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No Memorial Day double for Hornish  
Sam Hornish Jr.
Don’t expect Sam Hornish Jr. to attempt the Indianapolis 500/Coca-Cola 600 double on Memorial Day weekend.

“I don’t think that there’s any possibility that that would happen with the way that the schedules are,” Hornish said. “It’s something that I would love to do at some point in time, but I don’t think that it’s feasible to be able to run one and then make it in time for the other one.”
“If they were to do it and Roger wanted me to do it, then I’m on board, but I’m not going to push my buttons or anything like that,” Hornish said of running the 2009 Indianapolis 500 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. “I’m focused on driving stock cars. I haven’t really thought about that at all. If that’s something that came up, then I’m sure that it wouldn’t ever come up until May.”
Stewart to enter Daytona Nationwide race for Hendrick  
Tony Stewart
Two-time NASCAR Cup champion Tony Stewart will attempt to qualify a No. 80 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet for the Feb. 14 Nationwide Series race at Daytona International Speedway.

Stewart, the defending winner of the event, has won the season-opening race three times - twice with owner Kevin Harvick (2005 and 2006) and once with Joe Gibbs Racing (2008).

"We’re going to try and get another one, this time for [team owner] Rick [Hendrick]," said Stewart, who has seven career wins in what is now the Nationwide Series. "Hopefully we can go back to back for a second time. ... Rick and I have been friends for years, so it would mean a lot to me to get a win for him."

Should he qualify, the race would mark Stewart's first start for Hendrick Motorsports. Stewart, whose entry will be sponsored by HendrickCars.com, will be paired with crew chief Lance McGrew.

Riggs to drive for Baldwin  
Scott Riggs
Tommy Baldwin Racing announced today Scott Riggs as the driver of the #36 Toyota for the 2009 NASCAR season. Riggs, formerly with Haas CNC Racing will start his sixth season in Sprint Cup competition. The 2009 season finds the 38-year-old native of Bahama, NC, eager to embark on a new chapter of his racing career, driving for the newly formed TBR team. Tommy Baldwin, who will hold the title of both owner and crew chief, announced the formation of his new race team earlier this month. "I look forward to working with Tommy," Riggs said. "I think we can work together to build something really strong. I feel fortunate to work with someone like Tommy who has so much experience." Riggs, with multiple years of experience at the Cup level and time behind the wheel in NASCAR's COT, brings credibility and marketability to the new team. TBR, located at 604 Performance Road, in Mooresville, NC, plans on competing in the 51st running of the Daytona 500 in February with plans to run a full schedule in the NASCAR Sprint Cup series. "Having Scott Riggs on board is a huge stepping stone for Tommy Baldwin Racing," Said Baldwin. "He's a top caliber driver, and I look forward to seeing the success we can have together." No sponsor has been named yet for the #36 Toyota. TBR/Everest Marketing Group PR
formula BMW
Giancarlo Vilarinho signs with Eurointernational  The Eurointernational Team, last year America’s F BMW inaugural Champion with driver Alexander Rossi, is pinning its hopes on Brazilian youngster Giancarlo Vilarinho for the 2009 effort to keep the title.

Giancarlo is on his second season for the F BMW series and has had 3 podium finishes last year.

Having been driving since the age of 9 in karts, Giancarlo impressed the Team owner Antonio Ferrari on several occasions last season” Gian is a very a mature driver  for a 16 year old ” said Antonio after the 2nd position at the Montreal GP support race last season.

Giancarlo is coached by Paulo Carcasci, who has experience with drivers in F1, has also mentioned about Gain’s improvement during last season” Vilarinho has achieved on his finest drives Rossi’s speed, he needs now to improve on consistence” More ...

racing news
Alex Yoong to step away from cockpit  
Alex Yoong
Malaysian race car driver Alex Yoong  has decided to take a short break from his first love to concentrate on developing his business activities and the motorsports industry in the country.

The former F1 driver, who races for My Qi-Meritus Mahara in the GP2 Asia Series, said that it was a painful decision to make as he was enjoying driving for the team.

However, finding the time to remain fully committed to the team has become increasingly difficult due to the expansion of his Axle group of companies, which are also motorsports related.

Alex will be replaced by Italian Marco Bonanomi, who will be in the seat for the third round of the GP2 Asia Series at the Sakhir Track in Bahrain from Jan 23-24. More ...

ALMS Notebook  Gil de Ferran and Ben Devlin will be part of the North American International Auto Show as it hosts its fourth annual Auto Racing Day presented by Sprint on Friday, January 23 in Detroit. Featuring the most relevant designs and technology, the future of automotive transportation continues to be endorsed by such American Le Mans Series manufacturers as Mazda and Acura.

De Ferran and Devlin will share their respective stories to domestic and international media as well as the public through an autograph session and question-and-answer portion in Cobo Hall between 10 a.m. and 1 p.m. - de Ferran as the newest competitor in the LMP1 field and Devlin as an ambassador of the new Dyson Racing-Mazda partnership.

Following their announcements at the Detroit Auto Show, de Ferran and Devlin will travel to Sebring, Fla., for the American Le Mans Series' annual Winter Test from January 26-28 at Sebring International Raceway. Devlin will drive Dyson Racing's Mazda-powered Lola coupe (LMP2) while de Ferran will test his speed behind the wheel of his Acura ARX-02a. More ...

Formula BMW
Philippe to drive for Eurointernational  UPDATE Eurointernational, the reigning Formula BMW Americas champions, is proud to announce that French rookie Wilson Philippe has joined the team for the 2009 season. He is a welcome addition to the squad in their bid to retain the crown they have held since 2006.

Philippe, who turns 16 in March, faces his first full season of motorsport competition as one of the few drivers who did not cut their teeth in go-karting. However, he is certainly no stranger to the world of racing. His two older brothers, Nelson and Richard, are well established in the racing world, the latter having secured the Formula BMW Americas title himself in 2005.

“I have been following my brothers careers my whole life, but wasn’t sure if I wanted to race myself. On my fifteenth birthday, I got my first taste behind the wheel of a racecar and from then on, I knew I wanted to keep racing,” said Philippe when asked of his late start to racing. “Racing with an established team like Eurointernational should really help my learning curve. I haven’t set any specific goals for myself other than trying my best and having fun, but the team’s success speaks for itself!”

The success Philippe speaks of has never been more evident. In 2008 Eurointernational secured its third consecutive drivers championship on the back of 10 wins, and capped off a brilliant season with victory in the Formula BMW World Finals in Mexico City. Team owner Antonio Ferrari is excited to have Philippe in the line-up for 2009. “For us 2008 was a fantastic year and we are looking for more of the same in 2009. The team always looks for the best drivers to achieve these results. Wilson is an exciting young driver. Talent obviously runs in his family, and what he lacks in experience he makes up for in talent and determination. I am really looking forward to this partnership!”

Philippe eagerly awaits the first official series test, taking place February 16-17 at Palm Beach International Raceway. “It will be good to get to test with everyone to see where we stand,” said Philippe. “But what I’m really looking forward to is that first race! Driving a Formula BMW is awesome, but racing it for the first time is going to be way more fun!”

Philippe will strap into his all-red WellBox sponsored ride for the first race at the series first visit to Puebla Raceway in Mexico on March 21-22.

01/19/09 Wilson Philippe (younger brother of Nelson and Richard) will drive for the Eurointernational team in the 2009 FBMW Americas Championship. With Alexander Rossi aboard the Eurointernational team won the Formula BMW Americas and World Cup titles in 2008.
Jim Bogner dies  UPDATE James Michael (Jim) Bogner (64) of Indianapolis, Indiana passed away on January 18th, 2009 in Stuart, FL after a long battle with cancer. James was born on October 25, 1944 in Washington, D.C. to Mr. and Mrs. Norbert Bogner. He attended Crofton H.S in Crofton, NE.  He proudly served in the Army Radio Tele-type division in Vietnam. He was a graduate of UC Berkley. He worked 20 years for Delphi in Kokomo, IN and Santa Barbara, CA where he retired in 2001. Jim is survived by his loving wife Mary Lou (Beaudry) Bogner; children Robert (Allison) Beaudry, Thomas (Kelly) Beaudry; brother Richard (Valerie) Bogner; sisters Jeanne (Leroy) Dillon, Mary Kay (Bill) Dickes; and grandchildren, Kelsey, Arden and Madison Beaudry. He was preceded in death by his mother Mae Bogner. Calling will be from 4:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. on Friday, January 23rd, 2009 in the Broad Ripple Flanner and Buchanan funeral home. Funeral services will be at Faith Missionary Church in Indianapolis at 11:00 a.m. Saturday, January 24th, 2009. Contributions can be made to the Faith Missionary Church and CARA Charities.

A tribute to our hero, by Kelsey Beaudry

A Hero Worth Remembering

When we think of a hero, we think of someone with supernatural powers, like in a comic book or movie. Is there something more to them than being super strong or super fast? Are they freaks of nature or real people with a purpose? Personally, I think that a hero is someone that you can look up to and you can say, “Yeah, they’re not perfect, but they’ve done a good thing in their life.” My hero is my Papa. He is a good person, who never gives up. He grew up in Nebraska. His father owned a gas station. When he was older he served his country in the Vietnam War. Even though he has had his fair share of struggles, he never gave up or lost faith. That is what makes him my hero. More ...

iRacing announces World Cup  The World Cup of iRacing™, a global, team-style, annual internet-racing competition, was announced today by John Henry, chairman of iRacing.com Motorsport Simulations, LLC.  Henry also announced that Dale Earnhardt, Jr. has joined iRacing’s Competition Committee, the group charged with overseeing the new tournament and other internet racing activities. 

“The World Cup of iRacing represents a new aspect of the sport of internet racing,” Henry said.  “In addition to all of the individual racing opportunities that iRacers enjoy, the World Cup of iRacing gives each of our members around the world the chance to compete as part of a geographically-based club, working throughout the year with their teammates toward a common goal, one that would be out of reach for the vast majority of people racing on their own – a true world championship.” More ...
Revised ALMS Winter Test lineup  Dominik Farnbacher and Ian James are the latest entries to the lineup for the American Le Mans Series’ annual Winter Test next week at Sebring International Raceway. The pairing will reunite as drivers for Panoz Team PTG’s Panoz Esperante GTLM in GT2.

Farnbacher and James have a history together at Sebring. They teamed with Jim Tafel for a fifth-place GT2 finish in one of Tafel Racing’s Porsche 911 GT3 RSRs. Neither have driven the Panoz Esperante in race competition. More ...
Launch article updates  UPDATE The Renault launch article on our Home page has also been updated.

01/19/09 The feature article on our home page covering the launch of the 2009 Williams F1 car has been updated with higher res photos and a complete story.
Yates to field No. 98 in Nationwide Series  Yates Racing announced today it will field the No. 98 Ford Fusion in a limited number of NASCAR Nationwide races in 2009.  Yates Racing driver Paul Menard will run 16 races in the No. 98 Menards Ford Fusion.

“To be able to field a Nationwide Ford Fusion on top of our Cup program says so much about Yates Racing,” said Max Jones, co-owner and General Manager of Yates Racing.  “Matt Puccia, who will be the crew chief on the No. 98 car has done a great job with putting together a team that we feel will have some great runs this season.”

“I’m really looking forward to working with Matt Puccia and the entire No. 98 Nationwide team,” said driver Paul Menard.  “We took the No. 98 Menards Ford Fusion down to Rockingham last week for a one-day test and were really pleased with how fast our car was right off the truck.  Our first race of the season in the Nationwide Series isn’t until Bristol, which gives us a few more weeks to work on our car.  Rheem Water Heaters have signed on to run 14 of the races as the primary vendor on the car.  We’ve had a great relationship with Rheem and hopefully can go out and win a couple races with them as part of the program.” More ...

Gillett Evernham renames team Richard Petty Motorsports  Gillett Evernham Motorsports officials announced Monday that the team will be officially renamed Richard Petty Motorsports, effective immediately.

GEM, which announced an agreement to merge with Petty Enterprises earlier this month, made the announcement during Monday's Sprint Media Tour presented by Lowe's Motor Speedway while unveiling a new logo for the newly named organization.

Richard Petty, a seven-time NASCAR Cup champion and the all-time Cup  leader with 200 victories, says he will be working with sponsors and going to track with the team as he has in his previous roles with Petty Enterprises.

"I don't see me changing anything at all," he said.

The company will field three full-time Sprint Cup entries in 2009 with drivers Kasey Kahne, Elliott Sadler and Reed Sorenson. A fourth car will run on a part-time basis with AJ Allmendinger.

Williams say budgets for next two years in place  Former champions Williams have their budgets for 2009 and 2010 in place after renewing a string of sponsorship deals in recent months, the Formula One team said on Monday.

"These are basic budgets to get the job done. There is no fat in this system," chief executive Adam Parr told Reuters by telephone after the team's new FW31 car made its track debut at the Algarve Motor Park circuit.

"We have got some good solid sponsorship contracts in place for 2010 which together with FOM (Formula One Management) revenues give us decent working budgets for the next two years," said Parr.

"We have a no-frills budget for 2010."

track news
Celebrate IMS Centennial Era with 2009 'Grounds Tour'  
Sam Hornish Jr. blows past Michael Andretti on the home straight to win the 2006 Indy 500
At a venue where history has been made for a century, the Indianapolis Motor Speedway's Hall of Fame Museum will in 2009 set a record for the most behind-the-scenes Grounds Tours in a season.

The Museum's popular Grounds Tour, which provides a great opportunity to entertain family, friends or clients with a 90-minute tour rich in IMS history and landmarks, will take place on a record 68 days in 2009. Tickets are available now.

This year also marks the start of the Speedway's Centennial Era celebrations, marking the 100th anniversary of the Speedway's founding in 1909 and the 100th anniversary of the inaugural Indianapolis 500 in 1911.

Knowledgeable Hall of Fame Museum staff members serve as hosts for the Grounds Tours, providing customers with a narrated historical journey through the decades at the "Racing Capital of the World" along with visits to notable IMS landmarks normally open only to officials, drivers and teams during events. More ...

Racer's Edge announces Rolex 24 drivers  Racers Edge Motorsports today announced its driver lineup for the #30 Racers Edge/3-Dimensional Services Group/ Idemitsu Mazda RX-8, competing in this weekend's 47th Annual Rolex 24 at Daytona.  Taking turns behind the wheel during the twice-around-the-clock classic will be full-season co-drivers Doug Peterson and Dane Cameron, joined for this event by Bryan Sellers and Dion von Moltke.  Peterson will qualify and start the car, with Cameron taking the second stint, followed by Sellers and Von Moltke.

The team, with new driver Dane Cameron setting the pace, worked through an aggressive and successful development program at the final pre-season test at Daytona to set the second-fastest GT-class lap time in the #30 Racers Edge/3-Dimensional Services Group/ Idemitsu Mazda RX-8.  Equally important, both car and drivers proved competitive in each session throughout the test, under varying track conditions, fuel loads and traffic situations.

"I'm obviously pleased with how fast the car went, but even more so with the way the team and drivers worked together and improved every time we went out on track," said Jon Mirachi, owner and team manager of Racers Edge Motorsports.  "In addition to our on-track performance, we focused on our pit stop procedures and reduced the time it takes to service the car and change drivers by more than ten seconds.  There is even more speed in the car, and we know where to find it, so add it all together and I think we have reason to be optimistic about our chances in the Rolex 24."

Dane Cameron, who will be the full-season co-driver with Doug Peterson in the #30 Racers Edge Mazda RX-8, arrives at this point in his career via an accomplished climb up the open-wheel ladder.  Driving for Genoa Racing in the ultra-competitive 2008 Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda, Cameron started from the pole once and scored two podiums and five top-5 finishes, finishing seventh in the championship during his rookie season.

Buemi fast in rain at Portimao  Sebastien Buemi sets the quickest time on day one of F1 testing in Portugal.  Sebastien Buemi posted the quickest time at Portimao as the first F1 test of 2009 kicked off in wet weather conditions at the Portuguese circuit.

The test marked the first time Buemi has hit the track following confirmation of his move into an F1 race seat with Toro Rosso for the coming season, and he proved to be comfortably quickest on the first day of the test.

Running in the only 2008-spec car on track, Buemi had been due to work on validating the 2009 engine specification, checking cooling configurations and general reliability. However, with circuit conditions requiring extreme rain tires for the entire day, Buemi instead worked on electronics and also practiced his race starts on the wet circuit.  More ...

Weather affects Raikkonen's day at Mugello  First day of testing for Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro, working as from today at the Mugello International Circuit. A week after Felipe Massa gave the new Ferrari F60 its debut at this track, today it fell to Kimi Raikkonen to begin the real work of developing the car.

The day was affected by adverse weather conditions, with a wet track all day and rain, occasionally heavy, in the afternoon. Nevertheless, Raikkonen was able to rack up a good mileage, covering a total of 54 laps, the quickest in a time of 1.34.430. There were no technical problems with the car.

Testing continues at this track tomorrow, again with Kimi Raikkonen at the wheel.

A1GP R4 Preview – Taupo, New Zealand  The 2008-09 A1GP World Cup of Motorsport roars back into life this weekend with New Zealand’s picturesque Taupo Motorsports Park welcoming the competing nations back for the third straight season, Friday 23rd – Sunday 25th January.

Round 4 down-under will again see TW Steel, the ‘Official Watch and Timing Partner’ of A1GP, active on the ground, introducing ‘The Watch in Steel’ to Taupo race fans through a series of competitions in the media and of course, the ever-popular, ‘Miss TW Steel’ competition.

Recent winners, Miss Dyan Zou Xiao Qian (Miss TW Steel China) and Miss Parveen Singh (Miss TW Steel Malaysia) are already booked up to head to London, England at the end of the season where they will compete alongside the other national winners from A1GP events for the title of ‘Miss TW Steel 2008-09’, $25,000 US in prize money and a photo-shoot with a leading lifestyle magazine. More ...
Doran team announces Rolex 24 driver lineup  
Doran's McDonald's livery
Doran Racing today announced a 'dream team' of top drivers and sponsorship from a high-profile global company as the team prepares for this weekend's 47th Annual Rolex 24 at Daytona. 

Piloting the #77 Doran-Dallara Ford will be full-season drivers Memo Gidley and Brad Jaeger, joined for the legendary, twice-around-the-clock endurance event by Matteo Bobbi and Fabrizio Gollin.  Adding major marketing muscle to the effort as a full-season sponsor is one of the most instantly-recognizable names in the world, McDonald's, the world's leading food service retailer.  With the announcement, McDonald's becomes the first company of its kind to sponsor a car as a primary or associate role within the Rolex Series.

"We have four extremely capable drivers, all of whom have experience with this team and this race, a well-sorted car capable of running at the front and one of the most famous companies in the world on board as a full-season sponsor," says Kevin Doran, whose team won the Rolex 24 in 1998 and again in 2002. "The team scored eleven top-10 finishes last season, eight of them in a row.  We ran consistently in the top-10 in the three-day ‘Roar Before the Rolex 24' testing session at Daytona International Speedway, so we have the knowledge and the tools and having McDonald's on board provides us with the resources and motivation to take the effort to a whole new level.  We expect to make additional sponsor announcements as companies with which we are in discussions decide to take advantage of a hot team on the way up.  This is a great organization presented with a great opportunity and we expect to put the #77 McDonald's car up front this season." More ...

New Toyota F1 car testing begins  Panasonic Toyota Racing got its 2009 testing program underway today at a new venue for the team; the Algarve Motor Park in Portugal. Kamui Kobayashi was at the wheel for the first pre-season tests of the TF109, which was unveiled for the first time on www.tf109-premiere.com last week. After conducting a successful and trouble-free roll-out of the TF109 yesterday, Kamui continued to work on the team's kinetic energy recovery system (KERS), which is being used on track for the first time this week, as well as performing systems checks and gathering information about the new car. Unfortunately, wind and rain, particularly in the afternoon, disrupted the program. Jarno Trulli takes over from Kamui tomorrow. More ...
Verizon teams with Penske Racing  Penske Racing announced today that it will team with Verizon Wireless to field a full-season entry in the 2009 NASCAR Nationwide Series. The No. 12 Verizon Wireless Dodge Charger will be driven by young standout Justin Allgaier, the 2008 ARCA RE/MAX Series champion. Allgaier made four Nationwide Series starts for Penske Racing in 2008 after joining the team in late September. The 22-year-old driver from Riverton, Illinois is looking to lead the team to a breakout season, beginning next month in Daytona.

Penske Racing will also continue its participation in the NASCAR Cup Series with the No. 12 Penske Dodge Charger driven by David Stremme. He will be joined by teammates Kurt Busch in the No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge Charger and Sam Hornish Jr., driving the No. 77 Mobil 1 Dodge Charger in the three-car effort. Stremme, the 2003 Nationwide Series Rookie of the Year, also promises to be extremely competitive in the coming season in Cup Series competition. The No. 12 Cup Series team also retains Roy McCauley as its crew chief. The No. 12 Penske Dodge Charger will debut a new paint scheme in 2009, beginning with the Budweiser Shootout on Saturday, February 7. More ...
Alonso to race new helmet livery  (GMM) Fernando Alonso will race a new helmet livery for the 2009 season.

His new design was on display on Monday as he attended the low-key launch and debut of Renault's new R29 single seater.

Unlike his predominantly white, blue and yellow livery of last year, the 27-year-old Spaniard's new design is basically yellow.

Also featuring red and blue, and the twin playing-card 'aces' on the rear, the new design will be debuted on Wednesday when Alonso tests the R29 for the first time at Portimao in Portugal.
track news
UK watchdog slams Donington upgrade  (GMM) A UK government watchdog has slammed Donington Park's plans to refurbish the circuit for the 2010 British grand prix.

The venue has achieved local planning permission to commence the 110m euro works, but the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (CABE) believes the project is "disappointingly weak".

The renowned F1 circuit architect Hermann Tilke is involved with the redesign, including track reprofiling and new facilities, but CABE said the lodged plans show a "poor understanding of the site and the opportunities it offers".

"The design principles governing the approach to landscape and built form in this project are disappointingly weak and have resulted in a proposal which falls far short of what the local authority and the nation should be aspiring to in a modern formula one venue," said the design review.
Mazda has no plans for electric vehicles  Unlike just about every other automobile manufacturer at the North American International Auto Show, Mazda Motor Corp. is not actively developing electric vehicles and has no plans to do so, which should assure another Ford company eventually folds.

"We will not go somewhere unless its 'zoom-zoom,'" said a short sighted Jim O'Sullivan, president of Mazda North America, referring to the company's catchphrase that is meant to emphasize the sportiness of everything it builds.

Zoom-zoom means gasoline and, at least in Japan, hydrogen, he said.

Mazda puts high-performance engines in most of its models (High Performance? Compared to what?) -- including its take on the minivan, the Mazda5. But they are either four- or six-cylinder motors. They may not be economical, but neither are they V-8s. And O'Sullivan says Mazda plans to achieve a 30 percent improvement in its fleet fuel economy by 2015 through things like weight reduction and increased engine efficiency.

Mazda is also developing a bi-fuel rotary engine that runs on gasoline and hydrogen. The first models are on the road in Japan, where the distance between hydrogen refueling stations is far less than in the United States.

NASCAR's Amber Wells recounts plane's water landing  It was “divine intervention,” Amber Wells said. A “guiding hand” reaching out.

“I truly believe God saved my life,” she said.

Wells, senior manager of licensed attractions for NASCAR, was one of 155 people on board USAirways Flight 1549 when the passenger jet fell from the sky above New York City and crash-landed in the Hudson River Jan. 15.

Miraculously, no one on the flight, which had just departed LaGuardia Airport and was headed to Charlotte, was seriously injured.

Wells was part of a NASCAR delegation returning home after business meetings in the city, but was the only one from her group scheduled to depart on that particular flight.

Shortly after its 3:26 p.m. EST departure, disaster struck. More ...

Webber confirms February return  
Mark Webber
Mark Webber has confirmed he will return to testing with Red Bull on 11 February, less than three months after breaking his leg in a biking accident.

"I'm looking forward to driving the car in three weeks," Webber told BBC Radio Five Live.

"I'm going to have a crack at driving the car on 11 February, and then we'll see how that goes.

"If it goes really well, I'll be back in on 13 February. Then I've got three more tests - Jerez, Valencia and then our last test in Barcelona, with all the teams together - before we go off to Australia."

"I'm going alright now. We're coming out of the back part of the worst of it, and hopefully I won't be on the crutches too much longer," he said.

"Can start to test the muscle and the soft tissue in the back of the leg a little bit more when I get more confidence to walk on the leg.

"It won't affect how I drive my car. It affects my conditioning - I need a little bit more preparation, but by the time I get to Melbourne I should be in really good nick again.

Strakka Racing confirms move into LMP1  Silverstone-based Strakka Racing has confirmed an agreement with Ginetta-Zytek that will see the team competing in the Le Mans Series this season with a Ginetta-Zytek GZ09S LMP1 chassis. The deal came about following a very successful track test in Spain towards the end of November, and means that Strakka’s regular driver pairing of Peter Hardman and Nick Leventis will be moving up into the top level of sportscar and endurance racing.

Peter Hardman's EDM Motorsport, formed at the end of 2005, evolved into Strakka Racing in 2007. Last season Strakka Racing came to prominence as a result of strong runs in the Le Mans 24 Hours - in collaboration with Vitaphone Racing - and in selected rounds of the Le Mans Series. For the past four years Peter has not only managed and directed the team, but has also mentored his protégé Nick Leventis, forging the relationship into strong driving partnership that combines experience and talent. More ...

New Renault, Williams cars revealed  (GMM)  Renault's French-Swiss test driver Romain Grosjean, 22, was on Monday revealed as the team's third or reserve driver for the 2009 season.

The news emerged as the new R29 car, featuring a modified livery design for this year and a new sponsor in the form of Total, was launched in low-key fashion in the pitlane of the Portimao circuit in Portugal.

Fernando Alonso, team boss Flavio Briatore and Nelson Piquet posed with the car, with the latter Brazilian racer nominated to turn the maiden laps.

Williams' test driver, Nico Hulkenberg, also posed for photographs in the pitlane in the morning as the new Williams FW31 was readied for its own maiden test.

The Toyota-powered car was in an all dark-blue interim livery, with the final configuration to be revealed in February.

Latest F1 news in brief  
  • Tweaked colors, new sponsor for Renault
  • Three F1 racers in ski marathon
  • Lauda wants F1 drivers to double up
  • Kovalainen to relax more in 2009
  • New Toyota makes debut in Portugal
  • Hamilton in dark over Dennis' decision
  • Setback no problem to Donington's F1 plans

Tweaked colors, new sponsor for Renault
(GMM) Renault on Monday will reveal its 2009 car, a slightly revised livery and a new sponsor in the form of the French oil company Total.

Those preparing for this week's test at the Portimao circuit on the southern coast of Portugal have spotted the R29, featuring newly red-painted rear wing endplates bearing the 'Total' logo, and less blue than in the previous livery design, in the pit garage.

Total is the parent of the existing Renault backer Elf.

Contrary to speculation, however, the Dutch bank ING will in 2009 remain the title sponsor of the Enstone based team.

The new car will be revealed officially on Monday, with Nelson Piquet scheduled to complete the debut laps.

Fernando Alonso will be present for the launch and debut on Monday, but is not scheduled to drive until Wednesday.

Three F1 racers in ski marathon
(GMM) Three friends and former formula one drivers at the weekend were among the 500 competitors at a charity ski endurance race.

Held at the Villars ski resort in Switzerland, the annual 24-hour race is sponsored by Jacques Villeneuve and his long-time business partner Craig Pollock.

The French-Canadian has headlined the event since his days as a Williams driver in the 90s, and this year was joined on the piste by long-time friend and newly-retired racer David Coulthard, the Swiss regional newspaper 24-Heures said.

Villeneuve's former Williams teammate Damon Hill also raced, as did Paul Stewart, son of the triple world champion Sir Jackie.

"Believe me, I am not going for any records," said Hill, 48. "I have the enthusiasm but my body is not really up to the task!" More ...

Will Power live chat on SPEEDTV.com  UPDATE A reminder that this live chat with Will Power and Robin Miller will be on SPEEDTV.com today from Noon until 1:00 pm ET.

01/18/09 Join us (SPEEDTV.com) Monday, January 19th from Noon ET until 1pm ET for the first Live Chat with new Penske Racing IndyCar star Will Power.

Also joining the Live Chat will be SPEEDtv.com's ace IndyCar reporter Robin Miller. Power will be answering questions for the first 30 minutes followed by Robin Miller for the last half hour.

IndyCar Series star Will Power joins Team Penske for 2009 after an impressive first run in the series in 2008. The native of Toowoomba, Australia brings a pedigree of winning throughout his career, racing in Australia and Europe before coming to North America to compete in the Champ Car World Series.

Filling in for Helio Castroneves, Power joins fellow Aussie Ryan Briscoe this season in the pursuit of the IndyCar Series championship for the immensely successful Team Penske organization.

Villeneuve wants NASCAR ride  
Villeneuve desperately searching for sponsorship
In case anyone needed a reminder about the state of the economy, Jacques Villeneuve -- Canada's only Formula One/Indianapolis 500 champion -- brought it home in spades yesterday. The native of Saint-Jean-sur-Richelieu, Que., appeared at the Canadian Motorsports Expo at the International Centre and spelled out just how hard it has been for him to attract enough sponsorship dollars to get his newly minted NASCAR career back on track. "It's tough going," he said. "There are still a bunch of (NASCAR) teams that are looking at getting funding for 2009 and I am spending virtually all my time trying to get (a deal) done."

The frustrating thing, of course, is that Villeneuve should be able to stand before any corporation in Canada, shake hands with a few company directors and come out with a wheelbarrow full of cash to back any kind of racing venture that he wanted. After all, he has one of the most recognizable names in all of sports; his late father is worshipped on two continents and he is a two-time Canadian male athlete of the year. And at 37 years old, he still is young enough to drive at least five more seasons at the top of his game in NASCAR. All this, however, amounts to a hill of beans with the auto manufacturing world in a death spiral. Villeneuve is so focused on breaking into NASCAR that he has decided to forego another opportunity with team Peugeot to win the 24 Hours of Le Mans this spring.  Toronto Sun

Villeneuve weighs in on cancellation of Canadian Grand Prix  In Toronto for the Canadian Motorsport Expo on Saturday, Quebec native Jacques Villeneuve weighed in on the cancellation of the 2009 Canadian Grand Prix, Montreal's Formula One race.

"It was very sad because it was one of the most popular races of the whole season," Villeneuve said. "For the drivers, for the fans, it was always a great venue - exciting, fun.  Even the whole weekend in town was fun."

The Montreal event was dropped from the Formula One calendar back in October because of a dispute over sponsorship, leaving Canada without a single F1 race for the first in more than two decades.

"For Montreal, it's a terrible loss of business," Villeneuve said.

The race, first held in Canada in 1967, brought in approximately $75 to $80 million to Montreal every year.

Swindell wins Chili Bowl  Sammy Swindell put the finishing touches on a perfect week by racing to victory lane in Saturday night's 23rd Annual Lucas Oil Chili Bowl Nationals presented by General Tire 50-lap championship feature event, besting an event record of 281 competitors. Swindell survived a set of cautions in the final handful of circuits along with a foray or two above the turns one and two cushion to capture an unprecedented fifth Chili Bowl title and the coveted Golden Driller trophy that goes along with it. Swindell was chased to the line by Hines, with Brad Kuhn making a last-corner move around Jerry Coons, Jr., to snare the show position. J.J. Yeley rounded out the top five. Kasey Kahne's day was cut short when he tangled with Jason Meyers while dicing for a transfer position just three laps short of the night's first "C" Main. ChiliBowl.com
UK gov to probe Fry's team sale role  UPDATE The Honda Racing Formula One team seems to be in further trouble with reports emerging in the Daily Mail newspaper yesterday morning that the Department of trade and Industry have been asked to investigate claims that current team boss Nick Fry is one of the interested parties in the one pound purchase of the Brackley based squad.

It appears as if team members have requested the investigation as the cut-off date for purchase rapidly approaches and no deal has been done. With a January 31st deadline, Fry, who is in charge of fielding the offers, claims that he has whittled the enquiries down to twelve serious bidders.

With reports that Fry is also interested in purchasing the team, current staff members are concerned that it represents a conflict of interest, putting the possible sale in severe jeopardy, as well as their futures.

‘The level of anger and frustration at the factory is unbelievable. We wonder whether Nick is doing the right thing by wearing two hats. The DTI will be keen to make sure that Honda find the best, most competitive buyer,’ Sportsmail quote an insider as saying.

Time is rapidly running out for the team if they plan to be on the grid with a competitive car come March.

Is Nick Fry's role in Honda sale a conflict of interest?
(GMM)  The potential sale of Brackley based Honda could be the subject of a government investigation, according to a British newspaper report.

The Daily Mail said the Department of Trade and Industry has been asked to step in amid suggestions team chief executive Nick Fry could be operating both as a mediator to potential buyers, as well as a potential buyer himself.

The newspaper said the Member of Parliament Tim Boswell, representing the area in England including Honda's Brackley headquarters, has responded to the concerns of team staff of a potential conflict of interest.

"The level of anger and frustration at the factory is unbelievable," an insider is quoted as saying.  "We wonder whether Nick is doing the right thing by wearing two hats."

The team, facing a January 31 deadline for survival, declined to comment on whether Fry is indeed planning a management buy-out.

Mercedes: Still time to agree on Honda deal  McLaren and Mercedes bosses say there is no fixed deadline for a customer engine deal to be reached with the stricken Honda team – although they concede that time is running out.

Speaking at the launch of the new McLaren MP4-24 on Friday, Mercedes motorsport boss Norbert Haug said there was still a window of opportunity for a deal to be done.

“[Honda] approached Martin [Whitmarsh] quite a while ago and of course the FOTA meeting when [Honda’s exit] was announced was the first time everyone learned that there was a problem,” he said.

“All the team principals being there decided that if there was a possibility to help then one should help. We were asked then as Mercedes-Benz.

“The timing is anything but fantastic, obviously, but we still could do it.

“There is not a deadline like tomorrow or next week, but of course time is running [out] and it needs to have a solid financial background.” More ...

Luca and Bernie kiss and make up  
Bernie Ecclestone and Luca di Montezemola bury the hatchet
Two of Formula One's most powerful men, Luca di Montezemolo and Bernie Ecclestone, appeared to have settled their differences.

Di Montezemolo and F1 supremo Ecclestone have recently enjoyed a love-hate relationship, and things turned nasty in December when the Ferrari president hinted that Ecclestone's time may be up.

However, Ecclestone hit back and revealed Ferrari received more money than other F1 teams and they've "general help" for years.

The two, though, put their differences to one side during Ferrari's annual ski retreat at Madonna di Campiglio in Italy.

Di Montezemolo was quick to point out that Ecclestone has done a lot for Formula One. More ...

Mosley pushing for F1 budget caps  (GMM)  Max Mosley has proposed a budget cap as the ideal solution to formula one's need to drastically cut costs.

Overseen by the teams and the FIA president, the sport has already introduced measures for the forthcoming season, but even more severe cost-slashing is slated for 2010.

In conversation with Germany's Auto Motor und Sport, Mosley "absolutely" agrees that annual budget limits for teams is the best solution.

"I have reminded the team that this measure solves all the problems immediately," the FIA president said.

"It would then be the decision of the teams how they spend their money," he explained.

He believes the current system, where the biggest teams unleash budgets multiple times the size of some of their rivals, is as unfair as allowing bigger engines for some competitors.

"Until now Ferrari has been the most opposed (to budget caps), but it seems that even they are beginning to understand," Mosley, pushing for an annual limit of between 40 and 50 million euros per team, said.

It is understood that at least two studies into whether budget caps in F1 can be effectively policed have been commissioned: one by the FIA, and one by Ferrari.

Not surprisingly, the FIA's study concluded that it is feasible, and Ferrari's found the opposite.

Credit Suisse confirms BMW-Sauber exit  (GMM)  Following months of speculation, the Swiss bank Credit Suisse has finally confirmed it is pulling out as a major backer of the BMW-Sauber formula one team.

It had been suggested throughout last year that the bank intended to withdraw its long sponsorship and minority shareholding, dating back to the team's privateer days with Peter Sauber, at the end of 2008.

It was rumored that the reason was the departure as Credit Suisse's CEO of F1 fan Oswald Grubel, who was replaced by Brady W. Dougan.

"The team is on the right track.  Therefore, this is the right time to say farewell," spokesman Matthias Friedli told the Swiss Sunday newspaper SonntagsBlick.

Grubel said he was "disappointed" by the news.

The Credit Suisse deal was estimated at 17 million euros per season.

Bernie denies 20 race contract promise  
Bernie Ecclestone
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone has denied he might be steering into contractual trouble due to the beleaguered fortunes of Honda's formula one team.

According to long-standing paddock speculation, the F1 chief executive's contracts with race promoters and TV broadcasters promise a grid of at least twenty cars.

Should Honda not find a buyer for its Brackley based team before the start of the forthcoming season, 2009 will feature just 18 cars.

"There will be 20 cars because you can expect Honda to be sold," the 78-year-old billionaire told the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport.

"Even if that is not the case, it would not be a problem.  If we can reduce the costs enough, there will be plenty of teams who want to participate in the world championship," Ecclestone added.

He said there is no such clause on the agreements with promoters and broadcasters guaranteeing 20 cars on the grid.

"That's typical formula one.  There is no such rule," the diminutive Briton insisted.  "People talk about things even when they do not understand."

McLaren MP4-24 makes track debut  UPDATE (GMM)  McLaren's 2009 single seater, the MP4-24, made its track debut on Saturday in the hands of the Spanish test driver Pedro de la Rosa.

At a private booking for the team at the new Algarve circuit, located on the southern coast of Portugal, the car was taken through 18 laps in ideal weather following a delayed start.

Alongside other teams on Monday, de la Rosa will continue the program before handing over to Lewis Hamilton on Wednesday and Heikki Kovalainen on Thursday.

"Obviously, we have yet to really push the MP4-24 to its limits and we will start running more laps on Monday but this was a constructive start and has given us some confidence," de la Rosa said.

01/17/09 Fresh from Friday's launch at the McLaren Technology Centre in Woking, McLaren Mercedes test driver Pedro de la Rosa gave the brand new MP4-24 car its first track test today at the Autodromo Internacional do Algarve test facility in Portugal.

After a delayed start to the day, the test team completed 18 laps in the MP4-24 during a private test held under very bright and sunny conditions, with de la Rosa setting a best time of 1m 28.719s on his 13th lap. In all, 84 kilometers were covered during this maiden run.

The Spaniard resumes the car's pre-season program at Portimao on Monday and Tuesday before handing over to Lewis Hamilton on Wednesday. Heikki Kovalainen will conclude the four-day test session on Thursday. More ...
IRL test information  

IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights teams will participate in Open Tests at Homestead-Miami Speedway and Barber Motorsports Park to prepare for the 2009 season.

The first spring training dates are scheduled for Feb. 23-25 on the 1.5-mile, high-banked oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway. IndyCar Series teams will test under the lights from 4-10 p.m. Feb. 24-25 (ET) in preparation for the 17-race schedule that includes 10 ovals. Firestone Indy Lights rookies will practice Feb. 23 from 9 a.m.-5 p.m., and all Firestone Indy Lights drivers will be allowed to test Feb. 24 from 9 a.m.-3:45 p.m.

Both series will prepare for the road and street courses on the calendar with an Open Test March 21-23 at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Ala. IndyCar Series teams will test from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. (ET) March 22 and 9 a.m.-4 p.m. March 23 on the 16-turn, 2.38-mile course, while Firestone Indy Lights teams will test from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. March 21.

"Everyone is ready to get back to the racetrack, and there are no better places to prepare for the 2009 season than Homestead-Miami Speedway and Barber Motorsports Park," said Brian Barnhart, president of competition for the Indy Racing League, sanctioning body of the IndyCar Series and Firestone Indy Lights. "This will be our third consecutive season to test under the lights at Homestead-Miami. It's a fantastic venue that gives everyone the opportunity to measure the progress they've made over the winter and prepare for the season. More ...

Debris Kills Boy in Stands at Monster Truck Show  Debris flew into the grandstands at a monster truck show in Washington state, killing a 6-year-old boy and injuring another spectator, witnesses and city officials said Saturday.

A red truck came apart while doing doughnuts during the freestyle competition of Friday night's Monster Jam show, the witnesses said. Debris from the truck flew 30 to 50 feet over a safety barrier into the stands.

"Parts were falling off and a piece flew up and hit a little boy," Christine Moe told King Television of Seattle.

Police Officer Mark Fulghum said officers serving as security at the Tacoma Dome investigated the accident.

"At this point, there's nothing to indicate that there's anything criminal," Fulghum told The Associated Press on Saturday night. "Right now it looks like a tragic accident."

The Pierce County medical examiner's office identified the boy killed as Sebastian Hizey of Puyallup.

The boy's father, Jessie Hizey, issued a statement to KIRO-TV on Saturday that said his son was hit in the head by a Frisbee-sized piece of metal, weighing between 7 and 12 pounds.

"I cannot get the images [out of my head] of the small pieces of his brain sitting on the bench beside him or the pool of blood he was laying in," the father wrote in the statement, according to The News Tribune. More ...

"We're bullish on electrification of the industry"  When Tennessee Sen. Bob Corker strolled into the Ford Motor Co. display last week at the Detroit auto show, Mark Fields had his pitch for electric vehicles ready.

The Ford vice president steered Corker toward a display showing the underside of a Focus converted to all-electric power, and pressed a case that Ford and other automakers couldn't make such models happen alone.

"We are really going to need to partner with the government and the electric companies," Fields said. "The infrastructure is key. If you're going from one state to another, where are you going to plug in, what are you going to charge for it?"

It's the kind of conversation that Detroit's executives will have plenty of practice with in the coming years. Between government interest in new technology and last summer's oil price spike to $150 per barrel, automakers see little choice but to push ahead with electric vehicles, despite drawbacks that have no easy answers today. More ...

racing news
Christopher Wins Atlantic City Gambler’s Classic  Ted Christopher opened the 2009 racing season in a big way by winning the Gambler’s Classic TQ Midget/600 cc Micro Sprint Car race at Atlantic City’s Boardwalk Hall on Saturday night in front of a large crowd.

The defending NASCAR Whelen Modified Tour champion earned $5,000 for claiming his first-career indoor race at the New Jersey shore.

“I’ve won a lot of things over the years, but this one surely ranks up there as one of the best,” Christopher said. “This race has so much history and it’s a hard event to win.”

Christopher, 50, of Plainville, Conn., started 14th in the 25-car starting field and topped two-time Gambler’s Classic winner Joey Payne at the finish. More ...

tv news
Weekend USA TV Reminders  UPDATE The final TV reminders for Sunday are listed below.
Courtesy of TVRacer.com
(Trippin' on Two Wheels - Italy, Switzerland)
11:00am-12:00pm SPEED
AMA Supercross Anaheim
12:00pm-1:00pm (1/17/09) CBS
Bodine Bobsled Challenge -NASCAR Drivers Lake Placid, NY 
12:00pm-2:00pm SPEED
Dakar Rally Highlights Argentina-Chile 
3:30pm-4:00pm VS
AMA Supercross Lites Anaheim 
6:00pm-7:00pm (1/17/09) SPEED
Dakar Rally Highlights Argentina-Chile 
6:30pm-7:00pm VS
The SPEED Report 
7:00pm-8:00pm SPEED
(Ultimate Factories BMW)
8:00pm-9:00pm SPEED
(Ultimate Factories Harley Davidson)
9:00pm-10:00pm SPEED
Shaken and Stirred: Racing Classic Astons at SPA 
10:00pm-11:00pm (R)
Discovery HD Theater
Check local listings for your time zone
For a complete listing of TV programs, see TVRacer.com
NASCAR caution periods to be sponsored  For those of you who have still not heard the news, brace yourself. NASCAR has sold the rights to sponsor caution periods in live races to a cleaning company called ServiceMaster. Does that mean more debris cautions to please the sponsor?

Here is the official blurb:

ServiceMaster Clean Inks Deal with ISC & SMI Race Tracks: ServiceMaster Clean announced that it has signed a unique partnership agreement to be the first-ever official sponsor of the caution periods during races at International Speedway Corporation (ISC) and Speedway Motorsports Incorporated (SMI) race tracks across the nation.

When there is a problem on the track, the ServiceMaster Clean Yellow Flag will wave, and the company’s familiar yellow trucks will be dispatched to clean the track. In racing, a yellow flag means cleaning. In homes and businesses across North America, a yellow ServiceMaster Clean van means cleaning and restoration is being done quickly and professionally by America’s number one cleaning team.

ServiceMaster Clean will have official and exclusive sponsorship of the Yellow Flag– now to be known as ServiceMaster Clean Caution periods – at all 19 ISC and SMI race tracks around the country. These racetracks feature 31 Sprint Cup, 24 Nationwide and 17 Camping World Truck Series races and hundreds of other racing events.

In fact, there will hardly be a race for the next five years where ServiceMaster Clean does not have a large presence. More ...
Bonanomi replaces Yoong at Meritus  Marco Bonanomi will replacing former Formula One driver Alex Yoong at Meritus Racing in the GP2 Asia series.

"I'm glad to have found this opportunity, and to be back working with a great technician like (Gianfranco) Bielli at Al Sakhir," said Bonanomi.

"Since the GP2 Asia Series doesn't feature extensive practice sessions, I'll have to re-adapt to the car really quickly, though I see a strong team so I'm pretty confident."

Menard to get owners points from other Yates team  From a NASCAR Press Conference at Daytona for the Fanfest. NASCAR Ramsey Poston asked the questions: Has any determination been made at Yates what the point affiliation will be for your team? Are you going to start from scratch? Are you going to get one of the other cars on points, and is there more concern or more excitement about starting out the year with a totally new bunch and how critical is it going to be to gel quickly with that group?

PAUL MENARD [#98 Menard's Ford]: As far as I know we're getting points so we'll be locked in. I'm not sure if it's #28 or #38 points, but one of them will slide over. NASCAR PR

Theissen looking forward to the F1.09 Launch  Our first highlight of the new season is just a few days away. The BMW Sauber F1.09 completes its very first laps. Each year we all invest a lot of time and effort into developing the new car, in order to guarantee that we make the progress we have resolved to make. So far we have always achieved our ambitious objectives. Preparations for the team's fourth season have thrown up some particularly demanding challenges for the BMW Sauber F1 Team.

Formula One is changing. Aerodynamic features are being trimmed dramatically for 2009, slicks are back, and the new KERS technology is on our doorstep. Having to incorporate so many new factors into the car's design is asking everything of our engineers in Munich and Hinwil. However, we are certain we have found very promising responses to the questions, which are being posed by the new regulations.

Despite all these new alterations, I can assure you that one thing will remain the same in the BMW Sauber F1 Team: the absolute will and determination to achieve our goals again this season. We want to mount a serious challenge for the World Championship title.

Mario Theissen

Ferrari: Dennis exit 'strange'  Ron Dennis's decision to stand down as McLaren Formula One team principal is "strange", according to Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo.

McLaren and Ferrari have been at loggerheads on and off the track in recent times, especially in the 2007 spy scandal where the British outfit was stripped of all its constructor points for obtaining secret information on the Italian team.

Despite their differences, Montezemolo had kind words for Dennis.

"It seems strange to me but Ron after all the controversies and battles is a first-class person from a first-class team," the head of the Formula One Teams' Association said at Ferrari's ski retreat.

"I imagine he will have a different role. I appreciate his and many other people's support for FOTA."

Robby stuck with a Dodge in Shootout  Sirius Speedway spoke to NASCAR representative Ramsey Poston today, and he confirmed that Robby Gordon is approved to run the Budweiser Shootout in a Dodge, before converting to Toyota for the remainder of Speedweek 2009. Gordon ran Dodges last season, but will campaign a Toyota in 2009. Both manufacturers have apparently signed-off on the arrangement. It is difficult to imagine why Dodge would approve of the deal, since it bumps Penske Racing’s Sam Hornish --a full-time Dodge driver in 2009 -- out of the race. The ruling also raises some potentially explosive scenarios. For instance, Chip Ganassi’s #42 car finished 25th in owners points last year, running as a Dodge. Based on Gordon's eligibility, Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing could presumably build a Dodge and put Juan Pablo Montoya into the Shootout, bumping AJ Allmendinger. Sirius Speedway
Tire testing at Atlanta  In preparation for the upcoming Kobalt Tools 500 on March 6-8 at the 1.54-mile Atlanta Motor Speedway, the Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company is conducting a two-day tire test on Tues-Wed, January 20-21, to ensure the preeminent tire is ready for Atlanta’s Kobalt Tools 500 race weekend. The drivers scheduled to test: #16-Biffle (Ford), #42-Montoya (Chevy), #77-Hornish Jr. (Dodge) and #82-Speed (Toyota). This session is closed to the public. AMS PR
NASCAR creates 'Tony Stewart Rule'  In what could come to be known as the "Tony Stewart Rule," NASCAR announced Friday that the field for the 2009 Budweiser Shootout has been expanded from 24 to 28 cars. The change makes Stewart, the 2007 Shootout champion who is switching from Toyotas to Chevrolets as he moves from Joe Gibbs Racing to the Stewart-Haas Racing team he now co-owns, now eligible for the season-opening event at Daytona International Speedway. A new format for the event was announced last year. Instead of having winners of poles for Sprint Cup races in the race, the Shootout was changed to highlight manufacturer involvement by taking the top six teams in owner points from Ford, Dodge, Chevrolet and Toyota. The expansion gives each of those manufacturers a "wild card" entry for the Feb. 7 race. The change announced Friday gives each manufacturer a seventh car. A past Cup champion who attempted to qualify for all of the points races in 2008 has first shot at the "wild card" slot. If there's no former champion in place, it goes to the next car in the owner standings that has the same manufacturer as 2008. In Chevrolet's case, Stewart will be the "wild card" even though he has changed manufacturer. That's because the team he'll drive the No. 14 Chevrolets for this year operated as the No. 70 Chevrolets in 2008, making it eligible. Charlotte Observer
Andretti back for USA  
Marco Andretti is looking forward to racing for A1 Team USA in New Zealand
Marco Andretti’s medal position in Malaysia last year has earned him the chance to continue racing for A1 Team USA in Taupo next weekend.  The 21-year-old has been confirmed as racing for the Stars and Stripes in New Zealand, fresh from finishing in a strong third place in Sepang’s Feature race last November.

“I’m looking forward to the race in New Zealand”, said Andretti.

“I’ve never been over there, but I’ve heard a lot of good things about it from [New Zealand IndyCar racer] Scott Dixon and I am looking forward to getting there. I know very little about the circuit, but I’m sure we’ll get up to speed pretty quick.

“It’s just great to be able to race this time of year. I love to drive and a lot of people aren’t getting that chance right now.”

Andretti has recently re-signed with the IndyCar arm of A1 Team USA service provider, Andretti Green Racing.

Q and A with Michael Shank  
With two wins in the final two races of 2008, Michael Shank Racing team owner Mike Shank is looking to keep the strong team momentum going in 2009.  After a productive Roar Before the 24 with a highly potent driver line-up working the two team Ford-Riley combinations through their paces, Shank took a moment to look ahead to next weekend's race. Shank will once again oversee a double Daytona Prototype entry in the 47th annual twice around the clock classic. The No. 6 Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley will be shared by John Pew, Michael Valiante, Ian James, and AJ Allmendinger, as the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley will see Mark Patterson joined by Oswaldo Negri, Ryan Hunter-Reay, and Colin Braun.

You ran the race yourself as a driver with Sam Hornish Jr. back in 1999. Is that a big help? Small help? Does it matter?

It was a big help the first time we went down there for the first time as a team in 2004 because we were all a little unsure of what to expect, so at least I'd experienced this race first hand before. And that background that I have as a driver myself still helps me in terms of being able to speak that same language as the drivers we have now. But with five Rolex 24's now under my belt as a team owner, I rely more on the experiences and lessons we've learned as a team than what I learned as a driver in this race. More ...

Kimi again says Ferrari his last team  Kimi Raikkonen has once again made his annual statement that he will end his F1 career with Ferrari but hasn't given any hint as to when that might be.

The 2007 World Champion has a contract with Ferrari until the end of the 2010 season but as to whether he opts to extend that he hasn't said.

However, he has stated that the Scuderia will be his final team.

"The future?" he said during Ferrari's media event at Madonna di Campiglio. "I've got a contract until the end of the 2010 season.

"At a certain point during the next season we'll think about what to do.

"But I think that this will be the last Formula One team I'm racing with."
Ferrari switch first test locale  The Scuderia Ferrari decided to switch the first test with the new F60 from Portimao, Portugal, to the team's Mugello test track in Italy. The team made this decision as bad weather is expected at Portugal. Both Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa are scheduled to get behind the wheel next week.
Anders Krohn to Race in Star Mazda  Anders Krohn is happy to announce that he will return to North America for the 2009-season where he will be racing for Texas-based Mundill Racing in the Pro Formula Star Mazda Series (Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear). 

“It’s a dream come true to be able to compete in Star Mazda with Mundill. We worked very well together when I tested for the team earlier this month, and I can’t wait to get started!” said an excited Anders Krohn

The Norwegian racing driver who has earned the name “The Viking”, won last year’s U.S. Formula 2000 Championship in a dominating fashion, taking nine wins in 14 races. The Star Mazda Championship has 13 races over 11 weekends, and will have races on Ovals, Street-courses and Road-courses. The car features a 1.3 liter Mazda “Renesis” rotary engine that produces 250 bhp, and with a weight of only 1090 lbs/490 kgs, it makes for a very fast open-wheel racing car.
Ron Dennis can live with Bernie's medals idea  McLaren can live with Bernie Ecclestone's plan to ensure the Formula One title goes to the driver who wins most races in a season, team boss Ron Dennis has said. 

Formula One's commercial supremo Ecclestone is pushing an Olympic-style medals system, with gold awarded to the race winner and the title going to the driver who wins most.

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton won the championship last year by a single point despite winning fewer races than Ferrari's Brazilian driver Felipe Massa. 

'Obviously Bernie still has very strong views about his medal idea and I think he has voiced those opinions,' Dennis said after the launch of his team's new car at their Woking factory on Friday. 

'But in essence I think his view is that the person that wins the most races should win the world championship.

'We don't disagree with that view, and if that becomes the objective then we'll make sure we win enough races to win the world championship,' he said. 

'Our objective was to win the world championship within the points structure that existed in 2008, and that is what we did.' Mail Online

Japanese automakers announce big cuts  Toyota Motor Corp. said it will make further production cuts in North America, including at its Canadian plants, while Honda Motor Co. announced another round of job cuts yesterday in Japan and work stoppages in Britain.

Although Toyota said the slowdown won't affect any of its 5,200 production employees in Canada, Honda is cutting 3,100 jobs in Japan, slashing to zero the number of temporary workers at its plants by the end of April.

"Production cuts can barely keep up with sales drops and so automakers are in a near panic trying to adjust," said Yasuaki Iwamoto, auto analyst with Okasan Securities Co. in Tokyo.

Honda also announced that it will halt production at its factory in Swindon, England, for another two months, doubling its planned shutdown period, but it said it had no plans for redundancies among the 4,200-strong workforce. Toyota said its slowdown, made in response to slumping sales and high inventories, will affect its facilities over the next few months and will vary by assembly line and model. More ...

Hamilton continues to screw British government  
Hamilton continues to reside in Switzerland as  a tax haven
Lewis Hamilton has come in for some criticism for receiving an MBE in the Queen's New Year's honors list despite living as a tax exile in Switzerland.

Speaking at the launch of the new McLaren MP4-24, the 24-year-old said: "I don't regret moving to Switzerland.

"I am happy where I am and I probably wouldn't be in the position where I am now if I hadn't moved. It doesn't mean I hold a different flag when I go to races.

"I'm still British and represent the country and that's the most important thing."

If we were the British government and were getting screwed out of millions in taxes we would deport Hamilton and strip him of his citizenship.  If he does not want to live in the UK and pay his taxes like all other UK citizens then he has no right to fly the Union Jack flag and call himself British. The Brits should disown him as a disgrace to their good country, and a tax cheat at that.  He should be flying the Swiss flag.  Ditto for any other tax cheating athlete who cheats their country but still wants all the benefits.

FIA drops three-race engine rule  Formula One has quietly dropped a requirement for engines to last three successive races this season.

Article 28.4 of the 2009 sporting regulations, posted on the governing International Automobile Federation's website this week, makes no mention of having to use engines in sequence.

"Each driver may use no more than eight engines during a championship season," the article declares.

"Should a driver use more than eight engines, he will drop 10 places on the starting grid at any event during which an additional engine is used."

An FIA spokesman confirmed the new rule would allow drivers to use their eight engines in whatever sequence they wished.

A Ferrari spokesman said however that some of the details concerning the application of penalties had still to be clarified.

The FIA's world motor sport council said in a statement last month that there would be an eight engine quota per driver but added that the three-race rule previously agreed in November would remain in force.

Drivers had to make their engines last for two races in a row last season or incur a 10-place penalty, although they were allowed one 'free' change.

The requirement for gearboxes to last four successive races remains in force. Yahoo! Eurosport

Busy week for F1 ahead  It will be another busy Formula One week as three car launches and the first test session of 2009 are scheduled. On Monday, both Williams and Renault will unveil their 2009 challenger at the Algarve Motor Park. At the same track, the other teams will start the first test session of the new year. Only one day later, on 20 January, the BMW Sauber F1 team will launch its F1.09 at the track in Valencia.
Latest F1 news in brief  
  • Hulkenberg to debut new Williams
  • McLaren keeps same sponsors for 2009
  • Montezemolo joins Ecclestone in Italy
  • Fry denies conflict of interest
  • Raikkonen rests up with throat complaint
  • Time running out for Honda-Merc deal

    Hulkenberg to debut new Williams
    (GMM)  Nico Hulkenberg, Williams' test driver, has been assigned to give the British team's new car its track debut on Monday.

    In the 21-year-old German's hands, the Toyota-powered FW31 is scheduled to roll out of the Portimao circuit pitlane, with a media photocall to occur in the early morning.

    The event is not a normal 'launch', given that the only driver in attendance will be Hulkenberg, and the car will be wearing an interim test livery.

    Technical director Sam Michael will also be in attendance, Williams said.

    McLaren keeps same sponsors for 2009
    (GMM)  McLaren has the strength to ride out the global financial crisis, team boss Ron Dennis insists.

    The 61-year-old Briton, who in March will hand over as team principal to Martin Whitmarsh, said "the same brands" feature on this year's single seater in the wake of Lewis Hamilton's 2008 title at the wheel of its predecessor.

    He added: "We are close to signing Hugo Boss as a sponsor again -- we have had a close relationship with them for 32 years which must be a record for any sport, let alone formula one.

    "This is when you need that longevity and understanding to power you through the difficult times," Dennis said.

    He also explained that, despite the decimated car sales industry, McLaren intends to push on with its new production car program, set to be launched in 2010. More ...

  • 01/16/09
    Q and A with Ron Dennis  
    Ron Dennis
    Ron Dennis has just announced his intentions to step aside as head of the McLaren Formula One team, passing the torch to Martin Whitmarsh, however this doesn’t mean that he is retiring. Here he conducts a Q and A after the launch of the car he is hoping will bring them their first constructors crown since 1998, the MP4-24

    The relationship with Mercedes-Benz has been very fruitful - three drivers' championship and one Constructors' Championship. Can you tell us about the strength of this partnership?

    Ron Dennis: I think the strength is best typified by the fact that there are all the same brands on the car. Most of them have been there for many, many years. We are very close to extending our relationship with Hugo Boss, and that will be a 32-year continuous sponsorship arrangement, which I think is a world record for any sport, let alone F1 and our team.

    It is not uncommon for the brands to be on the car for over 10 years. The relevance is that when the economics start to challenge the involvement of a company in an F1 program, that is when you need that longevity, that commitment and that understanding to power you through those difficult times. Especially now, the times are difficult. But we are very fortunate to have very strong organizations that support us and we are focused on trying to deliver even more value to them over the course of the next year. More ...

    Lester to Run Full Daytona Prototype Season  Bill Lester will return to the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 in 2009, driving the full Daytona Prototype season for Victory Junction - Orbit Racing.

    The veteran of sports car and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series competition will debut with the team in the Rolex 24 At Daytona from Jan. 24-25, sharing the No. 45 BMW Riley with Kyle Petty, Darren Manning and Leo Hindery Jr.

    "I'm extremely excited about this opportunity," Lester said. "I was looking to run full time with a team running for the championship, and that's what this team provides. Victory Junction - Orbit Racing has all the right components, and I think I will give the team an excellent opportunity to be very successful this season." More ...

    NY City to use BMW electric cars  New York City Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg today announced in his State-of-the-City speech that BMW Group will loan a fleet of 10 MINI E electric zero-emissions cars to the City of New York. These vehicles will be used in its Street Condition Observation Unit, known as SCOUT, and will be among the 500 MINI Es the BMW Group is producing as part of a one-year pilot field study to determine the viability of electric vehicles in real life use. The MINI Es will be used by SCOUT inspectors who drive New York City's streets in search of street conditions, such as potholes and graffiti. The vehicles are scheduled to begin arriving in April.

    The MINI E is the first product of BMW's Project i, a program designed to research and develop transportation strategies and new types of vehicles specifically to meet the needs of the world's growing mega-cities, of which New York is one.

    "We are delighted to work with New York City in developing this new form of sustainable transportation," said Jim McDowell, Vice President of MINI USA. "Mayor Bloomberg's PlaNYC initiative has demonstrated a keen understanding of the importance of sustainability and we fully share the same vision and enthusiasm for developing new ideas, technologies and forms of transportation to make it a reality. This MINI E zero-emission vehicle is only our company's first step." More ...

    Bud Shootout adds 4 drivers  Sirius Speedway spoke to NASCAR representative Ramsey Poston today, and he confirmed that Robby Gordon is approved to run the Budweiser Shootout in a Dodge, before converting to Toyota for the remainder of Speedweeks 2009. Gordon ran Dodges last season, but will campaign a Toyota in 2009. Both manufacturers have apparently signed-off on the arrangement.

    It is difficult to imagine why Dodge would approve of the deal, since it bumps Penske Racing’s Sam Hornish --a full-time Dodge driver in 2009 -- out of the race.

    The ruling also raises some potentially explosive scenarios. For instance, Chip Ganassi’s #42 car finished 25th in owners points last year, running as a Dodge. Based on Gordon's eligibility, Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing could presumably build a Dodge and put Juan Pablo Montoya into the Shootout, bumping AJ Allmendinger.

    Dyson at home in Lola Coupe  
    Chris Dyson
    It’s a little like being home, Chris Dyson said. And it's not just because he now has a roof over his head. For the first time since 2006, Dyson Racing is back with Lola in the American Le Mans Series as the team announced the entry of two Mazda-powered Lola B09/86 coupes in LMP2 for the 2009 season.

    It is the first time Dyson Racing has fielded a closed-top prototype in the Series although some of the team’s greatest moments came in the 1980s with Porsche’s 962 GTP entry. Dyson tested a Lola-Mazda coupe at Sebring International Raceway earlier this week with the team planning for more track time at the Series’ annual Winter Test on January 26-28.

    “Truthfully there’s almost no adjustment,” said Chris Dyson, driver as well team VP and Sporting Director. “When I first took the car out, the out lap was a little unusual. Once you go out of the pits and start a serious run there is little difference. Lola has done a really good job with the car and aerodynamically it’s probably the best I’ve driven. More ...

    Andy Soucek signs up for Formula Two  
    Andy Soucek
    Andy Soucek has become the first Spanish driver to confirm his participation in the 2009 FIA Formula Two Championship.

    Soucek joins F2 after two seasons competing in GP2 where he scored four podium finishes, including a third place at the Circuit de Valencia - where F2 will commence at the end of May. The Madrid-born racer graduated to GP2 after challenging for the World Series by Renault title in 2006 and he won the Spanish F3 championship in 2005. This success led to a test drive with the Panasonic Toyota F1 team.

    Soucek has already competed against some of the confirmed F2 drivers during his career, most notably Russia's Mikhail Aleshin. The pair raced together in World Series by Renault and GP2 in 2006 and 2007 respectively. More ...

    Q and A with Sarah Fisher  
    Sarah Fisher
    IndyCar driver Sarah Fisher is probably best known as one of the few female drivers on the open-wheel circuit, and last year she made headlines by becoming the first woman to also own an IndyCar team when she launched Sarah Fisher Racing. She spent much of last year dealing with financial struggles after one of her chief sponsors, ResQ energy drink, failed to pay up. She managed to scrape up enough support to race at the Indianapolis 500 (where she exited early due to a crash) and then received last-minute support from retailer Dollar General to race in Chicago and Kentucky.

    Sarah Fisher Racing announced this week that Dollar General would return as the car's primary sponsor for the races in Kansas, Indianapolis, Kentucky and Chicago.

    SportsBiz spoke with Sarah via phone this morning.

    Tim Lemke: So how did this deal with Dollar General come together?

    Sarah Fisher: We'd been working with Dollar General since [last year's race in] Chicago. They knew our plans and growing toward the future and they were really excited about the momentum we created. Unfortunately for us they had already signed with the Nationwide Series team program even before the Kentucky race last year, so for us to get them on board as a primary sponsor for these four events was really quite a feat, I guess. It was one of those things you can be really proud of because it's more of a direct sponsorship program. They really wanted to be a part of it and we very glad we could deliver it for them.

    TL: So you're trying to do four races, including Indy?

    SF: That's the sponsorship that Dollar General covers, but we'd really like to do all the superspeedways and maybe even a short oval or two. So we're out there actively trying to sell sponsorship and trying to bring back all of our partners. We have a couple that we have in the negotiating stage right now that are going to be returning, so that's exciting. Direct Supply, IUPUI and AAA and all those folks are back as well, so that really tells us we did a great job from a business standpoint last year. With all those things accounted for, we're still building and taking from those experiences and growing and trying to do better than what we did last year. We know there are some areas we could do better and we're attacking those areas right now. More ...
    A1GP forced to cancel yet another race  A1GP World Cup of Motorsport has been forced to accept round five of its 2008/09 season, which was due to take place on 6-8 February 2009 at Lippo Village, Indonesia, can no longer go ahead. This follows notification this morning from the FIA that certain aspects of the track construction project, undertaken by the local promoter and organisers of the event, have failed to meet the requisite completion deadlines. As a result, the FIA is not able to issue the necessary circuit licence on time for the event to proceed, and has removed the event entry from its International Series calendar.

    This information was given to A1GP CEO, Pete da Silva, today and his comment was: “Obviously it is extremely disappointing for all concerned and not the news any of us wanted. The bottom line is, for safety reasons, A1GP cannot race on a circuit that does not meet or has not received the necessary licence from the FIA, so we have no other option but to cancel all plans to bring the A1GP show to Indonesia in three weeks’ time”.

    The series will now go from next week’s event, A1GP Taupo, New Zealand, to A1GP Gauteng, South Africa, which is on 20-22 February. A1GP do not plan to run the Indonesian event at a later date in Season Four, but may consider an event in Season Five.
    A1GP Mexico City Date Change  A1GP World Cup of Motorsport has asked for FIA approval to move round seven of Season Four, A1GP Mexico City, back a week to 20-22 March to avoid a clash with a Radiohead concert held at the circuit. Pete da Silva, CEO for A1GP, commented, “It is unfortunate we have had to move back A1GP Mexico City by one week, but this is necessary because of a clashing event at the track that incorporates a baseball stadium that doubles up as a concert venue. We are delighted it is still possible to race in Mexico City as this has always proved to be a popular and exciting race weekend for our fans.”  A1GP has visited Mexico every season with Fundidora Park in Monterrey being the track used in Season One and Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City in Seasons Two and Three. As this is a last minute change it is still subject to FIA approval as is the layout for the track. The new lay-out for the chicane has also been submitted to the FIA, and once approval is received the track officials are hoping to start work on the changes necessary for the track to be given its Grade Two licence for the event.
    A1GP Heads to Taupo  London, Great Britain – A1GP World Cup of Motorsport prepares to hit the track for the first races of 2009 when the series descends on New Zealand this week for its third visit to the Taupo Motorsport Park.

    For the A1GP Taupo event, the series will break with tradition and the Sprint race will have a standing and not a rolling start. The decision was taken on safety grounds, as in the past there have been collisions due to the tight ‘s’ bend close to the start.

    Home nation A1 Team New Zealand has selected 22-year-old Chris van der Drift to star for his nation on home ground. The Hamilton born racer was chosen to race in A1GP Taupo, New Zealand ahead of fellow team members Earl Bamber and Jonny Reid. The team has faith that the 2008 International Formula Master champion can produce the goods in front of all the cheering fans this weekend.

    “As a proven championship winner and impressively fast driver, the selection of van der Drift to drive at Taupo makes sense,” said a statement from the team that has Colin Giltrap, a long time supporter of New Zealand racing talent, as its seat holder. More ...

    Chili Bowl: Tracy Hines takes Thursday's A feature  Tracy Hines, the 2005 Chili Bowl Midget Nationals champion, moved into position to win it all again with a victory in Thursday night's A feature.

    Hines was in charge early in the 25-lap qualifier, TulsaWorld.com reported, as a crowd of nearly 14,000 looked on at Tulsa's QuikTrip Center. But the Indiana driver, in a car owned by NASCAR Sprint Cup team owner-driver Tony Stewart, had to overcome three restarts in the final five laps to secure the win.

    "Tony was out there pointing me to the bottom and I did not know if he meant bottom of the race track or what," the newspaper site quoted Hines. "I signed, 'What do you mean?' and he did not signal back. I don't think he wanted to tell me one way or the other."

    Finishing second was Dave Darland of Lincoln, Neb., and third was Justin Allgaier of Cornelius, N.C., who also is expected to run a limited NASCAR Nationwide Series schedule with Penske Racing this season. The top-three finishers will transfer into Saturday's A feature.

    Hamilton: New McLaren is 'stunning'  McLaren launched its new MP4-24 at its Woking-based technology centre, with the machine featuring heavily revised bodywork, re-sculpted front and rear wings, slick tires and a kinetic energy recovery system (See story on home page).

    "The arrival of a new car is always an emotional moment for any racing driver," the 24-year-old Lewis Hamilton said.

    "And the unveiling of the MP4-24 is even more special for me, not only because the car looks absolutely stunning but also because it carries the number one - (which means) world champions.

    "I believe this year's World Championship is open, given the new rule changes, and that's a great prospect for every Formula One fan.

    "I'm hoping for another successful season and the chance to once again fight for the title - until the final race if necessary, but preferably before."

    More on NASCAR teams cheating test rule  NASCAR implemented the new test ban rule to save teams money, but the wealthy teams are laughing in NASCAR's face and testing anyway.  They’re just getting their track time in at places other than California, Las Vegas and Daytona. #18-Kyle Busch and his Joe Gibbs Racing team is at New Smyrna Speedway working on brake packages. The teams used to do this type of work at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in South Carolina, but since NASCAR sanctions races there, Greenville is off the table. SPEED's Bob Dilner talked to the New Smyrna track officials, who said their testing schedule is booked solid, including a visit from Hendrick Motorsports. Teams also are testing at Rockingham. Roush Fenway Racing is at The Rock this week and the Gillett Evernham/Petty team arrives next week. Teams are also going to Pikes Peak, a one-mile, somewhat D-shaped track out in Colorado.  SPEEDtv.com
    Reutimann to run full season for Waltrip  Michael Waltrip Racing owner Michael Waltrip says the #00 Toyota team for driver David Reutimann will run the full Sprint Cup season this year despite not having full sponsorship. Waltrip said on a national conference call with reporters on Wednesday that Reutimann will be sponsored by Aaron’s for “half a season” as the company steps up to the Cup series for the first time after many years as a Waltrip sponsor in what is now known as the Nationwide Series. Waltrip said the first race Reutimann would be without sponsorship would be the Feb. 22 event at Auto Club Speedway in California. The search for sponsorship for Reutimann continues, Waltrip said, and a potential backer would be getting a bargain. Waltrip’s car, the #55, will again be sponsored by NAPA. MWR is also in an alliance with JTG Daugherty Racing to field the #47 Toyota for Marcos Ambrose that is fully sponsored. SceneDaily
    track news
    ServiceMaster Inks Deal with ISC & SMI Tracks  ServiceMaster Clean announced that it has signed a unique partnership agreement to be the first-ever official sponsor of the caution period during races at International Speedway Corporation (ISC) and Speedway Motorsports Incorporated (SMI) race tracks across the nation. When there is a problem on the track, the ServiceMaster Clean Yellow Flag will wave, and the company’s familiar yellow trucks will be dispatched to clean the track. In racing, a yellow flag means cleaning. Restoration must be done quickly and professionally in order to get back to racing. In homes and businesses across North America, a yellow ServiceMaster Clean van means cleaning and restoration is being done quickly and professionally by America’s number one cleaning team. ServiceMaster Clean will have official and exclusive sponsorship of the Yellow Flag– now to be known as ServiceMaster Clean Caution periods – at all 19 ISC and SMI race tracks around the country. These racetracks feature 31 Sprint Cup, 24 Nationwide and 17 Camping World Truck Series races and hundreds of other racing events. In fact, there will hardly be a race for the next five years where ServiceMaster Clean does not have a large presence. All cleaning and drying vehicles and equipment will feature the ServiceMaster Clean logo and colors, and the clean-up teams will wear bright yellow ServiceMaster Clean jumpsuits. The multi-year agreement is not limited to what happens on the track, but also includes national coverage on the Motor Racing Network (MRN) and Performance Racing Network (PRN), hospitality events for franchise owners, the right to create and sell promotional merchandise and a host of other marketing opportunities designed to generate consistent visibility. C4 Explosive Communications PR
    IndyCar teams to get less money  Each full-season IndyCar team will receive $1.24 million guaranteed this season. That is less than expected because series officials do not expect to replace the canceled Detroit Grand Prix on Labor Day weekend.
    Newman car needs more sponsorship  With the U.S. Army committed to sponsor only 23 of the season's 36 races, Stewart-Haas Racing still is looking for a second sponsor for Ryan Newman's No. 39 car.
    Castroneves confident of return  
    Castroneves is very confident he will resume his racing career after trial. Or will he be dancing to the tune of Jailhouse Rock?
    Helio Castroneves said he is ''very confident'' he will resume his IndyCar racing career after his upcoming trial on tax evasion charges. ''I can't wait to be back in the race car and do what I love most -- race,'' Castroneves, a Coral Gables resident, said Tuesday.

    Castroneves' Penske Racing Team announced that driver Will Power will replace Castroneves in the No. 3 car during preseason testing and, if needed, in races this season.

    Castroneves -- a two-time Indy 500 winner and Dancing With the Stars champion -- is awaiting a March 2 trial in U.S. District Court in Miami. He is charged with failing to pay taxes on more than $5 million in income during a four-year period. Penske president Tim Cindric said hiring a temporary replacement leaves open the possibility Castroneves could return if he's acquitted. The IndyCar season opens April 5 in St. Petersburg. ''If Helio is ready to go at St. Pete and he's in a situation where he's ready for the rest of the year, the No. 3 car is his,'' Cindric said. 'The easy thing in this situation might be to say, `Hey in 2010, Helio we'll talk about it then' and just get on with 2009. But we didn't feel like that's the right thing to do. ``The guy has been with us for nine years, he's done a great job, won a lot of races and he's great for the sport. ''

    Castroneves said Penske Racing's decision is best for everyone, as he needs to continue focusing on his trial. Castroneves said his legal team told him to expect the trial to last about three weeks. ''It's real difficult to see a guy on such a high after everything he went through with Dancing with the Stars,'' Cindric said. ``Now seeing him go through this situation, it's very difficult. But at the same time, I'm confident if there's anybody going to get through in a positive way, it's this guy.''
    New McLaren to debut on Saturday  (GMM)  McLaren on Friday unveiled the MP4-24; the car bearing the number 1 with which Lewis Hamilton will defend his world championship.

    The low-key launch event took place at the Mercedes-powered team's pristine Woking headquarters, but the first example of the new model is already at the Portimao circuit in Portugal.

    Ahead of next week's group test in the Algarve region, McLaren has booked a private session at the circuit on Saturday, where Spanish test driver Pedro de la Rosa will give the 2009 car its track debut.

    Sainz out after accident; Miller 2nd, Gordon 3rd  Dakar Rally leader Carlos Sainz dropped out of the event after he missed a turn and his Volkswagen crashed into a ravine during Thursday's 12th stage.  Sainz was not injured, but the two-time world rally champion from Spain and his French teammate Michel Perin were taken by helicopter to Fiambala, where the stage began, Dakar Rally spokeswoman Emilie Poucan told The Associated Press.

    Poucan said Sainz could have continued but Perin broke "something in his arm", forcing the pair to pull out.

    Sainz missed a sharp turn and his car overturned and tumbled four meters (13 feet) into a dried-out ravine at the 79-kilometer (49-mile mark) of the 253-kilometer (157-mile stage) to La Rioja.

    A sign marking the turn read "dangerous" but should have read "extremely dangerous," said Perin, according to the Dakar Rally Web site.

    "The car behind us, Nani Roma's car, would have fallen in the same hole as we did if we had not been there already," he said.

    The 12th stage has been the most difficult since the rally began Jan. 3 in Buenos Aires, said Poucan, with drivers struggling through sand dunes and rain in western Argentina. More ...

    Ferrari lose Italian drinks sponsor  (GMM)  The famous Italian drinks firm Martini did not renew its Ferrari sponsorship ahead of the 2009 F1 season.

    Martini, following past associations in the sport with Alfa Romeo and Lotus, returned to formula one with Ferrari on a three-year contract in 2006.

    The red and black Martini logo was, however, missing from the livery of the new F60 when it was unveiled earlier this week, although it is believed the Turin based company may continue to advertise trackside.

    The Ferrari-Martini deal was estimated at more than 3 million euros per year.

    Buemi to stay in tax-free Bahrain  (GMM)  F1's new Swiss racer, Sebastien Buemi, insists he will continue to reside officially in Bahrain this year.

    Ahead of the 20-year-old's formula one debut in 2009, Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost indicated recently that Buemi will now be spending a lot of time near the team's Italian base.

    "I will probably spend a lot more time in Faenza to be near the team factory, but I will still keep my main home in Bahrain," Buemi told the Gulf Daily News.

    He lives in Bahrain with his uncle Humbert, aunt Sylvia, and cousins Frederic, Steve and Laura.  Residents of the Gulf island Kingdom pay no more than 1 per cent in personal income tax.

    Vettel F1 champ soon - Ecclestone  
    Ecclestone predicts Vettel will be F1's future star
    (GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone has nailed his colors to Felipe Massa for the 2009 world championship, but thinks a young German is the star of the future.

    "We all saw what (Sebastian) Vettel did last year -- it was incredible," the F1 chief executive said as he arrived at Ferrari's 'Wrooom' media event on Thursday.

    "I do not think we will have to wait long to see him become champion," Ecclestone told Italy's Sky television.

    As for this year, Ecclestone crosses his fingers for a reversal of 2008, when Ferrari's Massa lost the championship by one point to Lewis Hamilton.

    "I hoped that Felipe would do something last year so let's hope he does it this year," the Briton said.

    "Lewis had bad luck the year before and won the championship, Felipe had bad luck last year so I hope this year he recovers."

    Ecclestone still pushing 'medals' for 2009  (GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone has not given up hope that his 'medals'-style scoring system proposal will be implemented in time for the 2009 season.

    The F1 chief executive wants wins rather than points to determine the drivers' world champion from now on, but so far the teams and the FIA have only commissioned market research into the proposal rather than wholly embrace it.

    Ecclestone, 78, said at Ferrari's 'Wrooom' media event at an Italian ski resort that his plan requires the agreement of all the teams.

    "It's up to the teams to really push that through.  I hope they have enough sense to agree," he said.

    The Briton also confirmed his opposition to introducing expensive KERS systems in the midst of a financial crisis.

    "I've never been in favor of it so it is not good to get me involved in that discussion.  We are trying to reduce the costs not increase them," he said.

    Ecclestone wears red at Ferrari event  (GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone on Thursday made a surprise arrival at Ferrari's pre-season media event in the Italian Dolomites.

    The visit, with the F1 chief executive wearing a Prancing Horse-emblazoned bright red ski jacket, sparked speculation that he is trying to smooth relations with Luca di Montezemolo following recent public spats with the Ferrari and FOTA chief.

    But Ecclestone, 78, said it is not his "intention" to meet with the Italian, who is believed to be in Italy but not at the Madonna di Campiglio resort.

    "It is nothing to do with him.  To be honest it's a cheap weekend for me," the billionaire, whose daughter Tamara is working at the event for Italian television, joked.

    Ecclestone reinforced the fact that he has left his diplomatic hat behind by dismissing Sir Jackie Stewart's recent criticisms as the result of "early senility" for the former triple world champion.

    He plans to stay until Saturday.

    Swindell prevails at Chili Bowl prelim, McCreadie hurt  J.J. Yeley passed Jon Stanbrough for second on Lap 5 and chased hard, but there was no catching Sammy Swindell, who won Wednesday night's qualifying feature to close in on a record fifth Chili Bowl Midget Nationals championship.

    Tulsaworld.com reported that Yeley was able to make up ground on Swindell in lapped traffic late in the race, but couldn't make a pass. Swindell, Yeley and Stanbrough all advance to Saturday's finale.

    Swindell is the Chili Bowl's only four-time champion.

    The World of Outlaws veteran started setting the stage for a possible record run with the Race of Champions victory on Tuesday, the Tulsa newspaper site reported, then won a heat race on Wednesday to secure the pole in the night's feature.

    Earlier Wednesday, 2006 Chili Bowl champion Tim McCreadie was injured in a crash during a preliminary event.

    McCreadie, 34, was leading a qualifying semifinal when something broke in his car's rear end. The car flipped violently and went over a fence.

    Examinations at a Tulsa hospital showed a fractured T3 vertebra and other damage. He was fitted for neck and back brace Thursday and was expected to consult with Dr. Terry Trammell, the renowned Indianapolis orthopedic surgeon.

    $200K per race in IndyCar  

    Question: What is the going rate for a season sponsorship package in the IRL these days? How much, for example, would Paul Tracy have to raise to end up in the seat at KV Racing?  Bruce, Edmonton, Alberta

    Answer: PT told me teams were wanting $200,000 per race, which would make it $3.2 million. Jimmy Vasser said a team's two-car budget is $12 million. Does that help? IndyStar

    Red Bull Drops U.S Rookies Cup  Red Bull has taken the decision to trim the 2009 Red Bull MotoGP Rookies Cup to 8 races at 6 Grand Prix and cancel the 2009 Red Bull AMA U.S. Rookies Cup following a significant reduction of support by a major partner.

    At a time when companies the world over are bracing themselves for the effects of recession Red Bull has shouldered as much of the load as possible to cover both the technical as well as operational efforts of running the MotoGP Cup but there will simply not be enough spares and technical support available to keep the U.S. series at a high level in 2009.

    This is not a happy situation for anyone concerned. The positive is that the Rookies Cup will continue and the aim remains to give as many riders as possible the chance to progress towards the highest level of Grand Prix racing. Red Bull wished to thank Alpinestars and Dorna for their unwavering support in these difficult circumstances and deeply regrets the unavoidable disappointment that this brings, particularly to those involved in the U.S. Cup. More ...

    Pit lane rule changed for 2009  F1 safety car periods should no longer bring controversial pit penalties in 2009.  The ‘pit lane closure’ rule has been dropped.  The controversial rule required the pit lane to be declared closed at the beginning of a safety car period, and any driver who pitted during that time received a penalty. This unfairly ruined races for drivers on several different occasions.
    New McLaren to be unveiled today  McLaren will today unveil the car in which Lewis Hamilton will attempt to retain his world title.
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