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Penske team poised to take first overall win in ALMS Penske team poised to take first overall win in ALMSPenske Racing’s two Porsche RS Spyders went 1-2 in Friday’s warm-up for the Lone Star Grand Prix, with Lucas Luhr leading the way in the No. 6 entry.

The German Porsche factory driver, unbeaten in six previous Series street events, turned a fast lap of 1:06.036 at Reliant Park to best Romain Dumas in the No. 7 car by 0.24 seconds. Only once in the eight-year history of the American Le Mans Series has a P2/P675 car won an overall race in the Series – Dyson Racing at Infineon in 2003. Penske Racing is trying to become the first P2 team to go 1-2 in a Series race.

The fastest LMP1 entry was the No. 2 Audi R8 of Rinaldo Capello and Allan McNish at 1:06.768. The Audi was 1.373 seconds quicker than the No. 16 Dyson Racing Lola B06/10-AER. In GT1, Stephane Sarrazin and Aston Martin Racing’s No. 009 Aston Martin DBR9 set the pace with a 1:09.079, a narrow 0.229 seconds over Corvette Racing’s No. 4 Corvette C6.R.

And in GT2 Porsche topped the speed charts for the first time this week, courtesy of Mike Rockenfeller and Alex Job Racing. Rockenfeller turned a lap of 1:11.987 to best the No. 21 BMW Team PTG BMW M3, which was at 1:12.260.

Spanish GP: Friday Press Conference Spanish GP: Friday Press ConferenceParticipating: Jenson Button (Honda), Kimi Raikkonen (McLaren Mercedes), Ron Dennis (McLaren Mercedes), and Nick Fry (Honda). Transcript
Rice hits wall at Indy Rice hits wall at IndyUPDATE Medical update from Dr. Henry Bock, IRL and Indianapolis Motor Speedway senior director of medical services: Buddy Rice has been cleared to drive following his accident on May 11.

BUDDY RICE: “I'm OK today. The doctors cleared me this morning. The rain is hard for our team because we wanted to run the backup car after Thursday's crash, but we are in the same position as everyone else. We hope to get some more laps in for the morning practice and make a qualifying run. With the new qualifying procedure, we are all in for a new experience with the waving off of our runs. With the weather being so unpredictable, we don't know if we will get in any practice or qualifying on the weekend. I think everyone would like to see some clear weather so we could get an idea how the cars will run in qualifying trim. Now we just have to wait and see."

05/11/06 Rahal Letterman's Buddy Rice has crashed in practice at Indy for the 2nd straight year.  He lost control in the short chute between Turns 1 and 2 at 3:22PM and made heavy rear contact in Turn 2 in his #15 Panoz Honda.  The debris field was extensive but Rice is out of the car and into the safety vehicle. He was released from the medical center but has not been cleared to drive on Friday yet as he suffered contusions to both knees.  He crashed on the same day last year and missed the 500 after suffering a concussion.   There are repairs being done to the SAFER Barrier indicating it was a fairly major impact.

Bumps just as bad Bumps just as badUPDATE AutoRacing1.com has been told that the track was not ground Thursday night because a grinder could not be found.  They are trying to locate an available one in the Houston area for tonight after the ALMS race. 05/12/06 Mario Dominguez told AutoRacing1.com after practice this afternoon in Houston that the bumps are just as bad as yesterday, so overnight repairs did noting to help the situation. "The bumps just rip the wheel right out of your hand," said Dominguez while examing his blistered hands. "It's going to be a hard race on the drivers and the cars."
Friday a washout at Indy Friday a washout at IndyUPDATE SATURDAY'S SCHEDULE (all times local):
7 a.m. Public Gates Open
9-11 a.m. IndyCar Series Practice
Noon-6 p.m. WorldPoints Visa Card Pole Qualifications
6 p.m. WorldPoints Visa Card Pole Winner Ceremony (Victory Podium)
Note: Subject to change due to weather.


JOHN BARNES (Co-owner, Panther Racing): (About what the rain this week has done to Panther Racing's preparation): "I think if this had not been the third year for this chassis design, it would have been a problem, but we've had these cars long enough (and) Firestone's built a little bit different tire for here this year, which changes things a little bit. But with everybody having the same motor package and the third year on the chassis, we feel very comfortable with it." (You're a student and fan of this place, how does all this bad weather affect you, personally?): "It's frustrating for me because the fans can't come out and have a great interaction with us. As far as us running or not being able to run, it doesn't really bother me either way." (How do you feel about your chances for getting in the top 11?): "I feel very good. I think that without a tow yesterday we were eighth overall, so we're comfortable."

ARIE LUYENDYK JR. (No. 61 Luyendyk Racing Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "We're a second-weekend program. This week for me has been just watching and learning. As far as track time, we're not missing any so this could be good, it kind of levels the playing field for me. I'm still hoping the first 11 get in and then next week I go for 12th and on instead of 22nd and on. As far as my take on it, I'll let it rain for a few more days. Our Honda lease requires us only to run the second week so our track time begins Wednesday. I'm hoping Wednesday and on next week are nice and clear and I get as many laps as possible." (Clearly you're probably one of the few guys that's happy it has rained all week): "Yeah, for me there's an upside and a downside. The upside is if it rains all weekend then possibly we can improve our starting position, but the downside is it's going to be very busy on the racetrack and hard to get some clean laps."  zzzz

ED CARPENTER (No. 20 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone): "It's a little frustrating. That's one of my favorite parts about the month of May, is that we can go out and run everyday, and we haven't been able to do that this May. It kind of reminds me of my first '500' when I was here with Cheever. It rained the two days leading into Pole Day and it kind of feels like déjà vu. Our cars have been good; I feel pretty comfortable. It seems like some people have been struggling a little bit, but we're all pretty confident. I think we need to get a little bit more speed to feel safe about that top 11. I think it's going to be a fight between Andretti Green, our team, Fernandez. Penske and Ganassi look pretty strong so the fight for the rest of the top 11 is going to be pretty exciting. I think it's more frustrating not being able to run, but I don't think it makes a big difference because I'm confident with what we've got."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Argent Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "I'm OK today. The doctors cleared me this morning. The rain is hard for our team because we wanted to run the backup car after Thursday's crash, but we are in the same position as everyone else. We hope to get some more laps in for the morning practice and make a qualifying run. With the new qualifying procedure, we are all in for a new experience with the waving off of our runs. With the weather being so unpredictable, we don't know if we will get in any practice or qualifying on the weekend. I think everyone would like to see some clear weather so we could get an idea how the cars will run in qualifying trim. Now we just have to wait and see."

JEFF SIMMONS (No. 17 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Ethanol Panoz/Honda/Firestone): "It is no fun sitting around in the rain. I think everyone is anxious to get out there and run some laps. It has been a tough mentally for a lot of guys this week just because we haven't had a lot of time on the track. Once we get some more time, I think everyone will feel better about their cars. I know we aren't the only team that would like more track time, but we have no control over the weather. The conditions always change so much here at Indy. We have to be prepared for any kind of weather this weekend."

05/12/06 Rain has washed out all activity at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Friday as teams were hoping to get in a final practice day before pole runs tomorrow for the 90th Indy 500.  The forecast calls for a 70% chance of showers Saturday and a 60% chance of showers on Sunday, so pole weekend could end up being a complete washout.  There is an upper air low hanging over the Great Lakes that is pumping moisture over the entire region.
Star Mazda
Atlantic Series to test Star Mazda Champion Atlantic Series to test Star Mazda ChampionHelping to define an even clearer developmental path for the world’s top up-and-coming open-wheel drivers, officials from the Champ Car Atlantic Championship and Mazda North American Operations jointly announced today that the champion of the 2006 Star Mazda Championship will receive a full test session with a top team in the Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda.

In addition to earning a new Mazda RX-8 passenger car and a $100,000 cash award for winning the series title, the top point-earner in this season’s Star Mazda open-wheel championship will get a chance to prove what they can do in a 300-horsepower Champ Car Atlantic machine. The test session with a current Atlantic team will take place after completion of both the Atlantic and Star Mazda 2006 seasons. Further details of the test will be announced in the coming months. In addition, Champ Car has also agreed to wave all entry and competition fees for the ’06 Star Mazda champion if they race in next season’s Champ Car Atlantic Championship.

Today’s announcement simply formalizes the unofficial developmental relationship between Atlantic and Star Mazda. Many of this season’s top Atlantic racers helped refine their skills in Star Mazda competition. Current Atlantic drivers such as 2005 Star Mazda champion Raphael Matos, ’03 Star Mazda title-winner Luis Schiavo, Graham Rahal, Robbie Pecorari and James Hinchcliffe all cut their teeth in the Star Mazda ranks. In addition, Star Mazda graduates Guy Cosmo and Jamie Bach have moved their careers on to the American Le Mans Series, driving the Mazda-rotary-powered P2-class Mazda-Courage. The champion’s testing program will create more opportunities for Star Mazda drivers to compete in the Atlantic Championship, in its 33rd season as North America’s top open-wheel development category. zzzz

“With so many talented drivers emerging from the Star Mazda series in recent years and so many of our current Atlantic racers coming up through the series, it makes perfect sense to ensure that the Star Mazda champion has an opportunity to test an Atlantic car,” said Vicki O’Connor, Managing Director of the Champ Car Atlantic Championship.

“Champ Car is anxious to continue to expand its relationship with Mazda and the testing program for the Star Mazda series champion with a top Atlantic team is a great example,” said Steve Johnson, President of the Champ Car World Series. “It’s clear that with all of the talent coming up through the Mazda development system, this is the next generation of Champ Car stars and we want to make sure the cream of the crop continues to develop their talent in the Atlantic Championship.”

The establishment of the testing program also enhances Mazda’s ladder system of driver development and opens up more doors for drivers graduating from Star Mazda.

"If you want a career as a professional racing driver -- either open-wheel or closed -- then you need to be associated with Mazda," said Robert Davis, Senior VP, Research, Development and Quality for Mazda North American Operations, and the man responsible for Mazda's North American motorsports programs. "Young drivers can start in club racing in a Formula Mazda, graduate to the professional Star Mazda, then on to the Champ Car Atlantic Championship. From there, who knows where a career can go -- GP2 in Europe?  Champ Car?  Formula 1?  With our involvement in Star Mazda, and the series' champion's opportunity of a guaranteed Atlantic test, Mazda is committed to helping find the next open-wheel star."

"From our perspective, we know that many of our racers aspire to race in Champ Car, by way of the Atlantic series,” said Gary Rodrigues, President of the Star Mazda Championship. “To be recognized by Mazda and Champ Car through the award of a sponsored test in the program widely recognized as the next logical step from the Star Mazda Championship presented by Goodyear, a driver gets tremendous validation of his future in motorsports.  The winner will undoubtedly list this award prominently on his or her resume.  The Star Mazda Championship is proud to see our graduates' careers get this kind of boost, and we thank Mazda and Champ Car for their encouragement of emerging talent."

Bourdais back on top Bourdais back on topSebastien Bourdais has turned the fastest lap in Friday afternoon practice for the Houston GP.  His fast lap of 59.020s was faster than his fast time yesterday.  Justin Wilson and Mario Dominguez were close behind Bourdais so final pole qualifying later today should be interesting.

Oriol Servia was a credible 4th fastest in his PKV ride and Nelson Philippe recovered to finish 5th.  Dan Clarke also recovered form a disastrous Thursday to slot in 6th fast.  Katherine Legge was 9th fastest, her best result of the weekend so far.

AJ Allmendinger spun and broke his rear wing.

Track News
Monterey track improvements continue Monterey track improvements continueMONTEREY, Calif. - How do you take a legend and make it even better? That’s the task facing construction crews at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca who will continue the face lift at one of the premier and most recognizable road racing facilities in the world prior to the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix July 21-23, 2006.

The construction projects include the state-of-the-art Red Bull Energy Center hospitality area overlooking Turn 1. Safety improvements include an increase in the Turn 1 run-off, an increase in run-off on both sides of Turn 6, modifications to the dip in the track just after Turn 7 and a complete repave of the racing surface.

“We are so grateful to our sponsors, most specifically Yamaha, Red Bull and Mazda, who have stepped up and allowed us to take on this project during our 50th Season of Racing,” said Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca CEO/General Manager Gill Campbell. “We are a not-for-profit organization so we are dependent upon our benefactors to provide the funding for improvement projects to this wonderful, historic crown jewel of American road racing.”  zzzz

The areas of improvement have been selected in conjunction with the International Motorcycle Federation (FIM) and the MotoGP Rider’s Commission to increase the safety of what is already recognized as one of the safest permanent road racing facilities in the world. The construction is slated for completion just in time for the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix, as the fastest two-wheeled racers on the planet return to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca in July.

While the track is shut down, the Skip Barber Racing School, one of the premier racing and driving instruction organizations in the country, will continue its programs in the paddock.

“The Skip Barber organization, along with all of our daily track rentals, is a vital part of the continued economic viability of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca,” Campbell said. “Both the Skip Barber organization and a number of loyal track rental participants have had traditional dates displaced to allow us enough time for this monumental construction. We appreciate their cooperation in arranging their schedule of courses to temporarily include only those that can be conducted in the paddock.”

More information on the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix, including the revised traffic plan for 2006, is available at www.RedBullUSGrandPrix.com or by calling (800) 327-SECA.

Tickets are on sale now for Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca’s 50th Season of Racing including the Red Bull U.S. Grand Prix July 21-23, the 33rd Rolex Monterey Historic Automobile Races August 18-20 and the Monterey Sports Car Championships featuring the American Le Mans Series October 20-22.

Tickets and more information are available by calling (800) 327-SECA or on-line at www.laguna-seca.com.

Champ Car hoping to use Houston to gain momentum Champ Car hoping to use Houston to gain momentumExcerpts from this Houston Chronicle article - There is a boxing card on Thursday night. There are beer gardens and kids zones, beach volleyball and live music, exotic concessions and open paddock areas. There is something for everyone, even those who aren't huge fans of racing.

"To come to a market of this size and be successful is very important," driver Justin Wilson said. "I think they're doing it right here because it's not just about racing. It's got to be good entertainment. Fans want more than just racing these days, and that's what they're getting in many of our events, this one included.

"You must try to give the impression of the excitement that we all feel. We're all out there having fun. We desperately want to win, but at the end of the day, we've all had fun doing it and that's what we want to convey."

The success of the Houston race clearly is important for Champ Car. There have been talks recently between IRL and Champ Car executives about the possibility of a merger. If the Champ Car Series continues to thrive this year, it will be on more of an equal footing with the IRL.

"This is going to be one of the most important things that will happen for Champ Car in some time," driver Mario Dominguez said. "If we can come here and have a big success, it will give everyone one more example that we're here to stay."

"This is a new venue and new leadership," Johnson said. "The festival idea is what we are insisting upon at every venue. It was really successful last year, so we think we've really hit on something.

"We don't want people to come out and sit in metal grandstands for three hours and get sweaty and get sunburned and go home. We want stuff going on everywhere. That's what differentiates our model from everybody else in the racing world."

Having success in the initial year of the rebirth of the race is imperative. Lanigan says he wants to make the race an annual part of the Houston sports calendar.

"I think any Champ Car race is important," defending points champion Sebastien Bourdais said, "but when you come to a big market like Houston and it's a comeback race, then it's going to be even more important.

"The people seem to be very excited and enthusiastic about this venue. I hope it's a great weekend that people will anticipate each year."

Hamilton stripped of pole in Barcelona Hamilton stripped of pole in BarcelonaART driver Lewis Hamilton has lost his first GP2 pole position after the race stewards at Barcelona said the McLaren protégé ignored yellow flags during the qualifying session.

Hamilton is one of six drivers to lose their two fastest lap times from qualifying, following a review by the stewards.

Revised grid:
 1. Nelson Piquet Jr.
 2. Alex Premat
 3. Adam Carroll
 4. Lewis Hamilton
 5. Michael Ammermuller
 6. Franck Perera
 7. Jose Maria Lopez
 8. Gimmi Bruni
 9. Olivier Pla
10. Clivio Piccione
11. Tristan Gommendy
12. Andi Zuber
13. Nicolas Lapierre
14. Adrian Valles
15. Timo Glock
16. Xandi Negrao
17. Hiroki Yoshimoto
18. Sergio Hernandez
19. Lucas di Grassi
20. Ferdinando Monfardini
21. Ernesto Viso
22. Felix Porteiro
23. Jason Tahinci
24. Fairuz Fauzy
25. Giorgio Pantano
26. Javier Villa

Q and A with Lewis Hamilton Q and A with Lewis Hamilton
GP2 Series: Lewis, your first pole in GP2: how does it feel?
Lewis Hamilton: Fantastic! It really does feel good, especially when it's extremely hard to find a clear gap [in traffic] and a lap without yellow flags. We had three sets, three outings, and with the first set the car was quick, I had the car was beneath me apart from a few set up problems, but we weren't able to do it because of the yellow flags, so I came in. The next wasn't so good, so I came in, and on the last set I was able to have one clear lap, and that was the lap that I set the time with; just as I began the second lap I had yellow flags, so I was really fortunate, but you need this. Obviously lots of people had good laps, but I was just lucky that my one clear lap was good enough to give me pole.

GP2 Series: It was quite lucky, because it looked like you were going to get P3 again…
Lewis: Yeah, that's what I was thinking, and then I thought I am not going to have another P3 again today!

GP2 Series: How much of an effect did this morning's rain in practice have on qualy today?
Lewis: Quite a big effect actually, because we had to go into qualifying blind really, not knowing what the track conditions were like. Even though we had a set up from pre-season testing the track is a bit different, the conditions are a bit different, the set up is a bit different; I knew how to drive the track but the set up wasn't perfect, especially on the first set, so we had to adjust it but after that it was okay.

GP2 Series: There is obviously a lot of expectation on your shoulders after last weekend: how much does that effect what you're doing this weekend?
Lewis: Well, I try not to take any notice of the expectation; the only expectation I have is from myself; I don't need to do it for anyone else. I think that we're quick, and we just need to score as many points as possible, so from pole I think we should be able to do that.

GP2 Series: You're now championship leader Lewis Hamilton as well; that must have put a smile on your face…
Lewis: Yeah, it's nice to hear that, but like I said at the last race this is just the fourth round and there is a long, long way to go. It doesn't really matter that I'm championship leader now; for sure it's a positive but there is a long way to go. But if you're telling me that at the last round, then I will be happy.

Hamilton wins pole in Barcelona Hamilton wins pole in BarcelonaLewis Hamilton has ended his run of third place positions in qualifying by claiming his first ever GP2 pole in Barcelona, ahead of Nelson Piquet Jr and Alex Premat.

After three successive thirds the Briton took pole today with a lap of 1:23.372, three tenths ahead of his rivals, and the two points he gained for pole hands Hamilton the lead in the championship by one point over Piquet.

With the session taking place in glorious sunshine after this morning's rainy conditions the teams had their first opportunity to establish their set ups for the weekend, and a number of drivers were on the pace and swapping the top spot in the opening minutes of qualifying.

Unfortunately for GP2 returnee Giorgio Pantano he was not one of them: the Italian ran wide through the gravel and found the wall just five minutes into the session, injuring his arm in the process. Pantano had never run on the new slick tires before the session, and he will have to learn how best to use them in tomorrow's race one, where he will line up at the back of the grid. zzzz

At the mid point of the session it looked like pole was going to be a shoot out between Premat and Piquet, who were first and second with just 0.001 between them when Ernesto Viso beached his car in the gravel and brought out the red flags.

After removing the stricken car the session was back underway, and with seven minutes remaining Hamilton struck back; neither of his rivals had an answer for his lap time.

By the end of the session it was clear that most of the teams had found a set up they liked: eleven drivers were within a second of pole and twenty were within two seconds, promising a strong challenge for race one honors tomorrow.

Pos Driver Team Time Laps
 1. Hamilton ART Grand Prix 1:23.372 12
 2. Piquet Jr. Piquet Sports 1:23.704 + 0.332 12
 3. Premat ART Grand Prix 1:23.758 + 0.386 14
 4. Bruni Trident Racing 1:23.890 + 0.518 16
 5. Carroll Racing Engineering 1:23.916 + 0.544 14
 6. Ammermueller Arden International Ltd 1:24.102 + 0.730 15
 7. Perera DAMS 1:24.162 + 0.790 14
 8. Lopez Super Nova International 1:24.190 + 0.818 14
 9. Pla DPR Direxiv 1:24.257 + 0.885 13
10. Piccione DPR Direxiv 1:24.294 + 0.922 14
11. Lapierre Arden International Ltd 1:24.441 + 1.069 13
12. Gommendy iSport International 1:24.477 + 1.105 17
13. Zuber Trident Racing 1:24.611 + 1.239 17
14. Di Grassi Durango 1:24.660 + 1.288 16
15. Valles Campos Racing 1:24.858 + 1.486 15
16. Glock BCN Competicion 1:24.870 + 1.498 15
17. Negrao Piquet Sports 1:24.920 + 1.548 15
18. Yoshimoto BCN Competicion 1:25.179 + 1.807 16
19. Hernandez Durango 1:25.180 + 1.808 15
20. Monfardini DAMS 1:25.348 + 1.976 12
21. Viso iSport International 1:25.515 + 2.143 9
22. Porteiro Campos Racing 1:25.657 + 2.285 12
23. Tahinci FMS International 1:25.811 + 2.439 12
24. Villa Racing Engineering 1:25.882 + 2.510 16
25. Fauzy Super Nova International 1:25.996 + 2.624 15
26. Pantano FMS International 1:26.035 + 2.663 3

Michelin not where they want to be yet Michelin not where they want to be yet"The track has evolved rapidly throughout the day, although we haven't quite yet reached the level of performance that we have seen during some test sessions here. We have four different tire compounds this weekend and the primes and options are very distinct - much more so than they have been at some recent events.

"So far we seem to be very strong in terms of performance and consistency, but we need to take a good, long look at this afternoon's long-run data before we make any definitive suggestions about tire choice for the race.

"We also have to keep a wary eye on the weather, because showers are forecast this evening and that could put us back to square one tomorrow." Nick Shorrock, Michelin Formula One director at Spanish GP

Track News
Darlington on road to solid recovery Darlington on road to solid recoveryDarlington Raceway’s place in the NASCAR Nextel Cup schedule “seems secure,” according to Brant James of the ST. PETERSBURG TIMES. The track set a “record for sellout pace” for Saturday’s NASCAR Nextel Cup Dodge Charger 500 despite adding more than 3,000 seats this year. Darlington Raceway President Chris Browning said, “I think there is a place for Darlington in the future of this sport. I think we’re proving that now.” Browning said of future plans: “We weren’t going to build any seats for next year but right now, that might be something that might factor back into the equation.” ISC has spent more than $10M on upgrades to the track, including $3.5M for lights in ’04 and $6M on a new tower and suite renovations. ST. PETERSBURG TIMES

USA TODAY’s Nate Ryan notes the recent expansion brought the track’s capacity to 63,000, and Browning is “optimistic about eventually approaching 80,000.”  The track is in the first year of a five-year capital improvement plan; “high on the priority list is a redesigned Nextel Cup garage modeled after that of Daytona International Speedway, which added interactive amenities such as viewing platforms last year.” USA TODAY

Track News
MIS President to step down MIS President to step downBROOKLYN, Mich. – International Speedway Corporation today announced W. Brett Shelton, President of Michigan International Speedway (“MIS”), will step down from his position at the end of the 2006 racing season at MIS.  Roger A. Curtis, Vice President of Marketing and Sales for California Speedway, has been named as Shelton's replacement and will move to MIS to begin working on the transition immediately.

"We are saddened to see such an outstanding employee like Brett leave our organization," said ISC Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer John R. Saunders.  "He has made significant accomplishments during his nine years of loyal service to ISC, and we wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

"We are fortunate to be able to tap a highly successful and motivated executive like Roger to take the helm at MIS.  Roger is a creative and strategic leader with a long track record of success not only within our company, but in the motorsports industry.  We look forward to a very smooth transition period over the next several months and the continued long-term success of MIS."

“My wife Elisabeth, our son Blake and I have enjoyed our five, going on six seasons at MIS immensely which made this a difficult decision,” said Shelton, who is planning to move his family back to Muscle Shoals, Alabama. “The fans at MIS are arguably the best in racing and we have a tremendous seasoned staff which should make the transition much easier. I’ve had a chance to work with Roger Curtis for a number of years during our time with ISC and I think he’ll be a great fit for MIS.” zzzz

Curtis, 39, a Terre Haute, Indiana native, brings over 15 years of Motorsports experience to MIS and is looking forward to returning to his Midwest roots.

“Our family has enjoyed spending time together at MIS for a long time,” said Curtis. “My father-in-law has been a season ticket holder since 1971 and we’ve spent countless times at MIS as fans and we’ve been able to experience first-hand how much MIS respects their fans. In addition to that, I’m looking forward to working with such a tremendous staff and a facility with such a great history of racing and innovations that make the overall experience better for the fans.”

“This is also really a homecoming of sorts for my wife, who is from Clarkston, Michigan and really our whole family, many of whom live in Michigan and Indiana. I certainly have big shoes to fill with the great relationships Brett has built in his five-plus years at MIS, but I’m looking forward to the challenge.”

As Vice President of Marketing and Sales for California Speedway, Curtis oversaw the facility's advertising and promotions, marketing and sales, public relations and ticketing departments.  Curtis joined ISC in 1996 and has held various roles in marketing and sales both at Watkins Glen and Richmond International Raceway. Prior to moving to California Speedway in 2004, Curtis was the Senior Director of Marketing and Sales at Richmond.

Prior to that, Curtis spent three years at Watkins Glen International as Director of Marketing and Sales beginning in May 1996.  Involved in motorsports since 1992, Curtis started with Bobby Allison Motorsports.  He also worked with Bill Davis Racing and NASCAR Busch Series driver Bobby Dotter.  Curtis helped bring DeWalt Tools into NASCAR in 1993 with Dotter. 

Curtis, his wife Marla and his three children, 6-year-old Austin, 3-year old Bailey, and 1 year-old Cameron plan on relocating back to Michigan this summer. MIS

Q and A with Team Penske Q and A with Team PenskeFriday morning transcript from a media question and answer session with Team Penske's Helio Castroneves, Sam Hornish Jr., Tim Cindric, Rick Mears, and Roger Penske at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Transcript
Q and A with Team Rahal Q and A with Team RahalThursday transcript from a media question and answer session with Team Rahal's Danica Patrick, Buddy Rice, Jeff Simmons, and Ray Leto at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Transcript
Formula BMW
Formula BMW World Final 2006 to be held in Valencia Formula BMW World Final 2006 to be held in ValenciaMunich/Valencia - The date and venue for the 2006 Formula BMW World Final have been decided. The highlight of the four international Formula BMW series, the final, will be held at the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo in Valencia from November 24 to 26, 2006. Here Formula BMW drivers from all four series will be competing for overall victory and the kind of prize that all young racing talents surely dream of: a Formula One test drive with the BMW Sauber F1 Team. 

BMW Motorsport Director Mario Theissen, "We are very pleased to be staging another Formula BMW World Final after the successful premiere in Bahrain last year. In 2006 we will again be offering an attractive platform for all drivers, teams and sponsors involved." 

The Formula BMW World Final thus enters its second year in 2006. The first World Final was held in December 2005 at the Bahrain International Circuit and saw 17- year-old Marco Holzer triumphing over 34 drivers from 15 nations.  zzzz

Before the year is out, Holzer will receive his reward for winning the title when he is invited to take a test drive with the BMW Sauber F1 Team. "I can hardly wait to climb inside the Formula One car," says Holzer. "Since winning the Formula BMW World Final in Bahrain, I've been pushing myself even harder. It's my neck muscles I'm working on above all, to make sure I can cope with the crushing g-forces." 

As Theissen explains, "It's a case of expanding Marco's motor sport horizons. This initial taster is meant to give him an impression of the tremendous forces that a Formula One race car exerts on the driver." 

An entertaining support program will accompany the 2006 Formula BMW World Final. Among other attractions, the BMW Sauber F1.06 will clock up a few laps of the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo. The association between BMW Motorsport and the Circuit de la Comunitat Valenciana Ricardo Tormo goes back five years: the license and selection courses for the Formula BMW series have been held at the Formula BMW Racing Center next to the track since 2002. BMW

Q and A with Toyota’s Jim Aust Q and A with Toyota’s Jim Aust
A meeting in Barcelona A meeting in Barcelona(GMM)  A key meeting to shape F1's 2008 rulebook took place this week in Spain.

The FIA met with team managers from the eleven current teams on Wednesday, including David Lapworth who represented Prodrive's entry.

According to reports, the main bone of contention was the proposed 'freeze' to most engine development for a multi-year period.

Some teams apparently proposed that, instead of the homologation idea, a simple 'cap' on the number of engines a team can use in a year would similarly reduce costs.

A clouded picture at Catalunya A clouded picture at Catalunya(GMM)  The pecking order at Circuit de Catalunya appears as cloudy as Barcelona's skies after two hours of Friday practice for the Spanish GP.

Although not more rain dampened the track in afternoon practice, lap times were slower than in the morning, probably due to the higher track temperatures.

Renault's Fernando Alonso, for example, was third quickest in the final session, but his lap time was nearly a second slower than main rival Michael Schumacher's morning pace.

Moreover, Ferrari driver Schumacher completed many more laps in the afternoon, but came nowhere near his morning best, which remains the quickest all day.

The other main players of Sunday's sell-out race also did plenty of practice laps in warm Spain, but not McLaren duo Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya.  Worryingly for the pair, whose support crew is decked out in new grey gear this weekend, they lag behind in 15th and 18th respectively.

The morning's quickest, meanwhile - Ferrari man Felipe Massa - was just seventeenth and more than two seconds too slow.

Crash takes out Creation team Crash takes out Creation teamIn today's first hour-long practice session for Sunday's second round of the 2006 Le Mans Series, the blue Creation Autosportif CA06/H was involved in an accident which ended all hopes of further running in this weekend's event.   

Felipe Ortiz was at the wheel for the last 15 minutes of the session, and describes what happened.  "I was familiarizing myself with the track again as I haven't been here since 2003.  I'd done a couple of laps at speed.  I came across Collini in the Lucchini LMP2 at Blanchimont and I was obviously quicker than him so decided to overtake when, probably I shouldn't have done.  It was my own stupidity.  zzzz

"I put my nose forward to overtake him but he didn't see me and closed the gap.  When you lift off that suddenly, from over 230 kph, it's hard to keep it straight and I spun 3 or maybe 4 times and ended up facing the traffic. While I was stationary a Corvette (believed to be PSI C5 no.71) clipped me on the front left corner of the car and pushed the wishbone into the tub."  

Team Director Ian Bickerton voiced the disappointment of the whole team in confirming that the car has been withdrawn from any further participation at Spa. 

"It's all repairable but not quickly.  It's probably a week-long job.  Our plan is now to pack up, go home and rip into it.  We'll repair it as quickly as possible and get out testing somewhere before the official Le Mans test on the 4th June." 

Before the accident Nicolas Minassian and Beppe Gabbiani had both driven the car, with Minassian setting the second quickest overall time of the session at 2:09.652 behind the Pescarolo of Collard and Bouillion.

Spanish GP Practice 2: Davidson puts Honda on top Spanish GP Practice 2: Davidson puts Honda on topHonda Racing F1 Team third driver Anthony Davidson returned to his more familiar position at the top of the free practice timesheets today as he helped the team to prepare for Sunday's Spanish Grand Prix in Barcelona.

"It feels really good to be back at the top of the timesheets. The car feels a lot better than it did in the first session but we still have a lot of work to do to get the best out of it for the race. For me, tire evaluation was the name of the game. Our work today has paid off and we have some interesting results to look through tonight. A good start to the weekend I'd say."

At what is a home from home for all of the drivers, today's top 11 were separated by just a second, which provides a strong indication that tomorrow's qualifying and Sunday's race will provide a closely-fought battle.

There were no major incidents in the two sessions although Franck Montagny lost an engine in the morning although a 10-slot penalty on the grid for a Super Aguri is no big deal as thy are always last anyway. The McLarens were the only team not to do many laps with Kimi Raikkonen and Juan Pablo Montoya just doing a few shake-down runs.

Pos Driver Team Time Laps
 1. Davidson Honda (M) 1:16.533 38
 2. Doornbos Red Bull-Ferrari (M) 1:16.824 + 0.291 29
 3. Alonso Renault (M) 1:16.860 + 0.327 16
 4. Wurz Williams-Cosworth (B) 1:17.075 + 0.542 30
 5. Klien Red Bull-Ferrari (M) 1:17.086 + 0.553 10
 6. M. Schumacher Ferrari (B) 1:17.100 + 0.567 21
 7. Fisichella Renault (M) 1:17.291 + 0.758 17
 8. Button Honda (M) 1:17.414 + 0.881 12
 9. Barrichello Honda (M) 1:17.417 + 0.884 16
10. R. Schumacher Toyota (B) 1:17.506 + 0.973 25
11. Trulli Toyota (B) 1:17.610 + 1.077 30
12. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber (M) 1:17.622 + 1.089 18
13. Kubica BMW-Sauber (M) 1:17.844 + 1.311 34
14. Webber Williams-Cosworth (B) 1:17.908 + 1.375 14
15. Raikkonen McLaren-Mercedes (M) 1:17.933 + 1.400 4
16. Villeneuve BMW-Sauber (M) 1:18.007 + 1.474 13
17. Massa Ferrari (B) 1:18.223 + 1.690 19
18. Montoya McLaren-Mercedes (M) 1:18.261 + 1.728 5
19. Rosberg Williams-Cosworth (B) 1:18.283 + 1.750 18
20. Coulthard Red Bull-Ferrari (M) 1:18.410 + 1.877 6
21. Jani Toro Rosso-Cosworth (M) 1:18.774 + 2.241 32
22. Mondini MF1-Toyota (B) 1:18.910 + 2.377 22
23. Speed Toro Rosso-Cosworth (M) 1:19.257 + 2.724 22
24. Liuzzi Toro Rosso-Cosworth (M) 1:19.334 + 2.801 18
25. Albers MF1-Toyota (B) 1:19.358 + 2.825 15
26. Sato Super Aguri-Honda (B) 1:19.616 + 3.083 30
27. Monteiro MF1-Toyota (B) 1:20.311 + 3.778 19
28. Montagny Super Aguri-Honda (B) 1:22.222 + 5.689 21

Bourdais was too light Bourdais was too lightThe reason why Sebastien Bourdais' qualifying times were thrown out was because his car was found to be about 3 pounds too light in post-qualifying inspection.  A disappointed Bourdais took the news in stride though, "We just have to do it all again tomorrow," referring to the fast time he had set on Thursday night in provisional qualifying.
Seen in Houston - I Seen in Houston - IUPDATE At right Roger Penske looks down on the ALMS action from his 2-story high Porsche pitbox in Houston.  The pitbox is so massive it dwarfs all others. Photo by Mark Cipolloni 

05/11/06 We spotted Roger Penske talking to Carl Haas in the Champ Car paddock Thursday afternoon as the Champ Car and ALMS series prepare for this weekend's races. No doubt Penske and Haas were talking merger.  Robert Clarke will be in town tomorrow as Honda is holding a press conference.  ALMS President Scott Atherton was also spotted talking to Penske.

Industry News
More cutbacks for VW More cutbacks for VWVolkswagen AG must make further cuts in its German operations to achieve its short-term goals, Chairman Bernd Pischetsrieder said.  Pischetsrieder, who has a new five-year contract, told VW shareholders last week that the company needs a "far-reaching" reorganization.  He wants VW to cut as many as 20,000 jobs in Germany.
Industry News
Toyota replaces ousted leader Toyota replaces ousted leaderJim Press didn't stay off the hot seat for long.  Named president of Toyota Motor North America Inc. on Monday, Press spoke Thursday in downtown Detroit to Inforum, a leading women's business group, as his company dealt with a sexual harassment suit filed against his predecessor.

Shortly after finishing his prepared comments, Press addressed the lawsuit head-on. Regardless of whether the allegations prove true or false, Toyota is taking action, he said.

"Just because of the allegations, our company is going to get stronger and we're going to make sure nobody in our workplace ever feels uncomfortable coming to work," Press said.

For a company usually in the news for booming sales and profits, Press takes over as president of Toyota Motor Co.'s North American holding company in a time of controversy. He's the first American to be named to the post and the second-highest Toyota executive in North America, behind only Yukitoshi Funo, Toyota Motor North America's chairman and chief executive.

Press was ushered into the role after Hideaki Otaka, the previous president, was accused last week of sexual harassment in a lawsuit filed in New York by a former executive assistant, Sayaka Kobayashi. More at Detroit Free Press

Champ Car drivers too busy for Speedway this year Champ Car drivers too busy for Speedway this yearWhen the pole for the 90th Indianapolis 500 is contested Saturday, Champ Car World Series drivers will be busy negotiating the streets of Houston.

The next weekend, when the final spots in the 33-car field are determined, Champ Car will be racing in Monterrey, Mexico.

And finally, on race day, May 28, Champ Car drivers will be watching at home. Maybe.

"It's a good race to watch, but it's better to be in it," said two-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais, who finished 12th a year ago in his Indy debut. "I don't think I'll be watching much this year. I'm going to be rather busy during the month of May."

It's no coincidence that hopes of a merger between Champ Car and the Indy Racing League seem to crop up about this time each year, as they have again with the IRL's Tony George and Champ Car's Kevin Kalkhoven involved in informal discussions. Because at no place is the split in open-wheel racing more stark than Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where the teams and drivers not entered are more noticeable by their absence than at any time during the season.

"It's kind of an annual ritual at this time of year that it does come up," IRL president Brian Barnhart said. "I don't think that's avoidable, and it's understandable."

Even Tracy, who vowed never to return to Indy after feeling like he was cheated out of the 2002 win, has come to believe a merger is the only solution. "One series is obviously what's best. If that is achieved, it would be a great thing for open-wheel racing," he said. "It's got to be fair for everybody. That's the only way it's going to work. I think they're trying to make that happen."

"You always want to run the Indianapolis 500," Jimmy Vasser said. "That goes unsaid."  More at Indy Star

Industry News
BMW wins engine of year award again BMW wins engine of year award againNever before in the history of the "Engine of the Year Award" has the situation arisen whereby an engine was voted power unit of the year twice in succession. The V10 high performance engine powering the BMW M5/M6 has now managed to achieve this remarkable feat and was voted "International Engine of the Year 2006" in Stuttgart by around 60 renowned trade journalists from all over the world. Moreover, it received the coveted award "Best Performance Engine 2006", and also took first place in the class exceeding  4 liters in capacity.

However, BMW M engineers were able to win laurels not only for this high-revving, 500 hp five-liter engine. The 3.2-liter inline-six engine powering the BMW M3 with 333 hp and now also featured in the BMW Z4 M Roadster and Z4 M Coupe, again caused a sensation. It was winner in the class from three to four liters cubic capacity for the sixth time in a row. No engine has managed to do this in the history of these awards.

But the list of engine successes does not end here. Also, the three-liter twin turbo diesel engine with 272 hp powering the BMW 535d took first place in the class from 2.5 to 3.0 liter cubic capacity, rendering it the only winning diesel engine in the competition. Second place was clinched by the new BMW 3-liter six-cylinder petrol engine used in almost all series and boasting either 258 or 265 hp, depending on the model. BMW

Industry News
Shareholder blasts Bill Ford Shareholder blasts Bill FordA prominent shareholder blasted Bill Ford's performance as chairman and CEO of Ford Motor Co., prompting an emotional defense of Henry Ford's great-grandson at the annual meeting Thursday in Wilmington, Del.   Sam Joanette of Miami Beach, Fla., called the chief executive a "failure," who is "in over his head" and has brought Ford to "bankruptcy's door."

The Dearborn automaker, which lost $1.2 billion in the first quarter, has just launched its second restructuring plan under Ford's leadership.

"Mr. Ford is not a shareholder wealth-builder. He is a wealth-destroyer," said Joanette, who complained he has lost nearly $1 million on Ford stock.

But Frank Kubic, a retired engineer from Charles Town, W.Va., told Ford, "I think you're a damn good man." Detroit Free Press

Indy weather bad, Houston good Indy weather bad, Houston goodMother nature continues to not cooperate at Indianapolis where teams are preparing for pole qualifying Saturday for the Indy 500. Rain is predicted to continue through the weekend with temperatures in the 40s and 50s.

Meanwhile in Houston, which is always humid and unbearable, the ALMS and Champ Car World Series are expecting clear skies and unseasonably cool temperatures for this time of year. Although a bit warm during the day, the nighttime temperatures are expected to be in the 60s and 70s at race time. Mark C.

Alonso slapped with fine Alonso slapped with fineEven though he never completed a full lap to save his engine, World champion Fernando Alonso collected a $2,000 fine on Friday for exceeding the pit lane speed limit in the first free practice session for his home Spanish Grand Prix.
Champ Car race a spectacle, but NASCAR still tops Champ Car race a spectacle, but NASCAR still topsOver the past 10 years, open-wheel racing fragmented into a couple of governing bodies, a thousand different parts and about that many opinions on what the future holds.

The game has changed. NASCAR won. Not because it's better, but smarter.

The Champ Car World Series, the entity formerly known as CART, will rumble through Houston this weekend, and it is sure to be a tremendous event with perhaps more than 100,000 fans attending.

But while race fans are sure to enjoy the event and the racing, the cold truth is most fans view the Champ Series more like a traveling circus than a sport.

It's entertaining. It's enthralling and worth the price of admission. The skill and thrill of it all is amazing.

But it is the show that draws interest, not the performers. [Editor's Note: How many times have we said the drivers must be the stars not the cars (ALMS) or the festivals (Champ Car)?]

Contrast that with NASCAR, whose rise — literally from the dirt tracks — has been stunning. The driving talent and racing thrills are virtually equal between the NASCAR and open-wheel circuits, but NASCAR has everything else on the split and often feuding open-wheel racing factions, IRL and Champ.

It is a shame, because if the rumble emanating from Reliant Park this weekend calls you, there is no question that you will have an enjoyable, memorable time and feel compelled to come back.

But ultimately, you'll probably just watch more NASCAR because NASCAR realizes what works.

Quick: Name three NASCAR drivers. Or name 10, maybe 20. It's easy. Even casual fans not only could name drivers, but the number car they drive and if they've ever been in a pit-area fistfight.

Now, name two Champ Series drivers. One?

Where once open-wheel racers easily were the more popular and recognizable drivers in America — the Foyts, the Andrettis, the Unsers, Danny Sullivan, Bobby Rahal — today you need that program.

Still, the fact that events like this weekend's draw in the hundreds of thousands shows just how much potential remains in the open-wheel series. Race fans want to watch, but the divisiveness and anonymity of it all has pushed them away and precluded the series from being much more than a traveling road show.

The biggest hope for open-wheel and open-wheel drivers, who deserve better, would be a reconciliation and unification of the rival factions. It is something reportedly in the works between IRL and Champ leadership.

But there must be more than a simple show of unity. In its pursuit of NASCAR, open-wheel racing must copy NASCAR. Key excerpts from Houston Chronicle

A determined Rossi sets pace in Shanghai A determined Rossi sets pace in ShanghaiValentino Rossi continued where he left off at the Shanghai Circuit today, as the first day of practice for the Polini Grand Prix of China got underway. Last year’s race winner in the wet was able to top the tables in both sessions under similar conditions.

The Italian’s time of 2’09.393 was enough to put him above Loris Capirossi by over three tenths of a second, whilst John Hopkins, Sete Gibernau and Nicky Hayden completed the top five.

Marco Melandri, sixth, finished more than a second off Rossi’s time, ahead of Dani Pedrosa, Casey Stoner, Makoto Tamada and Randy de Puniet.
The rain, which had held off during the 125cc qualifying session, came down again during the opening minutes of the second MotoGP session.

1. Valentino Rossi - Camel Yamaha 2'09.393
2. Loris Capirossi - Ducati Marlboro 2'09.748
3. John Hopkins - Rizla Suzuki 2'10.007
4. Sete Gibernau - Ducati Marlboro 2'10.187
5. Nicky Hayden - Repsol Honda 2'10.247
6. Marco Melandri - Fortuna Honda 2'10.411
7. Dani Pedrosa - Repsol Honda
8. Casey Stoner - Honda LCR
9. Makoto Tamada - Konica Minolta
10. Randy de Puniet - Kawasaki

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

Courtesy of TVRacer.com
GP2 Championship Series  Spain
6:00am-7:30am (SDD) SPEED
Inside Drag Racing  
11:00am-11:30am ESPN2
NHRA 2Day  
11:30am-12:00pm ESPN2
MotoGP 250 Shanghai
12:00pm-1:00pm  SPEED
Formula 1 Spain
12:00pm-2:00pm (SDD) CBS
IRL -Indy 500 Qualifying Indianapolis
12:00pm-3:00pm (L) ESPN2
Rolex Sports Car Series Phoenix (5/13/06)
3:00pm-6:00pm SPEED
IRL -Indy 500 Qualifying Indianapolis
6:00pm-7:00pm (L) ESPN2
MotoGP World Championship  Shanghai
6:00pm-7:00pm SPEED
NHRA Lucas Oil Sportsman Series Atlanta
7:00pm-8:00pm ESPN2
Speed News Sunday  
7:00pm-8:00pm SPEED
Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain
Kasey Kahne (NASCAR)  
9:00pm-10:00pm (L) SPEED

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

Brit GP won't sell out Brit GP won't sell out(GMM) Organizers of the British grand prix have blamed the World Cup for failing to sell out its Silverstone race in 2006.

The event in Northamptonshire has attracted more than 100,000 Sunday spectators in the last two years, but circuit boss Richard Phillips referred to the clash this season with a football game involving England.

''Attention has been diverted away from the GP,'' he told the BBC.

''It's unlikely we will sell out but we'll be extremely close.''

Premat tops wet opening practice Premat tops wet opening practiceAlex Premat has set the pace in a wet practice session in Barcelona, setting a time of 1:44.673 in difficult conditions that saw most of the field making a number of unplanned off track excursions.

His ART teammate Lewis Hamilton was second fastest, running just two tenths slower on the final lap of the session to finish ahead of Franck Perera, who emulated his good form from last week at the Nurburgring.

With the rain hitting the track at seven this morning the session was always going to be awkward for the teams, who had hoped the weather would hold so as to gain valuable track information for tomorrow's race, but it was not to be.

Particularly disappointed was GP2 returnee Giorgio Pantano, who has yet to run with the new slick tires. Nonetheless he will have gained some information about the new rear of the car, and was 13th quickest in the session. zzzz

With most of the drivers running off track at some stage the times for the session were never going to be definitive, but Jose Maria Lopez will be bitterly disappointed with his efforts: he ran wide and into the wall on his first time lap, and his session was over.

Joining him for an early return to the paddock were Xandi Negrao and Fairuz Fauzy, who both beached their cars during the session and were unable to get going again.

Nonetheless the first six drivers were covered by one second, with two seconds covering nineteen drivers, all of whom will be hoping for drier conditions for this afternoon's qualifying session.

Pos Driver Team Time Laps
 1. Premat ART Grand Prix 1:44.673 14
 2. Hamilton ART Grand Prix 1:44.901 14
 3. Perera DAMS 1:45.485 14
 4. Viso iSport International 1:45.541 14
 5. Piquet Jr Piquet Sports 1:45.590 16
 6. Ammermueller Arden International Ltd 1:45.704 14
 7. Carroll Racing Engineering 1:45.809 14
 8. Monfardini DAMS 1:45.843 15
 9. Valles Campos Racing 1:45.914 13
10. Piccione DPR Direxiv 1:45.935 13
11. Negrao Piquet Sports 1:46.066 5
12. Glock BCN Competicion 1:46.123 15
13. Pantano FMS International 1:46.141 13
14. Villa Racing Engineering 1:46.208 17
15. Lapierre Arden International Ltd 1:46.440 14
16. di Grassi Durango 1:46.494 15
17. Gommendy iSport International 1:46.529 16
18. Yoshimoto BCN Competicion 1:46.665 13
19. Hernandez Durango 1:46.711 14
20. Bruni Trident Racing 1:47.380 13
21. Pla DPR Direxiv 1:47.683 10
22. Porteiro Campos Racing 1:47.737 14
23. Tahinci FMS International 1:47.770 15
24. Zuber Trident Racing 1:48.518 14
25. Fauzy Super Nova International 1:48.574 5
26. Lopez Super Nova International no time 2

Spanish GP Practice 1: Ferrari 1-2 Spanish GP Practice 1: Ferrari 1-2Two Ferraris ended a typically trifling opening session of practice on Friday at Spain's Circuit de Catalunya.

With four laps apiece on the track that - after earlier rain - was declared 'wet' by race control, Felipe Massa led his winning teammate Michael Schumacher. Third drivers aside, only Super Aguri racer Takuma Sato set a lap time.

The Japanese's continuing teammate, Franck Montagny, pulled over with what could have been a Honda V8 failure. A mix of intermediate and grooved tires were used.

Home town hero Fernando Alonso only did two installation laps, but copped a $2000 fine for speeding in the pit lane.

McLaren's Kimi Raikkonen was the only driver to not even venture out of his garage, but a spokesman said there was no problem.

Pos Driver Team Time Laps
 1. Massa Ferrari (B) 1:15.796 4
 2. M. Schumacher Ferrari (B) 1:16.099 + 0.303 4
 3. Wurz Williams-Cosworth (B) 1:16.125 + 0.329 21
 4. Kubica BMW-Sauber (M) 1:16.628 + 0.832 21
 5. Davidson Honda (M) 1:16.961 + 1.165 24
 6. Doornbos Red Bull-Ferrari (M) 1:17.424 + 1.628 20
 7. Jani Toro Rosso-Cosworth (M) 1:19.720 + 3.924 20
 8. Mondini MF1-Toyota (B) 1:20.708 + 4.912 21
 9. Sato Super Aguri-Honda (B) 1:20.744 + 4.948 9
10. Montagny Super Aguri-Honda (B) No time 3
11. Speed Toro Rosso-Cosworth (M) No time 3
12. Webber Williams-Cosworth (B) No time 1
13. Trulli Toyota (B) No time 1
14. Albers MF1-Toyota (B) No time 1
15. Rosberg Williams-Cosworth (B) No time 1
16. Monteiro MF1-Toyota (B) No time 1
17. R. Schumacher Toyota (B) No time 1
18. Button Honda (M) No time 1
19. Liuzzi Toro Rosso-Cosworth (M) No time 1
20. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber (M) No time 1
21. Montoya McLaren-Mercedes (M) No time 1
22. Villeneuve BMW-Sauber (M) No time 2
23. Coulthard Red Bull-Ferrari (M) No time 1
24. Klien Red Bull-Ferrari (M) No time 1
25. Barrichello Honda (M) No time 1
26. Alonso Renault (M) No time 2
27. Fisichella Renault (M) No time 2
28. Raikkonen McLaren-Mercedes (M) No time

Record purses at Lowe's Record purses at Lowe'sLowe's Motor Speedway officials say Nextel Cup Series drivers will compete for a record $6.4 million purse during the May 28 Coca-Cola 600. The purse is $153,032 more than last year's event.

In addition, Nextel All-Star Challenge and Nextel Open participants will compete May 20 for a record $4,200,450. The All-Star Challenge winner is guaranteed a minimum $1,005,000.

The purse for the May 27 Carquest Auto Parts 300 Busch Series race will be a record $1,227,316, and the purse for the May 19 Quaker Steak & Lube 200 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series will be $524,098.

Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Hero Alonso rebuffs Bernie slur
Schu wins delay for decision about 2007
Honda falling out of title chase - Schu
Villeneuve form to make Kubica wait
Renault decision looms for Fisichella
JV's engine damaged in Germany
Ferrari rivals to copy 'flexi' wing
'06 race is tire-versus-tire
Schu happy with unhelpful points system
MF1 cancel test to save money
Matos claims provisional Atlantic pole in Houston Matos claims provisional Atlantic pole in HoustonThe night time was the right time on Thursday for Atlantic rookie Raphael Matos (#6 Pro Works) of Sierra Sierra Enterprises. The rising Brazilian star shined brightest in the dusk of the Texas sky, leading the opening round of qualifying for the Fast Trac 100 at the Grand Prix of Houston.

Matos came on strong at the end of the 30-minute evening qualifying session for Round 2 of the 2006 Yokohama Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda, hammering out a top time of 1:05.318 (93.144 mph) on his 20th of 22 laps. The performance represents the first series provisional pole-winning effort for the native of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, who finished second in the first race of the year at Long Beach in April. It also completed an interesting day for Matos, who missed nearly half of the 55-minute practice session at the new 1.690-mile temporary road circuit around Reliant Park as his team tried to repair a broken wing on his car.

For leading the first-round of qualifying, Matos secured a front-row starting position for Saturday’s 40-lap Fast Trac 100 race (tape-delayed on SPEED at 1 p.m. ET on Saturday, May 20). He also earned one championship for the performance and now trails series leader Andreas Wirth (#37 INDECK/Wirth Solar) by just four points in the championship standings, 33-29, entering Friday’s final round of qualifying. zzzz

Wirth turned in a pretty good performance of his own on Thursday. The Forsythe Championship Racing sophomore checked in with the second-fastest lap of the day at 1:05.490 (92.900 mph). This weekend the 21-year-old German racer is bidding to become the first driver in 14 years to win the first two races of the Atlantic season.

Coming off a fifth-place finish at Long Beach in his first series race, 17-year-old rookie Graham Rahal (#18 Gehl Company) posted the third-fastest lap in provisional qualifying. The Mi-Jack Conquest Racing rookie and son of racing legend Bobby Rahal turned a quick time of 1:05.581 (92.771 mph).

Canadian James Hinchcliffe (#3 Emexis/INDECK), currently ranked third in the series standings, carded the fourth-fastest qualifying time of 1:05.640 (92.687 mph) for Forsythe Championship Racing. Simon Pagenaud (#15 Team Australia/Location U/Cons. Gen. Vienne) of France was third in the afternoon practice session at Houston and he topped the qualifying charts as well late in the session. Unfortunately, the Team Australia pilot lost his rear wing in the Turn 1 chicane and caused a red flag. He lost his fast time as a penalty for bringing the session to a stop and wound up finishing fifth with a top lap of 1:05.642 (92.685 mph).

After topping the afternoon practice session, American Jonathan Bomarito (#23 Miracle Sealants) of PR1 Motorsports slotted in sixth in the qualifying rundown, posting a time of 1:05.839 (92.407 mph). Forsythe Racing rookie Richard Philippe (#33 INDECK) completed a strong opening day of action by recording the seventh-fastest time of the day at 1:05.888 (92.339 mph).

First-year Atlantic racer Joe D’Agostino (#34 Newman/Wachs Racing) also ran well on Thursday, producing a fast lap of 1:05.963 (92.234 mph), putting him eighth overall. Brazil’s Danilo Dirani (#1 Canary Fund/Funcional Card/Sala Design/Perkons) was ninth on the day at 1:06.096 (92.048 mph), while American rookie Robbie Pecorari (#28 Western Union/USA Today/Gelles Racing) completed the top 10 qualifying times with a quick lap of 1:06.233 (91.858 mph).

On Friday, the new Mazda-Cosworth/Swift 016.a/Yokohama Atlantic cars return to the track at 3 p.m. CT for a 45-minute practice session. The evening racing format continues with the final round of qualifying from 6:30-7 p.m. where the final starting grid will be determined for Saturday evening’s race.

To learn more about North America’s top open-wheel development series and to follow all of this weekend’s action from Houston through the Live Timing link, please visit www.champcaratlantic.com.


The top 10 drivers in the Thursday’s opening-round of Atlantic qualifying were separated by less than a second.

Stephen Simpson (#14 Western Union/Diamon-Fusion/Gelles Racing) of Gelles Racing did not qualify on Thursday due to mechanical issues. Simpson is expected to practice and qualify as normal on Friday.

Local driver Steve Ott (#22 MSR Houston), who works as a driving instructor at the MSR Houston road course in nearby Angleton, Texas, qualified 22nd in his first Atlantic action. Ott owned a top time of 1:07.352 (90.331 mph).

Cody Unser, sister of Atlantic racer Al Unser III (#30 200+ MMP), will throw out the ceremonial first pitch just prior to the Houston Astros Major League Baseball game against the Colorado Rockies on Friday night. Cody, who was stricken with the rare paralyzing spinal cord disorder Transverse Myelitis when she was 12, can often be seen in the Atlantic paddock and pit lane cheering on her brother. Friday's game is scheduled to begin at 7:05 p.m. CT.

Seen in Houston - III Seen in Houston - IIIJim McGee is still working in the PKV pits as he said he would until a replacement is found, but Steve Krisiloff is nowhere to be found, having been dismissed by the team. McGee submitted his resignation when Krisiloff was fired, preferring to stick by his longtime friend through thick and thin. Mark C.
Clarke crashes again Clarke crashes againDan Clarke made contact with Mario Dominguez in the long sweeper in Houston Thursday night during provisional qualifying for Saturday's Champ Car race and got up into the marbles and made heavy contact with the wall. It was the second accident of the day for the Irish rookie. Mark C.
Chicane added, Houston track to be ground Chicane added, Houston track to be groundUPDATE #2 AutoRacing1.com has learned that race organizers will take a grinding machine to the Houston race track tonight and remove the major bumps, most of which are on the straights.  The bumps are so bad right now that Nelson Philippe broke his transmission on them three laps into practice.  We quizzed him on how the track was and his response - "I don't really know, I broke my transmission on one of the bumps three laps into practice and didn't get a chance to really form a complete opinion on how the track is."  He's eager to get out there for the first qualifying session.

05/11/06 Rumor has it that there are other designs for the Houston track that can be implemented next year.  This year the design was hindered by events going on prior to the race weekend that prevented the track from being better than it is.  With that said, it is very wide in some places and combined with the bumps, it could make for good entertainment for the fans......despite the chicane that took away the best possible passing zone. Mark C.

05/11/06 A change to the entrance to turn 2 was completed at 4:15 am this morning. A new chicane has been added to slow the cars near the end of the front straight. The chicane is a quick left, right and was put in because the run-off area in turn two was not sufficient for the speeds the cars were carrying into the corner during test runs. This lengthens the course slightly to 1.69 miles.

Mazda and Road and Track team up Mazda and Road and Track team upHOUSTON, Texas – B-K Motorsports and Mazda North American Operations today announced they will jointly carry the Road & Track magazine logo into the American Le Mans Series (ALMS) competition.  Headlining the partnership, Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S.’ Road & Track will become an associate sponsor on B-K Motorsports’ Mazda rotary-engined ALMS P2-class Mazda-Courage entry. 

Additionally, the Road &Track logo will appear on the Mazda RX-8’s entered by SpeedSource Race Engineering in the Grand American Road Racing Association’s (Grand Am) ST and GT classes as well as MAZDA6 sedans campaigned by Tri-Point Motorsports, Protomotive and Tindol Motorsports in the Sports Car Club of America’s (SCCA) SPEED World Challenge Touring Car class.

The relationship represents an exciting partnership between Mazda, Hachette Filipacchi Media U.S. and the individual teams, and will increase exposure for all parties involved.

“Like many of the fans that attend the ALMS, Grand Am and SCCA Speed World Challenge race weekends in which Mazda participates, I grew up reading Road & Track,” said Robert Davis, Mazda’s Senior Vice President in charge of Research, Development and Quality, and the man responsible for Mazda’s North American motorsports programs.  “And with Road & Track’s enthusiasm for sports cars and racing – and Mazda’s strong leadership role in open- and closed-wheel racing – this was a natural association just waiting to happen.”

“When presented with the opportunity to involve Road & Track with the ALMS and other sanctioning bodies, associating with a company like Mazda seemed an obvious choice,” added John Driscoll, Vice President and Publisher of Road & Track.  “The demographics and philosophies of Road & Track, Mazda and ALMS all attract the knowledgeable enthusiast who chooses originality over mass-production ‘sameness’.”

On any given weekend, there are more Mazdas on the road-race tracks of America than any other brand of vehicle.  Mazda’s motorsport involvement even extends to the nation’s premier road-racing circuit, Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca.  

Headquartered in Irvine, California, Mazda North American Operations oversees the sales, marketing, parts and customer service support of Mazda vehicles in the United States, Canada and Mexico through nearly 900 dealers.  Operations in Canada are managed by Mazda Canada, Inc., located in Ontario, Canada, and in Mexico by Mazda Motor de Mexico in Mexico City.

Newman team to promote "Stop Smoking" Newman team to promote "Stop Smoking"Houston, Texas - Starting at the Houston Grand Prix this week, Newman Wachs Racing Champ Car Atlantic team owners Paul Newman and Eddie Wachs announce they will use their machines as a rolling “billboard” to encourage race fans to QUIT! smoking.

With its philosophy and passion, Newman Wachs Racing searches for performance everyday and looks for every possible tool to enhance that level of performance.  “Anyone who cares about personal health and performance should not allow smoking to control their lives,” states Eddie Wachs, “and we want to stress this message through our involvement in motorsports.”

“Performance in motorsports, as in all high stress venues, depends on the ultimate in fitness. Our Champ Car Atlantic team, including the mechanics, pit crew, engineers as well as our drivers, could not function without a smoke-free environment,” continues Wachs, “The fact is that smoking is the number-one most preventable cause of death.  Take your pick, emphysema, cancer, or heart disease. Simply put, quit and you’ll live longer.”

Newman Wachs Racing spends every waking hour looking for an advantage on the track and within the team.  Society should make it a point to carry this same philosophy within daily life and continue to look towards improving overall health.  One major step is to QUIT! smoking.  NWR is passionate about this message and is a team that will back it up to race fans and the general public.

Newman Wachs Racing, in their landmark year, along with their rookie drivers Joe D'Agostino of the USA and Daniel Gaunt of New Zealand, will prove to be the ones to watch.

 For more information on the team, their mission, and to view the Original “Track Pack” documentary film trailer in production, log on to http://www.newmanwachsracing.com/.

Overheard in Houston Overheard in HoustonTo a person, all the drivers are complaining about the bumps on the concrete portions of the Houston Grand Prix track.  There are places that the cars are getting 4-wheels off the ground, and as Katherine Legge told AutoRacing1.com, "I think we all underestimated just how bumpy it is.  It is very tiring as you never get a chance to rest here.  There are no long straights and you're either turning or fighting the wheel over the bumps all the time.  It's really hard to get a perfect lap here but we'll deal with it like everyone else."

Like we said, it should make for an entertaining race.

Roster change for Flying Lizard team Roster change for Flying Lizard teamRoster changes, no matter what the sport, are more often the norm than not. Flying Lizard Motorsports is no exception.

Veteran Wolf Henzler, who has campaigned previously in American Le Mans Series events for BAM! as well as Alex Job Racing, became the newest Flying Lizard when he signed on with the Sonoma, Calif.-based team following the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring.  

Henzler takes the spot vacated by Jon Fogarty, who left the Lizards for a prototype driving opportunity elsewhere.

Lizard driver Seth Neiman welcomed Henzler to the fold. “We are really looking forward to working with Wolf. His record and talent speak for themselves," Neiman said. “He and Johannes have run well together in the past, and we are looking forward to more of that in the future."

Henzler, like many American Le Mans Series pilots, began his career in the karting ranks.  He was a junior champion at the age of 15. He made his Series debut in 2004, driving in one event for Alex Job Racing, finishing second in GT2 as a third driver at Petit Le Mans.

Last season, Henzler joined BAM! at Lime Rock and was with the team the remainder of the season. Highlights included four podium finishes in seven starts, with a second place class finish at Portland and three other third-place efforts.

The dissolution of the BAM! team made Henzler a sports car “free agent” whose services were coveted by many teams.
“Having competed against the Lizards in the past, I knew the capabilities of the team,” Henzler said. “The Houston street course will be a challenge for all of us, but it is one we look forward to.”

Indy 500 Thursday practice quotes Indy 500 Thursday practice quotes
SAM HORNISH JR. (No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fastest driver of the day): "So far it's been a dream week. Everything is seeming to go right. The car is spot-on. We make changes to it every day to try to find more and we've been able to do it. I think the big thing for us is to continue in the direction that we're heading and make sure that we don't make any mistakes. I would never have imagined this on Monday. We're just going to keep working real hard at it, and hopefully the whole month will be this way. Today, we went out there first thing right when it was about as windy as it was all day, felt really comfortable with the car. When things are going the way they are, you want to make sure that you don't go out there and make a big mistake. It's not easy driving with the wind out there today. It moves the car around quite a bit. It can get a bit scary at times. The wind will actually pick the car up a bit and move it around, but on the other hand we need to know what the car is going to do in all different conditions so we can adjust for it, because we are a little bit different that we were yesterday." (About Dan Wheldon being second) "I knew that those guys were going to be quick. We knew going into the season, everybody was asking me, 'Who's your biggest competition going to be?' 'Outside of Helio, it'll be the Ganassi guys.' Helio's really had a dream beginning of the season like I've had a dream beginning of the month of May. We've worked so hard over the past two years. We could also see Ganassi doing the same thing. They've been working hard at it. They picked up Dan (Wheldon) in the off-season along with my engineer from Panther, Andy Brown, so I know how good he is. They switched to Dallaras as well. They're out there working just as hard as we are. Right now we're holding a bit of an advantage. We're making sure the car is good for four laps, because we know that's the one thing that's really different from what we have at any other racetrack that we run. This is 10 miles of qualifying. It's quite difficult to keep the car handling the same way for that run especially when you've got it right on the edge." (About whether the fast lap came in a four-lap qualifying simulation) "That's what we've really been doing the past two days is making sure the we've got the car good for more than just one lap. If we go out there and it's not good, we'll bring it back in and fix it and try and make it better. Actually with the weather that we had today, it was about the best that the car has handled all month so far. We were pretty excited about that."

HELIO CASTRONEVES (No. 3 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone, third-fastest driver): "It was very windy today, so it was tough to see if the changes we made were an improvement from yesterday. Fortunately, we were able to put up a good time early on, so we decided not to run too much in these conditions. We tried to go back out late in the day, but the rain came and ended practice. Overall, we're very happy with the Marlboro Team Penske car right now, but we're going to continue to work on the small details tomorrow in hopes that we can make a run for the pole this weekend." zzzz

TONY KANAAN (No. 11 Team 7-Eleven Dallara/Honda/Firestone, seventh-fastest driver): "It was a short day for everybody, but I think we found a little more speed in the Team 7-Eleven car. Then again, so did everyone else; we made progress but so did everyone else."

DARIO FRANCHITTI (No. 27 Klein Tools/Canadian Club Dallara/Honda/Firestone, fifth-fastest driver): "It was definitely a positive day for the Klein Tools/Canadian Club team. I would say we've gained some strides toward the front and we've gained some pace. We're still not where we need to be and I think I can speak for all five cars when I say that. But we've got to still keep pushing, working hard and get the car up front."

BRYAN HERTA (No. 7 XM Satellite Radio Dallara/Honda/Firestone, sixth-fastest driver): "It's difficult to say if we made any progress today because there were difficult conditions out there. We still seem to be behind the same four cars but ahead of the rest. We want to solidify that position, but try to attack and move forward by Saturday. I don't know how much is going to be possible but we'll do the best we can. If this (weather) turns out to be how it is on race day or Saturday (pole day), at least we have a little bit of data to go back to and know what we've got to deal with. We improved the speed of the XM Satellite Radio car and really, all five Andretti Green Racing cars are the same speed, and that's a credit to the team."

MARCO ANDRETTI (No. 26 NYSE Group Dallara/Honda/Firestone, eighth-fastest driver): "The NYSE car picked up some speed today but it appears that everyone else improved as well. It's hard to tell if it's the track, the wind, or what, but it's not easy to drive right now."

MICHAEL ANDRETTI (No. 1 Jim Beam/Vonage Dallara/Honda/Firestone, ninth-fastest driver): ""I was really happy we got to run today in the Jim Beam/Vonage car. We made some changes overnight. Now, I'm quick enough that I can go play with my teammates out there. We were about a mile an hour off and now we're within striking distance of them. Tony [Cicale] and I are really working well together. Next, we just need to work on our pit stops and get that part of our program ready for race day, but me and Tony - we're definitely on the same page."

TOMAS SCHECKTER (No. 2 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, 10th-fastest driver): "We tried a couple of different things on the car today, and we were still pretty quick so I'm pleased with how things are progressing. Even with the difficult conditions, we still performed well and learned a lot. This weekend will be fun, and we have our work cut out for us, but we are up to the challenge and are really looking forward to it. It will be fun to really turn it loose and see what we can do."

BUDDY RICE (No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Argent Panoz/Honda/ Firestone, 15th-fastest driver): "It's weird. It just took off. We weren't even into the turn yet when I lost it. This is somewhat like last year, but we'll be OK. We just need to come back tomorrow and get cleared by Dr. Bock. We'll get the backup out and start going to work. We have some work to do, but this team is tough, and we'll be back."

DAN WHELDON (No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing Dallara/Honda/Firestone, second-fastest driver): "I think we made some improvements again, certainly, for the car's overall balance and handling. I think, still, (Sam) Hornish is comfortably the quickest right now, certainly over a four-lap qualifying average. So we've still got some work to do but the good thing is each day we've making some gains and everybody at Target Chip Ganassi Racing's going to work hard towards closing that gap and trying to beat it, possibly. The important thing is we've improved our car each day, and that's important because you want to kind of peak just before Race Day, that's what we'd certainly like to do. We'd love to contend for the pole and I think we will, but we're a little off that right now."

Bourdais tops opening practice Bourdais tops opening practiceNewman/Haas driver Sebastien Bourdais turned a lap of 1m0.240s to lead opening session Champ Car practice ahead of Mario Dominguez and Justin Wilson. The concrete track is quite bumpy and a number of drivers were caught out. The team that masters the bumps this weekend will be tough to beat, but a bumpy track means lots of action.  More later...
Hornish again fastest as pole day approaches Hornish again fastest as pole day approachesMarlboro Team Penske driver Sam Hornish Jr. topped the speed charts for the third consecutive day as preparations continued for the 90th running of the Indianapolis 500.

Shortly after the track opened for practice following an hour, 54 minute rain delay, Hornish posted the month's quickest lap of 39.6844 seconds, 226.789 mph in his No. 6 Marlboro Team Penske Dallara/Honda/Firestone.

"So far it's been a dream week," Hornish said. "Everything is seeming to go right. The car is spot-on. We make changes to it every day to try to find more, and we've been able to do it. I think the big thing for us is to continue in the direction that we're heading and make sure that we don't make any mistakes. I would never have imagined this on Monday. We're just going to keep working real hard at it, and hopefully the whole month will be this way."

Target Chip Ganassi Racing's Dan Wheldon was second for the second consecutive day with a lap of more than 226 mph. Wheldon, the defending Indianapolis 500 champion, was second at 226.068 mph. Hornish's teammate Helio Castroneves (225.547) was third with Wheldon's teammate, Scott Dixon (225.309) and Andretti Green Racing's Dario Franchitti (224.742) rounding out the top five. Marco Andretti (223.606) was the quickest rookie on the track.

2004 Indianapolis 500 winner Buddy Rice was involved in the day's only incident, heavily damaging his No. 15 Rahal Letterman Racing Team Argent Honda-powered Panoz in a Turn 2 accident. Rice sustained contusions to his knees and will be re-evaluated on May 12. Eighteen drivers completed 356 laps today.

Thursday practice speeds at Indy:
Pos Driver Best Time Best Speed
1 Sam Hornish Jr (6) 39.6844 226.789
2 Dan Wheldon (10) 39.8075 226.088
3 Helio Castroneves (3T) 39.9030 225.547
4 Scott Dixon (9) 39.9451 225.309
5 Dario Franchitti (27) 40.0460 224.742
6 Bryan Herta (7) 40.1920 223.925
7 Tony Kanaan (11) 40.1957 223.905
8 Marco Andretti (26) 40.2494 223.606
9 Michael Andretti (1) 40.3249 223.187
10 Tomas Scheckter (2) 40.4965 222.241
11 Ed Carpenter (20) 40.5683 221.848
12 Townsend Bell (90) 40.5963 221.695
13 Tony Kanaan (1) 40.6659 221.316
14 Danica Patrick (16) 40.7112 221.069
15 Buddy Rice (15) 40.8839 220.136
16 Jeff Simmons (17) 41.2633 218.111
17 Felipe Giaffone (14) 41.3267 217.777
18 Buddy Lazier (5) 41.4944 216.897
19 Marty Roth (25) 43.1764 208.447

Petrol Ofisi FMS International signs Giorgio Pantano Petrol Ofisi FMS International signs Giorgio Pantano
GP2 Series: Giorgio, welcome back.
Giorgio Pantano: It’s a pleasure to be back in GP2.

GP2 Series: So how did this all come about? Who contacted who?
Giorgio: Paolo [Coloni] called me yesterday, to ask if I was interested to come back and do some racing in GP2. I said “Why Not!” I prefer racing to doing nothing, and we decided yesterday evening to come back and do the race.

GP2 Series: You were in the Imola paddock two races ago. Were you impressed with the differences you saw in the series?
Giorgio: Yeah, the speed, the tires, how much they’ve gained and how fast they go through the corners now. It impressed me to see the cars like this compared to what it was like last year. Anyway, I think the only problem you have here is to understand very quickly how the new slick tires work compared to the grooved tires. That’s the main difference. zzzz

GP2 Series: FMS International has scored points this season but hasn’t looked like threatening the podium. But when Franck Montagny tested in Valencia he was the quickest driver in the session. Is that a positive you can take into this weekend?
Giorgio: The team has a lot of experience, but with the two drivers they had they lacked experience of this kind of car. They had to learn the car, they had to learn all the circuits as they had never raced there, and these cars are difficult to understand. This, I think, was the problem. I believe in this team, I hope they are very good, and I think that maybe the only thing that held them back was having drivers who lacked experience. I can help the team with this.

GP2 Series: Obviously driving for Giancarlo’s team will mean that if you get results, it will be big news in the F1 paddock.
Giorgio: Yeah probably.

GP2 Series: Was that something you thought about before choosing to take the drive?
Giorgio: No not really. I just decided to come back because I didn’t want to be doing nothing anymore. And for me, GP2 is not similar to other categories. For me it’s at the top. If I had the choice to race in World Series or another category I wouldn’t take it. This is important. For me, this is not a case of coming back. It’s a case of showing what I can do, because GP2 is popular, the people see you because there are lots of fans of GP2. I have come back because I believe in the team and I believe in me.


[Nelson jabs Giorgio in the side and runs off laughing as Giorgio shouts after him.]

GP2 Series: So how long is the deal for?
Giorgio: It depends. On results, on if the team is happy with me, if I am happy with the team. For sure I’m here for two races, and then we take the final decision after Monte Carlo.

GP2 Series: And what about your overalls? You’re still wearing your Super Nova ones.
Giorgio: Yeah, it all happened so fast! If I win, I’ll have to go to the podium in my pants!

Track News
Rose Festival to honor Bourdais Rose Festival to honor Bourdais(Portland, Ore.)- In keeping with the long tradition of auto racing associated with the Portland Rose Festival, Sebastien Bourdais, two-time defending champion of the Champ Car World Series, will serve as Grand Marshal of the 2006 Southwest Airlines Grand Floral Parade, it was announced Thursday.

Bourdais, (pronounced Bor-day) zoomed into the Champ Car scene as rookie of the year in 2003 and followed with unprecedented series wins in both 2004 and 2005, posting nine consecutive top five finishes in 2005. Bourdais has seventeen (17) wins in 46 career starts, capturing 19 pole positions along the way.  Starting in a Go-Kart at age 10, Bourdais, 27, was born in one of the world's most well known racing venues, Le Mans, France, and has grown into one of the top race car drivers in the world. zzzz

"As the Rose Festival approaches its Centennial Celebration in 2007, it seemed the perfect time to remind people that Champ Car racing got its start right here in Portland during the third annual Rose Festival," said Rose Festival President, Rita Bladow. A quote from the 1909 event program describes the race: "Forty of the fastest cars in America to contest, driven by some of the most noted drivers in the world."

A centerpiece of the annual Rose Festival, the Grand Floral Parade is the nation’s second-largest all-floral parade and has been ranked by USA Today as one of the top five parades in America.

"It is an honor to be chosen to represent my sport in such a wonderful event," said Bourdais. "I love racing in Portland, but it will be nice to slow down long enough to see the people who come out on parade morning."

Bourdais who drives for the Newman/Haas Racing team will participate in the Champ Car Grand Prix of Portland presented by G.I. Joe's a week after the parade, June 16-18, an event he won in 2004. The largest auto race in the Pacific Northwest, the Grand Prix features the 240 mph turbocharged open-wheel machines of the Champ Car World Series.

This is not the first time a Champ car driver has served as Grand Marshal. In 1984, the inaugural year of the Portland race, Gordon Johncock and Al Unser, Jr. were tapped to ride in the parade.

Southwest Airlines Grand Floral Parade will take place in downtown Portland on Saturday, June 10 at 10:00 a.m. and will be broadcast live on KGW Northwest NewsChannel 8.  Reserved seating for inside and outside the Memorial Coliseum is still available at www.rosefestival.org or at Ticketmaster locations.  Champ Car tickets can also be purchased through all Ticketmaster locations.

Spanish GP: Thursday Press Conference Spanish GP: Thursday Press Conference
Jourdain Jr. badmouths Champ Car again Jourdain Jr. badmouths Champ Car againMichel Jourdain gave an interesting interview to this Mexican website, and it seems that the favorite subject Jourdain likes to discuss these past few weeks is how bad Champ Car is and how bad they were to him.

In one part of the interview he talks about the 2003 season, his last one with Team Rahal. Jourdain said that in 2003 Champ Car did many things to stop him from winning the title, he cited as examples the pole position he lost in Laguna Seca because of a weight problem (according to Jourdain his car weight was okay but that Champ Car was out to get him), the penalty he had in Miami, and the time the pits were closed in Australia (he said officials told everyone pits were not going to be closed in Australia).

In another part of the interview he talks about the beginning of the 2004 season. He said Champ Car convinced him to stay in 2004 by promising him a ride with Newman/Haas. Michel said that his mistake was to trust them blindly and announce to every media outlet he was staying in Champ Car, only to find out later that Carl Haas said they could not give him a third car after all, meaning he ended up with RuSPORT.

He also talks about Carl Russo and says that the team never really supported him, that they never tried to improve his car and that all the good personnel was working in AJ´s car and that he ended the season on bad terms with Carl Russo. zzzz

Then Jourdain explains how Gerald Forsythe offered him a ride for 2005 but he decided to go to NASCAR because of the bad shape Champ Car was in and how strong NASCAR is. He said he wanted to start a career in NASCAR, especially with the kind of opportunity Ford was giving him, and said that even though Champ Car and IRL are talking about a merger he wants to stay in NASCAR because of how big NASCAR is. He wants to stay in NASCAR 15 more years.

The interviewer point blank asked Jourdain whether going to NASCAR was an error? He responded that although it may look like it was not the best decision, just like Paul Tracy is also trying to move to NASCAR, and just like Dan Wheldon is going to a lot of NASCAR races trying to get a deal, and just like AJ Foyt is giving it a try, so too does he.

We're not sure Jourdain is talking so much about Champ Car these days. Perhaps he is trying to convince himself he made the right choice, and talking about choices. Perhaps Jourdain Jr. and AutoRacing1.com have different definitions of a good choice. Two years in a row of not having a contract to run a complete season in NASCAR (this year Michel will only run in 9 Craftsman Truck Series events and only 3 Busch Series events), and having to move down from the Busch Series to the Craftsman Truck Series doesn’t sound like a good choice to us. Jose Arrambide reporting from Mexico

Tracy re-signs for 5 years Tracy re-signs for 5 yearsForsythe Championship Racing announced today in Houston as teams gathered for the inaugural Grand Prix of Houston that Paul Tracy has been re-signed with the team for another five years in Champ Car - through 2011.

"It's just been really just an extension of a good relationship with the team.  I'm very comfortable in the team.  The team has been very comfortable with me.  I've had the opportunity to go out there and explore other things.  Really this is what I want to do and what I love to do.  I'm just excited about moving forward, moving into a second phase of my career with Forsythe Racing.  New car in '07.  Potentially, if we all can cross our fingers, a combined championship if that happens.  That was really the big -- one of the big factors of wanting to continue.

"For me, it allows me to road race.  That's what I love to do first and foremost.  You know, I've kind of gone through a thing at this point in my career of deciding what I wanted to do, what direction did I want to go.  I was going out trying stock cars, racing Grand-Am cars, doing some endurance racing, but this is still what I love to do.  I've got a great partnership with the team, a great partnership with Gerry Forsythe who believes in me.  He wanted me to continue and stay in this.  This is really what I love to do.  That's why I've decided to keep going." More.....

NASCAR Asks For Rezone In Washington NASCAR Asks For Rezone In WashingtonThe company proposing a NASCAR racetrack near Bremerton has asked to rezone the property for commercial uses.  The rezone application is part of the planning process, but a lot needs to happen before the $345 million track is built.  The International Speedway Corporation is asking the state to authorize $166 million in bonds that would be repaid from taxes. Lieutenant Governor Brad Owen has called a meeting with state lawmakers on May 31 to discuss the NASCAR track.
Forsythe Racing Announces Pride of Mexico Initiative Forsythe Racing Announces Pride of Mexico InitiativeHouston, Texas - It’s been 24 years since Mexican racing legend Hector Rebaque scored a Champ Car victory at Road America outside Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin. Driving a March-Cosworth for the newly-formed Forsythe Racing Team, the 26-year old racer took the checkered flag first after leader Al Unser ran out of fuel on the final lap. Today, Forsythe driver Mario Dominguez carries the torch for Mexican racing fans and enters this weekend’s Grand Prix of Houston fourth in the Champ Car World Series point standings.
As a salute to the huge numbers of Hispanic fans on both sides of the border that have supported Champ Car over the years, Forsythe Championship Racing is proud to announce the formation of the “Pride of Mexico” initiative, a new concept intended to cement the symbiotic relationship that Champ Car and Mexico have shared over many decades. The “Orgullo de México” (Pride of Mexico) logos will be prominently displayed on Mario Dominguez’s #7 Orgullo de México/INDECK Ford-Cosworth/Bridgestone/Lola.

Jerry Forsythe
Team Owner

“’Orgullo de México (Pride of Mexico) is a new concept that we have developed at Forsythe Racing with the goal of creating a brand with which Mexican fans and companies in Mexico and around the world can identify with, and with which we can proudly represent Mario Dominguez, Mexico, and all the Hispanic motorsport fans that have supported Champ Car for so many years. This event provides the perfect backdrop to launch this program. There’s no better place to demonstrate the Pride of Mexico than with our return to Houston, with one of the largest Mexican populations in the United States, and where only a few days ago Mario Dominguez participated in some very festive Cinco de Mayo celebrations. Next week we head south to Mexico for the Tecate Grand Prix of Monterrey Presented by Roshfrans, which has always been a very important stop for the Champ Car World Series. We hope to showcase the Mexican Pride that exists around the world and invite all of Mexico to help us take Mario and Forsythe racing to victory lane and truly become the Pride of Mexico” zzzz

Mario Domínguez
#7 Orgullo de México/INDECK Ford-Cosworth/Bridgestone/Lola

“Pride of Mexico’ is a concept that we have created in order to create more awareness of Champ Car in the Hispanic community and to give the Mexican fans and companies a team that they can identify with. I think it’s a great idea and I'm sure that people in Mexico will really enjoy it. I’m very proud that the team puts so much emphasis in the relationship between Hispanic society and Champ Car, and the historic influence that Mexico has within international motorsport.”

“It makes me very proud to have the colors of my flag on my car and to be able to represent Mexico around the world, and what better city to launch this concept than in Houston, where only a few days ago I had the chance to celebrate Cinco de Mayo with my fellow Mexicans. And then to get to go home and race in front of my friends and family in Monterrey means a lot to me. These are going to be two very important weeks. I can’t wait to get out on the track at the new Houston facility, its going to be an amazing event and I know that we will have tons of support from the Latin community, the Pride of Mexico will definitely be felt at the track!”

Audi R8 tops opening practice in Houston Audi R8 tops opening practice in HoustonHOUSTON – No one believed the Audi R8 would slip into retirement quietly. But just in case there were any doubts, Dindo Capello has put them to rest.

The Italian posted the quickest time during Thursday morning’s initial practice for the Lone Star Grand Prix at Houston’s Reliant Park. Capello, teaming with Allan McNish in the No. 2 Audi R8, toured the 1.69-mile street course in 1:07.102. His time was 0.901 seconds better than Penske Racing’s No. 6 RS Spyder of Lucas Luhr.

In LMP1, Dyson Racing’s No. 16 AER-powered Lola was second fastest in class at 1:09.664. The time, posted by Butch Leitzinger, was third overall.

It was quite a busy session with 53 different fast laps set among the four classes during the 50-minute session.

The Porsche of Luhr and Sascha Maassen was the quickest LMP2 entry and was 0.220 seconds better than the team car of Timo Bernhard and Romain Dumas. Intersport Racing, class winner at Sebring, was third in class at 1:12.584.

Corvette Racing’s pair of Corvette C6.Rs led the way in GT1. Oliver Gavin led the way at 1:10.910 in the No. 4 entry, followed by Ron Fellows at 1:11. Aston Martin Racing’s two Aston Martin DBR9s were within 0.3 seconds of the two ‘Vettes. zzzz

Formula One veteran Mika Salo paced the GT2 field in the Houston-based Risi Competizione Ferrari F430GT at 1:13.468. Patrick Long, in the No. 31 Petersen Motorsports/White Lightning Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, was second fastest in class at 1:13.828. The No. 23 Alex Job Racing Porsche was another half-second back.

The track configuration was modified slightly earlier Thursday morning with the addition of a chicane prior to Turn 2.

The Lone Star Grand Prix is scheduled for 8 p.m. CDT Friday at Houston’s Reliant Park. It will be broadcast at 1 p.m. EDT Saturday on CBS Sports, the first of five straight Series events on network television. Qualifying is set for 6:15 p.m. CDT tonight. American Le Mans Radio will have live coverage at www.americanlemans.com, which also will have IMSA Live Timing & Scoring.

Lone Star Grand Prix
Practice Session 1

1. Allan McNish, Scotland; Rinaldo Capello, Italy; Audi R8 (P1), 1:07.102, 89.63
2. Sascha Maassen, Germany; Lucas Luhr, Germany; Porsche RS Spyder (P2), 1:08.053, 88.37
3. James Weaver, England; Butch Leitzinger, State College, PA; Lola B06/10 AER (P1), 1:08.273, 88.09
4. Timo Bernhard, Germany; Romain Dumas, France; Porsche RS Spyder (P2), 1:08.470, 87.84
5. Oliver Gavin, England; Olivier Beretta, Monaco; Corvette C6-R (GT1), 1:10.910, 84.81
6. Ron Fellows, Canada; Johnny OConnell, Flowery Branch, GA; Corvette C6-R (GT1), 1:11.000, 84.71
7. Pedro Lamy, Lisbon Portugal; Stephane Sarrazin, France; Aston Martin DB9 (GT1), 1:11.292, 84.36
8. Chris McMurry, Phoenix, AZ; Bryan Willman, Kirkland, WA; Lola EX257 AER (P1), 1:11.309, 84.34
9. Tomas Enge, Czech Republic; Darren Turner, England; Aston Martin DB9 (GT1), 1:11.661, 83.93
10. Clint Field, Dublin, OH; Liz Halliday, Rancho Santa Fe, CA; Lola B05/40 AER (P2), 1:12.584, 82.86
11. Mika Salo, Finland; Jaime Melo, Brazil; Ferrari 430 GT Berlinetta (GT2), 1:13.468, 81.86
12. Jorg Bergmeister, Germany; Patrick Long, Oak Park, CA; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT2), 1:13.828, 81.46
13. Mike Rockenfeller, Germany; Klaus Graf, Germany; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT2), 1:14.339, 80.90
14. Scott Maxwell, Canada; David Brabham, Australia; Panoz Esperante GTLM (GT2), 1:14.370, 80.87
15. Wolf Henzler, Germany; Johannes vanOverbeek, San Francisco, CA; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT2), 1:14.635, 80.58
16. Jamie Bach, West Palm Beach, FL; Guy Cosmo, Long Island, NY; Courage C65 Mazda (P2), 1:14.803, 80.40
17. Joey Hand, Sacramento, CA; Bill Auberlen, Hermosa Beach, CA; BMW E46 M3 (GT2), 1:14.964, 80.23
18. Gunnar Jeannette, Palm Beach Gardens, FL; Tom Milner, Leesburg, VA; Panoz Esperante GTLM (GT2), 1:15.167, 80.01
19. Seth Neiman, Burlingame, CA; Lonnie Pechnik, Pacific Grove, CA; Porsche 911 GT3 RSR (GT2), 1:15.467, 79.69
20. Martin Jensen, Denmark; Justin Marks, Sacramento, CA; BMW E46 M3 (GT2), 1:16.227, 78.90
21. Guy Smith, England; Chris Dyson, Pleasant Valley, NY; Lola B06/10 AER (P1), 1:19.740, 75.42
22. Gunnar Van der Steur, Chesapeake City, MD; Ben Devlin, England; Lola B2K/40 AER (P2), 1:31.777, 65.53
23. Paolo Ruberti, Italy; Tom Weickardt, Whitefish Bay, WI; Saleen S7R (GT1), 5:07.718, 19.54

No regrets for McLaren switch, says Alonso No regrets for McLaren switch, says Alonso(GMM)  World champion and 2006 championship leader Fernando Alonso says he is not having second thoughts about leaving Renault for McLaren at the end of the current year.

At a press conference in Madrid prior to his home grand prix this weekend, the Spaniard said: ''I am convinced that in 2007 I will have the best car in F1.''

At Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona this weekend, 24-year-old Alonso will perform in front of Spain's King Juan Carlos and 130,000 other adoring countrymen, including 2,000 of his own fan club.

But he couldn't help having a little moan about what is increasingly called 'Alonsomania'.

''When I arrive in another country,'' he said, ''I am treated with respect.  Here, though, I am chased around in restaurants and can't move about freely.''

Paul Newman, others star in Disney premier Friday Paul Newman, others star in Disney premier FridayAfter taking moviegoers magically into the realm of toys, bugs, monsters, fish, and superheroes, the masterful storytellers and technical wizards at Pixar Animation Studios (“The Incredibles,” “Finding Nemo,” “Monsters, Inc.”), and Academy Award®-winning director John Lasseter (“Toy Story,” “Toy Story 2,” “A Bug’s Life”), hit the road with a fast-paced comedy adventure set inside the world of cars.  Lightning McQueen (voiced by OWEN WILSON), a hotshot rookie race car driven to succeed, discovers that life is about the journey, not the finish line, when he finds himself unexpectedly detoured in the sleepy Route 66 town of Radiator Springs.  On route across the country to the big Piston Cup Championship in California to compete against two seasoned pros, McQueen gets to know the town’s offbeat characters -including Doc Hudson (a 1951 Hudson Hornet with a mysterious past, voiced by PAUL NEWMAN), Sally Carrera (a snazzy 2002 Porsche voiced by BONNIE HUNT), and Mater (a rusty but trusty tow truck voiced by LARRY THE CABLE GUY) - who help him realize that there are more important things than trophies, fame and sponsorship.  The all-star vocal cast also includes free-wheeling performances by Tony Shalhoub, Michael Keaton, George Carlin, Katherine Helmond, Cheech Marin, John Ratzenberger, Paul Dooley, Michael Wallis, Darrell Waltrip, racing legend Richard Petty, Jenifer Lewis and Jeremy Piven.  Fueled with plenty of humor, action, heartfelt drama, and amazing new technical feats, CARS is a high octane delight for moviegoers of all ages.
JV to cop engine change penalty in Spain JV to cop engine change penalty in SpainUPDATE The engine raced by Jacques Villeneuve at the Nurburgring had to be replaced because it was damaged on the way to Barcelona, it has emerged.

'Sport-Informations-Dienst' reported on Thursday that the error will cost the French Canadian ten places on Sunday's grid, after the governing FIA declined BMW-Sauber's request to open the V8 unit to inspect the damage.

Rumors in the paddock at Circuit de Catalunya suggest that the engine might have been dropped.

05/11/06 (GMM) BMW-Sauber's Jacques Villeneuve will move ten places down Sunday's Spanish grand prix grid after an unscheduled V8 engine change in the days since racing at the Nurburgring, according to breaking news in Barcelona.

With the errant 2.4 liter power plant, the Canadian finished eighth in the GP of Europe.

But BMW motor sport director Mario Theissen said last Sunday: ''Jacques had the speed to stay in the points for two thirds of the race, but during and after the second pit stop he could not keep up the same pace as some of his competitors.''

Track News
45th year at M-O to kick off live on CBS 45th year at M-O to kick off live on CBSThe 45th year of racing at Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course will kick off the season with a visit from the American Le Mans Series the weekend of May 19-21, 2006.  The two-hour, forty-five minute ALMS feature race that Sunday set to start at 12:00 p.m. EDT, will draw live international coverage on the CBS television network.

The American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio will be the third race of a 10-race 2006 schedule for the American Le Mans Series, and will be the final test for competitors before they head overseas to the Sarthe region of France to compete in the 24 Hours of Le Mans in mid-June. 

“We’re pleased to welcome the American Le Mans Series back to Mid-Ohio, and to be able to showcase this incredible endurance event on national TV,” said Michelle Trueman-Gajoch, president of TrueSports, Incorporated, which owns and operates Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.  “With all of the track improvements we’ve made in the off-season, this should be one of the best and most competitive ALMS races we’ve ever hosted, and an incredible show for our fans and sponsors.” zzzz

Ten top manufacturers are once again using the American Le Mans Series to showcase their latest technology in 2006.  Audi, which opened the 2006 season by winning its 48th American Le Mans Series race, will seek to maintain its dominance. The Audi entry at Mid-Ohio will be challenged in the LMP1 category by Dyson Racing, which finished first and second overall at Mid-Ohio in 2005.

In LMP2, defending Mid-Ohio class winner B-K Motorsports hopes its Mazda can outpace the hometown Intersport Racing team and the new Porsche RS Spyders of Penske Racing, the first Porsche developed exclusively for the race track since the highly successful 911 GT1 in 1998.

In the GT1 class field, the heated-showdown between Corvette and Aston-Martin will move to Round Three. Corvette, the defending American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio GT1 champion, opened 2006 with a class win at Sebring while Aston-Martin secured the other two GT1 podium spots.

The tightly contested GT2 field, which featured 25 lead changes during the season’s opening race, should be up in the air once again. The BMW E46, Ferrari 430 GT, Panoz Esperante GTLM and Porsche 911 GT3 all appear capable of taking the top spot on the GT2 podium at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course.

Also featured throughout the weekend will be several support races including the Cooper Tires Formula Ford 2000 Championship Series, Formula BMW USA, SCCA SPEED World Challenge presented by Trenton Forging, IMSA GT3 Cup Challenge presented by Michelin, Star Mazda presented by Goodyear and the newly formed IMSA Lites.

Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course is a 2.4-mile, 15-turn permanent road racing circuit in Lexington, Ohio.  Located 60 miles north of Columbus and 75 miles south of Cleveland near Mansfield, the track has been called the most competitive in the U.S. and annually hosts a diversity of locally, regionally and nationally sanctioned racing events for amateur, club and professional riders and drivers.  Mid-Ohio’s 2006 schedule features a record eight spectator events, including American Le Mans at Mid-Ohio (May 19-21), EMCO Gears Classic presented by KeyBank (June 23-25), AMA Vintage Motorcycle Days (July 28-30), Honda Super Cycle Weekend presented by Dunlop Tire (August 4-6), Vintage Grand-Prix at Mid-Ohio (August 18-20), National Auto Sport Association Championships (September 15-17), AMA Road Race Grand Championships & AMA Motocross Manufacturers Cup (September 22-24) and the AMA Superbike Shootout (September 30-October 1).

Industry News
GM supports Ethanol refueling stations GM supports Ethanol refueling stationsGeneral Motors today announced that it has facilitated plans for the addition of several new E85 ethanol fueling sites throughout Indiana thanks to a collaborative partnership with Meijer and the state of Indiana.
Silver Crown Point Fund Escalates to Record $250K Silver Crown Point Fund Escalates to Record $250KUPDATE A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I wonder where the USAC operation came up with the funding for the big points fund? The races have paid around $9,000 to win forever, now all of a sudden they come up with an extra $420,000 for the purses? Could it be an anonymous donor? Or...could the initials be ISC or France? $670,000 cannot be found by USAC anywhere else! For sure they are concerned with the PRA and they should be, with over 50 cars to draw from. It will be interesting to see if the USAC org. tries to intimidate the owners like they did back when they were someone. i.e. "if you run the other series you will have a hard time in the inspection line" something that occurs in NASCAR all the time. Name Withheld by Request.

05/11/06 INDIANAPOLIS - A quarter of a million dollars is the lofty figure representing the cash bundle which will be distributed to USAC Silver Crown Championship participants at the end of the 2006 racing season, nearly triple last year’s point fund. The record series payout was announced today by USAC President/CEO Rollie Helmling.

“We are proud that we have been able to arrange for this significant amount,” said Helmling. “It represents the impact of our expanded schedule, the substantial increase in purses, the influx of major venues, the expansion of our fan base and the valued commitment of series presenter K & N Engineering. With a $250,000 point fund, which is almost three times what we paid in 2005, and total posted purses exceeding $1.3 million (over twice the 2005 figure), USAC Silver Crown participants are enjoying the rewards of this expansion.” [Editor's Note: How transparent.  This is obviously an effort to try and take the wind out of the sails of the new Premier Racing Association, a group that refuses to switch over to the NASCAR led USAC Superspeedway cars, and to stick with the Silver Crown cars which they have a lot of money invested in.  Where did USAC come up with this new found money all of a sudden when they could not pay it to competitors in previous years?  This of course has France family behind the scene politics written all over it.] 

The increased point fund will allow for a wider distribution base with the emphasis on a tremendous increase in the amount realized by the series championship team.

“This is a good deal,” said 2006 Silver Crown point leader Brian Tyler, winner of the March 25 race at Homestead-Miami Speedway. “I love racing, but I’m racing for the money too, so I hope I can be there when the champion’s money is handed out. I’ve been close several times but haven’t been able to land the big check yet. Maybe this will be the year.” zzzz

Tyler, who finished second in points in 1998, realizes the importance of racing in front of larger crowds and at larger venues.

“The bigger the track, the better,” he said. “I enjoy super-speedways and the increased money is important to me. Plus, I get to showcase my talent in front of some influential people. My team (6R Racing) has done a great job so far and now it’s up to me to do the rest. This huge point fund is obviously going to stir interest in new participants for this series.”

The series which has expanded this year from 10 to 14 events and to tracks up to 1.5 miles in length, will also realize average purse increases of more than $30,000 per race from 2005, with race purses topping out at $150,000 and winners shares reaching the $25,000 figure.

The next series event is the prestigious “Hoosier Hundred’ at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in Indianapolis, where the 1-mile dirt oval will play host to the 54th running of one of America’s greatest dirt-track traditions. The next series pavement event is the “Kentucky 100” as USAC’s new generation Silver Crown cars visit the 1.5-mile Sparta, Ky. oval for the first time in their history.

No regrets for McLaren switch, says Alonso No regrets for McLaren switch, says Alonso(GMM)  World champion and 2006 championship leader Fernando Alonso says he is not having second thoughts about leaving Renault for McLaren at the end of the current year.

At a press conference in Madrid prior to his home grand prix this weekend, the Spaniard said: ''I am convinced that in 2007 I will have the best car in F1.''

At Circuit de Catalunya near Barcelona this weekend, 24-year-old Alonso will perform in front of Spain's King Juan Carlos and 130,000 other adoring countrymen, including 2,000 of his own fan club.

But he couldn't help having a little moan about what is increasingly called 'Alonsomania'.

''When I arrive in another country,'' he said, ''I am treated with respect.  Here, though, I am chased around in restaurants and can't move about freely.''

TV News
USA TV reminders for Saturday USA TV reminders for Saturday
Courtesy of TVRacer.com
Champ Car Qualifying Houston (5/12/06)
12:00am-12:30am SPEED
Formula 1 Qualifying Spain
8:00am-9:30am (L) SPEED
NASCAR Live! Darlington
12:00pm-1:00pm (L) SPEED
IRL -Indy 500 Pole Day Qualifying Indianapolis
12:00pm-2:00pm (L) ESPN2
American Le Mans Series Houston (5/12/06)
1:00pm-3:00pm CBS
Grand-Am Cup Series Laguna Seca (5/6/06) 
1:00pm-3:00pm SPEED
IRL -Indy 500 Pole Day Qualifying Indianapolis
3:00pm-6:00pm (L) ABC
NASCAR RaceDay Darlington
5:00pm-6:30pm (L) SPEED
Speed News Saturday  
6:30pm-7:00pm SPEED
NASCAR Nextel Cup  Darlington
6:30pm-11:00pm (L) FOX
Inside Grand Prix Spain
7:30pm-8:00pm SPEED
Champ Car Houston
9:00pm-11:30pm (L) SPEED
NASCAR Victory Lane Darlington
11:30pm-12:30am (SDD) SPEED

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

Racing News
Report: Senna to race Porsche at Monaco Report: Senna to race Porsche at MonacoBritish Formula Three series leader Bruno Senna will race on the track where his uncle Ayrton scored a record six wins when he races in the Monaco Grand Prix-supporting Porsche Supercup later this month, according to this week's Autosport.

Senna said: "I met with Gerhard Berger at Melbourne and we were talking about how it was a pity that there was no F3 race at Monaco this year. He said maybe he could sort something out for me to trace the guest Porsche - and he did!"

GAINSCO team looks to build momentum GAINSCO team looks to build momentumPHOENIX — As the Rolex Sports Car Series heads into Saturday night’s GAINSCO Grand Prix presented by GAINSCO Auto Insurance at Phoenix International Raceway, Alex Gurney, Jon Fogarty and the GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing team are coming off their strongest performance of the season — a runner-up finish at Laguna Seca last weekend. With the added incentive of a friendly crowd filled with GAINSCO Auto Insurance agents, employees and guests, the team is ready to prove that the No. 99 GAINSCO Auto Insurance Pontiac Riley is a force to be reckoned with every week.
The tough, 1.51-mile infield road course took a toll on the team last year, as a strong run by Gurney was cut short by a spectacular engine fire that forced the No. 99 to retire. But before the GAINSCO team’s race went up in smoke, Gurney had set fast laps and charged through the field. This year, with the addition of the GT cars to the race, Fogarty believes staying clean in a potential 50-car field will be absolutely critical.
“I think there is certain to be chaos ongoing throughout the GAINSCO Grand Prix, and we have to avoid that if we want to bring home a strong finish,” Fogarty said. “The traffic will be crazy, because Phoenix is a difficult track to pass on to begin with, and on top of that the GT cars will be on their line through the oval so we’ll have to go outside to get around.” zzzz
Team owner Bob Stallings is looking for another solid finish from his team to continue building points and momentum, and echoed Fogarty’s feelings about the challenges posed by the track and the other competitors.
“The GAINSCO Grand Prix will be a very difficult race for everyone because of the tight and slippery conditions,” Stallings said. “The GT traffic just makes it even more of a challenge, and I think Jon’s absolutely right — staying out of trouble here will be a key for success.”
GAINSCO Auto Insurance, the primary sponsor of GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing, has signed on as the title sponsor of Saturday’s race, and will host more than 700 agents, guests, employees and executives out to enjoy a day of food, music and, of course, lots of racing fun. Activities will include a question-and-answer session with Alex, Jon and Bob, paddock tours, a live band and the opportunity to cheer the GAINSCO/Blackhawk Racing team on to victory!

“I am really looking forward to putting on a great show for all of the GAINSCO fans,” Fogarty said.

Alex and Jon will chase the team’s first-ever Rolex Series victory at Phoenix International Raceway’s GAINSCO Grand Prix beginning Thursday with practice beginning at 1:30 p.m. Mountain time, with a 30-minute qualifying race going green at 7:45 p.m. Friday. The GAINSCO Grand Prix, scheduled for 166 laps or two hours and 45 minutes, will go green at 7 p.m. Saturday. The race will be televised on a tape-delayed basis on Sunday at 3 p.m. Eastern. Race weekend updates from the team are available on the From the Pit blog at http://GAINSCOracing.blogspot.com, and Internet radio coverage and live timing and scoring are available at http://www.Grand-Am.com.

Latest F1 news in brief Latest F1 news in brief
Honda appoints new aero chief
Mondini gets 'Friday' call-up
Liuzzi says he's serious about F1
Toyota play down 'B' car prospects
Sutil 'impressive', says Haug
New hosts threaten F1's traditional races
DC to turn 200
Ferrari 'accept' unhelpful points system
Ferrari now 'number one', says Wurz
Racing News
SPEED Weekly Top 20 Driver Ranking SPEED Weekly Top 20 Driver Ranking
Updated 5-10-06
Pos. (LW) Driver (Series) Pts
1. (1) Sebastien Bourdais (CCWS) 9.520
2. (2) Fernando Alonso (F1) 9.213
3. (3) Tony Stewart (NASCAR) 8.143
4. (6) Helio Castroneves (IRL) 8.066
5. (11) Kevin Harvick (NASCAR) 7.746
6. (4) Jimmie Johnson (NASCAR) 7.724
7. (22) Dale Earnhardt Jr. (NASCAR) 7.524
8. (7) Justin Wilson (CCWS) 7.508
9. (24) Michael Schumacher (F1) 7.028
10. (19) Mark Martin (NASCAR) 6.902
11. (NR) Kyle Busch (NASCAR) 6.817
12. (9) Dan Wheldon (IRL) 6.808
13. (10) Alex Tagliani (CCWS) 6.793
14. (NR) Denny Hamlin (NASCAR) 6.573
15. (13) Carl Edwards (NASCAR) 6.500
16. (16) Tony Kanaan (IRL) 6.292
17. (12) Jeff Burton (NASCAR) 6.280
18. (5) Matt Kenseth (NASCAR) 6.190
19. (NR) Clint Bowyer (NASCAR) 6.040
20. (20) Casey Mears (NASCAR) 5.956
Dropped out: Jeff Gordon (NASCAR), Dale Jarrett (NASCAR), Brian Vickers (NASCAR), Jamie McMurray (NASCAR), Kurt Busch (NASCAR)
Provided by STATS Inc
Industry News
Gas and Diesel hybrids key to Bosch's future Gas and Diesel hybrids key to Bosch's futureRobert Bosch GmbH's effort to strengthen its portfolio of hybrid components is paying dividends. The world's largest supplier has contracts for its stop-start technology and is ready to start supplying parts for gasoline-electric powertrains.

But the focus on hybrids won't stop Bosch's efforts to improve diesel and gasoline engines. Bosch's involvement in multiple technologies helped to boost its 2005 automotive sales 6 percent to $28.40 billion.

Bosch Chairman Franz Fehrenbach and Bernd Bohr, head of the company's automotive business, spoke with Automotive News Europe Editor Arjen Bongard and Guido Reinking, editor of Automobilwoche. More....

Dakar Rally to tighten security Dakar Rally to tighten securityDakar Rally organizers plan to improve safety at next year's race to protect drivers and spectators. Two African boys died after being hit by rally cars during this year's event and Australian motorcycle rider Andy Caldecott was killed in a crash.

"New measures will be taken to improve the security of competitors and people along the course," a statement said.

"The existing measures will be reinforced and adapted to the specific characteristics of each stage."

KUMHO and B-K Motorsports complete test KUMHO and B-K Motorsports complete testKUMHO and B-K Motorsports have completed their initial test as a partnership, logging test laps at the MotorSport Ranch near Fort Worth, Texas, in advance of this weekend's Lone Star Grand Prix in Houston.

The second round of the American Le Mans Series marks the first event that the B-K Motorsports Mazda-powered Courage C65 will compete on KUMHO rubber. The pair announced a new, full-season racing partnership on April 27 and tested Sunday.

"We were very pleased with the test," said Marcus Haselgrove, B-K Motorsports technical director and team manager. "We found a compound that suits the car, and now we have to find a setup that suits the compound. We saw what we hoped to see from the tires with each change we made; they met our expectations and were very consistent."

 "We tested last year's tire and our two latest tires so B-K could see the progress we've made," said Rudy Consolacion, motorsports manager for KUMHO. "Our latest tire worked very well. We've made significant progress from last year's tire. Marcus and the rest of the B-K crew bring a lot of experience to the table; they're strong technical partners and will play a big role as we continue to develop our tires." zzzz

B-K Motorsports co-owner Bob Bach attended the test and was pleased with what he saw. "KUMHO was there in full force to help us, which was good to see," he said. "Jamie (Bach) did all of the test driving and was happy with the tires. I think this is going to be a good partnership for KUMHO, Mazda and B-K Motorsports."

Haselgrove noted that the B-K Motorsports crew has worked overtime getting ready for the Lone Star Grand Prix at Houston's Reliant Park. "We had to have the car ready two weeks ago so we could ship it to California for a Mazda dealer meeting," he said. "From there we came to Ft. Worth for this test and then drove through the night to get to Houston for the race. The guys have worked hard and deserve a lot of credit."

Haselgrove added that B-K Motorsports and Mazda are working together to develop a tire pressure monitoring system that they hope to have on the car by the end of July.

The KUMHO/B-K Motorsports LMP2 car will carry an on-board camera for the next five races, which will all be broadcast on CBS.

The next round of the 2006 American Le Mans Series is the Lone Star Grand Prix, scheduled for 8 p.m. CDT Friday in Houston. It will be broadcast at 1 p.m. EDT Saturday 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.

Daytona 500 tickets sold to VISA cardholders first Daytona 500 tickets sold to VISA cardholders firstBetween May 20-26, Daytona 500 tickets will be available to Visa cardholders for advance purchase, while May 27 is the official start of the ticket sale through www.racetickets.com.
Lester just doesn’t fit in at NASCAR Lester just doesn’t fit in at NASCARBlack driver Bill Lester (pictured right) just doesn't fit in at NASCAR. Not because he's black in a very white sport, but because Lester is one of the few well-spoken drivers in all of NASCAR. His grammar and use of the English language is far above average.
TV News
USA TV reminders for Friday USA TV reminders for Friday
Courtesy of TVRacer.com
Formula 1 Practice  Spain
8:00am-9:00am (L) SPEED
NASCAR Live! Darlington
3:00pm-3:30pm (L) SPEED
NASCAR Nextel Cup Qualifying Darlington
3:30pm-5:00pm (L) SPEED
NASCAR Busch Qualifying Darlington
5:00pm-6:30pm (L) SPEED
Sports Center at the Indianapolis 500 Indianapolis
5:30pm-6:00pm (L) ESPN2
NASCAR Nextel Cup Final Practice  Darlington
6:30pm-7:30pm (L) SPEED
NASCAR Live! Darlington
7:30pm-8:00pm (L) SPEED
NASCAR Busch Series  Darlington
8:00pm-10:30pm (L) FX
Trackside Darlington
11:00pm-12:00am (L) SPEED

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

Q and A with Foyt and Chitwood Q and A with Foyt and ChitwoodGood afternoon, everyone. Thank you for joining us for today's Indy Racing League teleconference. Today, on this first day of practice for all cars for the 90th running of the Indy 500, we're honored to have two special guests with us. Four-time Indy 500 winner A.J. Foyt is with us and also Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Joie Chitwood. Good afternoon, gentlemen. Thank you for taking the time to join us.

I'll point out we've had 16 cars over 220 miles an hour so far today, so off to a fast start for the month.

A.J. made 35 consecutive starts in the race as a driver from 1958 to '92, winning it in 1961, '64, '67 and '77, and also as the owner in 1999. You have three cars entered this month, the 14 car with Felipe Giaffone, the 41 with Larry Foyt and also the 48. Talk about Felipe. Last year you made a last minute phone call to him on bump day, he qualified the car. This year you have him for the full year. Tell us a little bit about what having Felipe around has meant to the team. Transcript

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