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Gordon to run double in 2006 Rumor has it that Robby Gordon will try to do the Indy 500/Lowe's 600 double in 2006. Good luck given the time change of the Indy 500. We hear they may push the Indy 500 back even later than this year.
Ford to announce Taurus replacementUPDATE Ford Motor Co. is putting a new face on its NASCAR Nextel Cup entry next year. The automaker is expected to announce as early as this week [thought to be Thursday July 14th in Charlotte] that the Ford Fusion will replace the venerable Taurus on North America's most popular racing circuit, said people familiar with the plan. After 20 years, Ford is pulling the plug on Taurus production early in 2006, and NASCAR rules require that race cars be based on showroom models. The Fusion arrives on dealer lots this fall. Fusion will enter the midsize car segment, where the competition dwarfs even the longtime rivalry between Ford and Chevy on the racetrack. In the midsize car market, it's Ford vs. Chevy vs. Toyota vs. Honda vs. Nissan. The entry-level midsize car, along with the larger Five Hundred sedan, represents Ford's latest effort to rebuild passenger car sales. Styling and price are more likely to lure buyers. Ford designed and engineered the Fusion to be more aggressive and nimble than the Taurus. It is priced starting at $17,995. Ford declined comment on specific plans to replace Taurus, promising to unveil details this week. NASCAR entries are subject to strict dimensional guidelines to ensure competitive racing, but to help sell the vehicles, manufacturers take great care to make certain that the cars on the track retain identifiable design cues. Detroit News07/06/05 Rumor has it that Ford Racing Technology will announce next Tuesday in Charlotte what car will replace the current Taurus for Ford's NASCAR Nextel Cup program in 2006 and beyond. The Ford Fusion is rumored to be the car.
ISC to announce Home Depot deal Int’l Speedway Corp. (ISC) today will announce a four-year deal through ’08 that makes The Home Depot “the official home improvement retailer across all of ISC’s business units,” including its motorsports facilities. The deal expands a smaller hospitality and signage agreement that began in ’99. Industry sources estimated the new agreement to be “in the mid- to high seven figures per year” Sportsbusiness Journal
McLaren to shut out Alonso rest of year McLaren have warned Renault that they should not expect Formula One title favorite Fernando Alonso to win another race this season. McLaren chief executive Martin Whitmarsh told reporters after Juan Pablo Montoya's British Grand Prix success on Sunday that his team could realistically hope to sweep the board from Silverstone onwards.
"We could have won the last eight races, we can win every remaining race," he said.
"Both of our drivers, unquestionably at the moment, can beat Alonso and if we do that, and we have good reliability and they make a slip or two, then we're in there to win both championships.
"I'm not going to go and put my mortgage on it, yet, but I do believe we can do it. But it's not going to be easy," concluded Whitmarsh. Reuters
No ALMS for Toronto Hopes that Ron Fellows might be racing his factory Corvette C6-R at the Toronto Molson Indy next season apparently have been dashed. Champ Car World Series boss Kevin Kalkhoven told reporters that while he is in discussion with the American Le Mans Series to hold as many as three companion races in 2006, Toronto isn't one of them. Fellows -- a back-to-back-to-back American Le Mans Series champion and one of Toronto's most popular athletes -- makes his home in Mississauga.
A leaked 2006 Champ Car schedule, however, shows that doubleheaders would be at Sebring, Portland and Houston. One of the roadblocks to bringing ALMS to the Molson Indy is the series already has a long-established and very successful event each summer at Mosport International Raceway.
Kenseth to stay at Roush Matt Kenseth, the 2003 Cup champ, has no plans to move. Expect him to get his next contract with Roush Racing locked down early. Kenseth, who finished second on Sunday (his best finish of the season), reportedly is signed through the 2006 season and has no plans to change teams. "We've never had any problems," Kenseth says. "Roush has always been fair to me, and I feel like I've done the same thing. They've done great things for my career, and I can't imagine racing anywhere else." Sporting News
All-Star Race to move? Look for the Nextel All-Star Challenge to move in 2007. Although the event will remain at Lowe's Motor Speedway next year, NASCAR is looking to move the All-Star race to Richmond International Raceway, a track that is closer to Nextel's headquarters in Reston, Va. Sporting News
Banning testing at some non Cup tracks? NASCAR is considering banning Cup testing at Kentucky and Nashville and possibly other tracks, according to crew chiefs, who say NASCAR may also ban any testing anywhere during the season's final 10 events. Winston Salem Journal
Roush trying to keep Martin in the #6 for 2006 Jack Roush asked Mark Martin if he would consider taking one for the team--"an encore tour"--if Jamie McMurray were unavailable in 2006 to drive the #6 Ford. Roush was beaming ear to ear when he said, "He didn't tell me no." Sporting News
Another Chicago date in 2007? Lights to be Added? NASCAR chairman Brian France is expected to speak today on the possibility of Chicagoland Speedway adding a second Nextel Cup race to its schedule, perhaps as early as 2007. If that happens, the race track may also add lights, with either or both races landing on Saturday night on the schedule. If a second race at Chicagoland is added, the bigger questions would be when it would run and whether the date would be taken from another track on the circuit. The weather window for running in the area is short, and the fall collides with the college and pro football seasons. What's more, the Indy Racing League's date at Chicagoland is the second Sunday in September. The tickets for the IRL weekend are sold as part of this weekend's races as a package deal. Adding a third weekend to the package could slow sales, but splitting one of the two NASCAR weekends off separately could do the same thing. Daily South
Tracy gets green light for NASCAR goUPDATE This rumor is now 'fact.' Paul Tracy was telling reporters at the Molson Indy yesterday that Forsythe Championship Racing will let him drive in NASCAR races if the opportunity arises. Tracy was miffed last season when team owner Gerry Forsythe nixed a deal Tracy had with Richard Childress Racing to run the No. 30 Chevrolet at the Nextel Cup event in Sonoma, Calif. The problem, however, is that there is only one road-course race left on the NASCAR calendar - next month at Watkins Glen - and it's unlikely there will be a car available for Tracy on such short notice. And with Tracy's contract with Forsythe about to expire at the end of the season, the whole NASCAR thing is rather moot. Edmonton Sun07/08/05 AutoRacing1.com is hearing in Toronto that Gerald Forsythe has given provisional pole sitter for the Toronto Champ Car race, Paul Tracy, permission to test a NASCAR Nextel Cup car and to drive one race in 2005. Tracy has been invited by Richard Childress to give NASCAR a go previously. Now we'll see if he means it. Mark C.
Wheeler eyes German driverUPDATE As it turns out, Mike is a Porsche factory driver with the BAM! Porsche GT2 car in the ALMS. The team, on Yokohama ADVAN A005 Racing Slicks and in partnership with Alex Job Racing, won the GT2 Class at 24 Hours of LeMans last month. They led 21 of the 24 hours. Teaming up with Mike at LeMans was fellow Porsche factory driver Marc Lieb and team owner Leo Hindery. Therein lies the connection to Mr. Wheeler and his presence at LeMans. His daughter is married to Leo and he was there supporting that fact. Nonetheless, Mike is a great driver and deserves all the attention he gets. 07/10/05 Apparently NASCAR Lowe's Motor Speedway President Humpy Wheeler is trying to talk German sportscar driver Mike Rockenfeller (pictured right) into coming to NASCAR. Rockenfeller drives for the BAM! Porsche GT2 team in the ALMS. Wheeler was at this year's 24 Hours of LeMans keeping his eye on him.
Plan for Champ Car season finale We heard from an inside source that Champ Car is planning to have its season finale in the USA in about two years time. No venues were mentioned, but from our perspective, if the rumored Las Vegas street race ever materializes, that should become the season finale. Mark C.
Button to Ferrari, Williams or BAR Jenson Button could move to Ferrari in an $18-million deal if rumors in Silverstone can be believed. "I read that this morning as well. A nice piece," he grinned when asked at a news conference about a headline on the back page of the Daily Mirror proclaiming "Jenson to join Ferrari".
The newspaper said that Button, who has yet to win a race in 92 starts, was being lined up for a 20 million pounds move to the Italian team as a replacement for Brazilian Rubens Barrichello.
"I can't say anything on my future next year, I'm just living in the moment which is pretty good," said Button. "I won't (deny the story), but I cannot talk about my future next year. That's it. I am not going to say yes or no."
Although Barrichello has a contract with Ferrari through 2006,Bernie Ecclestone was quoted as saying Ferrari would be good for Button but he would bet on a move to Williams, where Button started his career in 2000.
"If I was a gambling man, my money would be on Jenson with Williams next season because it looks as if he cannot get out of his contract with them -- even if he wanted to," he told the Daily Express. "It wouldn't be the worst move he has made."
BAR boss Nick Fry admits Button might not be easy to hold onto but he is hoping the driver will choose to stay.
"Our contract (with Button) is not watertight but we're relying on the fact Jenson will see there is a good future with Honda," Fry told BBC Radio Five Live.
"Honda have a huge heritage in F1, we've won in the past and we will in the future. We're a good place to be and Jenson's got to make up his mind."
Will Champ Car drop any races? A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, If the rumored South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Houston and Philadelphia race rumors come true, coupled with China, I count 20 races total. Can Champ Car do that many? Scott Murphy, Detroit, Mi. Dear Scott, 20 races would be too many given how much extra time the overseas races take due to travel time. I see the schedule solidifying on 18 races eventually. As to which ones would be dropped, it would be two of the weakest ones - Milwaukee, Las Vegas, Portland and Cleveland are all losing money. Mark C.
Richmond a week earlier Richmond International Raceway apparently will be welcoming the Nextel Cup Series a week early next spring. RIR officials have had discussions with NASCAR about the 2006 schedule, and all indications are Richmond's first Busch-Cup weekend will fall on May 5-6. The Chevy American Revolution 400 at RIR has been held the second weekend in May the past two years. Richmond will swap spots with Darlington Raceway, which will retain the Mother's Day weekend date after a 75,000-seat sellout on May 7 in its first Saturday night race the day before the holiday. Times-Dispatch
What's up with Riggs? It appears more likely than not that Scott Riggs will be leaving the [current] #10 Nelson Bowers-Bob Sutton-James Rocco team at the end of the season, probably to drive for Ray Evernham [in his #10 Valvoline car]. Jay Frye, the team manager for the Rocco-Bowers operation, is glad to get #01-Joe Nemechek [see below] under a new contract but he isn't happy with the state of negotiations with Riggs, who has apparently told Frye to consider looking for another driver. "We have every intention of re-signing Scott, and we presented an offer to him before Richmond (in May)," Frye said. "But he's been quoted saying he's talking with other teams. I think this is where he wants to be, but we'll see. Since all this got out, we've had calls from other drivers, some that would surprise a lot of people. We have every intention of Scott staying, and we want him to stay. We've got to decide within the next two or three weeks, because we're looking a sponsor prospects. So we've got to get it secured sooner rather than later." Winston Salem Journal
Wood still looking at Cup Until this weekend, Jon Wood was the heir apparent to Mark Martin in Roush Racing's famed #6 Ford. Jamie McMurray will take over one of NASCAR's most visible rides - although possibly not until 2007. Wood can turn his attention back to the Busch Series, where, as a rookie, he's 15th in the points driving the #47 Ford for mid-level ST Motorsports. ``When I first got the job in this [No. 47] race car this year, that was all that I had,'' he said. ``As the weeks went on and more talk about me going to whichever Cup car next year progressed, it didn't really distract me, but it was more than I needed at the time.'' Wood is under contract with Roush, for whom he drove in the Craftsman Truck Series from 2001 to 2004. That does not mean he will go to the next level with Roush. It is far more likely now that Wood, a third-generation racer in the Wood Brothers family, will wind up driving their #21 Ford. Ricky Rudd, 48 and winless in his three seasons as the Wood Brothers' lone driver, is nearing the end of his career. Whether he retires at the end of this year or goes one more, Wood is his likely replacement. ``There's a strong possibility that if things work out, I could be in the 21,'' Wood said. ``That would be a really big deal because the Wood Brothers family and the racing team have both put a tremendous amount of effort into getting me where I am right now, so that would be cool to pay them back.'' Tampa Tribune [Editor's Note: He's also rumored to be talking to the Penske team]
Champ Car team budgets Carl Haas and Paul Newman are legendary. It is believed they run a budget of somewhere between $6-$7 million for each of their two cars. Servia says Coyne's team is about one-third that amount.
"The difference is not only the money and the equipment. It's really the people. What makes this team special is that most of the people have been here for more than 10 years. It has lasted longer than most of their marriages," Servia says, laughing.
"There's a spirit here and it comes from Mr. Haas and Mr. Newman. They are so involved, so passionate. They have racing in their hearts, especially Mr. Newman. People see him and think he's just a famous actor and this is his hobby. But he loves this ... before the race he's 'go get it, go get it' ... he's pumping his fist, he's such a tiger. That spirit it gets spread through the mechanics and I just love it."
Of course, along with bigger budgets come bigger expectations. At Newman/Haas making the podium isn't enough. Servia knows he has to win. Soon. "With this team I have to win and I'd like to do it sooner than later. I finally have the right tools. We have a winning team, a winning car and I believe I'm a winning driver." Toronto Sun
Schu takes off-track pounding Michael Schumacher is rumored to have taken another pounding by his on-track rivals in a drivers' meeting at Silverstone. The world champion, effectively a secluded opinion after the Indy farce, was openly criticized on Saturday by fellow grand prix drivers' director, Jarno Trulli.
''He hasn't been honest,'' the Italian told Gazzetta dello Sport. ''We are all united and ... there is only one against.''
Trulli said the German, as president of the drivers' body, has taken an 'unsuitable' position on the matter, such as refusing to sign recent driver statements. The Toyota driver alleged: ''(Schumacher's position) is a political act.''
Ferrari's champion was reportedly told to come on board at the Silverstone GPDA meeting, or resign as president. But Michael told the media: ''It was a completely ordinary meeting.''
Fellow director and rival Mark Webber, though, indicated that the Schu split has been brewing for some time. The Australian told the Sunday Times: ''This was the first year I didn't get a Christmas card from Michael.''
Jordan seal engine deal Formula One team Jordan, to be renamed 'Midland' next year, has sealed a 2006 engine deal. Team boss Colin Kolles said the lid would be lifted 'very soon,' and maybe at Silverstone. Jordan reportedly neared a $10m deal with German carmaker Mercedes-Benz, but is thought to have instead renewed the Toyota connection.
''We wanted to announce it in Indianapolis,'' Kolles said, ''but (that) was the wrong moment.'' The Silverstone based team, meanwhile, will again test the 'b' spec car next week - in France - in view of debuting it at Hockenheim, the next race.
Overheard in Toronto IV Our sources in Germany tell us that Roger Penske has been spending a lot of time in Stuttgart.....perhaps wooing Mercedes to badge Ilmor's IRL engine.........Meanwhile we hear that Carl Haas is going to the Nurburgring in August, but it is not known what the purpose of his visit is. Word in Germany is that the Nurburgring will soon lose its F1 race.
No IRL/Champ Car merger in the worksUPDATE #6 After talking to an improving Kevin Kalkhoven today in Toronto it is clear to us that there will never be a merger between Champ Car and the IRL. Without getting into specifics it's the end of this story. "This subject comes up every year, and frankly, both series should be concentrating on what they need to do to be able to continue to go," Kevin Kalkhoven said. "It doesn't really matter what the terms of reunification are. It's really not something that is wanted, let's just put it that way." 07/08/05 We are downgrading this rumor to 'strong' from 'fact' based on new information received that things are not definitely dead. The Globe and Mail reports, According to people close to the negotiations, George has previously refused to entertain a 50-50 ownership proposition put on the table by the Champ Car World Series ownership simply because he feels that he has invested too much in the IRL, Indy 500, and Indianapolis Motor Speedway to allow another body to control its destiny.
While George agrees it is in everyone's best interest to have one series, the image of thousands of irate F1 fans throwing debris on the track and streaming out of the Brickyard convinced him that a tight grip on the reins remained the best course of action, according to a source close to the Brickyard owner.
"Control has to rest in one place and with one body and that is the IRL," said the source.
"He is willing to make significant concessions on the business model to accommodate Champ Car, but they want 50-per-cent ownership of the Hulman family business and that is the major stumbling block."
So, with Champ Car arriving in Toronto for the 20th Molson Indy and the Indy Racing League on their way to Nashville for next week's Indy 200, the two series aren't just far apart when it comes to racing locations.
Champ Car's plan allows no real role for George in the new series apart from running the Indy 500 and giving up 50-per-cent control of the family business. With that idea unacceptable, George and his negotiators put a counterproposal on the table about three weeks ago but have not had any response.
The main points of the IRL offer are a 50-50 split of oval and road/street course events, more international events, provisions for the IRL to help out a number of Champ Car teams financially, and the creation of an advisory committee made up of stakeholders and headed by Champ Car co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven. Sharing ownership of the new series was not included.
On the other side of the equation, Kalkhoven and Champ Car continue to execute on their plan to expand in the Pacific Rim in order to drum up sponsorship business in the burgeoning Asian marketplace.
This is somewhere the IRL does not want to go and any merger plan would probably have to scrap Kalkhoven's vision for open-wheeled racing. That's unlikely especially since Kalkhoven has made is clear that Champ Car will pursue its current strategy independently of other developments.
07/06/05 This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact.' Each year they are asked the same question and each year both sides give the same three-word answer: Maybe next year. This time the heads of Champ Car and its open-wheel rival, the Indy Racing League, broke from tradition and made any future questions about a possible reunification moot.
"I don't think [reconciliation] is possible for 2006," IRL boss Tony George told the Indianapolis Star this weekend. "I don't think it's possible ever."
His sentiments were echoed by Champ Car co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven yesterday. "There is little possibility of bringing the two series together," he said. "Our philosophies are so completely different."
Kalkhoven said he lost faith in merging the two leagues when he and George were invited for dinner and drinks at Mario Andretti's home in May. Afterwards, Kalkhoven received a letter from George stating that he would consider bringing the competing leagues together as long as he could have sole control.
"I would say, by and large, it's a situation where we would have to agree to a 50-50 sharing of responsibilities and leave the Indy 500 out of anything we do -- let Tony control that," Kalkhoven said. "But he believes he ought to control all open-wheel motorsport in the U.S. And we don't quite agree with that."
During the Indianapolis 500, the two sides were rumored to be working on a deal that would have seen the two sides jointly race six events, including the Toronto and Montreal Indys. "I think with each day that passes, it becomes more and more obvious [unification] would be the right thing to do," George said then.
But Kalkhoven said the hurdles in dealing with George remain too great. "There are certainly significant advantages in doing it. It's obvious that Tony doesn't want to do it," he said. "It's not a question of liking or disliking. There are obvious benefits to being able to bring the two together, but equally there is such a divergence of opinion as to how it should be, that it would be very difficult to do."
Champ Car and the IRL have operated independently for the past 10 years with limited success. In 2003, Champ Car claimed it had lost US$78-million and filed for bankruptcy. The IRL placed a bid for Champ Car's assets but it was denied by an Indianapolis court.
In February, 2004, Kalkhoven and fellow Champ Car owners Gerry Forsythe and Paul Gentilozzi purchased the series, which they see as an alternative to IRL-style events.
"Tony wants to do ovals with young American drivers; that was his original concept," said Kalkhoven. "We believe in being more NAFTA-based, with some international [races]. And we do more street courses. We believe very much in these three-day festivals of speed that we do so successfully in Toronto."
Champ Car continues to struggle, however, both in attendance and television ratings. In Portland a few weeks ago, the three-day attendance was rumored to be around 30,000, while 3,000 local viewers tuned in to the CBS-televised race.
The IRL, meanwhile, has seen a 40% leap in overnight Nielsen ratings thanks, in part, to media-friendly Danica Patrick. The Texas race last month was the highest-watched ESPN telecast of an IRL event, attracting 880,000 households.
Still, the IRL is not without its own set of obstacles. Engine manufacturer Toyota is leaving the series after next season and it is rumored Honda could follow because of a lack of competition. Which means there would be no manufacturers remaining in the series unless Honda renews.
Kalkhoven has insisted that his relationship with Cosworth -- the exclusive supplier to Champ Cars -- would not affect his desire to end the feud between the warring series. Still, it opens the possibility that Kalkhoven could be hearing the same questions again next year. "I've learned that 'never' is a word that you should never use lightly," he said, "because sometimes factors come into play that would make you look silly." Canada.com
07/04/05 Indy Racing League officials believe there is a window of opportunity to reconcile open-wheel racing with the owners of the Champ Car World Series. IRL founder Tony George expects that window to close without a deal. "I don't think (reconciliation) is possible for 2006; I don't think it's possible ever," he said at Kansas Speedway.
George confirmed that the stumbling block is Champ Car's desire to share ownership of the IRL, a business his family has owned and operated since 1994. Besides financial considerations, George is reluctant to yield control of Indy-car racing, particularly in lieu of last month's Formula One race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Members of George's staff have said the grand prix fiasco is an example of why he created the IRL in the first place. "Sobering, isn't it?" George said of not having control of an event at his track.
George offered Champ Car a set of compromise points in a letter sent just prior to the U.S. Grand Prix, and he said he has heard back "indirectly." He would not explain. The window IRL officials refer to is the time in which it takes to solidify plans for next season. The 2006 schedule is expected to be in place within a month. Indy Star
06/30/05 AutoWeek reports that Tony George made an offer to Kevin Kalkhoven, and Kalkhoven apparently is still considering it. Champ Car sources say series owners met with IRL president Tony George at Mario Andretti's home in Pennsylvania in early May. George initially agreed to common equipment, but the IMS board rejected the idea shortly thereafter, according to the same sources says AutoWeek. We suspect the people surrounding George are worried more about job security and protecting their little fiefdom than doing what is best for the sport. Since the beginning when he started the IRL, Tony George has gotten bad advice from those around him, and it appears to continue to this day. Meanwhile the manufacturers are leaving the sport and the business will soon start a steeper downward spiral. 06/30/05 A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Regarding your item mentioned below about the fact that it seems more and more unlikely that there will not be a CCWS/IRL merger: Is there any reason that the Indy 500, as we know it now, can't be a standalone event, similar to what the 24 hours of Le Mans is? Granted, there is the ALMS series here in the USA, but there is no similar series in Europe that runs the Le Mans cars. In the past, all the CART teams had to construct a special Indy 500 car, or in most cases, a road racing/short track chassis as well as a Super Speedway chassis. If the IRL were indeed disbanded and CCWS would continue to pursue their current road and street racing strategy, conceding the ovals to stock cars, I feel that by having the Indy 500 as a featured event you can return the focus and prominence to the Indy 500 race that has been eroding each and every year. Werner Fritz, Trevor, Wisconsin First, the LMES is Europe's version of the ALMS series, though it only holds a limited number of races each year. As for the Indy 500 being a standalone event, it was during the CART years, the 500's best years. CART raced there and independent teams also entered, but USAC sanctioned it. Champ Car can't afford to have it's premier event controlled by another organization, individual or family who could yank it out from under them (as happened in 1996) and seriously harm their series. It is important that Champ Car develop its own premier event and they control their own destiny. Sure it would be nice if Tony George got together with Champ Car and the Indy 500 was the crown event, but it appears that isn't going to happen. If there is to be NO unification of Champ Car and the IRL, it certainly seems quite "self-defeating" to continue to allow any Champ Car teams to field entries in the IRL's Indy 500! After all, WAR is WAR, and you simply don't "fraternize" with your enemy! Mark C. 06/29/05 With Brian Barnhart's announcement that the 2007 IRL engines will not differ much from the current normally aspirated formula, and with Champ Car's Dick Eidswick announcement that the Champ Cars will remain turbocharged in 2007, strong rumor has it that all hopes of a merger between the two series, or that they would agree to a common set of specifications, is indeed lost, perhaps forever. This of course makes our recommendation that Champ Car move forward with establishing its own 'Indy 500' marquee event all that more sensible. To have its teams race in the Indy 500 is only prolonging the need for Champ Car to establish its own future.
Prodrive eyes F1 David Richards has ruled himself out of contention as Max Mosley's possible FIA successor. The former BAR boss, owner of the Prodrive company, rejected media reports suggesting he is the secret name behind teams' plan to replace the current president. ''That is one of the most undesirable jobs in motorsport,'' he told Reuters at Silverstone, on his first visit to the F1 Paddock this year. I can't imagine anyone wanting to (do) it.''
F1, though, is on Richards' radar, as he hinted that he could see Prodrive on the Formula One grid 'in the future.'
FOX to announce NASCAR Latin America dealUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today and the details underscore NASCAR's global initiative. As it prepares to roll out the SPEED Channel in Latin America this week, Fox International Channels has inked a multiyear deal to broadcast a slate of NASCAR events in the region.
The agreement with NASCAR Digital Entertainment and Grand American Road Racing covers the NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series, the NASCAR Busch Series, the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series, the Rolex Sports Car Series and the Grand-Am Cup Series. This agreement will bring extensive coverage in both live and highlight form throughout the region on the SPEED Channel, FX and Fox Sports. The deal covers all Latin America and Brazil, and brings NASCAR events to new countries including Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay.
Commenting on the deal, Hernan Lopez, the president of Fox Latin America Channels, noted, “News Corp. and NASCAR have a successful partnership in the U.S., where Fox, FX and the SPEED Channel have broadcast more races than any other partner. We look forward to replicating this success in Latin America, where NASCAR already has a strong following.” WorldScreen
07/07/05 Fox today is expected to announce a multi-year agreement with NASCAR in which Fox Latin America Channels have “purchased the rights to broadcast” NASCAR races and weekly highlights on pay TV nets FX and Speed Channel. NASCAR programming will debut on the channels this weekend. FX and Speed Channel are part of Fox’ basic cable TV offering in Latin America HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
Homestead event may move, change time Homestead-Miami Speedway's Indy Racing League event stands a good chance of being pushed back in the calendar.
"[The Indy Racing League] is trying to condense the season some, and I don't know about the number [of events], but they are trying to have not such a long period of time between events," said Curtis Gray, Homestead-Miami Speedway president. "But we haven't heard from them [about a date change]."
The circuit won't release its 2006 schedule for at least another month, but if the IRL is looking to shorten the time period between events, the Homestead event likely could be moved back and run two weeks before the St. Petersburg road race. Assuming the St. Petersburg race keeps its first-weekend-in-April date, Homestead's event likely would be March 16-18.
The St. Petersburg race could move up in the calendar, but that would place the race, which runs downtown, in a conflict with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, whose spring training site is on the St. Petersburg race's grounds.
IRL team owner Roger Penske expressed an interest in the league running at night under Homestead-Miami's new lights, and Gray said he hopes the IRL will consider it.
"I think we would eventually like them to run at night," Gray said. "And I think the IRL will take note of how successful the NASCAR night races will be in November, and hopefully we can show them that South Florida is a good night-event market. That's not to say we wouldn't do a nighttime race , but I'm just not sure about the dates." Sun-Sentinel
San Jose ticket sales high, to add more seatingUPDATE #4 Four Silver Grandstands for the Champ Car Taylor Woodrow Grand Prix of San Jose have been sold out, the race's general manager, Bob Singleton, said. The grandstands are Silver 2 in Plaza de Cesar Chavez, which looks southwest down the Park Ave. chicane, 3A at the Almaden Hairpin, and 4A and 4D along Almaden Blvd. The 4D grandstand, along with 4C, were recently added to replace the 3C grandstand along Almaden near the hairpin. The 3C grandstand was scrapped because of trees. The new configuration did not add to the originally planned total of 22,000 seats grandstand seats.
Singleton did not have a count on tickets sold, but said momentum was building and that he was "real happy" with the pace of sales. He said that the 3B grandstands were nearly sold out.
As for course construction, the first concrete barriers will be put in place Tuesday along Almaden. Each barrier is 13 feet long, 2 feet wide and 40 inches high and weighs 8,000 pounds. It will take 1,218 of these blocks to complete the course. The catch fences that will be attached to the barriers will run for 15,840 feet. Mercury News
Strange that the GP has not placed a single advertisement in the San Francisco Chronicle which has a huge readership up and down the peninsula. Could it be since Ridder-Knight(San Jose Mercury News) is a major sponsor of the event they won't allow their largest competitor any of the track's advertising budget, which will only hurt their total attendance and in turn the money which will go to the Canary Cancer Fund? The GP is really missing out on this one, while Infineon Raceway has been posting large ads in the Chronicle and playing TV commercials (network & cable) for their upcoming ALMS event on July 17th, while the SJGP has not placed a SJ Mercury ad in weeks!
07/06/05 We can upgrade this rumor to 'fact' today. If you look at the track map on the SJGP website you will see the addition of two "new" grandstands on Almaden Blvd. plus they've added 2 new wheelchair accessible stands at Turn 6 and on the Balbach Ave. straight. Also they have started assembling the grandstands and suites in the parking lot across from the Hilton and Convention Center. Mike Brown Grandstands is doing the job, they've done Long Beach's grandstands forever. 06/28/05 AutoRacing1.com took a quick spin around the San Jose circuit yesterday. Repaving and curbing work is just about complete. The hairpin at the north end of the track has been constructed. No grandstands, bridges, concrete walls and catch fencing are in sight. We hear all the construction will start right after the July 4th weekend and it will be a real rush to finish everything on time. Whereas Long Beach begins setup in February for its April race, San Jose is going to pull off the task in less than 4 weeks.
In general, the track is in the most beautiful part of the downtown area, and although the track is shorter than it should be, it will still make for a spectacular looking event. With limited sightlines for the spectators (due to fencing and trees), the GP will erect 8 Jumbotrons. Only two bridges will be erected for fans and personnel to cross the track. Paddock Suites, which are selling well, range in price from $47,750 each (air conditioned) to $19,650.
06/24/05 Our San Jose sources tell us there is talk of another grandstand on the Almaden Blvd straightaway and increasing the number of handicapped accessible seats in the Turn 6 grandstands. 06/24/05 Word here in Cleveland is that San Jose ticket sales are so strong that a sellout of the suites and grandstands is a real possibility. Will that lead them to build more grandstands? We have not heard but we do know the design plans allow for more if needed.
Honda and Jordan eye Ranger for F1UPDATE Talked to Alan Labrosse, Andrew Ranger's Manager. He tells us Ranger will remain in Champ Car at least another year. "He's only 18 years old," said Labrosse. He has plenty of time for F1 if the right opportunity arises. Who knows, he could stay here." 07/02/05 After another impressive weekend with the also-ran Mi-Jack Conquest team, Andrew Ranger remains the talk of the Champ Car paddock and the best bet to be Canada's next Formula One star.
While he finished a disappointing eighth in the Cleveland Grand Prix after qualifying an impressive fourth, Ranger showed he's a pure racer after battling back in a race where bad luck cost him a possible trip to the podium.
Running on fumes just before his first pit stop at about one-third distance, a full-course yellow flag came out because of debris on the track and ruined his day.
Ranger had no choice but to ignore the "closed" pit lane and stop for fuel, preferring to risk a penalty than run out of gas.
The drive-through penalty that followed pushed him to the back of the field, but the young driver wasn't deterred. To make matters worse, Ranger's radio went dead soon after the penalty and he couldn't tell the team that he needed some wing adjustments to cure understeer on the car.
Champ Car commentator Derek Daly couldn't stop talking about the 18-year-old from Roxton Pond, Que., as he climbed up the field and challenged for a top-five finish late in the race.
Daly rightly pointed out that the young driver acts and performs more like a veteran than a rookie. It was well-deserved praise for Ranger, who now heads to Toronto leading all rookies in points, including two, Bjorn Wirdheim and Timo Glock, who have considerable F1 experience.
In the end, Ranger finished 25 seconds behind Forsythe driver and race winner Paul Tracy of Scarborough, Ont., but the 20-odd seconds he lost serving the penalty was the difference between eighth and the podium.
Early in the race, Ranger challenged eventual fourth-place finisher Alex Tagliani of Lachenaie, Que., and muscled past his more experienced rival with a bold, late-braking move.
It wasn't the first time the Mi-Jack driver turned heads in five Champ Car races this season. His second-place performance in Monterrey, Mexico, last month caught the attention of some F1 outfits, which led to meetings with at least two teams at the Canadian Grand Prix.
Ranger spent time with BAR-Honda's sporting director Gil de Ferran in Montreal, who spoke to the young driver for about 10 minutes. While they mostly talked about racing, de Ferran made a point to tell the Quebec driver that his opportunity would come as long as his good performances continued.
Honda Racing executives also remain interested in Ranger. The Globe and Mail has learned that at least one company vice-president is keeping tabs on his progress in Champ Car.
Ranger also met Toronto businessman and Jordan team owner Alex Shnaider, who is also "quite interested" in the driver. The wide-eyed teen marveled at the technology in the F1 garage and chatted privately with the billionaire team owner for a few minutes while posing for photos. Full story at Globe and Mail
New Champ Car not what you thought AutoRacing1.com has learned that the new Champ Car won't be anything like what was shown in a recent Racer Magazine edition. That concept was driven by Bruce Ashmore and we hear Tony Cotman, though recognizing it has some good ideas, does not feel that is what a Champ Car is all about. Mark C.
Champ Car planning Summit AutoRacing1.com hears that Champ Car is inviting all the sales agents working in the series to a two-day business summit at the San Jose GP. Along with being wined and dined (actually lunched), pace car rides, watching the race from a private Champ Car World Series suite, they will meet for two hours on Saturday with "series, team, event and sponsor executives" to discuss sponsorship strategies. We hear that several executives from Champ Car, including Dick Eidswick, and execs from Gulfstream, Bridgestone, the SJGP, and Carl Russo will attend. There will be another lunch with execs from Champ Car again on Sunday. We hear that Champ Car wants to give these agents more tools, insights and additional motivation to sell the series given, 1) many sponsors have pretty much given up on American Open Wheel Racing 2) insist on using last years numbers as a baseline 3) prefer to take a 'wait and see' approach hoping for a possible unification of the IRL and Champ Car. Mark C.
Overheard at Toronto - III AutoRacing1.com is hearing that a South Korean F3 driver may drive a third Champ Car for one of the teams in the Ansan race. We are told he is good, but he needs some seat time in a Champ Car before the race weekend........We hear Molson will probably do the Champ Car TV production again next year for Champ Car......Hearing that contrary to what some are saying publicly, behind the scenes efforts are still being made to merge Champ Car and the IRL and that Mario Andretti is still trying hard. The negative statements being made to the media is thought to be both sides posturing for position. Mark C.
Overheard at Toronto - II AutoRacing1.com is hearing that Houston is looking pretty good as one new venue for 2006 for the Champ Cars. We hear Philly is still out there too, however the initial schedule may show only one new venue, China, until Houston or Philly are ready.....Vicki O'Connor told us that the new Atlantic package will definitely be announced by end of August, perhaps much sooner. No word on manufacturer involvement but she appears very happy if that is any indication. Mark C.
CDW joins RuSPORTUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today with the announcement that CDW will be on Wilson's RuSPORT car for this weekend and next in Edmonton. Mark C.07/07/05 Rumor has it that CDW Canada will sponsor Justin Wilson/RuSPORT for the Canadian races and perhaps more. We await the official announcement.
Carpentier’s future up in air We are hearing that apparently, Patrick Carpentier's contract with Red Bull Cheever is for one year and Mechacrome for two. Since Mechacrome won't be involved with Cheever next year, no one's sure where Pat will end up, but he apparently doesn't want to go back to Champ Car.
Office Depot to announce Roush sponsorship deal According to Sports Business Daily, Office Depot and Roush Racing will announce today that the official office products partner of NASCAR has signed a new multi-year deal to be the exclusive primary sponsor of the No. 99 Nextel Cup Ford driven by Carl Edwards. Office Depot, which by the end of this season will have sponsored Edwards’ car for 17 races, will be the exclusive primary sponsor for the entire season starting next year. Other companies that have occupied or will occupy Edwards’ hood this year include Scotts, Autoclub Group/AAA, World Financial Group, Pennzoil and Aegon. Terms of the deal were not released, but industry insiders peg primary sponsorship of a top-tier Nextel Cup car at $12-15M per year.
Pantano again eyes Champ Car Autosport-Atlas reports that Super Nova driver Giorgio Pantano says he will be looking towards America for his future, after signing with a personal management contract with team boss David Sears.
Pantano, who suffered a number of financial difficulties during his year in Formula One in 2004 when he was driving for Jordan, was initially unable to commit to Super Nova for the entire year. However, he has now believes he will race with the team until the end of the season.
When asked how the deal with Sears came about, Pantano replied: "We made a decision together, and I think that he is one of the good managers around at the moment - you can see what he did for other drivers, for Webber, for Montoya, for other drivers - it was pretty good.
"I took the decision because I believe that David is the right person to look for my future."
Sears is also the personal manager of reigning Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais, and as such has a number of contacts in that series. Asked if the series will be a high priority for next year, Pantano noted: "Yeah, yeah, yeah.
"At the moment David is not just following Formula One, he is also following Champ Car, and he has a lot of good contacts there. I'm looking at everything - at Formula One, at America, at everything for the best opportunity.
"We will take the best opportunity, first of all for my future to be a professional driver and not just a number."
2006 Champ Car Schedule We hear that the 2006 Champ Car schedule should be released on Monday August 1st, at least that is the plan right now. Champ Car is busy putting the finishing touches on the details and marrying the schedule with available TV inventory on CBS and SPEED Channel. The good news for the teams is that an early release of the schedule will help them to immediately begin soliciting potential sponsors for 2006 before Fiscal Year 2006 budgets are finalized. Many sponsors want to know what markets they will get exposure in and what the domestic and international TV package looks like. We hear the international TV package won't be finalized until later, but that it should include TV coverage in China, something that never happened for 2005. What the series is seriously lacking right now for the two Asian races (China and South Korea) are drivers who the local fans can identify with, as well as a series name (Champ Car) that is unknown to 99.99999% of the population. If they hope to have any success in those two markets they are going to have to find drivers from those two countries. Marchy Lee is one driver that can probably handle a Champ Car, but he is from Hong Kong. Although Hong Kong is now part of China, the Beijing government still prefers a driver from mainland China. From our perspective, if Marchy Lee is ready, he should get a ride in 2006 while Champ Car grooms a driver from mainland China for 2007 and beyond. As for a South Korean driver, we have not heard any names rise to the surface yet, and that can be a problem. There are some in Formula BMW (Asia) and Formula 3.
Sperafico to replace BremerUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Alex Sperafico will drive for HVM Racing at this weekend's Champ Car race in Toronto to replace Ronnie Bremer. A team spokesperson confirmed to AutoRacing1.com that the Brazilian is only confirmed for this weekend, with an option for the remaining races of the season if the team likes him. 07/06/05 According to Brazilian sources, Alex Sperafico, cousin of Ricardo Sperafico, who drives for Dale Coyne, will replace Ronnie Bremer in the HVM ride. It is said Bremer was not able to raise anymore sponsorship.
Massa - BMW or Ferrari? BMW or Ferrari? It's not a bad toss-up to contend with for Brazilian speedster Felipe Massa. The 24-year-old admitted in England that, should an increasingly gloomy Rubens Barrichello leave Ferrari for 2006, Michael Schumacher might tackle another Paulista. ''I think he will stay,'' said Massa, managed by Jean Todt's son and a former Ferrari tester.
He told Reuters: ''If he wants to leave ... then for sure I will have a chance to go there.'' Also in prospect for young Felipe, though, is the arrival of works BMW ownership at Sauber, his team employer for three F1 seasons.
''I think I have a good chance to stay (here),'' he said at Silverstone. ''I'm looking to see if I can stay because it's a good opportunity ... to grow together.''
Dixon’s future up in airUPDATE This Stuff.co.nz article talks about Scott Dixon being in the wrong place at the wrong time. In 2003 the fast young Kiwi won the American Indy Racing League championship, and in the middle of last year he impressed in a Formula One test for the Williams team. But now he is 16th in the IRL, without a decent result all season, and he has become a very faint blip on the radar screen. 07/03/05 Scott Dixon and his manager, Stefan Johansson, ponder Scott's future and that of his Chip Ganassi IRL team now that Toyota has announced their pullout from the IRL after 2006. Neither one look very happy do they? On the back of two horrible years in the IRL, his F1 hopes all but gone now., will he follow Johansson into sports cars?
Toyota looking definite for Nextel Cup The automaker has already submitted car to NASCAR, but says 2006 will be for testing. So Toyota's much anticipated Cup debut is expected in 2007. Toyota is expected to shift the money it is spending on open wheel racing in America to NASCAR's Nextel Cup Series and its Busch Series as early as 2007.
The Japanese automaker announced late in June that it would abandon the Indy Racing League and the Toyota Atlantic series at the end of the '06 season. Last week, Les Unger, Toyota national motorsports manager, confirmed to Stock Car Racing that Toyota Racing Development is working on a car chassis it has already submitted to NASCAR for approval. Stock Car Racing Magazine
Will Honda buy all of BAT? Hearing that Honda is balking at absorbing the 55% of BAR still owned by BAT. With tobacco advertising banned soon, BAT has no desire to stay in F1. If the team can't find a buyer for BAT, the team's future is cloudy.
Hyundai to badge Cosworth Hearing that Hyundai is talking to Cosworth about badging their new V8 F1 engine. If true it is rather ironic because we heard Honda did not want to compete against Hyundai in the IRL but they may have to go head-to-head with them in F1. Last we heard Hyundai to the IRL is a dead issue.
Phoenix off 2006 IRL schedule? Season ticket renewal information from Phoenix International Raceway and the IRL is listed on the schedule as TBD. This means either the March date is changing or the IRL will not return to Phoenix.
Will British GP be postponed or cancelled?UPDATE The organizers of the British Grand Prix will come up with stronger safety measures while preparing for the race on Sunday. This comes as a result of today's explosions in the centre of London. Immediately, the operators in Silverstone reacted to the attacks on the capital and discussed measures with the police in a crisis meeting. A statement will be issued later today. Of course we are warned and will do everything that is possible for safety. However, there is no reason to panic," Silverstone spokesman John Hurton said. The Grand Prix is this weekend's largest event in Great Britain. The 11th race of the year has been sold out for weeks, around 100,000 spectators are expected at the track. F1Racing.net07/07/05 London is in the middle of being bombed. Six subway stations and one bus have been blown up so far this morning. The whole subway network is shut down. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk/4659093.stm. Today is the opening of the G8 conference and tomorrow in the opening practice for the British GP at Silverstone.
An Islamist website has posted a statement - purportedly from al-Qaeda - claiming it was behind the attacks. London's police chief Sir Ian Blair said there had been "many casualties" but it was too early to put a figure to those killed or injured.
Tracy prepared to run in Champ Car/NASCAR doubleheader Paul Tracy's flirtation with NASCAR isn't over quite yet. But the two-time Toronto Molson Indy winner isn't about to give up his day job as the primary driver for the Forsythe Championship Racing No. 3 Ford Lola to chase a career in stock-car racing.
Tracy -- in a conversation with the Toronto Sun yesterday -- talked about the possibility that a NASCAR Busch Series race could be run as a companion event to the Champ Car Molson Indy Montreal in 2007.
If that was the case, the Thrill from West Hill might well have a go at doing a double -- racing in both series on the same weekend.
There also is talk about NBS teaming up with Champ Car at Fundidora Park in Monterrey, Mexico, also in 2007.
"I don't know," Tracy said. "The pit lane there is pretty short. I don't know if it could accommodate 43 NASCAR stock cars in its Champ Car configuration."
Tracy also said that the Molson Indy temporary street course at Exhibition Place might also need some re-configuration if it were to play host to NASCAR.
But he did say that Mosport International Raceway, 80 kilometres east of Toronto, is a track that would be more suited to the big horsepower sedans. Toronto Sun
Edmonton race expecting to top 175,000 Wayne Gretzky has confirmed his attendance at the Grand Prix of Edmonton, highlighting what is expected to be an impressive list of celebrities invited to the inaugural Champ Car World Series race at Finning International Speedway.
"He is a special guest of Ford and he is definitely going to be here," said Greg Macdonald, president and GM of the Grand Prix of Edmonton. Gretzky is expected to arrive on either July 16 or 17.
Gretzky's most recent visits here outside of hockey were for the 2001 world championships in athletics as well as in June 2000, when he received an honorary doctor of laws from the University of Alberta.
Macdonald would not hint at who else is expected to be on the Grand Prix A-list of guests, although Oscar-winning actor Paul Newman is virtually a lock.
Newman is the co-owner of the Newman/Haas racing team, which features defending Champ Car World Series champion Sebastien Bourdais and Oriol Servia. Newman's own racing credits include a victory in the 1995 24 Hours of Daytona in the IMSA GTS class as well as a 1982 Trans Am win in Minnesota. Newman is no stranger to Edmonton, having raced here 25 years ago in the Can-Am series.
"I'm sure the drivers will get some pointers from him," laughed Kathi Lauterbach, spokesman for Newman/Haas.
"You never know until the weekend comes, but it is very rare that he misses a North American event. I can't guarantee that he will be there, but he will obviously be making every attempt."
All of the luxury suites have sold and race organizers are expecting to top the 175,000 mark in total attendance during the three-day event at the City Centre Airport track. Grand Prix officials will make 20,000 general admission tickets available on-site from July 15-17, and while they are in essence standing-room only access, the vantage points will be some of the best of anywhere along the 3.15-km, 14-turn course. Edmonton Sun
Danica's father mouths off at Rahal crew According to Scott Traylor and Kirk Elliott, the Racin’ Boys broadcast on 810 AM following the Kansas race, T.J. Patrick (Danica's father) became infuriated with his daughter’s pit crew. Mr. Patrick made a few obscene gestures and shouted a few derogatory remarks about crew members’ work ethics and their posteriors. Atchison Report
New Sauber/BMW era already underway According to our spies in France report, on the Monday and Tuesday before the French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours, BMW Motorsport director Mario Theissen visited the Hinwil factory for the first time. BMW has also started to increase the technical staff, mostly with engineers from their own company.
But, there is still a lot more work to do ahead of next season, and one of those tasks is to organize drivers. As Williams owns the contracts with Heidfeld and test driver Nico Rosberg, there might be a negotiation between the two that may see BMW reduce the charge for their 2006 engine supply, if Williams carries on for another year with them.
Apart from Heidfeld and Rosberg, the Bavarian manufacturer is also checking the current driver market and is looking closely at the performances of the team's current drivers, Massa and Villeneuve. According to sources from inside Williams, BMW actually tried to buy Kimi Raikkonen from McLaren, but soon discovered that the young are locked in there until the end of 2006.
According to further sources, Barrichello is also on their short list and BAR is interested in the Brazilian Ferrari driver as well. This might explain why Rubens has started to be somewhat critical of his team and teammate, Michael Schumacher. He is also under contract with Ferrari until 2006. Tag-Heuer
Ford of Canada announcement today Ford of Canada will make a special announcement at the Molson Indy Toronto Champ Car event today. It is expected to be some sort of sponsorship announcement In attendance will be:
Champ Car Drivers:
Paul Tracy - Forsythe Championship Racing (Canadian)
Alex Tagliani - Team Australia (Canadian)
Andrew Ranger - Mi Jack Conquest Racing (Canadian)
Jimmy Vasser - PKV Racing
Oriol Servia -Newman/Haas
Formula Atlantic Drivers:
Antoine Bessette (Canadian)
Tim Hauraney (Canadian)
Joe Hinrichs, President and CEO, Ford of Canada
Jo-Ann McArthur, President, Molson Sports & Entertainment
2005 last year for Spa Word in Europe is that 2005 may be the last year that F1 races at Spa. Bernie wants to cut out a race or two from the schedule and Spa appears to be the target. With some 8 weeks to go before this year's race to be held in September, only 16,000 tickets have been sold and there is a reluctance for the local government to underwrite the race again. That coupled with the fact that some of the facilities are less than standard, including some open-air toilets, has those in the know saying Spa is history..
If so, will Champ Car take a look at this historic venue? Since it is not an urban event conducive for a 3-day festival, and given Champ Car has still not pulled itself back to its former glory days, one has to wonder if it would draw enough fans to make the event profitably at this time.
Sunoco Confirms Rumors of New Race Gas Sunoco's General Manger of Performance Products and Automotive Events, Rob Marro, confirmed today that Sunoco will be introducing a new race gas specifically designed for applications in sustained high load/high RPM conditions. This ultra high performance product will be recommended for four-stroke engines with compression ratios exceeding 14:1.
"All indications from competitors and engine builders who have been working with us to develop and test this product is that Sunoco Race Fuels has taken another giant step in leading the way in producing quality winning gasolines for the motorsports industry," Marro commented.
Official release of the new product was initially targeted for the 2006 season but Marro stated that the demand and excitement displayed by the test participants has led to the 2005 offering. For more information on when and how you can order this and all Sunoco Race Fuels, call 1-800-RACE GAS (1-800-722-3427).
IRL now admits to weight issue It appears our constant reminding that driver weight is an issue in the IRL, and that Danica Patrick has a distinct advantage because of a loophole in the IRL rulebook, is starting to catch on. Whereas Brian Barnhart said it was not an issue (how foolish to make such a statement) this Canadian Press article says, Drivers in the Indy Racing League spend a lot of time watching their weight. Some of them wouldn't mind if the circuit kept an eye on the scales, too. Previously, the league has stayed away from the debate over whether 100-pound rookie Danica Patrick's size gives her an unfair advantage on the track. But now, the IRL, the only major circuit that does not factor driver weight into its rules, is taking a cautious look at the issue - while stopping far short of promising any changes. "Certainly as the season progresses, our competition department will have things come up that they say, 'You know, we need to take a look at this in the rule book when we get to the off-season,' " spokesman John Griffin said before last weekend's race at Kansas Speedway. "We're open to it. "I'm not saying, though, that it's definitely on the list of things to do."
Still, the league's acknowledgement of the weight debate came as welcome news to some drivers - even as they acknowledged the timing makes it seem as though Patrick is being singled out. I think Danica's just brought it up because she is so light, she is so tiny," said Scott Dixon, who outweighs Patrick by 50 pounds. "Every little bit in this series counts, and if you can get on an even par with weight, it would help out a lot of guys." Patrick, who in May became the first woman to lead a lap at the Indianapolis 500 and whose fourth-place finish there was the best by a woman, is 35 pounds lighter than the next-lightest drivers, Darren Manning and Ryan Briscoe. Her weight is 50 pounds under the league average, and the heaviest drivers, Sam Hornish Jr. and Ed Carpenter, outweigh her by 65 pounds each. Hornish, whose engineering team has said that Patrick's size gives her a speed advantage on the track, said the league already should have had a driver-weight rule in place. "That's something I pushed for a long time ago," Hornish said. "I'm a six-foot guy, running against some five-foot-three guys that were like 120 pounds at the time.
"I know that there's a little bit of advantage there, and it's a bit upsetting to me that it would have to happen the way it's turning out. "If they would have already had it done, then it wouldn't be that way." The issue first aired publicly a day before the Indianapolis 500, when Robby Gordon - who did not drive in this year's race - said Patrick had an unfair advantage because of her size. He later said he was criticizing a hole in the IRL's rule book, not Patrick. Patrick, questioned about the weight issue after taking the pole for Sunday's Argent Mortgage Indy 300, tried to deflect it. "It's all about getting the car as good as you can and as fast as possible," said Patrick, who developed mechanical problems early and finished ninth. "I know that our team works very hard to hit everything right, to get the aerodynamics down and all of those little things." When her questioner persisted after the news conference, Patrick shot back: "You don't know what we do out there. We may be adding 80 pounds to the car that you don't know about." But with IRL races often decided by less than a second, and drivers and their teams constantly searching for the tiniest advantage, most look to run as light as possible.
"We look for such small tolerances, you know, such small gains in these cars," said Dario Franchitti, who is listed at 55 pounds heavier than Patrick. "I think it's important at some point that they do address it, especially since Danica's come into the series. "I think it's important not to do a knee-jerk reaction. They have to evaluate it, and then if they're going to change it, change it at the correct time. Doing it midseason would be wrong, I would say." If the league does decide to change the rule book, Griffin said, that would present another set of challenges. "Can you come up with an average? Does an average work? That's where our guys have to evaluate it and see what can be done to maintain it over the course of a season," Griffin said. [Editor's Note: No an average does not work. Do it right] "What's to say that a driver doesn't spend his winter months not working out and gain a lot of weight - then we do the weight session or weight evaluation, and he goes on this intense training session and loses a lot of weight." But if other circuits can do it, Dixon said, the IRL can too. "It's an easy thing to do," he said. "Clean it up, get it done, make sure everybody's at the same weight. "Make everybody happy."
Dalziel in Coyne ride rest of season Ryan Dalziel told Autosport-Atlas "I'm in (the Coyne ride) for the rest of the season provided I don't mess anything up. It's not about money. It's a funded drive thanks to American Medical Response so I'm not bringing any to the team. There aren't many non-funded drives around at the moment so it is good to be able to be one of the few drivers on the grid able to say that. I might know after this weekend, but we'll have to see."
What about his Corvette ride in ALMS? "Pacific Coast Motorsport have been fantastic and I owe them for this. They have said that when races clash they will find a replacement driver for me and I can come back to the car when they don't. Plus is keeps me in the picture in terms of sportscars."
As to the rumors he would replace Jimmy Vasser when he retires - "I think that is the exact situation with Jimmy. The way I understand it is that if Jimmy retires I'm the number one choice to replace him next season. But that's Jimmy's decision and I'm sure he'll be watching out for me on the track this weekend. I would never have been a title contender in my first season anyway, so this gives me the chance to get any bad luck and inexperienced mistakes out of the way before possibly driving for them."
IRL to lose Texas raceUPDATE John Griffin, the IRL's vice president of public relations, said the IRL wants to keep a TMS event next year. "But as I understand it, the ball is in Eddie's court," Griffin said. "We've given TMS two options." The IRL wants a TMS race the Sunday afternoon after the Indianapolis 500. The other TMS option is the traditional Saturday night race the following weekend, but another speedway would have the IRL event immediately after the Indy 500.
Gossage finds both options hard to accept. "Our IRL event is built on a Saturday night as the first race after the Indy 500," Gossage said. "It's a shame that a tradition which has been incredibly beneficial to the IRL suddenly is not important to them."
Since 1997, TMS has hosted the IRL race on the Saturday night two weeks after the Indy 500. Crowds for IRL events at TMS have been in the 80,000-100,000 range – more than any IRL race other than the Indy 500 draws. TMS had two IRL events a year in 1998-2004 but had only the June race this year after finally gaining a second Nextel Cup race for November. Griffin said the IRL wants a more compact timeline in 2006. The goal is to capitalize on the interest of the Indy 500 by running on three straight weekends after the Memorial Day weekend event.
Kansas Speedway is expected to take the June weekend TMS doesn't choose, but Gossage said he isn't sure about either weekend. He listed several reasons for not wanting to race the weekend after the Indy 500.
The June IRL event at TMS is paired with the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. Gossage said NASCAR officials have told him the trucks are not available to race on the first weekend in June next year. Gossage doesn't want to run the IRL weekend without the truck race, which is a profitable event for the speedway. "And some of our sponsors and hospitality clients won't even talk to us until after the Indy 500," Gossage said. "Since you lose Memorial Day, that doesn't give you enough time to put everything in place. It has a financial impact."
Gossage also fears fewer cars would compete. Some of the lesser-funded teams could wreck cars at Indy and not have time to make repairs. Weather is another concern. Gossage said the early June heat could be a problem for fans and drivers in an afternoon event. That leaves the second June weekend. What about keeping the Saturday night race? "We're considering whether we want to do that or not," Gossage said. "Some problems would have to be negotiated."
TMS contracts with the IRL have stated that TMS would get the event immediately after the Indy 500. That would no longer be true if TMS keeps the same date.
Gossage said he must reach a contract agreement with the IRL within the next 10 days to include an IRL event in the 2006 package for TMS season ticket holders. Order forms usually are mailed Aug. 1. "We are doing everything we can to work this out," Gossage said. "I'm hopeful we can get something done. But we are way past our normal deadline. We need to do something quickly." Terry Blount/Dallas Morning News
07/06/05 TMS President Eddie Gossage said yesterday that the IRL may not race at the track in ’06 due to “schedule changes the IRL plans to make next year.” Gossage said that a contract agreement must be reached with the IRL in the next ten days that includes “an IRL event in the [‘06] package for TMS season ticket holders” DALLAS MORNING NEWS
British GP could be wet The early weather forecast in Northamptonshire for Sunday's British GP for Friday through to race day on July 10th says an overcast weekend - with a persistent threat of showers and drizzle is likely for Silverstone. Temperatures in the low twenties (C) should dominate, with the highest probability of rain due on Saturday (qualifying) afternoon. "The weather can throw anything at you," said Toyota's Jarno Trulli. "You have to be prepared at Silverstone." Strong wind is another factor at the flat former war airfield.
What does it all mean? With F1 in a shambles and headed for an inevitable split that will see the manufacturers start their own series, leaving Bernie Ecclestone, Max Mosley and Ferrari on the outside looking in, what will Bernie do?
As we stated in a previous rumor, Bernie and Max can both retire and live happily ever after. However, we doubt their pride will allow them to walk away without a fight. Was it a coincidence that the new F1 rules sound like they were photocopied from the Champ Car rulebook? As we have said all along, Bernie did not buy Champ Car a few years ago because he was bound by the Concorde Agreement. Some still think that Bernie told Champ Car to go away, and if and when the time is right, he will buy in.
Was it a coincidence that Kevin Kalkhoven was going to start a F1 team and did not? Why did he buy Champ Car instead? Did Bernie guide him that way knowing full well a split in F1 was inevitable? Did Bernie suggest that he rebuild Champ Car in preparation for it becoming the new F1 series should the GPWC start their own series?
Where does Cosworth fit into all this? Not part of the GPWC, are they being positioned to supply the entire grid, or at least most of it with Ferrari of course fielding a team or two? Can Ferrari compete fairly against the other Champ Car teams given their F1 background, and were the new rules specifically structured to make it a level playing field, i.e. teams can buy a Ferrari if they want?
The USA has become Ferrari's biggest market. Champ Car is establishing races around the world but the USA is still the backbone of the series.
What side will the banks go with, the GPWC, or will they side with Bernie, Max, the FIA and Champ Car keeping all the best venues and the coveted F1 name in the established series. What role does Paul Stoddart play now that he has become the mouthpieces of the GPWC? Is he trying to overthrow Max Mosley for the GPWC in the hope of breaking up the Max and Bernie stranglehold on the sport, knowing full well if they remain united the GPWC will have their a real battle on their hands?
All questions that must eventually get answered, but make one ponder what the future might hold in this battle of titans over control of the world's top motorsports series.
Marlin to RCR? Jack Daniel's Distillery says it is not lobbying for Columbia's Sterling Marlin to be the driver of the Nextel Cup car it sponsors, but it expects to be "consulted" about the decision. "We will support whatever decision (team owner) Richard Childress makes, but we will be consulted," said John Hayes, brand director for the Lynchburg-based distillery. Marlin said he was offered the job near the end of last season but turned it down to honor the final year of his contract with Chip Ganassi Racing. Childress hired Dave Blaney on a one-year contract.
With Marlin now officially out at Ganassi after this season, there is speculation that he might join Childress and drive the Jack Daniel's Chevrolet next year. Through 17 races, Blaney has one top-ten finish and is 27th in the standings. "Dave is a great guy and has been an excellent representative for us," Hayes said. "He is a talented driver but has had some bad luck this season. We got into this a little late (waiting for NASCAR to approve sponsorship by companies that produce hard liquor) and everything considered, Dave has done a good job." Jack Daniel's has a multiyear contract to sponsor a Childress Nextel Cup car and Hayes said it is important that the car be "competitive."
"We're the world's No. 1-selling whiskey, and being competitive is important to us in whatever we do," he said. "We're in the big leagues now." Although Blaney has not been in contention to win, Hayes said the company is "very satisfied" with the exposure it has received during the first half of the season. "Our consumer research has been very positive," he said. "We rank seventh or eighth in merchandise sales and considering that we're competing against drivers like Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jeff Gordon, that's very good. Right now we're very happy with where we are and we will definitely be back next season." Marlin said recently he hopes to learn his plans for next season "in the next few weeks." Tennessean
Indy 500 winner snubbed It looks like Danica Patrick has won the real Indy 500 race, not Dan Wheldon. Winning the Indy 500 has not produced the endorsement deals Dan Wheldon was hopefully expecting. Wheldon, who dominated the first three months of the IRL season, is still waiting for the first post-500 endorsement to materialize. Meanwhile, in front of the camera Wheldon keeps plugging the IRL as the greatest thing since sliced bread. He's probably worried about what will happen to his career if Honda pulls the plug on their IRL program.
ALMS Top tier to go diesel? Speculation has it that with Audi’s Le Mans-dominant R-8 now headed for retirement, the company’s replacement will be an R-10 Diesel because more than 50% of Audi's sales are diesel! And some speculate that with Porsche entering the LMP2 class next year that they too are reportedly considering a Diesel competitor for LMP1 to go up against Audi. However, somehow we don't see a diesel engine in a Porsche as a good fit.
F1 on brink of splitUPDATE Formula One teetered on the brink of total chaos at the recent meeting of the FIA world council. Britain's 'The Times' newspaper claims that the seven Michelin teams 'were ready to walk out' if they had been banned for the Indy no-go. The publication said they 'agreed privately' in a preceding meeting to quit F1 immediately and quickly set up a rival or 'breakaway' rival.
Ferrari, Jordan and - perhaps - Ferrari-powered-in-2006 Red Bull, would have been left behind.
The Times continued that Minardi boss Paul Stoddart had revealed that the new, carmaker-led series would have got going in January 2006, with a non-championship 'grand prix' staged 'within weeks.'
Behind the scenes, then, the pedal is to the metal on plans to accelerate the GPWC concept. ''It has come down to the teams versus Mr. (Max) Mosley,'' Sir Frank Williams told The Guardian, ''who is an extremely competent political fox with great power.''
07/05/05 Seven F1 teams were ready to walk out of Formula One for good if they had been banned by the FIA, the sport’s governing body, as punishment for their boycott of the US Grand Prix last month. It emerged last night that the gang of seven — McLaren Mercedes, BMWWilliams, BAR Honda, Renault, Sauber, Toyota and Red Bull Racing — had agreed privately that they would split immediately from the established Formula One series run by Bernie Ecclestone and Max Mosley, the FIA president, to hasten the set-up of a rival championship.
Paul Stoddart, the owner of the Minardi team who would side with the seven in a breakaway group, said that a race series could have been operating as early as January and a non-championship race might have been run within weeks, as a snub to Ecclestone and Mosley. Only Ferrari and Jordan would have been left in the fold if the FIA had imposed bans or heavy fines.
The breakaway was averted only because the FIA has delayed potential punishments until September, but that means only that the agony will be prolonged, for the schism that runs through Formula One has never been so deep and the teams, backed by the big five carmakers — Renault, Mercedes, BMW, Toyota and Honda — are pressing the accelerator on plans to go their own way.
They are all key members of the GPWC breakaway group, which will meet Wednesday in Munich to finalize plans for a new series, hours before the teams travel to Silverstone to prepare for this weekend’s British Grand Prix. Details of the GPWC’s blueprint for the future of Formula One — or whatever it is called under their banner — will be shown to the FIA, but that is seen as little more than an act of politeness towards a governing body that has lost the confidence of the teams and manufacturers.
The stand-off is dramatic and tense and will bubble throughout Silverstone this weekend, proving an unpleasant backdrop to what should be Britain’s celebration of Formula One. Constant rows over wealth distribution and governance are tearing the sport apart, symbolized by the infamous debacle in Indianapolis.
There was no doubt that Michelin made a mess of providing tires to its seven teams, which meant that they could not run safely, particularly when lawyers advised the teams that they would be breaking Indiana laws that could lead to criminal prosecutions.
Nick Fry, team principal at BAR Honda — the victim of a two-race ban this year — said: “The teams are not guilty and we will not be seen to be guilty. Our hands were tied.”
The breakdown of negotiations in the hours leading up to the US Grand Prix is seen as an indication that the teams and Mosley cannot work together. They have appealed against the two guilty verdicts delivered at the FIA World Council last week, but that will be just the start if they are turned down. They will hurtle towards an English civil court to have the verdicts overturned and press on relentlessly towards a breakaway series. More at TimesOnline
Williams to get Cosworth or Honda powerUPDATE #3 Williams is in talks with several potential suppliers – believed to be Honda, Toyota and Cosworth – but Mark Webber has stressed the need for manufacturer backing if his team is to recapture former glories. "Frank has been through tough weekends and tough years before and come out the other side and I'm sure he'll do it again," he said.
"If something is not going in the direction you want you have to address it. We are not sure what engine we will have next season but a decision will be made soon and we'll take it from there. Either we stick with BMW or we look to find another engine. You need a manufacturer to succeed in Formula One, it is absolutely the only way. I'm sure we will have a competitive engine next season." (which of course then means no Cosworth for the Williams team, unless a manufacturer badges it) FOX Sports
07/03/05 According to sources, Williams have distanced themselves from an engine deal with Cosworth, but Toyota and Honda, with whom Williams won two constructors' titles and one drivers' championship, are in the frame. Williams' next move could determine their chances of signing Jenson Button in 2006. BAR's failure to score a point this season makes it almost impossible for them to satisfy the performance clause in their contract that would allow them to retain Button. But Honda, who bought a significant chunk of the team, are desperate to keep him. 06/22/05 A source tells us that Williams are more than likely to get a Honda supply of engines in 2006 as Jenson Button is well thought of by Honda and it would ease the pain of him leaving to Williams (which after the no points from the weekend is a sure thing). Heidfeld to Sauber yes that is likely due to the BMW connection. Webber leaving Williams is also likely if there is no decent engine as he is managed by Flavio so he may replace Fisichella as he has been mediocre all season except for his win in Australia. Coulthard and Barrichello to BAR may also be in the cards as they are great friends with De Ferran. The 2006 F1 Silly Season is in full swing. Mark C.06/22/05 The problem for Williams, winners of nine constructors' titles and seven drivers' crowns since 1980, is that there is not a lot of engine choice elsewhere now that it looks like they will lose BMW for sure. Only privately-owned Cosworth is clearly touting for business. Toyota, Honda, Renault, Ferrari and Mercedes all have existing teams -- either wholly or partly-owned to concentrate on -- while Toyota and Ferrari are also providing engines to second teams. Sauber's Ferrari engine supply will go to Red Bull in 2006 while Toyota are talking to Jordan about renewing that deal when the team is renamed Midland next year.
The engine rules are also changing, with V8 units being introduced for 2006 although teams can stay with rev-limited V10s if they chose. Minardi have already said they will use a Cosworth V10 next year, leaving no takers so far for a Cosworth V8 that is well-advanced and reputedly impressive.
The engine side is only part of the problem for Williams, however with the team deriving most of its funding from sponsorship. The main backer is HP, with other sponsors including Royal Bank of Scotland, Allianz, Accenture, Budweiser, FedEx, Hamleys, Oris and Reuters. Williams would not say last week what proportion of the team's backers were linked to the involvement of BMW. "That's a business question and I'd rather not answer it," he said. "But in simple terms, in the event of a switch, it means we're still solidly in business."
BMW's decision to run their own team also subtly shifts the Formula One landscape, strengthening the hand of carmakers in their battle for control of the sport and sending the message that BMW at least intend to be around long-term. Reuters
Conspiracy TheoryUPDATE #2 Still further toward our Conspiracy Theory, It has never been properly explained what happened on the morning of the United States Grand Prix at Indianapolis. Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner Tony George could have actioned a clause in the Concorde Agreement which gives the promoter and organizer of a race the right to make decisions with regard to their individual events that cannot be influenced by the FIA. When asked by a group of those involved why he was not using that mechanism to save the race all George would say was: "I can't do it. I just can't do it!" If it was within his rights to take such an action (such as putting in a chicane to slow the cars), what stopped him from doing that? What made him refuse to take actions that would have saved the race? Grandprix.com [Editor's Note: We suspect George saw the fiasco as a way out of his money-losing contract with Ecclestone and wasn't going to do anything to stop it. Until someone comes forward with a better explanation (and anyone who knows isn't talking), that sounds as good as any.]
06/25/05 Further to the conspiracy theory, AutoRacing1.com has learned that Minardi were going to pull out of the USGP as well in sympathy with their rivals even though they were on Bridgestones, until succumbing from pressure from Bridgestone to take part and score some points. And whose side of the war in F1 is Paul Stoddart on? The GPWC of course. Our theory that what happened in Indy last Sunday was all about the GPWC teams sticking together, embarrassing Max Mosley, Bernie Ecclestone and the FIA and showing them, hey, you don't control us any more.
Paul Stoddart, the head of Minardi, has already called for Mosley to resign, blaming his intransigence over the chicane. Sir Frank Williams says he expects to be "humiliated" next week, when the seven Michelin teams are summoned to appear in front of the World Motorsport Council in Paris. Each will plead their innocence and claim they were left with no option but to withdraw; each will probably be fined heavily, fines that Michelin should really have to pay. At Magny-Cours next weekend, look for Paul Stoddart to again call for Mosley's resignation, claiming he has abundant paddock support. The political divisions in the sport will widen.
This Indy Star article alludes to some of the same things we have been saying, i.e. what happened in Indy was politically motivated and we haven't seen the end of the GPWC vs. Bernie/Max/Ferrari just yet.
06/22/05 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Regarding your article on the F1 Conspiracy Theory, the BBC hints at signs of a conspiracy in this article on the Indy debacle too.
It's all too believable--a few people let success go to their heads and start focusing on their business/political rivals, and not on the paying customer. So all the talk of the importance of the USA market to F1 was just hype, and the principals in this sordid farce seem to think that we unsophisticated Americans will go on buying their fluff simply because they are who they are.
Well, I've seen and participated in better, more exciting competition in club racing (SCCA, AHRA and local kart tracks) than I've seen in F1 lately. And it's hard to enjoy the spectacle when 2/3 of the racers are absent. F1 may have just shot itself not in the foot, but in the head. Herb Hwang, San Mateo, CA
Another writes, You do have many very correct points, however to think that such a plan could be put together is hard to imagine. Getting any teams to agree after months of debate is tough. Getting them to end up in a conspiracy on short notice is almost impossible.
I believe what actually happened is the Michelin teams thought that by their continued threats the management would have to give. I think the false premise Michelin operated under for two days, was "If we stick together they have to change, they cannot have a race with only 6 cars." When the 14 cars pulled off after the parade lap, I think they assumed the green lights would not be turned on.
To support this consider Kimi was still ready to race and was not willing to exit his car until informed that the points challengers were all in the pits.
Once the race was actually started the bluff was over and now Michelin and the 7 teams must suffer their self inflicted pain. I cannot think how bad the pain must be, sponsors, who contracted for the teams to race for their world class brands, TV revenue future losses. Remember what Bernie did originally was to get all teams together so that the promoters of each race could pay predetermined price and have the show. Before Bernie showed up a promoter such as Tony George paid a nominal fee for the sanctioned event and then had to deal with teams and drivers depending on who was most popular.
Sometimes bright people make dumb choices, and I think this is another example in motorsports of this. If CART and Tony George could have looked into the future in 1995, I would venture to say that CART would be a solvent company and Tony George would own a large portion of the CART organization and have a reasonable say in the overall management including a position that would not allow what happened on Sunday in Indy to happen during the Indy 500.
The action by F1 management sure makes the decision Tony George made to get control of his event seem very necessary. This is not meant to be a Tony George endorsement but rather a look at the why for the family business he operates sake he needed more control over the Indy 500.
As for Michelin, they prove once again that when the going gets tough the French retreat. Allen Weatherby
Another writes, Dear AutoRacing1, I just read your conspiracy theory article and I have to admit, it's most intriguing, and at this point I would put nothing past the people involved in F1 to pull off something outrageous as that. What a bees nest. Doug Kaufman, Portland, OR.
IRL in a lose-lose situation Rumor has it that the departure of Toyota, and to a lesser extent, Chevworth, will exacerbate the imbalance that currently exists in IRL competition. If the IRL goes to a single engine supplier in 2007 as appears to be the case, the following scenarios appear likely.
If it is Honda, then HPD will support its factory teams of AGR, Rahal-Letterman and Fernandez for maybe 10 cars; With Penske that will make 12 cars total, as there will be no engine support or subsidies for the rest and Chevy and Toyota won't be around to support any teams.
If it is Ilmor-Penske, then who will pay for AGR and Rahal-Letterman without Honda? But in this scenario the IRL will have a low-cost engine vis-à-vis 1998 and a lot of low budget teams with Penske thoroughly dominating with his own engines. Penske always does his own engines anyway - 2nd class engines will go to the paying customers. Can you imagine Foyt or Hemelgarn buying a 2nd-class engine from Penske? The IRL will lose AGR's 4 cars, Rahal-Letterman's 3 cars and all the Toyota backed teams.
Either scenario, they will lose teams. Its a lose-lose situation if they can't get additional engine manufacturers to support the teams. This is the best thing that can possibly happen to the IRL, Tony George just doesn't realize yet. With too few cars it will force a merger with Champ Car, which is what everyone but Tony George and his minions believe must happen anyway. Together Champ Car and the IRL can be a force to be reckoned with, divided and the France family will continue to toast their stupidity every chance they get. Mark C.
Champ Car to give up on Trans-AmUPDATE This rumor, which originated from AutoWeek, is downgraded to 'false' today. AutoRacing1.com obtained this statement from Champ Car - "The Trans-Am Series is a valued and vital component of the Champ Car family and is very popular with fans at all of our venues. Champ Car and the Trans-Am Series have built a strong relationship over the years and will continue to work together in order to provide great racing action to all of our fans." 06/30/05 Champ Car will probably end its involvement with Trans-Am at the end of the season say sources within the company according to AutoWeek. Grids have been small and the saloon cars are seen as a poor fit for Champ Car's open-wheel development plans. The Trans-Am name is leased from SCCA by Champ Car and it's thought that SCCA will use the historic name to brand the GT category of its Speed World Challenge Series. If rumors are true that Champ Car is going to do more races with ALMS next year, Trans-Am may be one of the consequences.
IRL schedule changes in the works Adjustments to the IRL schedule are in the works. The Kansas race, held for the fifth time Sunday, is being considered for a move to June 11 next year according to the Indy Star. June 11th would be the traditional Texas date, the IRL's 2nd biggest race behind the Indy 500. Could that become the big season finale instead? Fontana, the season finale in recent years has been a flop as the finale so perhaps its date may change as well. And who would get the Kansas July 4th date? Perhaps the rumored Quebec City race.
Reality TV Series coming to Champ CarUPDATE #3 A reader adds, Dear AutoRacing1.com, While watching a couple of Chicago Cubs' baseball games (telecast to Phoenix on the Tribune Company's Superstation WGN TV) saw ads for Race Car Driver. Do Champ Car, Indeck, or Paul Tracy realize the HUGE exposure that they are receiving (just by airing these TV ads in tandem with Cubs' baseball telecasts)? Tony George & his IRL would kill to get this kind of national TV commercial exposure! Barry Kingsford, Phoenix, AZ Dear Barry, Yes, this was a real coup for Champ Car, but they must do a lot more "thinking outside the box" like this if they want to grow the grassroots fan base and make any inroads into NASCAR's stranglehold on the USA market. Too bad the IRL and Champ Car were not working together on growing the sport. Instead it appears the split will continue and the France Family will laugh all the way to the bank. Mark C.07/01/05 The Champ Car World Series of racing, one of North America's fastest growing segments of motorsports, is the focus of "Race Car Driver," a new weekly, half-hour series to bow on Superstation WGN in the Fall of 2005. "Race Car Driver," which focuses on the worldwide adventures of Canadian Paul Tracy, star driver of the Forsythe Championship Racing Team is an original series to bow on Superstation WGN for the fall 2005 season. "Race Car Driver" is expected to be seen in back-to-back episodes Mondays through Saturdays in prime-time on Superstation WGN.
"Race Car Driver" immerses the viewer in the world of charismatic driver Paul Tracy and Champ Car, open-wheel racing both on and off the track. In addition to Tracy, the cast includes his leading competitors, the teams, their owners, and the pit crews. Tracy, a noted, highly competitive sportsman, does not confine his need for speed to racing cars - he is also an aficionado of speedboats and high-performance motorcycles. "Race Car Driver" focuses on the high-speed action and exotic lifestyles of this corner of the sporting world as the participants visit and race the downtown streets of locales from Long Beach, California, to Denver, Las Vegas, San Jose, Toronto, Montreal, Mexico City, and metropolises of Korea and Australia.
Key players in "Race Car Driver" in addition to Paul Tracy are team owner Gerald Forsythe, flamboyant Mexican teammate Mario Dominguez, PKV Racing American driver Jimmy Vasser and owner Kevin Kalkhoven, and Newman-Haas team driver and defending champion Sebastien Bourdais of France. It should be pointed out that the Newman-Haas team is owned by Carl Haas and Paul Newman, the latter a professional actor who became a successful racing driver. The Newman-Haas team is the bitter rival of the Forsythe team. Bourdais won the Champ Car title last year. Tracy is out to reclaim it.
"Race Car Driver" is produced by AMS Production Group. David Willox, award-winning producer whose credits include ABC's "Prime Time Live" and NBC's "Dateline," and Jay Gillian, a veteran of sports programming, are executive producers.
07/01/05 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' as Superstation WGN has begun to run ads for this show and Paul Tracy is featured in the ads. Mark C. 06/25/05 AutoRacing1.com can reveal that Race Car Driver, a reality TV series based around Champ Car, will debut on September 7, 2005. The show will air on Superstation WGN. Look for it to be a 13 episode series highlighting the Forsythe Racing team drivers, though other drivers will also be part of the show. Mark C.
Honda notifies IRL of withdrawalUPDATE #2 The IndyCar Series got bad news on a couple of fronts last week that placed even more significance on its future technical direction. On June 27, Toyota publicly confirmed that it will withdraw from the IndyCar Series at the end of the 2006 season, following Chevrolet's departure at the end of this year. And IndyCar president Brian Barnhart admitted to ESPN.com that Honda has informed the circuit that it too will say "sayonara" following next year's campaign.
However, Barnhart said the Honda's letter was a regulatory formality and that he is optimistic Honda will extend its relationship with the IndyCar Series into 2007 and beyond. IndyCar rules require manufacturers that would like to compete in the series in 2007 to inform the series of their intentions by April 1, 2006.
"Yes, Honda has given their annual notification that they are out for 2007, but they certainly don't ask us to make that public," Barnhart commented. "We've had an awful lot of meetings with them involving the future engine specifications and policies, and they have a lot of people committed to the design and build of those specifications and a lot of resources already committed. Technically, they are not in, but on the other hand they sure seem to be putting forth a lot of effort in a way that would seem to indicate that they are going to continue."
Honda Performance Development president Robert Clarke agreed that the door remains open for the manufacturer to continue in IndyCars in 2007 and beyond -- and perhaps expand into other American-based racing series.
"We've made a substantial investment in U.S. open-wheel racing over the last 12 years with CART and the IRL," Clarke said. "To just walk away from that, as Toyota is going to do, seems foolish because you lose all of that investment.
"We came to the IRL in the belief that we could make a difference and make it better," he added. "If we were to walk away too, we could do serious damage to the series, which is not what we came to do. We are awaiting the IRL future rules and an understanding of the structure of the league going forward. My feeling is that we need to stay regardless of the scenario. But that's not my decision to make." ESPN.com [Editor's Note: Here are a couple of interesting facts to think about. When Mercedes bought Ilmor in the UK a little while ago, Penske sold his shares to Mercedes that he had in Ilmor UK and in turn they sold shares to Roger Penske of Ilmor USA. Roger then bought Ilmor USA and they currently build the Honda IRL engine. So Brian Barnhart's very confident attitude comes from the fact that Roger Penske can power the whole field when/if the manufacturers leave the IRL in 2006. The only issue is that Ilmor does not have all the block and engine head casting facilities it would need.]
07/03/05 In this SPEEDTV.com article Honda's Robert Clarke now says they may be willing to stay in the IRL as the lone engine supplying, a 180-degree about face from his comments a few short weeks ago and exactly what Honda as a company is not about, i.e. no competition. In doing so the two series (IRL and Champ Car) will survive and both will be able to run each other into oblivion. If we didn't know any better we'd think it was a great plan by the France family to keep open wheel racing divided and their competition destroyed. 07/02/05 Honda has provided written notification that it will withdraw from the Indy Racing League after the 2006 season. But don't sound the alarm yet, the league's top official said Friday from Kansas Speedway. League president Brian Barnhart said Honda Performance Development, a California-based company that builds race engines for the auto manufacturer, is preparing to continue with the IRL.
Barnhart said the written notification the company provided by the Thursday deadline only highlights "a flaw" in the handbook.
The IRL asks manufacturers to submit withdraw letters 18 months before they intend to exit. But nine months later they can recommit, creating a window for making decisions. "All of the manufacturers have withdrawn 18 months before the season (at hand) only to turn around and reapply," Barnhart said. "It's something we didn't consider when we made the rule."
The difference is, Chevrolet meant it last year and Toyota officials have said the company will focus on NASCAR after its IRL contract expires next year. As for Honda, HPD's Robert Clarke said Friday his company needs more information about the IRL's 2007 rules before it makes a commitment either way. "We've got no formula to respond to yet," he said.
Barnhart said Clarke has been involved in all planning meetings, a sign that the IRL and Honda are still working together.
"On one hand, (Clarke) has provided written notification that he's out for 2007, and yet he's told us he's got 18 engineers and spending in the tens of millions of dollars on an engine that officially he doesn't know anything about.
"You do the math." Indy Star [Editor's Note: We can do the math and we can tell you that Honda will not stay in the IRL to compete against itself. Our sources say they have their old CART/Champ Car 2.65L turbo on their dyno and are detuning it (like Cosworth did to get multiple races between rebuilds) and may be preparing to reenter the Champ Car series to compete against the current Cosworth badged as a Ford, Chevy or another brand. The IRL's only hope of keeping Honda is if Roger Penske finds someone to badge his Ilmors, someone that Honda deems worthy to compete against.]
HPD charged with generating revenue Honda has charged it's USA racing arm, HPD, with generating revenue for the first time. With its massive new offices in southern California, and its increased staff, Honda does not want HPD to be a 100% overhead burden. It's now time to sell engines for a profit a la Cosworth.
"Now is the time to expand into multiple series because we need to keep our people fully occupied," HPD's Robert Clarke told ESPN.com. "We need to explore other categories of what I would term 'racing business' -- Grand Am, drag racing, or maybe ALMS [American Le Mans Series] -- not so much to promote the Honda brand but to support HPD itself. HPD has always competed in one series at a time, but the company has grown substantially and it needs business (i.e. revenue) to meet its own objectives and those from Honda.
"If the IRL becomes a single brand, maybe it falls into that 'racing business' category, though I don't feel it could be considered a premier level of racing without competition," he continued. "As a single make, it may be difficult to achieve all of our multiple objectives, but it's not like there's no value because there's still the Indy 500."
The question then remains will Honda be looking to charging teams and making a profit on its IRL engines if they stay, or will they continue to subsidize the program. Penske setting up Ilmor as a competitor to Honda may be a ploy to help keep Honda's costs in check and prevent them from raking the teams and the league over the coals.
No matter what, Toyota out of Open Wheel Jim Aust, president of Toyota Racing Development, stated that no matter what engine formula the IndyCar Series chooses for the future -- or if by some chance there is a unification with Champ Car -- Toyota is getting out of American open-wheel racing at the end of 2006.
"This is a decision the company has looked at long and hard and felt this was the way to proceed," Aust said. "It's always a tough decision when you look at continuing a program. This is an issue we had been looking at for quite awhile and we knew that eventually the day was going to be before us. Our plans are to focus on this program as much as we have and also to continue to run in the Craftsman Truck Series. Anything beyond that at this point is totally speculative.
"Any kind of reorganization or joining (of Champ Car and IRL) doesn't look like it would make it an option for us," he added. "We've been in open-wheel racing in the United States for going on 12 years now and I think the program had run its course. The decision was made to look at some other options and we're still looking at those." ESPN.com
IRL to revert to 3.5L engine if Honda leaves If the IndyCar Series can't entice Honda to stay, it appears to be putting a backup plan in place that would utilize Ilmor to service and supply the field -- reportedly using a pool of approximately 200 previous generation, 3.5-liter GM IndyCar motors. Ilmor co-founders Roger Penske and Mario Illien (along with the estate of deceased Ilmor partner Paul Morgan) recently took full control of Ilmor's U.S. operations and they could be positioning the company to power the IndyCar grid.
"I think that's an option down the road, maybe after 2006, '07 or '08," Penske responded. "But that's up to the IRL. You'd always like to have manufacturers in because it supports the teams but at this point, it's still too far out to make a specific decision. They're in the engine business so it's certainly something they would look at."
"We have a lot of options for people who can build and maintain engines for us under these specifications," Barnhart noted. "A lot of existing engines are already out there." ESPN.com
DEI looking to renew Waltrip and TruexUPDATE #7 DEI is close to signing sponsor NAPA and driver Michael Waltrip to a one year contract with a perhaps three year extension. That according to DEI Director of Competition Richie Gilmore after a series of contract talks at Daytona with sponsor representatives. Gilmore says the deal to sign Martin Truex Jr. took longer than expected and that now it’s important to make sure DEI has three teams to compete with the Roush and Hendrick operations. Meanwhile, Waltrip says has no deadline and "Whenever they’re ready, I’m pretty much flexible to figure out what’s next whenever they are, so I’m happy. I don’t have any issues. I know how it goes and we’ll work it all out." As far as a back-up plan, Michael said “I’ve been doing this for 20-years and I’ve realized that over the years that you better have a plan "B" …if you don’t you’re libel to be out in left field somewhere so I’m just going right along, happy, just riding a good wave right now. I don’t have any demands. It’d be silly for me to make demands when I haven’t heard what the plan is and when I hear the plan we’ll go from there. Everything’s good as far as I know…I don’t know of any reason to be worried." PRN's Garage Pass/Sporting News07/01/05 Martin Truex Jr. hasn't said why he hasn't yet signed a contract to remain with Dale Earnhardt Inc., but he did say Thursday at Daytona that he is trying to seal a deal. "It's not done yet, and we are trying to get it done," said Truex. At least two top-level Nextel Cup teams have immediate openings for the 2006 season. Truex Jr. is in the final year of his contract with DEI, and as reigning Busch Series champion, it is natural that he has found himself in the rumor mill. For his part, Truex has been mum on his talks with DEI, which are being led by his father. NASCAR.com06/26/05 On Fox's pre-race show for the Dodge/Save Mart 350 at Infineon Raceway, Jeff Hammond and Darrell Waltrip were asked who would be in the #2 Penske Racing Dodge. Hammond said he keeps hearing the name Martin Truex Jr. popping up as he still has not been signed by DEI for 2006. 06/06/05 If Martin Truex Jr. signs a new contract with Dale Earnhardt Inc. as a Nextel Cup driver, as DEI officials would like, Bass Pro Shops, a part-time Nextel Cup sponsor for Richard Childress, will become Truex's primary sponsor next season. DEI has offered Truex Jr. a three-year contract. Childress officials says they expect Bass Pro (privately held, with about $1.6 billion in annual sales) to remain a part-time sponsor for Childress' operation. Winston Salem Journal06/05/05 DEI's Richie Gilmore said on Speed Channel's NASCAR This Morning that they are close to signing Martin Truex. Jr. to a 3-year deal, with a 3 year option, and the contracts are in the lawyers hands. Meanwhile, After beginning the week with three days of team meetings, Director of Motorsports Richie Gilmore said all is well again at Dale Earnhardt Inc. Dale Earnhardt Jr. apologized to Michael Waltrip's crew Monday after spinning his teammate in Sunday's Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Gilmore said he and owner Teresa Earnhardt addressed the issue first thing Monday morning, gathering DEI managers, then crew members and finally the drivers. "We wanted the drivers to talk amongst themselves first," Gilmore said. "That was the most important thing that Teresa wanted to handle was talk about what happened and get past it." Times-Dispatch05/23/05 Speaking of DEI, the cheers for defending Busch Series champion Martin Truex were deafening during driver introductions for the Nextel Open. It's no wonder Truex was voted into the All-Star Challenge by fans. But when asked to comment on whether an announcement was expected this week on his re-signing with DEI to drive the No. 1 Chevrolet in Cup, Truex declined. Truex, who is fourth in Busch points, has also been mentioned as a possibility for #11 Joe Gibbs Racing seat. Sporting News05/16/05 Richie Gilmore, director of motorsports at DEI, says he's confident that Dale Earnhardt Inc. will sign Martin Truex Jr. to a new contract soon. Michael Waltrip's situation, though, is not as certain. Truex' contract expires after this season. While there is interest in the Cup garage for the defending Busch series champion, DEI has it set up for him to drive Cup cars full time next year with Bass Pro Shops as the sponsor. "Martin's dad and I talk pretty much every day. I think we'll get back together with (car owner) Teresa (Earnhardt) next week and, hopefully, we'll get something together," Gilmore said. Gilmore says that Waltrip's sponsor NAPA has an option for next season. That leaves Waltrip's status uncertain. "We talked to Michael last week," Gilmore said. "We told Michael that we're trying to get the NAPA deal and then we can sit down and talk with him about talk about the future." Roanoke Times05/16/05 DEI vice president Richie Gilmore says contract discussions continue with NAPA and #15-Michael Waltrip and with Martin Truex, who is expected to revive the #1 Chevrolet in Cup with Bass Pro Shops as the sponsor. Gilmore says that NAPA is looking at a one-year extension, and DEI would like a three-year deal. Sporting News
Todt says teams want Mosley out Ferrari team boss Jean Todt thinks there is an ongoing campaign in the Formula 1 paddock to force the resignation of FIA president Max Mosley following the USGP debacle.
Mosley has been accused by the Michelin-shod teams - which withdrew from the Indy event on the grounds of safety - of mishandling the situation, since the FIA refused to grant the teams’ request to put up a chicane on IMS’s turn 13.
While only Minardi owner Paul Stoddart publicly demanded Mosley’s resignation, other signs - such as the complaint from the sport’s drivers regarding a “threatening” call from Mosley to Grand Prix Drivers Association director David Coulthard - would further indicate the pressure to force Mosley’s ousting. The Michelin teams have appealed on the FIA’s verdict which blamed the squads for the USGP fiasco.
"Lots of people don't like Max Mosley, that's clear," Todt told Autosport-Atlas. "I like Max Mosley, so that's the first fundamental difference. I like him, I rate him, I appreciate what he does, and I respect what he does.
"They [the other teams] don't like him, they don't rate what he does and they don't want him to stand again for [presidency of] the FIA. So everything that they can try to do to avoid that, they are trying to do,” he added.
“So we are not on safety, we are not on tires - we are on politics." More at SPEEDTV.com
Kanaan getting fed up with all the Danica talk "Did Danica do her interview already?" Kanaan asked rhetorically in a mocking tone as he walked into the interview room. "You guys wanted Danica to win? Sorry," Kanaan said after his Indy Racing League victory Sunday at Kansas Speedway. "[You've] got to wait until next time." I don't hear anybody talking about Rahal Letterman now, so who cares? They can talk all they want," said Kanaan, the defending series champion. "The race is finished when the checkered flag drops, and now they're going to have to talk about us."
We guess Kanaan could not take it anymore after seeing Danica Patrick paraded into the IRL post-race press conference like a poster girl puppet after finishing a lowly 9th in the race. This related article says Danica Patrick is overrated. Let's face it, "sex sells" says the author.
Bourdais to attend French GP.....why?UPDATE We are upgrading this rumor to 'fact.' Make no mistake about it, Bourdais wants a shot at F1. Bourdais believes he has the talent and the experience to become the next leading French Formula One driver. "The people don't look at me the same way since I've left Europe," Bourdais told a news conference ahead of the French Grand Prix on Sunday.
"Everybody knows who I am. My status has changed. I cannot say there's anything concrete right now. I just feel I am in a much better position than before, I became more mature.
"It's my third season in the Champ Car series, which has a very competitive field. When I made it out of F3000, I was not into Renault's motorsport policy. It might have been interesting to be a test driver in 2002, but now I am 26 and I want to fight for titles," he said.
"I know the window is getting smaller and smaller but in the meantime I've never been that close to make the cut."
On the question of driving for French Renault - "Renault does not need a French driver, they just need to win. You do not see an Italian driver in a Ferrari. The world is changing," he said. "If I have to drive another car to get into Formula One, I'll be happy to.
"If we keep saying being a French driver is a disadvantage to be in Formula One, we're never going to make it. We need to be positive. There is a need of a French driver. And today is the day."
06/26/05 The CBS broadcast of today's Champ Car race said that defending Champ Car Champion Sebastien Bourdais will be at the French Grand Prix next weekend, but only as a guest of the French motorsport federation. Other reports suggest he still would like a shot at F1. Since winning the season opener in Champ Car he has not won again, and will need to start winning regularly for an F1 team to pick him up.
Danica got 'The Call' again A reader speculates, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I am sure Danica Patrick got the call a la NASCAR for this weekend's race in Kansas. How convenient was it that Argent sponsors the race and the two Argent cars start 1-2? This stinks of NASCAR shenanigans through and through. When the green flag dropped she fell back through the field like a lead sinker in water indicating she has little talent and must have had another of the IRL's 'special' rev limiters to put the call on pole. When the going gets tough, the tough get going and Danica Patrick looks like she's in reverse. David Brown, San Francisco, CA Dear David, Her special rev limiter is her weight advantage. Since Brian Barnhart doesn't think weight is a factor in the IRL, they should make her qualify with full fuel tanks. Weight doesn't matter, right Brian? Mark C.
Ford wants first female Cup winner Ford executives have put a new twist on the female side of the NASCAR diversity program, by declaring it a battle now to become the first Detroit automaker to put a woman into victory lane at a Nextel Cup race. That considerably ups the stakes in the Ford-vs.-Dodge-vs.-Chevrolet campaign among women drivers. Dodge's Erin Crocker, set to make her Busch tour debut at Richmond in September, appears to have the upper hand at the moment. Two of General Motors' best hopes are Allison Duncan and Sarah Fisher. However the two, who drive for car owner Richard Childress, have been salted away on the West Coast, far from the limelight. And the question is if it's time for Childress to step up their development programs. Duncan, a sports-car racer turned stock-car driver, is running the weekly series at Stockton (Calif.) Speedway, where she won her first feature three weeks ago on the quarter-mile track. But running weekly 50-lappers on a quarter-mile in California is hardly a career path to NASCAR's Cup tour, even if Duncan is running in the top four regularly. Winston Salem Journal
Williams give BMW 4-week ultimatum The word at Magny-Cours is that Frank Williams have given BMW exactly four weeks to decide if it wants to stay with the team beyond this year after having bought the Sauber team. Word is that the relationship between Williams and BMW is so strained a renewal is not expected.
Mercedes won’t buy McLaren Mercedes officials have insisted that they will not follow BMW and take complete charge of a Formula One team. BMW, who has supplied engines to the Williams team since 2000, are to take control of the Sauber team in January.
Mercedes have been working with McLaren since 1995 and their DaimlerChrysler parent already owns 40% of the team, who have improved after a poor 2004.
But Motorsport Director Norbert Haug said: "There is no need for us to change our thinking." McLaren finished fifth in last season's Championship, after recording only one win. But despite this year's resurgence, Haug is aware that a good engine is no longer a guarantee of success.
"I know that it is much more difficult to build a chassis than to build an engine, with all due respect to the engine guys," he said. "You will find four or five engines in the pit lane right now that are very comparable but you obviously do not find five top chassis at the moment."
He welcomed the move by BMW to take over Sauber and said: "It's a great commitment for Formula One and I am happy that we do not have to pay for it." BBC Sport
Meetings at Magny Cours The Indy recriminations continued to be felt at Magny Cours, with another meeting - involving the drivers - held on Saturday. They converged on the Renault motor home, and McLaren boss Ron Dennis said the pilots wanted to be 'enlightened' about why they couldn't drive. According to reports, though, a more interesting meeting occurred on Friday.
'Autosport' said Red Bull driver and GPDA director David Coulthard told his colleagues that he had received a cross phone call from FIA president Max Mosley. The Scot apparently said Max scolded him for heading the divisive 19-driver statement, and trying to organize another GPDA document at Indy.
Other reports, though, said Flavio Briatore had organized the driver statement. Certainly, most media outlets were sent a copy of the statement via the Renault press office. ''I didn't know anything about it,'' 'Flav' insisted.
Meanwhile, the GPDA meeting is believed to have reinforced a division among the ranks, with 'president' Michael Schumacher criticized for failing to support the majority. Some kind of GPDA statement is expected on Sunday.
Massa and FerrariUPDATE Felipe Massa is the leading candidate to join Michael Schumacher at Ferrari next year, should - as speculation insists - Rubens Barrichello move on. Managed by Jean Todt's son Nicolas, the young Brazilian said at Magny Cours that he would definitely accept an offer.
''I'd go there immediately,'' the 24-year-old - who tested for the scarlet team throughout 2003 - told La Gazzetta dello Sport in France. ''I'm not sure there is the possibility right now.''
Sauber, presently Ferrari powered, has been bought by BMW and the Hinwil seats would be coveted for season '06. Massa continued: ''I feel ready to race for a top team.''
06/18/05 Brazil's Felipe Massa may test a Ferrari before the end of the year. The 24-year-old, who spent a year as Maranello tester in 2003, is presently Ferrari-powered (Sauber) and managed by Jean Todt's French son, Nicolas. He reportedly has a long term contract with the Scuderia, and is seen by some as being 'groomed' as an heir to the throne.
Rubens Barrichello is already linked with a BAR switch, and seven time world champion Michael Schumacher is under contract only to the end of 2006. Massa, from Sao Paulo, has consistently outgunned teammate and 1997 world champion Jacques Villeneuve in 2005. ''I know that people think 'oh, Villeneuve is slow','' he said, ''but I hope they might also say that I am quick.'' GMMf1NET
NY and Seattle could be last new NASCAR races NASCAR's Bill France made a rare public appearance during Busch Series qualifying, taking the opportunity to question Formula One officials and pronounce his own series almost set. France said after tracks near New York City and Seattle are completed and added to the schedule the circuit would be "in pretty good shape." That pronouncement would seem to rule out possible races in Canada and Asia, both rumored to be future NASCAR venues. "(With races in Seattle and New York) we would pretty much have the nation covered," said France, who balked at the idea of possibly expanding the 36-race schedule. Construction has not begun on either track. During his wide-ranging chat, France stopped short of expressing disappointment in the way F1 officials handled a dispute over unsafe tires at the U.S. Grand Prix in Indianapolis a couple of weeks ago, but said, "When you have fans coming from all over and everybody there, you have to run that race." St Petersburg Times
Marlin plans still up in air Sterling Marlin, who will start 37th in tonight's Nextel Cup Pepsi 400, said no decision has been made about his racing plans next year. "There's still some discussions going on and hopefully I'll know something before long," Marlin said. Marlin has been notified that his driving contract will not be renewed next season with Chip Ganassi Racing, but he has been offered a "consulting" job with the team. He also has an offer to drive a limited Busch Series schedule for FitzBradshaw Racing, but indicated he would prefer a full-time Nextel Cup ride if he can land with a "competitive" team. Marlin said he has talked to "two or three owners," believed to include Richard Childress and Jack Roush, and originally thought a decision might come this weekend. Yesterday he said it "will probably be later next month" before a decision is finalized. Tennessean
Toyota keeping NASCAR in the darkUPDATE Chevrolet and Ford are seeking approval for new models to race in the 2006 Nextel Cup Series, while Toyota has satisfied all requirements to submit a car to compete in Nextel Cup or the Busch Series next season. NASCAR vice president for competition Robin Pemberton on Friday said the sanctioning body had already looked at Chevrolet's new Monte Carlo and Ford's new model, which will be revealed to the media in Charlotte, N.C., on July 14. "We've had conversations with Toyota all along, even though they haven't officially thrown their hat in the ring," Pemberton said. "We've had good conversations with them and they're evaluating the Busch and Cup Series now -- though no decisions been made (on proceeding). They have done what they need to do by the (deadline), but they've made no official request to participate in 2006." Pemberton said the deadline for getting a vehicle through the approval process -- which includes wind tunnel and track testing -- to race in either Nextel Cup or the Busch Series next season is Sept. 1. NASCAR.com07/01/05 Brian France said on this weeks media teleconference that he has not had formal discussions with Toyota about the car manufacturer entering the Nextel Cup Series. Toyota, which will abandon its IRL program in 2007, has several teams that compete at the Craftsman Truck Series level. "What their plans are beyond that (truck series), I don't know and I don't know what the IRL's departure means or doesn't mean," France said. "It's really their call."
Valvoline and Evernham sponsorship announcement todayUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact.' See story on Hot News page. 07/01/05 Valvoline, which announced Wednesday it would end its partnership with MB2 Motorsports, is expected to move to Evernham Motorsports to sponsor a new Nextel Cup team in 2006, sources confirmed. Thatsracin.com and The Charlotte Observer first reported MB2 and Valvoline's decision to end their partnership earlier this month. That deal ends after this season. Valvoline will sell its 50 percent share in the team to MB2 principals Nelson Bowers and Jay Frye, and will no longer be primary sponsor of the team's No. 10 Chevrolets. Of Valvoline's NASCAR plans beyond 2005, senior vice president Jim Rocco said, "We will have something to announce soon." Charlotte Observer
Earnhardt to Childress?UPDATE #4 If Junior [Dale Earnhardt Jr.] is gonna drive the No. 3 car someday, could it happen under the DEI roof? If so, Childress would have to give up ownership of the number -- and all the potential business opportunities that accompany it. "He's always said, ever since his daddy got killed, one of these days he's gonna drive a 3 car," Tony Eury said of Junior. "Just a remark he made a long time ago. Someday Richard might give us the number and we'll run it out of DEI. Depends on how long Richard wants to keep doing it, you know." Richard? Any chance of giving up the No. 3? "No. As far as the 3, it's registered," Childress elaborated. "It's one of those deals . . . we're gonna keep doing what we've been doing, what Dale and I talked about years ago. We knew it was our number, and we had plans of doing things with it after he retired. We're gonna put those plans in effect soon." Daytona Beach News Journal06/28/05 DEI, founded by Earnhardt Sr. when he was driving for Richard Childress, is now run by Earnhardt's widow, Teresa. Earnhardt Jr. and his stepmother have had a rocky relationship. In an interview in Saturday's Orlando Sentinel, Earnhardt reiterated the notion that he might someday leave DEI. Reached Saturday at the track, Earnhardt said he was simply restating his desire to drive for Childress "years and years" down the road. "Nothing's going on, I promise you that," he said. USA Today06/25/05 Does "Little E" ever wonder if it might be better if he had moved on out of the DEI team his father founded and went to the Childress team his father drove for? "Yeah!" he says, cheer suddenly rising in his hoarse voice, his eyes brightening. "And I think about that. And that's still -- that's always an option." As the only man alive who could carry "3" on his door panels with public approval and indeed celebration, and with his Bud sponsorship willing to follow him wherever he goes, it would seem he could pick up the phone and virtually be there. "Right," he confirmed. "Yeah. Richard and I haven't really sat down at a desk to talk about it, but he owns the number '3' and I want to drive the No. 3 race car before I retire. I've told Richard I want to finish my career in his race car, or in a No. 3 car if he and Teresa [Earnhardt] can come to some agreement or whatever." He means a transfer of ownership of the number. His stepmother, Dale's widow Teresa, owns Dale Earnhardt Inc. and has the ultimate say, although Richie Gilmore runs the company for her. She rarely comes to races or appears in public and doesn't speak with the media. Earnhardt Jr. is under contract to her through 2007. But could something be worked out? And how long would it take? "Oh, if everybody was for it, less than 24 hours, I would assume," Earnhardt said. "But I don't see that happening. I mean, not everybody's going to be cool about it. I don't think Teresa would want me to leave, in the first place." Read more at the Orlando Sentinel06/25/05 Also hearing that Budweiser may move with Earnhardt Jr. to the famous No. 03 in 2006. We predicted that Jr. would drive his famous father's No. 3 many years ago and NASCAR would make it happen at the right time. Now is the right time because Dale's career is going downhill fast (based on the performances he has had this year.) NASCAR, never one to miss out on a marketing opportunity, will play this one to the hilt, and Earnhardt's legion of sheep, er...we mean fans, will cheer wildly. 06/24/05 Richard Childress does not see Dale Earnhardt Jr. leaving Dale Earnhardt Inc., after the season, but if that happens, his door is open. “Junior has his own deal working good at DEI, and I hope it all works out for him,” said Childress, who won six Nextel Cup championships with the late Dale Earnhardt. “I think it will (work out), ’cause it’s a really good organization. I also would say if he ever left there, I’d sure hope he’d come this way. I know what Dale Sr.’s vision and dream was with DEI,” Childress said. “It was to build that operation for Dale Jr., (sister) Kelly and his family. Dale Jr. has done a great job of representing DEI and what they want to do, so it’s a good deal.” The State
Schuey to be ousted? The Grand Prix Drivers Association is to meet this afternoon in Magny-Cours and the word in the paddock on Friday morning was that there is likely to be trouble between the majority of the members and Michael Schumacher, one of the directors of the organization, about what happened and Indianapolis and what has happened since. There was a hint of the tensions yesterday during the FIA press conference when the subject came up. Nineteen drivers signed a letter to the FIA as part of the evidence put forward by the F1 teams at the FIA World Council meeting on Wednesday.
The letter was not signed by either Ferrari driver, nor by Jordan drivers Tiago Monteiro and Narain Karthikeyan.
Word in the paddock on Friday morning was that there is likely to be trouble between the majority of the members and Michael Schumacher, one of the directors of the organization. A number of the drivers are known to be very upset at what happened in Indianapolis and there are likely to be ructions when the drivers get together. Perhaps we may even see a change in the list of directors. Grandprix.com
Cheever fires Team ManagerUPDATE Max Jones went to work for Jack Roush. He is running Ricky Craven's NASCAR truck program. 07/01/05 Rumor has it that Max Jones, Team Manager for Red Bull Cheever Racing, has been fired. He is no longer listed on their website as a team member so it seems this rumor is probably true. This season has been a roller coaster employment turnover circus for that team we hear.
USGP as a non-championship round F1 drivers have shot down a wayward rumor that the sport, to reconcile angry fans, might return to Indianapolis for a non-championship race at the end of the year. ''I've heard nothing about that,'' said Fernando Alonso.
World champion Michael Schumacher added: ''Let's talk about facts. There are always stories doing the rounds.''
''I haven't heard anything,'' Jarno Trulli chimed in, ''but I'd be happy to go there again.''
Jordan's Tiago Monteiro said: ''I'll do five more (grands prix) if you want! I've not heard anything about it though.''
Kimi Raikkonen, meanwhile - desperate to close the title gap to Alonso, inadvertently churned out the quote of the day. The Finn said, deadpan: ''Why non-championship?''
'Theissen for top job' With Gerhard Berger unwilling to pack his life back into a suitcase, who'll take the top job at BMW-Sauber next season? The aforesaid Austrian, who won ten times in the 80s and 90s and was joint BMW motor sport director, reckons his old partner is fit for office. ''He is a great man,'' Berger told Kicker magazine, ''(who is) absolutely competent and able to lead BMW in Formula One.'' GMMF1.net
FIA could kick Michelin outUPDATE Michelin has played down claims that the International Automobile Federation (FIA) wants it out of Formula 1. "I don't suspect the FIA of any idea like that," said Michelin motorsport director Pierre Dupasquier. "Don't we do a good job and make good racing in all disciplines? We couldn't understand something like that." Related article at ITV-F106/30/05 Michelin will be in big trouble if an FIA analysis finds that the supplier is producing 'dangerous' F1 tires. After the world council meeting in Paris, president Max Mosley renewed a biting attack on the company and did not discount kicking Michelin out.
''That would be a decision taken on grounds of safety,'' said the Briton.
In a letter to Pierre Dupasquier, Max - citing speculation of widespread problems and failures - asked for details of all Michelin failures in the last two years. ''If if turns out there have been other failures, it may well be that (Michelin) would not be allowed to run in F1.''
Mosley also slammed Michelin's 'disastrous' handling of the Indy debacle. ''That company,'' he added, ''should be deeply ashamed. ''They have done enormous damage to Formula One.'' GMMF1.net
Will BOA buyout of MBNA affect NASCAR? Bank of America Corp. will buy MBNA Corp. in a stock and cash deal valued at $35 billion, combining the third- and fifth-largest credit-card companies in the country into what could be the largest. Charlotte Business Journal MBNA sponsors Joe Gibbs team and they do race sponsorship, pole position awards, etc. Will Bank of America have the same positive view of this activity as MBNA did?
Petronas to do deal with BMW Malaysia's state-owned oil company, Petroliam Nasional Bhd, is considering transferring its sponsorship from Sauber to BMW, which has taken over the Swiss Formula One team. "We are in discussions with BMW," Petronas president and chief executive Hassan Marican told reporters. "We'll announce when the time is right. It's still very early days." Petronas has sponsored Sauber since 1999, when Malaysia hosted its first grand prix. BMW announced last week it was buying a majority stake in Sauber, which entered Formula One in 1993. Reuters
Bernie doing magic again The Formula One Management company has filed its financial returns for 2003, revealing a number of interesting developments. The most notable of these is that while profits have increased by $31m to $158m, the company's turnover dropped from $643m in 2002 to $562m. This seems to have been due to the closure of the FOM digital TV service in December 2002.
Also interesting is the fact that Bernie Ecclestone's salary tripled to $4.1m.
The documents reveal that the teams are currently considering an offer to buy SLEC, the Formula One Group holding company, from Ecclestone and the banks for $900m, which would be financed by a new bond issue.
The documents also reveal that at the end of 2003 (18 months ago) FOM has paid off half of the original $1.4bn bond. In 2003 $232m was paid leaving $716m to be settled. The aim appears to be to finish paying off the bond by the end of 2006. This will be four years ahead of the original plan to pay off the 10-year bond by November 2010 and opens up the possibility of various forms of refinancing to get the banks out of the business. It is interesting that the teams are involved in this and one would presume that it could end up with a situation in which some form of trust fund would own Formula 1 on behalf of the teams, while the sport would be run by an operating company. If this turns out to be the case, it would be a huge step forward for the sport. More at Grandprix.com
BAR in the clear? BAR look set to avoid any potential suspension from the Formula One World Championship. FIA president Max Mosley said it would 'not be fair' to impose the ban suspended on the team following the San Marino GP because of the guilty verdict handed down by the World Motor Sport Council over the US GP fiasco.
The Honda powered team were banned for two races earlier this season for using illegal fuel tanks at Imola and were warned that any further break of the rules could result in a six month suspension.
However despite being found guilty - along with the six other Michelin teams - of failing to take the right tires to Indianapolis, and of wrongfully refusing to allow its cars to start the race, Mosley said the guilty verdict wouldn't trigger the ban.
"We considered that question carefully and we invited their counsel representative to make submissions on that point," he said. "The view of the World Council was that the two things were so different it would not be fair to impose the ban that was suspended.
"We really would only impose that ban if there was a repetition of an offence similar to the one for which the ban was imposed, and this seems to be quite different." Sky Sports
EJ15B to skip Brit GP, too Narain Karthikeyan says Jordan's 'b' spec car will probably also not race at the British grand prix. The Indian, like teammate Tiago Monteiro, tested the EJ15B - with a big aero update - in Spain last week but reported iffy reliability. ''We had some difficulties with the car,'' 28-year-old Karthikeyan told Indian newspaper The Deccan Chronicle, ''and we couldn't do many laps.''
While Narain and Tiago plug on with the regular car this weekend, 'Friday' driver Robert Doornbos - it was announced - is scheduled to steer the 'b' version in France. Karthikeyan revealed that Doornbos is likely to do the same at Silverstone, scene of the Formula One action next weekend. ''I think after (that) we will be in a more realistic position (to introduce the car),'' the rookie driver stated.
The German grand prix at Hockenheim is set for July 24.
Red Bull eyes Robby Gordon, NASCAR The makers of energy drink Red Bull are taking a hard look at NASCAR. The Red Bull philosophy differs from other international companies involved in motorsport in that it does not advocate the sponsorship role, but prefers ownership, as evidenced by its purchase of the Formula One Jaguar equipe, renaming it Red Bull. Robby Gordon's Nextel Cup operation, one of the few owner-driver efforts in NASCAR, is in Red Bull's sights. It is also one of the few single-car efforts running the full circuit. National Speed Sport News
Future of Cleveland race still cloudy Despite the improved turnout, which included an unspecified increase in corporate suite sales, Cleveland's future status on the Champ Car schedule is still not secure. Champ Car has co-promoted the Cleveland race since 2003 and the series' new owners are unlikely to keep the race if it does not prove profitable. "We're not anywhere close to being profitable yet," admitted Cleveland GP General Manager Rena Shanaman.
Champ Car CEO Dick Eidswick said he wants to work to ensure Cleveland remains a Champ Car mainstay. "The race is a tradition, and tradition is important in Champ Car," he told the Cleveland Plain Dealer. "We believe that the city of Cleveland deserves a race of this caliber, and we will continue to work with the business community to seek their support. If the Cleveland business community continues to be reluctant, we will need to reevaluate the performance of the race in terms of its financials. Our plans are to redouble our efforts with the business community to make sure this is a stepping stone for the next 25 years." National Speed Sport News
Indy Speedway to blame for tire problemsUPDATE #5 We have added this image to our Bridgestone's Al Speyer interview showing the diamond ground Indy track surface. 06/28/05 Michelin’s standard e-mail response for the customers disappointed by its withdrawal from the USGP added a paragraph absent from the company’s official release issued for the press yesterday (Monday).
To avoid stirring further controversy on the issue, Michelin did not mention rivals Bridgestone on its press release. But the customers did get a justification as to why the Japanese tires were able to perform at the USGP while the French rubber was tearing itself apart.
“Michelin was not allowed to test on the resurfaced track before the race weekend, and therefore needed to make several assumptions about the surface, the race and its interaction with the tires,” the e-mail stated. “Bridgestone (through its Firestone brand) participated in the Indianapolis 500, which allowed it to experience the new surface ahead of the F1 race.” SPEEDTV.com [Editor's Note: Perhaps Michelin should have read our interview with Al Speyer from Bridgestone/Firestone]
06/26/05 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' based on our report below about the diamond grinding and why it was done and how, and also from statements made by Bridgestone's Al Speyer in this exclusive AutoRacing1.com interview -
Q: Having a chicane would create more pressure on the tires because of the additional braking. Do you think having a chicane would have made that much of a difference in tire performance if the drivers had to slow for it? Al: “It all depends about how severe their problems were which I don’t know. Only (Michelin) knows that. What I do know is that there were some reports, at least in Canada and Europe, that Firestone, through our testing for the Indy 500 had somehow made a bunch of changes because of the new track resurfacing and that they had alerted Bridgestone of all of this, and we had an unfair advantage which is totally untrue.
“We actually ran the exact same tires in this year's Indianapolis 500 that we ran last year. We did go to Indianapolis and test before the track surface was really ready, but when they finally got the track surface in ready condition for the entire month of May for the race, we used the exact same spec that we ran last year. If anything, we had better wear, and the track was as severe on our tires this year than what it was last year. So, I don’t think the track had anything to do with it.
“As another point of reference that I’m very familiar with, we also ran and tested with the Menards Infiniti Pro Series and raced with the Menards Infiniti Pro Series on the Firestone Firehawk racing radials. We ran a 100-mile race on the Saturday of the Grand Prix weekend, and we had no tire problems whatsoever. The Infiniti Pro tires were maybe 20% to 30% worn after a hundred miles. They held up great. I don’t have any specific knowledge, but I’m also aware that the Porsche Cup cars raced there that weekend and so did Formula BMW on Michelin tires, and I don’t believe they had any problems. I didn’t hear of any. So anybody who was out there saying that there was some unfair collusion in our system is just totally untrue. When we ran the Indy 500, we told our Japanese guys, they ran the same as they always have been. There was no drama. There was nothing to report. It was just the same.
“I feel a little bit bad for Tony George and his group from the standpoint of people saying that the repaving or re-grooving and all that had something to do with that, but I don’t think so, certainly not in our experience.”
"We ran 40,000 miles there. “You’re there all month and weekends (during May after the track was re-surfaced). Our garage was one of the quietest places there. Nobody came over to say anything was wrong. They would come over and tell us if things are going wrong, but, no one was coming over at all.”
06/23/05 We did more research on what was actually done to the Indy surface and why. When the most asphalt paving work was finished, the result was a good, smooth track surface. The speedway management did the typical smoothness measurements with a California profilograph of the base course of asphalt, but they also made measurements with a high-speed profilometer. Finally, they brought in an Indy Racing League car and driver to do a few laps and see how the surface felt at Indy 500 speed. The driver then reported back to Kevin Forbes, director of construction and engineering for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Next the 1-in. thick top surface was laid, again in four passes, but this time 12.5, 12.5, 14.5 and 14.5 ft wide. They wanted the bottom lane in the surface to be a little wider so the cars in the main racing line would have their right-side wheels below the longitudinal joint.
The problem was that the drivers were used to the previous surface, which gave them more grip because it had been diamond ground in 2001. The drivers had been driving on a diamond-ground surface for four years and they liked it. “There’s no way that the paving contractor could have put any type of new hot-mix back that would have had the same grip as the existing diamond-ground surface.
The speedway management wanted to give the drivers the increased traction they were accustomed to. They also wanted to give the drivers a uniform surface texture, but that was altered by diamond grinding that had been done in February of this year to create extra smoothness at the bottom of the turns. The speedway management decided to diamond grind the whole track surface. They hired Penhall Corp., Anaheim, Calif., a specialist in diamond grinding racetracks.
“We did not diamond grind the entire track to make it smoother,” the contractor said. “Smoothness was a nonissue at that point. They were very happy with the smoothness; they simply wanted the degree of grip that they had before, and they wanted a consistent amount of grip everywhere.” This increases the drivers’ control on the track and allows for more competitive racing on all parts of the track. Diamond grinding essentially cuts shallow grooves in the pavement surface with a series of what look like saw blades with diamond cutting edges. The diamond grinding cut longitudinal grooves 1/8 in. wide with 1/8 in. between them and 1/16 in. deep all the way around the 2.5-mile Indianapolis oval, which is 50 ft wide in the straights and has about 78,000 sq yd of surface area. The ridges between grooves are not stable, so they need to be worn off a little.
After the grinding, workers performed the standard practice of dragging weighted metal grates around the track. That knocked the majority of those ridges down to just a very small ridge between the grooves.
In the end, the speedway had grooves about 1/32 in. deep—just enough to provide a good grip for Indy cars and Nextel Cup cars riding on “slick” tires, which have no tread. But what about the very soft grooved F1 tires?
06/21/05 Michelin's Pierre Dupasquier says in an Atlas/Autosport interview today, "We did testing in three days on the machines and the tires conform to our specification, so they are just not suited to this place. It is not a problem. If we said slowing down on turn 13 would make it safe, it means we have a reasonably good idea what the cause was. It is pressure related, but not enough to make sure we are away from the red line. The new surface is likely to be part of it." Were Toyota running below the recommended pressure? Dupasquier: "No, no, no. We have never experienced with our partners such kind of behavior. They know why we say that, there are the figures and they don't want to see their car in the wall either." 06/19/05 Word in the Indianapolis paddock today is that the Indianapolis Speedway is at least partially to blame for today's F1 debacle whereby all the Michelin tire shod cars could not participate due to safety concerns.
Because of the bum resurfacing job done by the Speedway's paving contractor, the track had to be diamond grinded to take the bumps and ripples out. That caught Bridgestone/Firestone and Goodyear out as both the IRL and NASCAR had to cancel planned testing. The new, more abrasive surface due to the grinding, has resulted in better grip and higher speeds. Michelin, not having the benefit of testing prior to this weekend, got caught out just like the other two manufacturers did. Whereas Firestone IRL tire technicians probably passed down information about the Speedway surface to their F1 mates at Bridgestone, Michelin did not have that luxury.
To Michelin's defense, they didn't have problems in previous years at Indy, so why all of a sudden this year? Hence why some in the paddock, right or wrong, are pointing their finger squarely at the Speedway.
To make matters worse, Tony George may have to refund race fans their money resulting in a bloodbath for the Speedway. This will probably result in a lawsuit against the FIA and FOM, souring an already strained relationship. Given the track takes a financial bath on this race each year, perhaps this will be the last F1 race ever at the Indy Motor Speedway. The next days and weeks should tell us more. Mark C.
Bank of America to sponsor race Bank of America at a press conference today will announce that it “will become title sponsor of the fall NASCAR Nextel Cup Series race" at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in a reported five-year agreement. BofA is also expected to announce that it will become a sponsor at “several other tracks” owned by Speedway Motorsports Inc. Additionally, BofA has “purchased significant advertising time” on NBC for the net’s coverage of the second half of NASCAR’s season, beginning with the Pepsi 400 this weekend BIZJOURNALS.com
IRL thinks they can keep HondaUPDATE A reader writes, What they didn't say: "We've been shopping engine rules packages to auto manufacturers for the last 6 months without any takers. Finally and reluctantly, we are releasing a rules package with nobody signed up, hoping somebody will bite before it's too late." Bob Williams, Long Beach, CA 06/28/05 Toyota will leave Indy-car racing following the 2006 season, the Japanese auto manufacturer confirmed Monday. The long-expected news is a blow to the Indy Racing League, which is scheduled to lose General Motors at the end of this season.
The IRL's third current manufacturer -- Honda -- does not want to be the sole engine provider, although a league spokesman said Monday that shouldn't happen. "We feel we're on a schedule (to announce) guidelines that will interest current and potential engine suppliers," said John Griffin, the league's vice president of public relations.
IRL president Brian Barnhart said he has settled on a new equipment package for 2007, although he has neither announced it nor shared it with the manufacturers.
League officials still hope GM will return through its Chevrolet brand after its stated absence in 2006. There are several engine suppliers that might be interested in the IRL's new rules, but the league requires them to carry the name of an auto manufacturer that sells vehicles in the U.S. Those companies must agree to promotional programs. Indy Star
IRL trying to steal LeggeUPDATE According to the same article, Legge's contract with Polestar was for six months and, as of last weekend's races in Cleveland, she became a free agent and the IRL wants her to create a media frenzy of Danica Patrick against Legge. 06/28/05 Someone from the IRL contacted Katherine Legge about possibly switching series. This Toronto Star article supports this claim. This would go along with what we have seen for years whereby the IRL teams have tried to pluck the Champ Car paddock dry of teams, drivers and sponsors. Now Champ Car has struck back stealing Al Unser III and before that Conquest Racing. With Toyota and Chevy money about to leave the IRL paddock perhaps we will see Champ Car begin to pluck the IRL paddock dry over the next two years as the two sides run each other out of business. Isn't this war fantastic? Last note - why don't they hire one of the IPS drivers and do they really think he will get Legge after Kevin Kalkhoven gave her the chance of a lifetime? Some people worship the almighty dollar and some have integrity.
Honda won’t stay to beat themselves Robert Clarke, vice president and general manager of HPD, said Tuesday that Honda's involvement in the IRL beyond 2006 likely will hinge on how many auto manufacturers participate. Honda doesn't want to be the only one, he said. "One of the reasons we race is to showcase ourselves against other manufacturers," he said. "It might be OK if some of the (competitors) were non-branded, but it definitely changes the environment we're racing in. It does away with one of our objectives." Clarke said he likes what he's heard from the IRL so far, i.e. they have switched their tune from pushing for production based engines. In part from Indy Star
IRL engines won’t change much The IRL's Brian Barnhart said the engines that will be "new" for 2007 figure to have many of the same features used in the current engines, albeit with some cost-saving adjustments. "Everyone seems to forget that status quo, with slight modifications to lower costs, is a very good option," Barnhart said. "Our engines, chassis and gearboxes have run like clockwork, and the reliability of the engine is one of the most cost-saving things we've got." IRL officials were scheduled to meet with GM today in an attempt to bring it back in 2006. Barnhart said the rules package won't be announced before next month, in part because the league is in the middle of a stretch that includes eight races in 10 weeks. Indy Star
Goodyear Tire in IRL dealUPDATE Team Rahal claims they have done no such deal with Goodyear. This rumor may be close to 'false' unless the deal is with another team. We are quite skeptical that this rumor has any merit. 06/28/05 Rumor has it that Goodyear Tire and Rubber may have done a deal to supply tires to the IRL again, and may have signed a deal with Team Rahal, to be announced soon. This is unconfirmed, but if true it means either Firestone is leaving or the IRL will have a tire war on their hands.
Toyota to announce IRL withdrawal next weekUPDATE #3 There has been considerable speculation that Toyota will move up to the Busch series in 2006 or 2007 and eventually move into Nextel Cup, challenging Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge, which currently race in NASCAR's top stock-car series. "We are continuing to explore our options in NASCAR," said Jim Aust, Toyota vice president of motorsports. "However, at the present time our continued focus is on the Craftsman Truck Series." USA Today06/28/05 This rumor is now 'fact.' See press release on Hot News page. 06/27/05 Toyota Racing Development USA, which is headquartered in Costa Mesa, California, is opening an office in Charlotte, North Carolina, from where the firm will oversee its attack into NASCAR. 06/26/05 Toyota, which will finally announce next week it's leaving the Indy Racing League at the end of 2006, had one of those rare feel good races Saturday night here at Richmond International Raceway.
Its drivers, Helio Castroneves and Patrick Carpentier, finished first and third, Team Penske led 154 of 250 laps after starting on the front row and had a sure 1-2 finish before Sam Hornish Jr. crashed while chasing his teammate.
And, even though this racy three-quarter mile oval is more of a handling track than a horsepower joint, Toyota triumphed for only the fourth time in the past 23 starts. Of course all four of them have been split between Castroneves and Hornish as the rest of the Toyota contingent (including Target/Ganassi) has been shut out.
But the hard news of this weekend is that Toyota is honoring its commitment to Tony George's series to stay through 2006 and will not bail out at the close of 2005 as has been rumored for the past several months.
Nobody made any comments here but SPEEDTV.com has learned there will be some kind of press release, maybe as early as Monday.
"That's our intention. We've got a contract through 2006 and we're going to give it our best effort," said Jim Aust, president of Toyota Racing Development, while standing in victory lane on Saturday night.
"That's always been our plan and we've got several teams counting on us and we intend to move ahead and try to get back to where we were in 2003." It's believed that Lee White, general manager of TRD, is moving from Toyota's LA office to Charlotte and that Toyota will be in Nextel Cup by 2007 at the earliest. But Toyota is sticking around open wheel racing in this country for '06 and showed some overall promise here. "We're making some short steps and we'd like to make a big one but we haven't quite figured that out yet," said Aust. Cheever hopes Toyota's final fling is a winner. SPEEDTV.com
Will Renault stay in F1? Carlos Ghosn, the new boss of Automobiles Renault, has spent the last three months looking at the way the company operates and deciding how to move forward. The company has now announced new management changes which mean that only one of the six members of the executive council at the start of last year is still in place. All the others have been replaced. The last to go is veteran Georges Douin, who is to be replaced by Ghosn's former number two at Nissan, Patrick Pelata, an executive who made a name for himself in the 1990s as the head of product development, notably with the Twingo. Pelata will be in charge of a number of departments, including the Renault Sport Technologies Division, which commercializes sporting developments. This is separate from the F1 program which still comes under Patrick Faure, although he was one of the four executives to leave the board in December last year.
The change could be of great significance as the board is completely different to the one that voted for Renault's factory involvement in F1. Ghosn says that he is no fan of motorsport unless it serves a purpose and insists that he will not continue with an unsuccessful F1 program. Fortunately at the moment the Renault F1 team is leading the World Championship. Grandprix.com [Editor's Note: Renault plans to begin selling cars again in the USA, perhaps as early as 2008. With F1 possibly done in the USA after the fiasco in Indy two weekends ago, one has to wonder if they may exit F1, which is getting prohibitively expensive. Also, although Renault is currently leading the F1 championship, McLaren has been dominating recently and it is quite possible they will pass Renault in the standings soon. Will Ghosn then, therefore, move forward with his original plan that was told to AutoRacing1.com last year - to get out of F1?]
Cosworth may supply engines to ALMS and LMES Cosworth might return to top-line sports car racing after an absence of more than a decade. The renowned engine builder, whose F1-derived units were successful in sports cars from the 1970s into the early 1990s, is working on a new twin-turbo V8. The motor is being pitched as an off-the-shelf powerplant that can be fitted into the growing number of LMP1 customer prototypes that will be available next year. Cosworth Racing, owned by Champ Car boss Kevin Kalkhoven, has yet to release details of a powerplant on which it has been working for some time. Rumor is the engine is based on the IRL Indy car unit it developed for Chevrolet, which is withdrawing from the series at the end of the season. AutoWeek
Environmental Protection Agency at Pocono The Environmental Protection Agency was reported to be at Pocono Raceway two weeks ago. It is unclear what its inspectors might have been interested in. The EPA would like NASCAR to switch to unleaded gasoline, which Formula One runs on. And NASCAR has had engine builders experiment with engines using unleaded gas, but there has been no timetable for any changeover. However Canadian law would require NASCAR to run unleaded gasoline in any race north of the border, which NASCAR has listed as its next frontier. Winston Salem-Journal
DEI Engine Changes? Dale Earnhardt Jr. has been complaining about horsepower much of the season, and now it appears that DEI will be building a new engine shop, perhaps with Menard Engineering help. Owner John Menard's son Paul drives Busch cars for DEI. Menard Engineering also provides motors for Robby Gordon. John Menard owned the Indy-cars that Tony Stewart drove to the Indy Racing League championship in 1997. Winston Salem-Journal
Special tire valves? Tires have been a headline issue in racing the past several weeks, and the latest twist concerns not the rubber or construction design but rather with the air-pressure valve. Some team engineers say they suspect rival teams of using special valves designed to bleed off excessive air pressure, to keep the tire at a constant pressure. That could be a significant advantage, because tires will typically build up as much as 16 psi over a 100-mile run, and tires with higher pressure handle much differently in corners. Such bleeder valves aren't new in racing, of course; however technology today could make such special valves virtually impossible to distinguish from ordinary valves. Winston Salem-Journal
NASCAR TV contract not expected to see huge increase NASCAR officials may have backed off a little on their initial demand, quietly asked for earlier this year, for a 50 percent fee increase from the television rights holders on the next rights package. But in the aftermath of record household ratings for the first half of the season on Fox, those officials expect to be appropriately rewarded by whichever networks win the next package, which will take effect at the start of the 2007 season. “In a market where it has become increasingly difficult for sports to maintain their ratings, NASCAR continues to grow its ratings, and we expect to get a fair value back from our partners for this growth,” said Dick Glover, NASCAR's VP of broadcasting and news media.. But the TV partners may not be so quick to open their wallets much wider. “I can understand the NASCAR folks saying, look at the growth, but they also have to look at the reality and economics,” said Ed Goren, president of Fox Sports. He believes the current TV partners may have overpaid a bit five years ago under the existing agreement, because advertisers were slow to recognize the value of the Nascar telecasts and brand. Media Week
Hyundai to badge ChevworthUPDATE #2 We hear that the IRL has a dilemma with bringing Hyundai into the series - Honda does not want to pit their brand against Hyundai because they feel their image brand is below that of the more established Honda brand and if Hyundai wins races it will look bad for Honda. Honda wants to compete against brand names of comparable status we hear. It true, this means that Champ Car could have the same dilemma if rumors are true they are trying to woo Honda back into the fold.
This of course could get interesting because we suspect the Chinese are soon going to want to be racing in the USA and with Hyundai being the biggest foreign brand in China now, there would be a possibility of both a Chinese car brand and Hyundai going head-to-head. In our opinion, both Honda and Toyota are concerned that car companies from China and South Korea are going to make inroads into the USA car market and they are going to have to go head-to-head at some point with these two countries. Where this all falls out for the IRL and Champ Car remains to be seen. Both companies appear to be a better fit for Champ Car given Champ Car's NAFTA and Pacific Rim schedule.
If China and South Korea decide to come into Champ Car as we speculate, what will Honda do, follow Toyota to NASCAR or stay in the IRL? Perhaps Roger Penske will get someone to badge his Ilmor engines and Honda will compete against that company in the IRL. The ideal situation would be for a common formula for Champ Car and the IRL with all four competing against each other. As the Chinese and South Korean get better at making cars and their brand name approves (Hyundai is already ranked high in the JD Power quality ratings) Honda will no longer deem them too low to beat up on. Mark C.
06/22/05 There are just some things that make you go hmmm, and this rumor that Hyundai might badge an engine in the IRL is one of them. Champ Car has races in both China and South Korea. South Korea's Hyundai has become the latest car maker to announce a big expansion in China. Hyundai yesterday signed a preliminary agreement with China's Guangzhou Motor Group to set up a $1.24bn commercial vehicle joint venture.
The move will accelerate the company's expansion in the world's third-largest vehicle market, where Hyundai is already a top-selling car brand. Hyundai said the latest Chinese venture, which will give the carmaker a full production line-up in China, was crucial for achieving its ambition of boosting vehicle output in the country to 1m units - a fifth of its global output - by 2010.
The move will increase Hyundai's output potential in China more than fourfold, to 600,000 vehicles a year by 2007. Separately, Hyundai's Kia subsidiary is to spend nearly $360m raising its Chinese capacity to 430,000 cars a year, from 130,000 currently. The investment program will lift Hyundai's total output potential in China to more than 1 million vehicles a year.
Why then would Kevin Kalkhoven be talking to Hyundai about racing in the IRL, a USA racing series, when his own Champ Car series can deliver the USA market, the Chinese market (key as noted above) and their home market of South Korea? There is more to this rumor than meets the eye, and we suspect Kalkhoven would like nothing better than to broker a deal with Hyundai to badge his Cosworth engines for both leagues, quite easy if they agree to common equipment. One would think that Honda just might be interested in beating Hyundai on the race track because they are quickly becoming a global automotive powerhouse to be reckoned with
06/20/05 This SPEEDTV article says (excerpts) The two men who own and operate Champ Car did not get to watch their Chevworth engine triumph with Tomas Scheckter in last week's Indy Racing League show at Texas.
"I don't watch those races but I did call Cosworth and congratulate them," said Gerald Forsythe, who along with Kevin Kalkhoven purchased Cosworth Engineering last winter. I hear it might have 20 horsepower on the Honda," said Kalkhoven, speaking of the Chevrolet engine that's been overhauled and designed by Cosworth since the middle of the 2003 IRL season. "I know it's a damn good engine."
Good enough, it turns out, that after General Motors bids farewell to the IRL at the end of 2005 there's another major manufacturer seriously interested in badging the Cosworth and keeping it alive in Tony George's series.
SPEEDTV.com has learned that Hyundai, the seventh largest car manufacturer in the world, is the interested party. "Yes," admitted Kalkhoven on Sunday, "the people from Hyundai called Cosworth this week to discuss the possibilities." To which Forsythe added: "We're not interested in selling Cosworth but we would be interested in badging it like we've done with Chevrolet."
Now this is intriguing for a number of reasons. First off, Honda's Robert Clarke has been lobbying Kalkhoven, Forsythe and George to end the 10-year civil war and get together in one series by 2007. In the past few months, Mario Andretti brokered meetings with both sides about having a common chassis and engine by '07.
Clarke is concerned that Toyota will join GM on the sidelines following 2006, leaving Honda as the lone power source -- something it vows it will not do. Unification is the ideal situation but, in the event some kind of common ground cannot be reached, Honda desperately wants Cosworth in play.
"Gerry and I have said all along that Cosworth is separate from Champ Car and we're happy to talk with anyone about keeping our IRL engine program going," said Kalkhoven, whose turbocharged engines power all 18 Champ Cars. "We're businessmen, first, and racers second."
The uncertainty about the IRL's engine future makes this even more intriguing.
With its IRL house teams of Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi, Toyota is committed through 2006, although the rumor persists it might bail after this year. This speculation was further fueled recently when Penske purchased the controlling interest in Ilmor USA. This English-based engine builder has long been a partner of Penske's in CART and it escorted Honda into the IRL in 2003.
It's possible that Penske could be preparing to either use Ilmor USA to take over Toyota's program or simply build a new model to sell. Toyota's only three wins in the past two years have come from Penske, who uses his own engine shop to build his IRL motors.
The IRL has yet to announce its 2007 engine specs and many feel it's because nobody is certain of which manufacturers or engine builders might be playing. So Hyundai vs. Honda might be the IRL's best bet, which would be ironic to say the least since Kalkhoven, Forsythe and George would be helping each other.
[Editor's Note: Let's not forget that South Korean company Hyundai would love to be on the Cosworth Champ Car engine when the series makes a stop in Ansan, South Korea (suburb of Seoul) later this year. In a unified series Honda and Hyundai would be supplying engines to be used by teams in all markets, including South Korea. We had heard that Hyundai has been eyeing Champ Car for quite some time, so we could see Kalkhoven and Forsythe trying to broker this deal as one aspect of a unification. We still feel any unification will still require two divisions using common equipment and six common playoff races to determine the overall champion. With F1 sticking a gun to its head this weekend over the USGP debacle, a unified Champ Car/IRL powerhouse could certainly move in and steal F1's worldwide thunder because the world has had enough of F1 politics. The silly Champ Car/IRL war must end, and end now.]
Will BMW can Villeneuve? BMW’s announcement last week that they are taking the controlling interest in the Sauber team for 2006 and will announce its driver lineup in January could be bad news for Jacques Villeneuve who has a contract with Peter Sauber’s team that runs until the end of the 2006 season.
"I feel quite good about next year, because yes contracts are breakable but it all depends how it is written,” Villeneuve said in an interview with TSN. “Peter Sauber and I, when we met and started talking, we both decided to have a short contract without twenty million ways of screwing each other up, basically, so there is not many ways to break the contract."
"The new structure with managerial and key positions, including the driver line-up, and the name of the new team will be worked out by the takeover date of 1st January 2006," last week's announcement from BMW stated. "Development of resources are being driven forward with urgency and immediate effect.”
Gidley spotted at Putnam Memo Gidley was spotted driving the #63 Saleen ALMS GT1 car operated by ACEMCO Motorsports at Putnam Park on Wednesday and Thursday. It appears that Memo was hired to evaluate and test the car for two days. However, after going substantially quicker than the Acemco team had ever gone before at that track, there are indications that the team is pushing to hire Memo to drive the Saleen S7. No word on whether or not Gidley will be asked to drive the car in the ALMS, in addition to his current #19 Air Force Reserve Grand Am Daytona Prototype drive campaigned by Finlay Motorsports.
Champ Car and Las Vegas There have been rumors of a Champ Car race on the streets of Las Vegas for some time now. Today we stumbled upon this new website, www.LVChampCar.com registered by a Bob Brayton in California. We doubt it has any significance, but it might. The last Braytons we knew were Lee Brayton and his son Scott who lost his life at the Indy Motor Speedway. Hmm....
Bremer on the brinkUPDATE According to the CBS broadcast of today's Cleveland race, HVM wants more money from Bremer by the middle of this week, otherwise he is out when the Champ Cars arrive at Toronto. We hear Jos Verstappen is waiting in the wings. 06/24/05 One story that got lost last week was the amazing drive of Ronnie Bremer. After sustaining a 60 G impact that left him massively bruised, he still managed to soldier through and again finish in front of his highly touted teammate. Despite all that, Cleveland looks to be his last drive for the team. The following message was posted to the Danish section of his website:
"I have understood from the team that since they couldn't find anybody else to get in the car for Cleveland, I will be in. However even if I were to win the race, this is it unless I can find 500,000 USD. HVM desperately needs funding, so it's not going to be able to continue like this. We are working with some investors and that looks positive, but for now nothing is in place"
Bremer has been quick and smart this season, with a smooth driving style that harks to a young Tom Kristensen. It would be a real loss if funding cannot be found.
F1 teams might boycott races In a further show of power by the GPWC teams to Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone that they can't control them anymore, if the sport's governing body punishes them heavily for the U.S. Grand Prix fiasco, Minardi boss Paul Stoddart has warned. The seven teams using Michelin tires have been summoned to the International Automobile Federation (FIA)'s world motor sport council meeting in Paris on Wednesday after pulling out of the June 19 race in Indianapolis on safety grounds.
Stoddart, who has acted as an unofficial spokesman for teams opposed to the FIA and Ferrari over proposed rule changes and testing, told BBC radio the consequences of 'draconian' sanctions could be far-reaching.
"I think there'll be action taken, I'm not saying it's going to be at the French Grand Prix," he said when asked whether a strike could hit next weekend's French Grand Prix at Magny-Cours if punishments were meted out.
"In the worst possible situation of (FIA president) Max (Mosley) putting in some kind of draconian penalty, would the other teams race? We'd have to have a meeting and you wouldn't want to guarantee it," added the Australian. Reuters
NASCAR to now focus on catchfencing The elusive nature of safety technology dictates that eliminating one problem will highlight another. With SAFER barriers greatly reducing injury from wall collisions, drivers and scientists alike expect car-to-car crashes to become the focus. "I think (deaths from barrier impacts) are going to drop off the radar screen, if you count after 2001," said Dr. Dean Sicking, a University of Nebraska professor who developed the SAFER barrier. The next step, Sicking said, is to look above the track's walls. DeLand's Tony Renna was killed in October 2003 when the IndyCar he was testing at Indianapolis Motor Speedway went airborne in a turn and broke apart on a catchfence post. "Improving those could be a great benefit to the driver and the fan," Sicking said. "There is the potential - I don't think it's really happened yet - for some pieces of a car to go through the fence, which would be a horrible problem for the fan." St Petersburg Times
Overheard in Cleveland AutoRacing1.com sources met up with Gerry Forsythe today at Cleveland. When asked about the status of races for Philadelphia and Houston, he said that both locations are being discussed. Both cities want to have a race, but Champ Car and the cities would have to reach an agreeable financial arrangement. Cancun is still being discussed as well...A race in South Africa was still somewhat a new idea for him, but he thought it should be pursued....He thought it would be good to have an association with the American LeMans Series, with joint races on two weekends at different venues....The Champ Car calendar is still scheduled to be announced at the beginning of August.
Crocker to snub IRL for NASCAR This Progress-Index article says, Despite her open wheel background - do you want to know what hurts, IRL fans? Despite her overwhelming passion for the people in the open-wheel industry, the show still isn't good enough to keep her (Erin Crocker) in their corner. If the word NASCAR is preparing to roll off the tip of your tongue, your guess is right on the money. Following in the footsteps of Newman, Kahne and Stewart, Crocker is falling in love with the idea of leaving USAC and the IRL for a trip down North Carolina's Tobacco Row. She desperately wants to trade paint with Sterling Marlin, Dale Earnhardt Jr., Dale Jarrett and the rest of the south's good, old boys.
There is one small problem with that idea. There are only a few good rides available in NASCAR. "Our plans for next year are still up in the air," said Crocker, who ran the 22nd-fastest lap in the first practice at RIR on Friday. "The biggest thing right now is the funding. We're trying to put together a full Busch [Series] deal for next year. But if that doesn't come through, our worst-case scenario is we split the [Busch] car with Kasey Kahne. If that happens, there will be time to run some Silver Crown, Midget and Sprint Car. I want to be in a car as much as I can."
In anticipation of her NASCAR Busch Series debut at Richmond this September, Crocker, who has joined Evernham Motorsports to sharpen her skills, has competed in a handful of ARCA races this season to learn the ins and outs of a stock car. Her finishes have been mixed, including a 12th-place effort at Nashville Superspeedway.
"Each time, it goes a little better, pit stops go better and we get more and more comfortable with it," Crocker said. "I'm really excited about it."
With Patrick sitting on top of the motor sports kingdom at the moment, losing Crocker probably doesn't seem like too big of a deal for league founder and Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Tony George. But here's what irritates me.
Imagine what the IRL could've done in the Nielsen TV ratings if Patrick, Kahne, Newman, Stewart and Crocker had been racing for the win in the 500 this year. We're talking about numbers that probably would've blown "Survivor," "The Apprentice" and "American Idol" off the map. Instead, we've been dealt another episode of "Fear Factor," worrying night and day what the future of the IRL might hold without Crocker. [Editor's Note: The IRL was supposed to save open wheel racing with all their "Road to Indy" hats to keep the open wheel short track racers in the fold. We hear more than one open wheel youngster has trashed their Road to Indy hat.]
Tracy to run new sponsorUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Michigan’s largest indoor water park at Boyne Mountain team up with Forsythe Championship Racing and Paul Tracy in the Champ Car World Series.
“I am very proud of what my partners and I have achieved in developing the Mountain Grand Lodge and Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark at Boyne Mountain in northern Michigan” said Jerry Forsythe.
“The Midwest’s major cities of Chicago, Detroit, Cleveland and Toronto are key markets for the resort. Working together at the Cleveland and Toronto Champ Car races on promotional and marketing activities is a natural fit, and the timing is especially relevant - we opened Mountain Grand Lodge and Avalanche Bay just last month."
"After the grand opening ceremony recently, even having followed the development closely, I can tell you that the facilities are really outstanding."
Stephen Kircher, President of Boyne USA Resorts’ eastern operations stated: “We are delighted to extend our partnership with the Forsythe group and to join Forsythe Championship Racing, Paul Tracy and the Bridgestone Presents the Champ Car World Series powered by Ford for the hugely popular and successful Grand Prix of Cleveland and the Toronto Molson Indy."
"Champ Car’s reputation is delivering exciting great value entertainment to its fans, and at Mountain Grand Lodge and Avalanche Bay we have just opened what we believe is Michigan’s finest hotel and spa and Michigan’s largest and most dynamic indoor waterpark. We look forward to sharing our passion for quality, fun and the highest levels of customer satisfaction with Champ Car’s fans from the Midwest, Canada and around the world.”
Paul Tracy says he is looking forward to visiting Mountain Grand Lodge and Avalanche Bay Indoor Waterpark, “I’m hoping that having Mountain Grand Lodge and Avalanche Bay on my car will get me a discount! The resort looks fantastic and I look forward to visiting Boyne Mountain later this summer. In the meantime I’ll be trying hard to put them in the winners circle in Cleveland and Toronto!”
06/24/05 AutoRacing1.com hears that Paul Tracy will run sponsorship from the new biggest waterpark in North America, Avalanche Bay Water Park, which opened in May in Michigan, this weekend in Cleveland. If not today, starting Saturday.
Seven bidders for Atlantic Word here in Cleveland is that seven or more companies have expressed interest in supplying the new Toyota Atlantic chassis for next year. A decision is right around the corner and Lola is one of those interested. We heard around 300HP (vs. 245 HP now) but we feel that is not close enough to a 750 HP Champ Car and 370 to 400 HP should be the target.
No unification in the cards for IRL and Champ Car Tony George said he has not spoken with officials from the Champ Car World Series about open-wheel reconciliation in some time, and no additional talks are planned. The IRL's CEO wasn't optimistic that he'll have such a meeting in the near future. "I kind of doubt it," he said. "But we'll see. Maybe." Indy Star AutoRacing1.com was able to confirm with Champ Car officials that the talks are stalled over the fact George wants control and Champ Car wants a 50/50 deal. We can tell you that Champ Car is charging forward full force and doing nothing to work toward a merger, convinced that Tony George will never change his mind on the 50/50 issue. It's a deal-breaker for both sides. Mark C.
FOX wants the Daytona 500 exclusive In NASCAR's negotiations for a new network package, some expect Fox to push for exclusive rights to the Daytona 500, since it doesn't have a shot at carrying NASCAR's new 10-race championship playoffs. Winston Salem Journal
Ferrari tire boxes legal? Ferrari are at the center of another dispute between FIA and the rest of the F1 teams. According to Autosport-Atlas, a device being used by the Maranello-based team to help heat their tires is being questioned by rival teams. Despite the fact FIA have given the special wheel-heating boxes the all clear, some are continuing to question the legality of the device.
Article 75F of the Sporting Regulations says the only type of heating devices allowed for tires are blankets which use "restrictive heating elements". FIA technical delegate Charlie Whiting gave the device the all clear following a recent inspection, saying that the box is simply a different type of "blanket" and that the same, legal restrictive heating element is used.
The metal box can hold a tire without it touching the sides or bottom. The inside of the unit houses the same kind of electrical heating element found in the regulation tire heating blankets that all teams employ. Since the tire is suspended within the box, the air surrounding the rubber is allowed to be heated and the heat is more constant over the entire surface, an advantage over the heating blankets.
As well, the tire rims are also heated which helps to keep the tires at temperature much longer when pulled out of the box. In light of FIA's approval, several of Ferrari's rival teams are also examining different types of "blankets" for their tires.
16 Champ Car races likely for 2006UPDATE #2 Look for the 2006 Champ Car schedule to be released on or about August 1st. We hear the Philadelphia, PA race deal won't be done by then, but that does not mean it won't be added later. We hear Mario Andretti, who is from Pennsylvania of course, is helping make the Philadelphia race a reality. Beijing is still a go and we keep hearing Houston mentioned. We hear Portland will probably get to keep their race because the city is starting to come around and the event made positive gains in all areas. Mark C. 06/23/05 A reader writes, Do you really think they will release a schedule in August for 2006? They have been announcing a new chassis and engine package for three years! As far as I can see the transporters are newer than the race cars. Tim DeCesaro Dear Tim, The answer is yes to both. Mark C. 06/22/05 In this ChampCar.ws article, series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven talks about future plans, but pretty much confirms what he had said previously. He predicts that the 2006 schedule will be released in August and it will contain 16 races, up from 14 this year. We know one new race is China, and we'll go so far as predicting on a hunch another new one might be Philadelphia.
He repeats what has been said about a new Champ Car in 2007, but retaining the same engine. He does hint at talks with Honda other than unification talks and that statement reminds us of the rumor from one of our spies that Honda had a 2.65L turbo on their dyno in California. Hmm......
He also hints at upgrades in performance for the Atlantic cars and we suspect that means a new Cosworth engine badged by someone other than Toyota that pumps out over 300 HP. He does not go so far as to mention a new chassis for that series and we question whether the teams can afford all new equipment.
Jensen update Spoke to Eric Jensen today who said, "We still plan on running the Canadian Champ Car races. The good news is that besides Konica Minolta we now also have Epson onboard. The issue now is whether I can locate a Lola to use. Time is running out."
Toronto could sellout AutoRacing1.com has learned that ticket sales for the Champ Car Toronto race are very strong. The entire backstraight stands are sold out and the others are significantly up over last year. We hear a sellout is very much in the cards, but we are also told more grandstands could be erected if needed..
Did Toyota think USGP would not be run? If Indy's ill fated grand prix had enjoyed a twenty car grid, pole sitter Jarno Trulli would have pitted on lap-2. According to ITV, when the Italian qualified with three laps of fuel on board, his Michelin clad team already knew Sunday's race was a no-go. ITV pit reporter Ted Kravitz wrote: ''How did they know? Because they now employ Pascal Vasselon, ex-Michelin ... manager.'' And, with all the pre-race talk of a chicane, ''(He) is probably now a very relieved man.''
Kravitz said Vasselon's contacts back at Michelin would have told him that there was no way bosses were going to green light the race. ''So, with that knowledge,'' Ted continued, ''they sent Trulli out to grab the pole.''
'F1 Commission to axe Max' Moves are afoot to see Max Mosley sacked as president of the FIA. Paul Stoddart told the Australian media that he would ask Bernie Ecclestone to convene the first F1 Commission meeting for a year. There, the Minardi owner warned, Mosley could face a 'comprehensive' vote of no confidence, particularly after the six-car Indy debacle.
''There have been repeated calls for a meeting (of the Commission),'' Stoddart was quoted as saying by the Advertiser newspaper in Adelaide. We cannot walk away from the damage that has been done.''
Carbon fiber brake dust a hazard to drivers, crews?UPDATE F1 veteran David Coulthard has dismissed friend and former grand prix rival Mika Salo's concern about the hazard of inhaling carbon fiber brake dust. Finland's Salo said 'a lot' of the dust was found in his lungs during an operation, while the FIA will investigate potential health implications. But DC, the 34-year-old Scottish driver who also debuted in 1994, said he is 'regularly' checked by doctors. ''It has never been a problem,'' David told Autosport. ''Mika smokes as well so that may contribute (to it).'' 06/22/05 Former Formula One driver Mika Salo will be examined by the sport's governing body after his lungs were found to contain large amounts of carbon fiber dust from the cars' brakes, a Finnish newspaper said on Wednesday. The International Automobile Federation (FIA) will examine Salo, 38, to determine the possible health risks of the dust for other drivers, Finnish tabloid Ilta-Sanomat reported. "There was really a lot of that dust in my lungs. If I have this much of it, how much will Michael Schumacher, who has driven 10 years longer than me, have?" Ilta-Sanomat quoted Salo as saying. Salo drove in 111 Formula One grands prix between 1994 and 2002. Reuters
Ferrari, Max, Bernie and Champ CarUPDATE A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, One time way back in the past when Enzo was having a dispute with the FISA/FIA in the late '80s, Ferrari seriously thought about competing in what was called IndyCar Series (the real one not the lame one of today) and running the 500 Miles of Indianapolis. Ferrari went so far as to build a car and engine to CART specs 2.65L turbo the whole deal. This link gives some details. Heck it might happen - Bernie, Max, and Ferrari have enough power and sheer balls to do it. Andy Klueber
06/23/05 Put this one in the pure speculation department, but is it a coincidence that the proposed 2008 rules put forth by the FIA for F1 are so very much like the Champ Car rules? With the split in F1 appearing to be wider now than ever before, it is quite conceivable that the manufacturers will go forward with a new GPWC series. It is becoming clear now that only Ferrari may be standing with Max Mosley and Bernie Ecclestone when it is all said and done, all the other teams being owned by the other manufacturers by then.
With Fiat's financial woes, Ferrari is said to be in favor of the new rules to cut costs significantly, and with the USA being Ferrari's biggest market, with Champ Car becoming global much like F1, will the rumors that have been around for two years now eventually play out? That being in the end, Bernie Ecclestone will buy into Champ Car and call it F1, and with the most popular team in F1, Ferrari, continue on with the F1 World Championship while the GPWC attempts to start its own GP series from scratch?
Ferrari and Bridgestone have a close relationship and of course Bridgestone supplies the entire Champ Car grid already. Monza will side with Ferrari, perhaps Imola too, and could become Champ Car, nee F1 races. By then Champ Car will be racing in the USA, Mexico, Canada, South Africa (yes, it's real), Australia, China, South Korea, Japan and Europe (Monza and Imola). In other words, Champ Car, nee F1, will be just as international as the current F1 series.
Ferrari of course will bring well over 50% of the existing F1 fan base with them to the new F1/Champ Car series. Some say that without Ferrari F1 would be nothing. Some 90% of the USGP fans stayed to watch the race even though most of the cars were not in it. Why? Because they came to see Ferrari.
Bernie trying to do a deal in Cape Town, South Africa? Champ Car too. Both are trying to put together deals in Vegas and NY City too. Are they opposing each other or working together?
Ridiculous? Perhaps. As we said when we started, put this one in the pure speculation department, but all the stars appear to be lining up for such a scenario to play out should the split in F1 continue down the path it is going.
Williams to switch to Bridgestone BMW’s purchase of Sauber cast a big question mark on the engine future of Williams F1, and while that doubt remains in the air - with a Lexus-branded Toyota or a Cosworth being the most plausible answers - the Grove, UK-based outfit is close to decide on another important matter for next season: switch to Bridgestone tires.
No official confirmation from either the team or the Japanese tire maker were made, but insiders assure the move is a given. Bridgestone, which currently supplies only Ferrari and backmarkers Jordan and Minardi, is reportedly acting aggressively to increase its squad tally. SPEEDTV.com
Popular Aussie eyes NASCAR As NASCAR continues preparing for its international assault, we are seeing more and more foreign drivers coming into the series. Two-time Australian V8 Supercar champion Marcos Ambrose is testing a NASCAR Craftsman Truck at two tracks in the Carolinas this week as part of his plans to join America's premier stock car circuit next year. Ford Racing is helping Ambrose, who won road racing's Supercar championship Down Under in a Ford Falcon in 2003 and '04 and is leading in this year's title chase. Ambrose, 28, tested Tuesday at Caraway Speedway in Asheboro, N.C., and was at Greenville-Pickens Speedway in Greenville, S.C., Wednesday. Ambrose is using a Ford pickup supplied by Roush Racing during the tests. Representatives from Roush's research and development group, including veteran crew chief Ben Leslie, are on site. Leslie has worked in the past with Ricky Rudd, Mark Martin and Kurt Busch. "This is the first step in a long process, a very long march," said Ambrose, who raced against the likes of current Formula One drivers Kimi Raikkonen and Jenson Button in Europe during the late '90s. "I'll show what I can do. It's a challenge, but the sport's the same whether you're in open-wheel, V8 Supercars or NASCAR; it's man versus machine." Ambrose was at Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn last weekend for the NASCAR Nextel Cup and Craftsman Truck events. He was a guest of Ford Racing. Ambrose said he's prepared to relocate to North Carolina, home of NASCAR race shops. But he isn't expecting a free meal ticket. Ambrose is prepared to start in Craftsman Truck, if necessary, and work his way into the Busch Grand National series and then Nextel Cup. Detroit Free Press
F1 won’t return to Indy Former World Champion Jacques Villeneuve believes Formula One will never go back to Indianapolis following the United States Grand Prix fiasco. The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has a contract to host the United States Grand Prix for one more year, but the Canadian believes the damaged done is too big to return to the historic circuit.
Speaking to Autosport-Atlas during a break from his testing duties at Jerez, the Sauber driver said the race could have taken place normally had a chicane being installed at the banked corner.
"It is just embarrassing," Villeneuve told Autosport-Atlas. "Not only for the fans there but for the TV spectators, everybody. I would hate to be a spectator there. We could have had a solution and I think the chicane is one of the best solutions we could have had.
"Putting a speed restriction could have been dangerous, it would have created danger when you go slowly where you are meant to go fast. So a chicane would have been the best choice and Bridgestone need to slow down so there had to be a level of compensation for them. But there was a solution, we just didn't choose to have it.
"As it was, we did not know what was wrong with the tires and when tire companies say it would be dangerous we cannot turn around and run and it would be no good all the 14 drivers ending up in the wall after a few laps.
"It is just damaging to the sport, not only to F1, but any open-wheel racing, but especially F1...and obviously we will never go back to Indy."
Some 120,000 fans turned up for a fiasco on Sunday with the seven Michelin teams - Renault, McLaren, Williams, Toyota, BAR, Red Bull and Sauber - withdrawing because of safety fears about their tires.
FIA president Max Mosley suggested on Wednesday the French tire company should compensate fans for Sunday's six-car race. Villeneuve, however, said: "It's a bit too late. The damage has been done."
BMW may not race V8 in 2006 Believe it or not, BMW may not put a V8 engine in the Sauber next year. The German carmaker's motor sport director, a staunch critic of the switch from V10, admitted that a V8 has been designed and will be tested. But Dr Mario Theissen added at the Munich press conference: ''We will see whether it will be possible to use it.''
Although Minardi will also take advantage of the rev-limited V10 option, the FIA intended it as a stop-gap measure for under funded teams.
BMW-Sauber, though, might have a case. With the Williams split, and Sauber's continuing 2005 engine contract with Ferrari, it is conceivable that Sir Frank may not want to dedicate too many resources to helping BMW develop the V8.
Theissen also said BMW never considered buying Williams. ''The majority share has never been in the offing,'' said the German. ''We never discussed it. This step only makes sense if it is a perfect match.''
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