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DATE News (chronologically)
Why the manufacturers must never run F1  Last week produced a bit of a mystery over why Renault decided to quit the GPMA rather than letting the now-redundant organization fade away gracefully.

One explanation which has been suggested is that Renault, FIAT, Peugeot, Volkswagen and most of the other big European car makers have all been distancing themselves from BMW and Mercedes in recent weeks over the attitude of the two firms to EU proposals to mandate caps of carbon dioxide emissions to 120g/kM. BMW and Mercedes make high emission high performance heavy up-market vehicles and so want the cap to be an average over the entire industry so they can continue to exceed the average with their own products. Renault, FIAT, Peugeot and VW tend to make low emission budget vehicles would end up subsidizing the carbon dioxide emissions of the larger cars and want the cap averaged over each maker so they will benefit.

The row has already made political headlines with the German government supporting BMW and DaimlerChrysler and so Renault may have felt that a very loud gesture was called for in return. Grandprix.com [Editor's Note: This is a prime example of why the manufacturers must NEVER run any racing series as they threatened to do when the new Concorde Agreement was being hammered out.]

Toyota teams sandbagging  Knowing all too well that the NASCAR community would never sit for an early domination in NASCAR's top Cup series, rumors are rampant that the Toyota teams are deliberately sandbagging for this very reason. They have to pay their dues so-to-speak.

Ford, Chevy and Dodge stock car engine builders may well have something to fear from Toyota this season, if Saturday's post-300 chassis dyno tests by NASCAR stand up at other tracks, too. The new Toyota restrictor-plate motor in runner-up Dave Blaney's car after the Busch 300 cranked out a whopping 456 horsepower, compared to the Chevy motor in winner Kevin Harvick's car, which pulled only 438. Giving up 18 horsepower at a restrictor plate track is considerable.

The men whose Busch cars were tested: Harvick, Blaney, Carl Edwards, Mark Martin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., David Reutimann, Mike Wallace and Steve Grissom. Toyota's new Busch and Cup motors are not based on the Truck engine design but are a new design.

Chevrolet too has a new engine this season, but it is not expected to debut until later in the season. In part from Winston Salem Journal

industry news
Hyundai eyes possible Chrysler purchase  Add Korean automaker Hyundai Motor Co. to the list of potential suitors for the Chrysler Group.  It's been less than a week since DaimlerChrysler AG Chairman Dieter Zetsche said all options are on the table for the Auburn Hills-based group, declining to rule out a sale. That prompted worldwide speculation about potential buyers.

German and American reports last week said General Motors Corp. was talking about a purchase or partnership to produce vehicles with Chrysler.

Now the Sunday Times of London is reporting that Hyundai is eyeing Chrysler, in part because of interest in the U.S. company's dealer network. Hyundai spokesman Oles Gadacz told Bloomberg News that the report was "groundless speculation."

The Times also said on its Web site that U.S. investment bank JP Morgan, which has reportedly been advising on Chrysler's future, is preparing memorandums to send to potential buyers this week. More ...

Heylen to drive for Conquest Racing  UPDATE Belgian driver Jan Heylen tells ChampCar.nl that he is still talking to three teams but he is concerned that he will lose the financial backing of Dutch entrepreneur Harry Muermans who Heylen feels will put all his money behind Dutch driver Robert Doornbos.

02/16/07 In a possible match made in heaven, Belgian Jan Heylen could drive for Belgian team owner Eric Bachelart with sponsorship form the Zolder, Belgium Champ Car race. In other words this could become Team Belgium, at least the one car could.
Toyota may go after Dale Jr.  There's been speculation that Toyota could make a play in a year for the sport's biggest star: Dale Earnhardt Jr. He's in the final year of a contract with his late father's team, Dale Earnhardt Inc., and is squabbling with his stepmother, Teresa, over control. But chasing after the sport's most marketable driver would be a departure from the Toyota formula.

While it's spending big, the company has taken a methodical approach to racing, experts say. It has spent years studying the sport.

"Toyota is a company that thinks completely different," said Paul Eisenstein, publisher of thecarconnection.com, which covers the auto industry. "They are willing to take however long it takes. Toyota's attitude is that sooner or later we will get it."

Said Unger: "There hasn't been any leapfrogging. That's not the Toyota way."

Cup drivers prop up Busch Series  If F1 has GP2, Champ Car has Atlantics, IRL has IPS, ALMS and others have SCCA why is it that NASCAR has the Busch support series with most of the same drivers that drive the NASCAR Cup cars, while the other professional series have different drivers for their support series?  Do the "world's greatest drivers" (by NASCAR accounts) need practice with going around in circles and turning left?  Or just practice in breaking the rules?  Greg W., Renton, WA

Dear Greg, The answer is quite simple.  Yes they use it for practice, but the big names from Nextel Cup bring a lot of viewers and race ticket buyers to the Busch Series.  This is why the Busch Series is the 2nd most watched race series in the USA.  Without the big names the France family would have to support the Busch series out of their own pocket because it would not be self-sustaining.  Despite this, yesterday at Daytona we saw more empty seats than we have ever seen for the Busch race at Daytona.  Mark C.

Toyota will dominate NASCAR Cup series  UPDATE Four of the five finishers in last night's NASCAR Craftsman Truck race were driving Toyotas, including the winner Jack Sprague.

02/16/07 Toyota has 25% of the field, 9 of 36 trucks in tonight's Craftsman Truck race. However, 9 trucks are starting in the top 12 tonight. Rest assured that Toyota will eventually dominate Cup in a few years as they dominate trucks after several years.
Cover-up in Gordon cheat scandal  This ESPN article goes at great lengths to say Jeff Gordon did not cheat hence why his crew chief wasn't suspended. We expose the lies.

Jeff Gordon didn't sleep well on Thursday night. Not necessarily because his car failed inspection following the second of two 150-mile qualifying races, but because he was worried people might think his team deliberately cheated. That's understandable in a week in which five crew chiefs and one vice president for competition have been suspended since Tuesday. "That's what's bothered me the most," Gordon said. "It's what kept me up all night. People are going to think we did something to circumvent the rules." NASCAR determined that a parts failure resulted in the rear quarter panel of Gordon's #24 Chevrolet being too low. [Editor's Note: OK, it has been determined as fact that the car was too low and that aero advantage in NASCAR is significant. Every team would love to run their car lower.]

Because it was deemed unintentional and gave Gordon no competitive advantage, the penalty was light. Gordon was forced to move from the second to last row -- 42nd in the 43-car field -- for Sunday's Daytona 500. "It's easy if you just say the car was low," said Gordon, a three-time Daytona 500 champion. "But the car wasn't low on the racetrack. [Editor's Note: Jeff Gordon is lying through his teeth. He wants us to believe that on the race track the car was the correct height and that the part broke after the race as the car was being rolled to the inspection line and it dropped one inch. Were three 350 pound NFL linemen jumping up and down on his car after the race, thereby breaking his shock mount?]

That's why the penalty is what it is. If NASCAR felt like it was any more than that we'd be in the same position as those other guys. I wouldn't have a crew chief right now. We'd have our points fined and a monetary fine." Gordon had reason to be concerned others would question his team's motives. #31-Jeff Burton of Richard Childress Racing was so concerned that he went to the NASCAR hauler to see what part was confiscated. "It's my opinion what happened to the 24 is just a screw-up," Burton said. "The part was beat up pretty badly. It wasn't machined to work that way. It was seen by me as an honest mistake." [Editor's Note: OK, so we have established that the part was "beat up pretty badly." Those three 350 pound NFL linemen that were jumping up and down on Gordon's car while it was waiting in line to be inspected must have beat the living daylights out of that shock mount for it to break like that. Of course no one was on Gordon's car and Gordon was not in an accident. What probably happened is that before the race a crewman beat the sh&% out of the part so that it would be weakened and break during the race so the car would drop one inch.]

"From what I've seen, it wasn't a performance advantage. I think the punishment met the crime." Gordon said it will be a challenge going from the back to the front, but not one he can't overcome. "We're going to have to have a real good handling race car and also a fast race car," Gordon said before Friday's practice. "We're going to take not too much speed out of that car and really get the car to handling." Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president for competition, said no further penalties would be levied against Gordon's team. ESPN.com

NASCAR to announce Toyota team cheat substance  NASCAR is expected to announce next week at California what exactly they found in the fuel system of Michael Waltrip’s #55 Toyota Camry after Daytona 500 qualifying last Sunday. Waltrip’s car was found to have an unidentified, gel-like performance additive, which NASCAR inspectors have sent out for laboratory analysis. Results of the lab tests aren’t complete yet, said a source familiar with the investigation. Those results will be disclosed next week, most likely during the race weekend at California Speedway in Fontana. So far, all NASCAR has said specifically about the substance is that they know what it isn’t [jet fuel], not what it is. That will change soon. NASCAR officials also confirmed that the examination of Waltrip’s confiscated car is continuing. In 2000, when Jeremy Mayfield’s car was found to have tainted fuel at Talladega, it was nearly two weeks after his car failed inspection before test results of his fuel were made public. SpeedTV.com
Tagliani to drive for Rocketsports  Although it's been rumored for awhile, and he has tested with them all off-season, Alex Tagliani says in this RDS article that he will be back with Rocketsports Racing with Lexington as a sponsor. He's says right now he will not have a teammate but that could change down the road.
Andretti might drive Honda on US GP Friday  (GMM) Marco Andretti could return to the wheel of Honda's F1 car for practice at the US grand prix in June.

The newspaper Indianapolis Star reports that while the American teenager's private test program has been put on ice, "it is possible" that he might be nominated as a one-off third driver by the Japanese carmaker.

Teams in 2007 are allowed to field a test driver in the newly-structured open Friday practice sessions before grands prix, but Honda will decline to use the opportunity at every event because it means that at least one of the race drivers is sidelined.

IRL racer Andretti's credentials for a future career in F1 are being pushed by the American Honda offshoot, which is no doubt keen to reunite his famous surname with the world of grand prix racing.

Marco's grandfather Mario Andretti won the drivers' world championship in 1978, before his son Michael - Marco's father - launched a failed F1 assault with McLaren in 1993.

Industry News
GM to buy Chrysler?  General Motors Corp. is in talks to buy the Chrysler Group in its entirety, Automotive News reported Friday, citing unnamed sources in Germany and the United States.

The automotive trade publication reported on its Web site that high-level talks were talking place between GM and Chrysler Group parent DaimlerChrysler AG.

The potential deal between the two automakers could go beyond cooperation on joint development of a large sport utility vehicle, the magazine said.

A General Motors Corp. spokesman said the company routinely has discussions with other automakers but declined to comment on the Automotive News report.

"We often have discussions with automakers routinely. We don't comment on speculation regarding discussions," GM spokesman Tony Cervone said. More at MSNBC.com

industry news
GM to help Chrysler build truck  DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group and General Motors Corp. are in talks on a joint project that would provide Chrysler with a version of the big Chevrolet Tahoe sport utility, the New York Times said on Friday, citing people with direct knowledge of the talks. The paper said there was no indication of when the two companies might reach a conclusion in the talks, which it said have been underway for about six months, according to the same sources.  The Wall Street Journal also reported on Friday that an alliance between the two Detroit carmakers was possible, citing people familiar with the matter.
Will Champ Car announce a title sponsor?  Word on the street is that Champ Car is strongly pursuing a title sponsor for the series (no we are not talking about Ford's replacement) and that they are getting close to signing a deal.  If true, 2007 could turn out to be the start of Champ Car's reemergence- New car, 5 new venues, a replacement for Ford, a title sponsor, more team sponsors and a better TV deal with ABC/ESPN.
American team could withdraw from MotoGP  Speaking in an interview with Superbikeplanet.com, Kenny Roberts Sr. has warned that at present the finance necessary to run a full MotoGP season is missing - and that a decision on his team's participation is imminent.

"Well, we're not a bank. So right now, it doesn't look good," confirmed 'King Kenny', a triple 500cc world champion. "That could change overnight, but at the moment I can say that there's too much funding that's not there... We have a [target] budget that we can do this season with, and we're short on that budget by about 20%, I would say, right now."

"Well, I think that Dorna help all the smaller teams in one way or another, if they can. There's a limit to what they can do, as well. Now, if the cost gets above the limit that they can help, and we can't do it, we're not going to do it. And I'm going to make that decision in a week," underlined Roberts. "That's going to be largely sitting down with Dorna, of course, and Honda, and saying, 'Okay, guys, here's the bottom line. We can't fix this. If it can't be fixed, I'm out'. Unfortunately, that's a decision I've got to make after the IRTA test, because I don't really want to ship to the first grand prix if I know I'm not going to do it."

"There are sponsors in Formula One that pay three times as much for a sticker on a car, as what they could have a whole MotoGP team for," he claimed. "The only thing I can judge from that is that the hospitality at Formula One is really what they want, not selling their product. Because you can't, you cannot, argue the point that that is getting to more people than motorcycles. No way. You just can't do it. You couldn't stand up in front of a corporate board and say, 'Look, this sticker on a Formula One car is going to get a lot more press than having a fully-backed two-rider Team Roberts in MotoGP, for the same amount of money'. You cannot say that. Because the TV stats in MotoGP are going up, and Formula One's going down. It's the craziest thing for us to be in this position now, while MotoGP is going up so much. I'm going to make a decision next week, and we're going to go or no go. It's just odd. We don't know."

Schu likely to test for Ferrari this year  (GMM) It is very possible that retired seven time world champion Michael Schumacher will return to the wheel of a formula one Ferrari in 2007.

We have learned that at the same time as producing personalized team equipment and race overalls bearing the names of its race and test drivers, Maranello based Ferrari also ordered that Schumacher-branded versions be prepared in the event that the 38-year-old German wants to drive.

For example, we can reveal that four 'Michael Schumacher' branded 2007-spec overalls are already waiting to be worn.

The team's new 'advisor' attended a day of Barcelona testing this week, but Schumacher is expected to conduct a few days at the wheel of the 'F2007' at another venue - probably Fiorano - later this year.

Are speeds too fast at LVMS?  Stu Grant, Goodyear's head of racing, said he's finally got a tire for the newly repaved - and lightning fast - Las Vegas Motor Speedway, the Nextel Cup tour stop in three weeks. "I went out there for the Busch test to see what the problem was, and David Stremme said he was going into the corners at 212 mph and Kasey Kahne said he was going into the corners at 208 mph," Grant said. "And the Busch drivers are running flat-footed all the way around that track."  That's a scary situation, created in large part by NASCAR's unwillingness to take horsepower out of the Cup motors. Engine builder Robert Yates said some of his motors are generating a stunning 900 horsepower.  Grant said he has had to build new tires for the Las Vegas race.  Winston Salem Journal
F1 eyes night street races  The first ever night race in Formula 1 has moved a step closer after circuit designer Hermann Tilke said it was now possible to successfully stage and televise such an event.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone recently said that one or two night-time races could be on the cards by the end of the decade – with Japan and China in the frame to host them.

And now in an interview with Autosport magazine, Tilke says that advances in both lighting and camera technology mean night racing is now a feasible option for F1 on its current circuits.

“The basic problem is lighting,” he told the magazine. “The tracks don’t need to change – you just need to have the space to install the lighting system.  You also need a certain amount of brightness to allow TV cameras to show the cars property – not as blurry streaks!  But there have been tremendous developments in lighting and camera technology, so I don’t see it being a problem.”

The onset of night racing at grands prix in the Far East would likely prove to be a hit with European TV viewers in particular, with races moved into a more traditional afternoon slot.

And F1 would not be the first major motorsport series to experiment with racing under floodlights, with American series’ NASCAR, Champ Car and IndyCar already having hosted night-time events.  ITV/F1

Italian to drive in Atlantics  According to AutoRacing1.com sources, look for Italian Matteo Cressoni to drive for the Genoa Racing Champ Car Atlantic team alongside Adrian Carrio in 2007.   Cressoni drove in the Italian F3000 series last year and before that for Ferrari in LMES and two years in the Formula Renault Series.  We have added him to our 2007 Champ Car Atlantic Silly Season page above.
BoSox owner could take bigger stake in NASCAR  Boston Red Sox owner John Henry will pop the champagne today on his Valentine’s Day deal to buy into one of the nation’s top race car teams.  But don’t for a second think that Henry has ripped past the finish line when it comes to satisfying his growing interest in NASCAR.  Henry’s deal for a 50 percent stake in Roush Racing is most likely a test drive for an even bigger role for the Sox owner in what is fast becoming America’s favorite pastime, industry observers say.
Now that he is an owner of a race car team, why not buy a piece of a racetrack? Or for that matter, help develop a new one?  And, NASCAR observers say, one candidate is already on Henry’s radar screen: New Hampshire International Speedway.
The Loudon track is not exactly close to Boston, but it’s New England’s largest sporting facility and NASCAR’s sole New England outpost. And it really packs in the fans.  The mile-long “super-speedway” averages more than 100,000 spectators for each of its two annual Nextel Cup races - at ticket prices ranging from $60 to $110.  Eat your heart out, Fenway Park.
It’s clearly good business, but Henry is also an avowed racing nut. Certainly buying a stake in the Speedway - where Henry is a frequent visitor - would be nice.   Whether owner Bob Bahre has any interest in taking on a partner- his son Gary current fills that role - is another question. Boston Herald
Schumacher to be Ferrari team manager?  UPDATE #2 (GMM) Michael Schumacher indicated on Wednesday that he is not on the verge of becoming Ferrari's new team boss.

According to a rampant rumor, the former seven time world champion's current advisory role is merely a prelude to a new career on the pit wall at grands prix.

But on a visit to the last day of European testing this pre-season, Schumacher - fresh from a holiday in the Maldives - said in Barcelona: "I am not going to go to all the races this year, but I will go to some in Europe."

The 38-year-old's long time manager Willi Weber also stepped up his rejection of the speculation as he told the newspaper Bild: "If Michael had wanted to have a full time job at race tracks then he would have stayed as a driver."

Weber admitted that Schumacher is attending a lot of internal team meetings at Maranello with Jean Todt, but said it is more a reflection of the successful German's personality than any preparation for a new job.

"If Michael decides to do something, then he does it with 110 per cent of his attention," Weber said.

Ferrari spokesman Luca Colajanni also denied the story, which originally appeared in the magazine Auto Motor und Sport.

"Michael is clearly involved with the team, but this report is nonsense," Colajanni, who is the head of Ferrari's Motor Sport Press Office, said.

02/14/07 (GMM) A huge rumor in Germany gathered strength late on Tuesday -- that Michael Schumacher is reportedly being groomed to take over as boss of the Ferrari team.

The story - that the seven time world champion's post-driving role as an 'advisor' to the Italian team is actually a preclude to a more prominent position - originated in the specialist magazine Auto Motor und Sport, but quickly spread throughout the motor sport and mainstream media.

German Schumacher, 38, has apparently made more visits to Maranello and participated in more key meetings in the last few months than he did during all of 2006, and an anonymous Ferrari 'insider' noted: "A person who is involved in such a way is preparing for a high-ranking job.

"It must be the position of team leader." More ...

Mini-Series for three Canadian Races  Paul Gentilozzi, a co-owner of the Champ Car series, said the Canadian swing will become a mini-series within the 16-race schedule with extra prize money of its own. He said details would be announced in coming weeks.
super V8
Loss of V8s to cost Melbourne GP dearly  According to this New Zealand article, one does not know who to believe - the loss of the V8 Supercars from the Australian GP F1 weekend will either cost the city a loss of $5 million, or everything is OK and this will be the biggest F1 race of the season.
Toyota backs its cheating team  UPDATE #2 Michael Waltrip got a vote of confidence from Toyota President Jim Aust on Wednesday after Waltrip's team received the stiffest monetary fine in NASCAR history. NASCAR hammered Michael Waltrip Racing with a $100,000 fine, a 100-point deduction, and the sanctioning body indefinitely suspended crew chief David Hyder and vice president of competition Bobby Kennedy for an illegal substance found in the intake manifold before and after qualifying Sunday.

Waltrip owns three Toyotas in the manufacturer's entry into Nextel Cup this year, and Toyota Racing Development President Jim Aust called it an "embarrassment" for Toyota and the team.

"We will continue on with our relationship with Michael," Aust said following the announcement of the penalties. "This is not the way you want to enter the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series by any means. ... We'll continue to work with the organization in hopes that they find the resolution to the problem, and I think they'll be stronger because of it." Scenedaily.com

02/14/07 Rumor has it that Michael Waltrip and the No. 55 ejected from the Daytona International Speedway and will be suspended several races and his crew chief the entire year.  Word is what NASCAR found in the intake manifold was not just oil as the cheating Toyota team claimed.

02/14/07 The penalties expected to be handed down to Michael Waltrip Racing for its possible rule violation discovered before Daytona 500 qualifying could affect the team's relationship with Toyota, Lee White, the senior vice president of Toyota Racing Development, said Wednesday.

"One thing I can tell you is that the elements of ethics, integrity, character, honesty are things that are extremely important, probably paramount, to my company," White said. "Are we a little disappointed that one of our teams is involved in things that have transpired here? Yes, we can't deny that. ... Depending on what that outcome is, obviously, we will have some further discussions with that team and decide what our relationship is going to be in the future.

"The rules are the rules, and we expect to participate by the rules. We hold our own people to a very high standard, and certainly we hope we have partnered with the right people and hold their people to a high standard."

".... Is it a setback? No, I think it is a disappointment," White said. "Anytime you partner with someone, you are bound to be disappointed if, by some set of circumstances, they are disparaged in the public eye by their own actions or by some other action. We'll sit down with Mike and his team and figure out what the best course of action is to move forward to try to ensure that anything like this never happens in the future. "

Jet Fuel substance found in Toyota manifold  A second day of scandal hit the Daytona 500 on Wednesday when two-time winner Michael Waltrip's crew chief and team director were thrown out of NASCAR's biggest race for cheating.  The two were suspended indefinitely after an illegal substance was found during inspection for the season-opening race.

Waltrip, docked 100 points, will be allowed to participate in Thursday's races that determine the field for NASCAR's biggest event of the year.

David Hyder, his crew chief, was thrown out of the garage and fined $100,000. Team director Bobby Kennedy also was kicked out.

"This is not the way you want to enter the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series, by any means," said Jim Aust, president of Toyota Racing Development. "But circumstances are what they are, and we'll support NASCAR in any way we can to help to help them find a resolution to the issue."

NASCAR officials would not reveal what they found in Waltrip's intake manifold, but a person with knowledge of the investigation told The Associated Press it was a property contained in jet fuel. More ...

Antinucci leaves Europe to drive for Uncle  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement by Cheever Racing - see Hot News page.

02/08/07 Richard Antinucci, fifth in the F3 Euro Series in 2006, has not found a ride in GP2 or the World Series by Renault.  The American is rumored to be returning to the USA to drive in the IPS series for his Uncle Eddie Cheever.  Antinucci is quite talented, and had F1 aspirations.  But with no money he's forced to take whatever he can get now.
NASCAR suspends cheaters  UPDATE #4 Another article agreeing with AutoRacing1.com that the penalties handed down by NASCAR against its latest bunch of cheaters was nothing more than a slap on the wrist.

02/13/07 Also on Tuesday, Rodney Childers, crew chief for the No. 10 Dodge driven by Scott Riggs; and Josh Browne, crew chief for the No. 19 Dodge driven by Elliott Sadler – have been suspended for two races and fined $25,000. In addition, Riggs and Sadler were penalized 25 driver championship points while their car owners, James Rocco and Evernham, were penalized 25 car owner championship points.

02/13/07 Kasey Kahne and Matt Kenseth will begin the Nextel Cup season with negative points and without their crew chiefs as a result of violations discovered Sunday during post-qualifying inspection for the Daytona 500. Kenny Francis, the team director for Kahne, and Kenseth's crew chief Robbie Reiser both were told on Tuesday that they had been ejected from the 500 and will be suspended for multiple races.  Sources said the teams also were informed there would be a deduction in points as well as fines.  NASCAR scheduled a press conference for 3:30 p.m. ET on Tuesday to announce the details.  No announcement is expected on the infraction involving Michael Waltrip, whose Toyota was impounded and intake manifold confiscated after an unspecified substance was discovered in the manifold before qualifying. More at ESPN.com

02/13/07 "I'm not too proud to say we used to coat our air cleaners with propylene oxide," said Fox TV's Larry McReynolds, another example of NASCAR's blatant cheaters. "When the engine is running it would suck it in and make the car run faster. If Michael and them were doing something wrong, I tend to believe it was not an honest mistake."

ESPN's Andy Petree went as far to suggest Waltrip could be hardest hit, saying, "It was a blatant infraction. The entire team will probably be suspended, including the driver and owner. This kind of stuff is frowned upon."  This should help Toyota avoid NASCAR fan backlash if they were too competitive too soon.  Rest assured by year three in Cup they will be a dominant force, the same game plan we saw in the Truck series.  Hence you won't see Toyota complain at all when one of their teams is fined.

02/13/07 Kenny Francis, the team director for Nextel Cup driver Kasey Kahne, took a mini-vacation with his family in his nearby hometown of Jacksonville on Monday.

Francis and Robby Reiser, the crew chief for 2003 Cup champion Matt Kenseth, are expected to be given an extended vacation by NASCAR beginning on Tuesday or Wednesday.

Sunday's qualifying times for Kahne and Kenseth were disallowed because of unapproved aerodynamic enhancements discovered during post-qualifying inspection.

NASCAR officials said the infractions were as blatant as the one that resulted in Chad Knaus, the crew chief for Jimmie Johnson, being ejected from last year's Daytona 500, suspended for an additional three races and fined $25,000.

Sources close to the situation said the punishment for Francis and Reiser would be similar if not the exact same.

Asked Monday on a Sirius Satellite radio show if Knaus' ejection established a precedent, NASCAR vice president of competition Robin Pemberton said, "It is in the close family."  More at ESPN.com

[Editor's Note: Suspend the crew chief, big deal.  Jimmie Johnson still won the Daytona 500 and series title last year even though his crew chief was suspended. He can still guide the team via the phone, so this penalty amounts to nothing more than another slap on the wrist by NASCAR.  As we suggested, slap a $1 million minimum fine on NASCAR rats (cheaters) and see how fast cheating stops.  We still maintain that NASCAR wants the cheating to continue for the free PR it provides.]

Is NASCAR’s momentum stalling?  UPDATE #2 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I think you have been right that NASCAR may be topping out. This is all the more reason for Champ Car to market the series.  Any marketing would be a great start.  When the "stall" occurs it is generally the casual fan who is the first to realize that the NASCAR form of racing is really just sponsor billboards on wheels.  Brain Kellione

Dear Brian, NASCAR quietly added close to 30,000 seats to the huge backstraight grandstand. If the race sells out that is quite a statement and NASCAR would argue that their sport is as healthy as ever.  Tickets are still for sale however.  And yes, it would be a good idea if Champ Car started a branding campaign to define and publicize to the average person on the street what Champ Car was all about.   Mark C.

02/13/07 Scott Atherton, President and CEO of the American Le Mans Series, was in New York City Tuesday (Feb. 13) speaking about the surge in the American Le Mans Series.  In addition to citing the relevance of the Series – most recently indicated by its announcement as the ONLY major racing series to be running a street legal ethanol blend this year – he talked about all benchmarks being up:  attendance, television viewership, corporate partners, manufacturers in the series, web traffic, and merchandising sales. 

NASCAR recently announced that its “Super Bowl” – the Daytona 500 – is not yet a sellout for this weekend.  Meanwhile, the American Le Mans Series’ “Super Bowl” – the 12 Hours of Sebring – is more than a month away (March 17) with ticket sales 20% ahead of a year ago when its attendance of 150,000-plus set an all-time record. 

Must be a reason the likes of Roger Penske, Bobby Rahal-David Letterman, Andretti-Green, etc. have all decided to race in the American Le Mans Series!

02/13/07 Efforts to sell tickets for Sunday's Daytona 500 shifted into high gear this week at the Daytona International Speedway. Ticket offices not only have extended their hours, they're offering two-day packages that include Saturday's Busch Series race.

Sellouts used to be easy at Daytona. And while the first race of the stock car season probably will wind up as standing room only, the racetrack no longer rests solely on the sport's popularity to fill its grandstands.

For months, the speedway has used a national advertising program and has tried to create more attractive ticket plans.

The same goes for the California Speedway, Las Vegas Motor Speedway and Atlanta Motor Speedway - tracks that host the three races that follow the Daytona 500.

Racetracks aren't the only ones feeling the pinch of stagnant, if not declining, interest. Television ratings hit the wall last year, triggering concern throughout the industry.

NASCAR and its partners are aware of the issue. They can see the numbers from Nielsen Media Research. They can see the empty seats. For now, they view it as nothing more than an anomaly, a temporary ebb.

"TV ratings, they are going to go up and down in cycles," said NASCAR chairman Brian France. "We look at TV ratings with a longer view so that won't have any effect on anything we would do. If we could enhance competition, we are going to try to do that. You can see that we have made we think some good steps, but they are careful steps, and we'll take a look and see how they go. We have no timetable; you have to go obviously a year or two. We'll all say that it has some of the impact and benefit that we want, and we'll see that as we go down the road." More at Times-Union

ISC to build track in Denver  UPDATE The owner of the Daytona International Speedway in Florida said Tuesday it is looking into building a 75,000-seat racetrack near Denver International Airport.  International Speedway Corp. said its subsidiary, Rocky Mountain Speedway Corp., has two sites under consideration in Adams County east of Denver.  Company officials said no cost estimates were available. They said they were looking into whether a public-private partnership could be formed to build a speedway. ESPN.com

02/13/07 Rumor has it that ISC will soon announce that they are going to build a track in the Denver area.  Stay tuned for more details as we get them.......
Industry News
GM sets itself up to lose huge sums of money  [Editor's Note: Here we go again, GM giving away cars again at cost or near cost, which will lead to huge losses.  Instead of cutting back production, they prefer to flood the market with cars to keep their total sale total up as they fight to hold off Toyota from taking over the world's No. 1 ranking in sales volume.  And they actually pay their executives huge sums of money to come up with ways to lose money on the backs of their investors.]

General Motors Corp. is expected to roll out a ramped-up incentive program today that will include bonus cash and a revival of free financing.

Zero-percent financing for as long as 60 months or $500 cash will be available on most 2006 and 2007 models as GM hopes to boost sales following a nearly 17 percent decline in demand last month. More ...

Industry News
Toyota fears USA backlash  Toyota Motor Corp. is bracing for possible political and consumer backlash caused by its rapid U.S. growth, according to an internal report obtained by the Free Press.

Toyota executives have publicly downplayed the importance of predictions that the Japan-based company will pass General Motors Corp. this year as the world's largest automaker. But the Toyota report says the company could face criticism because its U.S. sales are increasing while Detroit's automakers are losing sales and shuttering plants. With recent market-share gains and sales continuing to increase, we are becoming the de facto leader of the industry -- that brings risks and responsibilities," according to a presentation by Seiichi (Sean) Sudo, president of Toyota Engineering & Manufacturing in North America. "Our competitors are jealous of our success."

Detroit's congressional allies of GM, Ford Motor Co. and DaimlerChrysler AG's Chrysler Group say it's not jealousy. They say Japanese automakers are exploiting an artificially weak yen to make their products more affordable.

U.S. Rep. Sander Levin, D-Royal Oak, said he is considering legislation aimed at pressuring Japan and other countries to stop manipulating their currencies to boost exports. More at Detroit Free Press

Fiat to enter WTCC  "We have a lot of belief in the rally program, but we are also evaluating other avenues," Fiat's Head of Brand and Commercial Activities Luca de Meo told Italian racing magazine Autosprint.

"For example we'd see the Bravo well for circuit racing. We'd like to take part in the WTCC and this is something we are seriously considering. Besides, I don't see other important showcases, and since Alfa is edging towards GT racing...

"I repeat: we believe in Fiat's sporting soul, but it's important to make the right moves, as it's been the case with the Bravo project, and that is without improvising. That's why we are closely analyzing the regulations, the organization and the TV deals."

$50m Fiat deal to re-fire Rossi rumors  Valentino Rossi will be sponsored by Ferrari's parent company in MotoGP this year, but the Italian denies that it means he might still switch to F1.

The publication Motorcycle News has confirmed rumors of Yamaha's nearly $50m deal with Fiat, but Rossi insists that he recently decided against quitting two wheels.

He tested extensively for Ferrari last year but recently signed a new contract to stay on a Yamaha bike until 2008.

"My future is just rumors, and not linked with the sponsor," 27-year-old Rossi said.

Toyota team caught cheating already, now lying  UPDATE #2 Waltrip's Toyota was impounded, with Hunter raising the possibility Waltrip will not be allowed to run that particular car in the 150s or the 500. "We'll go over that car with a fine-tooth comb ... and I don't know how long we'll keep it," Hunter said. Sterno? That's the horsepower trick that rivals suspect tripped up Waltrip when he was busted by NASCAR in the pre-qualifying inspection line for having some unknown "substance" in his intake manifold. NASCAR's Robin Pemberton, the vice president for competition, said that the manifold was being sent back the Concord R&D center for analysis. Presumably the substance could have been some type of oxidant, to provide a bit of horsepower for a short period of time. For years, stock-car teams have at times used such illegal chemical additives at Daytona and Talladega, where NASCAR severely restricts air to the engine, to limit speeds. Ty Norris, the general manager of Waltrip's team, insisted that it was not Sterno: "No, no, no, no. They found some oil in the manifold and said it shouldn't be there," Norris said. "They thought something was amiss. So we changed manifolds, and had the same issue. We showed NASCAR we thought it was blow-by engine oil. Winston Salem Journal 

[Editor's Note: Blow-by engine oil?  Really?  Last time we checked air is rushing at a violent rate into the engine through the intake manifold.  It's quite interesting to learn how Toyota has managed to have the air flow go the other way and still have the engine run.  Perhaps they have found a way to defy the laws of physics.  After all they are Toyota, so rich they can probably re-write history books too.]

02/11/07 While it's not yet clear whether Waltrip's team has done anything illegal, NASCAR is holding onto Waltrip's car at the track for an undetermined amount of time to make sure.

Amid widespread speculation among rival teams in the garage area that Waltrip's team could put an illegal fuel additive in its manifold to increase engine combustion, NASCAR competition director Robin Pemberton said he did not know if the substance could enhance performance.

"We don't know that, and we aren't going to speculate on it," Pemberton said.

The team put a new manifold on the car and Waltrip posted the 25th-fastest speed of the day, but NASCAR officials later impounded it.

"We'll go over that car with a fine-toothed comb," Hunter said.

Michael Waltrip Racing general manager Ty Norris said it was "ridiculous" to ask whether the substance might have been put there intentionally by a crew member.

"I think it's probably making great print (news stories), but I don't know that it's going to be as exciting as everybody thinks it's going to be," Norris said.

02/11/07 NASCAR confiscated the intake manifold on the Toyota of Michael Waltrip prior to qualifying today after finding a foreign substance inside it. Michael Waltrip will still be allowed to qualify the car with a replacement intake manifold, Robin Pemberton said. "Our inspector caught a substance inside that we didn't really know what it was." Pemberton would not discuss penalties, only saying there will be answers by the end of the week. He said that is the only car with major inspection issues so far today. Senedaily.com
How to stop rampant cheating in NASCAR  For years we have complained that cheating is rampant in NASCAR with crew chiefs and teams caught and fined week in and week out.  This AP article suggests maybe it's time to fine or suspend the driver when a team is caught cheating.  We have a better idea.  If NASCAR is really serious about putting an end to cheating,  they should implement a minimum fine of $1 million.  Too harsh you say?  Nonsense.  Let the rats pay a $1 million fine a couple of times and watch how the cheating all of a sudden comes to a sudden halt.

However, don't expect NASCAR to implement this rule because it would stop all cheating, and, therefore, stop all the free media publicity NASCAR gets from the cheats. (This related article exposes one of NASCAR's chief cheats, er....rats)

BP to sponsor Honda team?  The Honda Racing F1 Team will present the RA107's new livery on 26 February. In January, the team already launched the challenger, but the livery still hasn't been released. According to Nick Fry, the new livery will be something that has never been seen in F1. Rumors have been spread for months now that BP will be the new main sponsor of the team, which would result in a green livery.
Bell to field Porsche in LMP2  UPDATE Derek Bell denies he is getting involved with a Porsche program.

02/12/07 Rumor has it that Derek Bell is partnering with a well known sports car team manager to field a customer Porsche in the LMP2 class of ALMS this year.
New sponsor for British GP  The 'Foster's British Grand Prix' is set to be renamed as the 'Santander British Grand Prix' after race organizers are rumored to have signed a £6m deal with the Spanish bankers.

According to the Mail on Sunday newspaper, the tie-up should 'ensure that the race stays at Silverstone in the long term' and the sponsorship is 'further evidence of a move away from the reliance on tobacco and alcohol-related support.'

"It's absolutely fantastic news," former World Champion Nigel Mansell was quoted as saying. "Hopefully it means that the future of the British Grand Prix is now ensured for at least a few good years to come."

Evernham would hire Schumacher  If Michael Schumacher wants a ride in NASCAR [#9, #10, #19 team owner],  Ray Evernham has one waiting for him. Evernham, who works with German company DaimlerChrysler, has issued an open invitation to the seven-time Formula One champion to give stock car racing a try. The German driver retired from racing red Ferraris after the 2006 season. Asked recently about Juan Pablo Montoya leaving F1 to drive in NASCAR, Schumacher told The New York Times: "Personally, I wouldn't do it. What do you do in NASCAR? What is exciting there? I can't see that, running around on ovals." But Evernham would like him to reconsider. "I'll put him in a red car, a real good car, any time he wants to come over here and try it," he said. "A lot has changed in recent years. These cars are looked on as much more sophisticated than they used to be. I think he'd find them technical enough to keep him happy." ESPN.com/AP
Toyota to sandbag their first year  Rumor has it in the NASCAR paddock that the early plan for Toyota is not winning but rather just playing the game, paying their dues and earning their stripes in NASCAR.   If they win early they will be a Xenophobic American rebellion among the NASCAR rednecks, exactly what NASCAR and Toyota do not want.

Toyota is expected to try to keep a relatively low profile the first half of the season, perhaps even the first year or two, and slowly build toward domination. Look to the Truck series for an example, where Todd Bodine won Toyota's first NASCAR championship last year, in the company's third year of competition.  But it was how they did it - Toyota drivers finished in the top 5 positions in the championship.  We call that domination, and they did it with new teams.

Toyota's biggest hurdle will be getting its new teams up to speed.  Only Bill Davis Racing has Cup experience.  The other Toyota teams are new and won't be expected to win in their first year.  The No. 22 Toyota Camry from Bill Davis Racing failed inspection three times for the Daytona 500. BDR is considered to be one of the top two teams from Toyota.  The Red Bull Toyota team is so bad that it's quite possible they won't even qualify for the Daytona 500, especially AJ Allmendinger who has been totally out to lunch in testing so far.  Many in NASCAR predict he will be fired before the year is out.  
Roush Racing may sell interest to Red Sox owners  UPDATE #7 A group of investors led by Boston Red Sox owner John Henry has completed a deal to buy a 50 percent stake in the Roush Racing NASCAR team, a person familiar with the negotiations said Friday. Although team owner Jack Roush is selling half of the team to the Fenway Sports Group, Roush will continue to run the team's competitive operations, according to the person, who requested anonymity because the deal hasn't been announced.  Both parties have scheduled a Feb. 14 news conference at Jackie Robinson Ballpark, a minor league facility near Daytona International Speedway. CBS Sportsline

01/31/07 While addressing the media last week in Charlotte, NASCAR team owner Jack Roush spoke as if the pending sale of a portion of his racing organization to Boston Red Sox owner John Henry, and Henry's Fenway Sports Group, was effectively complete. It isn't. In fact, it could be a while. It's one of the most elaborate transactions Roush Racing president Geoff Smith has ever seen. "The deal is not done," Smith told ESPN.com Tuesday. "It's a really complex transaction with more separate contracts than anything I've ever seen." More than 50, in fact, Smith said. "There are lawyers engaged around the clock, basically, trying to work through all the details of all these documents," Smith said. "So that's why nobody wants to talk exactly, because the deal's not done." Both parties remain committed, though, Smith said. "We both want it to be done and want to be in business together, and are hoping we can agree on everything necessary to close in a short period of time," Smith said. He doesn't have a timetable. "We've been saying that for two full months, maybe three full months now," he said. "That's how long it's been going on." Smith is uncertain how many individuals are working on the project of the Fenway Sports Group side, but said no less than seven Roush Racing employees, including a pair of lead lawyers and three senior financial executives, are working on Roush's behalf full time. Then there are multiple folks weighing in on a part-time basis, such as Smith. Smith also said the speculated dollar figure involved in the sale -- $50 million -- is inaccurate. And he isn't giving any hints as to what it is, either. "No, they are not accurate," Smith said. "I never comment one way or another about any numbers, any money, but I've read a couple different numbers and I'm like, 'Well, that's people hypothesizing.' "There are people making assumptions about what our revenue is and what our profitability is, and they're trying to figure out what [team owner] Richard Childress sold his interest [to a group of investors] for, or what someone else is looking for, then coming up with a number."

Asked for comment on the status of the deal Monday, Fenway Sports Group chose instead to respond via e-mail statement from FSG president Mike Dee: "As we have previously stated, Fenway Sports Group is in discussions with Roush Racing. While we continue to explore this opportunity, there is nothing new to report at this time." More at ESPN.com

01/26/07 The principal owner of the Boston Red Sox could close a deal next month to buy half of Roush Racing, one of the most prominent teams in NASCAR, officials said yesterday.

Negotiations between John Henry and Jack Roush , the owner of the racing team, are in their final stages, and if all goes well, details could be disclosed before the Daytona 500 race on Feb. 18 , said Mike Dee , the president of Fenway Sports Group , which handles Henry's non baseball sports ventures. More ...

Duno and Mitrisin to be named  UPDATE #7 Cahill Racing will hold a press conference Saturday afternoon at IMS. They will be making it official that they are entering a 2-car effort for Milka Duno and Jeff Mitrisin for the 2007 IRL season.

02/07/07 Duno and Mitrisin posed together for this IRL media shot so it looks like they are expected to race in the IRL this year.  That will give the IRL three women - Patrick, Fisher and Duno.  Expect Duno to run dead last most of the time, Fisher is so bad she won't run any of the road races (takes too much skill) and Patrick struggled to keep pace with her Andretti Green teammates at the recent Homestead test.  With that said, this is primarily a 100% throttle series where driving talent is not necessary to go fast - ya just need to be brave.

01/27/07 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Reached by phone, Steve Kaminski, vice president of Marquis Marketing Sports, the marketing arm of Cahill Racing, confirmed that Duno and driver Jeff Mitrisin are both signed to two-year, two-car deals.  "Milka is signed for a two-year agreement and so is Jeff. We're looking at 17-18 races this year. She's being very kind and doing the right things," Kaminski said. "We've had to work around three different entities so we can make everybody happy. Milka is very aware of the contract and knows what is in it.  As of midnight (Friday) I would tell you that all of the Ts are being crossed and all of the Is are dotted and we're ready to go." More at Daytona Beach News Journal

01/11/07 The Cahill announcement was delayed due to illness in the family of one of its drivers. All "system are go" and an announcement will be made in the coming days.

01/09/07 Wednesday's announcement with Cahill Racing has been postponed due to a family emergency with one of the scheduled participants. Information regarding a rescheduled date will be released at a later time.

01/09/07 Officials from Cahill Racing will hold a press conference at 1:30 p.m. (EST) on Wednesday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to announce plans for the 2007 IndyCar Series season. As expected, Milka Duno and Jeff Mitrisin will be announced as drivers for Cahill Racing's 2 car effort.

 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Milka Duno may indeed "drive like a brick on road courses," but what the IRL is undoubtedly more concerned about is that physically, she makes Danica Patrick look like a brick! Along with the fact that the IRL is starving for drivers and teams, imagine the PR if they can get Patrick and Duno on the track at the same time! Hmmm, it's certainly sexist, but imagine a head-to-head tour of cities ahead of the races... maybe featuring them racing in bikinis on karts or some such. Can you say, "back in the spotlight?" Tony George must be smiling just thinking about it. DL, from LA, CA

Dear DL, Sarah Fisher is also trying to put together an IndyCar ride for next year, so maybe Tony will have three women to exploit. No other "professional" sport has three women at the top level. In fact in most sports women have their own league. Mark C.

12/02/06 We've got conversations with four to six people that have potential of fielding teams, including one that was here before - Larry Cahill trying to assemble a package for female sports car driver Milka Duno.  Brian Barnhart in Indy Star interview

[Editor's Note:  She's as slow as a brick on road courses, but she may be good at 100% throttle IRL racing.]

Suspended crewman to return  Valvoline Evernham Racing crewman Craig Curione is expected to return for the Budweiser Shootout this weekend. Curione was indefinitely suspended by NASCAR following an altercation where he reportedly pushed Kevin Harvick after the Nov. 5, 2006, race at Texas Motor Speedway. Harvick and Evernham driver Scott Riggs had gotten into an accident on the track late in the event. NASCAR Vice President Robin Pemberton said Thursday that he expected Curione to be reinstated. scenedaily.com
Will Gordon retire in 5 years?  With a new baby girl on the way in July, #24-Jeff Gordon isn’t making noises about retiring. Far from it. Gordon has insisted all winter that he’s more fired up than ever this year, though his teammate Jimmie Johnson said he wouldn’t be shocked if Gordon retires from driving within the next five years. “A five-year window? I wouldn't be surprised,” Johnson said Thursday during Media Day at Daytona. “This is the start of his 16th year. So in 20 years, I think 20 years of doing anything you're probably looking for a change. So I wouldn't be shocked with that.” Johnson added that Gordon hasn’t made any such pronouncements about the future. As for Gordon, he laughed. "I hope there's a Jeff Gordon sitting in victory lane with a five-year-old daughter in his arms is what I'm hoping for." SpeedTV.com
Toyota spending $200M per year to conquer NASCAR  [Editor's Note: Toyota was spending over $100M per year in CART, now Champ Car, so this estimate of $200M per year, given NASCAR's higher TV ratings and sponsor exposure, is probably right on target.] This weekend at Daytona International Speedway, Japan-based automotive giant Toyota will be trying to cement a place in Americana. It's officially joining NASCAR's Nextel Cup circuit, the nation's No. 1 motor sports series.

In the final, and perhaps most significant, part of its campaign to gain consumer acceptance as being as made-in-America as Ford and General Motors, Toyota is plowing full force into an arena once impenetrable by a foreign manufacturer.

Two Toyota drivers, Dale Jarrett and Brian Vickers, will compete in Saturday's preseason exhibition race, the Budweiser Shootout. Eight Toyota drivers are entered in Sunday's Daytona 500 pole qualifying, which decides the top two starting positions for NASCAR's fabled season-opening event Feb. 18.

The world's No. 2 automaker, poised to surpass GM this year, has stamped its logo on many pastimes that intersect with middle-class America — especially pickup owners, the overwhelming majority of whom still buy from Detroit. More at USA Today

McLaren may boycott Jerez tests  (GMM)  McLaren may boycott future tests at Jerez if the circuit does not ramp up paddock security, according to world champion Fernando Alonso.

In an interview with Spanish television network 'Tele5', the 25-year-old complained about the hundreds of countrymen who this week disrupted his work at the southern test venue.

As Alonso moved about the Jerez paddock, he was regularly swamped with requests for personal autographs and photos.

"I am happy that Spanish people are following my progress in the preseason," the newspaper 'Diario As' quoted Alonso as saying, "but my team is considering not returning to Jerez because they are letting too many people into the paddock."

He added: "It is getting out of hand and it would be a shame if I could not return to one of my home circuits to test."

Ho-Pin Tung eyes F1 role  UPDATE #3 (GMM)  Ho-Pin Tung is still in talks with teams about becoming a formula one test driver.  That is the claim of the Dutch-born Chinese racer's manager, Bert Winkler.  He told the magazine Formule 1 RaceReport that he is also negotiating with potential sponsors, but stopped short of dropping any names.

Tung, the 24-year-old reigning German F3 champion who presently drives in the A1GP series, had negotiated with Spyker about a test job this year but presumably did not find the necessary backing.

"We also didn't want Ho-Pin to become a fifth wheel," Winkler insisted, referring to Spyker's already top-heavy test lineup featuring some four drivers.

Tung tested for Williams in 2003.

12/26/06 A reader writes, Will Champ Car have any Chinese drivers on the grid when they race in Zhuhai in May?  Kevin Black, Denver, Co. 

Dear Kevin, It does not look that way at this stage, unless someone with sponsorship comes along or the Chinese race promoter makes it happen.  Unfortunately if something does happen it may be just for the China race, which means the driver will fail miserably and the Chinese fans will go home disappointed, perhaps never to return.  Champ Car isn't F1, which is a brand known around the world. China is too important a market for Champ Car to fail in.  Hopefully they will figure it out, i.e. the locals need someone to take an interest in.  Mark C.

12/26/06 (GMM)  Chinese hopeful Ho-pin Tung is reportedly targeting a full time test seat for the Spyker team in 2007. The Dutch born F3 racer, who tested a Williams in 2003, has been in contact with Silverstone based Spyker through bosses Michiel Mol and Victor Muller, the magazine Formule 1 Race Report said.  With 9 wins and 4 poles, Ho-pin Tung, 24, won the German F3 drivers' title this year.

12/22/06 According to this Dutch website, Dutch/Chinese driver Ho-Pin Tung is talking to the Spyker team about being a test driver.  The team has a strong Dutch flavor already so Tung would fit in well.  In addition he is Chinese and F1 recognizes the importance of getting a Chinese driver into the series because they do race in Shanghai, China.
European TV coverage for Champ Car  A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Do you know anything about European TV - Coverage for Champ Car? Eurosport 1 and 2, AB Moteurs or others? Alexander from Germany

Dear Alexander, The last we heard this year's European TV partners won't look too different than shown on Champ Car's website currently from last year. So yes, we expect Eurosport to be the primary broadcaster with the Holland and Belgium races possibly having terrestrial TV coverage in those two countries. As for the rest of the world, we expect that ESPN International will do the TV distribution and they reach a lot of countries as shown on this map. Mark C.

tv news
TNT to go commercial free  UPDATE #3 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  TNT will incorporate advertising into its broadcast of the July Nextel Cup race at Daytona in place of commercial breaks, a network official said Wednesday.  This would be the first time a network broadcasting a Cup race has limited or eliminated commercial breaks by showing the advertising on-screen during the race.   Turner Sports executive producer Jeff Behnke said the plan "is going to happen."   "We have a lot of pride in being innovative and exploratory with ways to do our broadcast," Behnke said. "The fans and viewers at home that see our broadcast in July will be very surprised with our product."

01/12/07 TNT, for the prime-time July 7 Pepsi 400, wants to add some wrinkles. Trish Frohman, TNT executive vice president, hopes to enlist 12 advertisers — she says Pepsi, DirecTV and pain reliever 360 OTC are in — to air commercials, running up to two minutes, in about a quarter of the TV screen as race shots continue. Correction. Those "won't be commercials," says Frohman, but rather "branded content" that's "organic to the environment." Meaning, she says, that TNT's production staffers will work with advertisers to make ads — er, "content" — specifically for the race. TNT announcers, she says, will "absolutely" be "as engaged as anybody" in the effort. Which shouldn't surprise anybody. TV networks, paying millions or even billions for big-time TV rights, already seem like ad agencies for sports they cover. While Pepsi 400 coverage will still include local cable ads beyond TNT's purview, Frohman says the total time devoted to marketing messages will be less than normal NASCAR coverage. USA Today

01/04/07 Rumors now say that only the Pepsi 400 at Daytona may run commercial free.

10/18/06 Sports Business Journal reports that TNT is floating a package to potential advertisers that would allow advertising during the race broadcast and eliminate commercial breaks. The advertising would take place on the screen during the broadcast and allow continuous race coverage. TNT will broadcast six Nextel Cup races next summer. The story reports that officials from Turner and NASCAR would not comment. The story also reported that TNT's Cup ratings are down 8.3% in Canada from last season, which negates Brian France's excuse that it was caused by the switch from NBC to ABC/ESPN that has caused a similar drop in USA TV ratings for NASCAR. We are of the opinion that over saturation of their product has resulted in the downturn.
Has NASCAR promised Washington two Cup races?  UPDATE #2 International Speedway Corp. has put another $14 million on the table to sweeten its bid to build a $368 million racetrack near Seattle.  ISC officials announced Tuesday a bill to finance the 80,000-seat racetrack was filed this week in the Washington Legislature with support from Lt. Gov. Brad Owen and 20 legislators. The latest cost estimate for the facility is $23 million more than ISC's earlier price tag of $345 million, issued in 2005. In the new plan, ISC commits $180 million of its own money for the project, up from an earlier offer of $166 million.

02/06/07 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  International Speedway Corp. has pledged to guarantee two major race weekends and not to build a track within 500 miles of its Washington track if the state legislature passes its financial proposal.  Those were two of the details announced Tuesday as the proposed financial package was submitted to the Washington House of Representatives despite not having the support from the area where ISC currently wants to build the track. More ...
It's a girl!  NASCAR star Jeff Gordon and his supermodel wife, Ingrid Vandebosch (pictured right), will be welcoming a baby girl in July.  Rumors say they recently learned the gender of their baby.
Allianz scales down Williams backing  (GMM)  Insurance business Allianz appears to have scaled down its sponsorship of Grove based F1 team Williams. The Munich based company appeared prominently as usual on the 2006 car's rear wing, but will on 2007 will limit its exposure at the team to just "eight key races", a statement issued on Wednesday said. Allianz joined Williams as a key sponsor in 2000.
racing news
Villeneuve moving to Canada to live - report  (GMM)  1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve is expected to move permanently from Switzerland, according to reports in the Canadian press today.

The 35-year-old has lived mainly in Villars-sur-Ollon during his formula one career, but after he was dumped by BMW-Sauber last year he has spent much of his time with his new wife and baby son Jules in Canada.

The Montreal Gazette reports that Villeneuve plans to move permanently to the French-speaking city, where a three-storey mansion he recently bought for $3m is being renovated.

Other sources indicate that his mother Joan, who in 1982 buried her famous husband and Jacques' father Gilles, was the agent responsible for the sale of her son's new home.

Villeneuve said in a statement provided by his publicist Yan Lefort: "Family has always been important to me and I wanted to build my own family, so making sure that my wife and baby are well has become the priority."

Melbourne GP attendance to rise?  (GMM) After a fallow year in 2006, attendance for this year's Australian grand prix looks set to rise, according to local reports.

Melbourne's The Age newspaper said organizers are expecting a four-day turnout of about 350,000, after just over 300,000 watched the event won by Fernando Alonso last April.

2006 was the first time Albert Park had not hosted the season opener since joining the calendar a decade earlier, to avoid a clash with the city's running of the Commonwealth Games.

A spokesman for Australia's F1 organizers would not confirm The Age's findings but insisted that ticket sales are "progressing well" and should match the event's average attendance, which is 346,000.

Spyker in talks with title sponsor?  (GMM) The Dutch-owned F1 team Spyker could be on the verge of signing a title sponsor.

According to reports from the scene of the new F8-VII's maiden test at Silverstone this week, the German cargo company 'DHL' is apparently close to penning a deal for 2007.

Via the Bonn-based brand and also parent company Deutsche Post World Net, DHL was previously involved in F1 with the team's former guise, Jordan.

According to a member of the Dutch media, DHL already has an air and sea freight contract with Spyker for the export of its road cars.

There was no DHL signage on Spyker's 2007 car when it was launched at Silverstone, however.

It is also rumored that Dutch beer brewer Heineken may also become involved with Spyker this year, but almost certainly not as title sponsor.

Russia to replace France's Magny Cours?  (GMM) Russia is back on Bernie Ecclestone's F1 radar, according to media reports.

The news agency 'Agence France-Presse' says the north western city of St. Petersburg has made a proposition to the F1 supremo about a future race.

"We have good contacts with him," sports minister Viatcheslav Fetissov is quoted as saying.

Ecclestone is understood to have targeted St. Petersburg or Moscow as ideal locations for a Russian GP in 2005, after making at least two visits to the country.

"It won't take forever (to organize) because I won't be around for ever," he said at the time, "and I want to see it!"

76-year-old Ecclestone is also quoted by the Spanish newspaper El Mundo Deportivo this week as saying that his sport has entered a "new era".

"We need places like China, Bahrain and Abu Dhabi," he insisted, "which have something to offer. At places like Imola or Magny Cours, we don't know what we can offer our guests."

Maldonado to do GP2 and F1?  Pastor Maldonado has been confirmed as Kohei Hirate's teammate at Trident Racing for the upcoming 2007 GP2 championship season.  The Venezuelan tested for the team at the end of last year, after impressing in earlier tests for rivals at BCN Competicion.

"After reviewing all the proposals that I had for 2007, I think we have made the best decision in signing with Trident," he said. "They are a very professional team with which we are going to work hard to fight for the top positions in GP2." More ...

Audi to pull out of ALMS  Audi has threatened to not participate in the American Le Mans Series following the latest technical bulletin issued by IMSA.  As heard on MidWeek Motorsport on Globecast Radio Wednesday, Head of Audi Motorsport Dr. Wolfgang Ullrich stated in an interview that Audi will be present at the season-opening Mobil 1 Twelve Hours of Sebring but will have to evaluate its program if the full ACO rules are not adopted.   

Performance balancing is the issue which Ulrich is most concerned with, especially that the ALMS will not adopt the 5% restrictor increase issued to slow down LMP2 cars by the ACO.  Giving 5% less of a restrictor, P2 cars could essentially battle head-to-head with P1 machines, like the R10 TDI.  Audi is obviously upset over this latest development and is reevaluating its program in the American Le Mans Series. Paddock-Net

Petty to replace Benny Parsons in booth  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today with the TNT announcement.  See Hot News page for announcement.

02/07/07 Kyle Petty figures driving in a Nextel Cup race while he calls it on TV won't be that big a deal. So TNT will formally announce Wednesday that Petty will be an analyst on its six Cup races this summer, and call one — the June 24 Toyota/Save Mart 350 at Sonoma, Calif. — as he races in it. "There's constant communication between drivers and their spotters and crew chiefs anyway," says Petty, 47. "Really, just pushing another button and talking to millions of people won't be a ton different. Maybe I'll have to clean up my language." Petty told TNT he didn't want to miss that race because he likes road courses. And, in planning to run all Cup races except ones he'll call for TNT, he says it's "still my No. 1 priority to drive cars. Or maybe I'd be begging for a seat in the (TV) booth." Kyle kept the idea of working on TV "at arm's length" and says he only appeared on some TNT Busch Series races this summer because TNT analyst Benny Parsons— whom Kyle says he's known "forever" — needed an occasional fill-in. Parsons was diagnosed with lung cancer in July and died last month after months of treatment that seemed to have been going successfully. Kyle says he's not a replacement: "I'll be really clear about this: Nobody can fill Benny's shoes. I'm not taking his place. I'm in his seat, but Benny will always be there." As an announcer, Petty says he'll avoid "guessing what drivers are thinking" and remember TV announcers "are just there for decoration." And, he says, he might want to pursue future TV work because it fits with his overall goal in life: "If I can float through and say I never had a full-time job, I'll see myself as successful." USA Today
Industry News
Ford to deep-six another model  UPDATE Ford Motor Co. confirmed today that it is resurrecting the Ford Taurus.  The company said it will rename the Five Hundred sedan the Taurus and the Freestyle, wagon-like crossover with three rows of seats, will be renamed the Taurus X. The Mercury Montego will now be called the Mercury Montego. The Five Hundred and the Freestyle, both built in Chicago, received general positive critical reviews but failed to catch on with consumers. Ford discontinued the Taurus last year after a 21-year run.

02/07/07 The family sedan credited with fueling Ford Motor Co.'s comeback in the mid-1980s is being called upon once again to help the faltering automaker.  At the Chicago Auto Show today, Ford plans to announce that it will give its slow-selling Five Hundred sedan the Taurus name, according to company sources who asked not to be named because the announcement is not official.

The roomy, reliable Taurus redefined the American car when Ford introduced it in 1985 as a 1986 model. The automaker scrapped it last year after a 21-year run that included a five-year stretch as the best-selling car in America.

But will bringing the Taurus name back rekindle the old magic?

Analysts say resurrecting the Taurus is a smart move by Ford to leverage its remaining brand equity, but the name alone likely won't spur a sales revival.

"The bottom line is the product," said Michelle Krebs, an editor for Edmunds AutoObserver, an online auto industry magazine.

Ford spokesman Jim Cain declined to confirm or deny the name change. "There's been a tremendous amount of interest in the Taurus ever since Alan Mulally expressed interest in the brand," Cain said.

Mulally has publicly questioned the decision to kill the Taurus instead of reviving its appeal with design changes. More at Detroit News [Editor's Note:  Maybe they can race the Ford 500 as the Taurus in NASCAR again and manage to deep-six the brand once again - racing grandmother cars makes zero sense, no matter what Ford wants to call it.]

Velocity to enter ALMS  Velocity Motorsports has announced its intentions to enter the American Le Mans Series.  The team currently competing in the Star Mazda Series will use 2007 as a testing and development year, but could enter a race or two at the end of the year in the LMP2 class.  Linking up with Creation Autosportif, Velocity will move into racing prototypes with a strong partnership.

"For some time now we have been considering expanding our race operations to offer a next step for drivers competing in our Star Mazda program," said Ken Erb, Director of Business Development. "We thought about Formula Atlantic, IPS, and Daytona Prototypes, and felt that the most logical step was to pursue Prototype racing in the American Le Mans Series.
The Star Mazda team has taken its first step in moving into the ALMS by partnering with Creation Autosportif.  The British outfit will share workspace with Velocity in its shop in Piedmont Triad. 

"We have had conversations with all of the major chassis, engine and tire manufacturers and are taking the first steps towards building a strategic partnership with Creation Autosportif."
"We're extremely optimistic about the 2007 season here in the United States," Creation Commercial Director Andy Woolgar said. "The technical and logistical support available to us through our alliance with Velocity Motorsports and in general here in the Piedmont Triad is going to make us that much more competitive and we intend to take full advantage."

Doornbos Champ Car signing nears  Robert Doornbos' manager has downplayed suggestions that the Dutchman's intention to race in Champ Car this year could cost him the spot as Red Bull's main tester.

Media speculation asserts that German rookie Michael Ammermuller is front of the queue to inherit the full time role as the Austrian squad's reserve driver at grands prix, but Marco Zecchi insists it isn't so. "Ammermuller is only going to do the shakedowns," Doornbos' manager told the magazine Formule 1 RaceReport. "The real kilometers will be done by (David) Coulthard, (Mark) Webber and Robert."

Doornbos, 25, has already been confirmed as Red Bull's main tester but he is yet to pen a Champ Car race deal. His duel role in 2007 does, however, mean that Ammermuller is likely to become Red Bull's GP reserve when Doornbos is unavailable.

Doornbos is tipped to race in the American open wheeler series for either Forsythe or Paul Stoddart's Minardi Team USA.

Zecchi said a contract could be signed by next week.

Rain to slow Andretti's test  Local weather reports Jerez, however, predict that rain is more than likely to fall perhaps for the remainder of the three-day test F1 test. Last week's Valencia runs were badly affected by the winter weather. A couple of notable personalities watched trackside on Tuesday; including 1978 world champion Mario Andretti and his son Michael, who are in town to watch the next-generation Andretti - Mario's grandson Marco - get a second test in a 2006-spec Honda RA106.
Junior to re-sign with DEI soon  Representatives of DEI and Dale Earnhardt Jr. will meet on Wednesday to discuss Dale Jr.'s contract and ownership stake in the team. Earnhardt Jr., his sister, Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, who serves as his business manager, DEI competition director Richie Gilmore, and DEI's new president, Max Siegel are expected in the meeting. Teresa Earnhardt, the owner of DEI who also is Earnhardt Jr.'s stepmother, will not be at the meeting, by design. Gilmore said the parties wanted to try to keep the emotions to a minimum, and they wanted to keep Teresa Earnhardt and Dale Jr. separate. Dale Jr.'s contract with DEI expires in 2007, and he said during testing at Daytona that he wanted a greater stake in DEI, the company that his father started. Gilmore says the ownership stake in the team is still the major determining factor in the contract negotiation process for Dale Jr. ESPN.com
No shorter races for NASCAR  While some fans and drivers might lobby for shorter races, don't look for new TV partner ESPN to.  John Skipper, ESPN Executive Vice President for Content, said the Busch Series can appease fans who want a shorter event but that fans have expectations for auto racing marathons that Cup races sometimes are.  "The fans, for the most part, seem quite satisfied with the races," Skipper said during a teleconference Tuesday. "It's part of the appeal of the sport is the nature of the endurance you have to go to win a NASCAR race. That is not high on a list of things we want to tinker with right now."
ALMS to allow Ethanol  Word on the street is that Rahal Letterman Racing and the ALMS will soon announce that the Rahal GT2 entry in the ALMS will carry Ethanol backing and possibly run on Ethanol.
Andretti to enter F1 in two years  UPDATE Honda has twice, very carefully, released news about Marco Andretti on Friday evenings, a time when there is guaranteed to be much less coverage because journalists have gone home for the weekend and by the time they return on Monday the news will be old hat. The only possible explanation for this is that Honda is trying to minimize the coverage the tests get. And one must therefore ask why this is a good plan as most F1 teams spend their time trying to get maximum coverage for everything (positive) that they do.

The clandestine nature of the announcement suggests, therefore, that there is more to this than meets the eye - and the presence of Mario Andretti would seem to underline that.

Not many F1 test drivers bring their grandfathers to their tests.

The fact that this is a second test is also significant, as it proves the point that the first test was not just a one-off publicity stunt. Honda must therefore be seriously considering doing something with Marco in the future. Testing time these days is a very valuable commodity and you do not just give it away.

It is clear that Andretti is exactly what F1 and indeed Honda, needs in America. F1 will never strike it big in the United States without a local hero winning races to get the locals excited. One needs only to look at the effect that Fernando Alonso's success has had on F1 in Spain or think back to similar phenomena in Germany in the mid 1990s with Michael Schumacher and in Britain in the mid 1980s with Nigel Mansell. More at Grandprix.com

12/13/06 Marco Andretti has set a timetable of two years to enter F1. "Formula One is a big dream of mine," the young Andretti told Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport. "To win the world championship is the thing I desire the most.

"In a perfect world, with the last two years of my contract with Dad, I would like to win the Indy 500 and then come to Europe."

He's going to have to run GP2 or Champ Car first because the mostly oval IRL series isn't going to give him the requisite training he needs in the cut throat world of F1. Success in the IRL will not be a measure of his skill and he risks a huge failure if he thinks he can go to F1 and compete with the likes of Alonso, Raikkonen, Button, Massa, and the rest of the front-runners. With that said, if he does well the Andretti name will do wonders for F1's popularity in the USA. What we don't want to see happen is Marco get into a situation similar to his father's where he was set up to fail.

Industry News
Will DCX dump Chrysler?  UPDATE German shareholders may be clamoring for DaimlerChrysler AG to sell off the Chrysler Group, but they won't get their wish. Instead, a secret restructuring plan dubbed "Project X" is focused on transforming Chrysler into a smaller, more efficient automaker with closer ties than ever to its German parent company and the Mercedes-Benz luxury division.

The Detroit News has learned that the plan, to be unveiled on Feb. 14, calls for unprecedented sharing of vehicle architectures and parts between Chrysler and Mercedes, including developing small cars and SUVs together.

The plan also outlines deep cost cuts similar to those at General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co.: plant closings, a reduction of factory shifts and employee buyouts aimed at slashing more than 10,000 blue-collar jobs. Sources said the likely closures will include an assembly plant in Newark, Del., and an engine plant in Detroit.

Overall, the success of Project X is critical to the future of Chrysler, which lost a projected $1.2 billion in 2006 and saw its U.S. market share slide to 13 percent at year's end. In Germany, anxious investors are putting pressure on DaimlerChrysler Chairman Dieter Zetsche to sell all or part of Chrysler. More at Detroit News

11/29/06 Pressure is mounting for DaimlerChrysler AG to offload the Chrysler Group.

Chrysler lost $1.5 billion between July 1 and Sept. 30, dragging down DaimlerChrysler's earnings to $1.13 billion.

DaimlerChrysler maintains that Chrysler is not for sale. But several investors, including SEB Asset Management, JPMorgan and Union Investment, reportedly contend that DaimlerChrysler should consider divesting itself of Chrysler to maintain its value.

"We remain convinced that management patience towards under-performing assets like Chrysler has worn thin and increases the likelihood that DCX will reduce exposure to Chrysler," JPMorgan said in a note.

"German management has certainly considered it," said George Magliano, director of automotive research at Global Insight. "But I don't think it could occur."

NASCAR TV ads slots selling fast  With the start of the NASCAR season just two weeks away, advertisers appear to be ignoring last year's TV ratings declines and a barrage of published speculation that interest in the sport may be waning. Instead, they're lining up to run ad campaigns with the three NASCAR TV rights-holders—Fox, TNT and ESPN/ABC.
Fox's telecast of the Daytona 500 on Feb. 18 is just about sold out, with the network intentionally holding back a handful of units. Spots for the race, Fox sources say, have sold for as much as $500,000 per 30-second unit, with the average spot going for between $350,000 and $400,000. As for Fox's entire 13-race telecast season, insiders say advertising is close to 80 percent sold.  Insider Racing News
2007 Champ Car TV schedule  UPDATE ESPN has filled in a few missing blanks on their online Champ Car schedule, but has dropped the Zhuhai race off altogether.  More on that in another rumor up shortly.  The 2007 Champ Car TV schedule now appears as though it will look like this:

April 8  Las Vegas NBC 3:30PM
April 15 Long Beach NBC 4:00PM 
April 22 Houston  ESPN 3:00PM
May 20  Zhuhai, China Mysteriously Removed 
Jun 10  Portland ABC 4:00PM
Jun 24  Cleveland CBS 1:00PM
Jul 1  Mont Tremblant ESPN 2:00PM 
Jul 8  Toronto  ESPN 1:00PM 
Jul 22  Edmonton ESPN 4:00PM
Jul 29  San Jose ESPN2 5:00PM 
Aug 12  Road America ABC 3:00PM
Sep 2  Assen, Holland ESPN CLASSIC 1:00PM 
Sep 9  Zolder, Belgium ESPN2 2:00PM
Oct 21  Surfers  ESPN2 5:00PM
Nov 11  Mexico City ESPN2 2:00PM 
Dec 2  Phoenix  ABC 4:00PM

01/30/07 Champ Car has not released the details of their 2007 USA TV schedule but here is what the ESPN website shows. The first two races of the year are expected to be on CBS or NBC, hence are not listed below.  Notice that Denver is not listed, but that may be slated for NBC like last year, if it survives in 2007.  The Cleveland race is also not listed and we suspect that will be shown on CBS.  The two European races listed in September are not correct as the dates are now September 2nd  (Assen) and September 9th (Zolder) and will be shown in the morning hours in the USA unless they are tape delayed until the afternoon.

Seattle NASCAR track still meeting resistance  UPDATE #3 Kitsap County commissioners might repeal the unusual zoning that serves as a "placeholder" for a future NASCAR speedway in South Kitsap, officials say. Repeal of the "industrial multi-purpose recreation area" — or IMPRA — is one option to answer a legal challenge filed by opponents of the speedway, according to Kitsap County Commissioner Chris Endresen.

While a repeal could be viewed as a setback for track supporters, the most significant battleground remains the state Legislature, where lawmakers will be asked to approve a funding package.  More at Kitsap Sun

04/14/06 A push by Florida-based International Speedway Corp. to build an 84,000-seat NASCAR speedway in Kitsap County could end next month if state lawmakers don't appear eager to help finance the project, an executive for the company warns. Grant Lynch, a company vice president, told The News Tribune that a critical meeting is scheduled on May 31 with state lawmakers. After that, company officials will reassess the project.

"My company wants the speedway in Kitsap County," Lynch said. "My company also understands that with a project of this size, the more time you spend on it, the more money it costs."

12/10/05 Speedway Corp. officials will get their opportunity to pitch the plan when the Senate Ways and Means Committee in Washington State convenes next month.  But there does not appear to be much support for the track in the legislature. At a recent Senate caucus, there was a request for a show of hands from track supporters not one raised their hand.  "For us to even be seriously considering it, there would have to be a groundswell of support," Sen. Margarita Prentice, D-Renton, chairwoman of the Senate Ways and Means Committee, said.

NASCAR is very much aligned with the Republican party, hence another reason why the democrats in Washington are not too keen on the track.  ISC is going to have to open their check books and start lining the pockets of a lot of politicians before this track gets approved. More ...

A1GP race afloat in red ink  Rumors out of Eastern Creek, Australia are that this weekend's A1GP race was another financial bloodbath with the number of fans in attendance barely a couple of thousand.  A smattering of fans can be seen on the spectator hills surrounding the track.


F1 to expand to 20 races  "At the moment we've got five countries waiting to see if we can put a race there. We are aiming for 20 races. I think we are now well served in this part of the world," Bernie Ecclestone said during the news conference to announce the Abu Dhabi race.  He also said a night race or two is possible.  "I was the one who suggested it so we'll wait and see.  I would like to do one or two night races. It could be good in Japan or China (or Singapore)."
Ecclestone to announce Abu Dhabi race  UPDATE #6 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement - see Hot News page.  With this announcement, which existing F1 race will get the axe in 2009?  And when South Korea, India and Singapore get their races, what other existing races will get the axe?

01/30/07 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today.  A source close to the negotiations has confirmed that Abu Dhabi will stage its inaugural grand prix probably in 2009.

"Yes, it is going to happen," the unnamed person told the Gulf News, while other sources said the race could even happen next year if a circuit can be built in time.

F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone will reportedly unleash the news at a press conference this weekend, when the Middle Eastern emirate hosts a 'F1 festival' involving most teams and many leading drivers.

Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa are the latest prominent names to confirm their participation at the event, and it is suggested that seven time world champion Michael Schumacher might also show his face.

The Gulf News wrote: "Bernie Ecclestone refused to (comment) but insisted the media attend a press conference on Saturday."

It is understood that the unique location chosen for the permanent F1 circuit is a man-made island.

The unnamed source said those negotiating with Ecclestone about the Abu Dhabi grand prix were not "bullsh**ters, middlemen (or) dreamers".

"The presence of decision-makers made this happen.  You need to carve a straight path to Ecclestone," he added.

01/23/07 (GMM) F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone will announce next weekend that Abu Dhabi has signed a deal to host a grand prix from 2009.

The official announcement will take place in the oil-rich Middle Eastern emirate as Abu Dhabi hosts an unique demonstration involving the cars of all eleven teams, according to the British broadsheet The Guardian.

"All the teams have been advised that this is a curtain-raiser to the announcement of the new race," the authoritative journalist Alan Henry wrote.

Contrary to earlier reports, it is understood that the Abu Dhabi grand prix will be run on a purpose-built circuit designed by Hermann Tilke rather than on a downtown street layout.

Abu Dhabi is already heavily involved in F1 as a co-owner and sponsor of the Ferrari squad and the location of a future Ferrari theme park.

Ecclestone's Abu Dhabi deal might also have included negotiations with organizers of the Bahrain race, as it is believed that Bahrain has an exclusive agreement for the region's only grand prix.

"We have been asked to send a car and to attend a black-tie dinner," McLaren chief executive Martin Whitmarsh confirmed. More ...

Gelles signs 2nd of 3 drivers  UPDATE We hear that Luis Mussi from Brazil will test with Gelles Racing's Atlantic team in the near future.

02/02/07 Rumor has it that Gelles Racing has signed their 2nd of 3 drivers for their Champ Car Atlantic team, an American Richard Heistand.  We await the formal announcement.   The team already signed Maximilian Götz.  A third driver is planned.
Possible new IRL team owners  Former boxer George Foreman remains a strong possibility to join Vision Racing as a part-owner and car sponsor.  Tom Chastain, who owned Chastain Motorsports in the IRL's early years, is among those working on an Indy 500 program. His group includes Indy-car veterans Stephan Gregoire (driver) and Darrell Soppe (engineer/team manager).  Indy Star
Valencia to get F1 race?  UPDATE #6  (GMM)  Valencia is still working on plans for a grand prix in 2008 or 2009, according to new reports.

The Spanish news agency 'EFE' quoted the region's president Francisco Camps as insisting that a formula one race, to be staged either at the Ricardo Tormo circuit or on a street layout, is "feasible".

On a trip to Madrid, he revealed that more meetings with F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone have been scheduled and said the cost of the event for Valencia would be "neutral".

"We are working on this but nothing is certain yet," Camps said.

01/18/07 Bernie Ecclestone has downplayed claims that McLaren's successful street demonstration run for the launch of the MP4-22 could seal the deal for Valencia to host a F1 grand prix.

Valencia wants to be the second Spanish city to host a Formula One grand prix.  These rumors were yet again brought to life after more than 200,000 fans turned out to watch the McLaren's street demonstration ahead of Monday's launch of the new MP4-22.

However, according to Ecclestone, the success of the McLaren event will play no role in his decision about whether or not Valencia could host a street race in the future.

"We have a race in Spain already," the F1 supremo told this week's Autosport magazine.

He added: "And Valencia's suitability as a grand prix venue has nothing to do with what went on at the McLaren launch.

"Either the place is good or it isn't - and we still have to see." More ...

Spa could host F1 test in 2007  (GMM) Spa-Francorchamps could host a formula one test this year, according to a rumor from the paddock at Valencia this week.

While fifteen runners clocked up miles in Spain on Thursday, speculation did the rounds that the updated venue for the historic Belgian grand prix, reinstated on the 2007 calendar after an absence, might be the scene of a three-day session in the month of July.

Talks with Spa officials are reportedly going on with the teams.

The track, featuring the famous Eau Rouge section, will host the F1 race on 16 September.

IRL to race at Daytona?  The question is: What were Indy-car teams doing for two days this week on Daytona International Speedway's road course?  Testing their equipment? Testing the track? Both?  Neither track nor series officials would say if Indy cars will return to the Florida track in 2008 for a race -- it's likely they don't know yet.  Indy Star 

Most everybody with this series seemed pleased with the performance of the open-wheel, ethanol-powered cars and productivity of the session.  The consensus in the garage was this: with some modifications and tweaks to the course, Daytona would be suitable for an IRL race. But IndyCar Series officials indicated there's much more work that needs to be done before Daytona lands a race date.  IRL president and chief operating officer Brian Barnhart said the series would likely need more testing here before scheduling a racing event.  "There are just certain places you want to be, and sure we want to be here, but there are so many steps that have to take place that have to be examined before we get there," Barnhart said.  Barnhart said at the IRL's next test here [Daytona], most likely this time next year, the series may try different course configurations.  Daytona Beach News Journal

[Editor's Note: As stated previously, very few fans go to Daytona to watch road course races, so if the IRL wants to save itself some embarrassment they will stay home.]
IRL eyes race in Portugal?  Barnhart said IndyCar Series officials continue to receive inquiries from groups that want to host new events, led by two (Biloxi, Miss., and Portugal) that remain possible for this fall.  Indy Star
Is Champ Car self-destructing?  A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Is Champ Car self-destructing? No Ford, no Denver, Conquest Racing is doubtful for this year and something fishy is starting to happen with the Las Vegas race as it appears to have lost its VISA sponsorship (gone completely from their website), what’s going on? Eric in Vegas

Dear Eric, It's about this time every year that the rumors begin of Champ Car's demise. Just to underscore how ridiculous the rumors are, one says there is supposed to be a meeting in Indy Friday between Kevin Kalkhoven, Gerald Forsythe and Tony George about a merger, when in fact Kevin Kalkhoven won't even be back from the Antarctica until next week.

Losing Ford is pretty much losing nothing as they did zero promotion of the series and paid near zero dollars to have their name on the engines. They did support the pace car program but that was so they could entertain their guests. As for Denver, that race was a foregone conclusion the moment it lost its title sponsor. And the track was rather Mickey Mouse, crammed into the Pepsi Center parking lot. Just as the IRL had to deep-six their Colorado Springs event, auto racing has just never caught on big time in Colorado, which is largely a stick and ball sport state.  Officially, however, Champ Car says it will return to Denver in two years.

As for the Vegas race, they list a lot of sponsors on their sponsor page. So while VISA may be absent for some strange reason, that race appears to be in absolutely no danger. Remember, it never was truly a VISA sponsorship, but instead a partnership agreement with First Data Independent Sales® Fresno by Cardservice International which processes VISA transactions. We suspect VISA did not want its name used as the deal was not with them.

And last your concern about Conquest Racing is valid as Eric Bachelart is struggling to find sponsorship to continue, but we saw this with teams in the IRL too. Mark C.

Champ Car to drop Denver race  UPDATE #4 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today - see Hot News page for announcement.

01/18/07 Champ Car World Series president Steve Johnson confirmed Wednesday that the Grand Prix of Denver might not take place this year and beyond.

In addition to lacking a local promoter and title sponsor, the annual street race on the Pepsi Center grounds has been bumped from its 2008 August weekend because the arena will be preparing for the Democratic National Convention.

"We have some challenges that we have to solve for the event, and there are a number of challenges - from the promoter, to the sponsor, to even the event date," Johnson said. "We are in contact with a number of people to see if we can pull this off."

Pepsi Center spokesman Brian Kitts confirmed that the arena has revoked Champ Car's 2008 race date. More ...

IRL eyes street race in Palm Springs  UPDATE #3 Here is another article related to this proposed race.

01/17/07 Here is the full Letter of Intent put forth by former Champ Car President Joe Heitzler's Event Management Group for the Palm Springs GP.

01/16/07 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Aside from usual IRL comments, let us get real:  "As reported Monday on thedesertsun.com, organizers say it could be the most heavily attended and watched auto racing, street entertainment event in the United States."

1) September in Palm Springs... average high is 102 degrees
2) It's just weeks after the Fontana NASCAR race that is less than 1 hour away
3) It's during football season.... don't underestimate that effecting Sat & Sun attendance
4) Traffic for Sunday only fans is brutal on Sunday evening.... can take 3 hours to get back into LA in bumper-to-bumper traffic

This is just another silly attempt by the IRL to morph into Champ Car.  It's almost as silly as racing in the cornfields of Iowa in front of 10 cows, or Biloxi, Mississippi.  John Costello

01/16/07 Palm Springs, start your engines.  An Indianapolis 500-style racing event that could bring 135,000 people to the valley and internationally broadcast on ABC and ESPN could be driving itself here next year.

The Palm Springs City Council on Wednesday will consider a proposal from the owners of the Indianapolis 500 and the Indy Racing League to produce a car race in Palm Springs called the Palm Springs Grand Prix. As reported Monday on thedesertsun.com, organizers say it could be the most heavily attended and watched auto racing, street entertainment event in the United States.

"If it happens, it would be the best thing for Palm Springs; there's nothing going on (here)," said Milen Dimitrov, a car enthusiast who works for Omag Automotive Machine in Palm Springs.

The proposal comes from Event Management Group and Creosote Partners on behalf of the Indy Racing League. The Grand Prix would take place in September 2008 over four days.

City officials aren't sure what it will cost to host the event. If the city council gives a go-ahead to negotiating with the group, the city will have 145 days to come with the logistics. For example, more than two miles of city streets would need to be repaired - meaning no potholes - to allow the cars to reach up to 200 mph.  More at Desert Sun

track news
Ranchers to kill proposed track  UPDATE #4 Well, it appears the farmers were not bluffing according to this article.

12/21/06 Riverside Motorsports Park, LLC has received project approval and the entitlements to proceed toward the construction of Riverside Motorsports Park on 1200 acres adjacent to Castle Airport in Merced County, near the city of Atwater in Northern California. Master Plan approval of the project was delivered in the December 19 vote of the Merced County Supervisors. This followed the Supervisors' December 12 vote to certify the project's 10,000-page Environmental Impact Report, which was prepared under the direction of Merced County, in compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA), by lead consultant EDAW, Inc. of Sacramento, Calif.

With County approval attained, the company is immediately addressing the completion of the required Development Agreement with the County of Merced and the detailed engineering required for construction. “Ground breaking will likely occur some time after midyear 2007,” said Mark Melville, RMP Vice President of Operations.

Headquartered in Atwater, Riverside Motorsports Park was founded more than six years ago by CEO John Condren, entrepreneur and businessman. The project team assembled for the construction phase of the project includes the Fluor Corporation, Granite Construction Company, Rex Moore Electric and Golden Valley Engineering.

12/14/06 Riverside Motorsports Park moved from plan to reality early this morning when the Merced County Board of Supervisors approved the raceway complex in a series of votes that spanned more than 8 hours.  With Supervisors Deidre Kelsey and John Pedrozo dissenting on two key votes, plans for the 1,200-acre racing venue earned just enough support to move forward.

The board's 2:30 a.m. decision followed hours of emotional public testimony from raceway supporters and opponents, and nearly four years of countywide debate over a project that many say will set the course for the county's development for decades to come.  More than 300 people filled the board chambers and nearby overflow rooms at the meeting's 6 p.m. start. When the final vote was cast, the crowd had thinned to a weary three dozen.  While racetrack supporters hailed the decision as an economic boon for the county, opponents called the project's approval an assault on both the environment and local agriculture.

'By approving this project ... you are pushing development to my doorway,' said Karen Crane, whose family runs a farm near the raceway's proposed site, close to the former Castle Air Force Base. 'Our land will never be the same, and that rests in your hands.'  Proponents pointed to the raceway's economic benefits, which are projected to include hundreds of jobs and $180 million in annual business. More ...
What is NASCAR doing for the Big-3?  We have questioned for a long time what Dodge, GM and Ford's participation does for them.  While racing in NASCAR Taurus sales got so bad Ford had to deep-six the model.  Now this report showing all three near the bottom.

Valles to be Spyker test driver  UPDATE (GMM)  Reports that Spanish youngster Adrian Valles has landed a Spyker test deal are gaining momentum.

The newspaper 'Marca' now claims that the 20-year-old GP2 racer last week put pen to paper on a one year deal that will be announced at the launch of the Dutch team's 2007 car on Monday.

'Marca' also reveals that Valles' management is pushing for a one-off race seat for the Spanish grand prix in May.

It is further understood that Valles, who finished just sixteenth in the GP2 standings last year, secured the Spyker seat with the aid of backing from the 'Circuit de la Comunitat Ricardo Tormo' - Valencia - track.

He made his F1 test debut with the team at Silverstone last September.

01/30/07 (GMM)  Spaniard Adrian Valles will be a test driver for Spyker in 2007, Racer magazine said - not confirmed by team yet.

The 20-year-old former GP2 racer, who last September tested for the Dutch team at Silverstone, will reportedly have his role confirmed at the launch of the new car on Monday.

Born in Teulada, Valles contested the Renault World Series in 2005 and last year drove for Campos Racing in GP2.

Pantano eyes GP2, maybe Champ Car  UPDATE #5 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement that Pantano has joined the Campos GP2 team.

09/25/06 "GP2 is growing a lot, and it always needs drivers able to win and not just bring money," Pantano told Italian magazine Autosprint. "A good season in 2007 could re-launch me into F1 in 2008."

"If I had started the season from the beginning, I could have been in the fight for success," he said, "but I'm not saying I would have won it."

"The objective is not just Champ Car," he said. "There could also be the chance of becoming a test and third driver for a couple of very good F1 teams."

09/10/06 With Giorgio Pantano's double win at Monza this weekend, both times beating the highly rated Lewis Hamilton and Nelson Piquet Jr., his stock has certainly risen in the Champ Car paddock. Pantano was competitive all year in GP2 with a far from top level team.  It really depends if a team wants a driver that can win races, or if they want a ride-buyer who brings money to the team but crashes regularly.  

07/28/06 "It won't be GP2 taking me back to F1, only my budget," Pantano told Autosprint. "If you have 10 million dollars then all of a sudden you are wanted and you become a star. Only the ones in a certain clique go from GP2 to F1.

"F1 ruined it all. If there's something I wouldn't do again in my career is to sign for Jordan. It was a problem-filled year.

"A driver works his entire life to reach F1, understands that he's up to it, and then for other people's faults he's cut off and all that effort gets destroyed in an instant.

"It's terrible. I know I could do well in F1 with the right conditions, but it seems like I'm not going to get the right chance, so I better put my heart at rest and look elsewhere, to America, where I can become a professional driver.

"David spoke with everyone and had a long chat with [Kevin] Kalkhoven at Toronto, who is the boss of the series and manager of a PKV. We are waiting, but I'm confident.

"Between Champ Car and IndyCar I prefer the former."

07/08/06 Pantano said, "I'm trying to find a seat," said Pantano. "I don't know, this year or next year would be fine. I want a chance to run at the front not just be a backmarker. I want to get results.  I think I showed in December when I tested and matched Bruno Junqueira's times my first time in a Champ Car and my first time at Sebring what I can do."

Sears felt that next year would be a good time to come in with everyone on a level playing field.

07/08/06 Italian driver Giorgio Pantano is here in Toronto with his manager David Sears talking to team owners, presumably about a possible drive in 2007.

(L to R) Giorgio Pantano, Pantano and David Sears (back to camera) talk to team owners Dale Coyne and Dan Pettit, (Right) Pantano looks up as Sears talks to team boss Keith Wiggins.

track news
NHL to steal away Eddie Gossage  UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false.'  Statement from Texas Motor Speedway President Eddie Gossage regarding published reports about being approached for an executive position with the National Hockey League: “It’s flattering to have my name linked to a possible opportunity, but I have not spoken to anyone from the NHL. The speculation surrounding me says a lot about the growth and popularity of NASCAR and its place among today’s mainstream sports. But I have the dream job right now and the perfect relationship with SMI [Speedway Motorsports, Inc.] Chairman Bruton Smith. I have no intention of leaving Texas Motor Speedway and my personal goal is to be here as long as Tom Landry was with the Dallas Cowboys. He is, in my mind, the icon of sporting success in the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex and that remains a lofty goal for me to reach someday.”

01/31/07 People who know Eddie Gossage say he could sell ice to an Eskimo. What the NHL is interested in investigating is if the TMS president can sell ice hockey to apathetic fans.

Sources confirmed that a headhunter has contacted Gossage on behalf of the NHL to gauge his interest in joining the league in a yet-to-be-determined executive position.

Gossage certainly brings what hockey lacks. He has a reputation for being a marketing master, and he was a key player in helping raise NASCAR's profile nationally. The NHL sees itself in a similar position to that of auto racing 10 years ago and apparently has identified Gossage as a person capable of solving its attendance and TV-ratings issues.

Would Gossage be interested in saving hockey?

He declined to comment Tuesday except to say, "I haven't spoken to anybody from the NHL." A league spokesman also declined comment. Star Telegram

Atlantic Series scuttlebutt  According to word on the street, Alan Sciuto won't run for Polestar this year and is in serious discussions with Gelles Racing.   This and other changes have been reflected on our 2007 Champ Car Atlantic Silly Season page.
Do you want Fries with that Burger?  A birdie told us that McDonald's may be prepared to further activate their Champ Car sponsorship by coming out with a hamburger named after the series. McChamp Burger is what's being tossed around if rumors are to be believed. Having a well spoken young American like Graham Rahal pushing those burgers is said to be desirable.....because as great a driver as Sebastien Bourdais is, the Frenchman still can't pronounce McDonald's correctly.
Prodrive plan December '07 test debut  (GMM) David Richards intends to give his Prodrive team a late start despite the more than thirteen months until its 2008 debut.

It has emerged that not only will the first of the Warwickshire-based team's cars not hit a winter test track until December this year, the new F1 factory is unlikely to be ready before the mid-point of the '08 season.

Richards is still in negotiations with possible 'partner' teams for the Prodrive foray, after he revealed that he is looking to buy a complete rolling chassis as well as an engine.

The 54-year-old Briton said recently that he hoped to unveil the identity of the partner, which is strongly rumored to be McLaren-Mercedes, within the next three months.

"And following that, and during that period even, we will start to announce some key appointments," he added.

Rice not sure about IRL ride  UPDATE #2 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' as Rice knows darn well he will be driving for Dreyer & Reinbold, his only option.  According to this SPEEDTV.com article, The 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner will drive the Dreyer & Reinbold entry in the Indy Racing League and it will be officially announced Tuesday at Daytona Beach where the IRL is testing.

“Some people might look at this as a step backwards but I know it’s a couple steps forward from where I was last year,” said Rice, who spent three seasons with Rahal Letterman before being released with one year left on his contract. “Dennis (Reinbold) and Robbie (Buhl) have never had two full-time engineers like JD (John Dick) and Chris (Finch), plus a shock guy, and they bring a lot of credibility to the team. They’re very good and that’s one of the main reasons I’m taking this ride.”

01/30/07 Dreyer & Reinbold Racing officials will participate in an IndyCar Series teleconference today to make a team announcement.

01/28/07 Contrary to popular opinion, Buddy Rice said he has not yet agreed to an Indy-car contract with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.  "I still have a lot of options," he said prior to Saturday's race.  Rice said he might sign in time to participate in Wednesday's test. D&R has entered a car.  "A lot should happen in the next couple of days," he said.  Rice, the 2004 Indianapolis 500 winner, said his only option in the IRL is D&R.  "But the IRL is not my only option," he said. "Not by a long shot."  Indy Star
Philip Morris has backup plan  UPDATE According to this Chicago Tribune article, Altria Group Inc. is expected on Wednesday to announce the terms of the long-awaited spin-off of its stake in Kraft Foods Inc., prompting many shareholders to line up their exit positions in the foodmaker. This could mean a couple of things. Either there is no backup plan to place one of their other brands on the car, or the Marlboro race deals will be part of the Kraft spin-off.

01/30/07 After trying to pull a slick move in both the IRL and F1, Philip Morris are considering switching its sponsorship of the Ferrari and Team Penske Racing team away from the Marlboro brand if the EU and USA governments catch them trying to market their cancer sticks in a way that can be considered against the spirit of the law. If its current branding on the cars with subliminal branding which, while making no mention of Marlboro, is in the company colors is deemed to be illegal, the company is rumored to have come up with a backup plan to move its sponsorship over to one of its non-tobacco brands such as Maxwell House Coffee or food brand, Kraft.
Rolex 24 to mainstream Grand-Am  Last weekend's Rolex 24 At Daytona may have been "the one." The sportscar endurance race at Daytona International Speedway carried so much momentum, between quality of participant and its first appearance on network television, it may prove to be the breakout event for the series.

Grand American Road Racing leaned heavily on four NASCAR champions plus former Formula One star Juan Pablo Montoya to hype the event, which attracted an enormous infield crowd to the Speedway.

The drivers representing NASCAR included Jimmie Johnson, Tony Stewart, Bobby Labonte and Jeff Gordon, who finished third in the No. 10 Pontiac Riley entry. More ...

F2007 evidence of tire favoritism?  (GMM) New media speculation has arisen questioning sole tire supplier Bridgestone's insistence that all formula one teams will be treated fairly in 2007.

The Cologne based publication 'Express' observes that while most outfits have unveiled shorter-wheelbased cars to cope with the characteristics and required weight distribution for the current-spec tire, Ferrari's new 'F2007' uniquely has a longer wheelbase than in 2006.

It is suggested that Bridgestone may have provided Ferrari, the Japanese company's favored partner during the now-ended tire war, with privileged information about the likely direction of development during the season.

Mercedes' competition director Norbert Haug responded: "It would be a big mistake for Bridgestone to prefer one partner over the others, so I am completely relaxed."

Ron Dennis to buy Prodrive?  (GMM)  McLaren team principal and chairman Ron Dennis could be shaping up to buy into David Richards' new Prodrive F1 team, according to reports in the German press.

The Cologne based Express newspaper claims that it has uncovered the destination of the approximately $160m that Dennis received for selling half of his McLaren shares to Bahrain.

Prodrive and McLaren have been linked for some time, with Richards said to be eying a complete customer chassis and Mercedes-Benz engine package to race with in 2008.

The report said Dennis might buy Prodrive and set it up for Mercedes-Benz as McLaren's 'b' team, even though Sir Frank Williams warned this week that - in his opinion - the regulations for 2008 do not yet allow for car sharing.

Richards told The Guardian: "There is absolutely no question about it, customer cars are permitted in 2008.

"Williams have entered the 2008 world championship accepting that condition.  It all seems absolutely clear to me."

FIA to impose tire strategy rule  (GMM) F1's governing body plans to impose an alternative to the abandoned 'red tire rule' for the 2007 season.

The British magazine Autosport reports that, as a complement to the new regulation requiring drivers to race both types of Bridgestone specification supplied at each grand prix, teams could also be asked to publish their initial tire choice.

The information would be published immediately after the start of the grands prix in order to protect the secrecy of drivers' race strategies, if the proposal by the FIA's Charlie Whiting is imposed.

The rule would eliminate the need for the Champ Car-style 'red tire' regulation, which is understood to have been ruled out by the teams because their rivals would be able to predict tire strategy prior to the start of races.

How Toyota will destroy Ford, Chevy and Dodge  This Jacksonville Times-Union article pretty much spells out how Toyota has set up their operation in NASCAR to ensure that they will eventually destroy the Chevy, Ford and Dodge teams even though they don't have any of the top teams in the sport in their corner. The strength is in their centralization at TRD of all engine development and other R&D. Whereas NASCAR has traditionally been a team sport, with many teams building their own engines, Toyota has taken all of that under one roof at TRD to ensure quality and a focused effort on where their money is spent.

Toyota, through its racing division called Toyota Racing Development, has been racing in the U.S. for 25 years. TRD not only has won in every form of racing, it's also dominated with championships in IMSA sports cars, Indy Cars, Grand Am Sports Cars and the Craftsman Truck series. Nextel Cup is the last, and biggest, challenge.

The company will start with eight Camrys at Daytona and a pair of Busch Series cars. It came to the truck series three years ago and quickly asserted itself as the front-runner, going from four wins in 2004 to nine in 2005 to 12 and a championship a year ago. In 2006, the top six drivers in the point standings were in Toyotas. More ...

Doornbos tips hand toward Champ Car  UPDATE #2 "I am going to race in the States for sure," Doornbos told autosport.com. "There are two teams which I am close to signing to, although I have to be quick because there are only four days left of proper testing."

"I tested with Forsythe which went really well," he said. "But with a teammate like Paul Tracy you have to watch out that it doesn't become a wrestling match!

"But he has experience and the team are proven winners. Let's wait and see.

"I just need to work out the best choice. One team has a very good engineer, and the other team is a proven combination."  [Editor's Note: Forsythe Racing let engineer Mike Cannon go and he landed back at Minardi. Cannon helped AJ Allmendinger win 5 of 7 races so now Doornbos and Nelson Philippe want to race with Minardi instead. We were shocked to hear Forsythe lay off Cannon. Not sure what they were thinking.]

01/27/07 In this Dutch Telegraaf article Robert Doornbos says, "It's good to be on board again as a tester for the Red Bull F1 team, but racing is what I want. Although F1 is still the ultimate goal, I look forward to Champ Car this year." The article goes on to say that Doornbos will race in Champ Car this year for either the Forsythe team (which he says he favors) or the Minardi team. "The decision must be made in the next two weeks, before the Houston test," says Doornbos. As for his impressions of the new Champ Car, "The Champ Car is heavier and a bit more cumbersome than an F1 car, but in F1 the entire team must be perfect to win, whereas in Champ Car you can go far with a very good engineer and driver," because all the cars are equal.

01/24/07 After his first day of testing the new Panoz DP01 Champ Car Robert Doornbos appeared to tip his hand that he will drive in Champ Car in 2007 as we predict.

"I was very curious to see how the new car was and how it felt in comparison to the Lola, which I tested at Houston a month ago," he explained. "It's a lot of fun to drive and I think I would really like to be over here to compete this year. In Formula 1, it's all about the equipment and sometimes you just have to be happy if you can beat your teammate. Here you have a chance to win if you have a good team and they work well together and that is where I want to be."

Alabama ’interested’ in US grand prix  UPDATE #3 NASCAR Nextel Cup driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. is helping design the oval course at the Alabama Motorsports Park,  Dale Earnhardt Jr. Speedway in Prichard. His stepbrother, NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Kerry Earnhardt, is in charge of the bass fishing lake.

Both are among the feature venues planned for a $624 million motorsports and entertainment complex on 3,000 acres along Alabama 158 off Interstate 65 in Mobile County.

"Kerry is a fishing maniac," said Rick Skelton, an Atlanta-based investor in the park and himself a driver and car owner in the Grand American Road Racing Association. "The oval track is Dale Jr.'s baby."

Investors have been refining the master plan for the motorsports park, according to former Mobile Mayor Mike Dow, president of the investor group, Gulf Coast Entertainment LLC.

There will be four race tracks: a 7/10-mile, lighted oval track; a 3/8-mile dirt track; a 3½-mile road course; and a quarter-mile drag strip. Investors are working with HOK Sport of Kansas City, Kan., a national designer of sports facilities. More ...

industry news
Ailing Ford to undergo major downsizing  Just 10 months ago, William Clay Ford Jr. vowed that his auto company, despite its mounting losses, would “reclaim our legacy” in the American car market and “emerge stronger than we’ve ever been.”

But there is a new message coming out of the chief executive’s office at Ford. Alan R. Mulally, recruited last fall from Boeing to run Ford, has signaled that the bigger-is-better worldview that has defined Ford for decades is being replaced with a new approach: less is more.

Instead of insisting that Ford reverse its slide, Mr. Mulally says that Ford will become much smaller. Its forecasts show it may fall from second to fourth place this year in the American market, behind General Motors, Toyota and Chrysler. More at NY Times

Castroneves eyes move to NASCAR  With the IRL dying a slow death in the past year just about all the IRL drivers have said they are looking at a move to NASCAR. Penske's move of his IRL team under the same roof as his NASCAR team in North Carolina was a big vote of non-confidence that the Indianapolis IRL will survive in the long run and both of Castroneves and Hornish see the writing on the wall and need to get their feet into NASCAR now before either the ship sinks or Penske pulls out of open wheel racing altogether when Marlboro stops funding the team.

Already this year anti-tobacco laws preclude Team Penske for putting Marlboro on the sidepods so it is only a matter of time before they pull the plug on the IRL, at which time Penske could very well pull the plug on the team. His two drivers are quite aware of the situation.

Tampa tribune article: Add Helio Castroneves' name to the list of open-wheel stars wanting to try NASCAR. The two-time Indy 500 winner said late Wednesday he is intrigued by the possibility of racing in America's most popular series. "Because of the popularity and attention the sport has gotten, there is no question I would like to try," he said during NASCAR's preseason media tour of race shops. "The closest thing I have gotten so far is the IROC and I have liked it." Castroneves drives for Penske in the IRL and will drive a sports car for the team at Sebring in March. He has gotten more exposure to the company's NASCAR operation since Penske has moved all of its racing operations into one complex north of Charlotte, N.C. "With everything under one roof, I'm going to be looking at it even more," Castroneves said. "I know it is a challenge, but if I go for it, I will give my 100 percent to it." Tampa Tribune

Evernham to use robots to build cars  Team Owner Ray Evernham disclosed Thursday, that robots are part of the team’s car-building future. NASCAR’s ultra-strict chassis rules involving its Car of Tomorrow, which will debut in March at Bristol, Tenn., make it possible for robots to perform welding and similar duties in the chassis-building process. That, Evernham said, will free humans up to fine-tune other areas of the car. Fayetteville Observer
IROC to Eldora?  UPDATE Defending IROC champion Tony Stewart said he still is talking to IROC officials about hosting an event at his dirt track, Eldora Speedway, in Ohio. The International Race of Champions is on hold because no sponsor has stepped forward since Crown Royal pulled out. The traditional opener at Daytona already has been canceled. ESPN.com Blount Blog

04/08/06 Tony Stewart said he's still working on International Race of Champions officials in hopes of getting an IROC race run at Eldora Speedway, the half-mile dirt oval Stewart owns near Rossburg, Ohio.

"I really believe Eldora is capable of hosting that event and doing a nice job," Stewart said.

Crown Royal, which sponsors IROC, has signed on as a sponsor of the Kings Royal on July 15, one of the year's major events at Eldora.  ThatsRacin

Ecclestone hints at future of USGP  In this SI.com interview, Bernie Ecclestone hints that the USGP will stay at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway when the current contract ends after this year's race.

"[Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO] Tony [George] did a good job for us. He's done everything we asked. First class, zero complaints."

"Maybe we wouldn't need to make a change, maybe add a race. Other places are looking at us," he said.

But Ecclestone says a second event would have to pay the full sanction fee and that only a government can afford to pay the high cost.

"Why should we race in America for certainly half the fee we get in other parts of the world. The people in China want to be part of the rest of the world. They're prepared to do things to make it happen. Look what they've done for us. It's the government that puts the money up.

"Do you think the American government is going to put the money up? An entrepreneur is not going to take the risk to spend $200 million if ... he's not going to get his money back.

"Really and truly I don't believe Formula One is ever going to be big in America until we get national television, so that whole World Championship is on one channel like Fox or ABC. The people we are with now (SpeedTV) do a bloody good job for us, but are limited as to how many households they reach," explained Ecclestone.

"We get the same ratings as Champ Car and IRL. Short of two million. That's nothing. More people in Malta watch [Formula One]."

Minardi to have full slate of drivers by Houston test  Paul Stoddart says he hopes the Minardi Champ Car team will have settled on their full slate of 2007 drivers in time for the Houston test in less than 3 weeks.  Speaking after this week's Sebring test, Stoddart hinted they are ready to gear up quickly.

“Despite the day’s early rain, the team completed another useful day of testing, with Nelson proving particularly impressive in the wet conditions,” said Paul Stoddart. “It is clear that time is going to be required to sort out some of the teething problems with the car, but having only one chassis available to us has meant some of the testing we would have liked to carry out here at Sebring was not possible.  Despite that, the team has done a great job collecting some very useful data.  Combined with the arrival of the second chassis, this should allow us to make further progress at the Houston test where, it is to be hoped, the full Minardi Team USA will be in attendance.” 

Ford moves Champ Car money to NASCAR  UPDATE #4 Another reader adds, Having read the comments that Steve Johnson gave regarding the loss of Ford, it implies that Champ Car has someone else lined up. Champ Car wasn't exactly crying the blues last year when Toyota left the Atlantic series. My guess is Mazda is going to step up. After all, Steve brought Mazda to the Atlantic table. Mazda also seems to be focusing on the younger generation with the design of their cars and commercials. Zoom, Zoom fits in nicely with the image of Champ Car and city festival racing. My hope is the new sponsor embraces the concept of Champ Car and incorporates Champ Car into their image. Champ Car needs a sponsor like Winston was to NASCAR. Sadly, today's commercial marketing strategies are 3 to 5 year programs rather then the long term visions of such sponsors as PPG and Winston. Arno Fritz

01/25/07 The ailing automaker canceled its sponsorship of the Champ Car World Series on Wednesday. Dan Davis, the director of Ford Racing Technology, said the involvement with Champ Car has been hobbled by its inability to expand its pace car program or get its cars in front of race goers since some events signed exclusive deals with other manufacturers. "It's a very difficult decision," Davis said. USA Today

01/25/07 Jack Roush said that Ford Motor Co. is increasing its investment in NASCAR in a major way, to meet the Toyota threat. And Roush isn't backing down from his long-held belief that Toyota's deep pockets will be a big issue in stock-car racing.

"Ford has stepped up, Ford is giving us everything we will need - parts, equipment and staff, and technical support," Roush said yesterday during NASCAR's media tour stop at his Concord shops. "NASCAR, by limiting the testing (by denying teams access to tires), has forced teams to do things in the shops. If you can't get the tires, you can't test. So you have to find a way to simulate things, to bench-race things in the shop. And that costs much more money than it costs to test a car at a track.

"I have made a commitment with Ford to spend about $10 million in additional investment; so I've already gone deep, with new equipment and technical experts. And Ford is helping. Obviously, the situation at Ford is tough right now, but they've made the commitment to NASCAR's Ford teams."

Roush vowed to take the fight straight to Toyota.

"Toyota will find that these teams will not wither in its path," he said. "They'd better give us their best shot, because we'll be giving as good as we take." Winston Salem Journal

01/25/07 Ford Motor Co. posted a $12.7 billion net loss in 2006, the worst financial performance in the industrial icon's 103-year history.  The company said Thursday that it lost $5.8 billion in the fourth quarter alone due to slumping sales and huge restructuring costs. It lost just less than $7 billion in the first three quarters of the year.  The annual loss surpassed the old record net loss of $7.39 billion in 1992.  The company made $1.44 billion in 2005. Detroit News

01/25/07 Of Ford Motor Co.'s nearly 104 years, 2006 will go down as one of the worst.  The public will see the bottom-line results today, when Ford reports its financial results for the last three months of the year and reveals the full extent of its 2006 losses.  Through September, Ford lost $7 billion, and a Free Press analysis of Ford statements indicates that the full-year loss could reach $10 billion.

Ford's worst full year on record was 1992, when it posted a $7.39-billion loss.

Last year began with Ford's dramatic unveiling of its Way Forward revival plan. That strategy was proven to be inadequate over the summer and was revamped in the fall.

It now calls for closing 16 plants and eliminating 44,000 hourly and salaried jobs, among other actions. Seven of the plants have not been identified. Detroit Free Press

Button dislodged in F1 accident   


F1 copies Champ Car's street racing push  When one considers the current trends in Formula 1 there is one that is beginning to emerge which is not at first obvious: racing seems to be heading for the streets, or at least circuits which are being built in urban areas to try to duplicate the excitement and atmosphere of street racing. The new circuit in Korea promises to be a purpose-built track but featuring a street section around a marina. The same is true in Abu Dhabi. In Singapore the plan is for a street track. There are other races in the pipeline (such as Valencia, India, Moscow and perhaps even Mexico) and it seems that they too could follow the trend.

F1 is not unique in this vision as Champ Car has clearly moved in this direction in recent years with the arrival of events such as San Jose, Edmonton, Denver, Houston and most recently Las Vegas. Grandprix.com

Petty Enterprises to move to Charlotte area  UPDATE Expect this rumor to be upgraded to 'fact' soon.  According to inside AutoRacing1.com sources, the decision for Petty Enterprises to move to Charlotte was made a year ago.  Mark C.

01/24/07 "Richard knows he needs to do it. He knows he needs the competition thing to keep attracting and drawing the better people. Deep down inside does he want to do it? No, but he knows it's something that needs to be done to raise the level of the team and keep building on that foundation we've got started. It would be at least 12-18 months before we have ground breaking. I think there will always be something here (Level Cross, N.C.). That's always been Richard's biggest concern. If we come up with the planned facility, the big thing is going to be what goes on here. Kyle and Bobby both love road racing. I would love nothing more to have a series here so the boys here could work on those cars, the ones that don't want to transfer. I think this will be a combination of a race shop and museum."  Robbie Loomis
Is Ford gone from Champ Car?  UPDATE A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, After reading about the Champ Car/Ford separation and the latest Ford Yahoo article I am glad to see Champ Car is dropping those losers at Ford. The Yahoo article stated “Ford will lose 7.39 billion” and "The new products aren't that exciting overall." Maybe Toyota can make a “bold move” and become the title sponsor with all the profits from the truck share market they consume as Ford retracts into a little ball and dies. Michael Kottke

Another writes, It was just a matter of time for this announcement. Ford is expected to announce a loss of $1.01 PER SHARE for fourth quarter 2006. This means that Ford has lost a total of $1.9 BILLION in the last 90-days! No doubt, they will have to take a look at their support of other series as well.

Unfortunately, this goes to prove the irrelevant nature of most auto manufacturers sponsorship when the underlying racing cars have little or nothing to do with the cars spectators drive to the track. Ford hasn't even owned Cosworth for two years. At least Panoz has a street car that they can promote while being paid to produce the chassis.

Open wheel racing has suffered with this conundrum for years. Especially with Champ Car and IRL becoming essentially spec series. There is just no sponsor relevance for consumers watching these races any more. Remember when the series had four chassis (Lola, Reynard, Swift and Penske), four engines (Cosworth, Mercedes, Honda and Toyota) and both two tire manufactures? WOW! People would cheer for one team or another in part based upon the engine and chassis builders. The negative trend continues towards NASCAR, whose Car of Tomorrow will further distance the racing product from the manufacturers "stock" production vehicles.

I think the Grand-AM Cup and especially the ALMS has it right. They continue to attract new manufacturers because the cars on the track are immediately identifiable to the audience. The technology transitions well from street to track, and amazingly from track to street. I actually considered buying a new Mustang GT, because I saw how well they did competing against the Porsches in the Grand Am Cup. I never felt inspired to go out and buy a Ford Fusion because a push-rod powered car with the same name on it won a Nextel Cup race.

Spec open wheel series, and low-tech NASCAR events do little to make owners of these brands proud of their cars. Formula One remains the only open wheel series to retain relevance to the audience. True most viewers will never be able to afford a Ferrari or a McLaren-Mercedes, but will go out and buy a new Honda or Renault because they believe that the technology they previously saw on the track will eventually end up in their daily driver.

While allowing manufacturers to control or dominate a series brings its own problems, until Champ Car finds a way to make its product relevant to a broader segment of consumers, big manufacturer sponsors will stay away.

Personally, I drive both a Audi on the street, and a Porsche on the track. I just love driving to work on Monday morning when both marks have dominated the ALMS and Grand-AM Cup the day before. This is what make me want to buy a car.

Now, if Cosworth would only turn back the technology clock by 75 years and build a push-rod motor. Ford would probably buy them back! Kelly Konzelman

Dear Kelly and Michael, Ford was dropped for a reason, some of which you point out. However, there is more in play behind the scenes than meets the eye. We hear there is a presenting sponsor coming on board that is paying good money and a few engine manufacturers are in play, one of which was not mentioned in this SPEEDTV article. And if Ford got so much out of their pace car program they should have been willing to pay more for it. Stay tuned.... Mark C.

01/23/07 A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I see Champ Car has dropped Ford and Bridgestone from their logo, does that mean they lost two more sponsors? Dan Dickey, Detroit, MI

Dear Dan, Bridgestone already announced that they will still be involved with the series but in a different role and no longer a presenting sponsor. Our sources tell us Ford and Champ Car are still talking regarding their involvement. At the end of the day Ford has never embraced Champ Car and put any marketing behind their involvement. The loss of Ford will have almost zero negative effect on Champ Car so little was their involvement. One can argue that having Bridgestone and Ford in the series name keeps other car or tire manufacturers from getting involved in the series should they want to. Mark C.

Gelles to test two drivers at Sebring  We hear that Alan Sciuto will test at Sebring in the Gelles Car #28 together with Maximilian Götz in Car #14. 
Martinez hopes to get back into Champ Car  We ran into Mexican David Martinez in Sebring Tuesday.  Recall he did a good job in his debut outing in Mexico City last November, but like so many other drivers, is still hoping to line up the necessary sponsorship for a full season in Champ Car.  "We're trying hard to get a deal together," said Martinez.  "Things are tough but we are not giving up yet.  We're still talking to a number of people."
Zwolsman still hopes to drive  We spoke with Charles Zwolsman today at Sebring and he said, "I am working really hard to get sponsorship for this year and I am hoping to get something together at least by Las Vegas. I have spoken to a number of teams including Conquest Racing who I raced for last year. I hope the race in my home country of Holland will help me secure the funds I need.
Rahal closes on Champ Car ride  UPDATE #2 AutoRacing1.com has learned that the sponsorship deals for Graham Rahal have been finalized and we might see an announcement from Newman/Haas as early as this evening.  The cars might even have the decals on them tomorrow for the final day of Sebring testing.

01/23/07 Graham Rahal’s shot at driving in the big leagues has arrived, and it is with the top team in Champ Car racing.  The 18-year-old New Albany High School senior will slide into a car fielded by Newman-Haas Racing today at Sebring, Fla., to begin three days of testing for the upcoming season. A final contract had not been signed as of yesterday afternoon.

"But we are going to have him in a car (today) because we feel like we are close to finalizing his program," Newman-Haas spokesperson Kathi Lauterbach said.  The union has been rumored for months. It grew serious during two tests in December when Rahal —coming off a series-best five wins in the 2006 Atlantics season — turned in impressive laps comparable to, and at times better than, the team’s reigning three-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais.

All the team was waiting on yesterday was the final OK from the proposed sponsor for Rahal’s car. Decals or not, Rahal is expected to hit the Sebring airport course today.  "It’s just the best team, so this is a huge deal for me," Rahal said.  More from Columbus Dispatch

11/06/06 Graham Rahal is heading for a Champ Car World Series debut next year and plans are accelerating as this year's championship nears its conclusion. He is expecting to test in the near future and is readying himself for this time.

Rahal has been forced to abandon his plans to race in the A1GP series due to date conflicts with his preparation for the Champ Car World Series 2007, and is expecting a busy off-season with motorsport and school commitments.

He said of his opting out of A1GP, I want to thank the Auchi family for the opportunity to represent Lebanon in A1GP. While I am disappointed to withdraw from the series I wish all the best for Basil, Khalil, Alex and the entire team."

The final round of the 2006 Champ Car World Series takes place this weekend in Mexico City and Rahal is planning to attend and watch the action from the sidelines.

In recent weeks, in addition to attending school, Rahal also fitted in a quick trip to the SEMA Show in Las Vegas, the premier automotive specialty products trade event.

Rahal said of his 'off-season', "Since the final Atlantics race in September I don't seem to have stopped, but that's the way I enjoy it. SEMA Show mixed business with pleasure, as I'm always on the lookout for new products and gadgets for cars. I'll be heading down to Mexico City to catch up with friends in the paddock and keep up with all that's happening in the Series. I'm hoping that I'll be in a Champ Car before too long, but I'll just have to wait a few more weeks."

Rahal made history this year in becoming the youngest winner of a Champ Car Atlantics race and broke many records along the way to finishing runner-up in the Championship, in his rookie season. He took four pole positions, five victories, and six podiums in the 12 races of the calendar.

Is Honda eyeing NASCAR?  NASCAR chairman Brian France said Monday that there have been inquiries from other foreign car makers about getting into NASCAR, but said that there isn't any current interest beyond that. "I don't have anything to report on that whatsoever. But is that possible in the future? Sure," France said. "We're the biggest opportunity of motorsports in North America and some would say the world. That's going to get a lot of attention. But right now, it's just that, a lot of attention."
Yates eyes possible 3-car team  With Ricky Rudd behind the wheel of his No. 88 Ford and a second sponsorship from Mars Inc., team owner Robert Yates said he’s intent on building his organization even more.  Yates said sponsor CitiFinancial still plans to move into the Nextel Cup Series in 2008, hopefully, with driver Stephen Leicht, and if Rudd remains, would give Yates a three-car operation.

“Citi was going to come on (in 2006) as a Cup sponsor. But with Stephen we pushed a little bit too early and we weren’t ready with our equipment and we failed at Indianapolis (to make the field),” Yates said.

“Our adrenaline got sapped away and the decision was that Stephen needed another year behind him.”

Yates said Mars Inc. and its Snickers brand, which will be on Rudd’s car, prefers not to look at their new arrangement as a one-year deal.

“If we do good with this deal, we’ll be a three-car team next season,” he said.” ThatsRacin.com

Heads to roll if RB3 bombs  (GMM)  Heads should roll if Red Bull is not a regular points challenger this year.

That is the opinion of F1's oldest current racer David Coulthard, who finished the 2006 drivers' championship in thirteenth place.  Red Bull placed seventh in its second season after buying Jaguar in 2004.

"We have to achieve more, otherwise people will have to be replaced," Scot Coulthard, 35, told reporters in Salzburg on Tuesday.

"If we don't take a significant step forward I would be extremely surprised."

The RB3, team designer Adrian Newey's first full effort, will be unveiled in Barcelona on Friday.

Albeit more than two years younger than the now retired Michael Schumacher, Coulthard fended off suggestions that he is nearing the end of his formula one road.

Coulthard debuted with Williams in 1994, after the death of Ayrton Senna.  His 13 wins were all achieved at the wheel of a Newey car.

With his hair and stubble now spattered with grey, David insisted: "Age is an issue when it becomes physically more difficult to do certain things.

"Physically I know I'm in great shape."

Wheldon may test for Ganassi at Las Vegas  The 2005 Indy Racing League champion, an Englishman who lives in St. Petersburg FL, will have his first test in a stock car, perhaps as early as next week in Las Vegas. If all goes well, he said, he might eventually follow Juan Pablo Montoya to NASCAR's highest level. "I look to have a good IndyCar season," said Wheldon. "But I definitely want to start looking very seriously at the NASCAR stuff." Wheldon was unable to conduct his first scheduled Busch test last week on the road course at Virginia International Raceway because of rain. He insists he needs to feel he can be as good in stock cars as in Ganassi's open-wheel machines to make a full-time switch. St. Petersburg Times
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