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Single File Restarts with 20 laps to go
NASCAR will use single-file lineups for restarts with 20 laps remaining in all three national series this year, NASCAR Vice President of Competition Robin Pemberton said today. The previous rule called for single-file restarts with only 10 laps remaining. All other restarts had lapped cars on the inside lane. NASCAR is still allowing for the first driver one-lap down Lucky Dog to get back on the lead lap until there are 10 laps left in the race. Pemberton said the rule was to allow the leaders more room to race following a caution in the waning laps. “We’ve been talking to the crews, teams and drivers and we felt like it was a time to make a change,” Pemberton said. “We haven’t taken away the lucky dog and haven’t hurt anybody from getting a lap back.” SceneDaily


Prost gets surprise France call
Nicolas Prost
A1 Team France has made the surprise announcement that Nicolas Prost will be racing in next weekend’s A1GP Gauteng, South Africa instead of Loic Duval.

It will be the 27-year-old’s second ever full race meeting following his run in Chengdu earlier this season. Then he finished eighth in the Sprint race and was running seventh in the Feature until spinning out trying to pass Australia’s John Martin.

He has also taken to the track in a further eight rookie sessions over the past two seasons, recently finishing fastest of all in Malaysia and second quickest in Taupo.

“Chengdu was really important for me because I showed I had very good pace there,” Prost told A1GP.com. “It was the same for me in Sepang and Taupo in the rookie session because I was very quick also.

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Thursday test times from Jerez
World champion Lewis Hamilton enjoyed a confidence-boosting, warm-weather drive in his 2009 McLaren on Thursday while title rivals Ferrari were bogged down in a Middle East sandstorm.

The British driver put in 93 laps of the Jerez circuit with a best time of 1min 20.737sec, the second fastest on the day behind Toro Rosso's Sebastien Bourdais who clocked 1min 18.493sec.

"Today's test gave me the first opportunity to drive MP4-24 in warm, dry conditions - and I'm very encouraged by what I felt," said Hamilton.

"The car feels strong, very similar to last year's car, in fact. It doesn't take long to get used to the new buttons in the cockpit, but the real test for everyone now is to understand the slick tires ahead of the first race in Melbourne next month."

Red Bull's Sebastian Vettel (1min 20.738sec), Kazuki Nakajima in a Williams (1min 20.898sec) and former double world champion Fernando Alonso in a Renault (1min 21.307sec) completed the top five.

Bourdais's time was slower than that set by teammate Sebastien Buemi of Switzerland the previous day during the session at the circuit near Jerez de la Frontera in southern Spain.

The testing in Jerez ends on Friday.

Pos Driver Team Time Laps
1. Bourdais Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:18.493 128
2. Hamilton McLaren-Mercedes 1:20.737 93
3. Vettel Red Bull-Renault 1:20.738 92
4. Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:20.898 92
5. Alonso Renault 1:21.307 133


Liuzzi fastest at practice while Melandri impresses

Vitantonio Liuzzi set the quickest time at practice this evening at the Losail International Circuit for the first ever Speedcar Series night event this weekend. He was followed very closely by Jean Alesi and Gianni Morbidelli.

Alesi was ahead of the pack for the most part of the hour long practice session that began at 19:00 local time. Liuzzi however managed to clock 2:04.818 in the final minutes, bettering the Frenchman's time by .049 and half a second faster than fellow Italian Morbidelli.

The surprise outcome of the day was from MotoGP Champion Marco Melandri, who has ridden on the circuit in Qatar before but has only just driven on it in a Speedcar. He fared impressively finishing in fifth place only 0.025 slower than Johnny Herbert. The Italian rider said, "I had the advantage of knowing the track but the racing lines are different when comparing a Speedcar to a motorbike. The car understeers quite a lot but I had a great time on the track. It's a difficult car to drive but not as hard as I expected. I had estimated to finish around 10th place so to finish in 5th was a great result." Melandri was quick from the start and stayed between 6th and 4th places.

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Robby Gordon, no interest in merging
Robby Gordon
The odds are long, the challenge is overwhelming for Robby Gordon. And he wouldn't have it any other way. In a sport of multi-car operations and technical alliances, Gordon still prefers to go it alone in the Sprint Cup Series. While teammates compare notes and share information, Gordon prefers to rely on his own experience and guile to make his way around the track. Last year, 33 of the top 35-ranked drivers in the series were part of a multi-car operation. Gordon and Dave Blaney represented the single-car approach in 2008, and of those two, Gordon's team is the only one still in operation. Now on his fourth different manufacturer in as many years, Gordon insists his business model was built out of necessity, not stubbornness. He likes controlling his own destiny, not only inside the car but also in the front office. He likes carving his way through the business, even if contradicts the standard operating procedures of the bigger, more profitable teams. Gordon does it because that's what works best for him. "I have no interest (in merging with another team)," Gordon said. "We're trudging forward and building our race team. I think stubborn is the wrong thing. We're good business people. We're able to operate our team without going in debt and without doing it over the top without controlling it." Augusta Chronicle


Tecate continues with LBGP
Tecate and the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach announced today Tecate's continued sponsorship of the 35th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, marking its successful contribution to the event as the exclusive malt beverage sponsor since 2002.

Meanwhile, Tecate Light returns for its second year featuring an enhanced music and entertainment program, including sponsorship of the "Fiesta Friday" Concert with live music from popular Mexican band El Tri.

"Since Tecate first became involved with the Grand Prix of Long Beach eight years ago, we've been able to establish a deeper connection with our adult Hispanic consumers in the region by providing them with an annual source of entertainment that speaks to their passion for the sport," stated Carlos Boughton, brand director of Tecate. "As we continue to strengthen our relationship with the Grand Prix Association, we're proud to have the opportunity to further engage second- and third-generation Hispanic adult racing fans by incorporating Tecate Light into the race weekend through even more powerful and relevant activities than ever before."

Tecate Light's "Fiesta Friday" concert on Friday, April 17 has traditionally featured a renowned Hispanic artist on the Tecate Light stage, located in front of the Performing Arts Center. Past artists showcased have included acclaimed pop star Aleks Syntek, rock band Enanitos Verdes and the Mexican regional music of Conjunto Primavera.

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tv news

Shootout and Qualifying TV Ratings down UPDATE #2 The green flag dropped on the ninth season of NASCAR on Fox with a 4.9/9 (8.3 million viewers) for Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout. That's off -4% compared to last year's 5.1/9, which benefitted from a promotional push in Super Bowl XLII. Compared to the last time FOX had the Bud Shootout and did not have the Super Bowl, Saturday's 4.9/9 is a +2% improvement over 2007's 4.8/9. Sunday afternoon's Daytona 500 qualifying posted a 2.4/6 (3.6 mill.) on Fox. Sunday's 2.4/6 is -17% lower than last year's 2.9/7. Other than the rained-out 2003 qualifying, this marks FOX's lowest Daytona qualifying rating ever.

02/11/09 Fox’s broadcast of Saturday night’s Budweiser Shootout at Daytona International Speedway earned a 4.0 overnight rating from Nielsen Media Research and a 7 market share, Street & Smith’s SportsBusiness Daily reports. The rating from the nation’s largest television markets is 11.1 percent lower than the 4.5/8 Fox earned for its coverage of the event in 2008.

02/09/09 The 2009 NASCAR season got underway this weekend with a overnight 4.1/7 on Saturday night for the Budweiser Shootout and a 2.1/5 on Sunday afternoon for Daytona 500 Qualifying. Both the Bud Shootout gave Fox a Saturday Primetime win. The race and pre-race/"pace lap" averaged a 4.0/7 in Primetime, which won the night and beat second-place CBS's 3.8/7 by +5%. Both the Bud Shootout and the qualifying posted declines compared to last year's ratings - -9% for the Shootout and -22% for the qualifying - and the Shootout fell to its lowest overnight rating ever on FOX.

tv news

Daytona 500 Sponsorship Exposure
Ryan Newman’s victory at last year’s Daytona 500 helped his primary sponsor, ALLTEL, receive in-broadcast exposure totaling $18.3 million during the live race broadcast on Fox.  The one-race exposure windfall during NASCAR’s premier event accounted for 36.4% of ALLTEL’s total television exposure value accumulated during the entire 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series 36-race campaign.

According to research conducted by Joyce Julius & Associates, Inc. — which has monitored every NASCAR race telecast since the mid-1980s— ALLTEL logos appeared clear and in-focus for a total of 17 minutes, 38 seconds (17:38) during the 2008 Daytona 500 race coverage on Fox, while the winning team sponsor was also mentioned verbally on four occasions. For the year, ALLTEL’s on-screen time totaled four hours, six minutes, 50 seconds (4:06:50), and was mentioned 11 times. One way exposure value is calculated is by comparing the in-broadcast exposure to the estimated cost of a commercial during each respective event.

Newman’s winning effort also benefitted 30 additional brands last February, by appearing on his car, uniform or other team-related sources. The following chart lists the in-broadcast exposure totals for each of Newman’s sponsors.

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Bourdais fastest, but in 2008 car
Fernando Alonso has been the slowest of the morning’s F1 drivers at the Jerez circuit. The Spaniard, who has taken over today from Nelson Piquet Jr for the testing of the new R29, managed 44 laps with a best time of 1.21.307, some two seconds off Sebastien Bourdais’ fastest time.

Bourdais tested this morning in the 2008 Toro Rosso, and his resulting times are therefore misleading. But Alonso will not be happy to be behind Kazuki Nakajima in the Williams, Sebastian Vettel in the Red Bull and his Lewis Hamilton who, despite posting fewer laps than the Spaniard, all managed faster times.

The times to 12.00 local time were as follows:

Bourdais 1.19.187 – 48 laps
Hamilton 1.20.737 – 25 laps
Vettel 1.20.738 – 20 laps
Nakajima 1.20.898 – 31 laps
Alonso 1.21.307 – 44 laps


Another sandstorm halts Bahrain test
(GMM)  Another sandstorm halted proceedings in Bahrain on Thursday morning, frustrating the three teams that had travelled to the region to avoid the European winter.

As decent weather once again welcomed the five teams at Jerez in Spain, it was a different story at Bahrain, scene of scant action on Wednesday when high winds hurled the local desert sands into the skies.

On Thursday, due to poor visibility, the medical helicopter once again could not fly, after Kimi Raikkonen (Ferrari), Robert Kubica (BMW) and Jarno Trulli (Toyota) completed only installation laps.

"I'm very surprised; I never saw this kind of weather here," Ferrari's Felipe Massa had said late on Wednesday afternoon.


Recession?  Ferrari hit record profits in 2008
Ferrari S.p.A has recorded yet another record year with an improved return on sales, reaching 17.6% compared to 15.9% in 2007. The result is especially remarkable in times where other car manufacturers mark record losses due to the financial crisis that is going on.

The result comes courtesy of Ferrari’s diverse range of products and strict cost-cutting measures. That said, investments in research and development increased, reaching 18% of revenues in 2008. Improvements and efficiencies also helped compensate for unfavorable dollar and sterling exchange rates.

Commenting on the figures, Ferrari Chairman Luca di Montezemolo declared: "Ending 2008 with results unprecedented in the entire history of the Company is the best endorsement we could have of our strategy of exclusivity, innovation and focus on people. These results beautifully cap a truly exceptional year that saw us once again at the top in Formula 1, winning our 16th Constructors’ title, our eighth in the last 10 years."

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NASCAR Hires Thomas Gideon As Director Of Safety
The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) has announced the hiring of Thomas Gideon as its new director of safety initiatives.

Gideon replaces the late Steve Peterson, who died last year after having spearheaded a number of key NASCAR safety initiatives in recent seasons.

Gideon will work out of the NASCAR Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C., near Charlotte.

Gideon comes to NASCAR from General Motors, where he had worked since 1970, most recently as the safety manager for GM Racing from 1997-2008. During that latter period, he managed all aspects of GM driver safety activities for NASCAR, the IndyCar Series, the National Hot Rod Association, the American LeMans Series, the American Speed Association and the United States Auto Club.

While at GM, Gideon developed safety prototype race cars for NASCAR, the NHRA and ASA. In addition, he was involved in validation of restraint systems and data recorders and presented periodic safety lectures to representatives of all sanctioning bodies.

A member of the Society of Automotive Engineers, Gideon serves on the Formula SAE Rules Committee and the SAE Green Racing Challenge Committee.

Gideon is a graduate of Ohio State University, with a degree in mechanical engineering.


Behind the Scenes at Danica Patrick's SI Swimsuit Shoot UPDATE Here is the SI video on the Danica Patrick photo shoot, as well as video for all the other models.

02/10/09 FanHouse was recently fortunate enough to go behind the scenes with Danica Patrick for her 2009 Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue photo shoot in New York.  Watch the video to see what Danica had to say about this and more.  And don't forget to check out SI.com for an in-depth look at the 2009 Swimsuit Issue.

IRL Press Release

IndyCar Series star Danica Patrick graces the pages of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue for a second year in a row. The issue, which went on sale at newsstands today, includes shots of Patrick taken in a New York studio with a silver Shelby Cobra 427.

“This year’s swimsuit photo shoot for Sports Illustrated was a lot of fun,” said Patrick, who will be featured on the cover of the May issue of Shape. “Most of the photo shoots I have done in the past have been in studios so I felt comfortable. The photos turned out great.”

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Montiero tests for SEAT in Barcelona
Tiago Monteiro
This Wednesday Tiago Monteiro was at the Circuit of Catalunya in Barcelona, where he took an active part in SEAT Sport's preparation for the upcoming 2009 FIA WTCC World Championship. The Portuguese driver was busy pounding the tarmac with his team ahead of the season opener which will take place in Curitiba (Brazil) in three weeks time.

In preparation for this event, SEAT organized an intense working program in order to be properly equipped so that they can defend their world championships in both the drivers and constructors classification.

The results obtained in Barcelona filled Tiago Monteiro with confidence: "The session was good and the day was very profitable. I was able to cover a great number of laps that helped us to find solutions for the coming season. In particular, we worked on the suspension and its geometry. The start of the season is near and we have to work hard to make sure we will be competitive in Curitiba. We know it won't be easy for SEAT with the new rules, but last year we showed that we have the potential to win and to win the championships once again this year will be our aim."

After Estoril (Portugal) and Valencia (Spain) testing sessions, the one in Barcelona was crucial to strengthen the SEAT Sport project for 2009. From March 6 to 8, Tiago Monteiro and SEAT Sport will be in Curitiba for the opening off the FIA World Touring Car Championship.

track news

Bumpy Daytona track causes wrecks galore UPDATE #2 Dale Earnhardt Jr. believes Daytona International Speedway could use a face-lift. Earnhardt said Wednesday that NASCAR's most storied track, which hasn't been repaved since August 1978, is long overdue for a new surface.

"The track is old," Earnhardt said. "It's a terrible time to ask anyone to pave a racetrack, but if anyone needs it, it's probably Daytona."

DIS president Robin Braig said the track has a $20-million repaving project coming in '12.

[Editor's Note:  Rich cheapskates.  ISC makes so much money every year yet their track surface is the worse on the circuit right now and has not been repaved since 1978.  1978!  Imagine that!  Maybe they are waiting for the taxpayers to pay for it, the same way they paid for the bridge over Rt. 92 that taxpayers only get to use during Speedweeks, or the way they try to get the taxpayers to pay for any new track they build.  So far the taxpayers in NY City, Seattle, Denver and elsewhere have told them to go pound sand.]

02/11/09 ISC "plans to resurface" Daytona Int'l Speedway in three years, the first time the track has been repaved since '78. Track President Robin Braig said that the repaving will be a $20M project. NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Dir John Darby said that the surface "hasn't reached a point where it needs immediate attention … but it is near the end of its life cycle." ESPN.com [Editor's Note:  BS - Just watch the cars dancing around on the in-car cameras as they traverse the bumpy Daytona surface.  Expects more wrecks and torn up equipment.]

This Budweiser Shootout melee was one of many wrecks on Saturday in Daytona that took out  a lot of cars.  The ARCA race was a mess as well.
It is time for ISC to open their billion dollar checkbook and repave the Daytona International Speedway.  The track has become so bumpy and undulating in the corners that the drivers are losing control of their cars and causing huge crashes.

"The biggest thing is they are just bouncing all over the place and nobody can hold their own lane," said a pissed off NASCAR Sprint Cup driver Kyle Busch.  "A guy on the bottom either slides up because he's tight or because he's loose and it's just so difficult to race out there.  Especially racing like three-wide or something like that and bump-drafting each other, the cars are tipping back and forth and all over the place.  They're very hard to handle and we look like ARCA drivers."


Latest F1 news in brief
  • Webber shrugs off doubts on F1 return
  • F1 has some new shareholders
  • Three drivers pay for 2009 Superlicenses
  • Schu visits hospital after motorcycle crash
  • Renault calls off next week's R29 testing
  • Raikkonen eyes next Finnish rally outing
  • Ferrari not hurt yet by financial crisis
  • USF1 heads for Feb.24 announcement - Windsor
  • Donington GP boss muses F1 cynicism
  • Bourdais potential won him seat - Mateschitz
  • USF1 considers European base in Spain

Webber shrugs off doubts on F1 return
(GMM)  Mark Webber shrugged off the doubters on Wednesday by reeling off more than a full grand prix distance despite still carrying the scars of his broken right leg and recent surgery.

The Australian driver, originally scheduled to hand the new RB5 back to Sebastian Vettel after a brief morning shakedown, ultimately lapped the Jerez test circuit 83 times, leading those cars fully complying with this year's new technical regulations.

Only Sebastien Buemi, in the 2008 Toro Rosso, and McLaren's Heikki Kovalainen, whose MP4-24 featured last year's rear wing, were quicker than Webber, who broke both bones in his right leg in a cycling accident last November.

A statement issued by Red Bull, whose 2009 car also ran reliably throughout the day, confirmed that Webber's return to the cockpit was completed "comfortably", although Australian reports said his test was aided by painkillers.

"I wasn't going in pessimistically, but F1 cars can be quite ferocious," the 32-year-old told the Australian news agency AAP.

"I'm very relieved of course.

"From my point of view, it all went better than expected and to do over a race distance on my first day back in the cockpit, with several weeks to go to Melbourne, is a good thing," Webber added.

Also in 2009 cars, Williams' Kazuki Nakajima and Nelson Piquet, in the problematic Renault R29, rounded out the times, with Renault explaining that the limited day's work of 49 laps was because of "some small reliability issues".

Over in Bahrain, Ferrari, BMW-Sauber and Toyota waited all day for a sandstorm to clear, but did not add to their morning tallies of just a handful of laps apiece.

"We have six more days here and we remain confident that we will reap the rewards of better conditions during the rest of the test," said Toyota's chief engineer Dieter Gass.

F1 has some new shareholders
(GMM)  Formula one has a group of new minority shareholders, according to the Financial Times.

The business newspaper said Sir Martin Sorrell, founder of the communications services group WPP, and Peter Brabeck, chairman of the food company Nestle, both took shares in the sport's holding company Delta Topco.

Their shares were bought for a nominal price but are reportedly worth $6m each, with the move "part of a tactic by CVC to offer long-term incentives to directors", the newspaper claimed.

More F1 directors, including lawyer Sacha Woodward-Hill, accountant Duncan Llowarch, and trackside advertising chief Patrick McNally, now each hold 1 per cent, with the result that majority owner CVC's stake reduces from 70 per cent to 63.4 per cent.

F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone's 8.5 per cent stake is worth some $100m, the Financial Times said.

15.3 per cent shareholder Lehman Brothers declared bankruptcy protection late last year, meaning the F1 board can now demand the sale of its shares.

"In reality we are the only buyer," said CVC's UK managing director Nick Clarry.  "We have made an offer to buy Lehman's shares in the past and may do so again."

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Andretti, Duno at Chicago Auto Show
Andretti Green Racing's Marco Andretti will greet Chicago Auto Show visitors and sign autographs from 1-3 p.m. and 5-7 p.m. Feb. 15 at the Bridgestone Americas booth in the North Hall of McCormick Place.

Milka Duno will appear at the Bridgestone Americas booth from 1-3 and 5-7 p.m. Feb. 20.

The Chicago Auto Show, which has been produced by the Chicago Automobile Trade Association since 1935, is marking its 101st edition. The event at McCormick Place (South Martin Luther King Drive) is open through Feb. 22. IndyCar.com


Wood Brothers 4th Daytona 500 Victory
In arguably one of the greatest finishes of modern era automobile racing, the 1976 Daytona 500 would forever memorialize the incredible battle between legendary drivers David Pearson, driving the Wood Brother’s #21 Purolator sponsored Mercury, and Richard Petty, driving his #43 STP sponsored Dodge.

David and Richard had endured years of battling each other on the track, regularly finishing first and second. Fifty-seven times in the prior 13 seasons the two had finished first and second – David winning 29 times and Richard winning 28 times. No one expected the 1976 Daytona 500 to be any different. However, no one could have scripted the events that unfolded on the last lap of that sunny February day.

The week leading up to the race was filled with controversy. The top three qualifying times were disallowed – two for use of nitrous oxide and one for illegal blockage of a radiator. After it was all said and done, Ramo Stott, a bean farmer from Iowa, ended up with the pole position. A gentleman by the name of Terry Ryan sat on the outside pole. David Pearson had qualified 7th and Richard Petty qualified just ahead of him in 6th.

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Grand Prix Ball Returns To Long Beach
After a several years-long absence, a black-tie charity ball will kick off the 2009 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach in April.

Attended by celebrities and professional drivers, the Grand Prix Foundation-hosted event will begin at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday, April 15, at the Long Beach Convention and Entertainment Center.

The dinner and dance will feature silent and live auctions with a number of items up for bid, including a chance to drive in next year’s Toyota Professional/Celebrity race.

“The charity ball has been a long-term part of race week,” said Grand Prix Foundation President Rick DuRee in a press release. “And we couldn’t think of a better time to restart the ball as our cornerstone for supporting our designated charities.”

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track news

AMS partners with local hotels to cap rates
In an ongoing effort to make attending Atlanta Motor Speedway NASCAR events more economically feasible for its fans, Atlanta Motor Speedway has partnered with local hotels to offer fans discounted room rates for the Kobalt Tools 500 race weekend. Atlanta Motor Speedway is working with more than 20 area hotels to provide NASCAR fans with rooms priced at $125 or less. Each cooperating hotel will not require multiple-night stays and will provide locked-in rates for fans using promotion code, “AMS Discount.”

“As a part of our ongoing commitment to providing fans the best race experience at a reasonable price, we have partnered with local hotels to provide acceptable rates to our fans,” said Ed Clark, president and general manager of Atlanta Motor Speedway. “We are already offering a number of special ticket prices and providing these hotel rates can only help to make attending the Kobalt Tools 500 even more affordable for the fans who have supported us throughout the years.” A complete list of participating hotels is including with this release and fans can visit www.atlantamotorspeedway.com to view the list as additional hotels are added. AMS PR


Lucas Oil Slick Mist named title sponsor of Phoenix event
Lucas Oil Slick Mist, a polymer paint gloss intensifier used on glass, chrome and vinyl surfaces that is marketed and distributed by Lucas Oil Products, has been named the title sponsor of the upcoming NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series event at Firebird International Raceway near Phoenix.

The Lucas Oil Slick Mist NHRA Nationals will be contested Feb. 20-22 at the popular dragstrip in Chandler, Ariz. The race will be televised by ESPN2 and ESPN2HD.

“Lucas Oil continues to be a valuable partner in NHRA Drag Racing and we appreciate their tremendous support of NHRA, our events, the teams and our fans,” said Gary Darcy, senior vice president of sales and marketing, NHRA.

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IMG signs deal with John Force
IMG Sports & Entertainment and legendary racing family John Force Racing (JFR) today announced they have  entered into an exclusive, worldwide marketing and representation agreement.  Led by 14-time Funny Car Champion John Force, the team of drivers includes Robert Hight, 2008 rookie of the year Mike Neff, 2007 NHRA rookie of the year Ashley Force, and her sisters Brittany and Courtney. With 175 professional tour victories, JFR is motorsports' most dominant and successful professional drag racing team

Under the terms of the agreement, IMG will represent John Force Racing and its drivers in endorsements, publishing endeavors and personal appearances worldwide.  IMG will work with JFR to develop and expand the JFR brand and pursue new sponsorship, endorsement, branding and licensing opportunities across a wide array of media, online and mobile.  In addition, IMG has been appointed by JFR as its exclusive sponsorship sales agent.

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No brace for Johnson
Jimmie Johnson didn't wear a brace in Saturday night's Budweiser Shootout and doesn't plan to wear one in Thursday's 150-mile qualifying races, Sunday's Daytona 500 or any practice sessions. Johnson cut tendons in the middle finger on his left hand last month at the Rolex 24 trying to cut a hole in his fire suit. He has gradually worked down the size of the plastic brace for off-track activities, but none are small enough to wear with a safety glove. "I wear a brace at night so when I'm sleeping I don't roll over and bend my finger back and hurt the tendon," Johnson said before Wednesday's first practice at Daytona International Speedway. "I whacked my wife in the head with it the other day. I clobbered her. She came swinging back, too." ESPN.com

tv news

Transcript of ESPN News Conference
Live NASCAR racing returns to the ESPN networks this weekend, and four members of the NASCAR on ESPN team held a news conference at Daytona International Speedway today to preview the full season of coverage. The members of the booth, including lap-by-lap announcer Dr. Jerry Punch and analysts Dale Jarrett and Andy Petree, were joined by Rich Feinberg, ESPN vice president, motorsports.

ESPN2 will have live, flag-to-flag coverage of the NASCAR Nationwide Series Camping World 300 at Daytona on Saturday, Feb. 14, at noon ET. A transcript of the news conference follows:

THE MODERATOR:  Rich, I know this is a question you've gotten a lot in some interviews you've done during the off-season.  We're not really bringing anything new this year, but we're fine tuning.  Maybe you could explain a little bit about that. 

RICH FEINBERG:  I've been asked a lot in the past few weeks particularly just about what ESPN is doing new this year.  I've sort of come to terms with how to answer that, which is hopefully we're doing what we've always been doing, but we're doing it better than we've done in the past. 

We spent the off-season talking about our efforts, how we can move to the next level, we go through a lot of details, whether it's engineering and operations, creative story lines, all those types of things. 

At the end of the day for us this year it's about just taking the successes we've had from the past and building on them, growing further as a team. 

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Massa fastest on curtailed day 2
Ferrari, BMW Sauber and Toyota had just forty minutes of running in Sakhir this morning, before their running was cancelled thanks to heavy sandstorms hitting the Middle Eastern track, costing the teams valuable development time, as the weather in Jerez proved to be far more accommodating for the other teams. In the end, the few minutes running allowed the three teams to complete just 53 laps, with Felipe Massa topping the timesheets with a 1m33.939s.

All three teams had travelled to Bahrain knowing that the superior climate would offer them a good opportunity to continue with their development programs without the disruption of rain, but once the wind started to pick up around 9.00 at the start of the day, conditions began to deteriorate rapidly. Ultimately, at 9.40, circuit officials were forced to close the track as the medical helicopter was unable to fly, and although it was hoped that the action would resume, the green light never appeared.

Testing resumes here tomorrow, with all three teams hoping for improved conditions. The day will see Kimi Räikkönen, Christian Klien and Jarno Trulli in action for their respective teams.

Unofficial Wednesday times from Sakhir:
1. Felipe Massa (Ferrari) - 1:33.939, 17 laps
2. Robert Kubica (BMW Sauber-BMW) - 1:34.398, 22 laps
3. Timo Glock (Toyota) - 1:34.902, 14 laps


Atlantic Championship Points Structure Reconfigured
The way in which the 2009 Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda champion will be determined has been reconfigured from the format of previous years, series officials announced today.

Most notably, drivers will count their best 11 finishes from the 12 races on the 2009 schedule toward the championship, eliminating their worst result of the season. The number of points and the number of points-paying positions has also changed. A race victory will now net a driver 20 points, as opposed to the 31 awarded for a victory in recent seasons. Second place is now worth 16 points, with 14 for third, 12 for fourth and 10 for fifth.

A sixth-place result is now worth eight points, with seven points for seventh, six points for eighth, five for ninth, four for 10th, three for 11th, two for 12th and one point for 13th place. Previously, points were awarded for all finishers in the top-20 positions. The fastest driver in each qualifying session will earn one bonus point, with a “Hard Charger Bonus” of one point going to the driver who improves the most positions from start to finish in each race.

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Racing news

Figge's mother plans 2,100 mile swim. HOAX UPDATE Over the weekend, in between depressing news about the economy and the continued sagas of Michael Phelps and Alex Rodriguez, an inspirational story appeared on the Associated Press news wire. It detailed American Jennifer Figge's accomplishment in becoming the first woman to swim across the Atlantic Ocean. Many media outlets (including Yahoo!) jumped on the story that seemed almost too good to be true. That's because it was.

The AP originally reported that Figge swam from the Cape Verde Islands off the coast of Africa to Trinidad (2,100 miles) in 25 days while escorted by a boat. She was said to have rested every night and hopped back in the water in the morning.

Figge woke most days around 7 a.m., eating pasta and baked potatoes while she and the crew assessed the weather. Her longest stint in the water was about eight hours, and her shortest was 21 minutes.

There were problems with the story from the start. A few of the less-important ones included the fact that Cape Verde is at least 2,400 miles, not 2,100, from Trinidad.  And the African islands are about 500 miles off the western coast of the continent, meaning Figge had a huge head start on her trip across the Atlantic. (It'd be like somebody saying they ran across America after starting in Cincinnati.)

Those are trivial though. The real issue stemmed from the fact that swimming 2,100 miles in 25 days is impossible. (Some newspapers picked up on this.) It's infinitely more impossible when somebody only spends 21 minutes swimming during one of those 25 days. Michael Phelps swimming his fastest would take about 20 days to cover that distance. And that's his fastest pace, sustained for three weeks, without ever stopping. Impossible.

Yet, somehow, the AP ran the story even though a few seconds of thought and a pocket calculator was enough to disprove it. They ran a correction yesterday that read, in part:

Figge swam only a fraction of the 2,100-mile journey. The rest of the time, she rested on her crew's westward-sailing catamaran. Her spokesman [said] that her total swimming distance has not been calculated yet, but that due to ocean hazards including inclement weather, he estimates she swam about 250 miles.

Swimming 250 miles is nothing to scoff at; but it's not 2,100. To go back to the running-across-America analogy, this would be like driving cross country with a friend, and getting out of the car every ten miles to run one mile for the entire trip. That'd be an impressive feat, but nobody would ever confuse it with running across the United States.

In an interview yesterday with the AP, Figge avoids discussing the validity of her swim and instead says she "never intended to swim the Atlantic." That may be so, but she didn't do much to prevent most American news outlets from reporting that she did.  Yahoo Sports

10/15/08 Your 56-year-old mother tells you she plans to swim 2,100 miles across the Atlantic Ocean, from the Cape Verde Islands off the African coast to Barbados. She will swim behind a sailboat, in a giant cage to ward off sharks. She figures she'll be in the water six to eight hours a day, which means it will take her just over two months to fulfill her mission.

She'll dive in Dec. 1 and reach her destination sometime in early February 2009.

Your reaction?

If you're race-car driver Alex Figge, you smile, shrug your shoulders, and say: ``Way to go, Mom. Be careful out there. We'll miss you at Christmas.''

Jennifer Figge has been doing multistage endurance events since her only son was in elementary school in Davenport, Iowa, so he was ''not shocked at all'' when she told him of her latest intention. ''I know it sounds weird, but everyone in our family expects stuff like this from my mom,'' said Alex, 27, who races in the LeMans series. ``I'd be surprised if she wasn't doing something extreme.''

Her first challenge was a 300-mile, 12-day run across Iowa in 1989. Alex's third-grade teacher put up a map in the classroom that read: ''Where is Mrs. Figge today?'' The children moved pushpins across the map to chart her course.

It would take many, many pushpins to chronicle Figge's adventures since. She has run 400 miles across France, 350 miles across Romania, 450 miles across India, 576 miles across South America, 300 miles across Thailand (north to south), 300 miles across Iceland, and 180 miles across Mexico (the final 60 miles in a leg cast). She swam across the Straits of Gibraltar, from Tahiti to Moorea, from Turkey to Greece, across the Cozumel Channel, and through the heads of Sydney Harbor. Last year, she battled eight-foot-swells as she swam 52 miles from Cay Sal Bank in the Bahamas to Marathon in the Keys. 

In all, she has traversed more than 3,300 miles on land, and done roughly 25 channel crossings by sea. But nothing she has done compares to her latest endeavor, a stunt that, as far as anyone knows, has been conquered by only two people, and never by a woman.

Guy Delage, a Frenchman, claims to have swam the same route from Cape Verde to Barbados with the help of a kickboard in 1994, but the swim was unsupervised and its authenticity has been questioned. In 1998, Frenchman Benoit Lecomte, who lived in Austin at the time, swam 3,716 miles from Cape Cod to Brittany to raise money for cancer research in the name of his father, who died of colon cancer. It took him 73 days, and he stopped along the way at the Azores Islands.

When Figge, who lives in Aspen, first approached Miami-based captain Bill Ray about helping her cross the Atlantic, he thought she was kidding. He soon realized she was dead serious.

What would compel a human being to attempt such a feat? Why would someone choose to swim through rough water, among sharks and jellyfish? What's the fun in breathing diesel fumes, and battling nausea and dehydration day after day?

''It does save on airfare,'' Figge said, laughing, after a training swim in Coconut Grove last week. ``I only have to buy a one-way ticket to Cape Verde Island. The cost of fuel today is getting very expensive.''

And then she got serious. Well, as serious as this gregarious woman gets, anyway.

''If someone gave me 60 days to accomplish something, and I had the help and means to do it, this is what I would choose to do,'' she said. ``In my life, I haven't really had many challenges, so I challenge myself. I like being out there. I feel a sense of calm in the ocean, like the sound you hear in a conch shell. I feed off the inspiration of people who have had real challenges. My father died of throat cancer. My uncle was an amputee. I had a cousin critically burned in a plane crash. Those people keep me going.''

She hopes to use the swim to raise awareness for a charity, and expects to finalize a partnership soon.

Figge said she feels fortunate to have the help and means to pursue adventure. Her husband, Tom, is a retired fourth-generation Iowa banker whose family name graces the Figge Art Museum in Davenport, and whose wooden duck decoy collection was valued at $5 to $10 million by Forbes magazine.

This trans-Atlantic swim will cost in the neighborhood of $500,000. Jennifer Figge said she is willing to foot the bill, if need be, but she is in discussions with sponsors who would help defray the cost.

Ray, the captain, has also been a huge help and he has donated much of his time because he finds the journey so interesting.

His 50-foot catamaran, aptly named ''Carried Away,'' is being customized for its maiden trans-Atlantic journey. The sailboat will be motoring much of the way, to keep at her slow pace, so 700 extra gallons of fuel will be on board. Ray also helped construct the 20-by-13-foot shark cage that Figge will swim in, and has been testing it for the past few weeks. He and his Miami-based crew will ship the boat to Spain on a freighter in early November, and sail it 1,500 miles to Cape Verde, where he will meet up with Figge.

''I always dreamed of spending 50-some days in a french-fry basket,'' Figge said, referring to the shark cage. ``It's my playpen. We start out with small ones, and they get bigger!''

Figge said she inherited her spunk from her mother, Margaret Roberts, a former opera singer who went by Margarita Roberti and sang for 17 years in Italy and South America. While her mother was away, Figge and her dad played sports. She always loved swimming, though she never tried out for the varsity team.

But as she got older, she began to crave physical and psychological tests. One led to the next. Her son admits he sometimes worries about her.

'Alex will say, `I don't know why you worry about me driving a race car, you swim with sharks,' '' she said. 'And I say, `Yes, but I only go two miles per hour.' ''

Swimming for so many hours will burn more than 8,000 calories per day, so Figge plans to load up on potatoes, pasta, and other carbs. At night, she'll eat protein to recover. Dr. Jerry Homish, an emergency room physician who specializes in sports medicine, will be on board in case any medical issues arise.

Figge insists she is not nervous. On the contrary. She can't wait to get started.

''Mentally, I'm about 8,'' she said, giggling. ``I feel younger now than ever. Some people are afraid to be out in the water where they can't see land, but that excites me. I love it out there, and when I finally reach shore, it's like when you're 3 years old and your mom and dad are waiting at the other side of the pool, cheering you on. It's the same feeling.'' Miami Herald


Engine Malfunction Forces Newman to Rear
Ryan Newman's No. 39 U.S. Army Chevrolet suffered an engine malfunction in today's (Wednesday) first practice session at Daytona International Speedway.

The team was forced to change engines for the afternoon practice session, and under NASCAR rules, an engine change will require Newman to start Thursday's Gatorade Duel 150-mile qualifying race from the rear of the field. He was scheduled to start the second 150-miler from the outside pole. The engine change will not affect the Daytona 500 starting order.

"Something broke in the engine," said Newman, the defending Daytona 500 champion. "I'm not really sure what. Obviously the horsepower has been great in qualifying and it felt strong out there. I was just coming up through the gears and getting up to speed and something let go. It's unfortunate. But these guys have another bullet they can bolt in and we'll be good to go."


Almirola fastest in final Cup practice
Aric Almirola led Sprint Cup practice at Daytona International Speedway Wednesday afternoon in a session that featured a wreck involving Jamie McMurray and Michael Waltrip.

Almirola, driving Earnhardt Ganassi Racing’s No. 8 Chevrolet, turned a drafting speed lap of 191.436 mph to edge Matt Kenseth at 191.347 and Jeff Gordon at 191.335.

It was the final practice session before tomorrow’s Gatorade Duel qualifying races, which will set most of the field for Sunday’s Daytona 500. Both McMurray and Waltrip will have to use their backup cars to compete in the qualifying races.

Rounding out the top 10 were: Kyle Busch’s No. 18 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota; Robby Gordon’s No. 7 Robby Gordon Motorsports Toyota; Jimmie Johnson’s No. 48 Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet; Reed Sorenson’s No. 43 Richard Petty Motorsports Dodge; Marcos Ambrose’s No. 47 JTG Daugherty Racing Toyota; Regan Smith’s No. 78 Furniture Row Racing Chevrolet and Kevin Harvick’s No. 29 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet.

Waltrip lost control of his No. 55 Toyota when Kasey Kahne appeared to check up in front of him. Waltrip was hit from behind by David Stremme and collected McMurray, who spun through the frontstretch grass with Waltrip.


Kovalainen fastest in '09 cars at Jerez
McLaren topped the times for 2009 F1 cars on day two of testing at Jerez Wednesday. Meanwhile, Sebastien Buemi once again set the pace for Toro Rosso in his 2008 spec car. Therefore his times are totally irrelevant.

"This has been a useful couple of days for me, running in wet and dry conditions," said Buemi. "Even though we are still in the '08 car, I have learned a lot in terms of how we operate over a race weekend, as we simulated a qualifying session and the race.

"It was good preparation and now, all we need is our new car," he added.

"There were a lot of questions going into today and I answered them," said Mark Webber at the end of the day. "From my point of view, it all went better than expected and to do over a race distance on my first day back in the cockpit, with several weeks to go to Melbourne is a good thing."

Buemi now hands over to Sebastien Bourdais for the remainder of the test while a slow as usual Nelson Piquet hands over Renault duties to his superior teammate, Fernando Alonso.

Wednesday's times:


Driver Team Time Laps
1. Buemi Toro Rosso-Ferrari 1:17.591 143
2. Kovalainen McLaren-Mercedes 1:20.799 110
3. Webber Red Bull-Renault 1:21.321 83
4. Nakajima Williams-Toyota 1:21.451 125
5. Piquet Renault 1:21.908 49


Speedcar Series prepares for night race in Qatar
The Speedcar Series is at Losail International Circuit for its first night race this weekend on 12-14 February, 2009. Running its third round of the season, this will also be the first time that Speedcar Series has raced in Qatar.

A preview press conference was held this afternoon chaired by Qatar Motor and Motorcycle Federation (QMMF) President Nasser Bin Khalifa Al Attiyah, Speedcar Series Operations Director Claudio Berro, Speedcar Series drivers Jean Alesi and Gianni Morbidelli as well as representatives from GP2 Asia Series.

Nasser Bin Khalifa Al Attiyah welcomed the organization and participants of the Grand Racing Qatar event saying, "Our strategy has to always bring a top quality race to the circuit. We have been approached by several organizations to run races here. After long discussions leading up to this weekend, we are indeed lucky and proud to have two good Series racing this weekend as well as some famous drivers like Jean Alesi who I am a great fan of."

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New tire marks introduced by Bridgestone UPDATE (GMM)  Official F1 tire supplier Bridgestone may now have settled on how to differentiate its compounds of dry-weather slick tires in 2009.

Last year, the 'hard' and 'soft' compounds on offer at grands prix were differentiated by painting the inside of one of the four grooves white, so that the type of tire being used by a driver on the circuit is visibly apparent to spectators.

With the return this season of slick tires, however, the Japanese manufacturer has been contemplating what method to use in 2009 and beyond.

It was speculated that full colored sidewalls were considered, and various other methods have previously been tested, including different colored rings - including white and purple - on the sidewalls.

But perhaps the best solution so far, which with just over 40 days to go until Melbourne must surely be the frontrunner, was in evidence as five teams on Wednesday circulated at the Spanish test circuit in Jerez de la Frontera.

As seen on the cars of Nelson Piquet (Renault) and Kazuki Nakajima (Williams), the solution involves the use of thin green painted lines circling both the inner and outer sidewalls on the front tires, and the inner sidewalls on the rear.

The effectiveness of the solution was apparent when the colors could easily be distinguished both when viewing the cars from the side as well as from the rear.

Also spotted trackside at Jerez on Wednesday were Red Bull's Dietrich Mateschitz, his business partner and friend Gerhard Berger, and team advisor David Coulthard, as Mark Webber seemed to enjoy a trouble-free return from injury at the wheel of the new RB5.

02/10/09 Japanese tire manufacturer Bridgestone has introduced new tire marks at Jerez this week to clearly show the fans the difference between the soft and hard compounds supplied to the Formula 1 teams. The tires in Jerez are marked with a green line at the side of the tires.

In 2008 the soft compounds were marked with a white line in one of the grooves but since Formula 1 cars will use slick tires going forward there are no longer any grooves for a white line.


Alvaro Parente takes over car no. 19
Alvaro Parente
My Team Qi-Meritus.Mahara will field a new driver line up for the fourth round of the GP2 Asia season in Qatar with multi-Europe Championship winning Portuguese driver Alvaro Parente joining Italian driver Marco Bonanomi.

24-year-old Porto-born Parente will make his GP2 Asia debut in Qatar for the series' first ever night race. Parente who scored over twenty wins and forty podiums in his career also made a stunning start to his GP2 career in the opening round of the season at the Circuit de Catalunya, Parente won the feature race making him the first Portuguese driver to win in GP2 Series. There, Alvaro Parente led from start to finish, to claim victory ahead of Brazilian Bruno Senna and UAE’s Andreas Zuber. He eventually finished eighth in the drivers' championship.

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Scott Speed plays down results
Scott Speed
Scott Speed has admitted that he 'doesn't really care' about results in his rookie season in the NASCAR Sprint Cup, with the former F1 racer stating that he simply wants to finish where his car is capable of finishing.

“As far as results are concerned, I don't really care, honestly,” he said. “What I care most about is being able to finish where the car is set up to run. If we've got a 20th-place car, I'd like to finish in 20th by the end of the season. The car's going to be better than I'm making it look for a while, just because of my inexperience with this type of racing.”

“Everyone,” he said when asked who he will go to. “It's difficult to get (helpful) advice. I'm an extremely talented racecar driver. There's nothing you can tell me that I don't know. What's impossible is the experience, doing it, getting the feeling for it. That's priceless. The experience plays a lot into it. Not necessarily into going fast, but making good decisions on what you want to do to the racecar. If our racecar's right, we're going to be fast. Then there's the racing itself. Just racing three-wide, racing on the topside, how that whole thing plays out as you go into a corner is completely different from road racing. I'm learning a lot as we go.

“When you're by yourself, it's pretty easy. When you get around a pack, when five guys go into the corner in front of you, see how that all shakes up, you learn it with experience. I could pick up the phone right now and call Jimmie Johnson, and he would tell me anything I wanted to know. That's what's really cool about a couple of the guys in this sport. It's like one big family. Everyone really helps everyone. It really makes it an enjoyable process to learn. Nobody's out to get you.”

track news

More bad news about Donington Park
(GMM)  Bad news continues to flow out of Donington Park, providing ammunition to the cynics who doubt the circuit can host the British grand prix from 2010.

At the weekend it was reported that former chief Lee Gill is suing the circuit's operating company, which is crippled amid millions in debt according to the publicly available 2007 accounts.

The Daily Telegraph added to the grim mood on Wednesday, claiming that owner Tom Wheatcroft - who has leased the circuit long term to current operator Donington Ventures Leisure - is also suing chief executive Simon Gillett.

The newspaper said the legal action relates to "alleged unpaid rent".  Wheatcroft declined to comment, but the Telegraph said that if the 85-year-old has "lost faith in Gillett, this could be a big blow to Donington's attempt to stage the British GP".

It is also claimed that alleged unpaid fees have led to security firm McKenzie Arnold pulling workers from the site.


Ford still using NASCAR to launch new products
Ford Racing cut its budget for 2009, but the manufacturer is using money from other programs to launch some new marketing initiatives aimed at NASCAR race fans, including a new display at Daytona International Speedway in the days leading up to Sunday’s Daytona 500. The 10,000-square-foot display includes 2010 Ford brands such as the Taurus, Mustang, Raptor and a Fusion hybrid. It is being paid for from a budget to promote new brands, including some that are not even on the road yet and have not been introduced at a major car show. The display is one of the ways the manufacturer hopes to get the most out of NASCAR while having a budget that is smaller than in the past. “My Ford Racing expenditures are considerably less this year than last year,” said Ford Racing NASCAR Marketing Manager Tim Duerr. “The midway display at Daytona is being funded by the Ford brand team utilizing what we call new-product launch funding. … It’s part of the budget that Ford has to launch new vehicles." The display is Ford’s second biggest at-track activation for the year. The biggest will come at Homestead-Miami Speedway as part of the Ford-sponsored final weekend of the season. Ford is a sponsor of the Kentucky Truck race, and Ford’s dealers also made a deal with Bristol Motor Speedway, and there will be displays there. Ford has the same number of full-time cars this year as the Wood Brothers went from a full schedule to a part-time schedule, but Yates Racing added Bobby Labonte as part of a partnership with Hall of Fame Racing. SceneDaily


Chevy still has NASCAR plan
Chevrolet is looking at new ways to connect with NASCAR fans in the wake of substantial cutbacks and a re-evaluation of all spending in the wake of federal assistance given to struggling parent company General Motors, the manufacturer’s racing representative says. To try to compensate for having fewer displays at tracks, for instance, Chevrolet is trying to do more online, especially with advertising for those who might watch or gather NASCAR information online rather than watching on television, says Terry Dolan, manager of Chevy Racing. Dolan says that all fans – whether they can afford a new car or not – remain a key target audience. “We have to appeal to a large base of consumers and their needs,” Dolan said. “Some of that is price. … Additionally, we have to work to keep our dealers viable in some of these difficult times. If in fact, you’re not in position to buy a new car today, we’d sure like you to go to your local Chevrolet dealer to buy a used vehicle.” Among the noticeable areas that Chevrolet has cut back are its deal with the tracks. It still has a display area at Daytona, but it is smaller than in the past. Chevrolet also used to pay for exclusivity at the track, but it’s no longer that way as both Chevrolet and Ford will pace races, and they both have displays, as does Toyota, on track property. Chevrolet has let contracts expire at New Hampshire and Bristol, among others. SceneDaily

racing news

HANS Downing honored
Jim Downing, a driving force behind the HANS Device, has been honored by the Road Racing Drivers Club with the 2008 Bob Akin Award. The Bob Akin Award is given to those who have an exceptional history of success in motor sport. Jim Downing is a five time IMSA champion. He is known to most racers as a developer of the HANS Device. The HANS Device is worn by more than 75,000 racers worldwide and continues to be the #1 choice for performance, #1 for vision and #1 for winners. HANS PR


Earnhardt & Gordon NASCAR's Highest-Earning Drivers
NASCAR's track attendance and revenue may be stalling, but top drivers' paychecks continued to climb last year, thanks to large, multiyear sponsorship deals and heavy spending on apparel and gear by loyal fans. Overall, earnings for the top 10 drivers were $180 million, up 4.7% from our previous list.

Winning is not always the most important factor to making money. Top drivers generate between 8% and 31% of their earnings from the track. The rest comes from salary, licensing and sponsorships.

This explains why Dale Earnhardt Jr. was the highest earner at $35 million (or $830 for each left turn) despite winning only one race, the LifeLock 400. Earnhardt's endorsements and licensing royalties made him $23 million, as merchandise emblazoned with his new, No. 88 race car was NASCAR's top seller. His salary and race winnings accounted for another $12 million.

Earnhardt received a 30% bump in earnings last year, his first as a member of Hendrick Motorsports. This while the sport has seen declines in race attendance, TV ratings and new spending from corporate sponsors

Jeff Gordon, NASCAR's all-time leading money winner, was the second highest-earning driver, at $30 million, including $16 million from licensing and endorsement income from the likes of PepsiCo (nyse: PEP - news - people ), DuPont (nyse: DD - news - people ) and Electronic Arts (nasdaq: ERTS - news - people ). Both Earnhardt and Gordon have made fortunes while turning away millions in endorsement offers, instead choosing to partner only with select sponsors.

Says John Bickford, Gordon's business manager, "Both drivers have carefully cultivated their [respective] brand for years."

Accomplished drivers are insulated from the economic downturn facing the sport, at least in the short term, because of the structure of their contracts. Deals are multiyear and typically contain salary guarantees and establish minimums for endorsement and licensing income, regardless of how the logoed goods sell. Racing purses continue to grow as well, since they're fueled in large part by revenue from TV deals, which were negotiated in 2005 during the sport's boom. Forbes.com


Bahrain best value for time and money spent UPDATE The three Formula 1 teams testing in Bahrain ran out of luck on Wednesday as the track was hit by a sandstorm. The sandstorm made it impossible for the emergency helicopter to fly and thus the session got red flagged.

Ferrari, BMW and Toyota travelled to Bahrain to avoid wet weather conditions in Europe but an unpredicted sandstorm spoiled the second day of testing in Bahrain for the three F1 teams. It is expected that the teams won't be able to test again on Wednesday and so testing will continue for these three teams on Thursday.

(GMM)  Despite forking out an estimated 250,000 euros apiece to set up for two weeks of testing in the Middle East, three formula one teams came unstuck on Wednesday.

The pitlane lights shone red and the Bahrain International Circuit was silent, after a huge sandstorm struck the desert area of the Sakhir venue.

Visibility around the circuit and in the paddock was close to zero, and the medical helicopter did not have clearance to fly, meaning that the test could not proceed.

The severity of the storm, and the nature of the winds, made it unlikely at the time of writing that the test will resume at any point in the afternoon.

Ferrari, BMW-Sauber and Toyota, having opted for Bahrain amid the threat of rain at the European test venue Jerez this week, were also hindered on Tuesday morning when fog prevented the helicopter to fly for two hours.

Felipe Massa, Robert Kubica and Timo Glock had been scheduled to drive on Wednesday, in otherwise warm and dry conditions.

Ironically, back in Spain, conditions for the five teams present at Jerez on Wednesday are sunny, clear and dry, as Mark Webber as scheduled made his return with a healing broken leg.

02/03/09 With more precipitation and unfavorable weather expected in the Iberian Peninsula, Toyota believes that heading to Bahrain for testing offers the best value for the time and money spent, since at the Sakhir circuit teams will be able to test the entire package under dry conditions, unlike the probable wet scenario the other group will face at Jerez.

"For us testing in Bahrain is just the best value for money," technical chief Pascal Vasselon said to 'autosport'.

"For us it is just common sense to test in Bahrain," he continued, "We would be ready to drop one of the two European test sessions to spend more time in Bahrain. It is the best value for money and the best preparation for the rest of the season."

Toyota will be joined by Ferrari and BMW Sauber in Bahrain, starting on February 10.


Latest F1 news in brief
  • Red Bull fast in Spain, Toyota in Bahrain
  • Dennis, Hamilton, win award
  • No launch for new Force India next month
  • Singapore GP a financial success
  • Slim Buemi wants to lose 5 kilos
  • F1 and sports cars no problem - Bourdais
  • Ralf secures new Mercedes DTM contract
  • Vettel's new color-changing 'disco' helmet

Red Bull fast in Spain, Toyota in Bahrain
(GMM)  More bad weather marred formula one testing on Tuesday, with less than 40 days to go until the new in-season ban takes effect.

Five teams have congregated this week at Spain's Jerez circuit for a four day group test, but from mid-morning until well into the afternoon, the tarmac was wet.

Four 2009-spec cars are going head-to-head at Jerez, and on Tuesday Sebastian Vettel's newly launched Red Bull set the pace, even though he had to be rescued by a recovery truck at one point following his second breakdown in as many days.

Williams' 2009 car, again in the hands of test driver Nico Hulkenberg, was next quickest, followed by the new McLaren (Heikki Kovalainen) and finally Nelson Piquet in the R29.

Better weather conditions are forecast for Wednesday.

"It's a shame that we lost some track time because at this stage of the season we need to get as many miles on the car as possible," said Renault driver Piquet.

Sebastien Buemi, as per usual, was much quicker than the rest of the field in his 2008 Toro Rosso, but the Faenza based team should soon take delivery of its new Adrian Newey-penned machine, with a statement confirming that Jerez is likely to be the STR3's "final test session".

The three teams in Bahrain, meanwhile, enjoyed warm weather on Tuesday, but fog delayed the start of the session by two hours.

The three 2009-specification cars' best laps were all within two tenths of one another, led by Toyota's Timo Glock, followed by Felipe Massa in the Ferrari and BMW's Robert Kubica, who stopped on the track just after lunch with a mechanical problem.

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Drivers hit back in license row UPDATE #2 Although the Grand Prix Drivers' Association is advising its members not to agree to the new Superlicences charges, the campaigning will be undermined somewhat by the suggestion that three drivers have already paid up and applied for their licenses. There is currently no word on which drivers are involved. Grandprix.com

02/07/09 (GMM) F1's driver representative body has hit back at Max Mosley in their dispute over expensive Superlicences.

Every driver must obtain a Superlicense from the sport's governing FIA, but last year the price was spiked by between 200 and 350 per cent.

A further increase in line with inflation has enraged the Grand Prix Drivers' Association, moving the GPDA to ask the 2009 field to hold off paying the fees.

FIA president Max Mosley this week dismissed their position as "silly" and "nonsense", arguing that it is the high-earning drivers benefitting from safety advances while living in tax havens.

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Old-School Appeal For 51st Annual Daytona 500
Mark Martin is on the front row and Bill Elliott is in the field, giving Sunday’s Daytona 500 an almost surreal quality.

Thing is, it’s all quite real.

Martin (No. 5 Kellogg’s/CARQUEST Chevrolet) is experiencing a late-career rebirth as part of the Hendrick Motorsports stable; Elliott (No. 21 Motorcraft Ford) is part of a renewed, admirable effort by Wood Brothers Racing that’s designed to run part-time in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series but make the most of the races they choose.

Martin, 50, qualified second this past Sunday at the annual “pole day” at Daytona International Speedway. He and top qualifier Martin Truex Jr. (No. 1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet) are “locked” into the front row for the 500. Elliott qualified fourth-fastest to guarantee a spot in the 500. Exactly where he’ll start will shake out Thursday, after the two 150-mile qualifying races — the Gatorade Duel at Daytona — are held.

“This whole Motorcraft team – [crew chief] David Hyder, [owners]  Len and Eddie Wood – they really put a good plan together to come down here for the 500 this year and I’m so proud of what they’ve done,” said the 53-year-old Elliott.

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NASCAR will hammer engine cheaters
NASCAR considers tampering with the engine seals a major offense that will result in a penalty of “a minimum of 100 championship driver and truck owner points,” according to a bulletin posted in the Camping World Truck Series garage today.

NASCAR added wording to its harshest penalty provision to include any alteration, modification or repair of any part that has been “sealed” by NASCAR in addition to the existing wording about altering or changing anything previously certified.

NASCAR also added that it could confiscate race equipment as a penalty for messing with a sealed engine. Other potential penalties would be fines, disqualification, probation and suspension.

NASCAR is implementing an engine rule for the Truck and Nationwide series in hopes of limiting costs. Not including Daytona and Talladega, teams will not be allowed to use new engines in four consecutive events. Once a team uses an old engine in an event, it can use a new one for each of the next three events it enters.

NASCAR will use a seal to prevent any refurbishing of the engine between events, although teams will be allowed to remove the oil pan and, theoretically, change some bearings.

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