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DATE News (chronologically)
Saleen to return to ALMS  Steve Saleen may be re-entering the ALMS Championship.  Saleen has established another arm of his automotive empire – SMS Limited. This arm will assist the rest of the organization in producing and selling the high-end performance cars.

In the announcement, Saleen said “Sportscar racing enthusiasts will be excited about the upcoming announcement of our return to racing in the American LeMans Series. You will hear more about that very soon.”

Audi sales to double by 2015  German luxury car maker Audi AG said it expects its sales in China to double over the next seven years after the country become its biggest overseas market outside Germany.

The luxury car unit of Volkswagen AG targets to sell 200,000 units in China by 2015, said Werner Paul Eichhorn, general manager of Audi Division under Volkswagen (China) Investment Co Ltd.

Audi's projection followed a 24.8-percent sales growth to a record high of 100,888 units on China's mainland last year, fueled by demand for its A4 and A6 sedans made by its Chinese joint venture, First Automotive Works Group.

The car maker is defending its leading position in the domestic market as the mainland's rising population of affluent consumers and an economic boom will help it narrow the gap with BMW AG as the world's largest luxury car maker. BMW last year boosted sales by 42 percent to 51,588 units on the Chinese mainland.

Australian GP doomed, or is it?  UPDATE #4 According to reports in the Australian press, there is no way that Melbourne will fold beneath the pressure being piled on them by FOM chief Bernie Ecclestone in regard to making their annual Grand prix a night event.

That said however, the race, which attracted 107,000 spectators on Sunday, is important to the state and they will take reasonable steps to keep it.

“We’ll take whatever steps are reasonable and whatever steps are practical to keep the event. We’d like to keep the event, that’s what we want to do, I’ve made no secret of that,” Victorian state leader Premier John Brumby told Reuters. “There will not be a night Grand Prix and I don’t think we need to hold a night Grand Prix.”

Last Sunday’s event took place ninety minutes later than usual with next year’s planned to take place three hours later than the traditional two pm start, however it seems as if that is not enough to satisfy Bernie Ecclestone who has threatened to cancel it if a night race is not put in place. 

03/17/08 The Australian Grand Prix won't be held under lights, despite comments from Formula One head Bernie Ecclestone that the race needs a floodlit future.  On Monday, Victorian state leader Premier John Brumby ruled out a night race, but said his government would do 'everything possible' to keep the Grand Prix in Melbourne.

Last week, in an interview published in London's Mail on Sunday, Ecclestone tied the future of the race to it being held at night.

'The only way the race could stay in Melbourne, or anywhere else in Australia, is if it is staged during the night so that the public in Europe can watch it,' Ecclestone said. 'The alternative is to pull the race completely from Australia.'

Sunday's race started 90 minutes later than last year - at 3.30 pm local time - to offer a better viewing time for Asian fans, but Ecclestone said the move was not enough to guarantee the future of the race in Australia after its F1 contact expires in 2010.

Formula One newcomer Singapore will stage the first night Grand Prix this season in September, but Australian organizers maintain that night time racing at the temporary track at Albert Park is not viable.

The Australian GP has been part of the F1 circuit for 23 years, 12 at Albert Park on the edge of downtown Melbourne.

Brumby said Monday that the prospect of a 10 am Sunday race - Saturday night in Europe - has also been raised.

'We'll take whatever steps are reasonable and whatever steps are practical to keep the event. We'd like to keep the event, that's what we want to do - I've made no secret of that,' Brumby said.

'There won't be a night Grand Prix and I don't think we need to hold a night Grand Prix.' Brumby said Asian television audiences were increasing and could overtake Europe as the biggest F1 spectator market in the future.

'I think there's going to be a lot of viewers in our time zone,' Brumby said. 'Yesterday the race went into Europe early in the morning, we'll look at other times but there won't be a night Grand Prix.' Strait Times

03/11/08 (GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone has given a less than receptive response to Australian GP organizers' proposal this week to delay the start of next year's Melbourne race until late afternoon.

The organizers' 5pm offer was delivered after the local Victorian government totally ruled out F1 chief executive Ecclestone's demand that Australia fund a floodlit night race to appease the key European television audience.

Speaking to Australian newspapers from London, Ecclestone said on Tuesday: "It needs to be a night race."

The 77-year-old Briton added the proposed twilight race "doesn't help a lot".

"Obviously, the later it is in Europe the better as far as I am concerned.  I suppose it is easier getting up at 6am than 3am, so perhaps that's something, but not what we are really looking for." More ...

Terry Labonte could return to racing?  UPDATE
Terry Labonte
Petty Racing team officials planned to meet Monday afternoon to discuss options for the #45 car, including the possibility of putting another driver temporarily behind the wheel. Petty Enterprises could switch points between Petty and Bobby Labonte, who could get in on a past champion's provisional if he failed to make it on speed. But their obligations to sponsor General Mills, which backs Labonte's car, make that a long shot. A more viable option might be calling on another Labonte -- Bobby's brother Terry, also a past champion, who Petty Enterprises was thinking of putting in the #45 car for road course events anyway. "We could do the Bobby thing, but we don't want to do that because of the sponsor thing," team vice president Robbie Loomis said Sunday. "We could call on brother Terry. He might be willing to help us out a little bit. We could use him to start the race. He's got the championship status like they have with Bill [Elliott] and with Dale Jarrett. So that's an option for us, too. But ultimately, we'd like to leave Kyle in there as the driver of the car, and have him make the race." NASCAR.com

03/18/08 Two-time Cup champion Terry Labonte has enjoyed his cameo appearances at the track and would do so again. "A couple of years ago I ran some races for a team and they called me about this race and that race," Labonte said Monday, chuckling while recalling the story. "I said, 'Man, I've already got a fishing trip planned, and invited a bunch of my friends and stuff. They've already made their plans. I can't change them.'" Labonte and his past champion provisional would be available, under the right circumstances. Labonte subbed three times for Michael Waltrip in 2007 to help guarantee the #55 Camry a spot in the field, and told the Richmond Times-Dispatch last year he would've helped old boss Rick Hendrick had Casey Mears fallen out of the top 35. But Labonte made it clear that an appearance would be less about a past relationship and more about running at tracks that he enjoys. He admitted that he'd love to compete at the road races, where his proficiency is well-noted, and he also mentioned short tracks like Richmond as a preference. More than anything, he doesn't want to have a negative effect wherever he goes. "Like I told one guy, the only way I'd be interested in doing it is if everybody's onboard with it," Labonte said. "'Cause I don't want this [driver] to think I'm trying to take his job, because the last thing I want is his job. If I could help them, I would." With Dale Jarrett's retirement from points competition, his provisional is out of play. Labonte's past champion provisional from his 1996 title would take precedence over Bill Elliott's crown from 1988. Teams are considering switching owner points with past champions to guarantee spots in the field-Matt Kenseth/Jamie McMurray and Terry's brother Bobby Labonte/Kyle Petty serving as examples-but the champs are running well enough that racing their way in on speed is likely, giving Terry Labonte's provisional value. Long Island Press
Barrichello to be disqualified?  UPDATE #2 "I never saw a red light," Barrichello was quoted by Autosport.com. "I will never see it and I don't pretend to see it. They are in the wrong places and by the time you see it, it is too late. You have already gone past it.

"Because of the new ECU, you have different functions and different knobs that you have to change all through the pitstops, and I am still doing that when I get to the lights."

When asked if a Marshall with a red flag should be placed at the end of the pitlane Barrichello replied: "At least. Or at least a big panel, like they had at Turn 3 to show yellow flags. You need something huge like that. My problem in the past 16 years of F1 is that the lights at the end of the pits, you don't see them. It has happened to Montoya, Massa and Kubica. Nobody will see it unless someone in the team is prepared to say there is a red light, or something else is done. It is unfortunate."

03/16/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Stewards on Sunday disqualified Rubens Barrichello from sixth position in the Australian grand prix because the Honda driver ran the red lights at the pit lane exit.

The news means that Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen, who otherwise had a nightmare first race as reigning world champion before stopping with a technical defect, moves into the points, as he was provisionally classified ninth and last.

Barrichello's infraction occurred after he served a pit lane penalty for illegally pitting for fuel in safety car conditions, and he also knocked over a couple of his pit members when he pulled away before the fuel hose was removed.

Oddly, the chaotic final classification of the Melbourne race means that both Raikkonen and Toro Rosso's Sebastien Bourdais scored points without actually finishing the grand prix.

Before Barrichello's exclusion was made official, rookie Bourdais said: "I hope we get two points and in a first grand prix, that's not too bad!"

03/16/08 Honda driver Rubens Barrichello clearly went through a pit exit red light during the Australian GP Sunday, which means he should be disqualified. However, still no word from the race stewards on what the outcome of that infraction will be.
Coyne to announce drivers  Word has it that Dale Coyne Racing will announce its 2008 driver lineup Wednesday, March 19 during an Indy Racing League teleconference.  Speculation remains that his two drivers will be Bruno Junqueira and rookie Mario Moraes.
Red Bull team sacks Steiner  
Guenther Steiner (L) and Toyota's Jim Aust
Guenther Steiner is no longer the director of competition for Team Red Bull. Officially, Steiner is on "vacation." However, sources close to the team say he's gone and there's been no replacement named. It's all part of the shakeup underway at the team now that Jay Frye has been put in charge. I also hear that Slugger Labbe could be on his way over to Red Bull to be reunited with Frye. Yahoo! Sports
Reports say Ferrari to debut radical nose  (GMM)  Ferrari could debut a radical solution at the front of its F2008 single seater at the Bahrain grand prix next month, reports say.

It was rumored in the recent pre-season period that the upcoming innovation was effectively an opening in the upper front of the car's nose; approximately where the Bridgestone 'B' logo is currently located.

"Its function is probably to use the central part of the front wing in a better way," Red Bull technical director Geoff Willis speculated.

The Spanish newspaper Diario AS suggests that the new Ferrari nose will be debuted in Bahrain, the third stop on the 2008 calendar, or possibly at the next race at Barcelona.

Walker may sue Craig Gore  Derrick Walker may sue Craig Gore for non-payment of sponsorship money for the 2007 season.  “We gave him (Gore) in writing an opportunity to settle this and not go through a legal dogfight,” Walker told SPEEDTV.com, who formed Team Australia with Gore three years ago.

“It’s up to him to respond by tomorrow so if there’s no response or no effort to resolve, then Tuesday I start building my case. There’s damages, money owed and I’ve got a huge paper trail. I have no hesitation going into court to prove our case.”

“He (Gore) had a signed agreement for 2008 but he led me on until the last minute and then jumped over to Kalkhoven,” continued Walker, who also lost driver Will Power to Kalkhoven’s team. “This is about 2007 and default payments and I have no option but to take him to court.

“He took my driver, my engineer and completely submarined us, so it’s pretty shabby to say the least. 

“If he’s smart, he’ll make a good faith effort and he can settle this by taking care of last year.”

Fernandez car may be disqualified  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' as the Fernandez Acura was excluded from the results.

03/16/08 Word here in the Sebring media center is that the Fernandez Racing Acura may be disqualified for failing post-race inspection after the 12 Hours of Sebring. If the car does not shut off when you block the air restrictors within five seconds it fails the "stall test."
Gordon sells team  UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  One of the hot rumors last week was the sale of Robby Gordon Motorsports to Alex Gillett, son of Gillett Evernham Motorsports primary owner George Gillett Jr. On Friday at Bristol, the owner/driver Gordon said it was business as usual for him. “I haven't sold my race team," Gordon said. "People talk and there are a lot of interesting things going on, but right now, it's business as usual. I bet last year, 20 people came to me asking me if I was interested in selling my team, so it is what it is." NASCAR.com

03/10/08 Jayski.com is reporting that Alex Gillett [George Gillett’s son] has purchased Robby Gordon Motorsports [#7 Dodge] and will run it as a separate entity from Gillett-Evernham Motorsports. Plans are to eventually expand it to a multi-car team.

Assuming Robby Gordon will stay on as driver…if this is true. Currently Gordon owns the team, but has a technological and marketing partnership with Gillett Evernham Motorsports and is 24th in driver/owners points.
Berger plays down Vettel exit gossip  
Sebastian Vettel
(GMM)  Team co-owner Gerhard Berger has played down reports that Toro Rosso might struggle to hang onto its highly rated German driver, Sebastian Vettel, in the future.

It is suggested that Ferrari and Mercedes-Benz already have eyes on the 20-year-old newcomer, amid speculation that BMW might even have an ongoing contractual relationship with him.

Vettel's main current contract, meanwhile, is with the energy drink Red Bull, who might want to pluck the rookie from its junior team for Red Bull Racing before too long.

Playing down all the gossip, Berger told Bild am Sonntag: "Sebastian will definitely stay with Red Bull until 2010."

The Austrian, a former multiple grand prix winner, added that he has no plans to sell Vettel to a rival team, even "for all the money in the world".

Forsythe eyes ALMS  SPEED's coverage of the 12 Hours of Sebring is reporting that Gerry Forsythe is thinking about starting an ALMS team either later this year or next year. We know that Forsythe does not like the IRL and refused to move his Champ Car team there, so a move to the ALMS makes a lot of sense.
Only 5 Champ Car teams making transition to IRL  UPDATE The IRL has issued the following car numbers to Champ Car teams.  This is not a complete list.
Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing  #02 and #06
KV Racing Technology #8 and # 32
Dale Coyne Racing #18 and #19
Conquest Racing #34 and TBD

03/13/08 Only Conquest Racing, Dale Coyne Racing, HVM Racing, Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing and KV Racing Technology will be participating in the two special IRL pre-season test sessions at Sebring and Homestead prior to the IRL season opener.  It's now safe to say only these Champ Car teams will be making the switch.
Minardi out but team to run in IRL  UPDATE #3 "We will field three cars at Long Beach in April under the Minardi Team USA banner, along with the other Champ Car teams, but our focus now is getting up to speed with the Dallara as soon as possible," Keith Wiggins said. "Announcements will follow in the coming days regarding who will pilot our cars in Long Beach and for the 2008 IndyCar season."

03/12/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'Fact' with today's announcement.

03/12/08 AutoRacing1.com has just learned that the team will continue with Keith Wiggins as the team principal. As we understand it the team already has a Dallara in the shop and are preparing it for Homestead.  Paul Stoddart's press release was to let people know that the Minardi brand won't be present. We hear the team will issue more info at some point today.

Paul Stoddart says no to the IRL
03/12/08 This so called 'merger' is turning out to be a complete disaster for Camp Car and its teams.  Paul Stoddart told Autosport.com that he has decided not to enter his Minardi Team USA in the Indy Racing League this season.

He doesn't think the team, who ran Robert Doornbos to third in the Champ Car standings last season, could be competitive in their first year of IRL with the merger coming together so close to the start of the season.

"I did enough tugging round at the back to know I don't want to do it again. I had a taste of victory last year and it was very nice, so I'll just take a sabbatical and see what happens.  I think realistically 2010 is the first opportunity for Champ Car teams to become competitive, when the new car comes."

"What happened was good for North American motorsport, it had to happen. But it wasn't beneficial for any of the Champ Car teams. In anything like this there are winners and losers and all the Champ Car teams were the losers.

"Newman/Haas will be there or thereabouts but I don’t think we'll see many other teams go across there. Not because they don’t want to, but with four weeks until the start of the season it's a pretty big ask to change your entire operating facility to a car you've never seem, on ovals you've never raced on, and to go out and be competitive."

Our 2008 IRL Silly Season page is beginning to have a lot of red 'falses' on it.  Paul Gentilozzi was right when he predicted not many Champ Car teams would make the switch.

Honda to reduce support for Super Aguri  (GMM)  Honda is to steadily withdraw its technical support for satellite team Super Aguri, Nick Fry revealed in Melbourne.

F1 teams have agreed that customer cars will be totally phased out by 2010, but Honda CEO Fry told Reuters that - with new team ownership - Super Aguri will stand on its own feet "a long time before that".

Leafield based Aguri took to the Melbourne track, albeit for just 14 combined laps, on Friday morning in what is effectively last year's RA107.

Fry said the situation will be different in the future.

"We will still support them from a powertrain point of view, and give them a few bits of other technical support, but basically it's going to be on a diminishing basis," he said.

Fry explained that Honda, now working feverishly to improve a second consecutive uncompetitive car, wants to focus single-mindedly on its own team.

"You need to be very singular about formula one and that's the way our team needs to be and that's the way Ross (Brawn) and I are going to push it," he added.

It is also suggested in the Albert Park paddock that, with usual managing director Daniele Audetto conspicuously absent in Melbourne, Super Aguri could soon get a new team boss in the form of Martin Leach.

Aguri Suzuki is expected to stay with the team, but possibly in a different role.

Controversy at Sebring  Word is that qualifying today for the 12 Hours of Sebring was deemed null and void  when not everyone got a lap due to a red flag. Hundreds of photographers took pictures of Sarrazin celebrating the pole but it didn't count and we hear McNish, who turned the fastest lap in qualifying, is on pole.  Stand by for confirmation.......
Belle Isle IRL race sponsors to be announced  With the prospect of many more cars on the grid for the Labor Day weekend return of Indy Car racing to Belle Isle, new sponsors of the event will be announced in Detroit on Monday according to rumors.
Hot rumor - BMW set to take on F1's Big Two  (GMM)  Arguably the hottest rumor on the eve of the 2008 season in Melbourne is that BMW Sauber sandbagged its way through the winter test period.

Correspondents in the Australian city for authoritative European publications including Blick, Bild and Auto Motor und Sport claim that the Hinwil built F1.08 could even be a match for Ferrari and McLaren this year.

The publications say Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica conducted nearly no winter testing alongside their key rivals with low levels of fuel on board.

At Valencia for an exclusive session last month, meanwhile, it emerges that BMW Sauber released only partial lap-time data.

For instance, Auto Motor und Sport reveals that BMW's secret qualifying simulations at Valencia show that Heidfeld and Kubica logged several laps that were quicker than Heikki Kovalainen's best time set at the end of January.

The Swiss newspaper Blick asked technical director Willy Rampf if BMW sandbagged and concealed in winter tests.

"No comment," he answered, before coyly stating "we will see" when asked if the F1.08 might be in the hunt for pole position on Saturday.

Team boss Mario Theissen, however, told reporters on Thursday that BMW's victory target might have to wait until later this year.

"If you ask me about that, I would say we are not there yet," he said.

Porsche vies for majority VW stake  In the long-running saga of Porsche's effort to take control of Europe's largest carmaker, the sports car maker now appears to be maneuvering to more than double its stake of 31 percent in Volkswagen AG, according to the latest report.

The German magazine Focus said in its latest issue that Porsche was considering increasing its holding in Volkswagen, a carmaker 10 times its size by revenues, to 75 percent. Porsche issued a denial Monday, saying that it would be difficult to do that because the state of Lower Saxony controls more than 20 percent of VW's shares.

But Porsche didn't deny wanting a stake of 75 percent, and analysts say a holding of that size would give it a dominant majority and might allow it to override a minority shareholder.

Tagliani eyes NASCAR  UPDATE Alex Tagliani says the recent unification of open-wheel racing has put his 2008 plans on hold.

Tagliani says prior to the merger announcement, he was ready to sign a deal with PKV Racing. But everything changed on February 21st.

"After excellent tests at Sebring with PKV and a very constructive meeting with a sponsor in Montreal prior to the merger, I really thought I would get a ride," he writes on RDS.ca. "But it is still a question of money. It seems that PKV has turned to a driver that would bring more money than I do."

KV Racing, as it will be known in the IRL, has already signed Oriol Servia. Derrick Walker's decision to close down his Team Australia outfit has led to strong speculation that Will Power will join KV Racing in the next few days.

Tagliani, who was also linked to openings at Conquest Racing and Rahal Letterman, says he is not discouraged, just disappointed.

"I think that while I was negotiating with PKV, the team was also in talks with another driver. It also appears that few teams in Champ Car will jump to the IRL this season."

Tagliani says he plans to keep busy in 2008 and is close to an agreement which will see him race in the Nationwide event in Montreal this summer. He's also planning on competing in the Craftsman Truck Series and the American Le Mans series.  TSN.ca

03/10/08 Another loss for open wheel racing.  Alex Tagliani, who appears won't land a ride at KV Racing with Will Power now taking the 2nd seat, was walking around the Nationwide and Cup garages this weekend. Tagliani is planning a move into NASCAR. He’s working on securing a ride for the Nationwide race in his hometown of Montreal with Fitz Motorsports.
Long Beach Car Count  A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, With Forsythe and Walker closing their doors, wonder what the car count will be at Long Beach - 12 or 13 at best?  And we still have several weeks to go; it could get worse.  Gee, won't that be exciting if a first lap wreck takes out 3 or 4 cars.  Maybe Stoddart should enter his two-seaters.  Looks like the ALMS race on late Saturday afternoon will be the biggest race of the weekend.  Paul Gambino

Dear Paul,  As far as we know Forsythe and Walker are still planning to run Long Beach because they still own the equipment, so the cost should not be enormous.  We believe most of the crew members will come back to work that final event.  Mark C.
Tata eyes Ferrari stake  India's Tata Group, which is in final talks to buy Ford Motor Co's Jaguar and Land Rover luxury brands, denied on Monday a magazine report that it was interested in a stake in Ferrari. Italy's L'Espresso weekly news magazine on Friday had quoted Chairman Ratan Tata as saying in an interview he would like to buy a stake in Fiat's luxury sports car unit Ferrari.

"Tata Group wishes to clarify that the statement has been misquoted and taken out of context," a spokesman for Tata Group said on Monday.

"The report is completely untrue," he said in a statement.

Ecclestone may skip first race of 2008  (GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone might not travel to Australia for the opening grand prix of the 2008 season.

The 77-year-old F1 chief executive does not always make the 22-hour flight from his London base to Melbourne.

But, due to the current state of flux in negotiations over the future of the event, his absence in 2008 will add fuel to speculation that the southern continent could be cut from the calendar.

Australian GP Corporation boss Ron Walker told reporters on Monday that he does not know if Ecclestone will be at Albert Park at the weekend.

"He hasn't made up his mind, he has a very busy calendar.  I don't know yet," he said.

Rosberg 'fired' manager Keke - report  (GMM)  Williams racer Nico Rosberg has revealed that he specifically instructed his father, the 1982 world champion Keke Rosberg, to keep his distance from his own formula one career.

The original Flying Finn's surname, wealth, connections and managerial prowess no doubt paved the path for his now 22-year-old son to enter the sport.

But now, as one of the most highly rated youngsters on the grid and an influential presence on the driver market, Rosberg-junior insists that he can go it alone.

The Cologne newspaper Express jovially reported that Nico "fired" his dad, who also handled the early career of double world champion Mika Hakkinen, as manager.

"He has done enough for me," Rosberg is quoted as saying.  "The most important things I will now do for myself."

Nico grinned: "My father is now at an age where he should be sitting back and relaxing!"

Instead, 59-year-old Keke Rosberg will attend all 18 grands prix this year as a special commentator for German television.

Walker Racing to withdraw from IndyCar program  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  See Hot News article announcing Walker Racing has withdrawn from the IndyCar program and their partnership with Team Australia has ended.

03/07/08 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Craig Gore may be teaming with Kevin Kalkhoven to run Will Power at KV Racing, which would leave Derrick Walker holding the bag if this rumor is true.
Rice's ride in jeopardy?  
Buddy Rice
We are hearing that Buddy Rice's IndyCar ride with Dreyer & Reinbold may not happen due to lack of sponsorship.  Meanwhile Alex Tagliani's ride with KV Racing could be in jeopardy if the rumor is true that Will Power is moving to KV Racing with Craig Gore backing.  We also hear that Alex Figge may not race in the IRL (ovals too dangerous) as he prefers road course racing. We have updated our 2008 IndyCar Silly Season page accordingly.
NASCAR to be forced to change name again  It looks like NASCAR may have to change the name of its Cup series again.  Sprint Nextel may be a takeover target, according to one of the nation’s largest investment banking firms.

Deutsche Telekom, owner of T-Mobile and the world’s sixth largest phone company, may consider acquiring Overland Park-based Sprint to block a price war in the mobile phone industry, analysts for Merrill Lynch said today.

The Wall Street firm said Sprint’s operational problems and shaky position in the U.S. wireless industry may force the company to cut prices even further to attract customers.

“In such a price war scenario, we think T-Mobile would face the most pressure, and Deutshe Telecom would see the increased urgency to drive market repair,” according to the firm’s report.

T-Mobile generally is considered to be the low-cost alternative among the top five U.S. mobile phone companies. Last week, Sprint introduced an unlimited voice and data wireless plan that undercut other U.S. companies.

Chrysler fears violence at Illinois plant  Chrysler LLC boosted security at its Belvidere, Ill., assembly plant Thursday after threats of violence and rumors of vandalism circled through the plant this week.

The added police presence, in addition to Chrysler security, comes as the plant prepares to eliminate its third shift Friday.

"We're aware of rumors of potentially threatening or disruptive behavior," said Chrysler spokeswoman Michele Tinson. "We do have a police presence there in order to offset any negative behavior in relation to the elimination of the third shift."

As part of cuts announced in November, 1,069 workers will be laid off this week.

Local media reports say the threats reference a shooting that killed six last month at nearby Northern Illinois University.

Police Thursday were patrolling the plant and its parking lots, checking workers' bags as they enter the factory, said Andy DeRose, a Belvidere worker.

Tensions at the plant are high and there's talk of workers vandalizing cars in production, he said.

DeRose said he is fearful for his safety.

"You don't know what's going to happen," he said. "If someone wanted to bring in a gun, they could have done it weeks ago."  Detroit News

Rocketsports to run Finnish driver  UPDATE We hear that the team talked to this driver's manager but that there will be no deal.

Juho Annala
03/07/08 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Rocketsports is talking to 24-year old former British F3 driver Finnish driver named Juho Annala about driving for them in the Indy Racing League in 2008. 

He has been added to our 2008 IRL Silly Season page above.

More troubles for Patrick sponsor  Looks like Danica Patrick's Motorola sponsorship could come under review before long.  Rumor has it that Motorola is taking a hard look at its Mobile Devices unit and might very well give those slackers the ol' Freescale treatment and spin off the division as a separate company. This sort of love 'em and leave 'em tactic is oddly a bit of a habit with Motorola when times are bad, and times certainly have been better -- Motorola's phone unit lost $388 million this quarter, compared to $341 million in earnings a year ago.
Bell to drive for Dreyer & Reinbold  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with yesterday's announcement.

03/02/08 Per our 2008 IRL Silly Season page posted last week (see link above) Townsend Bell was rumored to be in the running for a Dreyer & Reinbold seat in Indy Cars in 2008.  Now comes word that Bell will test for the team at Sebring this week and share the seat with Milka Duno.  Buddy Rice will have the other seat.

All three drivers - Buddy Rice, Milka Duno, and Townsend Bell, will attempt to qualify at Indy we hear.

F1 teams rule out night test  (GMM)  Formula one teams have reportedly ruled out organizing a European night test in readiness for the first floodlight grand prix on the streets of Singapore in September.

After the MotoGP contenders recently tested under the stars in Qatar, it had been discussed among F1's Technical Working Group that allowing the F1 world to also get used to the new experience of operating at night might be a good idea.

But the website of the Dutch magazine Formule 1 Race Report claims that team bosses ultimately dismissed the proposal on the grounds that it would be too expensive to justify.

However, the magazine added that it is possible that the Singapore GP organizers may push for a pre-race test of the lighting system, so that teams are presented with as much information about the situation as possible before the official action begins.

Heads beginning to roll at backmarker Honda team  (GMM)  As Honda this week wrapped up its track preparations for the 2008 season with a private test session at Jerez, it emerged that two leading members of the beleaguered Japanese team are set to depart.

Although scheduled to attend the Australian grand prix next weekend, Yasuhiro Wada - the chairman and general manager of Honda's motor sports division - is reportedly vacating his post at the end of March.

Meanwhile, the team's chief designer Kevin Taylor is understood to have already left.

Wada, en route to the PR and media division in Japan, is to be replaced by Keita Muramatsu, the manufacturer confirmed, insisting that the change is part of the company's normal philosophy about staff rotation.

Following an apparently uncompetitive winter with its new RA108 single seater, Honda tested its final Melbourne-spec package for the first time during a three-day exclusive test at Jerez this week.

"I was pleased that we have made a step forward in terms of performance," said British driver Jenson Button.

"We are realistic about our expectations for the first few races and know that we still have a long way to go."

It also emerged that Red Bull Racing on Thursday completed a short test with the RB4 car on the short circuit at Silverstone (UK).

Ecclestone eyes Paris 2009 date  UPDATE (GMM)  The boss of motor racing in France has played down reports that the country's annual grand prix could be moved to Paris in 2009.

F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone said recently that he was pushing for a race in the French capital, after vowing not to return to current venue Magny Cours after this year's running in June.

But the French news agency AFP on Thursday quoted racing federation (FFSA) chairman Nicolas Deschaux as saying that no decisions have yet been made.

"It is nothing new that Mr. Ecclestone is calling for an approach on Paris but as things stand there is nothing finalized regarding next year," he said.

"Once the 2008 race is out of the way we will see about the future," Deschaux added.

Bernie Ecclestone
02/29/08 Bernie Ecclestone wants to see Paris host a Grand Prix in 2009 rather than Magny-Cours, it emerged on Friday.

'I hope we will be able to put something in place in Paris. We need a site for the French Grand Prix as we won't go back to Magny-Cours,' he told German sports news agency SID.

'The government has understood. We had originally decided not to go back to Magny-Cours this year,' Mr. Ecclestone added, in allusion to past criticism of the venue for its comparative lack of hotel infrastructure and traffic problems around the circuit located in central France.

'A Grand Prix in London or Paris would be better for spectators and for television,' he insisted, while admitting that London did not seem to be a viable option at present.

'But I hope an agreement with Paris for 2009 is possible,' said Mr. Ecclestone, as he targets a calendar ultimately comprising 20 Grands Prix, up from the current 18.

NASCAR Could Be Going Motorcycle Racing  UPDATE
WHAT: The American Motorcyclist Association (AMA) will be issuing a statement and conducting a press conference regarding AMA Pro Racing.

WHEN: The statement will be issued via e-mail and in paper form on Friday morning, March 7. The press conference will occur Friday evening at 6 p.m.

WHERE: The distribution of the statement and the press conference will occur in the Media Center of Daytona International Speedway.

EVENT NOTES: AMA President and CEO Rob Dingman will be available for Q&A during the press conference.

02/29/08 As Bike Week kicks off Friday in Daytona Beach Florida comes word that NASCAR may announce during the events, which run through March 9, that they are purchasing a motorcycle racing division from the American Motorcyclist Association.

The AMA, which was founded in 1924, announced last September that they were getting out of the racing series promotions business and would seek series promoters for each of its professional and amateur racing series. 
The series’ the AMA is looking to shed include the Super bike, Flat Track, Supermoto, Pro ATV Motocross, Motocross, Supercross and the Hillclimb Championship.

The series that NASCAR is interested in is the Flat Track Series. The Flat Track series is basically dirt track oval racing and is the oldest series in the AMA dating back to 1954.  Cup Scene

Champ Car series to be placed into bankruptcy  UPDATE #9 As AutoRacing1.com stated exactly one month ago Champ Car is filing for bankruptcy.  ‘Merger’, ‘Unification’?  One company is going out of business and the other company is cherry-picking the pieces it wants.

In the conference announcing the ‘Merger’ Tony George stated that the IRL was to be getting (buying) the state-of-the-art medical trauma center, which is a good thing, however as in any bankruptcy proceeding a Federal Bankruptcy Judge has the discretion to reverse the sale of any of the assets sold within 90 days, and under some circumstances as far back as two years, if the Court determines the sale was not at Fair Market Value or the Bankrupt company could get more for an asset.

FYI the attorneys have been working on the bankruptcy documents needed to file since at least the beginning of February non-stop.  It is a huge undertaking, with certification of every debt no matter how small.

03/06/08 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, It looks like Kalkhoven was lying through his teeth again by denying Champ Car would be bankrupted.  A good friend and business associate who is unfortunately owed in the neighborhood of $350,000 by Champ Car tells me that he was told by fax that Champ Car has declared bankruptcy.  Cheap bastards couldn't even Fed-Ex  the bad news, they burned up 50 some pages of his fax paper to let him know he is getting screwed. Name Withheld to protect the innocent

02/14/08 Meanwhile, Kalkhoven, contacted at his California home by the Toronto Star, insisted the bankruptcy reports were "absolutely wrong."

"I have no idea where this came from," he said.

[Editor's Note: Bankruptcy was absolutely being looked at (fact), but perhaps now it is off the table.]

02/13/08  24-Hour News 8 racing analyst Derek Daly says the merger between the IRL and Champ Car is imminent and vitally important for American open wheel racing. But he adds, it will take a few years before all teams are competing at the same level.
"It will take year three, which is 2010, when everybody gets new cars before all teams have a realistic chance to become competitive against a Penske, a Ganassi or an Andretti Green.

"Derrick Walker gave me a great quote earlier today. He said for the last 13 years there have been two boats. Both have been taking in a lot of water. Now we will be in one boat but it is still taking in a lot of water," said Daly.

Daly says not to expect a merge to fix everything that's wrong with American open wheel racing. It will be a bumpy transition.

"So there will be huge fallout from this. But I have to think the short term sting will have long term benefits. That's the hope," said Daly.

Daly expects Champ Car to file for bankruptcy in the coming days. The move is a strategic one that will pave the way for a smooth merger. WishTV.com  More ...

Will Surfers be a point paying race?  The IRL is set to revise its previously announced 16-race schedule to include the Surfers Paradise race on the Gold Coast of Australia and the Edmonton event in Canada. However, the contract with Chicagoland as the season-ending IRL race makes it difficult to extend the season past its scheduled end in September.

Former deputy premier and Gold Coast Indy chairman Terry Mackenroth said the Surfers event would always be held in October.

He said he was confident the full complement of drivers and teams would contest this year's event.

"It will be part of a series. We are yet to negotiate what the makeup of that is. But it won't be an exhibition race," he told reporters in Brisbane.

A decision on the standing of the Gold Coast race will be made in the next month, Mr. Mackenroth said.

Queensland Sports Minister Judy Spence said the government would not spend more than the $11 million it has in previous years on the event under the new contract.

The confirmation of the race's future will help secure a new naming rights sponsor, following Lexmark's decision not to renew its deal last year, Gold Coast Indy general manager Greg Hooton said.

Toronto race could be lost for good  
The fact that the Toronto race didn't make it on the 2008 calendar just goes to show how shortsighted the leaders of open wheel racing are in the USA.  Instead the IRL will venture to places like Newton, Iowa and race in front of corn stalks, cows and a few thousand race fans.  Amazing.
At the same time they officially killed the 2008 Grand Prix of Toronto this morning, organizers warned that the 2009 race is now also in doubt.

In fact, the future of world-class racing on the waterfront of Toronto is under grave threat.

Just before noon today, Charlie Johnstone, president and CEO of the Toronto race that has been an annual attraction through the streets of the CNE since 1986, announced that the 23rd edition of the race has officially been cancelled and that he now faces a critical period of negotiations.

The fate of the 2008 Grand Prix (nee the Molson Indy) was thrown into doubt nearly a month ago when news broke that two rival open-wheel Indy-type racing organizations were seriously negotiating a merger.

At that time, it was suggested that only three races from the Champ Car World Series schedule – Edmonton, Australia and Long Beach, Calif., – would be included in the '08 Indy Racing League schedule. The Toronto race, as well as others in Cleveland, Houston and St. Jovite, Que., would likely not be included.

When the merger was officially announced two weeks ago, IRL officials indicated that Toronto's race would not make it into the '08 schedule but would be "considered" for 2009.

Now, it seems that even 2009 is in doubt. More ...

50% of F1 races to be in Asia and Middle East  
There is no smarter man in all of motorsports than Bernie Ecclestone (R) who always seems to be thinking and planning 5 years ahead of everyone else.
Formula One supremo Bernie Ecclestone is renowned as a shrewd operator and steering the glamorous sport towards Asia and the Middle East has been in his plans for some time.  As the Grand Prix circus fine-tunes for the first race of the season in Melbourne next week, there has never been more interest in this part of the planet, which will host six races this year.

The highlight will be Singapore staging the first-ever Formula One night race on September 28 on a circuit of public roads, with the spectacle set to be one of the world's most watched sporting events of 2008. Other races take place in Australia, Bahrain, China, Japan, and Malaysia.

The fact that the city-state was added to the calendar reinforces Ecclestone's belief that Asia and the Middle East are key cogs in the sport's future development. 

"I am very bullish about the East," he recently told the Singapore media.

"It has been so for more than 15 years and hopefully I am proven right because they have come on in that part of the world and now they are very strong."

With 18 races on the calendar, there is a real possibility that Asia and the Middle East could host half of them by 2010. Negotiations with Abu Dhabi, South Korea, and India are either complete or near completion.

Their inclusion comes at the expense of Formula One's traditional base in Europe as the sport aims for a more globalised calendar. AFP

Frentzen to join Speedcar  
Frentzen from back in his Arrows F1 days
(GMM)  Another former grand prix winner could soon be racing in the novel stock car racing series Speedcar, reports in the German press suggest.

Bild-Zeitung claims that 40-year-old Heinz-Harald Frentzen, who won three races with Williams and Jordan before leaving the sport in 2003, is in talks about joining the category that races in the Middle East and Asia.

Bild suggests that Frentzen could make his debut as a guest driver in Bahrain in April, as the series supports the grand prix.

"We are in talks with various drivers," said the 'Legends Car' backer Marc Piedade, adding that the team would be "very happy" to secure Frentzen for the seat.

Among the other well known F1 names in the Speedcar series are Jean Alesi, Johnny Herbert, Gianni Morbidelli, Ukyo Katayama and Niki Lauda's son Mathias.

Garcia set for second Williams test seat  (GMM)  Spanish GP2 driver Borja Garcia is reportedly on the verge of being named as Williams' secondary test driver for 2008.

With former second tester Narain Karthikeyan now departed, 25-year-old Garcia is in the final stages of negotiations for the role, the Spanish newspaper Diario AS said.

The newspaper said the appointment is backed by the Valencia government, but AS played down recent reports that Williams is looking to relocate its test team to the region.

"There have only been talks about seeking somewhere for storage, for logistical reasons," Williams' chief operations engineer Rod Nelson is quoted as saying.

AS also raised the possibility that, with Christian Klien and Marko Asmer signed as BMW Sauber's test drivers for 2008, Spaniard Javier Villa has signed an option that could lead to his appointment at the German team in 2009.

Jaguar, Land Rover Sale News Likely Next Week  UPDATE Ford Motor Co.'s negotiations to sell its Jaguar and Land Rover carmakers to Tata Motors Ltd. of India are proceeding well, a senior Ford executive said Tuesday. [Editor's Note: Inside AutoRacing1.com sources tell us the deal will be announced tomorrow or Thursday]

"We're pleased with the significant progress we are making in our discussions with Tata," Lewis Booth, executive vice president of Ford, told the Merrill Lynch Global Automotive Conference.

"We're leaving Jaguar Land Rover as a solidly profitable business," he said, but added that it was essential for Ford to dispose of the brands and focus on its core North American nameplates.

The U.S. automaker said in a regulatory filing last week that it expected to conclude a sale of Jaguar and Land Rover by the end of the second quarter.

Recent media reports suggested a deal would be announced during the Geneva Auto Show press preview this week.

Last May, Ford sold the Aston Martin brand after announcing plans to dismantle the Premier Automotive Group built up by former Ford CEO Jacques Nasser. However, the Dearborn automaker plans to keep Volvo.

"Volvo is not for sale," Booth told the investor conference held on the sidelines of the Geneva motor show. Jaguar and Land Rover "have more in common with each other than they have with Ford," he said, while most Volvos share parts with Ford vehicles.

02/25/08 A top British union official said Monday the sale of luxury brands Jaguar and Land Rover from Ford Motor Co. to India's Tata Motors Ltd. could be announced March 5 or 6.  Dave Osborne, the automotive industry national secretary for the Unite union, said Tata told the union last week it would keep employment in the U.K. around the current level of 15,300.
Is new BMW a lemon?  UPDATE Robert Kubica admits BMW Sauber technicians are still scratching their heads over some of the problems with the new car.

Kubica and team-mate Nick Heidfeld have struggled to come to grips with the F1.08 during pre-season testing.

The Pole says the F1.07 was much easier to drive than the new car, and he isn't very optimistic that the problems will be sorted out soon.

"There are a couple of things that have been improved a lot but there are some issues still that I think will not be easy to fix, but of course the car is performing better," Kubica was quoted by Autosport.  "I think half the problem is gone but the other half is there, and we cannot fix it quickly, so we are trying to balance the car as is.  It is not easy to balance, in the windy conditions I think last year's car was easier to drive and set up than this year's car."

Kubica, though, is convinced it is not all doom and gloom for the Hinwil-based team.

"It is difficult to judge," he added. "It's difficult to compare but I think as the previous tests we are not working on the competitiveness, just trying to do our best, get the best from our car and try to learn new things.  Of course we are getting better and from the driving point of view I am expecting more and more. There were a couple of things that were very positive, especially on the mechanical side, which made our car quicker and easier to drive and that is very positive." BBC Sport

BMW Sauber F1.08
02/06/08 BMW Sauber drivers Nick Heidfeld and Robert Kubica believe it is still too early to judge the new F1.08, but the two are positive everything will be in place once the season gets underway.

Both drivers admitted that they were not completely satisfied with the car during the first few tests at Barcelona, but are convinced it is only a matter of time before everything falls into place.

Heidfeld told Autosport: "We have learned a bit about the car and it seems to be a bit more competitive. We can place the car better, although it is still not as good as I want or as consistent as I want.

"And overall it is still not what we hoped for or expected. But at least we are now in a comfortable window.

"It is too early to say how we are doing, as we don't know the car well enough yet. It looks like it suits Barcelona a bit better, but there are so many bits coming to the first race that it is too early to make predictions."  Sky Sports

Bruton Smith to pursue NY City track  There is a reason Bruton Smith ranks among the most powerful figures in auto racing. As the Lowe's Motor Speedway president, Humpy Wheeler, said of Smith, his longtime friend and employer, "He understands leverage better than anybody I've ever seen." Smith has used leverage, power, money and a born salesman's bulldog drive to build drag strips, racetracks and an assortment of companies that have made him a billionaire. Now he is considering another project. Less than a year after International Speedway Corporation gave up its bid to build a racetrack on Staten Island, Smith said he was considering several properties in New York as a possible site for a track. Smith, who has an estimated worth of $1.5 billion and ranks No. 317 on the latest Forbes 400 list of the richest Americans, has a lot to keep him busy. He is the founder, chairman and chief executive of Speedway Motorsports Inc., which operates seven racetracks that play host to 12 Sprint Cup events and the NASCAR all-star race each year. That makes Smith the chief rival of the France family, which runs NASCAR and International Speedway Corporation. But there is respect for Smith, whose tracks set the standard for modern racing facilities. NASCAR's chairman, Brian France, recently called Smith a partner in stock-car racing's expansion.  NY Times
Where will Tracy end up  UPDATE Another reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Chip made it clear that Lloyd was signed to a development program, perhaps the Indy 500 and one or two other races, and there would not be a full season effort unless a sponsor could be found.  Sponsor that was willing to contribute a budget similar to the other two cars he runs for Target.  CGR was hoping Tony George would run Lloyd at Vision for car count but that went out the window with ‘unification’.

I don’t think Gerry Forsythe is going to be writing that kind of check to CGR so PT can go racing, and Tony George doesn’t need Lloyd to drive a car for car count at Vision so this scenario sure doesn’t make a lot of sense.

For it to be valid all of a sudden Tony George has to be willing to write a check for a full season for Lloyd that he was unwilling to write even before the ‘unification’ and a big time sponsor, or check writer, materialize on behalf of PT for a seat at CGR.  Chip sure as heck isn’t writing a check for PT.  Someone is barking up the wrong tree with this one as it doesn’t even pass the smell test.  Patty Clark

03/03/08 A reader asks, Dear AutooRacing1.com, With Forsythe Championship Racing shutting down, where will Paul Tracy land for 2008 given it is so late in the game? Dave Samuels

Dear Dave, Rumor has it that Alex Lloyd will be sent from Ganassi to Vision Racing and Tracy may end up taking Lloyd's seat at Ganassi Racing.  Mark C.

Red Bull to sack Allmendinger?  UPDATE Red Bull Racing Team has confirmed that veteran NASCAR driver Mike Skinner will temporarily replace AJ Allmendinger in the No. 84 Red Bull Camry in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series effective this weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway. Skinner, a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series champion, currently races full-time in the No. 5 Toyota Tundra. 

"We’re at a crossroads where we need to make a change that will elevate the No. 84 team to success,” said VP and General Manager Jay Frye. “AJ’s our guy and he’s a talented driver, but there’s a lot being asked of him. In order for him to be successful, we have to get this team pointed in the right direction. We hope we can do that with the help of a veteran driver.”

Skinner’s history with Red Bull Racing Team dates back to 2006 when he served as a test driver for the team.  Skinner’s history with Allmendinger also dates back to 2006, when he mentored teammate Allmendinger during the rookie’s part-time ride with Bill Davis Racing NCTS team.  Frye hopes with the help of Skinner, that RBRT will have the program turned around and the ride returned to Allmendinger in no time.

AJ Allmendinger, No. 84 Red Bull Driver: “Let’s not kid ourselves; I’m a racer and I want to be racing, but I get the big picture here and obviously we need to improve our program. Do I want to be out of the car? No. But, I know Skinner can help both me and my team. All I can say is he better be prepared for me to eat, drink, and sleep with him. Ok, well maybe not the sleeping part, but I’m ready to attach myself to him and learn everything I can.”

Mike Skinner, Substitute No. 84 Driver: “The first time I ever met AJ, I took an immediate liking to him. He’s not just a great personality; he also has a remarkable amount of talent. He took on a huge challenge jumping into stock cars last year, and I’m glad I can be the one to help him and his team figure out where the glitches are in their program.  This is a positive thing for AJ as a learning experience, for the Red Bull Racing Team to get back on track, and for me to have the opportunity to help another Toyota team that has great equipment and potential.”

Allmendinger might soon be watching NASCAR races from home if Red Bull moves him aside for a more experienced driver
03/03/08 Red Bull Racing is considering temporarily pulling A.J. Allmendinger from his Toyota as it reevaluates that struggling program.  Allmendinger failed to qualify for Sunday's race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, making him 0-for-3 on the season. In contrast, teammate Brian Vickers has made all three races in the other Red Bull car.

"We can't keep missing races. It's just not an option," said general manager Jay Frye, hired in January to turn around the second-year Red Bull program.

"We're looking at several different ideas, all aimed at figuring out what's wrong with that program, how we can fix it and how we can get that car into races. But it can't continue the way it is. It just can't."

One of the options being considered is pulling Allmendinger from the seat and replacing him with a veteran who can help assess the program and get the car into races. Among the available drivers are Mike Skinner and Johnny Benson, who are currently both pitching in to fill an open seat at Bill Davis Racing, and Sterling Marlin and David Stremme.

"We love A.J. and we're 100 percent committed to him and want to develop him," Frye said. "This is not at all giving up on A.J. But we just can't do nothing and risk having a season like that team had last year."  SI.com

Houston GP to be cancelled  UPDATE This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement - see Hot News article.

03/03/08 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, since the Champ Car race in Houston has been cancelled, the Houston ALMS race will also be cancelled.
German GP street race won't happen  (GMM)  Bosses of Germany's two formula one hosts have played down speculation that a city street race in Berlin or Hamburg could ultimately replace Hockenheim and the Nurburgring on the grand prix calendar of the future.

With the advent of events on the normal roads of Singapore and Valencia, and amid Bernie Ecclestone's desire to relocate the French grand prix to central Paris, it was suggested that the future of grand prix racing in Germany might also be away from the usual permanent circuits.

But when asked about the prospect of relocating the German grand prix to a street track, Hartmut Tesseraux, spokesman for the Hockenheim circuit, told the German news agency SID: "The cost would be enormous, and as a result the ticket prices would certainly also be very high."

Hockenheim currently alternates the German grand prix every season with the Nurburgring.

Nurburgring boss Walter Kafitz also played down the rumors about a street race in Germany.

"Formula one races in cities are more expensive than at race tracks, and formula one is already expensive enough," he said.

And "quite apart from the cost, it would be almost impossible to obtain the necessary approvals," he added.

Prodrive set for Kuwaiti cash boost  (GMM)  Prodrive had to call off its 2008 F1 entry over the 'customer car' row, but David Richards' British marque could now be set to enjoy a monetary boost.

According to documents filed by the specialist motor racing company, the Kuwaiti investment company IDC - which already part-owns Aston Martin with Richards - has the option of buying up to 40 per cent of Prodrive, the Independent newspaper said.

Prodrive's accounts also show that while the outfit only spent less than $260,000 on its aborted F1 project (in 2006), it subsequently filed a substantial financial loss.

Porsche to have diesel in 2009  Porsche will introduce a diesel-powered car by the middle of 2009, an industry newsletter said.

The German sports car maker will take the diesel engine--most likely for its Cayenne premium SUV--directly from Volkswagen, thereby saving substantial development costs. Porsche controls 31 percent of VW shares and has an option to raise its shareholding further.

The AID newsletter, citing Porsche sources, said Porsche executives have overcome their long-time reservations about diesel engines.

Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking has said repeatedly that the company constantly evaluates the commercial feasibility of putting a diesel engine in one or more of its models. Last year, he told Automotive News Europe that because of the additional costs and relatively low sales volume of Porsche cars, he didn’t think such a move would make sense.

A Porsche spokesman said Friday that the issue remains under discussion internally. Porsche sources said no decision has been made. AutoWeek

Did Edwards cheat to win?  Carl Edwards' Sprint Cup victory in the UAW-Dodge 400 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway will stand, but he's likely to lose some of the driver and owner points he earned after NASCAR officials found "an issue" with his No. 99 Ford in post-race inspection late Sunday.

NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said Edwards' car did not fail post-race inspection. But inspectors did find something amiss. "We had an issue in post-race inspection with the 99. The lid on the oil reservoir encasement, or the oil tank box, was off,"

Poston said. "So we're going to take the 99 back to the [NASCAR] Research and Development Center in Concord, N.C., and if there are any actions that need to be taken, those will be taken and announced next week." Nascar.com
Mysterious series has NASCAR ties  NASCAR comes to Europe,” reads a headline out of the weekend’s Paris Tuning and Racing Show, an annual car show. But none of the four NASCAR manufacturers here, or any of the Cup tour teams mentioned, seem to know anything about it. 

However, the Web site for a proposed 13-race series this season, at a variety of European tracks, including Brands Hatch, Rockingham and Lausitzring, opens with glossy photos of the Bill Davis-Dave Blaney Toyota, the Michael Waltrip Toyota, a Kyle Busch-Rick Hendrick 2007 Monte Carlo, and what appears to be a Rick Hendrick Impala SS.

And there are interesting souvenirs for sale — jackets and clothing from the Dale Earnhardt Jr.-Hendrick camp, from the Clint Bowyer-Richard Childress team, from the Mark Martin-DEI camp, from the Robby Gordon camp, from the Matt Kenseth-Jack Roush camp, from the Kasey Kahne-Ray Evernham camp, and items with the NASCAR rainbow quite prominent.

Where the cars for this series might come from is unclear. But a similarly mysterious NASCAR-type series is already under way in the Far East, under the logo SpeedCar, with typical NASCAR stock cars built in North Carolina, featuring some ex-Formula One drivers. That series’ next race will be later this month as part of the Malaysian Formula One weekend. Who precisely is backing that series is not clear; but Michelin, which has pulled out of F1 itself, is providing tires for that Saturday companion event. Detroit executives have insisted they know little about that tour. More ...

Foyt to run Donoso  UPDATE According to a story at El Mercurio.com, Donoso will pilot the No. 41 Foyt entry in 2008.  And according to La Tercera Donoso did 125 laps under the watch of Johnny Rutherford and is now cleared to drive.

03/02/08 Rumor has it that Pablo Donoso will be running a second car for AJ Foyt Racing in 2008.
Who killed the Toronto Grand Prix?  
Author of article blames Kalkhoven for Toronto race demise
Now that it's official – the Toronto Grand Prix (née the Molson Indy) will not be part of the 2008 Indy Racing League schedule and who knows about 2009? – it's time to assess who's to blame for this appalling state of affairs.

Let's start with the guy who owns the race, Kevin Kalkhoven. (Just so you know what's coming up after I finish with him, the City of Toronto is just about as much at fault.)

When Molson ended its ownership and promotion after 20 years – an extraordinarily long time for a promotion, by the way – Kalkhoven, who owned the Champ Car World Series, took it over.

Some will argue the race would have died then if it hadn't been for Kalkhoven, but my take is if you're going to do something, do it correctly or don't do it at all. KK, as he's known, promptly slashed budgets and staff and, you can guess what happened to the marketing and promotion as a result. More ...

Will Tracy race at Long Beach?  Paul Tracy could have one more ride in the Forsythe Champ Car. Neil Micklewright said the team would participate in the April 20 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which will be the final race run with Champ Car equipment. But Micklewright added that the team's drivers for that race would be announced later.

Tracy will be interviewed on Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain on Sunday night, March 2.  Wind Tunnel airs live at 9:00 pm - 10:00 pm ET on SPEED.
Gordon might enter both Indy 500, Coca-Cola 600  If Robby Gordon Motorsports loses its appeal next week of the penalty levied by NASCAR for a rules violation committed during Daytona Speedweek, Robby Gordon may choose to enter the Indianapolis 500.  Robby Gordon Motorsports was penalized 100 points and fined $100,000 for installing an illegal nose on the No. 7 Dodge at the outset of Speedweek.

Gordon told ESPN.com Friday that if his team loses the appeal, and is unable to rebound into Chase contention by May, he will attempt to run the Indy 500 and the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway in the same day.

In the past, drivers -- including Gordon from 2002 to 2004 -- have attempted to run both races in the same day. But the races' start times in recent years have created logistical conflicts.

"If the fine sticks, I will go to the Indianapolis 500," Gordon said. "The only way I wouldn't is if we're in a position to make the Chase in May." ESPN.com

There’s Still Hope At Morgan-McClure  According to Larry McClure, co-owner of Morgan-McClure Motorsports, some folks with big bucks are coming through his Virginia race shop, allowing him to hold out hope that his team will return to Sprint Cup action.

In January, the company, announced that it was ceasing operations due to lack of sponsorship. But McClure said Thursday that two Fortune 500 companies and one Latino group are considering sponsoring the #4 Chevy. One of those potential suitors, who McClure said he’s been in contact with on three separate occasions, will be visiting his Abingdon complex next week. Kodak left as the team’s primary sponsor after the 2003 season, and the sponsorship situation has been shaky, at best, since.

[The potential sponsors] can afford to do this, and that’s the big thing,” McClure said. “A lot of people want to do it, and then, that’s what’s happened to us the last four or five years. We’ve gotten with people, but they were more wannabes than could-be’s. And then we ended up paying the price for it.” McClure said he has six COTs at the shop raring to go, and that with sponsorship his team can be more competitive than in the past for a couple of reasons. Before funding fell through, he said MMM had an agreement to be a satellite team for one of the “big three” Chevy operations in Cup for 2008 [Hendrick, Childress, DEI].

These kinds of pacts, most recently exhibited when Robby Gordon Motorsports switched to from Ford to Dodge to partner with Gillett-Evernham Motorsports, give a single-car owner some of the benefits of a multiple-car shop. McClure said a return to racing would be contingent on having that kind of alliance and seemed confident that that opportunity would still be there. In addition, McClure said the team had purchased engines from a team that was switching brands. (“You can imagine who that was,” McClure said.) Joe Gibbs Racing switched from Chevy to Toyota for the 2008 season. “We made a large investment to go really fast,” McClure said. The owner added that a realistic goal would be for the team to return at the midway part of the season if things go well. Long Island Press
Tracy out of ride as Forsythe shuts down  UPDATE #3 There is speculation that Tony George will expand his Vision Racing team back to three cars to accommodate Tracy.  It was rumored that Vision Racing had eyed Tracy in the past but he stuck with Champ Car.  We have updated our 2008 IRL Silly Season page accordingly.

The Indy Star reports - "He wants to drive for Penske or Ganassi, and he wants me to talk to them for him," George said Thursday at Homestead-Miami Speedway, where the Indy Racing League was testing.

After speaking with George on Thursday, Tracy called friend Jimmy Vasser, who will field a two-car IRL team with Kevin Kalkhoven. Oriol Servia has been designated for one car, and there is talk of the team swiping Will Power and his sponsor from Walker Racing.

Said Tracy: "Jimmy didn't say what he is doing with the other car, but it doesn't sound like he'll have one available."

Then there's the issue of money: Tracy is believed to want at least $1 million annually in salary.

"(Oval racing) is pretty dangerous, and I'm not going to drive for hamburgers and hot dogs," Tracy said.
George said he wouldn't pay Tracy's salary only to have him drive for another team, but he said he'd try to find a sponsor for the team.

"Since Chip doesn't want to pay me to run Alex, maybe I'll just ask him to run Paul," George said with a smile.

02/28/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with this announcement that Forsythe is only going to run an Atlantic program.  “I’m in shock and I’m very, very disappointed,” Tracy told SPEEDTV. 

“Right now, I need to quickly regroup, regain my composure and then start looking for another ride – and I mean in IndyCar. The team may be done, but I’m ready to go racing.”

“I got a call from Neil (Micklewright, president of Forsythe Racing) this morning and he said, ‘I’ve got some bad news for you,’” related Tracy from his home in Las Vegas.

“Neil said he’d been trying to get a hold of my manager but he was having a colonoscopy today. That’s ironic ‘cause that’s what I feel like I got.”

02/28/08 Rumor has it that Gerald Forsythe is not sold on the idea of entering cars in the Indy Racing League and his partner, Dan Pettit may not be either.  If true, one wonders where Paul Tracy will end up.

02/28/08 Tony George and Champ Car co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven, along with a number of racing officials, appeared at the news conference at the venue for the IndyCar series season opener March 29. A number of team owners and drivers from both series were also on hand.

Toronto's Paul Tracy was not among the group because he was filming a Speed Channel television show back in Las Vegas.

Tracy said he's still not sure if he'll be racing for Forsythe Racing in the new series as neither he or the team has been told one way or the other by owner Gerald Forsythe, co-owner of Champ Car, if they'll compete.

"I'm still in limbo," he said. "I'd be lying if I said I'm not concerned. I'm anxious. I'd like to compete and with Forsythe Racing."

Forsythe, who was not at yesterday's press conference, was said to be nursing a broken foot and not travelling.  Toronto Star

[Editor's Note: Tracy has been downgraded from 'fact' to 'strong' on our 2008 IRL Silly Season page]

Pagenaud may bow out of Champ Car  UPDATE #2 This rumor may be downgraded to 'false' soon as we hear that Pagenaud is working to do a deal with Walker Racing to race in the IRL instead of sports cars as previously thought. We have updated the IRL Silly Season page accordingly.

02/11/08 With Simon Pagenaud's apparent lack of  sponsorship, rumors are abound about his future in Champ Car.  Dailysportscar.com has reported that Pagenaud is testing for the Creation team. Rumor has it that Pagenaud, who raced for Team Australia in Champ Cars in 2007 will be with the squad for 2008.  It is thought at this stage that Pagenaud will be racing for the Le Mans Series season in Europe along with the 24 Hours of Le Mans.

Simon Pagenaud

12/23/07 In an interview with an Italian-based racing website RaceGarage.it, Pagenaud says he is hopeful of returning with Team Australia adding the team are currently searching for enough sponsorship to field two cars again next season.

Pagenaud's ride in 2007 with Team Australia was helped out by the fact that he brought with him a $2-million bonus for winning the Champ Car Atlantic title in 2006.

The Frenchman says he is also speaking to Forsythe/Pettit Racing about possibly joining that team. The team recently made headlines with reports that owner Gerald Forsythe has asked Paul Tracy to renegotiate the remaining four years left on his deal with the team. Pagenaud says he knows nothing about that situation or if it's tied to his talks with the team. He has been added to our 2008 Champ Car Silly Season page

2008 IRL Silly Season Page  UPDATE Further updates have been made to this Silly Season page today based on information received minutes ago.

02/28/08 With Champ Car and IRL merging we have produced a new 2008 IRL Silly Season page which includes the Champ Car teams they are expected to make the transition over.  See link above.  We will update this page regularly.
Could NASCAR lose Sprint as sponsor?  UPDATE A major phone company partner bringing 824,000 wireless subscribers to Sprint Nextel Corp. could take its business elsewhere.  Edward Mueller, chairman and chief executive officer of Qwest Communications International, said Monday that he was not satisfied with the phones, advanced technology and other opportunities coming through the existing deal with Sprint.

“We need a wireless partnership that is different than the one we have today,” Mueller told Wall Street analysts at a presentation in New York.

Mueller said Qwest is viewed by other major wireless companies as an attractive partner providing access to millions of potential new customers. Speculation has centered on alternatives that include AT&T Inc. and Verizon Wireless, the industry’s top companies, as well as smaller upstarts offering new technology.

“I can’t reveal too much, but there is interest,” Mueller said. Kansas City Star

02/28/08 Sprint chief Dan Hesse will face investors for the first time Thursday morning. His biggest challenge? To stop people from gawking at all the problems he's inherited and get them to focus on the fixes he's making.
Unfortunately for him, the big story coming out of Sprint Nextel's fourth quarter earnings is more of the same: since sponsoring NASCAR mobile phone customers continue to leave in droves. The No. 3 wireless shop is expected to report that more than a half million users have cancelled their service as of the end of the year. Worse, say analysts who've been watching the monthly defection rate, the company is on track to lose more than a million subscribers this quarter ending March 31.

Why are so many subscribers fleeing Sprint? The difficulties can be traced at least back to the ill-managed 2005 merger with Nextel. Nextel's customers were heavy users of push-to-talk systems, and when Sprint neglected to maintain and upgrade networks, they found the system unreliable and have left in huge numbers. Sprint also bungled relations with the federal government that cost it access to a $20 billion contract opportunity. Industry observers and insiders say Sprint is in critical condition now and Hesse has to take some dramatic action to turn things around.

Some analysts and industry executives say Hesse has no choice but to break up the company. Sprint could carve out three businesses - WiMax, business services, and its wireline operation - and keep its wireless unit, say industry observers. Hesse is conducting a sweeping strategic review of Sprint and its options, but he's not expected to present his conclusions until April.  Whether that breakup will jeopardize Sprint's sponsorship of NASCAR remains to be seen, but clearly, sponsoring NASCAR is not gaining the wireless company any customers.

Edmonton, Toronto to keep race, Mt Tremblant dead  The result of the merger of Champ Car and the Indy Racing League is this: Edmonton looks like it stays, Toronto should be back next year and Mont-Tremblant looks dead.

IRL boss Tony George and Kevin Kalkhoven, former Champ Car co-owner, announced details of the merger of the two open wheel racing series at a news conference Wednesday in Homestead, Fla.

A final schedule for 2008 has yet to be set, but George said they hope to add the popular Edmonton event and Surfer's Paradise, Australia onto the 16-race IRL calendar.

"We do fully anticipate that the Edmonton race will be in the IRL," said Brian Leadbetter, spokesman for race owner Northlands. "The details are still to be worked out."

Organizers of the Grand Prix of Toronto still hold out hope to race this year on a new date, but they expect it will be put on hold and return in 2009.

"We are working to try to get Toronto on the 2008 schedule, but as we go along, it's getting more and more difficult," said Charlie Johnstone, president of the Toronto race. More ...

Portland GP might be dead for good  Champ Car president Steve Johnson, whose position no longer exists in the wake of the merger, said he didn't want to kill the Portland race in its 25th anniversary year.

Now, after the Champ Car/IRL merger, big-time open-wheel racing might be gone for good.

Or, it might be back in 2009 -- depending on the city's success in convincing IRL founder Tony George that Portland deserves a spot on the schedule.

It appears that Long Beach; Edmonton, Alberta; and Surfer's Paradise, Australia, are the only Champ Car events that will be absorbed into the IRL's 2008 schedule, leaving 11 venues with no race -- including Houston, Laguna Seca (Calif.) and Portland.

The jockeying for position has already begun in terms of 2009.

Strong, financially successful events such as Toronto are on the IRL radar screen for next year.

Portland's biggest selling point might be its location. More ...

Merged series might have too many cars  Some pit lanes cannot accommodate more than 30 cars and Honda can produce and maintain more than a certain number of engines, but the prospect remains that over 30 cars might try to qualify for some IRL race in 2008 now that they have merged with Champ Car.

Sixteen car-and-driver combinations are testing here this week as Indy Racing League regulars, and several more are preparing to join the fold.  Among them is a car for Indy Pro Series champion Alex Lloyd, soon to be confirmed at Vision Racing. Jay Howard (Marty Roth Racing) had not completed his rookie test.

Part-time cars are in the works for Tomas Scheckter (Luczo Dragon Racing), Sarah Fisher (Sarah Fisher Racing), Max Papis (Rubicon Racing) and Roger Yasukawa (likely Beck Motorsports), and there might be others.

At least nine of the former Champ Car World Series competitors confirmed plans Wednesday to be at the IRL's season-opening race here March 29.  They include: two cars each for Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, PK Racing (formerly PKV), Conquest Racing and Dale Coyne Racing. Walker Racing is sure it will field at least one, but is preparing for two.

Also in the mix are three teams that fielded two cars in Champ Car last season: Forsythe Pettit Racing, Team Minardi USA and Pacific Coast Motorsports. Even officials from the one-car Rocketsports Racing, which is owned by merger critic Paul Gentilozzi, attended the IRL's orientation meeting at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on Monday.

At some point (too many cars) is a problem," said Erik Berkman, president of Honda Performance Development. "We've only got so many engines . . . but it's a good problem to have."  To which we say - why can't they engage Cosworth to help build and maintain more engines?

Edmonton race to move to Sat. July 26  Though no official date change has been announced, it's believed the former Champ Car World Series race in Edmonton, Canada will get the green flag on Saturday, July 26, as an Indy Racing League event.

Its current July 20th date conflicts with the IRL's Mid-Ohio event in Lexington and it can't go at a preferred afternoon start time on July 27, since it would conflict with the Brickyard 400, a televised NASCAR event at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. That race track is owned by IRL founder Tony George, who strives to have all IRL events on television and not to run them head-to-head against NASCAR. He certainly has no interest in running a NASCAR event at his own track in competition with an IRL race elsewhere.

The IRL schedule, currently sitting at 16 races, has an available Sunday on Aug. 3, but Northlands prefers to debut its new property in conjunction with its old standard, Capital Ex, which concludes July 26. The date shift means the City Centre Airport track will host qualifying on Thursday, July 24, and Friday, July 25, in advance of the Saturday racing, which includes CASCAR and Atlantics support series competition.

Ron Dennis fired, newspaper claims  UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  Spokespeople for both McLaren and engine partner Mercedes-Benz have denied reports that team boss Ron Dennis has been fired.

A report in the Spanish press this week said Martin Whitmarsh was set to take over the British veteran's nearly three-decade reign because Mercedes, with a 40 per cent team stake, was angered about Dennis' handling of the spying scandal.

"The reports are pure speculation," a Mercedes spokesman is quoted as saying by the German broadcaster RTL.

"The fact is, the well-known status-quo remains, and this means an unchanged management team," he added.

A McLaren spokesperson replied similarly, while F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone also suggested that the rumors of Dennis 'quitting' or being 'fired' are wide of the mark.

"He's not an employee," Bernie told the Mirror.  "He's a shareholder and he had internal support from other shareholders."

Ron Dennis
(GMM)  Ron Dennis has forcibly relinquished his role as team principal of McLaren, and will be replaced by deputy Martin Whitmarsh, a Spanish newspaper claims.

The national sports daily Marca says the decision, compelled by the British team's engine and equity partner Mercedes-Benz, will shortly be confirmed by means of a press release.

Marca said Mercedes, the German manufacturer that is tipped to shortly take over the entire Woking based team, was angered by Dennis' mishandling of the espionage scandal last year that cost the outfit a lot of money and arguably both 2007 titles.

Dennis, who has overseen McLaren's ultra-successful reign since the early 1980s, could be given a new position but will not be in a crucial decision-making role, Marca added.

Dennis still owns 15 per cent of McLaren, with the rest of the equity divided between Mercedes, a Bahraini company, and Mansour Ojjeh.

track news
Auto Club Speedway to be reconfigured  UPDATE A senior spokesman for track operator International Speedway Corp. said Wednesday that there are no plans to turn Auto Club Speedway into a restrictor-plate configuration or otherwise modify the layout of the 2.0-mile facility.

02/27/08 The Fontana Auto Club (formerly California) Speedway facility needs to do something to change its image. Rebuilding the racing surface to make it a new version of Talladega or Daytona would brings loads of attention and far better action on the track. Of course, there are some issues, like money. We're talking millions of dollars to reconfigure the racetrack. Texas Motor Speedway rebuilt its 1.5-mile oval in 1998 at a cost of $3 million. The cost of this project would double that amount, at least. The price tag to do it might be as high as $10 million. Not cheap, but goodness knows ISC can afford it. And Fontana officials may need to rebuild the turns anyway because of the water seepage issues that caused problems last weekend. But plate racing is NASCAR's version of torture for many drivers. They hate racing in large packs inches apart with little throttle response from the choked-down engines. However, it is exciting to watch, which is why many fans can't wait to see every plate event. Tell the people in Southern California they have the modern version of Talladega and you have something to sell. Auto Club Speedway, which hasn't managed to sell out its two Cup races, needs a dramatic change. There's nothing more dramatic in NASCAR than restrictor-plate racing. More at ESPN.com
Toronto GP may be saved  UPDATE The Indy Racing League will not have stops in Toronto and Mont-Tremblant, Que., this season.  However, IRL boss Tony George says the open-wheel series will try to fit Edmonton into its 2008 schedule.

George and Kevin Kalkhoven, former Champ Car co-owner, made the announcement today at a news conference to announce details of the merger of the two series.  George says there is a possibility Toronto will be added to the 2009 schedule but is less optimistic about the future of the Mont-Tremblant race.

The season-opening race at Homestead-Miami Speedway is less than five weeks away.

02/22/08 The IRL will reportedly include Champ Car's Long Beach, Edmonton, and Surfers Paradise (Australia) races for 2008, and perhaps two more Champ Car events.

The IRL does not have a race scheduled on Portland's weekend. However, a much stronger Champ Car event -- Toronto -- is already positioning itself to perhaps be run as an IRL event on July 27.

Mike Nealy, who has helped promote the Portland Champ Car races since the event began in 1984, said his understanding is that the Edmonton race, originally scheduled for July 20, will slide into Portland's spot. The Oregonian

Another F1 circuit in Russia emerges  Last week we reported about plans to build an F1 circuit near St. Petersburg (Russia), today it's Moscow's turn to announce their plans with circuit in Wolokolansk, about 50 miles west of Moscow.  Hermann Tilke will do the design but the track owners are not yet sure they will apply for a Grand Prix.
No NYSE sponsorship for Andretti?  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement that Marco will have a new sponsor in 2008.

02/27/08 Rumor has it that NYSE may not be back as primary sponsor for the Marco Andretti car in 2008.
Cosworth out of racing business?  UPDATE #4 In efforts to ensure Cosworth's survival for future racing opportunities, 20-plus Cosworth employees were let go yesterday. These were primarily people who looked after Champ Car affairs.

02/27/08 We hear there was a sizable layoff at Cosworth yesterday, so the rumor that Cosworth may rebuild the Honda engines appears to be bogus.

02/23/08 This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' today as we hear that Penske is now gone from Ilmor and Cosworth may indeed be rebuilding Honda engines for the IRL.

02/23/08 Hearing that Cosworth may do Honda IRL engine rebuilds.  Currently Roger Penske's Ilmor is doing them.  If true this would keep Cosworth in racing.

02/22/08 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, at the conclusion of the final Long Beach Champ Car race in April, Cosworth as you know it will no longer exist. At that point it will become irrelevant what engine package the new series chooses.

If the loss of Champ Car/IRL business comes to fruition, Cosworth will indeed suffer again like it did when it lost the F1 contract.  End result: more layoffs, and a further distancing from anything motor sport related.

Will Cosworth survive? Maybe; however, it will more than likely look nothing like it did when the people who worked there helped to establish the name.
Panther Racing's sponsor & driver, Fisher to form team  UPDATE We also hear that the National Guard and Delphi will be Panther Racing's sponsors.  Sarah Fisher will also reveal her 2008 plans together with Lyn St James and Janet Guthrie to form her new team, Sarah Fisher Racing.  Fisher will be one of three women racing in the IRL.  Danica Patrick is back with Andretti Green Racing, and Milka Duno is running a partial schedule for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.

02/26/08 Panther Racing is scheduled to announce its entire 2008 package on Wednesday at Homestead Miami Speedway. The new livery of the No. 4 car will be unveiled at PantherRacing.com, and fans can log onto the site shortly after 1:30 p.m. on Wednesday to see the new No. 4 car.

Introduced in Homestead will be Panther’s newest co-primary sponsor, its driver and an unveiling of the new No. 4 Dallara Honda.  AutoRacing1.com hears the team will announce Vitor Meira as their driver.

“This is a great day for Panther Racing,” Panther co-owner John Barnes said. “I’m also encouraged that RacerSites.com has given our fans the opportunity to log onto our website at the same time as our press conference and see our brand new No. 4 car; this thing is beautiful.”

Panther will test the next two days at Homestead-Miami Speedway along with a bulk of the IndyCar Series teams. What’s left unknown is the number of teams and cars that will join the league from the Champ Car World Series. But, undoubtedly, this will be the most anticipated season of open-wheel racing in the past 13 years.

“We’re got a great program in place for 2008,” Barnes continued. “This is going to be a landmark season for open-wheel racing and we envision Panther being at the forefront of that.”

Rumored Atlantic schedule for 2008  Word is that the Formula Atlantic (formerly Champ Car Atlantic) series plans to have one round of the 2008 Formula Atlantic Championship at Montreal during the F1 event, replacing the Cleveland race. Also series will have a double race at Edmonton and Road America.  These together with confirmed races at Long Beach, Houston, and Laguna Seca go a long way toward the final 12-race schedule.
Wild rumor - Schu to race MotoGP at Mugello  UPDATE #2 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  Michael Schumacher has slammed rumors that he could be set to make a sensational return to competitive racing on the saddle of a MotoGP bike later this year.

It was reported recently that the retired seven time world champion, following his competitive tests for Ducati, could be seeking a wild-card entry for the Mugello round.

Schumacher's long time manager Willi Weber seemed to perpetuate the story when he said last week that "anything is possible".

While testing Ferrari's new formula one car in Spain on Monday, however, the 39-year-old German put a stop to the runaway story.

"It is an absolute lie," Schumacher is quoted as saying by the Italian daily La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"At the most, I can race on a scooter," he added.

02/22/08 (GMM)  Michael Schumacher's manager has fascinatingly refused to dismiss wild rumors that the retired seven time world champion might contest a MotoGP race in the future.

It was reported recently that the 39-year-old German was exploring the possibility of making a wild-card entry for the Mugello race, after impressing on the saddle of the Ducati in a couple of tests.

The rumor was played down by MotoGP boss Carmelo Ezpeleta and Ducati chief Livio Suppo, but Schumacher's long time manager Willi Weber seemed more open about the idea in conversation with the German newspaper Bild.

"Anything is possible," he said.  "Michael has a lot of racing machines lying around at home and, sure, the motorbikes are often taken out by him for fun.

"But there are no concrete plans for a racing comeback," Weber added.

F1 great Michael Schumacher
02/18/08  (GMM)  Wild rumors are doing the rounds that Michael Schumacher could be set to make a racing return -- on the saddle of a MotoGP bike.

The French sports newspaper L'Equipe seemingly began the speculation by publishing an article raising the possibility of the 39-year-old German, who retired as a seven time world champion in 2006, making a wild-card entry for the Mugello event this year.

Schumacher has twice tested for the Italian motorcycle marque Ducati, impressing with his pace.  It is also reported that the former Ferrari racer may have tested again at France's Circuit de Bresse.

L'Equipe also claimed that someone from Schumacher's entourage recently visited the headquarters of MotoGP's governing body to arrange the documentation for a one-off race entry.

In the Italian sports newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport on Monday, however, MotoGP boss Carmelo Ezpeleta, and Ducati chief Livio Suppo, dismissed the stories.

A1GP after former Champ Car races  According to AutoRacing1.com sources, the IRL is probably only interested in 5 Champ Car races, with plans to add Long Beach, Edmonton and Surfers Paradise in 2008 and Toronto and Mexico City in 2009.  We also hear that A1GP will be pursuing some of the remainder of the dropped Champ Car events, especially with an eye toward breaking into the USA market, where we expect it will fail again.
Superleague to replace Champ Car race  
The screaming V12 of the Superleague cars will woo the crowds in Assen soon
Rumors out of Europe say that Assen race promoter Bart Rietbergen is negotiating with the new Superleague to replace the hugely successful Champ Car race in Holland this year since the merger with the IRL has resulted in no Europe races on the 2008 schedule.  This of course is a huge mistake by the IRL since the Assen race had more fans in attendance than any American open wheel race outside of the Indy 500 and Surfers Paradise.  It is our opinion that the IRL powers to be must not overlook the European market.
8 to 12 Champ Car teams to make switch  Now comes the hard part: making the merger between America's two major open-wheel series work.  "It'll be long and tedious and expensive and a lot of work to put it all together,'' car owner Derrick Walker said Monday after an orientation meeting for the Champ Car teams that are expected to make the switch to the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series this season. But everybody on both sides of the aisle are 100 percent behind the merger and want to make it work. That's the main thing,'' Walker said. "It'll work ... it will just take time.''

IRL founder Tony George, the owner of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, and Champ Car co-owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe announced the agreement to end the 12-year split in open-wheel racing last week. With the season-opening race at Homestead-Miami Speedway less than five weeks away, there's a lot to be done, and not much time to get the former Champ Car teams ready.

The IRL will make engines and chassis available, possibly as early as Tuesday, and within the next week or two will announce an expanded schedule that will likely include some of the former Champ Car races, IRL president Brian Barnhart said. More ...

Merger Quotes: Kalkhoven, George, Andretti and Villeneuve  UPDATE SPEEDtv.com columnist Robin Miller co-hosted Sunday’s Wind Tunnel with Dave Despain as the duo welcomed several key players from the open-wheel racing world after owners of the Indy Racing League and Champ Car World Series agreed to unify in 2008.  Miller and Despain hosted racing legend Mario Andretti, an Indy 500 and CART Series champion who has been a proponent of open wheel unification; Tony George, the founder and CEO of the IRL; Kevin Kalkhoven, co-owner of the Champ Car World Series; and Jacques Villeneuve, the last champion of a unified American open-wheel series (CART Series 1995).

Following are excerpts from the show:

Despain:  Kevin, there has been an annual rumor this would happen.  What was key to it happening now?

Kevin Kalkhoven: The press stayed out of it for a long time.  We’ve been talking for many years and this was the time.  I’m glad to see we’ve extended an olive branch.  It was unanimous.  Gerry (Forsythe, co-owner of Champ Car World Series), the partners and I decided it was the right thing to do.   

Miller:  Tony, the olive branch you guys offered was free engines, free cars, $1.2 million per car and some races.  Have we determined if it will be just Long Beach and Edmonton this year?

Tony George:  Well, what we’ve been working on the past couple of weeks just gets us to the starting line, I think. The real work starts here and now. There are a host of questions that need to be answered.  There is a lot of information that needs to be disseminated from the league and the league management to the teams.  We need to start having some conversations with the promoters … all the things that have been talked about in the press. All due credit goes to Kevin and Gerry.  It’s well-known how passionate they are about open-wheel racing and how committed they are to Champ Car but I think their decision over the last few weeks and months is a reflection of their commitment to the fans.  Rumors of unification talks have come up every few months every year but this time I think they were genuinely thinking about what the long-term benefit to open wheel racing would be by trying to get this together.  They’ve been great to work with.  This is tough but good things come about when people take the time to think about the big picture. We’re excited to be able to work with them and bring about this unification. More ...

NASCAR accused of padding numbers  NASCAR just released its estimated attendance figure for the Craftsman Truck Series race in California today.

According to the race report, there were 37,000 people here.

I don't know where they got that number, but the actual amount of fans in attendance was by far closer to 3,700 than 37,000.

It's tough to estimate these things, but I'm fairly confident there were about 8,000-10,000 people in the stands during the truck race. Even if there were 10,000 additional fans in the infield, that would only account for about half of NASCAR's estimate.

The bottom line is that not many fans took advantage of the track's doubleheader offer.

Quite honestly, this really wasn't the fault of anyone at Auto Club Speedway. For some reason, the race fans in Southern California just don't show up when NASCAR is in town.

As a California native, that makes me sad. But when the speedway offers two NASCAR races for the price of one - with a Sprint Cup Series practice thrown in for good measure - and the fans STILL don't show up, you have to ask: Will they ever? Scenedaily.com

Finn was McLaren's 'third choice' for 2008  (GMM) Heikki Kovalainen was only McLaren-Mercedes' third choice to replace the departing Fernando Alonso ahead of the 2008 season, according to reports.

Germany's Bild newspaper claims that both Nico Rosberg and Toro Rosso rookie Sebastian Vettel were higher on the silver coloured outfit's wish list, but both Germans could not be extracted from solid contracts.

The newspaper said that when it became clear that Williams was not interested in selling Mercedes' first choice Rosberg, competition boss Norbert Haug pushed to arrange for 20-year-old Vettel to sit in the sister MP4-23 alongside Lewis Hamilton for this year.

But Bild claims that even when faced with promises of eight-digit contract buyouts, Red Bull's Dietrich Mateschitz refused to release Vettel to McLaren.

Referring to Kovalainen, Bild said: "The Finn is only the third choice."
Big 3 to deepen discounts  Detroit's automakers, stung by nearly two straight years of slumping U.S. auto sales, are set to cough up richer, more inventive deals this year as they try to woo weary consumers back into showrooms.

As much as the Big Three want to avoid profit-eating discounts, executives at the companies say incentives -- used well and tactically -- will be a critical part of surviving 2008.

The automakers aren't looking to return to their notorious practices, when they propped up sales by piling cash on the hoods of cars and trucks nobody wanted in a bid to maintain market share.

But they also know they're in for bruising competition in a weak market against healthier foreign-based competitors. The companies will work to win over car buyers with everything from traditional discounts and finely targeted incentive programs to free entertainment systems.

"We have no intention of becoming a leader in incentives, and we don't have in mind some kind of big blowout program like we've had in the past," Troy Clarke, president of General Motors Corp.'s North American operations, said this month during the Chicago Auto Show. "But it's probably a prudent decision to say, "I will be more active with incentives at the beginning of the year and try to figure out how sensitive the market is." Detroit News

IRL tries to ensure full Long Beach field  With the Indy Cars racing in Motegi, Japan the same weekend as the Champ Cars will be in Long Beach for their last hooray, there is a concern that some Champ Car teams will want to go to Motegi instead because the IRL season will have already started and they will not want to switch back and forth.  So the IRL has upped the offer to Champ Car teams.

The IRL has offered any team, Champ Car or otherwise, that commits to its full season a package that includes Honda engines, chassis and $1.2 million. Pacific Coast Motorsports General Manager Tyler Tadevic said that offer has been adjusted for existing Champ Car teams that enter the Long Beach Grand Prix, which is the same weekend as the IRL race in Twin Ring Motegi in Japan.

According to Tadevic, Champ Car teams have been offered two IRL cars for every one it enters in the Long Beach Grand Prix.

He called it a gracious offer from the IRL, but "it's kind of a rough deal."

"It is what it is," Tadevic said. "I'm not very OK with any of it."

track news
Is California Speedway dying a slow death?  This ESPN article talks about how attendance is getting worse at California Speedway.  Despite all efforts by NASCAR and ISC staff to turn the slide around, the fact remains that sophisticated southern Californians could give a hoot about NASCAR and its product.
Long Beach to be going away race for Champ Car  It appears that Champ Car will still be the main event for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, which runs the weekend of April 18-20.

"We have been led to believe that we will in fact host the final race in Champ Car history," said Jim Michaelian, CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach LLC. "We'll call it the celebration of the Champ Car era.

"And, we have been told, we're expecting a full field. We will be putting the event on as sort of a going away event for Champ Car."

Since so few elements of the agreement were provided Friday, Michaelian was asked where this information came from.

"It came from very authoritative sources that we will be hosting the one and only, and in fact, the final Champ Car race for 2008," Michaelian said, "which we are prepared to do.

"And we are delighted that the series are now united and we are now looking forward to being part of the unified (IRL) schedule going forward from 2009 and beyond."

NASCAR’s Labor Day race heading back to Southeast?  Could NASCAR’s Labor Day weekend race be going back to the Southeast?  Whether Atlanta Motor Speedway and newly named Auto Club Speedway could end up swapping dates in the fall in future seasons is still to be determined, but both track presidents seem willing to talk about it.

Atlanta Motor Speedway battles college football and potential weather issues with its race in October. The race in California battled major heat on Labor Day weekend. Would it be beneficial? You’d have to look at all the factors that are involved,” Atlanta Motor Speedway President Ed Clark said Friday. “But I’d certainly be interested in taking a look. We’d want to research what the fan reaction would be, things like that. That’s who we really work for ... you want to keep your fans happy.”

There have been no official talks between the two tracks and NASCAR about the changes.

“There isn't a track on the circuit that wouldn't want to run their races in April and October,” Auto Club Speedway President Gillian Zucker said. “We're certainly out there asking for them, but at the end of the day, we want what is best for the sport.

“If there is a way that the schedule can be realigned, that Atlanta could get a better date and we could have a better date and that's what works, I think that would be fantastic.” More at Scene Daily

Toronto GP may be saved  The good news is that the Champ Car World Series and the Indy Racing League are back together (or were supposed to be, as of noon yesterday).  The bad news is that because this deal came together in such a rush at the absolutely last minute, the Toronto Grand Prix (née the Molson Indy) is not on the schedule. Toronto is out and Edmonton is in – which is a disgrace and a mistake, all at the same time.

It's a disgrace because the media and corporate capital of this country is being ignored. Edmonton is a wonderful place and they put on a wonderful race but Toronto is where the action is and where the growth – financial and otherwise – would come.

Oh, they say, don't worry, Toronto will be back in 2009. But the people saying that don't know Toronto. If Danica (Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue model) Patrick, Helio (Dancing with the Stars) Castroneves and Paul (Hometown Hero) Tracy aren't racing through the streets of the CNE this summer, they're going to be a tough sell a year from now.

I'll tell you why. Except for the Maple Leafs, nothing is certain in Toronto. The Blue Jays won two world championships and played in front of 50,000 people every time they stepped on the field. Then, in 1994, there was the players' strike and the Rogers Centre has been more than half empty ever since.

So the powers-that-be shouldn't assume that the people of Toronto will automatically go flocking back to the Ex just because the IRL deigns to come here when it feels like it.

This year? Now, that would have been a different story. Wheels.ca

Most Champ Car employees laid off  Following the announcement of a merger with the IRL, Champ Car will be dissolved. Most of its 50-some employees were laid off Friday during a group meeting. A skeleton crew will be retained temporarily, likely through the April 20 race when they plan to stage a race in Long Beach while the IRL is racing in Motegi.
Robby Gordon to Indy Cars  Robby Gordon says the future of his Sprint Cup organization could be in jeopardy if the penalties NASCAR levied after the Daytona 500 stand up under appeal. Gordon was fined 100 driver and 100 owner points for having an unapproved nose cover on his Dodge Charger. Crew chief Frank Kerr was fined $100,000 and suspended for six races.

The penalties have been placed on hold until the National Stock Car Commission hears the appeal, which means Gordon remains ninth in points after his eighth-place finish at Daytona and Kerr will remain on his pit box.

Had Gordon not appealed he would be 41st in points heading into Sunday’s race at California Speedway. If he couldn’t work his way back into the top 35 over the next four races — the first five races are set on last year’s points — he would be in a position of having to qualify for races.

“A hundred could be life-threatening to our team,” Gordon said before Friday’s first practice. “If this sticks I don’t know what our plan will be. I think [IRL and CART are] back together, and I think I can drive one of those cars.” ESPN.com

General Mills & Labonte going to RCR?  Sources close to the deal, point to General Mills, Labonte's current sponsor with Petty Enterprises, coming along with him to RCR.

According to Childress, he will field a fourth car sometime this season, though he wouldn't set an exact time frame. He did say things were progressing well and that he was pleased with how plans were coming together.

"We're looking at entering a few races before the end of the season," Childress said. Childress entered a fourth car (the No. 33) in selected races in 2007 with Scott Wimmer as the driver. Wimmer likely is the choice to be behind the wheel when the car makes it back onto the track this season. However, Labonte likely will be the full-time driver in 2009.

When asked to comment on adding a fourth team to RCR, Kevin Harvick admitted he wasn't privy to all the details, but he saw it as a necessary move.

"It's something you need to do just to keep up with the Joneses, so to speak," Harvick said.  Yahoo Sports

[Editor's Note: Labonte and Burton were good friends back when Bobby drove for Gibbs. In fact they went to a World Trade Center memorial type event together in 2002, so this would not be a surprise. Hendrick has proved that if teammates are friends, they work well together and that translates into race wins.]

Villeneuve's NASCAR career all but over?  UPDATE #3 Patrick Carpentier doesn't expect to be banging bumpers with Jacques Villeneuve anytime soon.  Carpentier is in California this weekend, hoping to qualify and race in Sunday's NASCAR Sprint Cup event while Villeneuve is on the sidelines indefinitely after being dropped by Bill Davis Racing following his Daytona crash.

"It will be extremely difficult for Jacques to return," Carpentier tells La Presse.

"There are several guys who have had a chance in NASCAR and have never been able to return. I think of Paul Tracy, Christian Fittipaldi, Michel Jourdain Jr. None have managed to get back behind the wheel."

Carpentier suggests Villeneuve should take whatever opportunities come his way to work his way back into NASCAR, much like he did when he raced in last summer's Nationwide event in Montreal with no guarantee of a future in the sport. He managed to parlay a top five result and a pole position in three starts into a fully sponsored ride with Gillett Evernham Motorsports in 2008.

02/20/08 Jacques Villeneuve is hoping to race this summer in Montreal at the NASCAR NAPA Auto Parts 200 race to be held Aug. 2 at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Villeneuve announced at a press conference Wednesday at his downtown Newtown club that he is not giving up on his racing career, after he was dropped by Bill Davis Racing after failing to qualify for last Sunday's Daytona 500. The Montreal race is part of the Nationwide NASCAR circuit, the second-tier level of the sport.

02/18/08 Jacques Villeneuve has invited media representatives to a news conference on Wednesday, February 20 to discuss his career plans.  See Hot News article.

02/15/08 Jacques Villeneuve's career in the Sprint Cup Series is on hold. Villeneuve will be replaced next week at California, likely by Mike Skinner, unless a sponsor can be found for the Bill Davis Racing car over the next 24 hours. Mike Brown, the general manager at BDR, said there are no other plans to use Villeneuve until a sponsor is found. "It's a race-to-race thing," Brown said. "We thought we had one sponsor, down to having the uniform with the logo on it. We just never got the deal closed. It's unfortunate for everyone." Brown said the decision to go with a driver such as Skinner was based totally on experience. "By missing Daytona and putting ourselves in position of having to qualify to make the race we need somebody with Skinner's ability," he said. "Mike has run so well in the Truck Series out there." Brown said Villeneuve, whose attempt to make Sunday's Daytona 500 ended with a crash in Thursday's qualifying race, continues to work on finding a sponsor and rebuilding his marketing team, which was disrupted with a recent split with manager Craig Pollock. "Jacques is working hard to put all the right people in place with different Canadian companies," he said. "He just needs to regroup and get his management team in order." ESPN.com
Merger appears to kill longstanding Portland race  Portland's 25th anniversary Champ Car race, scheduled for July 27 at Portland International Raceway, is expected to be scratched after officials from the Indy Racing League and Champ Car signed a deal today to unify the two American open-wheel series.

The IRL will reportedly include Champ Car's Long Beach, Edmonton, and Surfer's Paradise (Australia) races for 2008, and perhaps two more Champ Car events. The IRL does not have a race scheduled on Portland's weekend. However, a much stronger Champ Car event -- Toronto -- is already positioning itself to perhaps be run as an IRL event on July 27. Mike Nealy, who has helped promote the Portland Champ Car race's since the event began in 1984, said his understanding is that the Edmonton race, originally scheduled for July 20, will slide into Portland's spot. Nealy believes Portland has a shot at landing an IRL race in 2009. More ...
Champ Car/IRL merger - on or off?  UPDATE #19 Owners of Champ Car and the Indy Racing League completed an agreement in principle Friday that will unify the sport for 2008.

Gerald Forsythe, co-owner of Champ Car, signed an agreement in principle in Chicago, joining his partner Kevin Kalkhoven and Indy Racing League founder and CEO Tony George who had signed late Thursday in Indianapolis.

Details of a press conference about the agreement will be forthcoming.  IRL PR

02/22/08 The following statement was issued Thursday night jointly by the Indy Racing League and the Champ Car World Series:

"The ongoing talks between the Indy Racing League and Champ Car World Series will continue into at least Friday in regards to the unification of open-wheel racing. Any confirmation of unification will be made once an agreement is in place. There are no plans for a news conference at this time. Much progress has been made toward unifying the sport"

02/21/08 Canada's Paul Tracy said yesterday an expected merger between the Champ Car World Series and the Indy Racing League may not happen this week, or even this season.

In a telephone interview from his home in Las Vegas, Tracy said he had been told to cancel a scheduled trip to Indianapolis, that would have had him being fit for a seat in an IRL Dallara chassis in preparation for that series' opening race at Miami-Homestead Speedway on March 29.

"All I know is that three days ago there was a plan for me to go get ready to drive an IRL car; that there was going to be a merger," he said. "Now (yesterday) I was told: 'Don't bother coming to Indy' because the balls are all back in the air."

The 2003 Champ Car champion said he's frustrated at what is, or is not, going on.

"I don't know what the hell is going on," Tracy said. "It seems to change from hour to hour. You hear from one person that a merger is done and the next person tells you it's not."

To add to the confusion, Tracy said his Forsythe Pettit Racing team has been told to prepare to go to a scheduled Champ Car pre-season test at California's Laguna Seca Raceway the first week of March, with the Panoz DP01 chassis.

"All I know for sure right now is that we are getting ready to test our Panoz at Laguna Seca," he said.  Winnipeg Sun

[Editor's Note: This is one of the reasons why we reported that the deal may be off 2 days ago.  Forsythe appears to be having some second thoughts.]

02/20/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' that the merger is on. The merger announcement is scheduled for Friday at 11 a.m. in Indianapolis.

02/20/08 The wild rumors on this merger continue today.  According to AutoRacing1.com sources, and as we reported about 8 hours ago, Gerald Forsythe pulled out of the merger deal last night. He and Paul Gentilozzi are trying to rally enough cars to go it alone as Champ Car.  We hear that Kevin Kalkhoven and Dan Pettit are moving on to the IRL. We hear that an approach from Gentilozzi to Panoz to buy in and save the contract is waiting a reply.  We also hear that Forsythe may be trying to prevent the Long Beach race from falling in the hands of the IRL.

02/19/08 Another related article - Sports Illustrated.com - Hearing the merger announcement may come Thursday. However, other AutoRacing1.com sources told us a few minutes ago that Forsythe just pulled the plug on the merger.  This has not been confirmed yet, so do not take it as gospel.

Related report: “There is no deal,” Fred Nation, a spokesman for Indy Racing League said, refuting reports posted at www.espn.com and www.speedtv.com, to name a couple. “There are fewer obstacles than the last time we talked, but this thing is not done yet.”

Nation confirmed that lawyers are involved, and that drafts of an agreement continue to go back and forth between George and Kevin Kalkhoven, the negotiator of Champ Car’s ownership group that includes Dan Pettit, Gerald Forsythe and Paul Gentilozzi.

Gentilozzi told AutoWeek on Tuesday evening that no vote had been taken. Earlier in the day, he said, “My guess is that the deal will go forward, but no teams will actually go to the IRL.”

That might not be true. Conquest Racing’s Eric Bachelart said he will send a two-car operation to the IRL if George adds Champ Car's Surfers Paradise, Australia, race to the schedule. Derrick Walker’s team, Walker Racing, will go to the IRL with a one-car team (with driver Will Power) if it can secure sponsorship.

Kalkhoven’s PKV Racing is expected to participate as well. The IRL hopes to attract “six to 10” teams, according to Nation.

02/19/08 An agreement has been reached between the Indy Racing League and the Champ Car World Series to bring the two sides together for a unified 2008 season, using IndyCar series equipment and rules, 6Sports' Dave Furst reported. An official announcement is expected on Wednesday. 6Sports first reported on merger talks a few weeks ago.

At the time, the last major hurdle was a conflict during the April 19 race weekend. Champ Car hosts its annual bash in Long Beach that weekend, while the IRL is at the Honda-owned track in Motegi, Japan. That conflict was resolved after Motegi agreed to change its date.

Teams from Champ Car are now scrambling to prepare for new equipment used by the IndyCar series.

The IRL holds an open test at the Homestead Miami Speedway next week. Of the teams expected to switch to the IRL, Newman/Haas Lanigan, Forsythe-Pettit, and PKV are expected to contribute as two-car teams. 6Sports

02/19/08 According to this SPEEDTV.com article, and in agreement with what we said we heard a few days ago, the merger deal between the IRL and Champ Car is done and will be announced soon.

02/17/08 According to this ESPN.com article, word is that an agreement in principle is in place to merge the two series and the lawyers are working on the details.  However, Kevin Kalkhoven says he is prepared to continue as Champ Car.

"We continue to see advantages in a merger with the IRL," Kalkhoven said prior to his departure to England.  "Equally, we are quite happy to go it alone. At the moment, we're going Champ Car racing."

02/16/08 As this rumor bounces back and forth between a go and a no-go for the merger, today we heard from three different sources that the deal is done for a merger.

02/15/08 We are hearing that Champ Car employees were told to CONTINUE, not resume (i.e. they never stopped), work on the 2008 season and that an ex-Champ Car official has suddenly quit the Andretti Green Racing IRL team and could possibly be returning to Champ Car.  Could this be another sign the merger is off for 2008 and will instead happen in 2009 like it should?

02/14/08 Meanwhile, Kalkhoven, contacted at his California home by the Toronto Star, insisted the bankruptcy reports were "absolutely wrong."

"I have no idea where this came from," he said.

[Editor's Note: Bankruptcy was absolutely being looked at (fact), but perhaps now it is off the table.]

02/13/08  24-Hour News 8 racing analyst Derek Daly says the merger between the IRL and Champ Car is imminent and vitally important for American open wheel racing. But he adds, it will take a few years before all teams are competing at the same level.

"It will take year three, which is 2010, when everybody gets new cars before all teams have a realistic chance to become competitive against a Penske, a Ganassi or an Andretti Green.

"Derrick Walker gave me a great quote earlier today. He said for the last 13 years there have been two boats. Both have been taking in a lot of water. Now we will be in one boat but it is still taking in a lot of water," said Daly.

Daly says not to expect a merge to fix everything that's wrong with American open wheel racing. It will be a bumpy transition.

"So there will be huge fallout from this. But I have to think the short term sting will have long term benefits. That's the hope," said Daly.

Daly expects Champ Car to file for bankruptcy in the coming days. The move is a strategic one that will pave the way for a smooth merger. WishTV.com More ...

Motegi race moved to October?  The Gold Coast Bulletin reports that Surfers Paradise will retain its late October date, two weeks after Japan. The races to survive from the Champ Car series are Toronto, Edmonton, Long Beach, Mexico City and Surfers Paradise. Indy bosses last night remained upbeat, saying the event would have 24 drivers, the best open wheel drivers in the world, and some of the big names will be back such as Dario Franchitti, the Andretti family and highly successful team owner Roger Penske.

But Indy bosses say the Surfers Paradise event is already attracting extra corporate sponsors, on the back of a stronger series and F1's demise.

Mr. Mackenroth said it was no secret that the Champ Car and IRL series had struggled since they were split in 1997.

"It's been very difficult in the United States ... sponsorship has been split, the fans have been split, the TV coverage has been split," he said.

"The Surfers Paradise event has always been strong, shining despite the troubles in the US.

"But the reality is that this will enable the sport to build its team and driver base and build its sponsorship base and that can only be good for us.

"I think we're already seeing corporate sponsors looking at Surfers Paradise in the wake of the trouble in Melbourne (with the F1)."

The V8s are coming off another spectacular year, with TV coverage and the sport's popularity hitting record levels.

Research by V8 Supercars management shows that up to two in three people go to Indy for the V8s, although Indy bosses say the international flavor of the event is pivotal to its success, both on and off the track.

The Queensland Government pumps $11 million a year into the Gold Coast event, which generates $60 million for the local economy.

Kalkhoven to buy into Team Australia  The Weekend Gold Coast Bulletin rumors that  Champ Car Team Australia, owned by Craig Gore and with Will Power as its No 1 driver, will remain in the new merged series, with Kevin  Kalkhoven taking a stake in its ownership.
Champ Car Reunification might cost Road America  Like open-wheel racing fans all over the world, Road America President George Bruggenthies can only sit back, watch and wait with anticipation.

If reunification between Champ Car and the Indy Racing League happens, his track in Elkhart Lake probably will lose its 2008 race, but as of Wednesday he was not convinced that would happen.

Bruggenthies has no more insight, he said, than anyone else not directly involved in the negotiations.

"If I was Long Beach, I'd be taking Tums," Bruggenthies said Wednesday, referring to the California venue scheduled to hold the Champ Car World Series opener April 20.

"But right now I'm telling everyone on our staff, it's situation normal. The news is screwed up, but certainly if Champ Car were not to come to Road America this year we would certainly try to get whatever open-wheel series was out there, going forward."

Officials from the two series are said to have been close to an agreement for more than a week and have acknowledged in recent days that talks continue.

For them to strike a deal would end a 12-year rift during which interest in Indy-style racing in America declined significantly.

"This whole thing is crazy," Bruggenthies said. "It's going to have to sort out really quick. . . . I'm thinking the end of this week. Because people need to put things together, continue business or start business."

Road America's Champ Car race is scheduled for Aug. 10 as part of a doubleheader weekend with the American Le Mans Series. The Milwaukee Mile in West Allis has an IndyCar Series event scheduled for June 1, one week after the Indianapolis 500.  JSOnline.com

Separate races to be run in LB and Motegi  Unless there’s a last-minute intervention by the gods of reason, the IRL race at Motegi, Japan will run April 19 as scheduled and the 33rd annual Long Beach Grand Prix will take the green flag on April 20.

And both races will count towards the 2008 IRL championship.

That’s correct. The regular IRL teams will be on the oval in Japan with their Dallara-Hondas while the Champ Car teams that are expected to compete full time in the unified series will be running their Panoz-Cosworths for the final time. Drivers will earn equal IRL points in each event.

Apparently, this bizarre doubleheader in different parts of the world was the only compromise that could be reached to accommodate both sides. Long Beach is land-locked into its date and obviously must keep its tradition going in order to secure a new, longer contract. More at SPEEDTV.com

Legge signs with Audi for DTM?  UPDATE #5 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement by Audi.

02/07/08 We just heard that next Monday (February 11) Audi will confirm Katherine Legge as one of this year's drivers in their DTM squad.  At this moment lawyers are finalizing the contracts between both parties.

Note: In total there will be 20 seats available in DTM (10 each from both Mercedes and Audi). 6 out of 20 drivers will originate from Great Britain, these being Jamie Green, Gary Paffett, Paul di Resta, Oliver Jarvis, Suzie Stoddart and Katherine Legge, but only one race will be in the UK: Brands Hatch (August 31).

02/07/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today as several reports in the European media this morning say Legge has agreed to a deal with Audi.

Katherine Legge
01/10/08 Katherine Legge has played down speculation suggesting that she has decided to switch from single-seaters to touring cars, after rumors linking her to an Audi seat in this year's DTM surfaced on the internet.

Although she does not deny testing with the German giant, which is seeking to fill the seat vacated by Vanina Ickx, Legge is adamant that nothing has been agreed and that her options for 2008 remain as open as ever.

"I won't deny that I am in talks with Audi," she told Crash.net, "but I am also in talks with several other people and, at the moment, I am not contracted to anyone. I am still weighing up my options for the coming season, and will make an announcement when the time is right to do so."

Despite enduring a disappointing 2007 Champ Car campaign with Dale Coyne Racing, Legge is keen to remain in the open-wheel series should the right opportunity present itself, and is in negotiation with various parties within the Champ Car family. However, she makes no secret of the fact that she enjoyed the chance to test a DTM car with Audi, and adapted well to the car, running fastest of all during her outing in Spain.

Rumors on several websites have suggested that a deal to run with the privateer TME operation has been inked, with the team also contracting Finland's Emma Kimiläinen, albeit to a development deal that would see her running in the Italian Superstars series.

01/10/08 According to our reports the major Audi-test days at the end of 2007 with new drivers resulted in the signing of Katherine Legge. The 25 year old Brit will most likely drive for the TME team in DTM. Legge has previously raced in the British F3 and Formula Renault championships plus most recently Champ Car in the US. Touring Car Times

11/07/07 British lass Katherine Legge, who has run for the last couple of years in Champ Car, is reported to have been in talks with Audi with a possible link to its DTM program. Courier Mail
Champ Car officials to meet Thursday  The racing executives negotiating a unification of open-wheel racing intend to meet today in Indianapolis, hoping to resolve the last remaining issues standing in the way of an agreement.

Kevin Kalkhoven, a co-owner of the Champ Car World Series, said Wednesday he does not anticipate any insurmountable obstacles. "It's just grinding out the details," he said of his exchange with Indy Racing League founder Tony George.

Kalkhoven is expected to arrive from London, where he has spent the past few days attending to family business. George could not be reached for comment, but his spokesman said a news conference to announce unification could come as early as Friday.

"There is still no deal, they're still negotiating, and there will be no announcement (today)," Fred Nation said. "But maybe we can do this Friday if everything goes well." Asked what issues remained, Nation said: "Almost everything has a financial component to it." More at Indy Star including predictions of what will happen to Champ Car races not slated to be part of merger.

Likely grid for merged series  Below are our predictions for a merged Champ Car IRL grid for 2008:

A.J. Foyt Racing
Driver: Darren Manning
Prediction: Foyt has threatened to quit if Champ Car teams get $1.2M subsidy.  He knows if the Champ Car teams come in he'll be right back at the backmarker end of the grid where he was before the split.  George no longer needs this field-filler team if merger happens.

Andretti Green Racing
Drivers: Marco Andretti, Tony Kanaan, Hideki Mutoh, Danica Patrick
Prediction: Will field 4 cars.

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing
Driver: Buddy Rice
Prediction: Team may field only 1 car because Tony George's money will go towards helping Champ Car teams this year.  George no longer needs this field-filler team if merger happens.

Ganassi Racing
Drivers: Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon
Prediction: Will field at least 2 cars

Panther Racing
Driver: Vitor Meira
Prediction: Will field 1 car, but will pretty much be a backmarker

Penske Racing
Drivers: Ryan Briscoe, Helio Castroneves
Prediction: Team will field 2 cars

Rahal Letterman Racing
Driver: Ryan Hunter-Reay
Prediction: Team will field at least 1 car.  A 2nd car might be added if ride-buyer found.

Roth Racing
Drivers: Jay Howard, Marty Roth
Prediction: New full-time team could field 2 cars, but George no longer needs this field-filler team if merger happens. More ...

Philippe eyes F3 series  UPDATE According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Philippe was in Indy at the end of January where he met with AGR for their second IPS seat.  We hear he may do a couple of races if they don't have a full-time ride-buyer offer to fill that seat.

02/16/08 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Richard Philippe, brother of Champ Car driver Nelson Philippe, will drive in the Euro F3 series in 2008.  We hear that an official announcement will be made soon.  He also has a new website, www.RichardPhilippe.com
What becomes of the Champ Car Safety Team?  A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, With merger announcements due out on Friday at 11:00 am, many of us who have worked for CART and CCWS have been left out of the loop, specifically the Holmatro Safety team.

There are several people who have dedicated years of service to CART and Champ Car and we have no clue on our future. The Champ Car Safety Team sponsored by Holmatro  has been and continues to be the gold standard in motorsports safety.  We have been loyal and faithful and stayed committed through the CART era and now the CCWS era.  One of the most positive aspects through the CART years and deconstruction to the present CCWS/IRL debacle has been the safety medical unit.

Any ideas on what happens to us?

Our leadership at Champ Car at least owes all us firefighter paramedics who make up the Holmatro Safety Team an honest answer about our future. Name withheld for obvious reasons

Dear Safety Team member, If I were you I would tell your guys to start to make inquiries to the IRL as to any openings they may have on their safety team.  Perhaps the Holmatro sponsorship will move over to IRL in some way, shape, or form, but Delphi has the sponsor deal for the IRL safety team so there would be a conflict there.  Mark C.

Merger announcement possible for Thursday (Friday)  UPDATE Champ Car World Series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven said there will be no announcement today of unification with the Indy Racing League.  But he is not concerned about anything derailing negotiations to bring the two series to one under the IRL's banner for this season.

"We're (down to) just grinding out the details," he said by telephone from London. "You know what happens when you get attorneys involved." IndyStar

02/20/08 The Indy Racing League continued to make progress Tuesday on unification talks with Champ Car, moving closer to a deal that would end open-wheel racing's divide, but the day passed without an agreement.

"We are still trading drafts of a (possible) agreement," said Fred Nation, spokesman for IRL founder Tony George. "We are whittling away at the issues, but they have not been eliminated. We're optimistic these things can be resolved, but . . . it's always possible that (someone) will decide they don't want to (unify)."

Nation said George, who is in Orlando, Fla., at a motor sports safety conference, is negotiating with Champ Car World Series owner Kevin Kalkhoven. Kalkhoven is working on behalf of fellow Champ Car owners Gerald Forsythe, Paul Gentilozzi and Dan Pettit.

Kalkhoven is in London attending to family business. Gentilozzi said late Tuesday that the group "is still tinkering" with documents sent by George.

David Higdon, Champ Car's executive vice president of strategic development, said the series is "in the same position (it) was last week. Discussions are being held, but nothing is done."

Nation said the emphasis in negotiations has shifted from the April 19-20 weekend, where both series have a race scheduled, to finances. He would not elaborate. "That could be anything from cash (exchanged) to what pieces and parts are on a chassis," he said.

George has agreed to supply IRL cars to Champ Car teams that can show viability to participate in his league.

Nation said his staff is making preliminary plans for a news conference, but one could not be held before Thursday, when Kalkhoven is scheduled to return to the U.S. The IRL has options regarding the April 19-20 weekend, including the possibility that two races are held -- one in Japan, and the other in Long Beach, Calif.

If a deal between the series is reached, the IRL would absorb Champ Car, taking a collection of its teams and up to three of its events for this season.

Besides Long Beach, races in Edmonton and Australia are of interest to the IRL for 2008. Other events have conflicts, Nation said. Nation said the IRL would take "a clean sheet" of paper regarding the 2009 schedule. More at Indy Star

20-Race combined schedule expected  When the Champ Car and IndyCar merger is announced on Friday the IRL's 16 races are expected to grow to 20 with the addition of four races from Champ Car - Long Beach, Edmonton, Australia and Mexico City. Why Edmonton was chosen over Toronto has a lot of people dumbfounded.
Alonso could be F1's highest earner in 2008  (GMM)  Fernando Alonso will be formula one's highest earning driver if he stays at Renault beyond this year, according to a report.

The SportsPro magazine claims that the double world champion stands to make an average (US) $46 million per year, should he chose not to exercise a clause that allows him to depart the French team ahead of the 2009 season.

The $46m figure, negotiated by the 26-year-old Spaniard and his manager Luis Garcia Abad, was derived reportedly because it is symbolically $1 million more than Kimi Raikkonen's annual retainer for racing at Ferrari.

It is also more than double the 2007 salary of Alonso's former teammate at McLaren, Lewis Hamilton, SportsPro adds, and almost exactly twice what he earned at the British team last year.

ALMS to buy Atlantic Series?  Rumor has it that if the merger between Champ Car and the IRL goes through as expected, the Champ Car Atlantic Series could be purchased by the ALMS.  In a merger the Indy Pro Series and the Atlantic series would be redundant so it makes sense that the Atlantic Series could be sold.
Will Laguna Seca lose its Champ Car race?  Don't wave the checkered flag on the Champ Car World Series just yet. At worst, we're looking at a full-course caution right now but as far as Gill Campbell, CEO and general manager of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca is concerned, the green flag is waving.

Late last year, The Herald reported that Champ Car was returning to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca this season after a three-year hiatus, during which it tried to make a successful run on the streets of San Jose.

The pre-cursor for this year's event was Champ Car holding its Spring Training event on the world-renowned permanent road course last year. Once again, Spring Training is scheduled for Laguna Seca March 13 and 14 and that date still appears on the CWS web site.

May 16-18, the 750-horsepower turbo-charged iron horses of the series with the new Panoz engineered DP-01 chassis and Bridgestone tires are scheduled to tackle the technically challenging 2.238-mile, 11-turn circuit nestled in the hills of Fort Ord.

Last week, Campbell received a communiqué from Champ Car counsel Matt Breeden that said, in part, "We're (Champ Car) happy to confirm the May 16-18 race." More ...

F1 set for Eastern expansion  Formula One looks set to continue to target new events in new markets, particularly in the Middle and Far East, following reports that its advertising and hospitality division took a hit over the last twelve months.

The UK’s Daily Telegraph reports that CVC - the private equity company which assumed control of the sport's commercial side in 2006 - reported an after tax loss amounting to $3million from the advertising and hospitality division based on figures for eleven of 18 races staged after the 31 May takeover date.

With countries such as China, Bahrain, Singapore and Abu Dhabi securing spots on the grand prix calendar, demand for Formula One racing in the Middle and Far East remains high, providing a serious boost for both trackside exposure and hospitality.

CVC took control of Formula One's commercial rights through its Alpha Prema UK offshoot in March 2006 and added the sport's sponsorship agency and hospitality groups in a $1.7billion second acquisition in April.
A1GP may replace Champ Car in Surfers  A key component of the proposed open-wheel merger may undergo a changing of the guard if talks between the IRL and Champ Car fall through.

The Gold Coast Bulletin of Queensland, Australia is reporting that the A1 Grand Prix series may take over the Champ Car World Series’ annual blowout at Surfer’s Paradise, Australia, if the IRL and Champ Car are unable to come to terms. Support would continue from the V8 Supercars.

The street-racing festival on Oz’s sunny Gold Coast is one of three Champ Car events expected to be absorbed into the IndyCar Series if unification takes place.

The Bulletin reports that Craig Gore — a recent partner of Derrick Walker’s Champ Car squad and abandoner of the V8s — had a power lunch over the future of the Gold Coast race with former F1 champ Alan Jones and Aussie motorsports journalist Brett Murray. They go on to report that two weeks ago, the race’s chairman apparently got wined and dined in New Zealand — on A1GP’s tab.

Two things jump out at me. One is the fact that the Surfer’s guys have apparently drawn out their contingency plans. The Gold Coast race is a peach weekend that I assume does quite a bit for the local economy. Good on them for having a backup in case merger talks go pear-shaped for the 4,764th time.

The other is that they are still carrying on as if everything’s been sorted out merger-wise. Remember, the Bulletin has been on this tack since last Monday, when they published this piece.

I’m still inclined to see this as speculation. But I can’t help but have a tiny voice in my head going, “Do those guys know something we don’t?” MVN.com

Ralf signs with Mercedes  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement from Mercedes-Benz.  See Hot News article.

02/18/08 (GMM)  Ralf Schumacher has now signed a contract to race with Mercedes-Benz in the German touring car series (DTM) in 2008, according to a German newspaper.

Bild reports that 32-year-old Schumacher, who lost his Toyota seat at the end of last season, has travelled to Stuttgart to formalize the $1 million, one-year (with an option for 2009) deal.

"I felt good in the Mercedes very quickly", Ralf said to Bild. "Häkkinen and Alesi have won races as well, and that will of course be my goal too."

Norbert Haug thinks Schumacher will need some time to adjust. "Just like any other driver, Ralf will need to have two years of learning first. There is no 'Veni, Vidi, Vici' in DTM".

Possible new F1 team  Would the ART GP2 team,  champions in two of the three GP championships consider moving up to F1 and take the 12th and final slot that Prodrive failed to fill.  Team owners Frederic Vasseur and Nicolas Todt, were asked whether or not they were planning on making the move up to Formula One anytime in the future. 

“When you are a professional tennis player, you inevitably want to play on the central court at Roland Garros one day! Those that say otherwise are liars,” Vasseur told F1 Racing France in their last issue. “As an individual, you need to match with a profile to move up into F1. Perhaps I have it, but I have spent the past ten years working on ASM and ART Grand Prix and I do not intend to throw it all away.”

“It would be necessary to join F1 under the cover of a B team, which does not depend on me but on the FIA rules and financing. The long term project is to continue to win... and the idea is to duplicate our know-how into building cars. We massively invested on the technical side, and the logical continuation would be to be our own superintendent on our projects. That could happen with an involvement in endurance or in DTM; we are doing more and more engineering, we took part in the development of the World Series by Renault for instance; we are trying to develop an engineering service with the aim to set up an engineering department that would be as powerful as possible.”

“To turn ART Grand Prix into an F1 team would be a beautiful project, it is very easy to say, but making it real would be much more difficult” the Frenchman told F1 Racing France.

“With 130 people you could start to think about an F1 team, by sub-contracting many things. But there is also the financial aspect, you simply can’t ignore it. All the more that our goals would not be to just make up the numbers. To turn ART Grand Prix into an F1 team would not be an evolution, but a true metamorphosis. It is possible to do this because we have the capacities to reach that point, but you need a clear picture of such a project for a minimum of four years, which would have to be either a manufacturer team, or a B team either to be able to count on robust partners that would engage themselves on the long term.”

James "Bubba" Stewart eyes NASCAR  Could motocross great James "Bubba" Stewart leave motocross to pursue a career in NASCAR? 

"I'm trying to convince him four wheels are better than two," said Max Siegel, the president of global operations at Dale Earnhardt Inc.

Stewart was Siegel's guest on Sunday; it was the first Cup event he has attended. The 22-year-old phenom said Siegel has "hinted around with it a lot" about putting him in a developmental program.

"Yeah, I'd like to try it," he said. "Once I came down, saw all the people, all the merchandise, that definitely interests me."

Stewart reminded that there were five times as many people at the 500 [185,000] as there are at a motocross event. ESPN.com

Renault, Alonso, may be sandbagging  (GMM)  Second Ferrari test driver Marc Gene has added his voice to suspicions that Renault has been sandbagging in winter tests.

The Spaniard explained to the sports daily Marca that, although countryman Fernando Alonso and the French team have not been standout performers with the R28, it is often misleading to rely on the pecking order of pre-season time sheets.

Gene, who will attend every grand prix this year for Ferrari, agrees that the Maranello built F2008 will arrive in Australia for the first race next month in very competitive form.

"Of the rest, we will see," the 33-year-old said, refusing to rule out that Alonso and Renault will be the "surprise" of the upcoming Albert Park event.

"Although they have not been the best in testing, they knew since April of last year that their car was not working well enough, and they started then working for 2008.

"It is possible that we are witnessing a wolf in sheep's clothing and that Fernando will be at the front again," Gene added.

Earnhardt will win the Daytona 500 - NASCAR needs it  UPDATE Looks like Dale Earnhardt Jr. never got word that "the fix" was in, as he was far from the dominant horse at the Daytona 500.  Earnhardt Jr finished in 9th place and led the race three times for a grand total of 12 laps.

Earnhardt, Jr.'s Hendrick Motorsports (HMS) teammates Jimmie Johnson, No 48 Lowe's Impala SS, Casey Mears, No. 5 Kellogg's/CARQUEST Impala SS, and Jeff Gordon, No. 24 DuPont Impala SS, all battled adversity to finish 27th, 37th and 39th respectively. Gordon led three times for a total of five laps.

02/17/08 This is not to say the fix is in, but Dale Earnhardt Jr. will win the Daytona 500 today.

It's inevitable.

I know NASCAR and that's why I'm almost positive of Junior's victory in today's Hendrick MotorMonopoly 500.

You see, NASCAR television ratings have slipped for two consecutive years. There is much fanfare because Junior, by far the sport's most popular driver, is on a new team with new colors, a new number and new sponsors. And let's not forget, this is the 10-year anniversary of his iconic father winning his first and only Daytona 500 in 1998.

It's too good a story for Junior NOT to win today. In fact, I'm so sure of it, I'm guaranteeing it.

Of course, this isn't exactly one of the most daring predictions ever made. It's sort of like guaranteeing the Patriots to win the Super Bowl or Duke to make the Final Four or Britney to wind up back in rehab. You have a pretty good chance of being right. Orlando Sentinel

USAC to deep-six NASCARized cars  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. The United States Auto Club is announcing major steps aimed at preserving the future of its most popular and competitive racing series, the K & N Silver Crown Championship Series.

Already underway, an extensive program of redesign and re-evaluation of the new-generation pavement car is designed at restoring USAC's premier racing series to high-profile venues which have showcased the series the past two seasons.

The immediate impact will see the "traditional" pavement cars which formed the backbone of the Silver Crown Series returning to the paved ovals in 2008 as the new-generation machines undergo revision and re-design.

"We obviously want to maximize the potential of America's most competitive open-wheel series and build on its unparalleled heritage," said USAC President/CEO Kevin Miller. "We recognize the expansion to the larger pavement ovals required new and innovative construction, however, we also recognize that continued work is necessary to refine the product which will reflect the quality image we want to project. Our valued partners in this project, including the facilities which invested in our series, our car owners and sponsors, demand and deserve the best possible product we can offer. To that end, we are dedicated to exploring and implementing the necessary moves to achieve this goal." More ...
Questions on merger  UPDATE #2 Another reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Why is any concrete news of a merger taking so long to materialize?  Dan Brown

Dear Dan, When these rumors first surfaced we were the first to point out that trying to do it for 2008 would be near impossible and made no sense whatsoever. We suggested they announce it now but do it for the 2009 season.  We suspect the powers to be are finding some of the many roadblocks we mentioned in trying to put this thing together.  Sure they can force it to happen for 2008 but what a mess it will be and the lawsuits will be numerous.  We still maintain that the merger should be announced now, whichever Champ Car teams could afford to run the 2008 Indy 500 should, but the real merger should be properly planned and happen starting in 2009.  Do it right or don't do it.  Mark C.

02/13/08 Another reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I’ve been following the merger talks/rumors with great interest, I’m a CART/Champ Car fan, but I will agree it needs to happen. My question is, with Honda as the engine supplier, do you think that turbo engines and suitable chassis will be introduced with the IRL’s new car? An updated version of the current Panoz would make sense, since it has already passed all the FIA testing and is fit for turbo usage  John Swope

Dear John, That would make the most sense, and turbos are back in favor for passenger cars.  In fact the after-market for turbo kits for Hondas is huge.  The sidepods of the Panoz would have to be beefed up for the high-speed ovals we are told.  Mark C.

02/13/08 A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Why would IRL not take the Toronto race this year? There are always 60-70000 fans in the stands and even last year a real buzz in the grounds. What oval race besides Indy and Texas gets that kind of crowds?

Even though there is a lot of anti-IRL sentiment in Canada - they would support a merged series although I wouldn't want to be Michael Andretti or Roger Penske - the boos could be deafening.

Why wouldn't they use the new Panoz? Faster - closer racing, better looking, standing starts, sound better, etc.  Bill Brittain

Dear Bill, Valid questions.  If common sense were to prevail, for a merger to have the best chance for success, the best of both series would be used.  If the rumors are to be believed, only a token few races would be moved over from Champ Car to the IRL leaving such races as Toronto on the outside looking in....and that is a travesty.

As for the Panoz vs. the hideous looking and sounding IRL Dallara (that flies better than some airplanes), I suspect it's a case of car availability in this the 11th hour and the 2008 season upon us.  One would certainly hope that in 2009 or 2010 when the IRL rolls out their new car, a lot of what's incorporated in the Champ Car and some of its ideas such as standing starts and push-to-pass can be incorporated.  For the time being Champ Car fans are going to have to grin and bear it knowing that in the long run a merger is what is best for all involved.  Mark C.
McLaren's Dennis and wife to separate?  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  "Following the reporting of a matter that my wife Lisa and I had hoped would remain confidential at this time, we have decided to announce our separation after 22 years of marriage. Inevitably, the process is a difficult one for us and our three children, and we hope and trust that the media will respect that it should also therefore remain a private one. Neither Lisa nor I will be making any further statements on this matter." Ron Dennis

Ron Dennis
(GMM)  According to a rumor from the paddock of the Jerez test in Spain this week, and reported by the Swiss newspaper Blick, McLaren boss Ron Dennis may have separated from his wife Lisa.

The couple, who were spotted together at several grands prix last year, have three children; two daughters and a son.

With a personal fortune estimated at nearly (US) $300 million, they live near McLaren's ultra-modern Woking factory in Surrey (UK).

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