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Williams sporting new livery Williams sporting new liveryThe FW28s of Alex Wurz, Nico Rosberg and Mark Webber today carried sidepod livery to celebrate Petrobras’ achieving oil self-sufficiency for Brazil as annual production in 2006 has reached 1,910,000 barrels per day. This major resource advantage, the privilege of only a few developed nations in the world, in the context of increasing oil scarcity, has been achieved through groundbreaking extraction techniques in deep and ultra deep waters.
Sam Michael, Technical Director, WilliamsF1:
“We had a productive day with Alex’s car today and we went through the whole program, particularly checking tires. The tire choice will be difficult, but we have plenty of data to go through to assist the engineers with this. Alex also tried a couple of different mechanical set-ups specific to the Imola circuit. We did two runs with Nico’s car to give him more track time and one run with Mark’s car to check the balance, so it was normal activity for a Friday.”

Alex Wurz:
“We completed a busy test program today, so now we have to sit down and carefully analyze what did what and how it should translate to the race cars. My role is purely to evaluate our options and I spent all my time conducting long runs, which is why we do not appear higher up in the timing results, but this doesn’t worry me at all. We just have to pull our whole package together a bit tighter and then we will be competitive.” zzzz

Mark Webber:
“I had a few laps at the end of the session to help with the tire selections - not as many laps as you might like, but I’ll make up for it tomorrow. The balance feels about right and we have lots of good information from Alex to look through tonight.”

Nico Rosberg:
“I think today’s sessions went well and Alex did a good job again to find the right set-up, so I immediately had quite a good balance when I first went out. We divided my activity in two runs so I had a bit of time to look at data comparisons. All in all, the performance felt quite good today.”

Simon Corbyn, Head of F1 Race Engineering, Cosworth Ltd
“All three CA2006 engines ran without problems today. As usual for Friday, Alex completed the bulk of the running and evaluated the effect of some engine map changes. The data will be checked tonight prior to finalizing Mark and Nico’s engine plans for Saturday and Sunday.” WilliamsF1 Cosworth

TV News
Jenkins finds a new home Jenkins finds a new homeVeteran broadcaster Bob Jenkins [former IRL TV anchor] joined the new Premier Racing Association as director of communications. PRA will use what once were known as USAC's dirt Silver Crown cars. Indianapolis Star
TV News
Toyota Pro/Celebrity race to air Toyota Pro/Celebrity race to airFive-time X Games gold medalist Bucky Lasek’s (right) runaway win in the 30th Anniversary Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race April 8 will be shown on SPEED Channel on Saturday, April 22 at 11:30 a.m. Pacific Time (2:30 p.m. Eastern).

The race will be replayed on Sunday, April 30 at 12:30 p.m. PT (3:30 p.m. ET).

Vert skateboarder Lasek virtually ran away from the rest of the field, at times building up leads of up to eight seconds, before a late-race incident shortened the event to nine laps, finishing under caution. John Elway was second, with Martina Navratilova third.

Other participants included actors Patrick Dempsey, William Shatner, Frankie Muniz, Roger Cross and William Fichtner.

NASCAR Craftsman Truck series driver Todd Bodine won the pro division, which starts 30 seconds behind the celebrities. Bodine finished fourth overall.

Imola: Friday Quotes Imola: Friday Quotes
Fernando Alonso (1st, 1:25.043):
"As usual on the Friday, the grip levels were quite bad. That makes the car inconsistent to drive, and we began working on the set-up to try and improve things. We are not there yet, and we are suffering from too much understeer at the moment. I think we are quick as well but as always, the times on Friday don't mean too much. If we can make some good changes tonight, though, I think we will be a in a strong situation for the race."

Giancarlo Fisichella (6th, 1:25.991): "I had a difficult day to be honest. The balance of the car is not good and the grip is very low on the track. The main problem is in the chicanes where the handling is inconsistent, which means you cannot attack them with any confidence. We have a lot of work to do tonight, to reach our normal level of performance."

Pat Symonds, Executive Director of Engineering: "In very low grip conditions such as we experienced today, it is perfectly understandable that neither driver is particularly happy with the balance of the car at the moment. We made some limited changes to the set-up in the second session and we seem to be going in the right direction, so we will continue to study the data overnight to solve the problems. All things considered, our relative competitiveness seems to be where we would expect."

Denis Chevrier, Engine Operations Manager: "We had another normal day of Friday practice today. For the engine team, that means calibrating the engine mapping and control systems, which we did without incident. The weather conditions were perfect, contrary to some forecasts, and we hope they will stay that way for the rest of the weekend. It was pleasing to see both cars in a strong position after having done very little running, and Giancarlo's B spec engine is performing in line with our expectations. This has been a solid start, that we will look to build from in tomorrow morning's final practice session." More...

Negri fastest on Friday at VIR Negri fastest on Friday at VIRIn practice for Sunday’s Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Special Reserve VIR 400 (SPEED, 1 p.m. ET), Brazil’s Oswaldo Negri Jr. got his weekend off to a good start by posting the day’s quickest lap in the No. 60 Flight Options Lexus Riley.

The Michael Shank Racing driver logged a lap at 1:45.838 (111.227 mph) around the challenging, 3.27-mile permanent road course in the first of the day’s two practice sessions. The time held up through the second session, putting Negri and co-driver Mark Patterson in the catbird seat heading into Saturday’s morning practice and the first-ever qualifying race for the Daytona Prototype class. The starting grid for the 30-minute qualifying race on Saturday afternoon will be set according to practice times on Saturday morning. For his part, Negri is enthusiastic about the qualifying race.

“I think it will be cool,” Negri said. “It gives a Pro-Am team a little more chance to score more points. It can help you or it can totally hurt you. I can tell you it was an absolutely perfect lap (on Friday). I’m pretty sure the No. 23, No. 10 and No. 01 are quicker than what shows. It’s going to be a pretty exciting race for qualifying, and the practice is going to be interesting. It’s hard to get a clear lap.”

Turning in the second-quickest time of the day, also in the morning session, was Alex Gurney in the No. 99 GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing Pontiac Riley. Gurney’s best lap was 1:45.984 (111.073 mph), and the Californian is joined this weekend by a new co-driver, two-time Toyota Atlantic champion Jon Fogarty. Gurney is also excited about the team’s prospects this weekend after a rough beginning to the season. The team has rented a Pontiac Riley for the weekend from Tuttle Team Racing as the team’s previous car was severely damaged in a crash by Rocky Moran Jr. in the Crown Royal Grand American Challenge of Long Beach two weeks ago.

“It’s a huge help,” Gurney said. “I think it’s going to work out to be 19 races instead of 14. There are lots of points on the table and I think we still have a shot at the championship. The team and the car are working really well. We can still challenge for the championship and we’re going to try to do it. It’s been a whirlwind couple of weeks with Rocky’s crash, getting Jon and having to rent a car. We just showed up here and the car is hooked up. Jon is really quick already and we’re really helping each other. We might be at a little power disadvantage but not too bad. I hope it doesn’t rain tomorrow and we get to run the morning session to set the grid for the qualifying race.”

Christian Fittipaldi was third quickest with a lap at 1:46.040 (111.015 mph) in the No. 39 Crown Royal Special Reserve/Cheever Racing Porsche Crawford, making it three different engine manufacturers in the top three. Fittipaldi shares the car with team owner and 1998 Indianapolis 500 winner Eddie Cheever Jr.

Daytona Prototype points co-leader Scott Pruett was fourth quickest at 1:46.150 (110.900 mph) in the No. 01 CompUSA Chip Ganassi Racing Lexus Riley. Pruett and co-driver Luis Diaz are the defending champions of the VIR 400 and look to extend their lead in the championship standings in both Saturday’s qualifying race and Sunday’s feature.

Mike Rockenfeller completed the top five in the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday Championship Racing Team Porsche Crawford. The Porsche factory driver logged a best lap at 1:46.221 (110.826 mph) in the machine fielded by Alex Job Racing. Rockenfeller’s co-driver is fellow Porsche factory pilot Patrick Long. The top 10 cars in the combined practice times turned laps within one second, with six different chassis and engine combinations represented.

Alltel’s latest feature has Ryan Newman running “Circles” Alltel’s latest feature has Ryan Newman running “Circles”LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – Alltel, owner and operator of America’s largest wireless network, today announced that Ryan Newman’s No. 12 Alltel Dodge, traditionally royal blue and black, will display a special paint scheme at various races throughout the 2006 season.  Set to debut on April 22 at the Subway Fresh 500 in Phoenix, a new purple and black color design will hit the track in support of Alltel’s exclusive wireless feature “My Circle.”

“I’m excited to show off the special ‘My Circle’ paint scheme to the fans,” said Ryan Newman.  “This is just another great way Alltel tries to keep race fans in touch with each other.”

Additionally, the “My Circle” logo will be featured on the car’s hood with alltelcircle.com emblazed on the rear above the bumper. The new paint scheme will be featured during a total of five races, which include Talladega, Richmond, Darlington and the NASCAR Nextel All-Star Challenge.

“My Circle” enables Alltel customers to choose any combination of wireless, home and office numbers located anywhere in the U.S., regardless of local phone company or wireless carrier. 

New and existing customers can find out more about the unique and exclusive “My Circle” feature by visiting an Alltel retail store in their neighborhood.  For more information customers can log onto www.alltelcircle.com.

Brian France to be guest Brian France to be guestNASCAR Chair & CEO Brian France will be a guest on the Business TalkRadio Network’s “Family Business Doctor” at 9:00am ET Sunday.  One topic that France will discuss will be “achieving balance in the family business” NASCAR Daily Scene
Track News
PIR to debut improvements this weekend PIR to debut improvements this weekendPhoenix Int’l Raceway (PIR), which in the past two years has spent over $50M “on capital improvements, all of it with private money,” will debut the expanded Bobby Allison Grandstand and new Octane luxury lounge when the track hosts tonight’s NASCAR Busch Series Bashas’ Supermarkets 200 and tomorrow’s Nextel Cup Subway Fresh 500.  The most recent enhancements, which cost PIR parent Int’l Speedway Corp. a combined $20-25M, added 26 suites and 14,000 seats. ARIZONA REPUBLIC
Yet another sponsor ad featuring their NASCAR driver Yet another sponsor ad featuring their NASCAR driverCingular Wireless tomorrow will debut a new national TV spot featuring NASCAR driver Jeff Burton during Fox’ telecast of the Nextel Cup Subway Fresh 500.  The ad promotes Cingular’s new Media Net Racing Portal, which offers racing news, video and games.  The spot, via BBDO, N.Y., will air exclusively during NASCAR races. THE DAILY
Imola: Friday Press Conference Imola: Friday Press Conference
Long ready to rejoin Peterson team Long ready to rejoin Peterson teamAmerican Porsche factory driver Patrick Long has the best of both worlds. On one hand, he is part of Penske Racing’s first year of full competition in the American Le Mans Series with the Porsche RS Spyder prototype.

The 24-year-old also gets to return to Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Racing for eight events in 2006 as he will reunite with the defending GT2 team champion in the No. 31 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR. He again will partner with fellow co-champion Jorg Bergmeister starting at the Lone Star Grand Prix in Houston.

“I feel very comfortable with both the RS Spyder program and Petersen/White Lightning. I know everyone very well and it’s a relaxed setting,” Long said. “The preparation will be the same, but the surroundings will be a little different.”

“It worked out pretty well last year so I am very excited,” Bergmeister said. “It is good. Patrick and I are not just teammates, I think we are also more friends. It isn’t just normal business but it is more fun. So that is really cool.” zzzz

At the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring, the No. 7 Penske Porsche of Long, Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas retired near the 7:30 mark after leading early in the race. Meanwhile in GT2, Petersen/White Lightning was part of the most competitive class battle in Sebring’s history where the top three cars finished on the same lap after 12 hours. There were 25 lead changes among four manufacturers, a testament to the depth and quality of the GT2 class this year with Porsche being joined by BMW, Ferrari, Panoz and later this year Lexus.

“The competition definitely is stiffer in GT2,” Long said. “At Houston, we’ll be fighting for tenths of a second rather than chasing reliability. As a driver, all I can do is go as quick as I can. The results will speak for themselves.”

The next round of the 2006 American Le Mans Series is the Lone Star Grand Prix, scheduled for 8 p.m. CDT on May 12 in Houston. It will be broadcast at 1 p.m. May 13 EDT on CBS Sports, the first of five straight Series events on network television. Qualifying is set for 6:15 p.m. CDT on May 11. American Le Mans Radio will have live coverage at www.americanlemans.com, which also will have IMSA Live Timing & Scoring.

Bruni takes first GP2 pole for new team Bruni takes first GP2 pole for new teamGimmi Bruni has claimed pole position for Race 1 at his and his Trident Racing team's home event. Gimmi Bruni has delighted his new for 2006 team Trident Racing by taking pole position for his home race in Imola with a time of 1:32.691.

Bruni's times improved throughout the session, starting strongly and dropping his times as the laps rolled out before finally setting the quickest lap with eight minutes remaining, ahead of Jose Maria Lopez and Lewis Hamilton.

With temperatures climbing and the track rubbered in from two Formula One sessions, conditions were excellent for a thrilling qualifying shootout. No one wasted any time getting on track as soon as the green light came on, and the grid was led out by Lucas di Grassi. zzzz

Hamilton set the early pace with a time of 1:33.386, ahead of his teammate Alex Premat. The ART Grand Prix drivers were running nose to tail for the opening laps, with the drivers swapping positions on track and helping each other by providing a tow.

Bruni and Lopez were right with them on the timesheets however, with the latter eventually taking the top spot in the middle of the session. Behind them Hiroki Yoshimoto looked very strong, pushing his BCN team further and further up the timesheets.

Championship leader Nelson Piquet Jr appeared to be struggling with his car, seemingly unable to repeat this morning's performance. He eventually set the sixth best time, but was visibly unhappy as he got out of his car at the end of the session.

With the pressure of qualifying on, all the drivers held their cars underneath them for most of the session, but with five minutes to go the stress levels were ramping up – Ferdinando Monfardini was unable to hold his line through Rivazza and was off through the gravel and hit the barriers hard to end his session.

Back at the front Lopez was pulling out all stops to take pole, and with four minutes to go he had the fastest times for the first two sectors and looked to have cracked it. But he couldn't hold on in sector three, and next time around he spun at the exit to Acqua Minerale and stalled on the racing line, effectively bringing a halt to the session.

The times showed how close the drivers are to each other – the top ten places were covered by just one second, with two seconds covering 22 drivers, highlighting the promise of a thrilling race one tomorrow afternoon.

Pos Driver Team Time Laps
 1. Bruni Trident Racing 1:32.691 13
 2. Lopez Super Nova International 1:32.941 + 0.250 12
 3. Hamilton ART Grand Prix 1:32.990 + 0.299 11
 4. Premat ART Grand Prix 1:33.138 + 0.447 9
 5. Yoshimoto BCN Competicion 1:33.342 + 0.651 14
 6. Piquet Jr. Piquet Sports 1:33.402 + 0.711 12
 7. Carroll Racing Engineering 1:33.450 + 0.759 8
 8. Lapierre Arden International 1:33.519 + 0.828 12
 9. Ammermueller Arden International 1:33.602 + 0.911 11
10. Piccione DPR 1:33.626 + 0.935 11
11. Porteiro Campos Racing 1:33.713 + 1.022 14
12. Viso iSport International 1:33.733 + 1.042 14
13. Pla DPR 1:33.892 + 1.201 10
14. Filippi FMS International 1:33.955 + 1.264 12
15. Valles Campos Racing 1:34.048 + 1.357 13
16. Gommendy iSport International 1:34.116 + 1.425 15
17. Zuber Trident Racing 1:34.181 + 1.490 12
18. Negrao Piquet Sports 1:34.219 + 1.528 14
19. Perera DAMS 1:34.230 + 1.539 12
20. Monfardini DAMS 1:34.369 + 1.678 9
21. Glock BCN Competicion 1:34.371 + 1.680 11
22. Grassi Durango 1:34.405 + 1.714 14
23. Fauzy Super Nova International 1:34.697 + 2.006 15
24. Tahinci FMS International 1:35.397 + 2.706 14
25. Hernandez Durango 1:35.583 + 2.892 12
26. Villa Racing Engineering 1:35.861 + 3.170 12

Castroneves again fastest in final practice Castroneves again fastest in final practiceAfter rain washed out qualifying, Helio Castroneves was fastest in final afternoon practice for the Honda Indy 300 at Motegi Saturday. Castroneves was also fastest in Thursday practice.

Pos Car Driver Chassis Time Gap
1. 3 Helio Castroneves Dallara 27.1464 
2. 10 Dan Wheldon Dallara 27.1797 0.0333
3. 8 Scott Sharp Dallara 27.2433 0.0636
4. 15 Buddy Rice Panoz 27.2674 0.0241
5. 55 Kosuke Matsuura Dallara 27.2946 0.0272
6. 4 Vitor Meira Dallara 27.3148 0.0202
7. 2 Tomas Scheckter Dallara 27.3618 0.0470
8. 6T Sam Hornish Jr. Dallara 27.3841 0.0223
9. 11 Tony Kanaan Dallara 27.4123 0.0282
10. 14 Felipe Giaffone Dallara 27.4136 0.0013
11. 27 Dario Franchitti Dallara 27.4211 0.0075
12. 9 Scott Dixon Dallara 27.4482 0.0271
13. 7 Bryan Herta Dallara 27.4632 0.0150
14. 26 Marco Andretti Dallara 27.4681 0.0049
15. 16 Danica Patrick Panoz 27.4802 0.0121
16. 17 Jeff Simmons Panoz 27.5459 0.0657
17. 51 Tomas Enge Dallara 27.6953 0.1494
18. 20 Ed Carpenter Dallara 27.9078 0.2125
19. 91 PJ Chesson Dallara 27.9649 0.0571
20. 5 Buddy Lazier Dallara 27.9762 0.0113

Schu vs. Alonso at Imola Schu vs. Alonso at ImolaImola '06 looked set to stage a showdown of past and current world champions, with a resurgent Michael Schumacher just trailing reigning title winner Fernando Alonso in the decisive one-hour practice on Friday.

In session-1, though - staged in the warm sun of late morning - Ferrari's Schumacher owned the top of the timesheet; albeit with Renault rival Alonso - winner of two of the first three grands prix of 2006 - failing to set even a single lap time.

Schumacher's morning tally, commenced in the fifty-fifth of sixty minutes, was just 2 laps, but Nico Rosberg, Mark Webber (both Williams) and Honda's Jenson Button did not venture once out of pit lane.

Schumacher ended up fastest for the day, his time being set in the faster morning session.

Pos Driver Team Time Laps
 1. Alonso Renault (M) 1:25.043 15
 2. M. Schumacher Ferrari (B) 1:25.371 + 0.328 13
 3. Kubica BMW-Sauber (M) 1:25.421 + 0.378 31
 4. Davidson Honda (M) 1:25.699 + 0.656 31
 5. Massa Ferrari (B) 1:25.879 + 0.836 16
 6. Fisichella Renault (M) 1:25.991 + 0.948 15
 7. Trulli Toyota (B) 1:26.029 + 0.986 24
 8. Wurz Williams-Cosworth (B) 1:26.328 + 1.285 31
 9. Montoya McLaren-Mercedes (M) 1:26.334 + 1.291 15
10. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber (M) 1:26.387 + 1.344 7
11. Button Honda (M) 1:26.427 + 1.384 12
12. Raikkonen McLaren-Mercedes (M) 1:26.500 + 1.457 16
13. Barrichello Honda (M) 1:26.653 + 1.610 19
14. Albers MF1-Toyota (B) 1:26.783 + 1.740 24
15. Villeneuve BMW-Sauber (M) 1:26.797 + 1.754 13
16. Doornbos Red Bull-Ferrari (M) 1:26.917 + 1.874 27
17. Rosberg Williams-Cosworth (B) 1:26.989 + 1.946 10
18. Liuzzi Toro Rosso-Cosworth (M) 1:27.128 + 2.085 24
19. Webber Williams-Cosworth (B) 1:27.157 + 2.114 6
20. Coulthard Red Bull-Ferrari (M) 1:27.503 + 2.460 12
21. Monteiro MF1-Toyota (B) 1:27.544 + 2.501 20
22. R. Schumacher Toyota (B) 1:27.639 + 2.596 5
23. Speed Toro Rosso-Cosworth (M) 1:27.719 + 2.676 25
24. Klien Red Bull-Ferrari (M) 1:27.990 + 2.947 12
25. Jani Toro Rosso-Cosworth (M) 1:28.361 + 3.318 21
26. Mondini MF1-Toyota (B) 1:28.833 + 3.790 27
27. Sato Super Aguri-Honda (B) 1:29.870 + 4.827 23
28. Ide Super Aguri-Honda (B) 1:31.042 + 5.999 20

Industry News
Audi extends lead in China Audi extends lead in ChinaAudi is continuing to extend its lead in China. The successful start to 2006 was followed by an outstandingly successful first quarter. A total of 19,161 vehicles were sold to customers in China and Hong Kong from January to March, an increase of 126 percent compared with the same period in 2005. The China-built Audi A4 achieved a growth rate of more than 220 percent with a total of 5,023 vehicles sold (1st quarter of 2005: 1,547), while the Audi A6 doubled its sales figures with 13,255 units in all (1st quarter of 2005: 6,207). Imported models, particularly the Audi A8, recorded an increase of 23 percent on last year (883 vehicles compared with 719 in the first quarter of 2005).

Erich Schmitt, Board Member for Purchasing at AUDI AG and responsible for the company’s activities in China, stated: “These figures mean that Audi has achieved the highest growth rates for years on the Chinese market and has left its competitors in the premium segment trailing way behind. This success confirms our position as number one amongst premium car brands in China.”

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

Courtesy of TVRacer.com
NASCAR Performance  
12:30am-1:00am SPEED
GP2 Championship Series San Marino
6:00am-7:30am (SDD) SPEED
Inside Drag Racing  
11:00am-11:30am ESPN2
Superbike World Championship Spain
11:00am-12:00pm (SDD) -Race 1
12:00pm-1:00pm (SDD) -Race 2 SPEED
NHRA 2Day  
11:30am-12:00pm ESPN2
American Dragster  
12:00pm-12:30pm ESPN2
Formula 1 San Marino
1:00pm-3:00pm (SDD) CBS
Rolex Sports Car Series Virginia
1:00pm-4:00pm (L) SPEED
AMA Superbike Birmingham
4:00pm-5:00pm -Day 1 SPEED
5:00pm-6:00pm (SDD) -Day 2 SPEED
AMA Supercross 250cc Irving, TX
6:00pm-7:00pm SPEED
Speed News Sunday  
7:00pm-8:00pm SPEED
NASCAR Victory Lane Phoenix
8:00pm-9:00pm (R) SPEED
Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain
Ed Hinton (Motorsports Writer) 
Robin Miller (Motorsports Analyst) 
9:00pm-10:00pm (L) SPEED

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

It doesn’t pay to burn bridges It doesn’t pay to burn bridgesRemember when Paul Stoddart publicly criticized Max Mosley, a true gentleman who is highly respected, in the media on multiple occasions when he was trying to get him ousted? Well paybacks are a bitch as they say. As speculation mounts that David Richards' 'Prodrive' company has been granted the final spot in F1's 2008 pitlane, Paul Stoddart confirmed that his Minardi entry was officially rejected by the FIA.

He told 'Reuters' that he received a letter to that effect this week, but a spokesman for the governing body refused to confirm that Richards was the victor.

Official notice is due next Friday.

Now we'll see if Stoddart turns to Champ Car ( the reinvigorated merged IndyCar series) in 2007, a rumor we broke about 6 months ago.

Rahal team gets set back by rain Rahal team gets set back by rainRain showers soaked Twin Ring Motegi and forced the cancellation of qualifying for Saturday’s IRL IndyCar Series race the Japan Indy 300. The starting grid will be set based on championship points leaving the three Rahal Letterman drivers starting deep in the field.

Danica Patrick will start 14th in the Argent Mortgage Honda/Panoz/Firestone. It is Patrick’s lowest starting position on an oval since she started 21st at Richmond last June and her lowest start ever on an oval track 1.5 miles or bigger.

“We certainly have our work cut out for us,” said Patrick driver of the No. 16 Argent Mortgage Honda/Panoz/Firestone. “Last year we started on the front row and ran at the front of the field all day. We have a pretty good car, but when you start deep in the field a few factors have to fall in your favor.”

Buddy Rice will start 18th on Saturday in his No. 15 Argent Mortgage Honda/Panoz. Rice was fourth quick in the single practice session on Friday and he showed he has a car to be a factor on Saturday.

“It has been tough to get the car dialed in because we really haven’t been on track that much,” said Rice. “This is where there is a benefit to our team of still running the Honda/Panoz package. We have a baseline set-up to refine and so when we did get on track all we really had to do was address the gearing. I feel really good about tomorrow. Sure we are starting in the next to the last row because of points, but I think we have a car with which we can be a factor.” zzzz

Rookie Jeff Simmons will start 20th since he is yet to earn a championship point. The driver of the No. 17 RLR Team Ethanol Honda/Panoz endured a tough day following a strong first day of practice at Motegi. With 15 minutes left in the practice session Simmons was involved in a single car crash which forced the team to unload the back-up car. Simmons was uninjured in the incident.

“I was just going out after a tire change and I was being careful not to push the car until the tires were up to temp,” said Simmons. “I remember thinking don’t push things and make a big mistake. The next thing I knew I hit the wall. I made a mistake. It is unfortunate because that causes extra work and we lost some track time, but we will be ready for the race tomorrow.”

Saturday’s Japan Indy 300 will begin at 1:00 pm local time and will be shown tape delayed in the United States on ESPN at Noon on Saturday. The race can be seen live utilizing ESPN.com’s ESPN 360 broadband service, by listening to XM Satellite Radio on a broadcast affiliate on the IMS Radio Network. RLR

Foyt IV sacked, eyes Indy 500 return Foyt IV sacked, eyes Indy 500 returnUPDATE #2 Anthony Foyt lost his Busch Series ride with Akins Motorsports, but he is planning to drive for FitzBradshaw Racing, in the No. 14 car no less, May 5 in Richmond, Va. He wants to drive in the Indy 500 again. Indy Star

04/18/06 NASCAR Busch North Series regular Ryan Moore will take over Braun Racing LLC's No. 38 Chevrolet this weekend in Saturday's Busch Series race at Phoenix International Raceway.

Moore, 22, still under a driver development contract with Dale Earnhardt Inc., is replacing rookie Anthony Foyt IV, who has been released from the ride.

"This is kind of a last-minute deal and I'm really excited about it," Moore said Monday night.

04/08/06 A complete backmarker in IndyCars after winning the 100% throttle IndyPro series championship, AJ Foyt IV continues to be a backmarker in NASCAR as this Press-Telegram article outlines.  We said long ago this kid needs to find another profession.  He may be good at something, but it isn't driving race cars.  What's scary is to think he dominated the IndyPro series the year he won it........Further indication that a 100% throttle support series teaches a driver very little....and that is NOT what a support series is supposed to be about.

Schumacher leads opening practice Schumacher leads opening practiceMichael Schumacher showed that Ferrari is out to win this weekend's San Marino GP in Imola, Italy where the Tifosi will be out in force, by turning the fastest time in opening practice Friday morning.

Williams Cosworth test driver Alex Wurz was second.

 P. No Driver Team - Engine Tires Time Gap Laps
 1. M. Schumacher Ferrari (B) 1:24.751 4
 2. Wurz Williams-Cosworth (B) 1:25.132 + 0.381 19
 3. Kubica BMW-Sauber (M) 1:25.942 + 1.191 24
 4. Davidson Honda (M) 1:26.012 + 1.261 27
 5. Trulli Toyota (B) 1:26.417 + 1.666 7
 6. Doornbos Red Bull-Ferrari (M) 1:26.498 + 1.747 18
 7. Massa Ferrari (B) 1:26.596 + 1.845 4
 8. Coulthard Red Bull-Ferrari (M) 1:26.678 + 1.927 7
 9. Raikkonen McLaren-Mercedes (M) 1:26.938 + 2.187 5
10. Albers MF1-Toyota (B) 1:28.048 + 3.297 13
11. Speed Toro Rosso-Cosworth (M) 1:28.498 + 3.747 6
12. Mondini MF1-Toyota (B) 1:28.969 + 4.218 20
13. Klien Red Bull-Ferrari (M) 1:29.106 + 4.355 6
14. Jani Toro Rosso-Cosworth (M) 1:29.695 + 4.944 13
15. Monteiro MF1-Toyota (B) 1:29.697 + 4.946 13
16. Liuzzi Toro Rosso-Cosworth (M) 1:30.348 + 5.597 6
17. Sato Super Aguri-Honda (B) 1:31.217 + 6.466 17
18. Ide Super Aguri-Honda (B) 1:31.482 + 6.731 17
19. Alonso Renault (M) no time 3
20. R. Schumacher Toyota (B) no time 1
21. Fisichella Renault (M) no time 2
22. Montoya McLaren-Mercedes (M) no time 1
23. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber (M) no time 1
24. Villeneuve BMW-Sauber (M) no time 1
25. Barrichello Honda (M) no time 1
26. Webber Williams-Cosworth (B) no time
27. Rosberg Williams-Cosworth (B) no time
28. Button Honda (M) no time

Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Toyota yet to replace Gascoyne
Schu says Imola not 'crucial'
Rosberg admits rival team's 'interest'
Alonso laughs at Schu rumor
Unchanged Renault hope to keep upper hand
Speed to cough up $5G bill
MF1 blames sale rumors on 'lazy' hacks
Massa dodges rumor minefield
Alonso doubts Honda charge
Chirpy Fisi shows off new helmet colors
Meeting rules no action on wings, STR's V10
Plane scare for Alonso's successor
MF1's Sutil to debut at Nurburgring
Thumbs-up for Imola's new chicane
Hamilton tops free practice at Imola Hamilton tops free practice at ImolaMcLaren protege Lewis Hamilton topped the times in GP2 free practice at Imola.  The ART Grand Prix driver ended the pre-qualifying session three tenths clear of the field after an incident-filled session.

Pos Driver Team Time Laps
 1. Hamilton ART Grand Prix 1:33.691 10
 2. Viso iSport International 1:34.032 16
 3. Piquet Jr Piquet Sports 1:34.088 14
 4. Bruni Trident Racing 1:34.143 13
 5. Lopez Super Nova International 1:34.274 14
 6. Piccione DPR 1:34.337 15
 7. Ammermueller Arden International Ltd 1:34.356 12
 8. Premat ART Grand Prix 1:34.516 14
 9. Lapierre Arden International Ltd 1:34.765 13
10. Perera DAMS 1:35.158 10
11. Zuber Trident Racing 1:35.166 15
12. Yoshimoto BCN Competicion 1:35.236 16
13. Gommendy iSport International 1:35.299 16
14. Valles Campos Racing 1:35.372 12
15. Filippi FMS International 1:35.470 16
16. Carroll Racing Engineering 1:35.692 15
17. Monfardini DAMS 1:35.921 14
18. Porteiro Campos Racing 1:36.178 16
19. Glock BCN Competicion 1:36.222 14
20. Pla DPR 1:36.224 9
21. Fauzy Super Nova International 1:36.673 15
22. Di Grassi Durango 1:37.178 7
23. Hernandez Durango 1:37.199 14
24. Tahinci FMS International 1:38.001 14
25. Villa Racing Engineering 1:39.078 13
26. Negrao Piquet Sports no time 2

Enge circles the globe Enge circles the globeTomas Enge has traveled around the world to race at the Indy Japan 300. Enge was in Australia testing a V8 Supercar last week when he received word he would substitute for Eddie Cheever Jr. for Cheever Racing.
Enge immediately returned to the Czech Republic to work on securing a visa to race, then traveled to Indianapolis to complete paperwork for the Indy Racing League. He traveled to Japan from the U.S. earlier this week.
"Japan is actually one hour behind Australia. So I've actually done more than one lap (of the globe.)"
Simmons crashes Simmons crashesRookie IndyCar driver Jeff Simmons had the day's only incident Friday in Motegi, Japan, making hard contact with the SAFER Barrier after a half spin in Turn 4. Simmons was uninjured in the accident.

"I just lost it," Simmons said. "I was out on new tires, and I probably made the mistake. I was OK out there the lap before and didn't think I could make a mistake. You don't think you are doing anything wrong until it all goes wrong. That's all it was."

Simmons is going through new driver growing pains this weekend at Motegi. Simmons' newly painted helmet is one size too small, while his firesuit is a little baggy. Simmons said his fire suits were delivered to him during a layover at Los Angeles International Airport on his way to Japan, so there was no time for alterations. "I carried all the stuff here and none of it actually fits. I'll have to take everything back to the States and start over."

Rain washes out qualifying, Castroneves on pole Rain washes out qualifying, Castroneves on poleHelio Castroneves and Scott Dixon will share the front row for the Indy Japan 300 after persistent rain washed out Marlboro Pole qualifying.

The starting field for the event was set by entrant points. When rain cancels qualifying, usually practice speeds are the criteria for setting the grid. But because cars in the second group of rain-delayed sessions a day earlier were shortened 10 minutes and there was not an opportunity to practice in the morning, Castroneves will sit on the pole by default.

"It's awesome starting up front," said Castroneves, who won on the streets of St. Petersburg (Fla.) on April 2 and was runner-up on the Homestead-Miami Speedway oval a week earlier. "We were fast in practice, but I know everybody will pick it up as well tomorrow. Hopefully we'll finish the race in the same place we're starting."

Dixon finished fifth in the season opener and second at St. Pete in the No. 9 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone.

"This is usually a race of very high attrition so starting from the front row with clean air and less traffic is a nice advantage to have," said Dixon, whose best finish in this event is fifth in 2004.

The start of the race and that first stint is sure to be intense and chaotic. Historically, there have been a lot of cautions and most of the pit stops take place under yellow. I think I remember only one occasion that we had to pit under green. The key will be to stay out of trouble and at the front. It should be a good show for these passionate Japanese fans."

Two-time defending Indy Japan 300 race winner Dan Wheldon and two-time IndyCar Series champion Sam Hornish Jr. will share the second row, just behind their teammates. Hornish will start the race in his back-up car after the No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone made contact with the SAFER Barrier between Turns 3 and 4 late in the second practice session. zzzz

"It's hard when you don't have much practice, but it's the same for everyone," said Castroneves, who will start from the pole for the 10th time in his IndyCar Series career. "You just have to keep going and you can't make excuses."

Qualifying here also was wiped out in 2003, when the grid was set by practice times. Dixon sat on the pole and Scott Sharp won the race. The last time entrant points set the field was in October 2001 at Texas Motor Speedway, with Hornish securing the pole.

The 2006 IRL IndyCar Series continues with the Indy Japan 300 at midnight (EDT) on April 22 at Twin Ring Motegi. ESPN2 will telecast the race at Noon (EDT) on April 22. The ESPN2 coverage will be streamed live on ESPN360.com. The race will be broadcast live on the IMS Radio Network beginning at 11:30 p.m. (EDT) on April 21. The IMS Radio Network broadcast also is carried on XM Satellite Radio channel 145 "IndyCar Racing" and www.indycar.com. (Photos by Dana Garrett/IRL) 

Starting lineup for the Indy Japan 300 IRL IndyCar Series event on the 1.5-mile Twin Ring Motegi, with starting position, car number in parentheses, driver and chassis-engine. Field set by entrant points after qualifications were rained out.

1. (3) Helio Castroneves, Dallara-Honda, entrant points
2. (9) Scott Dixon, Dallara-Honda, entrant points
3. (10) Dan Wheldon, Dallara-Honda, entrant points
4. (6) Sam Hornish Jr., Dallara-Honda, entrant points
5. (11) Tony Kanaan, Dallara-Honda, entrant points
6. (55) Kosuke Matsuura, Dallara-Honda, entrant points
7. (7) Bryan Herta, Dallara-Honda, entrant points
8. (8) Scott Sharp, Dallara-Honda, entrant points
9. (14) Felipe Giaffone, Dallara-Honda, entrant points
10. (27) Dario Franchitti, Dallara-Honda, entrant points
11. (4) Vitor Meira, Dallara-Honda, entrant points
12. (2) Tomas Scheckter, Dallara-Honda, entrant points
13. (51) Tomas Enge, Dallara-Honda, entrant points
14. (16) Danica Patrick, Panoz-Honda, entrant points
15. (5) Buddy Lazier, Dallara-Honda, entrant points
16. (91) P.J. Chesson, Dallara-Honda, entrant points
17. (26) Marco Andretti, Dallara-Honda, entrant points
18. (15) Buddy Rice, Panoz-Honda, entrant points
19. (20) Ed Carpenter, Dallara-Honda, entrant points
20. (17) Jeff Simmons, Panoz Honda, entrant points.

1200 tires for just 5 teams? 1200 tires for just 5 teams?Bridgestone’s five teams head for Italy this weekend where round four, the San Marino Grand Prix, of the FIA Formula One World Championship kicks off the European F1 season. After a good start to the year which has seen both Schumacher brothers claim podiums for their respective teams (Scuderia Ferrari Marlboro and Panasonic Toyota Racing) and each of the WilliamsF1 drivers take all important points, the Bridgestone shod teams have been extremely busy over the past three weeks.

All the teams, including the MF1 Racing and Super Aguri F1 teams, have been testing Bridgestone’s tires and preparing their cars and any new upgrades ahead of this weekend’s 62-lap race. Bridgestone’s tires have traditionally performed well at the 4.933km Italian track and this year Bridgestone’s engineers have continued their pace of development to ensure the teams have the right soft compounds for the cooler weather conditions which can be expected in Europe in April.

“Bridgestone’s teams have had a solid start to the 2006 season and we are now expecting them to build on those results. We have already seen Bridgestone drivers on pole, on the podium and take the fastest lap of the race this season,” Hiroshi Yasukawa, Director of Motorsport said. “This is a great start, especially with three new teams this year. But we now need to push hard as our teams aspire for wins and more constructor championship points as we start the European rounds. This track is one of Ferrari’s home tracks so we can expect them in particular to be pushing hard in front their many supporters and I am sure Jarno Trulli will also be looking to impress on home soil. It has the potential to be a great race weekend! The San Marino GP will also host the second round of the GP2 Series after the hugely successful first races in Valencia ten days ago. We look forward to our potential future world champions battling it out in front of the F1 crowds for the remainder of the season.” zzzz

The 2006 tire regulations permit each driver seven sets of dry tires, four sets of wet weather tires and three sets of extreme wet weather tires. Combined with the increased number of teams running with Bridgestone in 2006, approximately 1,200 Bridgestone Potenza Formula One tires have been sent from the Technical Centre in Kodaira City, Tokyo, to the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari. [Editor's Note: 1200 tires for just 10 cars? (7+4+3) 4 per set x 10 cars =560 tires. But wait this is F1, so multiple compounds of the dry weather sets are needed. Tire wars sure can be expensive.]

“We’ve had a good start to the season and we’re now eager to get racing again in Europe. From a track surface point of view Imola is relatively rough but the nature of the circuit does allow us to use compounds from the softer end of the scale. Furthermore, the use of softer compounds at Imola allows us to maximize grip levels at a circuit where temperatures can vary quite a bit,” added Hisao Suganuma Bridgestone Motorsport Technical Manager. “Track temperatures can reach 35 degrees Celsius if the sun comes out but we generally expect fairly cool weather in this region of Italy at this time of year. Grip, not wear or heat durability, will be the key issue in Imola for our teams. As a result of the successful development of the compounds which ran earlier this year we are bringing further new compounds to San Marino to tackle this issue. Testing of these compounds recently produced some very interesting results so we are keen to see them in action in San Marino this weekend.” Bridgestone

Mears throws out the first pitch Mears throws out the first pitchNASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver Casey Mears (right) threw out the first pitch at the Arizona Diamondbacks game on Wednesday night. Mears drove his No. 42 Texaco/Havoline Dodge from the right field bullpen, around the warning track, threw out the first pitch (right over the plate) and drove the car back off the field.
Carrom Races to the Finish Line with NASCAR Carrom Races to the Finish Line with NASCARCHARLOTTE, N.C. - The National Association for Stock Car Auto Racing (NASCAR) has teamed up with the Carrom Company and acclaimed motorsports artist Sam Bass, and together the trio is driving their way into game rooms this summer.

The Carrom Company signed a multi-year licensing agreement with NASCAR and is now set to produce a racing-themed line of children’s air powered hockey and adult foosball game tables. Bass will design racing graphics for the cabinet and table surface to make two unique racing-themed games.

The children’s air powered hockey game will retail at $59.95 and will be available in major retail stores by late summer or early fall. The foosball table, retailing at $599, is expected to hit stores in late August.

"NASCAR is the fastest-growing sport in America, so it only makes sense to have formed this partnership,” said Norman Rosen, president of Carrom. “Over the past 100 years, Carrom has become synonymous with quality and NASCAR is the perfect fit for our product.”  zzzz

Bass, who has been creating artwork for more than 25 years, has a penchant for combining fine art and innovative graphic design, a quality that makes Bass the ideal designer for the NASCAR-branded foosball and air powered hockey games.

“NASCAR is very pleased to partner with a company of Carrom’s caliber,” said Blake Davidson, NASCAR’s managing director of licensed products. “NASCAR fans’ love for the sport goes well beyond the track and with this new deal, it now extends to their game rooms as well.”

The gaming category, one of the hottest licensed products categories for NASCAR, took off last year with the success of the NASCAR pinball game. Merging the speed of the racetrack with the speed of the silver ball, Stern Pinball, Pat Lawlor and his team at Pat Lawlor Design unveiled this high-tech game a year ago to rave reviews and even stronger sales. Carrom, with its NASCAR-branded air powered hockey and foosball games, now looks to follow Stern’s success with unique products of their own. NASCAR PR

Miserable conditions again in Motegi Miserable conditions again in MotegiUPDATE The tentative schedule was to begin practice, @ 11:30 p.m. (EDT), but it is now raining again.  A thunderstorm has made the track wet again, so practice will still be delayed.  Qualifying is in jeopardy and the starting order may have to be determined based on entrants points. 04/20/06 Although the rain is forecast to stop, IndyCar practice has been delayed Friday morning in Motegi, Japan with temperatures at 46-degrees coupled with a stiff wind. Track drying is in progress as team members seek warm shelter and down lots of hot coffee.
Bids open on Champ Car engine table Bids open on Champ Car engine tableA rare chance to own this very special Cosworth Champ Car Engine Coffee table. Produced from a current Champ Car engine with a stained glass top and chromed steel legs. Ships in a custom built wood crate. Own an exclusive piece of Champ Car Open wheel history. Size: Approx. 30"x24"x21" high. Bids start at $5,500.
Fogarty turns his first laps Fogarty turns his first lapsALTON, Va. - Jon Fogarty and Alex Gurney hit the track this morning at the scenic Virginia International Raceway in the rolling hills of southern Virginia, and for Fogarty, it was his first time behind the wheel of GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing’s No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley. Both Gurney and Fogarty turned quick laps in the day’s unofficial, unscored testing sessions, and were satisfied with the car. Team owner Bob Stallings could not have been happier with the results of the new pairing.
Owner Quote:
Bob Stallings: “Today was absolutely outstanding. Jon got a great handle on the car quick, and with a couple adjustments we were right on the money. What I really like is his ability to talk with Alex and together learn from each other and communicate what’s happening with the car to our engineer, Kyle Brannan. They’re working together so easily, and we’ve had great results so far. I’m so pleased with the effort put in by the crew, led by Terry Wilbert and Ryan Reid and Sam Goldsmith, because the only part of this car that really was Tuttle’s is the frame. Everything else, they put on there in the last week. I think we used his roof and one of his doors.”

Driver Quotes:
Alex Gurney: “I gotta say, the team did an amazing job putting the GAINSCO car back to normal! I got in this morning and it feels almost exactly like the old car. It’s great to have Jon racing with us, he’s always a really tough competitor and I’m glad he’s on our side. He’s going to be a real asset — we’ll push each other and keep each other honest and we like similar things, so I think we’ll be a really good pairing. I feel totally comfortable with him. This track is amazing, the Esses are so fast and have quick changes of direction. You really have to work with the car to nail it. I think it’s going to be a hell of a race.”

Jon Fogarty: “Alex was kind enough to give me the bulk of the track time and, when it wasn’t interrupted by yellow flags, the GAINSCO car felt good. We made some small changes and that put us right there in the running, so it’s a blast to drive. This Daytona Prototype is a lot more fun to drive than a GT car, as it’s for sure much more of a proper race car. It’s a bit similar to an Atlantic with the hard compound Hoosiers, but with obviously more weight to be managed. The traffic is tough, as there’s a lot of inconsequential bends that make it hard to get around people. Still, it’s good being in the faster class for a change. Tomorrow, we’ll just look to work on our setup a bit more and see what we can do with the car.”

ALMS LMP2 teams welcome Acura ALMS LMP2 teams welcome AcuraBRASELTON, Ga. – Intersport Racing hardly flinched last year when Porsche announced its entry into the American Le Mans Series’ LMP2 class with a factory program. So it should come as no surprise that the defending class champions won’t cower before Acura either.

Acura announced last week that it will contest the American Le Mans Series starting in 2007. Multiple Acura-powered LMP2s from manufacturers such as Lola and Courage will debut at the 55th Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. That, of course, is the same race in which Intersport Racing won the P2 class and finished second overall last month, the highest finish ever for any P2 car in America’s greatest sports car race.

“Acura will be a great addition to the Series,” said defending class champion and team owner Clint Field. “When a factory team comes on board, it provides a level of stability. For a small team like us, we have to use everything as best as possible, and we do quite well with what we have.”

There is a rich history of privateer teams competing and beating factory efforts in the American Le Mans Series. Intersport is the latest to add to that chapter. Given the strong performances, continued development and new equipment among P2 class entries, 2007 certainly won’t be a walk in the park for Acura – or anyone else for that matter. zzzz

“This is very positive news,” said Gunnar van der Steur, one of the owners of van der Steur Racing. To combat Porsche, Acura and others, the team is upgrading its program in a big way with a new Radical SR9-AER set to debut later this year.

“More competition is exactly what we're looking for,” he added. “I’m sure Acura will bring more advanced technology that we'll have to chase, but we hope the Radical can be right on pace with them. I'm sure the Porsche boys are thinking about it too.”

As is B-K Motorsports with their Mazda-powered Courage C65. A winner at Mid-Ohio last year, B-K Motorsports and Mazda already are gearing up for a renewed rivalry of sorts.

“Mazda and Acura shared many great battles during the IMSA Camel Lights days and we are looking forward to picking up where we left off,” said Robert Davis, Senior Vice President of Product, Quality and Research of Mazda North America.

TV News
MINI Cooper Series to be televised in USA MINI Cooper Series to be televised in USANashville, TN:  Phil Wicks Racing and its marketing agency, Mackey Marketing Group are pleased to announce that negotiations have been completed for the 2005 and 2006 MINI Challenge Series from the U.K. to be televised in the USA.  The U.K.-based MINI Challenge Series is the basis for the North American MINI Cooper Championship that commenced racing in 2006.  Under the guidance of long time MINI racing professional Phil Wicks, the North American MINI Cooper Championship will stage six events in 2006 with an expanded schedule in 2007.

"Televising the U.K. Series here in the USA is the first step toward developing the U.S. series to be of similar stature and success," said Phil Wicks.  "I think that many MINI fans will discover the tremendous excitement and competitive nature of the MINI Challenge in the U.K. and will want to join in our racing series being developed for the American market.  We're very excited that we have made these arrangements to televise the U.K. MINI Challenge Series."

The racing will debut on the newly launched MavTV.  MavTV is a new network that carries a variety of programming themes targeting men 18-54, including sports, sports analysis, gaming, comedy, women and relationships, health and fitness, finance, gadgets, and movies. MavTV is a 24/7 destination channel dedicated to reaching men in an irreverent, humorous, opinionated fashion.   Now MINI racing joins the mix of programming that is carried by the network.   Times and broadcast schedules will be announced soon.  MINI enthusiasts that don't receive MavTV on their cable system are encouraged to call their local cable provider and ask for it.  For additional information on MavTV visit their website at www.mavtv.com.

Lee Bentham rejoins Forsythe Racing Lee Bentham rejoins Forsythe RacingIndianapolis, Indiana – April 20, 2006 - Forsythe Championship Racing is proud to announce that former Champ Car Atlantic Champion Lee Bentham has rejoined the team as driver development coach for its four-car entry in the 2006 Atlantic Championship.  Bentham, who won his 1998 championship driving the #33 Players-Forsythe Atlantic car, has spent the last years working as a professional driver and spokesperson in the realm of corporate events and marketing as well as color commentary work for radio coverage of the Molson Grand Prix of Toronto.

Lee Bentham:
“I was honored to get the call from John Brunner (Forsythe Atlantic Team Manager) about coaching the Atlantic team this year. Not only do I have a successful and winning past with Forsythe having won the championship in 1998, but I’ve gained many good friends because of it.  I am proud of our history together and am excited for that relationship to continue in this new capacity.  After coming to Long Beach and meeting the drivers for the first time, as well as seeing what a great job they have done assembling the crew for an impressive four-car team, I am confident we have the tools we need to accomplish the goals we’ve set our sights on.  I’m impressed at all of our drivers for the short time I have known them so far, and look forward to a great season.  There is definitely a grid full of talent this season, but the challenges lying ahead will only make our drivers stronger in the end.”

John Brunner, Forsythe Atlantic Team Manager:
“I’m very happy to be working with Lee again. I was Assistant Team Manager back when he won his Championship and I believe his experience will be very beneficial to our four drivers, engineers and entire team. I’m looking forward to winning another championship with him!”  zzzz

Leo Maia, Driver
#7 INDECK Mazda-Cosworth/Yokohama/Swift
"Having a driver coach at the race track is very important.  As a driver, you don't always know what you're doing right or wrong all the time.  Lee Bentham is the best around and he has a history of success not only in Atlantic, but with Forsythe as well.  He was only able to make it to Long Beach on Sunday but he helped me break into the top ten for the first time all weekend.  Lee is a champion and will be an invaluable asset to me and my teammates."

Andreas Wirth, Driver
#37 INDECK/Wirth Solar Mazda-Cosworth/Yokohama/Swift
“I think Lee will be definitely a great fit in our team and will help us to get better on and off track. He is a very cool and open guy and I think we will have a lot of fun with him this year for sure!  It is very nice to have a former Atlantic champion as coach and I'm looking forward to working with him.”

James Hinchcliffe, Driver
#3 Emexis/INDECK Mazda-Cosworth/Yokohama/Swift
“I am really pleased that we were able to retain Lee for this year.  He is a great driver and an overall cool guy; down to earth, really funny and knows a racecar inside-out. He has good technical knowledge and he knows how to win Atlantic championships because he has done it!  With Lee on board we’ll be able to get on top of things that much quicker which will really strengthen the whole team.”

Richard Philippe, Driver
#33 INDECK Mazda-Cosworth/Yokohama/Swift
“I'm really excited to have Lee jump on board for this season! He will definitely help all of us with his experience in racing in general. We all met him in Long Beach and he seems like a really cool guy, I can't wait for him to get on the radio and ask me to push more in certain corners! Once again Forsythe provides the best of the best!”

The Forsythe Championship Racing Atlantic Team next heads to Houston, Texas in early May for a week of testing and racing.  On Sunday and Monday, May 7-8, the team will join other Atlantic teams for two days of testing at MSR Houston Raceway south of town (not open to the public).  Following that test, the team will pack up the two Forsythe Atlantic transporters and move to the grounds of Reliant Stadium and the Astrodome for the Grand Prix of Houston, May 11-13.  This new event marks Round 2 of the Series as Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Presented by Mazda, with the Atlantic “Fast Trac 100” race scheduled for 5:15pm local/CT (6:15 ET, 22:15 UTC).  The race can be seen live on the Internet by visiting the official website of Atlantic at www.champcaratlantic.com, and tape-delayed on Speed TV Saturday, May 20th at 1pm ET. Forsythe Racing

Roush Racing sponsor announces giveaway Roush Racing sponsor announces giveawayWorld Financial Group, Inc. announced today a giveaway that will  give fans a chance to win with O’Quinn—making Roush Racing not the only ones to benefit from his talent of driving race cars.  World Financial Group will give race fans the chance to close out the 2006 NASCAR season in championship style with a trip to Homestead-Miami Speedway for the biggest races of the year.

The winner of World Financial Group’s Win With O’Quinn Giveaway and a guest will be at the center of the action when NASCAR crowns its champions for all three series Nov. 17-19. The grand prize includes two grandstand tickets to the Craftsman Truck, Busch and NEXTEL Cup Championship races at Homestead-Miami Speedway, two nights accommodations for two at an area hotel, a meet-and-greet with World Financial Group driver Danny O’Quinn Jr., and a prize pack with Danny O’Quinn Jr. race gear.

Fans can enter by going online to WFGRacing.com, get official rules, details and more.

World Financial Group’s NASCAR Busch series driver Danny O’Quinn Jr. is one of the latest additions to the championship-winning Roush Racing team. He is a rookie driver in the NASCAR Busch series who was a standout in the Roush Racing: Driver X Race for the Ride competition and reality show on the Discovery Channel. Currently, he is 20th in Busch series points and has a best finish of 11th on the season.

Analysis reveals very talented Atlantics field Analysis reveals very talented Atlantics fieldINDIANAPOLIS – As he crossed the finish line, Raphael Matos (#6 Pro Works) of the Sierra Sierra Enterprises team felt a definite sense of accomplishment when he learned that he clocked the fastest race lap on the second-to-last orbit of the opening round of the Yokohama Presents The Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda. 

“That’s a point and points are going to be tough this year because the competition is so close,” said Matos, after he was asked about the championship point earned for posting the fastest race lap in the Imperial Capital Bank Atlantic race on the streets of Long Beach.

The actual point earned and the analytical point made by Matos, the talented Brazilian driver who finished second behind Germany’s Andreas Wirth (#37 INDECK/Wirth Solar) at Long Beach on April 9, is a simple one but it’s already become a familiar theme for the ’06 Atlantic season. With nearly 30 of the top young rising stars of racing fighting for every inch of pavement each race weekend, the level of competition is bound to reach new heights at each event and that results in close racing. A closer look at the final results from the Long Beach race weekend certainly supports this theory.

The talent-rich Atlantic field, getting its first opportunity to test the limits of the new Swift 016.a chassis powered by a 300-horsepower Mazda-Cosworth engine while riding on Yokohama tires, shattered two series course records at Long Beach. Winner of both the first pole position and race win of the year, Andreas Wirth of Forsythe Championship Racing, established a new course record with a qualifying lap of 1:16.082 (93.121 mph). And Matos set a new mark for the fastest race lap with a time that was actually quicker than qualifying at 1:16.058 (93.150 mph).

“We thought the competition level in the Atlantic Championship this season was going to be substantial, but when we got to Long Beach and saw the degree of professionalism up and down pit lane it was pretty obvious that we’re going to have to bring our ‘A’ game to every race if we’re going to be in the hunt this year,” said John Brunner, team manager of Forsythe Championship Racing, which earned two podium spots in Round 1 with Wirth’s win and a third-place finish by James Hinchcliffe (#3 Emexis/INDECK). “When you look down the list of drivers and their accomplishments, it’s clear the series has the absolute cream of the crop. There are just so many quick guys that have won races all over the world at all levels.” zzzz

After the final round of Long Beach qualifying, the top 10 Atlantic drivers were separated by less than a second in their fastest lap times and the top 19 drivers were within two seconds of each other. Just measuring those numbers against last season’s Atlantic results at Long Beach demonstrates the increased level of competition and dramatically closer racing in 2006. The top 17 Atlantic qualifiers in 2005 saw a gap of more than eight-and-a-half seconds on the 1.968-mile Long Beach street course.

Comparing this year’s race results to the final 2005 Long Beach race stats further supports this theory. The top 17 drivers in the ‘06 Long Beach Atlantic race all finished on the lead lap and were within just 57 seconds of each other at the finish line. In last season’s series race at Long Beach, only the top five drivers finished on the lead lap and those five were separated by more than 70 seconds.

After just one race, the new-look Champ Car Atlantic Championship has already proven that its high level of competition also stacks up favorably against some of the other top open-wheel development series from around the world.

The British Formula 3 International Championship has produced some of the world’s top rising open-wheel stars in recent years. Comparing last weekend’s opening-round of British Formula 3 at Oulton Park and the first round of Atlantic action in Long Beach, it’s clear that the level of competition is top notch in both series. With Atlantics carrying a larger field at Long Beach (28 cars to 22), the depth of talent in qualifying competition was very similar between the two series. While the top 20 in Atlantic final qualifying was separated by just 2.031 seconds, the British Formula 3 field saw more than four seconds separate its top 20 in both rounds of series qualifying.

The new Atlantic lineup also proved that its closeness of competition was remarkably similar to that of the GP2 Series, Formula One’s top developmental category, after its first round of ’06 racing in Valencia, Spain in early April. The top 11 GP2 qualifiers were separated by one second (Atlantics featured 10 drivers within a second of each other at Long Beach), while the top 20 saw a qualifying gap of just 1.716 seconds in Spain (just over three-tenths-of-second closer than the margin that separated the top 20 Atlantic Long Beach qualifiers).

It’s clear that after just one round of racing, the level of competition is world class in the revitalized Champ Car Atlantic Championship. And with 11 more opportunities to showcase their talent, the Atlantic series teams and drivers are bound to raise the bar even higher throughout the remainder of the 2006 season.

The Champ Car Atlantic Championship continues to be the premier open-wheel development series in North America. In its 33rd season in 2006, the championship is noted for its long history of graduating its stars into Champ Car competition and has helped produce past Champ Car champions Paul Tracy, Jimmy Vasser, Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan, Michael Andretti and Jacques Villeneuve. 2006 Champ Car competitors Alex Tagliani, Andrew Ranger, Katherine Legge and 2005 Atlantic champion Charles Zwolsman are established Atlantic graduates along with 2004 Champ Car Rookie of the Year and 2003 Atlantic champ A.J. Allmendinger. Competing in newly-designed Swift 016.a chassis powered by a 2.3-liter Mazda-Cosworth engine and riding on Yokohama ADVAN Racing Slicks, 2006 competitors will fight for the 12-race championship and the unique $2 million Champ Car series champion’s bonus. For more information on the series and to view this season’s races on demand, please visit www.champcaratlantic.com. Champ Car

Grand Prix Masters secures Qatar race sponsor Grand Prix Masters secures Qatar race sponsorGP Masters have succeeded in gaining major sponsorship for their opening meeting next week, by signing a deal with Qatar communications giant Qtel.

Qtel will be the title sponsor of the opening round at the Losail circuit in the country, the first of the planned four meetings this season for the series for over 45 ex-Grand Prix drivers.

Qtel executive director Waleed Al Sayed said: "Qtel is looking forward to providing sports enthusiasts an exciting opportunity to see the legendary drivers as well as ex-Formula One racers of the GP Masters for the first time in Qatar.

"We know how much the people of Qatar enjoy sports and are proud to be the sole sponsors of this much-awaited event."

Imola: Thursday Press Conference Imola: Thursday Press Conference
TV News
USA TV reminders for Saturday USA TV reminders for Saturday
Courtesy of TVRacer.com
Inside Grand Prix San Marino
1:30am-2:00am SPEED
Formula 1 Practice San Marino
2:00am-3:00am SPEED (R)
Formula 1 Qualifying San Marino
8:00am-9:30am (L) SPEED
O'Reilly Indoor Karting Championship Tunica, MS
12:00pm-12:30pm ESPN2
NASCAR Live! Phoenix
12:00pm-1:00pm (L) SPEED
IRL Motegi, Japan
12:00pm-2:00pm ESPN
GP2 Championship Series Valencia
1:00pm-2:30pm SPEED
Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race Long Beach
2:30pm-3:00pm SPEED
NASCAR RaceDay Phoenix
6:00pm-7:30pm (L) SPEED
Speed News Saturday 
7:30pm-8:00pm SPEED
NASCAR Nextel Cup Phoenix
8:00pm-11:30pm (L) FOX
11:00pm-11:30pm SPEED
NASCAR Victory Lane Phoenix
11:30pm-12:30am (SDD) SPEED

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

San Jose meeting, palm tree move San Jose meeting, palm tree moveUPDATE This San Jose Mercury News article talks about the Palm Tree move in San Jose.  Also, though not mentioned in the article, construction for the re-paving of the asphalt for the very technical "Trolley Sections" was to begin during the second week of April in order to give the pavement at least 90 days to cure. What with the massive rains that have hit the city this date has come and gone. Hopefully, their weather will change soon so this project can begin without a rush.

02/13/06 San Jose race officials held a community meeting on Monday night at the Tech Museum of Innovation located in downtown San Jose. The following is a brief synopsis of what our reporter heard.

Don Listwin of the San Jose Grand Prix organization vowed that his number one concern for the 2006 version of Champ Car’s visit to the city of San Jose is that of a "safe racing circuit". Answering critics of San Jose's no doubt precarious race track, where the Champ Cars were flying over the tram tracks, and make shift circuit work was a daily chore, Listwin, with the help of the cities public works department, believe that they can accomplish that goal. 

With the increased speeds incorporated in the new 1/2 mile long Almaden main straight the need for an elongated runoff area at the hairpin is paramount in his eyes, while the major modifications to the Park Ave area will provide an excellent overtaking spot. The future removal of 18 palm trees on Park Avenue have shown that that San Jose has sparred nothing in providing what the drivers and fans crave. A proper racing circuit! 

Look for repaving of Almaden, Park and Market Streets to begin in early April in order to give the asphalt plenty of time to cure with the major engineering work on the Light Rail Trolley tracks to start the first two weekend of that same month. This work will have to be completed at night to avoid the trolley schedules. This SJGP meeting will be held monthly in order to provide a platform for both the GP organization and the city of San Jose.

Currently, plans call for the transplant of 16 palm trees in total. Eight will be moved from the east median and eight from the center median on Park Ave. Six of the trees will be transplanted on the north side of Park and five on the south side. The final five trees will be transplanted in various locations on Almaden Blvd. 

Renderings of how the replanted Palm Trees will look on Park Avenue

Grand Prix Masters signs Brazil TV deal Grand Prix Masters signs Brazil TV dealGrand Prix Masters is today proud to announce a three-year agreement with Sistema Brasileiro de Televisão (SBT) for 'free-to-air' coverage of the series across Brazil. The agreement will begin with immediate effect until end 2008 with the first race being the 'Qtel Grand Prix Masters of Qatar', 29th April, Losail International Raceway.

Scott Poulter (CEO, Grand Prix Masters): "We are delighted to have SBT on-board and this will help take coverage of our series to a new level across Brazil. As Brazil's second biggest national television station, SBT is widely acknowledged as innovative, creative and authoritative. Given the overwhelming national interest in Emerson Fittipaldi, SBT's involvement will now allow every Brazilian to watch Emerson in action as he contests the Grand Prix Masters World Series alongside some of the biggest stars in grand prix racing. As one of the world's most passionate motor sport markets, Brazil's long-term interest and support for Grand Prix Masters is extremely valuable to us and we are looking very seriously at taking the series there in the near future."

Emerson Fittipaldi: "This is great news for Brazil and I am really excited about it! I thoroughly enjoyed myself during the inaugural Grand Prix Masters race in South Africa last November and the hunger for more has been with me since. I cannot wait to get back behind the wheel of the car next weekend in Qatar and it means even more to me now knowing that most of Brazil will be tuned in courtesy of SBT's free-to-air platform. If we can re-create next weekend the magic of our inaugural race, the Brazilians will fall in love with this series, I'm sure, and more so if I can beat Mansell this time round!"

Two 2nd generation drivers win Two 2nd generation drivers winUPDATE It was a superb weekend for Eliott Bachelart at New Castle Raceway Park in Indianapolis last weekend. Competing in two races at the karting venue, the 14-year-old finished third in the first race and topped the day off by taking the honors in the final race in the Yamaha Jr. Super Can category.

After a shortened morning practice session due to rain, Bachelart qualified third for the first race, 0.307 seconds behind the leader. At the start of the race he fell to fourth after an incident with a competitor but made his way up the field to take the lead. Bachelart was in first place until the last corner of the final lap when two karts passed him, relegating him to third in a strong field of 26 drivers who for the most part also compete in the World Karting Association National events.

For the second race, the son of Mi-Jack Conquest Racing co-owner Eric Bachelart qualified on pole by 0.136 seconds ahead of his closest opponent but was unable to stay at the front in the opening laps. Bachelart fell to second and stayed there for most of the race, but with two laps left he regained the lead and fought off his rivals to score his second victory this season, by a slim margin of 0.097 seconds.

“I was very happy with how my weekend turned out. I hadn’t raced at New Castle Raceway for about 5 months so I took the morning practice to get used to the track again. We found a good setup for our qualifying and we didn’t do many changes for the races. The competition was very close with some good drivers. It felt good to have another win,” said Bachelart, who won a WKA National race in Charlotte a few weeks ago.

Eliott Bachelart now looks forward to his next race which takes place at Michiana Raceway Park June 17-18 in Southbend, Indiana.

04/16/06 At New Castle Motorsports Park on Easter Saturday, two second generation drivers, Cytomax/Birel-America driver, Conor Daly (pictured right with father Derek) and Mi-Jack/Margay driver, Eliott Bachelart each scored a victory at the opening round of the Kart Racers of America Championship.

In two thrilling finishes, their combined margin of victory was just three hundredths of a second. Both Dads, former race car drivers Derek Daly and Eric Bachelart, were on hand for the celebrations.

Conor Daly drives for Cytomax/Birel-America with support from Motorama Kart Parts, Mooresville, Indiana.
CTE Racing Claims Color and Design Award CTE Racing Claims Color and Design AwardINDIANAPOLIS - Each season that passes presents new colors and the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season is no different. At the season opening Long Beach Grand Prix many Champ Car teams had cast off their old 2005 liveries and kicked off the 2006 season with new colors and designs on their cars.

Over the Long Beach Race weekend, a team of Sherwin Williams’ Automotive Finishes experts judged each Champ Car entry to determine which team had the best color, design, gloss and overall appearance. Shortly before the green flag flew over the Champ Car portion of the Long Beach Grand Prix, it was announced the new sleek graphite color with hints of yellow, red and orange livery belonging to the #14 car of CTE Racing – HVM driven by rookie Dan Clarke was the victor.  

For winning the “It’s All in the Finish Award” the CTE Racing – HVM team took home a prize of $10,000 and bragging rites leading into the next judging that will take place at the Grand Prix of Houston. Awards will also be given in Cleveland, Toronto, San Jose, Denver, Montreal, and Mexico City. The team with the most titles at the end of the season will be awarded with a check for $20,000. Champ Car

New paddock home for BMW-Sauber New paddock home for BMW-Sauber(GMM)  Although no match for Red Bull's mighty new paddock HQ, BMW-Sauber has also revealed an impressive new motor home at Imola.

The San Marino grand prix in Italy may be the fourth race of 2006, but it is the first in Europe, where teams traditionally live out of their own transportable facilities rather than rely on packing cases and on-site buildings at so-called 'flyaway' events.

Alongside the Red Bull 'Energy Station' and McLaren's 'Communications Centre', the BMW offering is similarly impressive, with its striking two-storey layout and glass facade.

Industry News
GM sales increase 4.4% GM sales increase 4.4%UPDATE General Motors Corp. (NYSE GM) today reported significantly improved financial results for the first quarter of 2006, with operations from every automotive region in the world contributing to the turnaround efforts.

04/19/06 Strong sales performance in GM's Asia Pacific and Latin America regions during the first three months of 2006 helped General Motors sell more than 2.2 million vehicles globally, a 4.4 percent increase compared with the same period in 2005.

Piquet pumped up for Imola Piquet pumped up for ImolaNext up for Nelson Piquet Jr. are rounds three and four of the GP2 series, which will take place at the Imola circuit in Italy. For this race GP2 will be the main support for the San Marino Formula One Grand Prix. After his strong performance in Valencia, Nelson heads to Imola sitting at the top of the GP2 championship table on 16 points, with Nicolas Lapierre in second on 10 points and Lewis Hamilton on 9 points in third.

Imola was the opening round of last year's inaugural championship and is a circuit that Nelson enjoys, having performed well at the track last year. Although clutch and brake problems put him out of the feature race in 2005, he battled his way from the back of the grid to a points-scoring sixth place in the second, shorter race of the weekend.

After a stand-alone season opener in Valencia, the GP2 schedule reverts to normal from Imola onwards as it takes its place as the main support series to Formula One. Drivers will get a 30-minute free practice session on Friday morning before tackling qualifying in the afternoon. The feature race will take place on Saturday afternoon, following F1 qualifying, with the shorter sprint race slotting in on Sunday morning.

Nelson Piquet Jr
"The team is feeling confident after such a good weekend in Valencia, but we have still been working really hard since we came back. All the teams know Imola and will have worked hard since Valencia to improve and we have to make sure we continue to fight at the top. Everyone knows how competitive the series is, and it's not an easy ride. Our aim is to put in another good performance over the whole weekend, and I am aiming for another win. I know I am capable of it, and this is a more interesting circuit than Valencia, so I'm looking forward to a good weekend."

Prémat determined to fight back in Imola Prémat determined to fight back in ImolaWe catch up with ART Grand Prix's Alex Premat as he looks towards this weekend's race in Imola. Alexandre Prémat heads to the second round of the 2006 GP2 championship at the San Marino Grand Prix in Imola (Italy) determined to fight back from his disappointment in the first round.

“I was really disappointed I couldn’t score any points during the first round of the season,” Prémat said. “I certainly hope to make up for it in Imola. I know the track well and am aware that it can be tricky with the rough surface and difficult curbs. It’s also a difficult track to overtake on. I’m determined to make up for the last race.”

“The weather should not be too warm and the grip that was missing in Valencia on the dirty track should be available here,” Prémat added. “Our car is excellent as the team has worked a lot on developing it. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t be fighting at the front in Imola but we’ll need to work carefully to set up the car well to handle the hard braking and acceleration.”

“I like the track even if it’s not particularly easy,” Prémat continued. “I have good memories from this track last year because I finished second just a few seconds behind the winner, and was on the podium for the second race of that season. I hope to go one better this year.”

Toyota team steals Probst from Ford Toyota team steals Probst from FordRed Bull Racing has hired John Probst from Ford Racing Technology, a team spokesman confirmed Tuesday night.

Probst will serve as the new team's technical director. A mechanical engineer with a degree from Penn State, Probst was the vehicle systems supervisor for Ford.

The Red Bull operation, owned by the energy drink company, will field two Toyota teams in Nextel Cup in 2007.

Probst joins a management team that includes recently hired Elton Sawyer as director of competition, Marty Gaunt as general manager and Guenther Steiner as a technical advisor. Steiner comes over from Red Bull Racing's Formula 1 team. NASCAR Daily Scene

Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Alonso says '06 is four-driver fight
Rev boost for dogged Ferrari
Renault will find 'top' sub for Alonso
Webber's team lifts soccer cup
Renault 'must' stick to F1
Alonso calls for 'knockout' tweak
India not missing Karthikeyan
Playboy Flav's new model
'Schu's records may never be beaten'
Imola bend reshaped for 2006
Renault 'needs' Briatore
Can Wheldon set record? Can Wheldon set record?Dan Wheldon, driver of the no.10 Target, has won the last two IndyCar Series races at Motegi. Those victories, he said, set the stage for his runner-up finish to Buddy Rice in 2004’s Indianapolis 500 and his Indy 500 win last year. No driver has ever won three consecutive times at the same track in the IndyCar Series era.

“Motegi is a good race to win, and it’s a track that’s been kind to me,” says Wheldon. “It is a good stage for Indy and will be again if I can win there three years in a row. It’s always difficult when you keep winning a race to continue that streak without something going wrong. I hope this is not the year for that, and I hope that year never comes.” TCGR

Network LIVE brings orange livery to Panther Network LIVE brings orange livery to PantherUPDATE Panther Racing will have an new look for the Japan Indy 300 at Twin Ring Motegi. Network LIVE, one of Panther's associate sponsors, will be on the sidepods of the team's Honda-powered Dallara this weekend and will debut an orange and black livery. It will mark one of the few times the Panther car has not been primarily yellow. The team previously altered its design in 2003 to promote the movie Terminator 3. Last season the car was platinum for a select number of races - including the 2005 Indianapolis 500 - when Pennzoil was promoting its Pennzoil Platinum Full Synthetic motor oil.

VITOR MEIRA (No. 4 Panther Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "Wherever we are on the racetrack, that orange Network LIVE car is going to be easy to pick out of a crowd. To be honest, regardless of what color the car is, I know it's going to be fast." (Photo Ron McQueeney/IRL)

04/19/06 Panther Racing's championship-winning No. 4 car will have an all-new look April 22 for the Indy Japan 300 at Twin Ring Motegi. Network LIVE, one of Panther's newest associate sponsors, will be on the sidepods of the team's Honda-powered Dallara this weekend for the debut of the bright orange and black No. 4 Honda.

This weekend will mark one of the few times the Panther car has not been primarily yellow. The original car the team used in 1998 was yellow and black, until 2000 when the all-yellow Pennzoil livery was put in place.

The team broke from that style for one race (Kansas Speedway) in 2003, when the car design was altered slightly to promote the movie Terminator 3, staring Arnold Schwarzenegger. Last season the car was platinum for a select number of races - including the Indianapolis 500 - when Pennzoil was promoting its Pennzoil Platinum Full Synthetic motor oil. Panther Racing's last victory, last June at Texas Motor Speedway, was in the platinum livery.

Network LIVE is the first multi-platform digital entertainment company committed to delivering live entertainment programming through the Internet, satellite and other third party global media platforms such as VOD, wireless and HDTV. Network LIVE produces a rich slate of live programming focusing on music and comedy performances - many originating from AEG owned or operated venues worldwide, such as STAPLES Center. The programming is promoted to AOL's web audience of more than 100 million and to more than 4.4 million XM Satellite Radio subscribers. IRL

Selected quotes from Day 1 in Japan Selected quotes from Day 1 in Japan
HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It was a good starting session for Marlboro Team Penske. We found a little difficulty in the beginning, but Ron (Ruzewski), the engineer, and I were working until we found a good setup. We're very pleased with the result."

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "The car was very, very good and the track wasn't as good as it will be tomorrow, but it was a very good lap. (About limited practice time today): "It was going to be the same for everybody, but it looks like we got a lot more than the guys in the second session, so we shouldn't complain about it."

SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "The car was pretty good. We were just trying to get everything worked out. Nobody has the opportunity to test here, so when you come here, you try to learn as much as you can in what little time that you get. It's unfortunate the accident happened on the lap after the fast lap. I just turned into (Turn) 3 and the back end came around. I'm not sure what happened. It's unfortunate. It's going to be a lot of work for us over the next couple days to get back to where we need to be."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 2 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It was a good run to be honest. The car was good straight out the box, and as a driver, that's all you can ask for. We'll carry on some of this momentum from today into tomorrow, and hopefully, that will translate into a good qualifying position."

SCOTT SHARP (No. 8 Delphi Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It's great to be back here in Motegi.  I love this track. The Delphi guys did a great job, and we came out with a pretty good starting setup. We were fairly careful with the conditions and pretty happy with the car. Although we did not get that much track time, we are in good shape to pick things up tomorrow."

Castroneves fastest on Day 1 in Japan Castroneves fastest on Day 1 in JapanMOTEGI, Japan - Coming on the heels of his victory two weeks ago at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, Marlboro Team Penske's Helio Castroneves led the way Thursday as practice began for Saturday's Indy Japan 300 at the Honda-owned Twin Ring Motegi circuit north of Tokyo. Castroneves posted a best lap of 201.223 mph, as Andretti Green Racing's Tony Kanaan ran second-fastest, with a top speed of 200.088 mph. 

Morning rain showers at Twin Ring Motegi combined with frequent strong winds to keep speeds below the 204 mph mark set during last year's opening day of practice, with temperatures also dropping throughout the afternoon.  But the weather forecast for the remainder of the race weekend is good, calling for clearing skies and warmer temperatures both Friday and Saturday.  (Photo by Honda)

In the only incident of the day, Sam Hornish Jr. spun and hit the wall going into the fourth turn, a frequent point of contact on the Twin Ring Motegi circuit, shortly after setting the third-fastest speed of the day.  He was not injured, but may have to switch to his backup car for the remainder of race weekend. 

Saturday's 200-lap Indy Japan 300, the third round of the 14-race 2006 IndyCar season, starts at 1 p.m. locally in Japan, with television coverage in the USA on ESPN starting at noon, EDT. 

Marlboro Pole Qualifying for the Indy Japan 300 is scheduled for 1:45 p.m. (EST) on April 1.


Pos Driver Best Time Diff Best Speed
1 Helio Castroneves (3) 27.1937 ... 201.223
2 Tony Kanaan (11) 27.3479 0.1542 200.088
3 Sam Hornish Jr (6) 27.3941 0.2004 199.751
4 Tomas Scheckter (2) 27.4602 0.2665 199.270
5 Scott Sharp (8) 27.5011 0.3074 198.974
6 Bryan Herta (7) 27.5121 0.3184 198.894
7 Dan Wheldon (10) 27.5243 0.3306 198.806
8 Danica Patrick (16) 27.5246 0.3309 198.804
9 Dario Franchitti (27) 27.5600 0.3663 198.549
10 Buddy Rice (15) 27.5664 0.3727 198.503
11 Kosuke Matsuura (55) 27.6044 0.4107 198.229
12 Marco Andretti (26) 27.7011 0.5074 197.537
13 Ed Carpenter (20) 27.7068 0.5131 197.497
14 Jeff Simmons (17) 27.7103 0.5166 197.472
15 Scott Dixon (9) 27.9393 0.7456 195.853
16 Vitor Meira (4) 28.0321 0.8384 195.205
17 Tomas Enge (51) 28.1871 0.9934 194.131
18 Buddy Lazier (5) 28.1976 1.0039 194.059
19 Felipe Giaffone (14) 28.6698 1.4761 190.863
20 PJ Chesson (91) 28.7756 1.5819 190.161

Earnhardt privacy law survives challenge Earnhardt privacy law survives challengeFlorida law created to seal NASCAR racer Dale Earnhardt's autopsy photos stood up to challenge today by lawmakers who now have second thoughts. The reason? The recent beating-related death of Martin Lee Anderson at a Bay County boot camp. It's only through such records that some important public issues can come to light, argued House Democrats in debate today. "We don't need to keep the shades drawn on these important events that affect so many of us," said Rep. Arthenia Joyner, D-Tampa. "This bill has nothing to do with what happened to Martin Lee Anderson in custody," said Rep. David Rivera, R-Miami, sponsor of a bill continuing the autopsy confidentiality law. Pensacola News-Journal
Rain delays Motegi practice Rain delays Motegi practiceRain has delayed the start of morning IndyCar practice at the Twin Ring Motegi track in Japan.   The race is Saturday with Sunday scheduled as a rain makeup day should it be needed. 
Evernham announces truck team changes Evernham announces truck team changesStatesville, NC – Evernham Motorsports recently announced that its No. 98 Cheerios/Betty Crocker truck series team will have a new recipe for success for the remainder of the 2006 season. The team adopted the new leadership structure which will feature a team director, car director and engineer. The new leadership organization is currently used by Evernham’s NASCAR Nextel Cup series teams.

Beginning this week, Patrick Donahue will take the lead as the Team Director of Evernham Motorsports’ No. 98 Cheerios/Betty Crocker truck team. Donahue is no stranger to working for Ray Evernham as he began his racing career at the age of seventeen under the guidance of Evernham.

Long-time Dodge engineer, Scott McDougal, will now serve as the team’s engineer. Prior to his time with Evernham Motorsports, McDougal was the engineer for Bam Racing, a NASCAR Nextel Cup team. Ronnie Hornaday will continue his duties as truck director and front tire carrier on the No. 98 Cheerios/Betty Crocker truck team.

“Everyone within the Evernham organization has been working together to enhance the performance of the No. 98 Cheerios/Betty Crocker truck team,” said Team Owner Ray Evernham.

“This same leadership approach has been very successful with our cup teams and I believe it will be the same for the truck team. This is a step we need to take to provide Erin with the best equipment possible,” stated Evernham.

Richmond Sells Out 29th Straight Cup Race Richmond Sells Out 29th Straight Cup RaceRICHMOND – Reinforcing its position as one of the most popular NASCAR destinations and having one of the most coveted tickets in racing, Richmond International Raceway officials announced today its 29th straight NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race sellout.

Track President Doug Fritz announced all 107,097 seats for the newly named Crown Royal 400 set for Saturday, May 6 “under the lights” have been sold.  During the sellout streak, more than 2.2 million fans from all 50 states and dozens of foreign countries have attended NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series events at Richmond International Raceway.

“Richmond International Raceway is known as a fan favorite and selling out our 29th straight NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series race is a testament to the exciting experience fans have when they come for a race,” said Fritz.  “We had great test sessions for the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup and Busch Series’ and should see some of the best racing yet ‘under the lights’ at Richmond International Raceway when the drivers return for the Crown Royal 400 and Circuit City 250 Presented by FUNAI.”  zzzz

Fans who missed out on the popular Crown Royal 400 tickets can still see great short-track racing when their favorite NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers compete in the Circuit City 250 Presented by FUNAI NASCAR Busch Series race on Friday night, May 5.  Friday’s ticket includes NBC 12 Pole Qualifying for the Circuit City 250 Presented by FUNAI, as well as WaWa Pole Qualifying for the sold out Crown Royal 400 and NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series practice. 

The NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers have dominated the NASCAR Busch Series in 2006, winning the first eight races of the season.  Be there to see who visits Gatorade Victory Lane as the NASCAR Busch Series celebrates its 25th Anniversary. 

Tickets for Friday night’s Circuit City 250 Presented by FUNAI are available at www.racetickets.com or by calling the Richmond International Raceway ticket office at 888-472-2849.  Reserved seats are $45 in advance and $50 the day of the race.  General admission seats are $35 in advance and $40 the day of the race.  Kids 12 and under are free in general admission seating on Friday when accompanied by a paying adult.

NASCAR's cheats-of-the-week caught NASCAR's cheats-of-the-week caughtNASCAR announced that Joe Shear Jr., crew chief of the No. 43 Ford driven by Aaron Fike and Chris Wright, crew chief for the No. 35 Ford of Regan Smith, have each been fined $10,000 and placed on probation until December 31, 2006 following rule violations at Nashville Superspeedway on April 15, 2006.

Shear was found to be in violation of Sections 12-4-A (actions detrimental to stock car racing) and 12-4-Q (car, car parts, components and/or equipment used that do not conform to NASCAR rules: Section 20A-12.8.1A: Roof height too low in post-race inspection) of the 2006 NASCAR Busch Series Rule Book.
Additionally, Fike was penalized 25 NASCAR Busch Series driver championship points and team owner Mike Curb was penalized 25 NASCAR Busch Series owner championship points for violating Sections 12-4-A and 12-4-Q (20A-12.8.1A).

Wright was in violation of Sections 12-4-A and 12-4-Q (car, car parts, components and/or equipment used that do not conform to NASCAR rules: Section 20A-12.3: Shock Absorbers). NASCAR

New franchise holders line up for 2nd season New franchise holders line up for 2nd seasonThere are still more than five months to go before the second A1 Grand Prix series kicks off at Zandvoort, Holland on 1 October, but at least seven or eight countries are lining up their bids to be part of the action, including aspiring teams from countries in Europe, Asia and South America.

While the identity of the nations competing in A1 Grand Prix Series Two remains undisclosed, so does the race calendar, save for the opening round in Holland. “We plan to have between 10 and 12 rounds again,” says Chief Operating Officer David Clare, “but we’re in discussion with 17-18 potential venues at the moment. I reckon that we will probably introduce two to three new venues in addition to Zandvoort joining us. There may even be a night race, too.

“The calendar for Series Two ought to be announced in the next few weeks and all I can say for definite right now is that Series Two is going to be every bit as global as Series One.”

Will new fuel power Ferrari to victory? Will new fuel power Ferrari to victory?For Ferrari and Shell, the San Marino Grand Prix at Imola is a very important race. This season, the new shell V-power fuel will debut at the San Marino Grand Prix and will help the Scuderia Ferrari on their way to victory.

Shell has developed a new fuel, Shell V-Power ULG62L/3, for the use of Scuderia Ferrari at Imola. This new fuel formulation has a higher volatility than that of its predecessor. Shell V-Power ULG62L/3 has been developed by Shell's Formula One fuel development team to produce more power for the Prancing Horse.

Mike Evans, Shell's Formula One Fuels Project Leader explains "This new fuel blend is the result of much research and development between Shell and Scuderia Ferrari. Its introduction in Imola marks the arrival of yet another high performing fuel, which we can add to Shell's vast portfolio of fuels for the team. However, we will of course work hard to develop our products with Ferrari even further over the remaining 15 races." Shell

Miracle Motorsports to focus on endurance races Miracle Motorsports to focus on endurance racesRANCHO CUCAMONGA, CA….  Miracle Motorsports team owner John Macaluso has decided to focus on the remaining endurance races in the American Le Mans Series, specifically the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the 10-hour Petit Le Mans. KUMHO will continue to supply tires to Miracle for these races.

“I really enjoy the endurance races,” said Macaluso, whose team won its class at the 2004 and 2005 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring. “Getting to Le Mans was a lifelong goal for me, and we finally made it in 2005. We ran well but didn’t finish the race, so we feel like we’ve got some unfinished business there.

“We believe we’ve got a good chance of winning the LMP2 class at Le Mans if we focus only on that race,” said Macaluso. “After Le Mans we will focus on the last major endurance race of the year, the Petit Le Mans.” zzzz

KUMHO motorsports manager Rudy Consolacion said that the company is looking forward to returning to Le Mans with Miracle Motorsports. “We understand Miracle’s desire to focus on Le Mans because it is the pinnacle event of sportscar racing,” said Consolacion. “We’re glad to return to Le Mans with Miracle, and KUMHO will continue to focus on the entire American Le Mans Series.”

KUMHO was pleased with its on-track and off-track results last year in the company’s first season of ALMS competition, according to Consolacion. “We scored some impressive wins with Miracle, including a class win in the Twelve Hours of Sebring,” he said. “The KUMHO brand received great exposure at the races and on the television broadcasts. Our dealers like our involvement with the series, so this year we’ve increased our marketing involvement with the series so that KUMHO will get even more exposure.”

Consolacion added that KUMHO will expand its ALMS involvement and will announce an additional race partner in time to contest the Lone Star Grand Prix in Houston on May 12 and the rest of the ALMS schedule.

Fogarty joins DP team Fogarty joins DP teamThe two-time Atlantic Championship title holder Jon Fogarty has joined the Grand American Rolex Series' Blackhawk Racing Daytona Prototype team.  His first race with his new team and co-driver Alex Gurney, who also came from the world of open-wheel racing, will be this weekend at Virginia International Raceway.
Luyendyk prepares for Indy 500 Luyendyk prepares for Indy 500What a difference a year makes. At least that's the hope of Arie Luyendyk Jr.

A year ago, the 24-year-old Scottsdale, Ariz., native attempted to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. He passed Rookie Orientation on May 21, and with just a handful of laps under his belt, qualified the car for the 500 on May 22. Just hours later, however, the elation faded as he was bumped from the field by Felipe Giaffone.

Luyendyk is returning to Indianapolis this year for another attempt at competing in the Greatest Spectacle in Racing. Plans are already in place, which will allow him to participate for more than just the final weekend.

"I am very excited to have finalized our plans to run the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500," Luyendyk said. "We have been working hard ever since last year to raise the funds necessary to compete in this year's race in a competitive effort.

"Although we are still talking and negotiating with potential major sponsors we will move forward as planned with a second weekend qualifying effort." zzzz

Luyendyk and his father, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner Arie Luyendyk, have put together a solid team of personnel and equipment to field the No. 61 entry under the Luyendyk Racing banner.

The team is working with Target Chip Ganassi Racing to acquire a Panoz chassis, and the team has hired veteran engineer Tim Wardrop and chief mechanic Skip Faul.

Wardrop worked with Luyendyk Sr. for many years including 1996 when he set an Indianapolis 500 qualifying record, and in 1997 when he won the pole and the race.

"I'm excited that we are able to give Arie Jr. a great opportunity to qualify for the 500," Luyendyk Sr. said. "This year's effort is very good, and we have proven winners on our team such as Tim Wardrop and Skip Faul.

"It's a special effort all around. We chose number 61 since that was the number I ran when I finished seventh in 1985 in my first Indy 500. We hope it helps lead to a long career of Indycar racing for Arie Jr."

Associate sponsors already in place are: Hubbard, Jumbo Supermarkets, Volusia Properties / FlaCondos.net, GS610 Brake Fluid, Widmaier Chiropractic, Steve Collias, DaCosta Companies / Geoffrey H. Edmunds Realty, Rock Lobster and Automatic Fire
Sprinklers, Inc. IRL

Track News
Flaherty and Dean to be enshrined Flaherty and Dean to be enshrinedINDIANAPOLIS - Two names that were synonymous with open-wheel racing success 50 years ago will earn their place in the Auto Racing Hall of Fame, located at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, during induction ceremonies May 20.

Pat Flaherty, winner of the 1956 Indianapolis 500-Mile Race, and legendary multi-time, championship-winning car owner Al Dean will be enshrined into the prestigious Auto Racing Hall of Fame. (L to R) Clint Brawner, Al Dean and Jim McGee pose with Mario Andretti after Andretti won his first Indy 500 pole position in 1966.

The Hall of Fame honors drivers, team owners, mechanics and event officials who have made significant contributions to the success and colorful history of the sport of open-wheel racing. This year marks the 50th anniversary of the opening of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Hall of Fame Museum.

The induction ceremony is taking place at 7:30 p.m. (local time) Saturday, May 20 at the Indianapolis Marriott Downtown in conjunction with the annual "500" Oldtimers' Club Banquet. The ceremonies and banquet are sold out.  zzzz

Flaherty, a native of Glendale, Calif., whose name was George Francis Flaherty Jr., qualified for five Indianapolis 500-Mile Races and drove in a sixth as a relief driver. He won the 1956 event at an average speed of 128.490 mph.

Flaherty won the 1956 pole with one- and four-lap qualifying records of 146.056 and 145.596 mph, respectively, delighting the fans by lifting the left front wheel completely from the track surface as he negotiated the turns in his lightweight, A.J. Watson-built John Zink Special.

He became the second driver in the post-World War II era to win the Indianapolis 500 from the pole, after Bill Vukovich in 1953.

During his career, Flaherty also won two championship races at Milwaukee, a grueling 250-miler in August 1955 and a 100-mile race two weeks after his 1956 "500" win. He suffered a severe arm injury in an accident in August 1956 at the 1-mile dirt oval at Springfield, Ill., but returned to lead several laps of the Indianapolis 500 in 1959.

Dean was by far the most successful AAA and USAC championship car owner of the 1950s and 1960s.

His Dean Van Lines Specials, under the charge of chief mechanic Clint Brawner, won 38 National Championship races from 1953-67 in the hands of Jimmy Bryan and Mario Andretti (17 wins each), Eddie Sachs (three wins) and Bob Sweikert, whose only win with Dean was also the car owner's first victory, at the inaugural Hoosier Hundred in 1953. In addition, Bryan won the non-points Monza (Italy) 500 in 1957.

A self-made transit company magnate, Dean also was renowned for providing "500" rookie tests to Andretti (1965) and A. J. Foyt (1958). Bryan won the national title in 1954, 1956-57, and was runner-up in 1955, while Andretti won it in 1965-66 and was runner-up in 1967 in a Dean machine. He never won the Indianapolis 500, but Dean's cars earned five top-three finishes, including second places with Bryan in 1954 and Sachs in 1961. He also had four "500" poles with Sachs in 1960-61 and Andretti in 1966-67.

As part of the 50th anniversary of the Hall of Fame Museum, Flaherty's No. 8 John Zink Special, the 1956 winner, is featured in an exhibit at the Museum that re-creates a garage stall in the Speedway's famed "Gasoline Alley" garage area from 1956.

Photos of the Museum from its first year are also on display, along with the 75-plus vehicles and trophies, artwork and other artifacts that constitute the Museum's regular fare.

For more information on the Hall of Fame Museum, call (317) 492-6784. IMS

Antoine Bessette to test Daytona Prototype Antoine Bessette to test Daytona PrototypeMontreal, Quebec – Quebec racing driver Antoine Bessette will test a Lexus-Riley Daytona Prototype with Michael Shank Racing this Thursday at Virginia International Raceway while the teams get ready with a test day before the fifth round of the 2006 Grand Am Rolex series. The 24 year-old St-Bruno, Quebec driver is still considering every opportunity to drive this year and he could not pass on a chance to test such a sensational racing machine with a professional team like MSR.

“This is a wonderful occasion I just couldn’t let go, claims Bessette who raced to fourth place and two victories in the Toyota Atlantic Championship last year. I am thankful to Michael Shank for letting me drive one of his cars. Michael told me somebody had very good words about me and he was confident I would do well with such a powerful machine. I think there is a new trend in DP class now where younger drivers like Valiante, Dalziel, McDowell and Fogarty get the chance to show their skills. I hope I can get my chance to drive a DP on a few occasions this year.”

Flying Lizard Announces Wolf Henzler Flying Lizard Announces Wolf HenzlerSonoma, California — Flying Lizard Motorsports announced today the addition of Wolf Henzler to the team's driver lineup. Henzler will join Johannes van Overbeek in the team's No. 45 Porsche, replacing Jon Fogarty, who is leaving the team to drive with GAINSCO/Blackhawk in the Grand American racing series. Henzler's first race with the Lizards will be the American Le Mans Series' Grand Prix of Houston, May 12. In addition to his new role with Flying Lizard, Henzler will continue his Grand American series season with Tafel Racing.

Henzler commented on joining the Lizard squad, "I'm looking forward to running with the Lizards in the ALMS and would like thank Tafel for their support in making this possible. This year at Daytona I had a chance to share a car with Johannes and I am confident we'll make a good team. The Lizards showed their endurance strength this year at Sebring; with such a competitive GT2 field in the ALMS it's going to make for some spectacular racing."

Henzler, a native of Germany, has been on the pro sports car racing circuit for more than 10 years. For the last six years, he has focused on Porsches in the U.S. and Europe, notably winning in GT the 2005 Rolex 24 at Daytona with Farnbacher Racing and finishing fourth in the 2005 ALMS GT2 championship with BAM! In 2004, he was Porsche Michelin Supercup champion, second in the Porsche Michelin Carrera Cup, and second in class at the ALMS 2004 Petit Le Mans with Alex Job Racing. zzzz

Fogarty has driven with the Lizards since 2004. In 04, he was a guest driver with the team at Sebring, Petit Le Mans, and Laguna Seca. He partnered with van Overbeek for the 2005 season (finishing third in the ALMS Drivers' championship) and with van Overbeek and Marc Lieb for the 2006 Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring in which they finished second in class.

Seth Neiman, Flying Lizard principal and driver added, "Jon will be missed. He made a key contribution to the team's growth while here, and we will always think of him as a Lizard at heart. We wish him the very best with his new drive and his new baby boy."

Next up for the Lizards is the Grand Prix of Houston, May 12. For more information on the race and the team, see www.lizardms.com.

San Marino tech file San Marino tech fileThe Imola circuit that hosts the San Marino Grand Prix, presents the teams with unique challenges in order to maximize their performance over the race weekend. There are few quick corners, many short straights, a relatively smooth track surface and, of course, the famous curbs that are an integral part of the racing line. Here's how the R26 will be prepared to cope with the challenge….

Suspension: Imola is famous for its curbs, and particularly the challenges of the Variante Alta and Variante Bassa chicanes. We must find the right compromise between the optimum soft suspension settings for riding the curbs, and the stiffer set-up we naturally want to ensure the car has a good change of direction in these chicanes. Some bodywork elements such as the diffuser and front wing, can be damaged by running over the curbs, and we have to carefully monitor their condition throughout the weekend.

Aerodynamics: We use relatively high levels of downforce, in order to give the drivers as much confidence as possible in the car. The short straights mean overtaking is difficult, so a top speed deficit is not a significant penalty if we decide to add more downforce.

Tires: The circuit includes numerous phases of hard acceleration from low speed, which means traction is at a premium and we need to monitor carefully rear tire wear. However, Imola is not a particularly abrasive circuit, meaning the levels of degradation are generally lower than those encountered at many other circuits.

Reliability: The violent use of the curbs around the lap puts the cars under particular strain, and Imola often sees a high retirement rate. As well as the vibrations generated by using the curbs so aggressively, the transmission experiences significant ‘shock loads' when the cars land with their wheels spinning, which can often lead to failures.

Engine Performance: The engine is put under particular strain at Imola. We need good torque to launch out of the slow corners, and the hard acceleration phases mean that the engine's outright power is an important factor. 73% of the lap is spent at full throttle, which is among the highest values of the season. However, the longest period spent at full throttle is relatively short, which relieves the pressure on moving parts such as pistons; counter-balancing this, though, is the fact that the generally cool temperatures equate to high air density, meaning the engine develops more power and is under greater strain.

Engine revs: The average engine speed at this circuit is relatively high, but the main danger for the engine comes from potentially over-revving when the car is launched over the curbs and the driven wheels lose contact with the ground. We need to manage the risk of over-revving as well as possible, by judicious use of the rev limiter, without sacrificing performance over a flying lap. However, in race conditions, excessive use of the limiter can generate potentially harmful vibrations for the engine, so we may ask the driver to modify his shift points or adjust his line to adapt to this constraint. Renault

Schumacher confident going into Imola Schumacher confident going into ImolaThe fourth round of the Championship could be the turning point for Ferrari after a mixed bag of result in the opening three rounds of the season.

The team has worked hard on the 248 F1 since the Australian Grand Prix, testing at both Vallelunga and Barcelona and bringing online a number of mechanical and aerodynamic developments for the team's home event. In addition the team expect Bridgestone rubber to be well suited to the 4.933KM circuit.

Schumacher is fourth in the standings with 11 points, 17 behind run-away leader Fernando Alonso. The team is third in the constructors' table with 15 points. Felipe Massa finds himself just tenth in the standings with four points courtesy of his fifth place finish in Malaysia.

Michael Schumacher
"In Malaysia we were let down by the engine, while in Australia we made the wrong tire choice. Our true potential is what you saw in Bahrain when we started from pole and came second in the race. I felt we could climb back to the highest level this season and I still believe it."

"We tested intensively and well at Vallelunga and Barcelona and gathered a lot of useful information. We proved what we thought over the first few races but, unfortunately, we have demonstrated only too rarely: the pace is there; the package works. We are in the ball game. The new aerodynamics and the engine improvements are a clear step forward. We have also worked on the tires and the set up and have received positive feedback in each sector. I repeat: now we have to improve our chances and that means always being among the leaders."

"We want to do well at Imola and we want to be among the title challengers. We have fine tuned our package during the tests and I think that we have a car with which we can compete for victory. I do not believe that the gap to the leaders is too big to close. Imola should be the first step towards this. The most important thing is that we have the potential and so everything is possible." Source Ferrari

Keep him in Scotland Keep him in ScotlandBritain's worst driver was being bars last night after being banned from the roads for nine lifetimes plus 109 years.

John Williamson, 40, was locked up for 14 months yesterday after he admitted defying eight previous life bans for drinking and driving.

In 2000, Williamson was branded the worst driver "in Scotland, if not the UK", after earning his sixth life ban.

At the time, he claimed he only got behind the wheel when he was drunk.

He also claimed he had never caused an accident - shortly before smashing into a police car.

At Perth Sheriff Court yesterday, Williamson was banned for life for the ninth time after he admitted driving while disqualified and with no insurance.

He was banned for another 10 years when he admitted failing to give a breath sample to police - bringing his running total to 109 years on top of the life bans. More at The Daily Record

TV News
USA TV reminders for Friday USA TV reminders for Friday
Courtesy of TVRacer.com
Art Mann Presents -The Long Beach Grand Prix
2:30am-3:00am (R) HDNet
Formula 1 Practice San Marino
8:00am-9:00am (L) SPEED
NASCAR Nextel Cup Qualifying Phoenix
3:00pm-5:00pm (R) SPEED
NASCAR Live! Phoenix
5:00pm-5:30pm (L) SPEED
NASCAR Busch Qualifying Phoenix
5:30pm-7:00pm (L) SPEED
NASCAR Nextel Cup Final Practice Phoenix
7:00pm-8:00pm (L) SPEED
NASCAR Live! Phoenix
8:00pm-8:30pm (L) SPEED
NASCAR Busch Series Phoenix
8:30pm-11:30pm (L) FX
Trackside Phoenix
11:30pm-12:30am (L) SPEED

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

Danica readies for return to Indy Danica readies for return to IndyIn a few weeks, Danica Patrick will return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway - home to the Indianapolis 500 and the place where "Danica-mania" was born.

The last 12 months have been a whirlwind for the 24-year-old native of Roscoe, Ill., who went from heralded rookie to one of the most recognized figures in auto racing.

"I'm excited about going back to Indy," Patrick said. "There may be more hype this year because everyone is ready for it this time, but it doesn't change that I need to go out there and do well."

In 2005, Patrick earned the best starting position (fourth) and finishing position (fourth) by a woman at Indianapolis. She also became the first woman to lead the 500. This season, she enters with simple goals - build on last season's success.

"I think we can do very well," she said "As a team, we're strong at Indianapolis. Everyone does have Hondas now, which takes away the advantage we had last year over teams with the other two engines. But that just makes us work that much harder, and I think we're ready for that. It will just be a matter of not leaving any rock unturned."

Patrick enters her second May with experience gained from her JP Morgan Chase Rookie of the Year-winning performance and a successful rookie campaign in the IndyCar® Series.  zzzz

"Hopefully there will be fewer mistakes," Patrick said. "I definitely made a couple of mistakes last year, but it's already been better and I got better as last season went on. I think you have to see how the month unfolds. You have to stay in the game and stay up front and make the most of every opportunity that you can."

In addition to returning to the track, Patrick will also release her autobiography "Danica Patrick: Crossing the Line."

"Writing a book is a situation that I didn't think would come up so early in my life," Patrick said. "I'm imagining that people think it's quite funny that I have a book out about my life that was finished when I was 23. I guess some people thought I had a story to tell, and I do."

The book chronicles Patrick's life, and she shares secrets and stories, tales from the track, and insights into her personal life that reveal her spirit and drive.

"For anybody out there who has a dream, it reiterates the fact that you have to follow it and never give up," she said. "I know that sounds pretty generic, but it's about everything that happened in my life and how that contributed to the way I am today."

Patrick, who collaborated with noted biographer Laura Morton, said she had complete involvement in the project, including selecting and captioning every photo and ensuring that every word Morton wrote was what she wanted.

"I was involved in every little bit," she said. "I think it's very important for me, especially for me having a book about my life, I want it to be correct and accurate. I've read every word in the book a few times. That's important. I picked all my favorite pictures, I captioned them. Having an author is good. They can pull the simple information out that you already know, or the fans may already know, and make a story out of it. It was a good experience. It was a lot of work and a good achievement." IRL

Andretti Green Racing teams with Hemophilia of Indiana Andretti Green Racing teams with Hemophilia of IndianaAndretti Green Racing and Hemophilia of Indiana, Inc., a chapter of the National Hemophilia Foundation, are teaming up in 2006 to support people with hemophilia and related bleeding disorders that are life threatening and can exceed $1 million in treatment costs per year.

The program, sponsored by Bayer HealthCare, is a novel approach to fundraising and awareness that will allow the business and private sector to support the cause while participating in events during the IndyCar Series season and the Indianapolis 500.

Racing for Hemophilia, was recently unveiled by the National Hemophilia Foundation in New York City as a new and exciting fundraising opportunity for its chapters throughout the United States. As a focal point of the fundraising program, it was announced that by logging onto www.racingforhemophilia.com, donors who contribute $1,500 or more to NHF or one of its local chapters and correctly answer five racing trivia questions will be eligible to be selected as the primary donor of Racing for Hemophilia. zzzz

The primary donor will have use of Bayer's sponsor space on the No. 26 Andretti Green Racing entry to be driven by Marco Andretti during the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 28. In addition, the featured primary sponsor donor will receive a VIP trip for two to the Indianapolis 500 as the guest of NHF and Andretti Green Racing. An equally exciting version of the program will continue throughout the 2006 IndyCar Series season.

"Our participation in Racing for Hemophilia gives Hemophilia of Indiana the unique opportunity to be part of a winning team like Andretti Green Racing and to tap into the global interest in the IndyCar Series to better promote awareness for hemophilia and related bleeding disorders," said John F. Spickelmier, Director of Marketing for Hemophilia of Indiana, Inc. an Indianapolis-based foundation serving the bleeding disorder community within the state of Indiana. "The program is illuminated with a distinctive way of attracting corporate support for this foundation, and this sets us apart from other not-for-profit organizations. It's also a great way to reward our supporters and show our appreciation."

Proceeds from all donations will help maintain hemophilia related programs like ongoing medical research, summer camps for children, medic alert identification, emergency financial assistance and special events for those affected by hemophilia and related bleeding disorders.

Audi names drivers for US program Audi names drivers for US programFollowing the Audi R10 TDI prototype’s victorious debut in the 12-hour race at Sebring (USA), which wrote headlines all over the world, AUDI AG has also defined its program for the remaining races of the 2006 American Le Mans Series. From the fifth round at Salt Lake City on 15 July, two Audi R10 TDI prototypes will compete in the world’s most important sportscar racing series. The driver pairings will be Dindo Capello/Allan McNish and Frank Biela/Emanuele Pirro.
Since an intensive test program is scheduled for the two Audi R10 TDI prototypes before the season’s highpoint at Le Mans on 17/18 June, the cars will be prepared for the US program after Le Mans. The Audi Sport North America team will thus rely on the proven Audi R8 for the races in Houston (12/05), at Mid-Ohio (21/05) and at Lime Rock (01/07). Dindo Capello and Allan McNish will share the R8, which has claimed 61 wins from 77 races to date, and must race with 35 kilograms extra ballast (935 instead of 900 kilograms) as stipulated by the 2006 regulations.
All four Audi "factory” drivers are among the most successful drivers in the American Le Mans Series. German Frank Biela and Italian Emanuele Pirro both have already won the championship twice (Pirro in 2001 and 2005, Biela in 2003 and 2005), and last year together for the first time. Allan McNish (Scotland) won the title during the 2000 season, the Audi R8 prototype’s debut year. Dindo Capello (Italy) was runner-up twice and third overall once, and with his 15 race wins, is one of the most successful drivers in the ‘top-flight’ LM P1. Capello and McNish formed a strong driver squad in the 2000 season and are now reunited. zzzz
"It wasn’t easy to decide which of our six Le Mans drivers should compete in the American Le Mans Series,” explains Head of Audi Motorsport Dr Wolfgang Ullrich. "All six have already proven just how good they are at the wheel of the Audi R8 and also the R10 TDI. Because Tom Kristensen also starts in the DTM, and there are several clashing dates, he was not an option. It was obvious that Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro would compete again as defending champions. With Dindo Capello and Allan McNish we chose the two drivers who won at Sebring and who have already collected valuable championship points. Bearing in mind the strong competition, every point counts.”
Marco Werner, who won the title in 2003 and 2004, will not compete in the American Le Mans Series for the time being. In 2006, the German contests the 24 Hours of Le Mans with Frank Biela and Emanuele Pirro and is especially involved in the new Audi R10 TDI development program. "Furthermore, Marco is first choice if we should compete in any additional races with the R10 TDI,” stresses Dr Ullrich.
The second round of the American Le Mans Series is held on 12 May around the street circuit in Houston (US state of Texas). The race starts on Friday evening at 8:00 p.m. local time and finishes 2 hours 45 minutes later in the dark.
Chuck Warren dies Chuck Warren diesChuck Warren died on Monday April 17 after a valiant fight against cancer at the age of 78. He left behind a son, daughter, grandson, granddaughter and countless friends from the racing community. Although Warren is not a household name among today’s racing fans, he was well known and well respected by the NASCAR community in his day. Warren got his start in auto racing working as a crew member for a local Ashtabula, Ohio short track racer in the late 1940s. He moved to Florida in the early 1950s and took a job as body shop foreman for Stephens Pontiac in Daytona Beach, a new-car dealership known for its sponsorship of race cars. While in that position, Warren worked with the original factory-backed Pontiac racing team of Ray Nichels with driver Cotton Owens in their 1957 win on the beach at Daytona. It was the first NASCAR victory for Pontiac. Warren formed a working relationship with Daytona’s own Smokey Yunick through the Stephens body shop. He became the paint and body man for the Yunick team, applying the famous black and gold colors to the legendary Pontiacs for several seasons. After leaving the Yunick team and the Stephens dealership, Warren secured a position with the Champion Spark Plug Co., where he served on the team which represented the product on the NASCAR circuit. During the off season, part of Warren’s job was to visit all the race shops and install the electrical wiring in the race cars. He also implemented a plan to provide lunches for race team crew members at the track. Warren later moved to the Prestolite Company where he instituted the first pit crew competition, later adopted by the Unocal Co. NASCAR
No. 74 withdraws from Phoenix and Talladega No. 74 withdraws from Phoenix and TalladegaMcGlynn Racing announced that Derrike Cope and the #74 Dodge will withdraw from this weekend's Subway Fresh 500 at Phoenix International Speedway. The team will also skip the Aaron's 499 at Talladega. During this period, Derrike and the team will be conducting testing for upcoming race events that are important to team sponsors. Having 35 spots guaranteed to the larger teams presents a significant challenge to the smaller, less funded teams. Since the team is not in a position to challenge for the top 35 points position at this time the team feels the best course of action is to skip select races to concentrate more effort on those they do enter. McGlynn Racing and Derrike continue to receive great support from of each of our current sponsors and are always searching for additional sponsors to improve upon equipment and hire personnel to make us even better," said Ryan McGlynn, General Manager for the team. For more information on McGlynn Racing, visit www.McGlynnRacing.com. McGlynn Racing PR
Daytona Mayor's flight raises question Daytona Mayor's flight raises questionMayor Yvonne Scarlett-Golden took a private NASCAR airplane to Miami last week on personal business, raising questions about whether she violated state ethics laws. NASCAR spokesman Ramsay Poston acknowledged that the racing sanctioning body, whose officers donated thousands to the mayor's re-election campaign last November, provided her and a city police officer escort with air transportation from Daytona International Airport to Miami on April 7. But he said the offer was under the condition that she would pay back all expenses under Florida law. He didn't disclose an amount. A state Ethics Commission representative said no complaints had been filed regarding the daylong trip. Scarlett-Golden said Thursday it was a personal flight and would not confirm widespread speculation that it was for a doctor's appointment. She asked City Attorney Bob Brown to research whether the trip violated any laws. "It was a personal issue and I don't want to share it with the newspaper," she said. The 80-year-old mayor has been ill with a bile-duct condition since January, when she spent 15 days in the hospital with a police officer guarding her door for privacy. Daytona News-Journal
track news
New track planned New track plannedThe Kankakee The Daily Journal reports that Norm Nevinger III of Demotte, Ind. wants to build a $30-million race-track facility on the site of the abandoned state prison project.  The site is in an unincorporated area adjacent to Hopkins Park, bordered by County Highway 2 and Iowa Road.

Nevinger's plans call for a high-banked paved half-mile speedway,  a drag strip and go-kart track in addition to a road course for Indy Car-style racing and a driving school. There is also talk of a dirt oval.

Nevinger plans to build 30,000 seats for both the drag strip and speedway, or 60,000 total, although he would like both to have "grandstands all around." This would increase the capacity to 130,000 for the speedway and 50,000 for the drag strip.

Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Williams cure Webber's glitch
Schu says he's 'not too old' to race on
Alonso would settle for second
Senna on winning road to F1
Red Bull to stun with new HQ
Todt 'expected better' from Massa
Flav denies Michelin exit worries
F1 set for chilly Imola
Schu - 'I'm still in title chase'
Photos of Week Photos of WeekOur photos of the week that we normally publish by late Sunday night for the previous week are now up for last week and can be accessed on our Home Page.  The delay was due to the holiday weekend.
Bernie Silverstone deal about to fizzle Bernie Silverstone deal about to fizzleUPDATE According to this Independent.co.uk article, doubts have emerged over plans to involve the Formula One rights holder Bernie Ecclestone in the redevelopment of Silverstone after a new twist in the power struggle at the British Racing Drivers' Club.

The rebel member Harry Stiller, a former Formula Three champion, last week unveiled a deal with Ecclestone as part of his efforts to remove the BRDC board. That proposal was for an equal partnership to share the cost of rebuilding Silverstone, which the BRDC owns, and promoting the British Grand Prix.

But Ecclestone is thought to have privately denied agreeing to such a deal, while Stiller has moved to postpone the vote of no confidence in the club board which he initiated.

Stiller contacted the club chairman, Stuart Rolt, on Friday, proposing to delay the extraordinary general meeting set for 28 April in return for payment of his £7,000-plus legal bill.

"He suggested he would like the EGM postponed or put off," said Sir Jackie Stewart, the BRDC president. "In return for doing that he would like us to pay his legal costs. We do not wish to do so but it gives some idea of the kind of person we are dealing with.

"I am confused by his tactics. I rather suspect he's been told by Bernie that all the things he has said are not reality and he wants more time to pull together the proposal."

The 'Financial Times' concurred that the Ecclestone deal was 'about to fizzle out', whilst quoting from a letter from chairman Stuart Rolt who warned that that BRDC is 'making a laughing stock of itself' yet again.

04/14/06 (GMMf1NET) In a deal that would secure the long-term future of the race at Silverstone, Bernie Ecclestone has admitted that he could take over the running of the annual British grand prix.

In spite of departing president Sir Jackie Stewart's skepticism earlier this week, the 75-year-old F1 supremo answered 'everything is possible' to the query about whether his Formula One Management company will promote the event.

Ecclestone, no fan of triple world champion Stewart, thus aligns himself with 60s F3 driver Harry Stiller, who has come up with an alternate plan to safeguard the race in England.

Bernie told Autosport: ''I said (to Stiller that) I'd be only too pleased to help. He asked me if maybe I could be the promoter.''

Skepticism of Ecclestone's involvement, however, was understandable if not well founded. The diminutive Briton is an historical critic of Silverstone, and has on more than one occasion threatened to strip the former World War II airfield of its F1 privilege.

But Stuart Rolt, chairman of the track-owning British Racing Drivers' Club, told the BBC: ''I'm sure there won't be a deal which isn't beneficial to him.''

Bernie, though, seems genuinely bullish about the idea, which could be voted in by the Board at an April 28 meeting.

At the same meeting, the current BRDC board could be voted out, while 1996 Damon Hill is shaping up to succeed Stewart as president.

Ecclestone said: ''If we were to promote (the GP), we would be looking to go beyond 2009.''

193 cars entered for VIR 193 cars entered for VIRBetween the Rolex Series and Grand-Am Cup Series races at Virginia International Raceway this weekend, 139 race cars have been entered. In the Rolex Series race on Sunday, 26 Daytona Prototypes and 19 GT machines will be in action. When the Grand-Am Cup Series takes to the track on Saturday, 53 Grand Sport (GS) and 41 Street Tuner (ST) cars will be competing. When  all is said and done, more than 270 Grand American drivers will have turned laps on the 3.27-mile course during the weekend’s activities.

[Editor's Note: With 40+ cars in Nextel Cup, 40+ cars in the Busch Series, 40+ trucks in the truck series, and 139 cars in Grand-Am, the France family racing empire is sucking the motorsports sponsorship well dry.  That's a lot of mouths to feed and with a staff of over 700 in Daytona, they are knocking on the door of every sponsor in America.  And you wonder why the other race series are starving for sponsorship?  It's as close to a monopoly situation as one can get.]

Simmons excited about IndyCar debut Simmons excited about IndyCar debutJeff Simmons knows he joined the Rahal Letterman Racing team under unusual conditions. The Boston College graduate who has lit up the Indy Pro Series ranks with five wins in the last 10 starts will make his RLR debut this weekend at Twin Ring Motegi. Not only does Simmons hope to carve his own niche in the IndyCar Series, but the 29-year-old hopes to continue a legacy initiated by his predecessor, the late Paul Dana.

“These are not the circumstances that I would like this opportunity to come about, but Paul had the same dreams as me,” said Simmons, who takes over the wheel of the No. 17 Team Ethanol Honda Panoz Firestone car for the remainder of the season. "Like him, this is an opportunity that I've worked so long and hard for. I just want to do my very best to promote the cause that Paul worked so hard for and do the best job I can in the car for Team Ethanol.”

Simmons comes to the RLR with strong ladder system credentials and a pair of IndyCar Series starts. So while everything is not new to the East Granby, Conn., driver, this will be his first experience at the ultra-fast 1.5-mile oval north of Tokyo.  zzzz

“I have never been to Japan and the Motegi track,” said Simmons, who'll make his third IndyCar Series start. "But the Rahal Letterman Racing has a lot of experience and success at the track. Kenny Brack won there (in 2001) and finished second a couple of times, and Danica (Patrick) nearly won the pole last year in her first appearance. I know Buddy (Rice) is very fast there, so I am hoping to use their knowledge of the track in my first appearance.”

Rahal Letterman co-owner Bobby Rahal believes Simmons has both the talent to succeed on the IndyCar Series as well as promoting the ethanol cause.

“Jeff is a driver who I think has a great deal of potential and a very bright future," said the three-time Indy car champion and the 1986 Indianapolis 500 winner. "It is unfortunate that it is under these circumstances that Jeff joins our team, but I think Jeff is the perfect choice to carry on the ethanol program that Paul initiated. Jeff has paid his dues and worked his way up through the developmental series. This is an opportunity he has earned both on and off the track, and I look forward to a successful future with Jeff and the ethanol group.”

Simmons knows this opportunity is much different that his first two races in the IndyCar Series back in 2004.

“The last two times, (with Mo Nunn at Indy and Patrick at Kansas in 2004) I was just right climbed into the car and went right onto the race track," he explained. “It was nice to have some time to prepare for Motegi, and we had a good test at Indy (April 5). Rahal Letterman is one of the most professional teams I could ever hope to be associated with, and I truly appreciate the faith that Bobby and the Team Ethanol sponsors have placed in me.” Rahal Letterman Racing

TV News
NASCAR Texas TV rating NASCAR Texas TV ratingUPDATE The final rating for the Texas Nextel Cup race was a 5.4/13 share (8.674 million total viewers)and the final rating for the Busch Series race from Texas was a 2.4/6 share (3.562 million viewers). 

The rating is 5.3% lower than the 5.7/15 Fox earned for the Texas race in 2005, but that race was on a different weekend from the Masters, one of golf's four major events. The Masters traditionally draws strong television ratings. The 5.4 rating is 5.9 percent higher than Fox's 5.1/13 for its coverage of the 2005 Martinsville race, which aired opposite the Masters.

04/10/06 Fox's broadcast of Sunday's Samsung/RadioShack 500 NASCAR Nextel Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway earned an overnight Nielsen Media Research rating of 4.8 and an 11 market share.

The rating is 4 percent lower than the 5.0/11 Fox earned for the 2005 Texas race, but last year's race was a week later and was not broadcast opposite the Masters golf tournament, which typically draws strong ratings.

The Busch Series race pulled a healthy 2.4/6 share rating. on FOX. 

Champ Car Long Beach TV Rating Champ Car Long Beach TV RatingUPDATE #5 The 'final' TV rating for the Champ Car Long Beach race on NBC was a 0.6/1 share, the same as the overnight rating (=821,000 viewers).

04/14/06 A reminder that this race will re-air this afternoon on SPEED.

04/13/06 Dear AutoRacing1 -- don't despair over the poor ratings on the Long Beach GP, that would have been a tough time slot going against the Masters and NAPCAR. My only question is who are these fans that have 5-6 hours it takes to run a NASCAR race each Sunday? One of the strengths of open wheel is that they can put on a good race in the two hour, sometime three hour time segment, they just need more viewers. Dave Morgason

Dear Dave, The drivers are heroes in NASCAR and their fans will tune in to watch week in and week out, regardless of venue, regardless of timeslot, and despite the long length of their races. Mark C.

04/11/06 Another reader adds, Dear AutoRacing1.com, NBC26 in Green Bay showed a documentary about fish hatcheries, then a bunch of infomercials.  If they dare send somebody down to Road America in September to cover the Champ Car event they will definitely hear from me.

P.S.  Love the site, I grew up in West Allis, was a soda and popcorn vendor at the Mile and now live in Appleton, an hour from Road America.  I consider myself blessed we have two races in the state, when a lot of countries may be clamoring for one. Paul Borek

Dear AutoRacing1.com, I live in West Michigan and for the second straight year had to wait until 10 min after 4 pm for the start of the Champ Car race in Long Beach. NBC decided both years to cover the ending minutes of arena football games instead. Then they followed with post game interviews and highlights from the game. Then they go to commercial for another couple of minutes. At least this year the race wasn't already underway. NBC then rushed the ending and had Champ Car off the broadcast by 5:58, both years. I guess I should count myself lucky though as I at least got to see the race. Deke McTeer, MI.

04/10/06 A reader adds, It will continue to be difficult for Champ Car to draw better ratings when the affiliates of your so-called network TV "Partner" for the event refuse to broadcast the show in the core of Champ Car country. You cannot draw viewers if the broadcaster decides a Pilates Infomercial is more important.
I live in the Toledo, Ohio area. The local NBC affiliate did not show the race - instead showing a movie. The second option was to watch the race on the Detroit NBC affiliate WDIV. The race was listed by our cable provider to be broadcast by the Detroit station at 4 pm, EST. Instead of the race, the Detroit NBC affiliate had multiple paid infomercials from 4 to 5 pm. They started the Long Beach broadcast at 5 pm when the race was at lap 35. I registered my displeasure via e-mail to both the Toledo and Detroit stations. I also advised Champ Car of what was happening via e-mail. This lack of broadcast would have affected most of Southern Michigan and Northwest Ohio viewing of the race. If this is happening in a key market for the series, you have to wonder if it is happening elsewhere in the country, and what the overall impact on the race ratings are.
I am a long time hardcore CART / Champ Car fan and was extremely disappointed to be missing the start of something we "all" have been waiting for since the end of last season. Personally I cannot lay this at the feet of OWRS and Champ Car. It is the responsibility of their "Network Partner" to make sure the affiliates cover a paid event. I would think the network owes OWRS a rebate for dropping the ball on this broadcast.
As always, AutoRacing1.com is a great site and a bit of an addiction! Keep up the good work. John McHugh

Dear John, This may explain why historically Champ Car gets better ratings on CBS than NBC. Mark C.

04/10/06 The overnight rating for the Long Beach Champ Car race on NBC was a dismal 0.6/1 share, down 25% from last year's 0.8 rating.. It was up against the NASCAR race in Texas which got a 4.8 rating and the Master Golf Tournament which pulled a 9.0 rating. Next year the Long Beach race will be moved later in April to avoid the Masters.....finally.

Pennzoil to sponsor No. 6 Pennzoil to sponsor No. 6Pennzoil and Roush Racing announced today that Pennzoil Platinum will be the primary sponsor for the No. 06 Ford Fusion entry driven by Todd Kluever in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup race at Texas Motor Speedway on November 5.  Kluever's seven-race schedule will consist of Chicagoland Speedway, July 9; Michigan International Speedway, August 20; California Speedway, September 3; Kansas Speedway, October 1; Lowe's Motor Speedway, October 14; Texas Motor Speedway, November 5 and Phoenix International Raceway, November 12.  The other six races will be sponsored by his current Busch Series primary sponsor, 3M. "I really appreciate Pennzoil's support by sponsoring me in the NEXTEL Cup race at Texas this fall," Kluever said.  "Being a Texas-based company it seems to be a perfect fit for them and another great learning experience for me.  I hope to carry over the success my teammates have had in the Pennzoil Platinum car in the Busch Series over to NEXTEL Cup."  "Pennzoil has been a great sponsor of Roush Racing for several years now and I am pleased that they have extended their support to include a one-race primary sponsorship for Todd Kluever at Texas to help him prepare for next year," said Jack Roush.  "We've had a lot of success at Texas Motor Speedway over the past 10 years and I don't think they could have picked a better place to have Todd help promote their product.  It is great that we were able to extend our partnership with Roush Racing and Todd Kluever through the Pennzoil Platinum brand," said Paul Smith, vice president of marketing US for Pennzoil.  "Matt Kenseth will be driving the Pennzoil Platinum car in the Busch race on Saturday at Texas, so it will be great to also see Todd driving it in the NEXTEL Cup race on Sunday."
Brown Makes His Debut as the No. 99 Crew Chief Brown Makes His Debut as the No. 99 Crew ChiefCONCORD, N.C. - Although Wally Brown has been involved in racing almost his entire life, this will be the first weekend he sits atop the pit box and calls the race for Carl Edwards and the No. 99 Office Depot crew.  Brown is set to follow in the footsteps of Bob Osborne, who has led the No. 99 team since 2004.  When Jack Roush moved Osborne to the No. 26, this left a vacancy on the No. 99 team.  Roush looked to Brown, who has been the head engineer at Roush Racing since 2004 to fill the void. 

Brown joined Roush Racing in 2002 as the team engineer for the No. 6 car, piloted by Mark Martin.  During Brown's tenure as Martin's team engineer, he helped led the team to one victory, 17 top fives, and more than 30 top-10 finishes.  Brown remained with the No. 6 team until 2004, when the position of head engineer became available.  Ironically, it was Osborne who had left to become crew chief for the No. 99 team. 

While overseeing the engineering department, Brown helped Roush Racing secure a NEXTEL Cup Championship in 2004.  In 2005, Brown was a part of Roush's "Five for Five in 2005," which landed all five Roush cars in the "Chase for the Championship."  zzzz

Brown, a racer himself, started a relationship over 10 years ago with the driver of the No. 99 Office Depot car, Edwards.  "We go way back; Carl and I have known each other for a long time," said Brown.  "While we were both at Schrader Racing, Carl and I roomed together a bunch of times.  I remember the first time Schrader came in and said that we had to take care of his second cousin…never did I think I would be working with him again at this level."

"Wally Brown is an unbelievable guy who's a brilliant engineer," said Edwards.  "I actually met Wally at Kenny Schrader Racing about 10 years ago when I was working there for the summer, and Wally got his first job as an engineer. We roomed together and we were buddies. I'm sure when they said that Carl Edwards was going to drive the 99 car, everybody thought Jack was out of his mind. Wally, I think, is far more qualified to be a crew chief on our car than I was a driver.  Wally has worked really hard for this, and he's definitely smart enough."

Brown takes the helm of a team who currently finds themselves in the 22nd position in the point standings, but only 183 points out of the coveted 10th place.  Look for Edwards and Brown to make their first start together this weekend at the Phoenix International Raceway.  Phoenix holds a lot of "firsts" for the Office Depot team.  Phoenix International Raceway is where Edwards ran his first pavement race in 2001, and ironically, the same track Brown will make his first foray as a Nextel Cup crew chief. 

"I am excited to get to Phoenix this weekend, it is a track that Carl enjoys running and a track he has had a lot of success at.  My one goal is to not slow these guys down; Bob ran a great program over here.  I know we are all looking forward to a Saturday night race in Phoenix," said Brown.

Kevin Lacroix joins the Star Mazda series Kevin Lacroix joins the Star Mazda seriesSaint-Eustache, Quebec, 17 year-old rising star Kevin Lacroix has come to terms with Johnny Walko Racing (JWR) from Trafford, Pennsylvania and he will enter the Star Mazda series for the remainder of the calendar. The 2005 Formula BMW USA runner-up will step up to the second ladder of the series leading to the major leagues. He is testing this week with his new team at BeaveRun, a facility close to Pittsburgh. Although he missed the maiden race in Sebring last month, Lacroix claims he can catch up and race for the title of this very challenging series.

“I’m very happy to join JWR at this point, claims Kevin. This is the kind of team that will always give me a competitive car. Mister Walko enjoys a very high reputation in motorsports and his crew has done an outstanding job with the Mazda in the past, earning second place overall in the championship last year. I will make the most from those two days at BeaveRun where I raced before. I want to get as much seat time as possible and benefit from every lap with my crew. There is a big difference between my former Bimmer at 140 horsepower and the rotary 240 HP of this quick Mazda. I want to be ready for the Grand Prix in Houston. To be able to race in Montreal and Trois-Rivières only adds to the pleasure of entering that series.

Walko Racing
For Johnny Walko, he’s back to his own team operations. After a few years with Dan Anderson and many successes in different series, the engineer has decided to run his own team again in 2006. He even kept on board the same team that led Robbie Pecorari to a second place and best rookie in the championship. JWR and Lacroix will have another two days of testing at the end of the month at Mid-Ohio before they move on to Houston for the next race.

NASCAR going international with ESPN NASCAR going international with ESPNIn a significant move to continue to expand international television distribution of NASCAR, officials from ESPN International and NASCAR announced today that beginning in  2007, ESPN International will become the exclusive worldwide syndication agent for NASCAR outside of North America.  ESPN International will handle the worldwide television syndication rights for NASCAR and help identify broadcast partnerships on a country-by-country basis.  Through the partnership, NASCAR and ESPN will leverage their combined resources to expand the scope and reach of NASCAR coverage.

ESPN International is one of the leading syndicators of sports programming throughout the world and this relationship will help maximize coverage of NASCAR’s three major national series - the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, the NASCAR Busch Series and the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series - and provide a solid base of distribution.

"It is tremendously exciting for ESPN International to be selling such a high quality, dynamic sports product as NASCAR,” said Murray Barnett, Senior Director of Sales for ESPN International.  “We believe that ESPN International and NASCAR are a perfect match for the development of NASCAR's already impressive international TV distribution."

With a 10-month racing season, the longest of any major North American sport, NASCAR provides broadcasters with the most competitive series in all of motorsports and dedicated viewers from February to November. The power of the NASCAR brand, the sport’s unique side-by-side racing among athletes viewed by fans as genuine and accessible, combined with a strong global interest in motorsports, positions NASCAR as one of the leading sports entertainment properties in the world.

“This agreement is an important step in the continued growth of NASCAR beyond the U.S.,” said Robbie Weiss, International Managing Director for NASCAR.  “We are excited to partner with ESPN International and their worldwide syndication team to help strengthen NASCAR’s reach and bring NASCAR to audiences all over the world.  We believe this new partnership will provide great value to our fans as well as the entire NASCAR industry -- drivers, teams, media partners, licensees and sponsors.”

[Editor's Note: It looks like NASCAR is trying to usurp the international TV distribution that ABC/ESPN provided to the IRL via their current contract, something that would be important to open wheel racing in a merged series scenario. Make no mistake that this deal NASCAR has done with ABC/ESPN is a shot across the brow of the IRL/Champ Car.  What NASCAR doesn't realize is that the international community has very little connection with their form of racing and pretty much could care less.  Nonetheless, they are trying to become a major international sports property.  The first time a foreigner hears Darrell Waltrip say Boogity Boogity Boogity they will laugh, say stupid Americans, and click the channel changer.]

Graves Steps down at Ganassi Graves Steps down at GanassiChip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (CGRFS) announced today that Andy Graves has resigned his position as team manager and will be reassigned to a different position within the company. "Andy Graves has been a passionate and valued member of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates for the past seven years," said Team Owner Chip Ganassi. "I have an extremely high regard for him both professionally and personally and look forward to his continued contributions here at Chip Ganassi Racing." "It has been a privilege to work with Chip, Felix and the whole team over the last seven seasons," said Graves. "These years with the team have been a part of my life that I will never forget and for that I am truly grateful. I am now just looking forward to the next chapter of my career here at Chip Ganassi Racing." Graves was in his sixth season as team manager for CGRFS. He joined CGRFS in 2000 as one of its first employees and was promptly named team manager for the Indianapolis 500 team that would go on to capture the 2000 Indianapolis 500 crown. Graves was also instrumental in the transition from SABCO to CGRFS. On an interim basis the duties of team manager will be absorbed by the current management staff that is in place. Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates PR
Williams team makes upgrades ahead of Imola Williams team makes upgrades ahead of ImolaFormula One’s European season gets underway this weekend with the 26th San Marino Grand Prix to be held at the Autodromo Enzo e Dino Ferrari on 23rd April. Following a demanding start to this year’s Championship, which has seen the teams travel to three flyaway races in less than four weeks, the start of the European rounds invariably provides a more representative platform for the grid to display its true competitiveness.

Having won 30 per cent of the races held at Imola, the WilliamsF1 Team is the most successful Formula One team to have ever competed in the San Marino Grand Prix since the race’s inception in 1981. Following both retirements in Australia, the team has re-doubled its efforts to strengthen the reliability of the FW28 and is hopeful of improving its fortunes at a track which has often delivered results in the past.

Both Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg’s schedules have remained relatively clear following their return from Australia. Mark, however, will fulfill a single marketing commitment prior to the race this weekend on behalf of team sponsor, Reuters, and will spend Tuesday instructing the news group’s corporate guests in the art of single seater race craft at the Bedford Aerodrome. Upon arrival in Italy this week, he will also attend an award ceremony to collect the prestigious Trofeo Lorenzo Bandini for his performance over the 2005 season.

During the three week break between the Australian and San Marino Grands Prix, the team has completed two test sessions in Vallelunga and Barcelona. Alex Wurz undertook testing duties for the two days in Vallelunga, covering nearly 800kms while carrying out critical tire evaluations in preparation for Imola as well as running new suspension parts on the FW28. Last week’s Barcelona test saw all the Williams drivers out in force with a four day session at the Spanish track. zzzz

Webber, Rosberg, Wurz and Karthikeyan all assumed testing responsibilities, recording just under 3,000kms while working on reliability issues and improving the performance of the FW28. As part of the team’s continual development programme, the cars were run with various new mechanical components as well as new aero items, all of which will be rolled out at the next race.

Steeped in history and with awe-inspiring corners such as Rivazza, Acqua Minerale and the Piratella, Imola is rightly regarded as one of the most evocative circuits on the calendar. However, it is also a physically challenging track that demands driver aggression and a balanced car package for perfect handling. A car only with outstanding curb-riding abilities will survive the 62 lap race as the drivers will be forced to wrestle with ten left and six right-hand turns over each 4.933 kilometer lap. Combined with the mix of long, high speed straights and medium to high speed corners common to Imola, optimum mechanical set-up will be crucial for success in San Marino.

Mark Webber
“Being the first European race of the season, Imola is always keenly awaited by everyone as it feels as though we’re finally back home after the first three flyaways and that the new season is really underway. There’s always a pretty good atmosphere in the paddock as we return to working out of our motorhomes and the whole set-up has a much more traditional and familiar feel. The track itself provides us with a unique challenge as it’s somewhere we really have to use the curbs quite a lot. I’ve always enjoyed racing at Imola and, falling after a successful test at Barcelona last week when both Bridgestone and Williams made good progress with the tires and car respectively, I’m looking forward to getting the car on the track.”
Nico Rosberg
“I’m looking forward to my first Formula One race in Imola. Bridgestone have made some good progress on their compounds for cooler temperatures, as we saw in Melbourne. The team’s test went well in Barcelona last week and I believe we made good progress, especially with the aero package. I know the Imola track from GP2 so that will be a help to me, definitely, so we will see how it goes.”

Sam Michael, Technical Director, WilliamsF1
“Since the last race, the team has been testing at Vallelunga and Barcelona to improve the car’s reliability and performance. We have identified the problem we had on Mark’s gearbox in Melbourne and put corrections in place to avoid that type of failure again.

“Imola mainly consists of medium and high speed corners and chicanes. The curb riding requirements at San Marino tend to dominate the mechanical set-up of the car, but high speed stability is also important. We will have some aerodynamic and mechanical improvements on the FW28, all of which form part of our normal season-long development programme. Bridgestone have been working hard to improve tire grip on low temperature surfaces and, as a result of this work, we will have two new tire designs in Imola. Tire wear is not an issue, however, particularly with such a short pitlane and the effect that has on fuel strategy for the race. The FW28 has proved its competitiveness in the first three races of 2006 and with greater reliability we should be able to run near the front of the grid.”

Simon Corbyn, Head of F1 Race Engineering, Cosworth
“In order to ensure the best possible engine reliability in Imola, both drivers will start the event with fresh CA2006 Series 2 engines. As neither Mark nor Nico finished the previous race, they will not suffer a grid penalty as a result of this decision. Cosworth continue to work closely with Williams to carefully manage race engine usage and running conditions, while the usual challenge of delivering the best possible performance without compromising engine reliability remains.” Press release Williams

Phoenix storylines Phoenix storylinesAs the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series gets ready for their race in Phoenix this weekend, the following stories are ones to follow.

As a Phoenix, Ariz., native, J.J. Yeley (No. 18 Interstate Batteries Chevrolet) will enjoy family, home cooking and a brighter than usual spotlight in advance of Saturday night’s Subway Fresh 500 at Phoenix International Raceway.

•  One of seven Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidates in the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, Yeley in his first year season succeeding former series champion Bobby Labonte (No. 43 Cheerio’s/Betty Crocker Dodge) at Joe Gibbs Racing.

•  Yeley also is one of seven NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers competing fulltime in the NASCAR Busch Series, where he drives JGR’s No. 18 Vigoro/Home Depot Chevrolet. Yeley is fourth in the series standings.

• Yeley currently ranks fifth in the Raybestos rookie standings, 10 points behind leader and JGR teammate Denny Hamlin (No. 11 FedEx Chevrolet). He’s 24th in the series standings, but has turned in several promising performances, most notably in the series’ last event at Texas, where a top-10 run was spoiled by an accident.

•  Yeley has one top-10 finish through seven events (eighth place at California). He also has three top-five starts – fourth at California, fifth at Atlanta and second at Texas.

•  The return to Phoenix brings Yeley full circle as well as home; it was there, last November, that JGR announced he would succeed Labonte.  zzzz


J.J Yeley’s other JGR teammate – defending series champion Tony Stewart (No. 20 Home Depot Chevrolet) – also likes Phoenix, but for different reasons. He has one win (1999) and five top-10s in eight NASCAR NEXTEL Cup starts at Phoenix and knows the one-mile track as well as anyone.

•  Stewart’s familiarity with the one-mile venue isn’t limited to NASCAR NEXTEL Cup experience. Including the latter, he has raced in six different series at Phoenix – the NASCAR Busch Series, USAC Midgets, USAC Silver Crown, Indy cars and Supermodifieds.

•  The second annual spring event at Phoenix couldn’t come at a better time for Stewart. A traditionally slow starter, he already appears in midseason form with one win (Martinsville) and three top-five finishes in his last four events. Stewart is fifth in the series standings, 97 points behind leader Jimmie Johnson (No. 48 Lowe’s Chevrolet).

• Stewart has one win (November 1999) and five top-10 finishes at Phoenix. He also leads three season-to-date categories in NASCAR’s Loop Data statistics – Average Running Position (7.026), Driver Rating (118.2) and Mile Leaders (694.57). He also leads all drivers with 784 laps led, but interestingly, hasn’t led a lap in his last six Phoenix races. Stewart finished 33rd there last spring and fourth last November.


Tony Stewart and J.J. Yeley aren’t the only NASCAR NEXTEL Cup drivers with an affinity for Phoenix. Dale Earnhardt Jr. (No. 8 Budweiser Chevrolet), Jeff Burton (No. 31 Cingular Wireless), Mark Martin (No. 6 AAA Ford) and Dale Jarrett (No. 88 UPS Ford) are among those who excel at the one-mile track.

•  Earnhardt and Burton lead all active drivers with two wins at Phoenix. Earnhardt’s wins came in 2003 and 2004. Burton won in 2000 and 2001.

•  Jarrett won at Phoenix in 1997. He is one of three active drivers – Martin and Ken Schrader (No. 21 Little Debbie Ford) are the other two – who has competed in all 19 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup events at Phoenix.

•  The Busch brothers – Kurt and Kyle – are the defending winners at Phoenix. Kurt Busch (No. 2 Miller Lite Dodge) won last year’s inaugural spring event while Kyle Busch (No. 5 Kellogg’s Chevrolet) won the traditional November race. Kyle Busch’s 4.5 average finish in two Phoenix events is the best of all drivers. Kurt Busch’s four straight top-10 finishes at Phoenix is the longest current streak there.

•  Martin’s only win at Phoenix came in 1993, but his 13 top-10 finishes there lead all drivers. His 471 laps led in 19 Phoenix races is the best of any active driver. Recently-retired Rusty Wallace leads all drivers with 868 laps led at Phoenix.


Kevin Harvick (No. 29 GM Goodwrench Chevrolet) began last week’s Easter off-week on a roll and all signs point to the continuation of it. He’s back in the top 10 for the first time since last year’s June event at Michigan, and has moved from 23rd in the series standings to ninth in three races.

•  Even an off-week didn’t slow down Harvick. He won the Easter weekend NASCAR Busch Series event at Nashville Superspeedway, his first NASCAR Busch Series win this season, and also leads the series standings.

•  Harvick has one top five (a fourth-place finish in 2004) in six Phoenix events. He finished 19th in last year’s spring event and 23rd in November. Harvick also finished fifth two weeks ago at Texas, the series’ last outing before the Easter off-week.

•  Things also are going well on the ownership side for Harvick. He and wife DeLana own Kevin Harvick Inc., which fields the NASCAR Busch Series team of Raybestos Rookie of the Year candidate Burney Lamar (No. 77 Dollar General Chevrolet) and the No. 33 Outdoor Life Channel Chevrolet driven at Nashville by Ron Hornaday Jr. Lamar, who finished seventh behind Harvick at Nashville, is now 10th in the series standings.

•  KHI also owns the No. 33 Chevrolet team driven by Hornaday in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Hornaday is 19th in the series standings.


Yet another driver joins Atlantic Series Yet another driver joins Atlantic SeriesINDIANAPOLIS – The depth of talent in the 2006 Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda was clearly on display in the series’ opening round of competition at Long Beach in early April. The Atlantic Championship continues to grow and add more skilled racers to its impressive lineup, however, with today’s announcement that one of Australia’s top developing open-wheel drivers will join the series. Transnet Racing has solidified its two-car effort for ‘06 by naming Aussie young gun Barton Mawer as its second driver for the remaining 11 races this season.

Mawer, a 24-year-old racer from Camden, Australia, has spent the last several seasons competing successfully at the Formula 3 level. He joins the fourth-year Transnet team for his rookie season in the Champ Car Atlantic Championship driving the #17 entry with sponsorship from the Australian Motorsport Foundation. Mawer will be paired with British driver Charles Hall (#16 Accent Card/OmniSource/Dixien) to create a solid two-car lineup for Transnet Racing in 2006. Photo by LAT/Champ Car Atlantic Championship

“I am very pleased to have Barton join us,” said Alex Garcia, co-owner of the Transnet team. “He brings great experience and will be a tremendous asset to Transnet Racing. Bart has adapted very well to the team and has shown great dedication, spending his spare time working with the guys at the shop. I expect to see him at the front of the field in 2006.” zzzz

In 2005, Mawer shined in the British Formula 3 International Championship, claiming second in the series national class standings. He scored six wins and 12 podium finishes on his way to the runner-up performance. The son of David Mawer, who designed Australian Formula Fords in the 1970s, Barton also won the Formula 3 support race at last year’s Australian Grand Prix. He posted nine consecutive podium results in the 2004 British Formula 3 scholarship class after collecting five wins and five poles to finish as Australian Formula 3 series runner up in 2003.

Mawer was present and working with the team throughout the season-opening weekend at Long Beach, April 7-9. He watched as Hall qualified 16th for the team and unfortunately witnessed an early exit for Transnet on race day. Hall ran well for most of the race but was forced to retire after making contact with a tire wall just eight laps from the finish of the 32-lap event. Both Hall and Mawer are anxious to make their debut as a team in Round 2 of the Atlantic Championship – May 11-13 at the Grand Prix of Houston's Fast Trac 100 Atlantic event. For more information on Transnet, log on to www.transnetracing.com.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for me,” said Mawer. “Having watched the first race at Long Beach with the team I am really excited to join the action at Houston. Transnet is a very professional team and I feel a part of the family already. I just can't wait to get to the track.”

The Champ Car Atlantic Championship continues to be the premier open-wheel development series in North America. In its 33rd season in 2006, the championship is noted for its long history of graduating its stars into Champ Car competition and has helped produce past Champ Car champions Paul Tracy, Jimmy Vasser, Bobby Rahal, Danny Sullivan, Michael Andretti and Jacques Villeneuve. 2006 Champ Car competitors Alex Tagliani, Andrew Ranger, Katherine Legge and 2005 Atlantic champion Charles Zwolsman are established Atlantic graduates along with 2004 Champ Car Rookie of the Year and 2003 Atlantic champ A.J. Allmendinger. Competing in newly-designed Swift 016.a chassis powered by a 2.3-liter Mazda-Cosworth engine and riding on Yokohama ADVAN Racing Slicks, 2006 competitors will fight for the 12-race championship and the unique $2 million Champ Car series champion’s bonus. For more information on the series and to view this season’s races on demand, please visit www.champcaratlantic.com. Champ Car

Ruby Tuesday backs AJR Grand-Am team Ruby Tuesday backs AJR Grand-Am teamAlex Job Racing and the Ruby Tuesday restaurant chain have joined forces for the remainder of 2006 and the full 2007 Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series.

The sponsorship arrangement, AJR's first title deal in Grand-Am, will debut at this weekend's round at Virginia International Raceway, with the rechristened Ruby Tuesday Championship Team looking to add a second win in its debut Rolex campaign following victory at Homestead in round three. AJR had originally planned to dip a toe in the water at the season-opening Daytona 24 Hours, but has rapidly become a threat for the overall series title.

"We have solidified our place on the track and in the Daytona Prototype standings with the first three races, and this relationship helps to secure the future of our programme," said team owner Alex Job.

"We were very fortunate to have racing sponsors that helped us to get our start in prototype racing for the first three events, but Ruby Tuesday's involvement, led by strategic partner Brad Blum of BLUM Enterprises, has provided us with a comprehensive programme that puts our team in an excellent position to compete for this year's Daytona Prototype championship, as well as carry us over to 2007."

Industry News
Toyota trying to win the hearts of Americans Toyota trying to win the hearts of AmericansFor years the saying went, what's good for General Motors is good for America.

Japanese automaker Toyota Motor Corp. has a new promotional campaign that says it's good for America, too.

Billboards along highways in areas of the country such as the Cincinnati-northern Kentucky region, where Toyota employs about 8,800 people, tout the U.S. economic impact of the company, which is on its way to passing GM as the world's largest automaker.

The messages highlight numbers, such as 13 -- "Donuts in a baker's dozen; Toyota's U.S. investment, in billions," and 386,000 -- "Kilometers to the moon; U.S. jobs created by Toyota." The billboards are in about two dozen U.S. markets where Toyota has factories or supplier operations.

"Our intent is to raise awareness of our growing U.S. presence," said Patricia Pineda, group vice president for corporate communications of Toyota Motor North America. "Our research tells us that consumers want to learn more about Toyota's U.S. presence."

She said Toyota highlights its U.S. investments and "level of commitment" to the country in a campaign that began last month and also includes radio spots and airport advertising.  More at Detroit Free Press

formula bmw
The Gelles Racing Juggernaut The Gelles Racing JuggernautWhat has become more and more popular in NASCAR has only been replicated by that multi-tentacle Red Bull racing monster and the 4 car teams that ASM and Signature have entered in the F3 Euro Series. Over in North America though, Gelles Racing has decided to "super-size" their Formula BMW USA team and based on their pre-season form it looks like they will be the team to beat.

Most racing teams these days have their hands full with a 2 car squad and some manage to competitively run 4 cars but Bob Gelles has decided to enter, count 'em six drivers in the 2006 Formula BMW USA championships, one of the world's pre-eminent driver development programs and what a multi-national cast he has assembled! From the United States John Zartarian is returning to the team after a rough Formula BMW USA season last year. "I had my ups and downs last year admitted the driver from Carlsbad, California but my seventh place in Road Atlanta after running as high as third proved I belonged to this series and Gelles was the only team I wanted to compete with this year because they are so professional in every aspect." Clearly he has something to prove to the skeptics so it will be interesting to watch his progress.

Joining Zartarian are three Canadian hot shots with an impressive combination of speed and potential.

Lethbridge, Alberta native Ryan Campbell has one year of Formula BMW experience under his belt which has already paid dividends as he has been consistently fast in pre-season testing. He has shattered track records and topped the time sheets in testing so far and has been the class of the field. Campbell definitely enters the 2006 season as a favorite to win the title.  Source: canadiankartingnews.com

A lap around Imola with Kimi Raikkonen A lap around Imola with Kimi RaikkonenMcLaren driver Kimi Raikkonen takes us on a trip around the famous Imola, Italy track ahead of this weekend's GP

“Accelerating hard along the short pit straight at Imola, you reach 290km/h in sixth gear as you wind through the scenic Italian countryside. You brake hard for the left-right-left Tamburello chicane, which is negotiated at 131km/h in second gear through the left-hand entry. You lift slightly for the middle of the chicane, a right hander, and as you exit the final left flick, you push hard and flat on the throttle, achieving a speed of 289km/h in sixth gear along the straight that leads to Villeneuve.

The left-right chicane is taken at 233km/h in fifth gear. A short burst of power takes you down to the tight left hairpin of Tosa, which is negotiated at 95km/h in second. On the exit you climb up the hill towards the flowing Piratella. Powering up through the gears, you reach 281km/h in fifth gear along the straight before hitting the brakes for the 181km/h bumpy left-hander. The track then drops downhill, this sees you reach some 251km/h in sixth gear before dabbing the brakes for the slight left hand flick before braking hard for the bumpy right of Acque Minerali, which is taken in second gear at 117km/h. zzzz

Accelerating out of the Acque Minerali, your speed increases to 285km/h in fifth gear on the straight that leads you to the Variante Alta. This chicane is negotiated at a minimum speed of 135km/h in second gear and sees the cars riding the curbs quite hard. This leads you onto another straight, which sees your speed increase to 309km/h in sixth gear. Braking for Rivazza is quite difficult and hard for the brakes as the track drops downhill, the double left swings you round 180 degrees and is taken at 101km/h in second.

On the exit you accelerate hard along the Variante Bassa straight, which sees you reach 285km/h in sixth before braking hard for the right-left flick of Traguardo. Taken in second gear at 96km/h, the final chicane flicks you back onto the start-finish straight to begin another lap.”

Q and A with Renault's Denis Chevrier Q and A with Renault's Denis Chevrier
Q: Denis, we are three races into the V8 era. What have been the lessons so far?

Denis Chevrier (DC): "I think that reliable engines were something we had taken for granted until the end of last year. With the move to the V8, we have seen many enforced engine changes, and failures in the race – including with Giancarlo in Bahrain. Few teams have avoided this, and that reflects how much effort is involved in developing the V8. Certainly, the engine’s strategic importance has been greater during these opening races than ever before."

Q: Why have there been so many problems?

DC: "The V8s are still young engines, and I don’t think any team was 100% ready for the start of the season. At Renault, we had done a lot of mileage in the winter, encountered problems that we had worked hard to resolve, and started the season in a stronger position than some of our rivals. But every manufacturer is still working through the challenges encountered early in the life of a new engine, and nobody can yet say they have solved them all."

Q: In terms of performance, how does the Renault engine compare to the competition?

DC: "The conclusions we can draw show that engine performance is very similar from team to team. There are some small differences in peak revs, for example, but there are no bad V8 engines out there. Now, the challenge is to add performance to what is still a young engine, without compromising reliability. It is not an easy job."

Q: What are the challenges with developing the V8 engines?

DC: "Simply, it is harder to find performance than it was with the V10, especially this early in the engine’s development. But on the other hand, the competition is closer-matched than last year, which makes development even more important. Several teams are at an equal level on ultimate performance, and the first one to gain the upper hand could take a decisive advantage. So nobody can afford to relax, and we are putting the same resources and effort into our development as in previous years." zzzz 

Q: What has been the secret to Renault’s success in the opening races?

DC: "I think we have seen that our project was a little better prepared than some of our competitors, and we are very proud to have won the final race of the V10 era, and the opening races of the V8 period. It has been interesting to compare our performance, because we have learned that pure performance on a single lap is not necessarily our strongest suit at the moment. In qualifying conditions, we are very close to a number of teams. But we seem to have an advantage over a full race distance."

Q: Where does the advantage come from?

DC: "We have designed the car and engine to win races – not just to get pole positions. From an engine point of view, that may mean we are able to run higher revs for longer, but overall, we have a car that gives the drivers the confidence to attack from the first lap to the last. We know that it is hard to gain a significant advantage in single lap performance under these regulations. On the other hand, the ability to run the car in a competitive configuration from the first laps to the last can be decisive."

Q: The RS26B arrives in Imola. What are the differences?

DC: "It is a normal evolutionary step early in the development cycle: we have looked to gain performance by increasing the peak revs, and improving areas like cylinder filling and combustion. In qualifying trim, we expect a gain of several tenths of a second and the final dyno tests before the Grand Prix will allow us to determine exactly how much additional performance is available during the race."

Q: Will both drivers use the engine at Imola?

DC: "No, it will only be available for Giancarlo to use. His retirement in Bahrain put him ‘out of cycle’ relative to our development schedule, and we had to take a decision on whether to accelerate the introduction of the B spec, which had been planned for race 5. We decided it was important to do so, and have pushed our processes to make it happen. However, this early debut may lead us to use to conserve some of the engine’s potential performance during the race in order to not compromise reliability. Fernando will receive the B spec engine at the Nürburgring, as per our original schedule." Renault

Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Midland sign another tester
Newey reveals 'bitter' McLaren row
Schu rumor 'stupid', says Todt
Alonso scolds 'partying' rivals
Ferrari, BMW, to go 'seamless'
F1 tunnel upgrade underway, says MF1
Ferrari lost 'secrets' to rivals - Brawn
New Honda for Imola
Schu 'can win' at Imola
Mateschitz supports single-tire F1
Schu could decide future next month
Renault's 'easy' dominance in 2006
Fisi's Imola advantage
NASCAR Pioneer Louise Smith dies NASCAR Pioneer Louise Smith diesLouise Smith, one of the true pioneers of auto racing, passed away on April 15th at the age of 89. Smith was the second of three female drivers who competed in what is now the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series when the series premiered in 1949. By then she had already made a name for herself in the pre-war coupes known as modifieds on the dirt tracks of the Carolinas.

Louise Smith’s career in NASCAR’s top series consisted of 11 starts from 1949 to 1952 with a career-high 16th place finish coming at Langhorne, Pa. in 1949. Photo Credit: Motorsports Images & Archives

A statement by NASCAR Vice President Jim Hunter summed up Smith’s life. “Louise Smith had a passion for stock car racing that never dimmed. She was just as enthusiastic in the past few years as she was in the beginning. She loved our sport and the sport loved her back. Everyone who knew her will miss her. She certainly helped pave the way for the female drivers in the sport today”.

Smith and her husband owned a large auto recycling business in Greenville, S.C. and in later years they were known to sponsor many young drivers on their way to stardom, with two-time NASCAR Busch Series champion Larry Pearson among them.

Keller, Wimmer released from teams Keller, Wimmer released from teamsPhoenix Racing on Monday decided to make a driver change in the No.1 Miccosukee Resort Dodge effective this weekend at Phoenix. Mike Wallace will take over driving duties from Jason Keller on an interim basis as Phoenix Racing evaluates their program. "We have the utmost respect for Jason and his accomplishments in the sport and wish him the very best," said James Finch, owner of Phoenix Racing Inc.

Keller, a 13-year veteran, was scheduled to make his 400th career NASCAR Busch Series start this weekend. Currently second on the all-time starts list, the native of Greenville, S.C., was on pace to break the mark of 417 held by Tommy Houston. Keller, the only driver to surpass $9 and $10 million in NASCAR Busch Series career winnings, was 12th in the series point standings following last Saturday’s 16th-place finish at Nashville.

Also, driver Chris Wimmer and Keith Coleman Racing have mutually parted ways also effective Monday. “I wish things would have worked out differently between Keith Colman Racing and me,” he said.  “Sometimes, a fresh start is what both the driver and the team needs.  I wish them the best of luck as they continue their season and I am looking forward to see what other opportunities may arise for me.”

Wimmer, a Raybestos Rookie, qualified for his second race of 2006 at Nashville, but finished 40th due to an accident. A replacement driver for the No. 23 Chevrolet was not immediately announced.

V8s just as hard on tires V8s just as hard on tiresPeople automatically think that less power makes it easier on the tires," says Hisao Suganuma, Bridgestone's Technical Manager. "But that's not strictly the case. There is always wear it just depends on the level.”

The return of tire changes has meant that compounds are softer than they were last year, when one set of tires had to last a whole race. But the main reason for the high wear rates this year is due to increased cornering forces. The slow and medium speed corners are negotiated at similar speeds to last year, but there has been a huge increase in speed through fast corners.

"At the final corner at Barcelona," says Williams star Mark Webber, "we're going 9mph faster than we were last year.

"We're easy-flat through there with the V8s, so the speed is partly due to increased grip from the tires and partly due to the cars being better than last year because the aerodynamic rules remained the same over the winter."

Such an increase in lateral load has a big impact on wear rates over the course of a 20-lap race stint. "A tire from last year would have the same wear rate this year because of these cornering speeds," says Suganuma. "This makes up for the lack of power." zzzz

At some of the slower tracks, where the tires are not exposed to long, fast cornering, some teams - notably Toyota in Bahrain - have struggled to get heat into their rear tires.

But Bridgestone have successfully worked with its five teams to overcome this problem and the evidence was plain to see in Australia, where Ralf Schumacher finished third for Toyota.

As for horsepower, the engine manufacturers claim that they will find V10 levels of power from the V8s within six years. More wheelspin and high cornering forces? Now that would be a real strain on the tires. Source Bridgestone

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