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Busch Series Road Race Qualifying Procedures Busch Series Road Race Qualifying ProceduresNASCAR will run nine groups of cars during qualifying Saturday for Sunday's Telcel-Motorola Mexico 200 Busch Series race at the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez road course.  The European-style qualifying format has each group running for approximately six minutes.

Cars will be assigned a qualifying group based on the final practice times.

Time begins when the first car receives the green flag at the start/finish line.

Time will only stop in the event of a red flag during a group. Time will then begin again when the first car retakes the green flag.

A car must qualify in its assigned group unless designated by the Series Director.

Once a car enters pit road or service area, it may not re-enter the qualifying group.

A five-minute clock may be applied to a car that does not enter the qualifying group at the designated time.  

There will be nine qualifying sessions. The first group will include 6 cars and the remaining will include 5 cars.

NASCAR spending big money in NY City NASCAR spending big money in NY CityInternational Speedway Corp. spent about $38,600 a day to push its NASCAR track proposal for Staten Island last year.

And that doesn't even include the $110.4 million the company paid for the land.

Factor that in, and the company spent $124.5 million in fiscal 2005 on "capital expenditures" on the plan.
Although the company doesn't have to break down, dollar-for-dollar, exactly where the money is going, ISC is spending its big bucks on everything from site improvements to consultants to lobbyists to document filing fees.

In the first nine months of 2004 alone, ISC sank about $5.6 million into consulting fees. This year, it expects to drop between $15 million and $20 million -- although that number includes paying for around one million cubic yards of dirt to clean the property and raise its elevation.  More at Staten Island Advance

[Editor's Note:  We wonder if NASCAR will ever recoup their money on this event.  The track is so far from Manhattan it may as well be in California.  Then there is the question of whether New Yorkers have any real interest in racing beyond the first year novelty.] 

F1 V8 Tidbits F1 V8 Tidbits
The 2.4 liter V8 engines are producing about 200HP less than engines used last year.

The V8 spends much more time in the wide-open throttle range every lap than a V10, so the engine performance will become even more critical for the overall performance of the car.

The minimum weight of 95kg combined with the other specification of the minimum height for the centre of gravity has meant that the V8 is much heavier than it actually needs to be.

The engineers did the best they could and designed the engine much more rigidly, which has benefited the handling of the cars.

The Cosworth V8 has a top engine speed of 20,000rpm

Because a V8 is much shorter than a V10 and by its nature also needs less cooling

The smaller teams will still be permitted to use ten-cylinder engines, but their engine speed must be limited to a maximum of 16,700rpm.

A V8 at full power consumes about 15% less fuel than a V10. There will certainly be lots of changes in terms of the tactics.

Williams Cosworth season preview Williams Cosworth season preview
NASCAR TV ratings for Mexico plummet NASCAR TV ratings for Mexico plummetFox's broadcast of Sunday's Telcel-Motorola 200 Busch Series race from Mexico City earned a 3.0 overnight rating from Nielsen Media Research and a 7 market share, Street and Smith's SportsBusiness Daily reports. The rating is down 11.8 percent from last year's 3.4/7 for the inaugural running of the event.
Ray-Ban extends sponsorship with Honda Ray-Ban extends sponsorship with HondaThe Honda Racing F1 Team is pleased to announce the continuation of its partnership with the world's leading sunglasses and optical eyewear brand, Ray-Ban, for the 2006 season. The Ray-Ban brand, which first entered Formula One with the team in July 2004 and operates in more than 100 countries across the globe, is synonymous with style, design, quality and distinction.

Ray-Ban's partnership with the team has proved to be a powerful medium for promoting the brand's iconic identity. For 2006, the distinctive Ray-Ban signature will continue to appear on the cockpit sides of the Honda Racing F1 Team's RA106 race car throughout the season, along with a new prominent position on the helmet visors of race drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello, and third driver Anthony Davidson.  zzzz 

All the eyewear models in the Ray-Ban collection show the brand's careful attention to styling and design. For the 2006 season, Honda Racing F1 Team members will be wearing the Ray-Ban 4075 sunglasses model from its new Spring and Summer 2006 sun collection, which have a sporty, wrap-around design which is well-suited to the F1 environment.

Nick Fry, Chief Executive Officer of the Honda Racing F1 Team, commented: "We are delighted to confirm the continuation of our partnership with Ray-Ban at the start of a very promising season for our team. The Honda Racing F1 Team continues to provide a valuable platform for the Ray-Ban brand by enabling it to reach the global F1 audience and benefit from the appeal of our exciting new driver line-up of Jenson and Rubens, who are the perfect fit for Ray-Ban's marketing programme. 

Antonio Miyakawa, Executive Vice President Wholesale & Marketing of Luxottica Group, said: "We are thrilled to announce that Ray-Ban has just renewed its partnership with the Honda Racing F1 Team for the 2006 season. Winners choose winners and Ray-Ban is a winner all the way as its history proves. Honda also has a tremendous winning pedigree in many different motorsports and is totally committed to rediscovering its winning ways in Formula One. We are looking forward to starting the new season together with our partners at Honda Racing F1 Team."

NASCAR attendance plummets in Mexico City NASCAR attendance plummets in Mexico CityAccording to this article in the Mexico City newspaper El Universal, the attendance on Sunday for the NASCAR Busch Series race was 72,428.  If this is true, it means 20,000 less spectators attended this year than for the 2005 race.  As can be seen from the photo to the right by NASCAR, there were many empty seats that the TV camera angles conveniently avoided. Jose Arrambide reporting from Mexico
Jay Howard fastest at Homestead Jay Howard fastest at HomesteadThe Indy Racing League concluded its only pre-season Open Test March 6 with 17 Indy Pro Series drivers turning 1,966 laps on the 1.5-mile, variably banked oval at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

Teams from the IndyCar® Series and Indy Pro Series tested at the facility March 2-6 on the oval and the 2.21-mile road course in preparation for the season's first races at the track on March 26.

Rookie Jay Howard, driving the No. 7 Sam Schmidt Motorsports entry, topped the time chart with a quick lap of 28.4738 seconds, 187.752 mph. Andretti Green Racing teammates Jaime Camara and Jonathan Klein were second and fifth quick. Camara was just five-hundredths of a second behind Howard.

Wade Cunningham, the Indy Pro Series defending champion, turned the third-quickest lap of the day in the No. 1 Brian Stewart Racing car. Marty Roth was fourth quick.

Rank Car Driver C/E/T Time Speed Best Lap Total Laps
1 7 Howard, Jay D/ /F 28.4738 187.752 128 131
2 11 Camara, Jaime D/ /F 28.5326 187.365 53 124
3 1 Cunningham, Wade D/ /F 28.7246 186.112 23 167
4 4 Roth, Marty D/ /F 28.7477 185.963 23 190
5 27 Klein, Jonathan D/ /F 28.7903 185.688 20 150
6 51 Festa, Chris D/ /F 28.8086 185.570 49 152
7 24 Simmons, Jeff D/ /F 28.9067 184.940 42 140
8 8 Jaskol, Matt D/ /F 28.9358 184.754 39 48
9 6 Herb, Jon D/ /F 28.9370 184.746 124 156
10 9 Abbott, Mishael D/ /F 28.9465 184.686 18 73
11 3 Van Blankers, Brett D/ /F 29.1082 183.660 35 118
12 2 Hamilton, Matthew D/ /F 29.1720 183.258 202 225
13 9 Abbott, PJ D/ /F 29.2980 182.470 35 39
14 3 Dodge, Geoff D/ /F 29.3082 182.406 47 95
15 41 Gregg, Travis D/ /F 29.4337 181.629 75 100
16 8 Morrow, Jamie D/ /F 29.4765 181.365 15 43
17 9 Pugliese, Jimmy D/ /F 37.0435 144.317 14 15


JAY HOWARD (No. 7 Sam Schmidt Motorsports, quickest time): "It was pretty good, can't complain. The track's changed a little bit throughout the day, which was quite a surprise in my rear window. After lunch the car was really, really good. Just after lunch I had taken off quite a bit of understeer. The boys made some changes, we put some tires on and went quicker again. Pretty good day. We were on it right out of the box. I'm real happy, and they're real happy, so that's the main thing. It's nice to end the day just like we did. To come here with all the other cars with experience, for them to come in and look at us and use us as their marker, that's a good start to the year." zzzz

JAIME CAMARA (No. 11 Andretti Green Racing, 2nd quickest): "We tried a lot of setups today for the race and for qualifying, and most of them worked. I think we have to make little changes for the race year at the end of the month, but it was really positive. I think it could be better, but during the day we had some problems that kept us from being faster, but it's OK. I'm going to do my best to be on the front at qualifying at every race."

WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 1 Brian Stewart Racing, 3rd quickest): "It wasn't too bad. We had a list of things to get through, and we did most of them. We didn't want to be as far off the pace as we were. The two Schmidt/Andretti Green cars were in front of us today, and we couldn't really bridge that gap. We'll have to look at what we learned today and apply it to the race in a few weeks."

MARTY ROTH (No. 4 Roth Racing, 4th quickest): "We accomplished a lot, and I can't wait to get to the race at the end of March. It's one thing to be out here testing, but it will be another thing when everybody is out here racing."
JONATHAN KLEIN (No. 27 Andretti Green Racing, fifth quickest): "It's a good way to start off the season. Driving with most of the rest of the field here, it's good that we're top five. The road course was good. We kept at it and we found speed at the end of the day. Today, we struggled a bit more. My teammates were a bit faster than me. That's why it's a test day. We're just here to learn. It's not a race weekend, so we're not too worried about it. We'll take what we learn here today and apply it to the Klein Tools/Turn Key Forging and Design car for the race weekend. Everything should work out." IRL

Industry News
Thank you OnStar! Thank you OnStar!Ralph Gomez, the driver of a brand new Cadillac Escalade decided to try out his new OnStar communications system. When he couldn't hear the operator (he had the volume turned down too low) the driver didn't respond, so the OnStar operator did what she was supposed to: she sent the cops to the car's location. When officers got to Gomez they could see there wasn't a problem but could clearly see that he had cocaine clearly visible on the SUV's center console. Yeah, he was busted. Thanks OnStar! 6 ABC
NASCAR confirms Charlotte for HOF NASCAR confirms Charlotte for HOFNASCAR finally acknowledged late this morning that it will make "a special announcement" at the Charlotte Convention Center at 4 p.m. Monday regarding the NASCAR Hall of Fame. One week after the Observer reported that Charlotte's $137.5 million bid to host the NASCAR museum would be the winning effort, NASCAR will make that official at this afternoon's news conference.

NASCAR sent an advisory about the event to motorsports media members and posted it on its media web site at approximately 10:40 a.m. Fans are invited to attend the session. The building will open at 3 p.m. and fans should enter via the Second Street entrance to the Convention Center. The news conference will be held in the ballroom.

The announcement will be carried live on WCNC (cable channel 6 in Charlotte) and will be streamed live on WCNC.com and Charlotte.com. ThatsRacin.com

TV News
SPEED to offer 10 hours of Sebring coverage SPEED to offer 10 hours of Sebring coverageSPEED will kick off the American Le Mans Series season with 10 hours of live coverage from the 54th running of the famed 12 Hours of Sebring, beginning March 18 at 10:30 a.m. ET.

“The strength of the ALMS has been reinforced again by the depth of competition, including Audi, BMW, Aston Martin and Corvette, all looking forward to the green flag dropping at Sebring,” said Rick Miner, SPEED SVP Programming/Production and Executive Producer. “SPEED can’t wait to get the season started.”

Greg Creamer will provide play-by-play for SPEED, which has been the television home of the 12 Hours of Sebring since 2000. Veteran racer Dorsey Schroeder serving as the primary color analyst. Calvin Fish, Brian Till, Chris Neville, Andrew Marriott and Lindsay Czarniak will be the SPEED pit reporters, with Till and Fish rotating into the booth on occasion.

The SPEED March 18 broadcast schedule from Sebring (All times ET):
10:30 – 1 p.m.
2:30 – 6:30 p.m.
7:30 – 11 p.m.

In addition, complete coverage of the 12 Hours of Sebring will be offered through SPEED on-board pass on SPEEDtv.com with ALL 12 hours made available to subscribers. When SPEED channel breaks away from its coverage of the event, the race will continue streaming via broadband. SPEED on-board pass subscribers won’t miss a minute of the race, and for the $5.99 fee, subscribers will have access to six user-controlled feeds, pit-to-car communications and live timing and scoring.

Cosworth up to 20,000rpm with the V8 Cosworth up to 20,000rpm with the V8Formula One enters a new era at the Bahrain Grand Prix: this season, the teams will only be allowed to use 2.4 liter V8 engines producing about 200HP less than engines used last year. The new regulations will push the engines even further into the limelight.

“A V8 spends much more time in the wide-open throttle range every lap than a V10,” explained Alex Hitzinger, Head of the Formula One project at WilliamsF1’s engine partner, Cosworth. “So the engine performance will become even more critical for the overall performance of the car.”

The loss of power is not causing the engineers any headaches. As in the past, it is estimated that every season they will probably regain 20 to 30 HP of the roughly 200HP they have had to give up because of this reduction in engine capacity.

However, it was much more difficult to reconcile the whole series of parameters that were specified for the new engines. For example, the minimum weight of 95kg combined with the other specification of the minimum height for the centre of gravity has meant that the V8 is much heavier than it actually needs to be. zzzz

The engineers did the best they could and designed the engine much more rigidly, which has benefited the handling of the cars. Because they did not need to watch every single gram, they also made several static components like the cylinder block and the cylinder heads much more robust, and so increased the service life of the engines. The new regulations have not changed the basic task of exploiting the rules as much as possible and so gaining a valuable advantage even before the season starts.
“We set ourselves a target of a top engine speed of 20,000rpm,” said Hitzinger, “and we’ve managed that.”

Because a V8 is much shorter than a V10 and by its nature also needs less cooling, it was possible to visibly streamline the new car at the rear, which helped the aerodynamics. New engine concepts are also in the pipeline for road car production.

“The increase in fuel prices will be a major driving force in the next few years for the development of engine technology,” said Dr. Christoph Lauterwasser from the Allianz Centre for Technology.

On the one hand, that means low-consumption, efficient engines, which explains the continued trend towards diesel vehicles, whose engines are about 30% more efficient than comparable petrol engines. But, on the other hand, there is a growing proportion of hybrid vehicles that combine a combustion engine with an electric engine and produce excellent fuel consumption and lower CO2 values.

“The significance of alternative fuels like natural gas and bio-fuels will increase all over the world,” said Lauterwasser. “If you also consider the tests on hydrogen vehicles and fuel cells, it’s easy to see that we are heading towards a new level of variety under the bonnet.”

In Formula One, the engine capacity was reduced from 3.5 to 3 liters for safety reasons in 1995. However, that did not interrupt the power explosion, and to halt it further, the FIA then decided to impose more restrictions: for instance, in the 2004 season, each engine had to last a full grand prix weekend, and since 2005 it has only been permissible to use one engine for two racing weekends. Of course, all these rules are open to exceptions: with the permission of the FIA, the smaller teams will still be permitted to use ten-cylinder engines, but their engine speed must be limited to a maximum of 16,700rpm.

The new engine concept will also affect the racing strategy of the teams, because at the end of the day a V8 at full power consumes about 15% less fuel than a V10. That will either shorten the distances that can be driven between pit stops or it will shorten the pit stops themselves, because the car does not need as much fuel as before. The strategists are already racking their brains. According to Hitzinger, “there will certainly be lots of changes in terms of the tactics.” Source Allianz

Track News
One week remaining for French tickets deal One week remaining for French tickets dealThere is less than one week left to benefit from the special ticket prices for this year’s Grand Prix de France, July 14 – 16, 2006. This limited offer features a ten percent discount for all tickets purchased before March 10 2006.

Regular Grand Prix customers will receive a ‘Privilege’ card giving them access to certain advantages on site (exclusive areas) and other associated benefits (reductions at certain shops on event-related products).

The 2006 Grand Prix de France is celebrating its 100th anniversary with an exceptional date coinciding with France’s Bastille Day.

With a total of four support races over the weekend: the GP2 series, Porsche Super Cup, Mini Challenge BMW and a race for Historic Formula One cars, the event is building up to be one of the most memorable of Grand Prix.

In addition to the more traditional activities, Roger Waters, the creative genius behind Pink Floyd, will play The Dark Side of the Moon - live - with the exceptional participation of Nick Mason on the drums will be giving a spectacular concert, unique in France on the Friday night.

“As well as being acknowledged for the action on and off the circuit, Magny-Cours should also be heralded for it affordable ticket prices." Commented Jacques Regis, President of the Federation Française du Sport Automobile, race promoter. Press Release Grand Prix de France

Minardi 2-seater to run in Portugal and Spain Minardi 2-seater to run in Portugal and SpainIt is today announced that the Minardi F1X2 Team and Best Lap F1 Events have entered into a formal agreement, which will see the Valencia-based company act as exclusive agent for the F1X2 Team in the Spanish and Portuguese markets.

Best Lap F1 Events, which was formed last year by Enrique Leon, Carlos Molla and former Minardi driver, Marc Gene, plans to stage a series of F1X2 events in Spain and Portugal, and will look after all marketing, sales, organizational and operational aspects of the programs within those countries. The arrangement takes effect immediately, with collaborative agreements already in place with the Valencia and Barcelona circuits.

“In Best Lap F1 Events, we have a team of professionals with a wide range of motorsport experience, and our aim is to make it possible for as many people as possible to experience the same sensations as those of us who are lucky enough to drive Formula One cars,” commented Marc Gene. “We’re certain that with this program we will be able to give Formula One fans an absolutely unforgettable day.”

Minardi F1x2 Team owner, Paul Stoddart, says, “Marc, Carlos and Enrique approached us last year regarding the possibility of setting up an exclusive arrangement to represent the two-seater program in the Spanish and Portuguese markets."

"With their in-depth understanding of motorsport and undoubted business acumen, plus Marc’s connections with Minardi, it just seemed like a natural fit between Best Lap F1 Events and the F1X2 Team," Stoddart continued. "We’re extremely pleased, and look forward to introducing new passengers to the thrill of Formula One performance that our unique fleet of eight two-seaters is able to offer.” Source Minardi F1X2 Team

Track news
Bahrain ticket sales on the up Bahrain ticket sales on the upSales of grandstand tickets for the Bahrain Grand Prix continue to soar past previous records, the circuit announced today. With so much global attention being directed towards Bahrain in the build-up to the new season, the prestigious date on the calendar has had a direct effect on sales, particularly those from overseas.

In 2005 the total number of admissions over the Grand Prix at the circuit was 77,257, which includes all paying adult and child spectators in addition to all those using corporate facilities.

An independent report conducted at the 2005 Grand Prix on behalf of the Bahraini government measured that the crowds consisted of 54.5% Bahraini residents, with 20.3% traveling from neighboring GCC countries and 25.2% international visitors. A poll of the spectators recorded that 40% of respondents had attended the inaugural Grand Prix in 2004 and 70% intended to return in 2006.

Raising the profile of the race still further in 2006 has been an array of promotional events by the BIC and its commercial partners. A BIC media 'road show' in Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Dubai and Egypt has stirred up additional interest in the region, attended by over 200 journalists and 35 TV crews. Source BIC

Track News
Watkins Glen markets to college students Watkins Glen markets to college studentsWatkins Glen International was on-hand at Syracuse University yesterday to promote the different styles of each racing series that will compete at The Glen this year.

The WGI stock car, along with the IndyCar® Series Team Penske show car and the Rolex Sports Car Series Kodak EasyShare DORAN JE4 Ford No. 77 Daytona Prototype, were all on display Sunday, March 5th, during a featured game between the Syracuse University Orange and the Wildcats of Villanova.

The picture includes the Kodak EasyShare DORAN JE4 Ford No. 77 Daytona Prototype, The IndyCar Series Team Penske show car, Otto the Orange, The Syracuse University Cheerleaders and The Syracuse University Dance Team.

LG Motorsports announces 3-car Vette team LG Motorsports announces 3-car Vette teamLG Motorsports announced today that it will increase its commitment to the SCCA Pro Racing SPEED World Challenge GT Championship with a three-car effort. Known for getting tremendous horsepower from its LG Pro Long Tube Corvettes, the LG Motorsports team expects to pick-up right where it left off in 2005.

In addition to the three-time former World Challenge Champion, Lou Gigliotti, in his #28 black and yellow flamed LG Motorsports Corvette C6, the team will also campaign the #26 Corvette with former Trans-Am Series standout Claudio Burton and Doug Peterson in the #87 3-Dimensioal Services Corvette.

“I’m really looking forward to competing in a World Challenge GT car,” commented Burton. “I’ve heard all the commentary referring to the GT class being a modern day Trans-Am, so I think it will be a good fit with my background.”

“We just had a test session this past Friday,” Burton added. “It’s a great feeling car and very responsive. We’re certainly not lacking for horsepower. The LG Motorsports guys really have the car figured out. I think it will be a pretty quick learning curve for me moving into the Series. At least I’ve got a great team behind me to help.” zzzz

Peterson, the 2000 Star Mazda Series Masters Champion and 2004 SCCA Formula Mazda National Champion, comes to SPEED World Challenge after competing in 2005 with the American Speed Factory team in the extremely competitive Star Mazda Series. He finished third in the Masters Series Championship while accumulating and impressive 12 top-ten finishes, nine top-fives and visited the podium five times with one third-place finish and four wins.

“I’ve wanted to drive one of Lou’s cars for quite some time,” said Doug. “I came down and tested a couple of weeks back and I’m really impressed with the car. If I had to use one word, it would be ‘wow!’ Obviously, it’s a bigger car than I’m used to, but I was very surprised by the response and handling.

“I’m really looking forward to participating in the SPEED World Challenge Series,” Doug continued. “One good thing is the schedule. I know my way around most of the tracks we’ll visit, with the exception of Utah. Then again, no one has been there yet, so I’ll be on equal footing for that one. I think with Lou’s help and knowledge of the Series, we’ll come up to speed pretty quick and hopefully start making our way to the front.”

“Campaigning a three-car team will be a great opportunity to showcase the LG Motorsports team and LG Motorsports’ products,” said team owner Gigliotti. “We’re a little bit old school in our approach to racing. We race what we sell, so for us it is still a matter of win on Sunday, sell on Monday. Our customers have come to know us for our quality and high performance products. To us, if we can’t win with it, we don’t sell it. Our customers know that. It’s a simple formula at LG Motorsports, we race what we sell.”

Track News
Pocono names Vice Presidents Pocono names Vice PresidentsPOCONO, PA – Pocono Raceway Inc. today announced additions to it’s management team, effective immediately, that will allow Pocono Raceway Inc. to continue its strong growth history and plan more efficiently for future endeavors.

“I have elevated Brandon Igdalsky and Nicholas Igdalsky to the positions of Vice President to better utilize their talent and experience that they have gained by being involved in all aspects of our business for more than 14 years,” stated Pocono Raceway Inc. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Dr. Joseph Mattioli. “Brandon and Nicholas were the first of the third generation of our family to become involved with Pocono Raceway and I am happy to elevate them to their new positions,” stated Dr. Mattioli.

“Brandon Igdalsky will be responsible for all aspects of the operation of the award winning Blakeslee Inn and Restaurant, located in Blakeslee, PA.  Nicholas Igdalsky will be responsible for overseeing our auto racing facility in South Boston, VA., along with the Mattioli Foundation diversity program with the South Boston, VA. School District,” added Dr. Mattioli.

Brandon and Nicholas will join second generation family members and Pocono Raceway Inc. Directors: Marilouise McNally, Joseph Mattioli III and Michele Mattioli Kulick, in playing an integral part in the future of Pocono Raceway Inc.

Murray Walker back in F1 Murray Walker back in F1He's back! After a four year absence from the Formula One Paddock, Murray Walker is making a comeback with the Honda Racing F1 Team.   

The lure of F1 has finally proved too much for the broadcasting legend, who hung up his microphone for the last time in 2001 when he retired from the ITV-F1 commentary team. Occasional visits to the Paddock reminded him what he was missing and after a well-deserved but brief retirement, he decided he couldn't resist the draw of what promises to be the most exciting F1 season in years. 

For 2006, the Honda Racing F1 Team asked 82 year old Murray if he would like to join the team and make a return to the sport he adores in the unique role of team ambassador. As a fully integrated member of the team, he will provide Honda's VIP guests with an insight into the team's progress and entertain them with his inimitable brand of F1 commentary. The much loved star will attend half of the season's 18 Grands Prix and will make his debut in Honda Racing F1 Team colors when the F1 circus returns to Europe in April. zzzz

Commenting on his return to the F1 Paddock, Murray said: "I'm naturally delighted to be back because I've missed the fabulous sport of Formula One that I love so much, and what better way to be doing so than with the Honda Racing F1 Team. Their prospects for 2006 are looking very bright indeed, which is great news for their exciting driver line-up of Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello."  

Nick Fry, Chief Executive Officer of the Honda Racing F1 Team, commented: "We are absolutely thrilled to have Murray on board for the 2006 season. His retirement four years ago was a tremendous loss to F1 and he remains one of the best-loved characters in sport. His unfailing energy and enthusiasm is legendary worldwide and we are delighted to welcome him back to the Paddock. 2006 looks set to be a very exciting season for the Honda Racing F1 Team on and off the race track. Our marketing focus will be developing the team as a sports and entertainment brand and Murray will make an important contribution to that. If our testing promise translates to the race track as well as we expect it to, then our guests are in for a treat with Murray's high-octane commentary."

Marlin picks up eyewear maker backing Marlin picks up eyewear maker backingWiley X Eyewear (pronounced Y-lee), a manufacturer of sports, casual and tactical eyewear, will be the primary sponsor on Sterling Marlin's No. 14 Chevrolet for this weekend's NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

The MB2 Motorsports entry will carry the black and red colors of Wiley X, a company that was lauded by the New England Journal of Medicine in the Dec. 9, 2004 issue. The renowned weekly medical publication stated that Wiley X ballistic eyewear was one of the main reasons for the decreasing amount of eye injuries suffered by soldiers.

Along with being a major supplier to the U.S. Armed Forces and law enforcement agencies, Wiley X produces sophisticated sunglasses for both casual, active wear and specialty eyewear for the motorcycle, mountain/street bike, hunting, boating and fishing markets to name a few.

"It's hard to contain our excitement after finalizing a deal with the good folks at MB2 Motorsports to have our very own Nextel Cup car competing in Las Vegas, " said Myles Freeman, co-owner and vice president of sales for Wiley X Eyewear.  "And, we couldn't have a better role model than Sterling Marlin to drive the No. 14 Wiley X car. This race is dedicated to all of our retail customers who have helped us achieve such a lofty goal in our quest to further raise brand awareness."

Branding of open wheel racing Branding of open wheel racingA reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Yet another great article. The latest one written by E. Rasmussen Holm on branding of the sport really hit home for me. I am hopeful that the new merged league takes the already branded IndyCar name and grows it into a household name. Tim Berger, Harrisburg, PA
Q and A with Renault's Bell and White Q and A with Renault's Bell and White
Doornbos the first in Saudi Arabia Doornbos the first in Saudi ArabiaRobert Doornbos became the first driver to do a F1 demo in Saudi Arabia today. At the main boulevard of the city of Daman, Red Bull Racing shook the ground with a stunning demo which was witnessed by more than a thousand people!

ROBERT DOORNBOS: “Wow, this was amazing! Like last year in Rotterdam (Monaco aan de Maas event), people went crazy when we hit the streets today. At the 1.5 kilometer long boulevard I could even reach a speed of 300 kph and of course I didn’t forget to give the crowd a couple of doughnuts as a bonus. I’m proud to have been the first F1 driver to come here. A huge ‘thank you’ goes out to all Saudi’s for their hospitality!”

Questions still surround tire testing rule Questions still surround tire testing ruleAfter the first two races of the 2006 Nextel Cup season, questions still abound about NASCAR’s controversial tire-leasing program designed to help level competition. Instituted in conjunction with the rule limiting testing dates at Nextel Cup tracks, the tire-leasing plan is aimed at keeping teams from using Goodyear tires at non-NASCAR designated test sessions. Teams are now forced to lease tires rather than buying them as they have in the past. Supposedly this lessens the advantage multicar teams had enjoyed in testing. Last week at California Speedway, Goodyear leased each race team six sets of tires for practice and qualifying, but did not issue race tires (10 sets per team) until final practice was completed. To further eliminate any potential for unapproved use of Goodyears, the tire manufacturer has installed computer chips in each tire to keep track of inventory. In cutting back on the umpteen number of test sessions in previous years, Cup teams are now permitted to test just six times per season. So far, teams have tested at Daytona Beach and Las Vegas in January. Some teams have found a way around the tire-leasing restriction by testing Hoosier tires at non-NASCAR designated testing venues. Hoosier radials aren’t at all similar to the Goodyear component used in Nextel Cup, but could give teams a slight advantage by allowing for additional testing. More at the Boston Herald
Industry News
Ford at crossroads: "Change or Die" Ford at crossroads: "Change or Die"With all of the problems facing General Motors Corp., including the threat of bankruptcy, it's easy to forget that in many ways America's other crisis-ridden car company is in even worse shape.

Ford Motor Co. has higher non-labor operating costs than GM, its plants are less flexible, and it has lost twice as much U.S. sales volume over the last five years.

It has lagged in modernizing its factories, failed to follow up on the enormous success of hit vehicles like the Taurus and suffered a brain drain of key executives walking out the door.

Now, facing unrelenting pressure from foreign rivals like Toyota and Honda, Ford is at a crucial juncture.

In the words of Mark Fields, new head of the company's all-important Americas division, Ford must "change or die."   More at Chicago Tribune

Q and A with Heikki Kovalainen Q and A with Heikki KovalainenWith the entire formula one grid gearing up for the upcoming 2006 season opener at the Bahrain International Circuit, Renault’s official test driver, Heikki Kovalainen talks about the French based squad’s preparations that have led them up to this very moment…

Heikki, you completed the winter testing program this week in Valencia. What are your feelings about this winter campaign?
Everything went very well. I felt good in the car straight away. The R26 has been very reliable, easy to drive and reacted well to the different set up changes we had to test. We made good progress on the package whose foundations were very strong even before the first tests on track last January. I think we should be very satisfied with our performances this winter. It is now time for us to compare ourselves in race conditions to our competitors, who have also done a lot of running.

Regarding what happened during the winter, how do you imagine the race of Bahrain next week?
The fight will be tight, that’s sure. I think both Renault cars are very strong. Our engine is reliable and Michelin tires performed well this winter, so I think we have a real chance for the first race. I believe we all will be very disappointed if we are not fighting for the win in Bahrain because the R26/RS26 package is ready!  zzzz

And you, how are you preparing for the first GP as it will be you first race of the season as official third driver of the Renault F1 Team?
I just try to continue my fitness training to keep myself in good shape because I have to be able to drive the car if needed. But I mainly want to continue learning from the team and see how the race team works. It will be hard to see the other drivers on the track but it is part of my job and I accept it.

What will be your program for the next few weeks?
I will be pretty busy, I have to say. I will go to Bahrain and Malaysia then I will come back to Europe to take part in testing in Paul Ricard. Before going to Australia for the third GP, I will travel via Japan for a promotional event with our sponsor Mild Seven and then from Melbourne, I will go back to Paul Ricard to continue our development program. Do you follow?! Renault

Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Schu to decide future 'soon'
Bernie, Brundle, criticize Alonso
BMW rule out debut podium
DC admits Red Bull difficulty
Nico's Dad to take 'back seat'
Ferrari rev-up profits
Red Bull's Steiner to leave F1
Ferrari had V8 'problems' - Klien
Red Bull owner points finger at Ferrari
F1 testers looking Stateside
Ferrari is semi-works partner, says Red Bull
McLaren tester helped pen new Spanish track
Schu's not in title hot seat - Lauda
Rossi switch unlikely, says Schu
Mild weather for F1's desert opener
Industry News
GM to reduce its stake in Suzuki GM to reduce its stake in SuzukiGeneral Motors Corp. today announced it would reduce its equity stake in Suzuki Motor Corp. from 20.4 percent to 3.0 percent, by selling 92.36 million shares. The strategic alliance between GM and Suzuki will continue.
track news
Donington Park appoints agency for major revamp Donington Park appoints agency for major revampDonington Park, home of the British Motorcycle Grand Prix, has appointed full-service marketing agency RSM to manage its brand positioning and publicize its redevelopment, events, products and services in an exclusive multi-disciplinary deal.

Milton Keynes-based RSM, established in 1997, will provide strategic advice and implement PR and marketing programs for all key areas of the Leicestershire circuit’s business, including motorsport events; conference, hospitality and exhibition facilities; and track days.

Brian Pallett, Managing Director of Donington Park, said: “When we looked at our requirements, RSM was the obvious choice. RSM has a reputation for commitment, creativity and dedication, and a proven ability to take motorsport to wider consumer audiences.”

RSM was invited to pitch for the Donington Park business after successfully implementing a PR and promotions campaign for the 2005 British Motorcycle Grand Prix at the circuit, the UK’s only round of the popular MotoGP world series. zzzz

Donington is currently undergoing a multi-million pound redevelopment of its trackside facilities, which includes the Paddock hospitality suite and media centre, under the guidance of new Managing Director Brian Pallett, who was appointed in late 2004 by the circuit leaseholders.

Alison Andrew, Account Director at RSM, said: “The redevelopment at Donington is a great opportunity for the venue to modernize not only its facilities, but also its image. RSM will help the circuit refresh its corporate identity, its website, its PR and its external communications. We have enjoyed working with Donington before on events such as MotoGP and the team are delighted that we have won this contract.”

Over the past eight years, RSM has provided its services to Vauxhall Motors, Mercedes-Benz Retail, Hotpoint, Sony, Automobili Lamborghini, Brother and ITIS Holdings, among others.

Loeb wins México Loeb wins MéxicoThe Kronos Total Citroën World Rally Team of Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena claimed outright victory in Corona Rally México – their first win of the year. The result puts Loeb five points ahead of Marcos Grönholm in the Drivers’ Championship and the team four points ahead of BP-Ford in the Manufacturers’ Championship. The battle between them and second place finishers, Petter Solberg/Phil Mills in the Subaru Impreza WRC 2006 was intense, exciting and as heated as the blistering Mexican temperatures. While Solberg finished leg one in first place, things changed on leg two with the two crews swapping places until stage 12 when Solberg’s tire wear problems finally proved too much. Then on stage 13, the Norwegian experienced power steering failure, lost time and was unable to make it up over the final stages of the event.

“It was nice to have a fight with Petter again… Especially when I am the winner of the match!” joked Loeb. “I am especially happy for the team which achieved its first WRC victory here. The fight with Petter was tough this year, like last year, and I saw no difference from being in a private or official team which proves the efficiency of the crew.” zzzz

Solberg’s season so far has been frustrating but his second place finish will doubtless improve morale within the team. He now lies fourth in the Drivers’ Championship and the team scored 12 valuable points in the Manufacturers’ Championship, putting them in fourth place.

“Generally, the rally itself was good and it was not so bad for me, even though I wasn’t feeling too well. In fact, it went much better than I expected,” said Solberg. “We want more points. If we can come a little closer now, then we can take more risks, but points are the important thing now.”

The final three stages and 60.42 competitive kilometres of Corona Rally México kicked off with the longest stage of the rally and finished with the shortest – the Super Special in León. But the morning’s competition proved fairly trouble free for most of the crews.

Manfred Stohl took third place overall in his Peugeot 307 WRC, despite his lack of confidence throughout the rally and the presence of Spain’s Daniel Sordo behind him, who finished the rally in fourth place. The two held onto their places from the start of the second leg and drove steadily to the finish.

“In the rally, anything can happen. Daniel was inconsistent, he would make one good time then one bad time. I knew if he was doing it all the time, we knew what he could do – but in the end, it was OK,” said Stohl.

Henning Solberg adopted a cautious approach to the day, not prepared to jeopardize his position and valuable points. He finished in fifth place overall at the wheel of his Peugeot 307.

Gareth MacHale finished the event in sixth despite admitting that he drove like his Grandmother through the demanding first stage of the day!

“I never thought that we could be this far up the leaderboard,” the Irish driver confessed. “I’m absolutely delighted.”

After suffering a broken driveshaft as a result of rolling the car on stage four, Marcus Grönholm managed to claw his way back up the leaderboard to finish in eighth overall.

“The mistake on the first day took me out of the match but what is encouraging is that the handling and reliability of the Ford Focus is obviously there. Even if I wasn’t as motivated as if I was fighting for the lead, I know that the car is able to win on gravel,” he said.

In the FIA Production Car World Rally Championship, Japan’s Toshi Arai was in a class of his own in this, his first outing of the season. He led the rally from the fourth stage and despite having to stop a fix a puncture on his Subaru Impreza on stage 12, which reduced his lead margin considerably, he finished the event 48.9 seconds ahead of Nasser Al-Attiyah who finished in second place.

“This year’s roads were quite hard and twisty. It was not so bad in the high altitude or high temperatures. It was no problem,” said Toshi.

Mexico’s Ricardo Triviño, would have finished the event in 10th overall but for the fact that he was excluded from the rally after it was found that his car did not conform to the Homologation regulations.

Corona Rally México - Final positions

1. Sébastien Loeb/Daniel Elena Citroën Xsara WRC 3hr 47min 08.8sec
2. Petter Solberg/Phil Mills Subaru Impreza WRC 2006 3hr 47min 57.7sec
3. Manfred Stohl/Ilka Minor Peugeot 307 WRC 3hr 51min 47.9sec
4. Daniel Sordo/Marc Martí Citroën Xsara WRC 3hr 52min 36.5sec
5. Henning Solberg/Cato Menkerud Peugoet 307 WRC 3hr 59min 44.2sec
6. Gareth MacHale/Paul Nagle Ford Focus RS WRC 05 4hr 03min 11.1sec
7. Chris Atkinson/Glenn Macneall Subaru Impreza WRC 2006 4hr 07min 48.3sec
8. Marcus Grönholm/Timo Rautiainen Ford Focus RS WRC 06 4hr 08min 53.0sec
9. Toshi Arai/Tony Sircombe Subaru Impreza STI 4hr 09min 43.4sec
10. Nasser Al-Attiyah/Chris Patterson Subaru Impreza STI 4hr 10min 32.3sec

FIA World Rally Championship for Drivers
1. S Loeb 26pts
2. M Grönholm 21pts
3. M Stohl 11pts
4. P Solberg 8pts
5. T Gardemeister 6pts

FIA World Rally Championship for Manufacturers
1. Kronos Total Citroën WRT 34pts
2. BP-Ford WRT 30pts
3. OMV Peugeot Norway 21pts
4. Subaru World Rally Team 20pts
5. Stobart VK M-Sport Ford 9pts
6. Red Bull Škoda Team 3pts

FIA Production Car World Rally Championship
1. N Al-Attiyah 14pts
2. F Nutahara 10pts
3. T Arai 10pts
4. D Higgins 8pts
5. M Baldacci 6pts
6. S Marrini 5pts

Waltrip a NASCAR shill Waltrip a NASCAR shillOn today's broadcast of the Mexico City Busch Series race Darrell Boogity Boogity Boogity Waltrip said that Paul Tracy came to NASCAR because that's where the racing is. (We all know he is trying it because he is getting too old to race in "Indy/Champ Cars.").  Then he said that Tracy probably wished that he had made the move to NASCAR earlier.
Industry News
Street Rod Legislation introduced Street Rod Legislation introducedFlorida became the sixth state this session to introduce SEMA model legislation (H.B. 2248) to create vehicle titling and registration classifications for street rods and custom vehicles. The bill defines a street rod as an altered vehicle manufactured before 1949 and a custom as an altered vehicle at least 25 years old and manufactured after 1948. Under the bill, kit cars and replica vehicles will be assigned a certificate of title bearing the same model year designation as the production vehicle they most closely resemble. The measure also exempts street rods and customs from periodic vehicle inspections and emissions inspections. Similar legislation is pending this year in New Hampshire, Colorado, Tennessee, Massachusetts and Virginia. The model bill has already been enacted into law in Illinois, Missouri, Rhode Island, Montana and Maine. FactoryFive
Merger feedback Merger feedbackUPDATE #2 Another fan writes, Dear AutoRacing1, as probably your biggest IRL supporter subscriber, I too think it's time for a reunification of the two series. I used to enjoy this time of the year when the racing season begins, but now its just another season of the NASCAR nation. Wind Tunnel, which used to be eight hours a week of live programming, is now reduced to a one hour Sunday recap. The NASCAR nation must be given the yellow and slowed down. David Morgason

Another adds, I watched John Barnes say on SPEED News Sunday night that there should not be a merger that Champ Car brings nothing to the table, this from a team owner that's nearly bankrupt and who will probably not be part of a merged series. Clearly Barnes is clueless and part of the problem, not the solution. Jay Mansfield, Oklahoma City.

03/05/06 Another fans writes, You spell it out beautifully! Like a small child, I constantly find myself almost giggling with excitement when I begin to think about reunification. Not more than 3-4 months ago, if you mentioned reunification, I would have said absolutely no!...don't care about it and don't want it anymore, as my excitement for the newly revised Champ Car series under KK and company is high and who have finally seemed to figure out what it is about open wheel racing that appeals to open wheel fans....highest performance cars/drivers/teams competing on an equal platform (spec chassis, high hp engine, weight advantages negated), on the most challenging circuits and discipline (mainly road racing), with an emphasis on driver skill to decide the outcome (no driver aids).
But, in considering the ramifications of reunification, the advantages for both sides just makes too much sense! Furthermore, I've rediscovered many 11-year old repressed feelings of appreciation, respect, and fervor for Indycar racing, at least as it was in a unified state.
They say that intense hatred and love are two sides of the same coin. If one good thing has come from the split, at least on the Champ Car side of things (can't judge the other as I'm not part of it...right now), it has created an extremely strong set of loyal fans. To go through the turmoil that CART/Champ Car has over the past 6-7 years and to remain a loyal and passionate fan to the series over that time has only solidified that 'base' group of fans more than ever before. Thus, to combine the two fan bases together could quite possibly set the platform for something larger than the old IndyCar series could have ever become. I long for the day where I can turn this intense hatred and negative energy for the other side back into the love and passion it once was before, only greater.
It only makes sense that the name IndyCar and the Indy 500 should be the centerpiece, but the Champ Car chassis (2007+ performance levels) and rules (level platform), combined with the IRL marketing and a venue selection similar to the one you've proposed are the only logical ways to go. I can only hope that logic and reason prevail THIS time. Until then, I will still be that still skeptical fan forever wishing for reunification. D. Hughes, Cincinnati, OH

Dear AutoRacing1.com, Every fan of Champ Car and IRL that I know believes that the real roadblock to a merger is simply Tony George. Are the merits that you outlined for a merger finally enough to overcome his ego? Ed Spongberg

03/05/06 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I want to personally thank Mark Cipolloni for his latest article on why a merger would be good for the IRL and Champ Car. I was one of the diehards who was opposed to a merger, but after reading that article a merger is a no-brainer. I sure hope it happens this time. Jeffrey Smith, Denver, Co.
Appalled by Grand-Am antics Appalled by Grand-Am anticsA reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, With disgust and anger I watched the Grand-Am race from Mexico,  I am a forever fan of Memo Gidley.   What happened between Max [Angelelli] no count and Memo was just horrible.  Not that it never happens but when something like that does and it is so public then shame on Grand-Am and the track.

I say "the track" because earlier there was an equally ludicrous and shameful episode between some third or fourth France family member once removed and someone else.  First, did anyone notice it took 3 or four minutes for so-called "safety crews" to get there?  Then, once there they allowed the longest fight I have ever witnessed between two witless, bitch slappers but incredulously the so-called safety crew just sort of stood there watching as if witnessing some bad undercard at a stupid fight.

This all just underlines why CHAMP CAR best keep T. Cotman very near by.  Max Angelelli should be banned for  a good long time.  And like one of your readers wrote, there sure was a mighty big gap to 2nd. Why it was almost like watching Dale Jr. win a restrictor plate race after his Daddy died! Andy Freebird, Seattle

Wheldon tops oval test times at Homestead Wheldon tops oval test times at HomesteadDan Wheldon saved his best laps for the end of Open Testing at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The 2005 IRL IndyCar Series and Indianapolis 500 winner led the only oval day for IRL IndyCar® Series teams posting a lap of 24.5088 seconds, 218.126 mph, on the 1.5-mile oval with less than hour remaining in the afternoon session. Wheldon's lap beat Buddy Rice's track record of 24.5920 seconds, 217.388 mph (Feb. 28, 2004).

Dario Franchitti, right, leads Hornish around the Homestead oval.  They finished 1-2 on the speed charts.  Photo courtesy IRL

"I think everyone at Target Chip Ganassi Racing has worked very hard over these past four days trying to get us a good road course car for this year and a good oval car," Wheldon said. "We certainly, and for me personally, have a little bit of work to do on the road course car. The oval car seems very good. It's obviously fast. I'm always impressed with Honda even though it's a one-make series now. They still do everything right and take care of everything that needs taking care of. I think we're in OK shape. We'll have to wait and see. We're obviously fast. It's going to be tough this year. It's going to be a fight. There's no doubt about it."

Wheldon was slightly faster than 2003 IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon who posted the second-fastest lap, 24.6150, 217.185 mph, in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone.

Sam Hornish Jr. (216.882 mph), Helio Castroneves (216.652 mph), Tony Kanaan (215.469 mph), Ed Carpenter (215.416 mph) and Buddy Rice (215.196) joined the Target Chip Ganassi duo in bettering Tomas Scheckter's 2005 pole speed of 215.115 mph. zzzz

IndyCar Series teams return to test the variably banked 1.5-mile oval on March 24 to begin preparations for the Toyota Indy 300. The IRL Indy Pro Series will conduct a test on the oval on March 6.

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone, second fastest): "It was a good day. I think the team in general got through what they needed to get through. I think at the end it was more about tows, so the speed doesn't say much. I think we were more comfortable at those speeds than some others. Some people pulled out some big laps. All in all, I'm pretty happy. Its nice to have some power and be consistently at the top."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, third fastest): "Pretty uneventful, but for the most part it went really well. We made some adjustments throughout the day that helped. The Penske team did really well and we are looking forward to the season to start."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fourth fastest): "The day went really well. The Penske team ran up front for the most part. I felt very comfortable out there." (You ran up front for the most part of this test, how is your confidence going into the start of the season?): "I'm very confident, I don't want to jinks it but I feel really good and I'm ready for the season to start."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fifth-quickest): "We're a little bit behind on our qualifying runs, but we had a long run this afternoon and I was pretty pleased with the race car that I had. What really matters is the race, and I think last year we proved we can pass people coming from the back of the pack, which we started most of the time on the ovals. I'd like to improve our position for sure. We have two more weeks to back home and make some improvements, but we have a good race car and I'm looking forward to the race." IRL

Busch and Stewart make peace Busch and Stewart make peaceKyle Busch said he and Tony Stewart hashed out their differences last weekend prior to the Auto Club 500 at California Speedway. Stewart had criticized Busch's driving ability after the Daytona 500. Busch said Saturday prior to qualifying for the Telcel-Motorola Mexico 200 that he and Stewart have cleared the air. "I was able to talk with him and get it over with and get it behind both of us," Busch said. "We were able to race against each other a little bit on Sunday and gave each other plenty of room, which was cool. We waved and said, 'Thank you' as we were passing each other. ... There's plenty more times throughout the year where I know we'll be racing and hopefully we can just keep it the way we did Sunday." NASCAR Daily Scene
France family maintains firm grip on NASCAR France family maintains firm grip on NASCARThis Atlanta Journal-Constitution article talks about the firm grip the France family has on NASCAR, how successful they are and why they are successful.  An interesting read.

One key excerpt regarding the antitrust lawsuit against them - While ISC operates tracks, including the Daytona International Speedway, NASCAR sets and enforces the sport's rules, makes television and marketing deals and decides which tracks get races. The relationship between NASCAR and ISC is the subject of a federal anti-trust lawsuit in Kentucky.

In a $400 million suit against NASCAR and ISC, 5-year-old Kentucky Speedway alleges that the two France family-controlled companies operate as an illegal monopoly, with one (NASCAR) awarding lucrative races to the other (ISC) while withholding races from competing tracks such as the Kentucky Speedway.

"The actions of NASCAR and ISC in shutting out the competition makes the most egregious tactics of drivers fighting for position on the track look like a Sunday afternoon drive in the country," the lawsuit claims.

NASCAR and ISC deny the allegations in court filings. U.S. District Judge William O. Bertelsman recently refused a request by NASCAR and ISC to dismiss the suit. The judge gave both sides until Feb. 1, 2007, to complete discovery.

A similar lawsuit in Texas was settled in 2004, with NASCAR awarding a second Nextel Cup race to the Texas Motor Speedway, which is owned by longtime ISC rival Speedway Motorsports Inc.

Formula BMW
Gelles Racing adds John Zartarian to lineup Gelles Racing adds John Zartarian to lineupTeam owner Bob Gelles announced today John Zartarian would join his Formula BMW USA Team in 2006. The Five-Star brigade will now become a six-bullet Colt with this fine driver returning to the team he completed the season with last year. “John (Zartarian) was the only driver we were looking after to complete our team, claimed Gelles. He ran a doubleheader with us in Road Atlanta at the end of the season and we know from this experience he will be a strong favorite to win in the series in 2006. John has already tested with us and his times reflected his understanding of the FB02 and how he can tune this racing machine with our engineering staff.”

 “I had my ups and downs last year, continued the 19-year old second-year driver from Carlsbad, California. I started the season strong with two fourth places in the first three rounds and three Top Ten in Laguna Seca and Mid-Ohio. Then Canada was a nightmare when I was caught up in two accidents in a row. Things did not get any better in Indianapolis, so I decided to take a break from the series and got back for the season finale with Gelles Racing. My seventh place in Road Atlanta after running as high as 3rd proved I belonged to this series and Gelles was the only team I wanted to compete this year because they are so professional in every aspect.” zzzz

Partnership for the future
Gelles Racing has joined in a partnership with Kart Racing Technologies and High-Rev Engineering to develop and graduate karters from entry level direct drive Baby Kart /Cadet Karts all the way through Formula BMW USA – Champ Car Atlantic onto Champ Car World Series within the same organization.  “I have known Marc Zartarian for 12-years, added Gelles, and I won WKA Championships on his High-Rev Engineering powered Enduro Karts in the late 90’s with his well prepared products. At long last, we have embarked on a mutually beneficial journey in business that will reward both our customers in Motorsport. Marc will continue blanketing the front of the karting championship fields with his fine drivers, karts and engines proving his significant accomplishments daily in IKF, WKA, SDKA, SKUSA, Rotax & Stars across the country. We feel we can give the proven drivers opportunities to step up to professional ladder series with us. Together we will put Kart Racing Technologies and Gelles Racing on the map.

Testing in March
Gelles Racing will continue its winter testing season in Road Atlanta this week. Driving the BMW of Sterling #6 car, John Zartarian will join Ryan Campbell, Adien Herberts, Maxime Pelletier, Sebastien Saavedra and Joel Jackson for these sessions.

In 2006, Gelles Racing will enter the Formula BMW USA Championship and the Champ Car Atlantic Championship. Western Union, BMW of Sterling, USA TODAY, Hebert & LeBleu and Care Centric sponsor the team. For more information, Kart Racing Technologies may be seen at www.kartracingtechnologies.com while Bob Gelles may be contacted at (703) 926-2474 or by email bob@gellesracing.com.

Indy 500 invites celebrities to come out Indy 500 invites celebrities to come outAmong the goodies stashed in this year's Academy Award gift bags will be special invitations to the Indianapolis 500. That's one of the ways the Speedway tries to interest celebrities in coming to the May race, says IMS spokesman Josh Laycock.
Angelelli has words for Grand-Am officials Angelelli has words for Grand-Am officialsMax Angelelli worked the 500-horsepower Pontiac V-8 race car up to fourth place in Saturday's Mexico City Grand-Am race before being assessed a stop-and-go penalty on Lap 86 for “avoidable contact” with the No. 19 Ford Crawford. Angelelli did not quite see it the same way as the Grand American officials.

“It looks like it is impossible to overtake people in this championship,” said Angelelli, who co-drove with Taylor to the Daytona Prototype Driver Championship last season. “It’s impossible. We have to stay in line and be nice to each other like being in school in front of the professor. This is not the way I like racing and I’m very upset. When you race, you have to take risks. If you take risks in this championship, you are penalized. This is unfair.”

Tracy drives wheels off his Lexus-Riley Tracy drives wheels off his Lexus-RileyAfter getting off to a difficult start to the Mexico City 250 race weekend, the Graydon Elliott Fusion Racing with MSR Lexus-Riley of Mike Borkowski and Paul Tracy came back strong in the race to finish third in round two of the 2006 Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve season on Saturday.
Borkowski started the race from thirteenth on the grid, and moved steadily up the order up into fifth place before turning the car over to Tracy, who rejoined the field in tenth position following the pit stop. Tracy put in another trademark performance, moving the Graydon Elliott machine back up into the top five once again after several close battles through the field. A series of yellow flags set the stage for a pair of restarts as Tracy took maximum advantage to move the car up into third position in the closing laps of the 250-mile event.
“I really had a blast out there racing with Max (Angelelli)-he’s pretty much as crazy as I am- we had a really great fight out there, running door handle to door handle all the way down the front stretch,” said Tracy. “No matter if we had been fighting over fourteenth place, it was a great battle and that’s the kind of racing you get up for in the morning.”
The race marks the second consecutive podium for Tracy at the Mexico City track after he scored third in the Champ Car season finale last November, and the Toronto native was happy to have made the most of his opportunity in his run at the high-altitude facility.
“I want to thank Graydon Elliott and Mike Shank for making this opportunity possible, and also really thank Kenny Wilden for stepping out of the car and letting me run this race this weekend,” said Tracy. “Without all these guys, it just wouldn’t have happened. I kind of got us behind early in the weekend with my crash on Thursday, but the team worked hard and we had a strong race car today. Restarts are pretty much my specialty, and the car was really good under braking so I was able to move up several spots each time.”
Fight breaks out in Mexico City Fight breaks out in Mexico CityA Lap 74 crash involving Chris Bingham in the No. 40 Preformed Line Products/Coyote Pontiac Riley and JC France in the No. 59 Brumos Racing Porsche Fabcar touched off a physical altercation between the two drivers. As a result, both drivers have been suspended from the upcoming Rolex Series event at Homestead-Miami Speedway and have been placed on open-ended probation. Additional sanctions against the drivers are likely.
Rossi again fastest in MotoGP test Rossi again fastest in MotoGP testValentino Rossi was once again the fastest rider at the MotoGP Official Test, with a dominant display at the Circuit de Catalunya.

Yesterday’s fastest rider, he took just under twenty minutes to top the table, with his fastest lap at 1pm local time of 1’43.704 putting him first. John Hopkins and the Italian’s teammate Colin Edwards joined him as the three fastest riders as of 1pm local time.

Amongst those to take to the track early this morning were Sete Gibernau, Alex Hoffman and Hopkins. Once again it was Rossi who would make his appearance last at the Circuit de Catalunya. Weather conditions were overcast but without rain, the cloudy skies causing temperatures to drop from yesterday on the track.

At just past 1.45pm, Repsol Honda’s Dani Pedrosa crashed out on turn four. The incident left the Spaniard uninjured, but forced him to ride on a second bike for the rest of the session. zzzz

With Rossi continuing to ride fast, after 4pm the top spot on the leaderboard was exchanged rapidly between four riders. Colin Edwards set a lap of 1’43.388, but just minutes later saw Kawasaki’s Shinya Nakano put in a flying lap of 1’43.245 to snatch the position.

Carlos Checa continued his tremendous preseason by breaking the circuit record at 4.30pm. The Spaniard has been the surprise story of the Official Test, yesterday completing an all-Yamaha top three and today going one better. Fifteen minutes after setting his fastest lap however, Checa saw Rossi breaking the 1’43 second barrier to finish the day first.

Behind the top four of Rossi, Checa, Nakano and Edwards, there were three other riders to lap quicker than 1’44: Sete Gibernau, Randy De Puniet and John Hopkins.

Completing the top ten were the three fastest Honda riders of the day. Official factory rider Nicky Hayden clocked the eighth fastest lap of the day ahead of Makoto Tamada and teammate Pedrosa.

Light rain is predicted for tomorrow, which will be both the final day of the Official Test and the scene of the BMW M Award competition, which starts at 2pm local time and will see the riders compete to earn the fastest lap in a 40 minute session. The winner of this action-packed race against the clock will receive a brand new BMW Z4 M Roadster.

Times: Day 2

1. Valentino Rossi (Camel Yamaha) - 1'42.477
2. Carlos Checa (Yamaha Tech 3) - 1'43.142
3. Shinya Nakano (Kawasaki Racing) - 1'43.245
4. Colin Edwards (Camel Yamaha) - 1'43.388
5. Sete Gibernau (Ducati Marlboro) - 1'43.784
6. Randy de Puniet (Kawasaki Racing) - 1'43.874
7. John Hopkins (Rizla Suzuki) - 1'43.970
8. Nicky Hayden (Repsol Honda) - 1'44.029
9. Mika Tamada (Konica Minolta Honda) - 1'44.246
10. Dani Pedrosa (Repsol Honda) - 1'44.369

Racing Professionals merges with Playa Del Racing Racing Professionals merges with Playa Del RacingPlaya Del Racing and Racing Professionals owner/driver Jon Herb have agreed to merge the two operations. Herb will drive the No. 6 car under the Playa Del Racing banner in the Indy Pro Series beginning at the season-opening event at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 26.

Veteran crew chief Joe Barlam will lead Herb and the team. In 2005, Herb won the series' second event at Phoenix International Raceway. With four top-five and nine top-10 finishes in 14 starts, Herb finished seventh in the standings.

A Chicago native, Herb started racing in 1997 in the US F2000 series. He competed in the 2001 Indianapolis 500, and has fielded his own team in both the IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series. Herb also is vice president of Aercon Industries, a business based in Florida that produces, sells, and installs autoclaved aerated concrete building material. IRL

Simmons tops IPS test in Homestead Simmons tops IPS test in HomesteadFourteen drivers, the most in Indy Pro Series pre-season testing history, tested on the 2.21-mile road course at Homestead-Miami Speedway on March 4 in the first Open Test of 2006.

Among the drivers participating in the test were defending champion Wade Cunningham and series runner-up Jeff Simmons, along with 10 rookies.

"We're starting our fifth season of competition, and this is the timeframe we expected to see the growth in the series," said Roger Bailey, executive director of the Indy Pro Series. "We had to establish a foothold, and we've done that. Now we're seeing more drivers and teams who want to compete in the series because we are managing the cost, and we've improved the prize payout. We expect even more cars on the grid when we start the season."

The cost to compete in the Indy Pro Series, including a complete car ready to run and entrant fees for events, is considerably less than competing series. In addition, the series will triple its prize payout in 2006 to $3 million.

"I've been waiting to get back into the IRL," said Jim Guthrie, a former IndyCar Series driver whose team made its Indy Pro Series debut. "It feels like home, it feels comfortable, so it made sense emotionally. It also made sense from a business standpoint. With the prize money being upped this season, it makes sense to compete in the Indy Pro Series." zzzz

Guthrie Racing's Raphael Matos, the 2005 Star Mazda champion, posted the second-quickest time, lapping the course in 1 minute, 16.5952 seconds in the No. 41 machine. The team will have three-time Indy Pro Series winner Travis Gregg in the cockpit March 6 when testing resumes on the 1.5-mile, variably banked oval.

Simmons posted the quickest time, 1:16.4130, with less than five minutes to go in the session in the No. 24 Kenn Hardley Racing entry.

Andretti Green Racing teammates Jonathan Klein and Jaime Camara were third and fourth, respectively, while Cunningham posted the fifth quickest lap. In all, there were 927 total laps.


JEFF SIMMONS (No. 24 Kenn Hardley Racing, quickest time): "This is the first time this car has run since Watkins Glen last year, so we had some issues in the morning where we had to shake it down, so we didn't get much time in the morning. But, that let us run harder in the afternoon, and we were able to get the new tires on at a pretty optimum time with the weather cooling down. To be on top is a good sign."

RAPHAEL MATOS (No. 41 Guthrie Racing, 2nd quick): "I love it. It's quite a bit different from what I used to drive. This car has serious power, and it was a lot of fun to drive. You have to slow down everything a little bit, but once you get the feeling of the car, you find a window - it's pretty easy to find the limit of the car. The test was good. I think we have a really good baseline for the road course, and now it's just a matter of fine tuning the car and finding the limits of the car. It should be good for St. Pete."

JONATHAN KLEIN (No. 27 Andretti Green Racing, 3rd quick): "We struggled for the first half of the day finding grip and finding a car that worked nice. We kept at it and kept working on getting a good car with old tires, so that when we did put new tires on it, we could find a chunk of speed. We stayed persistent and didn't get frustrated and everything worked in the end. The car was great. I just told the team 'That was a nice car to drive.' It was a good day."

JAIME CAMARA (No. 11 Andretti Green Racing, 4th quick): "It's been a good day. We tried a lot of things today, and most of them worked. I think we have a pretty consistent car for the road-course races, and since they make up half the schedule, it is very good. I couldn't be happier with today."

WADE CUNNINGHAM (No. 1 Brian Stewart Racing, 5th quick): "It was going well. We ran on the first set of tires all day, and we were second-quickest. We put the new ones on at the end and made a mistake on cold tires. It was good to be back in the car. Everything's pretty much where we left off last year, so it's nice. I don't have to re-learn everything this year."

JAY HOWARD (No. 7 Sam Schmidt Motorsports, 6th quick): "Today was good. We did a handful of decent stints instead of just going around and around and making small little changes. Come in and think about it and go again, which is how I like to do it. It's going great. I like the engine, how much torque it has all the way through. The rev range is good. It's not so critical to wring the engines neck as such like the 2.0-liter cars. I like that. I like driving the car. It's just about making changes and being consistent." IRL

Boris Said wins pole in Mexico Boris Said wins pole in MexicoWith a fast lap of 102.665, road-course specialist Boris Said took the pole for Sunday's Telcel-Motorola 200 in Mexico City. Denny Hamlin and Johnny Sauter followed.
Pos. Car Driver Make Time
1 9 Boris Said Dodge 88.295
2 20 Denny Hamlin Chevrolet 88.429
3 00 Johnny Sauter Chevrolet 88.448
4 157 Adrian Fernandez Chevrolet 88.449
5 66 Jorge Goeters Ford 88.497
6 90 Marc Goossens Ford 88.560
7 64 Jamie McMurray Dodge 88.731
8 18 J.J. Yeley Chevrolet 88.797
9 5 Kyle Busch Chevrolet 89.012
10 11 Paul Menard Chevrolet 89.081
11 21 Kevin Harvick Chevrolet 89.154
12 33 Ron Fellows Chevrolet 89.215
13 2 Clint Bowyer Chevrolet 89.355
14 15 Michel Jourdain Jr. Ford 89.414
15 60 Carl Edwards Ford 89.447
16 10 John Andretti* Ford 89.476
17 47 Jon Wood Ford 89.491
18 35 Regan Smith Ford 89.538
19 77 Burney Lamar* Chevrolet 89.699
20 22 Kenny Wallace Ford 89.756 zzzz
21 1 Jason Keller Dodge 89.766
22 14 Carlos Contreras Dodge 89.823
23 4 Paul Tracy Dodge 89.869
24 156 Chris Cook Dodge 89.898
25 41 Reed Sorenson Dodge 89.978
26 50 Danny O'Quinn Jr.* Ford 90.034
27 27 David Green Ford 90.055
28 88 Mark McFarland* Chevrolet 90.166
29 99 Michael Waltrip Dodge 90.193
30 25 Ashton Lewis Ford 90.209
31 38 Anthony Foyt* Dodge 90.216
32 268 Jimmy Morales Dodge 90.279
33 59 Stacy Compton Ford 90.327
34 06 Todd Kluever* Ford 90.640
35 34 Carlos Pardo Chevrolet 90.665
36 58 Patrick Goeters Chevrolet 90.928
37 267 Rogelio Lopez Dodge 90.956
38 43 Aaron Fike Dodge 91.347
39 01 Jay Sauter Chevrolet 91.429
40 49 Eduardo Goeters Ford 91.703
41 265 Stan Silva Jr. Chevrolet 91.773
42 0 Randy LaJoie Chevrolet 91.781
43 32 Jason Leffler Chevrolet 92.030
44 23 Chris Wimmer* Chevrolet 92.147
45 36 Tim Sauter Chevrolet 93.917
46 12 Joel Kauffman* Dodge 94.012
NC governor to attend NASCAR Hall announcement NC governor to attend NASCAR Hall announcementNew details emerged Friday about next week's expected announcement that Charlotte has landed NASCAR's Hall of Fame. An official announcement has been tentatively scheduled for 4:00pm/et (Speed Channel will cover it Live) Monday at the Charlotte Convention Center, a NASCAR source said. Luminaries such as Gov. Mike Easley, Mayor Pat McCrory, NASCAR Chairman Brian France and Hendrick Motorsports Owner Rick Hendrick are expected to attend, said the source, who asked not to be identified because of the confidentially of the bid process. The Speed Channel is tentatively scheduled to broadcast the event live, the source said. Charlotte Observer
NY Times on NASCAR's COT NY Times on NASCAR's COTNASCAR announced in January that the car of tomorrow would be used in Nextel Cup competition beginning in the spring of 2007 at Bristol Motor Speedway, and that it would be phased in over three years. It will be in 16 of 36 races next year. Brian France, the chairman and chief executive of NASCAR, led the pitch for the concept, which became a priority after the racetrack deaths of Dale Earnhardt and others. The new car will be two inches taller and four inches wider. It is hoped that the design, which gives more space to the driver, will improve the quality of races by removing some of the dependence on aerodynamics that has taken some of the competition out of the drivers' hands and turned stock-car racing into more of a sport of engineers. The new racecar will eliminate the designs of individual manufacturers from Ford, Chevrolet, Dodge and, next year's addition, Toyota. All cars will be virtually identical except for the fake grill that differentiates the models. NASCAR officials say the car will control costs because there will be no need to build as many racecars to fit different tracks on the circuit. Some teams have as many as 17 racecars for use at various tracks; they will need perhaps only 10 in the future because there will be so few adjustments allowed from car to car, according to Gary Nelson, who recently resigned as NASCAR's vice president for research and development but will remain involved with the development of the car. NASCAR figures that by phasing in the changes over three years, the current equipment will not become immediately obsolete. Teams can use up their inventory along the way. NASCAR officials say they are still experimenting and that researchers are years away from finding the right specifications for the midsize 1½-mile ovals, which is why the car of tomorrow will not be used at those tracks until 2009. More at the New York Times
Barnhart gives overview of upcoming IRL season Barnhart gives overview of upcoming IRL seasonHOMESTEAD, Fla. -- Indy Racing League president and Chief Operating Officer Brian Barnhart addressed the media during the Open Test at Homestead-Miami Speedway regarding the 2006 IndyCar Series and Indy Pro Series seasons and beyond.

He kicked off the annual session with an overview of the league’s initiatives with Simmons Abramson Marketing, segued into the long-term partnerships with ABC/ESPN, Honda and Firestone, and touched on a number of technical and scheduling subjects.

“The IndyCar Series is relevant, welcoming, accessible, diverse, authentic and real,” he said. “The IndyCar Series is the Indianapolis 500 and more. It is the most entertaining motorsports experience. It is innovative. It is three-wide racing. Clearly the IndyCar Series can be and is many things to many people – thus our branding this year ‘i am INDY.’

“We are both taking advantage of a deep roots heritage and casting a wider net to draw attention to the excitement of who we are and what we do. We must succeed in creating an emotional connection to the IndyCar Series and its drivers to get more people watching or attending our events.

“This positioning aligns with our corporate vision – International Leadership in Motorsports Entertainment – and allows for considerable growth. The positioning addresses our past by owning our heritage, our present by engaging consumers and our future by consistently setting the stage. This brand position says ‘We Are Indy’ and allows us to build on the equity that is the Indianapolis 500 and that is a tremendous point of difference for us.”

Highlights and excerpts:

● The compressed schedule (March 26-Sept. 10) will allow for continuity with ABC/ESPN to provide fans with an IndyCar Series event almost every week, which will develop “appointment viewing." There are only five off weekends from Easter to Labor Day.
● The 2007 schedule will grow in the March and April window, along with some gaps in this year’s calendar. “We are committed to ending our season in early September,” he said.
● Venues that have previously hosted the IndyCar Series as well as venues that have little or no history with the IndyCar Series are on the “radar screen.”
● Multi-year agreements with venues currently on the schedule have been discussed with track personnel.
● The league is working with track personnel to have large-screen video boards at each venue to be used as vehicles to tell the stories of teams and drivers as they prepare for each race, take fans behind the scenes and make pauses in racing action entertaining.
● A car tracking system will be added to ABC/ESPN telecasts.
● There will be minimal changes to the technical specifications of the Honda Racing Indy V-8. “That is a tribute to the specs we have now. The reliability and performance we have witnessed has been outstanding,” Barnhart said. “There will be a level playing field, putting victory more in the hands of driver ability and crew capability with all teams will having exactly the same program.”
● The cost to teams of engine lease programs has been reduced $500,000 for a full season. For 2007, the lease will be about half the cost of 2005.
● Transition from methanol to 100 percent fuel-grade ethanol over the next two IndyCar Series seasons will have no significant technical barriers. “Our cars don’t sound differently, smell differently or run differently than they have in the past. It’s been a seamless transition so far,” Barnhart said.  zzzz

“I want to take a moment to thank our drivers and teams for the consistently strong product they offer fans week-in and week-out, 2005 was the type of racing season that fortunately has become standard for our series -- intense and unpredictable competition, super individual and super team performances, eight races with a margin of victory of less than a second and 10 different race winners -- the close side-by-side racing witnessed at our races has become our hallmark and our drivers deserve much of that credit.

“The neat thing is we can expect only more of the same in 2006. All the technical challenges of road/street courses in 2005 were met without a hitch and the qualifying format was a success from the drivers’ and fans’ standpoint. Also, there were three different race winners and three different pole winners on the road/street courses, continuing the strong competition aspect of the ovals from the previous nine seasons.

“Similar close competition is expected on the non-ovals this year and the drivers are looking forward to the events at the three distinctly different venues.” More at IndyCar.com

Mexico City Grand-Am final practice times Mexico City Grand-Am final practice times
Pos  Num  Class  Drivers  Team  Time

1.  01  DP  Pruett, Diaz  CompUSA Chip Ganassi with Feli  1:22.661
2.  99  DP  Stallings, Gurney  Gainsco/ Blackhawk Racing  1:22.976
3.  89  DP  Figge, Dalziel  Pacific Coast Motorsports  1:23.080
4.  60  DP  Patterson, Negri  Michael Shank Racing  1:23.242
5.  75  DP  Krohn, Jonsson  Krohn Racing  1:23.379
6.  76  DP  Braun, Bergmeister  Krohn Racing  1:23.474
7.  28  DP  Finlay, Valiante  Finlay Motorsports  1:23.523
8.  7  DP  Tuttle, Cochet  Tuttle Team Racing/ SAMAX  1:23.587
9.  6  DP  Borkowski, Tracy  Graydon Elliott Fusion Racing  1:23.593
10.  19  DP  McDowell, Gidley  Playboy/ Uniden Racing  1:23.617
11.  12  DP  Haberfeld, Fernandez  Lowe's Fernandez Racing  1:23.651
12.  10  DP  Taylor, Angelelli  SunTrust Racing  1:23.665
13.  39  DP  Cheever Jr, Fittipaldi  Crown Royal Special Reserve/ C  1:23.744
14.  11  DP  Duno, Franchitti  CITGO Racing by SAMAX  1:23.963
15.  4  DP  Leitzinger, Wallace  Howard - Boss Motorsports  1:24.036
16.  58  DP  Law, Donohue  Red Bull/ Brumos Porsche  1:24.068
17.  8  DP  Br Frisselle, Bu Frisselle  Synergy Racing  1:24.068
18.  77  DP  Brix, Borcheller  Feeds The Need/ Doran Racing  1:24.174
19.  09  DP  Oberto, Goad  Spirit of Daytona Racing  1:24.643
20.  40  DP  Ruhlman, Bingham  Derhaag Motorsports  1:24.722 zzzz 
21.  5  DP  Gue, Maxwell  Essex Racing  1:25.005
22.  3  DP  Lewis, LaJoie  Southard Motorsports  1:25.584
23.  59  DP  Haywood, France  Brumos Racing  1:27.607
24.  50  DP  Gentilozzi, Drissi  Rocketsports Racing  1:28.715
25.  73  GT  Davis, Tafel  Tafel Racing  1:31.137
26.  05  GT  Alhadeff, Auberlen  Sigalsport BMW  1:31.156
27.  72  GT  Liddell, Henzler  Tafel Racing  1:31.188
28.  64  GT  Collins, Edwards  TRG  1:31.388
29.  21  GT  Weickardt, Pecorari, Connolly  Matt Connolly Motorsports  1:31.738
30.  80  GT  Keen, Murry  Synergy Racing  1:32.082
31.  17  GT  Jensen, Bell  SAMAX  1:32.669
32.  74  GT  Lux, Espenlaub  Tafel Racing  1:32.778
33.  71  GT  Wilkins, Lacey  SAMAX/ Doncaster Racing  1:32.990
34.  65  GT  Bunting, Lally, Valentine  TRG  1:33.411
35.  66  GT  Johnson, Nearn  TRG  1:33.645
36.  04  GT  Sigal, MacLeod  Sigalsport BMW  1:34.116
37.  81  GT  Pumpelly  Synergy Racing  No Time
Mexico Rally Leaderboard after 7 stages Mexico Rally Leaderboard after 7 stages                                           min sec
 1 P Solberg Nor Subaru 1:27:44.8
 2 M Hirvonen Fin Ford 1:27:49.6
 3 S Loeb Fr Citroen 1:27:54.3
 4 M Stohl Aut Peugeot 1:29:30.7
 5 D Sordo Sp Citroen 1:29:46.1
 6 M Wilson GB Ford 1:20:41.0
 7 H Solberg Nor Peugeot 1:33.22.1
 7 G McHale Ire Ford 1:33:22.1
 9 T Arai Jpn Subaru 1:35:07.6
10 R Trivino Mex Peugeot 1:36:11.2
How Simmons got contract to market IRL How Simmons got contract to market IRL[Editor's Note: As Kevin Kalkhoven and Tony George talk about a possible merger, one thing the IRL brings to the table that Champ Car does not is a firm to market the series.  Marketing of the Champ Car series has largely been invisible.  And say what you might about KISS Star Gene Simmons, he has proven that he knows how to market a brand, and "Indy", the "Indy 500," and "IndyCars" are a well known global brand, unlike Champ Car which is unknown to 99.999% of the human population because of the lack of marketing.  If a merger happens, we expect that Kalkhoven will yield to George on this key point and agree to adopt the Indy name in the merged series.]  

This LA Times article says, (excerpts) Since January, Gene Simmons and entertainment industry veteran Richard G. Abramson have been marketing the Indy Racing League, the once-dominant auto racing circuit that has suffered since its split from CART, now the Champ Car World Series. Both "open-wheel" leagues lag behind stock-car racing's NASCAR in popularity, although Indy has the sport's signature event in the Indianapolis 500 and an emerging star in Danica Patrick.

Simmons got involved with the Indy Racing League after meeting marketing chief Phil Lengyel during a race at Texas Motor Speedway in Fort Worth.

According to Lengyel, Simmons pointed to an IRL sign and said, "Is that your logo? It stinks."

"We started off with a friendly confrontation," Lengyel said, "and we've been brutally honest ever since."

A few days after the race, Simmons invited Lengyel and the IRL's top brass to Los Angeles, where he and Abramson pitched an alliance with their company, Simmons Abramson Marketing. To launch the effort, Simmons wrote the foot-stomping anthem "I Am Indy" with the quirky one-man band BAG to serve as the league theme song.

"At the racetrack, you could just feel and breathe in the dust," Simmons said during an interview at his Benedict Canyon home, where his sprawling office is packed with KISS merchandise and memorabilia. "It was an old man's game in need of a makeover."

Saying "IRL" sounded like a disease, Simmons set out to re-brand the league as "Indy."

"These are individual, personalized rocket ships streaking 220 mph," Simmons said. "With 'I am Indy,' you're making a pledge of allegiance to the United Nations of Indy. The phrase knows no bounds — racial, sexual or otherwise. It applies to drivers, fans, sponsors."  More at LA Times

Industry News
USA auto industry continues to reel USA auto industry continues to reelDana Corporation, supplier of brakes, axles and truck sub-frames has filed for Chapter 11. Dana is the latest company to falter as some of the American owned auto companies head toward possible extinction due to labor agreements the foreign companies are not burdened with.
Former NASCAR driver passes away Former NASCAR driver passes awayNorth Carolina native James Ronald "Bunkie" Blackburn, a former NASCAR driver who once won a race at Daytona International Speedway, died Tuesday. He was 69. Blackburn died at his home, according to an announcement from Oakes & Nichols Funeral Home in Columbia. His cause of death was not available Thursday night.   Blackburn drove in the Grand National and NASCAR circuits from the late 1950s to the early 1970s, driving for teams run by Smokey Yunick and Petty Enterprises. He had four top-fives and 14 top-10s in the Grand National series, The Daily Herald in Columbia reported. Blackburn ran 71 races at 26 different tracks in his career. His top finish was in 1968, when he won the Permatex 300 at Daytona from the pole. He also won poles at Talladega and Bristol and was inducted into the Pure Darlington Record Club in 1964 after posting a record qualifying time. He finished in the top 10 twice in the Daytona Firecracker 400. NASCAR.com
Hamlin Brings FedEx Racing Excitement to Oakland Hamlin Brings FedEx Racing Excitement to OaklandDenny Hamlin, driver of the #11 FedEx Chevy and promising NASCAR Nextel Cup rookie made a pit stop on the way to the Fontana track in February, stopping at the FedEx Express hub in Oakland, California to meet employees of the facility. Hamlin, in California for the Auto Club 500 at California Speedway, spent two hours greeting hub employees, signing autographs and taking pictures with those in attendance. For Hamlin, it was his second visit to a FedEx Hub since taking the wheel of the #11 car. He visited the Memphis WorldHub in December of last year during the company's busiest week in history, and while it wasn't quite as busy Thursday in Oakland, Hamlin noted the importance of meeting employees face to face. The Oakland hub is the fourth largest FedEx Express hub in the U.S., and the 1700 employees handle an average of 238,000 packages a day. More and pictures from the event are available at FedExRacing.com. FedEx Racing/Weber Shandwick PR
Red Bull boss hallucinating Red Bull boss hallucinating[Editor's Note: What has Mateschitz been smoking? If he thinks the Toro Rosso team is going to be in a position to score points he's seriously mistaken. Yes, the car will be reliable, but they are still significantly off the pace that finishing on the lead lap will be quite an accomplishment in itself.]

Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz says that Scuderia Toro Rosso may have more chance of scoring points at the start of the 2006 season than lead team Red Bull Racing. The Red Bull Racing team has been dogged by Ferrari engine reliability problems in winter testing and struggled to complete full race distances. Meanwhile the second team - Toro Rosso has been very reliable and its restricted Cosworth V10 engine is expected to be among the most reliable. There will be a small advantage at the beginning for Scuderia Toro Rosso because they will have no problems with the durability (of the engine)," Mateschitz told the Salzburger Nachrichten. "But as the season goes on, the V8 will become stronger and more reliable and then they will have the advantage."

"However, the chance to score points at the start of the year is better for Toro Rosso than it is for Red Bull Racing," he added.

The challenge of Laguna Seca The challenge of Laguna SecaThe mere mention of Laguna Seca is sufficient to excite motorsport fans from all around the globe. This Californian circuit opened its doors in 1958, having been sculpted into the rolling, arid hills of the Monterey peninsula near the Fort Ord army base. What makes it so appealing to the spectator and even more so to the race driver is the way that its blacktop rears and twists almost all the way along the length of its 2.238-mile lap. Spectators are offered not only the opportunity to see much of the lap from the loftier vantage points above the bowl around which the circuit is arranged.

The Corkscrew (Turn 8) is the most evocative of the 11 corners, being approached via a lengthy climb from the long right at Turn 3 via a more open right-hander at Turn 4 then a pair of lefts at Turns 5 and 6 and a little right flick at Turn 7 before the drivers reach this blind brow. The instant they crest it, the track snaps left then suddenly right again in a viciousness. It favors the brave.

Examine the list of previous winners at Laguna Seca and there are some truly great names such as Bobby Rahal (four wins straight from 1984 to 1987), with two wins apiece for Danny Sullivan, Michael Andretti, Paul Tracy, Bryan Herta and Patrick Carpentier since the Champ Car series started racing there from 1983 on. zzzz

Laguna Seca hasn't seen action only for Champ Cars, as sportscars raced there before the mighty CanAm sports racers rumbled into town in the mid-1960s, with 1961 Formula 1 World Champion Phil Hill setting the ball rolling in a Chaparral in 1966 then Bruce McLaren, Denny Hulme and Peter Revson triumphant in McLaren's glory years. Rahal was a winner in this category too, in its second incarnation in the late-1970s. The first global series to hold a round at Laguna Seca was the FIA GT Championship, with Mercedes winning the races in 1997 and 1998.Motorcycle racers also make an annual trek to this motorsport mecca, its fluid form particularly suited to the two-wheelers.

Previous knowledge of Laguna Seca's twists and turns will certainly be of help to those A1 Grand Prix drivers fortunate enough to have raced there before, and these include A1 Team USA's Herta and A1 Team Canada's Carpentier (both two-time Champ Car winners here) plus A1 Team Brazil's Christian Fittipaldi, with A1 Team New Zealand's Matt Halliday having raced on this West Coast circuit in Indy Lights and A1 Team Czech Republic's Tomas Enge have competed here in the American Le Mans Series. A1GP

Changes in F1 ahead of season opener Changes in F1 ahead of season openerThere are plenty of interesting changes and topics to keep an eye on in the new Formula One season that kicks off Sunday, March 12 in Bahrain and includes the United States Grand Prix on Sunday, July 2 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

New drivers: Three rookies are in the lineup this year. Scott Speed, the first American driver in F1 since Michael Andretti in 1993, drives for Scuderia Toro Rosso. Germany's Nico Rosberg, son of 1982 World Champion and two-time United States Grand Prix winner Keke Rosberg, drives for WilliamsF1. Japan's Yuji Ide drives for Super Aguri.

Familiar face: Seven-time World Champion and four-time United States Grand Prix winner Michael Schumacher is back for his 16th F1 season and his 11th with Ferrari. He said he will make a decision later this year whether he will continue racing in 2007.

Switching teams: Several drivers have changed teams in 2006. Felipe Massa has switched from Sauber to Ferrari. Rubens Barrichello has switched from Ferrari to Honda. Nick Heidfeld has switched from Williams to BMW Sauber. Takuma Sato has switched from BAR-Honda to Super Aguri. Christijan Albers has switched from Minardi to MF1 Racing.

Contracts expiring: The contracts for quite a few drivers expire at the end of 2006, which means that there will be plenty of intrigue and rumors of drivers switching teams or hoping to stay put for 2007.

Among those whose deals come to an end this year are: Michael Schumacher (Ferrari), Felipe Massa (Ferrari), Juan Pablo Montoya (McLaren-Mercedes), Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren-Mercedes), Giancarlo Fisichella (Renault), Jacques Villeneuve (BMW Sauber), Mark Webber (Williams-Cosworth), Jarno Trulli (Toyota) and David Coulthard (Red Bull Ferrari). zzzz

New teams/new names: With the added entry of the new Super Aguri F1 Team, there are 11 teams competing this year.

Three other teams have new names and or/owners. Having acquired 100 percent of BAR, Honda renamed it the Honda Racing F1 Team. BMW bought Sauber and renamed it BMW Sauber. The Midland Group, which acquired the Jordan team a year ago, has renamed it MF1 Racing. Red Bull, new owners of Minardi, renamed it Scuderia Toro Rosso, which is Italian for Team Red Bull.

Shootout qualifying: The previous qualifying system with drivers going out one at a time for a single, timed flying lap has been replaced with a new three-part knockout format.

All 22 drivers head out and can run as many laps as they want in the first 15-minute session. The slowest six cars are eliminated and fill the bottom six places on the starting grid.

All times are erased, and a second 15-minute session knocks out the next group of the six slowest cars that fill 11th through 17th on the grid.

Again the times are erased, and then the final 10 drivers go into a 20-minute shootout session. They can run as many laps as they want, and the top 10 grid places are determined by their fastest lap times.

To add a twist to the pit strategy plot, the top 10 cars must start the race with the same amount of fuel that was in the car before the final qualifying session. The remaining 12 cars may be topped up with as much fuel as the teams want to add before the race.

Youngest World Champion: Fernando Alonso became the youngest World Champion in Formula One history after clinching the 2005 title at age 24 years, one month and 27 days. The previous record holder was two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi, who won the championship in 1972 at age 25 years, 8 months and 29 days.

Alonso turns 25 on July 29, so if he wins the title again in 2006 he will go into the record books as the youngest ever World Champion and the second youngest.

Tire changes return: Last year, a driver had to use the same set of dry-weather tires for qualifying and the race. In 2006, changing tires during race pit stops is again permitted.

A driver is limited to seven sets of dry-weather tires per race weekend. The seven sets may be of no more than two different specifications, and a driver may use only one of those specifications for qualifying and the race.

A driver is also limited to four sets of wet-weather tires and three sets of extreme wet-weather tires per weekend.

New engines: The cars this year are fitted with 2.4-liter V8 engines that replace the 3-liter V10s used previously. Horsepower drops from more than 900 to about 750.

Teams that do not have access to a competitive V8 may run a "restricted" V10 that is limited to 16,700 rpm and fitted with a 3.034-inch (77 mm) air inlet restrictor. Scuderia Toro Rosso, which has American driver Scott Speed in its lineup, is the only team using a V10 in 2006.

Like last year, a driver must use the same engine for two complete Grand Prix weekends.

Grand Prix centennial: This year marks the 100th anniversary of Grand Prix racing.

While other auto races had been held as early as 1894, the first "Grand Prix" was staged in 1906 in Le Mans, France. The race was run over two days with six laps each day around a 65-mile track. Hungary's Ferenc Szisz won, driving a Renault. Indianapolis Motorspeedway/USGP

Strong test for Target team at Homestead Strong test for Target team at HomesteadFor the second consecutive day of testing on the 2.21 mile road course at Homestead-Miami Speedway, both Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon put in plenty of laps in their Honda-powered Panozes and both maintained their lap times in the top five throughout the open test days.

Scott Dixon (1:10.6675 min / 112.584 mph) ran 90 laps and held the top time for most of the day, only to be knocked off the top perch in the remaining minutes of practice by Helio Castroneves (1:10.5683 min / 112.742 mph) to claim second spot on the timing grid.

“It went well, “said Dixon of the two day road course test. “It was a good follow up to what we did in Phoenix. It’s nice to be near the top of the scoreboard at the end of each day. I think we kind of got a little bit lost during the mid-part of the day with the compound of tires we had here. We didn’t get much out of it in the last few runs.  For a team test and everybody here, we got what we need to get done.  Hopefully, we’ll move up a qualifying spot for the St. Petersburg street race.”

Sam Hornish (112.300 mph), Scott Sharp (112.240 mph) and Dario Franchitti (111.961 mph) rounded out the top five as teams turned 1,393 laps of incident free testing.  zzzz

Dan Wheldon, who put in 104 laps on day two of testing on the road course in addition to the 75 laps he turned the first day, set a fast time of 1:11.0968 min (111.904 mph) early in the day but got bumped out of the top five in the final moments.

“It certainly was a very encouraging test,” said Wheldon of his first road course test with the Target team and a Panoz chassis. “I learned quite a bit about the Panoz G Force and both my engineer Andy Brown and I are learning to work with it and each other. The timesheets really don’t reflect the work that went into this test but they are very encouraging. I’m getting more comfortable with the Target team and it gives me a lot to look forward to.”

The Target team now prepares their cars to test on the variably banked 1.5-mile oval at Homestead Miami speedway on March 5. TCGR, Photos courtesy IRL

AGR Homestead testing driver quotes AGR Homestead testing driver quotes
Tony Kanaan, #11 Team 7-Eleven
"The Team 7-Eleven crew struggled to find the right setup the past two days, but we don't race here. We were merely trying to simulate certain parts of the course that are similar to other places that we run. To say that I'm happy with being seventh would not be true. But we have dominated so much over the past two years that everyone has had their sights set on us. We have some work to do to get where we want to be, but there is still plenty of time before we have our first road course race."

Dario Franchitti, #27 Klein Tools/Jim Beam
"Today was a lot better day than yesterday for the Klein Tools/Jim Beam team.  We're still not where we'd like to be but we're learning things, so that's good.  It was unfortunate at the end because we wanted to go out there and put up a good time but a lot of guys were driving in the grass, so the circuit was covered with sand and it wasn't the best time to put up the lap." zzzz

Marco Andretti, #26 NYSE Dallara
"We were hoping to be a bit faster today, but we ended up chasing a loose condition with the #26 NYSE car. We improved things for our last run of the day by going to Dario's (Franchitti) setup, but then we encountered a soft brake pedal. The times weren't there but I'm not going to be disappointed about being 12th on the speed chart because my goal was to gain a feel for the car and how it responds to different setup changes and spend more time working with the NYSE crew. And, we accomplished all that so I'd say it was a pretty successful test."

Bryan Herta, #7 XM Satellite Radio
"I don't think we really improved today.  It was a disappointing two days for us.  For some reason, we could never get the car going right.  We have some work to do but I'm confident the XM Satellite Radio car will be ready for the oval test on Sunday."

TV News
USA TV reminders for Sunday USA TV reminders for Sunday

Courtesy of TVRacer.com

12:00am-12:30am SPEED
The History of Stock Car Racing
10:00am-12:00pm (R)  Biography Channel
Race Cars
12:00pm-1:00pm (R) Biography Channel
Superbike World Championship Phillip Island
12:00pm-1:00pm (SDD) -Race 1
1:00pm-2:00pm (SDD) -Race 2 SPEED
12:30pm-1:00pm ESPN2
Racetrack Tech
1:00pm-2:00pm (R) Biography Channel
Star Mazda Series -2005 Year in Review
2:00pm-3:00pm SPEED
NASCAR Busch Series  Mexico City
2:00pm-5:30pm (L) FOX
AMA Supercross Indianapolis
6:00pm-7:00pm -250cc SPEED
Speed News
7:00pm-8:00pm SPEED
Face 2 Face with Roy Firestone
Joe Gibbs Partly about NASCAR 
7:30pm-8:00pm (R) HDNet
Dave Despain on Assignment Daytona
8:00pm-9:00pm (R) SPEED
Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain
Kurt Busch (NASCAR)
Ed Clark (Atlanta Motor Speedway)
Scott Speed (F1 USA Driver)
9:00pm-10:00pm (L) SPEED

All times listed are ET. For a complete listing of Sunday's TV Programs, see TVRacer.com.

Kyle Petty slams COT naysayers Kyle Petty slams COT naysayersThe new NASCAR Car of Tomorrow is going to cost a lot of teams a lot of money in new equipment but Kyle Petty is all for it.

"When I hear other owners or fans or the press say, 'My God, that's got to be expensive,' all right, now we're going to start putting dollars on people's lives," Kyle Petty, who lost his son Adam to a crash, told reporters at the Daytona 500.

"When you've lost a son, there's no price you can put on safety of a driver, no price at all."

"If I have to scrap every car I've got and build brand-new cars, and it cost me $10 million to run a safer car, I will do so." 

"We as fans — and we in the sport — should be willing to take that responsibility," he said.

Michael Shank Racing rebounds from major setback Michael Shank Racing rebounds from major setbackMexico City, Mexico — After getting off to a flying start in Mexico City and leading both opening practice sessions on Thursday, Michael Shank Racing had a very difficult Friday. In the early moments of the morning practice session, a pit lane track marker was knocked by another car into the path of Oswaldo Negri in the middle of the circuit’s fastest corner, and lodged itself under the Flight Options machine, robbing Negri of any ability to steer and sending him into the wall at a high rate of speed.
The Michael Shank Racing squad is one of the most organized, efficient, and hard working crews in the Rolex ranks, yet the accident caused significant enough damage to the Flight Options Lexus/Riley that the car was determined not to be repairable in time for Saturday’s race. Fortunately, Negri escaped harm in the incident, but was naturally sore after the high-speed accident.
“The first thing of course was, ‘Is Ozz ok?’ and then we wanted to know how this could have happened,” said Mark Patterson. “I spoke to a GT driver who was just ahead of Ozz when this happened and he saw the piece, which is about three inches high, right on the racing line. Ozz had slowed down to get a run around the GT cars but the Daytona Prototypes have basically no ground clearance, so when he hit the piece, there was literally nothing he could do. The car is virtually destroyed.”
The team, which opened the season with a run to second place in the Rolex 24 At Daytona, was relieved to hear that Negri was alright, but then disappointed to believe that the race weekend might be over after reviewing the damage. zzzz 
However, the team was soon experiencing an upturn in emotion as Patterson and Mike Shank quickly approached a competitor to work out a replacement ride for the remainder of the weekend.
“The spirit of competitive camaraderie in Rolex is remarkable,” said Patterson. “We were able to secure the use of Brian Tuttle’s back up car for the rest of the weekend. Even though the competition is absolutely cut-throat on the track, there is still room for someone to do something this gentlemanly.”
The move was magnanimous on Tuttle’s part as he and Patterson are not only competitors on the track, but they are also in direct competition for honors for the Jim Trueman award.
And it wasn’t only Tuttle who came to the team’s assistance as they made the switch from a Lexus-Riley to a Pontiac-Riley combination.
“I have only driven the six-speed Lexus, and the Pontiac uses five gears,” said Patterson “Max Angelelli came right over and began to tell me about where I would want to be using each gear around the track-it was very charitable—here is the defending series champion over with me offering some free advice to help get me up to speed with this new car, unbelievable.”
Patterson, who had been raising eyebrows along pit lane with his own set of fast lap times in the Flight Options Lexus-Riley on Thursday, was then hustled into the new car as the clock counted down to the fifteen-minute qualifying session.
“We adjusted the belts, the seat, and stuck our number on the side of the car,” said Patterson. “I had no idea how the car was going to feel, what the set-up was like, and how the Pontiac was going to be to drive.”
Given that he’d just been thrown into the very deep end, Patterson’s qualifying performance was remarkable, as he posted a 1:27.8-second lap in his first flyer, and managed to take a half a second off of his time on each of his next five laps to secure twenty-second on the grid for Saturday’s race with a final lap time of 1:25.851-seconds.
“I didn’t even have a lap timer on in the car, but it didn’t matter-I was just trying to be smooth and get a feel for the car and improve a little bit each time,” said Patterson. “Of course I know we could have been much more competitive with our own car, but given the circumstances, we are happy to be in the race and will be working on this car to be ready for tomorrow.”
For Negri, the accident was a huge disappointment after having set the pace all weekend long and being taken out by something out of his control.
“I’m sore, but I am really just upset about what happened,” said Negri. “There was no reason for this to happen, but I guess its just racing and at least we have a car to race tomorrow. Once again, Mark did an amazing job to just jump in that car without knowing anything about it and set some good times. I know Mike and his guys will be working on the car tonight so we have a good feeling with the set up and we should be ok for the race tomorrow.”
Team owner Mike Shank has experienced a lot of highs and lows since joining the Rolex ranks in 2004, but never such extremes in just one day.
“I am so relieved that Ozz is fine, but obviously what happened was a huge disappointment,” said Shank. “Mark did a really good job in a car he didn’t know, and we are glad we get the chance to get some points and race tomorrow, but this is a day we want to forget.”
Before the qualifying session began, all of the pit lane markers had been removed from the track.
The race will be carried by Speed Channel beginning at 8:00 ET on Saturday, March 4th.
track news
Long Beach ticket news Long Beach ticket newsLONG BEACH, Calif. (March 3, 2006) - Tickets for the 32nd Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which runs April 7-9, will be available for purchase starting Monday in downtown Long Beach.

The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach's downtown ticket office, located at 430 East First Street in Long Beach (between Elm and Linden) is open from 9 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturdays and 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Sundays.

Leading the high-speed assault on the city's streets will be the cars and stars of the Champ Car World Series, led by two-time defending Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais, four-time Long Beach winner Paul Tracy, Bruno Junqueira, Mario Dominguez and rookie Katherine Legge, the series' first full-time female driver.

The action-packed weekend also includes: the Imperial Capital Bank Atlantic Race, featuring the rejuvenated Champ Car Atlantic Championship, spotlighting tomorrow's racing greats; the fan-favorite Long Beach Drifting Challenge, and the Long Beach debuts of the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series and SCCA SPEED GT Championship.  zzzz

The Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race celebrates its 30th Anniversary with a star-studded lineup of media, entertainment and sports celebrities tangling with professional drivers in an always-action-packed 10-lap dash for charity.

In addition to top-notch racing, spectators of all ages will enjoy Tecate's Fiesta Friday Concert, featuring Mexican rock band"El Tri" at 6:00 p.m. On Saturday, the internationally known rock group "Bad Religion" performs beginning at 5:30 p.m., followed by the Tecate Miss Grand Prix of Long Beach Pageant.

Both concerts and the Pageant will be held on the Convention Center outdoor stage and are free to race ticket holders.

Fans can also take pleasant between-races "pit stops" by visiting the popular Lifestyle Expo, an exhibition that includes the latest high-tech products and services, racecars, games and simulators PLUS the wild-wheeling Red Bull TNT Freestyle Motocross action and BMX Bike Show in the arena.  Admission to the Expo is free to race ticket holders.

The race circuit, which includes the downtown streets of Long Beach surrounding the Long Beach Entertainment and Convention Center, is 1.97 miles in length and includes 11 turns. Grandstands lining the circuit include reserved seating, limited general admission seats, and seating for various club ticket packages.

Ticket prices for the three-day event range from $35 for a Friday/Saturday-only general admission ticket to $115 for a three-day ticket, which includes Saturday and Sunday reserved seating on upper levels of the grandstands. Limited pre-paid parking packages are available and can be purchased when ordering tickets.

In addition to the downtown walk-up service, tickets can be ordered via credit card by using the toll-free ticket hotline,  (888) 82-SPEED. Tickets can also be purchased on-line at www.longbeachgp.com, or at www.ticketmaster.com.

Handicapped seating, Bosch Champ Car Garage passes, hospitality club packages and super photo tickets are also available for purchase.

For up-to-date ticket information, descriptions of the various club ticket packages, or for announcements of special Grand Prix event activities, visit the official Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Web site at www.longbeachgp.com.

Homestead Practice Times - Friday Homestead Practice Times - Friday
Practice 2 Results
Rank Car Driver C/E/T Time Speed Best Lap Total Laps
1 3 Castroneves, Helio D/H/F 01: 10.5683 112.742 84 89
2 9 Dixon, Scott P/H/F 01: 10.6675 112.584 85 89
3 6 Hornish Jr, Sam D/H/F 01: 10.8459 112.300 76 82
4 8 Sharp, Scott P/H/F 01: 10.8839 112.240 12 62
5 27 Franchitti, Dario D/H/F 01: 11.0606 111.961 69 69
6 10 Wheldon, Dan P/H/F 01: 11.0968 111.904 6 104
7 11 Kanaan, Tony D/H/F 01: 11.3696 111.476 75 75
8 7 Herta, Bryan D/H/F 01: 11.4521 111.347 57 65
9 15 Rice, Buddy P/H/F 01: 11.8286 110.764 60 65
10 2 Scheckter, Tomas D/H/F 01: 11.9138 110.632 58 78
11 4 Meira, Vitor D/H/F 01: 11.9382 110.595 76 99
12 26 Andretti, Marco D/H/F 01: 11.9543 110.570 34 69
13 55 Matsuura, Kosuke D/H/F 01: 11.9676 110.550 9 67
14 20 Carpenter, Ed D/H/F 01: 12.4207 109.858 44 81
15 16 Patrick, Danica P/H/F 01: 12.4463 109.819 61 67
16 14 Giaffone, Felipe D/H/F 01: 12.6146 109.565 41 54
17 17 Dana, Paul P/H/F 01: 13.0014 108.984 83 94
18 5 Lazier, Buddy D/H/F 01: 13.8079 107.793 76 84

Combined Results (over 2 Days)
Rank Car Driver C/E/T Time Speed Total Laps
1 3 Castroneves, Helio D/H/F 01: 10.5683 112.742 2 174
2 9 Dixon, Scott P/H/F 01: 10.6675 112.584 2 156
3 6 Hornish Jr, Sam D/H/F 01: 10.8459 112.300 2 176
4 8 Sharp, Scott P/H/F 01: 10.8839 112.240 2 118
5 27 Franchitti, Dario D/H/F 01: 11.0606 111.961 2 115
6 10 Wheldon, Dan P/H/F 01: 11.0968 111.904 2 178
7 11 Kanaan, Tony D/H/F 01: 11.3696 111.476 2 145
8 7 Herta, Bryan D/H/F 01: 11.4521 111.347 2 114
9 4 Meira, Vitor D/H/F 01: 11.6765 110.999 1 166
10 15 Rice, Buddy P/H/F 01: 11.8286 110.764 2 123
11 2 Scheckter, Tomas D/H/F 01: 11.9138 110.632 2 127
12 26 Andretti, Marco D/H/F 01: 11.9543 110.570 2 116
13 55 Matsuura, Kosuke D/H/F 01: 11.9676 110.550 2 117
14 20 Carpenter, Ed D/H/F 01: 12.4207 109.858 2 134
15 16 Patrick, Danica P/H/F 01: 12.4463 109.819 2 140
16 14 Giaffone, Felipe D/H/F 01: 12.6146 109.565 2 134
17 17 Dana, Paul P/H/F 01: 13.0014 108.984 2 187
18 5 Lazier, Buddy D/H/F 01: 13.8079 107.793 2 148

Castroneves fastest again Castroneves fastest againHelio Castroneves continued to impress on the road course at Homestead-Miami Speedway, leading the final day of IRL IndyCar® Series road course Open Testing.

Castroneves, who led the opening day of testing on the 2.21-mile road course on March 2, recorded a lap of 1 minute, 10.5683 seconds, 112.742 mph, in his No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone. Castroneves was slightly faster than 2003 IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon who posted the second-fastest lap, 1:10.6675, 112.584 mph, in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone.

“Awesome days,” Castroneves said. “Sam (Hornish Jr.) and I were working together, the whole team was working together and that makes us very strong. It's good. It's our first time with the Honda engine. We're trying to understand the new rules - no traction control. Everything seems to be going our way. It doesn't mean much here, but it at least gives you a good feeling that things are going well, at least going better than the others. We have to keep working hard. Nothing comes easy.” Hornish (112.300 mph), Scott Sharp (112.240 mph) and Dario Franchitti (111.961 mph) rounded out the top five as teams turned 1,393 laps of incident free testing.

IndyCar Series teams will take a day off before returning to test on the variably banked 1.5-mile oval on March 5. The IRL Indy Pro Series™ will conduct its initial test of 2006 on the road course on March 4.

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, Quickest in testing): “(About lack of traction control) It's good to have these days, and also one more after the Homestead race again to make sure that everyone feels comfortable with it. I haven't heard anybody complain much about the traction control. The good side, my point of view, is that when the tires get old even an experienced driver can make a little mistake, wheels spin a little bit, and that might give someone a chance to make a pass. That's very hard on the road course normally. We want to make everything as equal as possible for everyone, so I think Honda and the IRL are going in the right direction.

SCOTT DIXON (No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone, second fastest): “It went well. I think we kind of got a little bit lost during the mid-part of the day with the compound of tires we had here. We didn’t get much out of it in the last few runs. For a team test and everybody here, we got what we need to get done. Hopefully, we’ll move on and move up a qualifying spot.”

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, third fastest): “Everything went smoothly, but we didn't pick up as much speed as we wanted to after all of the changes we made overnight. We're happy to be in the top five. It's a lot better than when we tested here last year. I feel a whole lot better heading to St. Pete this year."

SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Panoz/Honda/Firestone, fourth-quickest): “It was a really good day. The road courses are an area we needed to improve on. John Dick and the Delphi squad really worked hard. We came here with the thought process that we don't race here, so being fast on the speed chart here really isn't that important, but let's throw different things at that car that may not even help the car here but give us good information for the other tracks. To be pretty competitive and still feel like we learned a lot, we're really pleased.

DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone, sixth fastest): “It personally was a challenge for me to familiarize myself with the Panoz chassis, which I have not been in before. To tell you the truth, I didn't get it as I would have liked. We had a car that we thought was very good on the older compound tire. When we put the new compound tire on, we didn't think it suited us as much. The stuff we had to change to make the old compound work, we'll have to go back and change that. It will help us.”

Guthrie returns to IRL with Indy Pro Series effort: Jim Guthrie feels like he’s coming home. The 1997 IRL IndyCar® Series Bombardier Rookie of the Year announced March 3 that he will field a team in the Indy Racing League Indy Pro Series™ in 2006.

Travis Gregg, a three-time winner in the series, will drive the No. 41 Guthrie Racing entry March 26 in the season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway, while Raphael Matos, the 2005 Star Mazda champion, will drive the doubleheader event at St. Petersburg, Fla. April 1 and 2.

Guthrie’s son Sean will take over the wheel for the Freedom 100 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and beyond. “I’ve been waiting to get back into the IRL,” said Guthrie, who made 15 IndyCar Series starts from 1996-98. “It feels like home, it feels comfortable, so it made sense emotionally. It also made sense from a business standpoint. With the prize money being upped this season, it makes sense to compete in the Indy Pro Series.”

Guthrie was part owner of Blueprint Racing in 1997 when he recorded a win at Phoenix International Raceway and a fourth-place finish at Las Vegas Motor Speedway en route to Rookie of the Year honors.

Last year, he founded Guthrie Racing to help his son Sean’s promising career. Sean Guthrie won a national championship in shifter karts before he started racing cars in 2004. After a year in SCCA Formula Ford and a year in Star Mazda, he is ready to move up to the Indy Pro Series.

“Sean’s been racing since he was eight years old, and he has the same dream that I had – to race in the Indy 500,” said Guthrie, who competed in three Indianapolis 500s. “This was the next step in our plan, maybe a year or two too soon based on his age and the fact that he’ll miss the first couple of races, but this is where we want to be.” Jim Guthrie didn’t want to wait for his son to turn 18 on April 18 to start racing.

“We need to learn the car,” Guthrie said. “Travis is good, he’s fast, he’s a hired gun. We’re gaining experience with a knowledgeable driver.”

Gregg finished third in the Indy Pro Series championship last year, winning three races and leading the most laps.

“I’m really looking forward to racing at Homestead again,” said Gregg, a native of Camden, Ohio, who won on the 1.5-mile, high-banked oval last year. “I need to get used to a new team and new guys, but I’ve had success there in the past, so I’m looking forward to it.” Gregg also will test the car March 4 and 6 at the track during the Indy Pro Series’ only pre-season Open Test.

Matos, 24, won the Star Mazda championship in 2005 on the strength of four victories. “Raphael did some test work with us last year on Sean’s car, and his team manager worked with me in the past at the Indy 500,” said Guthrie. “I watched Raphael win the first four races last year, watched him drive up from seventh at Road Atlanta. He has so much heart and talent. I think he has great shot at winning in St. Pete.” IRL

Another Mugello washout for Ferrari Another Mugello washout for FerrariFerrari’s fifth and final day of testing at Mugello was another washout and allowed little constructive running.  Michael Schumacher managed just 36 laps in the 248 F1, setting a best time of 1m30.389s, around 10 seconds off dry weather times.

Meanwhile at Ferrari’s other test track in Fiorano, Luca Badoer shook down two of the three cars the team will take to Bahrain.  The Italian will shake down the third car at Fiorano on Monday.

Swift to host big delivery party Swift to host big delivery partyMarch 8 is a date that has been circled on many a calendar over the past several months as the teams of the Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda eye that as they day when their new 2006 Atlantic cars are delivered.

With the expected anticipation of happy children on Christmas morning, Atlantic teams from across the country will be anxious to take possession of the newly-produced, made-in-the USA Swift 016.a Atlantic chassis powered by a 2.3-liter, 300-horsepower Mazda-Cosworth engine riding on Yokohama tires. While most teams will simply have their new cars shipped to their racing shops, several Atlantic squads will travel to the Swift Engineering plant in California to claim their new rides in person.

And while most of the energy will dedicated to the shipment and delivery of the 40 new-generation race cars next Wednesday, Swift officials are planning an event to celebrate the hard work and dedication that it’s taken to create the new breed of Atlantics over the last eight months.

Located in San Clemente, California, Swift will host a special gathering at its facility from 3-5 p.m. Pacific Time on March 8 to honor the birth of the new car and the exciting competition it will generate on the race track. Local dignitaries will join Swift and Champ Car Atlantic series representatives at the event as Swift completes the enormous task of designing, manufacturing and delivering 40 high-tech race cars, following through on its promise from last July when the formula for the new Atlantic was first announced. zzzz

“This is an important moment for Swift Engineering,” said Chuck Sprague, President of Swift, “because to our knowledge, delivering 40 race chassis at one time has not been done before. Therefore, we feel our delivery day of March 8th is worth recognizing, and that’s why in addition to those Atlantic teams who will be picking up their Swift chassis that day, we’ve also invited the Mayor of San Clemente and other local officials and special guests for this special event.”

Several key speakers will address the gathering and a number of specially-designed race cars created by Swift Engineering – the designer of 174 race-winning Atlantic cars since 1987 – will also be on display.

“So many people have worked tirelessly on this project over the last several months and we’re all very excited to be able to join Swift in celebrating the delivery of the new Atlantic cars,” said Vicki O’Connor, Managing Director of the Champ Car Atlantic Championship, who will be on hand for the March 8 event at Swift.

After taking delivery of their new machines, Atlantic teams will have about two weeks to assemble and prepare their cars before the first official series test session of the new season, March 21-22 at the California Speedway road course. Champ Car

Hollywood stars invited to Indy 500 Hollywood stars invited to Indy 500The 78th Annual Academy Awards® is entertainment's biggest night, as stars will flock to the Kodak Theatre in Hollywood to honor the best in the motion picture industry.

And many of those stars will receive a special invitation to attend auto racing's biggest day, the 90th Indianapolis 500 on Sunday, May 28 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Presenters, performers and other VIPs at the Oscar® show will be presented with an impressive gift bag that includes an invitation to attend the Indianapolis 500-Mile Race.

Celebrities who accept the invitation will receive special, behind-the-scenes opportunities that include VIP suite seating and hospitality, an Indy 500 gift bag, all-access credentials, VIP access to the Miller Lite Carb Day Concert, golf at the Brickyard Crossing Golf Resort, a two-seater ride in an IndyCar on the 2.5-mile Indianapolis Motor Speedway oval, participation in the 500 Festival Parade, attendance at the Snake Pit Ball black-tie gala, and a red carpet entrance and a ceremonial parade lap around the track on Race Day morning. zzzz

The Indianapolis 500, long known as "The Greatest Spectacle in Racing," has played host to many celebrities since its inaugural running in 1911. Some of the Hollywood stars that have attended the race in the past include: Jerry Lewis, Dean Martin, Jack Benny, Ginger Rogers, Loretta Young, Jimmy Stewart, Jayne Mansfield, Clark Gable, Barbara Stanwyck, Shirley MacLaine, Dinah Shore, Burgess Meredith, Barbara Eden, Roy Rogers, Dick Clark, Cesar Romero, Connie Stevens, Ronald Reagan, Paul Newman and Bob Barker.

Celebrities who have attended the race during the past few years include: President George Bush, President Bill Clinton, Gen. Colin Powell, Morgan Freeman, Jay Leno, Jim Caviezel, James Garner, Dennis Miller, John Mellencamp, Steven Tyler, Nick Lachey, Jessica Simpson, Russell Crowe, Wynonna Judd, Naomi Judd, Ashley Judd, David Letterman, Anthony Edwards, Paula Abdul, Tim Allen, Muhammad Ali, Wolfgang Puck, Patrick Dempsey, Regina King, Montel Williams, Rupert Boneham, Cheech Marin, Carol Burnett, Rich Little, and long-time attendees and performers Florence Henderson and Jim Nabors.

So, some of the celebrities seen strolling down the red carpet at the Kodak Theatre on Sunday evening in Los Angeles may very well be among the race fans May 28 cheering their favorite IndyCar driver in the world's largest attended single-day sporting event - the Indianapolis 500.

IRL St. Petersburg race losing money IRL St. Petersburg race losing moneyThis St. Petersburg Times article talks about all the great things that Andretti Green are doing to improve the St. Petersburg event both financially and for the fans enjoyment.  However Kevin Savoree revealed the race is a money loser so far. "We all went into this understanding that we were making an investment," Savoree said, alluding to the fact that the race is still seeking to turn a profit. "Certainly as we move forward, as a business, this is going to have to make sense."

AutoRacing1.com is still of the opinion that in a merged series, St. Petersburg would make a good opening event in a 20-race combined schedule.  We counted the best venues from both series and came up with 18 solid events, and we look for possibly two more to be added that are under negotiation.  With NASCAR on TV 39 weekends per year, the new merged series better have at least 20 races of their own to counter NASCAR's saturation. Mark C.

New look for Dyson team New look for Dyson teamPOUGKEEPSIE, NY - Status quo is not in the Dyson Dictionary this year. Dyson Racing debuts their two new AER V8 powered Lola B06/10 LMP1 prototypes at the 12 Hours of Sebring on March 18 and for the first time in Dyson Racing's thirty-year racing history, a completely new look, image and graphic package.  Every visual element has been updated: the race cars, transporters, uniforms, souvenirs and pit equipment.  From the logo to the work gloves, it is all new.

Designed by noted Formula One designer and long time Dyson collaborator, Peter Boutwood, the goal was a new presentation consistent with Dyson Racing's history as America's premier sports car team.  "The challenge was to re-design the whole corporate image, brand and liveries of Dyson Racing while retaining the origins of its image, integrity and identity," recounted Boutwood. "It was necessary that the new image unite in a strong corporate brand befitting a successful race team.

"I was very lucky to be working on this project alongside Peter Dyson, a man of considerable talent in organizational skills and ability to know immediately the viability and integrity of my proposals.  He is also an expert in quick and sensible feedback but unfailing in his encouragement to 'take it to the limit' coupled with a keen eye for detail!"

This all started a year ago during a pre-season tire test at Sebring. "During the test, Chris (Dyson), Rob (Dyson) and I decided that we needed to update the image of the team in keeping with the upcoming new cars for the 2006 season," said Peter Dyson.  "Rob and Chris pointed us in a direction and we knew that the update would be a complete rebranding and image tie-in with the team sponsors. For a long time, we have wanted a look for the team that was cohesive, consistent and one that would tie the Norcold, Thetford and Dyson Racing images together. zzzz

"So with the brilliant design skills of Peter Boutwood, and the 'sense' of what worked that Chris and Rob provided, we were off.  It was a smooth process, with few dead ends or 'wild goose chases.'  We have examined and redesigned all of the team gear and the fans will be able to join in on the new look: they will be able to purchase exact versions of the team gear, not replicas but the actual garments on www.dysonracingswag.com by the time of the Sebring race."

 Peter Boutwood raced with Damon Hill in British Formula 3 and he later asked Peter to design his Formula One merchandise.  He has also done the car livery for the Jordan F1 team, the MG Rover Le Mans cars and the previous Lolas for Dyson Racing.  This is the first time he has done a top to bottom rebranding for a race team.  "If this was done in the corporate world, you would have layers of committees and agencies to contend with," commented Boutwood.  "This has been an honor and pleasure both artistically and personally.  Initially we started working through a multitude of new corporate color schemes.  We decided the new look would follow the recognizable Dyson colors of blue and white but with a new  metallic blue on the livery and  the introduction of a third color where needed of metallic black.  We applied this to the race cars and a completely new 'super truck' which is Dyson Racing's flagship on the public highway.

"Next stage was the logo.  This had suffered, as many corporate images have over the years.  The idea was to give it a complete redesign but not make it alien to what preceded it. I selected 'Eurostile' - an angular font that is clean and reflects a motorsports heritage.  The next step was the team clothing.  The main criteria were keeping the quality high with comfort and practicality.  Too often designers forget that the first point of call when designing clothing is the person who is going to wear it. Peter Dyson consulted with the team members on their requirements before we put pen to paper.  For example, as an ex-racing driver, I know the importance of comfort in a race suit.  But one of the most uncomfortable elements can be the embroidery.  With this in mind, I redesigned the race suits manufactured by Stand 21 with the same amount of branding, but utilizing less stitching."

Last year, Peter Dyson and Peter Boutwood worked together to design and market the first-ever line of wearables for the fans of Dyson Racing.  This year's project was much more involved, and more satisfying for Peter Dyson.  "Working with my brother Rob, and nephew Chris, has brought us all closer together. I remember when Rob and I were kids, we were taking stuff apart and usually getting it back together with only a few parts missing.  We hot rodded tractors, did flame jobs, and built go-karts.  School, families and work had put some space between those early years and our passions.  But those years have evaporated now.  This has been such fun. I love my "day job" but this has given me a new appreciation for the intense work that the team goes through to put two cars on the track every race."

Baja 1000
Ridgeline Racing To Tackle Baja Ridgeline Racing To Tackle BajaORANGE, Calif. - The Honda Ridgeline, voted Truck of the Year by both the North American International Auto Show and Truck Trend magazine, will tackle the demands of SCORE off-road racing and the harsh environment of Baja California in 2006, starting with the Tecate SCORE San Felipe 250, March 10-12. 

Coming on the heels of a class victory in last year's Henderson 400, Gavin Skilton and his California Race and Rally organization will again lead the Ridgeline Racing effort in 2006. Competing in the International Stock Mini Truck class, the Orange, California-based team will focus on the three SCORE events taking place in Baja this season. 

By conforming to stock class regulations, Skilton and his CaRR team utilize the stock Honda Ridgeline platform, with only limited modifications permitted to the suspension and engine, in addition to required safety-related items such as the roll cage, radios, H.I.D. auxiliary lighting and fire suppression system.  The CaRR Ridgeline runs on 33-inch B.F.Goodrich tires specifically designed for the demands of off-road racing. 

The competition Ridgeline has been developed by CaRR with additional input from engineers at American Honda Motor Co., Inc. 

"Competing in Baja is an excellent test for the Ridgeline, and one we feel confident will demonstrate the full capabilities of Honda's new pickup," Skilton said.  "Limiting ourselves to the Stock Mini Truck category will prove the quality of construction and off-road abilities of the Honda design, as demonstrated by our victory last year at the Henderson 400. This year, our goal is to win in Baja." Honda

TV News
Fox To Provide Spanish Broadcast For Mexico City Busch Race Fox To Provide Spanish Broadcast For Mexico City Busch RaceFox will make its broadcast of the NASCAR Busch Series Telcel-Motorola 200 Sunday in Mexico City available in Spanish for viewers, marking the “first time a NASCAR race is broadcast in Spanish” with SAP, according to Sharon Ginn of the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES. Miguel Angel Morales and Ruben Valentin will call the race in Spanish. Fox did not say if it plans to continue producing dual audio broadcasts, but Morales “expects to be on board with the network throughout the first half of the season.” Morales said NASCAR is “very appealing to Latinos. Many Latinos have television sets with SAP included, and they would love to see another sport.” Morales said that he and Valentin will “concentrate on the Mexican and Latino drivers,” but added that 70-80% of Latinos “‘are familiar’ with bigger named drivers ... so they will make it a point to cover everything that is happening on the track.” Morales said at California Speedway, there are “about 150,000 (people), but more than 40,000 of those are Latino” ST. PETERSBURG TIMES
TV News
NASCAR Auto Club 500 TV rating NASCAR Auto Club 500 TV ratingUPDATE #2 The 2006 West Coast Premiere of NASCAR at California Speedway dominated the Nielsen Media Services television ratings for sports this weekend (February 24-26), with both the NEXTEL Cup and Busch Series races scoring top finishes. According to data received from NASCAR, Sunday's NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series Auto Club 500 on Fox was number seven nationally for total households in primetime, and number four among adults, with a rating of 7.4 [last year was 7.9/16] and average viewership of 12.5 million. The race ranks as the fourth highest rated auto racing event (with the exception of Daytona 500 broadcasts) in broadcast history. It was the top-rated competitive sporting event for the week, finishing second only to the Winter Olympics closing ceremonies. Saturday's Busch Series Stater Bros. 300 was the No. 1 cable sporting event of the weekend, with a 2.1 rating and an average of two million households tuning in. The race finished ahead of cable broadcasts of both NBA and college basketball games (including the Celtics/Lakers game), and the PGA tour. California Speedway PR

03/03/06 The final TV Rating for the Auto Club 500 Nextel Cup race on FOX was a 7.4/14 share, down 14 % from last year's 7.9/16 share final rating.

02/27/06 Fox's broadcast of Sunday's Auto Club 500 Nextel Cup race from California Speedway earned an overnight Nielsen Media Research rating of 6.2 and a 12 share, Street and Smith's SportsBusiness Daily reports.  The overnight rating was 12.7 percent lower than the 7.1 Fox earned last year, when the race went on to record final figures of 7.9/16.

Wallace drives IndyCar Wallace drives IndyCarUPDATE While Rusty Wallace retired from NASCAR competition following last year's Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway, he decided a little "track time" will help him in his new role as commentator on ABC and ESPN's IRL IndyCar Series telecasts which will begin with the March 26 Toyota Indy 300. Thursday, Wallace slid behind the wheel of Sam Hornish's Penske Racing Honda Dallara, and ran eight laps around the 2.21-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway road circuit. "I feel like I'm going on my first roller coaster ride," Wallace said before firing up the car. Wallace said that Team Penske teammates Hornish and Helio Castroneves gave him all the information he needed. "Then Helio said, 'It's not a qualifying lap. Go out and have fun.'" Wallace did just that - although he failed to heed Castroneves' final word of advice - "Don't stall." Wallace ran a best unofficial time of 1:18 - an impressive seven seconds slower than Castroneves' best lap of the day of 1:11.01 "I'll tell you, I never could have reported on this sport the way it needs to be reported without getting to drive this car," Wallace said. "I was really impressed with the brakes - they could stop on a dime. The acceleration was incredible. But the biggest surprise to me was how you go out and get such great speed, and as you turn down off the back straightaway, I can't believe how hard the wheel gets going into turn 10. As you ark off into there, the steering wheel's locked up. It's amazing. That was the only place that was spooky. The slow corners were fun, the upshifts were fun. These are incredible hot rods. I'm glad I did it." Asked how long it would have taken him to get up to speed, Wallace said, "If I started off in the morning, I think by the end of the day I would have been within a second and a half. I knew in my mind where I gave up stuff. The biggest thing I needed was the car to fit me better, and getting more seat time to build confidence that this car will stick. I don't know the operational envelop of these cars and how far you can take them." It was Wallace's first time around the 2.21-mile Homestead-Miami Speedway road course. "I've been coming to Homestead forever and ever, always running the oval, and I've never seen the road course before today," Wallace said. "It's a great road course. I can't believe how beautiful it is, and I never saw it before. Every time we came here it was covered with motorhomes." While Wallace joked about talking team owner Roger Penske into running a third car for him in the Indianapolis 500, he was serious about getting more track time in an open-wheel car this year. "I'm going to do it all year long in the two-seater, run all the tracks and get a good idea of what's going on," Wallace said. HMS PR 03/02/06 HOMESTEAD, Fla.-- 1989 NASCAR champion Rusty Wallace prepared for his role as a television analyst for ABC Sports and ESPN's coverage of the IRL IndyCar® Series by driving a Honda-powered Dallara prepared by Team Penske at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"I tell you what, I gotta get one of these at home," Wallace said. "I had a good time. I feel like I need to breathe a little while and then try it again. I need to talk to Penske about running a third car at Indy. You never know."

Wallace ran eight laps on the 2.21-mile road course. He said he wanted to drive the car to experience the same thing that IndyCar Series drivers face each week.

"I'm just here to see how the car accelerates and brakes. That's it," he said. "My goal is for when I start to talk about it, I can say 'I've done that, and that's what I feel."

Wallace said he plans to drive the Indy Experience two-seater at each IndyCar Series event to relate the unique challenges of each track.

"I'm going to be doing it all year long in the two-seater," he said. "I don't know if you'll see me in this car. Next time, I want to get the comfort zone a little better." IRL

IMSA releases rules adjustments IMSA releases rules adjustmentsThe International Motor Sports Association, the sanctioning body of the American Le Mans Series, has announced a number of rules adjustments for the 2006 American Le Mans Series, which starts with the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring on March 18.

Two deal directly with GT1 entries. Aston Martin Racing's two DBR9s will compete with a minimum weight of 1,125 kilograms, the standard minimum for GT1 cars. That is 50 kilos lighter than was mandated by the ACO following last year's running of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, due to changes in the car's aero package since the 24 Hours. That also is a reason for a larger air restrictor, which will allow more air into the engine and produce more horsepower.

Similarly, the Saleen S7Rs, like the two fielded by Konrad Motorsports, will be allowed a larger restrictor size based on the weight table at which it will run based on ACO regulations. Saleens also will benefit from a larger refueling restrictor that lets fuel flow quicker into the car's tank. IMSA also announced adjustments for older generation prototypes, having granted extensions to LMP900/675 cars through the end of 2005. Two Lola EX257-AERs, one each fielded by Autocon Motorsports and Highcroft Racing, will race with a minimum weight of 700 kilograms, up from 675 in 2005. The two cars also will see larger engine restrictors, as well.

The Audi R8, winner of 48 American Le Mans Series races since 2000, will see 35 additional kilograms from 2005 to a minimum weight of 935. The fuel capacity is unchanged from last season, and the restrictor will be the same size as 2005. In LMP2, B-K Motorsports' Mazda-powered Courage C65 will be allowed to race with a minimum weight of 750 kilograms (unchanged from last year), which is 25 kilograms less than current generation P2s. The B-K entry also can run with a larger restrictor. The same goes for P2 cars with a two-liter turbo, particularly the Lola B2K/40, Lola B05/40 and WR-Peugeot.

This information supersedes any prior adjustments that were previously announced. As 2006 unfolds, IMSA's Technical Department will monitor car performances and may authorize future adjustments based on guidelines previously established in an earlier bulletin.

George's team can't get sponsorship George's team can't get sponsorshipActor Patrick Dempsey, a co-owner of the IRL team Vision Racing, acknowledged this week that Vision does not yet have primary sponsors for its two cars because "it's tough for everybody right now getting sponsorship with what's happening."

What's happening is that U.S. open-wheel racing remains divided, with the IRL and Champ Car running separate series that compete for sponsors' dollars.

Dempsey stars on the TV show "Grey's Anatomy," and his team's IRL drivers are Tomas Scheckter and Ed Carpenter, the stepson of Tony George, who founded the IRL and owns the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. LA Times

Red Bull continues USA spending spree Red Bull continues USA spending spreeRed Bull “is seriously" considering purchasing the MetroStars from AEG and changing the team’s name, according to MLS sources.  The sources said the two sides are looking to complete the deal before the MetroStars’ April 2 season-opening game.  Under the deal, AEG “will retain the rights” to the team’s proposed stadium in Harrison, New Jersey. N.Y. DAILY NEWS

[Editor's Note: NASCAR team, Grand-Am team, two F1 teams, and now a professional soccer team, but no Champ Car involvement as of yet.  They also dropped their IRL team sponsorship.  And people still doubt an open wheel merger is necessary?  We doubt open wheel racing will survive without one.]

Jourdain likes his chances in Mexico City Jourdain likes his chances in Mexico City“Running in Mexico is the biggest race for me.  Just to be here is fantastic.  Yes, of course, I think we were pretty competitive last year especially after destroying our first car.  Unfortunately we crashed it in practice; we were very, very fast and very competitive.  I definitely see ourselves with a chance of winning but there are probably 15 or 20 other guys that think the same and all have a chance.  Not all the Mexican drivers that are racing this weekend have a lot of experience on this track.  There will be three or four others that will be in top equipment like myself.  I want to win very, very bad.”


“I’m excited to get Michel back into the seat and in good equipment especially at a road course.  Mexico City is his home, he’s got a lot of laps there and we had tons of potential there last year.  I really felt that before we had a throttle hang on our primary car that we had a definite top-five race car and it could have been more than that.  I felt our back-up car was probably a top-10 race car but it got taken out in the race.  I’m excited to get back there, excited to get a good opportunity for Michel to show what he can do at these road courses.  Unfortunately we didn’t get to go to Watkins Glen with him. Better motors this year, better brakes, a little better race car.  I really am excited about the opportunity.”

Günther Steiner joins Red Bull NASCAR team Günther Steiner joins Red Bull NASCAR teamThe first prominent figure joining the Red Bull team set to the NASCAR series in 2007 is Günther Steiner. Having worked as technical director for Red Bull Racing in the Formula One, he is now moving from Great Britain to the US - from Milton Keynes to Mooresville, North Carolina.

The forty-year-old South Tyrolean will also assume the function of technical director for the Red Bull Toyota NASCAR team, acting on a level with General Manager Marty Gaunt.

Marty Gaunt is happy about this high-caliber reinforcement. "In his many years of Rally activities with Ford, as head of sports at Opel and more recently at Red Bull Racing in the Formula One, Günther has not just had a lot of success but also gathered enormous know-how. He was one of the men who was decisive for the perfect launch of Red Bull Racing - and we are convinced that with his experience he will help our young team make a fast start."

Günther Steiner sees NASCAR as a "new, fascinating challenge. If as a European you are asked to help set up such an ambitious project you simply cannot say no. I'm really looking forward to working on my new task."

Günther Steiner will begin his job with the Red Bull Toyota NASCAR-Team on April 1 of this year.

Red Bull Ferrari team engine woes continue Red Bull Ferrari team engine woes continueDespite a few problems for Red Bull Ferrari Thursday in testing at Valencia, David Coulthard managed to set the second best time of the four cars present, completing 68 laps in the RB2.

The morning went well on this final day of testing prior to the season, with Coulthard running through an aero programme and doing general set-up work.

The emphasis then switched to tire testing combined with longer runs.

“Unfortunately, on the first of these runs, the car suffered an engine problem and David actually spun on his own oil,” explained Chief Test Engineer, Ian Morgan.

“We therefore lost some time in the afternoon, fitting a new engine, but after that we had a productive time. The car’s actual pace seems pretty good, as David put in some quick laps late in the day, even though by then it was very windy.” Source Red Bull Ferrari [Editor's Note: Wonder if they are missing their Cosworth engines yet. They have had so many Ferrari engine failures we lost count.]

TV News
Indianapolis is now a Stock Car town Indianapolis is now a Stock Car townLast weekend's Nextel Cup race broadcast from California Speedway set an overnight ratings record for NASCAR events on Fox's local affiliate.

The Auto Club 500 posted a 14.9 rating with a 24 share, the most-watched race for WXIN-59 in its seven seasons showing NASCAR. It also represented a 13 percent increase over the ratings for last year's race at California.

Indianapolis was the No. 4 market for NBC's coverage of the season-opening Daytona 500.

"It (signals) very good things for us this season," said Dick Joggin, WXIN's director of creative services. "NASCAR has become a real mainstay for Fox."

Not all the news was good for Fox, however. The Auto Club 500 drew a 7.4 rating and a 14 share nationally, down 13 percent from last year. Indy Star

Industry News
Pontiac to drop GTO, No Pontiac to drop GTO, NoUPDATE #2 The Pontiac GTO lives! It will be replaced in late 2008 by an all-new model underpinned by General Motors’ latest rear-wheel-drive Zeta platform, with a strong likelihood of it being built on the same production line as the Chevrolet Camaro in North America.

That’s the message from General Motors vice president for global product development, Bob Lutz, at this week’s Geneva motor show.

The replacement for today’s slowish-selling GTO was canceled last year when General Motors announced it was reorganizing its North American operations and was set to focus its efforts on creating a new line of sport/utility vehicles, pickups and crossovers.

But Lutz has told AutoWeek that reports of the rear-wheel-drive coupe’s death were premature and the next-generation GTO’s development program was only really placed on hold, and—after some internal reorganization to ensure profitability targets can be met—it is now back on.

“The reason we said it was canceled is because that way our people would put their pencils down,” Lutz said. “In GM if you say something is deferred, then people keep working on it. We really needed to get that message through to everybody.” GM’s 74-year-old product guru said the program into which the GTO is incorporated was ‘getting out of control’ and running up costs that would have made it unworkable.

“It was my fault that it got out of control in the first place,” he added. “It was going to be the world’s greatest car and apparently cost nothing to make. So we’ve started over now. The program is back on and it’s going full tilt.”  More at AutoWeek

02/21/06 Hearing that the new Camaro will replace the Pontiac GTO in Grand-Am.  It would be a simple switch to change the bodywork on the Pratt and Miller GTO-R to a Camaro Z-28R (or whatever they are going to call it).   The car is already on the drawing board.  Our source is VERY close to the situation and knew three weeks ago  that the GTO was gone after this year.  This should be on the rumors page, but it started out as a news item.

02/21/06 General Motors has told Pontiac dealers that it will discontinue the GTO coupe at the end of this model year. GM will make the last deliveries of the vehicle to dealers by the end of September, sources close to Pontiac say.

GM will produce 10,000 to 12,000 more GTOs before dropping the nameplate, one source close to the situation says. Last year, Pontiac sold 11,590 GTOs compared to 2004 when it sold 13,569. That's a 14.6 percent drop.

When Pontiac launched the GTO in 2003, it projected 18,000 annual sales. The vehicle was criticized for bland styling, and some fans of the original GTO complained that it lacked nostalgic styling cues.

A Pontiac spokesman confirms the GTO will be discontinued after the 2006 model year. More at AutoWeek [Editor's Note: We wonder what this means for Pontiac's Grand-Am GTO program?]

Industry News
Racing misses out on potential Racing misses out on potentialUPDATE Legendary drag racer Kenny Bernstein can't believe his friend Forrest Lucas, the founder of Lucas Oil Products, has committed $121.5 million for naming rights to the stadium that the Indianapolis Colts will call home beginning in 2008.

"Jeez, this is a big deal, a monster deal, certainly a lot more than getting a spot on my race car," said Bernstein, who has received sponsorship from Lucas Oil for the past six years. "But Forrest is so cool; he'd never say anything about it."

Bernstein spent last weekend with Lucas in Phoenix at the NHRA's race. They even talked for a while at the airport.

Bernstein said he thought Lucas would have been more likely to continue investing in cattle, his first love, or the racetrack in Wheatland, Mo., that he's transforming into one of the country's top dirt venues.

"This must have hit him just right," Bernstein said. "(But) he's a very astute businessman. He isn't afraid to make decisions, and he'll make them spur of the moment when he feels it's right for him and his company." Indy Star

03/02/06 Lucas Oil Products, a California-based motor sports industry leader with strong ties to Indiana, has won the naming rights for the new Indiana stadium in downtown Indianapolis. Beginning with the 2008 season, Lucas Oil Stadium will be home to the Indianapolis Colts, the NCAA men’s and women’s Final Four tournaments and other major sports events.

“We were drawn to the Colts organization because their leadership has the same high standards we embrace,” said Forrest Lucas, president and CEO of Lucas Oil Products. “As a worldwide company, we see Lucas Oil Stadium as an exciting investment that also makes good business sense.”  He confirmed that the deal is valued at $122 million over 20 years.

[Editor's Note:  Lucas Oil could have sponsored the IRL or Champ Car and received North American and even international exposure, and of course there would be a tie of Lucas to the automotive industry.   Too late now.  Related article.]

Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Fisi aims for new heights in 2006
Teams close to '06 test agreement
'06 winter set to go quiet
HQ could be for F1 team, Richards admits
FIA orders Malaysian F1 revamp
Star lineup for Bahrain race
'248' could be a winner - Massa
'Alonso exit has not soured Renault'
IRL co-owner: "Oval racing is so dangerous" IRL co-owner: "Oval racing is so dangerous"Actor Patrick Dempsey of "Grey's Anatomy" confirmed this week he has a financial interest in Vision Racing, the Indy Racing League team started last year by series CEO Tony George.

Dempsey did not say how much money he is committed to spending, much less how many public appearances he's willing to do to attract a sponsor.

"I think my role will just continue to expand as the team expands," he said.

Dempsey, 40, attended two IRL races last year, including the one that new Vision driver Tomas Scheckter won at Texas for Panther Racing. The former high school champion skier in Maine also drives a sports car competitively. But don't look for him to get into an Indy car.

"Road racing, I'd love to get in the car, certainly in the (Indy Pro Series) level," he said. "But oval racing, I have no business getting involved in that. It's so dangerous. If I was like 20 years younger, I might try it, but not right now." IndyStar

[Editor's Note: This is what I love about IRL team owners, they say Oval Racing is so dangerous yet it's OK if they submit their drivers to such danger, most of which end up putting in sheet time.  We suppose the drivers can be called Sacrificial Lambs.  High-banked ovals are too dangerous for open wheel race cars, period.]

TV News
USA TV reminders for Saturday USA TV reminders for Saturday
Courtesy of TVRacer.com
Dave Despain on Assignment Daytona
3:00am-4:00am (R) SPEED
Grand-Am Cup Series Daytona
11:30am-1:30pm SPEED
NASCAR Busch Qualifying Mexico City
1:30pm-3:00pm (L) SPEED
AMA Supercross Lite Atlanta
6:00pm-7:00pm -125cc SPEED
Art Mann Presents -The Long Beach Grand Prix
7:00pm-7:30pm (R) HDNet
Speed News 
7:30pm-8:00pm SPEED
Rolex Sports Car Series Mexico City
8:00pm-11:00pm (SDD) SPEED
SportsCentury -Al Unser, Sr.  
9:00pm-10:00pm (R) ESPN Classic

All times listed are ET.  For a complete listing of Saturday's TV Programs, see TVRacer.com.

Busch Series: Mexico City Tidbits Busch Series: Mexico City TidbitsSix drivers made their NASCAR Busch Series debuts at this race last year; all were from Mexico. … Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez is the 45th track the NASCAR Busch Series has raced on. … Jorge Goeters set the qualifying standard last year with his Busch Pole at 103.366 mph. … Race winner Martin Truex Jr. set the track record at 67.591s one year ago. … Truex also set the mark for laps led, with 45 out of the 80 laps around the eight-turn track..........Ford has the early lead in the Bill France Performance Cup standings thanks to Greg Biffle’s win at California last Saturday. Although tied with Chevrolet with one win on the young season, Ford leads with 15 points, Chevrolet is second with 13 points and Dodge is third with no wins and 10 points. … NASCAR Busch Series owner Armando Fitz has joined forces with NASCAR’s first Hispanic driver, Carlos Contreras, to establish a new NASCAR Mexico team – FitzContreras Racing. The team will run all 14 races on the 2006 Desafio Corona schedule beginning with the first scheduled race in Guadalajara, Mexico on March 26. … The Sauter brothers will play the role of the “Three Amigos” this weekend. Johnny Sauter will be joined in Mexico City by brothers Jay (No. 01 Western Union Chevrolet) and Tim (No. 36 Lester Buildings Chevrolet) who both make their first attempts at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez. Johnny and Tim will run the full NASCAR Busch Series schedule this season while Jay will run in selected events. … Marc Goossens can speak four different languages – Italian, Japanese, Dutch and French. … Mark McFarland (No. 88 U.S. NAVY Chevrolet) received a score of four out of five in January at the Bob Bondurant School for High Performance Driving in preparation for the Mexico City event. The race will be his first on a road course in a stock car. On Monday, McFarland and his JR Motorsports team owner, Dale Earnhardt Jr., were guests of the famous Blue Angels, the Navy’s Flight Demonstration Crew, and flew for an hour at speeds reaching Mach 1.2 or over 890 mph. … Despite racing at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez for the first time in his career, Burney Lamar isn’t new to road-course racing, having run five times at Infineon Raceway during his NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Southwest Series career. … Although he’s spent the majority of his time working his way up the stock car racing ladder on oval tracks in recent years, Paul Menard (No. 11 Menard’s Chevrolet) got his start in road-course racing and posted a victory in the NASCAR AutoZone Elite Division, Midwest Series event at the Road America road course in Elkhart Lake in 2001. … The 2006 season marks the 25th anniversary of series sponsor Anheuser-Busch. In the series’ inaugural year in 1982, races were contested in seven states; the farthest west was Indiana. Today, races are run in 21 states, including California, Arizona, Nevada, Texas and Kansas, and internationally in Mexico City. Last year’s event was the first points race for the NASCAR Busch Series held outside the United States.
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