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Driver error blamed for death of driver  The crash that killed V8 driver Ashley Cooper in this year's Clipsal 500 in Adelaide was the result of driver error, an investigation has confirmed.

But Australian motorsport officials have moved to modify the Adelaide street circuit where Cooper slammed into a concrete barrier at high speed in February.

Confederation of Australian Motor Sport (CAMS) chief executive Graham Fountain said on the investigation had confirmed that the track, Cooper's car, his safety equipment and the conditions on the day did not contribute to the cause of the 27-year-old's crash. More ...

track news
Palm Beach to get FIA approval  UPDATE Correction - the track does not have full FIA approval just yet, despite the press release, but it should have it by late January Ron Dixon told AR1.com.

Palm Beach track from the air
Palm Beach International Raceway President, Ron Dixon, announced news on Friday at the PRI Trade Show of FIA approval to use the track as a test facility for all types of racing that falls under the umbrella of a Grade 2 License and also of an important new Indy Lights Rookie Challenge Series to help aspiring young drivers get closer to competing in the 2009 Indy Lights series.

Dixon said, “We’ve recently received notification from the FIA that our Grade II license is forthcoming, and we are confident that we will have the rubber stamp on the certificate by late January or early February, 2009.” This means track testing for professional classes on our road course can begin immediately. This valuable certificate enables Palm Beach International Raceway to host events in all the major classes, including IRL, Indy Lights, Grand-Am, and NASCAR.  “Our whole aim,” explained Dixon “is to bring all major auto racing events to the State of Florida by 2010.”

PBIR’s second announcement of note, involves the launch of a new series titled the Indy Lights Rookie Challenge. This is a concept inspired and perpetuated by Dixon to attract approximately thirty young, ambitious Indy Lights drivers to compete for a fully sponsored ride in the 2009 IRL Indy Lights series. More ...

Changfeng, AM General in talks on Hummer bid  Hunan Changfeng Motor Co is in talks with AM General LLC about a joint acquisition for Hummer brand, general manager of Changfeng Motor said.

"We never quit talks on acquiring the brand," said Zhengchu Chen in an interview with Beijing based Jinghua newspaper.

"But now instead of doing it alone, we decide to form partnership with AM General to reduce risk as the global economy falters, " Chen explained. "We have to always adjust our plan to market conditions."

The two sides are exploring possibilities of building a joint venture company in the U.S. and future production will continue to focus on the local market, according to Chen.

Changfeng showed its intention to buy the brand early in March but a Reuters report, citing an informed source, said in mid-August that "Changfeng has decided not to proceed with the talks after a tour of Hummer's U.S. production facility, as it saw only limited potential for it to market the vehicle."

Earnhardt/Ganassi team to run Chevrolets  As previously rumored by AR1.com, Scenedaily.com is reporting that the new Earnhardt Ganassi Racing team will run Chevrolets and work out of the Chip Ganassi Racing shop, a team spokesman confirmed Tuesday today.  The team still has not named a driver nor a crew chief for the No. 41 car, and it needs a half-season sponsorship for Juan Pablo Montoya. The new organization resulted from a merger of Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Chip Ganassi Racing, which was announced in mid-November.

Doug Randolph will serve as crew chief for Aric Almirola's No. 8 team, a spokesman said.

Neither the shop location nor the engine package is a surprise. The Ganassi team has been a Dodge organization since 2001, the first full season after Chip Ganassi bought a majority interest in Sabco Racing from Felix Sabates.

Dodge had a contract with Ganassi at least through 2009, but Dodge officials had indicated that they would let Ganassi out of its commitment if it was in the best interest of the team.
Bruton Smith's daughter charged with DWI  The daughter of NASCAR racing mogul Bruton Smith has been charged with DWI in connection with a crash last week that left her seriously injured. Anna Smith remains hospitalized at Carolinas Medical Center. On Tuesday, Huntersville police charged her with DWI and driving with a revoked license. The accident on Dec. 10 happened on Gilead Road near Beatties Ford Road around 5 a.m. Authorities found Smith's wrecked vehicle off the road in a field. Smith was reportedly thrown about 40 feet from the car.WCNC.com
Hamilton to appear on stamps  To celebrate Lewis’s 2008 World Championship, the Isle of Man is issuing a set of six stamps featuring stunning images of his championship year. The Isle of Man Post Office is delighted to have such a world great added to their philatelic collection. As well as the stamps, Lewis Hamilton – Formula 1 World Champion, a first day cover, presentation pack and special sheet folder will also be produced and issued on Thursday 15th January 2009.

Dot Tilbury, Philatelic Bureau Manager, Isle of Man Post Office, said: “We are thrilled and honored to be part of the celebrations to acknowledge Lewis’s 2008 Formula 1 World Championship and hope our stamps capture the spirit of his momentous achievement to all his fans around the world.”

Martin Whitmarsh, CEO Formula 1, Vodafone McLaren Mercedes said: “The Isle of Man’s motorsport heritage and enthusiasm for racing is known throughout the world. Therefore, it’s entirely fitting that it has chosen to celebrate Lewis’s tremendous world championship victory by issuing a set of six commemorative stamps that really capture the emotions of a fantastic season.”

Redman Named Grand Marshal  Brian Redman, one of the most accomplished names in international motorsports and three-time winner of the Rolex 24 At Daytona, has been named Grand Marshal for the 47th anniversary of the prestigious Rolex 24 At Daytona on Jan. 24-25 at historic Daytona International Speedway.

Redman will deliver the starting command "Drivers, start your engines" and will present the Rolex Oyster Perpetual Cosmograph Daytona watches to the winners of the Rolex 24 in Gatorade Victory Lane.

"Few drivers command the respect of the entire international racing community as Brian Redman does," Daytona International Speedway President Robin Braig said. "From his victories in various types of race cars to his legendary sports car triumphs at Daytona, Brian has put his name alongside the many greats of motorsport. It is a great pleasure to have him here in attendance and be part of the Rolex 24 weekend." More ...

Mallya explains why he shunned Indian drivers  While motor sport aficionados are eagerly awaiting an Indian behind the wheel of a Force India F1 car, Vijay Mallya says there is no compulsion to have a countryman on board. It could well be a case of misplaced patriotism, according to Mallya.

The corporate czar went on to add that Narain Karthikeyan, the first Indian driver to feature on the F1 grid, "is not meeting his criteria".

"In my F1 context, Narain doesn’t fit in. When it comes to Karun Chandhok, I have not let my personal relationship come in between. Among a billion Indians, I am sure there will be at least one Lewis Hamilton. Only the lack of suitable replacements has forced to retain the same team for 2009. The normally-expected GP2 graduation didn’t happen this time," he added. More ...

GP2 series confirms entries and schedule  The GP2 series is unveiled its 2009 calendar today. Thirteen teams have been confirmed for next season.

There will be few major changes to the 2009 line-up. As previously announced, Ocean Racing Technology join the GP2 Series grid after the Portuguese team guaranteed acquisition of BCN Competicion. Piquet Sports become known as “Piquet GP” while Arden will be called “Arden International”.

In 2009, the GP2 series starts its season in Barcelona, Spain where the Formula One circus will open their European season. This event will be the first of nine weekends as the official Formula One support series. The 2009 championship will be concluded with the one stand-alone event of the season in Portimao in mid-September. This will mark the first time that the GP2 Series race in Portugal.

2009 GP2 Series – Calendar of events

Date Venue Race
11-13 March Paul Ricard, France Test
23-25 March Barcelona, Spain Test
9-10 May Barcelona, Spain Race
22-23 May Monte-Carlo, Monaco Race
6-7 June Istanbul, Turkey Race
20-21 June Silverstone, Great-Britain Race
11-12 July Nurburgring, Germany Race
25-26 July Budapest, Hungary Race
22-23 August Valencia, Spain Race
29-30 August Spa-Francorchamps, Belgium Race
12-13 September Monza, Italy Race
19-20 September Portimao, Portugal Race

2009 GP2 Series Grid

Car Nos.

Team Name License
1, 2 Barwa Int. Campos Team ESP
3, 4 iSport International GBR
5, 6 Piquet GP BRA
7, 8 Racing Engineering ESP
9, 10 ART Grand Prix FRA
11, 12 Arden International NED
14, 15 Super Nova Racing GBR
16, 17 Dams FRA
18, 19 Trident Racing ITA
20, 21 Fisichella Motor Sport Int. ITA
22, 23 Durango ITA
24, 25 Ocean Racing Technology POR
26, 27 DPR GBR

Buemi remains fastest at Jerez  Sebastian Vettel took over chassis five from Brendon Hartley today and joined Sebastien Buemi for day two of Red Bull Racings three-day test at Jerez de la Frontera. Running two cars, the Red Bull team concentrated on making set up changes to improve the balance of the car on the new-for-2009 slick tires. Although Vettel ran wide at Turn one a couple of times during the day, there were no significant problems and both drivers completed 83 laps each.

Buemi commented: "It's been a very good test so far, we've been improving with every lap, which is really good for next season and I'm happy. We're learning more about the slick tires too, which is important. I'm looking forward to tomorrow and trying to improve myself more."

Pos Driver

Team Time
1. Sebastien Buemi Red Bull 1:17.029
2. Sebastian Vettel Red Bull 1:17.319
3. Nick Heidfeld BMW Sauber 1:19.303
4. Robert Kubica BMW Sauber 1:20.006
5. Kazuki Nakajima Williams 1:20.332

racing news
Carmakers continue motor racing exodus  (GMM)  Yet another car manufacturer has withdrawn from premier motor racing, raising grave fears about the industry.

The exodus began with Honda, which cited the dramatic effect of the global financial crisis on sales of new cars for its shock decision to pull out of formula one.

Audi subsequently pulled out of the American Le Mans series, and Porsche also scaled back its involvement on the US scene.

Then, this week, Suzuki said it is leaving the world rally championship, and one day later fellow Japanese carmaker Subaru on Tuesday cited the world crisis for following suit.

The news leaves Citroen and Ford as the only manufacturer teams in the FIA-sanctioned series.

"Our investment is not as big as formula one.  But it is still a sizable amount for our company, particularly as we see the real economy deteriorating," Ikuo Mori, president of the Subaru parent company Fuji Heavy Industries, said.

Toyota owns 17 per cent of Fuji Heavy Industries.

Bomarito, Cameron Move Up with Mazda  Atlantic Championship drivers Jonathan Bomarito and Dane Cameron were announced at the PRI show, as drivers of Mazda RX-8s in January’s Rolex 24 At Daytona. Bomarito will share the No. 70 SpeedSource Mazda RX-8 – which won the GT class in the 2008 Rolex 24 – with co-drivers Nick Ham, Sylvain Tremblay and David Haskell, while Cameron will embark on a full-time Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series season alongside co-driver Doug Peterson in the No. 30 Racers Edge Motorsports Mazda RX-8.

“At Daytona Test Days, we ran four really talented drivers from the MAZDASPEED Motorsports ladder and we’re pleased to announce that Jonathan Bomarito will be joining Sylvain, David and Nick for the Rolex 24 At Daytona,” said John Doonan, Manager of Motorsports Team Development for Mazda. “They’re looking to bring a few more Rolexes around the Mazda offices.”

“Atlantic was definitely great preparation for this next step in my career,” Cameron said. “Any driver who has raced in Atlantic has definitely come out of the series a better driver. I feel that I’m a better-rounded driver than I was. Last year was good experience as a one-car team, but this is a new chapter for me. This is the right thing for my career long-term. In a 24-hour race, anything can happen. It’s great to stay with Mazda and I’m really excited to be with this new program.”

Williams deny Teixeira test reports  (GMM) Williams has denied reports that Angolan driver Ricardo Teixeira is slated to test with the British formula one team next year.

A sports newspaper of the African republic Angola said Teixeira, 26, has been invited based on his performances for the partially state-owned oil company Sonangol-backed F3 team Ultimate.

"We have no plans to test Teixeira and have not extended the invitation and genuinely have no idea where this story has come from," a spokesman for Grove based Williams told Manipe F1.
Ray Masters’ new website, 20 years in the making  
To celebrate his 20th anniversary as an artist, internationally renowned painter Ray Masters has launched his new Web site and on-line gallery, raymasters.com.

The new site centers around a large multiroom gallery of Masters’ paintings, prints, posters and multimedia works.

But raymasters.com is also chock full of other entertaining and interesting stuff. Features include an expanded “Artist Biography”.  A weekly “Diary” and a “News and Reviews” section.

You can dig into the whys and wherefores of Masters art in the “Recent Works” section and visit his studio in the “On the Easel” page.

Ray came to international fame during the late eighties as a groundbreaking sports fashion designer.  He then turned to motor racing where he became one of the most prolific automotive artists in the world during the '90s.  He designed posters, artwork and clothing for more racing events than any other artist of the time. 

In one year alone he designed poster and program art for the Rolex 24 at Daytona, all the races at Homestead Miami Speedway, all events at Lime Rock and The Milwaukee Mile, plus the Detroit and Cleveland Grands Prix. The Sears Point, Road Atlanta, Texas and Mardi Gras IMSA Grands Prix also got the Masters touch. He was Official Artist for The North American Touring Car Championship as well as The Runway Madness CARA Charity and Win for the Kids Grand Prix Charity!  More ...

Harvick team to test 10 times  Todd Berrier, crew chief for Richard Childress Racing’s Kevin Harvick, expects that his team will test at least 10 times next year despite NASCAR’s ban on testing at all tracks that host its Sprint Cup, Nationwide, Truck, East and West series.

Berrier expects his team will look at options such as the Virginia International Raceway and Heartland Park Topeka (Kan.) road courses, along with Rockingham Speedway in North Carolina and the half-mile Sandusky Speedway in Ohio. None of the facilities is covered by the ban.

“The places you can test, you’re going to test,” Berrier said in a phone interview Monday.

Berrier expects the No. 29 team to test several times throughout the season at non-NASCAR venues and possibly before the season begins, weather permitting.

NASCAR announced last month that it was placing a one-year moratorium, starting Jan. 1, on testing at all its Cup, Nationwide, Truck and regional touring series tracks to help teams manage costs. But testing at non-NASCAR sanctioned tracks is still permitted.

“There’s no way that we won’t do it 10 times next year,” Berrier said. Scenedaily.com

Ticket sales up at Long Beach  Jim Michaelian is excited about the return of IndyCar racing teams owned by Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi, Bobby Rahal and Michael Andretti that have been absent from Long Beach in recent years.

And he's also excited about IRL luminaries such as Scott Dickson, Marco Andretti, Danica Patrick and Helio Castroneves - pending Castroneves' income tax troubles with the U.S. government - being able to race in Long Beach, as well as the return of Bobby Rahal's promising kid, Graham Rahal.

And Ashley Judd's hubby, Dario Franchitti, back from NASCAR, also is expected to be in the competition, meaning his actress wife figures to be visiting Long Beach for a few days, too.

"I always look forward to our race, but I'm even looking more forward to it this year because everyone in our sport now is on one page," says Michaelian. "That's a very refreshing development."

Apparently, the open-wheel aficionados feel the same way.

"Our tickets sales are ahead of last year's pace," says Michaelian.

That's pretty remarkable, considering the state of the economy. Presstelegram.com

Subaru follows Suzuki out of World Rally  Subaru has announced its decision to withdraw from the 2009 World Rally Championship.

This sudden decision was in response to the widespread economic downturn that is affecting the entire automotive industry, and follows Suzuki’s withdrawal announced yesterday.

Solberg's #5 will sit idle in 2009
After 20 years in the sport, during which time the Prodrive-run Subaru World Rally Team has won six World Rally Championship titles, this is not only sad news for Subaru and the team, but also for millions of rallying fans around the world. Thanks to its highly successful World Rally Championship program, Subaru has developed into one of the world’s most widely recognized and evocative automotive brands.

Prodrive chairman, David Richards, said: “Subaru’s departure from the World Rally Championship is a great loss as it is one of the sport’s icons. The Subaru World Rally Team has created true champions such as Colin McRae and Richard Burns and its absence will be felt by many the world over. Although this decision closes a significant chapter in Prodrive’s history, our focus now turns to the future.” More ...

Latest F1 news in brief  
  • Toro Rosso wants to keep Bourdais - manager
  • Hartley confident of F1 super license
  • Williams asks Angolan driver to F1 test
  • Mosley does not support 2010 refueling ban
  • Anti-doping F1 testing at Jerez

Toro Rosso wants to keep Bourdais - manager
(GMM)  Toro Rosso's need to boost its budget explains the uncertainty surrounding its driver lineup for 2009.

That is the revelation of Nicolas Todt, who is the French driver Sebastien Bourdais' manager.

Bourdais is still waiting to know if he can keep his race seat next year, amid the possibility that rival contender Takuma Sato can bring substantial sponsorship to the Faenza based team.

Todt said of 29-year-old Bourdais: "Toro Rosso wants to keep him.

"But the economic context is really difficult at the moment, therefore it is not really in our control," the Frenchman told Auto Hebdo.

Todt was also asked if the departure of Gerhard Berger, who had been a key advocate of bringing Bourdais to formula one from American open-wheel racing, had affected his chances for 2009.

"It doesn't change anything in a big way," he answered.  "Of course it is no simpler now, but also no more complicated."

Hartley confident of F1 super license
(GMM)  Brendon Hartley is confident he did enough to qualify for a F1 super license when he tested at Jerez on Monday.

The 19-year-old New Zealander made his proper F1 test debut at the wheel of a Red Bull at the Spanish circuit, completing a full 95 laps.

He told the New Zealand press agency NZPA that it is more than enough mileage to satisfy the F1 super license rules, allowing participation in official grand prix sessions.

"There were also people from FIA observing to make sure I am up to standard on the track," Hartley said.

"I'll find out sooner or later ... I didn't make any mistakes, so I think everything will work out."

BMW-Sauber and Williams were also in action at Jerez, while at Portugal's new Algarve circuit, McLaren and Ferrari began a three day test.

Felipe Massa did just 36 laps as he was not feeling well. More ...

Former IndyCar heroes wilt in NASCAR  Switching from Indy Cars to heavier NASCAR Sprint Cup stock cars proved hard for overrated Sam Hornish Jr. The 2006 Indianapolis 500 and three-time IndyCar Series champion crashed and crashed and crashed.  In fact he was involved in 20 accidents and spins in 34 starts this season, tops among drivers according to USA TODAY newspaper database research. Hornish declined to be interviewed by USA Today for the story. 

The new NASCAR Car of Tomorrow proved difficult for another IRL hero, Tony Stewart.  Stewart, always strong in NASCAR, this year was totally overshadowed by his Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota teammate Kyle Busch who won more races than any other driver this year in Cup and in the Nationwide Series while Stewart was hardly a factor.

They were not alone.  Other open wheel drivers looked like monkeys in NASCAR this past year too, including former CART Champion and Indy 500 winner Juan Montoya who was saddled with the slow Ganassi Racing Dodges, IndyCar hero and Indy 500 winner Dario Franchitti who lost his Ganassi Dodge ride after showing very poorly, former Champ Car driver AJ Allmendinger who had to be sat out by his Red Bull Toyota team because of poor performance (although he did improve once he came back), and former CART and Indy 500 Champion, and former F1 driver Jacques Villeneuve (who thinks very highly of himself but in fact is mediocre at best) could not cut it in NASCAR either.

Were these "IndyCar heroes" set up to fail to make NASCAR drivers look superior so they can lay claim to the "greatest drivers in the world" title or are these drivers in fact inferior?  Regardless of what really went on, because of their failure, the stigma of IndyCar Racing drivers has taken a real hit, something the sport of open wheel racing in America, already overshadowed by NASCAR, certainly didn't need.

In fact NASCAR drivers would fail miserably in open wheel cars, but you won't see any top NASCAR drivers making the trek the other way.  You can bet if NASCAR got wind of that happening, that driver would find themselves in a good NASCAR ride immediately. The "elite" status of a NASCAR driver will be protected at all costs.  The now defunct IROC series, using cars that were really a NASCAR stock car in disguise, was another perfect vehicle to make open wheel drivers look inferior.  It worked to perfection and helped cement NASCAR's claim to the best drivers in the world.

Old Champ Car fans stay connected  CCIC Friends is a group of Champ Car/CART fans who have kept in touch with each other following the “merger” of Champ Car with the Indy Racing League. Their interest was to continue to follow the progress of Champ Car teams and drivers who went to the Indy Racing league. The Friends also follow the Atlantic Series.

CCIC Friends communicate by email with each other. The coordinator of the project is Dave Pixley (Dapix), a longtime fan of Champ Car/CART. Members are scattered all over the United States.

For 2009, the Friends have a very ambitious program planned. Members will connect with each other as to who will be attending which IRL, Atlantics and IMSA races and will plan to meet in social settings at each event. In addition they plan on meeting in an Annual Winter Meeting (5th annual) Saturday, January 10, at 6:00 PM at the Motorsports Hall of Fame, 43000 Expo Center Drive, Novi, Michigan.  Billy Kamphausen, former Director of Logistics for the Champ Car World Series, will join them to share his experiences and insight into open wheel racing's past and future.

For 2009, the Friends will follow former Champ Car drivers (in Champ Car between 2004 and 2008) rather than former Champ Car teams, keeping track of how they are doing.

CCIC Friends is open to anyone who is interested in former Champ Car drivers participating in the IRL in 2009.  Anyone wishing to be part of the group should just send an email to CCICFriends@yahoo.com and ask to be added to the email list.  Dave Wood

Wife of Grand-Am driver killed  The Grand-Am family suffered a tragic loss on Thursday when Carol Campbell Tremblay was involved in a fatal traffic accident in South Florida, not far from her home in Coral Springs.

Carol was the devoted wife of Grand-Am Rolex Series driver Sylvain Tremblay. She was the first investor in SpeedSource, and went on to be the office manager, and biggest supporter of her husband's dream of racing. She loved going to the races with her sons as a team, and a family.

Carol, 44, was born in Johnson City, N.Y. on March 10, 1964, the youngest of three sisters. She graduated from James Madison University with a BA in English. On December 7, 1996, she married the love of her life, Sylvain Tremblay.

She was a loving mother whose presence was an immeasurable light, always positive and filled with joy. The light of her life was her two boys Daniel and Alec. Carol loved to donate her time, and was a very active and supportive member of the PTA at Country Hills Elementary school in Coral Springs, Fla.

She is survived by two sons, Daniel Colin Tremblay, 9, Alec Benjamin Tremblay, 6, and her husband, all of Coral Springs; her two sisters Catherine Stine of Seattle, Connie Campbell of Arlington, Va., her mother Polly M. Harris of Fairfax, Va., and her father L. Reginald Campbell of Manassas, Va.

A celebration of her life will be held on Saturday, Dec. 20, 2008 from 5-7 p.m. at the Embassy Suites in Deerfield Beach, Fla. In lieu of flowers, a donation can be made to the Carol Tremblay Children Trust Fund.

Another Chrysler executive jumps off sinking ship  Chrysler LLC's senior vice president of parts and services has left the company, the second top executive to leave the Auburn Hills automaker in four days.

Simon Boag left to pursue other interests, Chrysler said in a statement. His departure follows the sudden departure Friday of supply chief John Campi, who left the company for health reasons.

Boag, who previously was at General Motors Corp., held posts in manufacturing, did production planning for the Mercedes Group in Stuttgart, and was purchasing chief at Chrysler before his last job as senior vice president.

While all salaried ranks were eligible for the last round of buyouts, the high-level departures to date are not executives who have chosen that route, said spokeswoman Shawn Morgan.  One can only assume Boag did not want to go down with Chrysler's sinking ship.

Q and A with Nico Rosberg  
Nico Rosberg
Nico was back in the cockpit last week for the Jerez test, but what's he been up to since Brazil, what does he think to the modified FW30B and what are his plans ahead of the 2009 season? We caught up with him to find out.

So, Nico, Brazil seems a long time ago now. Did you have a nice break before testing started? What did you get up to?
"I had two very nice trips to Miami and New York and had a great time in both places. It is good to have a proper break after a long season and to see and do things totally unrelated to racing. Being a tourist and indulging my new photography hobby is a great way to relax!"

It was a mixed year for you this year. A couple of podiums, some near podiums and then some pretty tough races in the mid-field. What did you take away from the season?
"It was good to have a couple of highs during the season, but it was a difficult year for us as we were not quite where we wanted to be. Nevertheless, we learnt a lot which will help us to do better in 2009."

What were your high and low points?
"My high points were definitely Melbourne and Singapore for the podiums and then qualifying for Monaco. My low points were probably the race in Monaco and places like Shanghai where we were off the pace." More ...

TELMEX Continues with CGRFS  
Scott Pruett in the Telmex car
Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates (CGRFS) announced today that its longtime partner, TELMEX will return to the No. 01 Lexus Riley in 2009 with Scott Pruett and Memo Rojas to defend their 2008 Rolex Grand-Am Series title.

Since TELMEX Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates’ introduction into the Grand-Am Series in 2004 they have dominated the field winning three-consecutive Rolex 24 At Daytona’s, three championships and 21 races during that five-year span.

“We have won three championships and a lot of races with TELMEX as our partners and we couldn’t be happier,” said Team Owner Chip Ganassi.  “We have certainly enjoyed the relationship we have had with TELMEX over the years and are looking forward to sharing many more successes with them.” More ...

track news
Brickyard Crossing Inn ceases operation  Brickyard Crossing Inn will close immediately and be razed in a few months, said Joie Chitwood, president and chief operating officer of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation.

The motel was built in 1963 on the eastern edge of the IMS grounds. It has 96 rooms.

"To bring the motel up to the standards and quality of what guests expect at the Speedway would require significant capital expenditures," Chitwood said. "After reviewing the alternatives, we have decided to discontinue its operation."

Plans are being made for the demolition of the motel buildings. Use of the space after the removal of the motel has not been determined, Chitwood said. More ...

New sponsor for Vickers Toyota  The familiar blue paint scheme of the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota driven by Brian Vickers will sport a new logo for the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season as Mighty Auto Parts joins Red Bull Racing Team as an associate sponsor. Since 1963 Mighty has provided automotive service professionals with leading-edge sales tools, renowned training, outstanding business acumen, and parts and products that have helped some of NASCAR’s finest drivers to victory lane. 

Red Bull Racing Team will utilize Mighty's technical expertise to engineer professional performance- grade air and oil filters designed to endure the grueling demands of the racetrack. "I see a natural fit between the philosophies of Red Bull Racing Team and Mighty Auto Parts,” said Ken Voelker, President of Mighty Auto Parts. More ...

racing news
Quotes of the Week  
"Honda will be no great loss. Just look at where they finished in the championship -- ninth.  They wasted millions and were a bad example to other teams.  In Formula One, teams come and go.  It's not the end of the world.  Only Ferrari has been there since the start. Now they've gone, we've got a chance to bring in some sense to the teams about how much they should spend." Bernie Ecclestone, President and CEO of Formula One Management and Formula One Association

"We've finally found a serious engineering challenge for the teams in KERS. Some manufacturers have risen to this challenge, one manufacturer has produced electric systems which will astonish people when they appear, another team is working on a completely new technology which will also astonish. But some leading teams, such as Ferrari, have said that they don't like KERS because it is too complicated. Could you imagine the great Formula One engineers like Colin Chapman (the founder of Lotus) or Keith Duckworth (co-founder of Cosworth) saying, 'I can't do that because it is too complicated'?  It is a symptom of a disease in Formula One where incremental change becomes the whole object of the exercise and real, serious innovation plays no part." Max Mosley, President FIA

"The most important issue when presenting a green image is that it is authentic. Honda's 'earth car' was driven more by the perception it wanted the public to have than its true objectives." Ron Dennis, Team Principal, McLaren Mercedes F1 team, questioning if the sentiment was genuine of the manufacturer's 'Earth Dreams' campaign 
Jerez Day 1: Buemi still on top  Sebastien Buemi continued to set the pace in testing in Formula One, topping the times on the opening day of the week at Jerez, but that was before he crashed exiting the Peluqui corner.  Buemi has been running a 2008 spec car all along (last week and now this week) so his test times mean absolutely nothing as other teams are already testing for 2009.  Buemi fast times are being done to help convince his sponsors to sign on the dotted line.  If he lands the ride then reality will set in.

Monday's times:


Driver Team Time Laps
1. Buemi Red Bull-Renault 1.17.704 71
2. Heidfeld BMW-Sauber 1.19.223 75
3. Hartley Red Bull-Renault 1.19.586 95
4. Klien BMW-Sauber 1.19.655 95
5. Hulkenberg Williams-Toyota 1.20.704 100

All Timing Unofficial

track news
Highlights from LVMS  

Atlantic Series notebook  
Two years after becoming the youngest driver Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda history, American racer John Edwards will return to Atlantic in 2009 with Newman Wachs Racing. It was announced at the Performance Racing Industry (PRI) show in Orlando, Fla. that he will drive the No. 36 MAZDASPEED/Nuclear Clean Air Energy/Entergy machine.

Edwards earned the ride by winning the 2008 Star Mazda championship with four victories and four pole positions. Since joining the Atlantic Championship in 2006 as series sponsor and engine supplier, Mazda has identified the Atlantic Championship as the top run on its MAZDASPEED Motorsports Driver Development Ladder. The manufacturer ensures that the Star Mazda champion receives a ride in the following season’s Atlantic Championship.

“We’re thrilled for both the Newman Wachs team and for John Edwards,” said Jim Jordan, Alternative Marketing Manager for Mazda North American Operations. “We’ve know John for several years now, and he has impressed us with his on-track skills and his off-track professionalism. It’s easy to forget that he’s only 17. His maturity is well beyond that of a typical teenager. We expect him to have a great season in the Cooper Tires Presents The Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda.” More ...

ASA champ again to get JGR test  The American Speed Association has announced that Joe Gibbs Racing through its Joe Gibbs Driven Racing Oil will once again offer the 2009 ASA Joe Gibbs Driven Racing Oil Member Track National Champion a tryout with one of the more successful teams in NASCAR.  For the second year in a row, one driver who races weekly at one of the ASA Member Tracks will receive an opportunity of a lifetime.

Last year, the American Speed Association introduced a new unique point system to help determine the National Champion out of its 35 member tracks in the United States.  With the help of speednetdirect.com, the first National Champion was Cary Stapp who was the track champion at Thunderhill Raceway in Kyle, TX. 

The program proved to be successful and will return next year for the ASA Member Tracks. 

“We have a great formula set up to help determine the ASA Member Track National Champion,” Dennis Huth, American Speed Association President stated.  “The formula gives every driver who competes at our ASA Member Tracks an equal opportunity to be the ASA Joe Gibbs Driven Racing Oil Member Track National Champion.” More ...

George pleased with pace of progress  UPDATE Less than 10 months ago, Indy Racing League founder and CEO Tony George seized an opportunity to unify North American open-wheel racing after a contentious and monetarily costly decade.

The 2008 season was quickly approaching, allowing little time to integrate and update teams that sought to transition to the IndyCar Series from Champ Car. While the process wasn't without headaches, results on and off the racetracks were immediate and portend for steady growth.

Tony George
"I think the first year of unification went as well as anyone could have hoped," George said during a wide-ranging question and answer session. "There was plenty of opportunity to have not lived up to anyone's expectations. Given the late opportunity -- the season was about to start -- there's was a tremendous amount of challenge to be overcome. But everyone pulled together and made sure that the equipment was in the hands of the teams so they could go about their business."

Officials of the sanctioning Indy Racing League, manufacturers and teams worked with new entrants to get them up to speed as quickly as possible. With Graham Rahal of Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing winning on the streets of St. Petersburg, Fla., in the second race of the season - becoming the youngest winner in IndyCar Series history - it validated the procedures and spirit of cooperation. Rahal was among the six first-time winners in the 2008 campaign, and one of nine different victors.

"After we got through the first couple of races, it was always my feeling that by Indianapolis we would really start to come together and I think we did," George said. "There was still some uncertainty in the minds of many that whether the (new teams) were going to be competitive. Getting to Indianapolis you had a couple of weeks of practice and four days of qualifying and then a 500-mile race with the big stage and the spotlight on everybody. I think it kind of settled everyone and that's when we started coming together as one. More ...

track news
Big plans for Donington  Simon Gillett was at the Motorsport Business Forum in Monte Carlo last week and gave more details of the plans for the 2010 British Grand Prix. Gillett said that he has been working on the idea for five or six years and that the idea came because he could not convince his wife to go racing because of the poor customer service: typified by aggressive security, poor food and poor toilet facilities. Gillett believes that the sport needs to focus on the customer a great more if it is to develop in the future.

This led to him taking a 150-year lease on Donington Park and then concluding a 10-year deal to run the British GP at the circuit between 2010 and 2019. The circuit is in the process of getting the necessary planning permissions for the development that is planned. Although the circuit will be upgraded, more than 60% of the investment of around $150m is going to go into facilities which will provide the circuit with sustainable assets for use at other times of the year. The F1 Media Centre, for example, which is required for a Grand Prix, will be used at other times as a state-of-the-art auditorium.

Gillett says that the aim is for Donington to become an entertainment destination first and foremost, with the racing providing the main theme, although the circuit also enjoys much success as a concert venue and for its weekly Sunday market, which boasts more than 300 stalls each week, offers free parking, a small entrance fee and generates considerable income for the track. The funding of the work is going to be achieved by a variety of different means, including the leasing of houses that will be built next to the track, with four-car garages for collectors and direct access to the circuit. There will also be a debenture scheme which will not only guarantee seating at big events but will also give access to an impressive new clubhouse and to VIP parking at the F1 event.  More at Grandprix.com

Buemi wants Button as STR teammate  (GMM)  Sebastien Buemi has admitted his desire to be teamed alongside Jenson Button at the Toro Rosso team in 2009.

Although not yet confirmed to debut with the second Red Bull team next year, even the 20-year-old rookie Buemi, a Swiss, admits in an interview with Switzerland's Blick that the contract is now just a formality.

"I am hoping for a strong teammate for 2009," he told the newspaper.  "For, the best of all would be Button."

28-year-old Briton Button, a veteran of more than 150 grands prix, is currently exploring his options after the withdrawal from formula one of the Japanese manufacturer Honda.

Buemi admits that Button going to Toro Rosso is an outside bet, especially given the likelihood of someone buying the Brackley based team in the wake of F1's cost cutting measures.

With Buemi believed to be secure in one STR seat for 2009, contesting the second cockpit recently have been Sebastien Bourdais and Takuma Sato.

Buemi, switching to the Red Bull Racing cockpit from Monday at Jerez, believes he was the quickest Toro Rosso runner last week.

"At the test before in Barcelona I was about 3 tenths behind the experienced guys, but (at Jerez) I had Bourdais and Sato under control," he claims.

"On Tuesday and Wednesday Vettel is coming, which will be a good comparison for me.  Three months ago he was better than me by two tenths, but I am in better form now because I have more experience."

The 2009 Toro Rosso, designed by Red Bull Technology but to be built at Faenza, will be ready at the end of February.

Coulthard invited to test Loeb's Citroen  (GMM)  David Coulthard has been invited to test Citroen's world rally car.

After their head-to-head in the final of the Race of Champions at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, winner Sebastien Loeb said the now retired Scot would be welcome to step into his office.

"If he wants, then for me it is no problem.  I could easily organize that," Loeb, the French winner of five consecutive WRC crowns, said.

34-year-old Loeb recently impressed the F1 community with his test for Red Bull, Coulthard's last formula one team.

New father Coulthard, 37, accepted the invitation, but hastily added a pinch of caution.

"I would love to ... but not in a forest because at the rate I've been crashing, it would make me clearly uncomfortable," he joked.

"I don't know if there is a tarmac test track or something because that would be better for me."

A1GP news roundup  A1GP World Cup of Motorsport has today confirmed the Italian F3 Champion, Mirko Bortolotti, will drive the A1GP test car at the Portimao Circuit in the Algarve, Portugal from the 10-13 January after impressing Scuderia Ferrari at Fiorano recently.

The 18-year-old had his first taste of Formula One with the legendry team at Fiorano, Ferrari’s official test circuit, as part of his reward for winning the Italian Formula 3 Championship, alongside Edoardo Piscopo and Salvatore Cicatelli who also ended the season in the top three. Bortolotti made the biggest impression recording a 59.111-second lap, breaking the lap record.

Mario Almondo, Operations Director, Gestione Sportiva said: “We are extremely happy that a young Italian driver who won the Italian Formula 3 Championship, and has shown his talent in a test day with the Ferrari F1 car, can have a such a good opportunity with A1GP.” More ...
Suzuki axes Rally program  The Suzuki Motor Corporation has decided to suspend its FIA World Rally Championship activities from 2009. The company made the 2008 season entry with two SX4 WRCs.

In response to the contraction of the automotive sales caused by recent global economic turmoil, Suzuki has been promptly taking possible countermeasures including the reassessment of its global production output. The company, however, foresees the shrinking trend in long-term periods of time rather than a short-term phenomenon. To secure its own business environment for tomorrow, the organization has reviewed every aspect of the operation and decided to focus on the core business functions such as the manufacturing systems, environment technologies, and development of new-generation powertrains. As a result, Suzuki will suspend the WRC activities from 2009.

Underpowered Renault given rules break  Renault has been given the green light to make changes to its V8 engine ahead of the 2009 season, in order to bring its performance more into line with the other homologated units on the grid.

The FIA announced at its previous World Motor Sport Council (WMSC) meeting in October that a period of 'engine equalization' over the winter would be allowed so to close the engine performance between the most and least powerful cars.

The issue of engine power became a thorny issue earlier in the year when Renault managing director Flavio Briatore claimed that his team had lost out since power plants had been homologated at the start of the 2007 season, as most other teams had been exploiting the loopholes that existed in the ‘freeze’ regulations.

“The problem is that us, Renault, have stuck to the letter of the current regulations on frozen engines, and we’ve been buggered,” Briatore said in July “Others didn’t do that and are far ahead, while we suffer. It’s not fair.” More ...

track news
Palm Beach Facility Gets Major Facelift  
Palm Beach (Formerly Moroso Motorsports Park) road course
Orbit Racing recently became the first team to test a Daytona Prototype at the refurbished Palm Beach International Raceway, and drivers Kyle Petty and Darren Manning were very impressed with the work done on the former Moroso Motorsports Park, in Jupiter, Florida.

"It's billiard table smooth, it's a nice layout," said Manning, a veteran of IndyCar Series competition. "It's got good combinations of corners, a nice chicane you brake through, a lot of long corners, and a nice long straight to work on your straight-line speed. It's very green at the moment, and not very scrubbed in, but it's getting quicker and quicker all the time. It's nice, and it's good not to get thrown around by the bumps all the time."

Manning and Petty both ran laps around 1:12 in the No. 45 Orbit Racing BMW Riley on the 2.1-mile layout, which features 11 turns and has a six-tenths of a mile straightaway. The road course is plumbed for wet-weather testing - so teams can test for rain conditions on a typical sunny day. The facility also hosts the Palm Beach Driving Club, with Grand-Am racer Shane Lewis the club professional. More ...

For Sale
Driver uniform, helmet for sale  Dick Simon's 1988 Simpson helmet, the helmet he wore in his last year as a driver.  This was his only helmet that year, he did not have a handful of them. Asking $2,500 (Or Best offer)

Roberto Guerrero's 1986 Team Cotter True Value Drivers Uniform.  This was his primary suite that year.  Asking $1,500 (Or Best offer)

Email the seller, Ken Hunt, at:  partsdot@aol.com

Ford building four-cylinder EcoBoost with Turbo  Ford Motor Co. still hasn't launched the first V-6 version of its promised EcoBoost engine, but sources say the automaker already is putting the finishing touches on a 2.0-liter four-cylinder version of the economical motor, which they say is likely to debut on the Ford Fusion.

EcoBoost combines two technologies -- turbo-charging and direct fuel injection -- to produce more horsepower from a smaller engine. Ford plans to roll out the first EcoBoost engine, a 3.5-liter V-6 that delivers the power of V-8, on the 2010 Lincoln MKS next summer.

Ford spokesman Said Deep confirmed that Ford is developing a four-cylinder version, but said it was "too early to discuss displacements" or what vehicles might get the new engine.

"It's all about delivering the fuel economy customers want without sacrificing performance," Deep said. "The four-cylinder will deliver a good blend of both for customers." More ...

Q & A with Carl Edwards  
Carl Edwards after his Nationwide win at Milwaukee this season
After a few days testing tires at Las Vegas Motor Speedway last week, Carl Edwards hopped the pond to compete in today’s Race of Champions at Wembley Stadium in London. Then it’s on to Thailand for some sightseeing before his wedding on Jan. 3. He squeezed in some time for a phone interview with Tribune sports editor Joe Walljasper to discuss the 2008 season, in which he finished second in the Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series, as well as his hectic offseason and his upcoming marriage to Dr. Kate Downey.

Q: Now that you’ve had a few weeks to reflect, what are your thoughts on how your season turned out?

A: Well, it’s second, you know. It’s better than third, but the goal was to win both championships. Overall, the feeling for me is motivating. You’re so close in both series, and it makes it a real possible goal.

Q: In the Sprint Cup, you won nine races, which was more than anyone else, and also had more top-fives and more top-10s. Are you satisfied that the Chase for the Sprint Cup format is a good way to determine the champion?

A: If there weren’t a Chase, I think someone said that we scored the most points. But the fact is, there is a Chase and it’s the format. I guess if there weren’t a Chase, we would have won that, and if there were a Chase in the Nationwide Series, we would have won that series. So it could go a number of ways. The Chase, the way it is, Jimmie (Johnson) has won three in a row, and if there weren’t a Chase, he would have won one. If I was in Jimmie’s position, I wouldn’t want anything to be different.

As a fan, I think the Chase is really neat. It’s more like a playoff system where you get to start fresh and finish the season and see who’s the champion. I think it’s pretty cool for the fans. Overall, I’m happy with the format. It’s fine.  More ...

NASCAR’s Sponsors, Hit by Sticker Shock  At the Indianapolis Motor Speedway last July, the parking lot was filled with excited NASCAR fans chugging beer, roasting pigs and exchanging drivers’ statistics.

But in an office inside the racetrack, the scene was far from celebratory. Executives of the Big Three Detroit automakers told Brian France, the NASCAR chief executive and chairman, that they planned to cut their investments in the sport sharply in the 2009 racing season.

Since then, Chevrolet has said it is cutting back on advertising and sponsorship deals with 12 tracks. Ford is trimming NASCAR spending by 20 percent, and Chrysler by 30 percent.

The economic crisis is hitting industries around the globe, and the pain is beginning to filter down into professional sports. Many sports may face smaller crowds and shrinking player salaries, with, of course, exceptions for stars like the Yankees pitcher C. C. Sabathia.

General Motors said in September that it wouldn’t buy any advertising time for the Super Bowl in February; earlier this year, it withdrew Cadillac’s sponsorship of the Masters golf tournament. It has also terminated its $7 million-a-year endorsement deal with Tiger Woods.

The National Basketball Association and the National Football League recently announced staff layoffs, and the Dallas Cowboys and the New York Giants and Jets of the N.F.L. are still trying to find companies willing to pay to put their names on stadiums under construction. Honda said recently that it was dropping out of Formula One and selling its team. More ...

Theissen: F1 won't neglect the fans  BMW Sauber boss Dr Mario Theissen, has said the new cost cutting measures, to be implemented in the upcoming 2009 Formula One season and beyond, won't mean the fans will be overlooked.

That said however, he has also vowed that he fans will not be neglected in this new order….

"The decisions reached are a reflection of the intensive efforts made by the various FOTA working groups in recent weeks. The proposals for cost-cutting have also persuaded the FIA. That means we have now established a mutual basis for 2009, and in further stages for the following years, on which to carry out a restructuring of Formula One,” he said.

“The paramount aim in this will be to adapt to the economic environment. We will not, however, be neglecting the interests of the fans. Numerous suggestions are aimed at injecting the Formula One events with greater appeal. The approved measures will certainly require further fine-tuning, but with the spirit that has been shown over the last months, we will be able to resolve the details jointly as well."

track news
Rockingham Raceway Park not feeling much impact  It’s been four weeks since NASCAR announced a moratorium on most testing for 2009, but Andy Hillenburg still doesn’t know how it will impact his operations at Rockingham Raceway Park in North Carolina.

Hillenburg actually owns two tracks where teams can test because they are not on the Sprint Cup, Nationwide, Craftsman Truck nor Camping World East/West circuits. He has the 1-mile Rockingham Speedway, which was known as North Carolina Motor Speedway when the Cup series used to visit, and a half-mile mimic of Martinsville that Hillenburg just built adjacent to the big track.

NASCAR last month announced a ban that begins Jan. 1 and lasts throughout the 2009 season, prompting speculation that facilities such as Hillenburg’s might draw even more testers than it did this year. More ...
Latest F1 news in brief  
  • Button may be F1 'sub' - Coulthard
  • Williams favors salary caps for F1
  • Hartley aims for F1 license at Jerez
  • Hamilton beaten to British sports plaudit
  • Di Resta no longer in running for F1 seat
  • Ecclestone determined to save marriage
  • No testing for Hamilton until new car

Button may be F1 'sub' - Coulthard
(GMM)  There is a risk Jenson Button will not line up on the formula one grid in 2009, fellow British driver David Coulthard admits.

Coulthard, who contested his last of 247 grands prix last month, is a close friend of 28-year-old Button, whose contracted employer Honda shocked the motor racing world by announcing its withdrawal.

Button is now hoping a buyer can be found before the start of the 2009 season next March, or must switch to another team.

"There's a lockdown at the big teams at the moment, so they're not going to kick anyone out to make way for Jenson right now," Coulthard, who contested the Race of Champions along with Button at Wembley stadium, said on Sunday.

Coulthard admitted: "He may have to wait on the subs' bench until the following year."

Williams favors salary caps for F1
(GMM)  Williams, the only team not backed by a car manufacturer or a billionaire individual, is in favor of imposing salary caps in formula one.

The co-owner and boss of the Oxfordshire based squad, while happy with the newly announced cost cutting measures, believes the concept - already in force in many sports codes - would be an effective way to further reduce costs.

"We've raised this issue several times and will take the opportunity to do so again," Sir Frank Williams told The Times.

"We'd also strongly support a budget cap, introduced gradually, if it could be properly policed."

When the FIA recently proposed budget capping, the concept would have excluded driver and top management salaries.

In cases such as Renault and Fernando Alonso, a driver salary in formula one can near 20 per cent of a team's total budget.

Despite Williams' recently reported debt and lost sponsors, however, Sir Frank insists his team will not follow Honda out of the sport.

"Our budgeted income for next season is more than 90 per cent of what it was last season," he said.

In fact, he hints that the current predicament, with the world entering recession and carmakers rethinking their participation, could work in Williams' favor.

"It was always in the back of my mind that having them all in the sport at the same time, driving up the costs, could be a temporary phenomenon." More ...

Foreign Cars Targeted by Vandals  UPDATE This sort of mentality has prevailed in the UAW throughout the automotive industry ever since foreign competition threatened the UAW's overpaid jobs and cushy benefits.  In Michigan, foreign car owners have been taunted and their cars vandalized ever since the Japanese automakers began to surpass the Big Three in quality and value.  In June of 1982, there was a horrific murder in Highland Park when a Chinese-American, Vincent Chin, was mistaken for being Japanese by two Chrysler UAW members. 

The Chrysler employees, plant superintendent Ronald Ebens, and his stepson, Michael Nitz, taunted Chin in a bar where he was celebrating his upcoming wedding at a bachelor party. Ebens instigated the incident by declaring, "It's because of you little motherfuckers that we're out of work," referring to U.S. auto manufacturing jobs being lost to Japan, despite the fact that Chin was not Japanese.  Ebens and Nitz followed Chin when he left the premises and bludgeoned him to death with a baseball bat. 

Many of the layoffs in Detroit's auto industry, including Nitz in 1979, had been due to the increasing market share of Japanese automakers, leading to allegations that Chinese-American Vincent Chin received racially charged comments before his death.

12/14/08 It seems the economic conditions and the auto industry crisis is turning some Americans against Americans.  Woodhaven, Michigan (near Detroit) police said four cars on Friday, all produced by foreign carmakers, had two tires slashed and "Buy USA" written on them.  Police said three of the cars were parked in a strip mall in Woodhaven that sits next to a Ford stamping plant.  Kim Lebecki's 2009 Toyota Camry was one of the four targeted by the vandal.

"I work very hard to make the payment to drive the car of my choice in the United States and someone else has the audacity to destroy these vehicles," Lebecki said. "It saddens me to think, 'Is this a UAW member who did this?'"

One of incidents was caught on a security tape. A red Ford Escape is seen pulling into a parking space, a middle-aged man can be seen approaching a red foreign car and slashing both tires. The man can also be seen writing a message on the car before leaving.

"We don't have any positive evidence to link a Ford employee with this incident," said Lt. Robert Harabedian, of the Woodhaven Police Department.

Photos of the Week delayed  Our photos of the week, which we usually publish on Sunday evenings, will be delayed a day or two late due to technical difficulties that our photographer had this weekend at Wembley Stadium for the Race of Champions.  His photos are excellent, we just do not have them as of yet.
Petty on why Dodge teams cannot win  It has been 55 years since Lee Petty drove a Dodge Diplomat to victory in NASCAR's premier series at a race in West Palm Beach, Fla. That was the first victory at what now is the Sprint Cup Series level for the manufacturer, and it fittingly came with a Petty behind the wheel.

With Petty Enterprises in the news this week, and apparently very close to ceasing to exist as NASCAR has known it, there is no diplomatic way to say it: Dodge has become an also-ran when it comes to stacking up against the other three manufacturers who compete at the Cup level.

"I think you look at who has been successful [in recent years], and Roush has seven or eight cars he's working with; Hendrick has six or seven that he's been working with; even Gibbs has had some other deals they've been working with," Richard Petty said of the alliances Roush Fenway has with Yates Racing, Hendrick has had with what soon will operate as Stewart-Haas Racing, and Gibbs has enjoyed with other Toyota-backed teams.

"It's hard to compete with that. You look at the Dodge teams, and you've got four teams that have been totally independent. We've not thrown our stuff into the middle of the pot, like the other teams have done, and tried to work through things together.

Hopefully, we can do that next year." nascar.com
BBC picks Hoy over Hamilton  Lewis Hamilton has been voted runner-up to triple Olympic cycling gold medallist Chris Hoy in this year’s BBC Sports Personality of the Year Award – it is the second time that the British Formula One driver has been pipped to second place with boxer Joe Calzaghe winning the award in 2007.

Hamilton and Hoy were due to face each other in an eagerly-awaited “man v machine” challenge at the Race of Champions event at Wembley Stadium, but the duel was cancelled due to heavy rain, giving the BBC’s voting public something of a final say. Hamilton, who was accompanied to the BBC Television Centre with McLaren team principal and mentor Ron Dennis, became the youngest driver to win the world championship in 2008 with five wins and ten podiums, including a sensational victory in the wet at the British Grand Prix in Silverstone. More ...
World record broken at ROC  On the morning of The Race of Champions (ROC) at Wembley Stadium, stunt driver Terry Grant broke the Guinness world record for the greatest number of continuous donuts in a car.

Grant (42), re-broke his own record on the by holding his TVR Tamora in a continuous power slide, pirouetting 86 times on the temporary laid Wembley racetrack in a dramatic combination of engine revs and tire smoke.

Terry, The ROC’s official stunt driver since 2004, said: “I am delighted to have broken this record here. ROC is known as the most exciting race on the calendar for real petrolheads, so it seemed like the perfect venue for such a crazy record.”

This latest feat takes Grant’s record tally to 16, making him the world’s most successful stunt driver.

Ecclestone explains his medals idea - vote!  UPDATE Max Mosley thinks it would be wrong to change Formula One’s points system unless the public support the move. Mosley concedes that the current 10-8-6-5-4-3-2-1 format is not ideal, he thinks it wrong simply to overhaul the regulations for the sake of it.

The FIA announced on Friday that it would begin a market research campaign about whether fans support changes being made to the format of grand prix weekends - including Bernie Ecclestone’s radical idea for an Olympics-style medal system replacing the current points setup.

Mosley does not favor Ecclestone's medals idea
“We’ll make a market survey and decide based on the results,” Mosley told Gazzetta dello Sport. “Extending the points-paying positions to the top eight by reducing the difference between first and second was a mistake, but I’m against changing the points system too often. It disorientates people.”

Mosley admits that he was against the teams’ decision to ban refueling from 2010, but thinks there will still be plenty of excitement without them.

“I was against banning them because in my opinion they were part of the show,” he said. “However tire changes will stay, so it will be exciting to see who will be the quickest at it.

“Also, I trust technology to avoid, like what happened in the eighties, of drivers avoiding fighting in the first part of the race to save their brakes and tires.”

Ecclestone tries to sell medals idea to the F1 community
Q: You have suggested gold medals should be introduced. How would that work?
Bernie Ecclestone: My idea is that instead of points we should award medals to the drivers finishing first to third in a race, gold for the winner, silver for the second placed driver and bronze for the driver who comes third.

Q: So how will the drivers’ championship be decided?
BE: The title will be awarded to the driver who wins the most gold medals in a season and if there were a tie, the number of silver medals won would be taken into account (and if still tied, it would be decided by bronze medals and so on). More ...

Newman's widow returns to stage  Paul Newman's widow Joanne Woodward is coming out of acting retirement, three months after the death of her husband of 50 years.

According to the National Enquirer, the actress struggled with her grief following Newman's death from cancer at the end of September, until he visited her in a dream and told her to get back to work.

The 78-year-old Oscar winner has listened to his advice and joined the cast of A Holiday Garland, at the Westport Country Playhouse, near her Connecticut home - 15 years after her last appearance on the big screen, in Tom Hanks movie Philadelphia.

A source tells the Enquirer, "In an attempt to heal her broken heart, Joanne is going to return to acting - granting Paul's final wish.

"In his final days, he confided in close family members and friends that his main concern was Joanne's life after he was gone. They were soul mates and he knew she would be facing a hard road after his passing.

"He thought she should return to what she did best besides being his life partner - and that was acting."

Audi exit caught ALMS by surprised  It's been a roller coaster of a week for the American Le Mans Series. Last Friday, Audi served up a curve ball worthy of Sandy Koufax when, seemingly out of the blue, it revealed it would not compete in the 2009 Series after the Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring presented by Fresh from Florida. Coming on the heels of the not-unexpected news that Porsche had elected not to compete in LMP2 next year on a factory level, Audi's announcement was - if not devastating - worrisome news.

Seven days later, however, Mazda and Dyson Racing confirmed they will join forces in 2009 for a two-car LMP2 effort. While Mazda's decision to double its effort with one of the Series' top independent teams hardly balances-out the loss of two manufacturers who regularly fielded six prototypes in recent seasons, it goes a long way to nullify the perception that the Series is hemorrhaging manufacturers. In fact, given that BMW confirmed its plans for a GT2 program a fortnight ago and that Porsche's commitment to GT2 remains steadfast, the number of auto makers committed to the '09 schedule remains essentially unchanged from last year. And with a new, two-car LMP1 program and a continuing (if reduced) LMP2 effort, Acura is more committed to the Series then ever.

Still, there's no denying prototype racing circa 2009 will lack some of the pizzazz of recent seasons. Where once Porsche and Acura went toe-to-toe in an LMP2 battle that, often as not, threatened Audi (and occasionally Peugeot) for overall victory, now it will be a surprise if Acura does not win more or less at its leisure in LMP1 with any opposition from LMP2 for the overall victory offered by Mazda and, er, Acura. More ...

tv news
Weekend USA TV Reminders  UPDATE The final TV reminders for Sunday are shown below.
Courtesy of TVRacer.com
Like Father, Like Son/ NASCAR Family
7:30am-8:00am (R) ESPN Classic
Summer Shootout Lowe's 
12:00pm-1:00pm -Round 2 SPEED
41st Baja 1000 
1:00pm-2:00pm (11/2008) NBC
Craftsman Truck Awards Hollywood, FL
1:00pm-2:30pm (R) SPEED
Formula Drift Series
3:00pm-4:00pm (R) Sonoma
4:00pm-5:00pm Irwindale (10/11/08) SPEED
NASCAR: The Ride of Their Lives
History of NASCAR, narrated by Kevin Costner 
4:00pm-6:00pm (R) Country Music Television
Check local listings for your time zone
Atlantic Championship
5:00pm-5:30pm Edmonton (7/26/08)
5:30pm-6:00pm Road America (8/9/08) SPEED
Why We Race: The Mustang Challenge 
5:00pm-6:00pm (R)
8:00pm-9:00pm (New)
11:00pm-12:00am (R) Discovery HD Theater
Check local listings for your time zone
All times listed are ET. For a complete listing of TV programs, see TVRacer.com
Andretti visits Corvette plant, buys car  With the U.S. auto industry in turmoil, auto workers in this western Kentucky city got a boost this week from racing legend Mario Andretti. Andretti, 68, on Thursday visited with workers and got a tour of the General Motors Bowling Green Assembly plant where his new Corvette ZR1 was manufactured last month.

"This is a special day. These don't happen too often anymore," said Mark Clark of Bowling Green, who works in the salvage department.

The winner of the 1969 Indianapolis 500 and the 1967 Daytona 500 purchased the 500th ZR1 to come off the assembly line at the plant, according to The Daily News of Bowling Green.

The high-performance line of cars, with a top speed of 205 mph, represents the fastest Corvette.

"I'm going to drive the hell out of it, enjoy it," Andretti said while he signed memorabilia for plant employees. "I've been following Corvettes for many years and this is the best ever."
2008  Drivers named for The Race of Champions heats  The draw for tomorrows first round of The Race of Champions heats has been made at Wembley Stadium, revealing the first match-ups of the event. The 16 ROC drivers will face off against each other in a knock-out competition to find out who is the Champion of Champions tomorrow (Sunday, Dec 14). The opening round heats will be as follows: Gareth MacHale v David Coulthard Adam Carroll v Mattias Ekstrom Tom Kristensen v Michael Schumacher Jason Plato v Andy Priaulx Tanner Foust v Jenson Button Troy Bayliss v Sebastian Vettel Jaime Alguersuari v Carl Edwards Yvan Muller v Sebastien Loeb Eight times Le Mans winner Kristensen drew seven times Formula 1 World Champion in one of the tastiest races of the first round, while new boy Adam Carroll drew reigning ROC champion, Mattias Ekstrom.

There are a couple of inter-nation ties in the first round, with BTCC ace Jason Plato squaring up against three times World Touring Car Champion, Andy Priaulx.

Meanwhile, the two Team France team-mates, Muller and Loeb, will face off too. The Race of Champions gets underway at 5.30pm tomorrow, following the ROC Nations Cup. Tickets will be available on the gate at Wembley Stadium. More ...
Fisichella and Sutil confirmed as Force India drivers for 2009  The Force India Formula One team ended speculation about its driver line-up for the 2009 season Saturday by confirming it will continue with Adrian Sutil and Giancarlo Fisichella. Force India also confirmed that Vitantonio Liuzzi will be retained as the official test and reserve driver "to give complete driver continuity" for the team's second season in F1.

Earlier this week, team boss Vijay Mallya re-opened the issue of who would drive for Force India in 2009 when he said in an interview that he was yet to finalize his driver line-up.

Mallya said in October that the pair would continue in 2009 but told the BBC on Thursday that his team's newly signed technical link- up with McLaren to use the same engines, gearbox and hydraulics as McLaren-Mercedes had changed things. More ...

Honda axes AMA program  The economic downturn has claimed its first major victim with the announcement that American Honda has withdrawn from road racing.

The primary factor for the withdraw was the “current global economic situation and its impact on Honda,” American Honda said in a Friday evening press release. “Although Team Honda will not be in attendance, Honda will continue to be represented in AMA Roadracing through our ongoing support of both the Erion Honda Racing and Corona Honda Racing teams.”

The only rider contracted to American Honda is Neil Hodgson, who wasn’t immediately reachable at his home on the Isle of Man because of the time difference.Hodgson was looking forward to the season after an encouraging Daytona Dunlop tire test where he was the fastest of the three factory Superbike riders. Hodgson, who lost his crew chief Dave McGrath to Buell at the end of the season, was working with Honda’s R&D team at Daytona. Members of the R&D team, who are contract workers and not salaried employees, are not expected to lose their jobs. More ...

racing news
PitFit training lowers prices for 2009  PitFit Training, Inc. is announcing plans for the 2009 year including lower pricing plans, and a free workout for new clients. PitFit Training uses it’s state of the art program to focus on each driver’s specific needs for their respective series. This proven format continues to raise the racing fitness levels of some of the greatest drivers in the world.

PitFit Training will lower rates in 2009 to meet the economic challenges facing the motorsports industry today. While rates will be lowered, the world class training services offered by PitFit Training will not change with the price drop.

“We cater to all levels of athletes at PitFit, and with that being said we have decided to lower our prices to meet our client’s needs in these tough economic conditions,” said Jim Leo, president of PitFit Training, Inc. “We see this as an opportunity to continue our unmatched level of excellence at PitFit, while making it easier for more drivers to join the program.” More ...
track news
Singapore GP wins 3rd award  
Singapore skyline at dusk
For the third time in a month, the 2008 FORMULA 1™ SingTel Singapore Grand Prix was singled out for excellence by the international motor sports community.

At the glittering Federation Internationale De L'Automobile (FIA) Gala at Monaco on Friday (12th Dec) evening, Singapore Grand Prix was presented with the Promoter of the Year Award. The FIA selected Singapore GP Pte Ltd for "its magnificent effort in organizing Formula One's first ever night race".

Singapore GP's Mr. Ong Beng Seng who collected the award from on behalf of the race promoter said:  “On behalf of everyone on the Singapore GP team, thank you for honoring us with this very prestigious award. Staging the inaugural Singapore Grand Prix represents the hard work and industry of quite literally a cast of thousands.  This Award honors every single one of them. The event would not be possible without all our partners both in the public and private sectors. In particular I would like to thank the Singapore Government, the Tourism Board and the Ministry of Trade and Industry whose support was amazing." More ...

Only President Bush can save GM and Chrysler now  UPDATE Under mounting pressure to act, the Bush administration said Friday it was ready to step in and prevent the U.S. auto industry from collapsing after the Senate refused to pass a rescue bill endorsed by the White House and congressional Democrats. The most obvious source of help was the Wall Street bailout fund.

Already reeling from a failed economy and low popularity ratings, President George W. Bush isn't about to have a failed auto industry, just before he leaves office, further tarnish his legacy
"The current weakened state of the economy is such that it could not withstand a body blow like a disorderly bankruptcy in the auto industry," White House press secretary Dana Perino said.

Treasury spokeswoman Brookly McLaughlin said, "Because Congress failed to act, we will stand ready to prevent an imminent failure until Congress reconvenes and acts to address the long-term viability of the industry."

The Wall Street bailout fund was one of the few remaining options for General Motors Corp. and Chrysler LLC, which have said they could run out of cash within weeks. President George W. Bush had originally refused to use the bailout fund to help the automakers, insisting that help come from Congress. But the White House said it must reconsider after the Senate failed to agree on a $14 billion rescue plan.

"Congress spoke last night. They don't have the votes to do anything," Perino told reporters on Air Force One as Bush traveled to a commencement speech in Texas. "They didn't get it over the goal line and so we have to consider what other options we would take." She declined to say when a decision would be made. More ...

racing news
XM's Power Shift No Longer On The Air  XM Satellite Radio's nightly motorsports talk show, "Power Shift" hosted by Joe Castello aired its final show on Friday December 5. The show, covering all forms of racing, had a weekly rotation of experts including SPEED TV's Bob Varsha, The IMS Radio Network's Mike King and The NHRA's Alan Reinhart. NASCAR was a staple of the program dating back to its inception as Happy Hour on the original XM NASCAR Radio. Lighthouse Marketing PR
Jim Beam- Robby Gordon together again  Jim Beam Bourbon announced that it will continue its partnership with Robby Gordon Motorsports (RGM) as a primary sponsor of the #7 driven by team owner and veteran driver Robby Gordon during the 2009 Sprint Cup Series season. “With so many teams merging or taking on investors, Robby Gordon represents a one-of-a-kind driver and owner in NASCAR’s top racing series. His tenacity and commitment shows he has the competitive spirit, that our customers value and respect,” said Brian Gallagher, Motorsports Marketing Manager, Jim Beam.

“We are proud to continue our support of Robby and his race team as they demonstrate true character and achieve success on the track.” Jim Beam will be the primary sponsor for 13 Sprint Cup Series races in 2009, and will serve as an associate sponsor for the remaining events. The deal marks the company’s fifth year of partnership with RGM, a relationship that began when Gordon created the team in 2005. More ...

Labonte’s departure another sign of trouble for Petty team  Two years ago, the arrival of driver Bobby Labonte at Petty Enterprises was touted as another huge component in the rebuilding of the Sprint Cup series’ most victorious team.

On Tuesday, the announcement that Labonte was leaving Petty serves as another signal that the team’s rebuilding effort is on the verge of collapse.

Labonte, the 2000 Sprint Cup champion, said Thursday that he and the Pettys have split and that at the moment, he has no ride for the 2009 season.

“Petty Enterprises and I had serious and very sincere discussions about what was best for myself and everyone involved at Petty Enterprises moving forward,” Labonte said in a statement. “These discussions culminated with us agreeing that moving in a separate direction will be the greatest way to reach our end goals. It was by no means an easy decision.” More ...

World Rally Stars honored in Monaco  The 2008 FIA World Rally Champions were crowned at the FIA Gala in Monaco this evening. Frenchman Sébastien Loeb and his Monégasque co-driver Daniel Elena took honors for a fifth consecutive World title, a unique achievement in the history of the sport.

This year the series was contested over 15 events, including a new World Championship round in the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan. Loeb won a record-breaking 11 events during the season and in a rally career spanning 11 years the Frenchman has shattered records by winning more World Rally Championship events (47) and titles (5) than any other driver.

Sébastien Loeb said:

"I am very pleased with this fifth title as it means breaking another record. I would like to thank Daniel (Elena) first of all. He has partnered me for more than 10 years and we share all our victories together. My thanks also go to everyone at the Citroën team who have made all of this possible. Winning isn't easy, but it is even harder to maintain the same level. Our mechanics and engineers have supplied us with a competitive and reliable car every year, as well as the same motivation and dedication. More ...

F1 Stars honored in Monaco  The star-studded FIA Gala in Monaco capped another memorable season in the FIA Formula One World Championship. It was not going to be easy to surpass last season’s excitement, with a three-way title showdown at the final race, but that is exactly what happened with McLaren-Mercedes driver Lewis Hamilton taking the drivers’ championship on the final lap.

Lewis Hamilton said:

“This year has been a very special one in my life – the fulfillment of a dream I've had since childhood and an ambition that has taken my family and me on an amazing journey.

“The fact that I won the Drivers’ World Championship on the very last lap of the very last race is something that makes me so proud of our efforts in 2008; we pushed to the limit on every single lap, from Melbourne to Brazil – and it’s that determination and spirit that ultimately won us the world title.

“It’s always very rewarding to receive recognition for all the work you put into the season, and the FIA Prize Giving Gala in Monte-Carlo is of course the fitting venue at which to celebrate all our efforts before we push ahead into 2009.”

Ferrari’s Felipe Massa could not have come closer to winning the championship and was justifiably proud of the role he played in a highly competitive season. More ...

NASCAR won't shorten race weekend  NASCAR president Mike Helton has the difficult job of trying to steer the sport through a troubling economy. Teams have laid off more than 700 employees, and other organizations have closed their doors. He also said NASCAR is looking at other ways to keep the sport solvent. Here are excerpts of that interview:

Will there be any consideration to shortening the racing weekend to save more money?

Helton: Not today. Except to tell you that starting next week, we, NASCAR have the opportunity to sit down and catch up on topics that will be timely for '09. And in reviewing that we will have things over the off season and maybe into January where we can come back and say these are things that we're doing in different series or all the series. Augusta Chronicle

Bergmeister and Long reunited at Flying Lizard  
Bergmeister and Long do battle in 2008
Flying Lizard Motorsports announced a two-car GT2 program for the 2009 American Le Mans Series season, adding American Porsche factory driver Patrick Long to its lineup. Long will reunite with Jörg Bergmeister in the team’s No. 45 Porsche 911 GT3 RSR, a combination that netted the 2005 GT2 championship.

In the No. 44, Seth Neiman will return with co-drivers Darren Law and Johannes van Overbeek. All are American drivers.

Bergmeister will return to Flying Lizard in 2009 for his third consecutive season to defend his and the team’s 2008 championships. The coming season will be the third that Bergmeister and Long have competed together as a team. Two of the top Porsche drivers in the world, together they teamed for a total of eight Series GT2 races, and won in GT2 at the 2004 24 Hours of Le Mans (with Sascha Maassen). While the two shared the 2005 class championship, Bergmeister claimed the 2006 championship although Long was his co-driver for all but one season. More ...

Morgan Lucas NHRA team sponsorship  
Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster showing 2009 livery
Morgan Lucas Racing and GEICO, Inc., a wholly owned subsidiary of Berkshire Hathaway, have announced the joint multi-year sponsorship of the Forrest Lucas-owned NHRA Lucas Oil Top Fuel dragster for the 2009 NHRA Full Throttle Drag Racing Series season.

Morgan Lucas, 25, pilots the GEICO/Lucas Oil Dragster with Jimmy Walsh heading up the drag racing team as crew chief.

"We are very excited to have a sponsorship deal in place with Morgan Lucas Racing," said Eric Vaden, GEICO's media buyer in charge of Motorcycle and Powersports products. "We firmly believe this team will post some wins next year and Morgan will be a great spokesperson for our company and our line of Powersports insurance products.

"We are planning to use this sponsorship and Morgan specifically to help us get the word out about all the insurance products GEICO has to offer. We aren't just car insurance anymore and we have great rates on insurance for all the other things that move them. The tricky part to all of this is just getting people to pick up the phone and call us. We know we have great products with great rates and we are hopeful that this partnership with Lucas will help us get a few more folks to give us a try."
Jay Howard beats other top USA drivers  IndyCar Series driver Jay Howard won the third annual PRI All-Stars Karting Classic Dec. 11 in Orlando, Fla.

Howard, the 2006 Firestone Indy Lights champion who competed in five IndyCar Series events as a rookie in 2008, took the checkers with a 3.203-second advantage after 40 laps on the seven-turn, .25-mile course at the Orange County Convention Center.

“The race wasn’t easy by any means, but we were unchallenged the whole time,” Howard said. “I got in the lead and led the whole way. There are a lot of top drivers from different series there, so it’s nice to kind of make a point that I think I’m good enough to get a ride (in the IndyCar Series in 2009).”

Eight other IndyCar Series drivers competed in the Masters Division event, including Buddy Rice (9th), Alex Tagliani (10th), Dan Wheldon (13th), Ryan Hunter-Reay (15th), Ed Carpenter (23rd), Will Power (24th), Townsend Bell (25th) and Vitor Meira (26th).

Dallara partners with IndyCar Series to lower costs  In an effort to reduce costs for IndyCar Series teams during the 2009 season, Dallara will lower the price of parts for its IndyCar Series chassis.

The manufacturer plans to reduce the cost of general and specific spare parts, including items such as wishbones, wings and radiators, between 8 and 20 percent. Dallara estimates the average team savings will be approximately 11 percent compared to 2008.  The new prices will be available to teams when the 2009 catalog is released on Jan. 10.

“Everybody knows that this is a difficult time, and we have to do our best now to help the teams,” said Andrea Toso, IndyCar Series project leader for Dallara. “If we can help the teams go through this difficult time, it is in the best interest of the manufacturers, the series and the teams. If we don’t do anything now, maybe one year from now it’s too late. We hope that all suppliers and partners will understand this initiative and follow suit.” More ...

Waldschmidt completes maiden Toyota F1 test  
Henki Waldschmidt gets strapped into the Toyota
Young Dutch driver Henki Waldschmidt took part in his first official Formula 1 test when he completed a successful two-day run for Panasonic Toyota Racing at the Bahrain International Circuit.

The 20-year-old, who was born in The Hague, is a member of the Toyota Young Drivers Program (TDP) and raced in the Formula 3 Euro Series in 2008, having previously progressed through the Formula Renault ranks.

As in previous year's Panasonic Toyota Racing is playing its part in developing TDP drivers and Henki was given two days behind the wheel of a TF108 at the team's penultimate test of 2008 to give him invaluable experience of a Formula 1 car. More ...

GM announces significant production cuts  General Motors announced today a significant reduction of planned production for the first quarter of 2009 due to the ongoing and severe drop in industry sales, which were down 36 percent in November overall and 41 percent for GM (2007 vs. 2008). The impact of these and recently announced actions to adjust production with market demand, will result in the temporary idling of approximately 30 percent of GM's North American assembly plant volume during the first quarter of 2009 and will remove approximately 250,000 units from production.

The speed and severity of the U.S. auto market's decline has been unprecedented in recent weeks as consumers reel from the collapse of the financial markets and the resulting lack of credit for vehicle financing.

The following U.S., Canada and Mexico operations impacted by today's announcement include: More ...

GM Statement in Response to White House's offer to help automakers  After the Senate killed a bailout loan for the US automakers, President Bush and the White House have offered to find a way to help.

GM issued the following statement in support of the White House efforts:

"We are encouraged by the White House's willingness to consider other options, including the TARP program, for immediate aid to the domestic auto industry. We are prepared to work closely with the Administration on possible solutions that could prevent further damage to our nation's economy and also allow us to embark on an aggressive restructuring plan for long term viability."

Unser Jr. victim of blackmail scheme  Trouble just seems to follow Al Unser Jr. around.  The New Mexico District Attorney's Office said the head of a prostitution ring extorted money from IndyCar racing legend Al Unser Jr. with claims of a compromising video tape.

Unser was named as one of two extortion victims in a 137-count indictment against the suspected Albuquerque pimp.

The suspect, 47-year-old Bobby McMullin, was arrested last May. Police say he ran an internet escort service that was actually a prostitution ring. McMullin also ran a Downtown strip club.

Unser is mentioned in counts 72 and 73 of the indictment. The DA's office said McMullin told Unser he had video of the racing legend in a "compromising position." McMullin allegedly asked Unser for $750,000, or he would release the tape to the public.

The DA doesn't know how much money Unser ended up paying. Prosecutors say the tape is not connected with the suspected prostitution ring and that Unser is not one of the hundreds of johns or clients in McMullin's ring.

Unser has had run-ins with the law. In 2002, he was arrested for an alcohol-fueled fight with a girlfriend. The charges were dropped when he promised not to drink any more.

In 2007, Unser was arrested for a DWI hit-and-run in Nevada. After the crash, Unser said he was undergoing alcohol treatment. KOB.com

Jay Howard wins PRI All-Stars Karting Classic  
Jay Howard takes PRI All-Stars Karting  Classic
Despite dramatic downpours earlier in the day that threatened to persevere, the weather changed direction and skies were clear for an exciting evening of karting action as PRI Trade Show attendees, Orlando residents and some of the top names in North American racing gathered outside the Orange County Convention Center to take in the competition at the third annual PRI All-Stars Karting Classic.  Twenty-four pro drivers representing a number of racing series took to the specially constructed track for the All-Stars Masters Division finale with IRL competitor Jay Howard taking the overall win, followed by Grand-Am star Joey Hand in second and stock car driver Scott Speed rounding out the podium.
The drivers ran on a specially configured road course set up immediately outside the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, where the PRI Trade Show is being held this week, Dec. 11-13, 2008.

“There were a lot of game faces out there,” Britisher Howard declared, following his triumph.  “It was clear everyone was there to win it, and with the karts running the rough track, it took a lot of skill to just stay in control.  As I think we all expected, every driver was extremely focused.  Karting is such a great way to hone your skills and forces such a high level of concentration.  It was a lot of fun, and I’d do it again tomorrow!” More ...

Hockenheim sets March deadline for F1 race  (GMM)  Organizers of the German grand prix at Hockenheim have imposed a deadline of March 31 2009 to decide whether formula one will ever return to the circuit in the country's south-west.

"The financial package has to be in place by then or else there won't be any more formula one at the Hockenheimring," Karl- Josef Schmidt, CEO of the company that runs the venue, told the German news agency DPA.

Schmidt has already said the track can no longer afford to sustain losses incurred by the grand prix, even within the current arrangement to alternate the race with the Nurburgring.

Hockenheim hosted the German grand prix in July, and is not scheduled to return to the calendar until mid 2010.

Schmidt said federal government support is required.

Stakeholders met in Stuttgart to discuss the situation on Thursday.

FIA unveils cost cutting reforms  (GMM)  As expected in Monaco on Friday, the FIA's World Motor Sport Council rubber-stamped a raft of cost-saving measures for formula one.

For next year, the engine rev limit will drop to 18,000 rpm, and engine life will double by the imposition of a cap of the use of 20 engines per team per season.

However, contrary to reports, the new one engine per three races rule will remain in place, despite suggestions it might be expanded to four races.

The cost of customer engines to independent teams, however, will be slashed in half, and all in-season testing, as well as the use of full-scale wind tunnels, has been banned.

Moreover, factories must close for six weeks per year.  "It is expected that these changes for 2009 will save the manufacturer teams approximately 30 per cent of their budgets compared to 2008, while the savings for independent teams will be even greater," the FIA said. More ...

Tanner Foust replaces Pastrana on Team USA  Newly-crowned two-times US Formula Drift Champion, and X Games gold medal winner, Tanner Foust, has completed the line-up for this Sunday’s Race of Champions at Wembley Stadium. Foust will partner NASCAR ace, Carl Edwards, in Team USA after nine times X Games winner Travis Pastrana injured himself doing a stunt this week. 

It will be Foust’s Race of Champions debut but his driving activities as co- host of Top Gear USA should stand him in good stead on the purpose-built track inside Wembley Stadium this Sunday (Dec 14). Tanner is ecstatic about participating and quipped, “the investigation will reveal I had nothing to do with Travis’ injuries and of course I wish him a speedy recovery. More seriously though, I’m honored to have this opportunity to represent the USA alongside team-mate Carl Edwards on the world stage racing against guys who are heroes to me.”

Meanwhile, Pastrana has been ruing his bad luck, after hurting his knee and hip in California on Monday.

“I was practicing on a motocross track when I blew out my knee in a corner, and was promptly run over by my fat friend, Tommy.  Laying in a heap of dust the first thing, I thought was at least I didn't fall off a golf kart!    “A close second thought was how much I'm going to miss all the crap talking and competitive camaraderie that is unexplainable for anyone who hasn't been a competitor at The ROC.   

“I'm bummed that I won't have a chance to race along side Carl Edwards. I was really looking forward to going for the ROC Nations Cup but I'm excited that Tanner is the one to take my place.  Very few drivers can hold a candle to his car control and I think his all-round driving background should benefit Team USA.  Go Team!”

Renault confirm R29 launch date  (GMM)  Renault will launch its 2009 car on 19 January, the French formula one team announced on Friday.

It was already known that the Enstone based squad would begin testing the R29 at the new Algarve Motor Park on the following day (January 20).

Renault said in a statement an official launch event will take place at the circuit, located in the south of Portugal, at 4pm on the Monday, with the rollout to occur as scheduled on Tuesday.

It is believed Renault originally intended to launch the new single seater in France later in January.

Southern GOP senators NASCAR's future at risk  UPDATE The auto-industry bailout is largely supported by Democrats, who control both the House and Senate. Many of the bailout’s opponents are congressional Republicans from the South, where foreign automakers have opened numerous manufacturing facilities.  Therefore, they do not support the bailout of the US manufacturers because their collapse would mean more sales and more jobs for the foreign auto plants in their states.

12/11/08 NASCAR is very supportive of the GOP party, and have been for as long as we can remember.  Southern Republican Senators Shelby (AL), Sessions (AL), McConnell (KY), Corker (TN), DeMint (SC) along with other sections of the U.S. (Ensign (NV) have shown that they are perfectly happy to allow the big three to be destroyed if it takes the UAW along with it.  Imagine what NASCAR will look like without Ford, GM, and Chrysler.

Currently the teams in NASCAR are driving these brands - Chevrolet (21), Dodge (15), Ford (8) and Toyota (13). 

racing news
HANS files suit  HANS Performance Products “HANS”, manufacturers of the multiple award winning HANS Device, has filed a patent infringement suit in the District Court for the Southern District of California against Innovative Safety Technology, LLC. In the suit, HANS alleges that the defendant’s defNder G70 product infringes U.S. Patent No. 6,009,566. HANS is seeking damages, injunctive and other relief. “We and our licensees have invested significantly in the invention, innovation and continued development of proprietary head and neck restraint technologies,” said Mark Stiles, Chief Executive Officer of HANS Performance Products. “When others make use of our patented technology, we will always take aggressive action to protect our investment, including the enforcement of our legal rights.” The HANS Device is a safety product worn by racecar drivers to help protect against life threatening basilar skull injuries of the type that are acknowledged to have killed stock car racing legend Dale Earnhardt in 2001. With more than 65,000 users, the industry leading HANS Device is the most tried, tested and trusted head and neck restraint worldwide. The uniqueness of its intellectual property and the company’s leading contribution to motorsports safety was most recently recognized by the presentation of the Society of Automotive Engineer’s 2008 Motorsports Engineering Award. HANS is represented by the law firm Ballard Spahr Andrews & Ingersoll, LLP. Details and information about HANS Performance Products are available at www.hansdevice.com. HANS PR
Car Chief change at the #48  SIRIUS NASCAR Radio, host Claire B. Lang recently spoke with Ron Malec, car chief for the Sprint Cup Champion #48 team at Hendrick Motorsports. Malec revealed that next season he’ll be giving up his over-the-wall pit crew duties to spend more time up on the pit box.

Ron Malec: “I’m just going to take more of a role during the races and try to help out crew chief Chad Knaus and maybe delegate some of the pit stop stuff, like when we make adjustments on the car I’ll be there behind the scenes now to make sure it gets done right and make sure everybody knows what is going on. It was my choice to step down from the pit crew. I feel like I need to learn more about race strategy and stuff like that. I’ve suffered some injuries throughout the seasons and it just wears on you after a while. I feel sometimes that my body wasn’t 100% to do pit stops every weekend and with all the work on the car that we have to do now in preparation before the races sometimes you are a little worn out before the race and I don’t think it’s fair to go out there not 100%. So I offered to step down and retire. It’s been 10 years I’ve been doing pit stops and it wears on your after a while.”

Host, Claire B. Lang: “So you’re still going to be the car chief but you won’t be playing a role on the pit crew?”

Malec: “Correct. Yeah, I’ll be up on the pit box with Chad. I’ll still do all the preparation on the car all weekend long like I’ve been doing in the past. I just won’t be doing the over-the-wall pit stop stuff.” SIRIUS XM Radio PR

Latest F1 news in brief  
  • Mallya admits 2009 drivers not decided
  • Hamilton vows to enjoy 2009 with less pressure
  • Red Bull's F1 program safe says Horner
  • Honda never serious option for '09 - Alonso
  • Parr admits F1 quit comments 'stupid'

Mallya admits 2009 drivers not decided
(GMM)  The futures of 2008 teammates Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil are in serious doubt.

Despite both drivers recently claiming they have solid contracts for 2009, Force India boss Vijay Mallya has admitted that the composition of the team's next race lineup has not yet been decided.

The Indian billionaire said towards the end of last season that both Sutil, the 25-year-old German, and Italian veteran Fisichella will remain with the team in 2009.

But Mallya subsequently struck a technical deal with McLaren-Mercedes, raising speculation that the McLaren-linked drivers Pedro de la Rosa, Gary Paffett or Paul di Resta might be drafted in.

"One McLaren test driver has already tested our car," he told the BBC.  "They bring the McLaren experience with them.

"We haven't finalized anything on the race seat.  I will discuss this issue with McLaren and take this decision at an appropriate time," Mallya added.

Hamilton vows to enjoy 2009 with less pressure
(GMM)  Lewis Hamilton has vowed to enjoy his season as reigning world champion, after focusing so intensely on his goal in 2008.

At an event for team sponsor Johnnie Walker in London, the McLaren driver admitted he sacrificed socializing as well as personally enjoying the grand prix destinations this year while he concentrated on securing his first title.

"Next year I am going to enjoy myself a little bit more," the 23-year-old Briton vowed at the event also attended by Mika Hakkinen, the last formula one driver to have won the title for McLaren.

Hamilton insisted, however, that he will still be able to race professionally in 2009.

"It doesn't mean I'm going to be partying all the time, it just means I will have more time with my friends and hopefully get to do more social things," he said.

Hamilton said he does not believe he will ever again feel the kind of intense pressure he experienced in Brazil last month, when he won the world championship from Ferrari's Felipe Massa with a last-corner pass.

"I feel a lot less pressure that's for sure, now that the country and the people know I can do it, so I think we'll see," he explained.

"There was so much pressure on me this year that I didn't go out, I didn't socialize, I stayed in my hotel every night of the race weekends.

"People say 'you get to travel to all these countries' but I never really get to see anything because I'm in my hotel room the whole time," Hamilton said.

"So I want to enjoy it more because I deserve to and I can do that as well as do a good job." More ...

New team has Martin energized for 2009 season  Mark Martin has driven a lot of different cars throughout his racing career, but the Hendrick Motorsports' machine he's driving in 2009 has energized the 49-year-old veteran.

Martin spent Wednesday and Thursday testing tires for Goodyear at Las Vegas Motor Speedway with his new team. 

"The switch to a new team has certainly rejuvenated my career," Martin said. "It's such an honor to be wanted by this team and to be welcomed to a new team is very flattering to me. Now the pressure is really on and I will have to work hard to keep up with the other guys. It's unbelievable to be able to work with (crew chief) Alan (Gustaffson) and (team owner Rick) Hendrick. The depth and knowledge of that group is unbelievable and I am looking forward to the 2009 season. I'm a lucky dude." More ...

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