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Childress interested in Gilliland Team owner Richard Childress said Sunday [at Infineon Raceway] that he is among those interested in signing David Gilliland to a contract. Gilliland, currently driving without a contract for a part-time, unsponsored entry in the Busch Series, has seen his stock skyrocket since winning the June 17 Busch race at Kentucky, then getting a weak car into Sunday's Nextel Cup race at Sonoma. "He's probably the hottest young commodity out there today," said Childress, who currently fields three Cup cars and won six Cup championships with the late Dale Earnhardt Sr. "There are several teams here that will be after him, but he'd definitely be a good fit for us." Childress noted that Gilliland's good character and family background (his father Butch was also a NASCAR driver) play into the 30-year-old's favor. Childress didn't shy away from expressing his interest in Gilliland, but said the driver might be better served to get more time in the Busch Series. Gilliland has just seven career Busch starts and made his Cup debut Sunday. "I think he has all it takes to become a Cup driver, I'll put it like that," Childress said. "I think he could win races in the Cup Series. I believe if I was him, I'd run a few more Busch races (first)." Inland Valley Daily Bulletin
Chevy to submit new engine General Motors officials plan to submit their proposed new Cup engine to NASCAR executives for review in mid-August, ahead of the Sept. 1 deadline. GM hopes for a quick answer from NASCAR so that its teams can get started on the new engine if it's approved. Winston Salem Journal
Cosworth’s F1 days numberedUPDATE Cosworth's commercial director Bernard Ferguson told Autosport.com, "It's difficult for the independents," he said. "There are 12 teams in 2008 and six manufacturers, and if they all decide to supply a second team then the future for Cosworth isn't all that bright.
"But we still believe that there is a place for people like us in F1. There needs to be an independent manufacturer involved.
"It's difficult to imagine any chief executive committing to the sort of financial input that is needed to enter F1 and committing to it for five years. We're hanging in there and if we continue to produce a good product, we'll be around for a long time to come."
Ferguson believes that the key to Cosworth staying in the sport was in landing a manufacturer to badge their engine, which is what we have said for a long time.
"We need a partner to showcase our engine to deliver the best for their car," he explained. "If you end up slipping down the grid, that becomes more difficult.
"We're trying to do the best job we possibly can. I think the level of manufacturer expenditure is unsustainable. It's very difficult for the five manufacturers that are not winning.
"If we end up with just manufacturers and one pulls out, what happens then?"
06/20/06 With Williams having already dropped Cosworth in favor of a Toyota engine deal even though the engine itself is probably inferior to the Cosworth powerplant, and with Renault and BMW looking to supply a 2nd team, now comes word that both Red Bull teams would like to be associated with a major car manufacturer. We said long ago that unless Cosworth gets a manufacturer to badge its F1 engine, its days in F1 are numbered.
(GMM) Red Bull magnate Dietrich Mateschitz has admitted that he would like his F1 foray to link up with a car manufacturer.
Amid the backdrop of the energy drink's undoubted links with Volkswagen, the Austrian billionaire called Red Bull 'one of the best parties in F1'.
''We have a beautiful brand,'' he was quoted as saying by usgpindy.com, ''and (the combination) of a manufacturer and Red Bull is a good one.''
At present, Red Bull and Italian-based junior squad Toro Rosso are powered respectively by customer Ferrari and Cosworth engines, while every top rival is backed and co-owned by a carmaker.
Mateschitz's original plan was to create an all-American team, but it faltered when US carmakers and sponsors could not be found. The first American driver in more than a decade, Scott Speed, debuted for STR in 2006.
'Didi' Mateschitz insisted: ''F1 is good for the brand and good as a marketing instrument. It is a marketing tool.''
Vickers to drive ToyotasUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. As revealed this evening on Speed TV, Team Red Bull formally announced a multi-year agreement with NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series driver Brian Vickers, the 2003 NASCAR Busch Series champion, to race the No. 83 Red Bull Toyota Camry starting with the 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup season. Rumors notwithstanding, more official information on the new team, including the second 2007 driver, will be made available later this year.
06/10/06 When Brian Vickers got permission from Hendrick Motorsports to look for a new job this week, it started a chain reaction that might include the return of former series champion Bill Elliott. Vickers will drive for Red Bull Racing next year, becoming the third full-time driver listed for Toyota's venture into stock car racing. Casey Mears told car owner Chip Ganassi on Thursday he won't return next year in the #42 Dodge, and on Friday he suggested he will replace Vickers at Hendrick. At the same time, Elliott apparently is mulling a full-time return to the sport - presumably as Vickers' teammate at Red Bull. During a local Atlanta cable television interview Wednesday, Elliott said he hadn't decided whether to make a comeback. He said he's busy with his son's go-cart racing career and a new grandchild, but he wasn't ready to rule out any return. Elliott will drive three races later this year for Red Bull as it gathers information to debut its Camry next year. He also will drive five races for Michael Waltrip Racing, which will field two Toyota teams next year. Augusta Chronicle
Overheard in Cleveland Rumor has it that Champ Car and the IRL will try to avoid racing on the same weekend in 2007, and of course as previously rumored, there will be an attempt to run some joint race weekends. Races we hear mentioned are St. Pete, Long Beach, Mexico City, and Toronto.......Word is that the 2007 Schedule could see as many as 18 races if everything falls into place.....Heard again that Honda was lobbying to use their loud IRL engines in a merger (that won't happen)......Heard someone mention LeMans, France as a possible companion race to Assen if it happens.....Look for Jimmy Vasser to run another race or two this year.....Talked to Bobby Rahal who was ecstatic with the performance of his son Graham this weekend. Team Rahal had a full hospitality unit in Cleveland and they were entertaining many guests.....The Dominguez crash on Saturday broke the tub and he had to race his backup car on Sunday. The team must send it back to Lola to fix or find a replacement elsewhere......Heard that Panoz usually subs out the fabrications of their suspension pieces. If the Panoz DP01 is the car of choice for the merged series, rumors say Dallara might be given that work, which can be a lucrative business given how many suspension pieces get replaced in a year. And of course that is assuming a single spec chassis is used and it is not opened up to competition, which we do not expect.....AJ Allmendinger is moving to Toronto to live with his fiancée who has a Chiropractic business in the Canadian city of Ontario......After the spate of crashes in the last two Champ Car races there is fear of a Lola parts shortage, especially tubs. With a new car coming, Champ Car teams have not ordered any new Lolas this year.....After the race Mario Dominguez was not mad at Dan Clarke. “I’d been struggling with gearbox problems the whole race,” he said, “and then the engine starved for fuel starting the last lap. That allowed the CTE car to get a run on me to Turn One and he passed me. Unfortunately, he spun exiting the turn and I couldn’t avoid him and the steering rack got broken on my car. It’s a shame because we had a great run. Dale Coyne is a great guy and the guys on the team have got to be the hardest working crew in racing.” Mark C.
Midland consider $128m sale offerUPDATE #3 Although AutoRacing1.com sources say this rumor is 'fact', from Canada:
(GMM) Alex Shnaider's home grand prix in Canada came and went without him announcing the sale of his 'MF1' formula one team.
Although team sponsor 'Lost Boys' anticipated an outcome to its $130 million offer to buy the former Jordan squad, Midland spokesman Ron Fine suggested that Shnaider's delay in making a decision is probably indicative of the outcome.
He said: ''The longer it goes on the less likely it seems that something will happen.
''There will not be a decision this weekend or next weekend at Indianapolis,'' Fine confirmed.
However, such is the clear profit billionaire Shnaider stands to make after buying the team from Eddie Jordan for $60 million, Fine suggested that - in terms of mere business - the decision to sell is 'almost a no-brainer'.
''(But) on the other hand ... it's not about business anymore,'' said the spokesman. ''It's about achieving his goals, fulfilling his passion (and) Alex is really torn.''
06/12/06 We are upgrading this rumor to 'fact' today. AutoRacing1.com has learned that the sale of the Midland team will be announced sometime after the Canadian Grand Prix.
06/10/06 (GMM) The sale of Alex Shnaider's 'MF1' team could be announced at the upcoming Canadian grand prix.
A spokesman for the Russian-Canadian owner's Silverstone-based squad said Shnaider would likely attend the Montreal race.
''The wheels are still in motion,'' Ron Fine answered when asked about Dutch sponsor Lost Boys' widely reported $100 million offer, ''but there is no decision yet.''
He told the Toronto Sun: ''Alex will attend the Canadian grand prix and may make an announcement there.''
The Midland team's spokesman insisted that a 'condition' of the possible sale to billionaire Michiel Mol would be that he take 'as good or better care' of the existing team
05/29/06 (GMM) Midland's Alex Shnaider is now weighing up a solid offer to sell his formula one team, according to reports in Holland.
Dutch publication 'Formule 1 RaceReport' claims that Michiel Mol - of Christijan Albers' sponsor Lost Boys - met with Russian-born Shnaider at Monaco, where the $128m offer was reportedly made aboard the 'Midlandia' yacht.
''It is an interesting offer,'' Shnaider is quoted as saying, ''but in my heart I am not yet ready to sell.
''Sometimes I wish I would never have received this offer!''
Lost Boys' Mol is understood to have granted Shnaider some time to consider the offer.
He revealed: ''(Shnaider) told me that he does not want to make a rushed decision.''
Midland and Cosworth (GMM) The Midland-owned 'MF1' team is almost certain to be powered by Cosworth V8 engines in 2007.
It is understood that the terms of an agreement, with Alex Shnaider's squad set to lose its Toyota power plants to Williams, were discussed at a meeting in Montreal involving Colin Kolles, MF1's manager of business affairs Ian Phillips, and Bernard Ferguson, who is commercial director for Cosworth, and Kevin Kalkhoven who flew into Montreal Thursday.
Ferguson this month admitted that the independent engine maker was likely to lose Williams as a partner at the end of 2006. With V10-powered Toro Rosso looking to inherit Red Bull's Ferrari deal, Cosworth looked set to drop out of the market altogether.
Schu still facing 'GPDA' boot (GMM) Although Michael Schumacher emerged unscathed from a drivers' meeting at Silverstone, the seven time world champion is still likely to be booted out of the 'GPDA'.
'Bild am Sonntag' newspaper in Germany carried a report on Sunday claiming that, as a belated reaction to his 'Rascasse' indiscretion during Monaco qualifying, the Ferrari driver will not be re-elected as a director at a Turkish grand prix vote in August.
''(There) we will end Michael's term as director,'' an unnamed driver told the newspaper.
Schumacher's controversial actions, and the driver union's failure to sanction him, has already cost the 'GPDA' two angry members.
The unnamed driver continued: ''We have had enough of his sinister actions (and) we no longer want to be represented by him.''
Jacques Villeneuve, one of the members who resigned in protest, suggested knowledge in Montreal of Schumacher's impending demise.
Referring to Schumacher's apparent attack on his fledgling music career, the Canadian said: ''Michael will find out at some stage what kind of effect his stupid talk has.''
Ralf in Jeopardy at Toyota (GMM) In a swift reversal of roles, Jarno Trulli's likely three-year deal to stay at Toyota beyond 2006 means that teammate Ralf Schumacher is now the less secure of the pair.
While the rumor mill had predicted silly-season trouble for Italy's Trulli, the fact is that Schumacher is the one with an expiring contract -- his own three-year agreement runs out at the end of the 2007 season.
''That is so far in the future that I am not even thinking about it yet,'' 30-year-old Ralf, who recently split with his long time manager Willi Weber, told 'Sport-Informations-Dienst' agency.
But while the Cologne based team actually announced a three-year deal with Schumacher starting in 2005, it has constantly been rumored that the contract might include options for one or two more years.
An extra two years would bring Ralf's contract in line with Trulli's, securing his future to the end of 2009.
The German is estimated to earn about $16m a year.
NASCAR to slam latest cheaters Ken Schrader's #21 Wood Brothers Ford had their entire set of seat belts confiscated by NASCAR at Infineon Raceway. Belts are not allowed in use two years after date of manufacture and these were clearly marked May 2004 and on Saturday the #21 team had the steering wheel confiscated by NASCAR. NASCAR mandates that the Steering Wheel spoke must be solid and Schrader's had a total of nine cutouts. Insider Racing News [Editor's Note: Expect penalties to be imposed this week]
IRL to add more night races League president Brian Barnhart said next year's schedule will have several changes, including a Saturday night race at Homestead, Fla., March 24. A new race at Iowa Speedway will be in June and Milwaukee officials are considering a move to the weekend after the 500. Indy Star [Editor's Note: More Saturday night races means more races on ESPN and ESPN2 where TV ratings are horrible.]
Firestone and Bridgestone to support merged series With the merger between Champ Car and IRL underway (see related article on Hot News page) on Saturday in Cleveland we quizzed Firestone/Bridgestone motorsport boss Al Speyer which brand, Firestone or Bridgestone, would be used in a merged series.
"We're still talking about it," said Speyer, "but we think we may pit both brands against each other, some cars on Firestone, some on Bridgestone."
F1 teams to use flexible skins Ferrari technical boss Ross Brawn insists that the performance of the 248F1 has not been affected in any way by the new wing rules that prevent flexible wings, even if their times were somewhat slower than normal, the team’s technical director claiming it was a tire issue that kept them down the grid in 15th and 22nd.
"I think over this weekend once we get on top of the tire situation you’ll see that the results are not discernible. We will have to optimize the wing, but in the time we had, which was a week before we left to come here, we did what had to do what we could,” he explained. "Around Imola time we offered to do it, and wrote a regulation and offered it to all the teams, and at the working group meeting that happened around then, nobody wanted to do it, which I found quite amusing, given that there was so much controversy. Then a week before Canada the FIA came along and asked us to do it. I don’t really know what’s gone on. It was a solution to stop all the bickering. Maybe they thought it was too good to be true. There were two options; one was to not have any constraints, and have everyone know where they are, and one was to put the brackets on the wing that we have now."
But, according to Brawn, this will not solve the issue anyway as there is already talk of teams having ‘flexible skins on the wings’ …
“With the brackets fixed, the skin can suck down and change the profile of the wing, so it doesn’t stop,” he said.
Gilliland to Cup in 2007 After scoring what many believe to be the biggest upset in Busch Series history last week at the Kentucky Speedway, David Gilliland's stock has shot through the roof. The 30-year-old California driver has spent a lot of time this week listening to offers for 2007. "We have received three or four really good phones calls from some of the top teams in both Busch and Nextel Cup. It's really exciting, it's really a great accomplishment and achievement for me. We've dedicated our whole life to racing. For it to finally to be paying off and getting some opportunities to go and show what we got on a higher scale and higher level it's been really good." There's talk Gilliland may wind up with a deal to run all the Cup races. When asked about that he said, "I feel confident we'll be full-time next year. Whether it's Cup or Busch we will be full-time next year. That's something I just can't stop smiling about. It's a dream come true no matter what happens. We're one step closer and we're enjoying every minute of it." PRN's Garage Pas Radio Show
Champ Car or NASCAR in Montreal beyond 2006UPDATE #12 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. See Hot News page for story on Champ Car out, NASCAR in for Montreal.
06/23/06 French Canadian media sources are reporting that Normand Legault has today been awarded the contract by the City of Montreal to stage a NASCAR Busch race in place of the Champ Car in Montreal. However, rumors suggest that Kevin Kalkhoven has flown to Montreal today, site of this weekend's Canadian GP. Is he there on F1 business or for Champ Car business?
06/20/06 A Toronto Sun report on the weekend had Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR's managing director of events and operations, saying outside of quotation marks that he expects a Busch race will be confirmed for Montreal within the next 60 days.
"Still no decision has been made. There's still a ways to go," Ramsey Poston, NASCAR's managing director of corporate communications, said yesterday from Daytona Beach, Fla.
"We're still very much in the review process, and we owe this due diligence to our fans and our business."
Two sources close to the Montreal situation have reiterated in recent days that the plan to run the Busch Series next summer remains very much on track
Discussions have been ongoing between veteran Formula One racing promoter Normand Legault and the office of Montreal Mayor Gerald Tremblay, in an effort to finalize a renewal of the lease that gives Legault the right to organize races on the 4.361-km permanent road circuit in city-owned Jean Drapeau Park.
No announcement from Legault or his promotion company, GPF1 Inc., is expected before the end of Sunday's F1 race, though one could come sooner.
The Gazette first reported five weeks ago that Legault was merely a lease renewal away from bringing NASCAR to Montreal, contracts with the stock-car governing body already bearing a few signatures.
Should this renewal come to pass, and give Legault exclusive racing control of the Ile Notre Dame site, then the city's open-wheel Champ Car race, an annual event since 2002 whose organization is now contracted to promoter Alan Labrosse, might be looking for a new home in Montreal after its Aug. 27 event - or leaving town altogether. Legault aims to run F1 and NASCAR in the two racing weeks the city provides him. More at Montreal Gazette
06/19/06 AutoRacing1.com can now pretty much confirm that this August will be Champ Car's last race in Montreal on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. Now it will be interesting to see whether NASCAR adds the IRL to their schedule. The Busch race will run on Saturday, which leaves Sunday open to an IRL event. We previously reported that the IRL is in discussions about this. It will also be interesting to see whether Montreal fans give a hoot about a 2nd-tier Busch series, especially since it has always been an open wheel town.
06/18/06 According to this Toronto Sun article, a NASCAR Busch Series race will definitely soon be announced in Montreal for 2007 and Champ Car will not be part of the program. If true, this May will be the last Champ Car race in Montreal.
06/05/06 Canadian sources say next year will be a NASCAR Busch and IRL doubleheader on the traditional August Champ Car weekend in Montreal. The only way Champ Car will return to Montreal this source tells us is if they merge with the IRL at some point in time, but for now Champ Car will lose Montreal to the IRL in 2007 because of their bad relationship with Normand Legault who the source says will win the tug-of-war with Alan Labrosse for the rights to hold the race after 2006 because of his political clout with the city.
Legault is said to be pushing Champ Car out because he wants a NASCAR and perhaps an IRL race (doubleheader). The source also says there will be pressure to steal Alex Tagliani and Andrew Ranger from Champ Car and move the French Canadian drivers to the IRL, who along with Patrick Carpentier in a Busch ride, will give the Canadian fans something to cheer about on '07.
Champ Car is trying to convince the city to add a 3rd race weekend to the island, but this source says that is unlikely to happen.
06/03/06 AutoRacing1.com is hearing that NASCAR wants to run its Busch race on Saturday in Montreal because they do not want it on Sunday on TV when the Nextel Cup race that weekend is on TV. Therefore, we hear that NASCAR is quite happy to have Champ Car or the IRL run as the feature race on Sunday in Montreal. We hear the IRL is talking to Normand Legault about being the Sunday feature. If so, it would make sense for Champ Car to also be talking to Legault or they could find themselves on the outside looking in at Montreal. What we want to know is why Champ Car cannot put Patrick Carpentier in a top car for the Montreal race?
Toro Rosso to keep Liuzzi, Speed - Berger (GMM) Toro Rosso is likely to race into the 2007 season with the same driver lineup.
The Faenza-based team's co-owner, Gerhard Berger, said in an interview that despite rumors linking Heikki Kovalainen with a seat, both Vitantonio Liuzzi and Scott Speed should be given 'time to develop'.
''I don't want the pressure on them to be too big,'' the Austrian was quoted as saying by 'Salzburger Nachrichten'.
''In F1 the error is often made that talents are rushed, so I plan to stay with our drivers for 2007.''
Likely Red Bull Racing evacuee Christian Klien had also been linked with a ride at 'STR' as had rising talents Sebastian Vettel, Michael Ammermuller, Colin Fleming and current 'Friday' star Neel Jani.
But Gerhard said the latter Swiss is not yet ready to race, adding that 'continuity is important.'
Red Bull and RenaultUPDATE #3 (GMM) Following Gerhard Berger's lead, another leading member of Red Bull's F1 foray has admitted the possibility of a deal for engines with Renault.
Christian Horner, principal of Red Bull Racing, has been quoted as authenticating speculation that the energy drink-owned squad might be eyeing Renault's leading V8 as a replacement in 2007 for the current Ferrari deal.
Referring to Renault chief Flavio Briatore's recent announcement that the French outfit is looking for a customer, Horner told 'Kronen Zeitung' newspaper: ''Why not Red Bull?''
Adding fuel to the suggestion that the Ferrari contract could be pushed to Berger's junior Toro Rosso squad, Horner commented that it is a 'quite possible' scenario for 2007.
He said a final decision would come in July and denied that it is too late for Adrian Newey to incorporate a new engine architecture into the design of his 'RB3'.
''Our technical boss would like to work with the very best engine he can get,'' Horner insisted.
06/23/06 (GMM) An engine deal for 2007 between Red Bull and Renault is '80 per cent' done, according to Toro Rosso co-owner Gerhard Berger.
The Austrian has been in talks with his old Benetton boss Flavio Briatore in recent weeks and is now quoted as indicating that one of the energy drink's F1 squads will be Renault powered next year.
''The Renault engine is the most reliable on the grid,'' Berger told Spanish newspaper 'AS', ''and Red Bull have had problems in that area this year.''
The most likely outcome, therefore, is that Red Bull would take the Renault engine, leaving Toro Rosso to inherit the senior team's Ferrari deal.
Gerhard Berger explained: ''The agreement with Renault is 80 per cent done.''
Red Bull's agreement with Renault will likely include the driving services of Heikki Kovalainen for STR.
''We are always interested in talented pilots,'' Berger continued, ''and Kovalainen is clearly that.''
06/21/06 (GMM) Speculation that Red Bull's 2007 car could be fitted with a Renault engine is gaining power.
'Auto Motor Und Sport' magazine in Germany reports that Toro Rosso co-owner and 'Red Bull advisor' Gerhard Berger has staged talks about the matter with his old Benetton chief Flavio Briatore.
Preceding the story was reigning champion Renault's admission that it would like to sell a customer version of its current 'RS26' V8 power plant next year, with a price tag rumored to be around $12m.
Berger is presumably getting involved because a change of engine supplier for Red Bull would likely mean that Toro Rosso would inherits the 2007 Ferrari deal.
The loser of the switch, however, would be Cosworth, which had hoped to upgrade its V10 arrangement with STR to the supply of the English company's 2007 V8.
'Auto Motor Und Sport' claims that Berger has met with Briatore 'several times', and that Red Bull is keen to make the switch not only because of the cheaper price, but due to concern that its Ferrari engine is 500rpm down on the works team.
06/16/06 (GMM) A potential customer has emerged for Renault's V8 engine in 2007 -- Red Bull.
It is rumored that the French squad's F1 boss, Flavio Briatore, has already had talks with his counterparts at Red Bull Racing about selling the year-old 'RS26' - the 2.4 liter unit which presently resides the works Renault racer - at a cost of about $11m per year.
Austrian-owned Red Bull has a contract for Ferrari engines next year, but it is believed that the supply could simply be transferred to sister team Toro Rosso. Complicating the matter, however, is that 'STR' is also bound contractually to Cosworth for the '07 season.
And, given that Adrian Newey is already hard at work on the 'RB3', Red Bull's switch could have to wait until 2008.
It should also be mentioned that MF1 is a possible contender for the Renault power plants, as is Super Aguri, whose alliance with Honda is on shaky ground.
Wallace to host new NASCAR show Brandweek magazine is reporting that Rusty Wallace will host "NASCAR Angels," a reality TV show that will begin airing this fall sponsored by Goodyear's Gemini auto repair shops, according to Street & Smith's SportsBusiness Daily. The syndicated show, which will feature top NASCAR competitors showing deserving families a look behind the scenes of NASCAR, is scheduled to debut Sept. 12 on various networks, including ABC.
'Sprint' Identity crisis for NASCARUPDATE #2 Sprint/Nextel is expected to make some sort of announcement next week at Daytona about its future plans for the name of the Cup series. Nextel probably will remain part of the title. The Nextel name isn't leaving the merged company, so why would the executives want to eliminate it from its NASCAR sponsorship? However, some type of name change is coming. The question is when. It would take a huge amount of work to change all NASCAR and track logos in time for the 2007 season. Dallas Morning News
06/17/06 Word is that Sprint will, within a week or so, acknowledge a change in the name of NASCAR's top series for 2007, mandating Sprint Cup or Sprint/Nextel Cup. Sprint acquired the assets of its walkie-talkie rival last year and promised an eventual name change in order to make use of Nextel's top sports marketing property. Speed Channel
06/16/06 With NASCAR's premier series slated to become the Sprint Cup Series due to the merger of Nextel and Sprint, the name is eerily close Sprint Car Series, which could be a cause for concern with regard to fan confusion.
However, that should not be a problem for the rich France family that is working toward monopolizing USA motorsports. Perhaps they will just buy up all the Sprint Car Series out there and change their name.
Things looking up in ClevelandUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Race officials announced a major bump in ticket sales for race weekend over last year, and believe the potential for 100,000 in attendance for the weekend to be a strong possibility.
"We have surpassed last year's Sunday ticket sales by 33.4 percent," race General Manager Chuck Kasich said. "We have surpassed Saturday ticket sales by 72 percent," he said.
Overall, those numbers were based on ticket sales through Wednesday, meaning those numbers could rise significantly over the next few days. Cleveland Plain Dealer
06/22/06 According to AutoRacing1.com, this weekend's Cleveland Champ Car race seems to be moving forward on all fronts, only issue so far has been weather. We hear that the promoter feels that the three day total attendance will exceed one hundred thousand, with over 50,000 on Sunday. We hear that the three day grandstand tickets are sold-out.
Ferrari ditch 'flexi' wing - report (GMM) The 'flexi' rule tweak has compelled Ferrari to change its rear wing design.
With the FIA clamping down on the regulation loophole, Ferrari's new design could cost Michael Schumacher and Felipe Massa up to a second per lap starting in Montreal, according to the German 'Bild' 'paper.
''Ferrari's reaction?'' the newspaper wrote. ''They have brought completely new wings to Canada.''
It is reported elsewhere, however, that BMW-Sauber - thought to have been the other main 'flexi' protagonist - did not have to make a wing change.
In 'AS' newspaper, Renault's Fernando Alonso forgave Ferrari for going down the controversial flexi-path.
''Everyone tries to go to the very limit,'' he said.
Renault offers Kimi $140M deal Kimi Raikkonen last night left Ferrari sweating after Renault offered him a three-year deal worth £75million.
Renault boss Flavio Briatore is desperate to sign a top-line driver to partner Giancarlo Fisichella after losing world champ Fernando Alonso to McLaren.
Raikkonen said: “I have options for next year so I am not really worried about my future.
“There are a couple of things that need to be sorted out before I am 100 per cent sure where I want to be. They may seem little things to other people but they might be big things for me. My decision will be made on what’s right for me. I was not worried whether Michael was my partner or not.” More at The Sun
New row could cost F1 a carmakerUPDATE (GMM) One of the Toyota Motor Corporation's highest-ranking officials has dismissed speculation that the Japanese marque might pull out of F1 in the near future.
After nearly five years on the grid, the big-spending Cologne-based squad has failed to win a single grand prix, and is at odds with the FIA's vision to cut costs by reducing the onslaught of unfettered technology.
Nevertheless, Executive Vice President Kazuo Okamoto insisted that Toyota is not about to pull the plug.
''We do not think about such a thing,'' the Japanese was quoted as saying by 'Eurosport AutoMagazin'.
''Don't forget the investments we have made into our race team, the work at Cologne or the circuit at Fuji
''Our goal is the world championship and we will get there.''
He also played down the significance of Toyota's infamous rivalry, and any suggestion that if Honda pulled out of the sport it would be easier for Toyota to follow.
Okamoto said: ''In every respect we have other competitors, in formula one as well as in the world market -- BMW, Fiat, Mercedes, Renault.''
06/08/06 (GMM) The argument about money is now over, but F1's governing body is locked in a new battle about technical freedom that could cost the sport one or two carmakers.
FIA president Max Mosley said this week that he would not back down over his proposal to 'freeze' engine technology for several years starting from 2008, but he denied as 'complete nonsense' that the idea is to actually force non-compliant outfits like Honda and Toyota to quit.
''The way to get rid of the manufacturers is to let it continue as it is,'' Mosley, who will appear in his own press conference at Silverstone on Friday, told Auto Motor Und Sport.
He said: ''The only way to keep them is to get the costs down.''
However, although Mosley traditionally dismisses the carmakers' threats, it is a fact that - while they are committed for 2008 - there is nothing presently requiring them to race in subsequent years.
And Honda's Nick Fry told Autosport magazine: ''F1 is important to us, but the world will not come to an end if we stop doing it.''
Gene and Dominguez to ALMS? We hear that Ferrari F1 test driver Marc Gene and ousted Champ Car driver Mario Dominguez may pilot the No. 62 Risi Ferrari F430 GT at the ALMS race at Lime Rock Park next weekend (July 4th weekend). Ralf Kelleners and Toni Vilander will pilot the No. 61 sister car as well.
IRL to buy time on ESPN in 2007UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. IRL spokesperson Fred Nation told AutoRacing1.com, "There is no change in our contract with ABC/ESPN and it will continue to be the same rights paying arrangement it has always been and the contract continues through the end of the 2009 season."
06/21/06 Rumor has it that due to low TV ratings the IRL will have to buy time on ESPN starting in 2007. All other racing series are time-buys except NASCAR. The IRL camp criticized Champ Car in recent years because their TV has been a time buy for a long time. Now the IRL joins the boat.....meanwhile the Champ Car/IRL split goes on......
Villeneuve to re-sign with BMWUPDATE (GMM) Jacques Villeneuve has responded to BMW boss Mario Theissen's insistence that he will not contemplate renewing the Canadian racer's contract until late 2006.
The 1997 world champion, according to 'sid', said in Montreal: ''It would be better if (the decision) would be sooner because it can be a distraction.
''My contract only goes to the end of the year but I would gladly drive on with this fantastic car,'' he added.
06/22/06 (GMM) Mario Theissen has given yet another indication that Jacques Villeneuve (pictured right) stands a chance of retaining his seat at BMW-Sauber beyond this year.
French Canadian Villeneuve's contract, penned for two years by Theissen's predecessor Peter Sauber at the end of 2004, is due to expire, and he indicated recently that he had heard nothing about whether BMW was intending to renew the deal.
Recently, however, a few noises have been leaking from the headquarters at Hinwil and in Munich, even if team principal Theissen's hints were not too big in an interview published on Thursday.
''We will have an extremely strong team of drivers once again in 2007,'' the German said on June 22, a year to the day since BMW announced that it had bought Peter Sauber's squad.
Theissen insisted: ''(However) a final decision on the line-up won't be made until the end of the season.''
Boosting Villeneuve's hopes, meanwhile, the BMW motor sport director referred to the 35-year-old as 'in top form', while young contender and third driver Robert Kubica is still 'a rough diamond'.
''We are extremely happy with our driver line-up,'' Theissen said.
''Jacques ... is proving his critics wrong. He's highly motivated and right back in top form, which puts a smile on my face.''
Theissen admitted that 21-year-old Kubica's signing this year was a 'risk' because he was 'young and inexperienced'.
He explained: ''But we have been highly satisfied with his work (and) we fully expect him to continue in this vein. I'm in no doubt that he has a future in F1.
'However, he's still very young and we need to give him time.''
Later start times for NASCAR races in '07 The 2007 racing schedule hasn't been released but one significant change is expected: All races will start no earlier than 2pm. The later starting times come at the demand of television networks Fox, FX, ABC, TNT and ESPN. They pushed NASCAR to start most races at 4pm to better capture West Coast viewers and create a link to prime-time shows, but they settled for a mix. None of the times, however, will be any earlier than 2pm. Augusta Chronicle
Red Bull to replace Klien with MontoyaUPDATE #2 (GMM) Christian Klien has denied any knowledge of his supposed looming exit as a Red Bull race driver.
The team's influential 'advisor' Helmut Marko revealed this week that, with at least one current pilot to get the chop at the end of 2006, the 'pendulum is swinging' in the direction of Klien's veteran teammate David Coulthard.
''I don't know about that interview,'' Klien, the 23-year-old Austrian, told motorline.cc.
''Within the team I have not heard any official statements or been personally told anything.''
Klien also denied knowledge of team owner Dietrich Mateschitz's claim that whichever driver has the least amount of points at the end of the season will go.
Perhaps significantly, however, Klien has been at great pains recently to highlight that poor car reliability has thwarted his race for results.
And he rejected Marko's assessment that, even in qualifying, Coulthard has performed more impressively.
Klien said: ''In qualifying I have been afflicted quite often with various breakdowns. And so far there have been three races in which both David and I finished; and twice I beat David.''
06/21/06 (GMM) David Coulthard is presently winning an internal race against teammate Christian Klien to keep his Red Bull seat in 2007.
That is the admission of the team's influential 'consultant' Helmut Marko, who told a newspaper that the 'pendulum is swinging' in the veteran Scot's direction.
''He is usually superior (to Klien) both in qualifying and in the race,'' Marko told Kronen Zeitung, ''and everyone knows that David is not a highly gifted qualifier.''
Dr Helmut Marko, 23-year-old Klien's countryman and also a former grand prix driver, explained that the young Austrian's task in 2006 was to beat his senior teammate.
He added that a final decision about which of the pair will get the chop will be made in four races time; after the German grand prix at the end of next month.
Marko said Klien's problem is a lack of consistency: ''He does not drive each lap at the limit.''
He also doubted media speculation that Red Bull's junior team, Scuderia Toro Rosso, could rescue the embattled racer's career.
Marko, referring to STR's co-owner who is also not a particular Klien fan, said: ''Gerhard Berger will decide.''
06/13/06 (GMM) Christian Klien (right) has a mountain to climb if he wants to keep his seat at Red Bull.
The young Austrian, although having fended off recent speculation that his future on the grid was in immediate danger, is not likely to be retained by the energy drink-owned team in 2007.
Current teammate David Coulthard looks good to keep the primary seat, with McLaren defector Juan Pablo Montoya now linked strongly with 23-year-old Klien's ride.
Red Bull magnate Dietrich Mateschitz has now delivered a blow to his countryman's hopes by hinting that only Coulthard can expect to survive the winter season.
''The faster one will survive,'' the billionaire, who earlier revealed that either Klien or DC will get the chop, told 'Kronen Zeitung' newspaper.
Team chiefs were reportedly unhappy with Klien's inability to beat even junior team 'Toro Rosso' driver Tonio Liuzzi at Silverstone, and Mateschitz added: ''Whoever has the most points (at the end of the season), stays.''
With his recent Monte Carlo podium, 35-year-old Coulthard has 7 points so far in 2006 in contrast to Klien's 1.
Red Bull will this week test at Monza, but Klien is not expecting his 'RB2' to perform well at the upcoming North American double header.
He said: ''They are both fast tracks, but we have not been good at circuits like that so far.''
Hamilton to test in 2006, drive in 2007UPDATE (GMM) Lewis Hamilton will make his F1 debut for McLaren in 2007, according to reports.
'AS' newspaper in Spain revealed that the 21-year-old Briton, a standout of the 'GP2' season this year and a long-time protégé of Ron Dennis, has now signed a contract to become Fernando Alonso's silver-clad teammate.
The Spanish report also contends that Pedro de la Rosa, the 35-year-old Catalan, is likely to be retained by the Woking team as a test driver.
News of Hamilton's arrival, of course, hardens speculation that both Kimi Raikkonen - heading either to Ferrari or Renault - and Juan Pablo Montoya, are set to leave the McLaren camp.
'AS' said that 30-year-old Montoya, linked most strongly with a move to Red Bull but also BMW-Sauber, was actually offered the seat alongside Alonso, but he rejected the team's insistence that he accept a hefty pay cut.
06/11/06 (GMM) GP2 dominator Lewis Hamilton is unlikely to test for McLaren during the 2006 championship season, Ron Dennis insists.
But the Woking based team's chief informed reporters at Silverstone that Hamilton, a rookie contender for the ride next to Fernando Alonso next year, would probably get a run somewhere in Europe before the year is through.
Dennis, though, became more cryptic when probed more deeply about McLaren's '07 lineup. ''We've taken decisions and acted on the decisions,'' he started.
''We have a variety of strategies which are activated by certain circumstances beyond our control,'' Dennis continued. ''We know exactly where we'll go, and what we'll do according to what unfolds over the next few weeks.''
Rahal eyes GP2 and then F1 Graham Rahal is very clear about he wants in the future: he wants to be a Formula 1 driver first and foremost. Rahal is 17 but doing well in Star Mazda and Champ Car Atlantics and hopes that he will catch the attention of the F1 teams next weekend in Indianapolis when he races in the Indy Pro Series event supporting the United States Grand Prix.
"F1 is at the top of the sport," he says. "I hope to go to Europe and make a mark, and that's what's most important to me."
According to his father Bobby, Graham has always wanted to be in F1.
"Ever since he was a little boy, that has been what he has wanted to do," Rahal admits. "I've got the reins pulled back half the time, but he's doing such a great job, who knows where he's going to end up?"
His aim is to be in Europe next year, probably in GP2, and then move up to F1.
Indy Car's challenge, should there be a merger, will be to entice Rahal to remain in the states to go up against the likes of Marco Andretti and renew some old family rivalries that would help to get fans interested in the sport again. With that said, who can blame Rahal for having F1 aspirations, but if the USGP runs its last race at Indy next weekend, there may not be the push to have an American in the series like there is now. With Scott Speed being an F1 backmarker in perhaps the worst team, Americans could care less.
Willis future at Honda in doubtUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. (GMM) Technical director Geoff Willis has left the Honda team.
It is understood that within 24 hours of the team's announcement this week that Shuhei Nakamoto would operate in a more senior role, the Briton decided to quit.
The feeling in F1 circles, however, is that Willis' decision was motivated by an apparent loss of faith in his abilities to lead Brackley-based Honda's technical lineup.
It emerged recently that he would be staying put at the English factory in coming months while former Sauber man Jacky Eeckelaert completes his race weekend duties.
And, concurrent with the Nakamoto confirmation on Tuesday, Honda said in a statement: ''Discussions are currently taking place with (Willis) regarding his future role with the team.''
A spokeswoman would not confirm suggestions that Willis, 47, had left Honda, but she also did not offer a denial.
06/20/06 (GMM) Geoff Willis' future as technical director is in serious doubt as Honda announce the promotion of Shuhei Nakamoto (see related Hot News item).
Hot on the heels of news that Briton Willis will not travel to the next few races, the Japan-owned team revealed in a statement that talks 'are currently taking place ... regarding his future role with the team'.
Concurrently, Nakamoto - previously 'engineering director' and a board member - was promoted to the new role of 'senior technical director', understood to involve several of Willis' former responsibilities.
Honda's apparent decline in 2006 reached its lowest ebb at Silverstone, where Jenson Button failed to graduate even from the bottom six group of qualifiers before suffering an engine failure.
''Honda has set itself some very tough targets for its formula one team,'' said team CEO Nick Fry, ''and made a considerable investment in order to achieve them, so we have to ensure that we do everything necessary to pursue those objectives.''
Will Allmendinger's temper get him fired again? Forsythe Racing veteran Paul Tracy wrote in his online column for Autosport.com, "I've been around A.J. a long time -- I've known him since he was 16 years old, and he's a nice kid but with an extremely bad temper. Once his button gets hit, it's not a firecracker that goes off, it's a nuclear explosion.
"We need someone who will work with the team and for the team, and maybe A.J. will fit into that. But I know right now that Forsythe is not going to accept any of the tantrums that have gone on at his previous team."
Will Butanol be the death knell for inferior Ethanol? Chemical maker DuPont (DD) said Tuesday that it will begin marketing biofuels for the transportation sector next year through a partnership with oil company BP (BP).
The companies said a collaboration they began in 2003 has advanced to the point where they plan to introduce butanol made from sugar beets as a gasoline blending component in the United Kingdom.
DuPont and BP are working with British Sugar, a subsidiary of Associated British Foods, to convert the UK's first ethanol fermentation plant to produce biobutanol. They also are looking at the feasibility of building larger plants in the United Kingdom.
"We believe the time is right for this science and we can help grow the market for biofuel," said DuPont chairman and chief executive officer Charles Holliday.
"Today's announcement is good news for farmers, good news for consumers, good news for the environment and good news for shareholders," Holliday said.
Like ethanol, butanol is an alcohol compound, but with four carbon atoms instead of two. DuPont says the different chemical structure of butanol gives it several advantages over ethanol, including tolerance to water contamination, which makes it more suitable for transportation via pipeline.
The U.S. fuel market has been constrained by the fact that ethanol, which attracts water molecules and therefore tends to corrode pipelines, must be transported on trucks, trains and barges in relatively small batches to storage terminals where it is blended with gasoline.
Another advantage of biobutanol, officials say, is that it can be blended into gasoline at higher concentrations than ethanol without the need to retrofit vehicles, and it offers better fuel economy than gasoline-ethanol blends. More of this informative AP article.
IRL, Honda pushing CrapwagonsUPDATE #5 Dear AutoRacing1.com, I couldn't agree with you more that open wheels must be sexy. Racing is or should be about more than speed. It is about esthetics, grace and form. It is about a sound that send chills down your spine, not rattles your teeth.
Champ Car with their new chassis and turbo engine realize that. The IRL don't. It seems they created their package for an audience that wasn't interested ( NASCAR fans) and now they are trying to ram it down our throats. Actually I am curious about Honda's motives. Ugly cars and awful sounding engines only puts them in a bad light. Do they think that their customers don't watch open wheel, or do they not want to spend money to build turbos because they are saving it to go into NASCAR?
I only hope that the people in Champ Car realize that massaging our senses with beautiful lines and sweet music will always win the day. Bradford Dunlop, Toronto Canada
Another writes, Furthermore, for those who remember the heydays of CART in the late 90's, the biggest problem they had with running a schedule with ovals and road courses was that the cars were either too fast on the ovals or too slow on the road courses. They finally figured it out by adjusting the boost with the turbochargers so they could turn up the wick on the road courses or turn it down on the ovals. This canNOT be done with a normally aspirated engine and it will be back to the same old problem of having a car that is uninspiring on any circuit, which took years for them to resolve.
Are they really that ignorant to replicate a NASCAR formula? I believe Bernie said it best the other day..."The best NASCAR race has as many viewers in the USA as an average F1 race does in Italy alone." Ya, let's go away from the F1 formula and follow NASCAR. Maybe the IRL people believe we should go wear tank tops and only drive pick up trucks next! Then again, when have the IRL people ever had a clue about open-wheel racing. D. Hughes, Cincinnati, OH
06/20/06 Yet another writes, What people seem to forget is that a turbocharged motor is quieter than a normal aspirated one. All the work that has been done to lay the foundation for all the successful street race venues will go by the wayside if non-turbo motors are the norm. I am surprised that the noise Nazis haven't invaded St Pete. The turbo engine are street friendly, the IRL motors are not. Mike Faulknor
06/20/06 Another writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, If your report is true that Honda and the IRL want their cars and motors for the merger I am very skeptical about the IRL's true intentions and have my doubts that the two sides will ever merge. Let's see, CCWS should open the month of May so their teams could help fill the Indy 500 field. Then many fans and writers such as Robin Miller said it would be a gesture of good will to let the IRL have Champ Cars Milwaukee race. Now, at a point where it is impossible for the two sides to merge for next year, Champ Car is supposed to agree on the IRL chassis and engine package thus locking Champ Car into another year of low car counts because of the outdated equipment no-one wants to invest in. The bigger question would be why even run in Champ Car next year if you need to invest in IRL equipment for 2008. This sounds to me like an end game the IRL is playing to destabilize Champ Car. I'm sorry, but I don't see where the IRL is giving at all on this merger. I can only hope Kevin Kalkhoven sees through this all and moves on. Sadly this may turn into a fight to the death for one or both series. Arno Fritz, Milwaukee, WI
06/20/06 Another reader adds, My father and mother in Dallas went with some friends to the IRL race in Fort Worth a couple of weeks ago. The noise, he said, was “horrible,” and he warned me never to go to one of their races.
Even when the cars were under caution and behind the pace car on the back stretch he said he couldn’t talk with anyone near him because it was so loud. My mother complained that her ears were still ringing several days later because she didn’t get ear plugs until the 17th lap.
Now these two are veterans of many racing events since the 1950s. My father first went to the Indy 500 in 1950, and he and my mother regularly attended the 500 from the 1960s to the early 1980s. In recent years, they have attended several NASCAR events at TMS and in Las Vegas. None of these, he said, came close to the noise level of the IRL cars today. He likened them to the old Novis, which he said would rattle your spine when they were a quarter mile away.
All this is an issue because if the IRL were to get its way and a combined series were to adopt their engine formula, I would be very reluctant to take my kids to a race. My wife said she wouldn’t let me under those circumstances. Yea, they could wear ear plugs, but what fun would that be if they couldn’t ask a question or talk to their siblings or parents throughout the race for fear of the noise? And the ear plugs will only prevent so much of the noise, if they are inserted correctly and left there.
At least in my family this creates a potential long-term problem for the future of the sport, even if the series are combined. If I can’t take my young boys to a race — the time when they are most likely to catch racing “fever” — because of health reasons then it doesn’t bode well for the long-term health of the series.
All this would naturally take care of itself if the powers that be were to consider the interests of the fans first, and their own self-interests second. But then again, the leaders of the IRL didn’t consider the interests of the fans in 1996 when they split the sport. It might be too optimistic to expect them to have learned that lesson a mere decade later. Jim Allen, Virginia
06/20/06 A reader writes, This is the sort of attitude that is NOT in the spirit of compromise. Who cares what cars they run in the beginning? Just get the 2 series merged. They will eventually need new equipment and will then get new cars. My idea would have been to merge in 2007 and tailor the new Champ Car for the merged series. Tom - Full Name Withheld by Request
Dear Tom, We believe the concern on the Champ Car side is the presentation and image the product will have to the fan base worldwide. This isn't stock car racing, which appeals to a different crowd with a different image. Open wheel cars must be sexy and give the appearance of state-of-the-art. The Indy 500, for example, was always about new ideas and new innovation, that was part of the appeal of Indy Car racing in its glory days. You can't take a stock car approach to open wheel racing and expect fans to be interested. Through history open wheel fans have turned their noses up to "stock blocks" and the weird ugly looking cars. F1 is so appealing because of its sexy look and sound. The feeling is that the new Panoz Champ Car is inexpensive yet sexy and the turbo engine sets it apart from a "Stock Car" sound and image. The general feeling is that the IRL was started based on a low-cost stock car type model and failed miserably. Why make the same mistake again? Mark C.
06/20/06 One Champ Car team member told AutoRacing1.com after Portland where Honda's Robert Clarke was visiting, "I can't believe it. the IRL and now Honda's Robert Clarke are trying to sell us on the idea of running the inferior IRL Crapwagon car complete with the horrible sounding IRL naturally aspirated engine. It is the most putrid looking race car mankind has ever produced and why would we want to give up our superior engine."
It is not the first time that the IRL side has tried to convince the Champ Car side to switch to their equipment. Another team member told AutoRacing1.com, "We don't care what equipment we run, we just think a merger has to happen. Since the IRL teams have more sponsorship backing they are in a better position to switch to what we are running then us switching to their stuff. Besides, our equipment is better and the new car will be less expensive."
Newman/Haas team hints at move to IRL Everybody points to Newman-Haas’ suspension as the key to its success. But for the past two years, a rule has allowed competitors to buy the system, called Dynamic Suspensions and developed by Carl Haas Auto.
“A lot of people made inquiries, but not bought them that I know of,” Newman-Haas General Manager Brian Lisles says. “It’s a substantial investment to change over, and then to get intellectual understanding.” Ah, the brains to go with the brawn …
Newman-Haas rules the roost, but Lisles prefers more competition. “It’s up to the other guys to beat us down, and for us to not make mistakes,” he says. “We would prefer to be a big fish in a big pond.” He even intimates that Newman-Haas might look to the Indy Racing League, but “it’s extremely likely” the team will have an entry in Champ Car in 2007, despite the fact that “we’re not profitable.”
Speaking of assets, Newman-Haas has Bourdais secured under contract for 2007, Lisles says, unless the driver gets hired by a competitive team in Formula One. “I’d be very surprised if he wasn’t here,” the general manager says.
Bourdais sounded off on the Champ Car-IRL split. “I get a lot of crap for being negative, but they need to fix this,” he says. “I’m sick of hearing that ‘everything is going to be fine.’ It won’t be fine.
“People are sick of losing money,” he adds, alluding to even Newman/Haas’ lack of profitability. “The truth is, it’s a live or die situation for teams.”
Lisles voices the opinion of many by saying the split isn’t about contracts, scheduling, sponsors and chassis and engine deals, et al., but more about Champ Car co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven and IRL’s Tony George and others being too power hungry. “It’s less of a business problem than a personality problem,” Bourdais says. “Everything is negotiable … and can be resolved by senior officers.” Portland Tribune
Milwaukee Busch race to be short cars The preliminary entry list for Saturday's AT&T 250 NASCAR Busch Series race at the Milwaukee Mile has only 39 entries, making a short field a distinct possibility.
Zwolsman in line for DTM ride Ross Zwolsman, brother of Champ Car driver Charles Zwolsman, is a new name on the list of possible drivers who might take the DTM Audi A4 seat at the Futurecom TME left vacant by fellow Dutch driver Olivier Tielemans because of lack of performance.
He knows the team from 2004 when it ran two Dallara TOM's Toyota in the Euroseries F3 championship. Ross drove a couple of races for the team then. He knows the owner, Dr. Colin Kolles and the engineer, Boris Bermes, well. Autosport.nl
A change at Mercedes' F1 division (GMM) The technical boss has left Mercedes-Benz's F1 division, according to reports.
Markus Duesmann is no longer head of engineering at German-owned 'High Performance Engines', the group formerly called Ilmor which is responsible for designing works engines for McLaren, 'Motorsport Aktuell' said.
Will Allmendinger be driving for Forsythe much longer?UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. After winning in his debut, Team boss Gerald Forsythe said the kid passed the audition and has the ride the rest of '06. "I'm sure of that," he said. "No doubt. We'll keep him."
06/17/06 As it turns out the deal AJ Allmendinger signed with Forsythe Racing is for two races only, but AJ's hopeful it will become a long-term relationship.
"I think we just want to jell as a team and see if we work well together. I think we proved that today. So really we're just kind of looking towards the rest of the year, just getting through this weekend, seeing how it goes, then Cleveland.
"I know everything's going to fall into place. I've really enjoyed my time here already within just a day that I've been here. The group of guys on both cars are great to be around. Just the atmosphere in the team, it's pleasant and it's a lot of fun to be there. I know everything will fall into place. We just got to do our jobs."
And it's obvious that Paul Tracy thinks his new teammate is the right man for the job.
"I think it's good. I think obviously Mario and I kind of went quite far apart in terms of setups, likes and dislikes. You know, Mario had a very difficult time driving the car that our team has kind of developed over the last couple of years with myself and Pat. There's been a lot of time and a lot of money spent going down this avenue. Mario just didn't seem to want to work within that box. The team felt it was holding the team back in terms of developing the car.
"A lot of things happened, not really so much the setup differences, but the two incidents. I think that really, you know, like it said, kind of tipped Gerry over center. That was really it. It just kind of all happened that AJ became available, I know Gerry was looking at some other drivers, then all of a sudden AJ became available. The first test was this weekend. Can he drive the setup that we've migrated towards? Obviously, he can. He's on the pole.
"Now we've started working today really for the first time this year on how do we make both cars better at the same time. I think we still have a lot of work to do to catch Newman/Haas, but I think we're in a much better position right now."
Sutil to get 'MF1' recall for Canada (GMM) Having impressively debuted at the Nurburgring, German youngster Adrian Sutil hopes to again be a part of the 'MF1' team this weekend in Montreal.
According to reports, the 23-year-old was already scheduled to re-appear in the 'Friday' role at Magny Cours, but he might also drive in Canada, 'Auto Motor Und Sport' adds, as he is presently waiting for Colin Kolles' phone call.
Sutil, a former F3 teammate of Lewis Hamilton, stunned observers by giving the Midland-owned team its first ever top-ten finish on his German debut.
''My suitcase is packed,'' he announced after returning from a couple of F3 race wins in Japan, ''because I would very happily drive the car in Canada.''
Young trio eye Toro Rosso (GMM) A trio of Red Bull's crop of up-and-comers are now linked with Scuderia Toro Rosso for the 2007 season.
It is understood that Red Bull-backed Colin Fleming - a Californian like incumbent Scott Speed - as well as Germans Michael Ammermuller (GP2) and Sebastian Vettel (F3 Euroseries), are being considered to appear for the energy drink's junior F1 squad next year.
CASCAR race a warm-up for NASCAR in Montreal The CASCAR Super Series is headed for Ile Notre Dame. CASCAR will announce Thursday it will be part of the Camp Car World Series Grand Prix of Montreal, Aug. 25-27 on the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.
The late-model cars will be on the same 4.334-kilometre road course used by Champ Car and Formula One.
Montreal replaces CASCAR's annual appearance at the Toronto Molson Indy.
"That's great," Super Series veteran D.J. Kennington of St. Thomas said last night when told of the Montreal race. "It's nothing but good for us and our sponsors because there should be lots of people." London Free Press
[Editor's Note: NASCAR almost bought CASCAR and still has a close relationship with them. This race will be a test for the NASCAR Busch Series, which are rumored to replace Champ Car in Montreal in 2007.]
Champ Car transporter goes off-roading in WyomingUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact.' It was the last transporter to leave Portland with all the Timing and Scoring equipment. The truck blew a tire at mile marker 184 of Interstate 80, 25 miles south of Rawlins and went off into the grass median. The truck had to be towed out.
Luckily no one was hurt and the driver did a miraculous job keeping the truck from flipping over. The co-driver was asleep in the sleeper cab at the time and certainly got a rude awakening. The transporter is now back on the road in Nebraska and headed to Cleveland.
06/19/06 Everyone from the Champ Car series (Atlantics and Champ Car) is on the road to Cleveland from Portland today. According to a report from one of our satellites in stationary orbit, one of the Champ Car trailers has gone across the center divider and ended up on the wrong side of the road in Wyoming. It does not appear they hit anyone or vice versa. We are trying to confirm.
Mansell track to be killed This London Times article says Kirstie Allsopp, TV property queen, has a problem in her backyard: a racing driver (Nigel Mansell) with a track dream. She says she will fight to stop the track from being built.
Ecclestone ready to deep-six USGP Speaking in the July edition of F1 Racing, F1 boss Ecclestone appears ready to walk away for the USA market, claiming that auto racing in the USA just isn't that popular.
"Let's put things in perspective," he said. "The TV ratings in the US have always been pretty dismal. Single-seater racing in America is extremely marginal and even a top-end NASCAR race only attracts the same sort of TV viewers as F1 gets in Italy for an average race. That's nothing to write home about.
"F1 has never got anything good out of the US. We've never had a big committed US sponsor. We could hold 10 Grands Prix in the US and a handful in Europe to boost F1's popularity in the States - but what would be the point of that?"
However, McLaren boss Ron Dennis thinks the USGP could continue.
"Last year was a bit of a setback for the sport," he said. "Keeping the race on the calendar will depend on the fans' enthusiasm. I wouldn't be surprised if this year's audience is quite good. I still think a race at Indy next year is a possibility."
Toro Rosso switch for Klien? Red Bull may be set to offer Christian Klien a Formula One ride if, as expected, he loses his ride with the team at the end of the season.
According to a report on f1.racing-live.com, Red Bull may place Klien with their junior team Scuderio Toro Rosso in much the same way that Takuma Sato linked up with Super Aguri after being dropped by Honda.
"Klien is a member of the Red Bull family of drivers so it cannot be excluded that he drives for us at some point," Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost told f1total.com.
However, Tost went on to insist that any driver decision for the team would involve Dietrich Mateschitz and Gerhard Berger, the team owners, who incidentally like Klien, hail from Austria.
Cleveland race’s future secure? In this Cleveland Plain Dealer Q and A with Houston and Cleveland race promoter Michael Lanigan, he says that the Cleveland GP will be on the schedule in future years even if there is a merger. It's a long but interesting interview that covers a lot of ground. And here is a related article on Lanigan.
Allmendinger might cost CBS some money A.J. Allmendinger might have cost CBS some money when he blurted out an expletive that was caught on air after he won the Champ Car race. Allmendinger was trying to thank his crew and he told them, "Thanks guys! You were ------- awesome!"
"Did I cuss on TV? I don't remember that," said Allmendinger. "I was just yelling."
Allmendinger noted that NASCAR's Dale Earnhardt Jr. got in trouble last year for the same reason. "I figured Dale Jr. did it, so why couldn't I?" Allmendinger said.
Said third-place finisher Sebastien Bourdais, sitting alongside Allmendinger, "Because you can't afford it." Portland Oregonian
A turning point for Champ Car? A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Mark down these dates, dates that may have been the turning point for Champ Car and perhaps the future of American Open Wheel racing.
June 9th, the day A.J. Allmendinger was let go by Carl Russo
June 11th, the day Forsythe signed him to replace Mario Dominguez, and,
June 18th, the day he scored his first career Champ Car victory.
I don't know what happen behind the scenes between him and Russo but whatever happened it was so exciting to hear the more than 45,000 fans chanting U.S.A. after he crossed the finish line. I hope Champ Car realizes the importance of having an American driver in an American based Open Wheel Series in a top notch team.
Even though he's the only American driver, hopefully Champ Car will take this momentum by marketing him at the next race in Cleveland and other stops in the U.S. like San Jose, Denver and Road America. His victory may have stolen the thunder of both Danicamania and Marcomania. Sure the IRL can boost about having more American drives but since the IRL series went to both road and street circuits events no American has won a race to this date which tells you a lot about the talent pool between the two series.
A.J. won a race that has a lot of drivers who came from both F1 (Justin Wilson, Cristiano da Matta) and Formula 3000 (Sebastian Bourdais and Bruno Junqueira). If he starts to win more races this year and dominate like Bourdais has done, there's no question that he'll gain a lot of attention from American Open Wheel Racing fans throughout the coming year. He's the new poster boy for Champ Car and even though Sam Hornish and Buddy Rice have won Indy, A.J. proved that an American driver can be talented at turning right and left instead of turning left just left. Alistair Fannell, Springfield MO.
Waltrip to add third car Michael Waltrip Racing has signed Burger King and Domino's Pizza to share sponsorship on the No. 00 Toyotas the team will run in 2007. But that does not necessarily mean those two companies will be on Dale Jarrett's car.
Waltrip will drive the NAPA-sponsored car next year, but even though Jarrett signed earlier this year to drive Waltrip's "second" car, that may not be the No. 00.
Waltrip said his team could sign another sponsor for Jarrett, and if that happens he now plans to field three Toyotas in 2007.
"I hope we find a driver who likes to eat," Waltrip said. ThatsRacin.com
No merger for 2007UPDATE Paul Gentilozzi, one of Champ Car's three principal owners, does not sound hopeful that Champ Car and the rival Indy Racing League will merge before next season.
Asked how negotiations stand between Champ Car's Kevin Kalkhoven and the IRL's Tony George, Gentilozzi said, "I don't think it stands anywhere right now. There are a lot of points to agree on. Tony and Kevin are trying, but it's a tough deal."
Kalkhoven said Saturday there was nothing new to report. If there is no merger, it may help Portland's chances of staying on the schedule.
Gentilozzi once took a lead role in talks with the IRL, but no longer. "We didn't need too many talking heads. We've got enough of those," said Gentilozzi, who owns the Rocketsports team.
"There was a time when I was talking to Tony but we're reloading, and Kevin's gone after it. He's probably less emotional than the rest of us, and he's got a lot of experience with mergers."
Steve Johnson, Champ Car's new president, seemed equally pessimistic about unification coming in time for 2007. "I don't anticipate it happening," said Johnson. "There's just a lot of issues that have to be worked out."
However, said Johnson, "I do think that the two series will merge. It has to happen." Portland Oregonian
06/18/06 While talks with the Indy Racing League continue, Champ Car World Series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven doesn't expect the two leagues to merge in time for next season.
"It's like pressing two people to get married, it's not a wise thing to do," said Kalkhoven, the Australia-born venture capitalist whose PKV Racing includes drivers Oriol Servia and Katherine Legge.
Kalkhoven is still optimistic about plans to merge with Tony George's IRL, but the large task of combining two organizations with a contentious history takes time.
"Coming forward there are a number of issues," Kalkhoven said. "We both have a large number of partners to satisfy." More from AP article.
[Editor's Note: Rumors suggest the biggest hang-up is control. With a 50/50 split who would make the call in the case of a stalemate on an issue? An arbitrator has been suggested, but if both George and Kalkhoven cannot agree on a neutral individual, then perhaps a 3-person arbitration panel should be formed.]
'Silly season' revs-up Juan, Kimi, Heikki (GMM) F1's annual and infamous 'silly season' is threatening to shift into a higher gear.
While most players on motor sport's highest stage enjoyed a weekend off ahead of the American double-header, speculation about the future of drivers including Juan Pablo Montoya, Kimi Raikkonen and Heikki Kovalainen has continued to gather speed.
Montoya, who has reportedly been told to pack his McLaren bags, was photographed in conversation with Honda's Nick Fry at Silverstone last weekend. It is also suggested that his management may have staged talks with Chip Ganassi about an emergency-return to the US, as well as with Renault, Red Bull and Toyota.
The rumors about Finnish pair Raikkonen and Kovalainen, however, are even hotter.
The respectively Spanish and Italian newspapers 'AS' and 'Gazzetta dello Sport' have reported that Renault's Flavio Briatore is making an 'almost irresistible' bid of up to $64 million to repel Raikkonen from the grips of McLaren and Ferrari for three years.
'AS', moreover, contends that the deal - allowing Kimi to also generate his own income through personal sponsors - is now done and could be announced formally at Magny Cours.
Rumors surrounding the future of Kovalainen are equally sensational. If Raikkonen is heading to Renault, then Briatore will be looking to place his new protégé at a lesser team in 2007.
Complementing speculation that Renault could supply engines to a second team in 2007, then, is the suggestion that Kovalainen is part-and-parcel of a deal with Red Bull.
Allmendinger to wedUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' as AutoRacing1.com has learned that AJ is indeed engaged to Lynne.
06/16/06 Rumor has it that AJ Allmendinger is engaged (this past week) to marry the former Miss Molson Indy Lynne Kushnirenko from Canada. Kushnirenko is a Doctor of Chiropractic (Chiropractor), currently practicing at a small private clinic in Toronto, and when she isn't doing that she's busy turning heads in the Champ Car paddock.
If true, Allmendinger was fired, engaged and hired in the span of one week.
COT almost done NASCAR's "car of tomorrow," which is scheduled for a limited debut next season is about 95% ready to go, NASCAR vice president Robin Pemberton said. Although the car won't be used at Michigan until 2008, teams will test it at the track after the Aug. 20 race. As for development, the chassis is "locked in," Pemberton said, and the sanctioning body is working with Chevrolet, Dodge, Ford and Toyota on bodies that will allow some semblance of manufacturer identity. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
LMP1 to become closed topsUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. The Automobile Club d'Ouest (ACO), organizers of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, has announced the retirement of the "roadster" prototypes that have dominated the race in the past few years as, from 2010 onwards, only coupes will be allowed to compete in the event's top class, LMP1.
"People should be able to identify with the front-running technology of the 24 Hours of Le Mans," said ACO sporting director Daniel Poissenot. "We have discussed this with the manufacturers, and there will be no choice to have an open roof from 2010. Cars will still use the same engines and bottom chassis.
"This will be the spirit of Le Mans for the future."
06/15/06 Daniel Poissenot, the sporting director of the A.C.O., has hinted that there could be an announcement on Friday at LeMans pertaining to the rules and regulations of the LMP1 and/or LMP2 cars. During the Radio LeMans broadcast on Wednesday evening, there was talk that the LMP1 cars could become an all-closed top category in the future - with air conditioning mandatory. We also hear there might be some changes announced for LMP2 as well.
How convenient A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I have noticed over the years that whenever a new sponsor comes into NASCAR's Cup series, or is rumored to be leaving, their car sits on the pole. I could not help but notice that Kasey Kahne is on the pole in Michigan this weekend with a new sponsor, Click. I always wondered how NASCAR was able to magically make that happen so the sponsor gets some nice publicity. My theory is that they program it into their Timing and Scoring computers and no one even realizes what is going on. It's very transparent and happens far too often to be a mere coincidence. Mary Smith, Seattle, WA
San Antonio race could cost IRL 2nd biggest raceUPDATE This Star Telegram article talks about the worsening relationship between the IRL and Texas Motor Speedway. It is interesting to read that track President Eddie Gossage is threatening the IRL with a "It's my way or the highway" attitude.
03/24/06 According to a story in the Dallas Morning News, Texas Motor Speedway (TMS) President Eddie Gossage is not happy about losing the race-after-Indy spot on the IRL schedule and is even less happy about a possible IRL street race in San Antonio, Texas.
A series of disparaging remarks in the press from Gossage, and having already lost their fall TMS race when the track got their second NASCAR Cup race, it appears the IRL has fallen out of favor with Gossage and one has to wonder if a race in San Antonio will be enough to push Gossage over the edge, resulting in the IRL losing their biggest race outside of the Indy 500.
We can tell you that in a merged series scenario a lot of drivers and teams will not be happy racing at TMS given its history of horrible accidents for IndyCars. One has to wonder if the plan isn't to simply replace TMS with San Antonio.
Mario to be involved with AGR’s LeMan’s effort Rumors out of LeMans had Mario Andretti getting involved with AGR's Acura effort and there are some rumors that suggest the effort could be linked to the Courage team, which we had not heard before.
One Mexican out, one inUPDATE According to El Norte/Reforma, David Martinez has decided to use his own money to race at Portland in hopes of getting some sponsorship for the rest of the year. J. J. Arrambide Gonzalez
06/15/06 Just one day after David Martinez announced his Champ Car Atlantic ride is in danger and he doesn’t even know if he will drive in Portland, a different Mexican newspaper is reporting that Mexican driver Carlos Mastretta has signed a 6-race deal with Brooks Associates Racing, starting with the Portland race. J. J. Arrambide Gonzalez reporting from Mexico
Valencia planning F1 street circuit Plans are being considered for a street circuit in Valencia around the historic city's harbor that could host a second Spanish Grand Prix, according to a report in this week's Autosport magazine.
F1 circuit guru Hermann Tilke is reported to have recently visited the city to form outline plans for the track layout. This rumor comes as a surprise to many because the Valencia circuit is being upgraded to host a Mediterranean GP - a 2nd GP in Spain.
However, after studying how Bernie Ecclestone operates over the years it is apparent that he always tries to extract maximum money out of a promoter and always makes a promoter feel like he has another option to choose from. So the fact that this plan has all of a sudden surfaced to go head-to-head against the nearby permanent facility which is run by a different promoter comes as no surprise whatsoever.
'GPMA' to concede engine defeat? (GMM) F1 carmakers are likely to concede defeat in a battle to soften Max Mosley's engine 'freeze'.
Following the FIA president's insistence at Silverstone that the multi-year 'homologation' would definitely proceed, the rankled carmakers' 'GPMA' group made noises about issuing a formal response.
But it never came, drawing new speculation that McLaren, Toyota, BMW and Honda would simply give up the fight. Indeed, it is suggested that all of the aforementioned squads submitted their engine to be 'sealed' by the FIA after the race.
''I think we just decided not to put anything out (after Mosley's comments),'' Toyota's John Howett, who coordinates the GPMA's PR activities alongside Norbert Haug of Mercedes, told Speed TV.
However, it is still whispered in the paddock that FIA president Mosley, 65, might be willing to slightly dilute his stance, but there is no doubt that the rules are heading down his path.
So Howett continued: ''If that's the case (then) Toyota's position is that we just need to get on with it.
Crucial piece of Renault puzzle now due (GMM) Giancarlo Fisichella is staying put at Renault next year, but arguably the more crucial piece of the puzzle is still to come.
The question of who will fill reigning world champion and 2006 title-leader Fernando Alonso's shoes is a burning one, but a pair of Finns - Kimi Raikkonen and Heikki Kovalainen - are reportedly top of the list.
Current McLaren pilot Raikkonen, if available and affordable, would be the logical choice, as there is some nagging doubt about whether either Fisichella or tester Kovalainen can step into the top Renault role.
Juan Pablo Montoya's name has also been mentioned, but the Colombian - similarly linked with Red Bull and Toyota - could instead find himself with no drive at all and heading back to American open-wheel racing.
Mark Webber is a possibility but, although managed by Flavio Briatore, his future - with a 2007 'option' yet to be taken up - is in Sir Frank Williams' hands.
''A source at the (Renault) team said that there was no formal timetable for announcing the new driver,'' an article in England's Times newspaper said on Friday.
Certainly, Roman 33-year-old Fisichella was giving nothing away, despite earlier dropping the 'Finn' hint to an Italian newspaper.
He said: ''What I can say is that whoever my teammate is, I am not afraid of measuring up to them.''
Carlos Slim to help Mexican driver in F1 At least once per week Mexican president Vicente Fox likes to visit with the different people that are involved in Mexican sports to talk about the present and the future of Mexican athletes and the way the presidency can help. Yesterday it was auto racing's turn and Jose "Jo" Ramirez, the only Mexican to have been team coordinator in F1 (he was McLaren's team coordinator from 1984 until 2001), was invited to talk about the future of Mexican drivers.
Ramirez decided to go to the presidential residence with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim, the owner of TELMEX (among other companies). Ramirez told the president and the different reporters present that even though he is retired from F1 he is working with Carlos Slim (the reason Ramirez decided to take Slim with him) to get a Mexican into F1, specifically Salvador Duran and Sergio Perez. Duran is considered to be Mexico's next great superstar. J. J. Arrambide Gonzalez reporting from Mexico
Dominguez to drive for CoyneUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Mexican race driver Mario Dominguez announced today that he will run the 5th date of the 2006 Champ Car season for the Dale Coyne Racing Team to be held this weekend in Portland.
"I am very happy that Dale has given me this chance" ensured Dominguez. "I want to thank Telmex and Bridgestone for the support shown in this difficult moment. That is when you can measure who is really with or without you" explained Dominguez. "We will see what we can do, obviously we are not running with the most competitive team right now, but at least we will have a serious chance to maybe steal one away if we can take advantage of the right opportunity." Héctor Serrano, reporting from Mexico
According to an interview with Mario Dominguez in El Norte/Reforma, the deal between Mario and Dale Coyne is only for the Portland race. J. J. Arrambide Gonzalez reporting from Mexico
06/15/06 Word out of Portland is that Mario Dominguez will indeed drive for Dale Coyne Racing. We await a formal announcement.
McLaren is F1's biggest spender (GMM) Mercedes-powered McLaren has beaten Toyota to the mantle as F1's biggest spender.
'Business F1' magazine contends that the Woking-based outfit, spending a reputed $400 million (US) a year, pips the Japanese carmaker - at $393 million - to the dubious post.
Third and fourth are Honda ($382m) and BMW Sauber ($378m), leaving Ferrari just fifth in the ranking with an estimated annual spend of $329m.
Reigning drivers' and constructors champion (and 2006 title leader) Renault ranked a distant sixth by spending around $300m, followed perhaps surprisingly by Red Bull ($201m).
Williams ($134m) leads the remaining privateers, but Super Aguri ($95m) outpace both MF1 ($76m) and - bringing up the rear - Red Bull's junior team Scuderia Toro Rosso, at $66m. Interestingly, though, Phillip Morris' sponsorship of Ferrari - at $97m a year - amounts to more than the annual budget of any of the final three teams.
Altogether, it's a mind-boggling collective spend of more than 2.5 billion dollars. [Editor's Note: Quite expensive for 19 follow-the-leader parades....er we mean races.]
Kansas City IRL date to change The weather is heating up again, and so is talk about finding a new date for the Indy Racing League event at Kansas Speedway.
Speedway president Jeff Boerger said Tuesday that talks are being held with the IRL and International Speedway Corp. He said a date in April has been brought up in the talks.
“We are discussing dates as we speak. We are discussing different opportunities for next year,” Boerger said during a break in an IRL open test at the speedway. “That does include the potential of a new day.”
Danica Patrick, Indianapolis 500 runner-up Marco Andretti and other drivers took to the track for the tests. Two Target Chip Ganassi Racing drivers clocked the fastest laps, with Scott Dixon at 216.021 mph and Dan Wheldon at 214.710 mph.
The IRL has been racing at Kansas Speedway since 2001. Every year, the race has been paired with a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race and held on the Fourth of July weekend.
The subject of the Kansas date comes up every year because of the 100-plus-degree temperatures that plagued the event the first couple of years it was held.
Boerger said that in surveys the track has conducted, hot weather was among the factors mentioned by fans.
“Nothing has been signed, nothing is final,” Boerger said. “We do not release our schedules until the sanctioning agreements have been completed and both parties agree to everything. But we are optimistic that it’s going to be another exciting year next year and the IRL is going to be back and in full swing.”
Boerger said any change of date for the IRL race would have to be to a date that would also be compatible with the trucks series schedule. He said he considers the trucks series “an equal partner” at Kansas Speedway and that the combination of trucks and IRL “is a good show.” More at Kansas City Star
IRP sells naming rightsUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. O'Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis, which was confirmed as the official name of the multipurpose facility at a news conference Wednesday, is one of five tracks owned by the Glendale, Calif.-based NHRA, whose management will determine how and where the money is spent.
"Some of it will (go elsewhere). It's all the NHRA's money," track general manager Ron Anderson said. "But they want this to be the showplace."
Neither Anderson nor O'Reilly vice president Ron Byerly would divulge details of the deal beyond it being "multiyear and multimillion." It likely is similar in duration to the five-year contract, which has since been extended, with Mac Tools in 2001 as title sponsor of the U.S. Nationals.
Anderson said the next major project in upgrading the 45-year-old facility, which began with repaving of the drag strip in 2001 and has continued with construction of suites above the drag strip grandstands, installation of SAFER barriers on the oval and several infrastructure improvements, is to refurbish the drag strip scoring tower. Indy Star
06/14/06 Indianapolis Raceway Park today is expected to announce that the facility’s naming rights have been purchased by O’Reilly Auto Parts. The facility, which hosts the NHRA and NASCAR Busch and Craftsman Truck series races, will be known as O’Reilly Raceway Park at Indianapolis. Indy Star
Renault looking to supply customer engines According to Autosport Magazine Renault is interested in supplying an independent team in 2007 with a customer engine. Renault has already been approached by a number of independent teams about a deal for next season. Renault F1 team boss Flavio Briatore told Autosport: "We are keen to supply a second team and we have ample capacity at Viry (France) to supply it. With homologated engines coming in, supplying a second team has to be the way to go. It would offset a lot of the cost. We would be willing to talk to anyone and the engines would be available for a very reasonable price."
There has been teams knocking on Renault's door to see if a customer engine would be an option for the team. Technical director Bob Bell admitted: "There have been plenty of people knocking on the door and asking for our engines. There seems to be a bit of flux amongst the teams that might need an engine and we are always willing to talk to people."
Should this happen it will put further pressure on Cosworth who is finding it increasingly hard to compete against the big manufacturers and their deep pockets for R&D. Until such time as Cosworth gets a manufacturer to badge their F1 engines, their future will remain cloudy in F1.
Priaulx to get BMW test ride (GMM) Andy Priaulx is still hopeful of one day making a mark in formula one.
The 29-year-old Briton, who is the Michael Schumacher of World Touring Cars, revealed that he is actually 'waiting for a phone call' about an F1 test, although he would not confirm that the caller would be Mario Theissen.
Priaulx, pronounced 'Pree-oh', drives for BMW and last year (and in 2004) tested for the BMW-powered Williams team.
Now, he is tipped for a test for BMW-Sauber: ''We'll just have to wait and see,'' said Priaulx, who drove the team's F1 car at BMW's 'pit lane park' last weekend.
''I was quick at my (previous F1) tests,'' he added.
Priaulx, however, suggested that if a full-time F1 test seat was the only offer on the table, he would probably turn it down.
He explained: ''I'd rather be known as the Michael Schumacher of touring cars than fourth-string in an F1 team.
''But if BMW wanted to take me seriously and (go) testing I feel that I can contribute. (However) I love my racing so if I was just a third test driver doing nothing I would hate it.''
Creation Autosportif has ALMS plans Creation Autosportif said today at Le Mans they plan on doing the final two ALMS rounds of 2006 and then plan on a full season of ALMS in 2007 if sponsorship can be found.
Major shakeup at Honda Honda have started an internal overhaul to try and shake its Formula One team out of its slump.
According to autosport.com, technical director Geoff Willis has been pulled from his weekend Grand Prix duties and will focus on making improvements to the car back at the team's factory.
In addition, Honda have decided that they will make their own independent tire choices on race weekends, rather than falling in line with McLaren and Renault. It was a policy the team used through the first three races of the season.
The move comes in the wake of a disastrous weekend at Silverstone which saw Jenson Button fail to make it out of the first qualifying session due to a time management error on the part of the team.
Mears to replace Vickers at HendrickUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement. See Hot News page.
06/09/06 Though not set in stone, Casey Mears said Friday an opportunity drive for Hendrick Motorsports next season was "very, very appealing."
The Charlotte Observer and ThatsRacin.com reported Thursday night that Mears had informed team owner Chip Ganassi he would not return to the No. 42 Dodges next season. Mears confirmed his decision Friday at Pocono Raceway and left little doubt where he would like to end up.
"It's not the easiest thing to decide. I've been with Chip and Felix (Sabates) for a long time and I've developed a lot of friendships. A lot of great people work for the organization," Mears said.
"The decision to do something different isn't based off anything negative about the organization. It's about a lot of things that are positives that are out there. Nothing is set in stone. We still have a lot of work to do." More at ThatsRacin.com
Marlboro to continue racing sponsorship Ferrari recently announced that it would be continuing its sponsorship arrangements with Philip Morris for years to come and that created a number of questions. But there is nothing illegal in the deal. There is nothing to say that a sponsor has to use the sponsorship it buys on a car to advertise its products.
The longtime association with the glamour of F1 does not necessarily have to stop because rather than putting the cigarettes on the side of the car, the tobacco companies have every right to put the racing cars on the side of the cigarettes. The sub-conscious association between Ferrari and Marlboro has been built up over many years and, according to Philip Morris logic, there is no reason to waste that investment. The cars can run without any Marlboro branding but the connection can remain.
The answer it seems is the Marlboro Racing Edition cigarette. Grandprix.com
[Editor's Note: Might we see Marlboro use a similar strategy in the USA for its IRL sponsorship - i.e. blank race car sidepods with the Penske IRL cars on Marlboro cigarette packs sold in the USA?]
Champ Car death in Mexico predicted Mexican newspaper Excelsior has on its web page edition and paper edition an article with the headline "Champ Car is dead in México" According to the article the fact that Mario Dominguez is out of a seat 2 days before Portland activities begin and the troubles David Martinez is having to get sponsorship proves that the once popular series in México is dead in the country. J. J. Arrambide Gonzalez reporting from Mexico
[Editor's Note: We predicted a long time ago that with NASCAR opening offices in Canada and Mexico with full-time staff, it would just be a matter of time before those two markets would begin to dry up for Champ Car. With full-time NASCAR staff knocking on doors and meeting with race officials on a daily basis, they will eventually be able to win over whatever motorsports support there is in both countries. As we said long ago, the IRL isn't Champ Car's #1 enemy, NASCAR is.]
Mexican driver in trouble According to an article in El Norte, the Atlantic driver David Martinez has budget troubles. TELMEX did a partial sponsorship of Martinez, but because he is not part of their developing program for Mexican drivers "Scuderia TELMEX", they will not give him the $300,000 USD that according to Martinez is needed to run for the rest of the year. According to him he only has a 20% probability of driving in the Portland event. J.J. Arrambide Gonzalez
Fisichella suing Jordan According to a report on Autosport.com, Giancarlo Fisichella is in the process of suing former team boss Eddie Jordan for money the Italian believes he is owed from the 2003 season.
The Renault man first made his debut for the Irish squad in 1997, before returning to the team for 2002 and 2003 and claiming his first F1 win. However, he now claims not to have been fully remunerated for services rendered in that final term.
The parties have not reached an agreement in private, so the matter is expected to come before the London High Court in the near future, and will not involved the Midland Group - who bought the team from Jordan in 2005 - in any way.
Allmendinger to drive for another teamUPDATE #5 The Forsythe Racing website now shows Allmendinger as part of the team. We already had this rumor as 'fact' and now it is confirmed.
06/12/06 The rumor below about Dan Clarke being out of money, and hence his ride being in jeopardy, is denied by both CTE Racing - HVM and his personal management team in England.
"CTE Racing-HVM confirms there is absolutely no change in its 2006 driver lineup," a spokesperson told AutoRacing1.com
06/11/06 We can now report that AJ Allmendinger is signed to drive for Forsythe Racing, replacing Mario Dominguez. Expect an announcement in a day or so. As we understand it, Dominguez has been offered the vacant Coyne seat but is balking at it. Meanwhile we hear Dan Clarke is running out of money and could be replaced at CTE Racing - HVM. It would make a lot of sense for Champ Car to put Ryan Hunter-Reay in one of those two seats. The series needs another American driver and he's a proven winner. Mark C.
06/10/06 Now hearing that AJ Allmendinger might move over to Forsythe Racing. Mario Dominguez, who has fallen out of favor a bit after taking out Paul Tracy twice this year already, may be offered the vacant Dale Coyne seat.
06/09/06 We are hearing that Allmendinger has been offered da Matta's ride at Dale Coyne Racing and one can assume that RuSPORT might help Coyne out financially if he takes the young American.
06/09/06 Rumor has it that AJ Allmendinger will soon be announced to be driving for another Champ Car team.
In a merger, IndyCars may use Firestone brand If the IRL and Champ Car merge, which tires would they use? Firestone (IRL) or Bridgestone (Champ Car), which are essentially the same tire with different badging as both brands are owned by Japanese giant Bridgestone.
However, in a possible hint that Bridgestone will decide to only sell Firestones in the USA and drop the Bridgestone name - In a recent filing with the SEC, the Japanese company reported the possibility of booking an extraordinary $170-million loss for closure of its Oklahoma City factory - the only such facility for Bridgestone in the USA.
Now that the Firestone name has been restored since the Ford Explorer debacle, perhaps the company has decided they can now drop the Bridgestone brand in the USA, which only serves to take away sales from Firestone. We shall see.....
Toyota to destroy Chevy, Ford and Dodge Need a hint as to what Toyota will do to Chevy, Ford and Dodge when they get to Nextel Cup next year? Well it may not happen the first year, but by the 2nd year (2008) you can expect to see what is happening in the truck series also happen in Nextel Cup - There are four truck manufacturers in NASCAR - Chevy, Dodge, Ford and Toyota. Currently the top-six positions in the series championship are held by Toyota Tundra truck drivers.
IRL’s biggest stars eye NASCARUPDATE #2 Published reports that Indy Racing League star Dan Wheldon would give up on Formula 1 to drive for Chip Ganassi in the NASCAR Nextel Cup series in 2007, are wrong.
Following the announcement that Casey Mears is leaving and that the No. 42 Dodge has an open seat starting next year, Wheldon was rumored to have agreed to move into the ride.
According to an official at Chip Ganassi Racing :”There is no truth to the Wheldon story.” CupScene.com
06/13/06 ESPN's ESPNEWS Monday Night reported that Dan Wheldon could move from Chip Ganassi's IRL team to Ganassi's #42 Texaco Havoline Dodge in the Nextel Cup Series in 2007, replacing Casey Mears, who is leaving the team and could be headed to the #25 Hendrick Motorsports ride for 2007.
06/13/06 The Indianapolis 500 winner Sam Hornish Jr. and the 2005 rookie of the year Danica Patrick are two of the Indy Racing League's brightest young stars. But while preparing for last Saturday's Bombardier Learjet 500, both said they have considered what life might be like on the more popular and lucrative NASCAR circuit.
"I think the I.R.L. series is growing, but obviously, one of the big draws with NASCAR is the money," Patrick said. "There's a lot of money."
After earning more than $1.7 million for his Indianapolis 500 victory, Hornish is on pace to break his personal season earnings record of $2.477 million he achieved in 2001.
Even if he wins $2.5 million this season, the total pales against NASCAR earnings. Last season, 35 NASCAR drivers tallied at least $2.5 million in winnings during their 36-race season. Tony Stewart, the Nextel Cup champion, headed the list with $6,987,530. More at NY Times
Domino's to sponsor Waltrip team On Speed Channel's Inside Nextel Cup, Michael Waltrip said he would be making a sponsor announcement for the 2007 season for his Toyota team this weekend at MIS. Waltrip hinted "Domino's Delivers."
Bremer back in the mix? Rumor has it that Ronnie Bremer is flying back to the US today, apparently triggered by the latest driver shuffle. Might we see him back at Dale Coyne with that seat vacating? We hear he had a line on enough cash for a couple of races.
Montoya back to Williams? (GMM) Juan Pablo Montoya will leave McLaren at the end of 2006.
Unlike current teammate Kimi Raikkonen, however, the feisty Colombian - once the toast of American open-wheel racing and then hot F1 property - is not spoiled for choice in terms of an alternate ride for next year.
After quitting Williams following a team argument, 30-year-old Montoya has not impressed in his two years at the silver camp.
''Only a sequence of wins will save him,'' a McLaren team member anonymously told 'Auto Motor Und Sport' in Germany.
Also ominously, the earlier interest of Red Bull appears to have waned since Dietrich Mateschitz's friend and business partner, Gerhard Berger, warned him off.
With a few relationships mended, then, could a return to Williams be an option for Montoya? First as a test driver in 1997, team chief Sir Frank Williams introduced the extravagant racer to F1.
Williams, 64, was quoted as saying: ''Juan is a great racer.''
Yamamoto set for Montagny’s seatUPDATE #3 Our European sources tell us this deal is definitely done and that Montagny is out of the Super Aguri seat beginning with the French GP. We await the formal announcement.
06/08/06 (GMM) Super Aguri will, once again, install an all-Japanese driver lineup this year.
Sakon Yamamoto, a Formula Nippon driver, is understood to have now signed a contract to join the Leafield-based squad at Silverstone, but for the moment he will just drive a third 'SA05' car in Friday free practice.
The 23-year-old's race debut is tabbed for Magny Cours mid next month; a hard blow for incumbent and Frenchman Franck Montagny who is almost certain to therefore recline into the practice-only role from his home grand prix.
The 'BBC' and 'AFP' news agencies, meanwhile, are reporting that the Aguri Suzuki-led team has confirmed the Yamamoto news, but a team spokeswoman insisted that an announcement like that would be formalized in a standard press release.
It is also believed that, after Yamamoto tested for Jordan at Suzuka last year, Super Aguri is checking with the FIA that the Japanese will be granted a Super License.
Like axed original racer Yuji Ide, Yamamoto's racing heritage is Japanese, but he has also contested both European and German F3.
06/07/06 (GMM) Franck Montagny has confirmed speculation that his Super Aguri seat beyond next month's US grand prix is far from secure.
In an interview with f1total.com, the Frenchman admitted that he could be replaced at the subsequent race, which would - coincidentally - be his debut at home venue Magny Cours.
Giving credence to reports that Sakon Yamamoto is to become Takuma Sato's third teammate of 2006, Montagny said: ''I don't know yet whether I will be driving at Magny Cours.''
However, the 28-year-old insisted that - even without a racing ride - he was likely to steer a 'third' car on Friday at the French event.
Magny Cours or not, Montagny said the interest from the French media - who have gone without a local boy to cheer for since Olivier Panis retired in 2004 - is already bigger.
But he added: ''I think that's good; I don't feel like I'm under pressure.
''For me this is a big adventure. I don't know how long it is going to last, but for the moment I enjoy it.''
Montagny also revealed that, as official reserve, not being selected to replace axed Renault driver Jarno Trulli in late 2004, damaged his reputation.
''After that, whenever I was in contact with a team,'' he explained, ''they always said, 'You want to race for us, but why didn't Renault take you?'
''It made it really difficult for me to find something else.''
06/05/06 (GMM) July's US grand prix at Indianapolis could be the last for Super Aguri sub Franck Montagny.
Reports in Japan suggest that team owner Aguri Suzuki is planning to give the Frenchman's seat alongside Takuma Sato to a Japanese countryman; Sakon Yamamoto.
It would mean that Yamamoto's debut race would be at Magny-Cours; Montagny's home circuit.
Montagny, the former Renault tester who at late notice last month was named as axed predecessor Yuji Ide's replacement, set the pace at the weekend as he stepped up his preparation for Le Mans.
The 28-year-old will contest the famous 24-hour event next weekend, between his Super Aguri commitments at Silverstone and Montreal.
Yamamoto, meanwhile - the 23-year-old Formula Nippon driver who once tested a Jordan - is believed to have now attended Aguri's Leafield HQ for a seat fitting.
Red Bull, Ferrari, VW and CosworthUPDATE Ferrari engine man Paolo Martinelli was seen at the Red Bull Energy Station at Silverstone having meetings with the boss of Scuderia Toro Rosso, Gerhard Berger. The meeting will add fuel to the rumors that Toro Rosso will be using Ferrari engines next year.
06/11/06 (GMM) Toro Rosso could take over sister team Red Bull Racing's engine contract with Ferrari in 2007.
As speculation rises that 'RBR' - spotting a vacancy with Williams' switch to Toyota - is keen to link up again with Cosworth, attention is inevitably turning to the solid two-year Ferrari agreement.
But the contractual tie might simply be handed over to Red Bull's junior team. Toro Rosso is under pressure to end its V10 arrangement with Cosworth, whose own contractual bind would be similarly negated if Red Bull pick up where Williams left off this year.
''If Toro Rosso want to modify that contract and make it different then we will sit down and talk to them and if we can strike a deal then great,'' said Cosworth's Bernard Ferguson at Silverstone.
Red Bull's racing advisor Helmut Marko, meanwhile, explained at the British circuit that Ferrari's contract until 2007 is with Red Bull, 'not Red Bull Racing'.
Such an arrangement, with Red Bull Cosworth powered and Toro Rosso with Ferrari, would neatly take the teams through to the end of 2007, when it is rumored that Volkswagen might be ready to enter formula one.
It is worth mentioning that, at the bottom of Toro Rosso's daily press releases at grands prix, the 'VW' logo appears prominently.
Real Madrid could advertise on Alonso's car Real Madrid’s crest will appear on the car of F1 driver Fernando Alonso if Juan Palacios is elected club president on July 2. Palacios, who runs a watch business, “is reported to be a long-time friend of Alonso,” a fan of the team. But Juan Miguel Villar Mir, who is also running for the post, said, “We aren’t a brand of watches. This is all the wrong way round. Real should be receiving money from sponsors not paying it out” REUTERS
San Jose now Champ Car's best street circuit? One of the biggest improvements that was recently completed to the San Jose street circuit was the resurfacing of the city streets, so they are now flush with the light rail tracks. The open wheel Champ Cars were not equipped to deal with uneven pavement, so the bumpy ride drivers received last year left them feeling more than a little sore.
"I think the San Jose Grand Prix staff has done a good job of addressing the concerns the drivers expressed about the track last year," Bourdais said Friday at a press conference in San Jose. "They have made a lot of significant improvements to the circuit and I believe there will be more passing here in San Jose than on any other street course in the Champ Car World Series."
Champ Car will take over the streets of San Jose on July 28-30. The temporary street course takes drivers on a 1.5-mile, seven-turn tour of the city. That weekend will also see the unveiling of the new Panoz Champ Car.
Schu has signed new Ferrari deal (GMM) Even through the searing Rascasse affair and the unlikeliness of an eighth title, Michael Schumacher is reportedly planning to stick around in formula one beyond the end of 2006.
Germany's Bild newspaper, after quoting exclusively from the mouth of Flavio Briatore, said it has learned that Schumacher told the Renault principal that he has decided to sign a new Ferrari contract through to the end of 2008.
Italy's Briatore, remember, reportedly enquired to Schumacher's manager about snaring Schumacher for 2007 as a replacement for the departing Fernando Alonso.
Meanwhile, it emerged recently that 37-year-old Schumacher has agreed to extend his cap-sponsorship with 'Deutsche Vermogensberatung' beyond the end of this year.
Speculation is that if Schumacher has indeed re-signed with Ferrari, that Kimi Raikkonen might sign with Renault rather than team with Schumacher at Ferrari.
NASCAR to ban sway bars? NASCAR distributed a survey to Nextel Cup Series crew chiefs June 11th asking if they would like to have sway bars removed for all oval races.
According to NASCAR rules, rear sway bars, which are optional, are only supposed to be used as anti-roll bars and not as a torsion bar to allow the car to travel quicker through the turns..
But teams have toyed with the sway bar, including the No. 88 Robert Yates Racing team during the May 6 race weekend at Richmond International Raceway, which resulted in a four-week suspension of crew chief Richard "Slugger" Labbe.
"It's a very useful tool, especially at a Martinsville, Richmond, places like that," NASCAR Nextel Cup Series Director John Darby said. "We see less and less and less and less cars using them when you get away from the Martinsville or Richmond [type tracks]. More at NASCAR Daily Scene
Four drivers knocking on Toyota's door AutoRacing1.com has learned that four drivers are after Jarno Trulli's seat at Toyota. Trulli, who is asking for a pay increase to match Ralf Schumacher's, is on thin ice with the Japanese team.
Our sources tell us that McLaren test driver Alex Wurz, soon to be ousted McLaren driver Juan Montoya, Williams driver Mark Webber and BMW Sauber driver Jacques Villeneuve are all trying to land a ride with Toyota.
McLaren has decided on 2007 direction alreadyUPDATE This rumor is updated to 'fact' today as AutoRacing1.com has learned that McLaren's 2007 lineup will be Alonso and Hamilton. We await the official announcement in the coming months.
06/11/06 McLaren intend to give young Briton Lewis Hamilton time in a Formula One simulator over the next month to prepare him for a likely grand prix debut in 2007.
"Wherever he ends up next year there is every indication that it should be, and we will try and make it, a Formula One car," team boss Ron Dennis told reporters at the British Grand Prix.
"He's got one GP2 test and maybe we'll give him some mileage in our simulator in preparation for a test towards the end of the year. That is most likely what will happen," said Dennis.
"We don't want to work outside the testing agreement, we don't want to spend time evaluating any driver at the moment," he added.
"It's certainly not the thing to do mid-season, not productive to our car development programme which is the priority at the moment."
McLaren are expected to lose Kimi Raikkonen to Ferrari or Renault next year and there is a big question mark over Colombian Juan Pablo Montoya's future.
Dennis said the team was comfortable with its position for 2007 and had taken key decisions already.
"We know exactly where we will go and what we will do according to what unfolds over the next few weeks," he said.
"We are not waiting on anybody. We are waiting for circumstances out of our control to unfold," added Dennis cryptically. "You will completely understand as and when I believe it will fall into place." More at Reuters
Montoya to be axed by McLaren, back to the USA?UPDATE We are upgrading this rumor to 'fact' today as AutoRacing1.com has learned that Juan Montoya is definitely out at McLaren and Hamilton is definitely in and will drive alongside soon to be two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso at McLaren in 2007.
The part of this rumor about Montoya moving to the USA and the IRL, however, is false.
06/11/06 The word in the paddock at Silverstone is that Juan Pablo Montoya has been told by McLaren that his services will not be required in 2007. With Kimi Raikkonen off to Ferrari (yet to be confirmed) and Fernando Alonso moving to McLaren this opens the way from the Woking team to hire F1 new boy Lewis Hamilton, who is dominating GP2 in impressive fashion this year, despite being in his rookie year of the series. Hamilton won two stylish victories at Silverstone over the weekend and now leads the series by 22 points from Nelson Piquet Jr.
Montoya's future in F1 is now in some doubt as the only real options available to him are Red Bull Racing and Toyota. Red Bull does not seem to be very interested as David Coulthard is doing fine and Toyota might take him on in place of Jarno Trulli. At the moment Trulli is holding out for more money but with Montoya on the market he will probably compromise on the cash to secure the seat.
If Red Bull decides against hiring Montoya - and that is quite likely given that Tonio Liuzzi looks a good bet and the team seems keen to keep Coulthard - then Montoya may not have a future in F1 in a team that would be of any interest to him. The logical move in that situation would be to head back to the United States where he won the CART title in 1999 with Target Chip Ganassi Racing. Ganassi is now a major player in the Indy Racing League and is currently running a pair of Target-sponsored Dallaras for Dan Wheldon and Scott Dixon. Grandprix.com
[Editor's Note: You will not see Montoya race in the IRL. The author who wrote that is hallucinating. Montoya has already said it's stupid racing (100% throttle) that requires such little talent.]
Chesson to Cheever? Eddie Cheever said he is working to field rookie P.J. Chesson in a second Cheever Racing car beginning with the IRL's next race, June 24 at Richmond, Va. Cheever wants to finish the season in his own car. Indy Star
'Copse' corner could be changed (GMM) The Silverstone circuit, criticized in recent weeks for lagging in terms of safety, is likely to undergo changes at two key corners.
The high-speed 'Copse' and 'Bridge' corners could be re-profiled ahead of the 2007 race, with bigger run-off zones, following a meeting about the issue headed by the FIA's Charlie Whiting at the British circuit this weekend.
''(Copse is) so dangerous,'' Juan Pablo Montoya said recently, ''but they should change just the safety.''
At flat-out Copse, however, an extension to the run-off zone would likely be very costly as it would involve the removal of a grandstand. A change to the corner profile itself, therefore, would make more sense to the track-owning 'BRDC', which would have to pay for the update.
Martin to get crew changes Roush Racing’s #6-Mark Martin was noncommittal about the possibilities of any changes in his pit crew. They have made costly mistakes in several races this season, including last week at Dover, when a dropped lug nut cost Martin a chance to win. He finished ninth instead. “I don’t know,” Martin said of the possibility of crew changes. “We’ve had some disappointments on pit road, but I don’t know.” Ford Racing
Schu to quit, thinks Merc chief (GMM) Mercedes-Benz's Jurgen Hubbert thinks Michael Schumacher is shaping up to quit formula one.
The German, in the paddock for the British grand prix at Silverstone, said the Ferrari driver's infamous 'Rascasse' moment a fortnight ago indicates that Schumacher is desperate to win an eighth and final title.
''I interpret it as a quest to win the championship again so that he can stop as world champion,'' Hubbert, 66, told 'sid' agency.
Danica Patrick may quit the IRL The Indy Racing League is growing, Danica Patrick said, but bigger sponsors and bigger paychecks are needed to keep the momentum going and the IndyCar Series stars from jumping to NASCAR or Formula One.
That responsibility should fall to the series, which Patrick said should take a more aggressive marketing approach.
"One of the big draws of NASCAR is the money," the Rahal Letterman Racing star said Friday at Texas Motor Speedway. "They make a lot of money. If we as a series want to be racing like this every weekend and be running across the country every day for six months, we need to make sure we make more, too."
Patrick has become a crossover star, and is featured in commercials that air during shows such as American Idol and The View. But aside from a Tony Kanaan cameo on The Apprentice, the IRL's crossover appeal pales to NASCAR.
Something as simple as plastering Sam Hornish Jr.'s or Dan Wheldon's likeness to a soda machine seems attainable, Patrick said.
"That's something the series needs to do, get sponsors involved to market us and them as well," she said. "Being in someone's face is always going to get their attention."
Another aide would be one, unified open-wheel circuit that could help draw sponsors or re-invigorate former sponsors who were cooled by the CART-IRL split a decade ago. Patrick believes one league folding is more likely than the two series uniting.
But everything comes back to dollar signs, and that might mean leaving the IRL behind.
"Being an IndyCar driver, I believe that's what everyone here wants to do," Patrick said. "But at the end of the day, you have to do the best for yourself and your career." Star Telegram (Related article)
[Editor's Note: What Tony George will soon realize is that NASCAR is no friend of his or open wheel racing, and if they get a chance to snatch the IRL's biggest star, they will. After all, they were not afraid to snatch Tony Stewart and Sarah Fisher, the two previous biggest IRL stars.]
IRL may park Cheever There is growing speculation that the IRL will be forced to park Eddie Cheever. After coming under criticism by Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti - the sport's two biggest stars - at Watkins Glen (both called him idiots for his ability to run them off the road), Penske driver Helio Castroneves wasn't happy with Cheever's driving in the final practice session at TMS Friday, and he let him know on pit road by turning his car sharply in front of Cheever's.
Old-man Cheever is a moving road block and an accident just waiting to happen.
Cosworth admit likely loss of Williams (GMM) Cosworth's commercial director, Bernard Ferguson, has admitted that the independent engine maker is likely to lose Williams as a formula one partner in 2007.
''It looks that way from everything I have read,'' he said at Silverstone, ''and if that is the case then so be it.''
Williams is expected to move to a semi-works arrangement with Toyota, meaning that Midland will be on the lookout for a new supplier.
Red Bull, and its V10-powered junior team Toro Rosso, are also possibilities, but Ferguson confessed that 'nothing is signed' yet.
Meanwhile, speculation insists that Williams' Toyota-Lexus switch could be formalized at either North American race, in Canada and the US.
Teamsters trying to finish off Kentucky Speedway A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I happened to read Friday's Daytona Beach News Journal's business section and saw where the teamsters are trying to have all NASCAR races stopped at Kentucky Speedway and are trying to get fans to boycott Cintas which are owned by a big investor in Kentucky Speedway. From what I read they are trying to "get back" at the Speedway for suing ISC and NASCAR over not getting a Nextel Cup date.
They collected 10,000 signatures at the 600 at Lowe's recently to try to have no more Busch or Truck races there.
Why the teamsters want to hurt Kentucky Speedway I am not sure, but I myself am rooting big time for Kentucky Speedway to win this Antitrust suit. From here on out I am for anything that will help tear down ISC and NASCAR cause I just don't like their bullying tactics! Doug Ferguson, West Palm Beach, FL
Changes coming to COT NASCAR’s “Car of Tomorrow” is still not finished, according to multiple sources in the NASCAR Nextel Cup garage. Within the next two weeks, General Motors will be wind-tunnel testing a new version of the COT, with different sides and new tail section. Some manufacturers had complained that the radical design does not look enough like existing production cars, which may be responsible for the change. Sources said the COT’S chassis specs will not be changed, just the body. But that likely will mean substantial additional testing is needed prior to the design being finalized. The ongoing development work on the car means that NASCAR will push back its submission date for the car, sources told SPEEDTV.com. Typically, the final design date for any new car is July 1, so teams ordinarily would have to submit their 2007 Nextel Cup cars by July 1, 2006. But since the COT is not completed, the sign-off date will be at some point beyond July 1, sources said. And that is a double-edged sword: It gives teams more time to work on the car, but it also pushes back when they can begin the cars, since the specs are not final. Speed Channel
Da Matta to replace Allmendinger at RuSPORTUPDATE #2 Carl Russo explained that he made a choice to remove AJ because the team came along with AJ together but there are times when the growth curve of the team and the driver do not match and it is better to split and move forward on their own. Russo hinted that AJ will stay in the paddock, and said he would be surprised if he was not.
The decision was made by the leadership of the team.
06/09/06 This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement.
06/09/06 The RuSPORT team has scheduled a press conference today to announce Cristiano da Matta as their new driver. The rumor is that AJ Allmendinger might be replaced.
Schu, Alonso, may snub key ’GPDA’ meetingUPDATE (GMM) Michael Schumacher has dismissed suggestions that he might boycott Friday's highly-anticipated meeting of the 'GPDA' drivers' union.
The German, a keen football fan, earlier indicated that he did not want to miss a kick of the opening World Cup game on television, but he told reporters at Silverstone that - also despite controversy surrounding his Monaco penalty - he would make an appearance.
However, Schumacher - who had a couple of spins on the uncharacteristically slippery circuit on Friday - insisted: ''Hopefully we will keep the meeting as brief as possible, because we all want to watch the soccer.''
He also played down wild expectations such as removal from directorship of the body. ''I don't think anything in particular is going to happen,'' said the 37-year-old Ferrari driver.
But Williams' Mark Webber, a key figure in the GPDA, was not excluding anything: ''You shouldn't rule anything out,'' he said.
06/09/06 (GMM) In the shadow of the World Cup, and with a home-grown win unlikely for the British grand prix, it is no surprise that the biggest story out of Silverstone is a planned meeting on Friday of the 'GPDA' body.
Undoubtedly, Michael Schumacher is going to be asked by his fellow racers to explain honestly what happened in the 'Rascasse' corner two weeks ago at Monaco.
Some, though, suggest that his continuing role as a director is now untenable.
''I am not going to beg for forgiveness,'' said the German at Silverstone, while it is rumored that Schumacher might not even attend the meeting as it clashes with the opening game - Germany versus Costa Rica - of the Cup.
He added: ''I don't mind talking about it, so long as we can be reasonable. But I would rather look ahead.''
It is clear whose side title rival Fernando Alonso is on, but the Spaniard informed the press on Thursday that - as per usual - he won't even bother attending the drivers' summit.
''I have no interest,'' he mumbled. ''I will get (Giancarlo) Fisichella to tell me about it!''
Alongside Schumacher, arguably the driving force of the safety-oriented GPDA is actually David Coulthard, who attacked the valor of those who got stuck into Ferrari's number one in the press but will not confront their rival face-to-face.
The Scot, who nonetheless confirmed that drivers would vote on Friday on whether Schumacher should be stripped of his directorship, said: ''I think (that shows) a lack of a man.
''After the vote we should get on with the business of driver and track safety.''
Tata Unhappy with Karthikeyan’s Role At Williams?UPDATE (GMM) India's Narain Karthikeyan is unlikely to graduate from his test seat to race for Williams next year, the team's F1 principal said on Thursday.
Co-owner Sir Frank Williams told Indian journalists in a video conference that Karthikeyan, who debuted for Jordan last season, had become 'much more consistent' during his tests in 2006.
''The chances of (him) being in the (race) team are by no means impossible,'' Williams added, ''but not very high.''
Although the Grove based team's chief also branded Karthikeyan as a 'little bit erratic', the racer himself said he was enjoying his role after a year at the back of the F1 pack.
Karthikeyan remarked: ''I would like to stay here on a long-term basis.''
02/07/06 The Tata Group, India’s largest private sector group with over 93 companies in various sectors, is threatening to pull the plug on their affiliation with the Grove based team if Narain Karthikeyan is not promoted to the WilliamsF1 Team Friday drive role. Although Tata was more than willing to put their logo on the nose of this year's WilliamsF1 contender, they were hoping that their backing would land Narain a Friday drive at a minimum, not the totally out of the spotlight test driver role.
This rumor is from the grapevine, and may have no merit. It may just be someone trying to stir up trouble. Stay tuned if we learn any more......
Mears to re-sign with Ganassi?UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. Casey Mears, despite repeated assurances over the past few weeks that he and owner Chip Ganassi were close to working out a contract extension, will not return to Ganassi's organization next season.
Ganassi told members of Mears' No. 42 Dodge team on Thursday of the driver's decision, multiple sources confirmed to the Charlotte Observer.
05/11/06 Casey Mears says he has yet to sign a new contract extension with car owner Chip Ganassi; however talks have stepped up in recent weeks and have been positive. “We’ve been talking a lot in trying to work things out” said Mears during a break in Busch Series testing at Lowe's Motor Speedway. If his phone has been ringing more often concerning possible rides Mears isn’t biting. “Anybody’s that’s had an open ride has had interest but I haven’t really pursued any of it, said Mears. I’m just focused on what I’m doing right now and talking to Chip. We’ve got our best run going that I’ve ever had in cup so far and we’re really focused on trying to make that chase. Chip and I haven’t finalized anything yet but neither one of us are really panicked about it.” PRN's Garagepass Radio Show
Ferrari in Andretti’s future?UPDATE #3 Jacques Villeneuve says that Marco Andretti is young enough to be able to one day make the transition to grand prix racing, but the Indy 500 runner-up will have to move out of the IRL.
Villeneuve raced in Champ Car in 1994 and '95, winning both the series and the Indy 500 in his second year. He then jumped straight into F1 with Williams.
Mario Andretti has made no secret of the fact that he would like to see his grandson make the move to F1, something that Marco's dad Michael did – without success – in 1993.
"He's quite young and he's got their quite fast," said Villeneuve. "It helps to have your father run a team, but you also need the talent to drive, obviously. So if he keeps on progressing, yeah, if he stops progressing, then no. It depends on that."
However, Villeneuve said that he doubted that either of the US open-wheeler series proved a good training ground for F1.
"IRL is mainly ovals, and I guess GP2 cars are a lot faster than IRL cars if you put them on a road track, so GP2 is better. Champ Car or CART or whatever it's called now doesn't have the depth any more that it used to have.
"I think it's gone downhill. As long as the two series are separated, and not all the drivers are together racing, then it won't be a good grooming ground."
06/05/06 In two weeks time, Marco Andretti has made an enviable impact on the racing world. It’s said Andretti’s name is even on the lips of the Formula One pooh-bahs thanks to his extremely strong showing in the Indy 500.
This past weekend, Andretti was in the hunt to win the IRL’s Watkins Glen Indy Grand Prix. He was gaining a second-per-lap on the leaders and was up to third place late in the race when a coming-together with Eddie Cheever at the entrance to Turn Nine resulted in a dramatic end to his day. Andretti on lap 37 set the fastest race-lap, a full half-second quicker than next-best Ryan Briscoe’s.
It is a rare and glorious thing to see rookies in top-level open wheel racing make such an impressive showing so early in the season.
What’s been lost in a lot of this wonderful hoopla surrounding Marco Andretti’s success is his Skip Barber background. For the record, he’s entered a grand total of 76 auto races since he left the karting ranks in early 2003 – and 53 of them (that’s 76 percent) were with Skip Barber.
Lewis to replace Unser on Mi-Jack teamUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement. See Hot News page.
06/01/06 Following our report last week that Al Unser III had left the Mi-Jack Conquest Atlantics team comes word that the team is testing another driver.
Indianapolis, Indiana – The Mi-Jack Conquest Racing Atlantic Team concluded a productive two-day test at Sebring International Raceway yesterday. The winner of the Atlantic race in Monterrey, Mexico, Graham Rahal, worked on collecting data while the team tested 22-year-old British driver Ryan Lewis in their second car.
Everything went smoothly for 17-year-old Graham Rahal during the two-days in Sebring. “The test went very well for us. We were able to work on a lot of different things and we gained knowledge on what we can and can not do with the car which will be useful for the remainder of the season. We were also one of the quickest cars on track and that is always satisfying.”
2004 British Formula 3 Scholarship Champion, Ryan Lewis, was testing with Conquest Racing for a second time since December and was only a few tenths behind Rahal despite the lack of experience in the new Swift 016.a / Mazda-Cosworth car.
“I really enjoyed testing with the Mi-Jack Conquest Racing Team, they did a great job. The car was quick straight out of the box, it was competitive and well-balanced which made it easy for me to get up to speed quickly and find my comfort level in the car,” said Lewis. “The last car I drove was the old Atlantic car and this one is definitely a step up.”
Conquest Racing co-owner, Eric Bachelart, who picked up his first Atlantic win as a team owner in Monterrey, was more than pleased with both drivers.
“Ryan did a great job during these last two days. He confirmed the potential we saw a few months ago when we tested him in the 014 car. His times were very close to those of Graham’s and it was only his first time in the new Atlantic car, so we are very happy with his performance. He also provided us with excellent feedback and everybody worked very well together,” said Bachelart. “Graham did an outstanding job like usual. He gathered a lot of information, tried different things on the car and put in some competitive lap times.”
Montoya could stay with McLarenUPDATE (GMM) Juan Pablo Montoya is still in the running to retain his McLaren seat next year, the team's Martin Whitmarsh insists.
In spite of raging speculation linking GP2 sensation Lewis Hamilton with the 2007 ride alongside Fernando Alonso, the McLaren 'F1 CEO' remarked: ''Juan Pablo is absolutely not out of consideration.
''He's doing a very good job for us and he's conducting himself very well in the face of considerable speculation over his future,'' Whitmarsh told British magazine Autosport.
30-year-old Montoya, however - after failing to truly shine in his first season for Woking-based McLaren last year - has not been a star of 2006 either.
He did finish second at Monaco, but is not giving much away about his plans for the future.
Montoya told ITV: ''My next move is very important, so whoever I think is going to give me the best equipment, that's where I'll go, or stay, as the case may be.''
06/07/06 Despite growing speculation about his future with his McLaren team, Juan Pablo Montoya is still being considered to partner Fernando Alonso at McLaren next year, according to team CEO Martin Whitmarsh.
"Juan Pablo is absolutely not out of consideration for next year," Whitmarsh told Autosport magazine. "He won his first race for us at Silverstone last year and he goes there [this weekend] with that knowledge in his mind.
"He's doing a very good job for us and he's conducting himself very well in the face of considerable speculation over his future."
Stewart to go the distance Sunday? Tony Stewart said Wednesday he plans to do all of the practicing, qualifying and racing in the No. 20 Chevrolet at Pocono Raceway despite a fractured shoulder.
Stewart said he has a new version of the ButlerBuilt seat he's been running that he thinks will help him at the 2.5-mile triangular track.
"We think it's a better design," Stewart said of the seat, which is slightly wider in the shoulder area than the seat he was using. "It was time to put something new in there. Brian Butler and his staff did an awesome job of accommodating me and getting a seat pumped out in a short amount of time so we would have it for Pocono."
Massive new Speedway project planned Developers are working to turn 2,000 acres of barren Idaho desert land into a massive state-of-the-art racing facility called War Eagle Speedways, capable of accommodating NASCAR and IRL racing. Builders think the complex could rake in at least 100 million dollars yearly for Idaho. Northwest Motorsports plans to build the 200 million dollar complex off Simco Rd. along the border of Ada and Elmore counties. The facility would take several years to build and would feature a 1.25 mile Quad Oval track with seating for 75,000 to 100,000 people. Other track capabilities will include a drag strip with seating for 25,000 to 50,000, a .5 mile asphalt oval with seating for 25,000 to 40,000, a .25 mile dirt oval with seating for 10,000 for 15,000, a Motocross track, Supermoto/Kart Track and BMX Super Track.
Northwest Motorsports has not yet secured any type of deal with NASCAR or IRL and has only begun to explore the process of bringing in major cup races but Dugger added bringing the best to Idaho will be the ultimate goal. The company will be testing the waters and talking to local businesses to see how much interest there is in the Valley over the next few months. The company hopes to break ground this fall and plans to file a conditional use permit with Elmore County next week. Dugger said her company’s banking on the idea that Idahoans and folks from all across the Northwest will want to watch races close to home. Today’s Channel 6
The pieces of F1's '07 engine puzzle (GMM) With Williams' Toyota deal now almost set in stone, some other pieces of the engine puzzle for 2007 are also falling into place.
With Sir Frank's Oxfordshire based squad bagging the Toyota V8s, to presumably be badged as 'Lexus' units, Midland-owned MF1 is thus on the lookout for an alternate source of horse power.
Cosworth, no doubt disappointed to say farewell to Williams, is the obvious connection, but it is also rumored that presently Ferrari-powered Red Bull is eying the independent engine maker's affection.
With sister team Toro Rosso already Cosworth (V10) powered, both squads running the same V8 next year makes sense. The only stumbling block, however, could be the fact that Red Bull's contract with Ferrari includes the 2007 season, but that could potentially be sidestepped by passing the agreement over to Toro Rosso.
If Silverstone-based MF1 do not link up with Cosworth, then - speculatively - a customer deal with Mercedes-Benz is thought possible, even though the German carmaker would like to set up its own 'B' team.
Similarly, Renault could be an option for Midland, but David Richards' 'Prodrive' entry for 2008 is believed to already be in discussions with them not only about engines, but also chassis.
Time running out for ’07 unificationUPDATE Kevin Kalkhoven told autosport.com: "This has been the problem since the news got out that we were in talks with Tony George. "Everyone has got impatient about when a merger might happen, and I understand that because everyone with a love of open-wheel racing realizes that combining forces is the way forward.
"However, it's important for everyone to know that we share that desire and that's precisely why we don't want this to be a rushed job. Our priority is to do it correctly, not to do it as quick as possible.
"The fact is, right from the start, Tony and I never put a timescale on a potential merger for that very reason. All this talk of timescales and deadlines has been pure media speculation, and certainly nothing that either side we have put out there."
But unification appears to be off for 2007. "Absolutely, Champ Car has to keep going with its own plans too. We expect to have the 2007 calendar out in August this year, and we will be reviewing all our options."
06/05/06 WATKINS GLEN, N.Y. -- Tony George said Sunday that the size of the Indianapolis 500 crowd grew for at least the second consecutive year, but he said the chances of unifying open-wheel racing have not changed.
The chief executive officer of Indianapolis Motor Speedway and the Indy Racing League met Wednesday with Champ Car World Series leader Kevin Kalkhoven in Indianapolis, part of their ongoing discussions. While George still feels unification is a 50-50 proposition, he said time is running out for there to be one series in place for 2007.
Essentially, the deadline is July 1, and George said there are still too many issues to resolve.
"We continue to make progress, but certainly they are not giant strides," George said at Watkins Glen International, where the IRL raced Sunday. "I continue to be encouraged that there's some chance of possibly getting together . . . but I don't see any positive signs that (50-50) has changed.
"It's not likely it will happen for 2007; it's obviously late. We're finalizing a schedule; they're finalizing a schedule. With each passing day it seems unlikely that it will get done (for next year)."
George and Kalkhoven have no plans to meet the rest of the month, although George said they will be in contact. As for the 500, George wouldn't reveal crowd figures, but he said they were "definitely up" from the 2005 race, which was higher than the year before.
"And the enthusiasm supports that," George said. "All the story lines that started the month were in play in those last 20 laps. It was certainly an unpredictable finish." Indy Star
[Editor's Note: We hear there definitely will be no unification for 2007. Both series will continue to limp along apart. As for Tony George's claim that attendance was up at Indy this year, please do not insult our intelligence. TV ratings were down over 20% and the overhead TV camera shots from the 500 do not lie, more empty seats this year than ever. It appears both sides have dug their heels in and are trying to maintain a credible negotiating position by saying all is fine with the world and there is no need to rush into unification.
Meanwhile IRL teams are shutting down and Champ Car teams are so short of equipment and money that when Alex Tagliani crashed in practice Saturday at Milwaukee he had no backup car and no team would lend Team Australia one of their backup cars in a great display of cooperation (not).
Fans of both series writing to AutoRacing1.com say things look really bad from their perspective and their interest in open wheel racing is waning. With Tony George saying July 1st is the deadline for a 2007 merger and there being no further meetings set between the two sides for June, forget about a merger. Open Wheel Racing's future remains clouded and sponsors are staying away in droves.]
NASCAR may require look at team tax records NASCAR is “trying to limit car owners to four teams by precisely pinning down business relationships between various stock-car teams,” according to Mike Mulhern of the WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL. NASCAR may “want to demand access to tax records to pin down just who owns what and who pays whom how much.” The new rules state the determination of team ownership “will be made solely by NASCAR and shall be final, non-appealable and non-litigable.” But a “number of key figures expressed astonishment” when asked about the rules. One team owner said that “not much had been made of the new rules ... ‘because we don’t think they’re legally enforceable.’” Roush Racing President Geoff Smith, whose company operates five full-time Nextel Cup teams, said that the “rules are so broad ‘that it’s really difficult to know just where you might stand’ with NASCAR on any particular issue.” Smith: “According to these rules, Jack Roush might have 43 teams.” Team owner and driver Kyle Petty said he believes NASCAR execs “figure if they can limit the big owners to four teams, then if a fifth big-dollar sponsor comes along, then the new sponsor would have to go with one of the smaller teams. But that’s not the reality of it -– if you’re a company with your heart set on Dale Earnhardt Jr. and can’t get Junior, well, you’re not going to go with another team, you’ll just stay home.” Mulhern reported, despite the rules, Hendrick Motorsports Owner Rick Hendrick and Evernham Motorsports President & CEO Ray Evernham plan to keep their current contracts to provide engines to a number of teams next season. WINSTON-SALEM JOURNAL
Open Wheel predicted to make advances on NASCAR "I believe the IRL is heading in the right direction," said Dr. Jerry Punch, who patrolled pit road Sunday in Watkins Glen. "I think NASCAR has done a good job of putting stock car racing on the map. I believe in the very near future that there will be unification between the IRL and the Champ Car World Series and that is good news.
"America can and should follow more than just one racing series. Let NASCAR handle the stock car racing and a new, unified series cater to those who like Indy-type racing. Hopefully interest in Indy car racing will grow and share in some of the limelight now reserved for NASCAR only. Auto racing overall benefits when fans become followers of more then one series."
Even with the split series and some views there are not enough American drivers in the series, IRL is still a very engaging type of racing.
Despite his Brazilian heritage, two-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves has gained popularity with many fans due to his colorful personality, fast driving style and "Spiderman" wheel-fence climbing antics.
"We absolutely have space for both series," Castroneves said as he prepared for his start from the pole Sunday. "NASCAR is a different type of racing and Indy Cars are a very different type of racing. The good news is that yes, we are getting more attention. I'm glad we came back to Watkins Glen. We were here already last year and you could see in practice a lot of fans just to watch us. It also shows that people enjoy road courses and it's not just about ovals."
"Back in the 1920's and 30's, you had European drivers although they weren't as dominant," explained Watkins Glen chief historian Bill Green. "Sterling Moss' dad raced at Indianapolis once. You had some of the top Italian drivers that came over and were there. They weren't racing Indy cars on a regular basis as they are today.
"After [World War II] there were several Italians. Later, when the rear-engine boys took over the sport you had Jim Clark [of Scotland] winning the Indianapolis 500 in 1965 and Graham Hill [England] in 1966. From then on, there were European and South American drivers as well."
Motorsports industry insiders as well as some IRL officials feel that unification within the next two years between the IRL and Champ Car World Series seemingly is more certain than ever. Indy car racing has a real and legitimate shot at rebounding in popularity. More at Buffalo News
Will Champ Car return to Milwaukee?UPDATE A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, If there were more than 12,000 people at the Milwaukee race on Sunday I'll kiss Tony George's shoes. Mary Adams, Green Bay, WI
06/05/06 There has been much speculation that Sunday's race at the Milwaukee Mile would be the last for Champ Car. The race promoter had to hit a home run to avoid being knocked off the schedule by rumored races in Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Antonio (more likely for 2008) and Zhuhai, China. With at least 1/2 of the seats empty Sunday, it was far from a home run, but it was an entertaining race.
Milwaukee Mile officials saw it different.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel article says [excerpts], Craig Stoehr wore sunburn and a smile.
The Time Warner Cable Roadrunner 225 wasn't flawless but it still provided plenty of positives for the chairman of Milwaukee Mile Marketing, the group that experienced its first race Sunday since entering an 18-year contract to promote the track at State Fair Park.
"We feel pretty good about it," Stoehr said. "The attendance was way beyond where they were last year, so we were happy about that. We had a great day. We had a real good race.
"Obviously there were some things that go off that you don't have any control over, but once the flag goes down, that's it."
Management announced a ticket distribution of 28,357 for the Champ Car World Series event, about 2,000 more than one year earlier. Actual attendance was estimated at 20,000. Although attendance is less than half of the peak of a decade ago, the crowd Sunday was at least double the size of that for the 2005 race.
The fans had a couple of reasons to complain. Just 16 cars started the race, the smallest field for an Indy-car race at the track in 60 years, and three of the starters were eliminated by a crash on the first competitive lap.
Although scheduled for 225 laps, the race was stopped after 197 because of Champ Car's time limit of 1 hour 45 minutes. A few jeers could be heard from the grandstand after the race, and some fans complained to track workers and each other about the length of the race.
"The answer is, of course, that we have contracts with television companies, and we have to fulfill those contracts," said Kevin Kalkhoven, a co-owner of the series and of the PKV team. "Obviously I was disappointed, but there were some yellows at the beginning.
"And I think there was some great racing for the fans today. I really do. They saw some history with a lady (Katherine Legge, one of Kalkhoven's drivers) leading the race today. It was a great day's racing, beautiful racing, and the fans seemed overall pretty happy and I think we are, too."
Of the time limit, Stoehr said, "We're stuck with it." The same thing occurred last year, when the race was cut short by four laps.
"What we obviously have to do is make sure that the fans here understand why it wasn't 225 laps to make sure there's no confusion about it," Stoehr said.
Stoehr leads a group of investors that leased the track from State Fair Park, which had lost money in three seasons in the unfamiliar position as a race promoter. Although the deal includes land for development, Stoehr and his management team have said they expect to put the track, itself, back in the black.
"We're in the position that we will sit down and talk with Champ Car - just like will with IRL and just like we will with NASCAR - about next year and make sure we get an arrangement that works for us as well as for them," Stoehr said. "If we can do that, we'd hope to have everybody back."
With this track within city limits it could easily be a 3-day festival that Champ Car likes to see, however, the only way that is going to happen is if the race moves to the State Fair week in August. However the infield of the race track is used for parking during the fair, and in the past that has prevented this from happening. We expect that Champ Car will drop this race from their 2007 schedule and the IRL will move their Milwaukee date to the traditional weekend after the Indy 500. Champ Car will return to Milwaukee if there is a merger with the IRL. If not, Champ Car may have run its last race at the famous mile oval as we heard a lot of people complain that all the damaged race machines were not worth the price given the disappointing attendance.
UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. See Hot News page for press release.
06/05/06 Red Bull Racing is planning to announce that former Nextel Cup champion Bill Elliott will drive for the team for three races this season as the team prepares a full-time entry into Cup racing with Toyota in 2007, a source close to the situation has confirmed.
The car Elliott will drive will not be a Toyota, but the make of car has not been determined. He will attempt to qualify for the races at Charlotte and Atlanta in October and Texas in November. NASCAR Daily Scene
More ovals? While the Milwaukee Champ Car race last weekend was lucky to have 12,000 people in attendance (do NOT believe the attendance figure published as it was a complete fabrication), Sebastien Bourdais and Justin Wilson have called for more ovals on the schedule. In fact every single Champ Car oval race over the past 5 years has been an attendance nightmare, and an embarrassment for the series.
And the amount of cars damaged last weekend had team owners disgusted given the empty grandstands. One told AutoRacing1.com, 'Why come here and destroy all these cars to race in front of so few fans." Despite that some think more ovals are needed.
"We should have more ovals," Bourdais told Autosport.com. "This series has been more about these ovals, and it would make it easier for everybody because when you're a rookie in the field, it's tough.
"We never test in these places. We show up, we hope we have good equipment and everything, but when you're a rookie and the team doesn't have that good a setup and you show up just before the race, it's awful.
"It's just incredibly difficult to figure out. You've got to get to a certain level before you get comfortable. I think it would be a good thing."
Wilson echoed Bourdais' sentiments, saying it was important for the series to race on a variety of tracks.
"It would be nice to see one or two more because historically that's what this Championship has been about, having the variety of circuits, whether it's airport or road or street or short oval," Wilson said.
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