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DATE News (chronologically)
Rahal Letterman team in limbo  UPDATE Rumors persist that Danica Patrick will jump to Andretti Green Racing in 2007 as that team has more sponsorship money to pay her the kind of money she is looking for.  It's also thought that she views Andretti Green as a team that will give her a better chance of winning the Indy 500, having won last year and come oh so close this year.  She has stated that her #1 goal is to win the Indy 500.

07/16/06 Buddy Rice says his future at Rahal Letterman Racing is in limbo until team owner Bobby Rahal settles something with Danica Patrick. "Bobby's trying to put together some (sponsorship) things, but he's got things going with the 16 car (of Patrick) to figure out first," Rice said. "We'll just have to see what happens." Indy Star

[Editor's Note: If Danica Patrick bolts to another team, we suspect she could make it hard for the Rahal team to find enough sponsorship to continue given she is the big sponsor draw for the team.]
Newman in talks to bring GP race to NY  UPDATE #3 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' since this proposal is now dead. The actor Paul Newman has been frustrated in an attempt to combine his two favorite occupations - racing fast cars and raising money for charity - by flocks of sharp-shinned hawks, brown thrashers and white-eyed vireos.

He proposed turning Floyd Bennett Field, a disused aerodrome in Brooklyn, New York, into a race track and mounting a "Festival of Speed" every September to raise funds to set up a home for children with terminal illnesses. But his idea of attracting 65,000 motor racing fans to watch him burn round New York's first municipal airfield has been vetoed by armies of twitchers, who say the noise would frighten away rare grassland birds.

Floyd Bennett Field, named after the first man to fly over the North Pole, has long been overtaken by JFK and LaGuardia airports, but as New York's first airport it welcomed many of America's aviation pioneers, among them Amelia Earhart and Howard Hughes, who took off and landed there for his record-breaking flight around the world in 1938.

Pete McCarthy, the North Shore District Ranger who patrols the park, said that soccer, baseball, canoeing, fishing and other sporting events are held on the 1,200 acres of airstrip and 16,000 acres of surrounding parkland, and a $40m sports centre has just opened. "But there is a strict limit of 1,500 people allowed in the park in the summer months and 10,000 in the winter," he said.

However, it was concern from local birdwatchers that led the superintendent of the Gateway National Recreation Area, Barry Sullivan, to tell Newman his grand prix fundraiser would have to find another venue.

"This is such a very special habitat," said E J McAdams, executive director of environmental organization, the New York Audubon Society. "We wrote a letter to the superintendent saying he should think very carefully before allowing such a thing. There are many rare birds that might be driven away, including the savannah sparrow, the upland sandpiper and the short-eared owl."

Mr. Sullivan told the star that his plans were "not compatible with the purposes for which the park was established", but said he would be happy to discuss adapting the disused naval barracks for Newman's Hole in the Wall Gang Camp, which hosts children dying of cancer. The Independent

04/30/06 This NY Daily News article will give you some idea of the in-fighting going on between Brooklyn Democrats over the proposed Champ Car track at Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn , NY. One supports the race, the other does not. Meanwhile the land sits largely unused - run down and an eyesore, just waiting for a race to be the catalyst for redevelopment into an attractive recreation area.

04/25/06 To the right is the layout of the proposed 3.49-mile airport course published by the NY Daily News. The location is good in that Manhattan would be a backdrop on TV, but there is nothing for fans to do adjacent to the track like, say Long Beach, and there are no nice nearby hotels. People would have to go into Manhattan or stay around JFK airport. The track should be racy, however, some of the turns/chicanes need to be removed.

04/25/06 Champ Car team Owner Paul Newman met with N.Y. officials last Friday to discuss a plan to turn Floyd Bennett Field in Brooklyn into a 3.49-mile Grand Prix race course, according to Hays & Saltonstall of the N.Y. DAILY NEWS. The proposal envisions a Champ Car race weekend as early as September ’07, with proceeds going to “local charities and to create the first urban Hole in the Wall Camp, the network of camps Newman started in 1988 to fulfill the wishes of seriously and critically ill kids.” However, Floyd Bennett Field is part of the Gateway National Recreational Area, and federal rules limit attendance at any one event to 10,000, “far fewer than the 65,000 people per day organizers want.” Also, traffic congestion “is a big concern” among officials. Hays & Saltonstall write the “most vocal opposition” is from U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY), whose district includes the airfield. Weiner said a race is “simply an inappropriate use of a national park. In fact, it is illegal.”

Flav makes bid to keep Alonso - rumor  UPDATE (GMM)  Team chiefs for both McLaren-Mercedes and Renault have added their rebuttals to rumors at Magny Cours that Fernando Alonso might be trying to wiggle out of his 2007 contract.

French TV network 'TF1' started the paddock rumble on Sunday, but Mercedes' Norbert Haug reacted that it is 'not right at all' that 24-year-old Alonso could still be wearing light blue overalls next year.

Germany's Sport-Informations-Dienst (sid) also quoted Pat Symonds, the engineering chief at Renault, as saying: ''I have no idea, but even if I did know, I would not say.''

07/16/06 (GMM) Renault boss Flavio Briatore has launched a late effort to try to retain the McLaren-bound services of Fernando Alonso.
The Spaniard is sailing to his second world championship for the blue and yellow squad, but at the end of the year is contracted to make the switch into silver.

But with McLaren struggling to produce race-winning pace at the moment, French media sources are reporting that Alonso is partaking in Briatore's enquiries as to whether the McLaren deal might be bought out.

Both camps are denying the story, but it is suggested that Alonso only signed the McLaren deal because Renault's commitment to formula one was uncertain at the end of last year.

The French carmaker has since signed up beyond 2008.

NASCAR to allow more testing  NASCAR is expected to give Cup teams one more open test session next season. That would give teams seven tests at tracks that host Cup races. Those are the only times teams can test at such tracks. The tests will include Daytona and Talladega. The Talladega test is expected to be for the car of tomorrow. Series officials passed out ballots to crew chiefs to vote on the remaining five tracks to test. No final count has been made, but the five tracks are expected to be Lowe's Motor Speedway, Richmond, Homestead, Las Vegas and Indianapolis. Daytona testing is tentatively scheduled for Jan. 8-11 and Jan. 15-18. The sessions will be divided based on what the car owner points were after last weekend's race at Chicagoland Speedway. Teams in odd positions will go one week and teams in the even spots will go the other weekend. Roanoke Times
Danica gets NASCAR offer, but to stay in IndyCar  UPDATE In a pre-race interview before the Firestone Indy 200 in Nashville Saturday night Danica Patrick made it plain and clear that she will not be moving to NASCAR next year and will remain in IndyCars, so if she is close to signing a deal, it won't be to race in NASCAR. The NASCAR move was just hype for some free PR and to extract more money from Tony George's bank account.

"I really feel that if you want to win Indy, you need to be in IndyCar," she told ESPN.

"Having been there and having done so well, I know what that single race can do for you in your whole life. Since one of my goals is to win that race, I don't believe I can be anywhere else but IndyCar."

Patrick told ESPN her goals of winning the Indianapolis 500 haven't changed because her parents attended a Nextel Cup race last weekend. But she said those goals would be reassessed when she wins the Indianapolis 500.

07/15/06 Danica Patrick said Friday she has received a preliminary offer from a NASCAR Nextel Cup team for the 2007 season and doubts an IRL IndyCar Series team can match the money being discussed. However, she also said she prefers to stay in open-wheel racing, and that preference could play a part in her decision. “The money doesn‘t really matter,” Patrick said after qualifying at Nashville. “If the top teams came to me, no matter what the number was, and I thought I had a chance to win, I‘d really think about it. Winning is what puts me in headlines.” Meanwhile, IRL team owner Michael Andretti indicated he might - given the right circumstances - be interested in hiring Patrick, but echoed her sentiment that not many open-wheel teams are able to generate the sponsorship money to pay multi-million dollar retainers. Danica Patrick acknowledged Friday that financial numbers have been discussed with a Nextel Cup team, but declined to say which one. “I haven‘t seen an offer, but I‘ve heard about one,” she said. When asked which team made the offer, she said, “I‘m definitely not at liberty to say.”  Speed Channel
Cup, Busch and ARCA for Juan  UPDATE The Juan Pablo Montoya game plan appears to be coming together quickly, and he could be in Chip Ganassi's ARCA and Busch cars for the August Michigan weekend, in preparation for a tentative Nextel Cup debut at California Speedway on Labor Day weekend.
One question - what will be on the car's quarterpanels, since Montoya's sponsorship contract with Mobil runs through the end of the year and precludes him in a Texaco logoed car.

Donnie Wingo is tentatively set to be Montoya's crew chief next season: "They're going to try to run him as much as they can, as many ARCA and Busch races as we can.

The biggest thing he'll have to get used to is the weight and the brakes. That's why we'll probably to go a short track like Caraway or Lakeland.

"All the seat time he can get will be a plus for next year. And I'm pretty excited. You know this guy has a lot of talent because he races a lot of different kinds of cars and wins."  Winston Salem Journal

07/14/06 Jayski is reporting that Juan Montoya may run as many as 22 races this year, spread out between NASCAR Cup, Busch and ARCA.
Fischer, Andretti in Cup  With hoopla now surrounding Danica Patrick possibly joining NASCAR, a search is now on among some NASCAR team owners to find Sarah Fisher, the Indy-car star of a few years back who was once part of Richard Childress' stock-car driver-development program.

And Patrick Carpentier couldn't have picked a better time to announce a move to NASCAR. The Montreal Indy-car racer is looking for a NASCAR ride.

And put Marco Andretti on the list of NASCAR possibilities too. Winston Salem Journal

Problems for Direxiv?  The word in the F1 paddock at Magny-Cours is that there are problems with the Japanese sponsor Direxiv, a McLaren backer and the funding behind the DPR GP2 team. Direxiv was also linked to attempts to win the 12th Formula 1 franchise with a program led by Jean Alesi. Now we hear that funding has dried up since it became clear that Prodrive had landed the last slot in F1 in 2008 and it may be that the Japanese firm has lost interest in its plans for the future. We hear that the lack of funding could start to cause problems with the DPR team unless a solution is quickly found. Grandprix.com
De la Rosa could retain F1 seat - Haug  (GMM)  Even with the likes of Lewis Hamilton and Gary Paffett breathing down his neck, Pedro de la Rosa stands a chance of retaining the McLaren race drive for season '07.

That is the insistence of Mercedes boss Norbert Haug, who told the Spanish press that even pairing the 35-year-old alongside a countryman is no obstacle.

''We only want to have the best drivers,'' competition director Haug told 'Marca' newspaper.

Interestingly hinting that Kimi Raikkonen will not be part of the lineup, he said: ''If we are convinced that (de la Rosa) is the best option, then he will get the seat.

''He is a very intelligent driver.''

Carpentier close to signing Busch deal  UPDATE IRL and Champ Car veteran Patrick Carpentier is exploring NASCAR options at New Hampshire International Speedway this weekend. Carpentier is meeting with a Busch Series team on Saturday morning to firm up a test session that could lead to running some ARCA and Busch series races. "For me, it's a new beginning," said Carpentier. "I really enjoyed open wheel, too, but I like long races, close races and ovals, so it was a good fit. The last few years NASCAR gets more and more popular so that Formula One guys now look at NASCAR. The sport has grown so much, and we all know that the open wheel split hasn't helped the last few years." USA Today

07/14/06 Canadian open-wheel driver Patrick Carpentier has tested in a truck. Credit: Nick Laham/Getty Images
Carpentier said negotiations to have a Busch Series race in Montreal and an interest by sponsor Mecachrome, a French engineering company with Formula One ties that wants to get involved in NASCAR, were among the reasons he has seriously begun efforts to align himself with a Busch Series team.

"I've always loved the ovals for as long as I've been racing," said Carpentier, who appeared with his business manager and said he planned to become a U.S. citizen.

"For me, it's a new beginning. I'm more a racer than a qualifier, and I think NASCAR racing is something I'm going to like [because] they are long races, with close racing that's very exciting."

He can pretty much kiss his career goodbye.

Elliott full-time with Red Bull next year  According to sources in the garage, Bill Elliott, also known as 'Awesome Bill from Dawsonville', will return full-time to NASCAR Cup competition as Brian Vickers' teammate at Team Red Bull in 2007.  Ford Racing
GP Fridays set for F1 axe  (GMM)  At the recent F1 Commission meeting, it was broadly agreed that the axing of third cars at grands prix would pave the way for turning Friday into a three-hour free test day.

With Friday at Magny Cours proving again that spectators get the raw end of the current three-day format, the rejuvenated GP weekend could also lead in 2007 to a new agreement that should further limit private testing and cut costs.

''It is the right way to go,'' Renault's Flavio Briatore said in France.

Ferrari, however, is likely to be hit hardest by any more reductions in testing, as it would further negate the investments made into its own tracks including Fiorano.

But the team's principal, Jean Todt, also argues that the plans to do the majority of testing on Fridays might backfire on budget-minded rivals.

''In my opinion, it will increase the costs,'' said the Frenchman, who warns that the idea is not compatible with the current two-race engine rule because manufacturers could start to produce a special engine for Fridays and then a two-day spec for the official days of the weekend.

To counter this fear, however, the FIA is contemplating a rule that would force the potential 'two-day' engines to have their mileage topped-up at the subsequent grand prix.

Doping in F1?  (GMM) F1's Schumacher brothers have dismissed outlandish rumors in the Magny Cours paddock that the pinnacle of motor sport - like the Tour de France cycling race - might also be riddled with doping use.

''It's not an issue in our sport,'' said Michael Schumacher, Ferrari's seven time champion, according to Auto Motor Und Sport magazine.

The outrageous rumors had implicated names including current title leader Fernando Alonso, but drivers are routinely checked and this year F1 was ramped-up to World Anti-Doping Agency standards.

Schumacher's younger brother Ralf also revealed: ''I have already been tested this year.''

De la Rosa guaranteed seat until Hungary  (GMM) The longer-term future of Pedro de la Rosa's silver seat is not certain, but it is understood that the Spaniard has been told that he will definitely continue to plug the hole left by Juan Pablo Montoya until the Hungarian GP next month.

''He is acclimatizing himself,'' Mercedes' Norbert Haug was quoted as saying by 'Premiere' at Magny Cours, where on Friday the 35-year-old test driver struggled to be among the top twenty in practice.

De la Rosa played down the significance of, much like the departed Montoya in recent races, also failing to keep up with McLaren teammate Kimi Raikkonen's pace.

''Today didn't go very well,'' he told 'AS' newspaper, ''and we have to improve the car and the tires, but Friday is only Friday.''

Pedro also didn't want to read into team boss Ron Dennis' failure to rule out not only a return for Montoya in the latter stages of the season, but the debut of British duo Lewis Hamilton and Gary Paffett.

''My immediate goal is to make the last-ten cut in the qualifying,'' he insisted.

2007 GP of Cleveland date set  Word is that the 2007 Grand Prix of Cleveland Champ Car race will run on June 22-24 at Burke Lakefront Airport.
Yates eyes two new drivers  Elliott Sadler has until Saturday to tell Robert Yates whether he plans to drive the #38 M&M's Ford next year. With Dale Jarrett leaving at the end of the year, Yates might have to fill two seats. Two drivers reportedly on Yates' short list are Ward Burton and Stephen Leicht. Orlando Sentinel
Dennis leaves door open for Montoya return  Ron Dennis has vowed to block departed racer Juan Pablo Montoya's immediate NASCAR debut, with the team principal insisting that McLaren reserves the right to put the Colombian back in a silver formula one car.

30-year-old Montoya's F1 fans should not celebrate too early, however, as Dennis' comments at Magny Cours almost certainly the beginning of negotiations for a complete 2006 contract buyout by the racer's new team boss, Chip Ganassi.

''If we so chose he will test and race again,'' Dennis insisted.  ''He is a contracted McLaren driver.''

Englishman Dennis did, however, pour cold water on speculation that Lewis Hamilton or Gary Paffett could find their way into Montoya's vacant cockpit, adding that it's 'more likely' that tester Pedro de la Rosa 'will continue in the car'.

Dennis also explained his decision to drop Montoya, arguing that his announcement of a NASCAR move flew in the face of a verbal agreement the two men had. He said: “A few races ago we had a conversation which was based on his desire to continue with McLaren, his desire to stay in Formula One.

“We came to a very clear understanding that the best way to achieve that was to have the best results in the latter part of the season.

“I felt if he was focused on having the best end of season then it would be easier for me to take a decision to keep him in the team or he would get a better offer elsewhere.

“The common objective was ‘let’s get the best out of the balance of the season’, but that object was somewhat changed when he decided he would race in NASCAR.

“Then our objectives became different. The appropriate course of action was to let the whole thing cool off, let him think about the circumstances.”

Well he thought about and went off and signed a multi-year deal in NASCAR. Your loss Ron. More importantly F1's loss.

Franchitti to NASCAR  Yet another IRL driver is eyeing a move to NASCAR as the money pit dries up in the IRL. Juan Montoya and Dario Franchitti are managed by the same manager, Julian Jakobi. Word is that Jakobi was negotiating a NASCAR deal for Dario and rumor has it that when Juan heard this, he went behind the back of Jakobi straight to Ganassi to do his deal. "Yet to be confirmed" but the continued split in open wheel racing in the USA will eventually deplete it of all of its biggest names.
Hamilton may race this year  (GMM)  Lewis Hamilton's father and manager has refused to rule out speculation that the GP2 championship leader could make his formula one debut later this year.

As the saga surrounding Juan Pablo Montoya's NASCAR defection prepared to break out, Hamilton was busy driving a McLaren at Jerez -- although the team insist that the exciting 21-year-old was simply performing on-track duties for a sponsor.

At Magny Cours on Thursday, however, Montoya's immediate successor - Pedro de la Rosa - admitted that he had not been guaranteed the ride for the balance of the 2006 season.

''McLaren haven't contacted us or offered us anything,'' Anthony Hamilton said in France, where his son is resuming his GP2 charge.

''Nothing has changed -- we don't know (McLaren's) plans, but I'm sure they will involve Lewis in some capacity.

''We will sit down and talk after he gets the next race or two under his belt.''

The GP2 championship concludes in September, leaving the last three grands prix of the season as the logical time for Hamilton's debut.

His father conceded: ''Maybe then we'll get an offer, we're quite happy to wait, but obviously if the opportunity came up this year we want to grab it.''

As for Lewis' not-a-test F1 debut in Spain, Anthony Hamilton explained: ''He actually said it was just as easy to drive as a GP2 car.

''If you asked him he would be confident of performing well in an F1 car tomorrow.''

Ten-place penalty for Rosberg?  (GMM)  Before a single wheel even turned, Nico Rosberg's first French grand prix at Magny Cours has got off to a unpleasant start.

Whispers at the circuit suggest that Williams' rookie driver will undergo an unscheduled engine change, resulting in a ten-grid penalty.

It is not clear whether the fault on the German's Cosworth power plant was discovered at Indianapolis, where 21-year-old Rosberg finished last and out of the points.  If he had not finished at all, he would have been able to race a new engine here without penalty.

The good news, however, is that Rosberg can at least fit the latest Cosworth V8 specification - 'Series-6' - to his FW28.

Montoya could make NASCAR debut in August  UPDATE Juan Montoya is not expected to compete in NASCAR for at least a month because of legal issues with his ex-Formula One team. Ganassi said Wednesday that work continues to finalize Montoya's release and establish when he can drive Ganassi's cars. Ganassi said that even if Montoya could begin driving today, he wouldn't. The team isn't ready.

"It was just as much a surprise in our organization in Charlotte,'' Ganassi said of McLaren replacing Montoya. "They're all scrambling, putting different plans together.''

The legal paperwork in Montoya's release gives the team time to prepare for his debut whenever that takes place.

"There are different levels of being released,'' Ganassi said in a conference call. "Is it shake hands, see you later, get on with your life or is it something where he's going to be released to do some testing? Is he going to be released to do some racing? We're still walking through the mechanics of that. While he has been released from his driving duties with McLaren, I think there's still some paperwork that's probably being exchanged right now.''

Said Montoya: "It's a matter of talking and deciding what's best for me and what's best for DaimlerChrysler. It's that simple.''

07/12/06 Juan Pablo Montoya has suddenly become the hottest property in NASCAR, and folks at Michigan International Speedway would like to make the former Formula One star at home there as soon as possible.

MIS management contacted Montoya's new race team, Chip Ganassi Racing, on Tuesday to invite the Colombian to run both the ARCA Re/Max and Busch Grand National races at the Irish Hills track during the Nextel Cup weekend in August.

Just hours earlier, Team McLaren-Mercedes announced Pedro de la Rosa would replace Montoya in the remaining F1 races this season, starting with the French Grand Prix on Sunday. This came just a few days after Montoya's shocking decision to switch from F1 to NASCAR in 2007.

Bill Janitz, MIS public relations director, confirmed contact with Chip Ganassi Racing.

"We would be proud to welcome back an MIS champion in August, perhaps in an ARCA or Busch race, or both," Janitz said. Detroit Free Press

Diesel's advantage may be taken away  A few days after the finish of the 24 Heures du Mans, and a few hours after the Le Mans Classic, it is now time to assess and analyze the results. The finish – and the historic victory – of the diesel engine has raised a lot of questions, and has filled columns in the media. Starting from a blank page, and without any help whatsoever, ( there being no such thing as a diesel engine in racing cars), the Automobile Club de l’Ouest had to lay down the basis of a rule system acceptable to all the entrants.

The results of the Test Day backed up the technical data ; the performances of the Pescarolos were very close to those of the Audis after several successive improvements from each competitor.

The Automobile Club de l’Ouest has begun its analysis of the performances of the cars which took part in the 2006 24 Heures du Mans so that, as from September, in consultation with the IMSA, it may be decided what measures are deemed necessary in order to equalize the performances in each category and for each technology.

Concerning the equivalence between a petrol engine and a diesel engine, the first analyses show an advantage for the diesel engine :

° Regarding lap time, there is a difference of about 3.2 seconds in comparison with the highest-performing petrol-run car. However, when considering this difference, we must take into account the improvements in performance which are linked to the chassis, the suspension, the aerodynamics, and of course to the engine. Just the advantage linked to the engine performance can lead us to take steps to reduce its performance, since all the other elements of the car are constructed according to the same specifications. It is therefore up to the manufacturer to produce the best car.

° Concerning consumption : the tank capacity will have to be adjusted in such a way that the cars receive the same quantity of energy at each refueling stop. This will mean a smaller tank for those cars which are equipped with a diesel engine. Automobile Club de l'Ouest

F1 to ask Bridgestone to slow F1 cars  Corner speeds are a major concern in F1 and the problem is largely a result of the soft sticky tire war between Michelin and Bridgestone, which is 90% of the reason for the increase in corner speeds despite the grooved tires.

With the tire war over after this season, the FIA is expected to ask Bridgestone to significantly slow corner speeds by making the tires harder for all teams.  Hard tires can slow corner speeds as much as 30 to 40 mph, depending on how hard they want to go.
DC set for new $2.8m Red Bull deal  (GMM) David Coulthard is on the cusp of a new one-year contract to race in Red Bull colors beyond 2006.

Traditionally well-informed about affairs relating to the locally-based Dietrich Mateschitz, Austria's 'Salzburger Nachrichten' said the Scot would stay in the team next season to drive the first Red Bull penned by Adrian Newey.

But the newspaper also suggested that Christian Klien has been given a final chance to shine, despite rumors that the 23-year-old will make way for a new arrival for the 2007 season.

Sources in Britain, however, are similarly talking about a new $2.8 million contract for 35-year-old Coulthard, with the 'Mirror' newspaper expecting an announcement 'within two weeks'.

''Let's not forget,'' team boss Christian Horner was quoted as saying, ''Nigel Mansell and Damon Hill were older than (Coulthard) was when they won their world championships.''

Merger can’t wait  UPDATE Another reader writes, Really, I could not have said what Peter Romero said in his recent note to you any better – his remarks are a mind read of my thoughts on these issues.  I know I’m preaching to the choir, but he mimicked my thoughts so closely, I had to say how right he is!  Reb Guthrie

07/12/06 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1, If Champ Car and the IRL do not merge soon given the news about Juan Pablo and possibly Danica, open wheel racing will be over as we know it. Well maybe not over but, open wheel racing will be the equal of club SCCA racing at Road America.
I do believe that if Champ Car and the IRL would have announced a merger by now Juan Pablo would have elected to rejoin a merged open wheel racing series rather than race taxi cabs. The same goes for Danica Patrick... she would have either re-signed with Rahal or negotiated with another open wheel racing team. Of course Danica is overrated but she is a big star (despite not winning anything) and open wheel racing needs her in a merged open wheel series.
Kevin K and Tony G must see the writing on the wall and get this thing done before NASCAR moves into Mexico and Canada (which they are doing as we speak) with Cup cars. When this happens the "new" NASCAR stars (Juan Pablo, Danica Patrick, Paul Tracy, Jacques Villeneuve, Adrian Fernandez, AJ Allmendinger, Dan Wheldon, Marco Andretti Sam Hornish, Helio...you get the picture....) will ALL leave open wheel racing for the $$$ and the popularity of NASCAR. This is borderline CRIMINAL!!!
We all know Tony started this mess but at this point I don't care who started it....someone needs to fix this and get open wheel together by 2007! If they wait any longer NASCAR WILL steal all of the stars, venues, and most importantly FANS of American open wheel racing. If this happens Champ Car and the IRL will have simply one race in the next few years....the Indy 500 and that too will be filled with the "new" NASCAR stars and the Indy 500 will be used to promote other NASCAR events!!!!
The announcement by Juan Pablo and the rumors of Danica and Jacques are VERY SERIOUS issues and if Kevin and Tony do not stop the bleeding NOW....the next announcement will be the "final nail" in the coffin of open wheel racing in America.
GET IT DONE KEVIN AND TONY or get use to watching taxi cabs at Long Beach. Peter M. Romero, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Reason by NASCAR's poaching  One rumor making the rounds about why NASCAR might be out to buy some of the biggest names in racing outside of NASCAR, such as Juan Montoya and Danica Patrick, is the fact that its TV ratings have dropped for just about every race this year indicating that NASCAR's popularity has peaked and it's time to bring in some new talent to draw fans from other forms of motorsport.

Armed with a huge war chest of money, the France family can get just about anything or anybody they want and there isn't much any of the other sanctioning bodies can do about it.

McLaren to still pay Montoya  Juan Pablo Montoya will allegedly receive a £2million pay-off from McLaren despite breaching his contract with the team.

According to reports in the Guardian newspaper, there was a clause in Montoya's contract stating that he couldn't sign a deal with another racing team without previously informing the management at McLaren.

However, Montoya apparently did just that, signing with the Chip Ganassi NASCAR racing team for 2007 and announcing the deal on Sunday. McLaren are not believed to have been pre-informed.

But despite the breach of contract, the Daily Mail reports that Montoya can expect a £2million pay-off on his contract for the eight races he will miss this season.  And he gets this to just sit home with his family.

Foyt IV may be back  UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today with the announcement from Foyt that Jeff Bucknum will take the seat vacated by Giaffone.

07/11/06 Rumor has it that since AJ Foyt sacked Felipe Giaffone he may bring back his grandson AJ Foyt IV, who, after crashing out of more IRL races than we care to count, went to NASCAR to try and make something out of his failed career.  However, he failed there as well and is now available to fill the vacant seat at AJ Foyt Enterprises.
Industry News
China carmakers to build in U.S  DETROIT -- Can the mystique of a British sports car be recreated by a Chinese company in America's heartland?

That's the bet by Nanjing Automobile Group, which plans to resurrect the fabled MG Marque in a tri-continental demonstration of how truly globalized the automotive industry has become.

Nanjing, which purchased the assets of the bankrupt MG Rover Group last year, aims to be the first Chinese carmaker to open a factory in the United States. The company has scheduled a news conference for today in Oklahoma to announce plans to build a newly designed MG TF Coupe there starting in 2008. It said the coupe would compete with cars like the Mazda Miata, which sells for between $20,000 and $25,000.

It also will assemble a convertible TF Roadster version at MG's shuttered factory in Longbridge, England, and three sedan models in China. American and European operations for MG Motors will be based in Oklahoma City, 90 miles north of the new factory in Ardmore, Okla.

MG's rebirth under Nanjing, which said it had $2 billion in financing for the endeavor, comes as several Chinese companies are setting their sights on the United States, the world's largest car market.

Several Chinese carmakers have said they are two to three years away from exporting vehicles to the United States. One, Geely Automobile, displayed a $10,000 sedan at this year's Detroit auto show, although the car fell short of American safety and emissions standards.  More at Detroit News

NASCAR to steal IRL’s biggest star  UPDATE #4 Danica Patrick might one day drive in NASCAR, but she doesn't expect it will be next year.
"I wouldn't say it was that big of a chance (of going) next year, but I'd say it's a fairly larger chance in the future," she said Tuesday from Los Angeles.

Patrick also said her father, T.J., was within his right as her manager to investigate options in NASCAR, which was what he did Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway in Joliet, Ill.

But that doesn't mean she will sign with a stock car team once her Indy-car contract with Rahal Letterman Racing of the Indy Racing League expires at season's end.

"It's just good to get a feel from everybody where you stand with them," she said. "I do have some interest in NASCAR and for sure I like new challenges."

T.J. Patrick confirmed interest from several NASCAR and IRL teams and said it's natural that he would steer the options toward NASCAR if possible.

"They're a lot safer, we all know that," he said Tuesday. "I'd be a fool not to want her there and if you were her father you would, too.

"But it's not my decision."

T.J. Patrick said the IRL needs to make sure the 24-year-old driver doesn't leave its series, and it can do that by helping to increase her financial package.

"They should take care of their own," he said. "We all know she's probably the least paid driver in the league. That shouldn't happen."

If that was a negotiating tactic, Danica Patrick's team owner refused to hear it.

"Since probably only 10 percent of the drivers in the IRL are getting paid (a reasonable salary), I'm sure that's not the case," Bobby Rahal said.  More at Indy Star

07/11/06 T.J. Patrick, the father of the IndyCar Series driver, sparked headlines by showing up Sunday at Chicagoland Speedway and telling a reporter that he wanted Danica Patrick to go to NASCAR's Nextel Cup Series after her contract with Rahal-Letterman Racing runs out at the end of this season.

But on Tuesday, he told the Indianapolis Star that while that is what he would like to see happen, Danica herself is not keen on the idea.

"I'd be a fool not to want her there, and if you were her father you would, too," T.J. Patrick told the Indianapolis newspaper.

"But it's not my decision ... and I don't believe she wants to do (NASCAR). She wants to stay here, she wants to run Indy, she wants to win the Indy 500. That's her goal."

Danica Patrick has not commented. But her father said he spoke to her Monday after the story began to get wide-ranging attention.

"She kind of laughed and said, 'What did you do?'" he said. "It's gotten blown out of proportion so much."

07/11/06 Geoff Smith, president of Roush Racing, said while T.J. Patrick was a guest of the team, no discussions took place in regards to his daughter's racing future. Representatives from some other NASCAR teams — including Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Evernham Motorsports, Robert Yates Racing and Team Red Bull — also said they have yet to speak to the 24-year-old from Roscoe, Ill.

A spokesman for Rahal Letterman Racing said the team had no comment other then to say discussions to extend Patrick's contract — which expires after the season — are ongoing. Neither Danica nor her father could be reached Monday.  USA Today  More ...
Paffett, Hamilton, could debut in 2006  (GMM) McLaren would not elaborate on Monday after issuing a press release to confirm Juan Pablo Montoya's immediate departure from the team.

Asked by the Daily Telegraph whether the Colombian's nightmare tour of North America - featuring two first-lap crashes - had contributed to the decision, a team spokesperson said 'no comment'.

''If someone wants to blame me, then blame me,'' Montoya told Speed TV, ''(but the crashes) didn't have anything to do with my future.''

McLaren also refused to comment on whether 30-year-old Montoya's announcement of his NASCAR switch was in breach of contract, or the terms of a reportedly $3.5m price-tag on his early team split.

The Woking based team's press release also divulged such details as the expected date of arrival of Montoya's second child, but tellingly did not outline whether Pedro de la Rosa would remain in the car for the last eight grands prix of 2006.

Speculation is, therefore, rife that Gary Paffett (pictured right) or Lewis Hamilton - or both - might get their chance to debut in the silver car between now and the season finale in October.

Britain's tabloid 'Sun' confidently proclaimed that 'the duo will be handed their chance to impress', although Spaniard de la Rosa is expected to stay at the wheel for the time being.

McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh, however, insisted that Hamilton is 'concentrating on GP2' at present, but the junior category is scheduled to wind up in September, leaving the Briton free for the last few races of the year.

Industry News
Ford instead of GM?  Might Ford Motor Co. be a better fit? As investors weigh the pros and cons of an alliance among General Motors Corp., Renault SA and Nissan Motor Co., the Dearborn automaker's name keeps cropping up.  More....
A doubleheader planned for Montreal?  UPDATE #6 [Alan] Labrosse hopes the future includes Champ Car in Montreal. It's something he'll discuss with [Normand] Legault, who on June 23 was awarded a five-year lease by the city that gives him exclusive racing use of Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

Shortly after the June 25 Formula One Grand Prix, Labrosse and Legault spoke by phone and a deal has been arranged to provide Labrosse with some of Legault's equipment for the staging of the Champ Car race.

The two promoters are soon expected to sit down, no door apparently closed on any racing scenario.

While there's no date circled on any calendar, Labrosse says that early September will pretty much be the deadline to have a 2007 Montreal date included on Champ Car's schedule.

Without specifics, he says that ticket sales are moving for next month, having enjoyed a recent spurt. The weekend event drew 93,000 spectators last August, a four-year low.

"Without meeting Normand I won't speculate (on Champ Car's Montreal life beyond this year)," said Labrosse, who beats the drum of publicity tomorrow with an Old Montreal news conference featuring Champ Car driver Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond, whom he represents.

"I'm going in totally open-minded to see what's possible."  More at the Montreal Gazette

07/08/06 AutoRacing1.com spoke to Labrosse about this report in Toronto Friday. He said, "It means that I will be able to use some of the equipment that Legault uses and not have to bring in my own. That is the same arrangement we had in 2004."

As for his relationship with Legault and the prospects of doing business with him. "Our relationship is fine. We are both in the same business and there are no hard feelings that he won the contract for the 2nd race in Montreal. It's just business. I have yet to speak to Legault about possibly teaming up Champ Car and NASCAR in Montreal. We will have that conversation, and I don't really know how receptive he will be to the idea."

07/07/06 According to a report in today's Journal de Montreal, the mayor of Montreal insisted that Normand Legault deal with Champ Car promoter Alan Labrosse for this year's race and they are.  There is a slight glimmer of hope that the two can work out a deal for 2007 that will see a Champ Car and NASCAR Busch Series doubleheader in 2007.  We shall see......

06/26/06 In racing, a white flag signifies the final lap; on the battlefield, it means surrender. Montreal Champ Car Grand Prix promoter Alan Labrosse is waving neither, hoping instead that the green flag will fly beyond this August's fifth annual race, keeping his event alive.

On Friday, Mayor Gerald Tremblay renewed Montreal's lease for exclusive use of Circuit Gilles Villeneuve by veteran Formula One Grand Prix promoter Normand Legault, a vocal, energetic champion of the city and its place on the world stage.

The contract runs from 2007 through 2011, with a five-year option through 2016.

With his new lease, Legault has been awarded the sole right to organize races on the Expo 67 island. He can run no more than two race weekends per year in municipally owned Jean Drapeau Park, a favorite summertime oasis for Montrealers.

Labrosse, who this August will promote the Champ Car race, is on ice thinner than what's at home beneath a former Canadians goalie since he allegedly loved Paris in the springtime.

And if Labrosse can't soon work a deal with Legault and Tremblay, with 2007 race schedules on the drawing board, then enjoy Champ Car on Aug. 27, because it won't be back.

"If it's the Busch Series, and it might be, does its presence definitely eliminate the presence of Champ Car? I don't think so. If we're limited to two race weekends, then how can we maximize those weekends?"

The hottest potato handled by Tremblay and his team through the lengthy review of the lease, which essentially has simply been renewed, was the so-called exclusivity clause.

Legault says that F1 head Bernie Ecclestone insisted that Legault have total control of the circuit in order for F1 to guarantee Montreal its annual race.

Both Labrosse and Kalkhoven, an Australian who made his billion in fiber optics, dispute that.

Exclusivity was a non-negotiable point with Legault, Labrosse said, "because that's what (Legault) wants. Bernie Ecclestone has no issues with Champ Car."

Kalkhoven sent a five-page letter to the mayor on June 16, outlining the benefits of a Champ Car race to Montreal. He spelled out how, according to his sources, two F1 promoters stage other races on their tracks without the demand of F1 exclusivity.

Kalkhoven also said that Champ Car would be willing to adapt its schedule to protect F1's "priority status" in this city, in the event that Ecclestone changed his Montreal date. Full Story at Montreal Gazette 

06/25/06 Alan Labrosse, manager of Champ Car driver Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond and promoter of the race itself, hopes to soon have discussions with Tremblay and Legault. Labrosse wants to pitch the idea of staging his event as at least a companion race to NASCAR, whose Busch dates usually run on Saturdays, if not sell the mayor on the economic benefit of making Champ Car the second event behind F1 on the island’s racing calendar.

After lengthy negotiations, yet to the surprise of no one, Montreal Mayor Gérald Tremblay and longtime Formula One race promoter Normand Legault have agreed to lease terms, giving Legault the exclusive right to organize two race weekends per year on Île Notre Dame’s Circuit Gilles Villeneuve. The lease, announced by the mayor at a city hall press conference on Friday, runs from 2007-2011, with an option of renewal through 2016.Legault will pay the city $356,000 for the 2007 rights, and assume responsibility for the upkeep for the 4.361-km permanent road course track, which is expected to cost him an additional $1.5 million over five years.  More ...

Hamilton to make early F1 debut  With the immediate release of Juan Montoya from McLaren, rumors suggest that Lewis Hamilton could drive in the final three F1 races of 2006, after he has secured the GP2 crown, which he should do before Monza.  Pedro de la Rosa is replacing Montoya, but it may not be for all the remaining races.  Hamilton was rumored to be getting a ride in 2007 with some team, perhaps McLaren, if there was a seat open.  However, Alonso is already confirmed with the team and Kimi Raikkonen may stay with the team if he does not move to Ferrari or Renault.
Nashville IRL race to sell out  A sellout is expected for the IRL race Saturday night at 1.25-mile Nashville Superspeedway.  Only 200 tickets are left.  The track does not seat that many people, so a sellout there means somewhere in the neighborhood of 25,000 people.
McLaren to drop Montoya immediately  UPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement.  See Hot News page.

07/11/06 (GMM)  Juan Pablo Montoya will not complete the 2006 season after announcing his intention to switch to NASCAR at the end of the year.

It is reported in Spain that the Colombian, who allegedly breached his McLaren contract by revealing the details of his new American deal, is to be replaced immediately by McLaren test driver Pedro de la Rosa.

De la Rosa will appear alongside Kimi Raikkonen as of the Magny Cours race and until the Brazilian finale, 'AS' newspaper said.

''The news will be made official today,'' the media report added.  'AS' speculated that 30-year-old Montoya may have deliberately breached his contract in order to commence his tin-top adventure early.

Spain's 35-year-old de la Rosa, who has raced full-time for defunct Arrows and Jaguar, replaced the injured Montoya in Bahrain last year.

It is reported that he was telephoned by team boss Ron Dennis yesterday morning with instructions to urgently travel to Woking.

07/10/06 The Spanish TV station Tele 5, which broadcasts F1 races is reporting that Juan Pablo Montoya may be dropped by McLaren and replaced for the rest of the year by Pedro de la Rosa. There is a certain amount of logic in all of this as Montoya wants to start preparations to go into NASCAR as soon as he can. The key point in all this is that McLaren is partially-owned by DaimlerChrysler and Montoya will be driving next year in a Dodge, an American brand also owned by DaimlerChrysler. Thus it makes sense to let Montoya get on with his new project and not force him to stay on racing in a series where he has no future and little to gain. All that is really needed is some kind of a financial settlement. De la Rosa should be able to score points, as he did when Montoya was out with injury last year, and he is sure to be highly motivated as he wants to convince the team that he is the best man to be Fernando Alonso's teammate next year.  Grandprix.com
Hockenheim to exit F1 in 2008  UPDATE (GMM)  At a meeting last week, the F1 Commission got a sneak preview of the 2007 grand prix calendar -- and Hockenheim was missing.

With Spa-Francorchamps promising to give Bernie Ecclestone's circus a tax cut if it returns to Belgium next year, the German grand prix is to be the casualty of teams not wanting to return to 19 races.

Suzuka is also in trouble, with Toyota-run Fuji joining the club to host the Japan round.

Local government minister Gerhard Stratthaus told 'dpa' that Bernie's desire to lop a German event off the calendar is 'understandable'.

''But we are still negotiating about the possibility of alternating (year by year) with the Nurburgring,'' the Baden-Wurttemberg official added.

Hockenheim mayor Dieter Gummer, meanwhile, said he would like to know an official decision by the end of September this year.

03/09/06 (GMMf1NET)  Hockenheim could bid farewell to formula one in 2008, the circuit's boss admitted this week.

Dieter Gummer, managing director at the German grand prix venue and also mayor of Hockenheim, told the 'Stuttgarter Zeitung' newspaper that the facility is $35 million in debt and may not seek a new contract with Bernie Ecclestone after the event in 2008.

''It costs us too much to have F1,'' he said.

Liuzzi and Red Bull  (GMM) Vitantonio Liuzzi declined to give much away when faced with speculation of an internal struggle to grab his talents for 2007.

It is rumored that the Italian, who this year is racing for 'Toro Rosso', is being courted by the junior squad's big brother Red Bull.

STR co-owner Gerhard Berger, however, has made it clear that he would like to keep the 24-year-old for another season.

''I just do my best for Red Bull overall,'' Liuzzi was quoted as saying by 'Racer' magazine.

Paired with rookie Scott Speed in 2006, 'Tonio' has been the standout so far and at Indianapolis snared the ex-Minardi team's first points in its new guise.

He explained: ''At the moment it's just important to get the best results for me and Toro Rosso, and for next year we'll see.''

Another F1 refugee eyes NASCAR  (GMM)  Another F1 refugee might slip down the NASCAR escape-hatch, according to reports.

Barely a day after Juan Pablo Montoya announced his decision to swap grand prix racing for the world of oval-based tin-tops, it has emerged that fellow former Indy 500 winner Jacques Villeneuve's recent comments about NASCAR might also be kosher.

NASCAR team Roush Racing's president Geoff Smith told the US media that representatives for the BMW-Sauber racer have made 'probing' enquiries, while another former world champion, DTM runner Mika Hakkinen, attended a recent race in the States.

''I just feel it in the air,'' Smith was quoted as saying by Sports Illustrated.  ''They're poking around.''

35-year-old Villeneuve, meanwhile, told the Toronto Sun News: ''Going to NASCAR might not be such a bad career move.

''I would not consider it a step down.''

Wood Brothers mildly confident for 2007  UPDATE #2 Eddie Wood told MRN Radio's NASCAR Today weekday news program - "Some stuff I said was taken out of context, it got in the media and there's absolutely no truth to it. When we (Wood Brothers Racing and ST Motorsports) set out on this project our goal was to have 2 - 2 - 2 (2 Craftsman Truck, 2 Busch Series, and 2 Nextel Cup teams). We have 2 Truck and 2 Busch teams and the 1 Cup team. We are working to expand the Cup program to 2 teams and we are really close to getting that done. We're alive and well and looking forward to 2007."

07/06/06 Eddie Wood's family has been in the racing business on the NASCAR circuit since 1953. Team owner Eddie Wood said he's not sure it will last beyond this season. Wood said he doesn't have sponsorship lined up yet for next season and without it, the family operation might have to close. The team hopes to have two full-time Nextel Cup Series cars next year - one for Ken Schrader and a second for Wood's son, Jon. "We can't make a lot of plans until we get all those (sponsorship) deals in place," Wood said. "Ideally, we'd like a Fusion for Jon and another for Ken. Honestly, right now I can't begin to say what we're going to do next year, but I think we'll have something out there." Augusta Chronicle

07/03/06 Eddie Wood isn’t being flippant when he says, “We might have one car, two cars or no cars next year. Heck, we might all be gone from here. Who knows? Right now, I don’t.” The co-owner of Wood Brothers Racing expects to have at least one Ford next year, either for his son, Jon, or current driver #21-Ken Schrader. “Jon’s not under contract, so I’ll let him go if he gets a good offer somewhere else,” Wood said minutes before the Pepsi 400. “The deal with us is, our sponsorships are year-to-year. Little Debbie is pleased and the Air Force is pleased, and we think MotorCraft is pleased. We’d really like to have all three of them back. We can’t make a lot of plans until we get all those deals in place. Ideally, we’d like a Fusion for Jon and another for Ken. We’d like to get the Clorox people to come aboard on a car for Jon. But, honestly—right now—I can’t begin to say what we’re gonna do next year. But, yeah, I think we’ll have something out here.” Ford Racing
Brickyard 400 date could change  Neither Joey Chitwood nor NASCAR president Mike Helton would comment on published reports NASCAR is trying to swap the races at Indianapolis and Pocono (Pa.) Raceway to make the 2007 Allstate 400 at the Brickyard the first race for ESPN's return to the sport.

This year's Pocono race is July 23, followed by the last off weekend of the Nextel Cup season ahead of the Brickyard.

"We're working on the schedule and hopefully we'll be able to release it soon. That's all I can tell you," Helton said.

Chitwood said the sanctioning agreement is up for discussion, as it always is this time of year, but his primary focus and that of Speedway CEO Tony George is Formula One and bringing back the U.S. Grand Prix.

"We've got a schedule with three major events and we just have to figure out how everything fits," Chitwood said.  Indy Star

NASCAR had a hand in snatching Montoya  With Juan Montoya now signed, sealed and delivered to NASCAR, another big-name F1 driver, Canadian Jacques Villeneuve, facing an uncertain future with the BMW/Sauber team, is reported to be actively seeking a NASCAR ride.

Both drivers would be welcome in Nextel Cup, as NASCAR seeks to expand into Latin America (Mexico City) and Canada (Montreal). In fact there are suspicions that NASCAR may have taken a hand in bringing Montoya to Ganassi and don't be surprised if they now go out and get Villeneuve since they will be racing in Montreal starting next year.

This all hints at an eventual push by NASCAR overseas. Recall the story we published a year ago called the War of the Worlds whereby we predicted the oval track cartel would eventually make a play for F1's world dominance. It may take them a couple of decades, but F1 and Bernie Ecclestone had better watch their backs.

Gordon to expand Cup team  Robby Gordon Motorsports will expand in 2007, possibly to a two-car operation in-house or by way of an alliance with an existing team. Among those on the radar: Robert Yates Racing. RGM and RYR executives said Saturday they're discussing the future with "a lot of people," and RGM CEO John Story confirmed that Yates is among the teams with which RGM has discussed a future partnership. Whether or not the union comes to fruition, though, is up in the air. "We've spoken to [Yates]," Story said. "We've talked to them, had some general discussions. But we're not yet ready. We've got to get everything on the table, lay it out and see what's best for us. RGM has a contract offer from General Motors for 2007, and regardless the chosen direction Gordon would maintain an ownership role. Story said RGM would prefer to add a second Nextel Cup Series team, and has ongoing discussions regarding the second program with several potential sponsors. "We have a lot going on as far as having a second car in our program," Story said. "That's the most exciting thing. That was the plan all along." Story said Gordon was not in consideration to drive the No. 88 vacated by 1999 Cup Series champ Dale Jarrett. "Robby will not drive the 88 car," Story said. "Robby will drive that 7 car until the end of his career. That much I know -- unless something changes that none of us are aware of." In part from NASCAR.com/Marty Smith
Atlantic team close to announcing major deal  AutoRacing1.com learned earlier this week that a Champ Car Atlantic team is close to announcing a major sponsorship deal that will see a well known Canadian driver who has driven in some Champ Car races already in one of their Atlantic cars in 2007 with the plan to move him up to Champ Car in 2008.  We have been asked to keep the deal quiet until Monday when the team hopes the sponsorship check will hit the bank.
Montoya back to the USA in NASCAR!  UPDATE #3 This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact.'  Chip Ganassi said Montoya will drive the No. 42 Nextel Cup car full-time next season, but may enter selected Busch Series races this year after he finishes the F1 season with the McLaren-Mercedes team.

“It should be fun,” Ganassi said. “Should be great. We’ve obviously enjoyed some previous success, and that made it a lot easier. We had a very quick negotiation — if you can even call it that. It’s nice to have somebody in your car who wants to be there, wants to be with your team, wants to be a part of it.” (Chip Ganassi and Juan Montoya make the announcement in the Chicagoland media center this morning - Photo By Diane Meader Schenk/AutoRacing1.com)

Montoya, who won a CART series championship in 1999 and the Indianapolis 500 in 2000 with Ganassi, will replace Casey Mears, who will drive for Hendrick Motorsports next season.

“He said, ’I want to get back to racing,”’ Ganassi said. “The guy loves racing. And what better place than here?”

Ganassi said Montoya will have to work hard to make the change.

“It’s going to be some work,” Ganassi said. “He’s ready for it, though.” 07/09/06 Our reporter at Chicagoland tells us that Chip Ganassi has been seen with Juan Montoya in the paddock this morning and will be announced to drive Ganassi's No. 42 Cup car in 2007 and beyond.  Look for this rumor to go to 'fact' in an hour or so.

06/28/06 It's looking increasingly likely by the day that Juan Montoya could be set to leave F1 after this year. With each report that no top or mid-level F1 team will pick up his services, the more likely Montoya will leave F1 after this season as he will not drive for a wanker team, he has nothing to prove with them. See related Williams rumor - no room for Juan.

06/27/06 (GMM)  Juan Pablo Montoya has refused to rule out returning to America's open-wheeler scene next year, as his prospects of securing a top formula one drive continue to wane.

His former Champ Car boss, Chip Ganassi, indicated recently that he would gladly take the feisty Colombian back.

30-year-old Montoya is almost certain to now be out of the frame to retain his McLaren ride for 2007, and his other possibilities - most notably Red Bull - are rapidly looking just as dubious.

On the back of two disappointing seasons in silver, he tangled with Nico Rosberg last Sunday at Montreal before slapping the wall and ignominiously retiring.

''I do not know what the future brings,'' Montoya admitted to 'Auto Motor Und Sport' magazine.  ''At the moment I am not really thinking about it.''

On the Chip Ganassi link, he added: ''Everything is possible.

''I am completely relaxed.  I will look at the options and then we'll see what happens.  I am not too worried about it.

''At the moment nothing is certain but I am in good spirits.''

'Auto Motor Und Sport' contends that a return to Williams, Montoya's first home in F1 between 2001-2004, could be an option.  The magazine says Frank Williams, yet to take up a several million dollar 'option' on Mark Webber's contract, might be reluctant to cough up the Australian's scheduled pay-hike.

[Editor's Note:  Do not look for Montoya to return to the USA unless there is a merger of Champ Car and the IRL and he views the opportunity as a positive move and not into a league that is floundering because of the split.  We expect him to stay in F1, but if his only choice is a wanker team, then yes, a 'new' IndyCar series could be an option for him.]

Allmendinger almost did not start in Toronto  A.J. Allmendinger almost did not start the Champ Car race in Toronto today  according to a report made by Robin Miller on SPEED News Saturday night.
"AJ Allmendinger is not only one of the best stories in American motorsports and one of the hottest drivers, he also very nearly was a spectator for this weekend's race here in Toronto.  How  could that be, you say?  Since he jumped to Forsythe's team, he's won two straight races and everybody is applauding him.  Well he hired Julian Jakobi, who is a big time Formula 1 agent, to be his agent last week.  And evidentially, through the grapevine, we heard the process didn't go real well.  I think Gerry Forsythe offered AJ a three year deal.  Julian Jakobi said, "No, we don't want to go through 2008.  We want to stop after 2007."  The offer was removed .  There were some angry words, and by 6:00 pm Thursday night, AJ Allmendinger had not signed a contract.  And Gerry, I think, might have dug his heels in and said, "We'll sit you out this race."  Thank God calmer heads prevailed and everybody sat down and AJ signed a contract.  He signed with Forsythe through the rest of 2006. But this could have been a disaster because this guy has pretty much captured the spirit of this whole paddock because it's somebody who's given Sebastien Bourdais a run for his money.  He's an American, the only one in the series.  And he damn near went from unemployed to hero to back watching races."
Attendance strong in Canada  Word is that ticket sales are up a healthy amount here in Toronto this weekend and we hear that Edmonton in two weeks time will be close to a sellout despite Stanley Cup fever in that recently hit the Canadian city, though since then the Oilers team has lost in the playoffs.
Toyota behind UPS move to Waltrip team  Rumor in the NASCAR paddock says that Toyota made some business promises to UPS, which is what lured them away from the Ford team of Robert Yates to Michael Waltrip's new Toyota Cup team.  If true, this is another example of how the Japanese use financial deals to dominate the racing scene, whether it be by hiring the best engineers, best drivers or the best teams.

Yates admits his team's performance didn't help keep UPS. A UPS official, though, said it was more than performance that led the world's largest package delivery company to sign a two-year deal with Waltrip that could be extended beyond that.

Patrick Guilbert, vice president of sponsorships and events for UPS, says that business relationships swayed the decision to follow Jarrett. Guilbert says this move gives UPS the best opportunity to grow. Guilbert spoke more about business opportunities than performance issues during Friday's announcement.

Either way, the sponsor will leave after next season and Yates must find an additional $15 million per year.

Tagliani close to sponsor deal  Alex Tagliani (pictured right, center) may be close to a partnership that would include AIC -- one of Canada's leading investment firms.

"I have been meeting with officials of AIC at some events this week and hopefully we can make a deal to benefit us both," he told the Toronto Sun.

Tagliani currently drives for Team Australia.

F1 stars interested in NASCAR?  A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I came across this Yahoo article that says Jacques Villeneuve and Juan Montoya are interested in NASCAR, is it true?  Dan Lukowicz, Dover, DE.  Dear Dan, SPEEDTV.com is reporting that Montoya will be announced as Chip Ganassi's new Nextel Cup driver this morning in Chicago.  Our reporter on-site will have the full story.  Mark C. 
Pirelli to quit World Rally Championship  Rumor has it that Pirelli will pull out of the FIA World Rally Championship at the end of this season. Although the Italian tire manufacturer has not put out an official statement, Pirelli's motorsport director, Paul Hembrey has confirmed to both the official WRC website and Autosport that their program with the Subaru World Rally team will cease following the Wales Rally GB in December, the final round of the 2006 FIA WRC championship.

"We felt that we were getting limited exposure after the loss of two of our partner teams. The decision was marketing-led and reflects feedback from our markets around the world. Motorsport is a marketing tool and is a service to a company. But we have a duty to the board and the shareholders and must go with what they decide," Hembrey told the official WRC website.

ISC investing in Montreal  Rumor has it that the France Family's track and race promotion company ISC is investing in the Montreal facility and this may be another reason why Normand Legault is bringing NASCAR in. This is another example of the deep pockets of the France family empire stepping on smaller series like Champ Car and trying to squash them like a bug.
Burton to Waltrip  Is it a coup for our team? I guess it's fair to say it is," Michael Waltrip said of the new two-year UPS sponsorship, which he said now sets the stage for a three-car, Nextel Cup operation. "We don't have it done yet, but we think we'll be able to announce in the next week or two who the driver will be," Waltrip said of Team Three, which will be jointly sponsored by Burger King and Pizza Hut. And it could very well be Ward Burton, the 2002 Daytona 500 winner, idle this season, Waltrip said. Winston Salem Journal
Will Philippe try his hand at F1?  Champ Car youngster Nelson Philippe, who has shown real promise recently, tells AutoRacing1.com that his future is completely open.  "We'll have to see what happens for next year, I could stay in Champ Car, but I also have leads across the Atlantic.  I will not do GP2 as that would be a step down," Philippe told AutoRacing1.com.
UPS might follow Jarrett to Toyota  UPDATE #10 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today with the announcement that UPS will follow Jarrett to Toyota and Michael Waltrip Racing.  See Hot News page for story.

07/06/06 There is a scheduled UPS Racing Announcement on Friday, July 7, 2006 at Chicagoland Speedway.

06/24/06 Roush Racing has not talked with UPS about sponsoring one of its cars next season, a team official said Friday. With UPS still not under contract for 2007, several teams have been mentioned as candidates for the sponsor if it opts not to stay with Robert Yates Racing. Roush Racing and its No. 16 Nextel Cup car with driver Greg Biffle have been rumored as a possible destination for UPS. "I don't know where the rumors are coming from," said Torrey Galida, senior vice president for marketing at Roush Racing, prior to Nextel Cup practice at Infineon Raceway Friday. "We have not spoken." Roush and RYR develop engines together, and Roush-Yates engines power all of the Fords in the garage. "We have a pretty firm understanding with Robert Yates that we would not engage one another's sponsors," Galida said. Galida said Roush Racing has all of its sponsorships solidified for next season except for the National Guard, which is on a year-to-year contract [which is the case with all the military sponsors] on Biffle's car. He said the National Guard is a full-season deal, but the National Guard sells off some of the races to other companies. SceneDaily.com

06/22/06 Car owner Ray Evernham had until last Friday to convince Dodge officials to allow UPS to sponsor Kasey Kahne's Dodge next year, and apparently he couldn't do it. That means UPS will sponsor Greg Biffle's Ford next year. Augusta Chronicle 

06/11/06 It appears UPS is still in play as a major sponsor. In the past two years the winner in the sponsor hunt has been Evernham Motorsports. UPS may add itself to the list of Evernham conquests signing as the primary sponsor of the #9 Dodge driven by Kasey Kahne. Then again, it is said the Dodge Dealers aren't willing to vacate their position on Kahne's ride. The dealers might be willing to let loose of the #19 driven by Jeremy Mayfield. However, it’s not clear Mayfield would be the driver of choice for UPS. Circletrackplus.com

06/10/06 On the sponsor front, sources in the garage indicate that UPS will be moving from #88 Robert Yates Racing to one of two teams in 2007, either the #9 Evernham Motorsports Dodge driven by Kasey Kahne or the #16 Roush Racing Ford driven by Greg Biffle. Speed Channel

05/22/06 RYR is also waiting to hear if #88 team sponsor UPS will remain with RYR next year, move to the Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota team with Dale Jarrett or go to another team entirely. If UPS moves to Waltrip’s organization, that may bump the team from two to three cars. Waltrip’s own Toyota will be sponsored by NAPA and a second team car will fly the Burger King colors in 2007, leaving UPS as a possible sponsor for a third MWR car. On the driver front, the Yates crew is said to be hot after Casey Mears, the biggest remaining name free agent. Speed Channel

Who's the lead candidate for the #88 possibly UPS Ford in 2007? One name mentioned more than once is Brian Vickers, driver of the #25 GMAC Chevy owned by Rick Hendrick. CircleTrackPlus.com

Robert Yates Racing hopes to hear in the next two to three weeks whether UPS will return as a sponsor [on the #88 team], team general manager Eddie D'Hondt said Friday at Lowe's Motor Speedway. UPS is trying to decide whether to stay with RYR, move with current RYR driver Dale Jarrett over to Michael Waltrip Racing, where Jarrett will run a Toyota starting in 2007. or go to another team. "We're still talking with them," said D'Hondt, who added that there is no timeline for UPS to decide. "In three weeks time, I think we'll all know what we're all doing." The team is still in the early stages of looking for a replacement. It has two development drivers - Stephen Leicht and Matt McCall - currently running part-time Busch schedules. "There is a chance you may see them in a Cup car to get a race under their belt as the year goes on," D'Hondt said. "That's not written in stone, but it has been talked about. We're not going to rush them beyond what they are capable of. ... A year from now, I think Matt and Stephen will be ready." D'Hondt said eventually RYR would like to have four Nextel Cup teams and two Busch Series teams. "We're setting ourselves for a good future; we just have to live with what we're going through now," D'Hondt said. NASCAR Daily Scene  More ...
Toyota to tackle LeMans with hybrid  With Audi having now become the first automobile manufacturer to win the Le Mans 24 Hours with a diesel engine, the next big target for the car manufacturers is to win the French endurance classic with a hybrid car. The word in Japan is that Toyota may soon be embarking on that challenge with a Japanese-based program. On July 15-16 Toyota is entering a racing version of its Lexus GS450 hybrid touring car in the Tokachi 24 Hour race in Japan which features a petrol engine and an electric motor which are used alternately. The project is being run by Sard, a longtime Toyota partner in racing. One of the aims of the program is to obtain technical feedback from the racing cars to see if it can be used on mass-production vehicles in the future with the main aim being to make the hybrid systems smaller, lighter and more efficient. Grandprix.com
Sunday’s F-1 race likely last at IMS?  UPDATE #3 The strong turnout for last weekend's U.S. Grand Prix, estimated at more than 100,000 fans, reinforced Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Joie Chitwood's opinion that there is a market for Formula One in the United States.

"It's clear there's a good level of interest in Formula One here; it's a matter of how we tap into it," he said. "I think Indianapolis Motor Speedway is a great draw, but we need willing partners."

Chitwood said he didn't have an inkling until Sunday morning, when the infield viewing mounds began to fill early, how last year's F-1 debacle was going to affect this year's attendance. Just because Michelin gave away 20,000 tickets didn't mean they were going to be used.
"It was a very good weekend, something we really needed," he said. "I don't think last year's problems hurt one bit. In fact, that might have heightened the interest."

Chitwood's boss, IMS CEO Tony George, said he will go to London in the coming weeks to discuss a new contract with F-1 boss Bernie Ecclestone. George wants to bring grand prix racing back to the Speedway if he and Ecclestone can agree on a deal. Indy Star

07/04/06 We reiterate our prediction that this rumor will soon go to 'false.'  Tony George said he did not know if Sunday's crowd was larger than the 2005 turnout, a race that was spoiled by 14 drivers pulling off the track over concerns related to their Michelin tires.

"From 9 o'clock on last year I was a little distracted," said George, referring to discussions over how to salvage that event. "But from what I remember, this looks better."

George isn't sure when he will fly to London to meet with Ecclestone. George's Indy Racing League schedule includes three races -- in Nashville, Tenn., Milwaukee and Brooklyn, Mich. -- later this month.

While Ecclestone had harsh criticism for the U.S. market regarding its interest and support of F-1, he considers George a friend, and has said he appreciates the effort George and his staff have made -- financial and otherwise -- to give grand prix racing a home in Indianapolis.

"I'm really quite surprised by the greeting I've had," Ecclestone told The Associated Press on Sunday. "It's really been quite pleasant. The fans have been very kind and very supportive. . . . Sometimes, Tony is quite hard to deal with, but I think we will be able to come to an agreement."

Chitwood sounded like he expects Indianapolis to be on F-1's schedule when the traditional announcement is made in the fall. A late June/early July date appears to be the most likely slot.

"We're optimistic; we want to continue this," he said. "It's been a great relationship for seven years, and I expect it to be for another seven years."  More at Indy Star

07/03/06 AutoRacing1.com predicts that this rumor will become 'false' based on yesterday's USGP attendance, which appeared to be up significantly over 2005. Of course Michelin gave away 20,000 free tickets and the price of admission was lowered this year. Regardless, the over 100,000 came out on a rather warm July day to watch the race and Tony George appeared visibly pleased Sunday.

In addition, on the pre-race grid for the USGP Bernie Ecclestone was interviewed and asked about the return to Indy in coming years. He said, "The crowd is fantastic. It would be good if we can be back here again. We must make a deal that is good for everyone."

"We appreciate the interest and support from everyone who has inquired about the future of this event," Tony George said in a statement.

"Many months ago, Bernie and I agreed to wait until the conclusion of the 2006 event to evaluate our future together. We expect to do that in the coming weeks.

"The good news is we enjoy the partnership that has been forged and are committed to working toward continuing to build on the foundation that has been laid over the last seven years."

07/02/06 This IndyStar.com article says, After half a decade, it sadly has become clear the U.S. Grand Prix never will rise to what it should be -- the biggest automobile race in the world.

Today almost certainly will mark the last Formula One race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. At the first in 2000, hopes soared about the marriage of the world's most popular form of motor racing to the world's most hallowed racing venue.

Now the race will be lucky to draw 100,000 to a track that seats 300,000 because of last year's sorry display in which 14 of 20 cars pulled out of the race in an internal dispute with Formula One. (The pseudo issue was tire safety.) It's too bad.

This is not to disparage NASCAR, purely a domestic series, but Formula One is watched from Beijing to Berlin, London to Lagos, Paris to Perth, Monaco to Madagascar. NASCAR is like the NFL --enormous here but nowhere else. Formula One is like World Cup soccer -- huge everywhere but here.

The brightest hope for Formula One to gain a real foothold here was at Indy. Tony George, scion of the family that owns the Speedway, has spent about $135 million to bring F-1 to the Speedway these seven times -- $30 million to tailor the facility to F-1's needs and wants, and about $15 million per year in appearance fees.

Shabbily is too mild an adverb for the way F-1's czar, Bernie Ecclestone, has treated the United States in the quarter-century he has ruled.

With his exorbitant appearance fees for F-1 teams, he humiliated and broke the storied track at Watkins Glen, N.Y., the traditional old home of the USGP, then went on to plunder and outrage cities such as Long Beach, Detroit, Dallas and Phoenix before preying on Indianapolis. More ...
IRL blames Kalkhoven for talks breakdown  UPDATE #2 A reader writes, What in the world is Bruce Martin talking about? Below are the "quotes" and statements attributed to Barnhart, George and Kalkhoven from the Indy Star story. Cavin has gone on record stating that he stands by the story. When I first read the story the other day when it first came out one of my first thoughts was that based on these quotes and statements everyone was on the same page. If everything had been attributed to just one person on one side of the issue then there’s always the possibility of a misunderstanding. However, all parties are clearly on the same page in this article. Given this I can only presume that Tony’s back-peddling is indicative of a possible change of heart.

George quotes:

"We've agreed conceptually (to share ownership), yes," George said from Richmond International Raceway, which was hosting the IRL's SunTrust Indy Challenge on Saturday night. "Now we have to agree on how we would go about resolving differences that might come up."

Said George: "There are still a lot of things yet to be fully developed, and it's not going to get any better by talking about it in the media. But I think we'll be able to agree on how we'll develop this business as one entity as we go forward."

Kalkhoven quotes:

A merger of the two series most likely would happen a piece at a time rather than all at once, Kalkhoven said.

Or the unification process might start with the two series running on the same weekend in different cities, Kalkhoven said from Cleveland, where Champ Car will hold a race today. "It could be a whole world of things."

Kalkhoven said Champ Car will unveil its new Panoz chassis for 2007 at the San Jose (Calif.) Grand Prix in late July, and the car will be used in a unified series in some form.

"You don't throw away that kind of development," Kalkhoven said. "It will be extremely economic to operate."

But there is no deadline, Kalkhoven said.

Kalkhoven said he is optimistic a merger will occur, but he can see why similar attempts in the past have failed.

"You go into either paddock, and everybody wants to see it done," he said. "The fact it hasn't been done in 10 years is indicative of how difficult it is."

Kalkhoven insisted that information such as this has been kept as quiet as possible for a reason.

"In a normal business situation, you'd be doing this in private instead of under the public gaze," he said. "You'd announce you were talking when you were done (with the deal)."

Barnhart quote:

League President Brian Barnhart said there could be a handful of race weekends, including two in April, when the IRL and Champ Car could be at the same event.  Name Withheld

07/06/06 AutoRacing1.com spoke to Champ Car's Kevin Kalkhoven about the report in this week's National Speed Sport News whereby the writer, Bruce Martin, claims that someone from the IRL told him that Kevin Kalkhoven leaked the story to the Indy Star that merger talks were progressing nicely, and that this pissed Tony George off and caused a setback in the merger talks.

Kalkhoven responded by telling AutoRacing1.com, "I am tired of ill informed leaks and speculations. I guess you cannot believe everything you read .  I have no further comment."

07/06/06 IRL shill Bruce Martin, who last year crashed one of the IRL's loaner pace cars on the streets of Indianapolis while reportedly drunk, a story the IRL quickly swept under the rug, writes in a column this week in National Speed Sport News:

When Tony George realized that tidbit (merger was imminent) of information was leaked to a reporter at the Champ Car Cleveland Grand Prix by none other than Kalkhoven himself in an "off-the-record" revelation, it infuriated the IRL leader who believed he was negotiating in good faith with his Champ Car counterpart, according to high-level IRL sources.

Because of that, George has taken a step back to cool off before proceeding further with a merger proposal that has been damaged in the last week.

According to IRL sources, George's trust in Kalkhoven has been tarnished and it's time to step back and re-evaluate.

Then Martin writes:

"There hasn't been anything really new to report for quite some time," George said before Sunday's United States Grand Prix. "We talk when we have an opportunity to talk but there haven't been any opportunities lately."

George's comment is much different than what he told Curt Cavin of The Indianapolis Star last week at the IRL's race in Richmond, Va.

"We've agreed conceptually (to share ownership), yes," George told The Star. "Now we have to agree on how we would go about resolving differences that might come up.

"There are still a lot of things yet to be fully developed, and it's not going to get any better by talking about it in the media. But I think we'll be able to agree on how we'll develop this business as one entity as we go forward."

So he says that an Indy Star reporter, Curt Cavin, quoted George in Richmond that merger talks had resulted in some sort of agreement using Tony George comments, yet claims it was Kalkhoven who leaked the information to a reporter in Cleveland. In fact when AutoRacing1.com questioned Kalkhoven in Cleveland about the story Cavin reported from Richmond, he was caught totally off guard and had no knowledge of it. Yet the IRL is blaming Kalkhoven for leaking it. Amazing.

Fernandez to field ALMS LMP2 team  Rumors are mounting that IRL team Fernandez Racing will field an Acura entry in the ALMS LMP2 class next year.  Acura will go head-to-head against the Penske Porsche team.
Villeneuve to accept '07 pay-cut  (GMM) Jacques Villeneuve has indicated that he might be prepared to take a pay-cut in order to prolong his career in F1.

''I am fast, experienced and not expensive,'' said the French Canadian, who has impressed so far in 2006 but is not guaranteed a new contract at BMW-Sauber.

35-year-old Villeneuve, who in 1997 won the world championship but suffered a decline in reputation in intervening years, told 'Auto Bild Motorsport' that he would look elsewhere if not given the nod by his current team.

But, even though a multi-millionaire, he ruled out driving for nothing.

Jacques insisted: ''I am 35, married and soon to be a father. I would rather stay at home than leave my family while I do all this traveling, all these tests and obligations for no money.''

Pastorelli out for Toronto  UPDATE This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact.'  Word from the team - It was determined today that Rocketsports Racing driver of the #8 Bavaria City Racing/Rocketsports Racing Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone Nicky Pastorelli will not be racing with teammate Tonis Kasemets this weekend in Toronto for Round Seven of the 2006 Bridgestone Presents The Champ Car World Series Powered by Ford season.

“Contractual difficulties will keep Nicky out of the car this weekend due to a default from one of his sponsors,” stated Rocketsports Team Owner Paul Gentilozzi on Pastorelli’s situation.  “He is working hard to remedy the situation and we hope to have him back in the future once the problem is solved.”

“The #8 Rocketsports team will be there, along with the car, but there was just not enough time to find an adequate substitute to drive the #8 car this weekend in the streets of Toronto,” said Gentilozzi in regards to fielding only one car this weekend with Kasemets in the #18 Rocketsports car. 

Kasemets heads to Toronto with track experience, but not Champ Car-driving experience on a street-course layout.  The 11-turn course will not be an issue for the Estonian to navigate through as he participated last year in the Toronto event while running in the Toyota Atlantic Championship.  He qualified fifth and earned a top-ten finish when he rolled past the start/finish line in the eighth spot.

What will be new to him is running in the #18 Flexovit Abrasives/Rocketsports Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone on a street course.  He signed to run in six events with the Rocketsports team this season, five of those are road course circuits, so this weekend will mark the only street course track that Kasemets is scheduled to run on in a Champ Car during his rookie-debut season.

“I am looking forward to a new experience,” stated Kasemets about the upcoming weekend.  “This will be the first time that I take the #18 Flexovit Abrasives/Rocketsports Champ Car out onto the street, so it will be something different and a new challenge that I am excited about.  We will continue working on the car and I will continue to work on my driving.  I hope that it is a lot of fun and that we have some good results.”

07/05/06 Hearing that Nicky Pastorelli's Champ Car seat could be up in the air for Toronto this weekend if his sponsorship money does not come through.  We hear his management is trying to work it out.  We are trying to confirm one way or another with the Rocketsports team.
What is Honda up to?  SPEEDTV's Robin Miller reports that during last weekend's IRL race at Kansas City, Honda's Robert Clarke spent many hours meeting with team owners and Tony George. After waving the checkered flag at the USGP he returned to KC to have one more meeting with Clarke. After talking to the Champ Car teams and IRL teams might Clarke be talking about whether they would have a problem switching back to a turbo to facilitate a merger? We have to believe that EVERYONE would prefer the softer sounding turbo and it definitely works better for street circuits where noise is an issue.
IRL eyes Detroit  According SPEEDTV's Robin Miller, the IRL is exploring the old CART circuit at Belle Isle in Detroit.  Champ Cars raced in downtown Motown from 1989-91 before moving to Belle Isle until 2001.
Webber’s future in limbo  Mark Webber will know by the end of this month whether or not he'll be a Williams driver next season as Williams has until July 31st to exercise his option on the lanky Australian.

Webber joined Williams at the start of the 2005 season on a two-year deal, although the contract includes an option for a third year.

However, time is running out for the team to decide if they will exercise it as the option runs out on the last day of July.

"I'll decide by that date!" Sir Frank told SpeedTV.

"We haven't decided what we're going to do yet. It's about how good he is or not. Obviously he's very good."

Three new teams  AutoRacing1.com is hearing that there is a very real possibility that three, and possibly more, new Champ Car teams will emerge for 2007 with the advent of the new Panoz DP01 Champ Car. One that we know of will make big news if it were to materialize. One new team is also looking at the possibility of a Team Country concept very much along the lines of Team Australia, with cars in Champ Car, Atlantics and Formula BMW.  We have asked to remain quiet for the time being, and will reveal who the teams are if and when their contracts all materialize. 
New schedule to be problem for A1GP  As we sit here examining the announced 2006/2007 A1 Grand Prix schedule we cannot help but notice that the season is longer than last years and finishes a month later. Although it was supposed to be a winter series, it is really a fall/winter/spring series now and overlaps with GP2 as well as Formula One.

This will pose a problem for the drivers and for the teams. Several teams are contracted to run A1 GP nations in the winter before moving to their summer programs of GP2, Formula Three and World Series by Renault. The question remains whether these teams can afford the additional personnel it will require to field simultaneous series.

One can also expect Bernie Ecclestone to move to squash A1GP like a bug if he thinks it is encroaching on F1 or taking sponsors away.

Recall also that the series lost over $200 million last year, a huge sum. To fly a series all over the world costs huge sums of money, vs. a Champ Car or F1 where teams use trucks to get to many of their races. The scheme now is to go public with the A1GP company to raise funds on the backs of unknowing investors. This of course will last a year or two before the company burns through that money, the stock tanks and the company declares bankruptcy.

Instead the series should find sponsorship and not rely on a public offering to exist.

Budweiser to dump Williams F1 team  (GMM)  Sir Frank Williams says he expects to lose at least one of his Grove based team's sponsors at the end of the season.

''Budweiser I think will go,' the 64-year-old was quoted as saying by 'Speed TV'.

But Williams, the team's wheelchair-bound co-owner and principal, denied that the US beer-brand's departure is due solely to the Cosworth-powered FW28 car's poor form in 2006.

He said Budweiser has also pulled out of a soccer deal, and are 'driven by share price', but admitted: ''Clearly we're not setting the world alight.''

It's not all doom and gloom for the English team, however, albeit after failing to win a single race since October 2004 or a championship title since 1997.

Insiders in the know are adamant that a semi-works engine deal with Toyota, to see Williams renamed 'Williams-Lexus' in 2007, is all but sealed.

After struggling with a customer engine in 2006, Sir Frank says hooking up with a carmaker is the only way to haul in major sponsors.

[Editor's Note: Toyota has a history of bringing sponsorship to any team they supply engines to.  It is quite interesting that Toyota might use the Lexus name and go head-to-head against Toyota, parent company to Lexus.  When Ford was asked to badge the spec Cosworth Champ Car engine with multiple badging from its family of companies, Ford's response was that "we do not want to beat ourselves."  It is this sort of shortsighted thinking that sees a company like Ford awash in red ink while a forward thinking company like Toyota is flush with cash and making increasing profits each year.  Race fans would not view it as Toyota beating Lexus or vice versa, but instead look at it as just another name in the sport.]

McLaren to replace Montoya before season end  UPDATE (GMM) McLaren's Martin Whitmarsh has calmed wild rumors that Juan Pablo Montoya could be replaced by test driver Pedro de la Rosa as quickly as next weekend's French grand prix.

''There is no reason for us to do that,'' the Mercedes-powered team's CEO was quoted as saying by Auto Motor Und Sport.

The speculation started doing the rounds last Sunday at Indianapolis, where - this time involving teammate Kimi Raikkonen - Colombian Montoya, 30, was in the middle of yet another shunt.

It is allied to paddock gossip that Montoya will not be retained by the Woking-based team beyond the end of the year, after a couple of seasons of disappointing form.

In the Spanish 'AS' publication, meanwhile, Whitmarsh was quoted as saying that Lewis Hamilton is still under consideration for the seat alongside Fernando Alonso.

''He deserves a seat in formula one next year,'' said the Englishman.

Spaniard de la Rosa, however, could also be an option, with Whitmarsh reportedly telling the publication: ''Pedro is a great driver who has more than enough ability to race, but he is also an extraordinary test driver.''

07/04/06 (GMM) Juan Pablo Montoya's nightmare season is plumbing new depths, with fresh rumors that his McLaren departure could be more imminent than expected.

Dr Dieter Zetsche, CEO of engine partner Mercedes' parent company DaimlerChrysler, said at Indianapolis last Sunday that the ideal driver line-up for 2007 is Fernando Alonso alongside Kimi Raikkonen.

Montoya, 30, then had his second first-lap smash in seven days, by taking out teammate Raikkonen, and - in the German press - had the finger of blame squarely pointed at him by Mercedes' formula one director Norbert Haug.

Making matters worse, 'AS' newspaper in Spain is presently running a rumor that Haug has implored team principal Ron Dennis to immediately sack the Colombian and replace him with Spanish test driver Pedro de la Rosa from the French grand prix.

Hamilton, Direxiv, still on F1 track  UPDATE In an interview with autosport.com, McLaren CEO Martin Whitmarsh  insisted that there was no need to rush Hamilton into F1, saying that if he or current test driver Gary Paffett did make the step up next season it would most likely be elsewhere on the grid.

"I have said it a few times,” he said. “We have been very active and supportive of Lewis.

“We are continuing to help and support him, he is concentrating on the GP2 season, and we want him to carry on concentrating on that.

"I think Lewis is a fantastic talent, I am sure he is going to be in F1 and he deserves to be in F1.

“Gary [Paffett] is also a very, very talented driver, and I feel in some ways sorry that he has been in some extent eclipsed by circumstance, because he is doing a very, very good job for us in testing and he is good enough to be an F1 race driver.

"With Gary and Lewis, then they both deserve to be racing in Formula One in the next couple of years. That could be next year for both of them in other cars."

Whitmarsh also stressed that Juan Pablo Montoya’s first lap collision with Kimi Raikkonen would not affect whether he stays with the Woking-squad next season or not.

06/29/06 (GMM) Ron Dennis has reinforced suggestions that McLaren protégé Lewis Hamilton will make his grand prix debut in 2007.

''Next year he will sit in a formula one car,'' the team principal was quoted as saying by 'Kicker'.

Dennis explained: ''And if he is not in one of our cars, then he will be at another team for a year.''

21-year-old Hamilton, who - although British - would be the first racer with a Caribbean background in F1, is a standout of GP2 this year. But some regard the prospect of a debut alongside Fernando Alonso at top-team McLaren as too big a step.

Dennis rejects the thesis that Hamilton's unique marketing potential, for example in attracting new sponsors, is not a factor.

He explained: ''We have had many sponsor offers relating to his skin colour over the years but we rejected them all.''

But McLaren's 'F1 CEO' Martin Whitmarsh also admitted that 'it is possible' that Hamilton will be wearing a silver suit on the 2006 grid.

But he suggested that the team is also spoiled for choice. ''We have Alonso. We are still hopeful of keeping Kimi Raikkonen and then we also have Montoya, Pedro de la Rosa and Gary Paffett,'' he added.

Whitmarsh admitted that a team like McLaren 'must be very, very careful' about putting too much pressure on a rookie like Hamilton too soon.

The original plan was to, in Red Bull (Toro Rosso) or Honda (Super Aguri)-like style, open up a couple of 'junior' seats at which to place rising talent like Hamilton.

But Whitmarsh suggests that the 'Direxiv' concept, with Jean Alesi at the helm, is still on track, irrespective of whether spending $48m on the new-team bond is required, or whether McLaren-Mercedes might purchase 'an existing team'.
Kimi on verge of Schu-style pay-packet  UPDATE Kimi Raikkonen will be the Finn joining Giancarlo Fisichella at Renault next season, according to reports in the Spanish media.

Upon signing for Renault, Fisichella said that although he couldn't confirm who his new team-mate would be next season, he could revealed that it would be "a Finn."

And according to the Spanish press, that 'Finn' isn't Renault test driver Heikki Kovalainen but rather current McLaren driver Kimi Raikkonen.

07/02/06 (GMM)  Kimi Raikkonen is on the verge of accepting a Michael Schumacher-like salary to drive for Renault next year, according to press reports.

'AS' in Spain writes that the Finn has staggeringly been offered four times the annual salary of the departing Fernando Alonso for 2007 and beyond.  McLaren-bound Alonso is estimated to earn about $9.5m this year.

But the 'AS' journalist wondered: ''Why didn't they offer this money to Alonso and then keep the top driver in formula one (beyond 2006)?''

McLaren-Mercedes' Norbert Haug, meanwhile, warned 26-year-old Raikkonen against chasing the supposed top seat in F1.

The German told Motorsport Aktuell: ''Who says that in 2007 Renault will still have the best package.

Carpentier gets 'The Call'  Two NASCAR teams have contacted Montreal's Patrick Carpentier about a future in the stock car series. A refugee of the Champ Car and Indy Racing League, Carpentier has had offers to join a NASCAR Busch Series team and a Craftsman Truck series team this season as a prelude to a full season deal in 2007. It is believed Carpentier will race a couple of ARCA events this season to show NASCAR teams his prowess on ovals in the big sedans. Toronto Sun

[Editor's Note: Everything happens in NASCAR for a reason, and we do mean everything, including which drivers get a call for a possible ride and who does not. If not for a race in Montreal in 2007, no one in NASCAR would look twice at Carpentier. Maybe he will sit on the pole in the first Montreal Busch race just like Mexican Jorge Goeters sat on the pole in Mexico City. Happens all the time, it's very transparent.]

Industry News
Detroit’s New Big-3  With sales continuing to plummet while foreign car sales continue to surge, Detroit's Big 3 - GM, Ford and Chrysler are set to be replaced by Toyota, Honda and Nissan, as the three largest sellers of automobiles in the USA.

Led by union contracts which prohibit them from competing on fair ground with the Japanese automakers, as well as increased market share for Mercedes, BMW and South Korea's Hyundai and KIA, we may soon see Industry experts saying "stick a fork in them, they're done," as many experts say GM, Ford and Chrysler will eventually fold or be bought out by the Japanese giants. Already we are reading stories that GM may form an alliance with Renault and Nissan. It may be the only way for them to survive. But if they cannot cut their ties with the labor unions, there may be no saving them.

The Ford vs. Chevy vs. Dodge battle in NASCAR could eventually be the Toyota vs. Honda vs. Nissan battle. Never say never.

Mercedes to buy McLaren  UPDATE #2 This rumor is finally downgraded to 'false' today after two years.  (GMM)  Speculation that McLaren could be bought out by German carmaker Mercedes-Benz has been denied.

Dr Dieter Zetsche, who is CEO of Mercedes' parent company DaimlerChrysler, says there is 'no reason' to go down that route, even though every other works F1 team - Renault, Ferrari, Toyota, BMW-Sauber and Honda - is carmaker-owned.

Ron Dennis and Mansour Ojjeh own 60 per cent of the Woking-based squad.

But Zetsche said at Indianapolis: ''What we have with McLaren is a good and successful partnership.''

He did, though, suggest that DaimlerChrysler is not content with McLaren-Mercedes' lack of results so far in 2006.

He added: ''We do not place ultimatums but we do have to be in a position where we can win.

''F1 is crucial to the structure of our marque and, at the end of the day, to the sale of cars.''

10/17/05 German carmaker Mercedes could be set to buy the remaining sixty per cent of the McLaren team. The marque, whose collaboration with the Ron Dennis-led grand prix outfit finished second to Renault in the 2005 championships, is the only carmaker left in pitlane without total ownership of its formula one squad.

With Honda's recent 100 per cent buyout of BAR, Ferrari, Renault, BMW (Sauber) and Toyota are also carmaker-owned.

Mercedes' parent company, Daimler-Chrysler, bought 30 per cent of McLaren from Mansour Ojjeh in 1999, and ten per cent from boss Dennis.

Mercedes' Norbert Haug played down the buyout-suggestion in the Shanghai paddock: ''We own forty per cent of the McLaren group,'' he told the 'Premiere' network, ''which is a clear commitment to the sport.''

10/18/04 (GMM) Gerhard Berger will run the re-branded 'Mercedes-Benz' F1 team after the Stuttgart marque buys the remainder of McLaren, according to the latest wild rumor. It was suggested last week that Mercedes' new chief, Dr. Eckhard Cordes, will initiate the full takeover of McLaren as early as January next year. The rumor continued that McLaren chairman Ron Dennis will be removed, even though he retains sixty per cent - and therefore control - of the grand prix outfit. Dr. Cordes replaced former Mercedes-Benz chief Jurgen Hubbert a few weeks ago. Mercedes denies the rumor.
Villeneuve using NASCAR to get F1 renewal  UPDATE (GMM)  Jacques Villeneuve has made it clear that he would like to keep racing in F1.

The French-Canadian, whose BMW-Sauber contract runs out at the end of the year, was quoted at the weekend as telling the in-paddock 'Red Bulletin' newspaper that he would not consider NASCAR a step back.

But Villeneuve, 35, told 'Premiere' in Germany: ''I have achieved a lot and have great memories, but I want it to continue.

''Things are going really well with BMW and I hope that they will keep me for next year.

''It would be terrible if they started to win and I was not a part of it.''

Still, Jacques - a rare winner of both Indy 500 and the F1 drivers' title - seems to be laying the foundations for life after racing.  He recently married Johanna, who is pregnant with their first child, and also released a music single.

07/03/06 Jacques Villeneuve and his manager, Craig Pollock, are once again using the threat of moving to NASCAR to get a new contract in F1. They are smart enough to know that Bernie Ecclestone would not want NASCAR to be too successful in Montreal and steal thunder from the F1 race there. They are also smart enough to know F1 needs at least one Canadian on the grid to help with F1 ticket sales in Montreal.

Villeneuve told the Red Bulletin: "Going to NASCAR might not be such a bad career move because it's the most exciting race series in the US and it's a very different discipline to F1. I would not consider it a step down. Would I consider a move to stock cars? I would. But I would have to consider my family too as we would have to move to the US."

Villeneuve already has a proven record on oval tracks. He won both the Indy 500 and the Champ Car title in 1995 before switching to Formula One with Williams.

But he ruled out returning to Champ Car or making a move to the IRL IndyCar series any time soon - claiming both series were not up to his standards.

Villeneuve, an 11-times race winner, added: "As it stands now, CART and the IRL are looking tired. I would not consider a switch from F1 to either series a good career move. You only do that if you have no other choice, unless you do what Nigel Mansell did - win the F1 title, quit, and then take the Indy championship in your rookie year. That was amazing."

[Editor's Note: If the IRL and Champ Car were to merge, they might stand a chance in landing Villeneuve, which would be a huge boost to their Canadian races. However, as it is the merger isn't happening anytime soon, and hence Villeneuve's comments that he would not look twice at either series in their current state.]

Ralf and Red Bull  (GMM)  Ralf Schumacher is eyeing a switch from Toyota to the Red Bull Racing team, according to reports.

'Bild' newspaper in Germany claims that the 31-year-old, who lives in Austria, is dissatisfied with his current Cologne based team and has already opened talks with Dietrich Mateschitz's camp.

In theory, the younger brother of Michael Schumacher could easily wiggle out of his current Toyota contract after negotiating an 'exit' clause for the end of each year.

'Bild' says Ralf is 'close friends' with Mateschitz and also lives near the billionaire's Salzburg base.

But Ralf said: ''I am good friends with Didi but there is nothing more to it.  I feel very good at Toyota at the moment.''

Red Bull's official response is also interesting.  ''We do not have a comment about that,'' said spokesman Thomas Hoffmann.

Moreover, Ralf's brand new manager and advisor - Hans Mahr - is also a friend of Mateschitz.

DTM interest waning?  Attendance for today's DTM race at Brands Hatch was far below the Champ Car race held at the track a few years ago. We were surprised how small the crowd was. If you remember the Champ Car race they had installed some temporary grandstands opposite the pits. For the DTM there was only one and it wasn’t full (even though they said the grandstand tickets were sold out). At one time DTM drew huge crowds everywhere, but now one manufacturer has pulled out and the attendance isn't what it used to be at some venues.
IRL to move Kansas race date  If Kansas Speedway president Jeff Boerger gets his wish, the IndyCar Series' yearly visit to his track will move from summer to spring. Boerger and Indy Racing League officials announced they are in discussions to move the 2007 event to late April.
"We understand our fans come first," Boerger said. "The heat has become somewhat of an issue. We believe we managed the heat very well, but again, our fans come first. From the surveys we've conducted with our season-ticket holders, we believe a cooler date will be very beneficial for us.

"We're very optimistic that the end of April date will work. It also puts us before the Indy 500 and we believe that will position Kansas Speedway in more value with our fans and help the Indy Racing League generate for excitement for its Indianapolis 500."

IRL President and COO Brian Barnhart said the league is receptive to a spring date, but noted there are many pieces to the puzzle that have to be considered before confirming the move.
"We think we have some options that could work for us at the end of April," he said. "We're excited about that as a potential for moving forward in 2007. It would be great to have Kansas as a platform leading into the Indianapolis 500, especially next year with 2007 being our initial season running 100 percent ethanol. We'd have to shuffle some events around from a league standpoint, but we're also conscious of what Jeff's needs are here at the race track.

"It's important to make sure we have support events that can continue to run with us as well. We've always had great doubleheader weekends with the truck series, and ARCA ran with us last night as well. We need to make sure all those puzzle pieces can fit and find a date that can accommodate everyone."

No GP2 for Marco Andretti  INDIANAPOLIS (by Lewis Franck -Reuters) - Former champion Mario Andretti feels teenage grandson Marco would have nothing to gain at present by switching from American oval racing to Formula One's GP2 feeder series.

"I think right now it's a bit premature," the 1978 champion and winner of 12 grands prix told Reuters by telephone on Saturday.

"All the experts say he needs to go to GP2. I say no. GP2 would be a sideways move, there's nothing to be gained."

Triple champion Jackie Stewart, who raced against Mario Andretti in the early 1970s, said this week that Marco could be just what Formula One needed to get Americans seriously interested in a sport struggling to raise its profile in the United States.

The Scot suggested that Marco should "have the courage" to move to Europe and learn the Formula One circuits in order to be in the frame for a race drive in 2008. A season as a test driver for a top team such as Ferrari rather than GP2 was suggested by Michael Andretti.

"It would be shame on us if we made the same mistakes again," said Michael, referring to the lack of testing he had. Full story at Reuters

Industry News
Dodge to announce return of Muscle Car  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement by Dodge, and the Challenger could replace the Charger in NASCAR, but not yet. 

"For the time being it is definitely the Charger," Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board for DaimlerChrysler said. "When the Challenger comes into production, we will reconsider it, but there is no decision to be made right now."

06/30/06 Chrysler Group is preparing to announce before the Pepsi 400 NASCAR race in Daytona Beach, Fla., on Saturday that it will build the Dodge Challenger, bringing to market as soon as next year a sports coupe to compete against the Ford Mustang.

Chrysler officials haven't announced details, but people familiar with the plans confirmed that the two-door, four-seat concept Challenger unveiled in January at the North American International Auto Show will go into production.

Chrysler built the Challenger for only a few years, 1970-74, but the car made a lasting impression.

The concept version's styling borrowed heavily from the classic 1970 Challenger muscle car, with twin hood scoops and a pistol-grip shifter. The concept is powered by a 6.1-liter Hemi V8 producing 425 horsepower through a six-speed manual transmission.

"Every NASCAR fan in the country will be drooling over that car," said Erich Merkle, an auto analyst with IRN Inc. in Grand Rapids.

Toro Rosso to struggle at Indy  UPDATE A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Tsk Tsk, I hope people see this for what it is…posturing.  STR are still hoping to obstruct, or delay for as long as possible, the ‘equalization’ amendments insisted on by many of the other teams due to STR being the only team running a V10 which has more grunt.  STR is showing much BETTER this year than it would if the team was forced to use a V8 powerplant like every other team.  The exception to use the V10 was granted for Minardi due to the fact that team did not have the financial ability to afford a V8 package whereas STR certainly does.  The fact is Scott Speed’s Toro Rosso car was the fastest of any car, at just over 201mph, right through the ¾ mark of the last race on the long straight at Montreal.  Expect similar straight line speed at Indy.      Jason Greling, Huntington Beach, California

07/01/06 Vitantonio Liuzzi has predicted a big struggle for his Toro Rosso team at Indianapolis. The Italian driver expects he and teammate Scott Speed will not be able to keep up with their rivals on the circuit's long front straight, which includes a flat-out blast through the banking.

''We will struggle a lot,'' Liuzzi said, ''because with the V10 we always struggle on the fast circuits because we don't have any top speed.

''The (restricted 3.0 liter) V10 is not pushing enough.''

Every other F1 outfit is powered by an unfettered 2.4 liter V8.

F1 bosses mull 2007 schedule  The Formula 1 team bosses gathered on Saturday morning at Indianapolis to discuss the plans for the 2007 Formula 1 calendar. The big question at the moment is what happens at the start of the year as this year's calendar worked very well and increased the viewing figures as there was a much bigger audience for Bahrain because of the time difference with Europe, F1's biggest market. This resulted in a bigger audience in Malaysia and Australia. The schedule also meant that F1 freight had more logic to it, going out to Bahrain and then on to Malaysia and Australia before being flown back for the start of the European season. There is pressure next year because Belgium wants to come back into the calendar but the teams are still baulking at 19 races. However if there is money available the chances are that they will race 19 times.  Grandprix.com
Heidfeld unlikely to cop ten-place penalty  (GMM)  Despite running out of power in qualifying, BMW-Sauber's Nick Heidfeld told reporters at Indianapolis that he does not expect to lose ten places on the race grid.

''I don't know why the car stopped,'' said the German, ''but it didn't feel like an engine problem.''  Team principal Mario Theissen speculated that the stoppage 'seems' to have been due to an electronic fault.

Because Heidfeld had made the cut for Saturday's final 'shootout' for pole position, then, he will start the US grand prix from tenth if he does not need to take an unscheduled engine change penalty.

Hamilton to 'drive' McLaren next week  (GMM)  McLaren protégé Lewis Hamilton will drive a silver racer at Jerez next week, according to reports emerging from Indianapolis.

But the Woking-based team, said to be considering giving the 21-year-old GP2 driver the unconfirmed seat next to Fernando Alonso in 2007, is reportedly insisting that the run is not a test to evaluate his candidacy for the role.

Rather, one of McLaren's sponsors is scheduled to do some filming, with Briton Hamilton named to drive the year-old MP4-20, which according to sources will be decked out in the chrome-like livery of 2006.

Also running at the Spanish circuit will be Pedro de la Rosa, Gary Paffett and Jamie Green.

It is expected, meanwhile, that Paffett and de la Rosa will 'test' - as opposed to merely 'drive' - this year's MP4-21.

F1 and Champ Car doubleheader in Vegas?  (GMM)  Oriol Servia has ruled out switching to formula one.

The Spanish Champ Car driver, who even tested a F1 car in the past, would be forgiven for hoping to ride the crest of Fernando Alonso's popularity wave, but at Indianapolis admitted that the pinnacle of motor sport had passed him by.

''I'm 31 so, for me, the possibility has gone,'' Servia, who met up with his friend Pedro de la Rosa, was quoted as saying by 'AS' newspaper.

''I got fairly close with Prost a few years ago, but now I will be happy if I stay another eight years where I am.''

'AS' also reported on Friday that F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone intends to break off negotiations with Indianapolis and instead concentrate on bringing his sport to Las Vegas.

The newspaper said the US grand prix could then be run in conjunction with Champ Car, in order to boost the interest of the public.

But Servia insisted: ''I don't think Bernie would accept that the two championships are mixed together like that.''

Aguri gives Montagny hope  (GMM)  Aguri Suzuki has given hope to Franck Montagny's desire to keep his seat at the Japanese team beyond Sunday's US event.

The Japanese, chief of Super Aguri, is trying to prepare Sakon Yamamoto - presently the 'Friday' driver - to eventually complete an all-Japanese race line-up alongside Takuma Sato.

But until Yamamoto is ready to race, Suzuki indicated at Indianapolis that Frenchman Montagny could be given a renewed stay for Magny Cours and possibly beyond.

A 'new' Aguri car will then debut at Hockenheim.

''His basic contract is until this race,'' Suzuki explained, ''but I'm very happy to use Franck as he has lots of experience.''

DEI to add 4th car  Dale Earnhardt, Inc. Vice President of Competition Richie Gilmore said Friday morning that the team is mulling an expansion to four Nextel Cup cars in 2007, up from two cars now. DEI already has committed to a third Cup car in 2007 for its full-time Busch Series regular driver, Paul Menard [#15 Chevy], but Gilmore said a fourth car is an option, possibly in concert with MB2 Motorsports. “We do want to make some determinations by the end of July about how many teams we will have next year,” Gilmore said. “Right now, we know we’re locked in on three Cup teams … next year. Moving that to four is a possibility for us right now. We hope to have that locked in by the end of July. We’re looking at all our options right now. Space is an issue with us right now, and that’s why we’re looking at MB2. That was one of the biggest reasons we were looking at MB2. We could help with resources and they could help with space.” Speed Channel
Marco Andretti to Nextel Cup?  UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' as we predicted it would be.

Indy Racing League rookie Marco Andretti will be in Kansas City, Kan., this weekend, but he's not going to NASCAR.

As he prepared to head for Kansas Speedway for Sunday's Kansas Lottery Indy 300, the 19-year-old third-generation racer seemed truly puzzled when queried about driving NASCAR stock cars in his future.

Several print media reports and FOX-TV commentators, during the pre-race segment of last Sunday's telecast from Sonoma, Calif., had Marco being a candidate to join Chip Ganassi's Nextel Cup team.

"Absolutely not. No way. No talk about NASCAR with anyone," the youngest Andretti said. "I don't know where that rumor started, but that's a part of our sport."

The Bushkill Township native insisted it was news to him when he received a recent call from his cousin, John Andretti, a NASCAR veteran currently racing in the Busch Series.

"Man, you're actually the third person who told me -- next to John," Andretti said Wednesday. "He called me and said, 'Man, why don't you tell me these things?' I told him he just told me for the first time."   More at ExpressTimes.com

06/25/06 On the Fox Sports pre-race show at Sonoma, it was mentioned in their news of the week, IRL driver Marco Andretti could be headed to Ganassi Racing as the driver of one of the three cars.  We here at AutoRacing1.com predict that will not happen.
New Indy saga brewing says Michelin insider  (GMM) Another tire scandal could be brewing in the Indianapolis pitlane, according to reports on Friday.

Germany's 'Bild' newspaper quoted what it described as a 'Michelin man' as worrying that the combination of new rules and quicker cornering speeds in 2006 might re-kindle the horror of last season, when fourteen cars were pulled from the grid.

The Michelin insider said: ''Even with the V8 engines the cars are even faster, and now we have even softer tire compounds.

''The whole of formula one should be concerned.''

More official Michelin sources, however, insist that the tire for this weekend is safe. ''We're sure now, 100 per cent,'' said F1 director Nick Shorrock, ''the tires correspond to the specification we need for this race in 2006.''

But world champion Fernando Alonso added that, with such demanding F1 partners as Renault, McLaren and BMW, the French tire supplier can't afford to be overly conservative.

''The teams will not allow to Michelin to be conservative,'' said the Spaniard.

TMS waiting on IRL date  Negotiations between Texas Motor Speedway president Eddie Gossage and officials of the IRL IndyCar Series for a spot on the 2007 schedule remain stalled, and Gossage does not expect any movement this week.

IRL founder Tony George, who also is president/CEO of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, is busy hosting Formula One for the seventh annual United States Grand Prix. The contract for that event expires with Sunday's race, and George will be negotiating with Bernie Ecclestone, CEO of Formula One Management, to the last moment. Meanwhile, IRL officials are busy with the Kansas Lottery Indy 300 at Kansas Speedway, also on Sunday.

"We don't have an agreement with them," said Gossage, who wants to return the Bombardier Learjet 500 night race to its former slot as the first event after the Indianapolis 500, two weeks after the big race. "Negotiations...we're really not negotiating. They seem quite busy with what they have on their plate. But they're well aware of our needs. I have every reason to believe they will be racing at Texas Motor Speedway for an 11th straight year [in 2007]."

Gossage outlined his proposal to have the event at TMS in primetime on ABC in high-definition in a letter delivered to George during the Bombardier Learjet 500 weekend. Star-Telegram

[Editor's Note: If indeed a merger is in the works for Champ Car and the IRL for 2008, it will be interesting to see how flexible the two groups are with their schedules such that they both don't race on the same weekend in 2007 whenever humanly possible. If there is an air of cooperation, and the desire to work together, then perhaps we will only see them racing on the same weekend when they race together at places such as St. Pete and Long Beach. Brian Barnhart was quoted as saying he is developing the 2007 IRL schedule with flexibility in mind, supposedly to accommodate joint race weekends.]

Is Nextel’s future with NASCAR in jeopardy?  UPDATE #2 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  From yesterday's Q and A with Brian France:

NASCAR Chairman and CEO Brian France: Q) Along with the potential name change with the merger, the rumors continue to pop up about the possible change of the sponsor. Has there been any discussions at all about Nextel/Sprint getting another company to buy out the contract?

BRIAN FRANCE: None whatsoever. They have got one of the great positions, the greatest position perhaps, in sports. They are obviously going through a change post their merger trying to get their company in a place that takes the most advantage with NASCAR. But they are focused on how to build around the sponsorship that Nextel brought into the merger. So none whatsoever. NASCAR

06/26/06 When word of the shake-up [Nextel personnel] first broke in April, Sprint executives insisted they were committed to continuing the NASCAR sponsorship, despite reports otherwise that the new powers were less than interested in NASCAR. Now, according to sources familiar with the situation, there are reports that Bank of America executives are interested in acquiring the title sponsorship to the Cup series. Winston Salem Journal

06/25/06 Sprint Nextel’s NASCAR Marketing Manager Mike Mooney has had his job eliminated by the telecommunications company in a round of job cuts. Mooney, along with Jill Gregory and Michael Robichaud, were the three most visible executives in Nextel’s NASCAR program when it began prior to the 2004 season. But with Gregory and Robichaud already gone and Mooney leaving as of next Friday, the key strategists behind Nextel’s initial foray into NASCAR are all gone. Speed Channel
Kimi, Heikki, Massa, Renault and Red Bull  UPDATE (GMM)  Add another name to the list of potential Red Bull drivers in 2007 - Felipe Massa.

When asked about solid speculation linking Renault engines and test driver Heikki Kovalainen with the team next year, Red Bull principal Christian Horner told Speed TV: ''We're not going to train up drivers for other teams.''

Without further ado, then, current Ferrari racer Felipe Massa's name dropped into the hat.

''He's a talented kid,'' said Horner, ''and another driver that depends on the whole Kimi-Michael scenario.''

Incumbent Christian Klien seems to be the one in the ejector seat, with David Coulthard likely to be retained beyond October's race in Brazil.

Klien admitted at Indianapolis that he had been a little 'surprised' that criticism of his driving had recently been coming from within the team.

Confirming that his current contract is for one year only, he explained that he would soon try to travel to Salzburg to meet directly with big cheese Dietrich Mateschitz.

Klien added: ''I can't say much more about it.''

06/29/06 (GMM)  F1 rookie Nico Rosberg has chimed-in with some advice for Kimi Raikkonen -- switch to Renault.

Asked by 'Sport Bild' where he thought McLaren's probably-departing Finn would go next year, Williams' Rosberg said: ''Renault or Ferrari.

''I think he should go to Renault because they will have the best car.''

Spanish newspaper 'AS' agrees, reporting confidently that 26-year-old Raikkonen 'will be confirmed by Renault at Magny-Cours'.

With Giancarlo Fisichella already confirmed for 2007, Kimi's arrival at Renault will mean that countryman and existing test driver Heikki Kovalainen will be forced to find a seat elsewhere.

The young Finn told Italian magazine Autosprint that he 'won't accept' another year as a mere test driver.  Indeed, 'AS' reckons he will line up alongside Mark Webber and David Coulthard somewhere in the Red Bull stable.

But Kovalainen, 24, added: ''My priority is to stay where I am.

''I know the team and the people and it would be a shame to throw away all the work done so far.''

Changes coming to 2007 Chase  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact.'  See article by AutoRacing1's Pete McCole.

06/29/06 NASCAR chairman Brian France promised slight changes to the sport's championship format, hoping to add more drama to the 10-race title hunt. "What I have always said about the Chase was we needed a few years under our belt to see how it evolves, how it changes in strategy, see how the actual formula we have really works," France said Thursday. "Now in our third year ... it's the ideal time for us make adjustments." France did not specify what areas will be changed in an off-season facelift that will take effect in 2007. The Chase for the Nextel Cup was devised by France when he took over as chairman in 2004. The format was designed to spice up a stale championship race in which winners were running away with the title and routinely clinching before the season finale. France wanted more excitement and a dramatic playoff system that could compete with the NFL for television ratings. The result was the Chase, which uses the first 26 races of the season as a qualifier to set up the title run. The top 10 drivers in the standings automatically make it in, and any drivers within 400 points of the leader are also eligible. They then compete over the final 10 events to decide the championship.

"We'll be looking at nothing new -- everything that we'll be looking at has been brought up by various people the last couple of years," France said. "Just various things that we think will build what we're hoping for, which are big moments and a bigger stage for the drivers. That's what the Chase has always been about. It's about showcasing their skills." ESPN.com/AP

Industry News
Honda to locate new plant in Indiana  UPDATE As predicted, Honda did mention the Indy 500 as a reason for putting their new plant in Indiana. The Honda person added that another reason was the proximity to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway which they saw as something of a research vehicle.  He mentioned that last year they supplied all of the engines for the Indy 500 and none of them had broken down.  See Thursday's "Chicago Tribune."

06/27/06 Honda may announce tomorrow that it has picked Indiana as the site of a new car plant, an Ohio newspaper reported today.

The Columbus Dispatch said it had talked to an industry source who spoke on condition of anonymity. The source cited a Honda official had said that “all signs point” to the plant locating near Greensburg, Ind..
About 1,500 jobs are expected to arrive with the $400 million factory.

Two sites in Ohio and one in Illinois have also been considered. Honda expects to make 200,000 cars a year at the plant when it opens in two years.  More.... [Editor's Note: We wonder if they will credit the Indy 500 for the reason they chose Indiana]

Montoya back to Williams, Webber out  UPDATE #2 (GMM)  At Indianapolis on Thursday, Juan Pablo Montoya was giving nothing away about his uncertain future in formula one.

At the fabled Motor Speedway in 2000, the Colombian won the Indy 500 before moving back to Europe to Williams.  Interestingly, with his McLaren career seemingly at an end, returning to America or returning to Frank Williams' team appear to be two of the most likely lifelines for the 30-year-old for 2007.

''When I make a decision, you'll find out,'' Montoya told a news conference.

''The difference between me and a lot of guys is I don't make my discussions public.  I talk through the teams and that's it.

''I know what's happening and I am very happy.''

06/29/06 (GMM)  After a two-season sojourn at McLaren, Juan Pablo Montoya will return to Williams in 2007, according to a Spanish newspaper.

'AS' reports that the 30-year-old Colombian, who was in danger of dropping out of the sport altogether after two disappointing years alongside Kimi Raikkonen, is to steer a Toyota-powered Williams for the F1 team he debuted for five years ago.

Montoya's teammate, 'AS' contends, will be Nico Rosberg, as Mark Webber - with his links to manager Flavio Briatore - sets off to steer a Renault-powered Red Bull.

06/28/06 Williams drivers Mark Webber and Nico Rosberg are likely to stay at the British team. Williams' technical director said the team was keen on keeping the pair for another season. "The driver decision will be Frank's, but the most likely thing is to continue with the two drivers we have for next year," Sam Michael told Autosport. "All the options are in Williams' favor as things go. Frank will make his choice when the time is right. I can't see anything else he'd do."
Red Bull teams fighting over Liuzzi?  Reports in the Austrian press suggest that Scuderia Toro Rosso part-owner Gerhard Berger would like to keep Italy's Tonio Liuzzi in his team next year. The fact that Berger wants Liuzzi is a great compliment to the young Italian but it is rather inconvenient as Red Bull Racing has been showing considerable interest in Liuzzi in recent months and has tested the 25-year-old on several occasions. David Coulthard is likely to stay in one of the Red Bull Racing cars next year but the team wants a youngster alongside him who is capable of beating DC, as he is the yardstick for the future. It is fair to say that Christian Klien has not been very convincing alongside him this year and the word in Austria is that Klien will now have to look for work in the United States in 2007. If that is indeed the case, then Liuzzi is the only obvious candidate for the job.

It should be remembered that he drove with huge success for Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner in Formula 3000 in 2004, utterly dominating the Formula 3000 series. Since then Red Bull has handled his career rather oddly with just a few F1 races with Red Bull Racing in 2005 before it was decided that the team should concentrate on Klien. The Austrian elements in the team then succeeded in keeping Klien in RBR for this season and Liuzzi ended up being pushed backwards into Scuderia Toro Rosso - Minardi by another name. The team has struggled to be competitive with what looks a lot like the 2005 Red Bull chassis but on several occasions Liuzzi has shown impressive speed and much maturity and it is clear that he is now ready to step up. Berger has obviously seen this and wants to get the best driver line-up he can muster.  More at Grandprix.com

track news
French GP ticket sales up  The Federation Francaise du Sport Automobile, the organizer of the French Grand Prix, is cautiously optimistic that this year's event - which coincides with the French Bastille Day national holiday weekend - will be a financial success. Ticket sales are reported to be up on last year by around 10% but the FFSA remains cautious to see if the World Cup soccer competition will affect the sales in the final run-up to the event. This year's race is the 100th anniversary of the first Grand Prix de l'Automobile Club de France and the French hope that the celebrations, including a concert involving Roger Waters and Nick Mason of Pink Floyd will bring in more people. Grandprix.com
Willis to Prodrive?  (GMM)  According to speculation in Britain, Honda's demoted technical director could be eyeing a new top role in F1.

Although Geoff Willis is still on 'mountain-bike leave' after Shuhei Nakamoto was promoted above him, a report by broadcaster 'ITV' claimed that the 46-year-old Englishman could 'in all likelihood (go) straight to the technical director's job at Dave Richards' Prodrive F1 (while) Honda are left without a technical figurehead.'

To Italian magazine Autosprint, Willis broke his silence by denying that he chose to step down in response to Honda's decision to send him to fewer grands prix this year.

''No, it's not because of that,'' he said.

''I still have to talk to (team principal) Nick Fry in order to define several things, but don't ask me to say any more until I can make my position clear.''

Webber and Red Bull  (GMM) Just as Mark Webber's future in F1 seemed certain, new speculation has cast doubt on the identity of his home for next year.

Outwardly, the Australian appears content to stay at Williams and - according to the team's technical director Sam Michael - on the verge of having his 2007 'option' activated by boss Sir Frank Williams.

The 'option', including a pay rise, expires in August, amid rumors that Renault, McLaren, Toyota and Red Bull might be interested in him.

''It is Frank's decision and he is the one who makes the final call,'' Michael - indicating that the team's current lineup is likely to remain unchanged - was quoted as saying by the Herald Sun.

However, the Spanish 'AS' newspaper is telling a somewhat different tale.

It reports that, in Webber-manager Flavio Briatore's negotiations over customer engines next year, both the 29-year-old Williams man and Renault test driver Heikki Kovalainen were promised as part of a deal with Red Bull Racing.

Kahne eyes possible Indy 500 go  When former open wheel short track star Kasey Kahne won the Coca-Cola 600 at Lowe's Motor Speedway the same day as the 90th Indianapolis 500, Kahne spoke at length about his desire to one day race in the 500.  IRL driver Ed Carpenter is interested in talking to Kahne about that possibility.

"I talked to him after Indy, and I knew he made that comment," Carpenter told National Speed Sport News. "Since he made that comment, it's something I want to talk to him about to see how serious he really is. If he wants to do that, I'd try to make it happen. Anything I could do from my side of things, it would be good for the whole sport if a Kasey Kahne was able to run in the Indianapolis 500.  I don't know how Dodge would feel about that because he is their big star, but I'm going to pose the question to him and see how serious he is."

Montreal Busch date  Our Montreal sources say that the inaugural NASCAR Busch series race at the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve will be held in late July, 2007.
F1 deal to get final green light in August  (GMM)  A rubber stamp will be slapped onto the sale of F1 to 'CVC' by the beginning of August, according to reports.

Up to six companies are bidding to buy CVC's three-quarter stake in Dorna, the Spanish company that owns the rights to F1's two-wheeled equivalent MotoGP.

The European Commission's approval of the F1 deal was conditional on CVC selling Dorna.  'The Times' puts the price-tag at about $630 million -- a huge profit for CVC who bought it for $82m in 1998.

Dorna has the rights to MotoGP until at least 2026.

Track News
Portland Raceway to be relocated  UPDATE City Hall once again is grappling with the question of who speaks for the neighborhoods — and when to respond to complaints from a vocal minority.

This time the issue is noise in North Portland. In response to long-running complaints from some residents about noise, the City Council voted to create a steering committee to study the issue and recommend solutions. When a handful of residents complained about the noise generated at Portland International Raceway, Mayor Tom Potter also ordered that moving the racetrack be studied.

But now a survey reveals that noise is not a big issue to most North Portland residents — including noise generated by PIR.

The contradiction is being revealed as the city looks at reforming the official neighborhood association system. The reform effort was launched by Potter last year. Among other things, it is looking at how much weight the council should give citizens that informally rally around individual issues in their neighborhoods.  More at Portland Tribune

04/21/06 Portland Mayor Tom Potter on Thursday asked the Parks Bureau to investigate moving Portland International Raceway out of a dense residential area in North Portland to limit the impact of noise on nearby residents.

Potter's request, near the end of a City Council hearing to determine a start time for a major race at PIR this summer, has the support of the three other commissioners at the meeting, including Dan Saltzman, who oversees parks.

Commissioner Randy Leonard, who made a similar proposal last year, said after the meeting that he wants the city to move PIR to the Rivergate Industrial district, perhaps by swapping property with a landowner there.

Nothing much came of Leonard's suggestion last year. But Potter's endorsement lends weight to a proposal that seemed unlikely before Thursday.

"If we're going to have an international raceway, let's put it in a place that does the least harm for the city of Portland," Potter said, asking Saltzman to look into the issue.

Leonard acknowledged that moving the track would be a major undertaking. "It's pushing the envelope a little bit," he said. "So it has people reluctant."   More at the Portland Oregonian  [Editor's Note:  They want to move this track to some hideous looking Industrial Area - stick a fork in this race, it's no longer worth it unless the city is willing to build a new road course that meets modern day standards.  The current one certainly does not.]

Super Aguri and Davidson  (GMM) New speculation is linking Anthony Davidson with a Super Aguri race drive in 2007.

The long-time tester was rumored last winter as being in the running for a seat at the fledgling Japanese team, but - despite his solid connections with satellite squad Aguri's engine supplier Honda - they ultimately went to the season opener with Takuma Sato alongside Yuji Ide.

In the background, however, a future berth has always seemed a possibility, and new reports originating from Holland and Britain now suggest that the diminutive 27-year-old from England is still in with a shout.

'Racer' magazine's report cited the information of 'senior Honda sources', and the realization by Aguri chiefs that the highly-experienced and rated Davidson would be an asset.

Super Aguri, too, will be a more attractive proposition for Davidson - who has started just three grands prix and is presently Honda's 'Friday' driver - as it intends to run the same engine, gearbox and systems as the works camp.

''I'm sure that eventually he will get to race somewhere,'' Honda's sporting director Gil de Ferran said.

Burton to make Nextel Cup return?  Ward Burton will be at Daytona International Speedway on Friday as a part of a ceremony honoring the past 10 winners of the Daytona 500. He hopes his next trip to NASCAR's crown jewel will be as a driver. The 2002 Daytona 500 winner said Monday he is negotiating with two "established teams'' a return to the Nextel Cup Series that he hasn't been a part of since being fired by owner Gene Haas in 2004. One possibility is the #88 car of Robert Yates Racing that is open in 2007 because of Dale Jarrett's departure to the new Toyota team of Michael Waltrip Racing. "That would certainly be an opportunity if it came to fruition,'' Burton said. "It would pump me up. I'd be just excited as when I first made Cup in '94, maybe more so.'' Burton would not confirm discussions with RYR, but indicated his talks have been with owners of multi-car organizations which have struggled recently. Burton said there have been no discussions with Toyota, which will field at least six cars under three owners in 2007. "One of the things we're working on is the sponsor,'' said Burton, which makes the #88 car more viable since its deal with UPS is up after this season. "I'm working on a couple of things to try to bring something home.''

Burton, 44, said there'd been negotiations about putting him in a car this weekend at Daytona that fell through at the last minute. He'd like to enter a couple of races before the end of this season to begin his comeback. Burton has spent much of the past year-and-a-half focusing on family and The Ward Burton Wildlife Foundation, which has a mission to "conserve America's land and wildlife through wise stewardship while educating children and adults about the natural resources that will shape America's future.'' Burton tried to mend a few bridges after his split with Haas, but that never happened. "There were phone calls, either hung up on or whatever,'' he said. "That's just the way they handled things.'' Burton is confident he can return to the top-10 form he had in 1999 and 2000, when he had a combined 33 top-10s for Bill Davis Racing with Tommy Baldwin Jr. as his crew chief. Baldwin Jr. now is Sadler's crew chief at RYR, which gives Burton another connection to that organization. "I wish I could tell you more,'' Burton said. "I can tell you I am talking to a sponsor as we speak and car owners as well. I've got my fingers crossed that one of these exciting deals will come true.''  More at NASCAR.com

GP Masters race to move to Durban  According to a report by Autosport, the South Africa round of this year's Grand Prix Masters series will move from the famous Kyalami circuit where it enjoyed much success, to a new street circuit in Durban.

The proposed 3-mile long circuit, situated three miles north of the city, is not the same as the one used by the recent South African A1 Grand Prix round held in Durban in January.

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