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DATE News (chronologically)

All top IRL drivers returning for 2009
Dan Wheldon said Saturday that he has agreed to terms with Chip Ganassi on a multiyear contract that will keep them partnered in the IndyCar Series for 2009.

The document with Ganassi Racing has not been signed, Wheldon said prior to the Firestone Indy 200 at Nashville Superspeedway, but he is confident it will be soon. "It's just a matter of the lawyers putting it on paper and getting it signed," he said.

Ganassi declined comment.

Wheldon is in the middle of his third season with the Indianapolis-based team after winning the Indianapolis 500 and the series championship for Andretti Green Racing in 2005.

He finished second in the standings in 2006 and fourth last year, winning two races each season.

Wheldon has won twice this year, both in the Midwest (at Kansas Speedway and Iowa Speedway). He also recently married and celebrated his 30th birthday.

Wheldon would be one less driver on the IndyCar Series' free agent market after Helio Castroneves settled on a contract with Team Penske. Tony Kanaan has a contract offer under review from AGR; the two sides will meet this week.

"I'm not going anywhere," Kanaan said Saturday.

Only Marco Andretti is left without a contract among the drivers on the league's best three teams (Ganassi, Penske and AGR).

Danica Patrick has another year left on her initial three-year contract with AGR. Indy winner Scott Dixon is under contract for another year with Ganassi. Indy Star


Obama rejects NASCAR UPDATE #2 BAM Racing team owner Beth Ann Morgenthau issued the following statement to clear up any confusion from the past few days. "An independent agent, knowing BAM Racing was seeking corporate sponsorship to return to the track, requested permission to connect BAM Racing with all three presidential campaigns. BAM agreed to explore the options. The same independent agent referred to as, 'a BAM spokesperson' in the recent Sports Illustrated article, 'revealed' what was only tentative, exploratory talks. BAM Racing has decided to heed the advice of the overwhelming response by fans to keep politics out of racing and continue to focus on several other exciting sponsorships soon to be announced." BAM Racing PR

07/12/08 This rumor is downgraded to 'false.' NASCAR's BAM Racing team has presented Barack Obama's presidential campaign with a potential sponsorship deal in the Sprint Cup series later this year, but it doesn't look like an Obama car will be burning rubber on the track anytime soon. BAM team spokesman Rhett Vandiver told The Associated Press on Friday that the team made a sponsorship proposal to the Democratic presidential hopeful's campaign, and has made similar proposals to the campaign of Republican John McCain and at least one third-party candidate. Late Friday, the Obama campaign said there would be no sponsorship. Associated Press

[Editor's Note: While NASCAR was the fastest growing sport in America, the sport has some racial issues that need to be address after the latest innocent victim involving a former Black female employee, who is suing for sexual and racial discrimination. It would be smart for Obama to sponsor an IRL team or an Indy Lights team, since he can reach to a demographic that is next door to his home state plus he has the backing of Ethanol that is the official fuel of the Indy Car Series]

07/11/08 SI.com has learned that for the first time in history, a major presidential candidate may sponsor a race car in NASCAR's premier series. According to sources, Barack Obama's campaign is in talks to become the primary sponsor of BAM Racing's No. 49 Sprint Cup car for the Pocono race on August 3. Details of the agreement are expected to be worked out over the coming days.

A BAM spokesperson has revealed the team will hold a press conference July 23 in Miami to reveal the partnership, currently a proposed one-race deal with an option to continue. Obama will be at the briefing, which will be tied to the "Get Out The Vote" campaign message he spread throughout the 2008 primary season.

Racing sources claim one of the options being considered would allow individual campaign donors to get their name on the race car for as little as $100. Obama will also be present for a second private fundraiser on July 30 in Miami, in which team owners Beth Ann and Tony Morgenthau -- staunch Republicans -- will give the Democrat an opportunity to spread his message of change. Randy Moss and Fergie are among the celebrities confirmed to be a part of that fundraiser in support of the candidate and his venture into NASCAR.

According to sources within the sport, the Association for Diversity in Motorsports (AFDIM) was an integral part of bringing the two camps together. Founded in '01, the organization works to heighten awareness of diversity in all forms of motorsports. They hope to tie their efforts in with a "Driving The Vote: Bridging The Gap" campaign to increase voter registration regardless of party affiliation. SI.com


Magazine says Kahne is gay
SportsPro magazine reports Kasey Kahne is gay
As can be seen by the is scan of page 162 of the August 2008 issue of SportsPro Magazine, it is reported that NASCAR Sprint Cup star Kasey Kahne is gay.

Since there is no positive or negative confirmation from the Kahne camp as to whether this story is true or not we list it as a rumor for now.

It doesn't look like a parody, and the other news items in the section look legitimate.  We don't know of anyone in the industry that truly believes this to be the case, there are always rumors about a number of different drivers and their private lives.  Definitely not "generally acknowledged" to our knowledge.

track news

Milwaukee Mile to close
Three years after it was turned over to a private promoter, the Milwaukee Mile continues to drag down State Fair Park’s financial position, according to an audit released Friday.

And at least one lawmaker said it may be time to shut down the world’s oldest continually operating racetrack.

The annual report by the Wisconsin Legislative Audit Bureau said State Fair Park turned a profit in 2006-’07 for the first time in eight years, and is predicting a $400,000 profit this year.

But that news was obscured by concerns about the Milwaukee Mile, growing red ink at the Wisconsin Exposition Center, and a potential conflict of interest involving the park’s agricultural director. According to the Audit Bureau, State Fair Park will incur about $1.1 million annually in debt service payments beginning this year that were supposed to be covered by Milwaukee Mile Holdings LLC when it took over as promoter in December 2005. Those costs were shifted back to the park in contract revisions that cut the amount the promoter had to pay in licensing fees.

Read more & Comment...

McLaren’s Secret Weapon?
Formula One engine development may be banned until 2013, with Max Mosley and the FIA’s latest efficiency drive unlikely to reverse the freeze beyond that, but that hasn’t stopped teams looking at just about every other means of squeezing crucial tenths of a second from their V8 beasts.

Vodafone McLaren Mercedes are no exception. As Lewis Hamilton scythed his way through the rain-soaked chaos to victory at Silverstone, sending shockwaves ripping through the 90,000-strong capacity crowd, beneath the carbon fiber of his MP4-23, energy of an altogether different kind – that of his Mercedes engine’s volcanic combustion cycle – was being tamed, harnessed and converted into raw lap-time by McLaren’s new weapon in the F1 arms race…

New Technology Mobil 1, colloquially known in McLaren engineering circles as “lap-time in a can”, is the team’s new fuel and oil mixture combination, introduced for the first time at Silverstone after extensive research and development with partners ExxonMobil.

The new mixture builds on the traditional function of oil lubricants by reducing wear and improving the reliability of components, thereby delivering significantly more ‘bangs per buck’ in the context of the 2008-13 engine freeze, lifelong gearboxes, and the requirement for engines to last two races.

Read more & Comment...

NASCAR to clip Toyota's wings UPDATE NASCAR officials took 10 engines from Nationwide Series cars after the race Friday night at Chicagoland amid cries from the loser non-Toyota teams claiming they need help engine-wise to compete with the Toyotas.  Kyle Busch's Toyota had just finished making a mockery of the field.

It was the third time this year that NASCAR has taken engines for evaluation. It did so at Atlanta in March and Milwaukee two weeks ago.

Just like they dominated the Truck Series the past two years, Toyota has won 14 races in the Nationwide series this year, while Chevrolet has won four and Ford has won two.

“We’re continuing our study on our competitive analysis and trying to balance the competition in the garage, which we’re kind of tasked to do,” Nationwide Series Director Joe Balash said following the Dollar General 300 at Chicagoland Speedway. “There’s a lot of rumor in the garage where things are at, and that’s why we want to make sure that we get the actual data.”

Dan Deeringhoff, crew chief for series points leader Clint Bowyer of Richard Childress Racing, said he believes the non-Toyota teams need help.

“Hopefully they are trying to come with what’s fairest for the series,” Deeringhoff said. “Toyota has got a definite advantage, but they’ve got a lot newer pieces [in their newer engines] than the American manufacturers have.

“The peak number is maybe 20 [horsepower] but I think the average is quite a bit more than what we’ve got.”  In part from Scenedaily.com

[Editor's Note (Again): Did anyone think for one moment Toyota would not come into NASCAR and destroy the other manufacturers?  NASCAR will have to continually slow Toyota down just to give the others a chance.  When Toyota grabs one or two more top teams it will be lights out.]

07/06/08 NASCAR may be ready to slap Toyota with an engine-horsepower penalty on the Nationwide tour after yet another win by the Joe Gibbs team Friday night.  It was Dave Rogers' ninth tour win as crew chief, this time for Denny Hamlin, in a one-two finish with teammate Kyle Busch. It was Gibbs' 12th Nationwide win in the 18 races so far.

Ford's Jack Roush said the Toyotas have so much more horsepower than Ford and Chevy that Toyota crews can put more downforce in their cars -- with a wider front end -- for better handling in the corners because the Toyotas have the horsepower to push that extra drag. "A monkey could drive that car," Roush said, referring to the Toyota edge. Winston Salem Journal

[Editor's Note: Did anyone think for one moment Toyota would not come into NASCAR and destroy the other manufacturers?  NASCAR will have to continually slow Toyota down just to give the others a chance.  When Toyota grabs one or two more top teams it will be lights out.]


UPS to sponsor No. 07? UPDATE From Richard Childress' Press Conference Thursday at Chicago:

"Jack Daniels is a great sponsor, and we have them on the car for next year and that is all about I can say about it right now."

"I don't know, I don't write those things."

"Right now I can't comment on anything with UPS because I am not involved right now with all of that." GM Racing PR

Jayski reports that UPS will NOT be going to Richard Childress Racing as a sponsor on any of their cars but will head to Stewart Haas Racing in the 2nd car with Ryan Newman as the driver. Look for Newman to be named as Stewart's team mate at Indy when SHR announces Office Depot as the sponsor for Stewart, but UPS won't be announced until a later date.

07/07/08 Among the hot but unconfirmed rumors making the rounds in the Sprint Cup garage this week are that Richard Childress Racing will land UPS as a sponsor for Clint Bowyer’s #07 Chevrolet. Multiple sources indicated that Bowyer’s car was the favorite to take the sponsorship over from Michael Waltrip Racing and David Reutimann. One source close to the negotiations said RCR initially offered UPS #31-Jeff Burton, 41, but the delivery company wanted a younger driver with whom it could create a long-term identity and Bowyer is just 29. Burton, instead, will be sponsored next year by Caterpillar. SPEEDTV.com


Larry Curry out at Roth Racing, in at Dreyer & Reinbold UPDATE #2 Larry Curry has landed yet another job.  He is now working as the Director of Competition for Dreyer & Reinbold Racing.  See related article.

07/08/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with confirmation that Curry is gone from Roth Racing.

Larry Curry
07/08/08  Crew Chief Larry Curry is rumored to be out at Roth Racing.  He either quit or was fired after the Watkins Glen race.  Curry previously worked with Panther, then Menards (before he was fired and went to jail for stealing from the team, and Vision Racing (prior to cheating in Homestead causing both cars to lose their best-ever starting positions and then being fired by Tony George).

This past weekend he was overseeing the Jay Howard car, which had a horrible weekend.


Will Cleveland get its race back? UPDATE #5 It is not looking good for a 2009 return of the Grand Prix of Cleveland at Burke Lakefront Airport.  The Indy Racing League plans to make an announcement by July 31.

"I think we'll get there," Terry Angstadt, president of IRL's commercial division, said this week. He had hoped to make an announcement before July 1.

Angstadt, who has headed scheduling since the merger of IRL and Champ Car, would only say, "there are some moving parts we are dealing with, but absolutely [Cleveland] is still under consideration."

It appears the late push for more oval races on the IRL schedule may have significantly reduced chances for the Grand Prix's return. [Editor's Note: If Phoenix or New Hampshire are on the list they will fail miserably - some people have a hard time learning from their previous mistakes.] The Indianapolis Star, which once considered the race's return next year a high probability, this week published a speculated schedule for 2009 that had 15 "locks" -- including Mid-Ohio -- four "highly likely" and two "possibles."

The Grand Prix of Cleveland was under none of those headings. Eight of the 15 "locks" are ovals, three of the four "highly likely" are ovals and both of the "possibles" are ovals.

Also, there have been no reported contract negotiations with Cleveland officials over potential dates or sanctioning fees, which leaves a tight window of opportunity before July 31. The IRL wants 18 or 19 races next year.  Cleveland Plain Dealer

06/13/08 Bobby Rahal, a native of Medina, came to the aid of Cleveland when he attended a meeting between Cleveland officials and the Indy Racing League. Rahal, who won 3 Indy League Championships, told IRL officials that he was a big fan of the track and that it would be a shame for the event to be discontinued.

The Cleveland Grand Prix is currently in a hiatus and is in competition with bigger cities such as Houston, Toronto, and Mexico City. A merger between Indy Racing League (IRL) and the Champ Car World Series cancelled the event.

The Cleveland stop on the tour is thought to be one of the most popular on the circuit because of the design of Burke Lake Airport's track. Whether or not that will sway the decision makers at the IRL remains to be seen but Cleveland officials are pushing hard to have the 3 decade race remain part of their tour.

Latest Poll results

Which Champ Car races should make '09 IRL schedule?

Long Beach (2601) 17%
Mexico City (1073) 7%
Cleveland (2125) 14%
Toronto (1970) 13%
Edmonton (1250) 8%
Mt. Tremblant (631) 4%
Road America (2393) 15%
Assen, Holland (468) 3%
Surfers Paradise (2237) 14%
Other (161) 1%

Total Votes: 15468

05/11/08 It's no guarantee the Grand Prix of Cleveland will return to the Indy Racing League schedule in 2009, but at least it's clear racing fans want the event back at Burke Lakefront Airport.

According to AutoRacing1.com, of the former Champ Car races not currently on the IRL schedule (Long Beach, Surfers Paradise, Australia), the Cleveland race is third (1,759 votes or 14 percent) only to Long Beach (17 percent) and Road America (15 percent, Wisconsin) among the events race fans want to see returned. Road America is within a few hours of the Roscoe, Ill., hometown of Danica Patrick.

Of the 12,952 votes cast, 2,172 went to Long Beach.

IRL President Terry Angstadt confirmed Saturday he will visit Cleveland and Houston in the near future, the two races promoted by MJ Promotions and chief executive Mike Lanigan. But he maintained it's no guarantee either or both events will make the IRL's 2009 schedule.

"Things are tight," he said of the IRL's hope to announce a schedule no later than early July. "But they are not impossible."  Cleveland Plain Dealer (See latest AutoRacing1.com voting results)

05/10/08 A return for the Grand Prix of Cleveland at Burke Lakefront Airport remains a work in progress. But time is getting short for the open-wheel cars to return in 2009.

Cleveland race promoters, led by MJ PRomotions CEO Mike Lanigan, gave a presentation to Indy Racing League officials Friday at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. As promoters for former Champ Car races in Houston and Cleveland, Lanigan's group presented a package to IRL president Terry Angstadt that included both events, stating it's more cost effective to do two races than one.

A big positive to come out of that meeting, Lanigan said, was IRL's interest in checking out the Cleveland venue in person, hopefully, sometime in June.

"That's something we offered and they jumped at," Lanigan said. "Many people with the IRL have never seen what Cleveland has to offer. The IRL is motivated to see us, touch us and feel us."

Yet securing a spot on the 2009 schedule still remains tenuous.

Acknowledging, "every person that mentions Cleveland says what a great event it was," Angstadt made it clear there are hurdles. Since the February unification of Champ Car and the IRL, only three former Champ Car events made the schedule for this season.

Angstadt said all of the remaining Champ Car events have made requests to be on the 2009 slate and will be making presentations to the IRL.

"We want to see a dedicated plan," Angstadt said. "Financial stability. Show a sensitivity to the success factors we look for: high interest levels, good corporate hospitality, good connection to the community, newspaper involvement. Do they have things like concerts and other things to create a total experience?"

In recent years, Cleveland's corporate involvement in the race has been tepid, and a title sponsor has been lacking. Lanigan and race general manager Chuck Kosich admit they are working hard to secure a sponsor. But they say corporate involvement has ebbed and flowed with the split in open wheel racing. Now that all sides are under one roof, they expect that involvement to improve.

"People realize this [Cleveland race] can be bigger now," Kosich said. "We haven't lost one of our sponsors who were on board with us before the '08 race was cancelled."  More at Cleveland Plain Dealer

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Reutimann to take over #45 for Petty UPDATE #2 We are downgrading this rumor to 'false' today.  David Reutimann disputed a report he was leaving Michael Waltrip Racing after the season to drive the #45 car at Petty Enterprises. Reutimann acknowledged MWR has an option on him for next season. "I feel like I will be back," he said. "I'm just trying to keep from getting my head kicked in every week." Petty Enterprise officials said there have been no discussions with Reutimann about replacing Kyle Petty. ESPN.com

07/10/08 "David is currently under contract at Michael Waltrip Racing and we are looking forward to continuing our relationship with him," Calvin Wells III said. "He made his first NASCAR Sprint Cup Series start with Michael Waltrip Racing in 2005 and has been with the Waltrip family since making his first NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race in 2004 with Darrell Waltrip Motorsports. He has had success driving for the Waltrips and we look forward to having him back with the team next year." MWR PR

07/10/08 Look for David Reutimann to be announced soon as the replacement for Kyle Petty in the #45 car, something the Petty folks would rather we not know about just yet. Yahoo Sports


GM may be forced to file bankruptcy UPDATE The chief executive of General Motors Corp. dismissed speculation that the largest U.S. automaker might soon seek bankruptcy protection, but the company's stock plunged further to depths not seen in decades.  Comments in the past week about a potential bankruptcy are "not at all constructive or accurate," Rick Wagoner said Thursday.  GM has $24 billion in cash and $7 billion in credit facilities, he said.

"Under any scenario we can imagine ... our cash position will remain robust through this year" and the company has options for raising cash beyond that, Wagoner said at a lunch meeting of Dallas business leaders.

The bankruptcy speculation has increased and GM stock has been hammered over the past two months, losing more than half its value. Dealers are worried that the negative chatter will hurt sales, and Wagoner conceded that consumers wouldn't want to buy cars from a company in bankruptcy.

"That kind of news isn't helpful, but as long as we can get the dealers the right information ... I think we can address it," he said.

GM shares continued their slide Thursday, falling 64 cents, or 6.2%, to $9.69 in New York trading. Last week, GM stock closed under $10 for the first time since 1954. Detroit Free Press

07/02/08 A Merrill Lynch analyst today downgraded General Motors Corp. stock to underperform from buy and said “bankruptcy is not impossible” if the auto industry continues to deteriorate.

Merrill Lynch analyst John Murphy lowered his outlook for GM stock to $7 per share in a note to investors and said he expects GM to post significant losses for 2008 and 2009.

“The key change in our outlook is a much lower forecast for U.S. auto sales that is driving a higher cash burn necessitating a much larger capital raise than the market is currently anticipating,” Murphy wrote. “Furthermore, we believe there is potential downside in the stock below $7 and that bankruptcy is not impossible if the market continues to deteriorate and significant incremental capital is not raised.”

Murphy issued his note one day after the release of June U.S. auto sales, in which sales plummeted 18.3% from the same month a year ago and GM sales fell 18.2%.

Several other analysts have recently said they expect that GM will need to raise as much as $10 billion as early as this quarter to aid the business as it burns through cash.

At $23.9 billion, GM says it has sufficient liquidity and flexibility to meet its 2008 funding requirements. In addition, the company has $7 billion of undrawn credit facilities.

Shares of GM fell 7.15%, or 84 cents, in morning trading to $10.91.

[Editor's Note: If the company files for bankruptcy the judge may force them to terminate all their auto racing programs.  Hardest hit will be NASCAR, which could see 25% or more of its race grids eliminated overnight.]


Overheard at Watkins Glen - Surfers and New Jersey UPDATE #3 Still hearing that the Surfers race is 50/50, and it got worse last weekend in Watkins Glen despite the IRL putting on their best face, with the issue being who is paying for transporting all the cars over to Australia by plane.  The original contract with Champ Car was 18 cars plus spares and equipment.  Now with 26 cars plus spares and equipment an extra plane is needed.  Add in the transportation and hotel costs for the added personnel and the costs mount.  With the big gap in the schedule between Chicagoland and Australia shipping everything by boat becomes an option and we hear it is being investigated.

It may be that only 18 cars will go with some of the bigger teams, who we hear are complaining the loudest about not going, and who do not need the 1/18th portion of the $1.3 million in guaranteed prize money, will just stay home bringing the starting grid down in size from 26 to 18.  If Penske, Ganassi and AGR stay home that's a loss of 8 cars - putting the field at 18, but losing the sports biggest stars won't go over well with the race promoter.

All rather silly really, as next year the race will be a points paying event so who is going to pick up the added cost in future years.  If the race does not happen this year because of this cost dispute, we suspect IndyCar will never go to Australia.

07/04/08 The IRL's Terry Angstadt told AutoRacing1.com that they are weeks away from formally announcing a multi-year deal for the Surfers race.  This year's race will be a non-points paying race but next year it will count for points.  All the teams must go or they will be paid less in prize money for the season because each signed a contract to run all 18 races, and that includes Surfers.  This year's race will be October 26th.  Mark C. reporting from Watkins Glen

07/04/08 Hearing that the Australia race will come off, but only 26 cars will be allowed to go.  One has to wonder - if the title is decided before Chicagoland and, therefore, Chicagoland cannot get the PR push it would get if it was the title clinching race, that they may relent and let Australia be a points paying race.

07/04/08 An unconfirmed rumor going around the Watkins Glen paddock today is that some of the big Indy Car teams (you can guess who, I'm sure) do not want to travel to the October Surfers Paradise race because 1) It was not in their budget and 2) the last points paying race will be Chicagoland so why bother going.  Apparently the France family (ISC) that owns Chicagoland does not want to relent on Chicago being the last race of the year.  Further speculation is that like Long Beach, Surfers could be run as a Champ Car race, but this time would be a non-points paying race.  We also hear that the Surfers budget may not pay for all 26 to 28 cars to fly across the Pacific so who is going to pay for the extra cars this year?  After Chicago there will be plenty of laid off IndyCar crew members that could be picked up by the defunct Champ Car teams to help in Surfers and many will clamor to go to beautiful Surfer Paradise.  All speculation for now, but stay tuned and we will try to find out more for you........

We also heard another interesting rumor in the Watkins Glen paddock, that the ALMS is not satisfied with the facilities at Lime Rock Park despite the recent repaving.  Besides the track is too narrow and too short for their cars.  We hear they are talking to NJ Motorsports Park about a race in 2009 and we hear representatives from ALMS will be at the track on Labor Day weekend to see how things go for the Grand-Am race there.  Mark Cipolloni reporting from Watkins Glen


Why was Ferrari at recent IRL engine forum?
Fiat, which owns Ferrari and Maserati, attended the recent IRL engine forum.  Certainly they would not put Fiat on the engine cover of a race engine, if they were to enter one.  More than likely it would be Ferrari, with an outside chance it would be Maserati.

In a recent interview with German newspaper Welt am Sonntag, Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo said that they are planning to reduce CO2 levels by 40% before 2012. They will make it possible thanks to a new hybrid technology and Ferrari might build cars powered by turbocharged V6 engines which are smaller and more fuel-efficient.  It is rumored that the next IRL engine will be a turbo V6.

“We are currently working on the development of a Ferrari that will use alternative energy sources and which will be based on what we are doing at the moment in Formula 1″, he said. KERS or Kinetic Energy Recycling System is a technique based on the brake-energy-regeneration principle and it consists of a super-efficient CVT gearbox which uses a spinning flywheel to harness energy when the car brakes. This energy will be perfect to increase the acceleration needed when overtaking or cornering.

Some people in the IRL paddock think that the IRL would be wise to include some form of KERS in their new car, but rather than a spinning flywheel that they may use in F1, a battery to store the energy seems like a better way to go.  The issue would be the cost and the weight any sort of KERS would add to the car.  The current IndyCar is already a bit too heavy in the back, and a heavy spinning flywheel or battery would not help any.  Just a very small displacement turbo V6 may be enough.


Chicago Goodyear Tire Notes
This is the first time Goodyear has brought this tire setup to Chicagoland, though teams in these two NASCAR series have raced on it already in 2008 . . . this exact combination of left- and right-side tire codes has been run by Sprint Cup and Nationwide Series teams earlier this season at Texas . . . in addition, this left-side tire code (D-4134) was also run with a different right-side code at Dover (both series), Michigan (Sprint Cup only) and Kentucky (Nationwide only) . . . these teams are also scheduled to run this specific tire combination at Homestead in November . . . compared to what was run at Chicagoland last season, this tire setup features a revised construction on both sides and a tougher right-side compound for better wear . . . as on all NASCAR's ovals greater than one mile in length, teams are required to run inner liners in all four tire positions at Chicagoland . . . air pressure in those inner liners should be 12-25 psi greater than that of the outer tire. The estimated pit window is every 50-55 laps, based on fuel mileage. Goodyear PR


#01 car soon to be 'sidelined'?
Regan Smith, the promising rookie who may not have any sponsorship next season at DEI, will apparently soon be sidelined; Mark Martin is leaving DEI at the end of the season to join Rick Hendrick; Martin Truex Jr. is trying to leave DEI at the end of the year, though that legal issue is still up in the air; and Paul Menard’s wealthy father John is reported talking with Ford’s Jack Roush apparently about moving his financial NASCAR stake there, presumably with Paul Menard driving a Roush-Yates Ford in 2009. That only leaves DEI with newcomer Aric Almirola. Independent Tribune/Winston Salem Journal


New engine from Dodge close
Dodge is moving closer to running its new engine in a Sprint Cup race. Tommy Wheeler, engineering services director for Gillett Evernham Motorsports, says he hopes to begin extensive track testing next month with the goal of having the engine debut sometime during the Chase in a Dodge car not competing for the title. Wheeler said he'd like to see the new engine used in at least five races this season before all Dodge teams begin using it next year. Roanoke Times

track news

Kentucky won't get Cup date unless it drops lawsuit UPDATE A ruling on Kentucky Speedway’s appeal in its federal antitrust lawsuit against NASCAR and International Speedway Corp. is not expected until sometime in 2009, according to an ISC official.

Speaking on a conference call Wednesday with financial analysts, ISC Chief Operating Officer John Saunders said, “Due to some changes in court procedures, we now expect some sort of ruling from early- to mid-’09.”

ISC expects to spend between $1 million and $2 million this year on the litigation, ISC investor relations spokesman Wes Harris said.

06/16/08 Bruton Smith would like the Kentucky Speedway owners to drop their lawsuit against NASCAR as he believes that would help pave the way for a Sprint Cup date as early as next year.

But Kentucky Speedway founder Jerry Carroll says the federal antitrust lawsuit is still continuing.

With that, and NASCAR officials continuing to insist that they are getting closer to getting their 2009 schedule set, it looks as if Kentucky’s chances of getting a Cup date for next year are slim.

Besides being at odds on how the lawsuit should be handled, Smith and Carroll walked around Kentucky Speedway as buddies Saturday afternoon. Smith is attending his first race, the Nationwide Series Meijer 300, since announcing that his Speedway Motorsports Inc. had agreed to purchase Kentucky Speedway from Carroll and his investors.

“We would love to have a Cup race here next year, of course I’m talking to NASCAR almost on a daily basis,” Smith said Saturday at the track. “NASCAR, they’re concerned about the lawsuit, which we’re not involved in any shape or form. … If the lawsuit, if the present owners seek to change that, our chance of getting the event next year would go up greatly and I think we could get that done.”

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McDowell to Penske?
There's still the issue of a replacement for Ryan Newman at Penske in the #12 if Newman goes to Stewart Haas Racing, also rumored to be Casey Mears, but Yahoo's Bob Margolis hears Michael McDowell could be in play there as he's somehow lost favor with the Michael Waltrip folks. Yahoo Sports


Hamilton camp in talks with Julian Jakobi? UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  Silverstone winner and joint championship points leader Lewis Hamilton on Wednesday denied reports he is considering appointing a professional manager to handle his formula one career.

We reported earlier this week that the McLaren driver's current manager, his father Anthony Hamilton, was last Sunday at Silverstone spotted in deep conversation with renowned F1 driver-manager Julian Jakobi.

When asked about the rumors as he tested at Hockenheim, 23-year-old Hamilton replied: "It's not correct, no. I am very content with my management team."

07/07/08 (GMM)  Lewis Hamilton's formula one career may soon be guided by a professional manager, according to speculation.

The McLaren's driver's current manager, his father Anthony Hamilton, was on Sunday spotted in deep conversation at the Silverstone circuit with renowned F1 manager Julian Jakobi.

Jakobi, who also worked with Juan Pablo Montoya, is famous for having simultaneously managed Alain Prost and Ayrton Senna.

The Hamilton camp reportedly denied the rumor.

Anthony Hamilton said in May: "I haven't met an agent who can offer us anything we can't do ourselves."


Bill France Sr. FBI Informant?
NASCAR founder Bill France Sr. was an informant for the FBI, that according to a report in the Boston Globe. In a report concerning the role of the original owner of the New England Patriots, Billy Sullivan who they report was ‘source of information’ for the Bureau, The Globe said that they obtained an internal memo under the Freedom of Information and Privacy Act that has France on a list of prominent FBI contacts developed through the years.

Along with France, the list included Walt Disney, and Joseph P. Kennedy. Their services purportedly included providing information and serving as liaisons between the FBI and other influential figures.

While no date on the role or scope of France’s involvement emerged, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover asked the Special Agent In Charge (SAC) in Boston to develop Sullivan as a possible source in 1959, five months before Sullivan purchased the New England Patriots. The development never came to fruition however as Sullivan was discounted by the SAC as a source due to his extensive involvement with the purchase of the team.  Cupscene.com


GM to cut brands, slash jobs UPDATE #2 General Motors Corp. is assuring dealers that it has no plans to cut additional brands -- stressing that its Hummer nameplate is the only one being reviewed for a possible sale.

GM's response came after the Wall Street Journal reported Monday that the Detroit automaker is reviewing plans to eliminate another brand, possibly Saturn, as part of a larger cost-cutting strategy. In a letter sent to dealers the same day, Mark LaNeve, GM's vice president for North America vehicle sales, said no such plans are in the works.

"Similar to the Hummer situation we would communicate with you, our dealers, very early in the process if this was the case," he wrote. "In this challenging period that our industry is going through, there is bound to be lots of media coverage, speculation and rumors. The best way to combat (that) is through strong sales performance and a focus on our customers." On June 3, GM announced that it had retained Citibank to conduct a review of the Hummer brand for a possible sale. Sales of the gas-guzzling brand are down 40 percent so far this year, according to Autodata Corp. GM's overall vehicle sales are down 16.3 percent so far this year. LeNeve's letter is the second memo from a top executive in recent weeks intended to calm concerns in a tumultuous market. Late last month, CEO Rick Wagoner wrote to employees about GM's plans to fight against the headwinds of rising gas prices and slumping auto sales.

"We're responding quickly and aggressively with a steady stream of actions to better position GM for sustainable profitability and growth," he wrote. Wagoner then outlined plans previously announced June 3 at GM's annual meeting, including the Hummer review, a new global compact car program, funding for the Chevrolet Volt range extended electric vehicle and the closing of four truck plants in response to sagging sales. Detroit News

07/08/08 General Motors Corp. said Hummer is the only one of its eight U.S. brands being formally reviewed for a possible sale or shutdown as the automaker's domestic market share falls to an 83-year low.

The Wall Street Journal reported today that the biggest U.S. automaker may sell or scrap more brands and its directors will likely approve the elimination of thousands of additional salaried jobs at next month's board meeting.

GM spokesman Tony Cervone wouldn't comment on possible job cuts and said no brands are under ``strategic review'' beyond Hummer. Detroit-based GM said June 3 it's studying all options for the Hummer sport-utility line, including a sale.

``It's still a huge expense to get rid of a brand,'' said Alan Baum, an analyst for Planning Edge in Birmingham, Michigan. ``There are dealer issues and legal issues.'' Bloomberg

07/07/08 General Motors the No. 1 automaker in the U.S., is planning to cut thousands of white-collar jobs and is considering whether it should sell or stop production of more of its brands, The Wall Street Journal said, citing people familiar with the matter. Both moves are part of a broader re-evaluation of the company's strategy and of its ability to meet an internal projection of returning to profitability in 2010, the people told the paper.

The job cuts are likely to be approved when GM's board of directors meets in early August, the people said. The reductions would be in addition to earlier announced cuts.

Management may also present the board with options for raising additional cash, they told the paper.

The board may also hear management's latest thoughts on whether GM should trim the number of brands it offers in the United States, the people told the paper.

All but the Cadillac and Chevrolet brands, which GM considers core to its business, are undergoing close scrutiny, some other people told the paper.

In the past few years, as GM has run up massive losses, some board members and some executives have on occasion raised questions about its plethora of brands, only to be rebuffed by chief executive Rick Wagoner, the paper said, citing people familiar with the matter.

GM has put its Hummer brand up for sale to prospective buyers thought to include Mahindra & Mahindra, but the SUV brand is expected to fetch far less than $1 billion in any sale.

The company, hit by rising oil and raw material prices, the credit crunch and the housing downturn, will need to raise as much as $15 billion in cash to shore up liquidity and bankruptcy is "not impossible" if the U.S. auto market continues to slump, Merrill Lynch had said last week. Wall Street Journal/CNBC


Stewart granted release from Gibbs team
Tony Stewart has been granted a release from the final year of his driving contract with Joe Gibbs Racing after ten seasons with the team, sources close to Stewart confirmed for ESPN.com Tuesday night. Stewart will formally announce his departure from the team Wednesday. On Thursday at Chicagoland Speedway, Stewart will formally announce a move to Haas/CNC Racing as co-owner and driver, sources close to Stewart said.

Haas/CNC, which currently fields the #66 and #70 Chevrolets, will be renamed Stewart Haas Racing in 2009. Sources close to both sides told ESPN.com the deal will make Stewart the highest-paid driver in NASCAR. Sources also said the Stewart Haas cars will carry different numbers. The #14, made famous in IndyCar racing by Stewart's hero, A.J. Foyt, is available, but sources would neither confirm nor deny that as his choice. Sources said Stewart will own a 50% stake in the organization, but his financial investment in attaining it was not disclosed.

As ESPN.com's David Newton initially reported, Office Depot will have a role in sponsoring Stewart's car. Ryan Newman remains the lead candidate to drive Stewart Haas' second car, sources said, though no deal had yet been finalized Tuesday night. Stewart Haas will continue to receive chassis and engines from Hendrick Motorsports. Haas/CNC's current drivers, Scott Riggs and Johnny Sauter, are ranked 36th and 44th, respectively, in the owner point standings. If the team's performance fails to improve its points position during the second half of 2008, Stewart's champion's provisional will guarantee him a slot in the field for the first five races next season, presuming NASCAR doesn't change the rule. ESPN.com


German GP to sell out
Following his remarkable performance at Silverstone, BMW Sauber F1 Team driver Nick Heidfeld is the main crowd-puller for the forthcoming German Grand Prix. Organizers expect the venue, which is the scene of three days of testing this week, to be sold out.


Hard Rock to sponsor a DEI car
DEI is also working diligently to lock up sponsors for next season. Rumors have been swirling that they may lose their U.S. Army sponsorship on Martin’s #8 car, a car that will be driven by rookie Aric Almirola next year, to Red Bull and Scott Speed. If that happens, DEI hopes to be ready with another sponsor to step in. That sponsor may be the Hard Rock Hotel & Casino’s. Sources said early Sunday that Max Siegel, President of Global Operations for DEI, had met throughout the weekend in Daytona Beach, FL with representatives from the Hard Rock about possible sponsorship opportunities with DEI. They could replace the U.S. Army should they bail and head to Red Bull, or they could end up on the #01 of Regan Smith. Captain Thunder Racing


In difficult times, rich will get richer
Many are adamant the rich are getting richer, while everyone else is getting left behind.

Team owner Richard Childress has signed Caterpillar and General Mills to sponsor his cars next season, and he’s expected to soon land UPS, as well. All three companies are moving from less-successful teams, leaving Bill Davis Racing, Petty Enterprises and Michael Waltrip Racing scrambling to find financing—any kind of money at all It’s doubtful those teams will secure anything close to the $20 million or more in annual funding that the best teams attract.

Based on recent contract announcements, it seems only 24 cars currently have full sponsorship in place for the 2009 season. Some have massive budgets, others are settling for what they can get. In the meantime, many companies are finding that to stay in NASCAR, they must do so at a reduced price.

It’s created a situation where a sponsor might be shopping an $8 million to $10 million deal around the garage, determining just what it can get for the money.

Read more & Comment...

Stewart secures sponsor for own Cup team UPDATE #13 Tony Stewart is expected to announce a 2009 move to Haas-CNC Racing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in three weeks. Reliable sources tell Sirius Speedway that Stewart will also announce sponsorship from Office Depot and Old Spice as part of a new, multi-year package with Haas CNC, and that Penske Racing’s Ryan Newman will join him as a teammate, with sponsorship from Jack Daniels. That surprise move comes as the result of an enviable situation at Richard Childress Racing, which now has five potential sponsors for next season, and only four teams. Sirius Speedway has learned that UPS will move from Michael Waltrip Racing’s #44 Toyota to the quarterpanels of Clint Bowyer’s #07 Richard Childress Racing Chevrolet in 2009, leaving Jack Daniels in search of a new driver. That driver will be Newman, who is set to sign-on with Stewart at Haas CNC. Sirius NASCAR Radio's Sirius Speedway

07/05/08 Tony Stewart has a few obstacles left before he officially can become a Sprint Cup team owner, but sponsorship isn't one of them.  The two-time Cup champion has reached an agreement that would make Office Depot a primary sponsor on his car if he finalizes a deal with Haas CNC Racing, a source close to the negotiations said on Thursday.  Sources said an announcement could be made as early as the weekend of the July 27 race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, which is located about an hour from Stewart's hometown of Columbus.

But before anything can happen Stewart would have to be released from the final year of his contact with Joe Gibbs Racing. JGR president J.D. Gibbs said on Friday at Daytona International Speedway that he remained in negotiations to extend Stewart's deal past 2009. Gibbs went so far as to say the organization could expand to four teams next season to make room for 18-year-old phenom Joey Logano.

He added that there has been no check offered from Chevrolet, which fields cars for Haas and Stewart's Sprint car teams, to buy out Stewart's contract as reports indicated might happen.

"What we've talked about is 2010," Gibbs said when asked if there are contingencies for Stewart leaving. "We have no control over that. So we kind of put in place if that happens, what makes sense?  We've talked about a lot of stuff, but that's about all we've nailed down."

Stewart, appearing at a news conference to announce a special paint scheme featuring Old Spice and a "Give Kids The World" camp for next month's Nationwide Series race at Michigan, declined to comment on his contract situation.

"We'll worry about all that down the road here," he said. "We'll continue to let you know when we know."

Sources said Old Spice, which has had a personal service contract deal with Stewart for nine years, is a possibility to share sponsorship with Office Depot.

Old Spice's contract with JGR ends after this season.  "We love our relationship with Tony," said Old Spice representative Jay Gooch. "I'm not going to speculate on what that future holds."

A source close to the situation said there have been discussions with Ryan Newman as the second driver. Newman has told team owner Roger Penske he will not re-sign unless the performance of his team improves and that they will talk again after Saturday's race about the future. ESPN.com

06/27/08 Tony Stewart proclaimed his interest Friday in Hendrick Motorsports’ soon-to-be-vacated No. 5 Chevrolet, saying the removal of Casey Mears from that ride could alter his plans for 2009 and beyond.

Stewart has another year left on his contract with Joe Gibbs Racing but has expressed interest in partial ownership of another team. Reports have said the deal is done, with sponsors and drivers named.

But Stewart said that wasn’t the case, joking at New Hampshire Motor Speedway that there are some teams he has yet to talk to.

“I’ve still got two ARCA teams I’m talking to, a truck team and now the 5 car’s available,” Stewart said. “I’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

But Stewart wasn’t joking when asked if Hendrick’s No. 5 would be something he would be interested in.

“Absolutely, absolutely,” Stewart said. “You’ve got to. There’s nobody in this garage area that’s not going to look in that direction. You’ve got to look at that.” SceneDaily.com

06/27/08 The deal is done! Earlier today, a source close to the situation told Captain Thunder that Chevrolet has agreed to terms with Joe Gibbs Racing to buy Tony Stewart out of his contract with the Toyota Sprint Cup racing team. Stewart will indeed be making the move to Haas CNC racing, a rumor that has been circulating for months.

Sources also told Captain Thunder that Stewart’s new sponsor will be Office Depot and terms have been finalized regarding the impending sponsorship. In addition, Stewart will be joined by Penske Racing driver Ryan Newman. Sources also told Captain Thunder that Newman would be sponsored by Burger King. No word yet on what car numbers the drivers will run. An announcement could come as early as next week at the Daytona International Speedway. – John ‘Captain Thunder’ Nevins for www.captainthunderracing.com

06/26/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' with expectations that Stewart will indeed buy into Haas CNC and take Martin Truex along with him.  - - Tony Stewart is shopping for car sponsorships in anticipation of a potential partnership with Haas CNC Racing, multiple sources told ESPN.com. Although Stewart has a year left on his contract at Joe Gibbs Racing and JGR officials insist he hasn't asked for a release, the two-time Sprint Cup champion appears prepared to share ownership of Haas Racing's two-car team in 2009. One source close to the situation said there have been discussions with Ryan Newman as the second driver. Newman has said he will not return to Penske Racing if the performance of that team doesn't improve quickly. Newman's name definitely would help draw sponsorship to Haas. "He's talking to every major sponsor that is available out there for this Haas deal," one source said of Stewart and his representatives. "I don't know if it's done, but it sounds like it's very close." Office Depot and Old Spice have emerged as the favorites for at least one of the cars. Office Depot lost its bid to remain with Carl Edwards of Roush Fenway Racing when Aflac was chosen as the primary sponsor of the #99. Sources said there have been discussions with Stewart's representatives that would make Office Depot and Old Spice co-primaries with Office Depot as the lead sponsor. Old Spice already has a relationship with Stewart in the Cup and Nationwide Series. Stewart would not address his future following Sunday's race at Infineon Raceway. JGR president J.D. Gibbs insisted Stewart had not closed the door on signing a long-term deal with the company that brought him to Cup racing in 1999 and helped him win titles in 2002 and 2005. But there is widespread speculation that the reason JGR has rushed Joey Logano into the Nationwide Series is to prepare him to take Stewart's place should Stewart leave. Stewart admitted two months ago there had been inquiries from other teams. He acknowledged there had been talks with Haas CNC that included ownership. ESPN.com

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Mears or Stremme to the #12
It appears to be a two-man race for Ryan Newman’s soon-to-be-vacant #12 seat at Penske Racing, with Casey Mears and David Stremme in the running. Stremme is making a strong bid for the ride, doing yeoman work as Penske Racing’s test driver this season. In fact, Stremme’s name is being linked with as many as three different Cup openings next year. Sirius NASCAR Radio's Sirius Speedway


Barrichello stakes claim for new Honda contract UPDATE (GMM)  Rubens Barrichello's podium finish at the British grand prix was a "positive" in his quest for a new Honda contract, team executive Nick Fry admits.

The Brazilian veteran said after finishing third at the rain-soaked Silverstone circuit on Sunday that he wants to stay with the Japanese team in 2009.

Fry hailed 36-year-old Barrichello's "superb job" of late, following his notable points slump throughout 2007, but stopped short of indicating that he will definitely be retained.

"As for next year, at the end of the day we'll choose the best two drivers," he said.

Asked specifically about Barrichello's chances of becoming the oldest active racer on the grid in 2009, Briton Fry added: "Obviously this race is very positive for Rubens.

"He's not only driven well, but he's been a really happy person, which is great to see, and his fitness is very good."

07/06/08 (GMM)  After rekindling his affection for the podium on Sunday, Rubens Barrichello staked a claim for a new contract to extend his record-setting formula one career beyond 2008.

"I think the podium comes at a good time," said the 36-year-old Brazilian, who made the most of the Silverstone spray to finish third in the British grand prix with his usually uncompetitive 2008 car.

Barrichello, openly emotional about his 62nd career podium - the first since 2005 with Ferrari - is out of contract at the end of the season.

He wants to stay at Honda, whose team principal is Ross Brawn, who worked with Barrichello as technical director throughout his Ferrari tenure.

"I have no intention of stopping.  I will only stop if I have nowhere else to go, but my intention is to stay with Honda.

"I have no contracts just yet, but I feel young.  I love racing more than I ever did.  The day that I find that I'm actually slower than in that first race at Kyalami is the day I will stop.  Right now I'm just feeling that I'm faster than that day," Barrichello said.

He shows no sign of tiring of formula one, even after passing Riccardo Patrese's all-time record of 256 grands prix at the recent Turkish grand prix.

Barrichello said on Sunday: "It's like I'm young, it's like I'm smiling at problems, it's like I'm working more.

"I just love the sport, I just love the speed, I cannot live without it.

"It's not that I want to prove to Ross that I'm physically capable.  He knows that I have the speed and I want to keep on racing."


IndyCar to return to Watkins Glen
A good crowd showed up at Watkins Glen Sunday
IRL Photo
Indications are that Danica, the Andrettis and the rest of the IndyCar Series will be back at The Glen next year.

Watkins Glen International track president Craig Rust usually hesitates to make announcements about future Indy Racing League and NASCAR races until contracts are signed.

Not Sunday. Rust and an IRL official encouraged fans to come back next year during remarks before the Camping World Grand Prix at The Glen.

"We do not have a written agreement but there has been no indication that we would not," Rust said later. "I feel confident that we will be here next year on the July 4th weekend."

The Glen has hosted IndyCar races the last four seasons.


Toyota plans solar AC for Prius
Toyota's ecological Prius gas-electric hybrid will become even greener next year with solar-powered air conditioning on some high-end models, The Nikkei reported Monday.  The solar panels on the roof of the new Prius model will provide 2 to 5 kilowatts of electricity, the major Japanese business daily said in a report without citing sources.

Toyota Motor Corp. plans to purchase the panels from Japanese electronics maker Kyocera Corp., the newspaper said.

Toyota spokesman Paul Nolasco declined comment, saying the company doesn't comment on product plans.

A Toyota official, speaking on condition of anonymity because product plans are not supposed to be disclosed to the media ahead of time, has said details on what will be a third-generation Prius will likely be revealed in May of next year. He did not elaborate.  Detroit News


More cuts for Ganassi Racing?
With 71 employees already in the unemployment line, Chip Ganassi Racing is looking to cut another 30 jobs from its stock-car operations, several current employees said Saturday.  The team shut down the No. 40 Dodge earlier this week after it wasn't able to find a sponsor for driver Dario Franchitti. With that came layoffs, some of them surprising.

Several team sources confirmed that department heads often weren't included in the decision-making process. Some employees who were laid off had been with SABCO Racing long before Ganassi bought the team from Felix Sabates in 2001.

Those left behind now are bracing for more cuts. Many of those who lost their jobs last week apparently didn't take the news well. In fact, the team had 12 police officers on hand to keep order. Jacksonville.com


NASCAR looking for new owners
NASCAR chairman Brian France said Friday that NASCAR is not immune to economic difficulties and rising energy costs and will try to work with teams and fans to deal with the challenges those problems present. "We are working hard to make sure our fans get as much value as they can when they come to our events," France said. France said NASCAR will work aggressively to bring new owners into the sport. "Part of the goal with our new car was to bring down the barriers to entry," France said. "I know the jury is still out on that, but that's our goal. We will do what can we do to attract new owners who will field competitive teams. That's what makes us work." France said he believes more teams are getting the feel of the new race car being at all tracks for the first time this year. He stood behind NASCAR's decision not to change the rules on it despite calls for that from some teams.  Charlotte Observer


Overheard at Watkins Glen - 4
Word in the Watkins Glen paddock is that the Champ Car teams that transitioned over to the IRL each got one new car and one used car per driver.  That everyone knew.  What was not known was that some of those used cars were as much as 7 years old and had parts that were known to be defective and should have been replaced but never were.  Some broke during testing.  Luckily no one was injured........And what did the IndyCar teams get in return for giving up their old junk IndyCars?  Brand new cars courtesy of the IRL.......We hear the IRL wanted $1 million per year to sanction the Atlantic series and that was the deal breaker.  So series owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe took the series to IMSA to sanction for a fraction of the amount.  Many in the paddock felt the Atlantic series should have been one step below the Firestone Indy Lights Series and that it won't do well now that it is not tied into an open wheel series ladder.  We always said the Atlantic Series should have run with F3 spec cars (F3 is used worldwide), rather than their own proprietary formula........Whether the Mexico City race gets added to next year's schedule has a lot to do with whether Mario Dominguez's sponsor (the Mexico Tourism Bureau) steps up to sponsor the event.......Mark C. reporting from Watkins Glen


Bernie has Donington 'get out' clause
(GMM)  Donington boss Simon Gillett admits his contract with F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone to host the British grand prix from 2010 is not set in stone.

Some paddock sages expressed cynicism earlier this weekend when it was announced that the race is to move from Silverstone to the Leicestershire venue, which is pledging a $200m upgrade.

Quizzed by BBC radio program Sportsweek, Gillett admitted: "There are no 'get out' clauses other than the fact we have to be at the suitable standard by that time.

"If we're not ready, in the same way that if anybody else wasn't ready, then I'm sure Bernie Ecclestone would look to do something (else) as he cannot jeopardize the grand prix."

Other rumors in the Silverstone paddock this week suggested Ecclestone himself could be among the mystery backers of the Donington deal.

"Bernie has not invested," Gillett insists.

"We are looking to start a fan-based debenture scheme, in much the same way that Wembley and all major the stadiums across the world are looking to use their fan power, and we'll use this to invest and develop the circuit."

He said some suggestions about the scale of development needed to get Donington up to F1 standard have been overstated.

"I think everyone will be surprised at how little needs to be done," Gillett added.

"We have a track that is not far off from being suitable for F1 at the moment -- we only ran a grand prix in 1993.  We have to build a new pit paddock and infrastructure."


NASCAR to face team shortages
The impact of the sluggish U.S. economy appears to be hitting NASCAR directly. Only 45 teams attempted to qualify for last night's Coke Zero 400, and that has some here worried about how many teams might be lining up to run for next February's Daytona 500.

Robby Gordon has been struggling with sponsorship issues, and things may not be getting any better. Gordon's business relationship with George Gillett and Ray Evernham may not be going all that smoothly at the moment, and it's unclear if Gordon will be with Dodge again next season.

Chip Ganassi's decision to shut down one of his Cup teams so abruptly, in mid-season, releasing 70 crewmen, has raised speculation that more cuts may be looming for that Dodge operation. Gillett, who has been trying to expand his own Dodge operation, could be bidding to purchase one of Ganassi's teams. Winston Salem Journal


NASCAR to limit testing
NASCAR most likely won’t allow the Sprint Cup teams to do unlimited testing, NASCAR Sprint Cup Series Director John Darby confirmed today prior to the Coke Zero 400 at Daytona International Speedway.

Darby met with crew chiefs last week to ask them to think about what the testing rules should be. Currently, teams can’t test at tracks where the Cup series races except for during the scheduled NASCAR-sanctioned tests. At that time, officials said that all options were on the table, including unlimited testing.

The idea of unlimited testing sparked debate in the garage over the cost for teams.

“The general consensus is, and we were knowing this going in, that unlimited testing doesn’t work for anybody,” Darby said. “It sounds good and all of the rest of that, but from a financial standpoint and actual labor standpoint, it gets a little bit impractical.

“The teams are still wanting some boundaries and some limits and we’re entertaining all of that and we’re looking at reconfiguring all of the test policy or how the testing is issued to the different teams and stuff.”

Darby said he has a long list of ideas, including possible limits per organization and not per team.

“Those are all the different ideas that are coming back,” Darby said. “We’ll sit down with the gang again in Chicago and see if we can get closer to putting stuff on paper.” Scenedaily.com


FIA breached rules in $100m spy fine
(GMM)  The FIA improperly fined McLaren $100m for espionage last year, according to a British newspaper report.

The Independent said the penalty, handed down at the end of the 'Stepneygate' spy saga, was in breach of the Paris based governing body's own statutes.

Article 14 of the FIA statutes says that, not including FIA president Max Mosley, the 26 voting members of the World Motor Sport Council must represent national sporting bodies.

"It doesn't seem that this rule has been followed," the media article said.

For instance, F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone cast a vote, but he does not represent a national sporting body.


Other carmakers eyeing F1 - BMW's Theissen
(GMM)  Other European car manufacturers are considering joining the action on the formula one grid, according to BMW-Sauber boss Mario Theissen.

The German said he understands Audi, Volkswagen and Porsche are interested in the sport's current direction; like BMW's trajectory of success with a reasonable budget, and road-relevant new technologies like KERS.

Theissen also said some Asian manufacturers could follow suit.

"If the introduction of KERS is successful next year, as I expect it to be, it will be the best case I have seen in 10 years in formula one of a synergy with road cars," he told The Times.

"Already my colleagues in the road car research and development department are knocking on our door," Theissen added.


F1 deal to prompt MotoGP switch to Silverstone?
The announcement that the Formula 1 British Grand Prix is to switch from Silverstone to Donington Park could well open the door for MotoGP to move in the opposite direction.

Dorna was already considering moving the British round of the championship from Donington Park, its home since 1987, to Silverstone from 2010.

"We are talking with Silverstone, but we have not taken any decision," Dorna CEO Carmelo Ezpeleta said. "Our contract with Donington goes to 2009. Donington has been our partner for many years and has priority.  But at the end of this year or the beginning of next year we will talk about the possibility of staying at Donington or going somewhere else.  The pit boxes have been renewed [at Donington], but there are problems with the size of the paddock," he said. "Maybe Silverstone will be another way for MotoGP."


JTG may move to Cup with Ambrose
JTG Racing owner Tad Geschickter said Friday he hopes to move Marcos Ambrose to the Sprint Cup Series next season, in addition to having Nationwide and truck series teams in 2009. The Australian Ambrose, in his second season in NASCAR’s No. 2 series, made his Cup debut at Infineon Raceway last month for Wood Brothers Racing. Ambrose is slated to drive four Cup races later this year under the JTG banner. JTG currently fields two cars in the Nationwide Series, for Ambrose and Kelly Bires. Geschickter said Bires would stay in the Nationwide Series in 2009, with Coleman Pressley to drive for the team in the truck series. The team currently fields Fords but Geschickter said the manufacturer the team will be affiliated with next year is open. SceneDaily.com


Castroneves to re-sign with Penske Racing
Helio Castroneves said today at Watkins Glen that he has been in negotiations with Penske Team President Tim Cindric to re-sign with the team for "many years to come."  There were rumors around, that we never believed to be true, that said he was possibly eyeing NASCAR.  Who his teammate will be, however, remains to be seen as rumors suggest Graham Rahal might replace Ryan Briscoe in the future.  Mark C reporting from Watkins Glen.


Almirola full time in No 8, Martin full time in No 5 in 2009 UPDATE #3 Hendrick Motorsports made it official today, announcing Mark Martin as the full-time driver of the organization's No. 5 NASCAR Sprint Cup entry in 2009. See Hot News article regarding announcement.

07/04/08 Hendrick Motorsports will hold a news conference at the press conference room in the Daytona International Speedway infield media center in Daytona Beach, FL on Friday, July 4 at 12:30pm/et to announce future plans for its #5 Chevrolet team. Owner Rick Hendrick will be in attendance. Hendrick Motorsports PR

07/01/08 Hendrick Motorsports is expected to announce Friday at Daytona International Speedway that Mark Martin will drive its No. 5 Sprint Cup Series Chevrolet next season.  Hendrick Motorsports issued a media advisory Tuesday that it would conduct a news conference Friday afternoon at the track to announce who will replace Casey Mears in the No. 5 car.  Almirola was confirmed today in the No. 8 DEI car.  This rumor is now 'fact.'

06/30/08 An official announcement that Aric Almirola will drive the No. 8 car at Dale Earnhardt Inc. full time next season will be made on Tuesday, sources close to the situation said. DEI decided to put Aric Almirola in the No. 8 car full-time because he has developed a good relationship with crew chief Tony Gibson.

Meanwhile, Mark Martin is expected to announce this week at Daytona International Speedway plans to move from his part-time role in the No. 8 to a full-time ride in the No. 5 car at Hendrick Motorsports in 2009.

The decision to put Almirola into the U.S. Army-sponsored car full time had nothing to do with Martin’s decision to return to a full-time Sprint Cup schedule and make one last run at a championship, sources said.

It had more to do with advancing Almirola’s talents and taking advantage of the appeal he has shown with sponsors looking for a younger driver. One of those is U.S. Army, whose target audience fits the 24-year-old Almirola much more than the 49-year-old Martin.

Sources said DEI informed Martin during the All-Star race in May that the organization planned to move forward with Almirola in a full-time ride, either in the No. 8 or 01.

At that time, Martin expressed an interest in competing in more than the 15 to 19 races he was contracted to run next season at DEI. More at ESPN.com


Ferrari eyes Vettel
Sebastian Vettel was delighted with his Toro Rosso’s handling in Friday’s practice at Silverstone, where the German youngster once again showed a very fast pace against the giants of the sport. Vettel was a competitive seventh fastest in the morning session and improved to sixth in the afternoon, just 0.8s off the benchmark set by McLaren’s Heikki Kovalainen. And while he cautioned against reading too much into the headline times, Vettel admitted the initial signs were very positive for STR.

The fact that he is starting to outpace Sebastien Bourdais at every event now, this weekend by a wide margin has resulted in Ferrari reportedly taking a keen interest in signing the Austrian youngster.

However, Vettel is taking a modest view.

“Today we had a very productive session, ending up with clear answers on all the things we had on our test list,” he said. Therefore we can be quite happy, but now we must analyze what the others did to get a better idea of how quick we are…or how slow!

“I think we are in a good shape, the balance feels good and I’m happy with that.”


Gibbs to 4 teams in 2009?
Will Joe and J. D. Gibbs have four Cup teams in 2009? It’s looking good. “I wouldn’t rule it out….but we’re in no hurry,” J. D. Gibbs says. “If everything lines up well, great. But if you don’t have all the parts there, don’t do it. “We’ve done this before. We’ve got the key guys already. So we’ll sit down with Mark Cronquist (the team engine man) and Jimmy Makar (the team manager) and the guys and talk it over. And if the time is right, we’ll do it. The driver is key, obviously. The crew, we’d be in good shape. The infrastructure is all there. But we won’t do it until everyone signs off on it. Joey Logano? What I’ve seen is the guys who are really talented, they don’t need much time. He’s been on a track since he was six. And, like we’ve seen with Tony (Stewart) and Kyle (Busch) and Denny (Hamlin), those guys ‘pop’ right away. Joey fits that mold. Some guys do get better after a while. But usually if you don’t come out of the box strong, it’s hard to say ‘he’s going to get better down the road.’”

And how about Juan Pablo Montoya? Is he a candidate for a Gibbs’ ride? “We think the world of Juan…though I wouldn’t ask Kyle that question this week,” Gibbs said, laughing about the Busch-Montoya run-in at Loudon Sunday. “I don’t know Juan’s situation…. “But to the best of my understanding he’s there (at Chip Ganassi’s). So we’re not going to look at that. We’re actually talking more about 2010 (when Stewart’s contract is up).” Winston Salem Journal


Menard to back Yates team
John Menard, the wealthy businessman (Menards, the privately owned home improvements company), may be losing interest in NASCAR racing after so many years, according to sources. Menard, whose son #15-Paul is driving for DEI, is reportedly in negotiations with Ford’s Jack Roush, perhaps to help fellow owner Doug Yates keep afloat in this sport, which would involve a move from Chevrolet to Ford. “I don’t have any idea what might be going on there,” DEI’s Story said. “We just met with John, and everything is good.” Winston Salem Journal


Franchitti might get IndyCar ride for Ganassi
Dario Franchitti can return to IndyCar if he so desires according to Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates co-owner Felix Sabates. Ganassi racing shuttered the team that Franchitti had been competing in the Cup Series with earlier this week due to lack of sponsorship.

In a radio interview Sabates said that Chip Ganassi is open to allowing Franchitti do whatever it is he wants to do.

"Chip pretty much told him if he wanted to go to back to Indy that, because it doesn't cost nearly as much money there as it does here (in NASCAR),” said Sabates. “Over there Chip is the Rick Hendrick of here, so he can get a sponsor for an IndyCar very easily.” CupScene  [Related Rumor]

The next move according to Sabates is up to Franchitti.

“He's got his choice,” Sabates said. “If he wants to drive the Nationwide car to get some more experience and maybe we'll get a sponsor for next year, or whether he wants to go back to the IRL, is up to Dario - he has a contract and we intend to honor it."

Sabates added that he expects Franchitti to compete in the Nationwide Series, and didn't rule out a return in two weeks' time at Chicago.

"At the end of the day,” Sabates said. “I think he will get in the Nationwide car, he needs more seat time anyway.”


Tracy may not get ride because he wants to be paid UPDATE It is becoming increasingly probable that Canada's Paul Tracy will miss the July 26 Rexall Edmonton Indy -- the only Canadian stop on the 2008 Indy Racing League calendar.

And this is due -- if one is to listen to IRL insiders -- to the fact that Tracy actually wants to be paid to be a race car driver.

Imagine a professional athlete who puts his life on the line every time he gets behind the wheel of a race car capable of travelling at speeds of more than 200 m.p.h. asking to be paid?

The latest word out of this continent's top open-wheel racing series is that while IRL founder Tony George and team owner Derrick Walker want to get Tracy into a car in Edmonton, neither is willing to pony up Tracy's asking price to get it done.

Tracy, too, has told anybody who wants to listen that he would love to be in Edmonton.

But the Thrill from West Hill has learned in his nearly 20 years of top-level racing that if you work for nothing, that's exactly what people think you are worth.

Earlier this season, he agreed to drive the Forsythe Championship Racing Panoz at Long Beach and according to sources close to Tracy, he has yet to be paid for that adventure.

So he has taken the "fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me" approach to negotiations this time and who can blame him? Slam Sports

07/04/08 The possibility of Paul Tracy driving in the Rexall Edmonton Indy is inching closer to the finish line. Slowly, however, and time is running out.

Derrick Walker, owner of Walker Racing and one of the Champ Car teams who isn't competing on the IndyCar circuit this year, said Thursday it's at a "go-or-no-go" point with the availability of a car one of the key issues.

"We're still moving ahead . . . but we are running out of time. I would say early next week is the deadline, we should know by Tuesday," Walker said.

Tracy, who is heading to England on Wednesday, said he's still game to get into a car for Edmonton even with the limited time he would have to prepare.

"I've had no time in the car . . . but I told Derrick to just let me know, I'm game. I know the track . . . I've been on the podium . . . and a lot of the guys will be going there for the first time."

Walker said he's still in the process of getting interested financial backers on board and while the whole issue looks doubtful, he is "very optimistic" about getting enough funds to put together a program to race in Edmonton July 24-26 and pay Tracy to be the driver.

"Paul is one of the most costly drivers, because he's been around a lot and brings a lot to the track," Walker said.

His salary, however, isn't the main issue. That remains the car itself. Walker is hoping to lease a car from Tony George, owner of the Indy Racing League and the Vision Racing team, but hasn't been able to get confirmation a car will be available.

"It's not the top priority (for George), of course," noted Walker. "They keep racing and crashing, so that delays the decision on whether a car will be available. I'm waiting for confirmation. Part of the problem is that with unification there's a shortage of cars. At the moment, I'm at the mercy of leasing a car from Tony."

A.J. Foyt IV crashed one of the Vision cars last weekend at Richmond.

"That was definitely a setback," said Walker. Edmonton Journal


Donington after British GP UPDATE #3 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement that the British GP will move to the Donington track starting in 2010.

07/01/08 (GMM)  F1's usual circuit designer Hermann Tilke has apparently visited Donington Park in contemplation of a major upgrade to the Leicestershire circuit.

Although derided by some, it has been claimed that the venue, scene of Ayrton Senna's legendary victory in 1993, is stepping up a bid to become the new home of the British grand prix if Silverstone drops off the annual F1 schedule.

Donington Park
Faced with the reality that Donington is in even more dire need of renovation than Silverstone, however, F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone said last month: "I think there is more chance of Donington having the money (to do it) than the BRDC."

German designer Tilke's company Tilke GmbH, and Donington Park, did not comment on the latest rumors.

06/20/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  The British grand prix is more likely to be held at Donington than at current venue Silverstone in 2010, F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone said.

We reported recently that Donington Park, scene of Ayrton Senna's legendary victory in 1993 and located about an hour's drive from Silverstone, may already be in talks to host the race following the expiry of the current British GP contract.

The Donington suggestion is also undoubtedly a message to Silverstone's race promoter and owner, the BRDC, that Ecclestone is serious about his demands for better facilities and higher annual fees at the ageing Northamptonshire track.

"We are discussing the possibility of reaching an agreement with Donington to host the British grand prix," Ecclestone, who said he would prefer to see the race move from Silverstone to the venue in Leicestershire, told The Times.

"We are trying to save the British grand prix and we want it to be staged at a venue which befits an event of its stature.

"I've been in negotiations for a long time and whether or not we're going to do a deal with Donington or Silverstone, I don't know."

Ecclestone admits that, like Silverstone, Donington would first have to invest money to bring the circuit up to formula one standard.

"Donington have said they are going to build everything we want.  Have they got the money?  Only time will tell.

"But I think there is more chance of Donington having the money than the BRDC," the diminutive Briton said.

"Without the support of the government, the BRDC doesn't seem to have the wherewithal to deliver."

05/25/08 (GMM) Donington Park, the scene of Ayrton Senna's legendary victory in 1993, could be stepping up a bid to become the new home of the British grand prix from 2011.

Amid news that talks between Bernie Ecclestone and Silverstone executives are not going well, the British newspaper Sunday Mirror reports that Donington, located about an hour's drive from the current British GP venue, may be positioning to poach the formula one race.

The newspaper, lauding the Leicestershire circuit's "motorway links and ease of access", said talks "are under way between local landowners" and a "highly placed" figure of the grand prix world.

It emerged last year that Donington was to develop the site further following the recent renovations for its round of the MotoGP series.

"As for F1, we're not ruling anything out or in," leaseholder Simon Gillett was quoted as saying then.

"We will talk to anyone –- anything is possible for three years' time," he added.


Coulthard to be a father
David Coulthard's fiancée Karen Minier is pregnant, according to the Swiss newspaper Blick.  Soon-to-be-retired Coulthard and Minier, a former F1 TV journalist for France's TF1, have been engaged for two years.  "He has a beautiful fiancée to look after," friend and rival Jenson Button said at Silverstone on Friday in contemplation of Coulthard's final British grand prix.


Chevrolet won't renew track sponsorships with NASCAR
In perhaps an early sign of manufacturer belt-tightening in stock car racing, Chevrolet will begin cutting back on its 12 track sponsorships in NASCAR, The Charlotte Observer and ThatsRacin.com have learned.

The manufacturer isn't planning to renew any track sponsorship that expire at the end of this season or going forward, multiple sources confirmed on Thursday. Such deals include sponsorship of race events, pace car deals and signage at tracks. The move comes as General Motors stock hit a 54-year low this week, falling under $10 per share. No race teams are expected to be affected by Chevrolet’s decision. The decision could affect several tracks owned by International Speedway Corp. and at least one belonging to Speedway Motorsports Inc. New Hampshire Motor Speedway, purchased by SMI last year, has its Chevy contract expire at season's end. GM officials would neither confirm nor deny the move.

"At General Motors, we are always evaluating our business relationships in every aspect of our organization," said Ed Peper, GM North America's vice president of Chevrolet. "It is GM's policy to not discuss our contractual commitments with outside parties." Jerry Gappens, the New Hampshire track's general manager, said he had not been informed about the status of Chevy's contract with his track for next season. ISC spokesman David Talley also would not directly address the issue, saying only, "We continue to enjoy a great relationship with Chevy and look forward to continuing conversations about the future."

Cutbacks by manufacturers were raised a week ago by a Detroit-based writer on the web site autoextremeist.com. A top NASCAR official told reporters at New Hampshire Motor Speedway on Saturday that the report was without merit. Charlotte Observer


NASCAR rumor mill in full force
As the shock of owner Chip Ganassi's bailout rumbles through the NASCAR garage, the sense is that stock-car men are now waiting for another shoe to drop. If a man as business-savvy as Ganassi has to close up a shop and put 70 crewmen out of work, what else lies in store for the Sprint Cup tour this summer?

John Fernandez, one of the laid-off Ganassi men, was a team manager after years running Dodge's racing operations. He said that the basic problem that NASCAR faces is pretty simple: Three owners -- Rick Hendrick, Jack Roush, and Joe Gibbs -- are winning the majority of the races. Those three have won 11 of the season's 17 races, and they should have won more.

Roger Penske's two wins -- Ryan Newman at Daytona and Kurt Busch at Loudon -- were upsets, wins snatched away from Gibbs' drivers.

Jeff Burton and Clint Bowyer each has a win for Richard Childress, and Kasey Kahne has two wins for Ray Evernham and George Gillett. But those wins haven't been followed by very competitive runs. And what to make of Hendrick's dumping of Casey Mears? Who will take that ride, and why is Hendrick shaking things up? Does Mark Martin, soon-to-be-50, really want to run a full season of races again, this time for Hendrick?

And what about Dale Earnhardt Inc.?

Less than a year ago, DEI executives were talking boldly of expanding to a four-car operation. That isn't being talked about very much any more. Can DEI regain momentum, or will it continue its downhill slide?

Dale Earnhardt Jr. bailed out last year. Martin Truex Jr. has been trying to wrestle his way free at the end of the season. And Martin's part-time gig there appears to be over -- he could well be announced Friday as Hendrick's new driver. Aric Almirola is to take over Martin's ride at DEI full-time, but it's unclear if the U.S. Army will continue its sponsorship at DEI. Paul Menard is to continue at DEI, though he's not shown much during his years there. Kerry Earnhardt, the 38-year-old half-brother of Dale Jr., is set to get back in a NASCAR machine for DEI, in Friday night's Nationwide race. But that's not much to startle anyone.

There could be a flurry of announcements here this week, as prelude to Saturday night's Coke Zero 400, as several team owners try to put to rest the rampant speculation about new drivers and 2009.

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IndyCar teams took financial bloodbath at Richmond
Word in the paddock here in Watkins Glen is that many IndyCar teams lost a lot of money at Richmond last weekend - cumulatively nearly $2 million in car damage was sustained, far more than the purse paid out. Tell us again why the powerful and fast IndyCars are racing on such a small Mickey Mouse circuit. Related Article


F1 budget cap to be delayed or dropped UPDATE (GMM)  It is now not clear if annual budget caps will be introduced in formula one at all.

F1's governing body wanted to use the measure to slash teams' spiraling spending habits, but an FIA document seen on Thursday said "it is for the teams to decide" how to reduce costs.

The Max Mosley-led organization also said the teams themselves must "decide if there should be restrictions on the development budgets of the manufacturer teams and, if so, what these should be and how they would be enforced".

The FIA said it wants teams to propose new rules for 2011, such as the availability of ultra low cost (2 million euros per season) customer engines for private teams, and extending the two-race engine rule to up to ten races.

07/03/08 (GMM)  The real beginning of annual budget caps in formula one will be delayed until 2010, according to reports.

Maximum yearly expenditures was due to be introduced next year, but the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport reports that governing body, the FIA, will use 2009 merely as a "test year".

Scrutineers for the governing body will examine expenditure according to a guideline about maximum spending, the report suggested, but penalties for breaking the cap will not be imposed.

It is feared that budget caps in formula one will be difficult to police because of the intricate ways money flows into and out of teams.


End of career for Franchitti? UPDATE #2 Andretti Green Racing co-owner Kim Green told the Times on Wednesday that if former driver Dario Franchitti is interested in returning to AGR’s American Le Mans Series sports car team following the collapse of his NASCAR Sprint Cup program at Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, “we would absolutely talk about it.”

“If he wanted to go sports car racing, would we love to talk to him? Yes,” Green said. “We have an awful lot of respect for Dario. But at this point there has been no discussion. I think the interest would have to come from Dario.”

“I was very, very surprised when Dario left to go NASCAR racing in the first place,” Green said via cell phone. “It’s not that I don’t think he can’t do a good job. I certainly think he can. That team has been struggling as well. I don’t know, I just didn’t think Dario was going to spend that much time on the road and he was perhaps starting to wind down his career. But he made it even more hectic than the IndyCar career that he had.  I know he did a great job for us when he ran the ALMS car for us and he’s a great sports car driver."

07/03/08 Dario Franchitti isn't sure what his future holds, but the former open-wheel star said Wednesday he'd like to remain in NASCAR. Franchitti, the 2007 Indianapolis 500 winner and IndyCar Series champion, lost his full-time ride Tuesday when team owner Chip Ganassi closed down the unsponsored No. 40 Dodge 17 races into Franchitti's first season. The move also resulted in 71 layoffs.

Is Dario Franchitti's career nearing the end?
"This is not a decision he made lightly, and it shows how bad the economy is," Franchitti told The Associated Press. "And you certainly never want to see all those people lose their jobs. I know for certain Chip struggled with that -- I didn't even recognize his voice when he called me to tell me what he had to do.

"But the decision has been made and now I'll sit with Chip next week and decide what we're going to do going forward."

A highly decorated open-wheel racer, Franchitti made the decision to join the growing list of drivers moving to NASCAR at the end of his most successful IRL season. But the adjustment wasn't easy as Franchitti failed to qualify for two races, missed five others with a broken ankle and ranked 41st in the standings headed into this weekend's race at Daytona International Speedway.

Without a sponsor since longtime partner Coors Light decided to leave the team late last year, the on-track performance made it difficult for Ganassi to secure funding for the 35-year-old Scotsman. After paying for Franchitti's car himself for the first six months of the year, Ganassi had to stop or risk it affecting his other two cars driven by Juan Pablo Montoya and Reed Sorenson.

He's got sponsorship on his Nationwide Series car, and has offered Franchitti that seat going forward. Ganassi also has successful teams in the IRL and Grand Am Series.

Franchitti wasn't sure Wednesday what he'll do next.

"Let's see what the future holds. I really just need to sit with Chip and see where his head is," he said. "But NASCAR is where I want to be. I want to be successful here and I certainly don't want it to end like this.

"I made a big commitment coming over here and I'd like to get in an opportunity to be successful."

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Toyota to keep same drivers for 2009
(GMM)  Toyota will race into the 2009 formula one season with an unchanged driver lineup, according to reports.

The Swiss newspaper Blick says Jarno Trulli, 33, and his new teammate Timo Glock, 26, are both to be retained beyond November's Brazilian grand prix finale.

Blick claims Trulli, who joined Toyota in late 2004, already has a contract for next year, while the Japanese team is expected to exercise its contractual option to retain German driver Glock.

"We have never had such good harmony within the team," team manager Richard Cregan is quoted as saying.  "Finally both drivers are rowing in the same direction."

In the German sports magazine Sport Bild, Glock - the reigning GP2 title winner - said he is aiming to be crowned world champion by 2010.

He said he is not frustrated that Trulli, an Italian, is currently the pacesetter at the Cologne based team.

"I have two options only: either moan about it or accept the challenge and fight," Glock said.


Alonso to Ferrari? BMW? Honda? UPDATE #9 (GMM)  Ross Brawn has played down reports the Honda team aspires to put Fernando Alonso at the wheel of one of its formula one cars in 2009.

The Brackley based marque's team principal was quoted by foreign media this week as saying every team including Honda wants to work with Alonso, the former double world champion.

But subsequently to the BBC, Brawn admitted that, while Honda is "flattered" by the link to one of F1's best drivers, the team is not ready to work with the 26-year-old Spaniard.

"I think we've got to get ourselves sorted out as a team first before we start aspiring to drivers of that sort," he said.

Brawn said current team drivers Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button, who are both out of contract at the end of 2008, are "very good".

"Either of them have shown themselves capable of winning races," he insists.  "Let's wait and see what happens this year."

06/22/08 (GMM)  Mario Theissen has played down speculation he is keen on putting Fernando Alonso at the wheel of a BMW-Sauber in 2009.

"That is not my style," the German squad's boss is quoted as saying by Spanish newspaper Diario AS.

"I would prefer to have a young driver who then grows with the team to become an expensive champion," Theissen smiled.

'AS' speculates that Theissen's comments could be interpreted as the BMW chief wanting to 'lower the price' of employing the 26-year-old former two time title winner in 2009.

Is there any wonder Fernando Alonso is smiling?  He is said to  be Ferrari bound
06/06/08 (GMM) Fernando Alonso is unmoved by the rising speculation that Kimi Raikkonen could be set to vacate his Ferrari seat in 2010.

The latest whispers that the reigning world champion, Raikkonen, is contemplating retirement after next year actually preceded rumors at Monaco two weeks ago that Alonso, who currently drives for Renault, may have penned a preliminary agreement to move to Ferrari in 2010.

But to the Spanish newspaper Diario AS on Thursday, 26-year-old Alonso said he had been "surprised" about the reports linking him with Raikkonen's seat.

"It is strange to be talking about 2010," he said.

"I don't know what I am going to do next year, let alone in two years.

"I see them as only rumors without much foundation."

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Senna to BMW or STR F1 team in 2009? UPDATE #2 (GMM)  Gerhard Berger has this week admitted that Bruno Senna, the nephew of his late friend and former teammate Ayrton Senna, is an outside chance to drive for his formula one team in 2009.

It is almost a certainty that Sebastian Vettel will move on to Red Bull's senior team at the end of this season, while current teammate Sebastien Bourdais is under contract only for 2008.

24-year-old Senna, currently second in the GP2 standings, has been mentioned as a possible successor.

"The driver question has not been discussed yet," Austrian Berger, the Faenza based team's 50 per cent co-owner, said in interview with Salzburger Nachrichten.

It is believed that Bourdais' contract includes an option for Toro Rosso to extend, while Vettel's deal is with Red Bull only.

"If a place with us should become free, it would make sense to fill it with a driver from the Red Bull new generation.

"If not, we will have to look somewhere else," Berger said.

He pointed out that Sebastien Buemi and Karun Chandhok, both near the pinnacle of the Red Bull driver ladder program, might not be ready for F1.

He added: "With his victory in Monaco, Senna moved into the field of vision.  But a driver from the Red Bull sphere would be logical."

07/01/08 (GMM)  GP2 driver Bruno Senna has dismissed as "rumors" speculation he is in serious talks with BMW-Sauber about 2009.

It was reported late last month that the 24-year-old, whose late uncle was the great Ayrton Senna, could become a test or race driver for the German squad next year.

BMW-Sauber's current race drivers are Robert Kubica and Nick Heidfeld, while Christian Klien and Marko Asmer make up the Hinwil based squad's 2008 test driver lineup.

The German magazine Sport Bild also said Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Williams may be interested in Senna, who currently lies second in the drivers' GP2 standings.

"I honestly don't know where these rumors come from," Senna told the magazine GPWeek.

"There's really nothing going on for the moment.  Obviously it's great to be linked with a move to formula one and all these great teams, but these rumors have been going on forever."

Bruno Senna won the Monaco GP2 race
06/25/08 (GMM)  BMW-Sauber is in "intensive talks" with GP2 driver Bruno Senna about a formula one role for the Brazilian in 2009, according to reports.

The German magazine Sport Bild claims that Senna, the 24-year-old nephew of the late triple world champion, could become a test or even a full race driver for the Hinwil based squad next year.

Senna, second overall in the 2008 GP2 standings, won a race at the prestigious Monaco venue last month.

His quest to go all the way to formula one is backed by his uncle's friend and former McLaren teammate Gerhard Berger, who today co-owns the Toro Rosso team.

"I will help Bruno, and his family who looks out for his career, to do it.  His development is obvious, and there is no doubt he has talent," the Austrian said.

Sport Bild claims that Berger discussed Senna at Magny-Cours with BMW-Sauber boss Mario Theissen, his former colleague as joint BMW motor sport director.

An insider confirmed: "Senna is determined to get a test and then BMW will decide."

The magazine also said Red Bull, Toro Rosso and Williams may be interested in Senna.

Bruno Senna, meanwhile, is personally backed by Santander, the Spanish bank that also sponsors McLaren.

For now, he is staying focused on his current task.

"I must continue to push and win races and podiums.  Then I can dream a little bit more," Senna said.


Ganassi team in total disarray, to get worse
John Fernandez left for his office at Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates on Tuesday expecting a normal work day. It was anything but.

By 2:30 p.m., his title officially read "former managing director." He was one of 71 employees caught in the backlash when owner Chip Ganassi shut down the No. 40 team of Dario Franchitti.

Ganassi said the move came due to lack of sponsorship. He said he couldn't afford to keep running "this out of my pocket" at the cost of hurting his other two teams: the No. 42 of Juan Pablo Montoya and No. 41 of Reed Sorenson.

"I had to put a stop to it," Ganassi told The Associated Press.

The shutdown reinforced what many have been saying for months, that the Ganassi organization is in disarray, lacking a sense of direction and continuity among the three teams that now have been reduced to two.

That Montoya went through three crew chiefs in less than two months should have been a hint.

But what happened at Ganassi was only a microcosm of what is happening in NASCAR. Tough economic times have left organizations struggling to find sponsors willing to pay the $20 million to $25 million it takes to run a top-notch program.

It has left many with pockets not nearly as deep as Ganassi's struggling to find sponsors willing to pay $10 million to $15 million.

It has made the gap between the haves and have-nots wider than ever. [Editor's Note: Clearly Ganassi is a have-not team and he might be better off deep-sixing it.  How many years can one run at the back and look like a loser?] Unless NASCAR can find a way to keep costs down -- and opening up testing is not one of them -- we are looking at a day in the near future when only 43 cars, maybe fewer, compete for the 43 spots.

"I do think the sport as a whole is going to struggle," said Fernandez, who was the head of Dodge Motorsports before moving to Ganassi less than two years ago. "The economy definitely is affecting it.

"If you look at what's going on in the sport, you've got three teams dominating: Hendrick Motorsports, Roush Fenway and Joe Gibbs Racing. For organizations like Ganassi and Penske and everybody else … it's very difficult."  More at ESPN.com


STR pays Force India to end 'customer car' row
(GMM)  The 'customer car' quarrel between F1 rivals Force India and Toro Rosso is now over, according to reports.

We reported in May that the dispute was indeed nearing an end, following a meeting between team figures at the Red Bull-owned 'Carpe Diem' restaurant in Austria.

It is believed the teams made a renewed effort to settle the argument following the collapse of Super Aguri, whose practice of using essentially Honda-designed cars was also the subject of an arbitration case brought by Force India.

The German magazine Auto Motor und Sport claims that Force India's similar gripe against Red Bull secondary team Toro Rosso is now also over, following the payment of compensation to the tune of 4.5 million euros.

Reportedly, Force India team principal Colin Kolles wanted 9 million, but was ultimately talked down by F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.


Big 3 to trim NASCAR budgets
At a recent meeting of a group of motorsports types in New England, the subject of Detroit automakers involvement in motorsports, particularly NASCAR, was among various things discussed. It was the opinion, of those in the know, that NASCAR could feel the impact of the Big Three automakers who must reinventing themselves in order to survive. We’ve also seen some news reports regarding this. In all likelihood expect to see budgets slashed of the top NASCAR teams who have deals with Chevy, Ford and Dodge. Because sales of new vehicles are not expected to rebound until the price of oil settles down. With $5 per gallon of regular looming by Labor Day weekend, the buying public is very leery of making a major purchase of a new vehicle.

According to reports on ESPN, NASCAR teams are really feeling the pinch due to the high cost of fuel. Also, funding NASCAR teams have risen from $10-$15 million to over $20-$25 million due to increases especially driver salaries. “We could see six or so teams shut down if they are not funded. Nobody is going to run this out of their own pocket for too long, myself included, so it is a serious situation, ” said team principal Doug Yates, owner of Yates Racing.  Motorsportnews.net


DEI, Almirola, Army announcement today? UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' based on this announcement today.

Aric Almirola
07/01/08 An official announcement that Aric Almirola will drive the #8 car at Dale Earnhardt Inc. full time next season will be made on Tuesday, sources close to the situation said. The decision to put Almirola into the U.S. Army-sponsored car full time had nothing to do with Martin's decision to return to a full-time Sprint Cup schedule and make one last run at a championship, sources said. It had more to do with advancing Almirola's talents and taking advantage of the appeal he has shown with sponsors looking for a younger driver. One of those is U.S. Army, whose target audience fits the 24-year-old Almirola much more than the 49-year-old Martin. ESPN.com


Hamilton to sign $20m Reebok deal UPDATE #2 McLaren's Lewis Hamilton was in Amsterdam on Tuesday, where his new reportedly $20 million deal with the sports brand Reebok was to be confirmed.

05/13/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact'.  Lewis Hamilton is once again counting the price of fame after striking a $20 million deal with sportswear giants Reebok.

Hamilton's deal with Reebok, who are owned by German company Adidas, is a major coup for his father and manager, Anthony. He has been trying to wriggle his son free of the straitjacket traditionally imposed by McLaren in an attempt to limit their drivers' personal endorsements.

A team spokesman said: "Any marketing activity undertaken by Lewis on behalf of Reebok will be fully consistent with his existing obligations to McLaren, and will run in complete cooperation with Lewis's primary marketing commitments to the team and its partners."

Hamilton's exclusive Reebok stable includes football star Thierry Henry, basketball hero Allen Iverson as well as British boxing hope Amir Khan. Two of the racer's rap favorites, 50 Cent and Jay-Z, are also on the books.

The multi-year contract confirms Formula One's most marketable driver status as the 23-year-old who wants for nothing. As well as his $20m-plus McLaren salary, he has pocketed around $4M from HarperCollins for his autobiography, Lewis Hamilton: My Story. Daily Mail

Lewis Hamilton in Turkey
(GMM)  Lewis Hamilton is to sign a lucrative personal sponsorship deal with Reebok.

The multi-million dollar deal, which is yet to be finalized or confirmed, is believed to be similar to the British sportswear brand's approximately $20m apiece 'global brand ambassador' agreements with footballers Thierry Henry and Andrei Shevchenko and boxer Amir Khan.

The marketing publication Brand Republic claims that McLaren, which does not usually allow its drivers to seek personal sponsors, has made an exception in this case because 23-year-old Hamilton is "one of sport's most marketable stars".

Reebok is owned by Adidas.


Penske to make driver change?
Word is that Roger Penske is not happy with the performance of his two IndyCar drivers.  Roger likes to win and win often and he is not.  According to a report on Wind Tunnel, Penske may be ready to make a run at young Graham Rahal.  After Rahal ran away and hid from Penske driver Helio Castroneves at St. Pete earlier this year, we would not be surprised.


Car sales drop-off feared
Detroit's automakers and, indeed, the entire auto industry, are expected to report a historic drop-off in monthly auto sales Tuesday -- a plunge that helps explain why the automakers are dramatically, and decisively, cutting production at factories during the months ahead.

In fact, when sales for the first half of the year are reported next week, they are expected to show the worst half-year performance since at least 1995, as the nation struggles through a confluence of gloomy factors that have consumers on edge.

June auto sales are expected to be off the most at Chrysler LLC, with a plummet of 27%, according to an average of forecasts from major brokerages and Edmunds.com, the automotive consumer Web site.

At General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co., meanwhile, analysts are expecting declines of about 20%.

John Mihalopoulos, owner of Rodeo Ford, a large dealer in Dallas, said the economic environment "has halted business."

"We went from selling 80 to 100 pickups a month down to 10," he said.

Brian Johnson, an auto analyst for Lehman Brothers, wrote in a note to investors Friday, that the environment "continues to take a much heavier toll on the Big Three, which are being hit disproportionately by the consumer's dramatic shift away from traditional trucks toward more fuel-efficient vehicles."

But Detroit automakers won't be the only ones feeling the pressure. Detroit Free Press


Lewis Hamilton two timed beauty queen
Lewis Hamilton said to lead lonely life in big empty house
Lewis Hamilton may be the hottest property in Formula One, but Miss Grenada had no qualms dumping him for two-timing her.  Vivian Burkhardt also revealed the lonely life of the 23-year-old McLaren driver.

'His life away from the track is far from glamorous,' she told the News of the World.

'Despite his huge wealth, I hate his lifestyle and feel sorry for him.

'There he is in Switzerland, where he has no friends, no family, just this amazing four-bedroom flat in the richest part of the city - but it's simply big and empty.

'He just spends his spare time playing Formula One PlayStation games over the Internet with his 15-year-old brother Nic in England.

'The rest of the time, he's texting friends who are miles away all over the world.

Read more & Comment...

Alternating German F1 venues set to stay
(GMM)  The arrangement whereby Hockenheim and Nurburgring annually alternate as host of a single grand prix in Germany looks set to continue.

"We are not dissatisfied with the current solution for alternating.  In the current environment, it is the appropriate solution," Jorn Teske, marketing chief of the Hockenheim circuit, said according to RTL.

Hockenheim is set to host the German grand prix next month.

Last year, the Nurburgring was the only German venue on the 2007 calendar, as the two venues agreed to alternate in a climate of higher competition for races from new international hosts.


Howard to replace Andretti at Watkins Glen UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today as our sources tell us that Jay Howard will indeed replace John Andretti in the No. 24 Roth entry at Watkins Glen this coming weekend. We await the official announcement.

06/29/08 Rumor from the Richmond paddock has it that Jay Howard will replace John Andretti in Marty Roth's No. 24 car in next weekend's IndyCar race at Watkins Glen.


Did Casey get the call?
A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I can't remember the last time I saw Casey Mears lead a race, so he loses his ride and suddenly gets competitive? My wife even commented that Casey loses his ride and is now leading the race and gets a caution at exactly the same time that he needs to get gas. To quote my wife: "Does NASCAR think the fans are stupid?".  And Patrick Carpentier on the pole in New Hampshire 30 days before the Montreal Nationwide race, talk about wanting to sell more tickets for that race.  In the race he fell back like he was dragging a lead anchor.  Was the starting grid computer generated?  Food for thought.... Tim DeCesaro


Richmond IndyCar race expecting record crowd UPDATE #2 Per the Richmond track's own website the seating capacity is 112,029, which seems too high given the small size of the majority of the grandstands as compared to, say New Hampshire, which visibly has much larger grandstands, is 1/4-mile longer and claims to have a seating capacity of 94,000 or thereabouts.  Something is very odd indeed.

06/29/08 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  The Bear Stearns report published in 2001 lists Richmond as officially seating 99,400 people.  Given that over 2/3rds of the grandstands were closed for last night's IndyCar race, the maximum number of people that could have been in attendance was 35,000.  Even if we give them the benefit of the doubt and say 40,000, that is a far cry from the 60,000 that they were predicting.

06/25/08 Indy Racing League officials weren't sure what to expect when they began to stage open-wheel races in the heart of NASCAR country in the mid-1990s. As stock car fans hesitantly embraced the sport, some wondered if the SunTrust Indy Challenge at Richmond International Raceway would survive.

So far, the SunTrust Indy Challenge apparently has succeeded beyond expectations.

Racetrack officials are expecting a record crowd of more than 60,000 for Saturday night's race. And IRL officials are convinced that a record field of possibly 28 drivers, 50 additional laps and a unified series will pique the interest of a growing fan base in the Mid-Atlantic region.

"When we get a breakdown of television ratings, the Richmond media market always rates high," said Angstadt, whose responsibilities include sales and marketing. "When we come to town, there's always a nice crowd.

"We know who our fans cheer for, and we would certainly be remiss if we didn't listen to our drivers. Believe me, if they didn't like a venue, we would hear about it. When they like a venue, that means a lot."

Dan Wheldon and Danica Patrick agree that drivers' input figures significantly in keeping Richmond on the schedule even as bigger markets -- Charlotte, Atlanta and Phoenix -- failed to survive. Winston Salem Journal


SMI Offers IRL Five Track Deal UPDATE Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage said he is negotiating a five-race deal for Speedway Motorsports Inc. tracks that would include moving the IndyCar Series season finale to Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

"They would like to end the season in Las Vegas to go with their [season-ending] banquet while everyone was still in town," Gossage said. "It could be a really big thing for IndyCar racing to wrap up their season that way."

New Hampshire Motor Speedway would be part of the five-race package, along with Texas, Kentucky Speedway and Infineon Raceway -- three tracks that already host IndyCar events.

Gossage and SMI chairman Bruton Smith were in New Hampshire on Sunday to attend the first NASCAR weekend at NHMS since SMI purchased the facility last November.

The New Hampshire IndyCar weekend probably would fall between late July and mid-August, placing it between NASCAR races in late June and mid-September.

IndyCar Series officials could not be reached for comment on the proposed schedule changes. League officials are trying to re-work the 2009 schedule to incorporate some Champ Car events that were cancelled this year when the IRL and Champ Car merged.

The IndyCar Series has ended its season at the Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill., since 2005. The season finale this year is Sept. 15 on the 1.5-mile Joliet oval. The IRL raced at the one-mile New Hampshire oval and 1½-mile Las Vegas oval with limited success in the years after the open-wheel series split in 1996.

"You would think [the IRL] would appreciate what we're doing in Texas, Infineon and Kentucky and want to add two major speedways to that," Gossage said. "The league is not served in the Northeast and not served well out West. It's two good markets to deliver to them."

Gossage said the clock is ticking on getting a deal done for next season.

"It has to happen pretty soon," Gossage said. "Vegas [NASCAR] tickets already are on sale for 2009. I'm going on the Kyle Petty Charity ride for about 10 days in July [starting July 12] and I told them I would like to have it done before I leave."

Gossage said his role is to negotiate the best deal possible before presenting it to each track's general manager for consideration. ESPN.com

06/24/08 New Hampshire is said to be part of a five-facility deal SMI is offering the IRL to stage IndyCar Series events next season. The other tracks involved are Texas, Kentucky, the Infineon road course (all of which have IndyCar events now) and Las Vegas. New Hampshire and Vegas have staged IRL events in the past.  ESPN.com


Valles to return to F1 UPDATE Adrian Vallés could be set for a return to the Formula 1 paddock, with claims that the young Spaniard is in talks with one of the British-based teams.

The 22-year-old spent the 2007 campaign as one of Spyker's test drivers, but was dropped after the Silverstone outfit became Force India towards the end of the year.

This season Vallés has stepped back down to the GP2 Series, in which he had previously competed for Spanish concern Campos Racing in 2006. Having participated in the inaugural GP2 Asia Series and the opening round of the main GP2 championship with FMSI, the man from Alicante has since moved to BCN Competicion.

Taking the place of Paolo Maria Nocera in the #26 car, he has registered five points from six races with the squad, the highlight to-date being fourth place in race one around the narrow streets of Monaco from the same spot on the starting grid, taking the checkered flag less than three seconds shy of the final step on the rostrum.

According to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Vallés travelled straight from his latest outing at Magny-Cours last weekend to England this week for ‘an important meeting' with one of the British-based F1 teams.

McLaren-Mercedes, Renault, Red Bull Racing, Williams-Toyota, Honda and Force India all have their headquarters in the UK, but El Mundo speculates that Williams and Red Bull are the most likely destinations. Crash.net

Adrian Valles
06/25/08 (GMM)  Spanish youngster Adrian Valles is hoping to return to formula one in 2009.

The 22-year-old was last year among a raft of Spyker test drivers, but in 2008 he has returned to race in the support category GP2.

According to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, Valles travelled straight from Magny-Cours to England this week for "an important meeting" with one of the British based grand prix teams.

Renault, McLaren, Williams, Red Bull, Honda and Force India are all headquartered in England, but El Mundo singled out Williams and Red Bull as the most prominent possibilities for Valles.


NASCAR about to feel Detroit's Chill? UPDATE NASCAR sees no indication manufacturers plan any significant cutbacks in their respective NASCAR programs despite some recent reports out of Detroit to the contrary.

"Obviously, we are going through an economic cycle we've seen before and naturally that breeds a lot of these stories, but as a sport we are very confident with where we are," NASCAR spokesman Ramsey Poston said.

"The fan support has been good. TV ratings continue to be very strong. There is a lot of value there for a lot of our partners, our sponsors and manufacturers in the sport. We hope they continue to look at NASCAR as a place where there is a lot of value for them."

A column this week by Peter De Lorenzo of autoextremist.com said manufacturers' NASCAR budgets were on the "chopping block" and that Detroit car companies were set to pull back on their spending in the sport.

"There have been a lot of rhetoric and false assumptions about the sport in that article," Poston said. "The writer chose to write about a lot of doom and gloom, which doesn't reflect reality at all."  ThatsRacin.com

06/25/08 It's no secret that the worst automobile market in 20 years has the Detroit auto companies reeling. It's in the national news and in newspapers across the country, and it's often the lead story on network newscasts and prime time business programming. And, of course, it's prominent on the Internet too. This isn't just a mild "adjustment" to Detroit's fortunes, either; rather, it's a dramatic, fundamental shift in how the business will be played out from here on in. And Detroit finds itself under the gun like never before.

At this very moment key players of the "Detroit Three" are evaluating every facet of their businesses, right down to the last dollar. That means every product program and every promotional/marketing/advertising program - and everything and anything between - is being placed under the microscope and being scrutinized for ways to shrink expenditures. And for the first time in a long time, Detroit's substantial NASCAR budgets are being included in the process.

In the past, Detroit's NASCAR programs usually escaped scrutiny at cost-cutting time, simply because the sport was on an upward trajectory and participation was not only a given, it was never even questioned. Well, the climate has changed dramatically, and all of NASCAR's negatives - declining attendance, declining TV ratings, the dreaded "Car of Tomorrow," which has destroyed brand recognition and differentiation, the never-ending schedule, and the spike in costs due to the influx of Toyota spending - have the powers that be at the Detroit automakers seriously questioning their NASCAR programs.

How will it shake out? The peripheral programs that NASCAR fans never think about - the track sponsorships, the promotional support programs and other components that go into the Detroit car companies' NASCAR programs - will be the first to go. Programs that are coming up for renewal now - mid- to late summer being prime sponsorship program renewal/extension/evaluation season - will be the first to be cut. 

Read more & Comment...

Money losing Chrysler to be ditched soon
While Chrysler LLC gathered journalists from around the world last week to its Chelsea Proving Grounds to show off its 2009 model year lineup, there are growing concerns about the future of the Auburn Hills automaker.  An influential annual study of the U.S. automotive product pipeline says Chrysler's lack of future product plans is an indication of a near-future breakup or sale by the automaker's majority-owner, Cerberus Capital Management.

"Chrysler's product pipeline severely lags the industry on a number of key metrics, which is an ominous sign for its market share," Merrill Lynch's recently issued Car Wars report said. "We believe that this is an active decision by new owners to rationalize the product portfolio in advance of a breakup/sale."

A Chrysler spokesman called the prediction of a sale ridiculous and a Cerberus spokesman said the private equity firm has "a model that is buy, fix and hold."

Industry analysts are predicting the next 18 months or so could be incredibly trying for the truck-heavy Chrysler, especially as $4-a-gallon gasoline leads more car shoppers to turn to fuel-efficient cars.

"Chrysler's product pipeline over the near term is relatively modest, indicating that the company's lineup may remain misaligned with the market," a note by Fitch Ratings said last week. "Limited cash resources and capital constraints remain a distinct competitive disadvantage in a period of rapid product migration and technological change." Detroit Free Press


IndyCars too hard for Manning UPDATE A.J. Foyt, who is skipping this race to attend to business in Houston, has accepted Darren Manning's explanation that his arms were too tired to continue driving in last week's race. Manning said his seat was too far from the steering wheel. IndyStar

06/23/08 Word is that Darren Manning's arms gave out again during Sunday's Iowa IndyCar race, and that he could no longer turn the wheel.  We know this was a problem for him on some of the street circuits last year.  We hear that A.J. Foyt was livid when Manning parked the car yesterday in Iowa.

Psst....someone tell Manning they have exercises to build arm strength.


Bowyer re-signs with RCR
Clint Bowyer said Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway that while he is flattered to be in the rumor mill and having other teams interested in him, he has signed with Richard Childress Racing for three more years to run the #07 Chevy.  No confirmation from the team as of yet.


Will new baseball stadium mean end to St. Pete GP? UPDATE #5 The Tampa Bay Rays will abandon ambitious plans to build a $450 million baseball stadium on the downtown waterfront in four years and instead get more people involved in assessing other locations, the team announced Wednesday.

The team, President Matt Silverman said at a news conference, no longer will seek the St. Petersburg public's vote this November on the open-air, 34,000-seat ballpark that the Rays proposed for the site of Progress Energy Park, home of Al Lang Field.

"While we still believe in the vision we put forth seven months ago, and of its transformational value, we are withdrawing that proposal and we are no longer seeking a November referendum on the waterfront ballpark," Silverman said.

04/06/08 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' with today's announcement.

04/06/08 This rumor is close to being downgraded to 'false.'  The City of St. Petersburg, Indy Racing League, American Le Mans Series, Andretti Green Promotions and Honda were "deep into discussions'' Saturday on a new contract that would bring the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg back to downtown streets long term, according a source with close knowledge of the situation. So close was a deal on Saturday that a press conference was tentatively scheduled but ultimately canceled. It is expected that an announcement will be made some time on Sunday before the fourth running of the IndyCar event.  Sunday's race is the first in a two-year option exercised last spring. The option concludes the first contract between AGP and the city.  TampaBay.com

01/08/08 If the Rays are successful in building a new stadium on the waterfront, the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg could continue to operate in its present site if designers use some "creativity," the event's managing director said Wednesday.

Kevin Savoree, co-owner of race promoter Andretti Green Promotions, said he doesn't think a new stadium - and the relocation of the Salvador Dali Museum onto land used for the competition paddock - threaten the race or mean the course would have to be relocated.

A 1990s downtown St. Petersburg street race ran on a course in the Tropicana Field area. Savoree said moving away from the waterfront with the current race is not an option.

"We wouldn't be interested in being in a dramatically different site," he said. "This race course is recognized worldwide as the premier street race. Why would you want to break that up? This thing gets comparisons to Monaco."

Savoree conceded there would be challenges if the Rays are able to build the 34,000-seat, $450 million stadium they have proposed on the site of Al Lang Field.

For starters, the Bayshore Drive, a prominent feature of the 1.8-mile race course. Stadium plans call for the portion of Bayshore Drive that would run behind the stadium to be rerouted onto new land that would be created by filling 0.6 acres of Tampa Bay.

Read more & Comment...

Wheldon to ditch IRL for NASCAR? No! UPDATE #3 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  Dan Wheldon has left the door open for some time regarding a move over to NASCAR. Wheldon said this week that door has closed.

"Up until this year, I really did consider NASCAR and the reason I did is I'm a driver," Wheldon said. "I like to be on track and I like the fact they race so much. But with the merging together of both open-wheel series, the series is really fun to drive in right now."

Wheldon is in the final year of his contract with Target Chip Ganassi Racing, and said he has talked with Ganassi about an extension of his original three-year deal. Wheldon said the deal isn't done yet, but he hopes it will be done soon.

"When you have more cars like that, it's definitely fun to drive," Wheldon said. "So I would say with the fact I think they're going to continue to build the schedule and from what I understand they're going to allow more testing during the season . . . that's what I'm looking for. . . . I definitely think I will be in IndyCars for certainly the next three years after this one."

03/04/07 Dan Wheldon is considering a switch to NASCAR in a fourth Chip Ganassi Racing entry, this week's Autosport magazine reports.

"I'm lucky to have an owner that has a NASCAR team and an IndyCar team," he said. "If Chip wants to pull a fourth Cup entry together, then I know the perfect man to put in that car.

"Right now, NASCAR is the biggest stage by far. I've been to a lot of the races, and it's definitely something I'm interested in."

02/01/07 Former IndyCar Series champion Dan Wheldon has been fitted in Charlotte for a NASCAR stock car seat and will test a Busch Series car at some point, but when and where has yet to be determined.  A Chip Ganassi Racing spokesperson said Wheldon's primary focus this season is winning a championship and Indy, but at some point Ganassi would have the Englishmen test a Busch Car.  "Chip's always been really good if somebody wanted to try something," the CGR spokesperson said. "He's never been shy about getting his drivers diversified."  Daytona Beach News Journal

01/30/07 Jeff Gordon had his Nextel Cup crew chief Steve Letarte with him all weekend. Letarte spent most of his time during the race trackside, watching the engineers and crewmen on the SunTrust Pontiac Riley make changes to their third-place finishing racecar. When asked if having Letarte at the track was to help Gordon improve his Nextel Cup road racing game, Gordon replied, "I didn't have my crew chief here for nothing."

Letarte wasn't the only NASCAR crew chief attending the race. Juan Pablo Montoya's Busch Series crew chief Brad Parrott was "persuaded" (his word) by team owner Ganassi to work with the sports car teams during the weekend. During the race, Parrott held the hose that was used to fuel the 02 Lexus Riley driven by Scott Dixon, Dan Wheldon and Memo Rojas. When asked if he (Parrott) was also keeping an eye on his Busch driver (Montoya), he replied, "Nah, he's OK by himself. Chip really wants me to spend time getting to know Wheldon."

Maybe Parrott was having a bit of fun, but Wheldon has admitted strong interest in giving NASCAR a shot. Hmmmmm.


Is Venezuela angling for an IndyCar race? UPDATE Word on the street is that no American drivers are welcome to drive for any IndyCar or Grand-Am sponsored team that has Hugo Chavez/Venezuelan money behind it.  How do we know this?  American drivers who tried to get rides with those teams were told this in no uncertain terms according to our sources.  Imagine that!  Two American series that have teams where American drivers are not welcome.  Should they be kicked out and told to take their money back to Venezuela?

06/25/08 From the things that make you go hmm.....department.  Why is Hugo Chavez sponsoring two Indy cars in the IRL?  This is the big story that Milka Duno’s handlers — this year and last year — are trying to keep buried.  EJ Viso's sponsor is the parent company of CITGO.  Because of Chavez's anti-Bush remarks CITGO is out of favor with many Americans, but uneducated Americans still send million of dollars in profits his way each and every day when they buy CITGO.  It all sounds like CITGO wants to keep things a bit quiet until the political storm blows over.....but still the question begs to be asked,  Why one car with CITGO sponsorship and one with backing from its parent company Petr¢leos de Venezuela (PDVSA)?


Andretti could return to NASCAR
John Andretti has put on hold a NASCAR career that has included 358 Cup starts, but for how long remains to be seen.

Andretti has driven in the last four IndyCar Series events for Roth Racing and will compete this weekend in the series race at Richmond International Raceway. His deal with Roth Racing is week-to-week, and he said Wednesday that he is unsure where he will be racing next weekend.

“I’m definitely going to come back and do some more NASCAR races, whether it be truck or Cup or whatever,” Andretti said in a phone interview. “I’m not done. … It just depends on what the opportunities are, where they are and the timing of them.

“I had already planned to come back after the Indy 500 and do some more things, and that has never changed.” John Andretti has put on hold a NASCAR career that has included 358 Cup starts, but for how long remains to be seen.

Andretti has driven in the last four IndyCar Series events for Roth Racing and will compete this weekend in the series race at Richmond International Raceway. His deal with Roth Racing is week-to-week, and he said Wednesday that he is unsure where he will be racing next weekend.

“I’m definitely going to come back and do some more NASCAR races, whether it be truck or Cup or whatever,” Andretti said in a phone interview. “I’m not done. … It just depends on what the opportunities are, where they are and the timing of them.

“I had already planned to come back after the [Indy] 500 and do some more things, and that has never changed.”


Chrysler to file bankruptcy? No, but.....
Chrysler LLC, the third-largest U.S. automaker, has no plans to file for bankruptcy, a spokesman said in response to financial-market speculation.

``We've got cash; we haven't filed anything,'' Chrysler spokesman Dave Elshoff said in an interview today. ``It's absolutely nothing we're considering.''

Stephen Pope, chief global market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald in London, said rumors of a Chrysler bankruptcy filing prompted auto stocks in Europe to ``slip quickly'' today.

Auto stocks in Europe fell ``quickly'' on talk Chrysler may file for bankruptcy, said Stephen Pope, chief global market strategist at Cantor Fitzgerald in London. Prices on Chrysler's loans plunged, corporate loan default risk escalated, U.S. Treasuries rose and stock-index futures declined.

U.S. sales at Chrysler and larger competitors General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. have tumbled this year as record gasoline prices force consumers away from profitable large pickup trucks and sport-utility vehicles. Chrysler and GM may face a cash crunch next year, Fitch Ratings said yesterday.

Cerberus Capital Management LLC took control of Chrysler in August when it bought 80.1 percent of the Auburn Hills, Michigan- based automaker from Daimler AG. Chrysler no longer releases financial information.

The company has said it plans to stop selling four of 25 models. Chrysler also is cutting 12,100 jobs in addition to the 13,000 that had been targeted before the Cerberus purchase. Chrysler fell to fifth place in U.S. sales last month, a spot it held only twice before.  Bloomberg

[Editor's Note: They are not filing for bankruptcy now but it's probably just a matter of time, at which time they will pull the plug on their entire NASCAR program.]


Ganassi’s secret tunnel UPDATE AutoRacing1.com broke this story back in June of 2006 when we revealed in this rumor that Chip Ganassi's Indy Car team had a secret tunnel in Pennsylvania to do straight-line testing.  This article in the USA Today confirms this report and this rumor is now upgraded to 'fact.'

For the powerhouse teams of the IRL IndyCar Series, the secret to going in circles might be taking the most direct route possible. But don't expect many straight answers about straight-line testing, the monotonous art of running Indy cars on long stretches of asphalt to measure aerodynamic data without turning a wheel.

"It's kind of like wandering into Area 51," jokes Mike Hull, the managing director for Target Chip Ganassi Racing. "You might not get out alive if we gave you the answer."

Here's what is known about straight-line testing: Drivers don't like doing it, and teams don't like talking about it, but all seem to benefit from the concept, which essentially confirms computer simulations in a manner reminiscent of drag racing.

Cars accelerate to 200 mph, then coast to a stop as teams calculate wind resistance and down force. Such information also can be gleaned from a wind tunnel, but straight-line testing affords better data collection because the readings occur while the car runs at speed.

"The wind tunnel is all virtual," Penske Racing President Tim Cindric says. "This is an aerodynamic test of the car in real-world conditions."

Les Mactaggart, Indy Racing League's technical director, knows of only three teams that use straight-line testing: Ganassi, Penske and Andretti Green Racing, which have won 43 of the past 44 races and the past five championships in the IRL.

The IRL doesn't restrict straight-line testing — it even occasionally asks for parts to be tried on cars — although teams are allowed just two sets of test tires for the season. Mactaggart says Ganassi, whose drivers, Scott Dixon and Dan Wheldon, are ranked first and third in points and have won five of eight races this year, conducts sessions in a tunnel outfitted for straight-line testing and owned by the team.

A story last October in Racecar Engineering magazine reported Ganassi's test facility was adjacent to Laurel Mountain near Donegal, Pa., in an abandoned section of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Hull would confirm only that the team's testing was done "in the United States." [Editor's Note: But of course AutoRacing1.com (the #1 source for inside information) readers know exactly where this tunnel is - see below.]

Dixon and Wheldon have led 431 of 828 laps on 1.5-mile ovals this season. Cindric says Ganassi's success at the superspeedways, where aerodynamics play a bigger role, suggests the team has a technical advantage from having its own facility.

"A lot of these (straight-line) tracks are used by car manufacturers or tire companies, and you get very limited availability," says Cindric, whose team has tested at manufacturer facilities in Michigan, South Carolina and Arizona. "The fact Ganassi has unlimited availability helps." More at USA Today

06/02/06 Rumor has it that Chip Ganassi uses an abandoned Pennsylvania Turnpike tunnel to test his NASCAR Nextel Cup and IndyCars in secrecy. As far-fetched as this rumor is, AutoRacing1.com hears that it is true.

When the Turnpike was realigned in 1964 three tunnels were abandoned. The Laurel Hill Tunnel, which is nearly 1-mile long is reported to be used by the Ganassi team. They run the cars there for both NASCAR and IRL (Not sure about this year with the IRL cars the engine lease program is pretty tight). We hear they do straight line tests to test the dampers/wings/gears/etc, as well as coast-down tests where they run the cars up to speed and then coast to measure rolling friction losses without the influence of wind.

With new ceramic bearings to reduce rolling friction losses, even minute changes in wind direction could throw off the test data, so we hear this tunnel has really served a great purpose in this regard. So good in fact that rumor has it even the Toyota F1 team has used the tunnel, though we have not been able to confirm this.

We hear the team gets some very good data from these tests. The NASCAR team runs many cars to see how the different cars do. The team has about 16 cars in the shop and they work on the superspeedway cars to reduce drag. Because there is no limit the team is able to run for days just testing different packages and set-ups. We think you are seeing the results for the IRL team this year as the team has great straight-line speed.

We hear that they repaved the road to make it smooth and they always have a medical team there in case of an accident, but they are going really fast in a small closed tunnel so we have to question how safe this is for the driver should something break and he start bouncing off the tunnel walls.  In fact we hear Darren Manning put it in the wall once and it looked like a pin ball going from one side to the next.

Go to the website for the abandoned tunnels and click on the Laurel Hill Tunnel link and you will see it says the "tunnel is currently leased to a private race team." This webpage has photos of this secret test tunnel including leftover test tires, empty race fuel drums and a satellite dish, perhaps for communications of some sort.

The Ganassi race teams are always very competitive. It seems we may have unearthed one of their top secret tricks.  What else does Chip have up his sleeve? Mark C.


Force India considering engine switch to help ride-buyer?
(GMM)  Force India may be considering a change of customer engine supplier for the 2009 season, according to reports.

The Silverstone based team, having changed ownership prior to the start of this season, is currently powered by Ferrari's 2.4 liter V8s.

But according to the Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell, meetings may already have taken place - in the Montreal paddock earlier this month - between Force India and Honda chiefs.

Force India is contractually bound to the Ferrari deal, but it is suggested that the Vijay Mallya-owned squad is interested in Honda's offer of engines plus its KERS system at a lower price.

Rumors have abounded since the collapse of the Honda satellite Super Aguri this year that Honda is still keen to expand its F1 presence beyond the Brackley based works team.

Motorsport Aktuell claims that Honda is offering its engine-KERS package to Force India for a price 10 million euros per season lower than the Ferrari deal, as long as ride-buyer Takuma Sato is accommodated for a race seat.

Force India has reportedly not yet taken a decision.


IRL may shop their TV package
The June 22 Indy Racing League race at Iowa earned a 1.2 overnight TV rating, according to New York-based Nielsen Media Co., meaning about 1.2 million households nationwide tuned in to watch the race.

According to IRL spokesman John Griffin, this year’s TV rating is equal to last year’s rating at Iowa. The race was sold out, with about 45,000 spectators packed into the Iowa Speedway for the second annual Iowa Corn Indy 250.

The race coverage was panned on racing blogs and message boards early this week, sparking speculation that IRL officials will shop their TV package. The current rights fee deal with ABC and ESPN expires at the end of next season, but IRL officials are currently negotiating with their broadcast partner. Racing insiders said NBC is interested in the IRL, but it is doubtful the network would pay what ABC/ESPN is currently paying.

Racing fans complained about the quality of pre- and post-race analysis at Iowa, camera angles, sound quality and the announcers. And even though he designed the Iowa Speedway, open-wheel fans were not pleased about seeing retired NASCAR driver Rusty Wallace re-appear on the IRL broadcast.

The IRL will be in Richmond Saturday. ESPN will broadcast the race live starting at 8 p.m. IBJ.com

[Editor's Note: Just a way to try and extract more money out of ABC/ESPN - not unlike Bernie Ecclestone's negotiating tactics with race tracks - a rumored new venue always pops up when it comes time to renew a race contract. Expect ABC/ESPN to be retained.]


McLaren to design two cars for 2009?
(GMM)  McLaren chief executive Martin Whitmarsh has refused to rule out speculation that the Mercedes powered team is intending to attack the 2009 world championship with two distinct car designs.

It is already clear that the voluntary advent of KERS technology next year will result in significant weight gains for F1 cars.

"The simple fact is you only need to be 12 kilograms overweight, at which point KERS becomes irrelevant anyway and you take it off," Force India technical boss Mike Gascoyne told GPWeek.

Whitmarsh said considerations of ride-height, wheelbase and centre of gravity are also important.

"I think the challenge to the engineers is to develop a KERS system that can be run at every circuit and give a lap time advantage, but it isn't easy," he said.

Whitmarsh would only say that teams "are having to consider a whole range of options", but rumors suggest that designing two cars - perhaps with different wheelbases - is among them.

He explained: "We're thinking about lots of different things, but we're working hard to have the best solutions for every circuit.

"As you would imagine, just as any F1 team, (McLaren) isn't going to show its hand on what it is doing, but inevitably you've got to try and cover all the bases."

Gascoyne, meanwhile, dismissed suggestions that KERS can immediately give formula one the right to claim it is a 'green' sport.

"We'll be throwing batteries away after each race and all that sort of thing -- is it particularly green? Well, no," he admitted.


Williams engineer's job in doubt
(GMM)  Following some disappointing showings for the Grove team in 2008, prominent Williams engineer Rod Nelson's job is now in jeopardy, according to reports.

Technical director Sam Michael missed the French grand prix at the weekend, leaving sole responsibility of the operation of the race team to Nelson.

Nelson switched to Williams from Renault, where he had been Fernando Alonso's race engineer for the Spaniard's successful title campaigns, in 2007.

He took the role as chief operations engineer, but has often disappointed his bosses Patrick Head and Sir Frank Williams, the Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell said.

Head, the team's engineering veteran and co-owner, described Magny-Cours as a "very mediocre performance".


FIA to scrap proposed tire-blanket ban
(GMM)  The proposed banning of tire-warming blankets is expected to be shelved when the World Motor Sport Council meets in Paris on Wednesday.

Many drivers had criticized the 2009 ban, to coincide with the return of slicks, expressing concern that the move would be a step backwards for safety.

It is understood that F1's Technical Working Group (TWG) originally proposed the ban as a way of slowing the cars, because the tires would have to operate at lower temperatures.

The blanket-less tires would also have been safer because they would have lost less pressure during safety car periods, while ridding teams of the blankets themselves is a cost-cutting measure, the TWG also found.

However, Honda test driver Alex Wurz told sportnet: "The drivers are happy, because next year there will be slick tires and electric blankets.

"That is 99 per cent fixed, with the decision (due) on Wednesday," he added.


Iowa to sell out again UPDATE This rumor never got upgraded to 'fact' previously.  Since it did sell out, it is 'fact.'

06/10/08 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, the main grandstands at Iowa for the IndyCar race next weekend are almost sold out, and again this year they will be using temporary stands to hold the overflow.


Iowa to stay on 2009 IRL schedule
Citing full grandstands and better racing as the prime reasons, Robin Miller reported on Speed Channel's Speed Report that he expects Iowa Speedway will stay on the 2009 IndyCar schedule.  This year's race featured more side-by-side racing as compared to last year's follow-the-leader show.


Could Mohammad Bin Sulayem replace Mosley?
Mohammad Bin Sulayem
It has been reported for some time that Mohammad Bin Sulayem, the UAE's representative at the FIA, was largely responsible for Max Mosley's recent victory in a vote of confidence by the FIA General Assembly. Bin Sulayem is now admitting what he did, telling the Gulf News that he organized 41 of Mosley's 103 votes. With 55 delegates voting against Mosley it is clear that Bin Sulayem's influence was considerable as Mosley would have been defeated if the votes had changed sides.

When asked if he had been responsible Bin Sulayem said: "Yes, you are right. I had got him so many votes. Yes, I made the difference. I don't deny it. The vote of confidence was a democratic process and once he has won the vote I think it is unfair to question his future as the FIA President. The very countries which say they are the torch-bearers of democracy seem to be doing just the opposite. If anyone can convince me that he has done wrong to motorsport or during his tenure his decisions have hurt Formula 1 or rallying then we have a case. But not over his personal and private affairs. In fact in one of my speeches I have referred to it as a 'terrorist attack on one's personal life'."

The interesting question is why Bin Sulayem is now talking openly about his involvement and it will probably lead to speculation that he might be a person to succeed Mosley. Rumors have long suggested that Jean Todt was Mosley's choice, but it is clear that the Frenchman has a lot of enemies and the F1 world has made it obvious that they do not want to be governed by Todt. They do not really get a choice in the matter because teams do not have a vote in the elections but the knowledge that F1 is against Todt is nonetheless significant as the last thing the FIA needs in the long term is more fighting in F1. Mosley's abrasive way of doing business has kept him in the spotlight, but there are many inside the FIA who believe that a change of style is necessary for everyone to get out of the limelight and do some much-needed repair work.

Mosley has said he will stand down in October 2009 but there is no doubt that he is planning a Putin-like operation in which he will probably move to become head of the FIA Senate, which will give him power without profile.

Bin Sulayem is 46 and has dominated Middle Eastern rallying since 1986. He has won more FIA regional championships than any other driver in history, racking up 14 Middle East titles. His success at world level has been less dramatic but sixth place on the 1993 Rally of Argentina was no mean achievement. With motorsport booming in the Middle East, Bin Sulayem may be seen by Mosley as a man who could replace him. Grandprix.com


IRL to meet with potential engine manufacturers Tuesday
SPEED NEWS reported that representatives of Audi, BMW, GM, Ford, Honda and one other will be in Indy on Tuesday to hold a meeting with the IRL.


DEI could cut back to 3 teams in 2009
Dale Earnhardt Inc.’s Vice President of Motorsports Operations John Story said Sunday morning at Infineon Raceway that the team ... is still looking for a sponsor for the #01 Chevy driven by Regan Smith. If no sponsor is found, Story said, the team will cut back to three cars. SPEEDtv.com


Villeneuve still has nose stuck up in air
Seems Jacques Villeneuve still thinks he is too good for Indy Car racing, this after failing miserably in F1 and then NASCAR.  His race activities have been reduced to just LeMans and, other than that, can be found on gardening leave.  Derrick Walker said he also inquired about Jacques Villeneuve's interest in driving an IndyCar at Edmonton this year, but the former CART and Formula One champion did not respond. Canada figures to have two IndyCar Series races next season with Toronto joining the fold.


Martin to Leave DEI, Almirola Full Time Next Season
Mark Martin will have a new racing home in 2009, ESPN.com has learned. Martin was unavailable for comment Sunday. Officials for Martin's current team, Dale Earnhardt Inc., would neither confirm nor deny the speculation, but did confirm that young Aric Almirola would run a full-time schedule in 2009. "Aric is ready for a full-time ride," said John Story, DEI vice president of motorsports operations. Almirola has shared the #8 U.S. Army Chevy with Martin for the past two seasons. "Were talking to Mark about what his objectives for the future are, and trying to marry that with our own, with Aric Almirola, to make sure Aric has an opportunity to run full time next year. We're going through the process right now of trying to make sure that we get something for Aric that provides him a 36-race schedule, and at the same time that Mark is in a good situation." ESPN.com


Raikkonen likely to have engine change
(GMM)  Ferrari will probably change Kimi Raikkonen's engine ahead of the British grand prix in two weeks.

The Finn was lucky to finish Sunday's race at Magny-Cours, after the exhaust for the right-bank of the V8 engine broke off and burned a hole in the bodywork.

Raikkonen, who otherwise would have dominantly won the French grand prix, told reporters afterwards that he suffered a loss of power from his engine before it nearly stopped altogether in the closing stages.

The engine was due to be carried over to Silverstone, in accordance with the rule mandating a two-race life for each power plant in formula one.

Team boss Stefano Domenicali told reporters after Sunday's Magny-Cours event: "I think it's a bit ambitious to use (the engine in) another race.

"I don't know yet but I would say it is quite likely," he added.

Raikkonen, who is now five points behind in the championship, will not be penalized for an engine change for the British grand prix.

A new rule for this year allows each driver to have one unscheduled engine change without penalty.


Mosley to strike back in F1 power struggle UPDATE (GMM)  Following the threat of a 'breakaway' championship and a war with Bernie Ecclestone over a new Concorde Agreement, Max Mosley will hit back this week, according to reports.

The FIA's World Motor Sport Council is scheduled to meet on Wednesday, where it is suggested that Mosley - the Paris based federation's president - will launch a counter-offensive to win back the affection of formula one teams.

Having survived the sex scandal, Mosley is set to propose that Ecclestone - who runs F1's commercial rights - promises much more of the sport's income for the teams before he puts his signature on a new Concorde.

Currently, teams receive 75 per cent of F1's promotional fees and 50 per cent of the TV money, but Mosley wants Ecclestone to up the stakes to 92 and up to 67 per cent respectively, the authoritative German magazine Auto Motor und Sport claims.

"With this, the teams bosses will forget all about the Mosley scandal," one figure in the Magny-Cours paddock predicted.

It is believed that Mosley can already count on Ferrari's support, as team boss Stefano Domenicali is already no longer meeting with Ecclestone - who may have travelled to Maranello last week - about F1's current power struggle.

Williams and the Red Bull teams are also reportedly ready to side with the FIA.

06/22/08 The FIA World Motor Sport Council will meet in Paris on Wednesday and we anticipate that there will be discussions over a proposal that will, if agreed, spark a major fight for the control of Formula 1. At Magny-Cours the F1 world has been very quiet, although everyone is very aware that this is the calm before the storm, and that the conflict between Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone is heading towards an explosion.

Our spies tell is that the proposal being put forward is that the FIA will only agree to a new Concorde Agreement if everyone else involved agrees to a substantial redistribution of Formula 1 wealth. The FIA is expected to argue that too much money is leaving the sport and wants a new agreement in which the teams share the majority of the race fees and two-thirds of the TV revenues. At the moment the current deal is that the teams get 50% of all revenues generated by the Formula One group of companies. Such a suggestion would push that figure up to around 75%. This would probably make it impossible for CVC Capital Partners, which controls the Formula One group, to make the debt payments necessary on the loan it took, which was secured on the future profits of the F1 world.

This move is likely to get Mosley the support of most of the teams, even if they are not keen to be associated with the FIA president as a result of his recent sex scandal. It is not just a question of money, however, as there are questions of governance that many of the teams want answered as well. No-one we have spoken to has shown any great enthusiasm for the idea of Mosley being replaced by ex-Ferrari boss Jean Todt, which appears to be Mosley's plan at the moment.

Read more & Comment...

Nakajima to still be in F1 in 2009
Kazuki Nakajima
(GMM)  Kazuki Nakajima is likely to still be racing a Toyota-powered formula one car in 2009.

That is the belief of Toyota-backed Nakajima's current boss, Sir Frank Williams, whose team uses engines built by the Japanese giant.

"I would imagine he will be at one of the two (Toyota) teams," Williams told reporters at the Magny-Cours circuit.

Williams praises Nakajima, 23, as an "intelligent" driver who is still developing his craft for the very pinnacle of motor racing.

He has scored seven of Williams' 15 points in 2008 so far.

"I would think he will have a long term future in formula one.  He just needs time," Williams explained.


RCR close on 4th driver
Richard Childress said he has a short list of three to four drivers and that he should have an announcement by Aug. 15. He said the list includes drivers who are and are not in the Cup series but would not reveal any names. "We're very close," Childress said on Friday at Infineon Raceway. "We're just trying to find the right person that will be a good fit with General Mills." Sources close to the situation said Ryan Newman and Martin Truex Jr. are on the list but considered longshots. Dale Earnhardt Inc. has picked up the option for Truex next season. Unless he can get out of that he will return to the #1 car. Scott Wimmer is on the list, but considered on the lower end. Childress has hinted he may go with a younger driver with star potential. "He could be anywhere from 21 to 33 or 34," he said. Not on the list is Dave Blaney, who hopes to re-sign with Bill Davis Racing next season. Blaney's car is without sponsorship for 2009 after Caterpillar announced earlier this week it would sponsor Jeff Burton's car at RCR. ESPN.com

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