor on DEI's #01 Chevy driven by Regan Smith at Richmond. Cub Cadet, which also has status as NASCAR's official outdoor power equipment, has bought associate space on Martin Truex Jr.'s #1 Chevy with a primary planned for the Chicagoland race in July. Charlotte-based Camp Strategy represented Cub Cadet. There's also a business-to-business component, which involves Bass Pro Shops, the year long primary on Truex's car, possibly selling Cub Cadet equipment in its stores. Sporting News/Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Journal


Latest F1 news in brief
  • BMW opposes plans to limit wind tunnel use
  • Asmer favorite for BMW test spot
  • BMW still ready to supply second F1 team
  • Lauda slams drivers for TC ban fear
  • Rampf wants half second lift from new BMW

BMW opposes plans to limit wind tunnel use
(GMM)  BMW supports the concept of capping formula one team budgets, but is less receptive to the FIA's proposal to limit things such as the use of wind tunnels, team boss Dr Mario Theissen said.

The Bavarian manufacturer's motor sport director and BMW-Sauber team principal told reporters on Monday that he supports moves to reduce costs in the notoriously expensive sport.

A team principals' meeting with FIA president Max Mosley in Paris last Friday revealed that most teams, with the notable exception of Ferrari, are open to the idea of limiting annual spending, perhaps to about $150 million per year.

"We should at least spend some time on evaluating it, how it would work, what would be the cap, what would be included and how to police it," Theissen said.

"I would certainly prefer a budget cap over limitations in specific areas," he added.

BMW is known for having arguably the best wind tunnel in formula one at its Hinwil base, while Ferrari has a different advantage in the form of its private Fiorano test circuit.

Ferrari is thought to have uniquely objected to the budget cap proposal in Paris, while supporting the restrictions on aerodynamic development facilities.

But Theissen said those proposals would not be fair because every team is currently at different levels in terms of wind tunnel and Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD) capabilities.

"Secondly, it would be almost impossible to police and thirdly, I think the challenge is to spend our resources in the way you get the most performance out of it," the German said.

"If some team decides to spend a lot of money on drivers, it should be possible for another team to spend a lot of money on a computer or a wind tunnel," Theissen said at the launch of BMW-Sauber's 2008 car in Munich.

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industry news

BMW announces pricing of first V8 M3


During its press conference today at the 2008 North American International Auto Show in Detroit, BMW announced the pricing for the highly anticipated 2008 M3 Coupe and M3 Sedan.  When the vehicles go on sale in March, the Coupe will be priced at $57,275 and the Sedan at $54,575.  Sharing the high-revving 414-horsepower V8 and balanced chassis designed to be "faster than its engine," this March, BMW M GmbH will offer the most powerful, best performing series production M3s to the North American market.  More....


Petty to speak at charity event in Las Vegas
LAS VEGAS - NASCAR racing veteran Kyle Petty will be the featured speaker at the third annual Mel Larson Night of Champions dinner to be held Saturday, Jan. 28, at Bally's Hotel & Casino.  The fete will honor Dr. Dale Carrison, chairman of emergency services at University Medical Center and medical director for Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The Petty surname is one of the most recognizable in American motorsports. The son of seven-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series champion Richard Petty, Kyle forged his own identity early in his career by winning the first major race he entered: the 1979 ARCA 200 at Daytona Beach, Fla., at age 18.  Driving for Petty Enterprises - a team launched in the 1950s by his legendary grandfather, Lee - Kyle finished ninth in his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series debut at Talladega, Ala., later that year.  His first of eight NASCAR Sprint Cup Series victories came at Richmond, Va., in 1986.

A veteran of more than 750 races, Kyle is a colorful, outspoken and respected member of the NASCAR community.  In 2004, Petty and his wife, Patty, opened the Victory Junction Gang Camp in North Carolina.  The Victory Junction Gang Camp enriches the lives of children with chronic medical conditions or serious illnesses by providing life-changing camping experiences that are exciting, fun, and empowering, in a safe and medically sound environment.

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News from Dan Gurney's All American Racers
Dan Gurney has been named Grand Marshal of the upcoming  Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona.  He will be honored at a Rolex Dinner Friday night prior to  the event.  On Saturday he will wave off the field which includes his son Alex, the 2007  ROLEX DAYTONA PROTOTYPE Champion. Alex will be joined on the Gainsco Team by  co-champion and last year's team mate Jon Fogarty, NASCAR champion Jimmy Johnson and CART Champion Jimmy Vasser. The team is looking for its first win at the endurance classic. The Gurney name is part of the history of the Daytona sports car event, Dan won the very first one in 1962 as a driver and again as a car builder and team owner  in 1993, when PJ Jones, Rocky Moran and Andy Wallace put the Eagle GTP car into the winner's circle, their lap record remains unbroken to this day.

In addition, to the network coverage, the first 90 minutes of the 24 Hour Race can be seen  on the 1,400-square foot News Astrovision Screen located in Times Square in New York.  SPEED’s broadcast  of the race  will encompass Saturday, January 26 and Sunday, January 27, totaling 15.5 hours of coverage:

FOX                LIVE! – Part I                      Jan 26                1:00 PM  ET – 2:30 PM ET
SPEED          LIVE! – Part II  & III            Jan 26                2:30 PM  ET – 10:00 PM  ET
SPEED          LIVE! – Part IV                    Jan 27                6:00 AM – 2:00 PM 

We would like to take this opportunity to thank the many publications here and abroad for remembering in words and pictures  the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Le Mans and  1967  Spa  Grand Prix  victory last year .  It is gratifying to see the interest so many fans have shown in John Zimmermann's book (published by David Bull): "Dan Gurney's Eagles, the technical history of the machines designed and built by All American Racers", the first edition is close to being sold out.

Since AAR left motorsports as a campaigner and race car manufacturer, the company has gradually branched out into different fields of endeavor. Putting its racing technology to good use, it  has gradually enlarged and diversified its prototyping and manufacturing facilities and increased its workforce and by now has become very successful in the aviation industry.  At the same time new Alligator motorcycles equipped with S & S V-twin engines are under development and will probably be introduced to the market later this year.

We wish all our supporters and fans a healthy and prosperous 2008!


BMW ready to supply other teams with engines
BMW Motorsport director Dr. Mario Theissen has said BMW is now ready to supply other Formula 1 teams with their engines. At the moment there are four constructors in Formula One that supply other teams with engines.

Currently only Ferrari (Force India, Toro Rosso), Renault (Red Bull), Honda (Super Aguri) and Toyota (Williams) are supplying engines to other teams in F1. BMW and Mercedes are the only engine manufacturers in Formula One that do not supply other teams yet.

Before BMW bought the Sauber F1 team the team was the Williams F1 engine supplier but in 2009 the team might supply a team again with its customer engines. Theissen told GPUpdate.net: "Since last season we are in the position where we can supply other teams with our engines. Our capacity is much bigger since the FIA changed the rules in Formula 1.

"I think teams won't be buying engines only next season but also the entire powertrain. When a Formula 1 team would approach us for engines and it is a solid team we will most likely sign a deal."


Toyota continues to dominate at Daytona
As if NASCAR has released the reigns on Toyota to now allow them to win races, Toyota teams continue to dominate the preseason testing at Daytona.

Bill Davis Racing's Dave Blaney continued the Toyota showcase Monday at Daytona International Speedway, posting the fastest time in the afternoon session of NASCAR Sprint Cup testing. Hendrick Motorsports' Dale Earnhardt Jr. held steady with the second-best lap.  Blaney's top lap of 185.445 mph led the field of 31 drivers on hand for the three-day test.  Earnhardt Jr., who was second fastest in the morning session as well, earned a top lap of 185.426 mph.

Testing continues tomorrow morning, with two sessions scheduled on Tuesday and two more on Wednesday. Monday afternoon's speeds from the NASCAR Sprint Cup test session at the 2.5-mile Daytona International Speedway, with position, driver, team and speed:

1. Dave Blaney, No. 22 Bill Davis Racing Toyota, 185.445
2. Dale Earnhardt Jr., No. 88 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, 185.426
3. Brian Vickers, No. 83 Red Bull Racing Toyota, 185.307
4. Dale Jarrett, No. 44 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, 185.292
5. Michael Waltrip, No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, 185.227
6. Tony Stewart, No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, 185.094
7. Michael Waltrip, No. 55 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, 185.044
8. Dale Jarrett, No. 44 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota, 184.896
9. Brian Vickers, No. 83 Red Bull Racing Toyota, 184.801
10. Dario Franchitti, No. 40 Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge, 184.737

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industry news

GM demonstrates commitment to new propulsion technologies
GM showcases HUMMER and Saab alternative fuel vehicles as the corporation announces a new commitment in support of bio-fuel production.

skip barber

Champ Car scholarship winner victorious
Michael Self was able to gain some valuable firsthand knowledge this past weekend. The 17-year-old high school student from Park City, Utah, learned that in the sport of auto racing, there are many peaks and valleys. 

In Self’s case, he experienced the valley before cresting the peak. The winner of the 2007 Champ Car ROTAX Career Enhancement Scholarship crashed while warming up for the Saturday Skip Barber Western Regional Series event at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and was unable to take part in the race. Fortunately, he overcame the setback to win his race on Sunday. 

“For the Saturday race, they put me in what they call the Championship Class and I wasn’t quite ready for that,” Self admitted. “We were fast, but not as fast as we wanted to be. The Championship Class is for drivers who have multiple seasons of experience. So I raced in Sportsman Class today (Sunday).

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Walker Racing Completes Houston Test
The 2008 Champ Car Atlantic season has already begun for Walker Racing as they completed two days of testing last Thursday and Friday at MSR Houston, the 2.38 mile road course located 13 miles south of Houston. 

“We went into Houston with a long list of tasks and checked off each one successfully. All three drivers accomplished a lot in the two days,” said Derrick Walker, Walker Racing owner.

Last week’s test marked the first of a series of tests before the team heads out to Sebring, Florida for the first official Champ Car Atlantic open test February 5-7.  With championship hopes in mind for the 2008 season not only has Walker Racing expanded to a three car operation, but has signed three standout drivers to get the job done, Greg and Leo Mansell, sons of former Champ Car champion Nigel Mansell, and Canadian Kevin Lacroix.

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racing news

Top-3 USA series featured next Friday in Detroit
NAIAS Racing Day will commence at the 2008 North American International Auto Show (NAIAS) in Detroit on Friday, Jan. 25 during NAIAS Public Days.  Presented by Sprint, and in its third year, the event offers motorsports fans the rare opportunity to meet American Le Mans Series, IndyCar Series and NASCAR Sprint Cup Series superstars and walk away with exclusive NASCAR Sprint Cup Series and Sprint-branded giveaways.

"Motorsports enthusiasts have always been extremely supportive of the NAIAS," said Carl Galeana, senior co-chairman for the NAIAS 2008.  "In addition to viewing the stellar lineup of 2008 auto show exhibits, visitors to Racing Day will be able to engage in state-of-the-art driving simulators and interact with some of auto-racing's biggest celebrities."

Drivers confirmed for autograph signings during NAIAS Racing Day include:

-- American Le Mans Series Driver Bryan Herta
  Jan. 25, 3:00 - 4:00 p.m. - Michigan Hall

-- IndyCar Series Drivers Marco Andretti and Tony Kanaan
  Jan. 25, 3:00 - 4:00 p.m. - Michigan Hall

-- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Driver Sam Hornish, Jr.
  Jan. 25, 4:00 - 5:00 p.m. - Dodge display (located on the NAIAS Show

-- Stock Car World Speed Record Holder Russ Wicks
  Jan. 25, 4:00 - 5:00 p.m.- Dodge display (located on the NAIAS Show

-- NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Driver Greg Biffle
  Jan. 25, 5:30 - 6:30 p.m.-- Sprint Booth (located on Cobo Concourse)

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PCM hosts The History Channel’s “Modern Marvels” UPDATE Reminder that this show will air tonight.  Check your local listings.

10/31/07 Oxnard, CA –  Pacific Coast Motorsports, a two-car team in the Champ Car World Series will be featured on the January 14, 2008 episode of The History Channel’s “Modern Marvels.”

The episode which was filmed Monday at the team’s Oxnard, California headquarters will be titled “Carbon” and will prominently feature PCM’s DP01 Champ Cars, team and corporate partners.  The film crew for the hit television show featured the team’s uses of carbon fiber; a significant material used on the Champ Car and its accessories.

“Modern Marvels is a terrific show that explains in layman’s terms the technologies behind many of today’s achievements,” said PCM Team Director, Tyler Tadevic. “The Champ Car World Series is one of the most technologically advanced racing series in the world.  Modern Marvels is the perfect program to showcase our race cars, and a valuable national exposure opportunity for our team and corporate partners.”

The Modern Marvels film crew, along with PCM’s neighbors witnessed the sights and sounds of Alex Figge’s 750 hp Champ Car as he lit up his Bridgestone tires on Elevar street in front of the PCM’s headquarters.  “I think we certainly surprised a few people in Oxnard today,” commented Alex Figge.  “Most of our neighbors know we are a race team, but I think they were all surprised at just how loud, powerful and exciting the Champ Cars are.”

Modern Marvels is a documentary television series on The History Channel that answers the question of how many things in the modern world are possible, and where they came from. Modern Marvels airs Monday-Friday at 8pm/7:00 central.  For more information, visit: http://www.history.com/minisites/modernmarvels.


Monday morning test speeds from Daytona
Sprint Cup Test Speeds:
1 44B Dale Jarrett Tyt 48.652 184.987
2 88B Dale Earnhardt Jr. Chv 48.742 184.646
3 40 Dario Franchitti Dge 48.832 184.305
4 44A Dale Jarrett Tyt 48.854 184.222
5 20A Tony Stewart Tyt 48.968 183.793
6 11B Denny Hamlin Tyt 49.035 183.542
7 22 Dave Blaney Tyt 49.039 183.527
8 22B Dave Blaney Tyt 49.099 183.303
9 55 Michael Waltrip Tyt 49.100 183.299
10 83A Brian Vickers Tyt 49.116 183.240

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Ferrari draws first blood
First day of head-to-head "official" testing this week for the F1 teams in 2008, working at the Jerez circuit, in southern Spain.

Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa working on the development of their new F2008, beat all others Monday, some running their 2008 models.  Rain slightly hampered progress in the morning, as the track remained damp up to the lunch break. In the afternoon, the weather improved to the point that it was possible to run all the time on dry tires.

Testing ended at 17h00 with Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa third quickest in the new McLaren MP4-23, while Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel managed the fourth fastest time, ahead of the second McLaren of Heikki Kovalainen,  Sebastien Bourdais in the other Toro Rosso.  Nico Rosberg in the hybrid Williams FW29B was 7th.

Testing continues tomorrow.


Driver Team Time Laps
1. Raikkonen Ferrari 1:19.846 59 *
2. Massa Ferrari 1:20.123 42 *
3. de la Rosa McLaren-Mercedes 1:20.548 54 *
4. Vettel Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:20.732 40
5. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:20.936 48 *
6. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:20.997 47
7. Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:21.143 47
8. Trulli Toyota 1:21.314 84 *
9. Piquet Renault 1:21.696 41
10. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault 1:21.746 49
11. Liuzzi Force India-Ferrari 1:23.035 44
12. Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:23.134 42
13. Glock Toyota 1:24.351 56
14. Rossiter Super Aguri-Honda 1:34.862 10

tv news

Motorsports This Week on ESPN
ESPN Classic Airing Classic Daytona 500 Races

On Monday, Jan. 21, ESPN Classic will air the 1990 Daytona 500.

ESPN.com's NASCAR page features a poll where viewers can log on to choose their favorite Daytona 500 from the six. Then, on Saturday night, Feb. 16, the night before the 2008 version of NASCAR’s biggest race, ESPN Classic will show the top five races as chosen by the fans in their order of preference, starting at 10 p.m. 

Dale Earnhardt was all but the 500 winner in 1990 when his car blew a tire in turn 3 of the last lap, leading to an unlikely Daytona 500 victory for Derrike Cope. Cope cruised by Earnhardt to win the 500, his first career NASCAR win, and one of only two in his career, the other coming later that season. 

Rusty Wallace’s 1988 Win in Final Race at Riverside on ESPN Classic

ESPN Classic will give NASCAR fans a chance to see the final NASCAR race at historic Riverside (Calif.) International Raceway with an airing of highlights of the 1988 Budweiser 400 Friday, Jan. 18, at 3 a.m. ET.

Rusty Wallace, now ESPN’s lead auto racing analyst, was always a threat to win on road courses during his driving career and Wallace drove his Kodiak Pontiac to victory over Terry Labonte in the 400-kilometer race on the 2.62-mile circuit located east of Los Angeles. Ricky Rudd, Dale Earnhardt and Phil Parsons completed the top five in the race that was run June 12, 1988.

Riverside held races for NASCAR’s top series from the early 1960s until 1988. The track closed in 1989 and a shopping mall now sits on part of the land.

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Unser becomes Atlantic Series Race Director

Johnny Unser

A member of the legendary Unser racing family will be a fixture in the Cooper Tires Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda paddock throughout the 2008 season as series officials today announced that Johnny Unser has been named Atlantic Race Director.

The 49-year-old Unser will be responsible for calling all Champ Car Atlantic races, as well as dealing with procedural issues and judgmental officiating calls. He will work closely with Champ Car World Series Executive Vice President, Operations Tony Cotman, who also serves as the Race Director for all Champ Car events. Unser joins the Champ Car Atlantic Championship in addition to his role as Technical Advisor for Cooper Tire & Rubber Company.

“We are delighted to welcome Johnny Unser as our Champ Car Atlantic Race Director and are thrilled to bring the Unser name back into our paddock once again,” said Champ Car Atlantic managing director Vicki O’Connor. “We have gotten to know Johnny closer over the past year through his association with Cooper Tires and feel strongly that he has exactly the right personality and temperament to be successful in this position. His knowledge of racing is impeccable and he will truly be an asset to our already outstanding group of race officials.”

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Yet another woman driver gets IPS ride
Sam Schmidt Motorsports announced Friday that it has signed 22-year old Brazilian Ana Beatriz aka “Bia,” to drive one of its Indy Pro Series machines for the 2008 season.

The announcement was the first in a series of announcements expected to be made in the next few weeks concerning the team’s driver lineup.

“We’re excited about bringing Bia on-board with us for this next season,” team owner Sam Schmidt said. “She is very focused on succeeding in the Indy Pro Series. With the tools we’ll provide her along with her own determination to learn, we’re confident she’ll do a great job this year.”

Bia hails from São Paulo and has raced since she was eight years of age, meeting great success in Brazil’s karting championships and formula car ladder.

She has three years of experience in the Brazilian Formula Renault series, highlighted with earning rookie of the year honors in 2003 and having three wins and four pole positions in the 2005 season.

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Jerez marks beginning of season '08
(GMM)  The 2008 formula one season got into gear on Monday morning at the first major test of the new year.

On a wet Jerez track, most teams began running; three of them - Ferrari, McLaren and Toyota - with their new cars.

Felipe Massa ran into some early trouble with a F2008, which had to be returned to the Spanish circuit's pit lane on the back of a truck.

Red Bull's 2008 car, the RB4, will emerge for the first time on Wednesday.

Williams' Nico Rosberg and Kazuki Nakajima were running in the first of a series of special winter liveries, to mark the start of many statistical landmarks for the British team, including its 500th grand prix in Turkey.

The team's 2008 car, the FW30, will run for the first time, without being officially 'launched', at Valencia on 22 January.

BMW-Sauber, meanwhile, is absent, having unveiled a heavily revised car for this season - notably sporting a bigger than usual front wing - in Munich.

The F1.08 was briefly demonstrated at the launch event by Nick Heidfeld, but the car will make its proper debut at Valencia on Tuesday.


BMW Launch: Q and A with Robert Kubica

Robert Kubica

You can always tell a great deal about a person’s character when they tell you the three things they would take with them to a desert island. Therefore, when Robert Kubica’s answer to this question was a car, tires and fuel, it explained why for the time being motor racing is his life.

From the moment he appeared in a Formula One paddock as the BMW Sauber F1 Team reserve and test driver for the 2006 season, the Pole was an instant success with the media. He was a breath of fresh air. His answers to questions were honest and to the point. He never dodged a difficult question with a rambling answer. If he didn’t want to answer a personal question he just said no, and if it was a thought-provoking one he would think about it and then give an answer that usually brought a smile to the
journalist’s face.

When BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen offered Robert the job, he had never sat in a BMW Sauber F1 Team car. It says a lot for Robert’s reputation and Mario’s ability to spot talent that the deal was done without a test. Some people may have wondered at the wisdom of such a gamble, but it was not for very long as soon it was obvious that Poland had a new superstar on its hands, albeit a reluctant one when the limelight shone on him.

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BMW Launch: Q and A with Nick Heidfeld

Nick Heidfeld

Nick Heidfeld’s beard and shaggy hair almost drew more media coverage in 2007 than his second-placed finish at the Canadian Grand Prix or third place in Hungary. Indeed, the hirsute element was like an invitation to take a closer look at this man – and the Mönchengladbach-born driver goes along with that. He talks about himself, stands by his convictions, and has no need to defend himself. He cohabits with his partner Patricia Papen. Their daughter is called Juni because her parents like the name – the same reason why they called their son, born in 2007, Joda. No, it has nothing to do with the Star Wars character, the proud father patiently explains.

For Nick Heidfeld freedom is one cherished value. That goes for his thinking as much as for his way of life. He knows how to turn his demanding career to his best benefit. He takes his family with him when he travels, he is curious about places, likes to stroll around buying fashion articles and art, takes in as much of the world as he can in between his commitments, and always keeps his eyes peeled for good restaurants. He is a gourmet and a pleasure-lover, and parties for all he’s worth. But only after he has done his work. He is a demanding driver in the best sense of the word, and he won’t rest until the very last batch of data has been evaluated. He knows that what he says counts. That’s because he has learnt his trade.

The man who has adopted Switzerland as his home, who launched surprise attacks to snatch wins and titles in all his earlier race series and who never thought he would last so long in Formula one, is nothing if not realistic: “Even if we shave off a few tenths of a second during winter, we will only be closer to Ferrari and McLaren but a long way from overtaking them. And who knows what kind of catching-up work we’ll see from the teams who could have done better in 2007. The hard slog is still to come, and it’s only when the going gets tough that you find out how well you really pull together as a team.”

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industry news

New Volkswagen Passat CC

Passat CC

Just a few days into the New Year Volkswagen is setting off its latest firework with today’s world-exclusive launch of the new four-door Passat CC at the North American International Auto Show. A car that is anything but mainstream.

The new Volkswagen embraces differences. It is a coupé, yet has four doors; it offers supreme comfort whilst at the same time oozing pure dynamism. Its sporty interior is uncompromising yet spacious.

The completely redesigned bodywork captivates with its silhouette of fluid lines. The roof stretches powerfully in a flat radius from the windscreen to the rear. A characteristic element of the design is the sharp tornado line drawn below the lower edge of the windows. Another new development is the panoramic glass roof which offers an overhead view.

The Passat, a proven success for more than three decades, forms the technical basis for the first four-door coupé by Volkswagen. The Passat CC comes exclusively with state-of-the-art direct injection engines (118 kW / 160 PS to 220 kW / 300 PS). A globally unique feature is the new lane hold assist system. If the vehicle appears to be inadvertently leaving the lane, the assistance system provides corrective steer control. The sportiness of a coupé is married to the comfort of a top-of-the-range saloon through the common denominator of automatic running gear adjustment, Dynamic Drive Control (DDC).

The core markets are North America, Western Europe and Japan. The Passat CC, built in the German Volkswagen plant in Emden, will initially be launched in the second quarter of the year in Europe and then from the fourth quarter in the USA and Canada and later Japan.

industry news

GM invests in ethanol research firm
General Motors Corp. announced Sunday that it has taken a stake in a biofuels research firm that aims to widely market $1-a-gallon ethanol as soon as 2011.

"We must radically ramp up the production of ethanol," said GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner, who announced the deal at the North American International Auto Show. "This investment is about getting the technology on the road as fast as possible." 

Wagoner didn't say how large an investment the automaker is making in the Warrenville, Ill-based start-up firm Coskata Inc.

Coskata plans to build a plant that can produce 100 million gallons a year of ethanol made by bacteria chewing away at biomass such as woodchips, trash, grasses and other organic materials.

"This is big," said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor. "It's a game-changer." The bargain price of ethanol, compared with today's $3-a-gallon oil-based gasoline, could convince Americans to actively seek ethanol as an alternative to imported oil, GM officials said.

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Williams to run six different liveries this winter
Today, to inaugurate the start of Williams’ thirtieth year of Formula One racing, the team will unveil the first of six winter test liveries designed to celebrate a sequence of landmarks that will take place when the 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship gets underway in March later this year.

As the two FW29B interim cars roll out at the Jerez de la Frontera circuit to start the team’s preparation and testing for 2008, the car livery will include references to the company’s 30th year of racing  and its 500th entry in a Formula One Grand Prix, a milestone that will be recorded at the Turkish Grand Prix this season. In addition, the team will record its 50,000 racing lap during the forthcoming year, potentially during the Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona assuming both FW30s demonstrate a complete finishing record to this point in the season.

In addition to these company milestones, the Monaco Grand Prix will be Frank Williams’ 600th Formula One Grand Prix as an entrant, and with a personal record that will span 39 years (and only 23 races missed in almost four decades), he will become the sport’s longest enduring Formula One team entrant, surpassing the record of the legendary Enzo Ferrari.

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Q and A with Timo Glock

Timo Glock

The last GP2 champion to be promoted to a permanent Formula One race seat was McLaren’s Lewis Hamilton, so Toyota must have great expectations for new signing Timo Glock. Unlike Hamilton, however, Glock is no rookie, having made his Formula One race debut with Jordan back in 2004.

The German driver himself certainly has high hopes for his first permanent Grand Prix drive. Ahead of the new Toyota TF108’s track debut this week, the former BMW Sauber tester revealed his thoughts on the year ahead…

Q: What were your feelings on being named a Panasonic Toyota Racing driver?
Timo Glock:
It was a very special moment for me because to become a full-time Formula One race driver has been my goal for the past few years and it feels great to achieve that. I have worked hard over the past few years to get this opportunity and I must say I am grateful to the team for having faith in me. I am confident we will be able to work well together.

Q: What were your first impressions of the team when you tested in December?
I enjoyed working with the team, we work well together and since I first met the guys at the factory in Cologne for the seat fitting, everything has been great. It was good fun to work with them, they do a really good job, everything is calm, there is no panic and they are concentrating the whole time - that is important.

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Latest F1 news in brief
  • Alonso rumors did not faze Trulli
  • Schu warns brother against DTM switch
  • F1's Bourdais fears high French hopes
  • Fisi wants 'few more years' on F1 grid
  • Different BMW to amaze rivals - Heidfeld

Alonso rumors did not faze Trulli
(GMM)  Jarno Trulli insists he was never really concerned about rumors linking Fernando Alonso with his Toyota seat for 2008.

Before the Spanish double world champion Alonso sealed his return to Renault after an ill-fated single season with McLaren, he was also strongly linked with a move in 2008 to Toyota, as well as Red Bull.

But Trulli, the 33-year-old Italian veteran of more than 180 grands prix, told the newspaper 'Diario AS' that he enjoyed a mostly relaxing winter break.

"I didn't think anything about it; I was usually working in the factory over the winter and knew I had a contract until 2009," he said.

Trulli does, however, wonder about the manner in which Toyota, the Japanese team that is based in Cologne, Germany, handled the Alonso rumors.

"Maybe they should have slowed down the rumors that Fernando or Kovalainen could be arriving to take my place," said Trulli, who was Alonso's teammate at Renault in 2003 and 2004.

He says he would enjoy working with Alonso again, even at Toyota.

"It would have been nice to have him again as my teammate," Trulli admitted, "but that has been the case and we both took our separate paths.

"I was waiting to see if he would come (to Toyota) during the winter, but as soon as Timo Glock was signed, I knew Fernando would be going back to Renault," he added.

Schu warns brother against DTM switch
(GMM)  Michael Schumacher has advised his younger brother Ralf to resist offers to rescue his embattled motor racing career in Germany's premier touring car category, DTM.

It was recently reported that 32-year-old Ralf, who lost his Toyota seat at the end of last season and performed poorly in a subsequent test for formula one backmarker Force India, may have received contact from DTM teams about joining the series next year.

But seven time world champion Michael Schumacher, who happily retired in 2006 as F1's most successful ever driver, and now an occasional tester for Ferrari, doubts that DTM would be a good alternative for his brother.

"I would not recommend him to go to DTM," the 39-year-old told Bild newspaper at the Ferrari-Ducati global media event in the Italian Dolomites last week.

"I believe that neither of us have the talent to drive those cars quickly -- I have even tried them (the cars) and it is a completely different world.

"You would need two years to get used to it," he added.

Michael Schumacher, meanwhile, said he was surprised when his brother left Toyota and could not find a competitive alternative in F1 for 2008.

"I was surprised," he admitted.  "I did not expect that.

"But as I have already said, there are many other interesting things with which he can now do with his life," Schumacher added.

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Daytona Preseason Thunder - David Gilliland preview

David Gilliland

A lot can happen in a year and no one can attest to that more than NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver, David Gilliland. On Monday, Gilliland will travel to Daytona International Speedway for testing in his No. 38 Ford Fusion. One year ago, Gilliland had never seen the track in Daytona Beach, let alone drive on the legendary tri-oval, but something special happened for this talented driver, he won the pole for the 2007 Daytona 500.   

This year, Gilliland is no longer a rookie at NASCAR's most historic track as he looks forward to testing his cars during the second session of NASCAR Sprint Cup Series testing.

"I'm really excited to go to Daytona this week for testing," Gilliland stated. "Our Yates Racing team has been working extremely hard to get our cars ready to test this month and I'm very proud of all the guys. I had such an amazing experience last year at Daytona during Speedweeks that I'm really looking forward to jumping in my No. 38 Ford Fusion on Monday morning."

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industry news

Toyota aims to sell 1M hybrids per year
Toyota Motor Sales (TMS), USA, Inc., held a media reception tonight at the 2008 North American International Auto Show at which Katsuaki Watanabe, president of Toyota Motor Corporation (TMC), announced a wide-ranging environmental agenda in response to the company's sustainable mobility vision.

Watanabe confirmed that a new clean diesel V8 engine will be offered in both the Tundra and Sequoia in the near future. By 2010, Toyota will accelerate its global plug-in hybrid R&D program. As part of this plan, Toyota will deliver a significant fleet of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), powered by lithium-ion batteries, to a wide variety of global commercial customers, with many coming to the U.S.

To make that happen, Toyota has already started the planning phase to expand its Panasonic joint-venture battery factory. The expansion will add an assembly line to build lithium batteries for automotive applications.

Finally, Watanabe invited the media to attend next year's NAIAS, where Toyota will stage the world premieres of two all-new, dedicated hybrids, one for Toyota and one for Lexus.

"These two introductions will move us closer to our goal of selling a million hybrids per year in the next decade," said Watanabe.

industry news

Mercedes' Smart counts on 20,000 sales at the outset
The head of Smart USA believes he has 20,000 American buyers lining up for Mercedes' boxy Smart two-seaters. "There are more than 30,000 reservations with a $99 down payment, and we expect 70 percent of those to convert to sales," Dave Schembri, president of Smart USA, said at the North American International Auto Show. The Smart, designed by Mercedes and built in eastern France, was launched in 1998 but Americans have not been able to buy them until now. Deliveries of Smart cars to U.S. customers begin this week. High gas prices are expected to increase demand for the quirky cars. In a cross-country trek of three Smart cars from Los Angeles to Detroit, a gas-powered Smart got 49 miles per gallon, while a diesel version managed 59.8 mpg.


ORECA team reveals 2008 driver lineup

Olivier Panis, Nicolas Lapierre, Stéphane Ortelli and Soheil Ayari pose with the Courage-ORECA LC70 Judd

Team ORECA revealed Sunday its driver line-up for the 2008 Le Mans Series season. Former Formula One veteran Olivier Panis will join GP2 racer Nicolas Lapierre with team regulars Stephane Ortelli and Soheil Ayari behind the wheel of two Courage-Oreca Judds in the LMP1 category. The quartet of drivers will also spearhead the French team's efforts at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June.

For 2008, the car will be powered by the V10 5.5 liters Judd GV engine, a logical choice for the Oreca Matmut Team, as its main priority is the absolute reliability required for the Le Mans 24 Hours.

Hugues de CHAUNAC explains : "We enjoy the best possible relationship with John Judd and Engine Developments since many years. It has to be remembered that it is with ORECA, and bearing the Mazda name back in 1992, that the 3.5 liters Judd GV-10 – a true racing engine coming from F1 – has crossed for the first time the finish line at the 24 Hours of Le Mans (4th place). With our LM-P1 Dallara-Oreca in 2002, the 4 liters evolution of this same engine did never cause us any concern regarding its reliability. It is therefore a natural decision for us to continue our successful collaboration with Engine Developments and John Judd Sr and Jr, now that their V10 engine, enlarged to 5.5 liters for the LM-P1 category, is globally recognized as the best current gasoline engine in endurance racing."

Apart from the engine, many changes are currently being made on the car since ORECA has bought out COURAGE. The design teams from the two companies have been gathered together and located in Signes, near the race team. Despite the increase of staff and some valuable new recruitment, the work load is enormous and the engineers are on short nights since already several weeks…

Racing news

Franchitti wins Jerry Titus award

Dario Franchitti eyes his image on the Borg Warner trophy
Ron McQueeney/IRL

The American Automobile Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association (AARWBA) bestowed honors on its "First Team" of 2007's best racers voted upon by members of the American auto racing press and media and Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti walked away with the coveted Jerry Titus Award late Saturday night in Indianapolis, Indiana. 

The top five vote-getters from the AARWBA All-America First Team included Dario Franchitti, NASCAR Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, NHRA Top Fuel champion, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series title winner Ron Hornaday Jr. and Champ Car World Series' Sebastien Bourdais and Tony Schumacher who was again a top choice in voting for the Driver of the Year Titus award.

Others on the team for 2007 included NASCAR Cup Series driver Jeff Gordon and ARCA champion Frank Kimmel. Grand-Am Rolex Series star Scott Pruett and the 2007 Daytona Prototype co-champions Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney (voted as a single unit) as co-drivers. American Le Mans Series GT co-champions Mika Salo and Jaime Melo made the First Team (also one unit as teammates).

From NHRA drag race, Tony Pedregon, made the First Team cut after earning the 2007 Funny Car title. The other three were Donny Schatz, 2007 World of Outlaws champion and the current USAC National Midget title winner Jerry Coons Jr. plus Indy Pro Series champion Alex Lloyd.

skip barber

Rayhall Becomes Youngest Open-Wheel Race Winner

Sean Rayhall

After a very strong showing at Road Atlanta, Sean Rayhall was ready to take home his first official win of his young open-wheel racing career. Practice would start off well with the second best time in the opening round. He would continue to improve his times and position with the fastest lap in the second session. Sean would then go on to follow this up with pole position in the rain by nearly two seconds.

Sean would maintain his lead going into turn one for the first race of the weekend and would never be challenged after that. He would go on to win his first car race while becoming the youngest open-wheel race winner in US history by just two months. The margin of victory was over four seconds.

With the win in race one, Sean would start from pole in race two. This time the start did not go as well as he would fall back to third after the opening lap. Showing maturating beyond his years Sean would not panic and with an ill handing car would let the two leaders make mistakes. Well that is exactly what would happen, as the two leaders would take themselves out of the race. With a twelve second lead on the rest of the field Sean would coast to his second win of the weekend.

Next up is the third round of the Skip Barber Series January 26-27 at Homestead Speedway. Sean now leads the Sportsman division by three points.


Carl Haas honored at AARWBA

Carl Haas in his younger days

Carl Haas, co-owner of the ultra-successful Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing team that competes in the Champ Car World Series, received the "Pioneer in Racing Award" Saturday night during the annual banquet for the American Auto Racing Writers and Broadcasters Association (AARWBA). One of several people honored at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Indianapolis, Haas was cited for "longtime dedication and achievement that have made a difference in the sport."

Emerson Fittipaldi, the 1989 Champ Car titlist and two-time F1 world champion, was featured speaker at the banquet. During his speech, the Brazilian legend paid tribute to another legendary figure in the sport--Haas.

"Indianapolis has so many good memories and I always like to come to Indianapolis," Fittipaldi said. "One reason I wanted to be here tonight is because they are honoring Carl Haas."

Over the years, the "Pioneer in Racing Award" had been given to Roger Penske and Dan Gurney, racing team owners who helped co-found the organization known today as Champ Car World Series. Haas joined the Series in 1983 and his team has become one of the most successful in its history with eight championships, including the past four.


Indy IPS race team signs woman driver
Cyndie Allemann, a 21-year-old Swiss born racer who competed in the Formula 3 Euro Series last year, is the new driver for Cape Coral-based American Spirit Racing.

She’ll compete in the 2008 Indy Pro Series, the developmental circuit for the Indy Racing League, which features such stars as Marco Andretti, Helio Castroneves and Danica Patrick.

Allemann hopes to be the first woman to win an Indy-style race.

She has never been in a IPS car or experienced its horsepower — about 200 more than what powered her Formula 3 machine in 2007.

She’ll get her first chance to drive the car during a two-day test session at Sebring International Raceway Jan. 24-25.

She’s ready to race right now.

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industry news

Mazda CX-9 wins Truck of Year award

Mazda CX-9

The 2008 Mazda CX-9 crossover sport utility vehicle (SUV) was today named the North American Truck of the Year. Determined by 48 automotive journalists from the United States and Canada, the prestigious North American Truck of the Year award recognizes the most outstanding truck of the year, a category that includes conventional pickup trucks, body-on-frame SUVs and the emerging breed of passenger-car-based SUVs known as “crossovers.” Factors considered for the award include innovation, design, safety, handling, driver satisfaction and value for the dollar.

Established in 1994, the North American Truck of the Year award honors vehicles that become new benchmarks in their class or set new standards. The vehicles are judged by various categories including design, safety, fuel economy, handling, performance, comfort, driver satisfaction and affordability.

“This truly is an honor,” said Jim O’Sullivan, president and CEO of Mazda North American Operations, upon receiving the award. “Since we brought CX-9 to market, it’s been a hit with media, customers and dealers alike. This vehicle represents everything a Mazda SUV should be: dynamically styled, powerful, with top-notch craftsmanship and a heck of a lot of fun to drive. Today’s award is proof that says we just might be on to something special.”

The Mazda CX-9 deftly blends sporty driving spirit with seven-passenger sport-utility vehicle (SUV) practicality. CX-9 is powered by a 273-horsepower 3.7-liter V6 engine and features a new Blind Spot Monitoring (BSM) system, which helps see and prevent the unexpected. Priced from $29,400, the CX-9 is available in three trim levels – Sport, Touring and Grand Touring – and offers cutting-edge safety technology.


BAM Racing and Schrader team up for Daytona
BAM Racing plans to field a “Diamond Driven” Dodge Charger with veteran driver Ken Schrader for both the Bud Shootout and the Daytona 500 with David Hyder as the crew chief and engines by Evernham Motorsports. BAM Racing PR

industry news

Malibu Named 2008 North American Car of the Year

Bob Lutz poses with the award winning Malibu

DETROIT - For the second consecutive year, a car from General Motors Corporation has taken top honors in the North American Car and Truck of the Year (NACTOY)  awards, as announced today at the opening of the North American International Auto Show.

The Chevrolet Malibu was chosen by this year's media jury from a field of 15 cars and 13 trucks. GM vehicles captured four of the final six candidate spots for the awards;  last year the Saturn Aura and Chevrolet Silverado were winners.

"This award is the result of our intensive efforts to put a renewed emphasis on design, execution and craftsmanship into our cars and trucks," said Bob Lutz, GM vice  chairman.  "We're honored that both automotive journalists and consumers are recognizing our efforts.  The fact we had four of the six finalist vehicles is more than we  could have hoped for."

The NACTOY awards are given annually by prominent automotive journalists who evaluate the vehicles on factors including value for the dollar, innovation, handling,  performance, safety and driver satisfaction. This year's jury consisted of 45 automotive journalists from throughout the United States and Canada.

The 2008 Chevrolet Malibu delivers strong performance, fuel economy and refinement, wrapped in Chevrolet's global signature design. A broad range of detailed, well-appointed and efficient models is offered, including a fuel-saving Malibu Hybrid model.  Sales of the new Malibu began last November.

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Frye named GM of Red Bull Racing
Red Bull Racing officials have announced that Jay Frye has been named general manager of the team and will start in the role Monday. Frye, the former CEO and general manager of Ginn Racing, has 16 years of experience in the NASCAR industry. He spent 12 years with the Ginn, formerly MB2 Motorsports, team.

"Red Bull along with Toyota has all the necessary tools to compete at a very high level," Frye said in a news release. "I'm excited about the opportunity to work with an organization that has unlimited potential." Guenther Steiner, who joined the team in 2006 with extensive Formula One technical expertise, will continue to work as technical director and focus fully on delivering advanced engineering performance and technology.


Paffett missed chance for 2008 McLaren seat

Gary Paffett

(GMM)  Gary Paffett has confirmed that he was in the running to be named countryman Lewis Hamilton's McLaren teammate for 2008.

The 26-year-old Briton, who has never raced in formula one but was also among the contenders to drive for the aborted Prodrive outfit this year, told the British newspaper Kent on Sunday that the two setbacks have not dented his desire to join the grid in the future.

Paffett, currently a DTM racer, will test McLaren's newly launched 2008 car, the MP4-23, at Jerez on Monday.

"I was in with a shout for the second driver's seat for McLaren but Kovalainen got the nod instead," he confirmed.

"It is question about being at the right place at the right time to make the break into F1.  At the moment I am in the right place but it is the wrong time," he added.

Paffett will remain in DTM, Germany's premier touring car championship that he won in 2005, this season.

"I want to keep racing and win the title again as well as my McLaren responsibilities," he said.

Paffett also predicted a tough second season in formula one for Hamilton, who finished runner-up to world champion Kimi Raikkonen and equal on points with Fernando Alonso in 2007.

"I think this year is going to be harder for him as he will have to deal with the expectation of winning," he said.

"Last year no one really thought he could achieve what he did."


Schu to attend some races in 2008
(GMM)  Michael Schumacher has confirmed that, like last year, he will attend some grands prix in 2008.

The retired seven time world champion acted as a Ferrari advisor last season, and has now specified his role within the Maranello based team to contribute to the development of the famous marque's racing cars.

It is expected that Schumacher, who turned 39 earlier this month, will test the newly launched F2008 in the near future -- probably before the start of the championship.

At the Ferrari-Ducati winter media event in the Italian Dolomites, the German confirmed that he will attend some races in 2008.

"Mainly some European ones, the first European one, for instance," Schumacher, referring to the Spanish grand prix in late April, said.

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Road Racers Among 2008 Raybestos Rookie Class
DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. – While road racers have been part of the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series since its inception, none have won Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors.

Boris Said came close in 1997, finishing third to the late Kenny Irwin.

This, however, may be the season that breaks the string.

Three top road-racing veterans will be among the 2008 rookie class – each in equipment capable of winning both races and the Raybestos Award.

Colin Braun, a 19-year-old Texan, will drive the No. 6 Con-way Freight Ford for Roush Fenway Racing, a team that has produced five previous rookies of the year.

Rolex Grand Am champion Andy Lally will be behind the wheel of the No. 7 TRG Chevrolet. The Racer’s Group is one of the most successful contemporary professional sports-car organizations.

Justin Marks, who has a half decade of experience racing BMWs and Porsches, takes the seat in Germain Racing’s No. 9 crocs/Construct Corps Toyota. He’ll partner with 2006 NASCAR Craftsman Truck champion Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota).

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Wood Brothers, JTG Racing change business model
Wood Brothers Racing and JTG Racing have changed their business model, but the two are still working together in a marketing and technological partnership, JTG Racing owner Tad Geschickter said Saturday afternoon.  Geschickter will still be responsible for finding sponsorships for both the teams he owns and the Wood Brothers teams.

The teams will have separate directors of competition and separate budgets.

"We just changed our whole business structure," Geschickter said during Craftsman Truck Series testing at Daytona International Speedway. "We're still sharing all our information. ... Anything that makes sense, we share."

The Wood Brothers will field the No. 21 Sprint Cup car (with multiple drivers likely including Ken Schrader, Jon Wood and Marcos Ambrose) and the No. 21 truck with Jon and Keven Wood in the seat.

JTG Racing will field a Cup car in four races for Ambrose as well as Nationwide Series cars for Ambrose (No. 59) and Kelly Bires (No. 47) and a truck for Scott Lagasse Jr. (No. 20).  More at Scenedaily.com


Two Roush trucks wrecked in testing
Inexperience and aggressive driving turned the last 45 minutes of Friday's NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series test at Daytona International Speedway into a wild, emotionally charged crash-fest.  In a span of 20 minutes there were two multi-truck accidents on opposite ends of the 2.5-mile tri-oval involving a half-dozen competitors. It was the first day of a three-day test for NCTS teams.

"A lot of these guys are really out of control right now," said Ted Musgrave, who was swept into the second incident exiting Turn 2.

It was an especially bad day for Roush Fenway Racing, which saw two of its three teams pack up and head back to North Carolina with significant structural damage.

Rookie Colin Braun, driving the No. 6 Ford, said he was turned around in the tri-oval by the No. 51 Toyota of Kyle Busch. Braun's machine snapped around colliding with teammate Joey Clanton, in the No. 09 Ford.

Asked if Busch made contact on the tri-oval, Braun said, "That's sure what it felt like to me. I don't know. It sure felt like somebody got in the back of me and that truck just took off like crazy."

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Grand-Am test helpful for Penske team
The three days of testing last weekend at Daytona International Speedway in advance of the Jan. 26-27 Rolex 24 At Daytona proved to be much more beneficial for the Penske-Taylor Racing Team than one might expect. The all-star lineup of two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Helio Castroneves, 2004 NASCAR Sprint Cup champion Kurt Busch and open-wheel and sports-car veteran Ryan Briscoe shared time behind the wheel of their No. 9 Toshiba Pontiac Riley and were credited with turning in the second-fastest overall time during the three-day, eight session test period. But the drivers and crew members alike agreed that it was much more than just getting prepared for the upcoming 46th edition of the twice-around-the-clock challenge.

"After the holidays, it really felt good to get behind the wheel of a race car again," said Castroneves, the 32-year-old Brazilian who recently captured the "Mirrorball Trophy" by claiming the title in ABC-TV's "Dancing With The Stars" reality series competition. "Having the opportunity to work with my Penske teammates Kurt and Ryan was a lot of fun and I think we got a lot accomplished.

"With all the activities I have had scheduled after winning the dancing competition, it was a good chance to get back to the track and into the racing mode again," added Castroneves, who will be performing four dates on the DWTS tour beginning with the Jan. 18 show in Indianapolis, before returning to Daytona for the race. "I was very pleased with the competitiveness of our car and would like to thank everyone involved, especially my teammates, the crew and our friends at Wayne Taylor Racing." This year's Rolex 24 will mark Busch's second entry into the prestigious sports car racing classic and he was eager to get back in the driver's seat during last weekend's test session.

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