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Toyota will sell 200,000 Tundras this year Toyota Motor Corp. will meet its 2007 sales goal of 200,000 Tundra trucks even in a market "a little softer" than forecast, Bloomberg News reported today. "We're on pace right now," Jim Lentz, executive vice president of Toyota's U.S. sales unit, told Bloomberg in an interview in Traverse City. "We're spending the incentives necessary, given the economics, given a down market, to sell that 200,000 vehicles." Toyota wants to establish the Tundra in the full-size pickup segment dominated by Ford Motor Co.'s F-Series, General Motors Corp.'s Silverado and Chrysler LLC's Ram. The push comes amid a 2007 U.S. sales decline of 4.9 percent in the category.
Toyota to slash Waltrip’s budgetUPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' as Michael Waltrip Racing's Ty Norris said there was absolutely no morsel of truth to the rumor about MWR scaling back to two teams or Dale Jarrett leaving. Meanwhile we hear that Red Bull may not only be in talks with Chevy, but Ford as well, and may actually "partner" with a high profile, existing powerhouse team with either one of these two manufacturers.
08/07/07 Toyota is rumored to be slashing the budget for Michael Waltrip Racing in 2008 forcing it to reduce from a three-car team to a two-car team. The money is rumored to be shifting to the soon to be announced Joe Gibb's Racing 3-car effort of Kyle Busch, Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin. Look for Dale Jarrett to retire and Waltrip's team to run just Michael Waltrip and David Reutimann.
Meanwhile UPS is said to be unhappy with Waltrip's team and are shopping their sponsorship to other teams.
Alonso to quit McLarenUPDATE #5 This rumor is downgraded back to 'speculation.' Fernando Alonso's manager has played down press speculation that the disgruntled reigning world champion could immediately quit McLaren.
With the 26-year-old Spaniard's relationship with the Mercedes-powered outfit at an all time low after the Hungarian grand prix, his manager Luis Garcia Abad told the newspaper 'El Pais' that Alonso is not planning to leave McLaren any time soon.
Spanish newspapers had also reported that Abad recently met with Renault's Flavio Briatore about a possible return for Alonso to the French team, but he insists: "We are in McLaren to win races and the third title.
"That's our goal. And in these moments there aren't that many options: just McLaren and Ferrari."
Abad said he spoke to Dennis earlier this week to clarify reports that the Woking team's principal told Alonso in Hungary that he is now free to walk away from his three-year contract at the end of the season.
"He told me what has been published is not true. His intention is that the contract is fulfilled," said Abad.
08/07/07 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong.' According to The Times of London, McLaren are ready to say goodbye to Alonso at the end of the season. 'Fernando Alonso has been informed by Ron Dennis, the McLaren Mercedes team principal, that he can leave at the end of this season,' the newspaper reported. "My understanding is that he's been told he can go because they're so fed up with him," a 'well-placed source' said. "Ron is just very p***ed off with both of them." As for where Alonso will go, The Times speculates that it could be to either Ferrari, at the expense of Felipe Massa, back to Renault, he would probably replace Giancarlo Fisichella, or even to BMW.
08/07/07 (GMM) "I can't imagine that Alonso and Hamilton will still be together next year." That was the observation of Australian driver Mark Webber, a paddock ally of world champion Fernando Alonso, as formula one broke for its August break amid the spectacular falling-out of McLaren's driver lineup in Hungary.
Speculation that Spaniard Alonso was considering his future at Ron Dennis' team, or had issued an "ultimatum" about his disputed number one status alongside rookie teammate Lewis Hamilton, became fact as the reigning title winner spoke to the Spanish press on Monday.
Bild newspaper quotes him as plainly telling Spanish reporters: "Right now I am thinking: me or Hamilton? But I know that nothing will change.
"I get the feeling that some people at McLaren do not even know that I speak English."
His comments follow his admission in Hungary that he did not know if he would see out the full three-year term of his current contract.
The Spanish newspaper Diario As, meanwhile, now claims that 26-year-old Alonso has already decided to leave McLaren in order to re-join Renault or switch to BMW.
He is "even considering the possibility of finishing this world championship with another team", 'As' added, even if it means sacrificing the 2007 title.
"His situation at McLaren is untenable," the newspaper - also raising the possibility of an internal anti-Alonso 'saboteur' - continued.
"We can reveal that Fernando wants to stay with the Silver Arrows for not a minute longer.
"When a driver loses the confidence of his team, there is no turning back."
08/07/07 BMW's Mario Theissen has counted the Munich manufacturer out of speculation that Fernando Alonso could be Hinwil-bound at the end of 2007. A Renault return is the obvious favorite amid speculation that Spaniard Alonso wants to desert his McLaren contract, but it has been pointed out by the media that BMW-Sauber team principal Theissen has been recently open in his admiration for F1's reigning world champion.
Sport-Informations-Dienst, however, quoted the German chief as saying in Hungary: "That is not momentarily a topic for us."
Instead, it is rumored strongly that - during the August break - Theissen will finalize Nick Heidfeld's new contract to drive alongside Robert Kubica in 2008.
08/06/07 McLaren boss Ron Dennis is fully expecting Fernando Alonso to see out his contract with McLaren - but he will not stand in the way of the reigning double world champion should he choose to quit. The question now is, what next for Alonso?
The No 1 status he believed would be his as world champion has not been forthcoming because of Dennis's insistence on equality between his two drivers.
"We have built the team and company on parity," insisted Dennis. "There are many teams who share that value, but do not have either a competitive racing car or two competitive racing drivers.
"When you get a combination of those two values you are definitely going to have a hard time. But if you go down an alternative route you end up with a team that has only one car and one driver and you inevitably have to have a very declared interest in one particular driver.
"I don't think that's the way to go about winning world titles.
"So we will continue to function as a team with specific values, and if anybody does not want to be part of those values - irrespective of where they sit in the organization - ultimately they all have a choice.
Johnson Controls moves to IRL sponsorship According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Johnson Controls (former Rocketsports Champ Car sponsor) will soon announce they will sponsor 2 IRL races with the Optima brand car batteries.
NASCAR mergers will squash smaller teams One thing we keep hearing about NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow is that it is supposed to make racing more affordable.
Virtually no modifications are allowed, so teams shouldn't need huge fleets of track-specific cars. They shouldn't have to spend exorbitantly on engineering and technology.
Smaller or new teams ought to be able to compete on equal footing with the established powerhouses.
Well, apparently not.
If this year's trend toward partnerships and mergers has made one thing clear, it's that team owners still believe races and championships will be won by the teams with the most resources.
And where do these partnerships and mergers leave smaller teams, such as Petty Enterprises and Wood Brothers/JTG Racing, or newer teams such as Hall of Fame Racing and Michael Waltrip Racing?
Well, even farther behind.
"Every team is going to do what they can to be competitive," defending Nextel Cup champion Jimmie Johnson said. "There is no doubt that having the fourth car out there is a benefit and is helpful. You bring in more capital, you have more resources, more people, another car on track for notes and experience and all those types of things." More at Tbo.com
Stewart could leave Gibbs team According to rumors, the decision at Joe Gibbs Racing to switch to Japanese automaker Toyota gives Tony Stewart the option to leave the team. Tony Stewart’s contract with Gibbs runs through 2009 and according to some there is a provision in the contract with Home Depot that prevents Stewart from driving another make of car other than a Chevrolet. So when the Gibbs Toyota announcement is made, if it is made, it will be interesting to see if Stewart is still with the team or if he moves to another Chevy team.
Will lawsuit stop Assen race?UPDATE #2 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. The judge just rejected the lawsuit and the Assen race has the green light to go.
08/03/07 According to this Dutch article, the lawsuit demands a payment of 1 million Euro per day for the Champ Car event because the track is out of noise days. The race promoter calls the lawsuit frivolous.
08/02/07 Word out of Holland is that the Assen race is in doubt, as the people living close to the track have gone to court. The Netherlands have pretty tight regulations concerning noise levels and the race tracks have only a certain number of days on which they can exceed certain noise levels. Zandvoort already has problems with that regularly, now it seems to hit Assen as well. The judge is to decide on the 8th of August according to this Dutch article.
Ferrari's '£20m offer' to get Hamilton Ferrari are considering making a stunning £20million-a-year offer to poach Lewis Hamilton from McLaren Mercedes at the end of the season.
Hamilton, who leads the Formula One Championship by seven points, is presently paid around £1m a year and there are suggestions his father Anthony is in talks with team boss Ron Dennis over a new contract.
Ferrari's proposed move for Hamilton, reported today by Italian newspaper Tuttosport, comes in the wake of a massive row at McLaren between Hamilton and his Spanish team-mate Fernando Alonso.
Ferrari chief Jean Todt is reportedly so impressed with Hamilton's rookie season that he already regards the 22-year-old from Hertfordshire as the "genuine successor" to Michael Schumacher.
The German won five of his record seven drivers' titles behind the steering wheel of a Ferrari before retiring at the end of last season and the team have not been such a dominating force without his speed and dedication.
Todt believes Hamilton is a class above Ferrari's present pairing of Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa.
Asked about his new contract negotiations with McLaren, Hamilton said: "I don't get involved in any of that stuff.
"My job is to get in the car and drive. I love everyone at the team, I enjoy working with them and couldn't imagine working anywhere else to be quite honest."
Pressed about a potential lucrative Ferrari offer, Hamilton said: "I would not find it difficult to say no because I'm not here for the money." DailyMail
Smith to be DEI's 4th driver Regan Smith, who lost his ride when Ginn Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc. merged recently, may re-join the Nextel Cup series fulltime. With Kyle Busch rumored to be headed to Joe Gibbs Racing next season, Smith has emerged as a candidate to join DEI as the organization’s fourth Cup driver next season. “We think highly of Regan and are working with him on potential opportunities,” DEI vice president John Story said Tuesday.
Piquet could move to Williams Nelson Piquet Jr could turn to Williams for a 2008 race-seat amidst reports that Fernando Alonso is set to make his way back to Renault. Piquet Jr had been hoping for a Renault drive in 2008 after filling the role of the team's official test and reserve driver this season. However, with reports that Alonso is set to make his Renault return after just one unhappy season with McLaren, Piquet Jr could find himself stuck in a test driver role instead of racing if he stays with Renault. The Brazilian is therefore considering his other options with SpeedTV reporting that he is already talking with Williams in the hope of finalizing a deal to race for the Grove outfit next year.
The axe to fall at Ginn RacingUPDATE We forgot to upgrade this rumor to 'fact' as there have been major layoffs by Ginn.
07/30/07 About 100 crewmen at Ginn Racing are expected to be fired this week, according to team sources, who say that would make a total of 160 people dropped from the roster in a two-week span. Team owner Bobby Ginn fired drivers Joe Nemechek and Sterling Marlin on July 17th, citing sponsorship problems, and last week Ginn said he was merging the rest of his operation, including driver Mark Martin, with Dale Earnhardt Inc. DEI officials said they would be moving all their Nextel Cup operations into Ginn’s shop at the end of the season and turning DEI’s current facility into a Busch operation.
While Ginn and DEI executives and Martin have been putting a positive spin on the merger, privately some Ginn crewmen are upset and say they’ve been kept in the dark on most of the business details.
One big question is the future of Jay Frye, the veteran general manager who has been running the Ginn operation and who owns 20 percent. Frye, who didn’t wear a DEI shirt at last week’s announcement, is the man who originally built the team for its first owners Read Morton, Tom Beard and Nelson Bowers in 1997. Ginn bought the operation last year. Winston Salem Journal
Hamilton squealed on his own teammate (GMM) The tenuous relationship between McLaren teammates Fernando Alonso and Lewis Hamilton went beyond breaking point in Hungary.
Championship leader and British rookie Hamilton admitted after winning in Budapest that the pair are now in the midst of a two-way code of silence.
He said that just before the race, "I went round to the whole team and said, 'Come on, let's do this. Good luck'. There was only one person I didn't (speak to).
"If I walk into the motor home and I see (Alonso) I will speak to him.
"But I am not going to go looking for him to make him feel better."
Alonso, 26, told Spanish radio Cadena SER that he was astonished not only by his teammate's foul-mouthed outburst on the radio with Ron Dennis on Saturday but at how Hamilton actually instigated the complaint to the stewards about the delayed qualifying pit stop.
Alonso said: "We went to complain about ourselves. We were one and two in qualifying but it was one of the most surreal moments I have experienced in F1."
Hamilton, however, denied asking the stewards to investigate the matter, despite members of the press finding him in conversation with one of the FIA representatives after qualifying.
"I was downstairs and one of the stewards was there but we didn't really discuss it," he said.
Ron Dennis preparing to step down? According to this Planet-F1 News article It's not every day that you hear Ron Dennis saying he's handing his team over to someone else to oversee, but that's just what he's doing over the next week, adding fuel to speculation that he's preparing to step down.
By anyone's standards the last month has been a trying time for McLaren and especially Ron Dennis, who prides himself on his personal and his team's integrity.
However, that has come into question more than once in the past few weeks, first with the Stepneygate spying saga and then again in Budapest on Saturday with the qualifying debacle where either Lewis Hamilton did Fernando Alonso in or Alonso did Hamilton in (depending on your personal view-point).
IRL could return to MIS MIS President Roger Curtis met with Indy Racing League officials and drivers over the weekend, but MIS and the IRL appear no closer to a resolution on race dates that would bring the series back to Michigan in 2009 -- or any time after that.
"There's going to have to be a lot of dominoes on their end that fall into place on the schedule side," Curtis said. "Now that we've had the conversation, I've asked them to look into some things that maybe they haven't thought of. It's all going to come down to finding other willing participants who would help open up the date."
Those willing participants would have to come from other tracks willing to juggle their schedules to allow MIS to return to open-wheel racing on a date in July. Curtis said that MIS will not run another open-wheel race two weeks out from its NASCAR Nextel Cup Series date, which this year is set for Aug. 19.
Evernham/Gillett deal closeUPDATE #4 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Evernham Motorsports and Canadiens Owner George Gillett Jr. today announced the creation of Gillett Evernham Motorsports. Ray Evernham will remain a substantial owner and hold the title of CEO.
08/06/07 Evernham Motorsports is expected to announce George Gillett Jr. as its new majority owner as early as Monday. Ray Evernham said Saturday that the deal is in place. Evernham said he's willing to surrender control of his operation to bring in Gillett's business acumen. The move will enable Evernham to refocus his energies on his strength, the competition side of the industry.
"It's going to be different," said Evernham, who made his mark as Jeff Gordon's crew chief in the 1990s and then left Hendrick Motorsports to begin his partnership with Dodge in October 1999. "I haven't worked for anybody since I worked for Rick Hendrick. I'm still going to have a decent stake, but George will be majority owner."
"There's opportunity going forward for some new sponsorship, and a lot of those things are really getting close," Evernham said. "We're working with Budweiser, and it would be real nice to have them as a sponsor. But until something's done, nothing's done."
08/03/07 Montreal Canadiens owner George Gillett told the Times on Thursday there is a "95-percent chance" his purchase into Evernham Motorsports will be final by today or Monday at the latest.
"We've got some fairly novel ideas that Ray's been developing and we've been developing together," Gillett said. "It's fair to say Ray's primary emphasis and time commitment will be on the racing side."
Evernham has referred to Gillett as a friend and "the cavalry" as he tries to compete with mega teams such as Hendrick Motorsports. Still, he said, this deal was not about bailing out a failing business.
"My partnership with Gillett is not about needing money," Evernham said. "It's about growing this company."
07/30/07 George Gillett says he's ready to go NASCAR racing. The owner of the Montreal Canadiens and a co-owner of the Liverpool soccer team confirmed Sunday that his company will close a deal to buy part of Evernham Motorsports in the next two weeks.
"That's our hope," Gillett said in the Indianapolis Motor Speedway garage. "That's our expectation. We will close within [two weeks]. Yes."
Gillett, whose Booth Creek Management Corp. also owns resorts in Vail, Colo. and an entertainment company, would not say what percentage of the team he would own, but Ray Evernham has indicated that Gillett would be a majority owner.
"It's wonderful being with people who are professionals themselves and you can actually bring something to the party," Gillett said. "Our background and commercial experience can complement what Ray does on the track."
Gillett believes there could be cross-promotion among his sports entities.
"Absolutely," Gillett said. "In Montreal, we have 14 sales people, in Liverpool, we'll have 11 sales folks. They're in the street every day.
"We have 147 clients in Montreal, most of them doing business internationally. There is some cross-promotion, and with our ski areas and all the concerts we put on, we'll touch about seven million people a year in our various businesses." More at Scenedaily.com
07/16/07 Team owner Ray Evernham’s partnership agreement with Canadian investor George Gillett, Jr., is expected to close next week, said a source familiar with the deal. And a whole host of sponsor possibilities are in play on the Evernham Motorsports Nextel Cup cars of Kasey Kahne and Elliott Sadler, according to multiple sources. Evernham would neither confirm nor deny the merger timetable Sunday morning at Chicagoland Speedway, saying only, “We’re working towards closing the deal.” With the sale of Chrysler Group to investment-banking firm Cerberus Capital Partners pending, it would make sense that Evernham Motorsports would seek additional sponsorship for its Nextel Cup operations. Cerberus, an investor known for sharp cost-cutting of the companies it acquires, may be willing to relinquish sponsorship rights to the two Evernham cars next season, something Dodge was unwilling to do last year when a major sponsor approached Evernham about becoming Kahne’s primary sponsor, a deal that ultimately was rejected by the automaker. Evernham said Sunday he has a contract with Dodge through 2010 and confirmed he is one of a half-dozen teams who have talked with Budweiser about taking over the brewing company’s sponsorship deal in 2008, now that Hendrick Motorsports and Dale Earnhardt, Jr. are out of the running. There are other options for Kahne beyond Budweiser. More at SPEEDtv.com
Report - Hamilton to Ferrari? (GMM) According to a rumor in the Italian press, Fernando Alonso might not be the only current McLaren driver to be seriously courted by other teams in the near future.
The Italian newspaper Tuttosport claims that Ferrari team principal Jean Todt is keen to woo championship leader, rookie and Ron Dennis-protégé Lewis Hamilton -- with the promise of a (US) $35 million per year contract.
The newspaper said 22-year-old Hamilton could become the "genuine successor" to Michael Schumacher, after "neither Massa nor Raikkonen applied the talent" that the retired seven time world champion did.
Tuttosport added that Hamilton is "talented, focused, fast, victorious and hungry".
Todt, however, dismissed the rumor as "untrue speculation" before leaving the Hungaroring on Sunday.
[Editor's Note: 'British' driver Hamilton won't leave the 'British' team that favors him. Instead, if anyone leaves and goes to Ferrari it will be 'Spanish' driver Fernando Alonso who we could easily see replacing the underperforming Felipe Massa. Given the circumstances we suspect Alonso would jump at the chance to drive for the famous Italian team.]
McLaren likely to retract appeal - Haug (GMM) Norbert Haug on Sunday suggested that Mercedes-powered McLaren will retract its protest against the stewards' verdict to dock its championship points in Hungary.
The Woking based team informed the stewards here within an hour of the publication of the verdict late on Saturday that it intended to appeal.
But Mercedes' competition chief Norbert Haug told the German broadcaster Premiere: "We will see whether we still go for the appeal.
"Certainly my position is quite clear that we should drop it."
McLaren, already headed to the FIA's Court of Appeal in the coming weeks regarding the espionage saga, stand to lose 15 points after Lewis Hamilton won the Hungarian grand prix and Fernando Alonso finished fourth.
But Haug said: "We should be strong enough anyway, with the lead in the championship that we already have."
Gordon to be suspended from Pocono race?UPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' as Gordon has been parked by NASCAR at Pocono. Does this mean the 44th fastest qualifier AJ Allmendinger will get to start the race?
08/05/07 NASCAR issued a statement Saturday evening about the incident during the Busch race from Ramsey Poston, NASCAR Managing Director of Corporate Communications: "Once the caution came out on Lap 72 the field was frozen. Once the field is frozen, all cars must maintain cautious pace in order to be scored. At the time that the field was frozen, the #59 was in the lead. The #55 did not maintain cautious pace and by NASCAR rule, cars not maintaining cautious pace are scored only when they blend back into the continuous line. The 55 based on our scoring was ordered to blend back in behind the #33 in front of the #7. The tower ordered the #55 multiple times to get in to position. The directive was acknowledged by the crew chief of the #55 and the crew chief also communicated the order to the driver of the #55. The driver ignored NASCAR’s directive. He was warned that he would be black flagged if he did not comply. Once the #55 crossed the start-finish line he was posted per the NASCAR rule book and at that time the directive to display the black flag was given. After contact with the 5#9 on Lap 73, NASCAR took emergency action per the rule book Section12-2 thus parking the #55, which was also ignored. The black flag with the white cross was displayed to the #55 when it crossed the start-finish line on lap 74. The #55 finished the race in the 18th position.” NASCAR PR
08/05/07 NASCAR is still evaluating whether Robby Gordon will be allowed to compete in the Pennsylvania 500 on Sunday at Pocono Raceway after not following NASCAR orders as well as getting into the back of race leader Marcos Ambrose on a green-white-checkered restart Saturday in the NAPA Auto Parts 200 in Montreal. "It's fair to say we're still evaluating his status for tomorrow's race," NASCAR Vice President of Racing Operations Steve O'Donnell said Saturday night. "We're still talking about what's going to take place in Pocono. At this point, it's too early to tell." SceneDaily.com
Honda may have to bail 'B' team out (GMM) The Super Aguri team has struck financial trouble, according to reports from the paddock of the Hungarian grand prix.
It is suggested that the Honda-powered team, that is named after its team principal and former grand prix driver Aguri Suzuki, has now stopped its development programmes and trimmed the traveling race team to save money in the midst of the 2007 season.
Asked about the progress of his Leafield based outfit this weekend, Suzuki said "it depends on the budget".
"I am trying very hard and my staff is working very hard as well and just now I am making plans for next year," he said.
"Of course, the team has to grow. It's very difficult to say how much it has grown but everyone has been working very hard."
Suzuki said: "Formula one is very difficult and we are a very small team."
The German website motorsport-total.com said one of Super Aguri's main sponsors failed to pay a substantial due payment in July, leaving the team in a precarious situation eleven races into this season.
Aguri's team manager Daniele Audetto confirmed the story.
"We are saving where we can and hoping that we profit financially from the four points that we have scored this year," he said.
Only the top ten teams receive prize-money each season, and Super Aguri is currently eighth, ahead of Honda, Spyker and Toro Rosso.
Carmichael moving to DEI When Mark Martin, offered to mentor Supercross star Ricky Carmichael in stock-car racing, that became Carmichael's next career move. Martin has been driving for Ginn Racing, owned by zillionaire resort magnate Bobby Ginn, and Carmichael signed with Ginn as a development driver, with an eye toward running local races this year, some regional NASCAR races in 2008, and probably a Busch Series schedule in 2009. But last month, a monkey wrench was tossed into those plans: Ginn merged with Dale Earnhardt Inc., which is also facing an uncertain future with the departure of Dale Earnhardt Jr. As part of the restructuring, Ginn fired Sterling Marlin and Joe Nemechek, and Martin moved under the DEI umbrella. And apparently, Carmichael is moving with him. "I had some good talks this past week with Mark," Carmichael said. "I haven't heard anything from Ginn, but I'm excited about the DEI connection." Orlando Sentinel
Alonso could be stripped of poleUPDATE #2 This rumor goes from ‘false' to 'fact' as our initial source that told us the officials were not investigating Alonso were incorrect. He has since been stripped of his pole position.
08/04/07 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' which is sure to get the British media in even more of a frenzy. It is understood that stewards are not investigating McLaren's delayed final qualifying pit stop, despite Ron Dennis making a visit to race control after the session.
08/04/07 Fernando Alonso could lose his pole position for the Hungarian GP as the British media, who heavily favor their Lewis Hamilton, have their panties in a knot over the controversy that Alonso held up Lewis Hamilton and denied him a run at pole.
"You can ask the team," Alonso said. "They do the calculations. They find the gaps. I just drive the car."
While Alonso sat impassively in the pits, with Hamilton waiting behind to be serviced, McLaren personnel, including team principal Ron Dennis, frantically waved at their driver to vacate the box.
Afterwards Dennis was furious, grabbing Alonso's Spanish-speaking trainer and marching him down to Parc Ferme, where a staged team celebration shot was then put on for waiting photographers.
ITV Sport's Ted Kravitz attempted to get a clearly annoyed Dennis's view on the issue but was rebuffed twice.
"We will discuss it later when it's been discussed in the team," he declared.
There will no doubt the an investigation into the whole business and it is possible that Alonso could face an impeding charge which could mean that Alonso will have to start from the back of the grid. The FIA Stewards may also decide to take away Alonso's best lap time which would drop him to eighth on the grid.
Mexico race date to move to Cup off-week NASCAR still plans on taking the Busch Series to Mexico City next year, although the race most likely will run during an off weekend in April. Mexico City was the third Busch race of the season for the last three years, but Las Vegas has announced its Busch-Sprint Cup weekend would be a week earlier in 2008, which puts it in that slot.
"We're looking to continue to have it on an off weekend, which probably will be sometime in late April," NASCAR Vice President of Racing Operations Steve O'Donnell said Saturday morning at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve, where the Busch Series is making its inaugural visit.
"We're just trying to figure out where that will fall on the schedule. Our goal is to still keep that on an off weekend."
If that happened, the Cup off weekends would be March 23 for Easter and then in late April. Scenedaily.com
We'll know Earnhardt's sponsors in 3 to 6 weeks A well-placed source at Hendrick Motorsports said it will be three to six more weeks before the 2008 sponsorship package for Dale Earnhardt, Jr. will be announced. “There are a lot of details to deal with,” the source said. Earnhardt is leaving details of the sponsor agreement to his sister and business manager, Kelley Earnhardt Elledge, and his new boss. “Obviously there's a rush behind the scenes with Kelley and Rick and all them guys,” Earnhardt said. “They're doing all those things that they've got to do for sponsors and numbers and all that but me as the driver, I can go over there all season and do everything I need to do to get ready for the year. I'm not really looking in that direction quite yet. Still got things to do here. I've got my integrity and my team's integrity on the line to be able to run hard all year long and finish well." SPEEDtv.com
Overheard at Michigan - 1 Practice day for the Indy Car rookies today at Michigan Speedway.......Milka's car is being set up by Tomas Enge as we previously reported. She did a bunch of laps after Tomas set it up, and told me that "Milka is within 4/10 of a second" of Tomas' time......One somewhat funny conversation involved Milka's concern that the car was squirming at speed. Enge (I think it was him) told Milka, "That's normal. It's kind of like stepping in shit."......Chip Ganassi allegedly reads AutoRacing1.com "every day."..... I hear that the IRL will let the three rookies run some solo laps tomorrow, then ask 8-9 veterans to run with them to give them practice.......The rookies were practicing today too, and I'm told that it cost them $1000 per mile.....I talked with an IRL safety guy who helped Ralf Schumacher after he crashed at Indy in 2004. Ralf supposedly remarked that he didn't know that anyone can hit anything as hard as he hit that wall. The Indy crew told him that at Indy, even the soft walls are hard. Tim Wohlford
Castroneves eyes move to NASCAR In this interview IRL driver Helio Castroneves is considering a move from open wheel Indy Cars to NASCAR Cup or Busch, but not necessarily immediately. His teammate Sam Hornish Jr. is rumored moving to NASCAR full-time next year. The question remains how much longer Marlboro will continue to sponsor the Penske IRL team when they can no longer have their name on the cars or the team.
Summerton to make Indy Car debutUPDATE On an unrelated topic, a lawsuit was filed in Pima County Court by Brooks Associates Racing against Summerton today for lack of payment ($4,000) for an accident in testing of a Champ Car Atlantic car at Laguna Seca in March.
08/02/07 Rumor has it that Jonathan Summerton has the opportunity to race in the Indy car race at Infineon Raceway California August 23rd to 26th which will be televised Live on ESPN and over 150 stations worldwide. Word is that for $50K a company can be primary sponsor on the car.
Modifications possible to Top-35 Qualifying RuleUPDATE #3 Nextel Cup Series director John Darby on Friday said there would be no changes to the qualifying procedures this season of cars not in the top 35 of car owner points. Reports earlier this week said NASCAR could soon begin grouping cars outside the top 35 together to qualify at the same time, which would theoretically make conditions more even for those teams. Darby said the idea is one being explored for next season, but that no change would take place this year. ThatsRacin.com
08/01/07 All year long, teams outside the Top 35 in Nextel Cup owner points have complained about the difficulties they face in making the weekly starting lineup. Now, it looks like their voices are being heard. Sources tell Frontstretch.com that the NASCAR is preparing to make changes to its qualifying procedure by the end of August, setting up a system in which all teams ranked outside the Top 35 qualify together. Eliminating the advantage of the qualifying order, all teams not "locked in" to the field would make their attempts back-to-back at either the beginning or end of the session. The overall starting order would still be determined the same way it is now, but for teams in position to make the field on speed, the differences in track temperature and weather would now be minimized, leveling a playing field that can often be tilted towards certain teams due to qualifying draw. Currently, only seven spots with the 43rd going to a past champ if needed, THEN filled by the 8th fastest, that is why they always start 43rd] are available in the 43-car field to teams not "locked in" to the Top 35, with twelve full-time teams attempting to secure one of those coveted positions each week. As for the Top 35 rule's future, there is no official word from NASCAR that changes are forthcoming next year...but sources say teams have been told to prepare for a possible adjustment in 2008, despite John Darby's public statements to the contrary. Frontstretch Newsletter
07/23/07 Amid growing unrest among team owners on the wrong side of NASCAR's rule guaranteeing the top 35 teams spots in each Nextel Cup field, a Charlotte Observer analysis of several potential alterations leads to the same conclusion. In the first 10 races this season, traditional qualifying was held eight times. The exceptions were the Daytona 500, which has its own procedure, and at Texas, where qualifying was rained out. For the eight races in which traditional qualifying was held, 8.1% of the cars making the fields would have changed if NASCAR had allowed in the fastest 43. Only 7.6% would have differed if the top 12 teams were exempt, and it would've been only 6.4% if the top 25 were exempt. If NASCAR were using its old format, with 36 cars qualifying on speed and seven provisionals, there would have been a 3.5% difference. If the rules had been different early this year, #55-Michael Waltrip would have had the most to gain under virtually any scenario. He missed all eight races analyzed would have made five of those with no exemptions, 12 exemptions or 25 exemptions. At the same time, those tweaks would have knocked Kyle Petty and Robby Gordon out of as many as four races they made, depending on which change had been employed. Charlotte Observer
07/14/07 Nextel Cup director John Darby -- saying he was speaking for himself, not NASCAR -- didn't mince words Friday when asked about speculated changes to NASCAR's Top-35 rule. "We ain't changing it," Darby said. That doesn't mean, however, that NASCAR isn't contemplating some alterations to the current rule. One possibility is grouping "go or go home" cars together during the qualifying session, so all are faced with similar track conditions during their laps. Darby likes that idea. "We're talking about that a lot," he said. "It makes it truly a head-to-head competition that way." Where would they be grouped? One possibility, according to Darby: Let the championship driver or crew chief decide where in the session that respective group would qualify. ESPN.com
Ralf laughs off Toro Rosso rumors (GMM) Ralf Schumacher on Friday has probably brought to a halt lingering rumors that he might be headed to Toro Rosso in 2008.
The German's initially disastrous season with Toyota has taken a turn for the better in recent races, but news about his prospects for a new contract is still thin on the ground.
Reporters in Hungary asked if he could shed any light on the issue, and he was quoted as telling Premiere: "No, not at the moment."
Schumacher, who is 32, also congratulated his rookie countryman Sebastian Vettel for graduating to a full time race seat, while Faenza based STR are yet to confirm the identity of his teammate for 2008.
Asked if the role alongside Vettel might be an option for him, Ralf grinningly replied: "Yeah -- maybe twelve years ago."
Snickers, Mars to leave Yates team One might wonder if this Sunday in the Pennsylvania 500 marks the last time a No. 38 NASCAR Nextel Cup car emblazoned with brightly-colored M&Ms characters will compete at Pocono Raceway. There's been NASCAR garage buzz recently that Mars Inc. Mars Snack Food U.S., the company that produces M&Ms in Hackettstown, is considering leaving Robert Yates Racing.
Yates, which fields the Ford that will be driven by David Gilliland on Sunday, has carried the M&Ms brand on the No. 38 since 2002, when Elliott Sadler came on board.
Sadler left the team after the 22nd race last year. Yates replaced him in the M&Ms car with Gilliland
When Dale Jarrett left Yates at the end of last year, he carried his long-time sponsor UPS with him to Michael Waltrip's fledgling Toyota team.
Yates was hard-pressed to find a replacement sponsor for his second Ford. A two-or-more-car team is essential for success in today's NASCAR.
Yates a veteran car owner and builder with 57 victories but only one since 2004, tearfully announced he was going to sell the team last November after UPS left.
But Mars came to the rescue with an 11th-hour bailout, sponsoring the second car for Ricky Rudd this year with its Snickers candy bar.
Rudd's No. 88 Ford will be sponsored by Mars' Combos snacks at Pocono.
Mars is reportedly still unhappy with the abrupt departure by the popular Sadler. Reports have leaked out that the program is under sponsor review. PennLive.com
IRL inches closer to Daytona race Daytona International Speedway is tweaking its road course apparently to satisfy the needs and requests of various sanctioning bodies, including the Indy Racing League, which use the track for testing and racing.
"We're always soliciting input from our competitors to find out how we can make our venue better for them," Speedway president Robin Braig said. "These changes are a result of those conversations. We look forward to having these alterations make the events here at DIS even more exciting."
The IndyCar Series tested here in January and various drivers said several infield obstructions, such as light poles and fencing, needed to be removed before an open wheel event could be considered for Daytona.
Almost all of those fixtures are being removed.
Speedway spokesman David Talley said the improvements and upgrades were being made to satisfy all of Daytona's road-course customers, a roster that includes Grand-Am and American Motorcycle Association.
As for the IRL, Talley said, "They are going to let us know by Sept. 1 what their plans are. We hope they come back. We had a great time with them the first time. We won't know that until September." Daytona Beach News Journal
Villeneuve close to NASCAR deal?UPDATE This rumor is officially downgraded to 'false.' Not only did Villeneuve not land a NASCAR ride, he could not even get a ride for the Montreal Busch Series race this weekend. The bottom line is that JV should have moved from F1 to Champ Car, instead he did LeMans but other than that he's tending to his garden, pulling weeds and the like, his career done.
02/19/07 Jacques Villeneuve's agent Craig Pollock says Villeneuve's is "very close" to lining up a title sponsor for a NASCAR ride.
"There may be certain teams that really don't want to be involved with him but there are other teams, very good teams, that do want to be involved," Pollock said.
Villeneuve may do some driving in ARCA, the Craftsman truck series and the Busch series, which has a race in Montreal on Aug. 4, before moving up to NASCAR and the Nextel Cup.
"That's still the main plan," Villeneuve said. "We're working hard with Craig on the NASCAR project for 2008."
Champ Car, one of the two offshoots with the IRL from the former IndyCar series, has expressed interest in having Villeneuve back, but Pollock said that won't happen.
"His challenge is to go into something totally different and he's absolutely determined that that is going to be NASCAR," he said.
Villeneuve is in the process of moving from Villars, Switzerland to a C$3-million house in posh Westmount, west of downtown Montreal, to be closer to NASCAR.
Vettel to earn meager salary Sebastian Vettel will earn about (US) $165,000 for finishing the season with Toro Rosso, according to media sources.
The German newspaper Bild reports that the 20-year-old former test driver, who has been released by his 2007 employer BMW starting this weekend in Hungary, has negotiated a $400,000 per year fee to race with STR in 2008.
"For me this is a dream come true," Vettel said after the news broke on Tuesday.
"It hasn't sunk in yet that I am now a proper race driver in Formula One. "
He said he was however cautious about expecting too much from his Ferrari-powered single seater, which in the hands of his predecessor Scott Speed, and team-mate Tonio Liuzzi, has not finished in the points.
"I am aware that the car is not the best one," Vettel said, "so I can't really say what I will be able to do with it."
NASCAR might switch to Pony cars for Busch NASCAR's decision to bring a version of the Car of Tomorrow to the Busch Series was inevitable from a safety perspective. If the COT is safer in Nextel Cup, how can you justify running a non-COT car in Busch?
The Busch COT will not look like the Cup COT -- it won't have a rear wing or a front splitter -- but it will have many of the safety features included on the Cup COT. It's good to keep the cars different. If the cars were as similar as they are now, Cup drivers would continue to dominate the feeder series. When the cars are almost identical, Cup drivers use the Busch races to prepare for Cup events.
No one wants to eliminate Cup drivers from Busch events entirely. They add interest and sell tickets. However, the feeder series also has to retain its objective as a developmental league.
One solution NASCAR officials are discussing for the future is to make the Busch Series car a COT but switch to models not used in Cup, i.e., to make the Busch Series a sports car league with Mustangs, Camaros, etc.
This would solve several problems. It would give the Busch Series its own identity, something the league desperately needs.
The series will have a new title sponsor next year, so why not give the new sponsor a new product to promote? This also would give the manufacturers another model to showcase in the second most popular racing series in the country.
If every team has to build new Busch cars anyway, make the new cars something unique. ESPN.com
NASCAR to penalize foulmouthed StewartUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. NASCAR fined Tony Stewart $25,000 and penalized him 25 points today, a result of him using inappropriate language in an interview after he won Sunday's Allstate 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Stewart now has 2,599 points and remains in fifth place in the series points. Stewart’s car owner, Joe Gibbs, was penalized 25 car owner championship points because of the infraction.
07/30/07 Tony Stewart, excited over winning at the track he cherishes more than any other, got a little carried away in his post race interview. The expletive he uttered could cost him a penalty later this week. Stewart was celebrating his second win the Allstate 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway Sunday when he uttered the obscenity on ESPN. While NASCAR officials would later say they thought there was a network delay protecting the driver, ESPN officials said delays are only used on replays of radio conversations, not live victory lane interviews.
"It was an unfortunate incident that we did not anticipate," said ESPN officials in a statement.
NASCAR officials said they will address the issue at the beginning of the week. Vice President Jim Hunter said there could be a penalty or a loss of points.
He also said that NASCAR would talk to ESPN officials.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. was penalized 25 points and $10,000 at Talladega in 2004 for also using a similar term in an interview. Hunter said there's a simple solution to the problem.
"The drivers should clean up their language in my opinion," he said. "There are a lot of young kids who look up to these drivers. I'd prefer they use the English language. Scenedaily.com
Matos to drive in Phoenix According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Champ Car Atlantic champion Raphael Matos will make his Champ Car debut for PKV Racing in the Champ Car season finale in Phoenix on December 2nd. This will give him some seat time for his Champ Car rookie season in 2008, also rumored to be with PKV Racing.
Speed’s days in F1 numberedUPDATE #6 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement - see Hot News page.
07/25/07 Looks like the SPEEDTV.com article that Speed had been sacked by Toro Rosso was totally wrong. Autosport.com reports this morning that Scott Speed is testing today for his Scuderia Toro Rosso team. The young German is at Mugello today, where Toro Rosso are testing alongside Ferrari. However, Speed took to the wheel of the STR02 shortly before noon. Furthermore, when asked by autosport.com if Speed will race in Budapest next week, Tost (who punched Speed last Sunday) himself replied 'yes' unequivocally. It looks like Speed will at least see the year out in F1 and Red Bull must have told Tost who is boss here. After all, Red Bull owns at least half the team, so they could fire Tost before they fire their two drivers if they want to.
07/24/07 Here is a very informative interview with Scott Speed where he reveals just how bad Franz Tost treated him after the race in Nurburgring Sunday. Speed admits a desire to either stay in F1 or race in another series, and of course Champ Car makes the most sense for him.
“To be honest, the only thing I’m worried about is my relationship with Red Bull, because obviously Franz Tost and Gerhard Berger have been pushing the same dishonesty to the media, and I’m worried that might have ruined my relationship with Red Bull. Because Red Bull has been amazing to me, and I think we fit together really good, and it’s a shame to let these two people ruin the whole thing. As far as my future in F1 is concerned, you couldn’t pay me enough money to race for those two people again. If it was with a different team, that would be great, but I would also like to do something else with Red Bull, even if it was outside F1. Like I said, my relationship with Red Bull has been fantastic.”
07/24/07 SPEEDTV.com is reporting that Scott Speed got his walking papers from STR today. However, AutoRacing1.com has learned that Speed may not be allowed by STR to race anywhere else until the end of the season. Those negotiations are still ongoing.
07/24/07 While the European media has been fairly brutal on Scott Speed of late, it is no secret that Speed with incredible talent and outstanding performance forced Red Bull to place him in F1 probably far earlier than they would have desired from their "American to F1" marketing program. Because of Speed's consistent ability to be placed in different situations with teams while in the Red Bull American to F1 program where he clearly and consistently outperformed all others, regulars and talent that was supposed to better him, he "earned" the right to be in F1 by that sheer talent, desire and "speed".
Scott Speed is a great American racing talent and deserves far better than the press is giving him or the shoulder of F1 that has now grown cold for North America with the demise of the Indy F1 race as well.
Red Bull doesn't need "Speed" to sell their drinks in the US and the only reason Scott Speed is in F1 is because he earned it .. he certainly didn't "pay" to be there.
Bourdais is a fine driver and linked to something STR needs very badly going forward .. as does the other Sebastien, who is also a solid talent .. but Scott Speed is one of the best America has ever had to offer, having won in everything from karts to get him where he is today. His family was not wealthy and they scraped, sacrificed and bled for Scott. He certainly deserves to be treated with respect and admiration for what he has accomplished all at the still very young age of 23! He is the USA's only American in F1 and all of North America should be screaming to keep him there.
So ... perhaps we can keep an eye on the "impending doom" slant on the news and make more a focused effort to bolster Speed's efforts to stay in F1 where he belongs .. or to come back to America to forge a career on more friendly soil and bring his great racing skills home ... whatever the case may be. Speed is going to be racing in a proper program in the future and if that should be back here in the US, we should all be cheering for him ... It will be F1's loss. Mark C.
07/22/07 We are bumping this rumor up to 'strong.' Scott Speed's formula one career could have ended in a Nurburgring gravel trap. According to the website of American broadcaster Speed TV, the Toro Rosso driver risks being replaced ahead of the Hungarian grand prix following a physical altercation with his team boss Franz Tost (pictured right with Speed) on Sunday.
It is claimed that the pair nearly came to blows in the team garage after Speed returned to the garage, and one witness described the scuffle as "assault" by Tost.
American Speed, 23, is quoted as saying: "It's clear that from my bosses me and Tonio both have very little support."
Tost and team co-owner Gerhard Berger are openly courting both Sebastien Bourdais and BMW's Sebastian Vettel for 2008, leaving the Italian team's current pairing aware that their days at Toro Rosso are probably numbered.
"It doesn't take a rocket scientist to read the press and know that Franz and Gerhard are pushing like hell to get rid of me and Tonio," Speed admitted.
It's quite possible Speed may have run his last F1 race and Liuzzi isn't far behind. Now it remains to be seen whether Speed will end up in Champ Car next year. They both can use each other.
07/21/07 Now that there is no longer a USGP F1 has less need for an American driver. And with Sebastien Bourdais and Sebastian Vettel rumored to be taking over the two Toro Rosso seats next year American Scott Speed (pictured right) and Italian Vitantonio Liuzzi’s days in F1 appear to be numbered. The question is where the two will race in 2008 if they do indeed lose their F1 rides.
Will Speed return to the USA to race or remain in Europe? Champ Car needs more American drivers, and a swap of Bourdais and Speed would be good for the series. Pairing him up with another American, Graham Rahal, at Newman/Haas/Lanigan makes too much sense (Therefore, it probably will not happen).
"He (Bourdais) did a couple of tests for us and he delivered what we were expecting from him - he was quick, consistent and good with the engineers," said Toro Rosso co-owner Gerhard Berger.
"I think he has good potential, and yes, it is right we have an option on him until the end of the month."
It could be a case of two Sebastiens at the team next season as Berger would like to pair Bourdais with Vettel, BMW Sauber's teenage tester.
Vettel became the youngest driver in Formula One history to score a point, finishing eighth in last month's United States Grand Prix as stand-in for Robert Kubica following the Pole's crash in Canada the week before.
"We're coming into the second half of the season, and obviously we are looking to improve our situation on the technical side and at what is the right decision for the future on the drivers' side," added Berger.
"There are a couple of names we're interested in, where we know they are able to do a good job - one is Bourdais and the other is Sebastien Vettel.
"Hopefully we're going to see some possibilities. We're going to check everything very carefully and then make a decision - what is the right thing for us for the future."
Vettel still likely to race STR in HungaryUPDATE This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact' - see Hot News page.
07/31/07 (GMM) Despite the reported breakdown in talks between the pair, Sebastian Vettel is still expected to race for Toro Rosso in the upcoming Hungarian grand prix.
After the Faenza based team's relationship with American regular Scott Speed hit a new and seemingly irreconcilable low at the Nurburgring, Toro Rosso commenced negotiations with BMW about releasing test driver Vettel's contract for the rest of 2007.
The talks, however, reportedly struck a financial snag.
But in the last couple of days, BMW has apparently finally agreed to release the 20-year-old. An announcement about Vettel's likely STR debut in Budapest is now expected on Wednesday at the latest, according to Auto Motor und Sport.
The specialist German magazine added that the final details are private negotiations between Vettel's management and Toro Rosso about how much the rookie - who attended but did not drive at STR's recent Mugello test - should be paid.
STR's parent team Red Bull gave a whimsical hint about the Vettel link in recent days by issuing a statement that said Vitantonio Liuzzi "will have another member of Scuderia Toro Rosso driving alongside him" in Hungary.
The statement, however, was actually referring to team co-owner Gerhard Berger, who will get behind the wheel of a 1983 McLaren for a promotional event near the Hungaroring track.
Dodge's commitment to NASCAR again in question Dodge racing boss Mike Accavitti was a surprising no-show at yesterday’s race; instead he was in California preparing for a Chrysler minivan launch, as part of his duties as director of Dodge-brand marketing. But Accavitti’s boss, Darryl Jackson, was here, for his first NASCAR race, and he said not to read anything into Accavitti’s absence.
“The minivan launch is probably the biggest thing we have going, and it’s an important part of our business,” Jackson said.
Still, last summer Dodge had a big shakeup in its racing operation, with Accavitti moving into the role that John Fernandez had held since 2002.
Dodge’s lone win this season was by Juan Pablo Montoya at Sonoma, Calif., and most Dodge teams, particularly Ray Evernham’s, have struggled. In fact, Dodge has no team in the top-12, which is the cutoff mark for the championship chase.
However Jackson says the pending sale of Chrysler to the private equity firm Ceberus won’t lead to any cuts in Dodge’s racing program. Ceberus’ reputation as a cost-cutting operation has some in the sport worried.
“They’re serious about selling cars and about building brand awareness. And racing is about selling cars and building brand awareness,” Jackson said. “Anything that brings more awareness to the brand, how can you not like it.”
Still, Jackson conceded “I have not specifically had talks (with Ceberus) about our (racing) contracts.
“But we have a long-term commitments and contracts and we will honor them.
“Having Dodge out there, having Dodge back in racing, brings a lot of people in to look at our vehicles.”
Meanwhile one of Dodge's top teams may be bolting
Jackson says he’s not paying attention to rumors Evernham might be making overtures to General Motors. “We have a long-term contract with him, and we stand to honor that,” Jackson said. “Ray is a good friend of mine. I’ve got a lot of respect for Ray, and nobody knows more about winning than he does. They’ve got some hiccups right now, but I’m sure they’ll smooth those over and be back again.”
Evernham and Budweiser are supposed to be discussing sponsorship options for Kasey Kahne, with Evernham’s new partner, George Gillett, owner of the Montreal Canadiens since 2000. Gillett offers interesting marketing synergies for any potential sponsors: He and another business partner, Tom Hicks, just bought England’s famed Liverpool soccer team for $451 million, and Hicks bought baseball’s Texas Rangers in 1999 for $250 million. Winston Salem Journal
[Editor's Note: Look for a Dodge on pole a lot in the near future. They came out of no-where to start 1-2 for the Allstate 400.]
Viso to leave BCN? Rumor has it that Ernesto Viso may leave the Racing Engineering GP2 team early, but no official or semi-official confirmations are yet available. Viso has won GP2 races with BCN so this comes as a surprise unless Viso has found a ride in a higher-level series.
Markus Niemela to make GP2 debut According to Italiaracing.net, Finnish 23-year-old Markus Niemela will be making his GP2 debut this weekend, after taking part in the Italian and Chinese Formula Renault Series. Thanks to his sponsor Mad Croc, a Finish Energy Drink firm, the talented former BVM Minardi driver will replace Sakon Yamamoto, who found his way back to F1 with Spyker.
National Guard vies to sponsor Dale Jr. No final decision has been made regarding Dale Earnhardt Jr.'s future team sponsor at Hendrick Motorsports, but one is expected within the month and possibly within the next two weeks, multiple sources close to the negotiations said Monday.
It is widely speculated that PepsiCo. is the leading candidate to sponsor Earnhardt through its Mountain Dew brand, but sources with knowledge of negotiations say National Guard is also a top candidate as part of a split sponsorship package.
National Guard currently sponsors Hendrick's No. 25 car, driven by Casey Mears.
Sources say the combined deal will be the richest team sponsorship in NASCAR history, somewhere between $25 million and $30 million annually.
Earnhardt said last week that Navy will continue its sponsorship of JR Motorsports' No. 88 Busch Series entry in 2008, but sources said that would not conflict with a potential National Guard association in the Sprint Cup Series. ESPN.com
Button to quit F1 Jenson Button will be forced to quit F1 next year, unless he is a liar. Button has warned Honda that if he's not in a position to win races next season, he may just quit Formula One, and we can assure you that Honda will not be in a position to beat McLaren or Ferrari so he will be quitting.
"I can't hang around for years on end in a car that isn't capable of being up there to win races," he told the Daily Express.
"I want to be winning - or I don't want to be in F1."
"This year has become a test bed for 2008, so it's important we make the most of it," he said (like the faster teams are not testing and improving too?). "It's tough, but the team needs me to be positive. I have to be upbeat but critical too. For the Japanese it is wrong to be outspoken in public - it has to be done behind closed doors."
[Editor's Note: Maybe Honda can steal some Ferrari design secrets like McLaren did this year as it has helped them win races. That is the only way they are going to beat Ferrari. In fact ex-Ferrari engineer Nigel Stepney and McLaren's Mark Coughlin (both since fired by Ferrari and McLaren) were reported to have offered themselves as a package deal to Honda - Stepney providing Ferrari's secrets and Coughlin McLaren's secrets, so Honda could 'copy' their way to race wins after years of embarrassing performance.]
Tire rule tweak possible for 2008 (GMM) Some formula one power brokers are pushing for a tweak to the tire regulations for 2008, according to German reports.
The specialist magazine Auto Motor und Sport said on Monday that, to spice up the racing and strategy options, a more assorted selection of tire compounds could be offered by Bridgestone at each grand prix.
Currently, the two compounds made available to teams at races are fairly similar -- for instance, this weekend in Hungary, each driver must use both the 'soft' and the white-branded 'super soft' during the Hungarian grand prix.
But some team bosses are reportedly arguing that varying the tire options available - for example, the 'super soft' and the 'medium' in Hungary - would lead to a more mixed jumble of pace and a higher prospect of in-race passing.
Auto Motor und Sport claims that the smaller teams are championing the idea, but that their more competitive rivals are not overly keen.
Bridgestone is also thought to be resisting, as implementing the proposal properly for 2008 would probably involve tweaking its existing range of tire compounds at some cost.
Furious Ferrari to now sue McLaren (GMM) Furious Ferrari chiefs plan to escalate the espionage scandal even further by commencing legal action against McLaren.
Following the World Motor Sport Council's controversial acquittal of Woking based McLaren last Thursday, a spokesman for Ferrari on Monday confirmed that FIA rules do not allow an appeal to be sought.
The spokesman told the BBC, however, that the Maranello based team - angry that its Ron Dennis-led title rival was not penalized for possessing secret Ferrari information - was "evaluating all possible options" in the wake of the Paris hearing.
La Gazzetta dello Sport is now reporting that Ferrari plan to submit a request for prosecution with the legal authorities in Modena.
The Italian sports daily said the six-page complaint would be lodged on Tuesday morning.
Ferrari is already pursuing legal action in Italy against sacked employee Nigel Stepney, and in England against suspended McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan for receiving the 780 pages of Ferrari secrets.
Kyle Busch down to 3 teamsUPDATE #2 Joe Gibbs Racing, Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Evernham Motorsports appear to be the front-runners for Nextel Cup driver Kyle Busch met with DEI drivers and management on Saturday in Indianapolis. He is scheduled to meet with EMS owner Ray Evernham and drivers this week. J.D. Gibbs, the president of Joe Gibbs Racing, admitted his organization is in the running.
"We've had conversations with them. I'll say that,'' Gibbs said before Sunday's race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. "He's got a lot of great opportunities and we're one of them.''
Busch would only acknowledge that he is down to 3-5 teams. "We are still talking to a few teams,'' he said. "We haven't quite narrowed it down to just one. There have been a few teams we have eliminated.'' More at ESPN.com
07/27/07 Kyle Busch is very close to finalizing a deal that will make him the fourth driver in the Joe Gibbs Racing stable. Sources said Busch has crossed Richard Childress Racing and Dale Earnhardt, Inc. off his list of potential teams for 2008 and beyond. Speculation also had Busch going to DEI to replace Dale Earnhardt Jr., but it appears as though the DEI/Ginn Racing merger has taken up most of the executives time at DEI and Busch never felt any warmth from the organization. An announcement is expected sometime over the next week to week and a half, most likely after the big Brickyard 400 weekend. Sources said only the details of the contract remained to be worked out, but that both parties had agreed in principle to a five year deal. captainthunderracing.com
07/02/07 Ray Evernham acknowledged Kyle Busch visited his shop in Statesville, N.C., on Tuesday. He said the visit went well and that he hopes Evernham Motorsports remains on Busch's list when the number of suitors is soon reduced to about four. Evernham said negotiations to extend the contract of Scott Riggs, who has missed the last two races and is 36th in points, continue. But he wasn't quite as adamant that Riggs will be a part of the organization in 2008 as he was three weeks ago. "He's a good little guy," Evernham said. "I just feel bad for what's going on with him." ESPN.com
DEI to lose Budweiser sponsorship tooUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. Dodge Motorsports may be willing to give up its logo on the hood of Kasey Kahne's Nextel Cup car if a deal can be finalized with Budweiser.
"The company is always looking for good long-term relationships,'' said Darryl Jackson, the vice president of sales for Chrysler. "Budweiser or whoever is a very, very solid brand. It brings with it a very good clientele base of which just so happens to line up with us pretty well from a Dodge perspective."
Kahne is Budweiser's top choice to replace Dale Earnhardt Jr., who recently announced he would not keep the beer company as his primary sponsor at Hendrick Motorsports in 2008 and that he was ending his personal services deal.
One of the obstacles standing in the way was Dodge Motorsports, which would have to put aside its long-term deal to be on the hood of Kahne's car.
Team owner Ray Evernham, who has been negotiating with Budweiser, said the deal would help alleviate some of the financial strain on Dodge. Evernham added he has several other options for Kahne's sponsor.
"I am in favor of bringing any sponsors in that increase the awareness of our brand,'' Jackson said.
Jackson added that the recent purchase of Chrysler by Cerberus will not impact Dodge's commitment to motorsports.
"We haven't really talked specifically on the aspect of racing, but Tom LaSorda runs the Chrysler Group,'' Jackson said. "Tom LaSorda is committed to racing.
"... We have long-term contracts and commitments and we will honor those long-term contracts and commitments, and they are long term." ESPN.com
07/13/07 Dale Earnhardt Inc. is still talking with Budweiser about the company continuing its team sponsorship of the car being vacated by Dale Earnhardt Jr. at the end of this season.
While Budweiser officials confirmed earlier today that the company would not be moving over to Hendrick Motorsports with Earnhardt Jr. for next season, the company did not announce which team it will sponsor in 2008. Budweiser appears to be in discussion with a few teams, including DEI.
"We have a long-standing relationship with them, and they want to have a strong presence in the sport, and again, I mean now we're going to have open dialogue and weigh out all the options and figure out what's best for everybody," DEI Vice President Max Siegel said Friday morning at Chicagoland Speedway, site of this weekend's Nextel Cup and Busch series races. Scenedaily.com
07/13/07 Looks like DEI not only lost their #1 driver, Dale Earnhardt Jr., they also lost his sponsor Budweiser as well. Theresa Earnhardt appears to be running the company into the ground.
Evernham Motorsports owner Ray Evernham says reports that he is close to signing a deal with Budweiser for next season are unfounded. Published reports this week have linked Budweiser with Evernham driver #9-Kasey Kahne for the 2008 season, and while Evernham confirmed that conversations have taken place, he said there is no truth to rumors that he will announce the new deal next week. "We have talked to Budweiser, but they have also spoken to five or six other teams in the Nextel Cup garage," he said. Motorsports Soapbox
San Jose postscript - 2 We are hearing that Ethanol may indeed be used by Champ Car next year, but it won't be 100% Ethanol like the IRL uses but an E85 blend like you can buy at the gas pump. Champ Car feels that has more correlation to the consumer market than 100% Ethanol. E85 is up to 85% Ethanol by volume and 15% gasoline. Cosworth is confident they can easily make the switch and they will not have to increase engine displacement (costly) like they did in the IRL to compensate for the loss in HP by switching from Methanol to Ethanol. They will simply increase turbo boost and strengthen the pistons and connecting rods (if necessary)........Sierra Sierra reiterated again that they are keeping the door open to possibly moving up to Champ Car but that would be contingent on finding more sponsorship....15-year old Mexican sensation Esteban Gutierrez won Sunday's Formula BMW race (his 3rd of the year) and he's looking at either a future in Atlantics and then Champ Car or GP2 and then F1........American Jonathan Bomarito, who won today's Atlantic race, is hoping to get a Champ Car test in the off-season and use that as a springboard to get sponsorship for a move up to Champ Car in 2008. Mark C.
2008 will be the year of stability for Champ Car Don't look for a lot of changes in the Champ Car schedule in 2008 as Champ Car has decided to solidify and stabilize its current lineup of races and teams we hear. So after a lot of new races in 2007, 2008 will be the year to solidify the financial viability of the new events. So we will see the same 15 races (except for Portland which could be replaced by another natural terrain road course) that we saw in 2007 plus the China race which will definitely happen in 2008 after a false start in 2007. Look for the season opener to be in Las Vegas on April 6th followed by Long Beach on April 20th. Mark C.
Where will Matos take his $2M?UPDATE A reader writes, Unbelievable. Would they really let the Atlantic champ bring his money to Kalkhoven's team? Hell, might as well just keep his check, while the other teams (who need the $2M more) fight for scraps. What kind of message does this send to the other team owners when the owners of the series keep the Red Bull money for themselves, don't commit to a second car until the 11th hour (Forsythe), sign a funded driver in Gommendy (PKV) and now keep the $2M for themselves. This is why self-serving team owners should not be running a race series. Janet Pomroy, Detroit
Dear Janet, First of all it is just a rumor that Matos will take his $2M to PKV. And if he does, then that will be $2M that Kalkhoven can spend elsewhere on the series. For example he could use it toward high-definition TV next year, more marketing for the series, or wherever else he deems necessary. As long as any of the teams are not 100% self-sufficient, at the end of the day the series owners are going to have to help out to ensure a full grid.
The bottom line is that Champ Car has great events, and the competition and level of driver skill is second to none. It's biggest weak spot continues to be on the commercial side and its inability to attract more sponsorship. Driver turnover year-to-year and cancelling races like China and South Korea (regardless of who was at fault) only hurts their credibility. These issues, 1) sponsorship for the series and the teams, 2) schedule stability, and 3) driver stability will be the key issues for the series long-term survival. Mark C.
07/29/07 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, It appears to be a foregone conclusion that Raphael Matos will win the Champ Car Atlantic championship this year, and with it the $2 million prize for a Champ Car seat in 2008. Who will he drive for in the Champ Cars? Ernie Martin
Dear Ernie, We agree that Matos appears to be a shoe-in to win the title, but Franck Perera does have an outside shot. We'll know better after today's race in San Jose where Matos could possibly clinch. As for who he would then drive for in 2008, we heard PKV Racing most likely and although we're sure he would love to take Sebastien Bourdais' seat at Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, we're pretty sure the team would never have two inexperienced drivers in Matos and Rahal......so although we heard that rumor, rest assured it probably won't happen. Mark C.
NASCAR to fine Biffle Nextel Cup driver Greg Biffle refused to visit the press box and complete his post-race media obligations at O'Reilly Raceway Park following Saturday night's Busch Series race. NASCAR was investigating and discussing the incident late Saturday.
According to the weekly entry blank, drivers are required to fulfill all post-race media obligations following a race. They are also reminded of the obligation in the prerace drivers meeting.
Biffle spoke to network television and Motor Racing Network following the race, but refused repeated requests to visit the press box. Driver Tony Stewart was fined $10,000 and placed on probation earlier this season when he failed to visit the media center following the race at Phoenix. "In the past, we have always hoped that we wouldn't have to get to this point to get our athletes to fulfill their media obligations, but obviously that hasn't worked - it didn't work in this instance - so this is a starting point," NASCAR vice president of corporate communications Jim Hunter said at the time. ThatsRacin.com
Champ Car eyes two trips to EuropeUPDATE #5 We are now hearing that Champ Car will probably not add two more races in Europe next year because the right promoters have yet to be found, promoters Champ Car believes can succeed. That can, however, change between now and September when the 2008 schedule is expected to be released.
07/28/07 We forgot to mention that we hear the Zolder and Assen races might be split apart with the two new races because Zolder and Assen are in too close proximity to each other to be on back-to-back weekends. So for example, you might see Zolder and Greece in May and Assen and Donington in September (using Greece and Donington as examples until the final venues are determined.).
07/28/07 We are hearing that Donington Park in England is definitely in the running to possibly get a Champ Car event in 2008. The 2.5-mile track, which is under new ownership is getting a facelift (See related Hot News item).
Donington’s parkland setting provides a natural amphitheatre for spectators, and the track's layout - with fast, sweeping curves and undulation changes - makes it challenging for competitors. The race of course would be contingent on Champ Car finding a race to pair it with. You already read our Greece rumors, but other tracks are possible as well.
05/16/07 As we told you in this rumor in March, the man behind Champ Car's return to Europe has again hinted that the overseas leg of the series could see two European swings as early as 2008.
Bart Rietbergen told Crash.net that, having successfully negotiated to bring the series to both Zolder and Assen this summer, talks were underway to have two 'flyaway' sessions in Europe in 2008, with races in the UK and one other country under consideration.
"We are definitely looking further afield for next season and I am, at this moment, talking to two track owners to see if we can bring Champ Car back to England," he confirmed to Crash.net Radio, "I would say it is 90 per cent sure that we will be in England in 2008.
"For next year, we are looking at two races in May and two in September, both back-to-back, as that is basically all the room there is in the calendar. One of the races will definitely be in the UK and the other will either be in Germany or France." [Editor's Note: What about Imola, which lost its F1 race and is not likely to get it back due to a full schedule? And let's not forget about Greece's attempts at a race.]
03/09/07 We spoke to Bart Rietbergen (pictured right talking to Robert Doornbos at Mazda Raceway Friday) about the rumors of four possible races in Europe in 2008. He owns the rights to all the Champ Car races in Europe and he told AutoRacing1.com, "Yes, I would like to do four Champ Car races in Europe," but when pressed for which venues he would only say, "there are many good venues in Europe. I am not going to say right now."
03/06/07 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Champ Car is considering two trips to Europe in the future (as of '08), one in the spring with 2 races in May, one probably being Athens, Greece, and one trip in September - Assen plus Zolder (Zolder if successful in 2007).
Champ Car China race could run holiday weekendUPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' and we hear it will almost definitely go to 'false' because the FIA simply isn't going to grant Champ Car a new date this year - it is not part of their process to grant dates and then change them. Expect Champ Car to soon cancel this event. With that said, it's on for 2008, probably in October we hear, right after the Surfers weekend.
07/12/07 Hearing that Champ Car may run their China race on Thanksgiving weekend (a big holiday weekend in the USA) that they had hoped to run in October but that date was denied by the FIA. The race would run one week prior to the Phoenix season closer. Running on Thanksgiving Weekend will have a negative impact of the teams but it really does not matter as far as TV goes in the rest of the world and of course that is not a holiday in China so the race could still meet with great success.
Ferrari to appeal spygate decisionUPDATE Former Ferrari driver Mika Salo on Saturday clarified comments made to a Finnish newspaper suggesting that the Italian team had routinely spied on Formula One rivals McLaren in the past.
"What has been published in Ilta-Sanomat does not match the thoughts I wanted to express," the Finn said in a clarification provided by Ferrari.
"I would therefore like to make it clear that I was only referring to Formula One in the late nineties, when radio technology was still at an almost amateurish level, which meant it could happen that some radio conversations could be listened to randomly because of interference."
Salo was quoted on Friday, after a hearing of the sport's governing body into a spy controversy that has gripped Formula One, as saying that when he drove for Ferrari "we always spied on McLaren, listening to their radio traffic.
"After every practice session I had in front of me, on paper, all the discussions Mika Hakkinen had had with his engineer."
07/27/07 Ferrari are considering an appeal against the decision to clear McLaren in Formula One's spying row.
"We are reflecting on what to do after the incomprehensible and grave decision made in Paris," Ferrari boss Jean Todt told Italian news agency ANSA.
The FIA ruled on Thursday that the title race was unaffected by McLaren's possession of secret Ferrari documents.
"It's difficult to understand that one who is deemed to be guilty goes unpunished," said Todt.
The row erupted after a 780-page technical dossier was found at the home of McLaren chief designer Mike Coughlan, who has since been suspended by the team.
McLaren, who insisted that they did not use or benefit from the information in Coughlan's possession, still face a championship ban if in the future they are seen to have gained any advantage from the data.
Todt's comments were echoed by Ferrari president Luca Montezemolo.
"I want to say to the fans from all over the world who have been contacting Ferrari, offended by the decision taken in Paris yesterday, that they should remain calm because this story will not end here," he said. BBC
If someone is guilty they must have a punishment, instead here there is nothing," Ferrari boss Jean Todt was quoted as saying in Gazzetta dello Sport. "It is a decision strongly prejudicial for the credibility of this sport."
"Nothing has changed. It is right that the world championship is won on the track. I remain calm," said Stepney, who along with Coughlan could face an FIA ban.
"I was the only one that tried to explain that McLaren was guilty. For me they are guilty and that's that. Juve were sent to Serie B for a lot less," Italian Luigi Macaluso, a member of the 25-man FIA world motor sport council said in reference to Italian soccer's match-fixing scandal last year.
"I do not understand why there has been no decision. This is a sentence that reminds me of Pontius Pilate," Flavio Briatore said.
"If one individual is operating independently outside his own remit, then it is right that such clandestine behavior should be punished on an individual basis," Jackie Stewart told the Guardian.
"As far as the FIA threat is concerned, I'm not worried. We're cleaner than clean," Mercedes motorsport head Norbert Haug told German media.
"When I was driving for Ferrari we always spied on McLaren, listening to their radio traffic. After every practice session I had in front of me, on paper, all the discussions Mika Hakkinen had had with his engineer," former Ferrari driver Mika Salo told Finnish newspaper Ilta-Sanomat.
Doubtful Bourdais would go to NASCAR [Editor's Note: While this article speculates whether Champ Car driver Sebastien Bourdais might go to NASCAR if the F1 offer does not materialize, and the author was not able to reach Bourdais in San Jose yesterday, we did. When asked if he might consider a NASCAR offer he said, "Maybe, but the schedule is so long and we have a new baby. I love my wife and my daughter and asking her to spend that much time on the road (referring to NASCAR's long schedule) would be too much to ask of her." Bourdais is always very honest when he speaks and he did not give us the impression whatsoever that NASCAR is really an option for him, but given the right financial offer, who knows.......]
Sebastien Bourdais lobbied hard for a shot in NASCAR after winning the second of his three Champ Car titles in 2005. If he still wants it, the chance may be there.
Bourdais' Champ Car team, Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing, announced a partnership with NASCAR's Robert Yates Racing on Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. After a news conference, two of the principals - Carl Haas and Doug Yates - said they're interested in bringing Bourdais to Nextel Cup.
The problem is Bourdais may be on the verge of signing with Formula One's Scuderia Toro Russo team, for whom he has tested three times.
However, Bourdais has said in the past he only wants to go to Formula One if he can sign with a competitive team, and Toro Rosso is one of the worst. Additionally, the 28-year-old Frenchman has been intrigued by NASCAR since beating some of stock car racing's best in an IROC race at Texas a few years ago.
Haas, who begins his third stint as a NASCAR team owner, said there have been discussions with Bourdais about moving to NASCAR.
"Well, he's getting a Formula One offer, but he might stay where we're at [Champ Car]," Haas said. "He's rather interested in doing what's being done here [the NASCAR partnership], but I don't know. We'll have to see."
Doug Yates, who has owned Robert Yates Racing with his father, said Juan Pablo Montoya having some degree of success after coming over from F1 - he won the Nextel Cup road race at Sonoma, Calif., last month - has shown that the best open-wheel drivers can make a direct transition to Nextel Cup.
"That has definitely been a discussion we've had, and I think Sebastien is very interested in NASCAR," he said. "And I think it would be great for NASCAR to have Sebastien here.
Iowa to get MIS date Don't be surprised if the IRL moves its Iowa race date to take the Michigan Speedway date next year. While ISC would not work with the IRL to give them a date they wanted in August, we hear that Iowa Speedway is willing to work with whatever date the IRL wants them on.
Krisiloff to drive for Yates/Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing According to exclusive AutoRacing1.com sources, look for Kyle Krisiloff to drive for the new Yates/Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing team that was announced today as a partnership between the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Champ Car team Robert Yates Racing NASCAR Cup team. Krisiloff is currently competing in the NASCAR Busch Series. Whether he stays one more year in the Busch Series, or moves up to the Sprint Cup series remains to be seen. We hear that longtime Indy Car/Champ Car mechanic, crew chief and team manager, Jim McGee, will also be involved.
Champ Car team to merge with Yates Cup teamUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement - see Hot News Page
07/26/07 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. Mergers continue to be the name of the game in NASCAR Nextel Cup series racing this year.
Robert Yates Racing and Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing will reveal on Friday its plans to merge, a source close to the situation confirmed to ESPN.com. A formal news conference has been set for that afternoon at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
This announcement comes on the heels of the merger acquisition of Dale Earnhardt Inc., and Ginn Racing, as reported by ESPN.com on Tuesday.
Actor Paul Newman, an avid racer and long-time team owner in open-wheel racing, and partner Carl Haas own the team currently leading the Champ Car series with driver Sebastien Bourdais, a three-time champion in the series.
Yates last month at New Hampshire International said he had personally abandoned pursuit of a business partner, saying he had no debts and didn't need to get into a more pressure-packed situation answering to a partner's business demands. He did, however, say he would allow a head-hunting firm continue to look in that area.
Like Robert Yates Racing, Newman/Haas/Lanigan has had deep ties with Ford. ESPN.com
07/25/07 Seven-time Champ Car champion owners Carl Haas and Paul Newman have offered to purchase Robert Yates Racing, sources told FOXSports.com. An announcement could come as early as Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Haas currently runs the No. 14 CAH-PPC Ford in the Busch Series with Michael Lanigan, who became a partner on the Newman/Haas Champ Car operation earlier this season, and Mari Hulman George. Haas was most recently involved in NASCAR at the Cup level as Travis Carter's partner on the Nos. 26 and 66 in 2002. Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing currently leads the Championship Point Standings with three-time champion Sebastian Bourdais who looks to win an unprecedented fourth title this season.
Robert Yates purchased the No. 28 from Harry Ranier in 1988. He expanded to two teams in 1995 with the No. 88 and Dale Jarrett. Yates won the championship with Jarrett in 1999. RYR currently runs two entries in the Nextel Cup Series with David Gilliland and Ricky Rudd, who are currently 27th and 30th in points, respectively. Stephen Leicht pilots Yates Busch's effort in the No. 90 Citifinancial Ford and is currently eighth in the standings. FOX Sports
Can Champ Car and IRL survive with NASCAR on ABC/ESPN? ESPN Sports has grown into a motor sports television conglomerate, with 115 races on its assorted networks and more than 1,200 hours of programming on ESPN2 this season.
But Indy Racing League officials wonder if there is too much engine noise for their good.
The IRL, which has been with ABC, ESPN and ESPN2 since 1996, extended its contract two years ago without knowing it would soon be racing in such a crowded landscape.
The IRL competes directly with the Champ Car World Series, plus NHRA and sprint car racing's World of Outlaws, all in the shadow of NASCAR, the national giant.
ESPN Sports has been airing Busch Series races all season; its first Nextel Cup race is this weekend's Allstate 400 at the Brickyard.
ESPN's decision to sign NASCAR was easily understood by IRL execs, but adding Champ Car drew a predictable reaction, according to Terry Angstadt, president of the league's commercial division.
Da Matta to return to racing in 2008 Cristiano da Matta sat outside a Mill Valley cafe Tuesday, smiling in the morning sunshine. He was looking forward to a bike ride with some friends who included fellow race-car drivers Bruno Junqueira and Jan Heylen.
His unruly hair covered any evidence of the terrible injury he had suffered a year ago.
"I'm not sure if everything is 100 percent normal," da Matta said. "But I sure feel like I'm normal again. And that's good enough."
Just days after placing second at the 2006 San Jose Grand Prix, da Matta clung to life. He was in a freak accident in which his car struck a deer during a test session in Wisconsin. Doctors removed 40 percent of da Matta's skull in a frantic effort to save his life. Even then it wasn't clear if he would survive.
Yet here he was.
"I know I've been lucky," da Matta said, "and I'm very, very thankful for that."
There's another way to describe his stunning progress.
Troubles at Ford? No.UPDATE Ford Motor Co. reported a net profit of 31 cents per share, or $750 million, for the April-June period — a big improvement from the net loss of 17 cents per share or $317 million during the same second-quarter period a year ago. Ford’s total results for the first half of the year now stand in the black, at $458 million, suggesting Ford could be much further along in its Way Forward turnaround plan than many believed.
That plan is slated to close 16 plants, eliminate 44,000 jobs and revamp the company’s lineup in the crucial North American unit, with a goal of profitability in 2009.Ford’s performance is likely to surprise analysts who had been forecasting a loss before special items of 37 cents per share, or nearly $700 million. On an operating basis, before special items, Ford posted a profit of $258 million, or 13 cents a share, compared to a loss of $118 million, or 6 cents per share, a year ago. Ford’s improved performance is the result of both cost-cutting and revenue improvements. Detroit Free Press
07/25/07 Ford Motor Co. shares are among the most actively traded stocks on the New York Stock Exchange early Wednesday afternoon. At a volume of more than 71 million shares being traded, the Dearborn automaker’s fell 2.4% to $8.06 a share as of 1:38 p.m. Ford’s trading volume is nearly double the next closest stock – Corning Inc. – with a volume of 36.5 million shares on the NYSE. The nation’s second-largest car and truck maker will report its second-quarter earnings Thursday.
Hornish to replace Newman Ryan Newman’s future continues to be a question mark in the NASCAR garage, and it’s not clear if he will be back with car owner Roger Penske next season. IRL driver Sam Hornish Jr. is most likely to replace Newman. Newman is one driver rumored to possibly land the No. 8 DEI ride.
McLaren appear guilty as sin [Editor's Note: If these allegations by Ferrari are true, the McLaren team had to benefit from the information from Ferrari and would explain why all of a sudden this year they are on pace with Ferrari. In conclusion, at this early stage they appear to be guilty as sin and all the points earned to date in 2007 should be stripped from both the team and the drivers.]
The documents that Ferrari's chief mechanic, Nigel Stepney, is alleged to have passed to Mike Coughlan of McLaren in formula one's ongoing sabotage scandal contained details of four aspects of the Italian car's design, it emerged yesterday.
Ferrari's lawyers claim that, in March, Stepney sent three emails to his friend Coughlan about an unspecified "floor device", a rear wing-flap separator (for enhancing aerodynamic down force) and a "subtle engineering technique to lower the floor of the Ferrari car." A document obtained by the Guardian and the Italian daily, Corriere della Sera, also claims that, at a meeting between the two men in Barcelona at the end of April, Stepney gave Coughlan "a diagram of a brake balance assembly used by Ferrari and discussed how the rear brake disc on the Ferrari Formula One car worked".
Stepney, who is formally a suspect in a judicial investigation in Italy, has hotly denied the accusations leveled at him by his employers. Earlier this month, he was quoted as saying his encounter with Coughlan in Spain was "just a catch-up between old friends". The relationship between the two men is at the centre of a nine-page submission drawn up by Ferrari's lawyers and deposited at the high court in London on July 20. It represents an early stage in proceedings brought by the Italian team against Coughlan and his wife, who have yet to present their side.
Ferrari's lawyers trace the origins of the row to the three alleged emails, which they say were received by Coughlan at his McLaren email address. They claim he then showed the email relating to the floor device to Martin Whitmarsh, McLaren's chief operations officer, "who asked him to take up the issue with Paddy Lowe", the team's engineering director.
Coughlan, Ferrari alleges, "produced a schematic drawing for Mr. Lowe, which was then forwarded to the FIA", which later banned Ferrari's flexible floor. More at The Guardian
Ferrari claims McLaren used their secrets Ferrari's lawyers have claimed that it is "likely" McLaren are leading the world championship only because their chief designer had access to the Italian team's secrets. In a document obtained by the Guardian and the Milan-based daily Corriere della Sera, Ferrari say that losing the title would cost them well over €5.5m.
The document, lodged with the high court in London last Friday relating to an ongoing case taken out by Ferrari against McLaren's chief designer, Mike Coughlan, sets out in greater detail than ever before their accusations in the sabotage scandal that has divided formula one. McLaren, who go before the governing body, the FIA, today to answer charges of benefiting from 780 pages of information about the design of the Ferrari which were allegedly passed from the former chief mechanic Nigel Stepney to Coughlan, have repeatedly and vigorously denied any wrongdoing. A spokeswoman for the team declined to make any comment.
McLaren have insisted from the outset that the only member of their technical organization to have received Ferrari's confidential information was Coughlan, who was suspended this month. In its most recent statement, on July 16, McLaren repeated that "no Ferrari material or data are, or have ever been, in the possession of any McLaren employee other than the individual sued by Ferrari".
This is contested in the document, which lists five occasions on which, Ferrari claim, their secrets were made known to McLaren executives including Martin Whitmarsh, the team's chief operations officer, and Paddy Lowe, the engineering director.
Contrary to reports this month, the Italian team have not dropped their high court action against Coughlan and his wife Trudy. Outlining their case against the couple before last Sunday's grand prix, Ferrari's lawyers noted that, at that time, they were only 25 points behind McLaren in the constructors' championship. "The difference between the two teams is so close that it is likely that McLaren's superior number of points is a consequence of its chief designer having the Ferrari documents," the team's lawyers say. More at The Guardian
Yamamoto to SpykerUPDATE (GMM) Team principal Colin Kolles revealed on Wednesday that Spyker will reveal the identity of Christijan Albers' full time race replacement on Thursday.
Reports on Wednesday revealed the identity of the successful pay-driver for the remaining seven races of 2007 as Japan's Sakon Yamamoto, who debuted for Super Aguri last year.
"We can not say anything official at the current time," Kolles was quoted as saying by the news agency Sport-Informations-Dienst on Wednesday afternoon.
He confirmed suggestions, however, that the decision would be publicized on Thursday.
25-year-old Yamamoto, with an estimated multi-million dollar purse of personal sponsorship, tested with Jordan in 2005, and this season has been racing for the Spanish GP2 team BCN Competicion.
He had not scored any points in 2007.
07/25/07 We are hearing that Spyker will soon announce that it has signed up Japan's Sakon Yamamoto for the rest of the Formula 1 season. Yamamoto joined Super Aguri F1 a year ago, made his F1 debut in Germany and did the second half of the year with the Japanese team. Over the winter he lost out to Anthony Davidson and so decided to be Super Aguri test driver and to race in GP2 for BCN Competicion. Now it seems his financial clout has won him the Spyker drive. An announcement is expected later today. Grandprix.com
Dalziel replacement You can scratch Ronnie Bremer's name off the list of potential substitutes for Pacific Coast Motorsports this weekend, as he will be racing for Brooks Associates Racing in the Atlantic Series at San Jose.
From his website:
Following Polestar's pause to Atlantic 2007 season, the outlook for Ronnie Bremer was indeed bleak. Some teams have had financial issues but more focus on the European side to business will hopefully improve sponsor interests in the series.
Ronnie says: "When John (Brooks) called me the message was short but clear; "Ronnie, come and join my team, I want you to drive #10 at San Jose this weekend." It was a great message to receive and especially since I have been very much in close contact with John and his team for a long time. Remember, it was thanks to John that I started my career in the US in the first place back in 2004, something I have been grateful for ever since. Now I am really looking forward to delivering a strong performance and I hope that the margin of luck will be on my side for a little while now - I did not have too much of that during my races with Polestar Racing."
With that said it will be interesting to see who the team picks for Ryan's replacement. Will it be an American or will it be a veteran who may be able to help the team with setups? It is an all-American team but how many experienced American veterans who have Champ Car experience, in particular Panoz DP01 experience, are available at the moment. Mexican Mario Dominguez or Brazilian Roberto Moreno come to mind but again, neither are American.
Red Bull to sell off Toro Rosso team? Scott Speed's imminent demise at Toro Rosso has revealed a potential split within the ownership and management of the Faenza based team.
STR is co-owned, sponsored and supported technically by Red Bull, but its managers Franz Tost and Gerhard Berger have clashed fundamentally with their energy drink partners over the current driver lineup.
With Vitantonio Liuzzi also enduring flagging support from Tost and Berger, and Speed almost certain to imminently lose his seat, Red Bull's driver adviser Helmut Marko has defended the beleaguered pair and also issued slight criticism to their bosses.
"The drivers are not so bad," said Marko, who developed and then recommended the pair to Toro Rosso.
"It is simply very difficult for them if support from above is missing," he told Sport Bild.
Berger, who like Marko is also a former grand prix driver, hit back: "Look at the drivers that Dr Marko recommended to us as future champions! And look at who he thought were unsuitable -- Kimi Raikkonen and Nico Rosberg. That says everything, I think.
"I have never experienced a pair of drivers such as ours."
With the Raikkonen mention, Berger is referring to late 2000, when Red Bull split with the Sauber team when the team's boss Peter Sauber insisted that rookie Raikkonen be placed in the car instead of Enrique Bernoldi.
Sounds to us like Red Bull could decide, in disgust, to sell-off their share of the Toro Rosso team and just focus on it's primary Red Bull F1 team.
DEI and Ginn to mergeUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Dale Earnhardt Inc.'s expansion has moved into overdrive. DEI completed the acquisition of two of Ginn Racing's Nextel Cup teams on Tuesday and will field four teams this weekend in Indianapolis, the Observer has learned.
In the deal announced to employees at Ginn and DEI, the No. 14 team's points will move to the No. 15 at DEI, providing driver Paul Menard a safety net and ensure his spot in the field in Sunday's Allstate 400. Menard's team will not have to change its number in the process, sources confirmed.
Drivers Sterling Marlin and Joe Nemechek, who drove the Nos. 13 and 14, respectively, were released by Ginn Racing last week because of lack of sponsorship.
In addition, driver Mark Martin's No. 01 team moves under the DEI banner and he will continue to be paired with newcomer Aric Almirola -- a deal that was announced by Ginn last week. Almirola will drive in the Cup races Martin does not for the rest of the season.
In a separate deal, DEI officials have talked with Martin about driving the organization's No. 8 Chevrolet next season which is being vacated by Dale Earnhardt Jr., sources said. The result of those discussions remains unclear. ThatsRacin
07/18/07 Despite reports to the contrary, Dale Earnhardt Incorporated and Ginn Racing have not come to an agreement on a merger. The financially troubled Ginn Racing has shut down its Busch team and Tuesday shut down one of its three Nextel Cup teams. They also announced that Joe Gibbs Racing development driver Aric Almirola would split seat time with veteran Mark Martin in 2007 and 2008. Regan Smith will take over the No. 14. But an official with DEI said that while the two have discussed a merger, they have not come an agreement. The official cited ‘several hurdles’ that are left before a merger could happen. The team official added that the persuasive argument inside DEI is that the focus should be on the teams already in their stable rather than bringing in another team. The official also said that the merger is wanted more by Ginn then by DEI. Cup Scene
07/16/07 Dale Earnhardt, Inc. and Ginn Racing are working on a merger agreement that, if finalized, would meld the two NASCAR organizations into a single company, multiple sources close to negotiations told ESPN.com on Monday.
The deal is not done, but a decision will be made soon. Both organizations hope, sources said, to firm up outstanding details and announce a partnership immediately.
This deal is an elaborate proposition that entails several obstacles, including how best to reduce from six Nextel Cup teams to the maximum four. The obvious answer, sources said, would be to eliminate Ginn's financially-strapped Nos. 13 and 14 teams.
French GP to return Bernie Ecclestone has had a meeting with the French Prime Minister Francois Fillon and the country's Minister of Health, Youth and Sport Roselyne Bachelot and the word is that the future of the French Grand Prix has been secured at Magny-Cours for two more years. There is a further period of two years for which there is an option to continue but France is now looking at alternative venues, in an effort to find a more cost-effective solution for the long term.
Fillon is a big fan of motorsport and a member of the Automobile Club de l'Ouest, which runs the Le Mans circuit. he has also competed on occasion in events as a gentleman driver. Grandprix.com
Bahrain to get season opener? After reports that the Australian Grand Prix won’t be the season opener in 2008 for several reasons, one being that they refuse to conduct a night race, it was stated that the Bahrain Grand Prix would take its place as race one. However, the Bahrain International Circuit has now clarified its position following this speculation with Martin Whitaker, Chief Executive Officer of the Bahrain International Circuit stating: “Until such time as the official 2008 FIA Formula One World Championship calendar is announced any speculation about the date of next year's Gulf Air Bahrain Grand Prix has to be discounted. Only when the official calendar is released will the Bahrain International Circuit be in a position to announce the date for the race in 2008.”
Will IRL adopt standing starts? The IRL has copied everything else Champ Car has done, and with another horribly out of order field for the start of Sunday's Indy Car race at Mid-Ohio, maybe we'll now see the IRL copy Champ Car's standing starts. In fact almost all the IRL starts this year have been misaligned. Some races have even appeared to be single file. Sunday's Champ Car race in Edmonton saw another perfectly executed standing start. Gone are the days of complaints and false starts in Champ Car because someone on the front row jumped the start, and there are now less first turn accidents.
"The start wasn't one of the best things I've ever seen," Dario Franchitti said.
"It was tough to see what happened to them. I was also upset at losing places with the whole thing. As a team, it wasn't our best moment, put it that way."
"I knew (Castroneves was going to start fast, but I got on him quick as I could. He just really got on it," Danica Patrick said. "I was surprised they threw the green being that separated, but they did and next time I'll know better."
"I could tell with Helio being on the pole that it was just going to start the lap before it started. He always goes so early," Scott Dixon said. "I think he kind of screwed Danica there because the pace car pulled to the left and he went as soon as the pace car went. She had nowhere to go. She had to wait an extra few seconds before the pace car actually pulled off. Our line was already strung out."
Champ Car or F1 back to Denver According to this tabloid newspaper article (Daily Mirror) Bernie Ecclestone's reported flirtations with ownership of the British football club Arsenal may be linked with the rescue of the axed US grand prix.
The English tabloid The Mirror reports that F1's chief executive could be joining forces with fellow billionaire and Arsenal bidder Stan Kroenke, an American, in the hope of reinstating the country on his annual formula one calendar.
The newspaper speculates that, in return for having his Arsenal bid bolstered, Kroenke might use "his influence to take grand prix racing to ... his home town of Denver".
Kroenke, 60, has previously admitted his interest in organizing a street circuit in Colorado and has already been in talks with the Champ Car series.
Since Kroenke and Ecclestone were linked with buying the north London club, however, its managing director Keith Edelman has warned that billionaires do not necessarily make good owners of football clubs.
"Some other clubs with billionaire owners, their debts are mounting up," he said.
Vettel awaits BMW release for Speed's seat (GMM) Sebastian Vettel is waiting for BMW's approval as the very real prospect of his immediate switch to Toro Rosso lies on the table.
Faenza based STR's relationship with American driver Scott Speed hit rock bottom at the Nurburgring, leaving co-owner Gerhard Berger to strongly imply that BMW-Sauber test driver Vettel, who is 20, could appear in the car at the upcoming Hungarian grand prix.
Germany's Vettel is hoping for a decision within the next two days, with a test in Speed's Ferrari-powered car at Mugello to follow.
If he debuts in Hungary, a subsequent two-year contract to race with Toro Rosso is almost certain.
Berger confirmed to Auto Motor und Sport on Monday: "Vettel is a realistic alternative for us, but before he races he would need a test.
"It would not make any sense to throw him into the deep end."
But if Vettel cannot secure an immediate release from BMW, his participation in the following Istanbul round would also be unlikely, given the upcoming test break.
Auto Motor und Sport claims BMW is hesitating mainly because releasing Vettel would push the Hinwil team to clarify its own driver situation for 2008 -- with GP2 frontrunner Timo Glock first in line for the primary test seat.
Glock, however, is apparently also in unfinished talks about 2008 with Williams and Toyota.
STR chiefs pave way for driver clean-sweep (GMM) Toro Rosso bosses Franz Tost and Gerhard Berger at the Nurburgring paved the way for an imminent clean-sweep of the Faenza based team's driver lineup.
Scott Speed's seat now appears to be in immediate jeopardy, but his teammate Vitantonio Liuzzi also did not escape the management's grim mood after the European grand prix on Sunday.
STR refused to issue a meaningful press release after the race in Germany, partly because of the double DNF but also because Liuzzi and his engineers were locked in an argument about what caused him to crash.
Italian Liuzzi told trackside reporters that his power steering had failed, but Berger disagreed: "We checked his steering and there was no fault. He approached the situation simply too fast for the amount of water."
In fairness to the 24-year-old, the collecting water at turn one claimed several drivers before the red flag was shown, including the highly rated Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Adrian Sutil and Jenson Button.
But Berger told Auto Motor und Sport: "We were the only team that lost both cars to accidents. That is unacceptable."
Team principal Tost's criticism, meanwhile, is even more general.
"In free practice our drivers do decent lap times, but the closer to qualifying we come, the slower they go."
Toro Rosso is now flirting openly with BMW's Sebastian Vettel about 2007 and beyond, while a contractual 'option' to secure the services of Sebastien Bourdais for 2008 expires next Tuesday.
Winkelhock may get second race for Spyker (GMM) Markus Winkelhock could be given one more race at the wheel of Christijan Albers' vacated Spyker at the upcoming Hungarian grand prix.
Christian Klien and Narain Karthikeyan are first in line for the full time seat, but debutant Winkelhock - who sensationally led at the Nurburgring for a few laps - on Sunday hinted that a decision might not have been taken by his bosses in time for the Budapest event next month.
Asked by Auto Motor und Sport if the team's reserve driver would be on the grid again in two weeks, Winkelhock said: "I hope so.
"Now I must talk to Colin Kolles about whether it is possible or not."
He said the decision would not be taken "today or tomorrow".
Kolles' problem is that while Williams' test driver Karthikeyan can promise a raft of sponsors, team chiefs including Mike Gascoyne are pushing for Klien -- who is not substantially backed.
"Believe me, I would much rather make driver selections on the basis of only other criteria," Kolles is quoted as saying by motorline.cc.
"But my job is to run a formula one team and ensure that it survives. And without a budget even the quickest driver is not useful to us."
Another American on way to NASCAR The life of an 18-year-old is full of tough decisions, but for Colin Braun this decision was so big that few his age had ever encountered it.
The defending champion of the Porsche 250 at Barber Motorsports Park spent much of this racing season deciding not what girl to date or what college to attend but what major racing team and racing series will get his services.
Braun returns to Barber Motorsport Park Sunday for the Porsche 250. The Texas native first raced here two years ago when the ink on his first driver's license was barely dry. Last year at the tender age of 17 he out-dueled some of the world's top drivers for his second Daytona Prototype win in a month.
On Sunday he comes to Barber's knowing he may never be back.
Braun decided earlier this year that at season's end he will step away from the Rolex Daytona Prototype Series where he has found so much success. Next season he'll roll the dice as a developmental driver for Roush/Fenway Racing in the ARCA/Remax Series.
"The Grand Am Series is a fantastic series," Braun said from inside his hauler in the paddock at Barber's Friday. "It has been great at my age to race against people like (Max) Papis, (Scott) Pruett and (Max) Angelelli and learn from them.
"But NASCAR is American racing in its most popular form. Fourteen races a year aren't enough races for me. I'm looking forward to racing 36 races a year or whatever it is."
Klien eyes two teams for 2008UPDATE (GMM) With Honda's works lineup now locked out, Super Aguri could become an option for Christian Klien in 2008. When Rubens Barrichello and Jenson Button were confirmed for next year, Honda boss Nick Fry stopped short of also naming current test driver Klien, 24, for another season.
The Austrian is hoping to link up in the race role with Spyker, who have sacked Christijan Albers for late sponsor payments.
Klien said of his relationship with Japanese manufacturer Honda: "I have a contract until the end of the season with them and an option for next year, but it has not been taken up yet."
Asked by motorline.cc about Honda-powered Super Aguri, he admitted: "Everything is open, however (Takuma) Sato is fixed (for 2008)." Anthony Davidson is currently Sato's teammate at the Leafield based team.
Spyker technical chief Mike Gascoyne, meanwhile, does not hide his desire to put Klien in the second orange car alongside Adrian Sutil for the balance of the 2007 season.
"There is of course the financial consideration, but I definitely regard Christian as the best of the drivers we have to choose from," he said.
07/19/07 (GMM) While racers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello have retained their race seats, Honda on Thursday did not confirm current test and reserve Christian Klien for the 2008 season.
Team principal Nick Fry explained at the Nurburgring that the delay relates to the Austrian's talks with Spyker about a race seat.
"We are waiting to see what happens with Spyker, who have shown some interest in Christian," said the Briton.
Klien, 24, is among the favorites to become Christijan Albers' full time replacement at the Dutch squad for the balance of 2007.
Fry, meanwhile, suggested that next year at the Silverstone squad is also an option for the former Jaguar and Red Bull racer.
"We won't be standing in Christian's way," he vowed.
Klien, who tested the orange liveried car at Spa-Francorchamps last week, agreed that he stands a chance with Silverstone based Spyker.
"It was a very interesting test and obviously there's maybe a chance to do some racing for them this year," he said.
As for next season, Klien added: "It's all very open."
Panther Racing to add Mutoh Panther Racing is making a driver announcement this afternoon at Mid-Ohio where it is expected that Indy Pro Japanese driver Hideki Mutoh will be named for a third Panther Racing car in selected races this year.
India GP may face delay - key backer (GMM) India might not be ready to start hosting formula one in 2009.
That is the admission of one of the Delhi race's key financial backers, following the Indian Olympic Association's declaration last month that it had sealed a provisional deal for 2009 with formula one chiefs.
Vijay Mallya, whose Kingfisher Airlines is also a sponsor of the Toyota team, has pledged to assist the sponsorship of the project but he hints that it will be tight to get it ready for 2009.
"I am pushing all I can to make sure that if not in 2009 that India can host a race in 2010," he said this week.
But he insists that, given the sheer size of India and its booming economy, "it should be on the formula one calendar".
McLaren could get points penalty McLaren may have been given a huge title boost after a top official predicted the Woking-based squad will be cleared in the Formula One spy scandal.
McLaren chiefs go before the sport’s governing body (FIA) next week after their chief designer Mike Coughlan allegedly received stolen Ferrari documents.
Boss Ron Dennis insists the information was not used to help Lewis Hamilton or Fernando Alonso.
If found guilty both drivers could be docked points or even thrown out of the championship.
But Joaquin Verdegay, one of 24 stewards who will decide their fate, said: “The normal situation would be that there’s not even a reprimand for Ron Dennis’ team because it’s almost impossible to prove anything.”
However there appears to be a lack of consensus amongst the Italian media with many quoting sacked Ferrari chief engineer Nigel Stepney’s lawyer Sonia Bartolini, as saying McLaren do look likely to receive a points penalty.
"I think at this point McLaren do risk something – a few points docked in the championship,” she said on Thursday evening. ESPN Star
Failed NYC track cost ISC Former Staten Island Borough President Guy Molinari quietly collected $1.5 million lobbying for the failed bid to bring NASCAR racing to the Big Apple, The NY Post reports.
International Speedway Corp., the nation's largest motor-sports operator, paid Molinari's lobbying firm $15,000 a month from June 2004 to December 2006 to help obtain government approvals for a proposed 82,500-seat stock-car raceway in Staten Island, according to lobbying records filed with the state.
But ISC also paid the Molinari Group an extra $35,000 monthly over the same period to help generate community support for the plan through a separate contract previously unknown to the public, sources familiar with the deal said.
The NASCAR developer wound up dropping both the plan and Molinari after fierce opposition from local politicians and residents.
ISC recently replaced Molinari with another New York politician-turned-lobbyist - former Council Speaker Peter Vallone.
The Queens Democrat was hired to help ISC expedite the sale of the 675-acre site it owns near the Goethals Bridge, once eyed for the raceway and a retail center.
The company spent more than $150 million on the failed bid, including in excess of $100 million to obtain 440 acres of the property.
"The Molinari Group performed well for us and has a great niche in Staten Island, but now we need someone like Peter, who has broader citywide appeal," said Michael Printup, an ISC project manager.
Grand-Am to replace F1 at Indy Jokingly asked if NASCAR had an interest in filling Indianapolis Motor Speedway's road course date vacated by Formula One, sanctioning body president Mike Helton smiled and said, "No, but I know somebody who does."
Helton went on to suggest the France family-backed Grand American Sports Car Series would be a good fit, and he said Speedway officials could expect a call.
Helton also noted Speedway CEO Tony George knows the Grand Am series from the inside after driving in this year's Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona. George owns a Daytona Prototype he used to field Vision Racing drivers Tomas Scheckter, Ed Carpenter and A.J. Foyt IV in the late-January event.
Speedway president Joie Chitwood, having just completed a three-year deal to run a MotoGP motorcycle race on a reconfigured infield circuit starting in September 2008, is in no hurry to pursue other options. But he did not discourage Grand Am officials from initiating a dialogue.
"We've had that call before. Nothing substantial. It's always just been in passing," he said. "But, yeah, it's something to talk about. There are a lot of opportunities out there. Who knows what's next." Indy Star
[Editor's Note: This is the most preposterous proposal we have ever heard. The Grand-Am draws near-zero fans. Image how those massive empty grandstands at Indy would look! If any series should run the road course to replace F1 it should be Champ Car but Tony George's ego would never let that happen.]
Five (now 6) drivers in queue for Albers’ seatUPDATE Multiple drivers could fill axed Spyker racer Christijan Albers' seat for the remaining seven races in 2007.
That is the latest admission of the Dutch team's boss Colin Kolles, as speculation at the Nurburgring suggests for the first time that Renault test driver Nelson Piquet Jr - managed by Flavio Briatore - could have now entered the frame.
The son of triple world champion Nelson Piquet is competing principally with Christian Klien and Narain Karthikeyan for the drive, with Kolles telling the news agency Sport-Informations-Dienst (sid) that Spyker will select drivers who can contribute financially to the team.
"A formula one team does not live on air," he said.
Kolles said teammates for Spyker regular Adrian Sutil could even be assigned on a race-by-race basis.
"However continuity would of course be better," he acknowledged.
Underfinanced current substitute driver, the debutant Markus Winkelhock, ended Friday of the European grand prix slowest of all and - in the afternoon practice session - beached in the gravel.
07/20/07 (GMM) Complicating reports that the battle to fill axed Christijan Albers' Spyker seat had boiled down to just two drivers, team boss Colin Kolles on Thursday revealed that in fact he has "several options" to choose from.
Giving himself and the prospective drivers' more time to prepare offers and bids, Spyker's Kolles put reserve driver Markus Winkelhock into Albers' car for the Nurburgring after the departed Dutchman ran into sponsor trouble.
Kolles refused to reveal to reporters the additional names, but he said there are "approximately five" potential substitutes.
Along with favorites Christian Klien and Narain Karthikeyan, then, Spyker test driver Adrian Valles could also be in with a shout, as might Roldan Rodriguez and Winkelhock himself.
Kolles, however, clarified that a negative factor about Winkelhock's hopes is the fact that he is not substantially backed by sponsors.
Albers may return in test role (GMM) Spyker team boss Colin Kolles has refused to rule out a scenario where axed race driver Christijan Albers might return to the wheel of his orange liveried formula one car.
At the Nurburgring this weekend, the Dutch squad finds itself in the paradoxical situation where, due to the non-payment of just one of multiple sponsors, a driver (Albers) has been replaced by another (Markus Winkelhock) who has no financial backing at all.
The Dutch magazine Formule 1 Race Report asked Kolles if Albers, 28, might return if he can replace the lost dollars.
"Never say never," he answered. "Albers is not entirely out of the picture, but his previous contract has been dissolved."
On the possibility of his return as a test driver, Kolles added: "That is being spoken about now."
He also clarified that, because of Albers' dismissal, the Dutchman will not now be demonstrating the team's 2007 single seater at the upcoming Zandvoort DTM event next weekend.
Marlin to Morgan-McClure?UPDATE Morgan McClure team owner Larry McClure told Claire B. Lang on XM Satellite Radio that the rumor is absolutely not true. McClure: "I know nothing about it. I have talked to no one. I have not talked to Sterling in a year and I have not talked to any of his people." CBL: By no stretch of the imagination would anyone think that Sterling Marlin is going to go work for you. McClure: "No mam." XM Radio
07/18/07 Sterling Marlin may not be without a Nextel Cup ride for long. Late Tuesday a team source at Morgan-McClure Racing which currently fields the #4 Chevy with veteran Ward Burton said that officials there are in discussions with Marlin for a possible second team. Cup Scene Daily
Halliday’s return to Champ Car could be short-livedUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. The following statement is in response to stories that have surfaced regarding Matt Halliday driving a second car for Conquest Racing in the last five races of the season.
From Eric Bachelart, Conquest Racing Team Owner, “I want to start out by saying that Matt Halliday and Conquest Racing were only originally contracted together for the first three races of the 2007 season. We had considered trying to work out a deal for the last five races of the season but the economics did not work out and I feel it would be best for Conquest Racing to focus solely on the #34 car and Jan Heylen for the rest of the season. The entire Conquest Racing team and I wish Matt Halliday the best of luck in his negotiations to continue his career in Champ Car as well as his future plans in other race series.”
07/16/07 Eight hundred horsepower and lots of downforce - that's what Matt Halliday wants from his racing cars.
And that's what he's about to get again as the Aucklander - one of New Zealand's A1GP heroes - has just returned to America for more races in the Champ Car series.
An intense man totally focused on his sport, Halliday has been battling for years to make the big international breakthrough, and now he has a place in one of the world's top single-seater series.
Halliday raced three Champ Car rounds earlier this year and loved driving the very fast car, which has a turbo engine and sophisticated aerodynamics.
"They're awesome cars to drive," Halliday said.
"They have a lot of aerodynamic downforce and guys who've driven Formula One cars, like Sebastien Bourdais, say they're just as fast as F1 cars in the fast corners - they pull four or five G and it's a real strain on your neck and arms.
"They've got about 800hp and getting the power down out of the corners is very tricky - there's no traction control. It's a great car."
The A1GP car, which has about 500hp, seemed tame in comparison, Halliday said.
Another NASCAR team to fold McGlynn Racing is scheduled to have their #74 Nextel Cup Team up for auction at Sentman Auctions in Mooresville, NC on Friday July 20th through Monday July 23rd. Information is available at sentmanauctions.com
Rahal team to replace Simmons with Hunter-ReayUPDATE We are upgrading this rumor to 'fact' as AutoRacing1.com has learned that ex-Champ Car driver Ryan Hunter-Reay will replace Simmons starting this weekend at Mid-Ohio. [Editor's Note: How did Champ Car ever let this American get away - won his first two years in the series, a pure product of the Champ Car ladder series, a fan favorite and a sponsor's dream. It's a crime that Champ Car let him get away and they talk about other Americans now in the wings when they had this driver in their hand? Now the opposition has him. What about other good American drivers that Champ Car let go in Fogarty, Gurney, Moran to name a few?]
07/18/07 Jeff Simmons nearly caused a catastrophic accident when he lost control in the pit entry lane on the 188th lap. The Ethanol Council-sponsored entry shot up the track in Turn 4 into the path of Kosuke Matsuura, who veered to the right in avoidance and lightly brushed the wall. After at least four crashes this season, Simmons has reportedly been on shaky ground recently at Rahal Letterman Racing and the near-miss with Matsuura may be the last straw for Bobby Rahal and general manager Scott Roembke. Several drivers are under consideration, including Patrick Carpentier, Alex Barron, Alex Gurney and Ryan Hunter-Reay. ESPN.com
Karthikeyan to replace Winkelhock (GMM) Narain Karthikeyan's agent says the Indian driver is still in the running to replace dumped Spyker racer Christijan Albers for the balance of 2007.
While Markus Winkelhock looks set to make a home debut at the Nurburgring, 30-year Karthikeyan - who raced for the team's former Jordan guise in 2005 - is competing with fellow pay-driver Christian Klien for the other seven grands prix this year.
"Colin Kolles spoke to me this morning," Karthikeyan's agent Mark Perkins told Zee News.
"We are still in dialogue."
He denied, though, that Silverstone based Spyker has already made Karthikeyan a solid offer, explaining that so uncertain is the situation that there is currently "no point" discussing it yet with the test driver's current employer Williams.
"What Spyker have given us is not a finished offer," said Perkins, also suggesting that the Dutch team's final decision might be delayed beyond Wednesday.
He revealed: "We are hopeful that a decision will be known this weekend."
Valles to make Spyker debut? Markus Winkelhock will on Wednesday almost certainly be confirmed by Spyker as the dumped Christijan Albers' replacement for the European grand prix.
But while Christian Klien and Narain Karthikeyan are locked in a battle of who can come up with the more lucrative sponsors' check for the rest of the season, the Dutch team may take the opportunity to put a second 'one-off' driver in the car in Hungary early next month.
The Spanish newspaper Diario As reports that rookie test driver Adrian Valles, who is 21, is hoping to race alongside team regular Adrian Sutil at Budapest before handing over to Albers' full time replacement.
He said: "I knew that I did not have a chance (of the seat) for the Nurburgring. But for the following race at the Hungaroring, yes. It is possible that I will race there."
The most immediate hurdle for Spaniard Valles, however, is that he has not yet qualified for a mandatory FIA Super License.
Ralf has 'options' for 2008 grid? (GMM) Ralf Schumacher insists that his future on the formula one grid is not looking too grim.
"I have more alternatives than many people believe," the Toyota driver is quoted as saying by the specialist German magazine Auto Motor und Sport.
Schumacher, 32, has had a disappointing first half of the season in 2007, and Toyota has not yet taken up its option on the remainder of his contract.
But he performed much more strongly last time out at Silverstone, and denies that he has simply found a higher gear now that his future appears in doubt.
"That's rubbish," Ralf says of the suggestion.
"We looked better in Magny Cours and Silverstone simply because those sorts of circuits suit our car better."
But Toyota, apparently, is not his only option for 2008. As well as mentioning Honda and Renault, Auto Motor und Sport quotes Toro Rosso co-owner Gerhard Berger as saying that Ralf has "more than enough experience. And experience would do our team some good".
"All you need with Ralf is to motivate him," Berger added.
The magazine, meanwhile, asked Schumacher if he really counts reigning world champion team Renault as a genuine option for 2008.
"There are a few people there who are against me," he acknowledged, "but all that really matters is whether the decision-makers have a positive opinion about me."
Michigan IRL race is history, back to PhoenixUPDATE #4 Another reader writes, Anton's oval racing vision is such a joke. In 11 years the IRL has failed at 12 open wheel oval venues and his grassroots Road To Indy series are generating NASCAR drivers:
Walt Disney World -Orlando - Dead after 5 years Michigan - 6 years Atlanta - 4 years Charlotte - 3 years Dover - 2 years Nazareth - 3 years Loudon - 3 years Gateway - 3 years Pikes Peak IR - 10 years Las Vegas - 5 years Phoenix - 10 years Fontana - 4 years
Dave Lubowski, Green Bay
07/16/07 A reader adds, "Michigan International Speedway will not host an open-wheel race next season for the first time since the track opened in 1968."
Starting in 1993, I attended every CART race at MIS. They were some of the best superspeedway races ever seen. Unfortunately, Tony George's hammer has driven another nail in the coffin of Indy car racing. Mark Martinelli
07/16/07 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Michigan International Speedway will not host an open-wheel race next season for the first time since the track opened in 1968. Track officials confirmed today that they were unable to secure a suitable date with Indy Racing League officials. The IRL began racing at Michigan in 2002. It will stage the Firestone Indy 400 on Aug. 5. Indy Star
[Editor's Note: The IRL has had to deep-six more races than Champ Car. And if the IRL returns to Phoenix it will only be because Champ Car is now racing on the city streets there. Returning to the oval will be as big a loser as it was when they left.]
07/15/07 IRL officials confirmed that returning to Phoenix International Raceway in 2008 is being discussed, although a deal seems unlikely. Talks with International Speedway Corp., which owns the track, started with Homestead-Miami Speedway (another ISC-owned track) wanting its season-opening race earlier in March. To do that, the IRL needs a warm-weather venue to occupy a spot at the end of March. Brian Barnhart, the league's president of racing and competition, wants to see Indy cars racing at Phoenix, but he said returning to the region means facing the same crowded spring sports market that helped doom the 2005 event, the last for the IRL at the track. "The challenges we left behind remain," he said. Indy Star
The marriage between Michigan International Speedway in Brooklyn and the Indy Racing League could be on the rocks.
While MIS appears on a tentative 2008 IndyCar Series schedule presented to promoters, the date offered to MIS for next year was not one that MIS officials were seeking.
The IRL has proposed an Aug. 3, 2008, race date, which once again would place it two weeks before the track's traditional second NASCAR Nextel Cup Series race. It also would place the Michigan open-wheel event just a month before the IndyCar Series race on Belle Isle in Detroit.
The IndyCar Series comes to Michigan this year on Aug. 5.
"That first weekend in August date that we took for this year was supposed to be a one-year deal," said Sammie Lukaskiewicz, director of communications for MIS. "We've talked to the IRL about the challenges operationally and promotionally of having two major races two weeks apart.
"We're just looking for a better date."
Lukaskiewicz said MIS has countered with other dates and ideas that the track hopes will appeal to the IRL. One of the ideas floated by MIS was to revive Twin 125-mile races. MIS last hosted Twin 125s (two 125-mile races on the same day or weekend) for Championship Auto Racing Teams in 1979.
Autoweek reported in an online report Thursday that another idea offered to the IRL was to have the IndyCar Series run in conjunction with a NASCAR Nextel Cup race weekend at MIS in June or August. The IndyCar Series and NASCAR have never paired up for a racing weekend.
PA SportsTicker Contributing Editor Bruce Martin, who has covered the IRL since the series began racing in 1996, reported on July 7 that the IndyCar Series would be returning to Phoenix in 2008 after a two-year absence from the series. Michigan, reported Martin, was expected to be dropped.
Lukaskiewicz, meanwhile, expects the IRL to announce its 2008 IndyCar Series schedule in early August. Last year, the IRL did not announce its 2007 MIS race date until Oct. 13.
"I think it's premature to say that we're losing our race," Lukaskiewicz said. "But it is reasonable to say that we're still in negotiations with the IRL." Citizen Patriot
07/09/07 After a two-year absence, the IndyCar series has proposed and discussed a return to Phoenix International Raceway in 2008 when the IndyCar schedule is announced later this season.
The season will begin the first weekend in March at Homestead-Miami Speedway, with Phoenix potentially regaining the second spot on the schedule.
However, the series will remain at 17 races because the annual race at Michigan International Speedway is expected to be dropped, marking the first time since the track opened in 1968 that a major open-wheel racing series, USAC, CART or IndyCar, will not compete at the famed two-mile oval. IndyCar left Phoenix after the 2005 race when 7,500 fans came out to the oval for a Saturday afternoon race, leading former ESPN reporter Marlo Klain to say, I had more people at my wedding. Yahoo! Sports
[Editor's Note: The IRL at Phoenix was a ghost town. How stupid can one be to return to such a situation? Things must be fairly desperate on 16th and Georgetown Road. Oh and 7,500 was a generous number.]
Winkelhock to debut in Germany - reportUPDATE #3 (GMM) More reports in Germany are adamant that Markus Winkelhock will race for Spyker at the Nurburgring, but the 27-year-old and team boss Colin Kolles insist that no deal is done yet.
The popular newspaper Bild, as well as Cologne's Express, agree that the German reserve and test driver is going to drive in axed Christijan Albers place, even though Christian Klien is more likely to take over after the European grand prix for the balance of the season.
"Definitely no decision has been made," Kolles is quoted as insisting to the news agency Sport-Informations-Dienst on Tuesday.
The reports speculate that Kolles, who originally promised a final decision on Monday or early Tuesday, is stalling so as to give Honda's Klien a chance to come up with extra sponsor funds.
Kolles says an announcement is now scheduled for Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning.
Winkelhock coyly agreed: "Still nothing has been confirmed, but we'll see."
07/17/07 (GMM) German rookie Markus Winkelhock will definitely race for Spyker at this weekend's European grand prix but perhaps not beyond.
That is the information of the widely-circulated German newspaper Bild-Zeitung, which said the team's 27-year-old reserve driver has now been given the green light for the Nurburgring by boss Colin Kolles.
Winkelhock would be the latest son of a former grand prix driver to make his debut, after his father Manfred contested 47 formula one races in the 80s before he was killed in a Canadian sports car race.
At the time of his father's death (1985), Markus was five.
It is expected that Winkelhock's Nurburgring debut will be a one-off, before a full time replacement - probably Christian Klien - races for the rest of the 2007 season in Christijan Albers' place.
"I probably won't be able to do the whole season, because I have not enough sponsor money," Winkelhock confirmed to f1grandprix.it.
He raced for Kolles' DTM team at Mugello at the weekend, and confirmed that the German touring car series is an option for 2008.
07/15/07 (GMM) Team reserve driver Markus Winkelhock is still hopeful that the departure of Spyker's Christijan Albers could lead to his formula one debut.
Honda tester Christian Klien's Spa-Francorchamps test for the Dutch team makes him the favorite for the seat, but speculation still suggests that Winkelhock, the 27-year-old German, is in line at least for a one-off this weekend at the Nurburgring.
"I still have a chance, yes," he is quoted as saying by Auto Motor und Sport at the scene of the DTM touring car race at Mugello, where Winkelhock inherited the financially troubled Adam Carroll's seat at Spyker boss Colin Kolles' team.
He added: "For sure if another driver was already certain, Colin Kolles would have told me."
A final decision is expected on Monday or early Tuesday.
Winkelhock admits, however, that Austrian Klien is the favorite.
"Christian brings along about 40 grands prix of experience," said the German, who knows Klien well after they raced together in the Formula 3 Euroseries in 2003.
Kolles, meanwhile, gave little away but acknowledged that Winkelhock is an option.
"I am trying to find a solution for Markus," he said.
07/11/07 (GMM) The list of possible replacements for Spyker's dumped Christijan Albers is growing.
While test drivers Narain Karthikeyan (Williams) and Christian Klien (Honda) are in pole position, there are a number of others who have compiled comparable budgets for the pay-seat.
Spyker's decision is due by the end of the week.
Rumors suggest that the Silverstone based team's German reserve driver Markus Winkelhock could be granted a one-off drive for his home race at the Nurburgring next weekend, before a higher-paying alternative finishes 2007.
"We are trying really hard to put together a financial package," he told the newspaper 'Welt'.
Winkelhock, 27, added: "I hope to know more in the next couple of days."
Part-time Ferrari tester Marc Gene is another possibility, as is his Spanish compatriot Adrian Valles, who occasionally tests for Spyker.
Italian website f1grandprix.it said yet another Spaniard, Roldan Rodriguez, is similarly in the frame, after his boss at the Minardi Piquet Sports GP2 boss, Giovanni Minardi, confirmed contact with Spyker.
China to be world's third largest automaker An economist has said China's auto industry is to experience rapid growth in the coming 15 years and the country will become the world's largest automaker by 2020.
"China's per capita GDP has topped 1,000 US dollars, which means a growing number of Chinese citizens will be able to afford private cars and the auto industry will outgrow the country's GDP, " said Dr. Feng Fei, an economist with the Development Research Center of the State Council, the Chinese cabinet.
China's auto output hit 5.07 million units in 2004, ranking fourth among the world's largest automakers following the United States, Japan and Germany.
Dr. Feng said China's auto production is set to hit 6 million units this year, 9.6 to 10 million in 2010 and 14 to 15 million in 2020.
"By then, China will become the world's No. 1 auto consumer and producer, too. Added value yielded by the automaking sector will make up two to 2.3 percent of the country's GDP, up from 1.6 percent in 2004," Dr. Feng said at a recent forum on the outlook of the Chinese economy in Xi'an, capital of northwest China's Shaanxi Province.
He said China still lags behind the developed countries in the auto industry. "In Germany and the United States, for example, the auto industry contributes 8 percent and 3 percent respectively to their GDP." PeopleDaily
Ammermuller to sit out weekend, season? (GMM) Red Bull's formula one test and reserve driver Michael Ammermuller will sit out the European grand prix this weekend -- and perhaps the rest of the GP2 season.
The 21-year-old German will be replaced at the Nurburgring by Switzerland's Sebastien Buemi, but two media outlets disagree about the reason why.
Germany's Bild-Zeitung says Ammermuller is sitting out the European grand prix support race "because of a hand injury".
The Swiss newspaper Blick, however, says Ammermuller has been sidelined because he was "not on the pace" in 2007.
Was Stepney paid for Ferrari secrets? (GMM) The criminal case against alleged formula one conspirator Nigel Stepney has continued to exacerbate.
Reports now suggest that Italian prosecutors, investigating Michael Schumacher's sacked former mechanic for espionage and sabotage, believe that Stepney may have received payments from McLaren for the nearly 800-pages of secret Ferrari material.
Britain's Daily Mail reported on Monday that Italian police "were trawling through (Stepney's) bank accounts" in Italy and the UK.
Previously, it was understood that Stepney had sent the reams of sensitive information to McLaren's Mike Coughlan because they were attempting to bolster their knowledge before defecting to Honda.
Meanwhile, La Gazzetta dello Sport has published more detail about the supposed contents of the package sent by Stepney.
As well as car and component blueprints was grand prix data, telemetry as recent as from races this year, and information about the F2007's tire behavior, engine management, and much more.
New Champ Car team in works?UPDATE #3 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today and Chris Mower tells AutoRacing1.com, "My associates did a fantastic job in obtaining genuine interest from numerous major corporations, some of which reached the contractual stage and others who verbally agreed to co-sponsor status for a significant investment of capital or services.
"Unfortunately, I received news Saturday that the corporation who was at the center of the proposal and whom we had been exchanging contracts with over the past month, has decided to suddenly decline the proposal.
"The main reason for the associate sponsors involvement was to have an opportunity to work with the major sponsor, therefore the proposal has collapsed around the decision of the key corporation to pull out. My associates are no longer prepared to commit the financial resources required to continue searching for further sponsorship and it is with regret that I inform you MJM Motor Sports will be put on hold for the indefinite future."
06/24/07 We bumped into Chris Mower today in Cleveland and asked about his Champ Car team aspirations. "Yes, we are making progress. Conservatively I would say we are better than 50/50 it will happen, but we are not there yet. We won't do it unless we can do it right and that means a 2-car effort with the proper budget. We don't want to be a burden to Champ Car and want to come in with a properly funded effort," said Mower. We asked if his father would also be involved and he said, "absolutely."
04/13/07 Conquest team owner Eric Bachelart confirmed to us on Friday that Chris Mower in fact did depart his team in November and that he heard Mower was working with some investors to put a team together.
04/13/07 Rumor has it that longtime Champ Car Team Manager Chris Mower and his father Derrick Mower are trying to start a Champ Car team. Mower was most recently Team Manager for Conquest Racing and his father owned the Nordic Formula 3000 team years ago.
Liuzzi wants third season at STR (GMM) Vitantonio Liuzzi has vowed to hang on to his seat at the Toro Rosso team beyond this season.
The Italian driver was singled out as a star of the future when he burst onto the scene in 2005, but Faenza based STR is thought to be seriously considering an all-new lineup for 2008.
And with David Coulthard and Mark Webber already confirmed at the senior team Red Bull Racing, 25-year-old Liuzzi said he would be happy to stay for a third consecutive year at the outfit co-owned by former grand prix winner Gerhard Berger.
"Projects for the future we still don't know, but I am happy to stay with Toro Rosso because I think the team is growing a lot," he told ITV, amid speculation that Berger and Red Bull's Dietrich Mateschitz may be keener on pairing Sebastien Bourdais alongside Sebastian Vettel next season.
Liuzzi added: "Of course I would love to stay with Red Bull - they have handled me since I was 20 years old and started my car racing career – but you have to look forward.
"Red Bull overall is doing a great job but we have to make a faster car that can give us the chance to win races and move forward."
Liuzzi also said his lingering paddock reputation as a regular party-goer is wrong.
"For sure in the first year of Red Bull we had a lot of parties and I was a Red Bull driver so it was easy to think of me as a party man but we're into another era now and I'm in a different situation," he insisted.
"I try to avoid everything that could possibly distract me from my racing because my goal now is just to win races. For sure, like all young people, I like to party, but racing comes first and I am 100% focused on that."
Stepney to hit back at Mafia-like Ferrari GMM) The so-called Stepney-gate saga has continued to worsen, with Michael Schumacher's sacked former mechanic now threatening to sue Ferrari for mafia-like behavior.
Nigel Stepney, who triggered formula one's espionage scandal by allegedly tampering with fuel tanks and sending reams of secret material to a rival, told the Observer newspaper earlier this month that he had to flee Italy because he feared for his family's life.
"There have been high-speed car chases," claimed the beleaguered Briton, who has a one-year-old child with his partner Ash.
Stepney, facing criminal charges, also said Ash had been "stalked at (our) house" and had identified "tracking gear" on their car.
His lawyer Sonia Bartolini told the Italian newspaper La Repubblica on Monday: "Obviously, if it is confirmed that Ferrari are behind this, it would be very serious.
"If that was the case, the Maranello (Ferrari) people will be called to answer for it in court."
Almirola to share Martin ride in ‘08 Aric Almirola is set to join Ginn Racing next season to split the 2008 season in the organization’s No. 01 Chevrolet team with veteran Mark Martin, the Charlotte Observer reports. Almirola, a 23-year-old Tampa native, is currently a development driver for Joe Gibbs Racing and has run 22 Busch races, 30 Truck races and made one Cup start in is brief NASCAR career and remains under contract with JGR. It remains unclear how that status will be resolved.
An official announcement of Almirola’s plans could come as early as the Indianapolis race weekend later this month. Officials with Ginn and JGR had already left the track late Sunday and unavailable for comment.
Almirola has one Busch victory to his credit, when he started the June 23 race at Milwaukee but was pulled from the car and replaced with JGR Cup driver Denny Hamlin, who went on to claim the victory.
FIA to agree to delay KERS until 2011 "I spoke with Max about it in Monaco and at that time he said that if there is reasonable discussions and reasonable arguments and everybody agrees on that rule he would not have any problem with it," BMW motorsport boss Mario Theissen told Autosport.
"I think we can discuss that openly and then come to a route that makes sense in terms of making progress but at the same time keeping costs under control."
Theissen has said he has no doubts delaying the introduction of Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems (KERS) is sensible.
"We have had a few discussions already between the manufacturers," he said. "Should we do it as scheduled now by the FIA, or should we rather do it in one step - the KERS system together with the new technology engine?
"My feeling is the second approach will be the better one. KERS, as defined in the regulations for 2009 and 2011, would be so different that you would have to design and develop it twice with all the extra costs.
"So I think it would be the right move to go and do it in one step and then of course do some other things before 2011."
McLaren knowledge may spell disaster for team (GMM) At the specially-convened meeting of F1's World Council later this month, the FIA will ask McLaren how long suspended designer Mike Coughlan had in his possession confidential Ferrari information -- and how many colleagues he told.
As the media speculates as to how the powerful governing body will react to the tale of espionage, it has emerged that FIA sources believe Coughlan may have had the 780-pages of sensitive material since the beginning of the season.
Ferrari's Italian lawyers, meanwhile, also believe that McLaren managing director Jonathan Neale, who reports to Martin Whitmarsh and Ron Dennis, knew about Coughlan's possession of the dossier, as well as possibly some others.
It would, for example, answer the question as to why McLaren sought clarification on the rules for moveable floors earlier this year -- a perfectly legitimate enquiry that genuinely impacted title rival Ferrari's pace when it had to alter the underbody design of the F2007 racer.
That question is among about 30 others that the FIA has compiled ahead of the meeting in Paris on July 26. Interestingly, it is believed that the governing body completed its list of questions, probing McLaren's affairs for the period March-July, only after reportedly viewing Coughlan's sworn affidavit outlining his knowledge of the affair.
An FIA spokesman reinforced the seriousness of the looming summit, which could result in hefty penalties for McLaren, including total exclusion from the world championship.
He said: "We don't call an emergency meeting of the World Motor Sport Council lightly."
Stepney could get 4-years in jail (GMM) Nigel Stepney risks four years in jail if he is ultimately found guilty by Italian prosecutors of espionage and intentional sabotage, according to reports.
In an expose on the so-called formula one 'spy scandal' affair, La Gazzetta dello Sport said the 780 pages of confidential data sent to McLaren by the sacked engineer related not only to "intellectual property" such as specific car designs and working methods.
McLaren boss Ron Dennis insisted recently: "There is no intellectual property on our cars that belongs to another grand prix team -- never has been and never will be."
Also in chief designer Mike Coughlan's possession, however, were items including detailed reports from grands prix and test sessions -- not necessarily data that can be simply applied to a rivals' car but still in breach of Article 151c of the International Sporting Code.
It is suggested that McLaren, whose rookie Lewis Hamilton leads the world championship, minimally faces race bans.
The Italian reports also revealed that searches of other engineers at Ferrari's Maranello HQ took place on Ferrari "in order to establish if Stepney had any accomplices".
Sacks back in NASCAR? Greg Sacks, who hasn't qualified for a Cup race in two years, says he's close to finalizing a multi-year alliance with an existing multi-car operation that would put at least two cars on the track beginning next year. Chances are, Sacks adds, that he'll be the driver of one of those cars. He's got an option on 25 acres in the Charlotte area, and building permits for the shop complex are in place. That's not all Sacks has on his plate. Plans call for his sons, Paul and Brian, to run an "ABC" schedule in 2008. Some ARCA and Busch Series will start warming them up, if all goes well, for a Cup race or two late in the season. A formal announcement of his plans should be coming in no more than 30 to 60 days. NASCAR.com
IRL may park their newest poster girl Milka Duno's struggle in recent Indy-car races led IRL president Brian Barnhart to summon the league's three driving instructors -- former Indianapolis 500 winners Al Unser, Johnny Rutherford and Rick Mears -- for an evaluation meeting.
Barnhart said pulling the rookie's license until she can test more is a possibility. He plans to meet with SAMAX Motorsport officials prior to her next scheduled race, which is Aug. 5 at Michigan International Speedway.
SAMAX brought veteran driver Tomas Enge to Nashville to set up Duno's car Thursday, but she crashed it. Duno has been the slowest qualifier in four of her five IRL races, the exception being the Indianapolis 500 when she qualified 31st of 33. Indy Star
What does it all mean? A reader speculates and he has a few good points, but we think it's a reach. Dear AutoRacing1.com, I just saw photos of the Press Conference in Assen, Holland about Bavaria Beer sponsoring the race. What is almost unnoticed but incredibly interesting is that AUDI was named as an official co-sponsor of the event.
If you look at Audi's past history - they do everything with a totally methodical plan in mind. I do not think this was just a harebrained idea by some Audi dealership for some side bar promotional activity.
Watch what happens:
- Audi has nothing left to prove in Sports Car racing - nothing. In Europe, North America, the World. Nichts. Nada. Nothing.
- The ALMS has become politically tiresome for Audi and they will not race for "First-In-Class" while carrying Mother-In-Law sized weight penalties to allow lesser classes to take the overall wins. The ALMS has been warned by Audi several times. I don't think there are any warnings left.
- Sister company Porsche is itching to show some race performance again and a return to Sports Car racing in Le Mans and ALMS is just what the doctor ordered as a cure for that itch.
- Champ Car is offering a marketing venue ideal for Audi - their huge North American market, the China market, where Audi is the Number 1 selling foreign sports/luxury brand, and better yet - more and better European venues. Germany will probably not be far behind for a Champ Car event.
- I am sure that Audi does not want to do a Toyota or Honda and go to F1 and putz around the back of the field for 5 to 10 years in vain dreams of victory. Besides Mercedes and BMW already have firm stakes in that game.
- Why not become the sole engine supplier in an extremely competitive international series where you can really max out exposure? If any car company has ever been really, really good at promotion, advertising and trumpeting race wins into car sales, it has to be the Porsche/Audi/Volkswagen brotherhood. Just what the Doctor ordered for Champ Car, wouldn't you say? Werner Fritz, Trevor, WI
McLaren could face expulsion With the Woking's fate hanging in the balance following Thursday's announcement that the FIA had charged them in the ongoing 'spy' scandal, reports of possible punishments facing the team do not make for comfortable reading if you are a McLaren supporter - or driver.
'McLaren may face expulsion from this year's Formula One World Championship, destroying Lewis Hamilton's title challenge, if they are found guilty of industrial espionage,' claims The Guardian.
However, the newspaper seriously doubts that such a 'draconian penalty' will be enforced. 'The likelihood of McLaren being found guilty of a major offence seems distant at this moment. Although the FIA has the capacity to inflict the most draconian penalty of all, such a step would be unusual in the extreme.'
It has, though, happened in the past.
In 1984, the long-defunct Tyrrell team was excluded from the World Championship over a technical infringement. Tyrrell, though, is the only outfit since F1 Championship started in 1950 to suffer that fate. More at The Guardian
Will other sports following racing’s lead? Auto racing is pretty much the only sport that allows its players to be walking advertisement billboards. However, that may soon be coming to an end. The international football federation (FIFA) is asking its strategy committee to consider the implications of authorizing sponsorship on the shirts of the national teams involved in the World Cup soccer competition.
At the moment shirt sponsorships are banned in the World Cup and FIFA President Sepp Blatter is opposed to the idea, arguing that there is already too much advertising "clutter" in the World Cup - which has led to the decision to reduce the number of partners involved - and that this group of sponsors want their investment to be protected.
Although FIFA does filter some of the money down through the sport, there is considerable pressure from the national associations that make up FIFA to change the rules because many of them struggle to fund their national teams and develop the game in their countries.
If this idea catches on and other sports allow sponsorship on driver's uniforms, it will be a major hit to the auto racing industry across the board.
Doornbos not interested in Spyker, to stay in Champ Car At the Dutch GP press conference on Thursday, Robert Doornbos was asked if he would be interested in the vacant Spyker seat. Doornbos replied that there had been people asking him to drive for the Dutch team, but that he is not interested.
RD: "I don't want to be a backmarker anymore, so I shouldn't go to Spyker at this moment. I am sad for Albers, and especially for the fans. For a while they had two Dutch drivers to cheer on, but now there is no one left."
And, on his future: "Red Bull is my personal sponsor, and we will discuss possibilities for the future somewhere in august. It would be great to come back to Champ Car next year next year as defending champion, but that depends on many factors." Champcar.nl
We hear Doornbos is likely to stay in Champ Car. Not only does he like the series, but he gets to race in Holland, which he would not do in F1.
Coca-Cola 600 likely to keep name The Coca-Cola 600 likely will keep its name and won't have to share the specific Coke brand with another NASCAR race despite a major sponsorship deal announced Monday.
Coca-Cola North America and International Speedway Corp. signed a 10-year agreement to bring Coke brands to 10 ISC race tracks.
The deal also gives Coca-Cola the naming rights for the NASCAR Sprint Cup race held in July at the Daytona International Speedway. The annual race -- this year's was Sunday -- was the Pepsi 400 for several years.
Will Bernie dump the USGP?UPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement. See Hot News page.
06/30/07 A decision on renewing the U.S. Grand Prix contract likely won't be made much before the July 12 deadline, Indianapolis Motor Speedway CEO Tony George said Friday. George said he has not discussed the future of the event with Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone since the June 15-17 race weekend at the Speedway. George said he plans to call Ecclestone on Monday.
"(A decision) will probably come down to the last minute," George said from Richmond International Raceway, where his IndyCar Series will race tonight with the SunTrust Indy Challenge.
George described the chances of the USGP continuing at IMS for a ninth time as "a coin toss." Ecclestone could not be reached for comment. He was in Las Vegas hearing options for staging a street-course race in that city.
Billionaire developer Steve Wynn, who owns a Las Vegas casino, has been pushing Ecclestone for an F-1 race in the city for at least a decade.
Las Vegas hosted grand prix events in 1981 and 1982, with each playing to relatively small crowds. Indy Star
06/16/07 Tony George has a decision to make following Friday's meeting with Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
He can wait for Ecclestone to decide if continuing the U.S. Grand Prix makes economic sense for F-1, or he can walk away from the sport after Sunday's race when the contract expires. It's a tough call, George said.
"How long can we wait before we make a decision?" he asked. "I don't think delaying (an announcement) is in our best interest.
"Obviously, we would like to be in position to announce something this weekend, but that doesn't appear to be the case."
George came away from his 20-minute meeting in Ecclestone's Gasoline Alley office understanding there are many dynamics in play, including lucrative offers from other countries to host F-1 races.
Earlier this week, Ecclestone mentioned India as one of those alternatives. South Korea and Singapore are also standing in line with substantial financial backing from their governments, which George does not have.
Ecclestone's price for the USGP has not been confirmed, but it is believed to be around $10 million per year. Valencia, Spain, reportedly will pay at least $35 million for its new race.
The Star could not reach Ecclestone for comment. Indy Star
Karthikeyan still in running for Spyker seat (GMM) The fact that Christian Klien is testing for Spyker at this very moment does not mean that Narain Karthikeyan's hopes for the race seat are dashed.
Indian Karthikeyan's manager Mark Perkins insists that reports assuming that Klien will definitely fill the void left by Christijan Albers' for the rest of 2007 are "premature" because Spyker chiefs will only make a decision later this week.
Karthikeyan, 30, has compiled an impressive array of backers from his native country, but he does not share a particularly cordial relationship with boss Colin Kolles following their cooperation under the Jordan guise in 2005.
"We are quite optimistic about the chances (for Karthikeyan)," manager Perkins said, after it was confirmed that Austrian Klien, 24, would test the orange-colored car on Thursday.
Indeed, Honda tester Klien - wearing plain white overalls - emerged from the Spyker garage at Spa Francorchamps on the final morning of testing on Thursday at the wheel of the F8-VII single seater.
But Perkins continued to The Asian Age: "It will be finalized in a day or two. We are also in talks with a GP2 team."
If no F1, Bourdais to stay in Champ Car If Sebastien Bourdais does not land a ride in F1 next year, will he remain in Champ Car next year or is NASCAR an option? In an autosport.com article Bourdais said, "That is one of the options, not that I have received a proposal in NASCAR. Right now I have to see. You can only move from a current situation if you propose, and I have not proposed anything so there is a good chance that I stay in Champ Car if nothing happens," [here in F1.]
What about being a full-time Le Mans driver?
"That is the problem with endurance races, you cannot live from it. But I would not be making the kind of money I am making from the United States.
"Winning the championship in F1 is the main thing, but obviously I am some time away from that. So everything about trying to make it work here is evolution. Clearly Toro Rosso are not title contenders right now, but who knows? Adrian (Newey) is doing a fine job, it looks pretty rosy in the future, so we have to wait and see what develops. Like I said before, it would be a pretty good opportunity."
Rossi contemplates future Former MotoGP world championship winner Valentino Rossi says his future in the competition is uncertain after his current contract with Yamaha expires in 2008.
The Italian rider said he was keeping his options open for beyond the 2008 season and will only continue racing MotoGP bikes if he can be motivated by fresh challenges.
"We'll need to find new motivations because we've already won everything," Rossi, a five-time world champion, told Italian newspaper Gazzetta dello Sport.
"I could also quit. I'm 28, I'm not too old, but I'll be able to go on until I'm 31 or 32 at most."
Indeed, Rossi is facing one of the toughest challenges in his career this season as his place at the top of the MotoGP tree has been routinely challenged by Australian world championship leader Casey Stoner on his powerful Ducati GP7 bike.
The two riders have engaged in some classic head-to-head battles this season that has seen Stoner pip Rossi to win the MotoGP at Catalunya before Rossi returned the favor at Assen in The Netherlands last round.
Rossi, though, has also previously spoken about wanting to ride for Ducati but says he is now quite comfortable racing for the Yamaha team.
"In the past I was tempted to move to Ducati because of the big adventure that it seemed... (having) an Italian rider on an Italian bike," he told MotoGP.com.
"But there is no reason to change if you're already at home in a team."
Hopkins set to join Kawasaki Chris Vermeulen has lost his team-mate at Rizla Suzuki as John Hopkins prepares for a move to Kawasaki for 2008.
Although there has been no official statement as yet from Kawasaki, it seems likely that American rider Hopkins, who has been at the centre of much speculation regarding his future for the next MotoGP season, will announce that he is switching from Suzuki to Kawasaki for next year.
Rizla Suzuki MotoGP boss Paul Denning has already confirmed that the American will not be racing for his team next time around.
"We have been informed by John's management that he has signed for Kawasaki," Denning told Motor Cycle News.
"We have still got 50 per cent of the 2007 season to go and it's obviously a disappointment from Suzuki's point of view."
"Suzuki had made John a strong and a solid offer and he has chosen to go in a different direction for whatever reasons those maybe. From our point of view that's something we respect and have to go along with."
Is the AVN Racing effort real?UPDATE #3 It looks like the Adult Industry business is going more upscale on Wall Street with a Hedge Fund.
Wall Street has always been hesitant to take the leap into Adult Entertainment. Only a handful of adult entertainment companies are traded on public markets, and representing less than one half of one percent of the total Adult Entertainment market. But, the world of adult finance is about to change.
AdultVest, founded by hedge fund veteran Francis Koenig, seeks to bring sound financial practices to the adult entertainment business– not to mention lots of capital. AdultVest currently is raising money for two private equity funds which will be used exclusively for adult industry transactions. According to Koenig, the firm’s founder and Managing Director, “Our funds look for strong brands with proven track records.” AdultVest, Koenig explained, “will add value [to the companies it acquires] by consolidating expenses and providing staff for accounting and reporting.” More at AEToday.com
07/06/07 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. AutoRacing1.com has learned that AVN Racing will be making some announcements in the coming weeks with regard to a Champ Car effort. As we rumored previously, don't be surprised if they put AVN on a car this year for a couple of races to see how well it is accepted.
06/29/07 AutoRacing1.com spoke to Russ Herriott, CEO and President of AVN Racing today to try and ascertain how real this rumored team is.
"It is a serious effort to put a car on the track for 2008, and we may even run a race or two this year as a test for us and for Champ Car to see if it makes sense to do a full season in 2008," Herriott told AutoRacing1.com. "We are putting all of our deals together and looking at possibly a 1-car team. We presented to Champ Car what our plan was and expect they will do whatever they have to with existing and future sponsors to make sure it isn't going to cause them any problems. This isn't going to be some sleazy endeavor. Everything will be done tastefully and within whatever guidelines Champ Car establishes.
"The press release that went out was meant for the adult film industry and not for the racing community. The purpose of putting a car in the LA Show was to ascertain the reaction of the adult and fan base, and the racing fan base. It was overwhelmingly positive. We received tremendous compliments as to how it was presented. 3-hour long lines formed to get autographs of the movie stars."
06/29/07 Regarding the AVN Racing announcement that they want to enter Champ Car in 2008 (see related Hot News item) we are now hearing that it could very well be a two car team if Champ Car allows them into the series with around an $8M annual sponsor package from AVN.
Toronto race sponsor to renew for 10 yearsUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. Would-be beer baron Frank D'Angelo was ecstatic with the results of his first venture as the sponsor of an auto race.
The fact that the beer tents at Exhibition Place, the site of the Toronto Grand Prix, almost ran out of suds Friday night, forcing D'Angelo to call for "an emergency run" from his Steelback Brewery undoubtedly added to his enthusiasm.
In fact, D'Angelo was so upbeat yesterday that he said he's ready to extend his contract as title sponsor.
"We're going to go the full five years (of his current pact) and then we're going to go for another five years," he said.
That was music to the ears of race organizer Charlie Johnstone, the event's president and CEO.
"I'm having lunch with (D'Angelo) 20 minutes from now, so I'll bring a new contract with me," quipped Johnstone.
D'Angelo said he might also consider purchasing the rights to the race from Champ Car.
"We've just started this," he said. "It's like dating someone. First you take her out and buy her dinner. You don't buy a diamond ring the next day. We're basically dating right now. We'll see if there's eventually a marriage."
Despite the zeal of the two men, Champ Car World Series, which took over ownership of the event when Molson Brewery bowed out as the event rights holder following the 2005 race, declined to put a number to that implied success.
Johnstone, on instructions from his Champ Car bosses, would only say that attendance was up by 12 per cent over last year.
The Star has learned, however, that the reason Champ Car refused to give out hard attendance numbers is that those figures are instrumental in the series attempting to secure Steelback as the primary sponsor, as well as an unnamed secondary sponsor, to long-term deals.
"Those are figures being used in private and face-to-face negotiations and they don't want them bandied about in public, especially because of the way previous attendance figures were given out," a source said. The Star
06/23/07 Expect to see a renewal signed to extend the Champ Car deal in Toronto
Cotman to replace Johnson at helm of Champ Car?UPDATE AutoRacing1.com has learned that Tony Cotman will not be replacing Steve Johnson at the helm of Champ Car. Instead, the President and CEO will remain Steve Johnson and we hear he will be promoting Tony Cotman from Vice President to Executive Vice President of Operations on Thursday. Cotman, will take on more responsibility including day-to-day operations of legal, personnel, finance and marketing. Cotman also will continue in his critical role as Race Director. This will enable Johnson to spend more time on selling sponsorship for the series, something that is desperately needed if Champ Car is to survive.
07/12/07 SPEEDTV.com reports that Tony Cotman is replacing Steve Johnson, immediately, as the day-to-day boss of Champ Car and assumes the title of executive vice president. The 40-year-old native of New Zealand will also continue to be chief steward on race weekends.
Johnson, the president and CEO since 2005, has been moved into sales.
"We addressed two problems," said Kevin Kalkhoven, co-owner of Champ Car along with Gerald Forsythe. "We needed somebody to run the day-to-day operations and we have a bunch of potential sponsors that need closing.
"Tony is a can-do type and a straightforward kind of person who gets things done. He's the best manager we've got so this was a logical step.
"And we've asked Steve to head up our sales activity." Speedtv.com
Budweiser to follow Earnhardt to Hendrick?UPDATE #2 This rumor downgraded to 'speculation' and will probably soon go to 'false'.
ESPN reports that Budweiser officials are shopping around for their best sponsorship option in NASCAR, a clear indication that the beer company will not sponsor Dale Earnhardt Jr. at Hendrick Motorsports next season, sources confirmed Tuesday.
It's expected that PepsiCo Inc., possibly with the Mountain Dew brand or a combination of Pepsi products, will sponsor Earnhardt next season in the No. 5 Chevrolet for Hendrick.
And Anheuser-Busch is negotiating with Evernham Motorsports to possibly move the Bud sponsorship to Kasey Kahne's No. 9 Dodge next season.
Budweiser officials also have contacted officials at Lowe's Motor Speedway about the possibility of holding a news conference at the Lowe's Speedway Club next week if a new team sponsorship agreement is reached.
An Evernham Motorsports official said Tuesday that no agreement has been reached with Budweiser and that the Evernham marketing department was talking to several other companies about potential sponsorships for 2008.
Team owner Ray Evernham has an agreement with Dodge, through the Dodge Dealers, to sponsor both Kahne's car and the No. 19 Dodge of Elliott Sadler through 2010.
The Dodge dealers would have to sign off on any deal to allow Budweiser to move to Kahne's car.
One source close to the negotiations told ESPN.com that it's still possible Budweiser could stay at Dale Earnhardt Inc., depending on whom DEI signs to replace Earnhardt. More at ESPN.com
06/28/07 Tony Ponturo, the vice president of global media and sports marketing for Anheuser-Busch, minces no words when talking about how badly Budweiser wants to remain as sponsor for the cars driven by Dale Earnhardt Jr. “Every day I wake up that’s what I’m working toward,” Ponturo said this week at The Associated Press Sports Editors annual convention in St. Louis. “When you have the most popular driver for the past four years, that’s something that we helped build. If, and underline the if, that ends up being impossible, we’ll talk about Plan B.”
06/13/07 Officials with Anheuser-Busch's Budweiser brand, current sponsors of Dale Earnhardt Jr., released a statement saying the beer company is looking into its future options with the driver and Hendrick Motorsports following today's announcement that the driver would join that team in 2008.
Earnhardt Jr. answered questions about his future team this morning by announcing he will join Hendrick Motorsports. Now the next question is whether his long-time sponsor, Budweiser, will follow NASCAR's most popular driver. The company has a personal services contract with Earnhardt Jr. through 2008.
"Anheuser-Busch has enjoyed a remarkable relationship with Dale Earnhardt Jr. since our sponsorship commenced back in 1999," said Tony Ponturo, vice president of global media and sports marketing for Anheuser-Busch. "Dale Jr. is an excellent ambassador for the sport and our company, and we look forward to exploring options with Hendrick Motorsports and JR Motorsports to continue Budweiser's relationship with him as he enters this new stage of his racing career."
Schumi's shadow too large for Kimi (GMM) According to a popular European newspaper, formula one's most frequent winner in 2007, Kimi Raikkonen, "has a problem".
Germany's Bild-Zeitung points out that, despite winning three times this year compared with his three title rivals' two triumphs apiece, 27-year-old Raikkonen only ever wins "if Schumi is not there".
Kimi's predecessor at Ferrari, seven time world champion Michael Schumacher, retired at the end of 2006 but has attended some grands prix this year as the Maranello team's 'advisor'.
Schumacher was, for example, at Magny Cours on the Saturday but had left by the time Raikkonen found full form on Sunday and won for the first time since Melbourne -- when Schumacher was also absent.
After Kimi won in Australia, team boss Jean Todt handed him a mobile phone in parc ferme with Schumacher on the other end, but the Finn claimed the line dropped out.
Nearly four months later, Schumacher then skipped the British grand prix altogether, preceding another Raikkonen win -- but the 38-year-old German is scheduled to resume his tour at the Nurburgring in two weeks.
Bild wonders: "Is Schumi's shadow too large? Does Kimi feel restrained in his presence?"
Hamilton to be $4m man in 2007 (GMM) Lewis Hamilton has been granted a pay-rise after reaching the middle of the 2007 season as F1's championship leader.
The impressive and ultra-consistent British rookie started the season with a modest retainer of about (US) $400,000 and a $10,000 per point bonus.
As of the British grand prix, then, he made his first million.
According to the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, however, a clause in his contract was triggered at Silverstone, the ninth round of the season.
As he passed the half-way point of 2007 at the very top of the drivers' world championship, Hamilton automatically qualified for a cool $2.3m bonus.
If he scores another 50 points in the remaining eight races this year, Hamilton's initially paltry salary will have ballooned to nearly $4m -- disregarding any more contractual bonuses for possibly winning the title.
Frustrated Button to quit? (GMM) Despite denying rumors of a switch to Renault, British driver Jenson Button has refused to rule out simply quitting formula one if he cannot move closer to the front of the grid in the near future.
The 27-year-old has a long-term contract with Honda, which with its uncompetitive RA107 single seater has failed to score more than a single point so far this season.
Brackley based Honda insists it is now making strides back to form with a heavily updated car, but for the first time in 2007 Button failed to make it through even the initial 'Q1' qualifying cut at Silverstone last weekend.
Honda's race pace is making obvious signs of improvement "but it needs to be a hell of a lot better still," Button, who won his first grand prix after more than 100 attempts in Hungary last year, admitted to the Mail on Sunday.
He continued: "There will come a time when I get bored of finishing eighth.
"I'm in this sport to win and I won't want to keep on finishing eighth at best, which is what I've achieved this season with Honda.
"To be honest, I'd find it too tough to handle. If this continues then maybe in a couple of years I'll just call it a day and go and find something else to do."
Button, however, admitted that he should not let his own frustration at still not having a title-contending car in his eighth season on the grid demotivated the team.
"Talking about giving up is very negative. The positive outlook is to say we can start winning races again next season and my confidence in my ability remains high," he added.
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