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WILLIAM RAST joins Vision Racing at Long Beach  
WILLIAM RAST sponsorship on Ryan Hunter-Reay's car
Gail Miller/AR1.com
Vision Racing is pleased to announce that it has partnered with People's Liberation, Inc. to race the team's No. 21 Dallara/Honda/Firestone machine with William Rast branding in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach this weekend.

In an impressive debut run with Vision Racing for the 2009 IndyCar Series season-opening event on the streets of St. Petersburg, Ryan Hunter-Reay drove the No. 21 machine from the 14th spot all the way to the podium with a second place finish. With a new look, courtesy of William Rast, Hunter-Reay is looking for a repeat performance at Long Beach, Calif. and back-to-back podium finishes to begin the 2009 IndyCar season in style.

"William Rast CEO, Colin Dyne is a good friend and has been very involved behind the scenes and supportive of the efforts to get Ryan (Hunter-Reay) a full season run with Vision," said team owner Tony George. "This week the William Rast branded #21 will debut will with the team for its inaugural run at the "Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach". Throughout the season we expect to see a variety of creative expression coming from this activation." More ...

Team Penske Q&A on Castroneves decision  
THE MODERATOR: To my far right, Ryan Briscoe, driver from Team Penske. Next to Ryan Briscoe, Tim Cindric, the president of Penske Racing. Next to him, Will Power from Team Penske. And then nearest me, Brian Barnhart, the president of Racing Operations for the IndyCar Series, Indy Racing League.

We'll start off with Tim Cindric with a general statement and we'll take it from there.

TIM CINDRIC: Obviously our being here today is all relative to the outcome of Helio's well‑publicized trial. And on behalf of Roger and our entire organization, we're ecstatic with the outcome. It's been a very, very difficult time for all of us. Obviously in particular he and his family. So we're very, very excited to know that he can go on with his life, business as usual. And as hard as that is to say about Helio, in particular.

But his usual business is sometimes a little different. And he adds a little bit of fun to everything we do. So we're certainly looking forward to having him back in the IndyCar Series and back as a driver of our organization. We've made the provisions and the decision that he'll be in a car with us tomorrow. He'll be in the 3 car tomorrow.

And with that, we'll add an additional entry to the Long Beach race starting tomorrow morning. Will Power will be in the No. 12 Team Verizon Wireless car, and Will Power will also drive for Penske in the Indy 500 this year in the No. 12 Verizon Wireless entry.

So today our plans are to carry on business as usual. Helio will arrive this evening. No, I don't know an exact time. But he will arrive this evening. And we'll continue to prepare everything.

The next session, Will will continue in the No. 3 car, carry out the remainder of the day. And Brian, I'll let you talk a little bit how the rest of the weekend will go technically. More ...

Mercedes, Porsche skip Detroit, Frankfurt, but not Shanghai  Daimler AG will skip this year’s Tokyo Motor Show, Nissan Motor Co. passed on Frankfurt, Europe’s largest car extravaganza and Porsche SE will bypass Detroit. All will be in Shanghai.  Porsche SE Chief Executive Officer Wendelin Wiedeking will unveil the new Panamera sports sedan in Shanghai. Daimler’s Dieter Zetsche, Volkswagen AG’s Martin Winterkorn and Toyota Motor Corp.’s Katsuaki Watanabe will also be there.

“The hope for every automaker in the world is riding on China,” said Ricon Xia, an analyst at Daiwa Institute of Research (H.K.) Ltd. in Shanghai. “No matter how many difficulties they are facing, they have to be here and the Shanghai Auto Show will be the show for the year.” More ...

RPM picks up Allmendinger for 2010  Richard Petty Motorsports (RPM) announced on Friday that the team has exercised their contract option on AJ Allmendinger to drive for the team in the 2010 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series. Allmendinger is piloting the No. 44 Charter Communications Dodge for RPM in this Saturday’s Subway Fit Fresh 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

After establishing himself as a top talent in open wheel racing, Allmendinger made the move to race NASCAR full time in 2007 and is now in his third season of racing in Sprint Cup competition.

“The thing that I am most excited about is that we have all the pieces here to be a great team, and we know what we need to improve on,” said Allmendinger. “Now that we know were we are going to be next year, we can focus on the future and on building on this team together.” More ...

Castroneves acquitted  UPDATE #2 Roger Penske quotes on Castroneves acquittal,
"Penske Racing is very happy for Helio Castroneves and his family, following today's verdict. The team has supported Helio throughout this process and will continue to as the matter goes forward.  Penske Racing is pleased and excited to have Helio in the No. 3 Team Penske car at this weekend's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach."

On Will Power: "Penske Racing thanks Will Power for his hard work in helping the team prepare and begin the 2009 IndyCar Series season. We are pleased that Will will compete for Penske Racing in the No. 12 Team Verizon Wireless Dallara/Honda at this week's Grand Prix of Long Beach and the Indianapolis 500."

04/17/09 Indy 500 champ Helio Castroneves and his sister Katiucia sobbed and embraced each other after a federal jury found them not guilty on six counts of evading taxes on $5.5 million from racing car earnings.

The 12-member jury deadlocked on the lead conspiracy charge against them, which prompted U.S. District Judge Donald Graham to declare a mistrial on that count.

The jurors, who deliberated since last Friday after a six-week trial, also acquitted the Brazilian race car star's sports lawyer, Alan R. Miller, on the main conspiracy charge and three other tax evasion counts. Miller was not charged in three other counts of the indictment. With his legal victory, Castroneves, 33, will now be able to fly immediately to California to race in the Long Beach Grand Prix for Penske Racing, the team that hired him in late 1999. His licensing contract with the legendary racing organization was at the heart of the government's tax-evasion case. Castroneves, who has lived in the Miami area for more than a decade and owns a Coral Gables mansion, looked as if he were praying as he awaited word on whether the jurors would find him guilty or innocent of failing to pay taxes on $5.5 million earned between 1999 and 2004.

The IRS said he owed $2.3 million on that income. Castroneves, his sister and his sports lawyer -- charged in a conspiracy to evade paying taxes on the income -- were teased with partial verdicts returned by the 12-member jury on Thursday. But those verdicts were not made public. MiamiHerald.com

04/17/09 Helio Castroneves was acquitted Friday of most charges that he worked with his sister and lawyer to evade more than $2.3 million in U.S. income taxes.

A federal jury acquitted Castroneves on six counts of tax evasion but hung on one count of conspiracy. The jury also acquitted Katiucia Castroneves, 35, who is her 33-year-old brother's business manager, on the tax evasion counts but also hung on the conspiracy.

Michigan motorsports attorney Alan Miller, 71, was acquitted on all three counts of tax evasion and one count of conspiracy.

Castroneves expressed relief. "I just want to thank God, and my fans, and all of the people who prayed for me," he said outside the courtroom, still fingering a rosary.

"It has been a very difficult place to be in," he said, but added that his faith had seen him through. He said he planned to leave Friday night for Long Beach.

We will have more details later. The Penske team has called a press conference here in Long Beach to talk about getting Helio back in the car.
Penske to put Helio back in car at Long Beach  UPDATE #2 The IndyCar Series today released the following statement from Brian Barnhart, president of competition and racing operations for the Indy Racing League, regarding Helio Castroneves return to Penske Racing and the IndyCar Series:

“We couldn’t be happier for Penske Racing, Helio Castroneves and his family and look forward to having him back on the race grid at Long Beach. Helio has played an integral part in the growth of the IndyCar Series on and off the race track the past few years and has an incredible legion of fans. He is a true star in every sense of the word and his infectious personality, popularity and success on the race track is welcomed back.”

04/17/09 Penske's Tim Cindric said he told Helio on the phone that "We have a car ready for you," and a happy Helio responded "I'm coming man."

04/17/09 Penske Racing announced Friday at Long Beach that Helio Castroneves will be back in the No. 3 Penske car at Long Beach Saturday. Will Power will be moved over to the No. 12 Verizon Wireless car the rest of this weekend and for the Indy 500 - just 2 races for right now. Penske Racing boss Roger Penske expressed happiness for Helio that he was acquitted and the team was behind him all the way. IRL boss Brian Barnhart said the IRL was happy to get Helio back in the series. More to follow...

Rocketsports enters ALMS with XKR Jaguar  
Artist rendering of the Rocketsports GT2 Jaguar
New team, new look, new car, new brand – that was what was unveiled during a press conference today at the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Rocketsports Racing, Inc. (RSR) establishes a new entity, formed to build and race Jaguar XKR’s in the ALMS GT2 category and the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Rocketsports Racing officially announced a GT2 program for the American Le Mans Series that will see the East Lansing, Michigan-based team reunite with the Jaguar brand by entering a Jaguar XKR for a partial season in 2009 with a full-season championship effort in 2010.

“It has been difficult to be out of competitive racing for nearly a year,” said RSR team owner Paul Gentilozzi. “We are most fortunate to be able to return to what we know, winning sportscar championships. In particular, winning them in Jaguars. We haven’t spent our time idly; we’ve focused on engineering and construction of the Jaguar XKR. The luxury of time that we traditionally don’t have in this process has been a great asset. We feel like our work with both the ALMS and the ACO will give us a car that is number one: competitive on the track, number two: representative of Jaguar’s racing history, and number three: economically viable for customers in the GT2 series around the world.” More ...
Hamilton lands ride for 500  Kingdom Racing Team Principal George Del Canto announced today that we have joined forces with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing and Hewlett Packard to run the number 44 Honda Dallara for IndyCar veteran Davey Hamilton at this year's 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500.

Following the formal announcement today at the Long Beach Grand Prix, George Del Canto said "Kingdom Racing is about winning for God's glory. In partnering with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, Davey Hamilton and Hewlett Packard for this year's Indianapolis 500, we will have a worthy platform to further our mission."

Kingdom Racing's mission is to deliver God's word through Motorsports. With a primary goal to form a full time IndyCar Series team and, combined with the help of national Christian ministries, reach 1,000,000, men for Jesus Christ. In 2008, Kingdom Racing made history as the first "faith-based" organization to ever compete in the first 100 years of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Through our second Indy 500 appearance this year, the team hopes to capture national attention with potential partners to execute this mission. More ...
Franchitti tops opening practice in Long Beach  Dario Franchitti topped opening practice for the IndyCars at Long Beach Friday morning. He was followed by Ryan Briscoe, Mario Moraes, Will Power, and Graham Rahal. More to follow.
Judge denies jurors request in Helio trial  Federal jurors in the tax-evasion trial of Indy 500 champ Helio Castroneves asked for the lawyers' opening statements from early March, but the judge denied the request.

U.S. District Judge Donald Graham told the 12-member jury in Miami that he would not turn over transcripts of the opening statements because they ''are not evidence.'' He told jurors that they must rely on witness testimony and trial exhibits as the evidence, then asked them to continue deliberations. The Brazilian race car star is awaiting word on whether they will find him guilty or innocent of failing to pay taxes on $5.5 million he earned from decade-old racing deals. The IRS says he owes $2.3 million on that income. Castroneves, his sister and his sports lawyer -- charged in a conspiracy to evade paying taxes on the income -- were teased with partial verdicts returned by the 12-member jury on Thursday. But the verdicts were not made public.

The jury said it reached a verdict on two tax-evasion counts against the 33-year-old Castroneves and deadlocked on five others -- including the leading conspiracy charge.

The panel also said it reached a verdict on one charge against the driver's sister/manager, Katiucia Castroneves, 35, but deadlocked on the other six.

One of Castroneves' lawyers, Roy Black, urged the judge to bring the deliberations -- now in their sixth day -- to a close. He asked Graham to announce the partial verdicts and to declare a mistrial on the deadlocked counts.

The judge refused. Miller's attorney, Robert Bennett, then asked Graham if he would at least announce the jury's verdict for his client, saying the anticipation was ``sheer agony.''

Federal prosecutor Matt Axelrod opposed disclosure, raising concern about courtroom ''reaction'' if the jury's verdict on Miller was revealed at this point. The judge sided with the government, denying Bennett's request.

It appears from the defense lawyers' requests in court that they're confident Miller may have been acquitted and that the jury may also have acquitted the Castroneves siblings on a least a few of the tax-evasion charges. A mistrial declared on the remaining counts would be an additional setback for the government. MiamiHerald.com
Philippe tops opening Indy Lights practice in LB  Genoa Racing's Richard Philippe topped opening practice for the Indy Lights cars in Long Beach Friday morning.  His teammate for this race, Jonathan Bomarito was 7th in his Indy Lights debut.  Jonathan Summerton was 2nd quick.

Pos Driver Diff Gap Time
1 Richard Philippe (36) --.---- --.---- 1:16.4256
2 Jonathan Summerton (9) 0.0684 0.0684 1:16.4940
3 Sebastian Saavedra (27) 0.1232 0.0548 1:16.5488
4 James Davison (21) 0.1687 0.0455 1:16.5943
5 JR Hildebrand (26) 0.2203 0.0516 1:16.6459
6 Stefan Wilson (19) 0.3131 0.0928 1:16.7387
7 Jonathan Bomarito (63) 0.3347 0.0216 1:16.7603
8 James Hinchcliffe (7) 0.5367 0.2020 1:16.9623
9 Ana Beatriz (20) 0.7354 0.1987 1:17.1610
10 Daniel Herrington (28) 0.8753 0.1399 1:17.3009
11 Sean Guthrie (4) 1.4016 0.5263 1:17.8272
12 Gustavo Yacaman (44) 1.4689 0.0673 1:17.8945
13 Charlie Kimball (35) 1.4740 0.0051 1:17.8996
14 Andrew Prendeville (2) 1.5105 0.0365 1:17.9361
15 Wade Cunningham (11) 1.5776 0.0671 1:18.0032
16 Martin Plowman (15) 1.8451 0.2675 1:18.2707
17 Junior Strous (18) 1.9115 0.0664 1:18.3371
18 Pablo Donoso (33) 1.9820 0.0705 1:18.4076
19 Ali Jackson (59) 2.1621 0.1801 1:18.5877
20 Mario Romancini (5) 2.2401 0.0780 1:18.6657
21 Pippa Mann (16) 2.4450 0.2049 1:18.8706
22 Jay Howard (37) 2.7022 0.2572 1:19.1278
23 Jesse Mason (49) 3.2420 0.5398 1:19.6676
24 Sergey Mokshantsev (3) 5.1972 1.9552 1:21.6228
25 Rodrigo Barbosa (55) 7.1987 2.0015 1:23.6243
Iowa lands Nationwide race sponsor  Iowa Speedway officials announced that U.S. Cellular will serve as the title sponsor of the track’s NASCAR Nationwide Series race on Aug. 1.  The U.S. Cellular 250 is expected to draw the largest racing crowd in Iowa history, track officials said.  U.S. Cellular has been a partner with the Newton, Iowa, track since the facility opened in 2006.

“The U.S. Cellular 250 will be an historic event, and it brings together as partners four successful entities: NASCAR, the Nationwide Series, U.S. Cellular, and, of course, Iowa Speedway,” said Jerry Jauron, Iowa Speedway’s president and chief financial officer. “A ticket to this race will provide a lifetime memory for racing fans and we are pleased to have a Midwest company join us as a major partner for such a prestigious event.”
Alex Tagliani and Autonet.ca Offer an Exclusive  Canadian IndyCar driver Alex Tagliani is teaming up with Autonet.ca, Canoe.ca and Sun Media automotive destination, and offering exclusive insight and direct contact with motor sports fans in the newspapers and websites of this group. Canadian fans will be able to live the experience, feel the passion and live the real life of a top racing driver by visiting Autonet.ca/Tagliani.

The veteran open-wheel racing and NASCAR driver is launching a weekly column appearing in more than 200 Sun Media dailies and community newspapers across Canada. Autonet.ca has developed a special section on its site providing exclusive information, pictures, and videos from the driver's perspective. In addition, Tagliani - the only Canadian driver in the IndyCar circuit - will also talk directly with fans through Facebook and deliver personal comments via Twitter.

"I am excited to team up with Autonet.ca in a unique way to share my greatest passion with Canadian fans. This lets me interact personally with my fans, which means a lot to me, being the only Canadian driver in the Series" says Tagliani, who's getting ready for this weekend's Grand Prix in Long Beach, California. "It's a great way to share the excitement and get people involved in discussions about racing," he adds. More ...

GM, Chrysler in line for more federal aid  The Obama auto task force is preparing to loan General Motors Corp. about $5 billion in additional federal short-term aid, and Chrysler LLC $500 million, an Obama administration official familiar with the matter said Thursday.

The disclosure assigns a dollar amount to the pledge of continued short-term support issued late last month by the administration, after it rejected GM's and Chrysler's restructuring plans and requests for up to $21.6 billion in additional assistance. The official said the decision was expected to be announced next week -- though the precise amounts were still the subject of talks between the government and the automakers.

The White House said Thursday night no decision had been made about how much either automaker will receive. "No decisions have been made on how much working capital GM and Chrysler will be getting," said spokeswoman Amy Brundage. More ...

Victories Make Junior the Indy Lights Man to Beat at LB  
Junior Strous visits the Queen Mary
It’s not often one can say that being a marked man is a good thing, but it certainly applies to Junior Strous for he clearly is the driver everyone will be looking to beat at Long Beach in this weekend’s third round of the 2009 Firestone Indy Lights championship.

The driver of the No. 18 Shell V-Power/Winners Circle Group Racing Dallara established himself as the man to beat after winning both races at St. Petersburg in convincing fashion. He now holds a 100-72 lead over Jonathan Summerton with Sunday’s race scheduled for 45 laps around the 11-turn, 1.968-mile circuit on the streets of Long Beach.

“Long Beach is my favorite race track,” said Strous, who finished 13th here in 2007 (despite breaking his wrist) and eighth here last year in Atlantics. “I love the setting and the atmosphere. It reminds me of Monaco in Europe. This will be my third year to drive here and I feel like I have unfinished business at this track. More ...

KERS a dwindling "mess" in F1 - Webber  (GMM)  The number of F1 cars running KERS has dropped to just five -- and possibly just four for Sunday's Chinese grand prix.

The fact caused Mark Webber to remark on Thursday that the sport would probably not miss the controversial energy re-use technology if it disappeared altogether.

"It's turned into a bit of a mess hasn't it, the whole KERS thing," the Australian, who as a GPDA director has safety concerns about the systems, said.

BMW's Robert Kubica trialed KERS for the first time in practice on Friday, but it is possible the unit will be extracted from his car overnight. More ...

Face it, Earnhardt just isn't that good  UPDATE #3 Dale Earnhardt Jr. is 16th in points, with a best finish of eighth, so some fans have been calling for his cousin Tony Eury Jr. to be replaced as crew chief.  Team owner Rick Hendrick says no.  "Both of these guys have told me that if I thought they need to be split, that they understood," Hendrick explained. "That's my call, and I'm not ready to make that call, not even close . . . I'm convinced that they are better together."

Earnhardt, with two Cup wins at PIR, has been defending Eury almost weekly. "Whether we are the perfect combination or not, that doesn't mean anything to me," he said. "I just like racing with him."

03/25/09 Car owner Rick Hendrick says he is fully committed to Dale Earnhardt Jr. and embattled crew chief Tony Eury Jr. The team has been under fire for its slow start this season. Earnhardt last week asked for relief from the constant criticism Eury has faced from fans and media. Hendrick says the driver and crew chief were part of a three-hour meeting Wednesday to figure out what's wrong with the #88 team. He says the team is under great pressure, but everyone is committed to turning this season around. After five races, Earnhardt has just one top-10 finish and is 19th in the standings. Associated Press

03/23/09   Dale Earnhardt Jr. felt good about his car, but track position cost NASCAR's most popular driver, relegating him to a 14th-place finish. Though respectable, Earnhardt never made a serious push into contention, because he just isn't that good and NASCAR fans can't accept that.

Junior started 34th after qualifying on Friday, which also was the 30th anniversary of his father's first Cup race win. He began the race at the back of the field, however, due to a transmission change.

"We had a good competitive car--a top 10 car for sure--and just could never get there," Earnhardt said. "These guys on this team are talented. If we work really hard at our job and our craft, man, we'll see results."

Earnhardt, who climbed five spots in the points standings to 19th, was asked if it was difficult to stay positive given the expectations for his Hendrick Motorsports team.

"To be honest with you, it's not that hard to stay positive until you get around the media," he said with a laugh. "I mean you guys have got to take a little responsibility for being so hard on everybody and some people are going to argue that you all are just calling out to the reality of a situation, but we're trying to work hard and trying to do our job and that's what we do every week. Somebody seems to think we still belong here and so we keep showing up."

NASCAR's biggest hero Dale Earnhardt Jr.
03/21/09  Dale Earnhardt fans have a hard time swallowing the fact that their driver is just not that good.  They have blamed the DEI team, the car, and now they blame his crew chief Tony Eury.  Earnhardt was forced to defend Eury at a conference Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway.

“I have said it a hundred times – and it just doesn’t seem to make a dent – but the guy that I feel bad for is Tony, Jr. because he gets criticized so badly,” Earnhardt said.

“Everybody in this room – and some of you have criticized him yourselves – know how smart a guy he is. He is a good mechanic and a solid crew chief.”

“[Eury, Jr.] just wanted to do this for a living, just like I do, but I’ll take the fall,”  Earnhardt said. “I would rather be crucified than him.  Every time I read in the paper that people are on his case, I feel like I am sending my brother to jail for a crime I committed, you know what I mean. I feel bad for him because he just wants to work and have fun.”

“There are riffs between every driver and every crew chief, and they work it out or they don’t,” Earnhardt said. “I think me and Tony, Jr. do a pretty good job of working it out.  Obviously, through everything we have been through, we still love each other to death and would do anything for each other.” More ...

KERS loss hurts Ferrari pace - team  (GMM)  The loss of KERS has cost Ferrari even more performance, the Italian team admitted on Friday.

Ferrari's drivers, not running the controversial energy re-use technology for the first time this season due to safety and reliability concerns, struggled for pace in Shanghai free practice.

It had been suggested that the units may also have been removed for performance reasons, but figures of the Maranello based team insist this is not so.

"I can say our fight for the championship is ever more compromised," Felipe Massa said in China.

The Brazilian said that as a result of not using KERS, "we are losing even more performance".

Massa said the F60 was already not generating as much downforce as "the best cars".

Kimi Raikkonen agreed: "We must try and improve the car: at the moment, we are not able to fight for the title."

Team boss Stefano Domenicali said it is not true that not suffering the weight handicap of the heavy KERS technology improved the handling of the car.

"Let's not forget, (this car) was designed to carry this system," he said.

Graining an issue in Shanghai  UPDATE (GMM)  Bridgestone's F1 chief has defended the decision to bring the softest compound of slick tire to the Chinese grand prix.

Drivers at Shanghai slammed the move, after the 'super soft' option proved disastrously too fragile in Australia last month.

Even though the fears were not fully realized in Friday practice today, Sebastian Vettel jokingly thanked his helmet and visor "which protects my eyes as the rubber is coming off!"

But Bridgestone's director of motorsport Hirohide Hamashima said one of the factors in deciding tire allocations is "feedback from the teams".

"All teams have a dedicated Bridgestone engineer who works with the drivers and team engineers so we have constant information regarding any tire issues," he said on Friday.

"The teams are made aware of our allocations for races many weeks in advance, so there is plenty of time for feedback," said Hamashima. More ...

Bomarito joins Genoa for Long Beach  
Jonathan Bomarito
First rumored by AutoRacing1.com Thursday, Genoa announced Friday the signing of 2008 Atlantic Championship runner-up Jonathan Bomarito from Monterrey, California; with the support of Ray and Leslie Mathiasen, Mathiasen Motorsports and RLM Investments, to drive Genoa’s #63 Firestone® Indy Lights™ car for the Long Beach Grand Prix. After leading last season’s Long Beach Grand Prix from the pole and experiencing mechanical difficulties late in the race, Jonathan finished 5th  (Genoa finished 2nd). Jonathan finished 2nd at Long Beach in 2007.

Joining teammate Richard Philippe in the #36 Funkemotions.com car, Jonathan is a proven winner, with 3 wins and 3 poles in Atlantics in 2008 and finished a strong runner up in the final championship standings. He also had a win in Atlantics in each of 2007 and 2006 seasons. More ...

New diffuser boosts Hamilton in China  UPDATE Added photos below showing new McLaren rear diffuser.

Old rear diffuser
New rear McLaren diffuser
  (GMM)  McLaren rushed an interim 'double diffuser' onto Lewis Hamilton's car for the Chinese grand prix weekend.

The reigning world champion then steered the modified MP4-24 to the top of the morning timesheets in Friday practice, ahead of the two dominant Brawns.

In the other McLaren, Heikki Kovalainen is not using the new aerodynamic package, and was fourth quickest, just over three tenths slower than the tweaked car.

While the Mercedes-powered team's fortunes took a boost in Shanghai, reigning constructors champions Ferrari's seemed to dip even lower: Felipe Massa was just fifteenth quickest in an apparently horrendously-handling F60. More ...

Depression sets in at slow Ferrari team  "We will have to run a few races on the defensive and try to do the best we can," Stefano Domenicali said. "We are in a difficult situation and we must try and stay calm and work hard on all fronts."

Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone said Ferrari's struggles were not good for the sport, but added that the aura of the team will continue to capture the imagination of fans regardless of performance.

"It's not good, but it will look better when they get up the front again," Ecclestone said. "In those days when they were not winning, if you asked anyone in the street who won the world championship last year they would say Ferrari, and if you said which driver, they'd say Niki Lauda.

"That's how strong the Ferrari brand is - it's one of the strongest brands in the world."

A depressed Felipe Massa
"I can say our fight for the championship is ever more compromised," Felipe Massa said.

"We are losing even more performance, in addition to not having as much aerodynamic downforce as the best cars."

Raikkonen was more optimistic, saying he did not miss the KERS boost too much, and felt the team could yet rally.

"We must not give up the fight because, with the whole team working hard, we can get back into a winning position," Raikkonen said.

"It's not an easy time but our group is strong and we know what needs to be done to get out of this situation." More ...

RPM locks up Allmendinger  Richard Petty Motorsports has picked up the option on #44-AJ Allmendinger's contract, locking up the driver through 2010. According to multiple sources, Joe Gibbs Racing had inquired about Allmendinger's status as they consider starting up a fourth team. RPM had an Aug. 15 deadline to pick up Allmendinger's option for 2010. FoxSports
Parr responds to Domenicali comments  Adam Parr, Chief Executive Officer of the Williams team, has replied to comments made earlier by Ferrari team principal Stefano Domenicali. During the FIA's hearing for double diffusers in Paris on Tuesday, the Williams man allegedly referred to a feeling that the Italian team has won titles in recent years with illegal cars.

As the issue of using a (now legal) double diffuser was talked about by the seven teams present on Tuesday, Parr reportedly mentioned that Ferrari - by using barge boards with multiple layers - was doing so against regulations on their way to winning championships in recent times.

"I think that there has been a very fundamental misunderstanding of what happened in the court on Tuesday," Parr said on practice day in Shanghai. "Part of the case presented against us related to what we call as the use of multiple vertical transitions; essentially, you have to have a reference plane, which is like the plank, and 50mm above that you have the step planes. One of the key issues in the case (for double diffusers) was, when do you have to have a transition between those two? More ...

British F3
British GT
Donington rounds postponed  UPDATE (GMM)  2010 grand prix venue Donington's failure to secure a new racing license by the British motor racing authority has led to races being cancelled.

Following track revisions ahead of the formula one race next year, the circuit lost its racing license for now on the grounds of safety.

A spokesman has now confirmed that this weekend's Formula Palmer Audi race has had to be cancelled, and next weekend's British F3 and GT races will also have to be postponed.

Two other categories due to race at Donington next month have also had to call off.

04/14/09 SRO Motorsports Group regrets to announce that the British F3 and British GT meeting planned for the Donington Park circuit for the weekend of 25 and 26 April is to be postponed to a summer date.

A new date for the Donington meeting, which will play host to rounds of the Cooper Tires British F3 International Series, Avon Tires British GT Championship and supporting championships, will be confirmed within a few days.

SRO is announcing the decision to postpone in the interests of competitors, says SRO Motorsports Group General Manager Bernadette Fitzsimons: "The issues surrounding the problems at Donington are well known. We have worked hard with Donington's management to find a solution, with discussions between us, Donington, the FIA and the MSA not yet concluded, we must move to end the uncertainty.

"We are confident Donington will resolve its problems soon, and we look forward as always to visiting what is one of the country's top circuits and to putting on a great show there."

McLaren 'weakened' by losses - Whitmarsh  (GMM)  McLaren has been weakened by the sudden loss of multiple key team members, boss Martin Whitmarsh has admitted.

The stalwart Tyler Alexander was the first to go, and now the 'lie-gate' scandal has cost McLaren its long-serving team manager Dave Ryan.

Ron Dennis, moreover - at the helm for nearly three decades - on Thursday announced he will no longer be involved in the Woking based team in any capacity.

"Any company is going to miss people of that sort of quality, especially when they go all at once," Force India's business affairs chief Ian Phillips told the BBC from Shanghai.

Even Whitmarsh, Dennis' successor, does not deny the significance of McLaren's recent departures.

"If I sat here and said we are not weakened at all it wouldn't be true," he told reporters in China.

Whitmarsh, however, said McLaren's organization has "enough depth and capability" to fill the vacancies without recruiting externally.

New pecking order leaves F1 without credibility  UPDATE (GMM)  Rubens Barrichello on Friday slammed Flavio Briatore as a "bad loser".

Some English translations of Briatore's comments to Italian reporters in Shanghai quote the Renault boss as dismissing Barrichello as a "pensioner".

His Brawn teammate and back-to-back grand prix winner Jenson Button, meanwhile, was written off as a 'paracarro', which translates to English as a sort of Italian concrete roadside bollard.

But veteran Barrichello, 36, said Briatore should concentrate on closing the gap rather than lashing out at F1's new pacesetters.

"There are some people who lower their heads and work.  Others don't know how to lose and in my opinion Briatore is one of those kind (of people)," Barrichello is quoted as telling Brazilian reporters in China.

Barrichello also criticized Briatore for blaming Renault's lack of competitiveness on Brawn-style rear diffusers.

"If you take the diffuser off my car and put it on his, it will not solve their problems," he insisted.  "The diffuser is a part of our car but it is not the reason." More ...

Hamilton to fight for future McLaren titles  (GMM)  Lewis Hamilton may not be able to win this year, but he will be able to add to his championship tally with McLaren in the future.

That is the belief of the reigning world champion's former mentor and boss Ron Dennis, who at Woking on Thursday announced his complete withdrawal from involvement in formula one.

It has been rumored that intractable friction between the 61-year-old and the Hamilton camp - notably Lewis' father-manager Anthony - contributed to Dennis' decision to step aside.

But Dennis played down suggestions that Hamilton leaving the team before his current long-term contract expires was a possibility.

"Lewis has a contract and it's a long contract," he said. More ...

King Taco backs Herta/Vision team  Bryan Herta Autosport (BHA) is proud to show off a new primary sponsor for the Long Beach Firestone Indy Lights race. KING TACO will appear on the sidepods and front wings of the no.28 Le Bleu BHA car. "Bryan Herta Autosport is thrilled to have King Taco Restaurants come onboard as primary sponsor for the #28 car this weekend," says team owner Bryan Herta. "The Long Beach Grand Prix is a very special weekend, and King Taco has been a sponsor of the event for 15 years, so we are proud to represent them on track.  Raul Martinez and his family have supported racing for many years, from karting to stockcars to formula cars.  They are passionate about racing and generous about helping up and coming drivers and teams.  We look forward to bringing them a great result on the track, and celebrating with some great food afterwards!"
Acuras top Thursday ALMS practice  
David Brabham
With memories of last year’s last-lap pass for an LMP2 victory still fresh in his mind, David Brabham was the quickest driver in Thursday’s test session for the Tequila Patr¢n American Le Mans Series at Long Beach. Now in LMP1, Brabham’s best time on the Long Beach circuit was a 1:14.226 (95.449 mph) in Patr¢n Highcroft Racing’s Acura ARX-02a.

Just as he did last season, Brabham will team with Scott Sharp in search of its second straight overall win in the American Le Mans Series. They were victorious two weeks ago at St. Petersburg.

The cars took part in two separate sessions with qualifying set for Friday afternoon.

Brabham, who set his time in the latter session, went 1.224 seconds quicker than Adrian Fernandez in the Lowe’s Fernandez Racing Acura ARX-01b. Fernandez, who has a lengthy history at Long Beach from his CART days, is driving with Luis Diaz in the LMP2 entry that scored class wins at both Sebring and St. Petersburg. Acura held the top three spots of the day with Simon Pagenaud placing third in the de Ferran Motorsports Acura P1 entry that he will share with team owner Gil de Ferran. Pagenaud was the only one of the top three to post his time in the first session. More ...

Dreyer & Reinbold renews partnership with Emu Australia  Dreyer & Reinbold Racing will renew its relationship with Emu Australia as the primary sponsor on the No. 24 car driven by rookie Mike Conway beginning with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. The Australian company originally joined forces as a sponsor partner with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing last year.

“Dreyer & Reinbold’s commitment to quality and winning parallels our endeavors at Emu Australia,” said Emu Australia’s CEO Ted Houston. “Their growth and success in the IndyCar Series is reflective of that commitment, and we are pleased to have the opportunity to support their efforts. Our association has brought significant recognition and value to our brand.” More ...
Hard Rock Cafe sponsors Conquest at Long Beach  Conquest Racing and the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino Las Vegas are teaming up at this weekend’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Conquest Racing will be promoting the Hard Rock’s all new state of the art concert venue, The Joint, which opens this month in Las Vegas.

"The Grand Prix of Long Beach is the premier event of its kind in Southern California," said Phil Shalala, Vice President of Marketing for Hard Rock Hotel & Casino. "So it was a natural fit to partner with Conquest Racing and brand their car with The Joint, which is the premier concert venue in Las Vegas.”

In the great tradition of Las Vegas' first rock venue, the new Joint's commitment to rock and roll is unparalleled. The Joint has played host to every major rock band coming through Las Vegas including, The Killers, The Rolling Stones, Coldplay and Foo Fighters. More ...

track news
No more infield tickets or parking at Dover  From the Dover International Speedway website: "Infield tickets and Infield parking are no longer available," referring to the upcoming Sprint Cup Series race on May 31. Delaware News Journal

Dover International Speedway which has been hosting NASCAR races since 1969, has closed its infield to fan parking. The decision wasn’t necessarily based on the current state of the economy however, but the lack of fan interest according to the track. “As we evaluated the attendance in that area, year-to-year, it continued to decrease and didn't make sense from a business perspective to continue to operate it,” said Gary Camp, Director of Public Relations at Dover. “Every year, the numbers were essentially cut in half from the prior year. Around 100 customers paid to park in the infield for the Sept. 2008 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race. Fans can experience a race for much less by purchasing a grandstand seat to the event. And the view from the grandstands is certainly much better.” NASCAR Examiner

Unser, Rahal inducted at Long Beach  
Al Unser Jr (L) and Bobby Rahal
Chris Jones/IRL
Before anyone practice started for this weekend's 35th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, racing legends Al Unser Jr. and Bobby Rahal were inducted into the Long Beach Motorsports Walk of Fame on Thursday.

The fourth annual ceremony took place on South Pine Avenue in front of the Long Beach Convention Center, which is along the route of the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.

Mayor Bob Foster presented Unser and Rahal with their medallions, which included depictions of the honorees' cars and their major achievements in motorsports. More ...

track news
Morocco street circuit taking shape  
With event week fast approaching for the inaugural Race of Morocco FIA World Touring Car Championship, construction of the temporary street circuit is well under way! The D3 Motorsport Development team has been on the ground in Marrakech since early January to manage the implementation of this exciting circuit in the heart of the red city. More than 2500 concrete impact blocks have been poured since November 2008, with 90% of these installed so far to form the 4.54km race track. To top these impact blocks, 2485 debris fence panels have been manufactured to ensure the highest standard of safety in motor sport.

D3 Operations Director Heath Dickson says, “The construction of this circuit to date has been smooth, it certainly helps having one of the countries largest construction companies Groupe Menara beside us ensuring we have all the equipment and labor we need to get this circuit ready!”

Located just 10mins from the action packed city centre in the upmarket housing and hotel district of Agdal, this event brings international car racing to the streets of Marrakech.

“Street circuits can be disruptive to local business and residents, so we are thankful for the support and patience of those who live and work in the Agdal area,” Mr. Dickson continued. More ...

Whitmarsh denies any tensions between Hamiltons and Dennis  
Martin Whitmarsh
Whitmarsh has denied rumors of tension between departing CEO Dennis and the Hamiltons, and went on to insist that that the 24-year-old would not be leaving McLaren.

"I haven't asked Lewis what his relationship is with Ron, but I don't think it's quite as you're characterizing it," he told Autosport.

"I told Lewis half an hour ago what was happening. I think he naturally has a certain amount of affection for Ron. We all do. I didn't detect any different human reactions other than what I would have expected from someone who has known Ron as long as Lewis has known Ron.

"I think he has certainly expressed his support for this team consistently, and he has very kindly expressed his support for me. I think and I hope that I have a good relationship with Lewis and I think he is committed just as we are to restoring the good fortunes and competitiveness of this team in the future."

As for his own future, Whitmarsh revealed that while he did offer his resignation to the board in the wake of the scandal, it was turned down.

"At the moment, as has been pointed out, this team has gone through some interesting and challenging times. I did offer my resignation after the weekend, that was graciously declined," he said.

"I offered it to the shareholders, and that was declined. The reality is that in the future it will be the new chairman's decision, which is normal in any business.

"So if the view is that I am doing a reasonable job then hopefully I will keep it, and if I am not I won't. And that's how it should be."

Partial verdict reached on Castroneves trial  UPDATE The verdicts were not revealed before the jury went home for the day. Jurors are scheduled to return Friday to resume deliberations.

04/16/09 A federal jury on Thursday said it reached a unanimous verdict on two tax-evasion counts against Indy 500 champ Helio Castroneves and deadlocked on five others -- including the leading conspiracy charge against the Brazilian race car star.

The Miami jury also said it reached a unanimous verdict on one charge against the driver's sister/manager, Katiucia Castroneves, but deadlocked on the other six.

The panel said it reached a unanimous verdict on four counts against Castroneves' sports lawyer, Alan R. Miller, including the main conspiracy charge. Miller was not charged in the three other tax-evasion counts in the indictment. His verdict form was placed in a sealed envelope.

U.S. District Judge Donald Graham ordered the 12-member jury to continue deliberating in the $5.5 million tax-evasion case, giving them a so-called ''Allen'' charge urging them to find common ground on the deadlocked counts.

The prosecution supported the judge's charge to the jury, and the defense opposed it. Castroneves and his sister embraced after the jury delivered the partial verdict, amid a packed courtroom of relatives, friends and media. Jurors have taken a lunch break and will resume deliberations Thursday afternoon. MiamiHerald.com
Motor oil recycling featured on Harvick's car  To help spread the word about the importance of used motor oil recycling, Richard Childress Racing (RCR) and Pennzoil are working together to raise awareness around the Pennzoil Clean Change Campaign in a special way. This Saturday, as Americans look forward to Earth Day, the deck lid of Kevin Harvick’s #29 Shell-Pennzoil car will feature the Pennzoil Clean Change Campaign logo and web site during the Sprint Cup race at Phoenix International Raceway. The Pennzoil Clean Change Campaign is a nationwide initiative that encourages Do-It-Yourself oil changers to recycle their used motor oil and help maintain a clean environment. Improper disposal of the used oil from just one oil change can potentially contaminate up to one million gallons of drinking water. It is estimated that 185 million gallons of used motor oil is improperly disposed of each year in the U.S. -- dumped on the ground, tossed in the trash or poured down storm sewers and drains. Use of the deck lid during the April 18th NASCAR Sprint Cup race is just a part of the Pennzoil Clean Change efforts continuing throughout the year to help raise awareness of the importance of recycling used motor oil. Throughout the season, RCR and Pennzoil hope to gather more than 100,000 online pledges. RCR/Pennzoil PR
TRG Motorsports to run reduced Truck series schedule  TRG Motorsports officials announced Thursday that its NASCAR Camping World Truck Series team will run a reduced schedule with driver J.R. Fitzpatrick the rest of the season.  Fitzpatrick, of Cambridge, Canada, finished fourth in the Truck series season opener at Daytona and was 17th in points after the first four races.

"The economy has hindered our program, and unless we can get funding to run the whole season, I will be doing a handful of races for the remainder of the year," Fitzpatrick said.  "We had an excellent start at Daytona and really opened some eyes in the series. We have a lot of great things in the works, and I will be back soon.

“We are just being more selective of which markets we race in. I am only 20 years old and plan on being in NASCAR for a very long time, so as much as I would like to be at the track every week, it has to make sense for everybody involved."

Oval Vodka joins Indy Light Series  Officials for ovalOval Vodka, producer and importer of the new super-premium vodka from Austria, announced today that they will be participating in the Indy Light Series with Alliance Motorsports, in a one-year sponsorship agreement. This marks the first time ever that Oval has entered into auto racing.

“By joining Alliance Motorsports, Oval demonstrates that the world of auto racing is continuing to capture the attention of international spectators,” said Jeff Matthews, co-owner of Alliance Motorsports. “We are excited to have them on board and look forward in developing a strong relationship.”

To kick-off its new sponsorship, Oval is awarding six race fans tickets to Indianapolis for the races and Carb Day on May 22 and for the Indianapolis 500 on May 24.

In addition to the races, the winners also will participate in all pre-race festivities including a concert by the alternative rock group 3 Doors Down on May 22.

“All of us at Oval Vodka are thrilled to offer our consumers the opportunity to participate in the race events at Indianapolis,” said Liz Hoelbling, marketing manager for Oval Vodka. “Since the Firestone Light Indy Series circuit travels through our key markets, the partnership with Alliance Motorsports is a natural fit and will allow us to reach out to our consumers about drinking and driving responsibly.”

Shanghai tech file  The Shanghai International Circuit is one of the most impressive facilities on the Grand Prix calendar. Like most of the circuits designed by Hermann Tilke, it features a wide variety of corners, both fast and slow, as well as a long straight followed by a tight hairpin which provides an ideal overtaking opportunity. Technically the circuit is a challenge for the drivers and engineers, not least the never-ending first corner which almost takes the cars through a full circle.

As with many modern circuits, Shanghai includes a mixture of high-speed corners and long straights which means the level of aerodynamic downforce has to be judged very carefully to protect position on the straights, without compromising grip in the corners. Turns 7 and 8 make up two of the high-speed corners and lead into the tricky double lefthander of turns 9 and 10. More ...

track news
New Jersey Motorsports Park Doubles Fixed Seating  UPDATE Added Track Diagram below showing location of new grandstands.

NJMP showing new grandstands
Visitors to New Jersey Motorsports Park in 2009 will notice a number of facility improvements designed to enhance the experience during spectator events, beginning with the Grand-Am Rolex Series event May 1-3. The south Jersey facility has dramatically expanded the number of viewing areas and the number of trolleys available to move fans around the 2.25-mile road course. New Jersey Motorsports Park has doubled the total number of seats in its sophomore season. A general admission ticket grants access to any of the seven grandstand locations located around the facility, giving fans a variety of viewing options throughout the day.

Additionally, New Jersey Motorsports Park has doubled the number of trolleys used to transport spectators from the parking areas to the paddock at Thunderbolt Raceway. More ...

Conquest LB Preview  
Conquest Welcomes New Partners
Conquest Racing’s participation in the 2009 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach wouldn’t be possible without the support of a couple of new partners. Joining the team for this weekend’s race are ODW Logistics and TorcUP of Canada. The two company logos will be visible on both the Conquest car and driver firesuit.

“We are very grateful to ODW Logistics and TorcUP of Canada to be supporting us this weekend in Long Beach. Hopefully we can thank them with a good result on Sunday,” said team owner Eric Bachelart regarding the new partnership deals. More ...

racing news
Western World Championships Will Live On!  Sprint Car racing fans and teams can breathe a sigh of relief, especially those traditionalists among the bunch.  While Manzanita Speedway in Phoenix, AZ, held its farewell events this past weekend, many of the traditions that were borne of the 58-year-old speedplant will live on.
New Mexico's Hollywood Hills Speedway had already picked up the Buddy Taylor Memorial (May 23-24) and Tucson's USA Raceway had adopted the Hank Arnold Memorial (September 5-6), both of which are Discount Tire Co. ASCS Canyon Region events.
Which left race fans and race teams in limbo on one huge lingering question; what would become of the Western World Championships?  Or would the history-rich event die a silent death? More ...
track news
$17 million MIS project approved; will be ready for 2010  
MIS during NASCAR test day
Michigan International Speedway officials announced the first phase of a broad master plan that includes a significant redesign of the speedway’s infield.

Phase One of the plan, approved by the speedway’s parent company, International Speedway Corporation, includes a more than $17 million reconstruction of the current terrace suites and media center in the track’s infield.

Demolition and construction will begin immediately following the track’s August NASCAR weekend and will be ready for the 2010 season at the track.

The two-story design calls for 30 corporate suites that span the second floor of the structure. A number of the suites will include movable walls so areas can expand or decrease based on partners’ needs, building upon MIS’ philosophy to tailor custom packages to each partners’ business goals. More ...

Whitmarsh defends Hamilton's media no-show  
Martin Whitmarsh
(GMM) McLaren boss Martin Whitmarsh has defended the decision to keep Lewis Hamilton out of the spotlight on the 'media day' Thursday activities at Shanghai.

At a time when formula one is attempting to be more fan-friendly and transparent, the British team did not organize any time for the reigning world champion to speak with the press corps.

Amid the 'lie-gate' scandal, it is suggested that Hamilton's radio silence, and Ron Dennis' announcement on the same day that he is stepping back from all team involvement, was no coincidence. More ...
Judge in Castroneves case unhappy with his lawyers  A federal jury on Thursday began its fifth day of deliberations in the Miami tax-evasion trial of Indy 500 champ Helio Castroneves.  The 12-member jury has been struggling with complex legal issues in the government's case against Castroneves, who is charged with failing to pay taxes on $5.5 million earned between 1999 and 2004.

Defense lawyers for Castroneves moved for the mistrial earlier this week after U.S. District Judge Donald Graham clarified his jury instructions on key legal matters. On Wednesday, the judge addressed the defense's concerns by making further changes to his instructions.

The changes dealt with the relationship between Castroneves and Penske Racing, which signed a contract with the Brazilian race car star in late 1999. But his licensing deal was actually between a Panamanian tax shelter and Penske, which is at the center of the prosecution's conspiracy case against Castroneves, his sister and his lawyer.

Graham has expressed frustration with Castroneves' lawyers as they pushed for more changes in the jury instructions. ''We're complicating matters because we keep raising new terms that require definitions,'' the judge said on Wednesday. More ...

Whitmarsh offered to quit over 'lie-gate'  
Martin Whitmarsh
(GMM) Martin Whitmarsh on Thursday revealed he offered to resign as McLaren team boss after the recent Malaysian grand prix.

The 50-year-old had been in charge of the Woking based team for just a month when the 'lie-gate' scandal struck.

It has already claimed team manager Dave Ryan, brought Lewis Hamilton's relationship with the team to an all-time low, and reportedly paved the way to Ron Dennis walking away from all involvement in formula one.

But Whitmarsh, whose comments to a BBC reporter after the Australian grand prix will be probed by the World Motor Sport Council later this month, told reporters in Shanghai that McLaren's shareholders "graciously" rejected his offer to quit.

He refused to link Dennis' departure to the affair directly, but indicated it might lead to McLaren enjoying a better relationship with F1's ruling authorities.

"I think anyone who has looked at the relationship between McLaren and FIA over the last few years would have to conclude it would be healthier and more positive for all of us to have a more constructive relationship than we've had in the past," said Whitmarsh.

He also effectively ruled out reinstating Ryan, who has been characterized by the specialist press as a scapegoat.

"I think part of this process is that we show the FIA that we accept the seriousness of what has occurred and that we are working hard to change the culture of the business," said Whitmarsh.
track news
GoDaddy.com to sponsor Darlington race  UPDATE Deal is worth $300K for 1 year.

04/13/09 Darlington Raceway says GoDaddy.com will be the presenting sponsor at next month's Southern 500.  Track president Chris Browning made the announcement Monday. The race was re-christened the Southern 500 last year after the contract ran out with its last sponsor, the Carolina Dodge Dealers Association.  The agreement is for one year. Browning said he hoped the two sides could sit down after the May 9 race to discuss future partnerships.

Browning would not say how much the deal was worth.  GoDaddy.com CEO Bob Parsons said Darlington's history made it a great fit for his company, which among other things registers domain names and hosts and designs Web sites.

NASCAR not policing start and park; full fields not required  When it comes to start-and-park, the bottom line appears to be that it's not a major issue to NASCAR, which is usually keenly tuned to the public's perception of the sport. "NASCAR doesn't perceive this to be an issue," a statement released this week by the sanctioning body said. "It doesn't impact the quality of competition whatsoever. NASCAR has always been about teams having the opportunity to participate in our sport; some teams might not have the full complement of resources to compete at the same level as others, but it's all about having an opportunity." Virtually to a man, the owners who seem to be in the middle of the situation see it in the same way, as racers. And NASCAR said it has had no conversations with owners specific to what their intentions are once they qualify for races. Staying in line with its take that the situation is not one of concern, NASCAR said it would not monitor any closer the reasons teams give for the their cars' dropping out of races, which range from a variety of mechanical reasons such as "engine," "transmission" and "rear end" to more nebulous causes including "handling," "vibration" or "electrical."

One thing NASCAR did dispel is the misconception that there is language in the current TV contracts for the three national tours that demands 43-car fields in Cup and Nationwide, and a 36-truck field in the Truck Series, with penalties resulting if full fields aren't provided. "It is NASCAR's responsibility to have a reasonable field of cars for each of its events," NASCAR said in a statement. "However, there is no language in the TV contracts that demands what the size of the fields must be." NASCAR.com

MIT will have to wait for JR Hildebrand  
JR Hildebrand
Indy Lights driver Hildebrand enjoys physical training and is an avid mountain biker, although he misses the mountain trails of Northern California. He's a sports fan and played varsity baseball as a sophomore at Redwood High School in Corte Madera before giving it up to concentrate on racing.

He was also an excellent student in high school with a 4.12 GPA and graduated a semester ahead of the rest of his class. He was such a good student, in fact, he was accepted to the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology, although he has deferred enrollment as his racing career has developed.

"(MIT) is certainly something I hope to take advantage of someday," he said. "But I'm in a situation where I'm not going to do anything that will put my racing career at risk. I'm hoping at some point to be able to figure out a way to take some classes."

An MIT education would certainly help Hildebrand with the technical aspect of racing and his ability to give accurate and detailed feedback to the team engineers.

"Racing has a highly technical side," he said. "It's important as a driver to understand those things. - Having the technical understanding - definitely gives you a leg up."

IndyCar drivers to meet fans at Macy's  IZOD and Macy's on Thursday will celebrate the Centennial Era of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy 500 with an in-store event featuring professional race car drivers Ryan Hunter-Reay, Graham Rahal and legend Al Unser, Jr.

Customers will get to interact with the IndyCar Series drivers during a meet-and-greet autograph session at the Macy's at South Coast Plaza.

IZOD is introducing IZOD/INDY, a new line of sportswear commemorating 100 years of racing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. The first 150 customers to make an IZOD apparel purchase of $50 or more today will receive a complimentary IZOD/INDY baseball cap while supplies last and hero card from each of the drivers (one autograph per customer). More ...

Some F1 drivers crying like babies again  (GMM)  Formula one drivers on Thursday slammed the decision to mandate the use of Bridgestone's 'super soft' tire this weekend.

In 2009, to spice up the 'show', Bridgestone is bringing notably different compounds of its dry slick tires to grands prix.

For example, in China, while the 'medium' tire is quite suitable for Shanghai's high-wear layout, the other compound to be used is the softest in the Japanese supplier's range.

The 'super soft' was also used in Australia, where drivers complained bitterly about a drop in performance after just a handful of laps.

"It was good for the show, but for me as a driver formula one is not only a show, it should also make sense -- and this doesn't always make sense to me," said BMW's Nick Heidfeld.

Fernando Alonso was the most outspoken in Shanghai, slamming the decision as a "joke" and claiming the drivers will look "ridiculous" due to huge performance differences.

"I think it is the worst decision they made in a long time, because it is a ridiculous tire for here," the Spaniard said.

Renault's Alonso said Bridgestone, or the FIA, made the decision about the tire selection despite the protests of the Grand Prix Drivers' Association.

No KERS for Ferrari in China  
Stefano Domenicali
The Scuderia Ferrari will not use its kinetic energy recovery system, KERS, during this weekend's Chinese Grand Prix. according to team principal Stefano Domenicali during a press conference in Shanghai.

“It will take time to catch up. Because for us, this decision means that we must change our diffuser and in order to do that, we must change the rear of the car. If we do a good job, we should be ready by the time we return to Europe for the Spanish Grand Prix: at least, that is our current target. As for the cost, it will cost a lot because we need to work in the wind tunnel, as well as redesigning and rebuilding the rear end of the car."

“Regarding the decision, as I said already yesterday, I am waiting with interest to see the full explanation behind it. It is strange in a way, looking at it calmly, that such a very long and difficult subject took little time for the court to resolve, therefore seeing the court’s exact deliberation will be very interesting. What I can say now is that the situation should not have reached this point." More ...

Wheel Pros Inc., NASCAR announce partnership  Wheel Pros Inc., a supplier of branded custom wheels, announced Wednesday that it has reached an exclusive agreement with NASCAR to manufacture and distribute a line of officially licensed NASCAR wheels.  As an exclusive automotive partner under the NASCAR Performance brand, Wheel Pros will utilize NASCAR marks and marketing programs in-store and in related media. Wheel Pros’ line of custom wheels includes brands such as American Racing, Motegi Racing, TIS, Drop Stars, KMC, as well as a signature wheel series with Sprint Cup Series driver Dale Earnhardt Jr.

“We are thrilled to join NASCAR and connect with a loyal fan base that is second to none,” said Jody Groce, president of Wheel Pros. “As an automotive partner, we are looking forward to fully engaging in the sport as successfully as we have in other forms of motorsports.”

“Wheel Pros brings a trusted name and some of the most popular wheel brands on the market to NASCAR,” said Odis Lloyd, managing director, NASCAR Automotive Group. ”We look forward to integrating the brand into many facets of our sport and affiliated promotional and marketing programs.”

Renault ready to use new diffuser - lawyer  UPDATE There were even some reports just hours after the FIA diffuser hearing that Renault could instantly add the twin-diffuser to their struggling R29.  Fernando Alonso, though, has rubbished this suggestion, saying that Renault and the other six outfits who started the season without the design will need time to redesign their cars.

Fernando Alonso
"I don't really care too much because unfortunately it is not our decision, it's FIA decision or the Appeal Court's," the double World Champion said.  From a driver's point of view, we do not understand, we are not technical people so we are not very sure about what the rules say, but it is true that there are some cars that are much quicker than us, Brawn, Toyota and Williams.

"And it will take time to recover and close that gap and be as quick as them, because I don't think it is a diffuser thing or a magic part in the car that you put on and you go straight away quick. You need to re-design the car a little bit, starting from the front wing.  The air has to go to the rear-end of the car in a different way. So there is still some months I think to work, to spend money, to develop the car to be as quick as them. It is not only the diffuser, it is just a different philosophy of designing the car."

"It's going to take many races for them to attempt to make their cars work with that sort of diffuser," Williams driver Nico Rosberg stated.  It's not a given that you're going to be able to make it work, and it's not a fact that it's quicker. It's not that straightforward. I think it's going to take a whole lot of time, and even then you're not sure if it's going to work or not."

04/14/09 (GMM) The lawyer representing Renault at the diffuser hearing in Paris on Tuesday confirmed the French team is ready to deploy a version of the controversial design.

The legal representative, Andrew Ford, told the FIA's Court of Appeal judges that Renault started work on the concept and asked representatives of the governing body if it would be legal.

"It is not that Renault missed the boat ... it is because the FIA said it was illegal," he said.

Ford said Renault could immediately deploy an initial version of the design, theoretically in China this weekend, should the court throw out its appeal against stewards rulings. More ...
Dennis steps down as McLaren CEO  (GMM)  Ron Dennis on Thursday announced he is ending his involvement with the formula one team McLaren.

While he will remain chairman and a 15 per cent shareholder of the McLaren Group, the 61-year-old handed over his role as chief executive to Martin Whitmarsh.

In March, Whitmarsh also took over as McLaren team boss.

It has been rumored that Dennis' further step away from the sport is in reaction to the 'lie-gate' affair, as part of a possible deal with the FIA.

"I admit I'm not always easy to get on with.  I admit I've always fought hard for McLaren in formula one," he said at the team's Woking factory.

"I doubt if Max Mosley or Bernie Ecclestone will be displeased by my decision.  But no-one asked me to do it.  It was my decision," Dennis insisted.

He was fronting a press conference to announce the restructuring of the McLaren Group, with the road car group to now become an independent company with Dennis in charge.

Dennis hinted that he will be happy to attend far fewer grands prix from now on, after watching the recent Malaysian grand prix on TV.

"I'd expected to be more emotional about it, after an unbroken run of attending so many grands prix for so many years," he said.

Dennis said he has "no qualms" about leaving Whitmarsh alone to handle "matters connected with formula one".

Many talking points as F1 gears up in cold China  (GMM)  There were plenty of talking points as the formula one world gathered at a chilly Shanghai circuit on Thursday, on the eve of the official action for the Chinese grand prix.

It emerged that while BMW's Robert Kubica will trial a KERS system for the first time this season in Friday practice, neither Ferrari will feature the energy re-use technology in China following problems in Australia and Malaysia.

It was believed that the Swiss based team had been working on reducing the weight of the F1.09, so that the tall Kubica could enjoy the same power boost as his diminutive teammate Nick Heidfeld.

Renault, meanwhile, will have an early prototype of a 'double diffuser' fitted to Fernando Alonso's car in Friday practice.  A second example is currently not available for his teammate Nelson Piquet.

The French team is counting on a lap-time benefit of between three and five tenths. More ...

McLaren made 'joke' of FIA - Trulli  
Jarno Trulli hopes McLaren gets what they deserve
(GMM)  McLaren can expect a strong penalty from the FIA, because the British team made a "joke" of the governing body's authority, Jarno Trulli has suggested.

The Toyota driver was at the centre of the safety car incident in Australia last month, whereafter McLaren figures were caught lying to the stewards both in Melbourne and again in Malaysia.

Italian Trulli, 34, had his Albert Park podium reinstated a week later at Sepang, after Lewis Hamilton was disqualified for having falsely told the stewards that he didn't let the Toyota pass him.

McLaren has also been summoned to the World Motor Sport Council on April 29 on fraud charges, and could face serious sanctions.

"The FIA took such a strong decision because they felt that someone was making a joke of them and they want to show everyone that the FIA is just like a judge," Trulli is quoted as saying by the Mirror.

"Go in front of the judge and you have to be honest and tell the truth," he added.

Mathiasen Motorsports withdraws from Atlantic Series  Mathiasen Motorsports announced today that it has decided to withdraw from the 2009 Formula Atlantic Championship chase and we are assured that there are more to come.

Mathiasen Motorsports entered this season with high hopes of competing for the 2009 title and the million dollar prize to be awarded for the series Champion.  Last season the team lead the most laps by double over the nearest competition, won the most races and earned the most poles on their way to a hard fought runner up position in the 2008 Atlantic championship. More ...

Numbers do not back up NASCAR's claim at being No. 2  NASCAR famously promotes itself as the second most popular sport in America behind the NFL.  While it is the favorite sport for millions of us, the numbers don’t back up this claim.

NASCAR likes to point to winning a television ratings battle for a particular weekend. For example, say the race in Talladega outdraws all other sports on television that weekend. NASCAR will then promote it as more popular than any other sport on television, including the Major League Baseball game of the week.

The problem is all 43 drivers and teams are competing at a NASCAR race. The baseball game has only regional appeal if say it’s the Giants playing the Dodgers.

If you compare the Daytona 500 with other major sporting events for 2008, it does pretty well. The rating for the 2008 Daytona 500 was a 10.2, which ranked fourth behind the Super Bowl, the NCAA basketball championship and the BCS championship and ahead of such events as the Masters and Kentucky Derby.

However, there is a problem in doing this comparison. More ...

Massa feels prepared for Ferrari struggle  
Felipe Massa staying optimistic after disastrous start for Ferrari
(GMM)  Felipe Massa believes he is better prepared than some of his Ferrari colleagues for a difficult 2009 season.

The 27-year-old Brazilian joined the famous Italian outfit in 2006, after two years with the independent team Sauber.

Before that, Massa's career was rescued by Ferrari in 2003 when he was test driver, having been dropped by Sauber following a less than brilliant career debut.

"Many people at the Scuderia have only known successful times, so maybe I can understand better than them what it means to struggle," he said ahead of the Chinese grand prix in Shanghai.

In early 2009, Ferrari has endured its worst start to a season in decades, having failed to score a single point in either Australia or Malaysia.

The F60 car is also apparently struggling on the reliability front, and genuinely outpaced by several rival teams. More ...

Hartley still unable to be Red Bull reserve  (GMM)  Brendon Hartley is still unable to take up his position as Red Bull's formula one reserve driver.

The teenage New Zealander has not been granted a mandatory superlicense credential by the governing body FIA, and as of a few weeks ago he was awaiting the outcome of an exemption application.

For the Australia-Malaysia double header, Red Bull advisor David Coulthard took up reserve duties, and confirmed that he will maintain the role until Hartley - or another Red Bull junior driver - is available.

The veteran Scot will indeed be on standby again in Shanghai this weekend, with confirmation that Hartley, 19, will be engaged elsewhere.

While the F1 circus races in China, he will be at Barcelona's Circuit de Catalunya, for the beginning of a three-year deal in the World Series Renault category.

"Depending on his availability, either he will continue with us for the rest of the year or be replaced by another Red Bull driver," said Tech 1 team boss Simon Abadie.

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