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Stewart and Bubba the Love SpongeUPDATE #2 A little more on the rumors bit on Bubba the Love Sponge: His best friend is Hulk Hogan, who was best man at Bubba's wedding earlier this year. He's also good friends with NHRA driver Gary Scelzi, who comes on every few months. Bubba has the record for the largest fine ever given out by the FCC.
05/04/07 We are told this is true and that in fact, Tony and Bubba are such good friends that during non-race weekends or off-season, Tony goes down to Tampa to spend time with Bubba and his wife.
05/04/07 Rumor has it that Tony Stewart is good friends with the extremely raunchy radio DJ "Bubba the Love Sponge" who has a very profane and adult theme radio show on Sirius Satellite radio on the Howard Stern radio network. We hear that Home Depot and Joe Gibbs Racing will not allow him to be a guest on that radio show. Notice the Vote for Clint Bowyer ad on the website. NASCAR's "Bubba" fans will find this Bubba website much to their liking.
NASCAR holding Toyota back on purpose One Top 10 finish. Through nine races this season, the closest Toyota has come to Victory Lane in NASCAR’s top tier is 10th place. Only two other times has a Toyota driver finished in spots 10 through 20.
Of the seven cars that Toyota teams field, an average of four make the race. And these aren’t teams and drivers with little experience. We’re talking a proven team in Bill Davis Racing, former Cup Champion Dale Jarrett, veterans Brian Vickers, Jeremy Mayfield and two-time Daytona 500 winner Michael Waltrip, who has only run in one race all season.
Dale Jarrett and Dave Blaney represent the top point totals among Toyota drivers — 37th and 38th, respectively, among the full Nextel Cup points standings.
Why is the gap between the American manufacturers and Toyota so large? Could it be that NASCAR is the culprit? More ...
Honda unlikely to race 'elephant ears' Honda's 'elephant ears' addition to the front nose of its 2007 car is unlikely to resurface at the Spanish GP next week.
The bizarre aerodynamic innovation - basically two sculpted vertical winglets - was track debuted by test driver Christian Klien as the Barcelona session drew to a close on Thursday.
But despite speculation that it is a definitive part of the beleaguered Japanese squad's new bodywork package, and the conspicuous presence at Circuit de Catalunya of team boss Nick Fry, it is believed that Honda engineers have almost certainly ruled out running the piece in the first European race of 2007.
The Spanish newspaper 'Diario As' described the winglets, designed to improve the RA107 single seater's chronic instability under braking, as "horrible" in appearance.
The report also claims that the device proved not adequately "effective" after analysis of Klien's program for Thursday.
Race driver Rubens Barrichello, nonetheless, reports that he is feeling "happier" with the updated RA107 following the test in Spain.
After finishing thirteenth and a lap down in Bahrain, he said: "We seem to have found some results in the right direction, so I hope we can make a small step forward at the next race."
Another PR change at Champ CarUPDATE #2 In Merrill Cain's situation, much like Eric Mauk's, the move makes sense for him personally because he is a lifelong Detroit resident and his family lives in metro Detroit and he's familiar with the Belle Isle circuit from having worked there with CART.
05/02/07 We hear Merrill Cain is going to work for the IRL Detroit GP. All of Champ Car's top PR people have been sucked up by IRL properties - Steve Shunck and Eric Mauk went to Rahal Letterman Racing and now Merrill Cain to the Detroit GP. There is a long history of the best talent (drivers and otherwise) and sponsors being snatched from the Champ Car paddock.
05/02/07 According to AutoRacing1.com sources the Champ Car Atlantic series has lost the excellent Merrill Cain who has quit. While losing Cain is yet another blow to Champ Car (they recently also lost Eric Mauk, who quit as well), we hear that a former PR person for Champ Car may be on his way back to fill Cain's role.
More signs NASCAR wants to overtake F1 eventually NASCAR, which rose out of local race tracks in the South and Midwest to become a U.S. television juggernaut, is working on its next expansion. NASCAR is being watched in more than 150 countries and broadcast in 32 languages. Those numbers may jump further this month at the MIP international television market in Cannes, where ESPN International, which has a deal with NASCAR to distribute product outside of North America, will try to persuade more international broadcasters to export the chicken-fried motor sport to new markets. Although U.S. crowds at some races decreased by a third last year, and TV audiences were down during many of the races being telecast, global audiences seem to have made up for that loss. NASCAR now has established itself as the No. 2 racing series in the world, behind Formula One. To grow overseas, the U.S. racing organization first targeted Canada and Mexico, plus European markets such as Germany and the United Kingdom. In Asia, Japan and China were priorities, as was Brazil in South America. NASCAR now boasts more than 30 international broadcast partners. TV Week
Is a cat fight brewing in the IRL? Heard from a photographer that Danica won't give Milka Duno the time of day and is insulted about her presence in the IRL. Perhaps because the more voluptuous Duno is getting all the media attention now. This photographer wanted a photo of all three women competitors in the IRL but Danica refused.........During the race Danica moved up the track and got Darren Manning sideways. He saved it but lost quite a few positions..........It looks like the new IRL rules have made the racing now single file instead of exciting side by side breathtaking events........Another oval where Marco Andretti's car is undriveable, which led many in the press room to wonder if he's spooked. We said long ago that Marco was moved up to the big cars too fast and needed another year honing his skills. And if he wants to go to F1 some day what the heck is he doing racing on 100% throttle high-speed ovals in the IRL (where one wrong move could end your career) instead of the road and street circuits of Champ Car or GP2?
Another step forward for Indian GPUPDATE More details are now emerging about the bid for a Formula 1 street race in Delhi and a man who is at the centre of the plan is Suhel Seth, an advertising man who these days have interests in image-making and has also been involved in the television industry. Originally the owner of the advertising agency Equus Red Cell, Seth sold control of the business to WPP, the chairman of which is Sir Martin Sorrell, who is on the board of the Formula One group. Since then Seth has set up Counselage, an image management firm which has had clients such as Coca Cola, the city of Delhi and the World Travel and Tourism Council.
The firm has also worked in political campaigning, not least with Sheila Dikshit, the Chief Minister of Delhi.
The next step will be a meeting on May 15 to discuss details with Dikshit, Dr KK Paul, the Delhi police chief, and officials from various other government departments that would be involved, including the Central Public Works Department.
The city hopes that the race will generate considerable income and improve the image of Delhi around the world. The investment necessary for the race to take place is around $100m, allowing for the race fees involved. Grandprix.com
04/29/07 (GMM) New Delhi has moved another crucial step closer to arriving on a formula one calendar of the very near future.
With a project that is already supported by Bernie Ecclestone and private investors, it is reported that the exclusive designer of grand prix circuits recently made a visit to the Indian capital city.
Indeed, Hermann Tilke has stopped off in Delhi "six times" in the recent past, according to the newspaper Times of India, and the latest was to inspect the proposed street circuit layout in an area known as Rajpath.
"We'd like to position Delhi as a street circuit," the German is quoted as saying.
"We think it's a perfect track for F1 racing."
Tilke also revealed that formula one officials have already met with Delhi's chief minister Sheila Dixit, and "(we) will be meeting her again to further discuss the matter," he added.
The inaugural Indian GP could then be held in 2009.
NASCAR to change qualifying system NASCAR is considering changing its qualifying procedures in response to complaints about the restrictive system.
With at least 50 drivers vying for 43 spots in the field, seven or more cars fail to make the race each week. Because NASCAR assures a spot to the top 35 drivers in points, only eight positions are actually up for grabs.
The policy has crippled several drivers this season, particularly Michael Waltrip, who missed his eighth consecutive race Sunday. Waltrip spent the past week lobbying for a variety of changes that could help him get into the field.
NASCAR is listening.’ We’re looking at a lot of different scenarios,'’ competition director Robin Pemberton said. ‘’There’s things that we’re looking at and we’re listening to the competitors. If we were to make a change we’d have to put our own twist on it, to make it fair for all competitors.'’
Danica Patrick overhyped Getting this thirdhand so take it for what it is worth: Buzz around the AGR shop is that Danica Patrick is not what the team thought or expected, and has very little skills from the technical side. In other words, if their engineer hits the setup, she might be good for a top 5. If not, she is languishing at the back. He said the crew is not really looking forward to wins. He also said that Danica hitting the wall on pit road a couple of races ago, really drew some comments from the boss and the crew lost a lot of faith in her at that point. He also said that she just doesn't do well in heavy traffic, where it seems their other drivers tend to thrive and find a way to come out on top. If she is in the mix in a pack, the crew basically expects her to drop back, regroup and then try passing one by one and working her way back. Looks like Danica is never going to live up to the hype. Face it. She became popular almost overnight when she led the Indy 500 by a fluke based on pit strategy. In that same race she lost control, took out two other cars and was lucky not to have hit the wall herself. Since then she hasn't even come close to winning a race. And for this she is the IRL's biggest star. Is the IRL a sport or a female sex kitten show? Now with count them three - Danica, Milka and Sarah - female drivers, all of whom get lapped on a regular basis, we think you have your answer.
Bernie to kill off A1GP seriesUPDATE Bernie Ecclestone turned up at Brands Hatch over the weekend to take a look at the A1 Grand Prix Series, sparking speculation that the F1 entrepreneur may be considering getting involved with the struggling championship. The suggestion being put about is that A1 GP might be merged into a new Asian GP2 series for the winter months, thus creating a new feeder series for Formula 1.
A1 GP knows that its chances of survival are slight if Ecclestone (or whoever) launches a winter GP2 series in opposition to its activities and thus the urge to merge is probably coming entirely from A1. Traditionally Ecclestone only involves himself in businesses in which he has complete control (be that in terms of share ownership or by way of shareholder agreements). Bernie is also unlikely to invest in something that is more expensive than starting his own championship, which would be a very small investment as an organization already exists that could simply expand its operations into the winter months. At the moment the series runs from April 13 to October 30, leaving five months of relative inactivity. The big question is whether or not Ecclestone - and whichever partners he has onboard - can find a way of making serious money from the series. With GP2 there is TV coverage that comes with F1 but stand-alone races are not as easy. GP2 teams pay for the cars (and the spares) and this generates decent profits for whoever owns the business. They pay out prize money but it is nothing in comparison to the profits being made. The value of A1 would be in the existing contracts with race promoters and TV companies and Ecclestone is in a good position to expand this side of the business but it is unlikely that the World Cup format would be retained as the nation-against-nation concept is not really catching the attention of fans. More ...
Soccer-style riot feared from NASCAR ’Bubbas’ TALLADEGA, Ala. - Team owner Rick Hendrick said maybe it's time to start selling beer at the racetracks in paper cups. Not a bad idea, although - and I know this is a crazy thought - not selling beer at all might even be better.
Another shower of beer cans rained down on Talladega Superspeedway's track today, leaving several cars, including the Chevrolet of race winner Jeff Gordon, scarred and dented.
Fortunately, no one was hurt on the racetrack or pit lane - although spectators may have been injured by the hailstorm of aluminum.
It was a frightening and shameful display, apparently brought on by Gordon winning another Talladega race cut short by a caution flag - as he did in the spring of 2004 when he beat Dale Earnhardt Jr.
After an outburst from fans of his late father last week in Phoenix after Gordon tied The Intimidator at 76 victories, Junior asked fans of he and his father to throw toilet paper, not beer cans, if they need to protest at the track.
On Sunday, I saw one roll of toilet tissue rolling down the track. Beer cans were scattered - and splattered - everywhere.
I completely understand the disappointment of the Earnhardt fans and the anti-Gordon faction. It's really no different than a Red Sox fan upset and angry after the Yankees come from behind for a win in Fenway Park, or the Pittsburgh Steelers beating the Browns in Cleveland.
I've seen fights break out in the stands in each of those cases.
Still, this outburst was on a much bigger scale and has the potential to escalate in the future into a real mob scene or even a soccer-style riot. More at AP article
DEI could switch to Ford or Toyota Officials from Dale Earnhardt, Inc. confirmed Sunday morning at Talladega Superspeedway that the team is talking to two manufacturers in addition to Chevrolet about what brand of Nextel Cup cars it will run in 2008.
DEI executive John Story said Sunday that the team’s agreement with Chevrolet expires after 2007 and that DEI is actively talking to two other automakers, as well as negotiating a partnership with Robert Yates Racing. DEI also is looking to add a fourth Nextel Cup car in 2008 or ‘09.
“The only proposal we have for next year from a manufacturer is from Chevrolet,” said Story prior to the Aaron’s 499. “We’ve talked to two other manufacturers, but I think we’re a long way from deciding which manufacturer we’re going to be with. Teresa (team owner Earnhardt) has a lot of loyalty to Chevrolet, we’ve been with them for a long time, she’s been with them for a long time. We’ll see where it goes, but our contract with Chevy does expire at the end of the year. … We’re going to do whatever is necessary to make our team, to make DEI the premier team, not only off the track, but on the track. We’re going to do whatever is necessary to raise our level of competition.” More at SPEEDTV.com
[Editor's Note: Rest assured that Toyota would like nothing more than to get their hands on NASCAR's biggest star, but we doubt NASCAR would let that happen.]
Bernie, A1GP, to join forces for 'GP3'? (GMM) After initially confusing the MotoGP world by turning up in Turkey recently, F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone has now set tongues wagging with a visit to the 'A1GP' paddock.
It is understood that the diminutive Briton attended the Brands Hatch circuit at the weekend to meet with a boss of the World Cup-style open wheeler series.
The exact nature of his meeting with Tony Teixeira is not known, but the newspaper Daily Express speculated that 76-year-old Ecclestone wants to "kill off" or "torpedo" the rival category because it would clash with his plans for an Asian winter version of GP2; F1's feeder series.
Indeed, Teixeira hinted at Brands Hatch's A1GP season finale that, instead of competing against one another during the winter months, A1 and Ecclestone could work together.
He said: "If (Bernie) came up against us, that would be unfortunate for everyone. Why not cater for 35 countries between us?"
Ecclestone, who has never been a supporter of the A1 concept, added: "Maybe there is room for a GP3 series which would also provide another road to F1.
"I hope things go well for Tony," Bernie explained. "An awful lot will depend on if we get another series running in Asia. Then it would be difficult for them."
Biffle to switch teams in 2008 By disclosing that Roush Fenway Racing is re-negotiating its contract with #16-Greg Biffle, team president Geoff Smith may have indirectly increased the driver's value. Biffle told ESPN.com Friday that Smith's comment has produced intrigue in the Nextel Cup garage regarding the driver's contract status. He is an elite driving talent. Teams are calling. "The biggest thing that's been a bit of a deterrent for me is that Geoff Smith put in the paper that we're negotiating -- Roush and Greg Biffle -- an extension," Biffle said. "And in my eyes there was no reason for that. I'm under contract." Biffle is under contract with Roush Fenway through the end of the 2008 season. But when the sponsor of the #16 Ford, AmeriQuest, told Roush it would like to terminate its contract at the end of the year, and that Roush should seek alternative sponsorship, it created a bit of an issue for the team. Biffle described the difficulty in getting a three-year sponsor commitment based on a driver that has just one year left on his deal as all but impossible. Roush Fenway Racing wants to lock Biffle up to a longer-term contract, to ensure potential sponsors he'll be there for the duration of the relationship. Biffle said that lead executives from some other teams to believe his contract was up at the end of the current season, rather than next year's. "So now I've got all these teams that are looking to add a team or a driver calling me," Biffle said. "Not every team, but there's been a few because of that quote." Biffle said he wants to remain at Roush Fenway, and echoed Smith's sentiment that the team has its pick of potential sponsors. ESPN.com
Dodge to drop NASCAR?UPDATE Dodge officials insist they will remain in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series no matter what the outcome of the sale. “We believe in the marketing value of the sport and the awareness it provides for the Dodge brand. The NASCAR fan base is an excellent fit for Dodge and the vehicles we manufacturer. We have long term commitments to the sport and to our teams, and we will, without question, keep these commitments. As we’ve said many times, Dodge is in NASCAR to stay,” said Mike Accavitti, director, Dodge Motorsports and SRT Marketing.
04/16/07 Recall the rumor that one major manufacturer will leave NASCAR and has already laid out plans. Dodge's future in NASCAR could be on the line, with DaimlerChrysler's proposed sale of its American division moving rapidly along and expected to be completed by the end of the month.
What worries Dodge teams is the threat that whoever buys Chrysler may decide to liquidate its assets. (According to one report, General Motors may buy Chrysler's Jeep operations.) If that were to happen, and if Dodge's NASCAR teams are unable to continue, that could leave 11 stock-car teams and their five owners scrambling. Winston-Salem Journal
Newman and Champ Car eye Brooklyn racetrackUPDATE It might very well take the performance of Hollywood legend Paul Newman’s career to bring auto racing back to Brooklyn. Newman, partnered with North American Motorsport Events, is hoping to transform a few miles of Floyd Bennett Field into a course for an annual auto racing event.
But if the reaction after a presentation last week is any indication, star power might not be enough to see the plan through.
At Community Board 18’s monthly meeting, Geoffrey Whaling, the chief executive officer of North American Motorsport Events, presented an amended version of the controversial $15 million proposal.
The plan—which was rejected back in June by Gateway National Recreation Area—seeks to bring motorsports to the former airport, in the form of an annual race, called the New York Memorial Grand Prix, a feature race of the Champ Car World Series.
Whaling stressed that none of the construction on the site would be permanent, and the National Parks Service could stand to gain $1 million annually for leasing the space.
He said the New York Memorial Grand Prix would be an annual community festival culminating with a three-day racing event.
“We are not proposing to build anything [permanent] at Floyd Bennett Field,” Whaling stressed.
The event is planned for September, with the inaugural event on Sept. 19-21, 2008 with a “Festival of Speed,” a series of community fundraising events, planned a week prior to the race weekend. More ...
Grand Prix’s success key in crafting of new dealUPDATE A reader writes, The crowds have been large? Which St. Pete race was this? Everyone I have talked to (including certain officials from other Florida cities who have attended) said that the place was sparse at best. Nobody I know has ever paid for their tickets. That sleepy little town just can't compare with a larger market. Everyone seems to think that race is going to draw from Tampa. It just doesn’t. Lance Freespeed
Another writes, I found this little snippet very funny. Only the IRL would call cutting the number of grandstand seats, and having what I seem to recall to be 30,000 total attendance (unknown PAYING attendance) on race day, "success." George Orwell would be proud. Hate is Love, War is Peace, and a shrinking audience is success! Maybe my memory is faulty, but it seems to me that the "Long Beach of the East Coast" failed to get the same numbers over the whole weekend as Long Beach got for just Saturday (Qualifying day! Not race day!).
But it again raises the issue... when is Champ Car going to figure out that, to some extent, you can change people's perceptions by issuing positive press releases about next to nothing? And how much better when you can use actual truth? Dave L., Los Angeles, CA
04/26/07 Negotiations to renew Andretti Green Productions' recently expired contract to put on the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg are apparently taking longer than expected because of what company general manager Kevin Savoree considers the success of the event.
"It's obvious as the event has grown, which is a very positive thing, some of the items in the original contract need to be reconsidered," he said by telephone. "I think that goes for all the sides: the city, (sponsor) Honda, the IndyCar series, the American Le Mans series and us. As with any negotiation, that's something we have to work through."
The city received 200 tickets and the right to erect a hospitality area from AGP in the first three-year contract in exchange, basically, to serve as a backdrop for a two-hour nationally televised auto race. AGR was responsible for paying for uses of city resources in excess of $150,000.
Although AGP does not release ticket figures, crowds have been large. Savoree plans to be in town soon to meet with local politicians, he said. SPTimes.com
Paris Hilton, Spyker and a F1 sponsor (GMM) According to a whisper in F1 circles, an impending visit to an upcoming grand prix by American socialite Paris Hilton hints at a major sponsorship deal for Spyker.
It is believed that Hilton's destination could be Monaco next month; but, as Hollywood gossip would also suggest, it is unlikely that her trip is going to be merely social.
According to speculation, the 26-year-old will be paid for the paddock appearance; with the origin of the cash to soon emerge on the livery of Silverstone based Spyker's orange racer.
The smart money is on Rich Prosecco -- a fizzy drink in a gold can.
F1 talks to continue, says Monteiro, Champ Car maybe (GMM) Tiago Monteiro says he is still hoping to return to formula one in the near future but Champ Car would best for him. Does he want to be a backmarker because he will not get a good ride in F1 or a winner in Champ Car where all the cars are equal?
The 30-year-old Portuguese raced for F1's Silverstone based team in its Jordan, Midland and Spyker guises in 2005 and 2006, but lost the seat to impressive German rookie Adrian Sutil for this season.
Monteiro has turned to the FIA's World Touring Car Championship with the SEAT team for refuge, but suggested in an interview that he hoped to come back to F1.
"(F1) negotiations continue but for this year I am 100 per cent committed to my team SEAT," he said. "After (that), who knows."
Monteiro admits that he wanted to retain his Spyker seat for this year, and also revealed that options existed for him to be a test driver or go to Champ Car.
"Initially, the idea was to continue in formula one," he explained. "I had opportunities to be a test driver or even a main driver but they did not materialise."
Monteiro contested 37 career grands prix, collecting 7 points in total and a maiden podium in the infamous 6-car race at Indianapolis in 2005.
Aston Martin F1 bound? Aston Martin could make an entry into Formula One in the future, according to reports. David Richards, the former Benetton and BAR team principal who returns to the sport next year with his own Prodrive team, hinted that Aston Martin could enter Formula One in five years' time. Richards and a consortium of investors acquired a controlling stake in Aston Martin from Ford and he is reported as saying "in five years Formula One could be realistic for Aston."
Corvette Racing Considers moving to GT2 class Corvette Racing could step down from the GT1 class to GT2 to compete against Porsche and Ferrari if no GT1 opposition materializes soon in the American Le Mans Series. Chevrolet has been left to race against itself in the ALMS GT1 class this year after the factory Prodrive Aston Martin team was unable to put together a full-season effort.
Corvette program manager Doug Fehan said that building a GT2 version of the car is one option open for next season. Another option is to take the C6.Rs to race in the European-based Le Mans Series.
“Since we started planning the Corvette program in 1996, we have continuously evaluated a wide variety of arenas in which the car could race,” Fehan said. “I can’t say we are leaning toward GT2, although all the homework is done.” More at AutoWeek
Duno could be forced to sit out Kansas race Milka Duno must pass her IndyCar Series rookie test today at Kansas Speedway or she will not be allowed to compete in this weekend's event, an Indy Racing League spokesman said Wednesday. Duno was scheduled to take her test Wednesday at Kansas, but travel issues prevented her from doing so.
Heidfeld to replace RalfUPDATE (GMM) Ralf Schumacher is likely to land a new contract to race with Toyota in 2008 and beyond, according to a former boss of the Japanese team.
Ex-head of research Norbert Kreyer was fired in late 2004, but he says struggling Schumacher will almost certainly not follow him through the door later in 2007 because it will mean team president John Howett loses face.
Kreyer said he advised his Toyota superiors in 2004 to sign Nick Heidfeld to drive for the team in 2005 and beyond.
"But Howett resisted with all of his effort," he told Sport Bild.
"Instead, he wanted a big name, which played right into the hands of Ralf's (former) manager Willi Weber."
Kreyer said it is therefore "obvious" that Howett is still resisting his colleagues' affection for Heidfeld and still supportive of Schumacher, who so far in 2007 has failed to match the pace of his lesser-paid teammate Jarno Trulli.
04/20/07 Ralf Schumacher's contract expires at the end of the year and already Nick Heidfeld's management has been stirring up rumors that he might be moving across to Toyota to replace Ralf. This does not make much sense apart from the fact that it might be a useful lever in negotiations with BMW - if the people at BMW think Nick might actually leave their team and join Toyota, a move that makes little sense - except financially. If Heidfeld wants to win races (which is usually the primary motivation of serious F1 drivers) he will stay where he is as BMW is widely seen as a much more competitive organization than Toyota.
The fact remains that Toyota does want to improve and there are some within the empire who realize that in order to do that, there needs to be someone to inspire the team and push things forward. There are some who would argue that Ralf has not done that with Toyota and that the team would be better off looking for someone else hungrier and cheaper.
Ralf's management says that talks will begin later in the year. Grandprix.com
Bourdais already signed with STR for 2008? Sebastien Bourdais is winning again in America. After three rounds of the Champ Car series Sebastien is leading the championship by three points, having won at both Long Beach and in Houston. Given that he has already won the title in 2004, 2005 and 2006 the 28-year-old from Le Mans has little left to achieve in the United States, unless he wants to try his hand at NASCAR.
This year he is competing in the Le Mans 24 Hours for Peugeot, a clear sign that he is ready for more challenges and his test with Scuderia Toro Rosso last winter underlined the fact that the Frenchman is not worried about starting at the bottom in Formula 1 as it seems he has given up the hope that the big F1 teams will take notice of his results in America. Bourdais was quickly on the pace that the Toro Rosso was capable of going and the word in France is that he will back in a Toro Rosso at the Spa test in July. More ...
NAPA to drop Waltrip?UPDATE Hearing that NAPA might move to the Jeff Burton Cingular car after AT&T loses their battle with Nextel to replace Cingular on the No. 31 Chevy and leaves NASCAR.
04/16/07 Rumors are swirling about Toyota driver Michael Waltrip's future and his sponsorship support, after failing to make the last six tour races. According to one unconfirmed report, Waltrip is having to return $300,000 to his sponsors for each race he misses. Winston Salem Journal
Prodrive signs title sponsor (GMM) Prodrive has already attracted a title sponsor for the British squad's inaugural season in formula one next year. That is the claim of boss David Richards, who told the German specialist magazine: "The contract is signed."
He has previously revealed that the team will begin testing in December of this year, and this week revealed that the existing formula one outfit that will furnish Prodrive with cars and engines in 2008 will be revealed "soon".
The hot tip is McLaren-Mercedes, and Richards' assertion that the driver lineup will be a young rookie alongside a veteran has led some to look in the direction of the Woking-based team's test duo Gary Paffett and Pedro de la Rosa.
Tellingly, Paffett has signed only a one-season contract to race in DTM this year, and he recently revealed: "I've always made my intentions clear that F1 is where I want to be in 2008.
"It's my aim to do my very best (this year) and to get prepared for 2008 and keep working with McLaren-Mercedes to that end."
Bourdais to test STR again in July (GMM) Reports in America suggest that Champ Car sensation Sebastien Bourdais is set to test again for the Toro Rosso team in July.
The Frenchman and triple Champ Car title winner, who is leading the open wheeler series' standings once again this year, tested for the Italian team in the recent winter period and some suggest that a race deal for 2008 could already have been penned.
A report in the Orange County Register read: "He has another test scheduled with the (Toro Rosso) team this summer."
The publication claims that Bourdais, 28, has said that if Toro Rosso's offer of a race seat "is right, he will take the job, knowing that at his age, this will likely be his last chance to make it to F1."
Alongside Felipe Massa, Bourdais is newly managed by Nicolas Todt, the son of Ferrari's team boss Jean Todt. Ferrari supplies engines to the Scuderia Toro Rosso outfit.
Another report, in the Florida publication St. Petersburg Times, reads: "Bourdais' test with Scuderia Toro Rosso in December earned him a second test in July."
DCX close to naming Chrysler top bidder The preferred bidder to buy the Chrysler Group is expected to emerge by the end of next week, the Detroit Free Press has learned. Top DaimlerChrysler AG officials are expected to continue to meet with potential buyers in New York City this week and next, a person familiar with the process said.
Meanwhile, DaimlerChrysler Chief Executive Dieter Zetsche met with union leaders Tuesday in Stuttgart, Germany, in advance of corporate supervisory board meetings today and Thursday.
"Clearly they are moving forward with their agenda," said Jerry Dias, Canadian Auto Workers national representative. Dias was in the Tuesday meeting along with members of the UAW and German labor union IG Metall.
In Stuttgart, the unions reiterated their position that Chrysler should not be sold to a private equity firm, Dias said. Julia Engelhardt, a DaimlerChrysler spokeswoman, declined to comment Tuesday. More at Detroit Free Press
Teresa has agreed to give Jr. 51%UPDATE #3 Q. An update on where you're at right now as far as the contract negotiations go. DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: We're basically where we've been over the past couple weeks. Not much has changed. Unfortunately, I know you guys want to know more than that, and I want to tell you more than that, but there's not more to tell. Whenever we get the information, when I have what I have, know what I know, believe me, I won't hold it out for long. Really nothing to report at this time.
Q. It's been the main story around you. Has it served as a distraction at all? DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: No, it's not a distraction at all because really there's nothing been going on. I get worried really that it's being run into the ground. When we find out what we want to do and we decide what to do, how it goes down, what the plan is, we will tell the press. We'll be ready to tell the press. We'll be happy to make those announcements. I get worried that the story is just going to become stale, old, it's going to wear people out. They're going to get tired of hearing it. One of my favorite shows is Around the Horn on ESPN. They were talking about it on there. I know it's getting old when Around the Horn is debating whether it's getting old 'cause they were debating whether it was an old story, we were hearing too much about it, whatever.
Q. I know you don't want to talk about the contract. I'm not asking you to belie any confidences. Would you say it's fair to say now or all along that this has been, how we can get a deal done, not whether we can get a deal done? Has it progressed at all in that direction or has it ever been anything different than that? DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: It's not been "if" at all. We've both worked together and it's all been positive. We've just made an agreement between ourselves to try not to talk about it in the media or insinuate anything until we're ready to release the details. Both sides have made that agreement. We had to make it a little bit firmer obviously after this weekend.
Q. Dale, with all due respect to what you already said about your contract this morning, can you at least say whether you're hopeful or confident of staying with DEI? DALE EARNHARDT, JR.: Yeah, I am. I'm pretty excited that things are going to be fine, things are going to work out with our negotiations. From NASCAR teleconference Transcript
04/21/07 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. No formal proposal that would give Dale Earnhardt Jr. 51 percent ownership of Dale Earnhardt Inc. has been made, Kelley Earnhardt Elledge said Friday morning.
Elledge, the lead negotiator for her brother in talks about a new contract with the Nextel Cup team, said that she and Max Siegel, the president of global operations for DEI, have discussed a number of ideas but that no formal proposals have been made.
“All conversations have been between Max and myself in the past few weeks discussing various ideas and alternatives understanding that Teresa (Earnhardt, the seven-time champion's widow) is not willing to give up 51% of DEI for nothing,” Elledge said. ThatsRacin
04/20/07 Meanwhile, Earnhardt said an online report that he has been offered ownership in DEI is "news to me." After qualifying, he was asked about the story that he has been offered 51 percent ownership of the company started by his late father. "I don't know anything about that," Junior said, raising his eyebrows. "As far as I know, there's been nothing new in the last week or more."
04/19/07 The Dale Earnhardt Jr. / DEI contract negotiations continue and the influence of ace negotiator Max Siegel may be bearing success. One contact told MaxChevy's Glen Grissom on the down-low that the 51% (or majority ownership) that Dale Jr. requires to stay with DEI has essentially been negotiated – agreed to by Teresa Earnhardt. But that she, in turn, is requesting that an independent, impartial review board be set up within DEI that would take into consideration and review any major operational changes that Dale Jr. would want to take place – acting like a board of directors it seems to MaxChevy's Glen Grissom, with Dale Jr. basically reporting to it. So far, this has been balked at – but stranger management structures have survived in the business world. All parties say they want to have the contract resolved by May, so with April half-over, it’s crunch time. MaxChevy.com
NASCAR to fine StewartUPDATE Tony Stewart is not expected to be fined for skipping the post-race press conference last weekend at Phoenix International Raceway, but Juan Pablo Montoya may be for an obscene gesture made on camera prior to a Busch Series practice. NASCAR officials are reviewing whether to penalize the former Formula One star who made the gesture at a cameraman following him from Nextel Cup qualifying to the Busch garage for practice. According to officials at Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, Montoya thought the cameraman was a person who has been shadowing him as part of a documentary for more than a month and that the gesture was all in fun. ESPN.com
04/24/07 This past Saturday after finishing second to Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart was so aggravated after leading the most laps only to be passed by Gordon in the final stages of the race he refused to take part in post race interviews, mandatory according to NASCAR, and that could bring Stewart a hefty fine in the coming days.
"I don't go to victory lane when he wins," Gordon said. "If I was Tony, and if I felt like I was going to say something I really didn't want to say, I think I'd avoid (the media), too."
Gordon alluding to Stewart's retirement talk after Texas added that NASCAR without Tony wouldn't be the same.
"I love what Tony brings to the sport. He's got a flair to him," Gordon said. "He's a great race-car driver. I don't want to drive him out of this sport. I want to see him have more fun, and I understand what he means when he says that."
Anti-trust lawsuit could result in breakup of France monopolyUPDATE Kentucky Speedway no longer is demanding a Nextel Cup race in its federal lawsuit against NASCAR and International Speedway Corp. In an amended complaint filed Friday, the speedway now says it wants NASCAR to develop "objective factors" for the awarding of Nextel Cup races, the France family to give up control of either ISC (a public company that operates tracks and whose majority of voting stock is owned by the Frances) or NASCAR (a private company owned by the Frances) and for ISC to sell at least eight of the 12 tracks it owns that host Nextel Cup events. The 41-page complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in Covington, also reveals some of the speedway's attempts to bring NASCAR's top racing series to Gallatin County. The speedway filed suit in July 2005 alleging NASCAR and ISC violated antitrust laws by restricting which tracks host Nextel Cup races and trying to "monopolize the market for hosting premium stock car racing events." In the original complaint, the speedway asked for Nextel Cup races to be awarded through a competitive bidding process. The complaint details some specific attempts by the speedway to secure a spot on the Nextel schedule. According to the new complaint, the track offered New Hampshire International Speedway owner Bob Bahre $360 million to buy the facility that holds two Cup races annually. NASCAR and ISC have denied the allegations contained in the original complaint. A NASCAR official could not be reached for comment Monday. Some parts of the amended complaint filed Friday were not made public after NASCAR successfully asked the judge to withhold "highly confidential" information. Cincinnati Enquirer
04/22/07 Kentucky Speedway has backed away from its demand that a jury award a Nextel Cup race to its track as part of its antitrust lawsuit against NASCAR and International Speedway Corp.
But the track is demanding that NASCAR change the way it does business in a revised complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Kentucky.
The track is asking that NASCAR develop objective factors to award Nextel Cup races, as well as asking the France family to sell off either ISC or NASCAR. It also asks that ISC divest itself of eight of its 12 tracks that operate a Cup race. Kentucky Speedway seeks damages in excess of $200 million.
The revised complaint, filed as part of the public record Friday, follows the completion of the investigation phase of the lawsuit, including depositions and the production of documents. Portions of the complaint have been removed from the public filing because it is believed it contains sensitive NASCAR and ISC financial information, as well as business strategies. More ...
Could Penske buy ISC? If Kentucky Speedway is successful in breaking up NASCAR and ISC with its antitrust lawsuit, the France family could be forced to sell controlling interest in ISC so that races would be given to the highest bidder (like the Super Bowl is awarded) instead of awarding races based on the best way to line the France families pockets with cash. But who would afford to buy it? Roger Penske is someone would could buy it, if he so desired. ISC bought all of Penske's tracks years ago and it's quite conceivable that he and his son Greg Penske could buy them back.
Is Matos Champ Car bound? Yeah it's early in the season, only 25% of the races run, but so dominant has been Raphael Matos and the Sierra Sierra team one has to believe Matos is beginning to smell that $2M prize that the Champ Car Atlantic champion gets to move up to Champ Car. With Lee Dykstra as their lead engineer, and Matos and Hinchcliffe as drivers, we would not be at all surprised to see Matos move up to Champ Car next year with the Sierra Sierra team. Time will tell, but that's our prediction now.
Houston, TX – The Sierra Sierra Enterprises team could not have hoped for a stronger start to the 2007 Cooper Tires Presents the Champ Car Atlantic Championship Powered by Mazda season with Raphael Matos (#6 ProWorks), winning his third consecutive race and James Hinchcliffe (#9 NOCO/ProWorks) taking third at the Grand Prix of Houston.
“It was almost a perfect weekend. I didn’t get the fastest lap but with the win I was able to extend my points lead – I’m very happy. We made a lot of progress on both qualifying sessions. The track changed a lot during the weekend so we had to make a lot of adjustments. The race was quite difficult with Carl (Carl Skerlong - #24 King Taco/USRT) having such a strong pace. I had to carefully manage my gap with him – especially with the traffic at the end of the race. It was a great win for the whole team,” said Matos. More ...
51% of DEI = $55 million? Taking control of DEI, his late father's company, might come at too high a price for #8-Dale Earnhardt Jr. Last week, it was reported DEI offered Dale Earnhardt Jr. 51% ownership, which NASCAR's most popular driver quickly denied. That's not to say there weren't informal discussions, rather it could be Junior simply stopped listening once he heard the asking price. Several people familiar with the contract negotiations told The Associated Press that DEI has not made a formal offer and that any discussions centered around the 51% ownership share came with a steep asking price - $55 million or more - that the Earnhardt Jr. camp didn't take seriously. That number would be in line with the going rate for a stake in a NASCAR team. Boston Red Sox owner John Henry is believed to have spent about $60 million in February for a minority stake in Roush Fenway Racing. Those familiar with the negotiations requested anonymity because they were not authorized to speak. When reached Monday, Junior's sister Kelley Earnhardt Elledge declined comment, citing the reporting of inaccurate information over the weekend in her desire to refrain from commenting until a formal announcement. Associated Press
MotoGP pulls out of Istanbul Knowing all too well how Bernie Ecclestone operates and his history of bankrupting race promoters, MotoGP seems unlikely to return to Istanbul now that he has bought the circuit. The local Zaman newspaper is reporting that the Turkish Motorcycling Federation will be applying to the International Motorcycling Federation (FIM) to annul its contract for the MotoGP event because it cannot afford to fund the races any longer. The report quoted Bekir Yunus Ucar, the head of the federation who said that the joint support of the İstanbul Metropolitan Municipality and the Youth and Sports General Directorate was no longer enough to keep the event. "There are about eight countries already lined up to take over from Turkey," he said.
More proof George doesn't want a merger Kevin Kalkhoven and Tony George aren’t discussing unification but there was an idea floated about getting together for next month’s 91st Indianapolis 500.
Kalkhoven, who co-owns Champ Car with Gerald Forsythe, says he made a proposal to the Indy Racing League founder, while George maintains it never got that far.
“I told Tony that if he gives us free Honda engines, we’d buy the chassis and bring four or five drivers to Indianapolis,” related Kalkhoven, whose series has no races during May. “I never heard back from him, so I guess it’s too late now. “But I was serious.” More at SPEEDTV.com
Will Champ Car’s model work? A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1, I read with great interest Mark Cipolloni's latest article (see Home Page) on the Champ Car owners media gathering in Houston. I agree that things are not as bad as they were once thought but I still don't see where the growth is going to come to sustain the current Champ Car series. The bottom line is that the series needs a stable sponsorship base that it could rely on year in and year out. Donald Mason
Dear Donald, Obviously sponsorship coupled with cost containment is the key to sustainability. The owners have done a good job with cost containment, now they need to start landing more sponsors. Easier said than done. We like the international mix of Champ Car because that could be an important avenue for future growth. We also like the super strong Atlantic Series that is cultivating some of the most skilled young drivers in the world. Driver turnover is certainly a problem that needs to be dealt with. As for sponsorship, we are told by high-ranking individuals within Champ Car that a number of key sponsorship deals will be announced. The owners have the attitude of slow and steady progress, while fans and the media demand more instant gratification. Mark C.
Winkelhock could replace struggling Albers’UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false.' Collin Kolles had said Winkelhock will most likely replace Christijan Albers. But Kolles explained to GPUpdate.net: "I told some reporters that when Christijan Albers or Adrian Sutil would be sick or would be unable to race for whatever reason we would have Markus Winkelhock as Markus is our reserve driver. Christijan's seat is completely safe, he does not have to be worried to be replaced by someone else. He will finish the season with us."
04/23/07 (GMM) Christijan Albers' (pictured right) race seat at Spyker could be in doubt, according to reports in the specialist German press. 'Sport Bild' says that the squad's 26-year-old reserve driver, Markus Winkelhock, is first in line to replace Albers, after the Dutchman struggled to match the pace of his rookie teammate Adrian Sutil in the opening races of 2007.
Team boss Colin Kolles confirmed: "Markus is our spare driver. He will race if one of our regular drivers is not able to, for whatever reason.
"We have full confidence in him and we know what he can do."
Kolles' apparent frustration with Dutchman Albers, who brings substantial financial backing to the team, is thought to have been intensified at Sepang, where he apparently hid a stomach infection for fear that reserve driver Winkelhock (pictured right) would race and impress his bosses.
It is reported that Albers has been given only the Spanish grand prix next month to up his game or relinquish the ride for the rest of the season to Germany's Winkelhock.
He told Sport Bild: "I am training hard and will be completely ready if the team needs me."
Kolles would not confirm that Albers' seat is in jeopardy, but he did admit that Winkelhock has been scheduled to test the car in the near future at Paul Ricard in France.
Prodrive to be McLaren B team? (GMM) Ron Dennis has moved to calm speculation that F1's twelfth entrant Prodrive next year will be equipped with cars and engines supplied by McLaren-Mercedes.
The paddock gossip is widespread and established, and was fuelled further in Bahrain recently when Prodrive boss David Richards toured the grid with McLaren rookie Lewis Hamilton's father Anthony.
The rumors are so well advanced that some F1 insiders are even convinced that Prodrive will turn to McLaren-linked drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Gary Paffett for their fledgling 2008 race lineup.
McLaren chairman Dennis, however, branded the reports "premature" and revealed that only preliminary talks have been held with Richards about the "possibility" of a deal.
He told the British magazine F1 Racing: "I'd never rule out having a partnership with another F1 team, but it would be somewhat premature to say it will be Prodrive."
Dennis, however, admitted that his Woking based outfit would "seriously consider" supplying customer cars to smaller teams, despite his personal ideological reluctance and the current row involving his contemporary Frank Williams, as well as Spyker.
Indeed, McLaren was previously strongly linked to such arrangements with the stillborn Direxiv and Dubai F1 projects, but neither team reached the grid.
NASCAR eyes China expansion NASCAR's China initiative may be on the verge of bearing fruit.
A four-person NASCAR group, including chairman Brian France, was scheduled to depart April 22 for a week-long visit to China to discuss possible projects with government, sports and business officials in Beijing, the country's capital.
NASCAR has no plans to race its Nextel Cup series in China. The trip is likely to involve discussions about lower-level NASCAR-type events or series at Chinese racetracks and business relationships that might include NASCAR and Chinese interests. It was not known if any contracts or agreements might be signed on the trip. More ...
Alonso rattled? (GMM) The Spanish press is beginning to wonder if the hype surrounding Lewis Hamilton's impressive formula one debut this year is starting to rattle world champion Fernando Alonso.
Even McLaren chief executive Martin Whitmarsh has jumped aboard the bandwagon of rhetoric, telling British newspapers last week that there is "no reason" why 22-year-old Hamilton cannot become "the greatest driver ever".
The unavoidable corollary of such comments, of course, is that the same prophecy of greatness is not also forthcoming for Alonso; who won the titles in 2005 and 2006 and is the only McLaren driver so far this year to win a race.
Spanish reporters in Bahrain asked 25-year-old Alonso if he is still feeling the full support of his team.
"That is a question you will have to ask (team boss) Ron Dennis," he answered simply.
Can Stoddart take Champ Car to next level? HOUSTON — Paul Stoddart (pictured left in photo to right) walks down the stairs of his transporter at the Grand Prix of Houston at Reliant Park, blending instantly into his surroundings — meaning he’s right at home with grease and car parts. He looks as if he just finished a transmission rebuild. Or maybe a full engine swap.
His beard, a Stoddart trademark, may have been created in the make-up department of “Lost.” He wears a team uniform, but it certainly wasn’t tailored to his body. His stomach hangs over his belt. His eyes are bloodshot, and he seems tired. In a sea of mechanics, Stoddart fits in — yet he’s far from a mechanic.
He walks about as unaccosted as a pro dart player at a football game. Now team owner of a Champ Car team running here at Houston and for the rest of the season, he has no aura about him. Even hardened race fans don’t give him a second look.
When asked about him, Carl Haas, car owner of front-row starter of the Grand Prix today and last year’s Grand Prix of Houston, blinked and said, “Who?” More ...
Moreno to replace Figge?UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement that Moreno will indeed sub for the injured Figge. See hot news for the details.
04/20/07 Speculation in the Houston Champ Car paddock is that Roberto Moreno, who carried out extensive testing of the new car, may replace Alex Figge who was still feeling the after effects of his crash last week in Long Beach.
Tony Stewart ’ready to retire’UPDATE Tony Stewart made headlines when he said he was “ready to retire” after a frustrating race at Texas Motor Speedway last Sunday.
Although Stewart later said he had spoken in the heat of the moment, retirement remains a possibility when his contract with Joe Gibbs Racing expires at the end of the 2009 season.
“I’m not going anywhere for 2 1/2 years,” Stewart said yesterday as he prepared for the Subway Fresh Fit 500. “We just have to assess in 2 1/2 years where we’re at and whether we’re still having fun or not. If we are, we’ll stay. If we’re not, we’ll go do something else.
“I made my father a promise when I was a kid that the day I wasn’t having fun driving race cars any more, I’d quit,” Stewart said. “It’s not exactly the safest sport to just participate if you’re not having a good time doing it.” Winston Salem Journal
04/17/07 Tony Stewart was so frustrated after Sunday's Samsung 500 at Texas Motor Speedway that he did more than hint at retirement.
"I'm ready to retire," said Stewart, who spun twice and endured the wrath of Dale Earnhardt Jr. fans during the race. "As soon as I get enough money saved to where I can retire, I'd be more than happy to step away."
The reason for his frustration? For one, he was upset with Juan Pablo Montoya, who slipped in Turn 4 and bounced into Stewart, sending Stewart's No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Chevrolet sideways. More ...
Toyota expected to post record profit JAPAN'S top auto company, Toyota Motor Corporation is expected to report a record operating profit of 2.25 trillion yen ($22 billion) for the year to March, up 20 per cent, a report said today.
The figure marks the seventh consecutive year of record profits on the back of brisk shipments overseas, particularly in North America, as well as a weak yen, the Nikkei business daily reported, without citing sources.
Sales for the fiscal year are estimated at nearly 24 trillion yen, up roughly 10 per cent, the newspaper said.
Despite recent increases in material costs, Japan's largest auto maker also expects growing profits in the year ending March 2008, the daily said.
Toyota's current forecasts for the year to March 2007 are a net profit of 1.55 trillion yen and an operating profit of 2.20 trillion yen on revenue of 23.2 trillion yen.
Although shipments were sluggish domestically as well as in Indonesia and some other parts of Asia, they remained robust in the key US and European markets, the Nikkei said.
Montoya to be penalized NASCAR will look into whether Juan Pablo Montoya violated any of its rules by using an obscene gesture that was telecast by a Speed in-car camera during the final Busch Series practice Friday, NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston confirmed. The Chip Ganassi Racing driver apparently was unaware the camera was being used for live television. NASCAR has fined and penalized drivers for obscene gestures caught on live television in the past. Scenedaily
Kalkhoven’s and Forsythe's resolve to succeed increasingUPDATE Gerald Forsythe contacted AutoRacing1.com to say "I agree 100% with Kevin's statement. There is some in the media that have nothing better to do with their time than to report false negative rumors about us and we all know who they are. You have to consider the source.
"The four of us (Kalkhoven, Forsythe, Gentilozzi and Pettit) are dedicating our time and money to ensure that Champ Car is the premier open wheel series in North America. We are not going anywhere and we are here to stay."
04/20/07 One hot rumor that has been reported (by others) is per paddock talk Kevin Kalkhoven is tired of being boss of Champ Car and wants to get out? Some have advocated that Kevin Kalkhoven, Gerald Forsythe and Paul Gentilozzi sell Champ Car's assets to Tony George to thereby create one viable American open wheel series and an enhanced Indy 500.
We asked Kevin Kalkhoven whether there is any truth to this rumor.
"Complete nonsense," said Kalkhoven. "I have no desire to get out. Indeed I am increasing my involvement. There is no way that these rants from certain people are doing anything but strengthening our resolve."
Schu could make F1 comeback - Hakkinen (GMM) Mika Hakkinen ruled out returning to formula one but said his friend, former rival and fellow multiple world champion Michael Schumacher could be back on the grid in "two or three years".
The Finn, who left the sport at the end of 2001 but is today a Mercedes-Benz racer in Germany's DTM touring car series, recently tested for his former team McLaren, but to the newspaper 'Welt' played down speculation that he could be preparing to return to F1.
38-year-old Hakkinen, however, insisted that he thought the similarly-aged Schumacher would probably find it as hard as he did to lose the desire to simply race.
"It will take him two, three years before he starts to think about coming back," Mika, who recently appeared on a TV tribute for Schumacher's career alongside the German and gifted him a unicycle, predicted.
Hakkinen also raced a go-kart with Schumacher on the tribute show and had arranged a personalized plaque for his unicycle which read: 'To Michael -- my great rival and friend'.
Referring again to seven time world champion Schumacher, he said: "I believe formula one would not be the only option open to him -- perhaps he would also think about DTM, or something else.
"Racing is racing."
Hakkinen insisted that a few years of retirement would not make it impossible for a former driver to return to the pace, even in formula one.
"With talent, experience and above all ambition, it can be done," Mika added.
Bernie eyes India street race We hear from India that Bernie Ecclestone has decided that he prefers the idea of a race around the streets of the capital Delhi, rather than at a purpose-built location in the suburbs of the city. The next step in the process will be to dispatch Hermann Tilke to India to have a look at the possible layouts for a track and then it will be down to getting everything agreed by India's celebrated bureaucracy, which is likely to make things complicated for a lengthy period of time.
The central administrative area of Delhi was planned by the British architect Edwin Lutyens and features the grand Rashtrapati Bhawan (once known as Viceroy's House) which dominates the area. There is a wide highway from there down what is known as the Rajpath, to the India Gates war memorial. It is not yet clear where the route will go but there will need to see a suitable parkland area in which to build permanent pits. This is most likely to be in the area of the Major Dhyan Chand National Stadium, which is at the lower end of the Rajpath.
There is also talk that sections of the circuit would be the same as the annual Republic Day Parade, which makes a lot of sense as there are huge grandstands set up for that occasion and it makes sense to use them. The parade is celebrated on January 26 so that any race would probably have to be within a week or two of that. This might fit nicely with the plans for a race in AbuDhabi at the end of January. Grandprix.com
Tracy to return for Portland Paul Tracy is riding his bicycle again despite a back injury and hopes to be back in the driver's seat in about six weeks, a spokesman for Forsythe Racing said Wednesday.
The veteran Champ Car driver from Toronto suffered a fractured vertebra in a crash during a practice run Saturday at Long Beach, Calif. "They're not sure of a timeline yet, but he'll try to be back in his car for Portland (June 10)," said Forsythe spokesman Tony Calderon. "It's at least six weeks for a broken bone to heal.
"It doesn't keep him from training. Mostly, he's riding his bike around the hills in Las Vegas." More ...
No night race for Melbourne Outgoing Australian Grand Prix chief executive Tim Bamford was on the radio in Melbourne this morning and let slip that there will not be any night racing going on in 2008. There has been speculation that Bernie Ecclestone was trying to get Melbourne to switch to a night race in an effort to improve F1's television viewing figures. This may have suited Ecclestone but was obviously not high on the list of priorities in Melbourne where such an idea would have cost a great deal of additional money, at a time when the losses incurred by the event have been rising and causing criticism. Because the race is supported with public funding there are always critics in Melbourne, although there is little doubt that the race brings a great deal to the city. Grandprix.com
NASCAR pricing itself out of marketUPDATE In this weeks AutoWeek Al Pearce writes: "Television ratings are headed through the basement. Thousands and thousands of fans show up each weekend dressed as empty seats. NASCAR has backed off plans to build speedways in New York and Seattle and reportedly is having second thoughts about Denver. It's suddenly chic for message boards and bloggers to examine the flattening out, if not the total bottoming out, of Nextel Cup racing."
04/14/07 Chris Economaki is without question a legend in the world of motorsports journalism in America. The 87 year old is the founder and publisher of National Speed Sport News and remains active in the world of motorsports.
He was in attendance at the Canadian Motorsports Expo held at the Toronto Congress Center this week and told Norris McDonald of the Toronto Star that the reason for the decline in attendance and TV ratings in NASCAR is simple; it’s starting to price out the very fans it serves.
“I think NASCAR has gone too far,” Economaki said. “They're overwhelming the public. They have activities on Friday, activities on Saturday and activities on Sunday and all of it takes up a lot of time and it costs a lot of money to attend. The cost of flying to the location and having a hotel room and everything is a staggering price for the customer.
"Their philosophy is that the guy's in town anyway and what's he going to do? So we'll have something for him. But the cost to do a weekend of NASCAR racing today is staggering for the fan. So attendance is falling off and television audiences are coming down: it's too much.
"This announcement (last week in Washington state) that there's not going to be a track in the Pacific Northwest ... I think they recognize that the bloom is off the pumpkin." Cupscene.com
Cooper to replace Bridgestone Rumor has it that Cooper Tires, who supply the Champ Car Atlantic Series, would like nothing better than to replace Bridgestone as the tire supplier for the Champ Car World Series. Perhaps we will see a bidding war, or could we see some competition with a 2-tire brand series?
Did cone cause Tracy accident? A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, A few laps before the Paul Tracy accident a cone appeared on the driving line. Tracy clearly picked it up on his right side. We were sitting in the turn ten stands and saw the whole thing on the big screen. Last night I watched the race where it showed the accident. The onboard camera seemed to show what I thought I had seen on the track screen, namely that Tracy’s wheels did not seem to be in turning together. However, I did watch other on boards from the race, and it may be an illusion. But I would think you could find out if there was a problem with the turning after the race. Obviously, if there was no problem after, then there was no problem before. But to restate: It appeared to me that the left front was turned to the right and the right front was headed straight. As to the cone – that I am certain! Jeff Skinner, CA
Red Bull Boss to buy Montreal Canadiens The founder of the Red Bull empire is reportedly interested in adding the Montreal Canadiens to his sporting collection. Citing several stories in the Austrian media, the Montreal Gazette reports that energy drink magnate Dietrich Mateschitz has been involved in "top secret" talks with Canadiens owner George Gillett.
A spokesperson with the NHL team told the Gazette that the famous club is not for sale.
Mateschitz is no stranger to sports franchises. He owns and operates two soccer teams - FC Salzburg and the New York Red Bulls of MLS. He also presides over two Formula One teams, Red Bull Racing and Scuderia Toro Rosso, and a NASCAR Nextel Cup squad, Team Red Bull.
Why did Dale Jr. get in the #5 car? For much of the day Sunday, it looked like the first two-time Texas titlist would be Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the #8 Budweiser team, as they led 96 laps, and repeatedly opened leads of three seconds or more before a strange incident ended any chance of victory. On lap 252, while running second, Dale Jr. was behind the lapped car of Tony Stewart rounding turn four when the aptly-nicknamed "Smoke" spun out, creating a giant wall of thick tire smoke. As Dale Jr. slowed down in the midst of the murky mess, #5-Kyle Busch, who was running third, slammed hard into the Bud car from behind. Despite the damage, the Bud crew went to work on the red #8 machine, making repairs and keeping Dale Jr. on the lead lap despite multiple pit stops under the caution flag. The race ended for the Bud car on lap 288 when the engine imploded, resulting in a 36th-place finish. More ...
Russians eye F1 race Last weekend in Bahrain a group of Russians, who were keeping a very low profile, were in the F1 paddock keenly surveying the action. They are believed to be the latest in a long line of people showing interest in running a Russian Grand Prix.
Could Hamilton win title in rookie year? Lewis Hamilton believes that it may well be possible for him to mount a championship challenge this season, even though he is only in his first season in F1.
The McLaren man has been sensational thus far and he currently has the same amount points in the drivers' championship, as his teammate and two time world champion, Fernando Alonso and Ferrari's Kimi Raikkonen - all three tied at the top, having scored 22 points thus far.
Asked if he feels he has the same chance to fight for the championship as Alonso he said:
“Yeah, absolutely,” he continued, “I have the same car and I seem to be as competitive as him.
“So, as long as I can keep up this consistency I know and feel a lot more comfortable now that a win is going to be possible.
“We just have to make no mistakes and try to take advantage of these three or four weeks that we have until the next race, and try to keep on beating the Ferraris.”
Biffle to switch teams? Greg Biffle's future is up in the air after the decision of sponsor Ameriquest, a retail-mortgage company, to drop out of the sport at the end of the season. Biffle's contract with car owner Jack Roush runs through the end of 2008, so Geoff Smith, the head of Roush Racing, said he wants to negotiate a new, longer term contract with Biffle, in order to get leverage to sign a new sponsor. However a possible complicating factor is NASCAR's looming limit on the number of Nextel Cup teams that any one car owner can have. In 2009, Roush will have to cut his five-team roster to four. So which of Roush's five drivers - Biffle, Matt Kenseth, Carl Edwards, Jamie McMurray, or David Ragan - will have to move? If Smith can get Biffle to sign, that could put him in the driver's seat for sponsorship with the top open man in the series. Winston Salem Journal
Servia to replace TracyUPDATE #2 We hear that Forsythe Championship Racing was very happy with Servia's performance Sunday in Long Beach and they will probably keep him in the car until Paul Tracy is fit to come back. Mark C.
04/14/07 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' now. We are standing in the Forsythe garage a Servia is in the car and getting fitted. He will qualify the car this afternoon. Who starts the car on Sunday will depend on Tracy's condition.
04/14/07 According to AutoRacing1.com sources Forsythe Championship Racing may put Oriol Servia in the car to replace Paul Tracy this afternoon. The car suffered minimal damage and is repaired and ready to go. Stay tuned as we hope to get official word soon.
Muniz targets '09 Champ Car debut Actor turned race car driver Frankie Muniz says his plans are to stay with Atlantic racing through 2008. "Hopefully in 2009 I'll be in Champ Car," he said. By then he hopes to have caught up with the other drivers who have more racing experience.
Last year in F1 for Speed According to AutoRacing1.com sources this will probably be the last year for American Scott Speed in F1 and there is a good chance Red Bull will ask him to move to another series. We hear Red Bull is quite happy with their Champ Car involvement and one has to wonder if that is where they will place the American.
No 'German GP' in 2007 (GMM) There will not be a 'German Grand Prix' in 2007.
It is being reported in the country's specialist press that the German GP descriptor is actually controlled by organizers of the Hockenheim race, which will not be held this year.
The circuit must now annually alternate hosting formula one with the Nurburgring, which is set to stage the only grand prix in Germany this year in July.
But despite expectations that the race will be called the German Grand Prix, it now emerges that the Nurburgring event - as per usual - will be called the 'European GP' because an arrangement between the organizers could not be reached.
For the first time in nearly half a century, then, there will officially be no German Grand Prix this season.
F1 to copy Champ Car yet again After the serious accident involving David Coulthard and Alexander Wurz during the season opening race in Australia, a discussion is occurring in Formula One concerning further security measures in the cars. Among other items, a security cage in the cockpit is being discussed. Coulthard has recommended evaluating a jet type protective canopy. During the accident in Melbourne four weeks ago, the Scotsman in his Red Bull car flew over the Williams of Wurz and missed hitting his head by a few centimeters.
"We have open cockpits. Current considerations are about what can be done. If it would already be for next year, I don't know," said Ralf Schumacher during preparations for the Grand Prix of Bahrain in Sakhir. There are various ideas. "Primarily one would want to avoid that one car would be hopping over the other," was the further opinion of the Toyota driver who is also one of the three Directors of the driver's union, the GPDA.
Schumacher declared himself as being hesitant about measures such as cages or canopies: "When the cars impact at the angles that Wurz and Schumacher did, then one could surely restrict the take-off of the cars with other means, " he said. The wheels could be made to separate earlier, the shape of the car could be different - there are more possibilities." As an example he mentioned higher cockpit side walls. "But that is all premature discussion." The International Automobile Association FIA will be working on this subject in the next weeks.
In past years quite a bit has been done concerning driver safety and security. Accidents involving serious injuries did not occur too often anymore. The last fatality was Ayrton Senna who died in Imola on May 1, 1994.
Could Portland become a street race? We spoke to Portland race promoter Mike Nealy in Long Beach Friday. He said things were looking pretty good for their race this year. Champ Car will be testing there May 1st and 2nd and he hopes to get a number of fans out for that. "Champ Car is helping us out more now by making themselves available to us when we need them." We asked him what was the status of the track upgrade or the new track that some people wanted in Portland. "The city does not have the money for a new track," said Nealy. "As far as upgrades we will be making some after this year's race including some repaving."
We quizzed him whether a street race in Portland might make more sense. "I would love to promote a street race downtown,” said Nealy. "It would be nice right along the waterfront. The problem is the upfront cost (for the walls, fences and grandstands) that we don't have now. I tried to get the head of transportation for the City here (Long Beach) but he was not available. If the city was going to build a new track then for sure the cost would be less to do a street race. Maybe someday."
Kuwait to build GP circuit The surge of interest in motorsport in the Middle East has resulted in a number of race tracks and proposed race tracks in Bahrain, Dubai, Qatar, and Abu Dhabi. Now Kuwait says it wants to join the party and construct an international level circuit according to Grandprix.com. Bernie Ecclestone cannot give all those countries a F1 race, so expect A1GP and Champ Car to have a serious look at them
Red Bull not paying PKV Racing a dimeUPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. We are told that Red Bull does not allow their logos on any website but their own and that is the reason Red Bull is not listed as a sponsor of the PKV team on their website. We apologize to the team that this inaccurate 'rumor' was published without a prior verification from the team. It was fed to us by someone who tried to tell us that the sponsorship was just a tradeoff for the Red Bull Toro Rosso F1 team cancelling their Cosworth engine contract early. The person also made the case that the Forsythe team got its Red Bull sponsorship for their Atlantic team the same way because Gerald Forsythe owns Cosworth along with Kevin Kalkhoven. We were told it was just a shuffling of monies from F1 to Champ Car in return for Red Bull getting a release from Cosworth so they could use a competing engine earlier - none of which is true.
04/11/07 Although Red Bull appears prominently on the PKV Racing car of Neel Jani, it appears the team is getting no money out of the deal because if they did they would be listed on their website along with their other sponsors.
Engine not to blame for Kimi struggle - rival (GMM) Speculation that Kimi Raikkonen's quest for Sepang victory was ruined by a compromised Ferrari engine has been rubbished.
The fact that the Australian GP winner will get a 'new' engine in Bahrain is making many headlines this week, but Renault's engine boss Denis Chevrier denies that the "compromises" made by Ferrari in Malaysia are likely to have overly halted Raikkonen's true pace.
The Frenchman slammed media gossip that Kimi's fragile V8 power plant would have been de-tuned by as much as 75 horse power for last Sunday's race.
"The normal thing would be to increase cooling, reduce the rpm, little things like that," Chevrier told the Spanish newspaper 'As' when asked about what extra precautions Ferrari is likely to have made.
Chevrier explained that if rumors of a 17,500rpm limit for Kimi were true, he would been slowed by about two seconds per lap.
Indeed, Ferrari boss Jean Todt estimated Kimi's engine-handicap at a mere tenth per lap.
But Raikkonen himself insisted that he is looking forward to having a fresh engine fitted for Bahrain, after explaining that racing in Malaysia felt like "playing a football game defending a goalless draw."
He added: "We will get a new fresh engine in Bahrain. That makes me feel very optimistic."
McLaren joins race to lure Brawn - report (GMM) A third team has reportedly joined the race to lure Ross Brawn back to formula one.
With Ferrari and Honda already said to be tussling to sign up the renowned technical and strategic expert after his current sabbatical, Germany's Bild newspaper now says McLaren wants Brawn for 2008.
It is rumored that the 52-year-old Briton, who at the Maranello based team presided over Michael Schumacher's five Ferrari titles until the German retired last year, is keen to return to the sport but only with an outfit based in England.
"McLaren could offer a multitude of projects that Ross could lead," Bild quotes an insider as saying.
Ferrari boss Jean Todt, however, this week insisted that the Italian team should be first in line if Brawn wants to return to pitlane.
"We agreed with him that should he decide to come back and remain in this business, he would come to me first to discuss it together," widespread reports quote the Frenchman as saying.
Previously, Brawn was linked with the top job at Ferrari, with Todt said to be eager to retire as team principal in the near future.
He added: "Maybe (Brawn) does not want to be in racing. Maybe he wants to be in another part of competition, but we can discuss that."
NASCAR to nab another Supercross starUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. JR Motorsports introduced seven-time Supercross champion Jeremy McGrath as its newest late model driver on Tuesday, pairing one of the most popular Supercross stars of all time with NASCAR’s four-time most popular driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr. The announcement was made at the grand opening of the team’s new 66,000-square foot shop. McGrath will compete in a limited 10-race schedule in a Chevrolet late model stock car sponsored by Monster Energy Drink, with R&B Auto Body Transport Refinishing as an associate sponsor. His first race is slated for April 21 at Southern National Raceway Park in Kenly, N.C. “This is something I’ve always wanted to try, and I’m really grateful that Dale Jr. is giving me this opportunity to drive one of his race cars,” McGrath said. “We are going to test this week, weather permitting. I’ve got a lot to learn when it comes to racing something with four wheels, but I’m confident I can pick it up pretty quick.”
04/10/07 With it's popularity falling NASCAR is now buying up popular athletes from other series and sports in an effort to lure their fans over to NASCAR. Ricky Carmichael, now Jeremy McGrath, Juan Montoya, AJ Allmendinger, Sam Hornish Marcus Ambrose, etc. The list is long, too long for it to be just a coincidence anymore. It appears to be a well thought-out tactic.
Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s JR Motorsports will announce that it is signing seven-time Supercross champion rider Jeremy McGrath to a developmental driver contract, according to SportsBusiness Journal. Following in the tire tracks of another former Supercross champion, Ricky Carmichael, McGrath will run Late Model races before potentially moving up to the Busch Series, according to the report.
Monster Energy Drink will be his primary sponsor, according to the SportsBusiness Journal. It’s Monster Energy’s third car sponsorship in the last few weeks, following announcements with Carmichael and Champ Car’s Paul Tracy.
Luyendyk to drive Europe Champ Car races? According to this Dutch website Dutchman Arie Luyendyk, who was at Champ Car's Las Vegas GP last weekend to participate in the Historic GP race, was seen schmoozing with the European race promoters and speculation is that he is trying to line up a Champ Car ride for his son Arie Luyendyk Jr. for the European Champ Car races in Holland and Belgium. Arie himself drove Champ Cars for many years.
Did Goodyear tire kill Medlen?UPDATE #3 This rumor is downgraded to false today. Force and John Medlen were joined on a national teleconference by Ashley Force, NHRA vice president of racing operations Graham Light and John Melvin, an engineer from Wayne State University in Detroit and an expert on racing safety whom Force has hired to help analyze crash data.
Eric Medlen, 33, died March 23, four days after he crashed in testing at Gainesville, Fla. He died from a brain injury, which Melvin said came from a violent side-to-side shaking of Medlen's head after a flat tire caused the car to vibrate uncontrollably. The injury occurred before the car hit a concrete retaining wall at approximately 120 mph.
"I've been involved in racing safety since 1992 and I've never seen anything quite like this," said Melvin (an engineer from Wayne State University in Detroit and an expert on racing safety whom Force has hired to help analyze crash data, who helped pioneer crash-data recording devices for race cars and in recent years has been a safety consultant to NASCAR.
Force was told the shaking of the car after the tire blew was comparable to what would happen to a helicopter if a blade came off. He received a report Tuesday from Goodyear blaming the tire's failure on a puncture. Excerpts from the Indy Star
04/08/07 In a drivers meeting prior to the Houston event, NHRA senior vice president of racing operations Graham Light relayed information attributed to Dr. John Melvin, a biomedical research scientist before his retirement from General Motors. In a Sirius Satellite Radio interview on March 30, Melvin told John Kernan that he and a group of NHRA officials, including Light, had examined the remains of Medlen's chassis and concluded that Medlen had probably "shaken" to death. That is in line with a JFR statement that indicated the tire shake was beyond anything ever recorded in the sport. sbsun.com
04/01/07 Eric Medlen, according to reports today, wasn't killed by the impact with the wall. From what we're gathering, Medlen was literally shaken to death, shaken so hard that the brain tissue was ripped apart. Something happened to the Goodyear tire, and the car shook more violently than anything previously recorded by the NHRA on its black boxes. Medlen was mortally wounded before he hit the wall.
"Eric suffered from a traumatic brain injury with diffuse axonal injury, or DAI," said Dr. Joseph Layon, professor of anesthesiology, surgery and medicine and the chief of critical care medicine at Shands UF. "Survival rates associated with DAI are low.
"Despite receiving the most aggressive treatment, Eric continued to have uncontrollable intracranial pressure. His body lost the ability to manage its salt and water levels and he began displaying the complicating factors associated with DAI.
While it is possible that Medlen's head bounced between the roll bars, it is also possible that the vibration alone did the damage. It will be interesting to hear what Bell, Simpson et al say about this situation.
At any rate, SAFER barriers wouldn't have helped here. Given the diverse nature of drag vehicles (from motorcycles to top-fuel to bracket racing rental cars) we're not sure how they'd tune the system anyway.
[Editor's Note: Goodyear Tires are known to blow out in other race series as well, most notably NASCAR. After learning what happened to Eric Medlen we remembered that Mark Donohue's wife sued Goodyear over tire failure in his death. Might we see the Medlen family sue Goodyear sometime in the future? Could John Force and the NHRA be party if a lawsuit is filed? Goodyear seems to have more than its share of tire failures.]
03/29/07 The tragic death of Funny Car driver Eric Medlen last week may yet produce a noble legacy: an accelerated look at the feasibility of installing SAFER Barriers on NHRA drag strips.
“The SAFER Barrier wall is something that should be looked at,” said Billy Meyer, owner/promoter of the Texas Motorplex in Ennis, popular fall stop on the National Hot Rod Association’s 23-race tour. “It’s certainly one of the options out there. I’m willing to look at whatever it takes. But you’ve got to sit back, take a deep breath and try to study it. It’s not something you do on a knee-jerk reaction because one of the nicest guys in the sport got killed.” More at Star Telegram
Will third time be the charm for Ansan?UPDATE As can be seen in this Google Maps image, the track itself in Ansan is done. The work remaining includes finishing the garages, media center and other ancillary stuff. The track you see is a 1.73-mile road course. For a street circuit that is not so bad, but for a natural terrain road course that is ridiculously short. Let's hope the new developer will do what's necessary to make it a proper race track.
04/11/07 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, and much to our surprise, there is still a good possibility that Champ Car will race in Ansan, South Korea. We hear that the city is currently in the process of reviewing RFP's (Request for Proposals) for development of both the circuit and the surrounding real estate. This is a billion dollar effort that includes an on-site, 87 story hotel, condos, restaurants, movie/TV production facilities and much more. It is massive to say the least.
The consortium includes some of the largest development and media companies in the region. A 2008 Champ Car event is factored into the project and it's preferred promoter is one of the top consortium bidders. As we understand it Champ Car has already expressed in writing absolute interest in racing there in 2008. A decision on the RFP winner will be made on April 25th.
Based on this development, the event would have everything needed to host a spectacular, 5-star event. Given that the track was almost complete and a lot of money already invested before the race was cancelled (twice), one would hope it does not go to waste. If it happens, we would expect this event to be paired with the Zhuhai, China race on back-to-back weekends in coming years.
After two previous false starts, will the third time will be the charm?
NASCAR tells IRL to go pound sand OK, they didn't quite say it so blunt, but in effect NASCAR refuses to help the IRL grow by letting them race with Cup on the same weekend. If the France family does not own the series they are not going to help it grow and take sponsorship away from the series they do own. Tony George was naive and gullible when he thought he could grow his IndyCar series on the coattails of NASCAR. Nope. Simply isn't going to happen. This ESPN article outlines all the reasons why.
Bill France Jr. encouraged Tony to start the IRL, thereby splitting up CART knowing right well it would destroy their primary competition. We would not be one bit surprised if France even told Tony, "Do it Tony, we'll help you." Tony fell for the trap and has in the process destroyed the sport of IndyCar Racing. Oh sure, it's alive, but hardly anyone notices, so it may as well be dead. This will be Tony George's legacy that he'll take to his grave.
Las Vegas postscript A number of drivers were milling around the Las Vegas paddock this past weekend trying to put deals together, including Oriol Servia (who we hear might be close to a 3-race deal with one Champ Car team), ex-Champ Car driver Patrick Carpentier (pictured right), IRL team owner Sam Schmidt, Nelson Philippe, Charles Zwolsman, and Jan Heylen......we hear that Champ Car is talking to a number of cities in the USA about a street race and some are getting close to a possible deal, including one that could be the new season finale if it gets done (though we thought Phoenix had the rights for the finale)........The Houston race runs in the opposite direction to Las Vegas and Long Beach and hence requires that the teams have a way to fuel the car from the left side instead of the right. Guess what, the new Panoz didn't come with the pieces for a fuel tank inlet on that side of the car. Supposedly Panoz is making the parts and they will be shipped to the teams within a week so the cars might be ready in time for Houston. Nothing like waiting until the last minute......the trouble-plagued Panoz paddle shifter system is slower than some drivers can shift manually so some teams have done things electronically to make them shift faster, which may explain why there have been gearbox issues.
Already tension in McLaren pits? (GMM) After Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton embraced in Malaysia's parc ferme, McLaren chiefs said they were not worried that the relationship could turn sour as the 2007 season grinds on.
But there is already tension within the silver-lined garage walls, as reports in the Spanish press reveal.
According to one source, Alonso's manager Luis Garcia-Abbot became so frustrated with McLaren team members' one-sided enthusiasm for rookie Lewis Hamilton in Australia that he opted to watch qualifying for the Malaysian GP from the tranquility of the Renault pits.
To the 'Diario As' newspaper, McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh insisted that championship leader Alonso, also the reigning world champion, should not become the forgotten man.
"It is right to admire what Lewis is doing but Fernando is a great world champion and someone who is making an enormous contribution to our team," he said.
'As' also pointed out that, although Hamilton achieved the best overall lap on Sunday, no fewer than 16 of the 20 fastest laps of the Malaysian grand prix belonged to Alonso.
Brawn to hold Ferrari talks first - spokesman (GMM) A Ferrari spokesman has responded to reports that Honda may already have started talks with Ross Brawn about the 2008 season.
Crisis-struck Honda's team boss Nick Fry apparently wants the Briton to lead the technical effort at Brackley, after Brawn departed Ferrari for a one-year sabbatical coinciding with the retirement of Michael Schumacher last season.
Ferrari spokesman Luca Colajanni confirmed that Brawn is no longer contractually bound to the Italian team.
But, already in Bahrain for this weekend's race, he told the Guardian: "We would like to think there is a gentlemen's agreement that he will talk to us before deciding on his future plans."
Colajanni did not comment on speculation that Brawn might replace Jean Todt as Ferrari's team boss in 2008.
Some Ferrari sources, however, doubt that Brawn is serious about joining Honda, despite the 52-year-old's earlier hints that he would enjoy seeing out his career at a British-based team.
"Why on earth would Ross want to join Honda if he's got the remotest chance of returning to Ferrari?," one observer wondered.
Honda to scrap RA107 after Monaco - report (GMM) Crisis-struck Honda will scrap its current single seater after next month's Monaco grand prix, according to British newspaper The Times.
The Japanese squad has failed to power its flawed and Earth-liveried RA107 single seater above eleventh place in a grand prix so far.
In Malaysia, Rubens Barrichello qualified nineteenth and behind both Super Aguris, which feature an identical engine and a chassis that is based on the works Honda of 2006.
The Times wrote: "So intractable are the issues that it is thought that the team will introduce a new car at the Canadian grand prix in Montreal ... that, according to one report, will be a complete revamp of the RA107 concept."
It is believed, however, that even the new car is unlikely to return Honda to contention, despite team boss Nick Fry's continued assertion at Sepang that the objective for 2007 is "more than one" race win.
But The Times, adding that part of the plan is to lure Ross Brawn for 2008, insists that the new Honda is "not so much to save this season but to get Honda on the right footing for next year and beyond."
The newspaper also asserts that Fry wants to restructure Honda so that its personnel is not split between both Brackley (UK) and Tochigi (Japan).
New Champ Car team forming? Baltimore Ravens' LB Ray Lewis joined Craig Shemon and James Washington to discuss his new venture into Champ Car racing. Lewis has teamed up with Gale Sayers to create the S&L Racing Team which is focused on creating opportunities for minorities and women. Craig wanted to know why Ray did not buy a NASCAR racing team... [Editor's Note: We assume they mean the Atlantic series to start.]
Craig Shemon: "You said you got turned down. Now NASCAR claims to have this really open door policy trying to get more minorities involved in their sport. What did you mean by that?"
Ray Lewis: Well, whatever policy they have, we hit a lot of walls. Because it takes huge sponsorships, it takes huge commitment, from so many different people in the NASCAR world who actually put so much into the NASCAR world. And I tell you, me and Gale and [my partner] time and time and time again we had people confirm that they were gonna help us, and then at the last minute, they back out. And I'm telling you it's just really rough. So whatever program they have in place, it might be in place, but it definitely did not help us through the process that we were trying to go through. FOX Sports
Champ Car's China date hinges on FIA approval The reason why Champ Car's date change for the Zhuhai, China race has not been officially announced is because the move to October 28th puts it within two weeks of the F1 race in Shanghai, over 700 miles to the north. We hear Bernie Ecclestone is not happy about the race being so close to his F1 race and although the FIA does the approval, not Bernie, in reality Bernie has a huge influence over them. He is a very powerful man in the racing world.
Herb plans on more IndyCar Series events Jon Herb is looking beyond the 91st Indianapolis 500. The owner-driver of the No. 19 Racing Professionals Dallara/Honda/Firestone said, "We have made a commitment to enter a team in three races -- the Indy 500 and two additional races." Depending on sponsorship, Racing Professionals could expand its IndyCar Series schedule. In 2001, Herb started 18th and finished 27th in the Indianapolis 500 in a Tri Star Motorsports car. Racing Professionals submitted an entry for the 500-Mile Race two weeks ago. Herb lives in Orlando, Fla., where he is head of AERCON Industries' residential marketing group. The company manufacturers a lightweight concrete construction product for commercial and residential projects. Racing Professional was formed in 2002, with Herb competing in six IndyCar Series races. In 2004-06, Herb made 23 starts in the Indy Pro Series (one victory and 15 top-10 finishes) in an AERCON-sponsored car. Herb also has raced in the U.S. F2000, ARCA, Star Mazda, and USAC Silver Crown and Midget series.
Bridgestone to bring harder tire to Vegas in 2008 Tire wear was high on the streets of Las Vegas this weekend. Having never run here, Bridgestone had to guess on the correct tire compound. Their engineers brought the softest in its line of street course primary and alternate tires. Having had no opportunity to test here, the tires were chosen based on information gathered from teams' simulations. That data predicted speeds that were actually 15-19 mph slower than what the track actually produced. Bridgestone Motorsport engineers will analyze the data from this event and make adjustments we hear, meaning we would expect to see a slightly harder tire in 2008.
Vegas race to move off of Easter weekend According to AutoRacing1.com sources, the Vegas GP this year was on Easter weekend because it was traditionally a slow weekend for the downtown Vegas casinos and hotels and that is when they wanted the race. However, we hear there is a good chance that the race will remain on the first Sunday in April next year when Easter moves to March 23rd (2008) because it will be too close to the Vegas NASCAR race and to the NCAA Basketball championship games.
Bernie to reconsider Singapore night race (GMM) Bernie Ecclestone and organizers of the Singapore grand prix are thought to be reconsidering plans for the race to be held at night.
Following widespread concerns in the paddock about the questionable safety of steering a 300kph F1 car through floodlit city streets, it is understood that F1 supremo Ecclestone may now be working on the concept of a race held in the late afternoon.
At 5pm local time, the timeslot would be better for the European audience but not require the massive investment into lighting infrastructure. The race would be finished before the sun goes down.
In comparison, today's Malaysian GP starts at 3pm.
Former triple world champion Niki Lauda in Malaysia expressed concern about the Asian night racing concept, but said he did not believe it would be unsafe.
"The only argument I would give is that will the spectators pay for tickets to come and stand around all night?
"In the end, it is still a commercial decision. To attract people to come during the day is easier than in the middle of the night," said the Austrian.
Tracy to sign new sponsorUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today as Paul Tracy was sporting Monster Energy Drink on his helmet Saturday morning in Las Vegas. We expect a formal announcement later today.
"It's been a work in progress trying to put this deal together since the off-season," said Tracy, who donned a Monster cap and displayed his chrome finished crash helmet, now with a splash of Monster's lime green colors.
"The president of Monster came out here yesterday . . . there's been a lot of turmoil in the off-season with all the questions about the number of cars, whether this race was actually gonna happen, a lot of things. But once he got out here and saw all the cars, saw the facility, saw all the fans and the demographics we wrapped things up pretty quickly.
"I'm proud to be associated with a product like Monster and join other racers like Kenny Bernstein, Jeremy McGrath and Ricky Carmichael. They're some of the top guys in racing in North America and I'm glad to be on board."
04/06/07 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Champ Car veteran Paul Tracy is close to landing personal sponsorship from Monster Energy drinks. Tracy was seen carrying a Monster Energy drink can in his hand on several occasions Friday and came into the post-qualifying press conference with one (pictured right). Did that extra energy boost propel him to provisional pole on Friday? Probably not as he was probably more inspired by this being his home race. Mark C.
Indy 500 struggling for entries?UPDATE Target Chip Ganassi Racing, PDM Racing and Playa Del Racing have all now put in entries for the Indy 500 bringing the number of cars to 32 although there is no word on who will drive the PDM and Playa Del Racing entries. Playa Del Racing is the first team to enter a Panoz primary chassis for this year's race.
04/04/07 Entries for the Indianapolis 500 close when the US Postal Service delivers the last applications mailed with an April 4 postmark (possibly some time next year, i.e. snail mail) and at the moment there are 20 drivers and 51 cars entered. There seems to be little chance of reaching the traditional level of 33 starters.
The 27 entries include five from Andretti Green Racing, four from Tony George's Vision Racing, three from AJ Foyt Enterprises and a third entry for Penske, although there has been no word at all about who might drive the car - if it runs at all.
The six other entries without nominated drivers are from Vision (1), Foyt (2), Beck Motorsports (2) and Indy Pro Series team Sam Schmidt Motorsports.
It is interesting to note that there are no entries at all from Cheever and Fernandez Racing both of which might have been expected to file entries this year, even if they cannot raise the funding for full Indy Racing League programs. Grandprix.com
[Editor's Note: Brian Barnhart said he is not worried about filling the 33 car field, which probably means he knows his boss Tony George will pay for however many cars are necessary to fill the field.]
Champ Car schedule could change in 2008 Besides plugging the two huge gaps in the 2007 Champ Car schedule, we are hearing that the Las Vegas GP will probably still be on the first or 2nd Sunday in April next year, though originally it was thought that the race would stay on Easter Sunday, a date which varies from year-to-year. We also hear that interest is so high from cities wanting a Champ Car race that we can see as many as 3 or 4 new races added to the schedule in 2008 but one of the weaker events might get axed.
Apparently Athens, Greece will not be one of the new events added in 2008 as the plan to hold the race at the old airport has changed and an alternate location was looked at but has some other issues.
Rumor also has it that Long Beach is considering adding more grandstand seats in 2008 because of strong ticket sales.
Philippe to have a go at LeMans According to AutoRacing1.com sources, look for ex-Champ Car driver Nelson Philippe to drive an LMP1 car in this year's 24 hours of LeMans. We also hear he has lined up three V8 Supercar races and is trying to break into the NASCAR Busch series later this year.
Legge in, Bruno maybe Katherine Legge will fill one cockpit for Dale Coyne Racing's two-car Champ Car team. Legge, 26, drove for the series last season as a rookie and finished 16th in points. The native of Guilford, England, and Indianapolis resident last year became the first woman to lead a Champ Car race. In 2005, she won three Champ Car Atlantic titles before moving to the premier series. It has not been announced who will drive the other car when practice begins today, however, Bruno Junqueira is listed in the race program.
Will NASCAR try again in Washington? Sen. Brian Hatfield, D-Raymond, says he won't quit lobbying lawmakers to fund a NASCAR speedway, though it won't be a fast job.
International Speedway Corp. gave up this week on building an 83,000-seat, $368 million racetrack near Bremerton. When none of the nine lawmakers who represent Kitsap County backed the track, there was little chance to pass a $188 million tax package to help build it.
Although the NASCAR-associated company said it will look for another site, withdrawing from Kitsap County kills the issue for this session, which ends April 22.
NASCAR has now struck out twice in Washington. Racetrack developers initially selected a site near Marysville in Snohomish County, but that plan fell through.
Hatfield, who sponsored the tax package in the Senate because no Kitsap County senator would, said he believes NASCAR won't hurry to identify a third site. "Rushing into sites has gotten them in trouble in the past," he said. More at TDN.com
Toyota bids to replace Ralf with Heidfeld - reportUPDATE #2 (GMM) Nick Heidfeld on Friday cast aside rumors that he is shaping up to replace Ralf Schumacher at the Toyota team next year.
A German newspaper report started the gossip, claiming that Toyota was keen to replace Schumacher because his countryman Heidfeld's wage bill is as much as half the size.
Heidfeld's BMW-Sauber contract expires at the end of the year, amid separate speculation that Schumacher or Sebastian Vettel are better placed to race alongside Robert Kubica in 2008.
Should Ralf lose his seat, it has been suggested that he is unlikely to find another spot on the grid.
But Heidfeld, 29, said at Sepang: "I don't think Ralf has to worry. He is one of the best drivers in formula one.
"I am very happy with BMW and I hope that it continues like that," he told the television network Premiere.
Ralf, insisting that it is "still much too early" to talk about next year, responded: "I can only return the compliment to Nick.
"He is having a very good season and it looks like he has no reason at all to leave (BMW).
"For the time being I am concentrating on my season, and there is a lot to do," said Schumacher, who was ninth quickest in the morning session in Malaysia.
04/05/07 According to the Bild newspaper, Toyota have already approached Heidfeld's management in a bid to sign the German for next year's Championship. The team is allegedly keen to replace Ralf Schumacher, whose contract expires at the end of this year. However, Toyota have denied these reports, saying they are not yet considering their 2008 driver line-up.
"This is only the second race of the season and we are not yet at the stage of looking at driver options for the future," team manager Richard Cregan told Autosport. "We are very happy with the driver line-up we have now and we have made no such contact. Instead we are concentrating on our race program for 2007."
Both Ralf and Heidfeld will be out of contract at the end of this season, however, Toyota do have a two-year option on Ralf.
04/05/07 Toyota has launched a bid to replace Ralf Schumacher at the end of the season with BMW's Nick Heidfeld, according to the German newspaper Bild.
Both drivers' contracts expire this year.
29-year-old Heidfeld's manager Werner Heinz said: "We have the offers of two top teams on the table."
'Bild' claims that the second offer has come from Honda, sparking speculation that the German driver is almost certain to leave BMW Sauber.
Countryman Ralf Schumacher, meanwhile, retains close links with BMW motor sport director Mario Theissen following his five-year stint at Williams that ended in 2004.
'Bild' said Toyota can only hold Schumacher, 31, to a two-year option on his current contract if the Japanese squad is in the top three of the constructors' championship.
Petty and Evernham to merge? According to this NASCAR website it’s been no secret lately that both Evernham Motorsports and Petty Enterprises are looking for support outside NASCAR. Montreal Canadians owner George N. Gillett Jr. has gone on record has saying that he wants to get into the sport of NASCAR. Gillett approached Ray Evernham and the two reportedly have discussed an investment. There is now a whisper that Petty Enterprises may get into the mix with Gillett and Evernham. Richard Petty was recently a guest of Gillett at a Canadiens home game against the New York Rangers. Gillett is talking to both teams and there is the possibility that both organizations could eventually merge. "We buy a lot of our stuff from Evernham, so he wants to know, 'Are we still a customer, or are we going to somebody else?'" said Petty last weekend at Martinsville Speedway. "They've got to formalize what they're talking about. Everything's pretty much on hold for (Easter) vacation for the next week. I don't know how far along they are or whether I'm part of their discussions at all."
McLaren is F1's biggest spender - report McLaren has leapfrogged Ferrari and Toyota to assume the dubious honor of having the biggest budget in formula one.
According to the specialist magazine Business F1, the Woking based camp added an extra (US) $46m to its books for 2007 to compile an annual spend of nearly $500m in total.
In a report of the newspaper El Mundo Deportivo, it is claimed that McLaren's nearly 10 per cent budget increase compared to last year is almost certainly due to the signing of reigning world champion Fernando Alonso and the resulting key sponsorships with Spanish companies like Santander.
Business F1 adds that Toyota, previously thought to be at the top of spending lists, has dropped behind its rivals after cutting its budget for this year.
In contrast, Honda is spending more than last year, despite failing to shine on-track with its RA107 racer.
Reigning world champions Renault, meanwhile, spend less than all the aforementioned teams, including Ferrari and BMW.
Pastorelli in 2nd Conquest seat?UPDATE The latest is that Pastorelli was in advanced negotiations with Conquest Racing but the deal may not happen because Pastorelli's backers from Holland did not come through with the sponsorship they had promised. We don't know if Conquest is planning on a 2nd car or not. If he does run a 2nd car that would put 18 cars on the grid in Las Vegas this weekend. We spoke to Dale Coyne and he confirmed that he will definitely run two cars and should have his deals finalized within 24 hours. "We hope to run Bruno and Katherine, but there are some others in the mix too," Coyne told AutoRacing1.com.
04/03/07 With New Zealander Matt Halliday now confirmed for the first Conquest Racing seat comes word that Dutch driver Nicky Pastorelli could land the second Conquest Racing seat as it goes down to the wire for the season opener in Las Vegas this weekend. Bruno Junqueira and Katherine Legge are rumored to both be driving for Dale Coyne Racing, but no confirmation yet. We have updated our 2007 Champ Car Silly Season page above.
No Champ Car Atlantic for Gelles RacingUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' as AutoRacing1.com has learned that Gelles Racing has begun to sell his Atlantic Series assets after two or three of his drivers did not come through with their funding.
04/04/07 According to AutoRacing1.com sources Gelles Racing may not field any cars in the Champ Car Atlantic Series this year. The team had planned to field 4 cars but we hear they may just contest the Formula BMW series. Meanwhile, Alan Sciuto has formed his own team and has acquired the services of Gelles Engineer Gerald Tyler, lending more proof this rumor may be true. Because of this the Atlantic series will start 28 cars instead of 30 cars in Las Vegas this weekend.
Three groups submit bids for Chrysler Private equity groups Cerberus Capital Management and The Blackstone Group have submitted formal offers to buy DaimlerChrysler's loss-making Chrysler Group, the Detroit News said on Wednesday. Canadian car parts group Magna International Inc has also submitted an offer that keeps it in the running to acquire the U.S. division of DaimlerChrysler, the paper said, citing people close to the situation. DaimlerChrysler is expected to choose one bidder as an exclusive negotiating partner by the end of April, it said, adding DaimlerChrysler was hoping for a price of about $8 billion for Chrysler.
Champ Car to announce Canadian TV deal According to AutoRacing1.com sources the TV deal for the broadcast of Champ Car races in Canada will soon be announced and we hear it will be much better than recent years. Stay tuned......
Will lawsuit result in breakup of NASCAR? We have long contended that NASCAR is a monopoly. Now the courts in the Kentucky Speedway case must decide whether the "bully" of USA racing should, dare we say, be broken up.
As part of their federal anti-trust lawsuit against NASCAR and International Speedway Corp., Kentucky Speedway lawyers are apparently raising questions about the exact ownership of NASCAR.
The questions appear in a memorandum following a Friday conference call among lawyers for Kentucky Speedway, NASCAR and International Speedway Corp. with U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge J. Gregory Wehrman.
According to the judge's memorandum, the track is asserting that Chairman and CEO Brian France owns no stock in the sanctioning body, something France has declined to comment on in the past. The memorandum says his sister, Lesa France Kennedy, and uncle, Jim France, own a majority of the sanctioning body.
Kentucky Speedway is suing NASCAR and ISC, in U.S. District Court in Kentucky on anti-trust grounds. Kentucky Speedway alleges that NASCAR and ISC illegally conspire to keep Nextel Cup dates away from non-ISC tracks. More at Scenedaily.com
Halliday looking good for Conquest rideUPDATE #3 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement that Halliday has signed with Conquest Racing - see Hot News page.
03/11/07 Matt Halliday “I think it was a good test but a little frustrating because we lost a lot of track time. We had problems with our gearbox yesterday, which is just one of those things. It put us behind a little bit with trying to get a good direction on the car. It was really enjoyable to work again with the Conquest guys. They did a great job to fix the problem we had. I had to adapt to the car quickly and I still managed to put in a good time even though it wasn’t a perfect lap, and even if we missed out on a little bit of track time in the end we could drag a time out of the car.”
Eric Bachelart “I’m very satisfied and happy with the overall result of this test. Unfortunately we had some gearbox problems yesterday that delayed us in our testing program. But once everything was working fine, things went very well. Matt really showed us that he deserves to be here. He did a great job, his feedback was excellent and he adapted quickly to the car without any problems. It was good to work with him once again and I hope that we can work things out in order to be able to continue working together this season. He would be a wonderful addition to the team.”
03/10/07 Matt Halliday made quite an impression these last two days in his debut Champ Car testing for Conquest Racing. We hear the team is very happy with his performance, sponsorship is almost finalized and we expect to see he and Conquest on the grid at in Las Vegas.
03/08/07 We are told that Conquest Racing will probably get a deal done by Las Vegas, but Eric Bachelart tells AutoRacing1.com, "we are working really hard and trying to put a deal together, but there is no financial support coming from Champ Car so it's very hard and I'm just not sure we'll make it.".
New racing series to kill off A1GP? According to AutoRacing1.com sources, a new European based racing series will debut in 2008 that will tie in with major football (soccer) clubs. Now we have seen this tried before, but supposedly this time leading international clubs from Italy, the Netherlands, Portugal and Greece – AC Milan, PSV Eindhoven, FC Porto and Olympiacos have already signed up.
The core of the new series, soon to be revealed, is a dramatic-looking Elan/Panoz single-seater built by Élan Motorsport Technologies in the United States. It will be powered by a 750bhp 4.2-litre V12 engine designed by US-owned Menard Competition Technologies (MCT) in Leafield, England. All race teams will have identical cars and engines with high performance specs, allowing the drivers’ skills to be the determining factor.
We hear the new series is meant to give young drivers experience for a future in F1 and could put A1GP, which is bleeding red-ink profusely, out of business. It could also put a dent in GP2 and it will also give Champ Car less drivers from Europe to pick from.
We will have more information on this a bit later.
Future of St. Pete race in jeopardy?UPDATE #2 The downtown waterfront race again benefited from sunny weather and drew a healthy crowd. Promoter Andretti Green Promotions doesn't give attendance figures, but the consensus media estimate was 35,000.
St. Petersburg mayor Rick Baker, a strong supporter of the race, said he expects AGP to follow through with its stated intentions to exercise a two-year option on its contract with the city.
"I've talked to the Honda folks, the Firestone folks, all the sponsors and everybody wants it to continue, including me," Baker said. "So I'm very confident we'll have a race next year and years after." Tampa Tribune
04/02/07 Despite almost zero attendance Friday and Saturday, a solid crowd turned out for the Indy Car race on Sunday in St. Petersburg. But was it enough to save the race?
Kevin Savoree, co-owner of race promoter Andretti Green, would not disclose attendance numbers Sunday or say whether the race made money this year. But he did say attendance was up from 2006, when 100,000 spectators showed up. "I think we've turned the corner," he said.
[Editor's Note: With only a couple of thousand showing up on Friday and Saturday as shown below, there is no way 98,000 showed up on Sunday. Attendance appeared to be about 30,000 to 40,000 as grandstands were reduced to only 15 to 20 rows. We are being generous when we say 30,000 to 40,000.]
St. Petersburg Mayor Rick Baker said he was told that the hotels in the county were virtually sold out. Watch the coverage on ESPN, he said. "It's like a two-hour commercial for the city.
Race promoters have until May 1 to extend their grand prix contract another two years. "Certainly I think everyone that was here today had a smile on their face," Savoree said. "Hopefully those discussions will be straightforward."
04/01/07 Based on the lack of attendance for both Friday and Saturday at St. Petersburg, Florida where the IRL and ALMS are gathered this weekend, and given the fact that this is the final year on the contract that Andretti Green Promotions has with the city, many people are saying this could be the last year for this event. The photo to the right was taken Friday, and Saturday's attendance wasn't much better.
They have reduced the grandstand seating further this year, but it still looked pretty bad. The poor Ferris wheel operator (pictured left, courtesy of the IRL) had a lonely job on Saturday. Of course Honda and Acura are big supporters of this event, but unless they pump a lot of money into the races, or give away a lot of free tickets for Sunday's event, the IRL's Long Beach of the East as they call it, has a shaky future at best. This St. Petersburg Times article says the race has always lost money, and although race officials are saying ticket sales are up (probably sales to corporations who then give them away for free) and corporate suite sales are up, based on the dearth of fans on Friday and Saturday we doubt the race could bring in enough "paying" fans on Sunday to turn a profit this year as well.
Chinese driver to race in AtlanticsUPDATE #2 This story, first broke by AutoRacing1.com, is finally upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement.
03/31/07 This story, which was first broke exclusively by AutoRacing1.com in early March, we thought was going to be upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement that Forsythe Racing will run 22-year old Tengyi Jiang from Shanghai in the Champ Car Atlantic Series with the goal toward running him in the Zhuhai, China Champ Car race in October in a third Forsythe Racing entry. However, the Champ Car webcast from China ran into difficulties and an announcement was never made.
03/09/07 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, 22-year old Tengyi Jiang (pictured right) from Shanghai, China who raced in A1GP last year, is close to signing a deal to race in the Champ Car Atlantic Series full time. We expect that he will be on the grid the first race in Las Vegas, though we are not sure what team he will drive for. The Chinese A1GP team were rookies last year and struggled at times.
Lawsuit against NASCAR could be resolved quickly AT&T's lawsuit against NASCAR, in which it asks for an injunction to allow it to rebadge Jeff Burton's #31 car from Cingular-orange to AT&T blue this spring, may have quick resolution, perhaps even as soon as the end of this month, according to sources close to the situation. However, Sprint Nextel officials continue to have nothing to say about the issue, even though it is directly related to their series sponsorship contract with NASCAR, a $70 million a year sponsorship in its fourth year of a 10-year pact. Winston Salem Journal
No problem filling Indy 500 fieldUPDATE The first practice for the 91st Indianapolis 500 is little more than a month away, but the field is beginning to take shape. There were 18 participants in Sunday's race, and two more at the Indy Racing League's season-opening race March 24 at Homestead, Fla. Michael Andretti makes 21. The plans of several other teams were revealed over the weekend. Playa del Racing, which has a Pro Series program, will have at least one car (likely Jaques Lazier) and probably two. A third isn't out of the question, team manager David Morgan said. Sam Schmidt Motorsports, which usually participates at Indy, already owns a G-Force chassis but is working to acquire a Dallara. IRL officials expect Kent Baker to again field a car for P.J. Jones.
A.J. Foyt announced plans for a second car at Indy and might run a third. Jon Herb (Racing Professionals) and rookie Milka Duno (SAMAX) also confirmed plans in recent days. Eddie Cheever said he will field at least one car, perhaps for Max Papis. Michael Crawford, who owns a small Pro Series team, had hoped to field a car for rookie driver Shane Lewis, but he said a decision on funding must be made by Friday. IRL president Brian Barnhart has said he could see as many as 36 car-driver combinations. Indy Star
03/26/07 Despite only twenty cars running at Homestead, Brian Barnhart said at Homestead that he's confident there will be a full field of thirty-three cars for May's Indy 500. Barnhart believes there will be more cars at Indy than in recent years and expects as many as thirty-six or thirty-seven different car/driver combinations making a qualifying attempt meaning bumping may be back again at Indy. If so Milka Duno will struggle to make the grid.
Singapore considers permanent race facility Singapore is considering building a permanent circuit for major motor sport events, a report said Monday, as negotiations continued over a possible Formula One event in the city-state.
The Ministry of Community Development, Youth and Sports could build the permanent track to host MotoGP motorcycle races, the A1 Grand Prix and other events but not Formula One, the Today newspaper said, citing unnamed sources.
Government officials could not immediately comment on the report.
The circuit, 3.5 kilometres (2.2 miles) to four kilometres in length, could cost up to 200 million US dollars, Today said.
The F1 event being talked about for Singapore would be a street race, not a track event. More ...
Who will drive Petty's No. 45? Kyle Petty comments about a driver during his TNT Sabbatical: "A couple of guys are really good choices, and guys are calling and wanting to know what we're going to do and we really don't know yet. That was kind of the way we planned it. Just like I said at Daytona, there might be guys out here in the garage area that are fired by the time we get there that would be great for two races or one race or five races. We're really not any closer to that than we were." Clear!Blue/Dodge Motorsports PR
Another two more NASCAR teams needing rich investorUPDATE Add Robert Yates Racing to the ever-expanding list of Nextel Cup Series owners actively courting investment partners. RYR president Doug Yates said Saturday that he and his father have been pursing investors for six months. They've gotten some inquiries but nothing solid, Yates said. Among those investors with which Yates has spoken are the Maloof brothers, owners of the Sacramento Kings NBA franchise and the Palms Resort and Casino in Las Vegas. "We talked to them last year," Yates said. "Nice group of guys. Nice family. But they felt like, at the time, they were focused on their business. They have a lot of businesses, so that's a name that's come around. But there are a lot of people out there interested. We know how popular the sport is and people from the outside can look and see, 'Hey, this has some value.'" Yates said the most viable method for Nextel Cup teams to hold value is franchising, and feels it's time NASCAR implemented a franchise system. "At some point, I think NASCAR has got to start looking at franchises, and making these teams worth something," Yates said. "Right now it's a shame -- a team goes from something to nothing really quick. It's not really fair to the people who have helped grow the sport." Richard Childress was the first owner to sell a stake of his team to an investment group, and the performance of his team has improved tremendously since. Next up was Jack Roush, who made a high-profile sale of 50 percent his team to Boston Red Sox owner John Henry's Fenway Sports Group. Ray Evernham is searching for an investment partner and Petty said Friday at Martinsville Speedway that Petty Enterprises is, too. ESPN.com
03/31/07 Kyle Petty said Petty Enterprises may have to join Jack Roush, Richard Childress and other car owners and sign with a business partner, to keep making a go of it in this sport. Richard Petty was in Montreal this week checking out businesses. NASCAR will be making its first major venture into the Canadian market this summer with a Busch race at Montreal's Formula One track in the heart of town. And fellow Dodge team owner Ray Evernham has been talking with Montreal Canadians owner George Gillet Jr. about a joint NASCAR business venture.
Kyle Petty points to Petty Enterprises' close ties with Evernham Motorsports, particularly on the engine building side, and said it just makes sense to check out some of the people that Evernham is considering working with. "There's more to Petty Enterprises than just a race team going round in circles," Kyle Petty said, mentioning the company's other ventures. "So that makes Petty Enterprises a little different venture for a potential investor.
"We have already folded our company into some of the stuff that Evernham Motorsports does, so as Ray begins to branch out and take on different partners, we need to find out who those partners are, and if there is an opportunity there we'd be foolish not to explore it."
NASCAR COT has more flawsUPDATE No more bump-and-run in NASCAR. With that blade that the NASCAR brain trust designed in the front of the 1950's technology Car of Tomorrow (they call it a Splitter, we prefer to call it by its proper name - The Slicer) a driver behind a competitor will be able to pull his nose up alongside the rear quarterpanel of the car in front and slice his rear tire. Out with the Bump-and-Run, in with the Slice-and-Dice. Everyone hates the Car of Tomorrow. NASCAR should make it go the way of the Edsel Ford.
03/30/07 Drivers are expressing concern with the front splitter on the car of tomorrow, saying the aerodynamic device may have some unintended consequences. Reigning Nextel Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said the splitter, a shelf that sits close to the race track on the nose of the car, could cut easily down tires of other competitors.
“I think the splitter is a real problem and something to think about,” the Hendrick Motorsports driver said. I think Kasey Kahne had a tire go down right in front of me. I saw just light contact, and it cut his left-rear tire.”
The contact came from Clint Bowyer, who couldn’t believe Kahne’s tire went down.
“Usually when you get into somebody and they wreck, you pretty much know it,” Bowyer said. “It was one of those things where I just barely felt something. My spotter, Mike Dillon, was saying, ‘Outside, outside. Clear. Caution’s out.’ I’m like, ‘It wasn’t the 9 car, was it?’ And it was. “It was really close racing, and [I] must’ve hit it just right and cut it down. It was weird because I was beating and banging a lot more than that out there.” Scene Daily
Chinese may buy Chrysler Japan-based Toyota may not be the only Asian car maker in NASCAR in the coming years. DaimlerChrysler hasn't sold its U.S. Chrysler division yet, but indications are two more major offers could be put on the table in the next few days. And the big story is intense speculation in Detroit that China will be involved in one of the offers for Chrysler, in order to get a base for selling some of its cars in the U.S., as well as to use Chrysler expertise to expand its own internal car market. China has become the world's second-largest automobile market in the world, behind the United States. Winston Salem Journal
Tundra already making dent in Ford truck sales Rumor has it that Toyota's Tundra pickup truck as well as Honda's Ridgeline, may be taking sales away from Ford's best selling line.
Ford Motor Co.'s U.S. sales fell in March as the second-largest U.S. automaker sold fewer F-Series pickup trucks, the company's sales analyst told Bloomberg News today. Sales to individual buyers and to rental-car companies and corporate fleets also declined from a year earlier, sales analyst George Pipas said in an interview before a company media briefing. Ford sold 84,168 F-Series trucks in March 2006, the most in any month last year. Sales were down last month too.
Meanwhile Ford is in NASCAR's truck series getting its clock cleaned by Toyota week in and week out further eroding it's image to the buying public.
Bourdais - F1 option still open (GMM) Reigning Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais has indicated that he is still on track for a seat in Formula One in 2008.
Scott Speed secured this year's ride for the Faenza based Toro Rosso squad in the eleventh hour, but team figures also expressed a keen interest in 27-year-old Bourdais, a Frenchman, after his impressive winter tests in the Red Bull-liveried car.
Asked about his future in a Champ Car media conference, Bourdais said: "There's one step for me that might be available, but we still have to be waiting on it."
He appeared to caution that, while working for Newman/Haas/Lanigan nearly guarantees him a winning single seater, that same warrantee would be missing in a mid-field grand prix team.
Again referring to his option for the future, Bourdais explained: "It might be formula one, but again, I really want to be competitive, and (in Champ Car) I'm given everything I need to do this."
NASCAR/RCR could lose CingularUPDATE #2 A reader adds, At the risk of further increasing my unwelcome status at any NASCAR event, I had to chuckle a little when I read the letter from NASCAR's general counsel to James Ellis at AT&T/Cingular. Especially when I reached the part where Mr. Crotty states: "NASCAR plays no role and is not a party to the agreements between the teams and their sponsors."
Two points: First, by restricting who can and who cannot be a sponsor for a team, isn't NASCAR making themselves a party for any agreement between teams and their sponsors? If NASCAR didn't not agree to the terms of Nextel/Sprint's agreement then there would not be an issue of Cingular changing to AT&T. Therefore, didn't NASCAR make themselves a party to the agreement between RCR and Cingular/AT&T by creating the clause at issue?
Second, didn't NASCAR make themselves a party by intervening in the recent dispute between Sunoco and Shell?
I realize that NASCAR's position is one of "legal definition" and that definition likely has no basis in common sense but one does have to laugh when you look at the history of NASCAR's meddling in the affairs of the teams and their sponsors and then read these ridiculous letters attempting to change history. Mika Malehorn
Dear Mika, We call those who attempt to change history revisionists - they try to change history to suit them. It's not unlike Tony George who tries to tell the world why he had to create the IRL and in the process destroy the sport of Indy Car Racing that had been built up and made so strong under CART.
And, to add insult to injury, he tries to insult our intelligence by changing from an all-oval series that focused on American drivers and American suppliers, to now a series that is powered by leased engines from a single foreign engine manufacturer, in a single foreign made chassis, riding on tires from a foreign company (Japan's Bridgestone owns Firestone) with many foreign drivers on an increasing number of street and road courses. Everything that we were told was bad about CART the IRL now does, but now it's OK because the IRL and Tony George have tried to 'revise' history and convince us they had a better idea. Meanwhile look where open wheel racing is in this country today compared to how healthy it was in 1995 before the split. Mark C.
03/30/07 AT&T has been pressuring NASCAR with its lawsuit over how to paint the quarter panels on Jeff Burton's Nextel Cup car as it rebrands Cingular under the AT&T logo.
According to papers being filed in the suit, NASCAR officials told Stan Sigman, the president and CEO of Cingular, five weeks ago that in April 2005, George Pyne, NASCAR's CEO at the time, told the Richard Childress-Burton team that it would not allow a change in paint scheme or logos if Cingular was bought and had its name changed.
NASCAR further said that its grandfathering of Cingular - after Nextel signed on as the series sponsor - "was tied directly to the Cingular Wireless brand and not the Cingular company." More ...
Magna and Ripplewood to Bid for Chrysler? In the final hours before potential buyers must submit bids to DaimlerChrysler (DCX) for its ailing Chrysler Group unit, private equity group Cerberus Capital Management has decided to go it alone, instead of bidding together with Canadian auto supplier Magna International (MGA), sources close to Cerberus and Magna say. Sources say the two sides couldn't come to terms on how they would structure a deal, and that Magna Chairman Frank Stronach wanted more control over a transaction than Cerberus would permit.
Meanwhile, Magna, which has a front seat at the bidding table, is interested in a minority stake in Chrysler and is teaming up with a private equity player. KeyBanc Capital Markets analyst Brett Hoselton said earlier this week that Magna has picked a private equity partner, and a source close to Magna says the company is linked with New York-based Ripplewood Holdings.
Many industry watchers have questioned whether a bid from Magna makes sense. While the company has experience running car plants, it has not engineered complete models and taken them to market. More ...
NASCAR Unveils New 'Car Of Yesterday' Only days after its long-anticipated, much-criticized Car of Tomorrow debuted to overwhelmingly negative reviews at the Bristol Motor Speedway, NASCAR responded to the wishes of competitors and fans alike by introducing the stylishly retro, technologically retrograde NEXTEL Cup Car of Yesterday.
"This is exactly what everyone from race teams to race fans wanted all along—a real American racecar," said Robby Gordon, standing in front of the Jim Beam '77 Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme he will drive for the rest of the season. "To hell with things like spoilers, adjustable suspensions, disc brakes, shoulder belts, all that junk. People want to see us racing the cars they drive every day, and anyone who's seen the parking lot at a NASCAR race will tell you that's what the Car of Yesterday gives them." More....
Forsythe Racing to announce 2nd driverUPDATE #2 To clear up what Mario Dominguez said at Homestead, it was not accurate that he did not have anything good to say about Champ Car. He said both the good side and the bad.
"It's sad to see, because it looked like the series was gaining some momentum," said Dominguez. "There are a lot of good things happening in the series, with the new car and some new venues. But I think they picked a bad time to stop spending money.
"The owners have worked so hard over the last three years to save the series, I don't understand why they seem to be quitting now," he added. "Everything is very close, but they don't understand the need to keep drivers who have won races, who the fans know as Champ Car drivers. It's difficult to accept."
03/29/07 To our surprise we are hearing that the team has signed their former driver Mario Dominguez for the first three Champ Car races (Vegas, Long Beach and Houston) despite a nasty split between him and the team a year ago. This information is unconfirmed, but last weekend at the IRL season opener Dominguez didn't have any good things to say about Champ Car, which led us to believe he was out of the running and that David Martinez would get the seat.
03/28/07 While all other media outlets were reporting that Forsythe Racing would only run one car this year AutoRacing1.com has, on numerous occasions, told its readers that the team will run a two car Champ Car team in 2007. The team will announce their second driver on Thursday and if you paid attention to our previous rumors you probably know who the driver alongside Paul Tracy will be.
Is Imola’s F1 return doomed?UPDATE We accidentally left Abu Dhabi off the list of new F1 venues, making the situation even less likely for Imola.
03/29/07 The current F1 schedule has 17 races. With South Korea already signed and Valencia and Singapore rumored to be inking a deal any day, F1 will have a 20-race schedule. Therefore, there will be no room for Imola to return to the F1 schedule despite all the upgrades they are making. In addition Bernie has expressed a desire to race in Cape Town, South Africa, India, Russia, a 2nd USGP....and Suzuka (Honda's Japan track) wants back in at some point. F1 could have as many as 25 races a year if it was up to Bernie, but we doubt the teams would stand for it.
No French GP in 2008UPDATE (GMM) French grand prix promoter, the FFSA, confirmed on Thursday that the race will not take place in 2008. A statement explained that the decision was made last Wednesday because "all the conditions necessary for success were not met."
"The FFSA Committee will re-examine the situation during its next meeting in July 2007," the statement said. This July's event at Magny Cours will take place on July 1.
03/29/07 (GMM) Hot on the heels of reports that Bernie Ecclestone is keen to take the French grand prix to Paris, it is being reported that Magny Cours will not stage the race as usual in 2008.
The sports daily L'Equipe said on Thursday that logistical problems meant that France would be absent from the schedule next year.
The news was not officially confirmed, but it would be the first time since 1955 that the country did not host a formula one race.
Ecclestone was recently critical of Magny Cours, which is one of the least popular destinations among F1's traveling regulars due to its isolated location and lack of accommodation.
In the magazine Autohebdo, F1 supremo Ecclestone accused the government of doing "nothing" to help Magny Cours.
"For two years the autoroute has been stopped six miles from the circuit and they say that it could be another four or five years before the last bit is finished," he added.
L'Equipe said France was likely to return to the calendar in 2009, but probably elsewhere in the country. Ecclestone owns the state of the art test circuit Paul Ricard, located near Marseille. [Editor's Note: Bernie Ecclestone is in favor of a race in Paris or just outside of Paris - see this rumor.].
Chrysler sale all but certain DaimlerChrysler AG is expected to winnow the list of bidders for its troubled Chrysler Group to one or two finalists very soon, possibly in the next few days preceding the DCX annual shareholder meeting Wednesday in Berlin, say people familiar with the talks.
Once that happens, an intense period of exhaustive due-diligence investigation and negotiations -- perhaps lasting for months -- will follow to hammer out details and the ultimate price tag for a highly complex transaction to extricate Chrysler from the rocky nine-year marriage.
What's all but certain at this point is DCX will sell all or part of the Auburn Hills-based American operations, because Daimler's stock price has shot up more than 25% since Chief Executive Officer Dieter Zetsche put Chrysler in play Feb. 14 by declaring that "all options" regarding its future were open. To now backtrack and do nothing with Chrysler would be to risk a collapse of the DCX stock price.
Participants in the DCX-Chrysler talks insist that no concrete dollar amounts have been placed on offers for Chrysler, which reported a $1.5-billion operating loss last year.
German parent DCX may keep a significant minority stake in Chrysler as part of the deal, to ease a new owner's possible fears about the magnitude of future liabilities for Chrysler pensions and retiree health care costs. More at Detroit Free Press
Rahal deal doneUPDATE #2 Graham Rahal now definitively knows what he'll be doing for spring break. The 18-year-old high school senior and son of former Indy 500 winner Bobby Rahal will be inside a Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing entry at the April 8 Champ Car World Series season opener in Las Vegas. Rahal will be officially announced in a conference call with reporters Thursday afternoon.
"Four years ago, I had never even driven a race car. Now I'm with one of the top teams, " said Rahal, one of two Americans in the series. "My dad has really helped me through the whole process. With this deal finally getting done, it takes the pressure off everybody and now we can relax."
Rahal has tested five times with Newman/Haas/Lanigan and his signing was nearly a foregone conclusion. But the announcement was delayed as language between the team and the primary sponsor of Rahal's car — a company based on Dr. Barry Sears' "Zone Diet" — was worked out. [Editor's Note: We were originally told a technology company would sponsor Rahal, but this Zone Diet hint may mean it will be Medizone, which we also heard.]
Graham Rahal had said racing for his father's team in the rival IndyCar Series was not an option since Bobby won't let his son race on ovals, tracks that dominate the IndyCar schedule. More at USA Today [Editor's Note: What does this say about the safety in the IRL? Perhaps ask the latest victim, Pablo Perez.]
03/28/07 Newman/Haas/Lanigan have scheduled a media conference for Thursday afternoon whereby the Graham Rahal deal will be announced.
03/27/07 According to AutoRacing1.com sources the contract for Graham Rahal to drive alongside Sebastien Bourdais at Newman/Haas/Lanigan is finally complete. The sponsor is a large technology company and the deal will be announced soon. We know the company but out of courtesy to them and Newman/Haas/Lanigan we will not spoil their announcement by telling you.
A number of negative articles were used by others in an attempt to destroy what is a very promising sponsorship season with a lot of momentum that you will soon see. They failed, but made it hard work and made the deal come together late. Nevertheless there will be a series of announcements this week which will lead to a full 18-Champ Car grid without subsidies and without drivers paying for their rides with family money.
Bremer to drive for Polestar Word is that Ronnie Bremer will be back in the Polestar Atlantic car for 2007. While it's a step back from his ride in Champ Car, an Atlantics drive with the Polestar group gives him another shot at Champ Car ride next year. If he can claw his way to the $2 Million dollar prize, he'll get a second shot.
NASCAR's COT poisoning drivers NASCAR officials are scrambling to solve a couple of potentially serious issues with the "Car of Tomorrow." Denny Hamlin and several other drivers complained about an unusual amount of carbon monoxide in their system after Sunday's inaugural COT race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Some teams had issues with the protective foam in the right side door overheating, melting and producing toxic fumes. Some had springs that failed for no apparent reason, which may have been the reason for the No. 16 car of Greg Biffle being too low during post-race inspection. ESPN.com
F1 inks Valencia GP deal for 2009 - reportUPDATE Here is an animated link showing what the proposed Valencia street circuit will look like.
03/28/07 (GMM) Amid reports that Valencia has been given a green light to make plans for a street circuit, it is being claimed that Bernie Ecclestone has already inked an agreement for a grand prix in the Spanish city.
The inaugural race, to probably be branded the Mediterranean Grand Prix, is set to take place in March of 2009, with Barcelona expected to retain the Spanish GP.
It is understood that Formula One Administration has already trademarked the name Mediterranean GP, although Valencia could alternatively be run under the European GP title.
On Tuesday, the region's autonomous government - the Generalitat Valenciana - approved the development of an area for a street circuit, but an official announcement is not expected until an upcoming election campaign, according to the newspaper Diario As.
A government spokesman, meanwhile, told the Spanish news agency EFE that more news about this subject will be forthcoming in the "coming days".
No Champ Car for Ranger According to AutoRacing1.com sources, a press conference will be held tomorrow morning in Montreal announcing Andrew Ranger will drive this year in CASCAR, the newly bought NASCAR Canadian series, under the Tide and Wal-Mart (Canada) colors. Alan Labrosse, former promoter of two Champ Car races at the Gilles-Villeneuve track in 2004 and 2005, could not put together a sponsorship package big enough to buy Ranger a ride in the Champ Car series. The Ranger/Labrosse combo had basically the same package they had last year but without the support of the series, the money was only enough to run the Canadian events.
We also hear that Alex Tagliani will be involved this year in the same Charity program Ranger was last year with both sponsors.
In essence this is another fine young driver open wheel racing is losing to stock car racing, this time the entry-level series. Expect to see Ranger drive in the Quebec events like the Busch race in Montreal, the Grand Prix de Trois-Rivières and the Champ Car rounds in Toronto and Edmonton in his CASCAR/NASCAR car! With that said, Ranger was not able to keep pace with his Champ Car teammates the past two years so perhaps a career in stock cars will work out better for him.
We have removed Ranger from our 2007 Champ Car Silly Season page.
Developer to buy SilverstoneUPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. Silverstone boss Damon Hill has ruled out selling the British GP venue, after the circuit's owners received a $110m offer. 1996 world champion Hill, who is president of the circuit-owning British Racing Drivers' Club, told the BBC that Silverstone is not for sale.
It was reported on Wednesday morning that property company Spectre, run by Olivier Speight, wants to buy the famous track and develop the surrounding lands.
Hill, though, said the BRDC also intends to "develop the circuit to have a grand prix", but admitted that it is also up to other BRDC members to assess if the proposal "is in any way worth pursuing".
He added: "We are not planning to sell Silverstone."
The circuit, a former World War II airfield, has a contract to host the British grand prix until 2009.
03/28/07 A property developer has made a bid for Silverstone, BBC Radio Northampton reports. Spectre chairman Oliver Speight is said to have offered the British Racing Drivers' Club £56m for the Northamptonshire track. The report said Speight, who was involved in motorsport in the 1960s, would like to keep the track as the British Grand Prix but also develop the surrounding land.
GM to say no to Chrysler deal General Motors Corp. is not actively pursuing a purchase of the Chrysler Group after talking in January about a potential transaction, people familiar with the talks say.
People close to the talks told the Free Press that they don't expect GM to be in the running to buy Chrysler because private-equity firms are expected to offer more. And, they said, GM hasn't budged from its initial position. Just moments after DaimlerChrysler Chairman Dieter Zetsche announced Feb. 14 that all options were on the table for Chrysler Group, including selling it, speculation jumped to a possible alliance with GM.
Sources confirm that GM had conversations beginning last fall with DaimlerChrysler about a potential deal but said there have been no talks of late. More at Detroit Free Press
Will Audi skip St. Pete race?UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today based on this Hot News item whereby Audi has committed to be at St. Petersburg this weekend.
03/26/07 Audi, unhappy with the IMSA rules that enable the LMP2 cars to be almost as fast as the LMP1 cars is exerting pressure to force a change. As of midday Monday – less than four days before practice begins for the Acura Sports Car Challenge of St. Petersburg – Audi AG had not provided the American Le Mans Series with an official written confirmation of its commitment to compete in the 2007 season beyond Sebring. Although the company has now – after letting the ALMS twist in the wind since the ides of March – told the series it will race at St. Petersburg, absent some written confirmation IMSA has declined to release the official entry list.
Valencia makes way for F1 race The city of Valencia has taken what it believes is a big step towards hosting a second Spanish-based Formula One event from 2009 after agreeing to fund earthworks necessary to host the grand prix circus on a street circuit around its waterfront.
According to Spanish newspaper As, the Generalitat Valencian yesterday approved a motion to further revamp the area around the city's harbor - which this year plays host to the prestigious America's Cup yachting competition - in an attempt to create a circuit to rival Monaco. The work, however, will preclude Valencia's expected appearance in 2008, as the area around the Agenda de Francia and Paseo de la Alameda is still undergoing redevelopment, but will mean that the port area will retain a focus once the America's Cup is over.
"It has been agreed by the Department of Infrastructure and Transportation to take the necessary actions to carry out the work necessary for a grand prix," a statement issued by the Generalitat confirmed, "This includes the connection of the Avenida de Francia and the extension of the park and port, as well as the implementation of the equipment and installations required for a street circuit good enough for Formula One."
IRL to renew with St. Petersburg ST. PETERSBURG - Although this weekend's Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg probably will be run without a contract saying there will be another one, the principals involved in staging the race say they want it back. "It's almost something that's more of getting the mechanics of [a new contract] done," said Kevin Savoree, managing director of Andretti Green Promotions, the race promoter. "I think we are all assuming it's going to continue."
AGP has three-year contracts with the city of St. Petersburg and Indy Racing League to run the race and Honda for title sponsorship that commenced in 2005 and expire after this weekend, but there is a two-year option on the contract with the city.
The deadline to exercise the option was moved from March 1 to May 1 at AGP's request, which will allow partners Savoree, Michael Andretti and Barry Green to examine the financial data from the 2007 race before making any new commitments.
But Kevin Dunn, St. Petersburg's director for development and the city's point person for the race, says all indications are that AGP will renew.
"Their conversation with us is they certainly are going to be looking at [at least] a two-year extension, but they actually may be coming back and asking for a longer term," he said.
Dunn said the city is thrilled with the race and wants it back. More at TBO.com
Wells eyes NASCAR return Former car owner Cal Wells said he's in talks with sponsors and an ownership group to be part of a two-car effort next season. Wells said he hopes to have a deal done later this spring. He would be a minority owner in the team but run it. Roanoke Times
When Mercedes sheds Chrysler, will NASCAR lose Dodge?UPDATE Dodge will remain committed to the NASCAR Nextel Cup series regardless of whether Chrysler is sold, the director of Dodge motorsports said Sunday. "Yeah, there are some things going on, things we're looking at, but it's not going to affect our racing program," Mike Accavitti said during the Car of Tomorrow's debut at Bristol Motor Speedway. Accavitti and Tom Lasorda, the chairman of DaimlerChrysler, visited with the owners of three of Dodge's top teams -- Evernham Motorsports, Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates and Penske Racing -- before Sunday's race. "We talked to everybody today," Accavitti said. "The message is pretty consistent. We don't intend on going anywhere." That doesn't mean Chrysler won't. KeyBank Capital Markets analyst Brett Hoselton recently reported that Canadian-based Magna International Inc. and an unnamed equity group have offered $4.6 billion to $4.7 billion for Chrysler. "This is being handled by people at a much higher level than I am," Accavitti said. "As far as they're concerned, they'd like to bring a quicker resolution to it than a slower resolution. Every indication I have is it'll be sooner rather than later." There have been reports that the sale could happen within the next week or so. "Under any scenario, as far as we're concerned, we see us remaining involved in NASCAR," said Accavitti, noting Dodge's contracts with its NASCAR teams range from one to five more years. It's a great way to reach those fans and tell them about the performance brand of Dodge." ESPN.com
02/16/07 The troubled Chrysler Group needs to turn around fast, or risk being dumped by the German suitor that acquired it nine years ago. Chrysler said Wednesday that it will slash 13,000 jobs and drastically downsize production in a last-ditch effort to secure its future with the German automaker DaimlerChrysler AG.
The restructuring came with a warning that DaimlerChrysler is exploring all strategic options for the struggling U.S. division, including a possible sale or alliance with another automaker.
After losing $1.5 billion last year amid falling sales and market share, Chrysler is under intense pressure to return to profitability by 2008.
With more losses forecast for this year, Chrysler has reached a crossroads in its turbulent marriage with the former Daimler-Benz AG, which bought the No. 3 U.S. automaker in 1998.
"Sooner or later (Daimler) has to decide whether to fully integrate Chrysler or separate altogether," said John Casesa of the investment firm Casesa Shapiro Group.
But DaimlerChrysler CEO Dieter Zetsche was unwilling Wednesday to make a long-term commitment to Chrysler -- despite its plan to shed 11,000 hourly jobs and 2,000 salaried positions by 2009, close one U.S. assembly plant and cut shifts at two others.
COT to increase NASCAR accidents When NASCAR debuted the Car of Tomorrow at Bristol Motor Speedway yesterday, Todd Nesbit, an avid NASCAR fan and assistant professor of economics at Penn State Erie, The Behrend College, was busy counting the number of accidents—and how many of those drivers walk away without a scratch.
In 2006, Nesbit and Russell Sobel, professor of economics at West Virginia University, produced a study that explored how drivers react to having cars so safe that they can generally walk away with no injuries after crashing into a concrete wall or another car at a very high rate of speed. “Based on results of our study, we would project that drivers will drive more recklessly and take more risks while driving the Car of Tomorrow,” Nesbit said. “Initially, there will be a learning curve for everyone, which will likely increase the number of accidents as drivers and crews get used to the vehicles. Once the learning curve has passed, we predict that the new normal rate of crashes will be higher than it is currently because of the response to additional safety features on the Car of Tomorrow.”
The study, “Automobile safety regulation and the incentive to drive recklessly: Evidence from NASCAR,” shows that NASCAR drivers, in fact, do drive more recklessly in response to the increased safety of their vehicles. However, even with an increase in accidents, there is a reduction in total injuries—because the increase in riskier driving is not enough to offset the benefits from an increase in safety features. More at Penn State University
Is NASCAR money train grinding to a halt? In the midst of all the Car of Tomorrow hoopla, another major issue is going down this weekend. NASCAR has too much of a good thing. Big-money sponsors want in, but some of them can't find a spot.
More than any other sports league, NASCAR is dependent on corporate sponsorship. Teams can't race without the millions of dollars companies spend to place their logos on cars.
But cars with major financial backing are going home without racing, failing to make the show in NASCAR's qualifying system. And some companies that want to put their names on cars are being told no because of exclusivity rights of other sponsors.
Keeping everybody happy in the money train is NASCAR's big problem.
While the IndyCar Series and Champ Car World Series struggle to put 20 cars on the starting grid, NASCAR usually has 50 or more cars each week trying to make the 43-car field. More at ESPN.com
IRL's George working on race in NY City Indy Racing League CEO Tony George is conducting informal discussions with New York City officials about the possibility of running a race within the five boroughs. George said the probability of a New York street race is not great and would not divulge details of his talks. But one concept discussed would have IndyCars racing on Governors Island, a 172-acre parcel south of lower Manhattan in the East River, accessible only by ferry and run by the National Park Service and a preservation and educational program.
"Everybody's trying to crack the New York market, so that's kind of an ambition of ours, a project that we work on in our spare time," he said.
George said International Speedway Corp. officials expressed an interest in having the IRL race at a track it had hoped to build for NASCAR events on Staten Island. He continued when local opposition felled that project. George said if his project comes to fruition - likely not for at least two years - it would have to be done "creatively."
"I've met with the administration there and the heads of the agencies there and whatnot and they're not so much opposed to an event," George said. "They're pretty adamant about how it's not going to happen, and that's where the creativity comes into play."
Team owner Michael Andretti said he has seen the plan, but would offer no details other than it did not involve the Meadowlands in New Jersey. Champ Car raced there from 1984-91. St. Petersburg Times
Bidding war could erupt over Chrysler DaimlerChrysler AG's stock soared Friday to its highest level in more than six years amid indications that the bidding for the Chrysler Group has begun in earnest.
People close to the sale process said a select group of potential buyers are preparing to submit offers for the U.S. division of DaimlerChrysler by the end of next week.
One auto analyst said Friday that DaimlerChrysler had received a "joint letter of interest" from Canadian supplier Magna International Inc. and an unnamed private-equity firm to buy Chrysler for $4.7 billion.
While the bid was unconfirmed, investors reacted by driving the stock of DaimlerChrysler up 6 percent in heavy trading. The stock closed at $82.36, up $4.76, in New York -- its highest point since August 2000. More at Detroit News
Champ Car to lose high-ranking officialUPDATE For family reasons, Eric Mauk, Director of PR for Champ Car, is leaving to go work for an IRL team - Rahal Letterman Racing - which is based in Ohio and closer to his family.
03/21/07 Look for a high ranking Champ Car official to be leaving the series soon according to AutoRacing1.com sources.
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