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McReynolds: ‘I honestly believe Earnhardt is the man to beat’
With Speedweeks in full swing, the SPEED™ on-air personalities covering Thursday’s Gatorade Duel at Daytona (Thurs. 2pm ET on SPEED) share their thoughts on the week’s events and storylines, including Dale Earnhardt Jr., Hendrick, the COT, Kurt Busch/Tony Stewart and Toyota's improvement.  Following are quotes from Steve Byrnes, Jeff Hammond, Larry McReynolds and Krista Voda:

With Dale Jr.’s win in the Bud Shootout and the No. 48 on the pole for the Daytona 500, can anyone stop the Hendrick freight train?

Larry McReynolds, SPEED analyst for the Gatorade Duel at Daytona:  We anticipated this Hendrick domination -- not just the broadcasters and the fans -- but the competition as well.  When we finished up in 2007, everyone, especially the competition, knew if they were to dethrone Hendrick’s domination it was going to take some work.  Halfway through Daytona testing last month I said on one of the SPEED broadcasts that if you’re going to be good at Daytona, you will have to beat either Hendrick or Toyota.  That came to fruition because in the top 10 in qualifying, there were only two cars that were either not a Toyota or not a Hendrick-affiliated car, including Nemechek’s Chevrolet engine supplied by Hendrick.  Like Richard Childress told me at Las Vegas testing, Hendrick can be beat and they will be beat.  This type of domination is what we often see in NASCAR.  These things go in cycles but I will say Hendrick is a pretty large part of the cycle and it looks like they won’t go away anytime soon.

Jeff Hammond, SPEED analyst for the Gatorade Duel at Daytona:  I absolutely think Hendrick can be challenged.  We’ve already seen that Michael Waltrip Racing is 100-percent better than they were last year.  Joe Gibbs Racing has shown they have come a long way in a short amount of time.  Dave Blaney and Bill Davis Racing are another team that has been around for a long time and is as ready as anybody to get to Victory Lane and show the success of Toyota.  He kind of led the way last year for Toyota.  Tommy Baldwin and everyone there have been to Victory Lane at Daytona before and know how sweet it is. Don’t underestimate that group.  Tommy Baldwin learned Saturday in the Shootout that two tires was not the way to go but they may have tried it to see if it was a gamble worth taking.

Steve Byrnes, host of Trackside Live and NASCAR Live on SPEED:  If anybody else is going to win the championship, they’re obviously going to have to go through Hendrick Motorsports.  Jimmie Johnson has won two in a row and he said on Trackside the other night that he’s starting with a clean slate and going for three in a row. He also said he realizes that past success doesn’t guarantee 10 wins or current success.  The No. 48 team does things a little differently and it pays off.  Jeff Gordon had a tremendous season last year and the only thing that kept from winning his fifth championship was his teammate.  By winning the Shootout, Dale Earnhardt Jr. showed he’s fast right off the truck.  But we shouldn’t overlook Casey Mears who is sort of the forgotten man in all of this. He won last year at Lowe’s Motor Speedway and with Alan Gustafson as his crew chief this year, I think they will surprise us.  With all that talent, I don’t see Hendrick slowing down a bit.

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Mazda committed to Atlantic Series regardless
Mazda North American Operations is proud to support the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Ladder, which includes four great Mazda specific series:
  • Cooper Tires Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda
  • Star Mazda Championship Presented by Goodyear
  • BFGoodrich/Skip Barber National Presented by Mazda
  • SCCA Pro Racing Playboy Mazda MX-5 Cup

The Atlantic Series is the best development series in the world
Current rumors and speculation regarding the fate of open wheel racing remain just that, rumors and speculation. Regardless of the final outcome, Mazda is fully committed to all rungs of the MAZDASPEED Motorsports Development Ladder, including our top rung, the Atlantic series.

Mazda is working diligently with all series partners, promoters, tracks, and sanctioning bodies, to preserve full schedules for each of our potentially impacted series. Given the complexity of the situation, we cannot estimate when the schedules will be finalized, but it is our intention to maintain each series with the best interests of our fans, teams, drivers, and sponsors in mind. Robert Davis Senior Vice President, Product Development and Quality, Mazda North American Operations


Force India debuts new livery in Jerez
Just five days after its presentation in Mumbai, India, the Force India Formula One Team's striking new livery of gold, white and tungsten made its track debut today in Jerez, Spain.

Test and reserve driver Tonio Liuzzi completed driving duties on the opening day of the team's three day test in Jerez, completing a programme that took in work on new gearbox development items, the 2008 electronics package and brakes.

Tonio was able to complete more than 100 laps over the day and recorded a best of 1min 21.553, despite the high winds that swept the area in the afternoon and made track conditions challenging. Adrian Sutil will take over tomorrow, with Giancarlo Fisichella completing the test on Thursday.

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Klaus Ludwig joins Phoenix Racing
Phoenix Racing will have a second car and driver, Klaus Ludwig, in Indonesia on the 16th and 17th of February. He will be driving the Alternative Capital Invest (ACI) sponsored "Legends Car" spearheaded by a different celebrity driver at each of the 4 Speedcar Series rounds left this season.

The German team will now have countrymen Uwe Alzen and Klaus Ludwig taking the wheel at the Sentul International Circuit. Klaus is a famous touring car racing driver with impressive accolades in his long racing career.

He is perhaps most well remembered for his unprecedented win in the 1979 Le Mans 24 Hours in a Porsche road car, beating faster pure sports car racing prototypes. Klaus, 59, has come out of retirement in the past when given the opportunity to drive a high powered vehicle. Speedcar Series will be no exception.

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Di Grassi impressed with R28
The ING Renault F1 Team returned to action on Tuesday, completing the first of three days in Jerez. With the opening Grand Prix in Melbourne just over a month away, the team is entering the busiest phase in its winter testing program with three tests planned for the next three weeks.

Warm and sunny conditions greeted the team this morning and remained throughout the day, allowing the team to complete a full day's running with few interruptions. The team was again running two R28s with Nelson Piquet joined by fellow Brazilian, Lucas Di Grassi, who was enjoying his first test with the new car.

"It's my first time driving a Formula 1 car on a proper track, and for sure the car feels really good and it was a really impressive experience,” he said. “I'm really happy with my day, we did a lot of laps, the pace was consistent, and I felt comfortable with the team and the car. We did one long run in the afternoon which went well, and I'm looking forward to working with the team later this week."

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Australian GP to get later start time
The Australian Grand Prix has traditionally started at two o'clock in the afternoon but with Melbourne being 10 hours ahead of London this means that the TV coverage of the event begins at a less than agreeable 0400 in Britain and a slightly less painful 0500 in Europe.

Mindful that the Formula One group is keen to maximize the number of TV viewers so as to push up viewing figures (and thus rights fees) the Australians have now decided to push back the start of the event to 3.30pm, which will mean a rather more civilized start time of 05.30 in Britain and 06.30 in Europe. This means that there were will many more fans around the world willing to crawl from their beds to watch the action. The move is in response to Formula One's demands that the race prepare for a night race in the years ahead.

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Stewart, Busch on probation after Daytona incident
NASCAR Sprint Cup drivers Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch have been put on probation for the first six races of 2008 as a result of their actions on the track and off it Friday night at Daytona International Speedway.  NASCAR officials announced the sanctions against the two former series champions Tuesday.

After an accident in Budweiser Shootout practice Friday, Busch rammed into Stewart's car three times as they slowed to enter the garage.

The two drivers met in the NASCAR hauler afterward, and sources allege that Stewart swung at Busch.

The drivers were placed on probation for "actions detrimental to stock-car racing - altercation with another competitor," NASCAR Vice President of Corporate Communications Jim Hunter said Tuesday.

When asked if the probation was for on-track or off-track violations, NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton said: "It's all of the above. ... They're both responsible for their actions on and off the track. We had a closed-door meeting, and that will continue to be closed-door."


Barrichello hot-laps it around Laguna Seca
Rubens Barrichello
Formula One driver Rubens Barrichello enjoyed some hot laps around the 2.238-mile Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca road course Saturday afternoon.  Barrichello was on the Monterey Peninsula to play in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament.  He was accompanied by former Indy 500 winner and Carmel resident, Danny Sullivan.

“It is an honor to be here,” stated Rubens on his first trip to the track.  “I enjoyed every minute. I had so much fun doing laps on the track, and it’s a shame Formula One is not here.”

Having come straight from the Pebble Beach, Barrichello was still wearing his golf shoes while driving a Skip Barber Racing School car on the track.  He joked, “It was a bit sticky, and I’m sure my times were a bit off.”

Barrichello, a nine-time winner in Formula One, squeezed the golf and hot laps between pre-season testing in Spain of the new Honda Formula One car.  The F1 season begins March 16 in Australia.

The exciting 2008 race season at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca includes the Monterey Festival of Speed (May 16-18), the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix (July 18-20), the 35th Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races presented by Toyota (August 15-17), the Corona AMA Superbike Finale (September 27-28), and the Monterey Sports Car Championships (October 17-19).


Danica Patrick in SI Swimsuit Edition
A photo of Danica Patrick from this year's Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue
Photographer: Ben Watts;
Suit by: Aspara;
Location: Singer Island, Fla.
More than 69 million people are expected to read the special issue while more than 250 million people are expected to view photo galleries on the magazine's website.

"What an amazing honor to be asked to be in the SI Swimsuit issue," said Patrick, who will join other models and celebrities at a launch party Feb. 12 in New York City. "It's such an amazing publication and has such a following. I look at it and I like to see the pictures, and I'm a girl so I can't imagine how many people will see the issue."

A four-page spread features photos of Patrick that were shot at Singer Island, Fla. by photographer Ben Watts last fall following the IndyCar Series Open Test at Barber Motorsports Park. Additionally, a 44-photo gallery is available on Sports Illustrated's website.

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track news

Sebring announces 2008 HOF inductees
Sebring International Raceway has announced the 2008 inductees into the Sebring Sports Car Racing Hall of Fame. American Le Mans Series team owner Roger Penske, Derek Bell, Hans Stuck, David Cowart and Audi will join the prestigious Hall of Fame during ceremonies on Friday, March 14, the day before the 56th annual Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida.

Penske, who campaigns two Porsche RS Spyders in the American Le Mans Series LMP2 class, has a stellar record of success in motorsports as a driver, team manager, team owner and race promoter. Best known for orchestrating more than a dozen wins at the Indianapolis 500, Penske began his career in sports car racing in 1958. At Sebring he had three class victories, then served as manager for Jim Hall’s 1965-winning Chaparral team. Penske’s team won the Trans-Am class and finished third overall at the 1968 12 Hours of Sebring. Penske Racing has claimed the last two class championships with the RS Spyder.

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Phoenix Racing takes on a second Speedcar
Phoenix Racing will have a second car and driver, Klaus Ludwig, in Indonesia on the 16th and 17th of February. He will be driving the Alternative Capital Invest (ACI) sponsored "Legends Car" spearheaded by a different celebrity driver at each of the 4 Speedcar Series rounds left this season.

The German team will now have countrymen Uwe Alzen and Klaus Ludwig taking the wheel at the Sentul International Circuit. Klaus is a famous touring car racing driver with impressive accolades in his long racing career. He is perhaps most well remembered for his unprecedented win in the 1979 Le Mans 24 Hours in a Porsche road car, beating faster pure sports car racing prototypes. Klaus, 59, has come out of retirement in the past when given the opportunity to drive a high powered vehicle. Speedcar Series will be no exception.

Phoenix Racing is sponsored by ACI, a distinguished German real estate development boutique in the UAE. Together, the team and sponsor throw in added competition to the Speedcar mix with the "ACI Legends Car". Klaus Ludwig, a celebrity in his own right, will be the first such driver in Indonesia for Round 2 of the Grand Racing events organized by Speedcar Series and featuring GP2 Asia.

"Phoenix Racing is happy to now have 2 cars racing in Speedcar. The Series is an excellent platform in the Middle East and Asia for us to meet high caliber partners and sponsors such as ACI. Having two Speedcars driven by stellar talents also now gives us a better chance of competing for the Speedcar Series Champion title" said Dirk Theimann, Phoenix Racing Team Manager.


Hamilton tops morning times in Jerez
The majority of the F1 teams joined Williams and Red Bull in Jerez today as the second day of testing got underway in southern Spain. Today also saw the return of Super Aguri to the test track for the first time since their ten-lap run in mid-January. By midday, McLaren's Lewis Hamilton had clocked the quickest time, a 1m19.102s in the absence of Ferrari. BMW's Robert Kubica had clocked the second-fastest time, four tenths adrift.

Unofficial morning times from Jerez:
1. Lewis Hamilton (McLaren-Mercedes) - 1:19.102, 40 laps
2. Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber-BMW) - 1:19.539, 50 laps
3. Pedro de la Rosa (McLaren-Mercedes) - 1:19.599, 28 laps
4. Nelson Piquet Jr. (Renault) - 1:19.660, 50 laps
5. Nick Heidfeld (BMW Sauber-BMW) - 1:19.958, 44 laps
6. Mark Webber (Red Bull-Renault) - 1:20.013, 45 laps
7. Sebastian Vettel (Toro Rosso-Ferrari) - 1:20.105, 23 laps
8. David Coulthard (Red Bull-Renault) - 1:20.176, 36 laps
9. Kazuki Nakajima (Williams-Toyota) - 1:20.237, 36 laps
10. Nico Rosberg (Williams-Toyota) - 1:20.445, 81 laps
11. Sébastien Bourdais (Toro Rosso-Ferrari) - 1:21.087, 30 laps
12. Rubens Barrichello (Honda) - 1:21.133, 31 laps
13. Vitantonio Liuzzi (Force India-Ferrari) - 1:21.553, 49 laps
14. Alexander Wurz (Honda) - 1:21.950, 33 laps
15. Lucas di Grassi (Renault) - 1:22.432, 35 laps
16. Takuma Sato (Super Aguri-Honda) - 1:23.005, 18 laps


General Motors and the UAW Reach Agreement
General Motors Corp. (NYSE: GM) and the United Auto Workers (UAW) union have reached an agreement on a comprehensive special attrition program that will be offered to all of GM's 74,000 UAW-represented employees.

The special attrition program offers a choice of several pension and buyout incentives. GM is offering retirement pension incentives of $45,000 for production employees or $62,500 for skilled trades. Eligible employees can select from a variety of ways to receive their incentive:

  • One time, lump-sum cash payment
  • Direct rollover into their GM 401(k) or into an Individual Retirement Account (IRA)
  • Monthly annuity
  • Combination of partial lump-sum payment and direct rollover into their GM 401(k) or an IRA

The other retirement and buyout options available are similar to those offered to employees in 2006. These options include:

  • Mutually Satisfactory Retirement (MSR) for employees who are at least 50 years old with 10 or more years of service. This option provides a pension payment with full benefits.
  • Pre-Retirement Program in which employees with 26, 27, 28 or 29 years of service can grow into a full "30 and out" retirement. Until they reach 30 years of credited service, participating employees would receive a fixed monthly payment with full benefits.
  • Cash Buyout for employees who agree to voluntarily quit and sever all ties with GM.
    -$140,000 buyout incentive is offered to employees with 10 or more years of credited service or seniority
    -$70,000 buyout incentive to employees with less than 10 years of credited service or seniority

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GM Reports Preliminary 2007 Financial Results
General Motors Corp. today announced a 2007 calendar-year adjusted net loss, excluding special items, of $23 million, or $.04 per diluted share. This compares to adjusted net income of $2.2 billion, or $3.84 per diluted share in 2006, as significantly improved automotive performance was offset by large losses at GMAC. Including special items, the company reported a loss of $38.7 billion, or $68.45 per diluted share, compared to a reported loss of $2 billion, or $3.50 per diluted share in 2006. The loss is almost entirely attributable to the non-cash $38.3 billion special charge in the third quarter related to the valuation allowance against deferred tax assets.

GM’s core automotive business generated record revenue of $178 billion in 2007, a $7 billion improvement over 2006, aided by explosive growth in emerging markets and favorable foreign exchange against a weaker U.S. dollar. In total, GM generated $181 billion in revenue in 2007, compared with $206 billion in 2006. The decrease versus last year is due to the non-consolidation of GMAC revenue, following GM’s sale of 51 percent of GMAC in November of 2006.

“2007 was another year of important progress for GM, as we implemented further significant structural cost reductions in North America, grew aggressively in emerging markets, negotiated an historic labor contract with our UAW partners in the U.S., advanced development of a broad range of advanced propulsion technologies and most importantly, introduced a series of breakthrough cars and trucks around the world,” GM Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner said. “We’re pleased with the positive improvement trend in our automotive results, especially given the challenging conditions in important markets like the U.S. and Germany, but we have more work to do to achieve acceptable profitability and positive cash flow,” Wagoner added.


Singapore GP to launch Phase One of General Ticket sales
Singapore skyline
Singapore  Three-day passes to the 2008 FORMULA 1™ SingTel Singapore Grand Prix will be officially launched for sale by race promoter Singapore GP on Thursday 14 February 2008, 0900 hours Singapore time (GMT+8).

A total of 70,000 tickets will be available in this first release. This will comprise 15,000 walkabout passes and 55,000 grandstand seats strategically located around the circuit. Tickets will be sold on a first-come-first-served basis and each customer will be allowed to purchase a maximum of eight tickets. This is to ensure that as wide an audience as possible gets to enjoy the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix. Tickets are expected to be in high demand.

The three-day passes are priced from SIN$168 (Euro 82*, GBP60*) for a walkabout to S$1,388 (Euro 675*, GBP500*) for the premier Pit Grandstand (see below for complete three-day pass pricing). These passes include a separate ticket for each race day at a special package price that offers savings of at least 15% over buying individual day tickets. A three-day pass can be used by three different people over the three days. However, tickets will not be interchangeable on the same day. All prices include the relevant processing fee and Goods and Services Tax (GST).  (*may vary subject to currency rates)

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Latest F1 news in brief UPDATE Updates shown in red below.

  • Massa, de la Rosa, play down racism scandal
  • McLaren expects no racial incidents at Jerez
  • Renault yet to show true 2008 form - de la Rosa
  • New track revives hopes for Portugal GP
  • Williams resolve wing mounting issue
  • Plans on track for new Spanish F1 circuit
  • New McLaren needs to be faster - de la Rosa
  • No racism as Hamilton makes test return New
  • Aguri test, but call off 2008 launch New
  • Bahrain backs away from night race reports New

Massa, de la Rosa, play down racism scandal
(GMM)  Felipe Massa has played down the racism scandal involving Lewis Hamilton as an overblown war between the British and Spanish press.

The Brazilian driver, who did not attend the Barcelona test because Ferrari was preparing to run for six days in Bahrain, told La Gazzetta dello Sport that the reported instances of racial abuse against Hamilton by spectators was "ugly".

"But I have not fully understood what went on," Massa said, "apart from the fact that it was a war between the Spanish newspapers and the British ones."

Massa, who is 26, says he did not believe everything that was reported by the media about the events at the Circuit de Catalunya.

"In my opinion formula one is different (from other sports); we have big fights, but always in the correct way, and this is also true of the fans," he added.

McLaren test driver and Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa, meanwhile, objects to the portrayal in the media of Spain as a racist nation.

"The Spanish fans are educated and peaceful people," he told the Spanish daily Diario AS.

"So much has been said about this issue.  The important thing for me is that at the next test it can be demonstrated that all drivers are treated with respect, which has always been the case," de la Rosa added.

McLaren expects no racial incidents at Jerez
(GMM)  For the first time since the racism scandal broke out in Barcelona recently, Lewis Hamilton will return to the Spanish winter test tracks on Tuesday.

McLaren has scheduled three days of running for the 23-year-old at Jerez, in the south of the country, and Mercedes' racing boss Norbert Haug is not anticipating any more problems.

"We believe that every fan will behave as they should," he told the German newspaper Bild.

FIA president Max Mosley has threatened to strip the two Spanish grands prix from the calendar if circuit organizers cannot get a grip on the kind of racial taunts directed at F1's only black driver in Barcelona.

Haug said: "For us, the incident is in the past, and the vast majority of people have always behaved correctly."

The German said McLaren has not organized any extra security arrangements for the Jerez test, and Briton Hamilton will not be protected by a bodyguard.

"Safety is a matter for the track operators," Haug insisted.  "From our side, nothing (extra) is planned.

"But we will watch closely how the situation develops.  The same is true of the FIA."

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racing news

Dates for 2008 Bavaria street event announced
The organizers of Bavaria City Racing officially announced today that Rotterdam’s fourth spectacular Formula 1 race event is to be held on Sunday 17 August 2008. In addition to the date announcement, it was also confirmed that the route and VIP-village location are to remain the same. The program for Sunday has also been extended.

17 August 2008
The new date had been a long awaited one until the official racing calendars were finally announced. Once again, the date falls in the Formula 1 holiday period, between the Hungarian and European Grand Prix. On Friday 15 and Saturday 16 August, just before the excitement breaks loose in Rotterdam’s centre, participants can be seen in action at the Ahoy events complex, Rotterdam, in the largest covered paddock in the world, the RaceSalon. “We are pleased that an official date has been announced so that we can make final arrangements with the Formula 1 teams and drivers”, told organizer Robert Heilbron.

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Camry struggles to remain #1
Sales for top-4 cars sold in USA
On a crisp day in November, six consumers selected for test drives spent several hours at a raceway near Los Angeles driving three sedans: the redesigned Chevrolet Malibu, the new Honda Accord and the Toyota Camry. At the end of the day, no clear winner emerged in the contest arranged by auto research firm Edmunds.com. Two of the vehicles tied for first place. But there was a definite loser -- the Camry, which wasn't anyone's top choice.

"The Camry got the job done, but it was kind of boring," said Scott Barr, a high school science teacher and self-styled car enthusiast who took part in the exercise.

The Toyota Camry, now in its sixth generation, doesn't turn heads or thrill drivers with its road handling. It's no longer the undisputed leader in quality, either. Yet Toyota's rivals are struggling mightily to dislodge the perennial best-seller.

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Safety agency probing GM SUV engine fires
The government is investigating reports of engine fires in General Motors' full-size sport-utility vehicles.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said in a posting on its Web site that it has received two reports of fires on 2007 model year Chevrolet Tahoes.

Both reports allege that the vehicles were parked in a home garage with the engine shut off when the fires occurred, causing significant property damage.

The investigation, which also includes the 2007 GMC Yukon SUV, involves about 423,000 vehicles.

General Motors Corp. spokesman Alan Adler said Monday that the company was cooperating with the government. "We didn't have anything on our radar. We didn't see anything on this one that suggests a pattern or trend," he said. Chicago Tribune


Hunter-Reay finds speed in Arizona
With the IndyCar Series season opener less than seven weeks away and nothing but snow in the forecast for Columbus on Monday, Rahal Letterman Racing followed the sage advice of Horace Greeley who once told a prospective pioneer to 'Go West, young man."

Reigning IndyCar Rookie of the Year Ryan Hunter-Reay and the #17 Ethanol-sponsored Dallara/Honda/Firestone of Rahal Letterman Racing journeyed Monday to the Phoenix International Raceway for a single day of testing on the one-mile Arizona oval. Hunter-Reay spent a full day in the seat of the Ethanol machine, logging nearly 150 miles on the tricky course that once hosted IndyCars as well as Champ Cars.

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Darrell Waltrip Named Honorary Starter For Gatorade Duel
Darrell Waltrip, five-time winner of the Gatorade Duel At Daytona and 1989 Daytona 500 champion, will serve as the Honorary Starter for the 50th annual Gatorade Duel At Daytona on Thursday, Feb. 14 at historic Daytona International Speedway.

Waltrip, who was also the first driver to wheel the famed green and white No. 88 Gatorade car for DiGard Racing, will wave the green flag for the first 150-mile Gatorade Duel At Daytona qualifying race, which is scheduled to start at 2 p.m.

The Gatorade Duel at Daytona is a pair of 150-mile qualifying races that finalize the startling lineup for the 50th running of the Daytona 500, which is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 17.

“Darrell Waltrip is one of the legendary champions at Daytona International Speedway and it’s a true honor to have him atop of the flag stand to kick off the 2008 Gatorade Duel at Daytona,” Daytona International Speedway President Robin Braig said. “The competition is going to be fierce as drivers will vie for a starting spot in the historic 50th running of the Daytona 500.”

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MRN Debuts "NASCAR Today Midday"
Motor Racing Network (MRN) Radio has responded to the demands of fans for more NASCAR news with today’s debut of ‘NASCAR TODAY Midday’ during Speedweeks from Daytona International Speedway.  The program is two-minutes in length and will air Monday through Friday year-round during midday.  The show will debut on 105 radio stations nationwide. 

The program features Kyle Rickey, a veteran turn announcer for the network but a new voice to MRN’s NASCAR news reporting team.  The popular and historic ‘NASCAR TODAY’ with Joe Moore will still air in afternoon drive time each day, with ‘NASCAR TODAY Midday’ providing fans breaking overnight news.

“These two programs will give double the coverage and inside information as only MRN can provide to fans and affiliates,” said David Hyatt, president of MRN Radio. “Kyle has been a turn announcer with MRN for several years.  He has a great passion for racing that our fans will respond to immediately.”

MRN Radio, which has been broadcasting NASCAR events since 1970, is the primary source for NASCAR stock car racing and related radio programming.  Their award-winning play-by-play coverage of the NASCAR Sprint Cup, Nationwide and Craftsman Truck Series is delivered via satellite to over 700 radio stations nationwide. 


53 entries for Camping World 300
Nineteen 2008 Sprint Cup regulars are among the 53 drivers entered for the Camping World 300 scheduled for Saturday to open the Nationwide (formerly Busch) Series season at Daytona International Speedway.


Michael Crawford Motorsports inks Jake Slotten
Short-track driver Jake Slotten will drive the eight oval races for Michael Crawford Motorsports during the 2008 Indy Pro Series season. 

MCM signed the 21-year-old Kimberly, Wis., native after Slotten impressed the team with a very successful Indy Pro Series rookie test at Homestead-Miami Speedway on Jan. 30.

"The Indy Racing League has shown an interest in re-establishing the career path of Midget and Sprint Car racers climbing the ladder to IndyCars," team owner Michael Crawford said. "With this in mind, we see a tremendous opportunity to work with Jake this season and prepare him for our mutual goal, a future run at the Indianapolis 500.  In years past, many great stars of Indy car racing started their careers on the dirt tracks of America. I am very pleased that we have partnered with a modern-day Midwest dirt track driver as he fulfills a lifelong dream."

Slotten has raced midgets in the Badger Midget Auto Racing Association and USAC National Midget Series, winning the BMARA Rookie of the Year award at age 16.

In 2005, he became one of the youngest drivers to make the top 10 in points in the Badger Midget Racing Series despite missing three points races while on a church-sponsored mission trip to North Africa to help in refugee camps.

"I am very grateful to Michael Crawford Motorsports for this great blessing and opportunity," Slotten said. "I hope to develop into a successful and respected driver while promoting the sport of open wheel racing.  I look forward to bringing home race wins and achieving the goal of qualifying for the Indy 500 with Michael Crawford Motorsports in the future."


Dakar Rally moves to South America
Dakar Rally organizers today announced that Argentina and Chile will host the race in ’09, after this year’s event was canceled due “to fears of terrorism in Africa.” The race will begin in Buenos Aires on January 2 and finish in the city on January 18. The race’s route will be unveiled tomorrow.


Jerez Day 1: Coulthard fastest
Today, the Red Bull Racing Team and the AT&T Williams F1 Team were in action at the Circuit of Jerez in southern Spain. David Coulthard clocked the fastest lap time and was followed by teammate Mark Webber. Nakajima was third, followed by Nico Rosberg. Tomorrow, McLaren, Renault, BMW Sauber, Honda, Toro Rosso, Super Aguri and Force India will be testing as well.

Pos. Driver Team Time Laps
1. Coulthard Red Bull-Renault 1:20.641 91
2. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:20.807 112
3. Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:20.834 102
4. Rosberg Williams-Toyota 1:21.096 69


Overnight TV ratings up
NASCAR saw a rise in overnight television ratings for both Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway and Sunday's Daytona 500 qualifying over 2007 figures.  Fox's broadcast of the shootout earned an overnight rating of 4.5 and an 8 market share from Nielsen Media Research, Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Daily reported. The rating was 7.1 percent more than the 4.2 overnight figure last year.  Fox's coverage of Sunday's Sprint Cup qualifying session earned a 2.7 and a 6 share, the Daily said. The rating was 8 percent higher than last year.


Massa fastest on final test day in Bahrain
Brazilian Felipe Massa posted the fastest time on the final day of testing at the Sakhir circuit in Bahrain in his Ferrari F2008.

World champion Kimi Raikkonen was less than two tenths slower after 85 laps, also in a Ferrari
The Ferraris were split by German Timo Glock, who finished less than a tenth behind Massa.


Driver Team Time Laps
1. Massa Ferrari 1:31.189 91
2. Glock Toyota 1:31.209 71
3. Raikkonen Ferrari 1:31.329 85
4. Trulli Toyota 1:31.689 86


Gore backs out of V8 Supercars to focus on Champ Car
WPS/WOW Racing team owner Craig Gore has announced that his team has withdrawn from the V8 Supercar Championship Series because of personal business and health commitments.

The Gold Coast-based businessman has sold his two Team License Agreements to undisclosed parties with the blessing of the Touring Car Entrants Group of Australia (TEGA) and the team’s cars and equipment are to be sold separately.

Gore will remain involved in V8 Supercars, with his financial services group Wright Patton Shakespeare continuing as naming-rights sponsor of the WPS Chrysler V8 Supercar Safety Car program for the next five years.

Gore also remains committed to his Team Australia motorsport program and driver Will Power in the Champ Car World Series (soon to merge with the Indy Racing League) in the United States, where Team Australia is backed by Gore’s Australian wine export company Aussie Vineyards and its Au brand. Gore also has significant involvement in the Gold Coast Indy 300 event each October as an event sponsor.


Lola Coupe gets first test run
Saturday late afternoon the Lola-Aston Martin (Lola B08/60 LMP1 Coupe) of Charouz Racing had its first run at Prodrive’s proving ground in Warwickshire, England. Jan Charouz was the driver behind the wheel and the test went very well. The Lola was run in black raw carbon. Photos courtesy of Prodrive.

Unloading the car Lola B08/60 LMP1 Coupe Jan Charouz


Winningest F1 team comparison
Team Races Wins Poles Fastest laps Podiums Laps raced Laps led Points total
Ferrari 758 201 195 205 603 86,612 12,489 4,753.27
McLaren 630 156 133 133 418 66,162 9,212 3,477.5
Lotus 491 79 107 71 172 55,918 5,498 1,514
Williams 485 113 125 128 294 49,350 7,470 2,552.5


Goodyear Officials confirm tire blistering
Goodyear Tire and NASCAR officials confirmed there was tire blistering during Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout, but assured competitors the problem is correctable.
"We saw some signs, up and down pit road, of excessive heat on the right front and right rear (tires) and some blistering," Goodyear's Rick Heinrich said Sunday before Daytona 500 qualifying at Daytona International Speedway.

David Gilliland, driving the No. 38 Ford, spun and hit the wall late in the Shootout because of tire blistering. Other accidents were the result of mechanical issues or contact between cars, according to Goodyear engineers.

The tire problem, said Sprint Cup Series director John Darby, was a "worse-case scenario" as far as racing conditions for the 70-lap sprint race, won by Dale Earnhardt Jr.

Darby said Saturday night produced optimum speed conditions. The more speed, the more heat builds in the Goodyear racing tires.

"It was nice, cool air, night time racing, maximum grip in the racetrack, all those things," Darby said.  More at Daytona Beach News Journal


LG announces Corvette C6 Entry GT2
LG GT2 Corvette
Wylie, Texas -  Carrying a long string of GT racing success, most recently in the SPEED World Challenge GT Series, LGMotorsports of Wylie, Texas, and Riley Technologies team up with their newly built Riley Corvette C6, to take aim at the likes of Porsche, Panoz, Aston Martin and Ferrari, setting their sites on the American Le Mans Series and the fiercely contested GT2 division.

On the challenges of introducing a new car to the GT2 class of competition, team owner, 3-time SPEED World Challenge Champion and noted sports car veteran, Lou Gigliotti commented, “With the support of Riley Technologies we're extremely confident that the new Riley C6 Corvette will be a hit with Corvette fans and a stout performer in its class. Our team has worked long and hard putting all of the pieces in place in order to make this happen. I have total confidence in my guys. The 2008 ALMS season, specifically in the GT2 class, will be one of the biggest challenges we've ever faced as a team, but we're up for it."

Read more & Comment...

Carpentier fastest rookie qualifier
Patrick Carpentier was the fastest of the Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates, but the Canadian will still have to race his way into the Daytona 500 in the Gatorade Duel 150s on Thursday. Carpentier had a qualifying lap of 185.766 mph in his Gillett Evernham Motorsports Dodge. “To do that time today pretty much backed up what we had yesterday so I’m very proud of it,” said Carpentier. “The car was fast and everything but with the wind today when you run up there it picks up the front end of the car and it gave me a lot more push than yesterday so we’ve got to be careful with that.  But the car was still pretty good because it was so loose yesterday it was kind of neutral today so it was a good thing.”


Gatorade 150 Race #2 line up
To be run Thursday at Daytona.

St Pos

Qual Rank Car# Driver Make Qual Speed
1 2 55 Michael Waltrip Toyota 186.734
2 4 00 David Reutimann Toyota 186.463
3 5 22 Dave Blaney Toyota 186.120
4 7 28 Travis Kvapil Ford 185.958
5 8 11 Denny Hamlin Toyota 185.947
6 10 24 Jeff Gordon Chevy 185.858
7 11 10 Patrick Carpentier # Dodge 185.766
8 12 20 Tony Stewart Toyota 185.651
9 13 6 David Ragan Ford 185.594
10 14 17 Matt Kenseth Ford 185.517
11 17 27 Jacques Villeneuve # Toyota 185.452
12 18 8 Mark Martin Chevy 185.429
13 20 38 David Gilliland Ford 185.410
14 21 44 Dale Jarrett [CH2] Toyota 185.345
15 24 16 Greg Biffle Ford 185.071
16 25 26 Jamie McMurray Ford 185.010
17 28 7 Robby Gordon Dodge 184.85
18 29 9 Kasey Kahne Dodge 184.828
19 30 37 Eric McClure Chevy 184.828
20 31 18 Kyle Busch Toyota 184.809
21 33 29 Kevin Harvick Chevy 184.589
22 37 49 Ken Schrader Dodge 184.483
23 39 40 Dario Franchitti # Dodge 184.351
24 46 31 Jeff Burton Chevy 183.884
25 48 34 John Andretti Chevy 183.673
26 52 50 Stanton Barrett Chevy 182.823


Gatorade 150 Race #1 line up
To be run Thursday at Daytona.

St Pos

Qual Rank Car# Driver Make Qual Speed
1 1 48 Jimmie Johnson Chevy 187.075
2 3 78 Joe Nemechek Chevy 186.498
3 6 5 Casey Mears Chevy 186.054
4 9 60 Boris Said Ford 185.893
5 15 88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Chevy 185.479
6 16 83 Brian Vickers Toyota 185.475
7 19 84 AJ Allmendinger Toyota 185.422
8 22 66 Scott Riggs Chevy 185.193
9 23 12 Ryan Newman Dodge 185.143
10 26 01 Regan Smith # Chevy 184.964
11 27 87 Kenny Wallace Chevy 184.953
12 32 70 Jeremy Mayfield Chevy 184.612
13 34 2 Kurt Busch [CH1] Dodge 184.540
14 35 19 Elliott Sadler Dodge 184.521
15 36 99 Carl Edwards Ford 184.487
16 38 15 Paul Menard Chevy 184.415
17 40 1 Martin Truex, Jr. Chevy 184.290
18 41 41 Reed Sorenson Dodge 184.264
19 42 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Dodge 184.241
20 43 77 Sam Hornish, Jr. # Dodge 184.226
21 44 07 Clint Bowyer Chevy 184.106
22 45 21 Bill Elliott [CH3] Ford 184.009
23 47 43 Bobby Labonte Dodge 183.857
24 49 45 Kyle Petty Dodge 183.374
25 50 09 Sterling Marlin Chevy 183.326
26 51 96 J.J. Yeley Toyota 182.994
27 53 08 Carl Long Dodge 180.796


Dario Franchitti to be Profiled on HBO UPDATE

Dario signing in at the NASCAR hauler for his first Daytona 500
Action Sports

Reminder that the first airing of this special is tonight at 10:00 pm - 11:00 pm ET on HBO.  It will be replayed Tuesday at 1:00 am - 2:00 am ET and re-aired five more times over the next month.  Please check local listings for your time zone.

02/10/08 In an HBO REAL SPORTS/Sports Illustrated collaboration, correspondent Mary Carillo profiles #40-Dario Franchitti, Monday Feb. 11 at 10:00pm/et on HBO. It will also re-air six times over the course of the next month. NASCAR PR


Truex discussing re-signing with DEI
Martin Truex Jr. is in a contract year, and while some preliminary discussions have been held considering an extension, he insisted Feb. 7 that he wasn't focused on that right now. Truex has spent the previous four years as part of Dale Earnhardt Inc., the first two in the Busch (now Nationwide) Series with Chance 2 Motorsports (co-owned by DEI and Dale Earnhardt Jr.) and the other two in Cup. "We've talked about it a little bit and that's as far as it went," Truex said. "We need to go out here and win races and concentrate on racing. We'll worry about that stuff later on." SceneDaily.com


Latest F1 news in brief
  • Bahrain to host big F1 names for Forum
  • F-India to continue arbitration case
  • Bahrain to consider F1 night race
  • Webber tells Aus to fight for night race
  • Sauber cars to be auctioned in Zurich
  • 112,700 expected at first Valencia GP
  • Van der Garde hopes for Force India test seat

Bahrain to host big F1 names for Forum
(GMM)  Bahrain's formula one circuit will host the first Motor Sport Business Forum Middle East on April 1 and 2 -- the week of the grand prix in Sakhir.  Team principals for McLaren, Honda, Red Bull, Williams, Force India and possibly Ferrari, and 500 delegates, will be there, organizers said.

It will be the first time the annual event takes place outside of Monaco.

F-India to continue arbitration case
(GMM)  Even after the sale of the Spyker team to Force India, team boss Colin Kolles is determined to press ahead with a legal claim against F1 rivals Super Aguri and Toro Rosso.

Almost one year ago, Kolles announced that he would pursue the teams in arbitration for the alleged illegality of their 2007 single seaters, arguing that they are nearly direct copies of cars designed and built by their parent teams.

The case is presently before the Swiss based Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne.

Sources close to the team's new owner Vijay Mallya have told the Indian press that the Spyker arbitration will continue in the Force India guise.

Sources at Mallya's brewing empire UB Group insist that the Silverstone based team is "intent on pursuing (the) arbitration case", according to the publication DNA India.

"We are of the opinion that Aguri and Toro Rosso cannot be part of F1 as per the provisions in the Concorde Agreement.

"Given a choice, we want them out, for sure.  The lesser the competition, the better," the UB source said.

Honda-powered Super Aguri would not comment.

"We have been advised by the legal team not to comment on the matter," a spokeswoman for the team said.

Read more & Comment...

Rossi will pay 20 million euros in back taxes
Valentino Rossi
Seven-time motorcycle world champion Valentino Rossi will pay the Italian government 20 million euros in back taxes.  Rossi, considered an international sports legend, was supposed to pay over 112 million euros to tax authorities on undeclared earnings of 60 million euros accrued from 2000 to 2004.

But Rossi's tax consultants managed to reduce that figure to 20 million euros.

The 28-year-old sports champion has been at the centre of a national controversy since the full extent of his unpaid taxes were revealed in August 2007. He has asked Italian tax officials if he can pay off his debt in stages.

"I think it is finally over. Valentino will once again smile, win and take things as they come...he is not a tax evader and the proof is his decision to pay," said Rossi's lawyer Lucio Monaco in an interview with the news website, Quotidiano.net.

"He did not want a war, only a fair accord."

Valentino Rossi is one of the world's highest paid sportsmen, reportedly earning over 37 million euros a year from his contract with the Japanese vehicle producer, Yamaha, plus more from numerous merchandising and sponsorship deals.


Mears car too low in Bud Shootout post-tech UPDATE NASCAR announced early Sunday evening that the No. 5 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet, which was too low in initial inspection Saturday following the Budweiser Shootout, had passed inspection following further evaluation Sunday at Daytona International Speedway.  NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby had indicated early Sunday afternoon that officials wanted to take another look at the car before deciding whether it had passed or failed inspection. The process took longer than normal because NASCAR officials also had to inspect cars for Daytona 500 qualifying on Sunday.

02/10/08 Casey Mears' Chevy was determined to be too low during Budweiser Shootout postrace inspection. Mears finished sixth in the race, his first with the Hendrick Motorsports Sprint Cup team. Jim Hunter, NASCAR's Vice President of Corporate Communications, said NASCAR will continue investigating the issue today. "It might have some damage," Hunter said. "We'll let you know tomorrow." Daytona Beach News Journal


Walker Racing seeks new employees for 2008
Walker Racing seeks new employees for 2008 expansion of open wheel programs

Track Engineers with experience in Indy Car, Champ Car, Atlantic,
Indy Pro Series or Star Mazda.
Data Acquisition Engineers. Must have experience with Pi Workshop, Pi
Toolbox & current sensor techniques. Proficiency in Visual Basic, C++
& Matlab an advantage.

Mechanics with two years of experience in Indy Car, Champ Car,
Atlantic, Indy Pro Series, Star Mazda or Formula BMW.

Good opportunity to work in a competitive organization with excellent
compensation and benefits package.

Experienced candidates only.

Apply, in confidence,
Rob Edwards (wlkrrcngtm@aol.com)
General Manager
Walker Racing
4035 Championship Drive
Indianapolis, IN 46268


Minardi Team USA statement on possible merger
In common with other teams competing in the Champ Car World Series, Minardi Team USA is aware of the latest news regarding the possible merger of the Series with the Indy Racing League. Minardi Team USA views this as potentially a very positive development for the future of North American open-wheel racing. As with any major business deal, however, the devil is in the detail, and we understand there are still a number of important matters that remain to be resolved, not least of which is negotiating a suitable 2008 schedule. There are some very good, experienced people working on finding solutions to the outstanding issues, however, and like everyone who is passionate about open-wheel racing in this country, we hope their efforts will be successful. We now await further developments.  ForzaMinardi.com


New Cup car proving to be versatile
Cars driven to top-five finishes by Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet) and Jeff Gordon (No. 24 DuPont Chevrolet) in the 30th annual Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway had “raced, placed and won” prior to Saturday night.

All at tracks smaller than Daytona’s 2.5-mile environs.

Such versatility is a hallmark of NASCAR’s new car, which can be campaigned at different tracks. After running 16 of 36 events in 2007, the new car – NASCAR’s now-generation race car – debuts fulltime in 2008 in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series.

Prior to Saturday, Johnson’s car had logged one pole, two wins and one other top-five finish in 2007.

Gordon’s car had logged one win, one pole and one other top-five finish, also in 2007.

Read more & Comment...

Pedregon sent for evaluation after first-round incident
Defending NHRA POWERade Drag Racing Series Funny Car champ Tony Pedregon was transported to Pomona Valley Medical Center Hospital for evaluation after his Q Horsepower Chevy Impala suffered an engine explosion in the first round at the CARQUEST Auto Parts NHRA Winternationals.

The carbon fiber body on Pedregon's car was blown off the chassis by the force of the explosion, but Pedregon managed to bring his car to a stop in the opposite lane near the end of the shutdown. Pedregon exited his car on his own and was checked my NHRA emergency services officials before being transported to the local hospital as a precaution.

Pedregon had red-lighted on the pass against John Force, who won the round with a 4.80-second elapsed time.


Deal seals Indy's future
If you thought this past year's Surfer's Paradise Indy race was a beauty -- brace yourself; it is going to get bigger and better.  In an agreement that has the motorsport world abuzz, the two rival North American open-wheel racing bodies are poised to sign a historic merger deal.  It will mean more teams at the iconic Gold Coast event, fiercer competition and a brighter future for the race.

The secret deal between the warring bosses from Champ Car and the Indy Racing League (IRL) is being hailed as the savior of the Gold Coast race.

Had an agreement not been reached over the weekend, the Bligh Government would have been faced with the prospect of having a world-class motorsport event in October without the international teams and drivers.  The deal will cement the Gold Coast race as the No. 1 motorsport event in the country, particularly on the back of speculation that Melbourne's Formula One is all but dead.

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Bahrain Sunday: Kimi again
Kimi Raikkonen remained on top in F1 testing in Bahrain today.  The world champion turned the fastest lap of 1:30.015.  His Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa's attempt ended the test 0.175 seconds slower than Raikkonen.

Despite being only 3rd fastest Toyota's Jarno Trulli said, “It was a good day. We did a lot of laps and successfully simulated a race distance without any trouble. We did some set-up work this morning and the lap times show we are moving forward. We still have work to do but we are definitely going in the right direction and that is very positive. I was pretty happy with the car today, even during the long runs. Obviously there is still room for improvement so we will study the data and push hard to improve our car.”

Trulli's teammate Timo Glock added, “In the morning I did a qualifying run in a Formula 1 car for the first time in a few years, in our Q1 simulation, and that went really well. The Q3 simulation, with a bit more fuel on board, also went well and I had good speed, but when we got to the race simulation I didn’t have the ideal set-up. It wasn’t quite what I wanted because the first few laps were good but then the handling dropped off a bit. However, it was a good experience for me and it will help us understand which direction to go in when it comes to setting up the car for a race distance. It was also useful to get experience of driving a full Grand Prix distance because I have not done that since 2004, although I am fit so it was no problem for me.”

Today's testing times:


Driver Car Time Laps
1. Raikkonen Ferrari 1:30.015 61
2. Massa Ferrari 1:30.190 70
3. Trulli Toyota 1:30.944 91
4. Glock Toyota 1:31.213 93


Junior Johnson Story to become a major motion picture
Redwood Palms Pictures has signed on to produce the true life story of racing legend, Junior Johnson. Commonly referred to as the father of modern stock car racing, Johnson began his career as a young teen running illegal moonshine on the dusty back roads of North Carolina, sharpening his unique driving skills by continually evading the law. Little did he know, he would help launch an entire industry. Whiskey Beginnings is one of those stories that crystallizes the American Dream and tells the story of how one man's passion changed the world. Junior Johnson not only became a legend in his own time, but a true American hero. "This story takes place during the great depression, in a time when many people fought daily for their survival," states Mike DiManno, CEO of Redwood Palms. "And out of that adversity was born one of the greatest heroes we've ever known." Redwood Palms is partnering with writers Fred Griffith and Chris Mulkey. Based on the book, "Junior Johnson: Brave in Life" by Tom Higgins and Steve Waid, the film is scheduled to begin shooting in the Fall of 2008.


Hamilton abuse not one-off, father says
(GMM)  The racial abuse of McLaren driver Lewis Hamilton was not a one-off, his father and manager has told the president of F1's governing body.

Following the controversial events of the recent Barcelona test, Max Mosley, FIA president, revealed that Anthony Hamilton told him that his 23-year-old son was also taunted by Spanish supporters at the Chinese grand prix last year.

"Anthony Hamilton told me that there were some people in China who were also appallingly abusive; not Chinese fans, but people who had travelled from Spain," Mosley said in an interview with the London newspaper The Times.

Mosley said he is determined to stamp out racism in formula one.

"If, as appears to be the case, only a very small number of people are involved, it ought to be possible to stop it immediately.  If it isn't, then we have sanctions and we could pull the (Spanish) grand prix," he added.

He insists, however, that immediately scrapping the Barcelona race, scheduled for April 27 this year, would have been an overreaction.

"We have a very wide discretion, but we have to be responsible and measured," the Briton said.

"Not to give the Spanish authorities the opportunity to show they can deal with it and ensure there is no recurrence would have been over the top.  But it is necessary to make it clear it will not be tolerated, and we have done that."

TV news

Dave Despain on Assignment: Building the Daytona 500 UPDATE A reminder that this program will be shown tonight on SPEED.

02/08/08 This special will be shown on Sunday, February 10, 6:00 pm - 7:00 pm ET and replayed the morning of the Daytona 500 on February 17, 10:00 am - 11:00 am ET on SPEED.

Dave Despain on Assignment: Building the Daytona 500
Junior Johnson: "That place is ungodly exciting once they drop that flag."
Q: Which driver bolted an oxygen tank into his car for fear of ending up in Daytona's infield lake -- Lake Lloyd?

As race fans celebrate the 50th running of the Daytona 500 next month, Dave Despain and his crew will take SPEED™ audiences behind some of the lesser known stories from The Great American Race with a special one-hour program entitled Dave Despain on Assignment: Building the Daytona 500. The show will premiere Feb. 10 at 6 p.m. ET and re-air the morning of the Daytona 500, Feb. 17 at 10 a.m. ET.

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Gerald Kulwicki dies
Gerald Kulwicki, the father of 1992 NASCAR Cup champion Alan Kulwicki, passed away Saturday night in Charlotte. He was 78. Mr. Kulwicki lived part of the year in Charlotte in a home originally owned by his late son, while also residing in his native Wisconsin. Alan Kulwicki moved to North Carolina and started his own race team to compete at NASCAR's highest level. He won rookie of the year honors in 1986 despite basically owning one car and two motors. Alan later turned down a chance to drive for car owner Junior Johnson to keep running his own team, and in 1992 he wound up edging Johnson's team, with Bill Elliott driving, by 10 points to win the championship. Alan, who had five career Cup victories, was killed in 1993 when an airplane he was aboard crashed while trying to land at Tri-Cities Airport in Tennessee as Kulwicki was traveling to a race in Bristol. Funeral arrangements for Gerald Kulwicki were still pending as of late Saturday. Charlotte Observer


Franchitti gets sponsor for Daytona UPDATE Dodge announced that Dario Franchitti’s #40 Dodge Charger will carry an “All-New Dodge Journey” paint scheme for the 50th running of the Daytona 500 at Daytona International Speedway on Feb. 17. The all-new 2009 Dodge Journey is the mid-size crossover that offers customers an alternative to the traditional car, minivan or SUV. With a U.S. Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $19,985, it falls between the compact Dodge Caliber and the Dodge Grand Caravan. The new 2009 Dodge Journey launches later this spring. The partnership has Franchitti’s Charger carrying the “All-New Dodge Journey” paint scheme throughout the 10 days of Speedweeks activities leading up to the season-opening Daytona 500. The 2009 Dodge Journey will be available in three models: Dodge Journey SE equipped with a 2.4-liter four-cylinder World Engine and Dodge Journey SXT and R/T models equipped with a 3.5-liter V-6 engine and six-speed automatic transaxle with Auto Stick. Journey SXT and R/T models also are available with a state-of-the-art all-wheel-drive (AWD) system. Also in 2008, Dodge will introduce its modern muscle car the all-new Dodge Challenger. Dodge PR

02/08/08 The new Dodge vehicle - Dodge Journey - a SUV, station wagon "crossover" will be the primary sponsor for #40-Dario Franchitti in the 50th running of the Daytona 500. The deal is only for Daytona. After that Franchitti's #40 Dodge Charger's paint scheme may change from week-to-week as no set company has forked over the necessary money for the entire season. Is this reason for Franchitti to be alarmed? Not really. Owner Chip Ganassi has said he will run three cars all season. Tennessean


K&N will Sponsor Travis Kvapil for 500
Yates Racing announced today that K&N Engineering, Inc., the world’s leader in performance filter technology, will sponsor the No. 28 entry with driver Travis Kvapil for the 50th running of the Daytona 500 on February 17th. 

Kvapil and K&N Engineering, Inc. have shared sponsorship in the past when K&N served as the primary sponsor of Kvapil’s No. 6 Ford in the 2007 Craftsman Truck Series.  During the 2007 season, Kvapil claimed four wins, started on the pole for three races and secured twelve top-10 finishes.  Kvapil had an average starting position of 6.8 and an average finish of 10.4 in the 2007 Truck Series.

“I’m very excited to have K&N as the sponsor of our No. 28 Ford Fusion,” stated Kvapil.  “K&N helped my tuck team out last season and they’re a great sponsor.  I’m really looking forward to making them proud for the Daytona 500 next weekend.  They believe in what our team has in store for this season, and it’s just a thrill to have them associated with us for the biggest race of the year.”

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Annett wins ARCA race in Toyota
Michael Annett
ARCA RE/MAX Series rookie Michael Annett survived the "big one" at Daytona. The Des Moines, Iowa driver also held off what was left of the hungry pack for the final 32 laps to take home the biggest victory of his career Saturday afternoon at Daytona Int'l Speedway, winning the 45th annual ARCA 200 at Daytona.

Annett, in the No. 28 Bill Davis-owned Pilot Travel Centers Toyota, finished three lengths in front of Justin Allgaier.

"We didn't qualify where we wanted to qualify," said Annett, who started third. "We wanted the pole, but we knew we had a good car in the draft. These tracks are a lot of fun and being in a Bill Davis Toyota makes it even more fun.  The only two tracks I've raced in with Bill Davis was the restrictor plate tracks and we won both of those so I can't wait to see how I tackle these intermediate tracks. We're looking at doing about 10-12 ARCA races with Bill Davis Racing."

Read more & Comment...

Carpentier tops final pre-qualifying practice
The Toyota teams continued to shine in Daytona 500 practice Saturday afternoon, setting three of the four top speeds in the second and final practice session of the day at Daytona International Speedway.

But topping the charts was the Gillett Evernham Motorsports Dodge of driver Patrick Carpentier, who ran 186.150 mph in the 90-minute practice period.


Car Driver Team Time Speed Laps Gap -Next
1 *10 Patrick Carpentier # Valvoline Dodge 48.348 186.150 5 ---.--- ---.---
2 *55 Michael Waltrip NAPA Auto Parts Toyota 48.364 186.089 5 -0.016 -0.016
3 20 Tony Stewart Home Depot Toyota 48.397 185.962 5 -0.049 -0.033
4 11 Denny Hamlin FedEx Express Toyota 48.402 185.943 8 -0.054 -0.005
5 28 Travis Kvapil Ford 48.410 185.912 2 -0.062 -0.008
6 *78 Joe Nemechek Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet 48.418 185.881 8 -0.070 -0.008
7 *00 David Reutimann Aaron's Dream Machine Toyota 48.468 185.690 8 -0.120 -0.050
8 24 Jeff Gordon DuPont Chevrolet 48.472 185.674 2 -0.124 -0.004
9 *83 Brian Vickers Red Bull Toyota 48.473 185.670 2 -0.125 -0.001
10 88 Dale Earnhardt, Jr. AMP Energy / National Guard Chevrolet 48.476 185.659 5 -0.128 -0.003
11 *21 Bill Elliott Little Debbie Ford 48.494 185.590 2 -0.146 -0.018
12 8 Mark Martin U.S. ARMY Chevrolet 48.503 185.556 5 -0.155 -0.009
13 18 Kyle Busch M&M's Toyota 48.505 185.548 8 -0.157 -0.002
14 12 Ryan Newman alltel Dodge 48.555 185.357 5 -0.207 -0.050
15 5 Casey Mears Kellogg's / CARQUEST Chevrolet 48.563 185.326 5 -0.215 -0.008
16 *44 Dale Jarrett UPS Toyota 48.567 185.311 5 -0.219 -0.004
17 38 David Gilliland freecreditreport.com Ford 48.567 185.311 5 -0.219 -0.000
18 16 Greg Biffle 3M Ford 48.586 185.239 5 -0.238 -0.019
19 40 Dario Franchitti # Dodge Journey Dodge 48.602 185.178 2 -0.254 -0.016
20 *37 Eric McClure Hefty Chevrolet 48.643 185.021 5 -0.295 -0.041
21 42 Juan Pablo Montoya Texaco / Havoline Dodge 48.654 184.980 2 -0.306 -0.011
22 *84 AJ Allmendinger Red Bull Toyota 48.668 184.926 5 -0.320 -0.014
23 66 Scott Riggs State Water Heaters Chevrolet 48.677 184.892 5 -0.329 -0.009
24 17 Matt Kenseth DeWalt Ford 48.677 184.892 5 -0.329 -0.000
25 07 Clint Bowyer Jack Daniel's Chevrolet 48.684 184.866 8 -0.336 -0.007
26 7 Robby Gordon Jim Beam Dodge 48.690 184.843 5 -0.342 -0.006
27 9 Kasey Kahne Budweiser Dodge 48.695 184.824 8 -0.347 -0.005
28 6 David Ragan AAA Ford 48.727 184.703 8 -0.379 -0.032
29 96 J.J. Yeley DLP HDTV Toyota 48.748 184.623 5 -0.400 -0.021
30 43 Bobby Labonte Cheerios / Betty Crocker Dodge 48.762 184.570 5 -0.414 -0.014
31 *60 Boris Said 7-Eleven Food Stores / Slurpee Ford 48.764 184.562 8 -0.416 -0.002
32 1 Martin Truex, Jr. Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet 48.777 184.513 6 -0.429 -0.013
33 29 Kevin Harvick Shell / Pennzoil Chevrolet 48.780 184.502 8 -0.432 -0.003
34 31 Jeff Burton AT&T Mobility Chevrolet 48.796 184.441 8 -0.448 -0.016
35 19 Elliott Sadler Best Buy Dodge 48.840 184.275 5 -0.492 -0.044
36 77 Sam Hornish, Jr. # Mobil 1 Dodge 48.870 184.162 5 -0.522 -0.030
37 01 Regan Smith # The Principal Financial Group Chevrolet 48.870 184.162 2 -0.522 -0.000
38 15 Paul Menard Menards / Peak Chevrolet 48.871 184.158 5 -0.523 -0.001
39 41 Reed Sorenson Target Dodge 48.871 184.158 2 -0.523 -0.000
40 45 Kyle Petty Wells Fargo Dodge 48.889 184.090 5 -0.541 -0.018
41 *49 Ken Schrader HealthLife.com Dodge 48.893 184.075 5 -0.545 -0.004
42 26 Jamie McMurray Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Ford 48.900 184.049 5 -0.552 -0.007
43 *2 Kurt Busch Miller Lite Dodge 48.900 184.049 2 -0.552 -0.000
44 99 Carl Edwards Office Depot Ford 48.904 184.034 5 -0.556 -0.004
45 70 Jeremy Mayfield Junior Johnson's Midnight Moon /Haas 48.935 183.917 5 -0.587 -0.031
46 *87 Kenny Wallace Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet 49.035 183.542 8 -0.687 -0.100
47 *34 John Andretti Makoto Chevrolet 49.127 183.199 5 -0.779 -0.092
48 *09 Sterling Marlin Miccosukee Resorts Chevrolet 49.240 182.778 5 -0.892 -0.113
49 *50 Stanton Barrett NOS Energy Drink / Ski Motorsports 49.550 181.635 10 -1.202 -0.310
50 *08 Carl Long Millstar / Rhino's Energy Drink Dodge 49.679 181.163 3 -1.331 -0.129
*Required to qualify on time


ARCA 200 red-flagged
A 16-car wreck - triggered by a spin by Kyle Krisiloff - brought out a red flag 30 laps into the running of Saturday's 45th ARCA 200 at Daytona International Speedway.  Krisiloff was running second behind leader Tom Hessert III when he got loose, came down the track and was tapped by pole-sitter Justin Marks. Krisiloff went to the inside, but then spun back across the track - directly into the path of Speed. The red flag stopped the race for 14 minutes and 10 seconds.


Fisi turned down test drive offers
Fisichella with his Force India teammates
Giancarlo Fisichella has confirmed rumors that he turned down the chance to become a test driver for top teams in 2008.

Even though the Roman veteran is determined that Force India will not have the slowest car this season, many paddock observers believe Fisichella, 35, should have retired rather than fall to the back of the grid with one of F1's smallest teams.

"For sure the general opinion was that I should have quit formula one," Fisichella, who lost his works Renault seat to rookie Nelson Piquet Jr for this season, told F1's official website.

"On the contrary I like challenges and I love the sport and I want to prove everyone wrong," he added.


Seven drivers dropping to the rear in Shootout
Seven drivers will go to the rear of the field prior to the start of tonight's Budweiser Shootout, including polesitter Kurt Busch.  Hendrick Motorsports' Jimmie Johnson and Jeff Gordon and Penske Racing's Ryan Newman and Busch and Wood Brothers Racing's Bill Elliott will go to the rear for changing to backup cars for the race after damaging their primary cars in crashes Friday at Daytona International Speedway. Michael Waltrip Racing's Dale Jarrett will drop to the rear for making an engine change prior to the race and Hendrick's Casey Mears will move to the rear after failing to be present for the qualifying draw. Mears was sick an missed the draw meeting on Thursday night.


NASCAR warns Stewart, Busch
Bad-boys Kurt Busch (top) and Tony Stewart are in trouble with NASCAR yet again
Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch were ordered to steer clear of each other Saturday in hopes of preventing a repeat of their high-octane confrontation during the first day of Speedweeks.  NASCAR officials summoned Stewart and Busch for a follow-up meeting Saturday, a day after the two drivers tangled on the track -- and possibly in the NASCAR officials' trailer afterward. The entire garage was buzzing over Busch allegedly insulting Stewart and Stewart retaliating with a punch -- claims no one would confirm or deny.

NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said officials have not decided whether to penalize either driver, but delivered a stern warning.

"You two guys better give each other plenty of space," Hunter said. "You clearly understand where we are with this and we're going to continue to think about it."

Hunter said any resulting penalties would be announced Monday or Tuesday.

Tony Stewart has issued a statement concerning his on-track altercation with Kurt Busch Friday night.

"Kurt got here because he has a lot of talent," Stewart said. "What Kurt did coming onto pit road ... I've done a lot worse than what he did, so I'm not going to throw stones about it.

"It's a different car package than what we've ever had here. The closing rates are different. And nobody whose race car got torn up last night is happy. Kurt's emotion and his desire and passion to win are much like mine. The easiest way for us to go out and do what we do is just to agree to disagree and go on from there.

"I'm not mad at him about what happened on the race track at all. What happened, happened. We can't fix it. We cant change it. The best thing to do is go on and move forward and not let this linger between the two of us. And hopefully, the media will respect that and not keep it going longer than today.

"We've met in the NASCAR trailer twice now, and we're both past it and were hoping that the media will respect that fact, too, and let us move on from it."


Bahrain Testing: Kimi again fastest
Ferrari and Toyota resumed testing in Bahrain today after a two-day break, with reigning champion Kimi Raikkonen again setting the fastest time in his F2008 Ferrari just like he did on all the previous test days.

Both teams will continue their testing at Sakhir tomorrow.

Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Raikkonen Ferrari 1:30.914 66
2. Massa Ferrari 1:31.174 53
3. Trulli Toyota 1:32.382 73
4. Glock Toyota 1:32.762 75


Champ Car needs to go on offensive UPDATE A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, This was a very good article/Hot News item. We all know these two series need to get together but doing it in the 11th hour is going to make the situation worse. A solid plan for 2009 promotion supporting that plan and maybe some drivers and teams moving back and forth for selected races to "whet the appetite" for things to come.

If it is done now with no real business plan in place, it will hurt many teams. Current agreements will be canceled or have to be renegotiated and teams will go under because they cannot afford to make a switch when all their investment is made in obsolete equipment.

I hope smarter minds win out and we plan and prepare to bring open wheel back to where it was so many years ago before the "bloody civil war".

02/09/08 Well, they've really done it to themselves, now haven't they? Champ Car has let themselves be well-and-truly painted into a corner. The current news has so destabilized the perception of CCWS that almost no matter what they do, they're going under.

Bar one tactical move.

What's happening now, and will continue to happen, is that the IRL is in the driver's seat. Everyone is sure that the IRL series will happen for 2008. Not so for Champ Car. This leaves Champ Car looking to be on its last legs - something no driver or sponsor is going to touch, regardless of the length of the pole. The entire CCWS series hangs in the balance and they're frozen with fear. No real work is going on at the teams or at the CCWS headquarters. The sword dangling over everyone's head has seen to that.

Now, over in Japan, the most likely scenario is that Tony and gang will come back from Motegi with news that Honda MAY move the date. But they need a week or so to work it out. And Champ Car sits on its hands, waiting.

Then news will come that, yes, they’ll reschedule. However, now we need to move some OTHER dates as well. More time wasted. Meanwhile, CCWS twiddles its collective thumbs. More people begin to get nervous. And the season's start is only a few weeks away.

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PitFit Training puts Team USA youngster through paces
For more than a decade, renowned fitness trainer Jim Leo has helped race car drivers and other athletes extract their maximum potential by improving their physical and mental capabilities. Last month, as part of his burgeoning commitment to talented young drivers, Leo and his staff at the PitFit Training headquarters in Indianapolis put 2007 Team USA Scholarship winner Patrick Barrett through his paces.

It was an experience the gifted 18-old-year high school senior from Los Osos, Calif., will not soon forget.

"I spent five days straight – boxing, swimming and rock climbing – and worked on improving my weight and cardiovascular training," recounts Barrett. "Each day I would participate in a different activity, working on different muscles and improving my endurance and strength. Ryan Von Rueden taught and trained me throughout the week, helping me push through as many activities as possible. Each workout was rigorous, as expected, but gave me a good perspective on areas that I can continue to work on throughout the year.

"One of my favorite activities was the boxing class, taught by Kristy Follmar. She is a former professional boxer who was the Indiana Golden Gloves champion in 1999 and 2000, and NABC Featherweight champion in 2002 and 2003. She retired in 2005 and currently hosts boxing classes with PitFit clients. It was the most intense class/workout I’d participated in, but the techniques involved with boxing made it an enjoyable class. You’re constantly moving, conserving your energy until you need it the most, and keeping focused on the target. Of course, you don’t box another opponent in this class, which is what my dad thought. ‘Oh yeah! I knocked out that guy I raced against last week!’ No, we used punching bags… Man, those things are relentless!

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Another NASCAR sponsor losing money
NASCAR fuel supplier Sunoco Inc. (SUN), a manufacturer of petroleum and petrochemical products, reported financial results for the fourth quarter that slipped from a profit of $123 million to a loss of $9 million, downward swing of $132 million.


Borcheller and Ducote to drive Bell Aston Martin
Aston Martin
Terry Borcheller will round out an all-American lineup for Bell Motorsports in the 2008 American Le Mans Series. Borcheller will team with Chapman Ducote in the team’s Aston Martin DBR9, team owner Jim Bell has announced. The two drivers will contest the Bell Motorsports Aston Martin for the full season against a pair of Corvette C6.Rs from Corvette Racing.

Bell Motorsports is eager to take on the challenge of facing the factory Corvettes. Borcheller is no stranger to this level of competition as evidenced by his long history of GT1 racing in the American Le Mans Series. He won the 2001 GTS championship in a Saleen S7R, beating out a quartet of Corvette Racing works drivers in the process.

He also has a long history with Bell as the two were key pieces of ACEMCO Motorsports’ GT1 effort with a Saleen in 2004 and 2005. The latter season saw Borcheller claim class pole positions at Mosport and Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca against the Corvettes.

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Track News

Motorsports Boarding School
VIRginia International Raceway (VIR) and Carlisle School formally announce the formation of The Academy of Motorsports. An unofficial announcement occurred at the World Karting Association's KartFest 2008 at the end of January. The Academy is to become the first motorsports boarding school in North America. The partnership combines the motorsports assets of Southern Virginia with the private education of Carlisle School, an International Baccalaureate World School.

"The overarching goal of The Academy is to provide racing and academic excellence to young racers who often struggle to balance the two," states Ted Settle, The Academy spokesperson and Director of Virginia Tech's Office of Economic Development. "This program offers future drivers real-world, hands-on experience in a variety of track settings and an unparalleled secondary school education."

In a curriculum developed specifically with students in grades 7 and above in mind, this program initially focuses on driver development and education, but will quickly expand to include engineering and other facets of the motorsports business. Capitalizing on existing resources and partnerships with Virginia Tech, Old Dominion University and local community colleges, The Academy students will have access to cutting edge research and engineering programs. Students obtain hands-on, behind-the-wheel time on the tracks of VIR, South Boston Speedway and Martinsville Speedway. Education also takes place on Old Dominion University's chassis and engine dynamometers and at the Virginia Institute for Performance Engineering and Research (VIPER).

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Fisichella has high hopes for new car
Force India drivers
Giancarlo Fisichella believes Force India's delayed VJM01 will be worth the wait, even if it means some short-term pain.

While all around them other teams put the finishing touches on their new cars, Force India have been a tad more methodical in their approach, preferring to slowly iron out the kinks in the car design.

Even if the season is started in an old car, Fisichella is confident the VJM01 will propel the team forward on the grid.

"Since I first drove the car, we've made significant steps forward, especially in the car's set-up," Fisichella told the Gazzetta dello Sport newspaper.

"The Force India has potential and there will be new aerodynamics already at the Barcelona test.

"The budget is adequate, there's the structure, and the right people. The 2009 car is already under development.

"I want to grow with this team and to carry on racing in F1 for a few more years.

"(The objective is) to make the car gradually improve from the last rows, where we'll obviously be at the beginning."


Aguri receive double boost
The future looks a little brighter for Formula One minnows Super Aguri after they received a double helping of positive news on Saturday. The Japanese owned team has endured well publicized financial struggles, even going so far as to not participate in pre-season testing in an effort to save money.

However, marquee owner Aguri Suzuki has revealed talks are progressing well with several potential investors. We are holding talks with a few companies which have not been mentioned before," Suzuki revealed to the Tokyo Chunichi Sports Daily.

"There are many things that should be resolved. But they are all at levels that can be dealt with," Suzuki said.

"We never disappear. We'll be alright."

Coupled with news of possible investment, comes the more immediate boon of Aguri's 2008 challenger, The SA08, passing the FIA's mandatory crash tests.

"I can confirm that the SA08 monocoque was signed off for racing by the FIA yesterday," a spokeswoman told ITV. Setanta


Merger talk too little, too late
With power brokers from America's two major open-wheel racing series again talking reunification, the garage area at Daytona International Speedway responded with a resounding yawn.  Lots of talk, no action. That's no surprise to Kyle Petty, who has watched NASCAR's popularity lap open-wheel racing since it split into two rival series in the mid-1990s.

``It's almost like watching things going in with diplomacy in foreign countries, where you think, 'OK, now we're going to have a break in this,' and you never have a break,'' Petty said. ``It's getting to the point now where they've cried 'reunification' enough that no one really pays attention.'' Representatives from the Indy Racing League and Champ Car are taking another shot at reunifying the two series, which have been racing separately since 1996 and have been trying to reunite in recent years.

Both have steadily lost sponsorship and television ratings to NASCAR since the split. And now NASCAR is taking open-wheel's star drivers, including 2007 Indianapolis 500 winner and IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti and three-time IndyCar champion Sam Hornish Jr.

Patrick Carpentier, another former open-wheel racing standout trying to make the jump to NASCAR, says reunification is a good idea that's coming ``a bit late'' for both series.

``Both of them are kind of dead right now, so hopefully they can bring it back together,'' Carpentier said. ``But I'm happy about it. That's what they needed to do for a long time. They just wasted a lot of time, and ego got in the way and kind of destroyed it.''

Petty said losing drivers such as Franchitti, Hornish, Carpentier and Juan Pablo Montoya -- who went to Formula One after racing open-wheel cars in the U.S., then came to NASCAR last year -- hurts Champ Car and the IRL tremendously.

``Their position is still weak in the marketplace, and it gets weaker when you see guys like Montoya and Franchitti and Carpentier and those guys come here,'' Petty said.

Petty doesn't expect much out of this latest round of talks. And even if the two sides do get back together, Petty says they'll be starting from scratch.

``Now they've got to go head-to-head with (NASCAR), you've got to go head-to-head with drag racing, you've got to go head-to-head with a lot,'' Petty said. ``It's like opening up a coffee shop next to Starbucks. I mean, how successful can you be?''  Yahoo! Sports


Kalitta, Anderson top qualifiers
Scott Kalitta and Greg Anderson remained the qualifying leaders in their respective categories at the NHRA Powerade Drag Racing Series event in Pomona.

Brown, who had 16 victories in more than a decade of racing on two wheels, powered his dragster to the best run of his early Top Fuel career, posting a performance of 4.495 seconds at 330.07 mph.

Kalitta remained the leader in Funny Car, but Cruz Pedregon posted the quickest run of the day and moved from 16th to second overall, driving his Chevy Impala SS to a run of 4.818 at 322.65.

Kurt Johnson was the only driver in Pro Stock to improve his performance from Thursday. He rove his Chevy Cobalt to a 6.646 at 208.36 to narrow the gap between qualifying leader Anderson.


Future of Big 3 dealers in doubt
After shrinking their U.S. manufacturing operations, Detroit's automakers are scaling back their big dealer networks to bring them in line with the domestics' falling share of the U.S. auto market.

Chrysler LLC, under pressure after losing an estimated $1.6 billion last year, is pressing its dealers to consolidate as it prepares to cut its product range to eliminate overlapping models.

Chrysler President Jim Press said Friday that the newly private automaker wanted to combine more Jeep, Dodge and Chrysler outlets under one roof under a program dubbed Project Genesis. We’re not doing it for us," said Press, formerly Toyota Motor Corp.'s top U.S. sales manager. "We want our dealers to be the most profitable. We want the most valuable franchise."

Press spoke at the J.D. Power and Associates Automotive Roundtable in San Francisco, held in conjunction with the National Automobile Dealers Association convention opening there today.

In contrast with the leading Japanese automakers, which have few U.S. dealers selling many vehicles, Detroit's automakers have many dealers selling fewer vehicles each.

According to J.D. Power, there are more than 4,000 Chevrolet outlets in the United States, selling 554 vehicles a year each, while Toyota Motor Corp. has more than 1,200 Toyota outlets with annual sales averaging nearly 1,800 vehicles each.

Press said the process of thinning the dealer network would take three to five years, but he said the company did not have fixed targets for the number of dealers it needs or the number of vehicles it will have in the future.

Still, the broad outlines were clear. "A 4 million (annual sales) company needs 32 vehicles," he said. "We're not a 4 million company."  Detroit News

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