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Strous maintains points lead despite feeling the heat in Long Beach
Junior Strous' burnt car
Bob HeathcoteAR1.com
What a difference a couple of weeks make.

Junior Strous was on top of the world after sweeping the season-opening doubleheader weekend at St. Petersburg.

At Long Beach, his hot streak came to an end - after his car caught fire on the opening laps of the Firestone Indy Lights Grand Prix of Long Beach.

"The car was good, but on the first lap, I started seeing errors on my dash,” Strous said. “Then in Turn 8, the car started to bog down. I looked back and saw flames and parked it immediately. I have to give credit to the marshals, because they did a great job getting to car and helped limit the damage to the car."

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Primetime Race Group expands into Atlantic Championship
As the 2009 racing season begins to unfold, Primetime Race Group has decided to spread its diversity into the Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda with the addition of a two-car effort aimed at the $1 million series championship.

American Le Mans Series Team owner Joel Feinberg and team manager Brent O’Neill, in a joint venture with entrepreneur Jamie Rand, have acquired the 2008 championship-winning No. 8 car and the No. 88 car from Brooks Associates Racing. The team intends to campaign both cars for a repeat performance in the 2009 championship.

“These cars are proven to be competitive and for them to not be running at a time when the grids need to be filled made our decision an easy one,” O’Neill said. “The entire Atlantic organization including Mazda, Cooper Tires, and Ben Johnston have provided an unmatched opportunity to race at a competitive level giving drivers the ability to earn big money and big exposure.”

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Max Papis & Paul Tracy Geico Ad
Check out the Max Papis and Paul Tracy TV ad spot that we added to our home page under the video section.


Strong Indianapolis 500 Field Includes Four Winners
Four past winners are among the highlights of the 40 entries received for the 2009 Indianapolis 500, scheduled for Sunday, May 24 at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

The four winners on this year's list are Helio Castroneves (2001-02), Dan Wheldon (2005), Dario Franchitti (2007) and Scott Dixon (2008).

Twenty-eight drivers have been named to the 40 entries filed this year for the 33 starting spots in the world's most prestigious auto race. Seventy-seven cars comprise the 40 entries. There were 39 entries on the initial 2008 entry list.

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FIA backs Parr's 'illegal Ferrari' claims
(GMM)  The FIA on Monday backed Adam Parr's claim that Ferrari said it fielded technically illegal cars in formula one.

A spat broke out in Shanghai between the Italian team and Parr, who is Williams chief executive.

Ferrari team boss Stefano Domenicali, backed by Renault's Flavio Briatore, hit out at Parr, after comments attributed to him suggested Ferrari had used illegal cars in the past.

But on Monday, the FIA said Ferrari did indeed admit to committing "a technical violation" of the technical regulations in the past during the Court of Appeal hearing last Tuesday.

"Ferrari acknowledged that multiple vertical transitions had been used by many teams in the past, including Ferrari itself, and argued that all such prior uses (including its own) had constituted a technical violation of the (technical regulations) which had been tolerated," the Court of Appeal finding said.

The FIA published the court's 20-page findings in full on Monday.

In the document, the court - which found in favor of the diffuser teams Brawn, Toyota and Williams - acknowledged the loophole that led to the saga.

Amazingly, the diffuser teams and their rivals had argued at length about whether holes in the controversial designs were actually holes.

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Castroneves Wind Tunnel Quotes
After being acquitted of multiple federal tax-related charges on Friday and finishing seventh in the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on Sunday, driver Helio Castroneves sat down for a conversation with host Dave Despain last night on the popular SPEED™ program Wind Tunnel. Below is a transcript of the interview:

Despain: It sure is nice to see you back racing instead of the alternative. Congratulations.

Castroneves: Thank you so much, Dave. It sure is nice to be back. It sure is nice to be talking with you and talking about racing. It was a long six months and this is the best way to be back and to put my mind on what I know and what I think I was born to do. I’m really happy to be racing again.

Castroneves on being back in the car: It was very difficult in the beginning … on the parade lap. A lot of our fans were cheering us on and it was very emotional. I was able to put my helmet on put (the trial) aside and get back to racing. I still need a little WD-40 to get back in shape, but it was a great race and very exciting.

Despain: Let’s go ahead and close book on the trial. Assuming the verdict was the high point in this ordeal, what was the low point?

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BMW will not write off 2009 season - Theissen
(GMM)  Unlike Ferrari, BMW is not close to assessing whether or not to write off the 2009 season, team boss Mario Theissen insists.

It was reported on Monday that, after another point-less weekend in Shanghai, Ferrari will sit down after the forthcoming Spanish grand prix to consider turning all efforts to regrouping in 2010.

BMW-Sauber at least has a few points on the board, but is far from its pre-season ambition of being in a position to fight for the championship.

"We are not content with our start to the season, but we will not give up our goals after the third of 17 races," Theissen is quoted as saying by Germany's SID news agency.

"We must understand the car's shortcomings," the German continued, "and make big steps forward from now.  The arrears is able to be recovered."

Theissen, however, acknowledged that because the 'double diffuser' solution is more complicated than it appears, a fully-developed version may not be part of the major Barcelona upgrade.


BMW hopes to hit back in Bahrain
The caravan moves swiftly on: this weekend sees the fourth race in the FIA Formula One World Championship, held in the desert kingdom of Bahrain. It was here in 2008 that Robert Kubica gained the first pole position for the BMW Sauber F1 Team.

Robert Kubica: "Overall I really like the track, although it is not really challenging. The Bahrain International Circuit has a couple of long straights and three characteristically low-speed corners that require heavy braking. Wind can play an important role in Sakhir as it influences the balance of the car. Also, the wind blows sand onto parts of the track, which leads to changing grip conditions. Luckily we had the chance to test the F1.09 car in Bahrain in February, although weather conditions were unstable and windy then. Last year we performed quite well in Bahrain, after securing pole position in qualifying I managed to finish the race on the podium."

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Brawn GP announces new associate sponsor UPDATE This three-year deal is thought to be worth $1.5 million per season for 3 years for a total of $4.5M.

04/16/09 Brawn GP is pleased to announce a new three-year partnership with successful foreign exchange trading company, M I G Investments.

Based in Neuchâtel, Switzerland, M I G Investments is a leading Swiss Forex broker founded and managed by the Mansour family. The company has experienced strong growth since its foundation in 2003, with 70 employees providing specialised FX services to clients in over 120 countries. In December 2008, M I G Investments submitted its application for a Swiss banking license. 

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Hamilton had car crash last Saturday UPDATE #2 British expat and Formula One driving champion Lewis Hamilton reportedly runs a stop sign and crashes his Mercedes into a Peugeot driven by a woman, accompanied by her child, in the Geneva suburb where he lives. The car struck is a write-off but Geneva police say they have no report of the incident, although a newspaper columnist says officers managed to obtain the McLaren driver’s autograph after investigating the case.

Lewis Hamilton may be a master on the motor racing circuit but the British Grand Prix champion and expat Geneva resident is apparently less adept on city streets.

Hamilton crashed his black Mercedes into a Peugeot 206, driven by a 39-year-old woman with her four-year-old daughter, at an intersection in Vésenaz, a municipality in the canton of Geneva, where the 24-year-old driving ace established his official residence last year.

The Peugeot was totaled after Hamilton ran a stop sign, the woman told a columnist at the Tribune de Genève. Despite the major damage, she and the child were uninjured in the collision, which took place at 5.30 pm on Saturday, March 14.

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Highcroft lodges appeal
Highcroft Racing has lodged an appeal against the penalty that cost them victory in Saturday's American Le Mans Series race at Long Beach. Scott Sharp had taken the lead from De Ferran Motorsports' Simon Pagenaud in the first stint and was leading when he came in to hand the Highcroft Acura over to David Brabham.

But the car was held for an additional 20 seconds by the IMSA observer in the pit, who observed that the crew member holding the fire extinguisher was not wearing the correct helmet.

"You hate to lose one this way especially when nobody did anything wrong," said Scott Sharp. "We got a bogus penalty and when we later heard that the equipment was fine and the fire extinguisher guy has been wearing the same helmet for the past couple of years.  That is really a shame because the car was running great and I think we could have won this one."

"We were subsequently told that we shouldn't have received the penalty, but it had already been served," said team boss Duncan Dayton. "They actually held us for 24 seconds. We had no choice but to protest the decision and it is pending review."


Latest F1 news in brief
  • FOTA to discuss Brawn's 30m on May 6
  • Senna confirms F1 remains goal for 2009
  • Ferrari aim to revive KERS for Bahrain
  • Piquet's Renault to have diffuser in Bahrain
  • Webber backs Shanghai safety car start
  • Vettel cut his finger on Shanghai podium
  • Toyota to shed up to 150 F1 staff
  • McLaren boss says foes 'out to get us

FOTA to discuss Brawn's 30m on May 6
(GMM)  The FOTA meeting that could cost the Brawn team up to 30 million euros has been scheduled for May 6, the week of the Spanish grand prix.

Furious about the diffuser saga, Flavio Briatore - FOTA's commercial chief - will propose at the meeting that Brawn GP not receive any of the sport's TV or travel revenue for at least three years.

"I don't want to be Robin Hood," the Spanish press quotes the Renault boss as saying, "but I do not have money in my budget for a diffuser and I cannot finish the season a second behind Brawn.

"I believe the distribution of the money must be reviewed," Briatore said.

Briatore also said in Shanghai last weekend that he will move to oust Ross Brawn as head of FOTA's technical committee.

The German news agency SID reports that 70 per cent of the teams would have to agree that money due to the Honda team in 2009 be paid to the new Brawn guise.

Ross Brawn was reluctant to comment.

"I'm not going to respond.  It's a shame that he brings those things into the public arena as they're FOTA business, but that's his style.  I'd rather not talk about it," he said.

Senna confirms F1 remains goal for 2009
(GMM)  Bruno Senna has confirmed suggestions that his goal is to enter formula one perhaps as soon as this season.

The 25-year-old Brazilian last week turned down Mercedes-Benz's offer of a 2009 seat in the German touring car series DTM.

German news agency SID reports that the reason for the snub is that Norbert Haug could not guarantee the 2008 GP2 runner-up a formula one seat for 2010.

It is claimed that Senna is now holding out for a drive this year, as names including Giancarlo Fisichella, Kazuki Nakajima, Sebastien Bourdais and Nelson Piquet come under increasing pressure to perform.

"Formula one is the goal, which is subordinate to everything else this year," said Senna, whose uncle Ayrton died during the 1994 San Marino grand prix.

SID reports that his biggest hope of a vacant cockpit this year is for the one currently occupied by his countryman Rubens Barrichello.

"Bernie (Ecclestone) told me that I should not too tightly commit myself (outside of F1)," Senna admitted.

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Racing News

Quotes of the Week
"Flavio would not recognize a diffuser even it is were stuffed with money." Sir Frank Williams, Team Principal, Williams, amusingly responded to Briatore's anger about the diffuser affair.

"Anyone is better [than Ross Brawn], even the first Chinese taxi driver you see in the street." Flavio Briatore
, Team Principal, Renault, commenting that he will propose that FOTA replace Ross Brawn who is currently the head of FOTA's technical committee.  Briatore is furious about Brawn's victory in the rear diffuser controversy, claiming the situation has cost most Formula One teams millions and compromised F1's credibility.

"After the death of Senna the principle was to not give certain (ground) effects to the cars, but now suddenly it's all legal.  Our drivers are or have been world champions, and then you have a (Brawn) driver who was almost retired, and another who is a 'paracarro' [concrete roadside post], fighting for the championship.  I don't know how we can say we have credibility.  It is impossible to recover the ground we have lost on those teams.  In three or four races the championship will be decided and I don't know what the interest of the TV viewers will be when Button has 60 points and Nakajima 50.  It will be better to listen only on radio and watch something else." 
Flavio Briatore, Team Principal, Renault

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Long Beach GP Sunday Notebook UPDATE #2 Ex-IndyCar teammates Dario Franchitti and Tony Kanaan have a side bet going - if Dario won first this year Tony would have to grow his hair, and if Tony won first Dario would have to shave his head.  As it turns out Tony will now have to grow his hair long.  Dario says he can't wait to see Kanaan in an afro.

04/19/09 The Conquest IndyCar team will miss the next race in Kansas but will return for Indy........The grandstands are only 50% to 60% full so the attendance appears to be down from the Champ Car days.  However, the hospitality suites are full as are the general admission areas.......spotted Tony Kanaan Friday in deep conversation with his agent, Robert Clarke.  Some were speculating they were talking about Kanaan's struggles with AGR?......Check out iRacing.com.  It is the best racing simulation program we have seen yet.

04/19/09 Sunday here in Long Beach is much warmer that Friday and Saturday and several IndyCar drivers tell us they will be chasing the track as the cars handling will change due to the heat.  It is going to be very hot for the fans in the grandstands today.  The beer will be flowing and a lot of fans may seek shade to watch the race from........Dale Coyne and Z-Line Furniture CEO Jim Sexton will use Justin Wilson and the race car to promote the name Z-Line to consumers.  Z-Line sells ready to assemble furniture to all the major retail stores but their name was not a household name, so Z-Line is using Indy Car and NASCAR to change that.  There will be in-store and hospitality suite activation with Wilson.  We asked Coyne and Sexton if we might see a 2-car Z-Line Dale Coyne entry soon in IndyCar and the answer from both was, "yes, that is the goal.".......Wilson said that what attracted him to the Dale Coyne team was the people that Coyne was putting in place like engineer Bill Pappas.  In fact much of the team is new.  "They say you can't make a difference overnight, but the team Dale has assembled is doing just that.  I really feel we can win a race this year."........Coyne contracted with people to help the team on ovals.  They also designed their own front suspension for ovals.  "We should be more competitive on the ovals right away starting in Kansas," said Coyne...........Several of the top Indy Lights drivers are unhappy that the qualifying groups are split in two.  One group always ends up with an advantage.  They would prefer a longer session with everyone together.........After complaining of headaches after crashing in qualifying Saturday, Helio Castroneves has been cleared to drive today.......Rookie Raphael Matos topped morning warm-ups.  Mark C. reporting from Long Beach


New F1 track will be ready for race day
Aldar CEO John Bullough issued a strong denial on Sunday that the Formula One race track on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island would be delayed.  Aldar is the master developer on the $40bn Yas Island Project and is building the Yas Marina circuit for the first ever Abu Dhabi Grand Prix that takes place on Nov. 1.

The island will also feature a Ferrari Theme Park, golf courses and a string of luxury hotels.  “By  Nov 1 when you go to Yas Island, you will see seven hotels, a Formula One race circuit, with a Formula One race happening on it, a lynx golf course, a Ferrari Theme Park, and a marina,” Bullough said.  He added that the marina was being flooded on May 2.


Rahal BMW scores 2nd podium
With a third-place GT2 class finish by the No. 92 M3 of Tommy Milner and Dirk Müller in the Tequila Patron American Le Mans Series at Long Beach the BMW Rahal Letterman Racing Team reached the ALMS podium for the second consecutive race. The duo completed 70 laps around the 1.968-mile temporary street circuit in the one-hour-and-forty-minute contest.  Bill Auberlen and Joey Hand scored their first points of the season, finishing eighth in the No. 90 M3 after losing four laps following a collision with a lapped competitor just past the one-hour mark.  Saturday’s finish moves BMW to fourth in GT2 Manufacturer points. Milner and Müller now stand fifth in GT2 Driver points.


Hildebrand goes flag-to-flag in Lights race
J.R. Hildebrand
Bob Heathcote/AR1.com
AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing driver J.R. Hildebrand started from the pole and led every lap en route to posting his second career victory and first win of 2009 in Sunday's Firestone Indy Lights Grand Prix of Long Beach.  Richard Philippe and James Hinchcliffe were 2nd and 3rd.

We just had a great car and the ARPRO guys have just done a great job all weekend," said Hildebrand. "We had a great car at St. Petersburg, but we had some mechanicals going on or we could have been just as good there. I have to give all the credit to the boys for picking it up after a rough weekend. I think we have the potential to be the fastest on the track everywhere we go. We had a good run at Kansas last year and picked up some miles in the IndyCar (Series car) a couple weeks ago, so maybe that will give us a leg up on everyone. Obviously, I'm looking for a good weekend there next week."

Hildebrand's performance on Sunday paved the way for a five-spot jump in the series standings from eighth to third and leaves him just seven points shy of the top spot. Saavedra also gained ground Sunday moving up one spot to sixth, 36 points behind leader Junior Strous.

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Z-Line Returns as Primary Sponsor for Coyne
Justin Wilson in the Z-Line Furniture Dale Coyne IndyCar
Z-Line Designs, Inc., the nation’s leading manufacturer of ready-to-assemble office and home entertainment furniture, is returning to the IndyCar Series as primary sponsor of Dale Coyne Racing and driver Justin Wilson. After a successful 2008 inaugural season with the Illinois-based racing team, Z-Line Designs will return for a full season effort in 2009.

“We are pleased to return in 2009 and work with Dale and his winning driver, Justin Wilson,” said Jim Sexton, Z-Line Designs founder and CEO. “We have some bold plans to expand our program not only for 2009, but into the future.”

Z-Line Designs enjoyed a successful partnership in the Nationwide Racing Series with Joe Gibbs Racing and championship driver Kyle Busch. Z-Line Designs and Dale Coyne’s joint efforts will expand the racing program in both marketing performance and on track performance.

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Ecclestone: Vettel better than Hamilton
(GMM) As 21-year-old Sebastian Vettel clocked up his second grand prix win, reigning world champion Lewis Hamilton openly admitted Shanghai had been one of his "worst performances" in formula one.

It was therefore an opportune time for quotes attributed to Bernie Ecclestone to hit the British press, as he outlines his belief that the German is better than his British rival.

"I think he is," the 78-year-old is quoted as saying by the Telegraph. "Lewis is super but I think this kid ... time will tell."

Red Bull team boss Christian Horner didn't want to be drawn on the comparison, but he agrees that Vettel's rise is unlikely to flatten in the wake of his Chinese win.

"It's difficult for me to say as Lewis doesn't sit in our car," Horner said. "But for sure, in coming years, Seb is going to be one of the dominant drivers in F1."

While the British media currently questions its former affection for Hamilton amid the 'lie-gate' scandal, Sunday's spotlight fell squarely on a man dubbed 'Baby Schumi' by German writers.

The Telegraph wondered "what's not to like?" when pondering news that Vettel, a lover of British comedies like Little Britain and Monty Python, gives his cars female names.

"My original car was called Kate. But then it got smashed at the opening race in Australia. So we called this one Kate's Dirty Sister because it is more aggressive and faster," Vettel said.


IndyCar - 12 Years wasted
A reader writes, Dear AR1.com, It's amazing how some of the "stars" of the old IRL can't get out their own way now that some teams with fewer resources are getting the new car sorted out. Danica and Marco are a mess while Viso, Wilson, Hunter-Reay and others make them look silly.  No one can say they are F1 drivers without a smile and a wink. If you're that much slower than your top teammate you would be eaten alive by the press and the F1 establishment.  At three or four seconds a lap slower, the old Champ Car boys must feel like retirement came early. Bring back turbos, open up chassis manufacturing, innovation and let's find out who has what it takes. Your best attended races are parties and your TV partner markets your product mostly through replays of old wrecks. Most TV adds during the St. Pete race were for the Indy 500 and Brazil's ethanol program with a few of Danica getting half naked which she seems to be better at then road racing. What next -- recruiting posters at dirt tracks to find the next open wheel stars?  The IRL has become CART Lite.  Ask AJ, I'm sure he's happy.  I'm not bitching.  I wanted it to stay this way from the beginning of the split. I would rather see the best drivers and crews regardless of where they come from. It's a shame it took Tony G. over a decade to realize this, it could have been fun. At least we got to see the talent [or lack of] Dr. Jack Miller and Racin Gardner.  Ron Thompson

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Long Beach GP Saturday Notebook
Ran into a very happy Beccy Gordon, sister of NASCAR driver Robby Gordon, who was showing off her engagement ring she received Thursday night in Long Beach from Ryan Hunter-Reay.  They met 5 years ago at this race and Ryan finally popped the question.  No date for the wedding has been set.....Ran into Ray and Linda Mathiasen after Indy Lights qualifying on Saturday where their driver Jonathan Bomarito had just secured 2nd quick time.  After withdrawing from the Atlantic series because of lack of sponsorship, they are taking a look at moving the team to the Indy Lights series, but they still have all their Atlantic equipment so that series is still an option should sponsorship materialize.  They would need to sell the Atlantic equipment in order to start the Indy Lights team......Saturday's attendance appeared to be down slightly from previous years but it was hard to tell because so many people were partying all around the circuit.......One possible scenario for Will Power, should Roger Penske not keep his IndyCar team as a three car effort, is for Roger to run him alongside Raphael Matos in the Luczo Dragon team.  The team is half owned by Jay Penske, Roger's son, and putting those two drivers together would make for a powerhouse team.  Matos, as good as he is, could use the experience of Power as a teammate.....Long Beach was hopping Saturday night with parties everywhere.  No one seemed to miss the faster Champ Cars, at least not the fans.  A local sports writer complained that a year ago, the IRL was saying we'd see the field for the Grand Prix grow with many Champ Car teams switching over and the merger mending wounds. So what do we get? A 23-car field, or just three more than last year's Champ Car finale.......That same writer pointed out that when Tony George ran off with the Brickyard and started the IRL, he wanted an all-U.S. series run on ovals with American drivers.  Well, in the first race here under the IndyCar flag, only six of the 23 drivers are Americans, plus four Brits, four Brazilians, two Aussies and reps from Canada, Japan, Netherlands New Zealand, Scotland, South Africa and Venezuela.  New Zealander Scott Dixon was happy to be back at Long Beach.  "I've been lucky enough to be involved in three or four races in Long Beach and it's definitely one race I'm happy to see in the series. It's the Indy 500 of street courses.".....Sunday's forecast is for more perfect weather - sunny and in the mid-80's.  Sunday's Schedule:
Gates open: 7 a.m.
Lifestyle Expo opens: 8 a.m.
SPEED GT Challenge qualifying: 8-8:30 a.m.
IndyCar practice: 8:40-9:10 a.m.
Firestone Indy Lights : 9:40-10:50 a.m.
Team drifting: 11:05-11:30 a.m.
IndyCar pre-race activities: 12:30 p.m.
35th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach: 1:20-3:30 p.m.
SPEED GT Challenge: 4:15-5:15 p.m.
Lifestyle Expo closes: 5:30 p.m.

tv news

Castroneves, Reutimann, Matchett, Schrader guests on Wind Tunnel UPDATE A reminder that Helio Castroneves will be a featured interview on Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain tonight, Sunday, April 19.  Fans may email Helio questions and comments at windtunnel@speedtv.com.

04/18/09 Helio Castroneves, 2 time Indy 500 winner, will be a featured interview on Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain on Sunday night, April 19.  Helio will discuss his return to the IndyCar series at Long Beach this weekend fresh from his acquittal in his tax evasion trial.  Fans can email Helio questions at windtunnel@speedtv.com.

David Reutimann, NASCAR Sprint Cup driver for Michael Waltrip Racing, will also join Dave Despain as a featured interview on Wind Tunnel this Sunday night. 

SPEED Analysts, Steve Matchett, Formula 1; and Ken Schrader, NASCAR, will also join Dave Despain on Sunday's show. 

Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain airs on Sunday, April 19, 9:00 pm - 10:00 pm ET live on SPEED.


Bridgestone Chinese GP race report
Bridgestone's wet tires were the tire of choice in trying conditions for the Chinese Grand Prix held at the Shanghai International Circuit where Sebastian Vettel took Red Bull Racing's first and his second Formula One victory.

Vettel crossed the line 10.9 secs ahead of team-mate Mark Webber, who scored his best finish with second, meaning two Renault-powered cars on the podium. Drivers' championship leader Jenson Button (Brawn GP) finished third. All drivers started behind the safety car and therefore on the wet tires - as stipulated by the regulations - and persistent rain meant that almost all competitors stayed on wet tires for the duration of the race.

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Long Beach GP goes off today as unified series
For the first time since 1995, which is an eternity in the mutable orbit of sport, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach today will unfold with all the top IndyCar Series drivers competing on the downtown course rather than several notable ones boycotting it.

The only entrant who has posed for the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue, Danica Patrick, will be present, and already holds the distinction of being perhaps the most publicized driver ever to appear in Long Beach - indisputably the most publicized female driver.

Even the only entrant who has won two Indianapolis 500 races, a "Dancing With The Stars" title, and an acquittal on a $2.3 million federal income evasion rap, Helio Castroneves, will be present to add even more allure to a race thick with intriguing plot lines.

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China plays wrong anthem to mark RBR win
(GMM)  Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber had just secured an historic one-two debut victory for the team, but Red Bull's motorsport advisor Helmut Marko said one element of Sunday's proceedings left him distinctly "disappointed".

After German winner Vettel mouthed the final words of the 'Das Deutschlandlied' on the podium, Austrian Marko then prepared to bask in the national pride of the Austrian anthem.

'Land der Berge, Land am Strome' in Austrian means 'Land of the mountains, land on the river', sang to the melody of a 1790s song by the composer Johann Holzer.

Red Bull, owned by the Austrian energy drink magnate Dietrich Mateschitz, competes under a racing license by the Austrian motor racing authority OAMTC, the Osterreichischer Automobil, Motorrad und Touring Club.

However, to mark the victory of the winning constructor, the loudspeakers of the Shanghai International Circuit instead exclaimed God Save the Queen, apparently because Red Bull is based in Milton-Keynes (UK), while team boss Christian Horner is British.

Racing News

Johnny Benson Day 3 Pro Celebrity race diary
Tim Daly and Johnny Benson share a laugh
Today was race day for the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race here in Long Beach, Calif., and it was absolutely beautiful – about 80 degrees, sun shining with blue skies.  You couldn’t have asked for a better day to go racing.

I started the race on the outside of the first row of the professionals, which meant 30 seconds behind the celebrity drivers.  I thought going into the race, it was going to be tough to catch the leaders without a yellow – and it was.  Al Unser Jr. was on the pole for the professionals and we were able to get through traffic pretty well and work our way past most of the celebrities, but we were still 20 some seconds behind the leader.  That’s when that much needed yellow flag came out when Disney star Raven Symone went off into the tires right in front of me just past the half-way point of the race. 

That allowed us to close up onto the three front-running celebrities – X Games star Danny Way, Keanu Reeves and MTV’s Fonzworth Bentley.  And that’s when things really got wild.  I’m definitely used to two-abreast and three-abreast racing in my Toyota Tundra in the Camping World Truck Series, but I had a front-row seat to see the three celeb leaders all go side-by-side…and then watch Al Unser Jr. make it four abreast and pass all three of them -- on a street course!

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Rain in Shanghai!
(GMM)    Just over an hour ahead of the Chinese grand prix, it is raining at the Shanghai International Circuit.


Brawn plays down possible FOTA exit
(GMM)  Ross Brawn has played down the possibility that the diffuser saga could cost the FOTA alliance his team's membership.

Flavio Briatore in Shanghai warned that at the next meeting he will not only call for the removal of Brawn as FOTA's technical chairman, but that the body should attempt to block the former Honda team from receiving any commercial or travel income.

Until now, the Formula One Teams Association's strength has been its total unity in facing down F1's ruling authorities, the governing FIA and commercial rights representative Bernie Ecclestone.

Faced with the hostility of fellow FOTA members, then, Brawn's best weapon would be to threaten his withdrawal from the body of the Brackley team, Germany's Auto Motor und Sport magazine suggests.

But Ross Brawn is quoted as saying: "It would be wrong to mix the sporting and political sides.  On the track we are opponents, but we can also fight for common goals."

While it is arguably in Bernie Ecclestone's interests to see FOTA break up, the F1 chief executive has refused to back Briatore's hostility.

"Its a pity they don't talk more about racing than politics," he said in Shanghai.  "We seem to have got a lot of team managers who've become politicians."


F1's political intrigue turns to humor
(GMM)  Memorable quotes have flown thick and fast as political intrigue swills in the Shanghai paddock.

After likening Jenson Button's pace to that of a concrete post, Flavio Briatore then said a Chinese taxi driver would do a better job than Ross Brawn of heading FOTA's technical committee.

Asked if he had a rejoinder to the Renault boss, Brawn said: "I think change the medication!"

Sir Frank Williams, meanwhile, amusingly responded to Briatore's anger about the diffuser affair.

"Flavio would not recognize a diffuser even it is were stuffed with money," he quipped.

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Brawn GP renews with Ray-Ban
Brawn GP is pleased to announce the continuation of its partnership with Ray-Ban for a sixth successive season. Ray-Ban, the world's leading sunglasses and optical eyewear brand, entered Formula One with the team in July 2004 and the relationship has provided a powerful global platform for promoting the brand's iconic identity.

The distinctive Ray-Ban logo appears on the helmet visors of Brawn GP's race drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello and the Brawn GP team members wear Ray-Ban sunglasses from the brand's 2009 range.

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Brawn responds to Briatore comments
Ross Brawn has hit back at comments made about his team by Renault team principal Flavio Briatore. The issue surrounds television rights, monies paid to teams yearly, of which Brawn is possibly entitled to an estimated €30 million in 2009, as this is the amount which the team received in its previous form as Honda last year.  Briatore, however, believes that - as the FIA considers Brawn GP as a new team and not simply a renamed outfit - the English squad should not be entitled to the payments, for the standard first three years of competition. Team owner Ross Brawn feels the matter is one to be resolved confidentially, however, instead of in the public manner highlighted by Briatore.

"I think, change the medication!" Ross said in China. "I would rather not talk about it; it is a shame that he brings those things into the public arena, as it is FOTA (Formula One Teams' Association) business, but that is his style. Flavio is very flamboyant, isn't he? He's great with one-liners, that is his forte, but I'm not so I am not going to respond."

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Most IndyCar drivers to start on softer tires on Sunday
The following list is what tires (soft reds vs. harder blacks) the IndyCar drivers have chosen to start Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on:

#12 Will Power Red
#10 Dario Franchitti Red
#2 Raphael Matos Black
#13 EJ Viso Red
#18 Justin Wilson Red
#9 Scott Dixon Red
#02 Graham Rahal Red
#3 Helio Castroneves Red
#34 Alex Tagliani Red
#6 Ryan Briscoe Red
#11 Tony Kanaan Black
#21 Ryan Hunter-Reay Black
#5 Mario Moraes Red
#4 Dan Wheldon Black
#06 Robert Doornbos Red
#24 Mike Conway Black
#27 Hideki Mutoh Red
#23 Darren Manning Black
#26 Marco Andretti Black
#14 Vitor Meira Red
#98 Stanton Barrett Black
#7 Danica Patrick Red
#20 Ed Carpenter Red


Ecclestone warns Dennis
Bernie Ecclestone warns Ron Dennis
(GMM)  The withdrawal from formula one of Ron Dennis is unlikely to appease the World Motor Sport Council when it meets later this month.

That is the opinion of F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone, amid suggestions Dennis may have stepped down from McLaren so that the Mercedes-powered team is treated less harshly by the FIA body.

"This is an issue for the McLaren team to deal with.  This is not about the personalities of Ron and Max (Mosley)," Ecclestone said in Shanghai.

Woking based McLaren, led by the FIA president's nemesis Dennis since the early 1980s, faces fraud charges following the 'lie-gate' affair.

Bernie said: "They still face the same range of punishments if the WMSC find them guilty.  If he (Ron) resigned to stop the hearing, it won't work.  This is about finding out if there was more to what happened than we have already learned."

Ecclestone said he was "sorry" to see Dennis' more than 40-year involvement with the sport at an end.

Meanwhile, British Sunday newspapers are reporting that McLaren mechanics are furious with Lewis Hamilton.

The Daily Mail said the reigning world champion "could count his friends on the fingers of one hand", after blaming the sacked Dave Ryan for lying to stewards and then threatening to quit McLaren.

Former McLaren driver David Coulthard said he sympathizes with his 24-year-old countryman.

"He must be thinking 'how did I get myself into this mess?' the BBC pundit said.


Hildebrand wins pole for Long Beach Lights race UPDATE Jonathan Bomarito lost his fast time in qualifying after it was determined he set it when the caution flag was out.  The revised starting lineup is as follows:
1. (26) J.R. Hildebrand, 1:15.2695 (94.126)
2. (7) James Hinchcliffe, 1:15.4928 (93.847)
3. (19) Stefan Wilson, 1:15.3353 (94.044)
4. (36) Richard Philippe, 1:15.5582 (93.766)
5. (9) Jonathan Summerton, 1:15.8578 (93.396)
6. (15) Martin Plowman, 1:15.5921 (93.724)
7. (20) Ana Beatriz, 1:15.9663 (93.262)
8. (63) Jonathan Bomarito, 1:15.6753 (93.621)
9. (59) Ali Jackson, 1:16.0899 (93.111)
10. (21) James Davison, 1:15.8273 (93.433)
11. (44) Gustavo Yacaman, 1:16.0988 (93.100)
12. (18) Junior Strous, 1:15.9313 (93.305)
13. (28) Daniel Herrington, 1:16.1312 (93.060)
14. (5) Mario Romancini, 1:15.9503 (93.282)
15. (11) Wade Cunningham, 1:16.1857 (92.994)
16. (4) Sean Guthrie, 1:16.4959 (92.617)
17. (27) Sebastian Saavedra, 1:16.4745 (92.643)
18. (35) Charlie Kimball, 1:16.7109 (92.357)
19. (37) Jay Howard, 1:17.1941 (91.779)
20. (49) Jesse Mason, 1:17.3096 (91.642)
21. (33) Pablo Donoso, 1:17.5287 (91.383)
22. (16) Pippa Mann, 1:17.3743 (91.565)
23. (3) Sergey Mokshantsev, 1:21.9018 (86.504)
24. (2) Andrew Prendeville, 1:19.3530 (89.282)
25. (55) Rodrigo Barbosa, no time (no speed)

Jonathan Bomarito (R) congratulates JR Hildebrand (L) for winning the pole by just 0.0003s
Chris Jones/IRL
  It is an all-California front row for the 45-lap Firestone Indy Lights race April 19 in Long Beach.  J.R. Hildebrand of Sausalito, driving the No. 26 ARPRO car for AFS Racing/Andretti Green Racing, won the pole by just 0.003s with a quick lap of 1 minute, 15.2695 seconds (94.126 mph) on the 1.968-mile, 11-turn temporary Long Beach street circuit.

Jonathan Bomarito of Monterey, making his series debut in the No. 63 Genoa/Mathiasen Motorsports car, was a tick slower. He recorded a quick lap of 1:15.2698 (94.125 mph). Qualifying was split into two groups, each receiving 20 minutes on the track with Bomarito in group 1 and Hildebrand in group 2.

Bomarito started on the pole for the Atlantics race at Long Beach in 2008 and '06 with Mathiasen Motorsports.

"The team, Genoa Racing, and my personal sponsor, Ray and Leslie Mathiasen, everyone just kind of pulled together," he said. "It happened really last-minute. But the car was good, the session was good, and we'll start on the front row. I can't wait.

"The team has proven that they have a good handle on the car. It just keeps getting faster and faster as the session goes on. So I'm really confident that the car will be there for the duration of the race. We'll just have to get a good start, stay calm and let it play out for a while."

Starting Lineup

Pos Driver Diff Gap Best Time
1 JR Hildebrand (26) --.---- --.---- 1:15.2695
2 Jonathan Bomarito (63) 0.0003 0.0003 1:15.2698
3 James Hinchcliffe (7) 0.2230 0.2230 1:15.4928
4 Stefan Wilson (19) 0.0658 0.0658 1:15.3353
5 Richard Philippe (36) 0.2884 0.0654 1:15.5582
6 Jonathan Summerton (9) 0.5883 0.5225 1:15.8578
7 Martin Plowman (15) 0.3223 0.0339 1:15.5921
8 Ana Beatriz (20) 0.6968 0.1085 1:15.9663
9 James Davison (21) 0.5575 0.2352 1:15.8273
10 Ali Jackson (59) 0.8204 0.1236 1:16.0899
11 Junior Strous (18) 0.6615 0.1040 1:15.9313
12 Gustavo Yacaman (44) 0.8293 0.0089 1:16.0988
13 Mario Romancini (5) 0.6805 0.0190 1:15.9503
14 Daniel Herrington (28) 0.8617 0.0324 1:16.1312
15 Sean Guthrie (4) 1.2261 0.5456 1:16.4959
16 Wade Cunningham (11) 0.9162 0.0545 1:16.1857
17 Charlie Kimball (35) 1.4411 0.2150 1:16.7109
18 Sebastian Saavedra (27) 1.2050 0.2888 1:16.4745
19 Jesse Mason (49) 2.0398 0.5987 1:17.3096
20 Jay Howard (37) 1.9246 0.7196 1:17.1941
21 Pippa Mann (16) 2.1045 0.0647 1:17.3743
22 Pablo Donoso (33) 2.2592 0.3346 1:17.5287
23 Andrew Prendeville (2) 4.0832 1.9787 1:19.3530
24 Sergey Mokshantsev (3) 6.6323 4.3731 1:21.9018
25 Rodrigo Barbosa (55) 0.0000 0.0000 -0.0001

racing news

Unser Jr. & Reeves win Pro Celebrity race
Actor Keanu Reeves
Bob Heathcote/AR1.com
Al Unser Jr. proved he is still King of Long Beach by overcoming a 30-second deficit put on the professional drivers, to pass celebrity and overall race leader Danny Way and win Saturday's popular Toyota Pro Celebrity race in Long Beach, California.  Way later crashed hard and actor Keanu Reeves came through to win the celebrity category.  It was the 2nd time that Unser Jr. was the overall winner of the Pro Celebrity race.  Full story later....  Mark C. reporting from Long Beach


An interview Roger Penske, Tim Cindric and Helio Castroneves
Team Penske's Tim Cindric (L), Roger Penske (C) and Helio Castroneves (R)
Bob Heathcote/AR1.com
THE MODERATOR: On behalf of Penske Racing, I'd like to welcome everybody. I'd like to introduce everybody on the podium, beginning with Roger Penske.

And, Roger, your thoughts on the last 24 hours here.

ROGER PENSKE: Well, I think we won one of the biggest races that we've ever had to get Helio back in this car. As you know, we've stayed together as a team for many months. And we talked about this when it started and obviously stayed in contact as he went through the ordeal.

And I just have to say that I'm proud to see him be able to walk out and be able to get in the No. 3 car. It's amazing what happens in your life, and certainly Helio has gone through a chapter I'm sure he wants to close this book, this chapter in the book.

But to me it's over. He's back where he wants to be. He's a great race car driver. He's been a great ambassador for our team. I've said to many people, he doesn't have a bad bone in his body. And to see him back here is just tremendous. And I appreciate everyone that's written to us, his fans, my friends, the press that has supported us during this very, very tough time.

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Castroneves arrives in Long Beach UPDATE #2 Helio Castroneves entered the IndyCar Series paddock around 7:40 a.m. PT this morning, and was immediately greeted by handshakes and hugs from well-wishers.  That smile was back.

Helio Castroneves, with tears in his eyes, greets the media in Long Beach
Gail Miller/AR1.com
"Hey guys, I'm home," declared Castroneves to crew members, as he entered the Penske garage.

"It's great to be back, I'll tell you," Castroneves said.

Reigning IndyCar Series champion Scott Dixon, who battled Castroneves throughout the season for the title, said "it's a pleasure to have him back."

"I think it's definitely a nice surprise for everybody," Dixon said.

"It's been a very interesting situation and a mix of feelings, obviously," an emotional Castroneves said during a news conference preceding qualifications. "It feels like I just woke up from a nightmare. But my family, not only the family but the fans, they were amazing. So many people sent messages. So many people sent prayers through Facebook, through the Internet, through my Web site.

"I never lost faith. Sometimes I questioned it a little bit, but those prayers that people were sending me, it kept me really strong. It kept me really focused. And without everybody, without those prayers, it would have been very difficult to go through what I did. So now, it's turn the page."

Roger Penske (L) with his driver Helio Castroneves
Gail Miller/AR1.com
"I think we won one of the biggest races that we've ever had to get Helio back in this car," team owner Roger Penske said. "We've stayed together as a team for many months. And we talked about this when it started and obviously stayed in contact as he went through the ordeal.

"I'm proud to see him be able to walk out and be able to get in the No. 3 car. It's amazing what happens in your life, and certainly Helio has gone through a chapter I'm sure he wants to close. To me it's over. He's back where he wants to be."
Full Transcript of Penske Press Conference  Mark C. reporting from Long Beach

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Long Beach: Franchitti fast, then crashes
The remains of Franchitti's Dallara Honda
Bob Heathcote/AR1.com
Ganassi Racing's Dario Franchitti turned the fastest lap in Saturday morning practice for Sunday's Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach before crashing late in the session and taking the right front off the car.  EJ Viso was close behind.  Will Power, who moved over to the No. 12 Penske car, Scott Dixon, and Justin Wilson rounded out the top-5.

The remains of Mutoh's Dallara Honda
Gail Miller/AR1.com
Helio Castroneves, back from winning his tax evasion trial, was a respectable 7th, despite being out of the car since October.

Andretti Green Racing's Hideki Mutoh brought out a lengthy yellow when he lost control of his car exciting the right-hand Turn 9 at the end of the back straight.  The backend stepped out on him and he over corrected.  The car then snapped right and turned head-on into the wall.  Mutoh was unhurt.


Pos Driver Diff Gap Best Time Best Speed
1 Dario Franchitti (10) --.---- --.---- 1:10.2789 100.810
2 EJ Viso (13) 0.0369 0.0369 1:10.3158 100.757
3 Will Power (12) 0.0878 0.0509 1:10.3667 100.684
4 Scott Dixon (9) 0.3100 0.2222 1:10.5889 100.367
5 Justin Wilson (18) 0.3108 0.0008 1:10.5897 100.366
6 Graham Rahal (02) 0.3592 0.0484 1:10.6381 100.297
7 Helio Castroneves (3) 0.3974 0.0382 1:10.6763 100.243
8 Mike Conway (24) 0.6277 0.2303 1:10.9066 99.917
9 Tony Kanaan (11) 0.7057 0.0780 1:10.9846 99.808
10 Danica Patrick (7) 0.7753 0.0696 1:11.0542 99.710
11 Dan Wheldon (4) 0.8443 0.0690 1:11.1232 99.613
12 Raphael Matos (2) 0.9008 0.0565 1:11.1797 99.534
13 Hideki Mutoh (27) 0.9226 0.0218 1:11.2015 99.504
14 Darren Manning (23) 1.0599 0.1373 1:11.3388 99.312
15 Robert Doornbos (06) 1.0978 0.0379 1:11.3767 99.259
16 Ryan Briscoe (6) 1.1815 0.0837 1:11.4604 99.143
17 Ryan Hunter-Reay (21) 1.3059 0.1244 1:11.5848 98.971
18 Mario Moraes (5) 1.3605 0.0546 1:11.6394 98.895
19 Vitor Meira (14) 1.3801 0.0196 1:11.6590 98.868
20 Marco Andretti (26) 1.4514 0.0713 1:11.7303 98.770
21 Alex Tagliani (34) 1.6204 0.1690 1:11.8993 98.538
22 Ed Carpenter (20) 1.8784 0.2580 1:12.1573 98.185
23 Stanton Barrett (98) 4.2129 2.3345 1:14.4918 95.108


BMW's diffuser indecision 'a joke' - Michael
(GMM) It is a "joke" if BMW-Sauber have not now decided to formally drop its protest against the legality of diffusers.

That is the claim of Williams' technical director Sam Michael, several days after the Court of Appeal said controversial rear diffuser solutions are fully legal.

That appeal, however, related only to the protests lodged in Australia by Ferrari, Red Bull and Renault. BMW's appeal was made a week later in Malaysia.

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Title over for Ferrari, Raikkonen admits
The Ferrari is out to lunch in 2009
(GMM)  Kimi Raikkonen has stated that neither he nor teammate Felipe Massa will be able to challenge for the 2009 world championship.

Ferrari this year kicked off its worst start to a season since 1992, but after just two races in 2009, Finn Raikkonen says it is not realistic to hope to recover and mount a title bid.

"We're never going to be in a position to win the championship (this year) but hopefully we can improve the car and try to win some races later on this season, that's the realistic aim," the 29-year-old told the BBC in Shanghai.

Team boss Stefano Domenicali agrees, arguing that with the diffuser row settled against Ferrari's favor, "the championship is taking a very clear direction" with the original diffuser teams "flying away".

Ferrari's Italian boss also defended Raikkonen, amid suggestions his attitude is too complacent.

For example, when mechanics were readying his car amid the Malaysia downpour two weeks ago, the Finn was dressed in shorts, drinking a coke and eating ice-cream.

"No, we had a problem with KERS," Domenicali said.  "Because we had time, we tried to understand the problem, but it was not possible to go (back) out."


Long Beach Friday Notebook UPDATE Forgot to mention that we spoke to Jim Michaelian late Friday and he told AutoRacing1.com that attendance was up Friday over last year.

04/18/09 Ran into Derrick Walker who is still hoping to someday get back into IndyCars.  He is currently running Stefan Wilson in Indy Lights and he still has his Atlantic cars should an opportunity arise in that series again........Tony Kanaan is running with Dr. Pepper soda sponsorship this weekend (see our photo pages).......We hear Nelson Philippe may run for Conquest Racing in the Indy 500, a deal may be close and the team entered two cars in this year's 500........The 2-seat IRL car could not negotiate the Long Beach hairpin, the turning radius of the car was too large.........Ran into Stefan Johansson who may run the Zytek Hybrid LMP1 car later this year.  The car has a V8 gasoline engine plus an electric motor.  It is essentially the same system that Zytek developed for Mercedes in F1......Ran into ex-Cosworth man Ian Bisco who is still looking to land somewhere.  Another Ex-Cosworth Racing employee, Ken Deagle is now running an auto repair shop and racing motorbikes......Did you know that the NY Times will have coverage of all IndyCar races this year?  We hear Team 3G had something to do with that happening......IndyCar driver Stanton Barrett is the godson of Paul Newman and his father drove the original Skoal Bandit NASCAR Cup car......Paul Tracy says he is still hopeful of adding at least the Toronto and Edmonton IndyCar Series rounds to his deal with KV Racing. Tracy said Toronto and Edmonton will depend on sponsorship being in place.  "Well, we're working on it," he said. "Obviously it's a tough economic time right now, and I'm fortunate enough that I've got good sponsors that have helped me through this economic time. I've got some personal sponsors with Monster that have stuck behind me. I've been able to put together some small deals to do a couple of little things.".......Tracy on Castroneves' acquittal. "That's a huge deal for Helio," Tracy said. "This has been a heavy-duty thing for him. I'm happy that he got off. I want to compete against the best guys and Helio is one of the best at Indy.  I think the IndyCar Series is pretty short on personalities. There are a lot of young guys nobody has heard of in this series. Hopefully, I can bring something back to the table.".....Paul Gentilozzi drives again - he will race the new Jaguar GT2 ALMS car when it debuts but he has not picked who is co-drivers will be......He wanted to start the season at Sebring but the deal did not come together in time.......The Jaguar is an all-aluminum car and in street form is stiffer than his old tube-frame Trans-Am cars used to be.  Look for the car to run E85 ethanol starting in 2010.......Kevin Kalkhoven only broke one rib skiing at Snowmass this winter so he had a good off-season so-to-speak.  Recall that in recent years he shattered a shoulder and broke an arm skiing......Back in January Kalkhoven, an Australian, became a naturalized citizen of the USA......Al Unser Jr. won the pole for the Toyota Pro-Celebrity race on Saturday (more later).  Actor Danny Way was the fastest celebrity.  Last year's celebrity winner, TV pit reporter Jamie Little is now racing as a professional in this race.....Apex Brasil is a government agency in Brazil that has a 2-year deal with IndyCar to use the series to promote Brazil exports, including Brazilian ethanol.  IndyCar races in Brazil are shown over the air on TV channel Bandeirantes.....If the IRL does race in Brazil (they are looking at it) we hear the possible venues are Rio, Sao Paulo, Brasilia or Ribeirao Preto......Ran into Robin Brundle, ex-F1 driver Martin Brundle's brother. He is now Managing Director of Lola Motorsport and he would like nothing better than to have a shot at a competitive bid for the next IndyCar chassis........Graham Rahal spoke about his new engineer, Martin Pare, who formerly worked for Danica Patrick at Andretti Green Racing.  "Martin came over from Andretti Green and, honestly, things just kind of clicked right away," Rahal said. "Things have been working extremely well so far.  It's very important, it's key to have that good relationship with the engineer because of a lot of changes, they really need to understand what you mean when you say something."  Mark C. reporting from Long Beach


Check out archives
We had so much news the past two days be sure to check out the archives at the bottom of this page for recent news that already has scrolled down into the archive section.


Symonds disagrees with Briatore about Button UPDATE (GMM)  Pat Symonds has refused to back his boss Flavio Briatore over claims Jenson Button is too slow to be a worthy world champion.

In responding to Renault chief Briatore's assertion this week that Button can be likened to a concrete bollard, championship leader Button hit back by revealing that the French team tried to hire him for 2009.

Symonds, Renault's director of engineering, confirmed the Briton's claim in conversation with the BBC in Shanghai.

"We talked to a lot of people though the winter; anyone who's available, we'll assess them," he said.

Symonds, who like Briatore worked alongside Button at Benetton/Renault in 2001 and 2002, made clear he does not agree with Briatore's current assessment of the Brawn driver.

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Paul Tracy lands Indy 500 ride UPDATE A year ago, open wheel star Paul Tracy was suffering through an awkward departure from Forsythe Racing that left the racing world scratching their heads.  Oh, how things change in twelve months. 

After enjoying his freedom and racing everything from trucks in the desert to trucks in NASCAR’s Truck Series, Tracy has decided that it’s time to return to the place that stole his joy. 

Paul Tracy (L) and Max Papis, who dressed as the Geico gecko.  Papis, who is a friend of Tracy's, is also sponsored by Geico in NASCAR
Gail Miller/AR1.com
In just a few weeks, Paul Tracy will re-visit the atmosphere that saw him depart Indianapolis with a 2nd place finish in 2002.  KV Racing Technology will field the #15 entry for the Indianapolis 500 and GEICO will provide primary sponsorship, with the ‘gecko’ adorning several areas of the race car. 

Tracy recorded an Indianapolis 500 win in 2002 before a controversial ruling by the Indy Racing League sent him home with runner-up honors.  Race officials ruled that Tracy passed Helio Castroneves under caution on the final lap of the race even though videotape would indicate otherwise. Tracy took the decision in stride, but vowed to never again step foot in Indianapolis Motor Speedway. 

A year later, in 2003, Tracy joined Forsythe Racing in the Champ Car World Series and became the first driver in thirty-two years to win the first three races of a season.  After recording seven wins and six poles, he notched the series championship and rebounded from the pain he felt in Indy a year earlier.

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Kahne committed to being a backmarker thru 2010
Cross Kasey Kahne's name off the list of drivers on the move. He said Friday he doesn't want to break his contract with Richard Petty Motorsports at the end of the season.

"I made a commitment to race with (the team) through 2010, so I'll do that for sure," Kahne said. "I told them from the start that if we can get our cars where they are right and competitive with the best teams out here, then I don't know why I would ever want to move from that company."

Kahne's name has popped up recently as a potential free agent, based somewhat on his frustration of not being more consistent in the No. 9 Dodge. Although he heads into Saturday night's race at Phoenix International Raceway ranked 10th, he has not consistently contended for a championship since joining the team in 2004.


Castroneves jury deliberations became a shouting match
On Thursday and Friday the Helio Castroneves tax evasion trial attendees got a real sense of the tension involved when the shouting coming from the jury deliberation room behind the judge's bench became so loud that the judge asked that the courtroom be cleared and that everyone step out into the lobby reports ESPN.  It appears then that the jury was not even close on coming to a unanimous decision against Castroneves.  In this type of case each charge must have a unanimous decision against for the defendant to be deemed guilty.


Last run for the Corvette GT1
Long Beach fans will have the honor of watching the final American Le Mans Series GT1 race ever contested on U.S. soil when the green flag drops at 4:15 p.m. today.  Because of Corvette Racing's unprecedented success in the GT1 class and a lack of any real competition, the class will cease to be - at least in North America - following today's race. Corvette will run one last GT1 race at the 24 Hours of Le Mans in June and then return to ALMS in the GT2 class at Mid-Ohio Aug. 8.

"We essentially became victims of our own success," said Corvette Racing program manager Doug Fehan. Corvette has won the last eight team and manufacturer GT1 championships and 69 ALMS races since coming to the series in 1999. The lack of competition and significant rules changes for the 2010 season precipitated the move."

"They were tired of racing themselves," said ALMS president and CEO Scott Atherton. "They wanted some competition."

Atherton added the decision was Corvette's alone and called it "an example of natural selection."

Fehan attributed Corvette’s success to the dedicated people within the program and an environment that encourages creativity.

"At the end of the day, people win races," he said. "... This is a people business. Technology happens to be the product." More at Long Beach Press Telegram


Dale Jr. comments on the demise of the #8
From a team Chevy Dale Earnhardt Jr. press conference Transcript:

IS IT SAD THAT THERE IS NO NUMBER EIGHT AT THE TRACK THIS WEEKEND? “I’m pretty sad, but I don’t think it will be gone for long. I read a lot of the input that you guys (media) had all week and sort of got the temperature of what the press was thinking and what the fans were thinking. The one thing that I kept thinking about when I was reading those articles was how glad I was that Robert (Yates) and Doug (Yates) and everybody at Yates -- that they were willing to work with me on the 88 because I don’t have any malice about what Teresa’s (Earnhardt) decision was on keeping that number.

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J.D. Gibbs gives his wanker driver a vote of confidence
Rumors earlier this month that Joe Gibbs Racing considered replacing #20-Joey Logano with Martin Truex Jr. didn't reach Logano until Joe Gibbs told the rookie they weren't true. "I like this saying: the brighter the spotlight on you, the more bugs it attracts," Logano said. "The more people are going to talk about you, the more all that's going to happen. ... If people want to make stuff up that's fine." Since then, the organization has emphasized its confidence in the 18-year-old's future. "Watching everything he's done up to this point, he's really gifted," said J.D. Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing. "He's the guy; we feel like he's the guy of the future." Tony Stewart's departure from JGR one season before his contract expired caused the vacancy in the #20 Toyota. Gibbs said there was talk of keeping Logano longer in Nationwide, but Cup and Nationwide cars are too different. They knew 2009 would be a challenging year. "Before the year's out we expect to be out front challenging, and next year we'd like to come out of the box and grow," Gibbs said. "I don't care who you are in this sport, you have to perform as a team or you won't be here. There's no franchising to guarantee a spot." Orlando Sentinel


Vettel worried about driveshaft for China GP
(GMM)  Shanghai pole sitter Sebastian Vettel has admitted he is concerned about the reliability of his car ahead of Sunday's Chinese grand prix.

Reporters interpreted the German's low tally of laps en route to top spot in qualifying as his "cool" under pressure, but in fact he was concerned about a technical problem.

Both Vettel and Red Bull teammate Mark Webber were grounded with identical differential problems in practice, and the glitch struck again on Vettel's car during the 'Q1' session.

"We were really concerned that the car would not last for the rest of the qualifying, so we agreed on doing basically as little laps as necessary and see if we can manage to get through," he revealed.

Vettel admitted he is now concerned about a recurrence in the race.

"I hope the boys can fix it and I hope it will last," he said.


Alonso has lightest car for China GP
(GMM) Fernando Alonso has the lightest car on the grid for Sunday's Chinese grand prix.

The Spaniard, but not his teammate Nelson Piquet, was fitted with a 'double diffuser' for qualifying, and he said qualifying on the front row was "unbelievable".

But when the FIA published the car weights on Saturday evening, it emerged that Alonso's car has just 32 kilograms of fuel on board -- more than 20 kilos less than the Brawns.

The Red Bulls are also quite light: pole sitter Sebastian Vettel is just 8kg heavier than Alonso's car, while Mark Webber is carrying two additional kilos than his teammate.

Though Button and Barrichello again led the way in Q1, the fact that they trailed Red Bull rivals Sebastian Vettel and Mark Webber in the low-fuel Q2 session – the first time over the course of the weekend when everyone’s true pace really becomes apparent – was perhaps a warning sign that this time they would not be having things quite all their own way. 

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NASCAR Notebook from Phoenix
NASCAR's Sprint Cup teams will be making their first of two visits to the Phoenix International Raceway, PIR, this Saturday night. Here's the breakdown for the Subway Fresh Fit 500:

The race will be aired by Fox Sports beginning at 8 pm eastern Saturday night. The Speed Channel will re air the race on April 21st at 12 pm eastern.

There are 48 entries for the race with 12 of them on the "go or go home list" due to their status on NASCAR's top 35 owner's points rankings.

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Penske Racing teams with Verizon for Long Beach and Indy
Building on its successful partnership with Verizon Wireless, Penske Racing announced today that it will compete at this weekend’s Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach and next month’s Indianapolis 500-mile race with the No. 12 Team Verizon Wireless Dallara/Honda in the IndyCar Series.

The Verizon Wireless car, to be driven by Australian racer Will Power, will make its debut this weekend as Power returns to defend his 2008 victory at the popular Long Beach street race. Next month, Power and the Verizon Wireless team will compete in the 93rd running of the Indianapolis 500-mile race.

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Mosley not keen on standard-KERS idea
(GMM)  Max Mosley is unlikely to agree to FOTA's plans for a standard KERS system next year.

Only three cars were fitted with the controversial energy re-use units in Shanghai qualifying, as teams grapple with the reliability, safety and performance of the technology.

Many teams have also been unhappy about the cost of development, leading the FOTA alliance to propose a single standard unit for 2010 and beyond.

"Yeah, FOTA are keen on a common KERS," Williams technical director Sam Michael is quoted as saying by the Red Bulletin.  "But Max is having none of it.  He wants us to have a KERS war!"

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Senna says no to Mercedes DTM drive
(GMM)  Bruno Senna has turned down an opportunity to race with Mercedes-Benz this year in the German touring car series DTM.

The 2008 GP2 runner-up recently tested for the German marque, and talks with Mercedes chiefs were ongoing until mere days ago.

"However, Bruno decided to focus completely on his formula one chances and, of course, (Mercedes) accepts this," read a statement.

BBC F1 commentator Martin Brundle said in Shanghai on Saturday: "Is he hoping to be in a Brawn GP (car) later this year?"

Racing News

Danny Way and Unser Jr. win poles for Toyota Pro Celebrity race
World Champion professional skateboarder Danny Way posted the fastest celebrity qualifying time to earn the pole position in the 33rd annual Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race. Way narrowly beat actor Keanu Reeves and Fonzworth Bentley, host of MTV’s “From G’s to Gents,” across the finish line in his race-ready Scion tC to set up tomorrow’s showdown in what has become the world’s longest-running, most successful celebrity racing event. “The King of the Beach,” six-time Toyota Grand Prix winner Al Unser, Jr., finished first among all drivers and won in the Pro category, followed closely by the reigning NASCAR Camping World Truck Series champion Johnny Benson.

“X-Games champions traditionally do very well in this type of event,” said Les Unger, national motorsports manager with Toyota Motor Sales. “Danny, Keanu and Bentley came prepared for the challenge, and their competitive spirit made for a thrilling show. The enthusiasm of all the celebrities and pros, both on the track and off, demonstrates exactly what the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race is all about.”

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Johnny Benson Day 2 Pro Celebrity race diary
Carlos Mencia (Mind of Mencia)Johnny Benson (C) and Mary Lynn Rajskub (24)
Well, we’re two days through the Toyota Pro/Celebrity Race and it’s been great. Today we went out for our first practice on the streets and we saw a little bit of everything. We didn’t even get a chance to take the green flag before we came around a corner and there was a car upside down against the wall and I was thinking it was going to be a long day. But they got that cleaned up and we were able to get a little practice time and get ready for qualifying.

This place is tricky. It’s fast and it’s very narrow in spots. I ended up qualifying second overall with Al Unser Jr. in first. Let me tell you, when you come to Long Beach and can be anywhere near Al on this track, it’s been a great day. He only won the Toyota Grand Prix Indy car race here six times! All in all, in coming to a track where I’ve never been to and run as well as we have, I’m really pleased. Al’s got us covered by a little right now, but come race day anything can happen.

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Brawn still lacking spare car, parts
(GMM)  Brawn GP may be dominating the world of formula one, but in other areas the team is not yet competing with its bigger rivals.

The Brackley based outfit was formed from the departure of the Japanese giant Honda, but the budget has been vastly cut for the new guise.

"We don't carry a lot of spares," team boss Ross Brawn told the Independent newspaper in Shanghai.

For example, Jenson Button used the very same front wing and nose piece to win both the Australian and Malaysian grands prix.

Brawn said: "We might become exposed if we experience a particular chain of events.  We don't have a spare car right now, for example, and if you look at it statistically, it wouldn't be good if we lost the world championship because of that.

"But I'd rather we spent the budget in the wind tunnel.  That's more important to us than the number of sets of wings or bodywork we take to a grand prix."

Brawn has also cut the race team from 100 last year to just 55 in 2009.

"We prefer to keep our funds where they need to be to do the most work to make the car go faster," he said.


Ferrari times disallowed, Porsche to start 1-2
After resigning themselves to second and third positions on the Long Beach grid respectively, the Farnbacher Loles Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR and the Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR find themselves one-two in qualifying for tomorrow’s race after the pole- sitting Ferrari was disqualified for illegal ride height. Wolf Henzler, who had qualified the #87 Farnbacher Loles Porsche that he will share with fellow German driver Dirk Werner, is most pleased for his crew, who had been up all night fixing the car after a Thursday practice accident.

“These Farnbacher Loles crew guy are at the end of their energy after being at the track for 36 straight hours preparing, and then fixing our race car.  The car was perfect for qualifying, and I was at the limit for my fast lap, coming sideways out of several corners.  Everyone on our team is happy about this turn of events, ” said Henzler. This moved the #45 Patrick Long/Joerg Bergmeister Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche 911 GT3 RSR to second place, or alongside Henzler on the front row.  After the two factory BMWs, the T-Mobile VICI Racing Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Richard Westbrook/Johannes Stuck qualified fifth, with the Team Falken Tires Porsche 911 GT3 RSR of Bryan Sellers/Dominic Cicero seventh.  The second Flying Lizard Motorsports Porsche of Seth Neiman/Darren Law qualified 10th.


F1 to 'always' visit China - Ecclestone
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone in China insisted he does not want his formula one circus to move away from Shanghai.

The grandstands are usually sparsely populated at the grand circuit, but the F1 chief executive made it clear he fully supports the event.

"The Olympics (in Beijing) were forgotten after a few weeks but formula one comes here again and again," Ecclestone told reporters in Shanghai.

He said the ultra-modern Shanghai International Circuit facility "shows what China can do".

When asked for how long the Chinese grand prix will stay, the 78-year-old answered: "Always!  As long as there is China, we will be here."

He said events of the past months have proved his decision to move East right.  "While Asia grows the other continents die," said Bernie.

"I am a little disappointed that we are not yet supported fully by Chinese companies, I think they do not realize yet how they can profit from formula one," he continued.

Ecclestone also said he is fully focused on restoring a French grand prix.


Rosberg fastest as Technical problems strike in Shanghai
(GMM) Technical problems reared their ugly heads for formula one teams drivers as the final practice session before qualifying took place on a warmer day in Shanghai.

Toyota's Timo Glock did only 6 laps due to a gearbox problem, and team mechanics got to work on changing the unit even before the hour-long session had ended.

The unscheduled change will result in a five place grid penalty for the German.

Fernando Alonso gave Glock company at the bottom of the timesheets, after also spending most of the session in the pits.

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