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DATE News (chronologically)

IRL's big names likely to stay put for next season
There had been talk of a major IndyCar Series driver shakeup for 2009, but that doesn't appear to be the case now.

Chip Ganassi said Dan Wheldon will remain Scott Dixon's partner, and Roger Penske said a new contract is in the works for Helio Castroneves, whose deal expires at the end of the season.

As for Ryan Briscoe, who was at the crosshairs of critics a month ago, Penske said he is pleased with the Australian who won at Milwaukee.

"With Briscoe coming on, it really gives us a good 1-2 punch," Penske said. "He's developing into a guy who can be as good as anyone.

"You can see his confidence growing in Milwaukee, and then at Texas, he had as good of a car as anybody. We haven't seen him on the road course yet; he's as good as anybody on the road courses."

Penske said Castroneves isn't thinking about being a television star or a NASCAR driver.

Read more & Comment...

Rouen to bid for the French GP UPDATE (GMM)  The northwestern city Rouen, scene of the French grand prix at the Rouen-Les-Essarts circuit in the 50s and 60s, has emerged as another contender to take Magny-Cours' spot on the formula one calendar of the near future.

It is reported that, at the scene of this weekend's race, a representative of the bidding party put forward Rouen's name as an alternative venue for the French grand prix, which is likely to move away from the isolated Magny-Cours after 2008.

The media reports, however, met with a swift rebuke by the mayor's office, according to the French news agency AFP.

"The city of Rouen is not associated with this approach and so far there has been no request for (our) support," the mayor's office said.

It is also reported that the French motor sport federation, FFSA, is playing down the Rouen speculation.

Sports.fr claims that three Rouen locations are being considered: a street track, a port circuit, and a venue near the airport.

Paris and Le Mans have also been mentioned as possible alternative venues for the historic French grand prix.

06/19/08 Rouen says it will bid for the French Grand Prix. The city held five French Grands Prix between 1952 and 1968 but continued to hold races on the Les Essarts road circuit until 1993. There was then an attempt to construct a new facility but the money could not be found. Now, an organization called Espace des Decideurs des Entreprises Normandes and the Chamber of Commerce of Rouen say they are planning a new project. They say they are studying three different possibilities with a street circuit being the preferred idea. There is also a study for a circuit in the dock area of Rouen and a third possibility of a permanent circuit near the airport.  Grandprix.com


Unhappy drivers admit F1 strike stories UPDATE #2 “I don’t know what the solution will be or what we will do, but a strike at Silverstone? That is one possibility. Why not?” said double world champion Fernando Alonso at Magny Cours before this Sunday’s French Grand Prix.

The drivers have been angered at the 500 per cent rise imposed on them for the license which affects all 20, from Kimi Raikkonen on £25million a year, to those near the back paying for their own drives.

The new superlicense is £7,500 plus £1,500 a point, therefore Lewis Hamilton paid £176,500 under the new rule last year, while  Raikkonen paid £178,000 as world champion.

“It is a ridiculous price,” said Alonso, who joked: “I won’t need to pay as much this year,” as he referred to his switch to Renault where he does not have the car to collect too many points.

“We have approached the FIA by letter three times, but we have not had a positive answer. 

“Nothing has been agreed with them. It is difficult because the drivers have different contracts and commitments with the teams. We have to do our job. 

“We ask where the money is going. The increase is massive, but we have no answer. If it is for safety and to improve circuits then we would pay – but no answer.

“It depends which drivers have to pay this amount of money. Three or four years ago my salary was not so big and it would have been a larger percentage of it.

“I have been lucky to improve in the last few years, but I am sure there are still drivers who are scoring many points for whom it is not easy. The FIA take us seriously when we talk about safety. When we suggest something about new rules that the drivers think are unnecessary or unfair, the FIA does not listen to us so much.”

Raikkonen added: “If anything happened I would support it, but there is no reason to strike and not race.  It is not the right way to go, but it is not fair and hopefully a solution will be found.” Daily Express

06/19/08 (GMM)  FIA president Max Mosley has agreed to meet with formula one drivers who are unhappy about the increased cost of their mandatory superlicense.

Stories of a possible driver strike swept the Magny Cours circuit on Thursday, after the Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA) wrote a letter to Mosley arguing that the cost increase for 2008 - up to 200,000 euros for a leading driver - was excessive.

But although GPDA director Fernando Alonso on Thursday confirmed that a strike is a worse-case possibility, F1 veteran David Coulthard said: "There's not going to be a strike.

"That's rubbish," the Red Bull driver is quoted as saying by The Press Association.

The Scot's teammate Mark Webber on Thursday also played down the prospect of a strike, but Coulthard confirmed that the superlicense issue nonetheless "needs to be discussed and understood".

Webber, meanwhile, suggested that Bernie Ecclestone might be a better person for the drivers to talk to, because Mosley is less accessible.

An FIA spokesman, however, confirmed that Mosley replied to the GPDA's letter earlier this month and agreed to meet with the drivers at a time and venue of their choosing.

The GPDA has not replied to his letter, the spokesman added.

06/19/08 (GMM)  Leading formula one drivers on Thursday confirmed they are unhappy about increases to the cost of obtaining their mandatory FIA superlicenses in 2008.

At the Magny Cours circuit, Grand Prix Drivers' Association (GPDA) director Fernando Alonso did not deny that boycott action at next month's British grand prix over the issue is possible.

Championship leader and GPDA member Robert Kubica said the cost of a F1 license increased by at least a factor of eight compared to last year.

"It's quite a lot of money, especially if you are scoring points like Lewis did last year and it's your first year in formula one," he said.

"But another point is that experienced drivers who don't have a quick car are not scoring points, so they don't care because they don't have to pay.

"So I think it will be difficult to get all drivers to have the same idea but we are trying to convince the FIA to reduce the cost."

McLaren's Lewis Hamilton and Ferrari's Felipe Massa, despite neither being GPDA members, told a news conference on Thursday that they also support the GPDA.

"For sure I support them," reigning world champion Kimi Raikkonen agreed.

"Of course it's better if it's not so expensive and it's the same for everybody, but I don't think there's any reason to go on strike and not race.  I don't think that's the right way to go but it would be nice if we could reduce it," he said.

It is not clear what form a Silverstone strike might take -- boycotting the drivers' parade, an official session, or the race itself.

With individual drivers bound contractually to teams, Raikkonen admitted that a completely unified front among the twenty grand prix stars is unlikely.

"It's never going to happen that all the drivers will strike.  Hopefully there is some nice solution that can be found at some point," he said.

[Editor's Note:  If they strike Bernie will punish them with major lawsuits for ruining a GP weekend and costing losses of millions of dollars.  Bernie will destroy them and the lawsuit could wipe out for some what amounts to their life's savings.]


Hotel rooms for Singapore GP not selling
Race fans appear too smart to shell out for the race's overpriced hotel rooms
Singapore plays host to the first Formula One Grand Prix night race in just three months, but hotel rooms are not filling up as quickly as expected.  Yesterday, a Straits Times check with 11 hotels alongside the downtown track showed just one, the 507-room Conrad Centennial Singapore, already booked up.

A survey of 10 other non-trackside hotels showed that there are plenty of rooms still available, with some major establishments less than half-full for days around the Sept 26-28 race.

Hotels were banking on big profits during the Grand Prix, which is expected to draw up to 100,000 visitors and add from $100 million to $150 million to tourism coffers.

An industry player, who declined to be named, said that the latest reservation numbers are a let-down.

'The big demand surge that hoteliers expected never quite materialized,' said the player.

To deal with the weak demand, hotels appear to be dropping their prices. The Straits Times understands that average room rates have fallen from over $1,500 a night to around $1,300 for trackside hotels.

For others, the range has moved from between $550 and $1,500 to between $350 and $1,000.

One chain, which declined to be named, said that rates have been lowered by 30 to 35 per cent.

Read more & Comment...

Does NASCAR think its fans are flat out dumb?
It took almost exactly five months for NASCAR to flip-flop on itself. Remember back in January when Brian France told fans that the sport wanted to get back to basics and wanted to let the drivers show their personalities more?

Flash forward to last Friday at Michigan when drivers were all called into a meeting to get a lecture about their complaining about how they don't like the new car, how they can't pass each other and how they wish somebody would do something to make the racing better.

What that seems to mean is that it's OK with NASCAR if the drivers call each other names and jab their fingers at each other so they come off looking like third-graders fighting over who's "it" during recess. But it's out of bounds when it comes to saying something bad about NASCAR.

I'd say that NASCAR can't have it both ways but, for the love of Pete, that sure doesn't keep it from trying.

Race fans cannot possibly be as dumb as NASCAR's top officials seem to believe they are. If they were, fans couldn't find their way to the track if they lived next door. Some of the people at NASCAR actually seem to believe that if the drivers and the media weren't telling the fans that it's bad when cars can't pass each other the fans would actually believe that.

When it suits NASCAR's purposes, on matters like pensions and drug testing and liability issues, the drivers are "independent contractors." But when NASCAR wants to control them, they act like they're indentured servants.

I know, I know - it's that whole having it both ways thing again. ThatsRacin.com


Kentucky Speedway unlikely to be lost in unification shuffle
With unification earlier this year, some have wondered where Kentucky Speedway fits in with the IndyCar Series' future plans. According to Terry Angstadt, the president of the Commercial Division who is at the forefront of putting together next year's schedule, local fans can rest easy.

"We're very pleased with last year's race. (General manager) Mark (Cassis) and his guys took on the challenge of making it a much better event," Angstadt said. "At this point in time, it is clearly in our plans. It's a good venue for us and there is a good open-wheel base in the area."

Last year's race, the first time it was held on a Saturday evening, attracted 56,482 spectators. With unification, projections are that the Aug. 9 race could sell out.

Including Kentucky, there are six races this season that are located within a five-hour drive of Cincinnati (Indianapolis, Chicagoland, Mid-Ohio, Detroit and Nashville), which has led to some speculation about the track's future standing. Compounding that was last week's news that IndyCar met with representatives from the Cleveland Grand Prix about getting on to the schedule.

"We have geographic openings where we don't serve our base well. There is a concentration of races in the Midwest right now," Angstadt said. "We've been open with everyone we've talked to about our approach. To have an unbalanced schedule of races in one area doesn't make sense long term."

Besides Cleveland, Angstadt has met with representatives from Laguna Seca (Calif.) and Mexico City the past couple weeks. It also appears Toronto might return to the schedule next year after Andretti-Green bought the promotional rights to that event.

Next year's schedule probably will be 19 races and could be announced by the end of July. Next year might be another transition year for the schedule with a goal of getting to 20 or 21 events in 2010 or '11. The schedule also could see an even mix of ovals and street courses.

"I would say it is almost 50-50 feedback as far as people who want ovals and street. You look at the international heritage and mix of drivers and global opportunities," Angstadt said. "To have a 50-50 blend is an outstanding schedule and keeps the heritage of open-wheel racing. Road courses provide a street festival environment, and you can also go to historic sites like Watkins Glen."

A corporate sponsor of the series should be announced by the end of the season. There are three finalists. Cincinnati Enquirer


Indy Lights to get higher revving engines
Word is that the sound for the Firestone Indy Lights will change for the better next year, as the motors are being reworked as high-rev motors instead of stroker low-rev motors.  Same block, but different cranks, etc.


Le Mans to stage future French GP?
(GMM)  France's famous Le Mans circuit has emerged as a possible alternative venue for the country's formula one grand prix.

With the sport seemingly to move away from unpopular Magny Cours after this weekend's race, Paris might not be the only alternative venue, the Dutch website f1today.nl reports.

Reportedly, management of the Circuit de la Sarthe - scene of the famous Le Mans 24 hour race - may even have been in talks with F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone for some months.

Circuit spokesperson Ingrid Moreau said: "As far as we know 2008 is not the last time the French grand prix will be at Magny Cours.

"We are currently not in negotiation for a formula one race."

A Magny Cours circuit spokesman added: "The reports about the disappearance of formula one at Magny Cours, I can not confirm."

Indeed, press reports late this week suggest that local bureaucracy is so determined to keep the French grand prix at Magny Cours that nearly $50 million is being pledged to improve the event.


NASCAR rejected in third straight major city, still trying UPDATE #4 It's been 16 months since International Speedway Corporation announced that it was evaluating the possibility of building a national-level motorsports facility in the Denver area that would be capable of hosting a Sprint Cup race. Nothing has happened since ISC revealed its intentions and now there's a strong feeling that the company that owns 11 tracks that host Sprint Cup races is no longer actively pursuing a track in the Denver area. Wes Harris, senior director of Corporate and Investor Communications for ISC, claims that's not the case. "I wouldn't consider it dead," Harris said of the possibility of building a Denver-area track. "We are still interested in the market." Harris admits progress has been slow because ISC is seeking to develop a public/private partnership, work out a way to find a possible date on the jam-packed Sprint Cup schedule, find land to build the track and convince local authorities of the advantages of having a track. "The process itself is slow but we have not lost interest from ourselves or the people in the market," Harris said. "The key is getting something done with a public/private partnership rather than finding land. We need a public/private partnership. "The market is very important. We want to be in that market. We want to be racing there in the future but we are going to take our time." Rocky Mountain News

01/18/08 NASCAR officials reiterated that they are exploring the possibility of building a racetrack development in the Denver area, but made no commitment to a partnership with the National Western Stock Show. "We know there is substantial demand for NASCAR racing in the Denver metropolitan region. As such, we continue to evaluate the possibility of pursuing a public-private partnership to develop a national-level motorsports entertainment facility in the market," said Wes Harris, spokesman for Daytona Beach, Fla. - based International Speedway Corp. "While we have had preliminary discussions with a number of interested parties, including the National Western Stock Show, we are not involved in any negotiations at this time." National Western officials this week referred to negotiations with ISC aimed at establishing a 1,000-acre complex near Denver International Airport and perhaps in Aurora that could host the stock show in January as well as auto-racing in warmer months and possibly sports training. Denver Post

12/17/07 Commerce City (and Seattle and New York) is out of the running, but Aurora officials still hope to lure a NASCAR racetrack to the city.

Ten months after International Speedway Corp. announced its desire to build a NASCAR racetrack in the metro area, ISC officials still haven't decided on a location or whether it will be built here at all.

Wes Harris, spokesman for the International Speedway Corp. in Florida, said his company has looked at several locations for a potential track but nothing recently.

Now, the ISC is focusing on securing a commitment for a public-private partnership to help finance the track. That could mean, for example, creating a special taxing district similar to how Invesco Field at Mile High was financed or other measures.

"We're very interested in Aurora, and we are very interested in the metro Denver region," Harris said Friday. "In order to be able to run NASCAR Sprint Cup level events, it's going to require a public-private partnership. Our focus right now is on just trying to build support for that."

One talked-about site in Aurora is near Front Range Airport. Another potential Aurora site near the High Point development close to Denver International Airport fell through this year.

Discussions between Aurora and ISC have slowed in recent months because of the City Council elections (a potential tax increase is never a popular campaign plank to run on) in November and now the holidays.

But Aurora City Councilman Ryan Frazier said he still thinks there's a good chance Aurora will land the track, a facility that would put Aurora on the map, generate sales-tax revenue and be an amenity to the entire region.

"I'm confident we could put together a deal," Frazier said. "We're going to continue to press this thing and hopefully make it a reality for the people of Aurora and Colorado."

Part of the problem for Aurora is that officials would have to ask voters to change the city charter to allow it to offer enough incentives to bring the track to Aurora.

And it would probably have to do more than that, Frazier said.

In many cities that have racetracks, it's been a public-private partnership beyond incentives, he said.

"I've always opposed a tax increase, but in this case, some public participation will be required," Frazier said. "I don't see this being done entirely by the private sector."

Read more & Comment...

U.S. Auto Sales in June May Decline to 15-Year Low
U.S. vehicle sales may plunge to their lowest in more than 15 years this month as soaring gasoline prices leave dealers with too many big trucks and a shortage of fuel-efficient small cars, analysts said.

June's annualized sales rate may drop to between 12.5 million and 13 million vehicles, according to reports from Citigroup analyst Itay Michaeli and Deutsche Bank analyst Rod Lache. That would be the lowest since the 12-million rate in March 1993 and as much as 20 percent below June 2007 levels.

``Dealers report they are now suffering from a mismatch between what consumers want to buy (small cars), and what they have in inventory,'' which are pickups and sport-utility vehicles, Lache wrote.

U.S. auto sales have averaged 16.8 million annually this decade. They are now at ``surprisingly low levels,'' Lache said.

Additional declines may further set back General Motors Corp.'s and Ford Motor Co.'s turnaround efforts on their home turf. The U.S. is the world's largest sales market and the biggest source of revenue for the two money-losing automakers.  More at Bloomberg


Caterpillar to take over for AT&T at RCR UPDATE This rumor can probably be upgraded to 'fact' with this Bill Davis Racing announcement that they are losing Caterpillar as a sponsor.

06/18/08 With AT&T's NASCAR Sprint Cup sponsorship coming to an end, Richard Childress Racing has found a replacement sponsor for Jeff Burton.

FOXSports.com has learned that Caterpillar has agreed to become the primary sponsor of the No. 31 Chevrolet driven by Burton beginning next season. The deal, which is expected to be announced on Wednesday, is a multi-year agreement.

Burton has 20 career victories, including one this season at Bristol Motor Speedway. He is currently second in the Cup series standings.

Based on an agreement reached by AT&T and NASCAR last year, the telecommunications giant had to give up their sponsorship deal at the end of this season. The agreement came after a protracted legal battle between AT&T and Sprint after Sprint phased out the Cingular brand — one of two brands which were grandfathered in when Sprint (formerly Nextel) took over sponsor rights for the Cup Series. FOX Sports


GM could be forced to borrow $10 billion
General Motors Corp. may borrow $10 billion as early as next quarter because rising commodity costs and falling U.S. sales are crimping cash flow, an analyst at JPMorgan Chase & Co. said.

The largest U.S. automaker may secure a bank loan by borrowing against foreign operations, inventory, trademarks or its stake in lender GMAC LLC, New York-based analyst Himanshu Patel said in a report released Tuesday.

"Liquidity concerns about General Motors have clearly become re-elevated in recent weeks as oil has soared and the Fed rate hike talk has surfaced," said Patel, who has an "overweight" rating on GM shares. "GM is burning cash fast, but it still has many unencumbered assets that can be borrowed against." Detroit Free Press

British F3

F3 team eyes leap into formula one UPDATE (GMM)  The boss of the British F3 outfit Ultimate Motorsport has confirmed he is in negotiations to buy into the formula one team Toro Rosso.

It was reported recently that the Northamptonshire based squad, in only its second year of competition, is positioning to take over Red Bull magnate Dietrich Mateschitz's 50 per cent share of STR, with the backing of the Angolian oil company Sonangol.

Faenza based Toro Rosso's other 50 per cent owner, Gerhard Berger, denied the reports, but Ultimate boss Barry Walsh said: "We are in negotiations so I can't reveal too much about it until everything is final."

The Irish Independent newspaper said Irish driver Michael Devaney's links to Walsh means that he would be well positioned to move into F1 with Ultimate.

After the 23-year-old's recent wins at Snetterton, Ultimate's team manager said Devaney is "ready for formula one".

Ulsterman Walsh is also quoted as saying by the Irish Independent: "We always set out with formula one as the target.

"I would only have got involved in the project in the first place if I was confident we could take it all the way to F1 -- that is the aim.

"If our plans go the right way, I'd like to think we could be on the grid for 2009.  The aim is to have the whole structure, with the academy from karting, through formula 3 and the World Series, and formula one at the top," he added.

06/10/08 (GMM)  A British F3 team has set its sights on entering formula one in the near future.

Northamptonshire based Ultimate Motorsport, in only its second year of competition in 2008, is reportedly in talks with Toro Rosso about taking over Red Bull magnate Dietrich Mateschitz's 50 per cent share.

The outfit, with stated ambitions to "climb the motorsport ladder", already runs with sponsorship and branding by Sonangol, a partially state-owned oil company in Angola.

Earlier, it was reported that Ultimate wanted to go it alone in formula one as early as 2009, but was relying on a green light to run customer cars.

It was said the outfit is closely following the current negotiations about a new Concorde Agreement, the now lapsed and delayed contract between F1's teams, Formula One Management (FOM) and the FIA.


Has John Andretti found a permanent home at Roth Racing?
John Andretti talks about this weekend's up and coming Indy Car race in flood devastated Iowa.

John Andretti
“First, and most importantly, there is a lot of sensitivity going in to an area that has been devastated by weather, rain and the flood.  Hopefully, with this race, some good things will come.  Maybe we can lift their spirits.  I know this entire Roth Racing organization will have the people affected on our hearts and minds. 

“Racing, this is going to be my first time to Iowa since racing in Des Moines, or outside of Des Moines, since my dad raced sprint cars. I hear the facility is first class. Rusty Wallace has certainly put his fingerprint on it. It is state of the art. I have heard nothing but great things about it. I look forward to it.

“Short track racing with an Indy car, it will be the first time I have done that too. There is a lot of emotion going into it from a lot of different perspectives. I am really enjoying myself with Roth Racing. Marty and Margaret have been great to work with.  They have become really good friends. Also, rekindling the long-time friendship and association with Larry Curry.  He is a great organizer.

Read more & Comment...

Pruett to replace Sorenson at Sonoma UPDATE Scott Pruett will replace Reed Sorenson in the No. 41 Chip Ganassi Racing Dodge for the Toyota/Save Mart 350 this weekend at Infineon Raceway.  The No. 41 team is 32nd in owner points, just 29 ahead of the 36th-place No. 66 Haas CNC Racing team, which will have road-course ace Max Papis behind the wheel of its car.  Pruett is an accomplished road-course racer and finished third at Infineon in 2004. Sorenson has finishes of 29th and 40th in the last two years on the 1.99-mile road course.  A team spokesman said this is a one-race deal.

06/17/08 Look for Ganassi Grand-Am driver Scott Pruett to replace Reed Sorenson in the No. 41 Dodge at Sonoma.  Ganassi brings in Pruett every year because he runs so well on road courses.


NJ track could replace Loudon
DMG President Roger Edmondson responded to rampant reports that AMA Pro Racing would run at Loudon and Watkins Glen with the following statement, issued in response to questions from roadracingworld.com:

"There is no intent on our part to return to Loudon absent significant changes, as called for by almost every responsible member of our community. The implication that there is a unilateral attempt to do so by DMG is false and is not based in fact. To be willing to hear a presentation on how it could be done, to consider what changes could or would be made, is just common courtesy and a willingness to look to the future while remembering the heritage of one of the oldest motorcycle events in our country.

"There have also been reports of our intent to add Watkins Glen to our schedule. My preliminary view is that the challenges cannot be overcome, but once we have the transition from AMA to DMG complete, Colin Fraser and Bill Syfan will continue their work with the Rider Safety Committee and if asked to review Watkins Glen, will schedule a site visit and evaluation.

"Right now there is a new facility in New Jersey that will be ready for 2009, a new track coming on line soon in the Houston area that shows promise, and another one in North Carolina. All of these facilities will be judged on a criteria that includes safety, location, sponsor and spectator interest, and finally, the ability of our sport to afford additional events." Racingworld.com


NASCAR manufacturers feel-good finishes
It's odd sometimes how the NASCAR world churns along.

Let's get one thing straight, from this perch, Dale Earnhardt Jr. is an amazingly valuable asset for NASCAR. There's simply no denying that fact.

The son of a racing legend, the grandson of a racing legend, with a down to earth everyman attitude that resonates with fans the sport over. NASCAR needs Earnhardt as much as Earnhardt needs NASCAR.

That said, it can sometimes get a little bit startling how the rules can change for certain individuals, in a number of ways, and also how oddly well timed those truly wonderful stories happen for NASCAR.

With the negative press of a $225 million sexual and racial discrimination lawsuit being filed against NASCAR hanging over the sport all weekend like thunder clouds in the sky after an overheated summer's day, somehow they got the feel-good story again when it all seemed so dark.

Not saying there was any monkey business, just saying it happens a lot in NASCAR [Editor's Note: A real lot, especially qualifying.  How can one forget Dodge's first race in Cup?  Both Dodges on the front row at Daytona - much hoopla for Dodge.  When the green flag dropped both went right to the back.]

Read more & Comment...

Army looking for new team in 2009?
The U.S. Army is examining its options for 2009 and beyond, and could leave Dale Earnhardt, Inc., for another team. The Army sponsorship is a year-by-year affair, and is renegotiated at the end of each season for the next year. Sources close to the situation tell Sirius Speedway that while the Army could still return to the DEI camp next season, officials are talking to at least one other Sprint Cup Series team, including one from the Toyota camp. Mark Martin has steered the US Army Chevrolet to a pair of Top-5 and five Top-10 finishes this season, and stands 24th in points despite running only 12 of the 15 races to date. Aric Almirola has made the other three starts in the car, with one Top-10 finish. Motorsports Soapbox


Honda could have two new drivers in 2009
(GMM)  Neither current race driver is guaranteed his Honda seat beyond this season, team boss Nick Fry has warned.

With both Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello's contracts expiring at the end of the year, Fry points out that the Brackley based outfit is an increasingly attractive proposition amongst other talented drivers on the market.

"We're open minded at the moment and our drivers are aware of that," Fry told the virtual magazine GPWeek.

"Obviously when you have a team principal and technical guru like Ross (Brawn) in the team, we become possibly even more attractive than we were before and the change in the regulations for next year gives teams like us a big opportunity.

"Hopefully we can take advantage of that.  At the moment we're not short of offers," Fry added.

It is an open secret in the F1 paddocks this season that Honda is hoping to capitalize on the sweeping rule changes by already switching its focus to the all-new 2009 car.


Iowa IndyCar race in jeopardy? UPDATE #2 According to WHO (the Des Moines NBC affiliate), on their 6:00 PM local news broadcast tonight, all of Interstate 80 was reopened this afternoon.  Enough of the gloom and doom!  The IndyCar fans here in central Iowa are ready to see some racing this weekend!  Trent King

06/16/08 Interstate Highway 80 remains closed in both directions at milepost 266 in Cedar County, just west of the Iowa 38 interchange.

This major transportation artery may not reopen until the middle of the week according to the Iowa Department of Transportation. The reopening depends on additional rain and any damage discovered to the roadway.

The I-80 detour route is U.S. Highway 61 north to U.S. Highway 20 in Dubuque, west on U.S. 20 to Interstate 35, and south on Interstate 35 to Interstate 80 in Des Moines. Des Moines Register

Note — This detour takes all traffic off of the section of I-80 where Newton is located.... Tim Wohlford reporting

06/14/08 While the Iowa Speedway website claims that the show must go on (below), there are good reasons to doubt that the event will happen. 

Newton, Iowa is only about 70 miles from Cedar Rapids, where some 1300 city blocks are under water.  Thirty miles the other way on I-80, a levee failed in Des Moines this morning, causing the evacuation of 270 homes.  Parts of I-80 are currently closed due to high water.

Newton itself is not flooded, but no doubt emergency crews that are scheduled for use at Newton are busy attending to the needs of the flooded areas.  In addition, hotel rooms will probably be full with displaced families as well as rescue workers. 

In a similar situation, NASCAR postponed the 1998 Pepsi 400 due to fires, not because the fires threatened the Daytona area, but because of the need for emergency personnel to fight the fire, as well as highways being closed due to smoke.

From IowaSpeedway.com:
Iowa’s flooding disaster is not directly affecting scheduled events for the IndyCar Series weekend, June 20-22, at Iowa Speedway. The facility has immediate access to I-80 and is located on elevated ground near an adjacent airport. Racing fans who plan to attend the Iowa Corn Indy 250, especially those out-of-state, are encouraged to proceed with plans to attend the event.


Did Favorite Son Dale Earnhardt Jr. get the NASCAR "Call" UPDATE A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I read with amusement this rumor of a possible call by NASCAR so that their "Danica Patrick," Dale Jr., wins a race to take much of the negative press over the racism and bigotry lawsuit filed against them last week.  How convenient.  How utterly convenient.  Mordichai Rosen

06/16/08 It seems NASCAR did everything it could in its power to give Dale Earnhardt Jr. a win on Sunday.

Evidence #1

Now that it's all over, Dale Earnhardt Jr. has the checkered flag, has the trophy and we know darn certain that NASCAR doesn't go back and take victories away from Sprint Cup Series winners, let's ask the question. Isn't it against the rules to pass the pace car under caution?

And if it's not, wouldn't a driver be penalized if NASCAR has warned them 3 times to stay behind the pace car as television commentators relayed to viewers before Earnhardt took the checkered to win the LifeLock 400 Sunday at Michigan International Speedway?

This much is certain, Earnhardt was doing what he had to do to keep his car coasting and conserving fuel for a 2-lap green-white-checkered shootout at Michigan. But he was having some serious issues with keeping his car at the pace set by NASCAR, and isn't that part of the rules, that a driver must maintain the pace set by the "pace" car under caution?

Clearly Earnhardt was trying to get quick bursts of power out of his motor as he would fire it and immediately turn it off while pacing waiting for the final restart. Wasn't it to his advantage that Earnhardt was gassing his car so much that the bursts he was getting were faster than the pace car was running and thus sending him past the pace car?

Earnhardt said the team was warned that he could be parked if he did it again.

"I can understand how it might look if, especially if you're not a Dale Jr. fan," Earnhardt said. "Yeah, I guess you might not be too, I know exactly what they are going to say Monday. But hell with it."

And yes, there are many out there that would say NASCAR at times will play favorites.

And when the most popular driver you have is on the verge of breaking a 2-year plus winless streak, does fair and equal play for all go out the window? Courant.com

Evidence #2

Matt Kenseth thought he should have finished two spots higher, and not just because he finished third on Sunday.  Kenseth led four times for a total of 41 laps, but he gave up the lead for good on Lap 187 of the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series LifeLock 400 at Michigan International Speedway.

During a two-tire pit stop in the second half of the race, a NASCAR official stayed in front of Kenseth's No. 17 DeWalt Ford, trapping him for a few seconds in his pit box.

"I thought we just kind of got beat on the pit deal again," Kenseth said. "We had an official in front of our car when we did two (tires) and that cost us two spots leaving the pits, and that really hurt us.

"Then, we had a little miscue on our two-tire stop and that hurt us a little bit, too. Just didn't quite work out. There was a lot of different strategies, and some guys could make it to the end and some couldn't, and we were just not exactly in the right place to capitalize on it."

Kenseth immediately told his crew chief he thought that NASCAR should put him up in the order to compensate for the official's error.

"Well, I kind of knew they wouldn't," he said. "I've seen them before when officials made a mistake and they corrected it -- I can't remember if it was Carl (Edwards) somewhere in the Nationwide Series race where the official called something wrong and put him back, so you hope for that possibility.

"But the official just walked out and stood right in front of my car when it was time to go and it was either run him over and hurt him or wait for him to get out of the way, so I had to wait. And it wasn't really for the lead, because that's when Jimmie (Johnson) and the 77 (Sam Hornish Jr.) stayed out. But it would've put us two cars farther forward and the first car on fresh tires. At the end of the race, the way the caution fell, it might not have made a difference, but it might've." Detroit Free Press


F1 mulls new breakaway split over Mosley rift UPDATE #5 A private equity-led takeover of Formula One stunned the Grand Prix paddock. Now the threat of a breakaway by leading teams is causing more disarray, write Christian Sylt and Caroline Reed

It all started with a few slaps to the backside. However Max Mosley's now-infamous S&M exploits seem set to spark a rival motor racing series that could leave F1, and Royal Bank of Scotland, its biggest creditor, in the dust.

Mosley has single-handedly presided over one of the biggest scandals ever in the billion-dollar sport. Despite car companies and auto clubs representing tens of millions of motorists calling for him to step down as president of F1's governing body, the Fédération Internationale de l'Automobile (FIA), he refused to resign following lurid revelations about his private life. Heads of state said they did not want to be seen with him, preventing Mosley from attending many of this year's Grand Prix events.

Yet earlier this month Mosley won a vote of confidence from the FIA's members who viewed the attack on him as an attack on the federation. Mosley has made it abundantly clear that he is not leaving F1 - but at last week's Canadian Grand Prix, it came to light that F1 might instead leave Mosley.

A series of crisis meetings was held at the race to consider how the sport could survive the damage being done by Mosley to its slick and squeaky-clean reputation. More than 300 sponsors invest nearly £500 million in supporting F1's 10 teams and expect this to bring image benefits to them - not association with a sordid scandal. One team boss reportedly said that "many (sponsors) are even threatening to cease their payments if Formula 1 does not solve the problem with Mosley".

Chairing the meetings was Bernie Ecclestone, the 77-year-old chief executive of F1's commercial rightsholder, and he is said to have come up with the radical solution of starting a new series under a different brand to run outside the FIA. As one senior team source suggested: "The manufacturers supply the cars and the drivers and the sponsors, Bernie has the contracts with the circuits and the TV companies. ... Max is just the referee. The FIA blows the whistle."

In a case of stalemate over the future of F1, a new series would be one of the only ways forward. The commercial rights to F1 are in fact the commercial rights to the "FIA Formula One World Championship" since the FIA founded it in 1950. As a result of this, F1 could not be run under any other governing body and so the only way for the participants to distance themselves completely from the FIA would be to start a new series.

"I don't think it is the first option. We would prefer to work with the FIA if we can," said Nick Fry, Honda GP's chief executive, when asked about the possibility of a breakaway series. Ultimately the pressure of finding a solution may be too great to avoid it. "We need stability, consistency and the right values and images for Formula One," says McLaren's boss Ron Dennis. He adds: "If anything is put forward as an initiative that is in the best interests of Formula One and this company I will support it. It's highly unlikely that Formula One will look the same as it does today in five years' time."

An indication of exactly what F1 might look like in future can be found in the intellectual property portfolio of Formula One Promotions and Administration (FOPA), Ecclestone's private company. The company has a suite of pan-European registered trademarks which seem ready to roll out on a new racing series.

The three most crucial of these trademarks are for GP1 and GP3. These are in addition to GP2, which is already up and running as F1's feeder series. The registrations cover a wide range of categories including organizing and staging sports events, broadcasting, sportswear and timing equipment. Although the original applicant of the GP3 mark was not FOPA but an Italian business, Ecclestone's company took it over in October 2006 and, perhaps most tellingly, it now has a logo which looks remarkably similar in design to GP2's brand.

These three tiers of brands would also seem to mirror those of F1's rival A1 Grand Prix, which has A2 and A3 feeder categories. It is a strategy which has clearly been on Ecclestone's mind.

Last year, when interviewed about his hopes for his football club Queen's Park Rangers, he compared its progress to rising through motorsport categories, saying: "We're in Formula Renault at the moment. Next, we want to move up to GP2 and then GP1." In less than 12 months this could be a reality as reports from Canada claimed that there was a deadline for Mosley to resign by this Tuesday and failing that, the new series, with F1's current participants, would be given the green light for 2009.

It would be a big risk given that F1's globally renowned brand has undoubtedly played a part in accelerating the sport's annual turnover to £657 million. However, backing a new series could maximize the return on investment for CVC, the private equity house which majority-owns F1's commercial rights holder.  Telegraph.co.uk

06/16/08 This rumor is upgraded from 'false' to 'speculation' with this news item that Ecclestone admits a breakaway series is possible.

Read more & Comment...

Flagging economy keeps MIS fans at home UPDATE Everyone knew there would be some empty seats at Michigan International Speedway on Sunday. No one knew exactly how many there would be.

There were a lot.

Crowd numbers are not released by speedway officials, but media estimates put the crowd at about 125,000 -- 35,000 under what is considered to be a capacity crowd at the track.

Seating capacity is 132,000, but that doesn't count the infield fans, competitors, crew members, officials and volunteers that contribute on race day.

The main grandstand on the front stretch was full Sunday, but the smaller grandstands between Turns 1 and 2 had thousands of empty spots. The grandstands between Turns 3 and 4 were only partially filled.

The smaller crowd is likely the effect of a poor Michigan economy and high gas prices.

MIS president Roger Curtis was happy with the turnout.

"I was very pleased with the attendance," Curtis said. "The fans' enthusiasm was tremendous."

Curtis said he expects the attendance to be higher when the series returns in August for the Citizens Bank 400.

06/11/08 In August 2005, the stands were packed and the infield full at Michigan International Speedway, marking the track's 30th consecutive sellout.

Since then, attendance has dipped slightly, but in a crowd of more than 130,000 it can be hard to notice.

What's easier to visualize are the 91,000 fewer workers in Michigan since that August race -- enough to almost fill the red and yellow grandstands.

As Michigan's economic downturn and mounting job losses worsen, more residents are choosing to stay home on race day.

And it's why MIS President Roger Curtis said he believes there won't be a sellout for Sunday's LifeLock 400 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race, and ticket sales will be "a fair amount lower" than last year's June race.  Mlive.com


Logano could run some Cup races late this season
Joey Logano, who in only his third Nationwide Series start won on Saturday night at Kentucky Speedway, likely will compete in a few Sprint Cup races for Joe Gibbs Racing before the end of the season. "We would like to get him in some Cup stuff towards the end of the year," team owner Joe Gibbs said before Sunday's Cup race at Michigan International Speedway. "We want to make sure it's the good stuff and the right way." Gibbs said it was too late in the year to start a fourth Cup team for Logano to run full time next season. Asked if Logano might replace Tony Stewart should the two-time Cup champion leave for another team, Gibbs said, "I don't think we've gone in that direction yet. We're still trying to work things out." Stewart is being pursued by several teams, including at least one that is offering ownership. Gibbs and his son, team president J.D. Gibbs, have been emphatic that they won't part with Stewart before his contract expires after 2009. They remain optimistic that he will re-sign with JGR and end his career there. ESPN.com


Melbourne extends F1 contract UPDATE (GMM) The future of Melbourne's Australian grand prix has been secured for the immediate future, according to widespread media reports in the country on Sunday.

Following earlier speculation that a new international host might replace Albert Park's annual spot on the calendar in 2010, it is now suggested that the Victorian state government has reached a "verbal agreement" with F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.

The new contract will guarantee a race in Melbourne, scene of a grand prix since 1996, until 2015.

Reports said Ecclestone had decided to compromise on demanding an Australian night race, with organizers to run the grand prix annually at 5pm.

A senior government source is quoted as saying an announcement about the news is "imminent".

"They've come to an agreement," the source added.

Acting Victorian premier Rob Hulls said: "No deal has been signed, we're keen to retain the grand prix but not at any price."

06/14/08 We are hearing rumors from Australia that the Australian GP contract with Melbourne has been extended until 2015. This is great news for Australia as there had been fears that the race would fall victim to higher bids coming from elsewhere in Asia and the Middle East. Grandprix.com


Biffle expects to sign Roush contract next week
Greg Biffle expects to sign a three-year extension with Roush Fenway Racing by the end of next week. Biffle recently canceled a trip outside of the country for a Tuesday brake test. He plans to use the free time around that to iron out the few remaining details on the deal. We’ve basically agreed on everything else,” he said on Friday at Michigan International Raceway. “It’s just a matter of finding time for everybody to sit down and finish this thing.” Biffle added that 3M will remain his primary sponsor, denying reports that Crown Royal would move from Jamie McMurray’s car to his. ESPN.com


Let's not disappoint them
IRL driver Tony Kanaan was in the Chip Ganassi Racing garage at Michigan International Speedway on Friday, the guest of Dario Franchitti.  Ganassi sources joked that they expected rumors to be flying around on the Internet by today, claiming that Kanaan was looking to make the jump to NASCAR.  CGR spokespeople claimed up and down that there is absolutely no truth to the now-expected rumor that Tony will come to NASCAR.  There... it's a rumor... and they've responded to it.  Is everyone happy? Tim Wohlford reporting from Michigan

track news

'Montreal hairpin could be redesigned'
The Montreal circuit could undergo a few changes ahead of next year's race in a bid to put prevent reoccurring track surface issues.

Last weekend during qualifying at the circuit Gilles Villeneuve the track surface began to break up, most notably at the Turn 10 hairpin, resulting in dangerous 'marbles' forming just off the racing line. And although the Canadian GP organizers had the track resurfaced overnight, problems still arose during the 70-lap grand prix.

The track's executive vice president Francois Dumontier has now come out saying the circuit is likely to undergo reprofiling in the coming months in order to prevent the problem reoccurring next season.

"The problem seems to be in the curves," Dumontier told Autosport. "We'll look at the hairpin, and the configuration of the hairpin. We'll look seriously at it with the FIA."

He added: "We had the same problem last year, since 2005 in fact, so after last year we took a serious look at what product to put there, and we really thought that what we installed was good enough to hold for the weekend.

"So we were pretty upset with what happened in qualifying, and we'll have to go back again and see what we can do. We'll look at what other tracks are doing, and see if we can use the same kind of product."


Indy cars may roll into New Hampshire next year UPDATE Jerry Gappens, executive vice president and general manager at New Hampshire Motor Speedway confirmed yesterday that the IndyCar Series will most likely return to “The Magic Mile.”

“There is 100 percent interest from both the IndyCar Series and Speedway Motorsports Inc. to having the IndyCar Series return to New Hampshire Motor Speedway,” Gappens said in a telephone interview.

After meeting with IndyCar Series executive Terry Angstadt last weekend at Texas Motor Speedway, Gappens said open-wheel racing could return to NHMS as soon as the 2009 season and definitely in 2010.If it doesn’t happen in 2009, it’s almost guaranteed for 2010 when (IndyCar Series) can do their schedule from scratch,” Gappens said.

Gappens believes a perfect scenario would be to have the IndyCar Series race at NHMS next season in either late July or the beginning of August.

The last time an IndyCar Series race was held at NHMS was in 1998.

Since then, Gappens has received much correspondence from open-wheel fans in the New England area thirsty for the return of IndyCar.

“Danica Patrick’s win this season in Japan and Helio Castroneves winning ‘Dancing with the Stars’ has just been huge for the sport,” Gappens said.

John Griffin, vice president of public relations for the IndyCar Series, said via e-mail that the series is extremely confident it will return to New Hampshire.

“We definitely have interest in returning to NHMS - the geographic location gives us a presence we don’t already have and the oval layout is one that is very attractive for IndyCar racing,” Griffin said.

Griffin also said the only real dilemma would be if the IndyCar Series could squeeze a possible date into the 2009 schedule.  Boston Herald

06/12/08 New Hampshire Motor Speedway rolled out its version of an "economic stimulus" package yesterday and it may include Indy car racing in 2009.

Speedway vice president and general manager Jerry Gappens said he believes there is a "60-70 percent" chance that the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series, which races in the famed Indianapolis 500, will park a new race here on the one-mile oval next season.

Gappens visited Indy car administrators at the Indy 500 and recently at the IRL race at Texas Motor Speedway.

"Interest is 100 percent on both sides," Gappens said. "The key component is what they want to do with their race in Japan."

Any Indy car race in New Hampshire would fall between the speedway's two NASCAR Sprint Cup races June 29 and Sept. 14. NHMS employs nearly 5,000 on race weekends and seats 100,000. Gappens has said that a crowd of 40,000 would make the Indy cars successful here.

"But wait, there's more," is standard operating procedure for the promoter Gappens, who is the point man for NHMS and its aggressive ownership, the publicly traded Speedway Motorsports Inc. (SMI)

Gappens' immediate "economic stimulus" revealed yesterday also included plenty for race fans. Unionleader.com


F1 Grands Prix Generate More Revenue Per Event Than Any Sport in the World
Formula Money (www.formulamoney.com), the organization which monitors the financial health of Formula One (F1) motor racing, and Deloitte Sport Business Group have revealed F1 generates more revenue per event than any other sport in the world. Each of the motor sport's 17 races produce an average revenue of $229 million per event – nearly ten times that of its closest competitor, the National Football League (NFL), which generates $24 million per game.

Figures from Deloitte Sports Business Group show the NFL ($6.5 billion in 2006) and Major League Baseball (MLB, $5.1 billion in 2006) earn more overall revenue than F1's total $3.9 billion with a substantially higher number of annual events. The Premier League soccer clubs’ combined revenue was $3 billion in the 2006/07 season.

Formula One’s $3.9 billion is comprised of commercial rights revenues (from race sponsorship, corporate hospitality and broadcast fees), team revenues (including sponsorship and contributions from partners and owners) and circuit revenues (from ticket sales and sponsorships). However, this grand total could be dented in coming years as F1 teams are currently considering plans to cap their blockbuster budgets.

Formula Money shows that F1's costs have accelerated over the past five years, with the average race-hosting fee increasing seventy percent, from $11.3 million to $19.3 million. For the first time since 2000, the U.S. Grand Prix will be absent from F1's calendar this year after Indianapolis Motor Speedway chief executive Tony George and Bernie Ecclestone, chief executive of the F1 Group, failed to reach agreement on a new deal. 

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Spies to replace injured Loris Capirossi UPDATE Reigning American superbike champion Ben Spies will make his long-anticipated MotoGP debut in the British GP at Donington Park on June 22.

Suzuki is expected to officially announce the deal later this week, but Spies will replace Capirossi, with MCN sources today confirming the 35-year-old would definitely miss the British GP.

The veteran Italian had further medical checks on the broken right hand today that he injured during last Sunday's Catalunya GP when Honda rookie Alex de Angelis wiped him out.

Suzuki had expected to confirm Japanese test rider Nobuatsu Aoki for Capirossi's factory GSV-R ride. In Aoki's testing contract, it says he is the number one replacement should Capirossi or Chris Vermeulen get injured, and he is already in Europe having tested at Catalunya on earlier this week.

But with Spies due to make his MotoGP debut in Laguna Seca next month, Suzuki believe it is an ideal opportunity to draft him in earlier

06/11/08 The finger break suffered by Loris Capirossi at the Gran Premi Cinzano de Catalunya is likely to rule the Italian out of the bwin.com British Grand Prix –and possibly the A-Style TT Assen- his Rizla Suzuki Team Manager Paul Denning has admitted.

Capirossi picked up the injury in a collision with Alex de Angelis during the Barcelona race, and will today (Wednesday) see a specialist in Monaco to assess his condition.

“Loris´ break is quite a complicated one; it’s a dislocated fracture of his fifth right metacarpus, which is used a lot in braking. We will wait for the verdict when he sees the specialist, but at the moment it is looking unlikely that he will ride at Donington and perhaps Assen”, said Denning at the post-race test in Barcelona.

Test rider Nobuatsu Aoki rode Capirossi´s GSV-R at the two day stay in Catalunya, but the possibility of he, future Rizla Suzuki wild card Ben Spies or indeed any other rider standing in for the veteran Italian will not be discussed until further details are known about Capirossi´s condition. 

“The plan is to run two riders in Donington and Assen, but Rizla Suzuki cannot comment as to who those would be at the moment”, stated Denning.


Overheard in Long Beach - 7 (Mexico City) UPDATE #2 Indy Racing League officials were in Mexico City early this week to look at a possible location for a race there, which could be held as early as 2009. It may have to be pushed to 2010, depending on scheduling conflicts, but IRL officials are bullish on the market south of the border.

And Mexico City isn’t the only market in Mexico the IRL is considering, said sources within the league. If things can’t be worked out to bring a race to Mexico City, IRL officials have indicated they have other options in Mexico, which has a growing motorsports following and a solid corporate sponsorship base. The IRL is hoping to get everything worked out to make an announcement by mid-July about its plans in Mexico.

There are a number of markets worldwide the IRL is considering expanding into, but team and series officials have concerns about escalating expenses that go along with a longer season. Series officials also want to assure each new market has the infrastructure and marketing muscle to help the IRL grow.

So, do you think Mexico City is a good market for the IRL? And are there other cities south of the border where you think the IRL can flourish?  IBJ.com

05/08/08 Mexican driver Mario Dominguez, whose Pacific Coast Motorsports car is sponsored by his home country, said the official tourism group from Mexico City will be at the track this weekend to meet with Indy Racing League officials about a possible IndyCar Series race next year in Mexico City. Indy Star [Editor's Note: AutoRacing1.com has been running a poll on our home page as to which Champ Car races should be added to the IndyCar schedule in 2009.  Here are the results to-date.]

04/20/08 Mario Dominguez listed his top-5 favorite road and street circuits in Champ Car that should be part of the IRL and mentioned in doing so that he thought Mexico City was looking good for next year.......The IRL's Fred Nation said that the series could not be happier with the way the season has started with transition driver Graham Rahal winning in St. Pete, a safe race in Homestead and Danica Patrick winning her first race in Motegi and Will Power winning here in Long Beach. "This is the bright future of open wheel racing in North America."......Jimmy Vasser refused to say this would be his last race ever.  "Never say never," said Vasser and he even hinted he might like to have another go at the Indy 500.


The Pettys near deal to sell out UPDATE #4 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  See announcement on Hot News page.  Petty Enterprises announced Wednesday that investment group Boston Ventures has made a capital investment in the organization and the re-signing of driver Bobby Labonte to a four-year deal.
Barry Baker, managing director of Boston Ventures, will become chairman of Petty Enterprises, while Richard Petty will be chairman emeritus and remain highly involved in the operation of the company.
David Zucker has been named as the company’s chief executive officer, replacing Kyle Petty. Zucker has been president and chief operating officer of Playboy Enterprises, worked as an ESPN executive and most recently was president and CEO of Midway Games Inc., a publisher and developer of video games.
“David is the perfect choice to be the new Petty Enterprises CEO,” Richard Petty said. “He’s done great things, and he’s been very innovative at some prominent companies in this country. But, more importantly, he knows racing. He worked at ESPN for eight years and helped them get back into the sport. That part was important to us.
“Petty Enterprises builds race cars. That’s what we do. So we felt like we needed to bring someone in that can relate to the core of our business and expand what we currently do for our sponsors.”

Zucker said, “As a devoted NASCAR fan, an opportunity to help build a name brand organization like Petty Enterprises comes along only once in a great while. I am pleased to be entrusted with this outstanding company with such a rich history and I look forward to working with everyone to lead us to greater prosperity.”

Labonte, the 2000 Cup champion, will remain as the team’s signature driver.  Executive Vice President Robbie Loomis will continue to run the racing operations.

06/11/08 Wednesday’s announcement will continue a trend that began last year when four Sprint Cup organizations sold off at least 50 percent ownership to investment groups:

• Fenway Sports Group reportedly paid $60 million for a 50-percent stake in Roush Racing.

• Billionaire investor Robert Kauffman reportedly paid close to $30 million to purchase half of Michael Waltrip Racing.

• Arizona Diamondback executives Jeff Moorad and Tom Garfinkel reportedly paid $20 to $30 million for controlling interest in Hall of Fame Racing.

• And George Gillett Jr. purchased controlling interest in Ray Evernham Motorsports for an estimated $30 to $40 million.

Using those purchases/investments as a gauge, it’s likely Boston Venture will pay upwards of $40 to $50 million to gain control of Petty Enterprises.

How will the acquisition affect Petty Enterprises’ future?

In effect, it will allow the Petty’s to forget about where their next dollar is coming from and focus exclusively on improving the overall racing operation – something that’s been long overdue.

And with Boston Venture’s financial wherewithal, greater resources will likely be invested into the company that should result in the ability to hire better personnel, purchase more state of the art equipment and eventually lead to the expansion of the organization to a three-car team – perhaps as early as 2010.

06/10/08 SPEED will interrupt regularly scheduled programming Wednesday at 11 a.m. ET to bring viewers live coverage of the Petty Enterprises press conference from the Lowe’s Motor Speedway media center. Hosted by Kyle Petty, the press conference will address the future of the organization, introducing a new CEO and offering a driver lineup and sponsor packages for 2009 and beyond.

06/09/08 This rumor is about to go to 'fact.'  On Wednesday, Petty Enterprises will announce that Boston Ventures, a private equity firm, has acquired controlling interest in the 60-year-old racing operation which has produced 10 NASCAR champions but struggled to remain competitive the last two decades. Richard Petty will remain involved at a high level, but David Zucker, 45, will assume the role of CEO according to David Hovis, a spokesman for Petty Enterprises.

Hovis also said it will also be announced that veteran driver Bobby Labonte has agreed to a four-year extension. Labonte will continue to drive for what is expected to remain a two-car Cup team for 2009.

Until March, Zucker had been CEO of Midway Games, a Chicago-based producer of video games. In 2002, Zucker was named president and CEO of Playboy Enterprises. From 1988-1999 he was with the Walt Disney Corp., becoming executive vice president at ESPN. He also served as director of ESPN International, overseeing international operations.

Petty said the initial deal is to run two cars but indicated he’d like to have a third Cup team running full time by 2010. Sponsorship, however, remains an issue. The team is losing its primary sponsor of the Labonte’s #43 car. General Mills, to Richard Childress Racing next year. Hovis said a fourth component of the deal will be announced at a Wednesday press conference. USA Today

06/08/08 Petty Enterprises is finalizing a deal to sell majority ownership of its Sprint Cup Series organization to one of the leading private equity firms in the country, Boston Ventures, The Charlotte Observer and ThatsRacin.com have learned. A formal announcement of the deal, which is also likely to include a contract extension for one of the team's drivers, Bobby Labonte, could come as early as Wednesday, multiple sources confirmed.

Boston Ventures has invested six funds totaling $2.6 billion in capital commitments in its 22-year history. According to its Web site, some of Boston Ventures previous portfolio companies include American Media Inc., Motown Records, Six Flags Entertainment and Continental Cablevision.

Petty Enterprises has 268 wins and 10 championships in 60 years of racing but the last win was in 1999 at Martinsville, Va., with driver John Andretti. The last time one of its drivers finished in the top 0 in points was 1995, with driver Bobby Hamilton, who is now deceased.

Earlier this season longtime sponsor of the Pettys' No. 43, General Mills, announced it was leaving at the end of the season and that the organization's No. 45 car still lacks a full-time primary sponsor.

"I think Petty Enterprises is not in an impossible situation, but a hard situation," Kyle Petty said in April. "You're trying to stay a part of the sport and catch up to the sport.

"We're talking to investors. We're losing sponsors. We're trying to find sponsors. We're trying to get drivers.

"We're trying to keep drivers. We've got so many balls in the air. ... I don't think it's impossible, but we've got to have the right direction and we've got to stay in the right direction."  ThatsRacin.com


Michael Waltrip Racing in trouble? UPDATE #2 First, the information that our post was based on was not made up, fabricated, or some sort of wild speculation.  Employees were let go, and given the reason we specified.  And it wasn’t just one employee.  Beyond that, the fact remains that both NAPA and UPS have sponsorship contracts that end after this season and UPS has been openly shopping for another team.  All three Cup Series teams are lower then 28th in the points, with Waltrip’s #55 team falling out of the top 35 last Sunday at Pocono.  In the current climate of NASCAR, sponsorship has been very difficult to come by, with some very successful teams having limited or no sponsorship.  Knowing that both companies may be looking, its not a stretch to think that a lot of Cup Series owners have made phone calls inquiring.  And, with good teams being available, why wouldn’t UPS and NAPA look elsewhere?  The return on investment could be a lot better with another team.

Second, at no point in the post did we say that Michael Waltrip Racing was closing its doors.  Financial trouble does not mean bankrupt or dead.  We just stated that they are in trouble.  With that said though, if MWR can’t secure sponsorship for its three Cup teams and Nationwide Series program for 2009 and beyond, teams will be shut down.  That is a fact of racing that nobody can dispute.

In terms of Michael Waltrip’s partners and Toyota, I’d like to remind people that although racing is a sport, at the end of the day its a business.  It doesn’t matter how much money and resources Toyota, Robert Kauffman, or Cal Wells have.  If the team doesn’t have sponsorship and isn’t at least breaking even, they won’t continue to back it.  Kauffman and Toyota didn’t get to where they are today by making bad investment decisions.  They will not continue to sink money into the team just because its a NASCAR team with a famous name on the front door. TheNascarInsiders

06/10/08 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  There is a rumor that reports MWR has fallen on tough times and may go away. Is that true? Waltrip says, "I fancy myself as being a friend to one of the Web sites that is reporting that. But I have to say that the rumor is probably one of the most ridiculous things I have read on the internet. We are probably on as good of footing financially as anyone in the garage area. We are focused on the future. When you are a new team, a lot of times there is turnover. There is reorganization. That is what is going on at MWR and will continue to happen until we hit our stride. We are not in any peril as being reported. We are very into what we are doing and what we need to do to be successful." MWR PR

06/09/08 Hearing that there might be trouble over at Michael Waltrip Racing. It seems that they are laying people off, telling them that it is because of financial issues. The team currently fields three Sprint Cup cars, the #00, the #44 and the #88, and one Nationwide Series car, the #99. This year Waltrip brought on a partner, Robert Kauffman, after suffering huge losses on renovations for his Cornelius, NC race shop and a bad 2007 season. Primary sponsor UPS is also pulling out of the team at the end of this season. Jayski's


A1GP may have another go at USA
The A1GP World Cup of Motorsport schedule for the 2008-09 season does not include a round in the United States, a situation A1 TEAM USA will make a diligent effort to rectify for 2009-10.

"We are expecting an A1GP round in the United States (if not two per season) and we're going to do everything possible to bring the World Cup of Motorsport to home ground," A1 TEAM USA Holdings owner Rick Weidinger said. "We ran out of time to do it properly for the upcoming season."

Weidinger is enthusiastic about the international scope of A1GP in 2008-09.

"We're a World Championship and that's evident by where we race," Weidinger said. "We have four rounds in Europe, we're in North America with Mexico City, South Africa, China and the Pacific Rim nations of Indonesia, Malaysia and New Zealand. We reach large markets in the countries we race and vast audiences through our rising television viewership, which is up to 10 million per race.

"We have great racing between nations with world-class drivers and the addition of our cars being Powered by Ferrari and a new car design highly influenced by Ferrari will take our technology up a notch and bring more awareness to A1GP. We think the entire package will be very exciting and attractive to commercial partners.

[Editor's Note: Get real.  Americans don't give a hoot about A1GP.  Who is going to underwrite such a loss?]


Is Tacoma defective?
Some 431 customers from around the country have reported unintended or sudden acceleration in their Toyota Tacoma pickups, resulting in 51 crashes and 12 injuries, but the automaker said there are no flaws in the trucks and that many reports were "inspired by publicity."

Federal regulators are still weighing whether to upgrade the investigation launched in February, which has broadened to include 775,000 Tacomas sold between the 2004 and 2008 model years. That probe was spurred by a Tacoma owner who noted 32 complaints to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration over acceleration problems.

A deeper investigation could force Toyota to recall the trucks if officials find a defect, and raise questions about sudden-acceleration claims that safety regulators and automakers have blamed on driver error for years. It could also address why no pickup model other than the Tacoma has garnered more than a few complaints of unexpected acceleration to the NHTSA during the same period.

Yet the NHTSA typically ends probes that don't uncover a clear fault in vehicles, and has previously ruled that without such evidence, driver error is an inescapable conclusion.

Toyota told the NHTSA last month that most of the claims to itself and the agency dealt with minor engine speed changes that have no relation to safety, and that its own investigation last October of 12 trucks reported to have sudden acceleration problems found no defects.

It also said "extensive media coverage" spurred additional reports and could explain why no other pickup has similar complaints.

"Toyota believes that it is likely that many of the consumer complaints about the general issue of unwanted acceleration ... as well as many of the complaints about this subject that have been received by Toyota, were inspired by publicity," Toyota said in a letter to the NHTSA released Thursday.

"But even taking them at face value, it is clear that the majority of the complaints are related to minor drivability issues and are not indicative of a safety-related defect." Detroit Free Press


Villeneuve and NASCAR....again UPDATE #2 Barry Green, business manager for Jacques Villeneuve, said the former Formula One champion definitely wants to be in the Sprint Cup series in 2009. Green, who denied reports last week that he and Villeneuve planned to start their own Cup team, said Villeneuve has turned down several offers to race in Europe. "He wants Sprint Cup," Green said. "We are far from having a deal for 2009 put together. We would like to see him do a handful of races this year." Green said "it's a given" Villeneuve will compete in the Nationwide race in Montreal on Aug. 2, but was not prepared to say which team he will be with. Villeneuve entered this season with Bill Davis Racing. He did not qualify for the season-opening Daytona 500 and never attempted another Cup race because he had no sponsorship. Villeneuve split shortly after with then-business manager Craig Pollock. Davis said he is interested in continuing the relationship with Villeneuve. "Barry is trying to salvage something," Davis said. "We've got a good relationship with Barry and Jacques, and if they get something worked out, we would be all ears." ESPN.com

06/07/08 Canada's only F-1 world champion may no longer be racing in the series but Jacques Villeneuve's appearance at the track named for his late father drew a crowd yesterday.  Villeneuve was quick to say he was just there as a fan and has no plans to seek another ride in the world's most prestigious racing series.

"I'm here to enjoy the ambiance," he said.

Villeneuve did say his goal is still to get back into the NASCAR Sprint Cup series this season and hopefully to get a ride in the Nationwide series that makes its stop at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve Aug. 2.

"We are still exploring sponsorship," he said.

Villeneuve denied he has teamed up with F-1 promoter Normand Legault and former Indy Car team owner Barry Green to field their own Sprint Cup team.  Winnipeg Sun

06/04/08 (GMM)  Former formula one world champion Jacques Villeneuve's NASCAR foray may soon be back on track.

After losing his BMW-Sauber seat in 2006, the 1997 title winner last year began racing American stock cars for Bill Davis Racing with a view to undertaking a full season in the premier category this season.

But after a handful of disappointing outings, he lost his ride due to a lack of sponsorship.

It is reported this week in the French language Canadian newspaper La Presse, however, that 37-year-old Villeneuve is looking to team up with his former CART team boss Barry Green, and Canadian GP promoter Normand Legault, in a bid to rejuvenate his NASCAR foray.

The daily publication said the collaboration needs sponsorship, but could link up with an existing team, such as Chip Ganassi Racing, who lured Juan Pablo Montoya from F1 to America's most popular form of motor sport in 2006.

"It's something we are still working on," Legault confirmed, "but we are very optimistic."


Kubica, Alonso keys to next 'silly season'
(GMM) BMW-Sauber wants to keep on-form Polish driver Robert Kubica at the wheel of a Hinwil built formula one car, team boss Mario Theissen admits.

The natural term of the 23-year-old's contract expires this year, but it is believed that BMW have a one-sided option to prolong the agreement to include 2009.

Asked whether the German squad wants to keep him on board, Theissen told the newspaper Bild am Sonntag: "I have no reason to want something else."

The race may however be on to capture Kubica's longer term services, amid rumours in La Gazzetta dello Sport that Ferrari is actually keener on the Pole than it is on Fernando Alonso, who is looking to return to the front of the grid as soon as possible.

The Italian sports daily reports that Ferrari has already made initial contacts with Kubica, who is apparently the Maranello based team's first priority should Kimi Raikkonen indeed decide to hang up his helmet.

"Yes, we will be talking with him later this year about a new contract," BMW's Theissen explained, amid speculation that Kubica currently earns 5 million euros per season.

BMW could also become an option for Alonso, with Theissen hinting to Bild am Sonntag that Nick Heidfeld "must improve" his current form if he expects to continue to receive the team's loyalty.

After hearing about Raikkonen's comments in Canada that retirement could be an option after 2009, Alonso insists that his only current target is to reclaim his winning ways.

"I have been through the same thing," Alonso said in an interview with France's L'Equipe.

"Two years ago I thought my career would not last so long -- I had won two titles and needed a new challenge.

"But now I know I will continue because I want to win again and prove that I am the best," the Spaniard said.


New team eyeing F1 entry in '09
Fledgling F3 and World Series team Ultimate Motorsport has revealed to crash.net that it could be on the verge of making the huge leap to Formula One as soon as next year.  The admission was made by team manager Barry Walsh, who claims he has been working on ambitious plans behind the scenes for some time and is now just dependent on a deal regarding customer cars going his way.

“The main ambition is to take Ultimate to F1 because this has all been geared in order to get there,” he said. “We are working very hard to achieve it and we have been working closely with different partners to get the right people to do the job properly.

“We are talking to many parties in order to do this and we've spent a lot of time getting the right people together. It is coming together quicker than we thought, but we are very comfortable with the position we are currently in.”

“It is hard to say when we can get on the grid," he admitted, "We are pushing to race in 2009, but we are waiting for the outcome of the Concorde Agreement, which will have a big bearing on what we do. For us to get started and to get the people together to place ourselves on the grid, we are relying on the customer situation to get us going.”


FIA may move to equalize F1 engines
(GMM)  The FIA may be contemplating how to equalize the performance of the engines in formula one, according to reports.

Together with the 19,000 rpm limit, the sport is in the midst of a so-called 'freeze' on most engine development, meaning that the basic power plants currently installed in teams' cars will remain unchanged for several years.

An arguable glitch in the cost-cutting rule, however, is that some engine manufacturers are enjoying a performance advantage over their rivals.

Ferrari is said to have prepared best for the engine freeze, now regularly dominating the speed traps at F1 circuits, but Mercedes-Benz and BMW are also widely believed to have clearly more powerful 2.4 liter V8 units than Renault, Toyota and Honda.

The Spanish newspaper Diario AS is reporting that the FIA is thinking about redressing the balance by introducing some sort of engine performance limiter in 2009, controlled via the standard ECU.

The less likely option cited by AS is the concept of simply opening up some areas of development for those with the less powerful engines so they can catch up with the pacesetters.


Montoya pissed with Ganassi, will he quit? UPDATE Why are there strong rumors in the NASCAR garage that Chip Ganassi is in the process of selling his NASCAR operation? Some have hinted that Chip is selling his assets to Roger Penske, another Dodge operation.

"Preposterous," says Dodge's Mike Accavitti. As if Accavitti is going to say anything. To be honest, I wouldn't be surprised that when asked by a reporter last week,  it was the first Accavitti had heard about it and was caught off guard when asked.

Ganassi's NASCAR operations have been in turmoil since the start of the season and there are no signs that things are getting any better. A failed deal to bring in a wealthy partner and the prospect of losing a good deal of Target dollars next season have to be a bit unsettling.

It wouldn't be too far of a stretch for Ganassi to just say "been there, done that" and head back to racing in the IRL full time, with three cars. After all, his Indy car organization is arguably the best American open wheel team in the past two decades, so why not go where you've had the most success and build upon it?

Having Ganassi focus full time on his IRL operations would also help put the pieces of that Humpty Dumpty of a series back together again. And I doubt Ganassi would care for more than ten minutes about what people will say when and if he does pack it up from NASCAR and head where the getting is good.

I wonder how much Montoya's contract is worth? And where does he head? Lots of people say the 20 car at Joe Gibbs Racing. Yahoo! Sports

05/24/08 Juan Pablo Montoya posted the second slowest qualifying lap out of 48 entries and dejectedly climbed from his car. “What did you expect?” he asked. “Seriously, what did you expect?”

Montoya is still reeling from the midweek firing of Jimmy Elledge, a personnel decision that’s given the former Formula One driver his third crew chief in a month. Frustrated that his opposition to the dismissal went unheeded, Montoya is now worried that his team is ill-prepared for Sunday’s race at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

Because new crew chief Brian Pattie had just two days to dissect Elledge’s setup on the No. 42 Dodge, changes were made on the fly during a difficult Thursday practice session that saw Montoya post the 45th slowest speed. It didn’t improve during qualifying, when Montoya was 47th out of 48 cars and will start next-to-last in the Coca-Cola 600. Team owner Chip Ganassi sympathizes with Montoya’s frustration, but said Elledge’s dismissal was warranted after the crew chief engaged in a heated argument with competition director Steve Hmiel during last week’s All-Star race.

“We had an employee step over the line, and I’m sorry it happened because I like Jimmy personally, but it had to be done,” Ganassi said. “I know Juan is upset and he comes out on the short end of this deal. I apologize for that, but unfortunately it was unavoidable collateral damage.”

Elledge declined to comment on his dismissal, but Montoya has been vocal in his opposition of the decision. Elledge had only been atop his pit box for four races, dating back to an earlier crew chief swap that sent Donnie Wingo over to Reed Sorenson’s slumping team. ESPN.com

[Editor's Note: How much longer before Montoya looks to leave the Ganassi team?  Face it.  History has shown they only win a rare race here or there and that is not what drives Montoya.  If he isn't winning on a regular basis he will look for a way out.  If Montoya cannot win for Ganassi on a regular basis, no one can. This isn't the first time Montoya and Ganassi have had a clash in management decisions.  When Montoya drove for Ganassi's CART team, they had control and management issues resulting in periods when Montoya would not speak to Chip at all.  If Montoya didn't like the calls Ganassi made during a test session, he would park the car wasting valuable track time.  Juan even declined to sign autographs for sponsors because he was so upset with Chip's management style.]


Biffle expected to re-sign with Roush Fenway UPDATE Roush-Fenway Racing is very close to signing driver #16-Greg Biffle to a new multi-year contract. “It looks like we’re down to the wire on it”; Biffle said following practice at Pocono. Biffle went onto say, “I suspect to have it wrapped up by Michigan I would think. You’ll see me in the 16 for a few years, that’s what it’s looking like. Roush has made a pretty strong offer…plus my cars are fast…all the things a guy wants…all the ingredients are there. I think that’s the decision I’m going to make." PRN's Garage Pass

05/29/08 Roush Fenway president Geoff Smith said Thursday that he believes #16-Greg Biffle will be re-signed in the next two weeks, assuming contract details get hammered out to the agreement of both sides. Smith said Thursday that Biffle's agent submitted a detailed contract on Tuesday after a several-month wait, and he feels confident a deal will be reached. "It's officially back in our hands, and we're working on a contract," Smith said. "I'm optimistic we're going to be able to get it done. If he works as hard on the contract as we are, we're looking at two weeks." If that's the case, an announcement could come during the race at Michigan International Speedway, which is considered in the backyard of Roush Industries in Livonia, Mich.

Biffle reiterated Thursday what he's been saying for weeks -- yes, he has talked to other team teams, and, yes, he would like to finish his career with Roush Fenway. He said he did not have the time until last week to work diligently with his agent on the contract. "I've always said my heart has been with staying at Roush Fenway," Biffle said. "I wanted to take the first quarter of the season to see how the team has worked and base a small portion of my decision on that. I'm happy with the way our 16 team has performed. We've had issues, but every team has had issues. I've talked to a lot of other people and discussed their approach and their long-term goals, but I haven't negotiated with anybody else. I'm flattered by all the offers and by all the people interested, but ... this is truly where I want to be." ESPN.com


Renault F1 to cut back French base
(GMM) Renault is set to radically cut back formula one operations at its Viry-Chattilon engine facility in France, reports on Friday say.

Citing union sources, the weekly French newspaper Le Canard Enchaine said Renault will embark on a "reorganisation plan" that will effectively halve the size of the facility, including drastic reductions in staff levels.

Renault's formula one single seaters are designed and manufactured at Enstone, a village in the English county Oxfordshire.


F1 considering switch to ethanol?
(GMM) Formula one may be shopping around for a possible switch to ethanol, according to former double world champion Emerson Fittipaldi.

The winner of 14 grands prix is quoted as saying that Bernie Ecclestone, F1's chief executive, last year contacted an ethanol group in Brazil.

Ethanol fuel, widely used in cars in Brazil, is an increasingly common alternative to regular petrol, and is made from common crops such as sugar cane and maize.

It is already used in American open wheeler series, and Fittipaldi told azcentral.com: "I'm sure a lot of other categories in the world are going to follow Indianapolis".

"Bernie last year contacted the number one group for ethanol in Brazil," he revealed.

Fittipaldi is reported to be building an ethanol refinery for his sugar cane crop.


Webber could leave Red Bull team
Mark Webber
Mark Webber has not ruled out a move away from Red Bull Racing when his contract expires at the end of this year.

The Australian's fourth-place finish at Monaco two weeks ago lifted him to joint sixth in the drivers' championship and the highest position by a driver outside of the 'big three' teams of Ferrari, McLaren Mercedes and BMW Sauber.

Webber announced last month he was opening negotiations with Red Bull about a new contract with the team he joined from Williams in 2007 - but having become an increasingly hot property with each race since, speculation has started he could be offered a drive by a big team should a vacancy arise.

Asked yesterday - before the Canadian Grand Prix in Montreal - whether he was looking around, Webber replied: "Flavio (Briatore) is a good manager - of course, he will look to find the best option for me."

When asked if at this point he was talking only to Red Bull, Webber paused for a few seconds before replying: "Yes."

Read more & Comment...

F1 to stay at Spa-Francorchamps until 2012
According to the newspaper 'Le Soir', there is an agreement on the Belgian Grand Prix at Spa-Francorchamps until 2012 and possibly until 2015. Bernie Ecclestone seems really pleased with the idea's of the Walloon government to develop Francorchamps not only economical but also the education centre and the industrial zone.

The circuit would also be talking with the organizers of the Superbike to host a round of the series at Francorchamps.


Why were fans leaving Dover in droves
Halfway through the race at Dover Sunday, many of the grandstand seats were empty. Fans were leaving in droves.


That is the question that NASCAR must ask.

Was it because the race was less than compelling, with only a couple of passes for the lead and two drivers basically dominating?

Or was it because bad boy Kyle Busch took control and halfway through the race it was obvious that he was going to win again?

Or was it because fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. was involved in the lap-18 pile-up that knocked 11 drivers out of contention?

Is Busch hated so much that he has that type of impact on fans?

Is Junior so popular that fans want to tune out and leave when he is out of the race?

If either is the case, there’s not much NASCAR can do. It can’t dictate the fate of Junior or Busch.

But if fans left because the race was not compelling and they grew tired of it, then that is a problem NASCAR should be concerned about. Scenedaily.com


Raikkonen to retire after 2009 - reports UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today.  Reigning world champion Kimi Raikkonen on Thursday refused to deny reports he is considering retiring at the end of 2009.

Hot on the heels of strong speculation that Fernando Alonso has penned a Ferrari agreement for 2010, it was rumored last week that the Italian team's current star driver might not intend to pen another contract.

Raikkonen, 28, confirmed in a news conference in Montreal on Thursday that he has not decided what he is going to do beyond next year.

"I don't know what is going to happen, I haven't made my mind up," the Finn said.

"Maybe I will make my decision this year."

The speculative reports last week cited a friend who relayed that Raikkonen "loves the driving and hates everything else about formula one".

The Ferrari driver said in Canada: "I wouldn't stop if I felt I would miss it afterwards.  For sure I would find something else to do and maybe I would enjoy that more.

"When there are too many things you don't enjoy it is time to go away."

Kimi Raikkonen
(GMM)  Hot on the heels of strong speculation that Fernando Alonso has penned a Ferrari agreement for 2010, it is being rumored again that the Italian team's current star driver Kimi Raikkonen could be soon to retire.

The reports, suggesting that the 28-year-old reigning world champion will not renew his contract beyond next year, appeared on Friday in the German language newspapers 'Rheinischen Post' and 'TZ'.

Rheinischen Post claims that Raikkonen, the laconic Finn, told some friends at a party recently that he does not intend to spend much longer as a grand prix racer.

"Kimi loves the driving and hates everything else about formula one," one of Raikkonen's apparent friend is quoted as telling TZ.

"The public appearances, the life under the spotlight -- he doesn't have the desire anymore," the unnamed friend reportedly added.


Champ Car fans rejecting the IRL UPDATE #3 Another reader writes, In response to V. Feldman's letter, You have got to be kidding me!  Lack of attention at home?  I know this may be hard to fathom for such a self-absorbed person as yourself, but people went to the track to watch a race and not to look at you modeling your colorful CCWS gear.  Do you feel entitled to the red carpet treatment just because the horse you backed ended up like Eight Belles and now you have decided to dip your toe in the IRL waters?  It is a freakin' sporting event and you are a relative nobody, just like I would be in the same situation.

I agree that the IRL needs to do things to broaden its fan base, but let's remember that this just came together less than 5 months ago.  The IRL may have a few more pressing issues than making CCWS fans feel "special."  (The TV broadcast team for starters!!) 

It is hard to believe from the tone of this message that I too was a long time supporter of the CCWS/CART, but I am more than willing to give the series a few years to hopefully get it right.  If they don't, then I go elsewhere for my racing fix.  That is the beauty of a free market society!!  Regards, Don Roeder, Nashville

06/04/08 A Champ Car fan writes, I was at the Milwaukee race this weekend and had some Champ Car gear on that was hard to miss.  Not once did anybody from the IRL come up to me and say anything. Not why are you still wearing CCWS stuff, not would you like some current IRL stuff instead, not get the frack out, not welcome to the race - hope you enjoy the show. At the IndyCar experience trailer there is a walk-through with a brief history of open wheel racing in USA.  The facts were correct but not all the CART/Champ Car facts were included.

Outside there was a small stage where an IRL employee would conduct giveaways of T-shirts, hats, etc. to the small crowd gathered. He would ask a bit of trivia and then throw out the trinkets. I was standing there pretty close to him and I know he had seen me but he did not address me, nothing. Not an effort of any kind to acknowledge my presence even though it is obvious that I am an OWR fan. Perhaps he suspected that I may be hostile to him/IRL and would cause a scene or say something negative but I sure did not feel like I was welcomed at the race that I paid to attend.

Later I spotted the same gentleman at the airport bar talking to his co-workers and he saw me [I was still dressed the same] and ignored me again. I get a feeling that the IRL is aware that CCWS fans are out there but they are not making any effort to try and keep us as OWR fans. Not a 'Welcome all INDY CAR AND Champ Car fans' on the PA. Nothing. They have to be aware of the general dislike of the IRL by CCWS fans but they are not doing anything to address/correct it. Simply ignoring the problem will not make it go away. Not without the fans just leaving the sport.  V. Feldman

06/04/08 A reader writes, Regarding your comments about all the "red hat giveaways" in Milwaukee last Sunday, all I saw was Penske hats (other than Firestones on track workers etc). When we arrived at the track at 8:00am, there was constantly a long line for Penske redemptions even after the race started. So, the "free tix" you wrote about were from Penske (or is that really Marlboro wining and dining guests off-site?).  Tim Hassenger

06/03/08 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I saw the dismal 0.8 TV rating for the Milwaukee Indy Car race and was surprised to see that the Indy Car and Champ Car TV ratings from last year added together are higher than this year's Indy Car race.  I would have expected to see at least a 1.2 rating.  This indicates to me that there are only a minimal number of Champ Car fans that are tuning in to IndyCar races this year.  Mordichai Rosen

Dear Mordichai, As we have written on many occasions, the split has killed the sport of open wheel racing in the USA.  That coupled with the way Champ Car simply folded up like a deck of cards at the 11th hour before the season started really pissed off all their fans who essentially said goodbye to the sport forever.  Yes, we have seen a slight increase in attendance at the races, but how much of that is free ticket giveaways we don't know.  We did see a lot of free red hats in Milwaukee, indicating ticket giveaways.  So those who expected the merger to give a huge boost to the sport are just kidding themselves.  The new IndyCar will not be introduced before 2011 now.  By then the Champ Car fans will be long gone because they hate the current IndyCar and three years is too long to wait.  And that's too bad.  Mark C.


$4 gas could bankrupt Big 3 UPDATE I wonder how much longer the Big 3 will continue to waste millions on NASCAR?  NASCAR is stuck in the 1950s and 1960s as far as technology is concerned  - carburetors, V8 engines and a body style that looks like nothing you see on the street or showroom. I don't see how they justify spending all that money when it translates to no sales. When was the last time you heard of anyone saying they bought a Ford, Chevy, Dodge and now Toyota because they race in NASCAR? Maybe I don't have a business mind-set but if I was in charge of a company, and we were in the red and I saw that spending money on something that wasn't bringing in as much revenue in as I was spending,  I would have cut the fat from that program. I just don't get the attraction the Big 3 have for NASCAR. If it brings in profit for the company fine; if not, I would have to drop it. Maybe the Big 3 is waiting for Toyota to win everything it wants to win in NASCAR and destroy that series like they did to IMSA, the IRL and CART and then leave and things can go back to the way they were before.  Like I said, I don't have a business mind-set, but I can't just see throwing money away either. Mike Neubauer

Americans and their huge trucks are paying big-time at the gas pumps
06/05/08 "Watershed moment," the cliché offered Tuesday by Ford Motor Co.'s marketing chief, Jim Farley, isn't sufficient to describe how deeply $4-a-gallon gas is gutting Detroit's automakers today and their plans for the future.

But it's a start.

General Motors Corp., its truck and SUV business evaporating at an alarming rate, says it will close four plants, boost car production at two others and green-light its plug-in Chevrolet Volt hybrid to address what Chairman Rick Wagoner calls "permanent" structural change in a U.S. vehicle market determined to do what Detroit doesn't do well -- live small.

Haven't we seen this movie before, an automotive riff on an Indiana Jones sequence where the hero dodges poison darts, eludes snakes and flees the natives only to be chased by a giant boulder? The sweeping historical flourish would be to declare the past couple of months the gravest challenge to Detroit's auto industry since the oil shocks of the 1970s, but that would be wrong.

This is worse, potentially, because GM, Ford, Chrysler LLC and their United Auto Workers have fewer powerful friends, fewer loyal consumers and a lot fewer employees in fewer communities around the country. The automakers and their union also have a 30-year record of false promises, market missteps and financial boondoggles by management and labor alike that elicit proper skepticism whenever the latest Motown mea culpa essentially says, "Now we get it." [Editor's Note: Too late now]

How 'bout this: Now they don't have a choice, as their slumping market caps attest. The two cornerstones that have kept Detroit Auto from schlepping straight into federal bankruptcy court -- pickups and SUVs -- are crumbling with astonishing speed, hammering suppliers, dealers and anyone else with a vested interest in sourcing, building and selling those pariahs.

Geographically, Detroit isn't in the nation's hurricane zone. But economically, $4-a-gallon gas is shaping up to be the kind of once-in-a-lifetime storm that changes the course of an industry, its people and its hometown, already exhausted by wave after wave of restructuring, downsizing, give-backs and plain ol' bad news.

GM's May sales slumped a numbing (telling?) 27.5 percent, and Chrysler sales slid 25 percent. Ford, first last week to acknowledge the arrival of a New World, confirmed it again Tuesday by reporting sales down 16 percent, including a stunning 44.4 percent slide in SUVs. Toyota skidded, too. Only rivals like Honda, whose core products are not pickups and big SUVs, are the beneficiaries of anti-behemoth sentiment.

Numbers spell the new world.

Among the blizzard of talking points available to illustrate how fundamentally, how quickly, the auto biz is changing (and not in Detroit's favor) are these gems: Four car models from two Japanese players, Toyota and Honda, outsold Ford's F-Series pickups in May and, second, GM is undertaking a "strategic review" of its Hummer brand, the precondition for a corporate euthanasia that can't come soon enough.

Of all the automotive brands plying today's U.S. roads, none telegraphs American energy excess more clearly than Hummer, a cartoonish lineup whose mediocre quality never matched its robust image. That GM is issuing a death warrant for Hummer -- and that Ford has unloaded its all-SUV brand, Land Rover, to the Indians -- tells you how fundamentally the world has changed.

So does the fact that Japanese sedans are outselling American trucks, that Ford Focuses and Chevy Cobalts are setting sales records, that GM is planning to build a 1.4-liter engine in Flint, that $4-a-gallon gas is the new paradigm and that, by implication, the assumed American entitlement to cheap gas is dead. Detroit News

[Editor's Note: Most Americans drive around in their huge SUVs and pickup trucks by themselves the majority of the time.  They like sitting up high.  Makes them feel like big shots.  And when they hit an econobox the impact is sometimes fatal.  Meanwhile the American car companies, who made these trucks bigger each and every year, are now paying for their shortsightedness by drowning in red ink, ink so deep and so red it may end up putting them out of business.]


Castroneves to NASCAR? UPDATE #2 Helio, should we worry about NASCAR taking away my favorite racer from this beloved sport?

Helio Castroneves: No worries. What you heard was out of context. I'm doing everything I can to clinch the championship and run here in open wheel. Right now we've merged and the series is in a good spot and I would say the opportunity, I don't think, is there to go to NASCAR. I would consider it in that you should always leave doors open.

05/22/08 Castroneves said Wednesday that his thoughts are no different than those of any other driver. "Ask anyone if they've thought about (driving in) NASCAR, Formula One or any other series, and the answer is yes," he said. "But I don't think there's an opportunity for me there and as I've said many times before, I want to be in IndyCar.

"Right now I have a lot of things left to accomplish here."

Castroneves emphasized that his total focus is on Sunday's race, where he will start fourth. Anyone who thinks otherwise is being ridiculous, he said. "I'm thinking about how I can win for a third time and somebody wants to write about NASCAR?" he said. "Come on." Indy Star

Helio Castroneves never talked about moving to NASCAR until he was told to move over in Japan and let Danica by.  Supposedly he was low on fuel, but they both stopped last on lap 143 and both topped off again on lap 148 for the run to the finish.  Both have identical cars and engines.  Hmm....
  Driver Helio Castroneves, who is seeking to win his third Indianapolis 500 this weekend, said he is considering following several other open-wheel racers and moving to NASCAR but has made no decision yet.

"I won't deny that I'm thinking about it," Castroneves said Monday night. "It would be great to one day try the [stock] cars. But at this point I'm focusing on Indy cars and winning the Indianapolis 500 again."

The ebullient Brazilian, 33, is one of the IndyCar Series' most popular drivers, and his fame shot even higher this spring after he won the "Dancing with the Stars" television competition. Castroneves won with dancing partner Julianne Hough based on viewers' votes, and he was in Los Angeles this week to help crown the show's latest winners.

His switch to stock-car racing would be a big blow to the IndyCar Series just as it's trying to bolster its popularity after its reunion with the other major U.S. open-wheel racing group, the now-defunct Champ Car World Series.  "It depends on the opportunity," he said. "It's all about the timing and I'm not sure if the timing is right."  LA Times


Six more clubs may snub FIA over Mosley
(GMM)  A growing list of national motor racing bodies could be set to join Germany's ADAC in boycotting the FIA, following the retention of controversial president Max Mosley.

America's AAA is already giving very serious consideration to also actively withdrawing from the governing body of world motoring and racing.

"One of the possibilities will certainly be to leave the FIA," a spokesman for Finland's automobile and touring club is quoted as saying by The Guardian.

Representatives for clubs in Holland, Denmark, Switzerland and Austria are considering similar action, the newspaper added.

The Italian club voted to keep the scandal-gripped Mosley in power in Paris on Tuesday, but the country's most famous racing marque is now calling on the 68-year-old to quit.

"I think that he should realize that sometimes it is necessary to say to yourself 'I have to leave for reasons of credibility'," Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo told the Ansa news agency.

The Guardian insists that no major sponsors are considering pulling out of formula one over the Mosley issue, but F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone is quoted as saying to The Independent: "The teams - the manufacturers - are violently opposed to him."

Meanwhile, it has been suggested that the running of Germany's two grands prix could be in danger because of the ADAC snub.

ADAC, however, sanctions only the Nurburgring race, which is due to return to the calendar only in 2009.

The other German sanctioning body, the AvD, controls the Hockenheim event, which is scheduled to take place late next month.


Overheard in Long Beach - 4 UPDATE According to SPEEDTV.com, speculation is that Forsythe Championship Racing have decided on an American Le Mans LMP2 entry. The chassis and engine of choice is said to be a Zytek-Zytek with their debut at Elkhart Lake.

04/19/08 Paul Gentilozzi tells us that his Rocketsports team has no immediate plans to field a car in the Indy Racing League in the near future............We do hear that Forsythe Racing is taking a hard look at the IRL and ALMS.  Word is they are talking to Porsche about running their cars in the ALMS LMP2 class, although they have not ruled out a possible go and LMP1........We hear Forsythe is preparing some IRL cars for Sam Schmidt Racing to run in this year's Indy 500, which is giving them some experience with the Dallara should they decide to have a go at the IRL in 2009.......Regarding our rumor from yesterday about why Cosworth was not part of the merger deal with the IRL, we hear that Kalkhoven and company did try to include Cosworth to do some of the IRL rebuilds but this source also said that Roger Penske would have none of it.  If true how is it that a 1) team owner is an engine supplier (this is certainly a conflict of interest)? and 2) a team owner who actually also happens to be a supplier, has this much influence over the IRL?  We thought Tony George wanted to be sole owner and leader (i.e. dictator) so he can call all the shots a la the France family (NASCAR) and Bernie Ecclestone (F1).  It seems as though Penske is calling all the shots and Tony is his yes-man.  This type of team owner influence of the series is what ruined CART so the IRL would be wise to avoid a repeat scenario.

track news

Smith to drop Kentucky lawsuit to get date
Bruton Smith has big plans for the Kentucky Speedway that include bringing NASCAR’s top series to the Sparta track.  The chairman and CEO of Speedway Motorsports Inc., which is buying the speedway, repeated his belief today that a Sprint Cup race still can happen by 2009 if the track’s current ownership stops fighting NASCAR and International Speedway Corp. in appeals court.

“If they could decide, maybe, ‘Let’s drop that lawsuit and put it behind us,’ then I’m still optimistic on ’09,” Smith said. “So that’s what I’m still hoping for. If we can get some agreement from the people we’re buying from I think there’s a great possibility we get that done.”

Kentucky Speedway filed suit in 2005 alleging NASCAR and International Speedway Corp. violated federal antitrust laws and hurt independent race tracks, “by doling out (Sprint) Cup races to those tracks that will best protect the market power of NASCAR and ISC – to the detriment of Kentucky Speedway and of all those who want to see true competition in the stock car racing industry.” The suit was dismissed by a U.S. District Court judge in January, but the speedway appealed the decision.

Smith said he spoke with NASCAR officials as recently as Monday about bringing a Sprint Cup race to Kentucky Speedway next year. The appeal, he said, is holding up progress.

“They (NASCAR) said the reason why, and I have not read this, something that I was named as a co-conspirator or something,” Smith said. “That gives them a major problem. It doesn’t give me a problem because I’m just purchasing assets. We’re not involved in that lawsuit at all. I guess NASCAR is playing hardball. I’m hoping they’ll soften up.” Cincinnati, Enquirer


Rossi wins undermine Yamaha's plan
Valentino Rossi's success in winning three consecutive races and soaring to the top of the MotoGP championship may have undermined Yamaha's plans to offer the seven-times world champion a pay cut in 2009, according to the daily Spanish newspaper Sport.

Fiat's contract with the Yamaha team expires at the end of this year, and the car maker is said to be unlikely to renew its backing. But three or four major Spanish companies, including two banks, an insurance company and a telecommunications organization are ready to talk, according to Sport.

The telecommunications company is said to be Telefonica, who backed Dani Pedrosa in 125 and 250cc competition until the Spaniard moved to MotoGP. The banks may be Caja Madrid and Santander - the latter already active with Yamaha in World Superbikes.

Rossi and Lorenzo may each acquire his separate sponsor, according to the article's author, Germán G Casanova. And the total price of backing the two riders would be €12m per year, compared to the €6m per year that Fiat has paid in 2007 and 2008.

"No one has denied anything in the article," Casanova told me at Mugello on Sunday night.

His sources indicate that Yamaha were considering offering Rossi a cut from €7m to €5m in 2009. But Rossi's success wave may prompt him to think in the region of €10m a year - €6m from Yamaha and €4m from personal sponsors such as Kerakoli and Nastro Azzurro. He has to pay the Italian tax authorities €30m after his recent tax dispute.


McMurray out at Roush at end of 2008? UPDATE Hours after finishing 10th at Dover International Speedway, his second top 10 of the 2008 season, Jamie McMurray was focused on trying to find momentum for the rest of the season — not looking for another job.  In response to a report in Monday's Charlotte Observer, which said he was parting ways with Roush Fenway Racing at the end of the season, McMurray told FOXSports.com, "There's no truth to the rumor.  I spoke to (Roush Fenway Racing president) Geoff Smith this morning. ... You never know what's going to happen, but as of today there's no truth to that."  Whether or not McMurray remains at Roush beyond this season, the five-team organization must collapse to four by the end of 2009 in order to comply with NASCAR's limits on ownership.

06/02/08 Jamie McMurray will be driving for another team next year, according to one report Sunday citing unidentified sources. McMurray finished 10th Sunday. Hamptonroads.com


DC in at Renault after Montreal?
According to Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell, moves may be afoot that would see veteran David Coulthard – who has also had a dismal start to what many believe will be his final season in the uppermost echelon with the Renault-powered Red Bull Racing squad in 2008 – take Piquet's seat.

That would allow Scuderia Toro Rosso ‘rookie' Sebastian Vettel – who many believe is as good as a shoe-in to replace the Scot at Milton Keynes next year – to make an early graduation to the senior Red Bull concern, with Piquet completing the elaborate game of musical chairs by filling the consequent void at STR, thereby enabling him to continue his F1 apprenticeship in a less high-profile and high-pressure environment.

“Nothing is impossible,” the report at motorsport-aktuell.com pointed out.

Meanwhile, a hotel owned by Coulthard in Nottingham has gone into receivership, it has been disclosed. According to the Daily Telegraph, the Dakota Sherwood Park Hotel was placed into the hands of receivers three weeks ago, following a long-standing dispute between co-owners Coulthard and Malmaison founder and Dakota chief executive Ken McCulloch, which could not be resolved.

Accountants for the 13-time grand prix winner – who also co-owns the Columbus Hotel in Monaco, where he is based, with American property developer Peter Morris – had revealed that millions of Euros were ‘missing' from the Columbus accounts, prompting Coulthard to initiate the sale of the hotel. The 37-year old is now understood to have similarly ordered the liquidation of the Dakota Sherwood Park Hotel in Nottingham, to which he is said to have lent ‘hundreds of thousands' of pounds.

“I am extremely disappointed that it has come to this,” McCulloch told the newspaper.


Rain could also affect Canadian GP
(GMM)  Following the changeable weather for the eventful Monaco grand prix nearly two weeks ago, it emerges that rain could also affect formula one in Canada.

Despite the teams and drivers having crossed the Atlantic for round seven of the 2008 championship, local forecasts are calling for likely showers on Thursday and Friday at the scene of the event at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, located on the man-made Ile Notre Dame near downtown Montreal.

While the chance of light rain on Friday is relatively high, though - 60 per cent - the likelihood of rain should halve on the decisive qualifying and race days.

The entire weekend, however, is likely to be mild and overcast, with temperatures in the very low 20s (C).


Todt rejects Toro Rosso, FIA rumors UPDATE (GMM)  As with his father Jean Todt, Nicolas Todt has played down rumors that he could be the savior of Gerhard Berger's embattled Toro Rosso team.

Nicholas Todt dismisses rumors
The Frenchman is the 30-year-old son of former Ferrari boss Jean Todt, and the current manager of formula one drivers Felipe Massa and Sebastien Bourdais.

It is perennially suggested that Todt, also co-owner of the GP2 team ART, could be looking for a way into the exclusive circle of F1 chiefs.

His close ties with Ferrari and its customer team Toro Rosso have sparked renewed speculation that Todt could step in when STR co-owner Dietrich Mateschitz pulls out in the near future.

"At the moment, I am taking one step at a time," he told Switzerland's Motorsport Aktuell.

"I started with driver management, we then established ART and now we are going into the Asian series.  We have had successes but also defeats.  I have learned a lot," he said.

Todt admitted that formula one is a "logical goal" but insisted that the difference between the pinnacle of open wheel racing and GP2 is huge.

"I have had the luck to have been raised in this environment, but people often draw hasty conclusions.

"Formula one teams cost a lot; in addition to the actual purchase, it is about having the means to keep it going.

"As long as the regulations are uncertain, as they are now, it is not very interesting to have a private team without a big manufacturer.

"I will keep my eyes open," Todt explained, adding that the budget cap or the re-allowance of customer cars in the future could change the situation.

"I have some ideas in mind but at the moment it is not possible," he said.

Jean Todt dismisses rumors
03/23/08 Jean Todt in Malaysia denied rumors that, now essentially free of Ferrari duties, he might launch a plan to become the next president of F1's governing body.

Current FIA president Max Mosley is a controversial figure who is contemplating whether or not to contest the next elections, due next year.

But 62-year-old Todt, wearing plain clothes at Sepang where he is observing the team following his stepping down as both team boss and Ferrari CEO, played down rumors that his next step could be in Mosley's shoes.

"Max Mosley is a great FIA president and a good friend.  I really hope that he will remain in the office for a long time to come," the Frenchman said.

"I know that he is considered to be controversial, but in my eyes he has been excellent for the sport," he added of Mosley.

Todt also nonsensed reports that he was forced to step down as Ferrari CEO at the end of a recently tumultuous relationship with its president, Luca di Montezemolo.

"So much nonsense goes around in this business," he said in Malaysia.  "I hear that I am going to buy Toro Rosso, for instance.  Gerhard Berger is a good friend, but we have never spoken about this.

"I heard that I will be presented as a team owner in Bahrain -- nonsense!" Todt fired.

"We live in a world where people prefer to complicate things when they are simple," he added. Grandprixmagazine.com


Force India co-owner to sell share - report
Michael Mol
(GMM)  Force India half-owner Michiel Mol is reportedly close to selling his 50 per cent share in the Silverstone based formula one team.

The Dutch businessman, who is believed to share his Force India equity with his wealthy father Jan, stayed involved when he and Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya bought the team from Spyker.

But according to reports this week from Holland, 38-year-old Mol's grand prix adventure may soon be over because his Force India share is up for sale.

The newspaper De Telegraaf said Mol's asking price is substantially lower than what he originally paid.

Mol, however, played down the reports, insisting that "you should not believe every story you read".


Why Champ Car folded in 11th hour
A reader asks, Why did Kevin Kalkhoven wait so long to fold Champ Car?  So many people were hurt by his late decision.  Hector Lopez

Dear Hector, The IRS looks at a business that does not show a profit in 3 of 5 consecutive years and says it could be a hobby, which means you cannot write off your losses.  Champ Car was formed in January 2004 when it acquired the assets of CART in bankruptcy court.  Champ Car had loses from 2004 clear through 2007 (4 straight years) and 2008 was sure to be another big money loser.  So although we don't know all the facts, it may be that Kalkhoven and Forsythe (one or both, we hear Kalkhoven) were willing to write-off the huge losses they were incurring when Uncle Sam was essentially paying for a good chunk of them.  However, faced with having to absorb 100% of the losses out of their own pocket going forward, and no business plan that showed a way forward to profitability, we suspect a quick decision was made to pull the plug.  In essence, it was a hobby for Kalkhoven and Forsythe, who despite being warned, were largely hands-off and let others run the day-to-day operations........and they ran it right into the ground.  Mark C.


Cerberus seeks suckers for money-losing Chrysler
Cerberus Capital Management LP denied reports Monday that it had sold equity stakes in Chrysler LLC or GMAC -- but didn't deny it had sought new money from its investors.  The Financial Times had reported that Cerberus sold more than half of its equity stake in the two companies for more than $1 billion to 90 outside investors.

"Cerberus has not reduced or made any changes to its equity stakes in GMAC or Chrysler since the closing of either transaction," said a Cerberus statement released Monday. "Cerberus continues to have voting control over both investments. It is common knowledge, and has been widely reported, that Cerberus made these investments side-by-side with its co-investors at the time of closing. Our commitment to these companies has not changed."

Chrysler chairman and CEO Robert Nardelli said on May 23 that Cerberus wasn't backing away from its significant investments in Chrysler and the auto sector -- despite the past year's rapid deterioration in auto sales and consumer confidence.

"We've got a great relationship," Nardelli said, noting that Cerberus still entrusted day-to-day responsibility for Chrysler to him and his co-presidents, Jim Press and Tom Lasorda.

"Any strategic alternatives are being handled by (Cerberus.) I'm not distracted," Nardelli said.

The Financial Times reported that Cerberus recently invited about 50 hedge funds to its Park Avenue office in New York for a presentation by its chief administrative officer, Seth Plattus, fueling speculation that the company was seeking new capital. Chrysler officials on Monday referred questions to Cerberus. Detroit News

[Editor's Note: Who will be the next series of investors lured in to fund the continuing losses at Chrysler?]


Three drivers set for 2008 seat shuffle?
(GMM)  Formula one drivers Nelson Piquet Jr, David Coulthard and Sebastian Vettel could be at the centre of an elaborate and imminent musical-chairs scenario.

The Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell on Monday published speculation that the duo might be subject to the reshuffle following Sunday's Canadian grand prix.

Stage one of the rearrangement, according to the rumor, would be the replacement of rookie Piquet - who has struggled in the high profile Renault seat so far this season - by F1 veteran Coulthard, who currently drives for Renault-powered Red Bull.

22-year-old Piquet, meanwhile, would be slotted into Vettel's Toro Rosso seat, with the burgeoning German to fill Coulthard's vacant spot at parent outfit RBR.

Motorsport Aktuell explained that Piquet's move to Toro Rosso would enable the Brazilian to develop as a grand prix driver in a lower-pressure environment.

The rumor assumes that Vettel and Piquet will then stay in their respective new seats in 2009, while Coulthard steps into retirement.

"Nothing is impossible," the report at motorsport-aktuell.com pointed out.


MotoGP to replace F1 at Silverstone?
(GMM)  BRDC president Damon Hill has denied rumors that Silverstone is trying to secure a round of the MotoGP championship for 2010 due to the risk of losing the formula one race.

The 1996 world champion is however quoted as confirming to the Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell that the BRDC, which owns the Northamptonshire venue, will "do our best" to attract MotoGP upon the expiration of the Donington contract.

But Hill insisted: "I see this not as a substitute, but as a complement to formula one."

It emerged late last week that local councilors gave a green light to Silverstone's plans for a new pit and paddock complex.

But despite reports that the council approval was a step towards securing the future of the endangered British grand prix, the BRDC seems no closer to securing the funds to either finance the developments or satisfy Bernie Ecclestone's higher race fees for a new contract.

The current British grand prix deal expires after next year's race.

[Editor's Note: Indianapolis found it could go from losing a lot of money with F1 to making money with MotoGP, so of course Silverstone would consider dropping F1.]


Mosley will stay beyond 2009
Bernie Ecclestone calls for Mosley's head now
(GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone has issued an eleventh hour warning, as FIA members meet in Paris on Tuesday to vote on the fate of the governing body's embattled president Max Mosley.

Although Mosley, 68, has previously promised to step down late next year if he survives the confidence motion, F1 chief executive Ecclestone - Mosley's former ally of 40 years - cautioned that the scandal-gripped Briton should not be trusted.

"The problem is, if he stays until 2009, he will run again," the 77-year-old told the Times.

"I am 100 per cent certain about that; no, one million per cent certain."

He suggested that Mosley's priority in the sex scandal has been to survive, rather than needing to worry about the commercial implications for the sport.

"Max doesn't care - he's not commercial - he hasn't got one single dollar invested, so he doesn't give a stuff," Bernie insisted.

Ecclestone's suggestion that Mosley lied about promising to step down next year was instantly rebuked by Mosley's stalwart FIA ally, director of publicity Richard Woods.

"The president has made his position very clear about stepping down in October next year -- he's going to step down next year," he stated.

The FIA confirmed that Tuesday's proceedings will be headed by senate head Michel Boeri, who would temporarily replace Mosley if he loses the confidence vote.


Final sale of Jaguar, Land Rover expected on Monday UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Ford Motor Co. today said it had completed the sale of its Jaguar and Land Rover operations to Tata Motors, as it previously said it would.  The Dearborn-based automaker sold the two luxury brands in an effort to raise cash as it heads through a difficult period. During the last two years, Ford has lost $15.3 billion and the automaker doesn’t expect to break even until 2009 or beyond.  Ford said in March that it intended to sell Jaguar and Land Rover to Tata for $2.3 billion.

That's far less than what Ford paid for the brands. Ford bought Jaguar for $2.5 billion in 1989 and Land Rover for $2.75 billion in 2000.  As part of the overall sale agreement between Ford and Tata, Ford will continue to supply Jaguar Land Rover with engines, stampings and technology, including a range of environmental technologies.  Detroit Free Press

05/31/08 Ford Motor Co. is expected to close the sale of its Jaguar and Land Rover luxury brands to India's Tata Motors Monday, sources familiar with the situation said on Friday.

Terms remain largely unchanged from those in the preliminary agreement that Ford and Tata announced in March, they said.

Tata will pay Ford about $2.3 billion for the British carmakers, but Ford will contribute about $600 million of that to the Jaguar and Land Rover pension funds.

That means Ford will net about $1.7 billion from the deal, which concludes the Dearborn automaker's long involvement with British luxury brands. Last year, Ford sold the Aston Martin carmaker to a group of investors for $925 million.

Ford declined to confirm. "As we have said, we expect to close in the second quarter," said Ford spokesman John Gardiner.


Milwaukee to keep IndyCar race
Sure there are a lot of red hats from Team Penske/Marlboro and Firestone meaning "free" tickets, but the attendance was up noticeably this year at Milwaukee despite the gasoline prices.  The IRL/Champ Car merger means open wheel racing is back.
Shawn Payne/IRL
The Indy Racing League was looking for improvement in promotion and attendance at the Milwaukee Mile, and that's exactly what top officials saw Sunday.  On a brilliant, sunny afternoon, a crowd estimated at 28,000 watched Ryan Briscoe win the ABC Supply Co. / A.J. Foyt 225, an increase of 30% or more from the race last year.

If solid progress continues in 2009, the final year of the contract, there's no reason to doubt the future of the race, said Terry Angstadt, president of the IRL's commercial division.

"You could see the stands," he said. "Much, much better. Good integrated approach (to marketing). Saw some billboards on the way into town. And it worked. We were very, very pleased." JSonline.com


Ambrose eyeing move up to Cup
Marco Ambrose

Marcos Ambrose was encouraged, but also somewhat realistic following his recent Sprint Cup test at Pocono International Raceway. The Tuesday-Wednesday test marked his first time in a Cup car and his first time at the three-sided, 2.5-mile track in the mountains of northeast Pennsylvania. “It went OK, pretty good,” the 31-year-old Australian said Saturday at Dover International Speedway. “But it was a difficult place to get in a Cup car for the first time. I went there to get in laps and get a feel for that kind of Cup car. We ran in the middle of the pack most of the day. Another few tenths of a second would have been nice, but, still, I learned a lot about these Cup cars.

"The adjustment from Nationwide to Cup COT car is as tough as everyone said it would be. And Pocono is about as hard a track to learn as I’ve ever seen. I know we have plenty of work to do, but we got better as we went along and got a good feel for where we are.” Ambrose will run a handful of Cup races this season, some in the Wood Brothers’ #21 Ford and some with #47 Ford-based JTG Racing. He’ll run Sonoma and Watkins Glen for the Woods, plus a race in Michigan and one in Loudon, New Hampshire. “I can’t remember the others he’ll do for us,” team co-owner Eddie Wood said Saturday. “It’s on a calendar somewhere at the shop. I’m sure of those four, but there are maybe three or four more he’ll do for us.” Ambrose also will do at least Indianapolis, Kansas, Atlanta, and Homestead in the #47 Fusion of JTG Racing. Ford Racing


Truex to re-sign with DEI
Martin Truex Jr. doesn't want to talk much about his contract, which is up after this season. But the Stafford Township, N.J., native says he wants to sign a long-term deal with Dale Earnhardt Inc. "We're just working on some stuff," he said Saturday of the negotiations. On April 28, ESPN.com reported that DEI had picked up Truex's option for the 2009 season. However, there have since been other reports stating that deal was not yet complete and that Truex remains a possible free agent. DEI president of global operations Max Siegel has said signing Truex long-term is a priority. Truex declined to talk in detail about his contract status but said it has been difficult dealing with the issue on top of the pressure of being one of the Sprint Cup series' top drivers - last year, he qualified for the 12-driver Chase for the Championship for the first time, and this year he became DEI's top driver when Dale Earnhardt Jr. left as a free agent for Hendrick Motorsports. "It's a pain," Truex said. "It's a big pain. That's why I try not to talk about it. We'll see what happens. We'll get it done, and when it's done, everybody will know." Atlantic City Press


Would IRL switch to 4-cylinder engine? UPDATE #4 In this Gordon Kirby article Bobby Rahal expresses his opinion, like most other people, that the next IRL engine should be a small displacement turbo.

06/01/08 Another reader writes, I'm not so sure that very quiet electric race cars wouldn't be totally cool.  For example, the dominating Audi R-10 diesel is almost silent but it's fascinating to hear the brakes, tires and aero working.  When visiting an ALMS race I find myself wishing they were ALL that quiet so I could better hear those nuances. 

When you combine that with the probability that electric cars are the future (no pollution with a nuclear source and an already in-place distribution system) IndyCar should look very seriously at electric as a powerplant alternative and, more importantly, to lead the way into the probable future.  I've seen the all-electric "Killacycle" drag bike in action and it's spine-tingling to watch that thing blast down the track will very little noise.  You still get a huge impression of raw power.

Quiet racing makes things safer for kids and more street-circuit friendly.  It's also likely to help new fans understand what's going on in front of them.  Wouldn't it be nice to be able to hear the PA system and talk to your buddy without yelling? 

As a transition, how about a rules package that allows turbo diesels, turbo ethanols OR equivalent electric power?  All major manufacturers are looking at each of those power sources right now and each could be easily tweaked for equivalency - boost for the turbos and amps for the electrics.

It's hard to imagine letting go of the roar of the pack, but I suspect that 33 silent cars whooshing around the Brickyard would be a fantastic spectacle. J.Chitwood, Marysville, CA

06/01/08 Another reader writes, I think the turbo four-cylinder formula may be a good fit for IndyCar racing.  From the historical point view, you can always trace the turbo four legacy back to the legendary Offy. As for four cylinders being synonymous with economical more than performance, many younger fans equate Honda performance to their hot V-tecs four cylinder sport compacts.  I read GM wants to push their Ecotec brand four cylinder as the new "small block" for performance tuners.  When I think of four cylinder turbo racing motors, I think of the 80's BMW F1 1000+ hp turbo motor (If I am not mistaken it still holds the crown of F1's most powerful motor).  Nathan, Dallas, TX

05/29/08 A reader asks, if electric cars are the way forward, what would I do if I wanted to take a long trip across country?  Batteries won't provide that sort of range.  Doug Day

Dear Doug, Current battery technology will only give you a range of 220 or so between charges (See related article on the Tesla sports car).  And then how long would it take to recharge the batteries when you ran out.  Rental car companies could be a source of internal combustion engine powered cars for those rare cases when you really need that sort of range.  Maybe that will be the only way you will be able to drive an internal combustion engine car 20 or 30 years from now - by renting one - by law. 

It's quite foreseeable that someday everyone will have electric cars for their everyday around town and to/from work means of transportation, all charged with electricity from clean Nuclear Power plants.  That likely scenario must run chills down the spine of the big oil producers, the Arab nations (what else do they have besides oil, sand and bombs?) and the farmers growing crops for ethanol production.  Mark C.

05/29/08 This article talks about the upcoming engine roundtable forum which will include IndyCar officials and teams, and senior figures in the US car industry.  "We're targeting senior level automotive executives to come to Indianapolis and collectively determine the options and vision for the IndyCar Series' next generation," said Brian Barnhart in the article.

The goal for the IRL is to try to align their engine with the manufacturers goal of increasing fuel mileage, reducing dependence on fossil fuels,  and reducing engine pollutants.  However, hybrids and electric cars appear to be the propulsion systems of the future to best accomplish those goals.  Diesel engines were once thought to be a good solution, but with the cost of diesel fuel going through the roof (over $9 per gallon in the UK already) that option is quickly losing support. 

The dilemma then for the IRL, is if electric engines are too quiet and hence not exciting, and the days of internal combustion engines numbered, what is the right engine formula?  Some think a turbo 4-cyclinder engine may be the best combo for the next 10 to 15 years and until such time as the internal combustion engine dies a slow death.  However, cars that use 4-cyclinder engines are typically 'economy' cars and trying to relate 'economy' to racing is a real quagmire.  (See related Nuclear power plants and electric power as the way forward article).

The entire sport of auto racing could change dramatically should battery powered electric cars rule the road.  A pit stop might mean swapping in a new battery pack instead of adding 30 gallons of fuel.  As for the lack of noise, good luck.  Remember when as kids we used to take a baseball card and clip it on the fork and the card would make noise as it hit every wheel spoke so our quiet bicycles made noise as we went by?  Oh my.


Is Jeff Gordon laying groundwork for retirement?
Jeff Gordon’s contract extension with primary sponsor DuPont doesn’t mean the driver is already laying the groundwork for his retirement from NASCAR Sprint Cup competition.

“I think people are reading into it a little bit too much,” Gordon, a four-time Cup champion, said Friday prior to qualifying for Sunday’s Best Buy 400 at Dover International Speedway. “I haven’t made any decisions for what’s going to happen one way or the other past 2010. I’ve always been the type of driver – I never look too far ahead.

"I wanted to secure my position at Hendrick Motorsports. That’s why I worked as hard to be an equity owner and do a lifetime contract with Hendrick Motorsports, because I knew that’s where I wanted to be as long as I’m driving a race car.”


IndyCar to return to PIR? UPDATE A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com,  The hits with the IRL just keep coming. Now they want to return to PIR?  Prior to the split in 1996, CART had great racing with great crowds that many times exceeded or were on par with NASCAR.

After the split, the IRL races provided dismal crowds and crashfest racing.  There was always a lot of on track antics and comedy with the IRL at Phoenix.  The standing joke was that you could throw a hand grenade in the stands and not kill anybody during an IRL race.

NASCAR and ISC killed open wheel racing in Phoenix as well as ruining one of the best open wheel races in the country, The Copper World Classic.  The Copper World was one of the best motorsports events that I have ever worked and attended.

I know that the standard party line is not to question the IRL or the supposed re-unification but just forget the past and all of the crimes committed against the sport of Indy Car racing.  When Champ Car ventured into the Phoenix market it was met with much animosity from ISC and the NASCAR cartel. AR1 reported all of the dirty dealings going on in Phoenix at the time.  Even Sheriff Joe was going to shut down the Champ Car race if the noise affected his 911 center. The cartel even tried to pass a city ordinance banning racing except at permanent track facilities. And while Champ Car was celebrating great racing and a huge crowd in Holland, they were notified while out of the country the Phoenix race was canceled.

Nice. Now who do you suppose had their handprints all over that deal?  Phoenix is nothing but a NASCAR track with a NASCAR crowd.  The days of great racing at that track are long gone. It is all about money and NASCAR.  Good Luck to the IRL in returning. Maybe Danica can draw a few more hard-core fans. She has bumped Gene Simmons out of the way and Danica can now say "I am Indy."  Feel The Speed, Bill Kinsey

05/30/08 Thursday night of Phoenix International Raceway's April NASCAR weekend has featured a regional stock car series. Track President Bryan Sperber had another concept.


Sperber said he floated that unusual idea with Indy Racing League executives to determine if the series could return to PIR in 2009 after a four-year absence. That was suggested, yes," admitted Terry Angstadt, president of the IRL's commercial division. "I didn't think that would be appropriate, to run on a Thursday night, for what we think is a pretty well-positioned and featured event."

Angstadt, however, said the series still "would love" to include PIR on next year's projected 18- race schedule.

Angstadt proposed a date in late February. Sperber said: "We looked at that. I can't remember the exact details from the conversation. For whatever reasons, there were some challenges."

A.J. Foyt won the first of PIR's 61 Indy-style races in 1964. The four-time Indy 500 winner said he wants to return to PIR but reacted negatively to the Thursday idea.

"I don't think they (IRL) should even consider it," said Foyt, whose ABC Supply Co. Dallara-Honda finished ninth in last Sunday's Indy 500 with driver Darren Manning. "It's not a good date. People can't afford to go then, taking off work and all."

Sperber tried to deflect controversy: "I wouldn't get too hung up on this Thursday night thing . . . There were a number of scenarios that were brainstormed. I wouldn't say that it went much further than that."

But, after adding he hadn't spoken with NASCAR or other stakeholders, Sperber defended his position: "I happen to think it was a phenomenal idea."


"I benchmarked NFL Thursday night games," he said. "The NFL has had a lot of success in carving out the prime spot on Thursday night on television and in the world of sports. That is something people look forward to. I thought, if we were able to work everything out, we could have the IRL be a prime-time television event on a NASCAR weekend.

"There are so many open-wheel drivers in NASCAR now, there might be some interest in cross-promotions and, who knows, maybe a driver or two might want to get behind the wheel. If nothing else, I have to imagine Sam Hornish and Dario Franchitti and Juan Pablo (Montoya) would at least want to be around to say hello to their friends and could be part of pre-race.

"Lastly, I thought it would be an interesting opportunity from a sponsorship standpoint, where sponsors from both series might have an interest in having their guests watch other races. And it would make a compelling destination story for folks outside the area." AZcentral.com

track news

Will SMI buy Dover? UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to strong today.  Marathon Partners L.P., the largest outside shareholder of Dover Motorsports Inc., has sent a letter to Dover’s board of directors suggesting the company needs to hire a financial adviser and pursue a sale. Marathon Partners, which owns 1.3 percent of the voting stock, refers to a similar letter from a year ago in its news release.  The letter outlines why it believes that Dover needs to be sold:

“Since the separation of casino and motorsports operations more than six years ago, the share price of Dover Motorsports has fallen by approximately 20 percent,” it states. “In a 2002 letter to shareholders of the companies, Chairman Henry Tippie stated that the spin-off was intended to facilitate ‘capital raising and acquisitions’ in order to ‘set the stage for future growth’ for the casino and motorsports companies. The spin-off, as originally conceived, has failed to live up to its stated intentions. After six years without price appreciation, the old playbook must be thrown out.

“The days of the independent NASCAR track owners have all but passed. Dover Motorsports will never be able to achieve the operating performance of International Speedway Corp. and Speedway Motorsports Inc. The combined strength of the industry leaders leaves the Company at a permanent competitive disadvantage in regards to sponsorship dollars, operating margins and infrastructure. It is simply not possible for a single Sprint Cup series track to produce the results of a large portfolio of similar tracks. More time and additional patience cannot change this fact. Both ISC and SMI can operate the Monster Mile more profitably than Dover Motorsports will ever be able to.

“Additionally, ISC and SMI have both demonstrated an ability to successfully acquire, integrate and develop other racing facilities. In stark contrast, Dover Motorsports has failed in its strategy to grow via acquisition (Gateway & Memphis) and through the development of a de novo racing facility (Nashville), with only losses to show for all of the effort.

“Dover Motorsports’ options for value creation outside of a sale of the Company are quite narrow. While small incremental investment at the Monster Mile remains a possibility, it will be very difficult to move the needle enough to make a difference in the Company’s operating results. Given the reality of the situation, the only option is for Dover Motorsports to use its free cash flow to pay down debt.”

05/29/08 Speedway Motorsports Inc. owner Bruton Smith said on Tuesday that, based on conversations he has had with Dover officials, the track is "more or less for sale." Smith's company, Speedway Motorsports Inc., owns six NASCAR tracks and is buying another in Sparta, Ky., for a reported $78 million. Dover Motorsports Inc. president and CEO Denis McGlynn would not speak in detail about the Delaware track's status. "I can never read [Smith's] mind," McGlynn said Wednesday. "These situations can be somewhat frustrating as a publicly held company. We don't, and cannot, comment on acquisitions. We are not allowed to speculate." McGlynn insists that moving one or both of the track's dates to another venue wouldn't make sense. "Under any circumstance, whether we remain the way we are or are sold, the markets don't change," McGlynn said. "We're the only track in NASCAR that serves four markets -- Philadelphia, Baltimore, Washington, D.C., and New York." Despite its proximity to those four major cities, Dover Motorsports earnings have been up and down in recent years, according to financial reports. In 2007, the company's earnings topped $86 million, compared to $91 million in 2006 and 2005, $84 million in 2004 and $78 million in 2003. The track's ownership is separate from that of the adjoining casino, hotel and harness racing operations, which are owned by Dover Downs Gaming & Entertainment Inc. Delaware News Journal


Toyota and Gibbs high on Montoya
Rumor has it that if Tony Stewart leaves the Toyota Gibbs team (see previous rumors plus the fact his teammate Kyle Busch is beating him on a regular basis) that Toyota and Gibbs wants to grab Juan Montoya.  Montoya is very unhappy at Ganassi and Toyota won a CART championship with Toyota.  We hear Toyota is still very high on Montoya and they feel Montoya's real potential is being masked by Ganassi's inferior Dodges.


Did Goodyear tires again cause NASCAR crashes?
Goodyear’s tires are back in the news after last Sunday’s Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.

At least three, and probably more, drivers had tire troubles during the race, and the result was hard contact with the wall.

Kurt Busch led 64 laps before the right front tire on his Penske Racing Dodge gave way. Dale Earnhardt Jr. led five times for 76 laps, but he also had a tire issue that sent his Hendrick Motorsports Chevrolet into the wall.

And Tony Stewart was two laps from the checkered flag, holding a healthy lead, when the air went out of his tire and his hopes.

Goodyear tested its tire at Lowe’s. Teams tested their cars at Lowe’s. So what was the problem?

Maybe Stewart’s Joe Gibbs Racing team pushed the limit a bit by going the final 100 or so laps on one set of tires. But crew chief Greg Zipadelli said afterwards that the tires had not shown excessive heat or wear all weekend.

Earnhardt Jr. and Busch were on much fresher tires when their problems surfaced. Scenedaily.com


Contract delay means Edmonton's race likely to lose $1M
Edmonton draws a huge attendance, but will it be enough in 2008 to turn a profit?
"It's a big event that will put Edmonton on the map," Northlands board chair Jerry Bouma said of the July 24-26 race weekend that coincides with, and will be married, in a marketing sense, to the Capital Ex, another Northlands property.

The race weekend clearly is a big event in transition, for good and bad.

It's good to have a three-year deal, although a five-year deal would be better. It's good to have a firm race date -- July 26 -- bad that legal issues and contract negotiations delayed its being made official.

"Ticket (sales) are lagging at this time and there's a definite reason for that," said Northlands president Ken Knowles. "It's kind of tough to sell tickets (when people are wondering) is it going to be in the middle of July?

The end of the month?"

Partially as a result, Knowles acknowledged the race at funky, fan-friendly

Edmonton City Centre track probably will lose in the neighborhood of $1 million this year. He reckons the race can break even in 2009. In 2010, cross your fingers, black ink on the ledger.

It's good the race has been instantly rebranded from the generic Champ Car to IndyCar. For starters, Patrick, the talented, feisty and hugely popular star of the series, kicked the marketing effort up several notches when she won the IRL race at Motegi, Japan, the first-ever Indy car victory by a female.

Throw names like Andretti and A.J. Foyt IV into the mix, along with the grinning, spinning, charming Castroneves, who won TV's Dancing with the Stars last season, and you've got yourself some athletes who cross pop-cultural barriers, some real marketing sizzle.

"These people are really good for the series," said Australian driver Will Power, a Champ Car holdover, who won the Streets of Long Beach race on April 20. "I think it's really great that Danica won her first race -- she deserved it and drove well.

"You need these characters in the series, you need these personalities. I think it's important." More at Edmonton Journal


'Mosley turns down the FIA's compromise deal'
Max Mosley has reportedly refused a compromise deal that would see him handed a vote of confidence by the FIA in exchange for him stepping down as president.

Mosley faces the FIA General Assembly next week where a vote of confidence will be taken as to whether he can remain as head of motorsport's governing body. Mosley's position is in question following the News of the World story exposing the lurid details about the 68-year-old's private life.

However, some members of the world's motorsport federations would rather have Mosley step down as they fear the vote could have a negative impact no matter how it plays out.

"The World Council has unanimously agreed that we should avoid (a) vote of confidence at the Extraordinary General Assembly on 3 June, because if President Mosley would get no-confidence, it would mean disaster to him, and on the contrary, if President Mosley would get confidence, it would mean disaster to the FIA," Japanese Automobile Federation chief Setsuo Tanaka said in a letter seen by Autosport.

A compromise were therefore put before Mosley whereby he would receive a vote of confidence in next Tuesday's meeting in exchange for his promise to step down as president. Mosley, however, refused the deal.


Indy crash could mean end of road for Fisher
Sarah Fisher
Earlier this month, Sarah Fisher lost her primary sponsor and another major sponsor. She still managed to qualify for Sunday’s Indianapolis 500. It only got worse on race day. She stalled the car twice, spun her ride while warming up the tires and then was taken out on lap 106 by Andretti Green Racing’s Tony Kanaan. Fisher did about $150,000 to $250,000 worth of damage to her car. Race fans on message boards and chat rooms nationwide are calling for Andretti Green to pay for Fisher’s repairs. Kanaan blamed the accident on his AGR teammate Marco Andretti.

Fisher had hoped to race at least twice more this Indy Racing League season, but now her self-funded team is in serious trouble.  ibj.com


Renault to debut new suspension at Brit GP
(GMM)  Renault will race a significantly updated R28 car at the British grand prix in July.

The Spanish newspaper Diario AS reports that, following the most recent major step forward for the struggling 2008 car at Barcelona, the centerpiece of the Silverstone upgrade is updated rear suspension.

Engineers are hoping the change results in a two tenth-per lap advantage, the newspaper added, to help the problem most often identified by Fernando Alonso -- the car's general lack of traction.


Berger in line for Mosley's job - report
(GMM)  Toro Rosso co-owner and former grand prix winner Gerhard Berger has emerged as a leading candidate to succeed Max Mosley as FIA president.

That is the claim of two highly respected formula one correspondents, Edward Gorman and Kevin Eason, who write for the British newspaper The Times.

In an article published this week by sister News International newspaper The Australian, they contend that "there are signs that Berger ... is seen as a more popular option (to replace Mosley) than the front-runner, Jean Todt."

Berger, 48, could be free to pursue scandal-ridden Mosley's job if his F1 team Toro Rosso is forced to close following the departure of his business partner Dietrich Mateschitz.

Gorman and Eason continue: "Up until now Todt has been viewed as Mosley's favored candidate to succeed him, but Berger is increasingly being talked of as an alternative."

Berger, a personal friend of Mosley's, spoke glowingly about the embattled 68-year-old Briton during the team chiefs' FIA press conference at Monaco last week.


Las Vegas closer to getting a second NASCAR Cup race? UPDATE #2 Pocono Raceway is not for sale. Rose Mattioli told The Associated Press on Tuesday that her family has no plans to sell the NASCAR track, which currently has two Sprint Cup races.

“It never was available; it never will be available,” said Mattioli, who owns the track with her husband, Joseph. “My husband has stated that over and again. That’s it.”

Mattioli said that Pocono Raceway was entrusted to their grandchildren and they will continue to help run the 2 1/2 -mile triangle track.

Speedway Motorsports Inc. purchased Kentucky Speedway last week and there was speculation SMI owner Bruton Smith had his eye on Pocono. If he bought that track, he could have moved one or both its dates to any of his speedways.

“They’re always looking here,” she said. “We get phone calls all the time.”

The 81-year-old Smith told the AP he had not spoken with the Mattiolis about purchasing the track, which is outside New York City and Philadelphia.

Joseph Mattioli, the Pocono Raceway board chairman, brought NASCAR to the Poconos over a plate of fried chicken with Bill France in 1972.

In the mid-1970s, when the CART-USAC fight helped cause financial problems at the track, Mattioli wanted to sell until he received a call from France Sr. The two met in New York and France persuaded Mattioli to ride out the downturn and keep the track.

Rose Mattioli said she hoped there was NASCAR racing on the mountaintop for “as long as my husband and I live, as long as our grandkids live.” AP Article

05/26/08 This Winston Salem Journal article dismisses the idea that Bruton Smith could buy Pocono Raceway.

05/23/08 Bruton Smith’s announcement today that he has added Kentucky Speedway to his Speedway Motorsports Inc. portfolio might be the first move in what could lead to Las Vegas Motor Speedway landing a second annual NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race.

The hot rumor sweeping NASCAR Nation today has Smith also purchasing Pocono Raceway in Long Pond, Pa., closing the 2.5-mile triangle-shaped track and moving one of its Cup dates to Kentucky Speedway and the other to LVMS.

Smith has been seeking a second annual Cup race for LVMS since he purchased the facility in 1998. NASCAR officials repeatedly have said they would not award the track another race but that Smith could move a date from one of his other tracks if he wished.

Kentucky Speedway, a 1.5-mile oval in Sparta, currently hosts a NASCAR Nationwide Series race and a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race. Smith isn’t in the habit of purchasing tracks that don’t host a NASCAR Cup race.

Smith has been rumored to have had his eye on Pocono Raceway for at least the past 10 years but hasn’t been able to come to terms with the Mattioli family, which owns the track. Las Vegas Sun


Ford to drop Mercury line
After enduring years of speculation about the future of the Mercury brand, dealers are asking Ford Motor Co. for a straight answer to a simple question: Does Mercury have a future?

In February, members of the Lincoln Mercury National Dealer Council asked Ford executives to outline their strategy for Mercury. If it has a future, they want to see the products. If it does not, they want to know now so they can manage their business accordingly.

According to dealers, Ford agreed. The Dearborn automaker told them it would discuss the fate of Mercury at a dealer meeting that was then planned for April in Las Vegas. Company sources say no such commitment was made.

Either way, Ford canceled that meeting. The company is now planning a September meeting in Detroit -- a meeting dealers hope will provide a definitive answer to their question.

"The company is in (the) process of developing a strategy and has committed to communicating this plan to the Lincoln Mercury dealer network in the fourth quarter," the council said in a letter to its members dated April 28. In private conversations with The Detroit News, several Mercury dealers said they have grown weary of carefully nuanced statements from Ford executives like: "We have no plans to kill Mercury at this time." But they acknowledge that Ford is in a difficult position. Detroit News


Hamilton back with Pussycat Doll UPDATE #4 Although Lewis Hamilton has been spotted with a string of ladies in Southern France last week, Pussycat Doll Nicole Scherzinger claims to be the girlfriend of the F1 star. The British newspaper 'The Mirror' reported that Scherzinger told friends: "We've been seeing each other on and off for three months."  The couple was spotted in the Amber Lounge in Monaco after Hamilton's victory on Sunday. Witnesses claimed: "Lewis only had eyes for Nicole. He couldn't keep his hands off her. They were kissing as if no one else was watching."

12/16/07 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  Lewis Hamilton has scotched rumors that he is dating 37-year-old British supermodel Naomi Campbell.

Speculation of an affair was sparked last month when, not for the first time, the pair was spotted together by paparazzi in London.

Lewis Hamilton

"There were quite a lot of rumors going round about me and Naomi but there's nothing to it," said the McLaren driver, who is 15 years Campbell's junior.

Hamilton told Contactmusic: "She is really cool and she treats me like a younger brother."

On Sunday, the Sunday Mirror quoted the British rookie as saying: "There's most certainly nothing going on between me and Naomi.  She's like a big sister.

"And anyway, she's way too old for me," he smiled.

"I'm definitely single -- still looking for the right one I guess.  But I'm not stressed -- I've got loads of other things on," Hamilton said.

11/28/07 Model Naomi Campbell and motor racing star Lewis Hamilton both like life in the fast lane. And they did their best to steer photographers off course during a night out.

The pair started off the evening greeting each other with a kiss at a Prince’s Trust gala. But, in an unusual attack of shyness, they later covered their faces before speeding off.

They were then spotted trying to hide several more times, even jumping into another vehicle at one point as they attempted to throw chasing photographers off the scent.

But fellow diners were adamant that 37-year-old Naomi had earlier been far less bashful, apparently more than happy to make several pit stops at the boy racer’s table at London’s Roundhouse.

But when it was time to leave they ducked for cover before a chauffeur sped them away for what turned into a whacky race.

With photographers trailing along behind, Lewis, 22, and Naomi were first tailed to the China Tang restaurant at the Dorchester Hotel.

But instead of sitting down to dinner, the pair hid in the hotel doorway before heading off through a side door towards Kensington.

There, they halted again but only to jump into a different car for the next leg of their circuit round town.

Next stop was for cigarettes, before the driver whizzed Naomi to her home where the pair said their touching goodbyes.

A spokeswoman for Naomi has insisted the pair are “just friends”. But last month she flew to Brazil to cheer on Lewis as the world title slipped from his grasp.

And in September the pair posed happily together at a celebrity event at London’s Royal Opera House.

They are certainly well-matched. Both made the top 10 in a list of the most influential black people last summer. Lewis and his father shared eighth place on the men’s list after landing him a £50million contract while Naomi came fourth on the women’s list. She is estimated to be worth £35million. Daily Express

11/12/07 Nicole Scherzinger is solo now, for what it's worth. She is not in the Pussycat Dolls anymore.

Nicole Scherzinger

11/12/07 (GMM)  Lewis Hamilton has a new girlfriend, according to tabloid newspapers.

Britain's News of the World and the Daily Mirror, as well as German newspaper Bild am Sonntag, are linking the 22-year-old McLaren rookie with Nicole Scherzinger -- vocalist with the American girl-group Pussycat Dolls.

Hamilton and Scherzinger, 29, met when they attended the recent MTV European Music Awards in Munich, and the Mirror claims that they later went to a club and then returned to his hotel.

The News of the World now claims that they telephone each other regularly.

Hamilton split with his long-time girlfriend Jodia in March, explaining in his new book 'My Story' that it was "obvious that my schedule was not going to give me time to include her".

He was subsequently linked with Sarah Ojjeh, the 18-year-old daughter of McLaren's billionaire co-owner Mansour.

Hamilton denies that he is now dating Scherzinger.

"We often call each other," the Briton told Bild am Sonntag, "but neither of us really have the time for personal lives or love stories."


Doornbos inks F1 deal to drive for Renault
Robert Doornbos is a happy man
(GMM) Former Champ Car grand prix driver Robert Doornbos has concluded a deal to appear in the cockpit of Renault's formula one cars in 2008, according to reports.

The 26-year-old Dutchman, who raced 11 times for Minardi and Red Bull until late in 2006, reportedly penned the agreement with the French squad's main sponsor ING - a Dutch bank - to perform demonstration driving duties, the Dutch publication Formule 1 Race Report said on Monday.

Doornbos dropped out of the American open wheeler scene for 2008 following the merger of the Champ Car and IRL series.

He has since signed to represent AC Milan in the forthcoming football-meets-motor racing Superleague Formula.

Doornbos' very next high-speed outing, however, could be a one-day Renault test at the Silverstone circuit on Friday, motorsport-total.com claims.

The German portal said Doornbos' shakedown is so he can adapt to the car ahead of his demonstration outings, including in Rotterdam and Moscow.

His management, meanwhile, denied that a connection can be made between Doornbos' Renault commitment and the increasing pressure on the team's struggling race driver Nelson Piquet.


Overheard at Indy Saturday - Edmonton, Road America UPDATE On the morning of the Indianapolis 500, the multi-year contract between the IndyCar Series and Edmonton Northlands finally got autographed.

The Rexall Edmonton Indy contract, which Sun Media revealed here earlier this week to be "only a signature away" from being a done deal according to series president Terry Angstadt, yesterday received his signature along with that of Mark Bamford, chief financial officer of Northlands.

"We weren't sure if we were going to have enough face time to finish it off," said race director Jim Haskins, who is here with a team of Edmonton organizers.

"There was some last minute wording, but no major hurdles," he said.

Haskins said they were saving details of the deal so they'd have something to announce at a press conference planned for Wednesday in Edmonton. Edmonton Sun

05/24/08 We hear the reason for the holdup on the contract between Edmonton and the IRL is the fact that the IRL wants to just do a 1 year deal and Edmonton wants at least a three-year deal.  Makes one wonder if the IRL just wants one race in Canada and if Toronto is coming on board next year with Andretti Green as promoters that Edmonton may be a one and done deal, which would be a shame........Road America President George Bruggenthies is here meeting with IRL officials in the hope he can land an Indy Car race at his 4-mile road course in Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin........We hear that the A1GP may land a race in Calgary starting in 2009 and that the future of the F1 race in Montreal is in doubt given the lack of government subsidies.  Without that the race promoter, Normand Legault, cannot pay F1 the kind of money (sanction fees) other venues who want to come on board can.  In addition, without a USGP to share in the travel costs for the F1 circus to come to North America, the race bleeds red ink.  Mark Cipolloni reporting from Indy


Teams preventing SC rule change
(GMM)  F1's unpopular current safety car rules are not likely to be changed in time for the forthcoming Canadian grand prix.

That is the suspicion of Australian driver and GPDA director Mark Webber, who said he has heard that a few teams are preventing the required unanimity for a rule change to be put in place.

Several discussions about changing the rules have already taken place over the past few weeks, because the fact the pitlane is closed upon deployment of the safety car can unfairly penalize drivers who need to stop for fuel.

"As far as I know, a solution is being worked on," Webber, who races for Red Bull, said at Monaco.

"But there needs to be unanimity and I have heard that some teams want to keep the current rules.

"I don't know who it is, but I hope they will change their minds," he added.

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