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Overheard at Infineon Friday - 2 We spoke to Dan Pettit of Forsythe Pettit Racing about rumors the team may move up to IndyCar Racing and he said it all depends on landing sponsorship as he and Jerry are tired of writing big checks. So stay tuned.......Dan tells us both he and Kevin Kalkhoven sold their Gulfstream V jets for a big profit because the wait time for them is so long and the demand is so high that some very rich people are willing to pay big dollars to get one now. Both he and Kevin have ordered the new Gulfstream 550 and will take delivery next May or June and still walk away with a nice profit. The 550 flies even further than the Gulfstream V, which had the longest range of any corporate jet already......Meanwhile they are renting Gulfstream IVs to get them around............We hear that former Premier of Queensland, Australia, Peter Beattie, is flying in from Australia this weekend and there will be a meeting on Sunday here at Infineon Raceway with IRL officials in the hope of coming to a meeting of the minds over the loggerhead on next year's Surfers Paradise event date. Beattie is a key figure in the Surfers event. The Aussies want to keep the equity they have built in the mid to late October date and the IRL folks want the date in September because they refuse to end their championship outside the country, so Homestead on October 11th must be the championship closer. September does not work for the Aussies because that is when their Football playoffs and Super Bowl is played. The race would get no coverage in September. So it looks like if Surfers is on the schedule in 2009 it may again be a non-points paying race in late October, or move to the Spring but that is when the Australia F1 race is in March, meaning the race would have to be in late April putting a crunch on the already busy April schedule and the teams getting ready for Indy in May.......We hear there will be a 2nd round of engine manufacturer talks with the IRL very soon. As we understand it the deal on the formula would have to be done in January, February at the very latest, for the manufacturers to have their engines ready for 2010 testing and racing in 2011. A turbo formula of sort still appears to be the preferred choice.........Spotted San Francisco Giant shortstop Omar Vizquel as an interested observer in the Ernesto Viso pit. Vizquel is an 11-time gold glove winner and grew up in the same city of Caracas, Venezuela and they are friends. Could he be the next sports star to get involved in racing?......The car Justin Wilson is driving this weekend is the first time the team has used it in a race after Wilson destroyed a car against the wall in Kentucky. “We brought out our new car -- new to us anyway – today," said Wilson. "For some reason my seat didn’t fit as well in this chassis so we spent some time making some modifications for that and now it is much more comfortable. The chassis was previously used by Jon Herb and had been sitting in the shop for a few months being built when there were a few extra hours available, which wasn’t often. Other than that we just spent the day working on the setups and are about where we thought we would be performance wise. It would be nice for us to be a little bit closer to the front but we’ll study the data tonight." Mark C. reporting from Sonoma, CA
NASCAR to hammer more cheaters? Three Sprint Cup teams - the No. 50 Chevrolet of Stanton Barrett, the No. 08 Dodge of Johnny Sauter and the No. 09 Chevrolet of Sterling Marlin - did not pass inspection Friday morning in time to start the only practice session of the day at Bristol Motor Speedway.
All three teams had problems clearing the template inspection and were still addressing their issues when practice started.
All had made repeated attempts to pass, with the No. 50 going through the process at least half a dozen times. ThatsRacin
Rain could disrupt Valencia weekend Rain could disrupt this weekend's European Grand Prix at Valencia, with a distinct possibility of rain showers forecast for Saturday afternoon. The weather today is sunny and dry with temperatures hovering around 30C/86F.
According to F1 weather forecasters Meteorological Services, Saturday is likely to be affected by a scattering of sharp rain showers, mostly in the afternoon. There is a risk of temporary wet surfaces for qualifying, but perhaps more especially for the first GP2 race, later in the day. Conditions otherwise will be very warm with max temp of 27C/79F.
Sunday will be dry again with settled conditions, mostly sunny with temperatures around 30C/86F.
Subway dumped Tony Stewart because he's 'fat' NASCAR driver Tony Stewart is having a pretty bad week. During the same week Stewart was docked 150 points for his team’s efforts to mask his car’s true horsepower at a recent Nationwide Series race, Stewart also lost a key sponsor. Officials for Subway restaurants this week announced that they are ditching Stewart for fellow NASCAR driver Carl Edwards.
When he doesn't wear his girdle Stewart can't hide his waistline
Subway officials denied that Stewart’s expanding waistline had anything to do with the decision. They did however say that Edwards’ focus on healthy living and eating was a big part of the decision. Sports marketers said Edwards, called the “fittest man in NASCAR” last year by Men’s Fitness magazine, is more compatible with Subway’s health-conscious message.
Subway’s departure comes as Stewart is leaving Joe Gibbs Racing to start Stewart-Haas Racing and drive the No. 14 Chevrolet sponsored by Office Depot. Stewart-Haas will field two cars next year, the No. 14 and No. 4, and sources say Stewart has been negotiating with Burger King for the No. 4 car, which will be driven by Ryan Newman. NASCAR sources said Subway officials were irked at Stewart’s talks with Burger King, which would create a category sponsorship conflict within the team.
Subway is expected to be primary sponsor for Edwards’ No. 99 Ford in three Sprint Cup races next year and sign him to a personal-services agreement to use him in its advertising. The three-race primary sponsorship will run Subway about $2.25 million. Subway is expected to be an associate sponsor the remainder of the year. Terms on the personal services agreement were estimated at a high six-figure to low seven-figure annual sum. IBJ.com
Wimmer out at RCR after 2008 Scott Wimmer, who combined with Jeff Burton to give Richard Childress Racing the 2007 Nationwide Series owners' title, isn't part of the team's plans for '09, he said Thursday. Despite his status as a part-timer, the 32-year-old from Wausau [Wisconsin] has won as many races as the rest of the Childress drivers so far this season - one - but his chances presumably were hurt by his inability to take a checkered flag last year in a car with which Burton won five times. Wimmer was a candidate for Childress' fourth Sprint Cup team but wasn't the choice of sponsors. Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
Troubles for A1GP?UPDATE #3 This rumor is upgraded from 'false' to 'fact' today. Can't say we didn't tell you so, despite A1GP's denials - see press release.
08/15/08 The cause of the crash that led to the Magny Cours testing being cut short was a suspension failure in which test driver Patrick Friesacher sustained three crushed vertebrae. Series organizers decided to cut short that four-day test and will redesign the component before the first group test, which was planned for August 18-20 at Silverstone. Meanwhile poor Friesacher is in for a long rehab.
08/11/08 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. Ann Bradshaw, a A1GP spokesperson told AutoRacing1.com, "We have not cancelled the Silverstone test. We have decided to use it for our own test cars so we can gather more data for the teams ahead of their joint test.
"We know exactly the cause of the accident in Magny Cours. It was a wishbone failure and this has now been rectified. In fact at the track the team believed this to be the problem, and the tests carried out back in the UK soon confirmed this. Some precautionary changes were made to the part – which by the way had done over 5,000 kilometers of testing to that point.
The new A1GP car being put through its paces
"We have kept Ferrari up to date with our plans and they have never told us they have an image problem with this. They are realistic about just what it takes to build so many identical new cars. All the teams do not have their new cars yet but we always knew some would have theirs before others – that is the nature of the business. I would also like clarification on your comment they denied any participation in the A1GP project. They have always been involved from the start and at the recent event in Italy Mario Almondo was present and his comments were included in the official vnr that went out after this event.
"We would have liked to make the Silverstone test with all the cars, but as this is not possible the sensible and fair to everyone solution was to make sure we gave everyone the same chance and the same amount of data. This way all the teams will have identical data going into the first race and so we keep to our level playing field values. If all teams have the same data it is also makes it easier for the engineers to judge the performance of their individual cars in relation to the competition. Also it should be pointed out Donington is not our only test as we have two days in Mugello – this means this is the most pre-season testing we have ever done.
"From a rookie point of view having relatively few miles should not be too much of a disadvantage – as it’s a new car it’s the same new experience for everyone whether they are new to A1GP or not. Also the rookies now have an extra ten minutes track time at each race."
08/09/08 Although the new 'Ferrari' A1GP car is much better than the previous car, can any of the teams afford to buy all new equipment for the 2008/2009 season that starts in one month? Perhaps not.
The first tests of the season at Silverstone were mysteriously cancelled. The series' organization says they preferred to use more caution while trying to figure out what caused the testing crash at Magny-Cours, that was kept very hush-hush. The problem is a serious setback for all the entrants, especially for rookies, who will only get one test, at Donington on Sept 9/10 unless another test is scheduled. The setback also represents an image problem for Ferrari, though the Italian factory ironically denied any participation in the A1GP project.
All very strange and it throws some doubt in the upcoming schedule:
Big 3 gas guzzlers here to stay Fret not, my big engine brethren, Motor City muscle isn't going anywhere. On the contrary, the advancement of V-8 engines is alive, going strong and on track to continue.
That's good news for Detroit's automakers, for people who appreciate supercharged cars and for the environment. That's right, the environment.
You see, the cars that lose money are the rage of the day for automakers -- hybrids, electric cars and fuel cell vehicles -- and would take even longer to develop if it weren't for the advanced technologies designed for powerhouses such as the Corvette ZR1, the Shelby GT500 or the Challenger SRT8, to name a few.
But perhaps most importantly, the green that these vehicles generate is of the cash kind, and for three automakers struggling to simply keep their North American operations afloat, that's not something to dispose of lightly.
"Oh no, we're not going anywhere," said Thomas McCarthy, senior manager for Chrysler LLC's SRT vehicle team. "Don't forget that we make money."
GM may need to raise $US7.3b to pay its bills General Motors, the biggest US automaker, will probably need $US7.3 billion of fresh capital to pay its bills through 2009, Lehman Brothers said.
GM may ''burn through'' $US6.9 billion of cash in the second half of 2008 and another $US4.4 billion next year, according to the ''base case'' of Lehman analyst Brian Johnson. If a worldwide economic slowdown causes auto sales to stall in the US and fall by 10% in the rest of the world, GM may use an additional $US4.9 billion of cash through 2009, forcing the company to raise as much as $US12.2 billion, Johnson wrote in a note.
Ford, GM's smaller rival, probably won't need to raise more capital through 2010, Johnson said.
''We continue to believe that Ford presents the stronger liquidity position to survive through 2010 without the need to raise external capital,'' the New York-based analyst wrote. GM ''is more vulnerable to a global macro slowdown.' Bloomberg
IRL-CART: The numbers don't lie. Can the merger work? Four years and $100 million later, the once-majestic Champ Car World Series ended where it had started, at a reception on April 20 in the Grand Ballroom of the retired Queen Mary liner in Long Beach, California.
Hours before, Champ Car had staged its final race, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. With it, the era of turbocharged open-wheel racing in the U.S. had officially ended. Now, open-wheel racing will be “unified” in one series, the Indy Racing League, clearly suggesting which of the two series had won the war.
The Grand Ballroom was where Champ Car’s most recent partners, mega-wealthy industrialists Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe, and a third, Trans-Am driving champion and owner Paul Gentilozzi, had staged their first celebratory event in February 2004 not long after they rescued the failing series, a reception prior to the winter meetings.
The “unification” is a politically correct misnomer. It ends the “split”—a commercial and fan quagmire—that began in 1996 when Indianapolis Motor Speedway owner (and Indy 500 operator) Tony George launched the rival Indy Racing League to control the Brickyard’s destiny. Only the IRL is left standing where collectively Champ Car (a.k.a. CART) and the IRL spent at least $250 million, if not double that, to subsidize teams, television, and promoters. The cost would have been zero if everyone had made nice 12 years prior when George created the IRL.
Champ Car was bankrupt, literally and figuratively. Were it not for one race, the lucrative Indy 500, George’s IRL might have been in the same boat. No matter how the two leagues tried, open-wheel racing in this country was and is as moribund as the permanently berthed Queen Mary (which, ironically, is another financial and cultural boondoggle).
It’s all in the numbers, and they don’t lie, be it attendance, costs, or TV viewership. At the Long Beach street race, roughly 32,500 seats were constructed for spectators, so how to reconcile media reports claiming three-day crowds of 200,000 for Champ Car’s premier event? Moreover, that’s a third fewer seats than in ’04, when 48,206 were erected.
Slipperiness with numbers is almost a birthright for racing bigwigs. Heck, the little-seen ALMS (American Le Mans Series) said with a straight face that 105,000 attended its race the day before the farewell Long Beach event. The grandstands that Saturday appeared collectively one-quarter full. More at Car & Driver
Logano to make Cup debut at Richmond?UPDATE #2 Joe Gibbs Racing will hold a news conference Monday, Aug. 25, at the organization's headquarters in Mooresville, N.C., to make it official that Logano will drive the No. 20 Toyota full time in the Sprint Cup Series beginning next season.
08/14/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. The plan is finally in place for Joey Logano to begin his NASCAR Sprint Cup Series career, with a handful of races scheduled this season in Joe Gibbs Racing Toyotas. A source close to the team said Saturday that Logano will run “six or seven” Sprint Cup races with sponsorship from Gatorade between now and the end of the 2008 campaign, in an effort to gain NASCAR approval for Logano to run for Raybestos Rookie of the Year honors next season.
Plans call for the 18-year old Connecticut native to make his Sprint Cup debut at Richmond International Raceway on September 6th, with additional races to be announced within the next 2-3 weeks. He will also run the ARCA ReMax Series race at Talladega Superspeedway for Venturini Motorsports, to satisfy NASCAR requirements for him to compete in the 2009 Daytona 500. Sirius Speedway
08/12/08 Before Sunday’s race, Joey Logano, 18, was hanging out near the transporter for the No. 20 Joe Gibbs Racing Toyota, the car he hopes to drive in the Cup series next year. About reports he will make his Cup debut in a fourth Gibbs car Sept. 6 at Richmond, Logano was noncommittal. He is already scheduled to run the Nationwide Series race there Sept. 5.
“I think it would be a good start -- if we start there,” Logano said coyly. “It’s the type of track I have a little experience at. I tested there once in a Busch East car. I think it would be cool. If we do that, I’ll get both races in. We’ll just have to see. It definitely would be fun.” Cup Scene
Exclusive: Asian country wants IndyCar raceUPDATE According to this Hot News item today, Bernie Ecclestone is in Beijing working to scoop this race right out from under IndyCar's nose. The Beijing government is making plans on what to do with their Olympic facilities after the games are over and they have money set aside to bring a race to town. Recall that you read in detail on these pages two years ago that the Beijing Champ Car race was put on hold because they were told by the Beijing government to wait until the Summer Olympics are over. Well they are almost over and Ecclestone, never one to be beaten to the punch, is already there talking to them about bringing F1 to town.
Meanwhile IndyCar, which could have held a race there, is asleep at the wheel, probably planning another USA race. The very successful Team Penske cannot even find a sponsor to replace Marlboro so what does that tell you about an IndyCar team's ability to land a big sponsor given the current "USA- Only thinking?"
Meanwhile, because of the weak dollar it is inexpensive for foreign companies to sponsor an IndyCar team, but except for Aussie Vineyards (which will quit immediately when the IRL announces this year's Surfers race will be the last or that the Versus TV deal lacks good international TV distribution) there are not many taking the bait. If they didn't race in Japan each year they would lose Honda as well, but if it was up to some of the myopic IndyCar team owners, that would be OK too. And of course NASCAR gives any potential IndyCar sponsor a far better value with regard to TV viewership in the USA so they pretty much have all the potential USA sponsors locked up. Therefore, where are all the new sponsors going to come from to fuel IndyCar's desire to grow?
08/06/08Exclusive: Asian country wants IndyCar race According to our inside sources in Asia, a major country is putting together a proposal to IndyCar to host a race in their country. We are embargoed from telling you what country and what city it is right now, but will do so in the near future once the proposal is ready to present to the IRL.
What to expect IRL ratings to be on Versus The Versus 2007/2008 0.3 TV rating for the National Hockey League (NHL) is 50 percent higher than the 0.2 average at the same time last season. In that period, viewership swelled to an average of 261,760 a game from an average of 195,666 a game last season, which of course is dismal.
During the 2006/2007 season, Versus’s N.H.L. rating stayed flat at a 0.2, but because of the overall growth of subscribers, viewership rose 31 percent to 212,366.
If the NHL's rating hovers between 0.2 and 0.3, one can expect IndyCar's ratings to hover between 0.1 and 0.2.
So why did the IRL go with Versus? When in doubt, follow the money. Versus is paying the IRL $6.7 million per year for its 13 races and ABC/ESPN is reported to be paying the IRL $4.2 million for its 5 races for a total of $10.9 million in total revenue. However, rumor has it that the $6.7M Versus is paying is the exact amount the IRL must pay ESPN to produce the 13 Versus races, so in effect, the TV revenue is just $4.2M per year.
Of course if the IRL had to pay ESPN a reported $1M per race for 13 races to keep IndyCar on ESPN, the breakeven number starts to look much better. But who is going to distribute the IndyCar races all over the world like ESPN International used to do for IndyCar, and what is the value of that?
Versus is paying the NHL $72.5 million per year for ratings of between 0.2 and 0.3. If they are willing to only pay the IRL a paltry $6.7 million, perhaps they expect the IRL TV ratings to be 1/10th of what they get for NHL.
Would the last one out please turn off the lights?
Hayden to leave Honda for DucatiUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. American rider Nicky Hayden has agreed terms to ride for Ducati as teammate to world champion Casey Stoner in 2009. The formal announcement of Hayden’s deal is expected at next week’s San Marino Grand Prix at Misano, which is close to Ducati’s Bologna headquarters.
Hayden’s departure from the factory Repsol Honda team comes as no surprise with the 2006 world champion keen to seek a new challenge. For some time Hayden has been frustrated with the political and technical turmoil of the HRC squad.
Hayden’s Ducati deal ends his long association with Honda and has come as a big shock to the management of Honda USA who have lost a valuable marketing asset.
Ducati team boss Livio Suppo said the team has always admired Hayden and his attitude to racing.
“Last year no one gave enough credit as a rider to Casey, except maybe Nicky, plus he’s used to having a stronger teammate,” Suppo said. “In the beginning at Honda he was with Valentino Rossi and then with Dani Pedrosa and he has a lot of things that make us think he would be the best teammate for Casey. And we don’t have to worry about his consistency and I think he is a good, complimentary teammate for Casey. On the other hand you can always have a young rider and if he’s a rookie he has no pressure to do anything.
“We hope to confirm everything for Ducati’s 2009 plans by the end of this month, if not then at Indianapolis.” SPEEDTV.com
06/11/08 Nicky Hayden has started talks with Honda as rumors intensify that he is a red-hot favorite to join reigning world champion Casey Stoner in Ducati’s factory squad.
Hayden is out of contract at the end of 2008, but with Italian Andrea Dovizioso hotly-tipped to take his factory Honda RC212V, he is looking at other options.
Ducati team boss Livid Support is coy about Hayden’s prospects of replacing struggling Italian Marco Melandri, but MCN sources claim a deal is close to being signed for Hayden to partner Aussie Stoner in 2009.
He certainly tops a list of candidates to replace Melandri.
“We owe it to Honda to sit down with them and start talking with them before anybody else,” said Phil Baker, representative of Hayden’s management team.
“We’ll see their level of interest before we go elsewhere.”
Baker denied that Hayden had commenced talks with Ducati, or Yamaha and he added: “We have to keep every option possible open. It is nice to be wanted but I feel confident that Honda will be open to start the discussions and we’ll see where we stand from there.
“We have never doubted Nicky’s ability to perform well given the right combination of tires and bike.”
NASCAR considers adding Iowa SpeedwayUPDATE NASCAR will replace its Nationwide Series road-course race in Mexico City with an event at the 0.875-mile Iowa Speedway oval in 2009. The Iowa race is scheduled for Aug. 1, a week after the race at O’Reilly Raceway Park in Indianapolis. Montreal, which was the race following that event, has been moved to Aug. 30, an off weekend for Sprint Cup competitors.
08/04/08 NASCAR Vice President of Racing Operations Steve O’Donnell has confirmed that Iowa Speedway is one of the candidates to replace Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in Mexico City on the 2009 Nationwide Series schedule.
NASCAR has already said it would not return to Mexico for a fifth race there next year, and speculation was rampant that Iowa would be the replacement.
“I’d say there’s more than two [tracks], but [Iowa is] absolutely one of the tracks under consideration that we’ve had conversations with,” O’Donnell said. “… We definitely want to find a replacement. We will be at the same number of races as last year. We’re still in that process. We’ve got a couple of good candidates. We’ll probably about two weeks away from being ready to announce our schedule for ’09.”
Iowa Speedway, which was partially designed by former NASCAR Cup champion Rusty Wallace, opened in 2006. The 0.875-mile track is located in Newton, Iowa. Wallace said in Montreal that while he wants NASCAR to host a Nationwide or truck series race there, he has not been guaranteed a date. Scenedaily.com
Will NASCAR schedule change hurt Long Beach IndyCar race? NASCAR announced their 2009 Sprint Cup schedule today and the spring Phoenix race is on April 19th, the same day as IndyCar's 2nd biggest race, the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach.
Will Subway's NASCAR involvement undermine IndyCar sponsorship? Subway is completing a deal with #99-Carl Edwards that will make the ultra-fit NASCAR driver a spokesman for the big-spending restaurant chain, industry sources said. Subway is expected to be the primary sponsor for Edwards' #99 Ford in three Sprint Cup races next year and sign him to a personal-services agreement to use him in its advertising. The three-race primary sponsorship will run Subway about $2.25 million. Terms on the personal services agreement were not available. Edwards could end up replacing driver Tony Stewart, who has pitched for Subway since late 2006, and whose contract with the brand ends this year. Stewart has been prominent in Subway's advertising, but it is uncertain whether the company will continue with that relationship. Subway went to Aflac, Edwards' primary sponsor on the #99 car beginning in 2009, to broker the deal. Aflac is replacing Office Depot as Edwards' chief sponsor in a three-year deal with Roush Fenway Racing that is worth $26 million a year. But Aflac is working with its agency, Career Sports & Entertainment, Atlanta, to sell off a portion of those races. Aflac has been negotiating with U.S. Army to take anywhere from nine to 12 races. Those go for about $750,000 a race, sources say. One of Subway's three races with Edwards is expected to be the Subway Fresh Fit 500 at Phoenix next spring. Subway will be an associate sponsor on the #99 car the rest of the season.
The deal comes as Stewart is leaving Joe Gibbs Racing to start Stewart-Haas Racing and drive the #14 Chevrolet sponsored by Office Depot. Stewart Haas will field two cars next year, the #14 and #39, and sources say Stewart has been negotiating with Burger King for the #39 car, which will be driven by Ryan Newman. A Burger King deal would create a category conflict with Subway, in which case Subway would not renew with Stewart, sources said. Sporting News/SportsBusiness Journal
[Editor's Note: Subway is in negotiations with the IRL to become title sponsor of the IndyCar series. However, just as NASCAR took over ABC/ESPN from the IRL forcing the series to turn to Versus (which will kill their TV ratings), and went to many traditional open wheel tracks and killed the market for open wheel, and stole many of the sponsors from CART's heyday, whenever NASCAR has their fingers in something related to IndyCar racing the IndyCar deal fails.]
Dates could change for Atlanta and Fontana racesUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today based on the rumors below.
03/09/08 When the green flag waves today on the Kobalt Tools 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway, many eyes will be on Carl Edwards to see whether he can win three Sprint Cup races in a row.
But the eyes of Bruton Smith, the chairman and CEO of Speedway Motorsports, which owns the suburban Atlanta track, will be focused on the grandstands. Last week, a sellout crowd of about 150,000 watched the race at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a track also owned by Speedway Motorsports.
Barring an enormous walk-up crowd of race day ticket-buyers, the Atlanta crowd today will be significantly smaller than that, and well under the track's capacity of 124,000. This has become a regular problem in recent years at Atlanta, which hosts two Sprint Cup races compared to only one for Las Vegas.
Smith, a vocal critic of NASCAR's current schedule, says he believes it is time for a change.
Atlanta eyes switch to Labor Day raceUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. NASCAR will run under the lights at Atlanta Motor Speedway in 2009, The Associated Press has learned.
There’s more: The new night race is expected to be run on Labor Day weekend.
Atlanta Motor Speedway and NASCAR officials are planning to announce a schedule change Tuesday that will include the night race announcement, said a racing official who spoke on condition of anonymity because details of the change had not been made public.
Atlanta’s place on the racing calendar also could move. There has been speculation Atlanta Motor Speedway will be part of a three-way trade of race dates for next year’s Sprint Cup schedule that also involves the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif., and Talladega Superspeedway.
Atlanta would receive the 2009 Labor Day weekend race that’s happening this season in California. Fontana would receive Talladega’s fall race, while Talladega would receive Atlanta’s fall race, set for late October this year. AP Story
03/12/08 Get ready for Atlanta Motor Speedway to have night Sprint Cup races – or at least AMS officials want you to get ready for night races.
If Atlanta gets the Labor Day weekend race, the plan would be to run it on Saturday or Sunday night, Speedway Motorsports President H.A.“Humpy” Wheeler told financial analysts Wednesday.
“What we really want to do is try to run Atlanta at night,” Wheeler said. “We have lights down there. Everything changes at night.
"Going to Labor Day weekend, it’s a big holiday. We get a day to get people back. We could run it on Sunday night, which is a big TV night, or Saturday night. It doesn’t matter. It would make all the difference in the world."
SMI is pushing for Atlanta and International Speedway Corp.'s Auto Club Speedway in California to swap their second dates, with California getting a date in late October, while Atlanta would get the Labor Day weekend race.
“It would help the track at Fontana also, being in October, it is a little bit better weather for them,” Wheeler said. “We continue to talk to ISC and NASCAR about this. Obviously, NASCAR doesn’t want rainouts, they don’t want bad dates.”
And, if SMI had its way, it would run a night race at Atlanta in early June instead of a day race in mid-March.
“The big question if that [swap] is done is what do we do in March?” Wheeler said. “We probably would rather run that March date in early June when we could run it at night again. More at Scenedaily.com
NASCAR to change Fontana dateUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. The NASCAR Sprint Cup race held Labor Day weekend at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana will be moved to October starting next year, speedway President Gillian Zucker said Monday. This year's race, the Pepsi 500, is Aug. 31 but that will change to Oct. 11 in 2009, as part of a three-track swap on the Cup schedule, Zucker said. The two-mile Auto Club Speedway oval also stages a Cup race in late February.
The shift would mean that the Fontana track would play host to one of the 10 late-season Chase for the Cup races that determine which driver wins stock-car racing's premier championship.
Moving the race to October also would probably give the Fontana track relief from the often scorching heat of Labor Day weekend. The heat is widely viewed as one reason why the 565-acre facility hasn't been able to sell all of its 92,000 seats in recent years.
"We couldn't be more thrilled, mostly for the race fans," Zucker said, adding that "to be in NASCAR's form of the playoffs [with the Chase] is something that's very special."
Under the changes, Auto Club Speedway (formerly California Speedway) would receive Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway's date in early to mid-October, Atlanta Motor Speedway would get the Labor Day weekend race and Talladega would receive Atlanta's fall date later in October, Zucker said.
The shift is scheduled to be formally announced today at a news conference with NASCAR President Mike Helton, Zucker and officials of the other tracks. NASCAR declined comment Monday.
05/25/08 Speculation is mounting that NASCAR's Labor Day race at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana could be moved to October, starting next year.
The track has struggled to sell all of its 92,000 seats on Labor Day weekend partly because of the weekend's typically hot temperatures, and has petitioned NASCAR for another date.
One proposal being weighed is a three-track swap, in which Fontana would receive Talladega (Ala.) Superspeedway's date in October, Atlanta Motor Speedway would get the Labor Day race and Talladega would receive Atlanta's fall date in October, the Charlotte Observer reported.
Could a F1 race be in Saudi Arabia? Not long ago, motor racing was banned in Saudi Arabia, but as the sport spreads through the Middle East, things are changing. In 2007 the kingdom was included in the FIA calendar for the first time with a round of the FIA International Cup for Cross-Country Bajas. In 2008 the laws were changed to allow for the construction of racing circuits and very rapidly several facilities have emerged, including a privately-owned circuit near Riyadh, called the Reem Auto Club Experience and a dragstrip in Jeddah.
Saudi has great potential for the sport. It is the largest automotive market in the region with half a million new vehicles sold each year and it has its own Saudi International Motor Show in Jeddah. The country has an oil-based economy - with 25% of the world's proven petroleum reserves and 75% of the national revenues coming from oil. The government is keen to reduce the country's dependence on oil and is investing in a number of different sectors, notably tourism, especially along the Red Sea coast. To date Saudi involvement in motorsport has been solely financial, beginning in the late 1970s when a consortium of Saudi firms including Saudia, Albilad, Technique d'avant Garde (TAG), and Dallah-Avco all help to fund Williams. TAG went on to become a partner in McLaren, funding the highly-successful Porsche-built TAG turbo engines in the 1980s and the Ojjeh family is still involved in McLaren.
It is interesting to note, therefore, that Saudi Telecom, the largest telecom company in the Middle East, has just agreed a five-year sponsorship deal with English Premier League club, Manchester United. If soccer can find money in Saudi Arabia, one would imagine that motor racing can do likewise, particularly given the links between the automobile industry and oil. Grandprix.com
IndyCar eyes name change for title sponsorUPDATE #8 This SPEEDTV article by Robin Miller says the IRL is down to a final two for title sponsorship of the series - Subway and CitiFinancial.
08/09/08 After signing a new television deal with cable channel Versus, Indy Racing League officials are still confident they can ink a title sponsor by year’s end. Sources close to negotiations said there are five finalists, with Subway restaurant chain being the frontrunner. Kodak also is a candidate and league sources confirmed William Rast, a clothing maker known for its jeans, is another finalist. The other two finalists are technology companies, but league sources wouldn’t say who they were.
“We’re still bullish,” said Zak Brown, president of Just Marketing International, which was hired by the IRL to help find a title sponsor. “I’m still as optimistic as ever we can get this deal done. In fact, I’m more optimistic.”
A big part of the deal, said sources close to negotiations, is the title sponsor’s commitment to make a multi-million dollar ad buy with the new TV partner. Current league sponsors were surprised by the announcement that Versus would air at least 13 of the IRL’s races starting next year.
“The way the league can alleviate the fears is to sit down with all their partners; the manufacturers, teams, sponsors and potential sponsors and lay everything out,” said Doug Boles, a former IRL team co-owner who now works for Atlanta-based Ignition Inc., which represents such companies as Coca-Cola and Delta Airlines in marketing deals. “Their challenge is to show us how this makes sense and to demonstrate a clear plan for growth.” IBJ.com
08/07/08 Thursday's TV announcement is regarding the IRL's new TV package, not about the title sponsor.
08/06/08 The IRL has called a media conference for Thursday to make a major announcement. Tony George and other IRL executives will be on hand for the announcement, speculated to be Subway as the new title sponsor.
07/21/08 This Indianapolis Business Journal article pretty much says the same thing as our previous update.
07/15/08 The Indy Racing League, which has been without a title sponsor on its headline IndyCar Series since 2002, has been in discussions with at least two prospective sponsors, Kodak and Subway, industry sources say, and a third candidate has emerged in the past month. The IndyCar title is thought to go for the mid- to-high seven figures annually.
Kodak serves as an associate sponsor at Penske Racing for both its NASCAR and IndyCar teams. Its motorsports sponsorships, including an official status deal with NASCAR, expire at the end of this season, and the company has said it is working with Octagon to evaluate its future course.
Subway, whose motorsports ties are with Tony Stewart on the NASCAR side, had its marketing officials at the Indianapolis 500 and talks have progressed from there. Just Marketing International, which represents the IRL, also counts Subway as a client. Terry Angstadt, president of the commercial division, and Greg Gruning, vice president of sales, have been spearheading the IRL’s sales efforts along with Just Marketing. Scenedaily.com
Oil prices to blame for China's auto sales slump Auto sales in China grew at their lowest rate in two years last month, signaling a slowdown in the huge market which had provided strong growth for global automakers in recent years. According to the China Association of Automobile Manufacturers, sales of domestically built vehicles grew 6.8 percent in July to 488,200 cars and light trucks. It attributed the slower growth to high oil prices, which have cut demand in other major markets, notably the United States and more recently in Western Europe. The association expects sales in China to keep growing in coming months, but at a slower pace. More at Detroit News
India's Mahindra eyeing Hummer?UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd., India's largest maker of sport-utility vehicles, said it's not interested in purchasing the Hummer sport-utility vehicle brand of General Motors Corp., denying media reports. ``There is lot of speculation. Let me categorically say that we are not pursuing Hummer,'' the Mumbai-based company's Managing Director Anand Mahindra told reporters today. GM is in talks with Mahindra, a Russian automaker and a Chinese automaker on a possible sale of the Hummer brand, Reuters reported July 31, citing people familiar with the matter. Bloomberg
08/01/08 General Motors Corp. is in talks with Indian automaker Mahindra & Mahindra and automakers in Russia and China about selling its Hummer brand, sources familiar with the matter said. One source close to the discussions said Mahindra was not very interested at this time as it has plans to launch a small sport utility vehicle in the U.S. market next year.
Mahindra would like to launch that SUV under its own brand and has signed up about 250 dealers to distribute the vehicle, the source said. But talks with GM – still in initial stages – were continuing, the source added.
GM declined to comment. Mahindra was not immediately reachable for comment. The sources did not name the Russian and Chinese companies talking with GM.
Mercedes' advantage is 25 horsepower - report (GMM) McLaren's 2008 car is now benefiting from the superior performance of its Mercedes-Benz engine, according to the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport.
The report claims that recent chassis improvements, including the Honda and BMW Sauber-like nose wings that debuted in Hungary, are allowing the car to perform more efficiently through the air.
Rival teams believe Mercedes' V8 engine is producing about 25 horsepower more than any other 2.4 liter unit on the grid.
"If those numbers are right, then an advantage of 25 horsepower with the same air resistance brings a benefit of four tenths (per lap)," BMW's technical chief Willy Rampf commented.
McLaren's MP4-23 has won the last three grands prix.
Karthikeyan dodges Force India question (GMM) Narain Karthikeyan, who three years ago became the first Indian to race in formula one, has declined to answer speculation he may soon be on his way back to the grid.
Force India supremo Vijay Mallya has hinted the Silverstone based team will not move away from its current lineup, featuring Giancarlo Fisichella alongside Adrian Sutil, ahead of the 2009 season.
But there is still a theoretical chance that Indian billionaire Mallya will still honour his promise last year that - by 2009 - Force India is "certain" to house a countryman.
31-year-old Karthikeyan, who races for India in the A1GP series and was recently a Williams test driver, and GP2 competitor Karun Chandhok, would presumably be in pole position for a Force India vacancy.
But when asked by the Newsindpress on Sunday about his chances, he said: "In Indian owning an F1 team is no ordinary feat. Vijay Mallya has done a great job. And only he can answer the question."
Mallya told F1's official website last week that he is "quite happy" with his team's current lineup.
Grubb to be Stewart's Crew Chief in 2009? Darien Grubb, engineering manager for Hendrick Motorsports' #5 and 88 Chevys, is the lead candidate for the crew chief position for Tony Stewart's #14 Chevy in 2009, sources close to Stewart-Haas Racing told ESPN.com on Saturday. Grubb, those same sources said, has been offered a contract. Stewart-Haas officials declined to comment Saturday. If Grubb ultimately opts to accept Stewart-Haas' offer, it would add yet another layer to the Hendrick/Stewart-Haas relationship. SHR will run Hendrick chassis and engines -- as Haas/CNC Racing currently does -- and having an established Hendrick disciple in-house would only increase the crucial line of communication between the two organizations. ESPN.com
GEM/Carpentier to secure a major sponsorUPDATE #2 Comments from #10-Patrick Carpentier about his future plans with GEM: “You know, I really wish I’d know because they haven’t told me. We talked and they said ‘We need a little bit more time’ so I said that’s fine. We’re going to start talking to other teams too and other guys. I know a couple of teams talked to Robert and we’ll see what happens. I like this team. I’d like to stay there. I think the #10 is getting better and better and the guys do such a great job. For me I’d be disappointed not to keep going on the work that we’ve been doing so hopefully it works well for us and I’m right here where I’m at for next year.” IS THERE A SENSE OF URGENCY? “For me, I would have signed myself in January for three years [laughs]. We’ll see. You know it’s their decision and I’m pretty confident it’s going to stay the way it is. I know a few sponsors seems to want to get back and we’ve got most of the season for next year so we’re waiting on a few things but if it works out we’ll be there. They told me it’s looking good right here. They said just be patient. We need to change a few things around and then we’re going to let you know but it’s most likely going to be positive. So hopefully that’s what it is and they said if not they’ll let me know so we’ll see what it is.” Raybestos/Camp & Assoc PR
08/1/08 Gillett Evernham will decide Aug. 15 if Carpentier will be with the team in 2009. A boost to Carpentier's contract renewal would be a top-35 finish in owner's points, guaranteeing his Dodge a starting spot in the first five races of next season. Carpentier is four spots behind that cutoff, still forced to qualify his way into each race. But he has only missed three races this year, two because rain canceled qualifying and the third for a blown tire. Qualifying, Carpentier says, is the easy part.
03/04/08 While sponsorship woes sidelined Jacques Villeneuve's NASCAR career this season, it appears the same will not happen to fellow Canadian Patrick Carpentier.
Gillett Evernham Motorsports co-owner George Gillett says they are on the verger of signing a sponsor for the No. 10 Dodge. Carpentier currently has partial primary sponsorship from Valvoline this season.
"I'm happy to report as recently as last night, we have a verbal agreement, which is being put into writing today, for a major, major, major new sponsor for the 10 car," Gillett said Tuesday.
"It's very exciting for all of us and the sponsors."
While several Sprint Cup teams report the search for sponsorship has been difficult due to a softening of the U.S. economy, Gillett says that has actually created opportunity.
"What we're finding is the really smart and sophisticated marketers are coming to us now and saying, 'Boy, oh boy, this is the time that we're going to put the pedal to the metal.'" TSN.ca
Petty Enterprises has not decided on a driver for its No. 45 car next year, team official Robbie Loomis said Friday, but Chad McCumbee remains one of the top candidates for the ride.
Michael McDowell and Casey Mears are some of the other drivers who have been mentioned, though Mears appears poised to sign with Richard Childress Racing. Loomis said the team was still speaking with multiple drivers.
“I’ve made no secret that we’re really high on Chad McCumbee,” Loomis said. “Being young presents a lot of newness for Petty Enterprises itself. David Zucker, our CEO, is really big on mixing things up a lot and trying something fresh.
“It’s like he said: Part of our problem at Petty Enterprises is that it’s hard to get that guy who is showing what he does on the race track to come to us. So we’ve got to get that guy that we believe has got it and take a chance on him doing it on the race track.”
McCumbee, spending his off-week from the Craftsman Truck Series in the Cup garage at Michigan, said he’s “working hard” on trying to land a ride with the Pettys. The North Carolina native has run several events for the team in its No. 45 car and recently had a solid run at Pocono.
“I’m just kind of floating around for now, waiting to see what’s going to happen,” he said. Scenedaily.com
New Pontiac G8 really a HoldenUPDATE This rumor is upgraded from "Speculation" to "Fact" on the Pontiac G8, both the ST and the sedan. The G8 is a lightly modified Holden Commodore and the ST is a Holden "ute," and both are built in Australia. The same basic platform is also the basis for the upcoming Chevrolet Camaro.
08/14/08 This feature article on the Pontiac G8 ST appears to be the rumored Holden Ute that is supposed to be coming to the USA.
CDW to sponsor car for Chicagoland raceUPDATE In a story broke by AutoRacing1.com, this rumor is now 'fact' with today's announcement.
08/07/08 According to inside AutoRacing1.com sources, former Justin Wilson Champ Car sponsor, CDW will sponsor the #5 Oriol Servia KV Racing Technology IndyCar in the upcoming Chicagoland IndyCar race. The Wall Street Journal will also be a sponsor and the car will be known as the CDW Wall Street Journal machine. For now this is a one-race only deal.
Stewart, Newman and Truex to form powerhouse teamUPDATE #5 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement.
08/02/08 Amidst all the speculation surrounding Ryan Newman's future, the driver and even his wife maintain no official deal has been signed to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing next season. Despite several online reports that the driver of the No. 12 Penske Dodge verbally agreed to join Stewart-Haas in 2009, Newman issued a statement Friday saying, "I am still working on my 2009 plans at this time. I have no timetable on finalizing anything at this point."
Also, a blog posted this week from wife Krissie Newman said, "Don't get too excited just yet."
She continues to report, "Don't believe everything you read on the Internet! There have been some recent articles posted that reporters have put out that sound factual. However, Ryan has not verbally agreed to anything and is still working on his 2009 and future plans. It is funny how much speculation has been going on about Ryan's future. Everyone will know when the deal is signed. ... Sorry to disappoint, just don't want anyone to jump to conclusions."
"Stewart-Haas Racing has had, and will continue to have, lots of talks with lots of drivers," said Mike Arning, spokesman for Stewart-Haas Racing. "To say that any type of agreement, verbal or otherwise, has been reached with any particular driver is premature."
A source close to Penske Racing said "a verbal agreement in this sport doesn't mean anything." NASCAR.com
07/30/08 Ryan Newman has reached a verbal agreement to drive for Stewart-Haas Racing next season, a NASCAR source close to the situation told ESPN.com on Wednesday. The deal could take up to a month to finalize and announce as negotiations continue for car sponsors. Newman reached the agreement after Joe Gibbs Racing was unable to nail down sponsorship to start a fourth team. JGR president J.D. Gibbs confirmed on Sunday at Indianapolis that Newman no longer was a factor in the team's plans and that a fourth team was unlikely for 2009. Joey Logano, the 18-year-old phenom, is expected to step into the No. 20 car vacated by two-time Sprint cup champion Tony Stewart so he could become 50-percent owner of Stewart-Haas Racing. ESPN.com
07/26/08 Ryan Newman said Friday at Indy that he has his search for a new ride narrowed down, just doesn't have everything finalized, it is more a matter of paperwork and finalizing everything before he can announced something. PRN's Garage Pass Radio Show
07/15/08 Newman acknowledged on Saturday in Chicagoland that he has three serious options outside of Penske. A source close to the situation said Newman has been in discussions with Stewart Haas, Joe Gibbs Racing and Richard Childress Racing. The source added there is a firm offer from Stewart-Haas and that potential sponsors are set, but that the deal is not done. Newman said one of his options included ownership of equity in the company. Stewart-Haas general manager Joe Custer said his company is not looking to give up any more ownership than the 50 percent already given to Stewart. JGR officials have consistently said they are not interested in giving up ownership. Team owner Joe Gibbs and president J.D. Gibbs talked on Saturday as though 18-year-old sensation Joey Logano could replace Stewart in the #20 Home Depot car next season. RCR, looking for a driver for a fourth team sponsored by General Mills, and GEM already are divided into partnerships. ESPN.com
07/12/08 Tony Stewart is looking to field a powerhouse Sprint Cup team immediately. On June 27th, I was the first to write that Stewart would leave Gibbs Racing for an ownership stake in HAAS CNC with Chevrolet buying Stewart out of his contract, his sponsor being Office Depot, and his new teammate being Ryan Newman in the Burger King car. It looks like we may be have to add something to that story.
Last night, sources confirmed to me that Newman is a done deal and an announcement is coming soon. What I also learned, is that Martin Truex Jr. may be joining Newman and Stewart. Sources said, Stewart is now looking to field a powerhouse three-car team, and sponsors are lining up to be a part of the newly formed venture. According to sources close to the situation, the Office Depot and Old Spice deals are set, but sources also said Burger King and UPS are working diligently with Stewart to sponsor his second and third racecars, if they can convince Truex Jr. to come along for the ride with Stewart HAAS Racing.
Although DEI is working very hard to re-sign Truex Jr. and are throwing some huge numbers at the driver of the #1 Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, Stewart is trying to convince Truex Jr. to join him and Newman at the newly formed Stewart HAAS Racing in hope of forming a powerhouse racing team. And, Truex Jr. may be ripe for the picking.
The New Jersey native, close friend and fishing buddy of Newman, has said repeatedly that he wants to stay with DEI. As recently as the day before Daytona qualifying, Truex Jr. said he and DEI were close to getting a deal done. However, the debacle last week at Daytona may have driven a major wedge between Truex Jr. and DEI. His team was docked 150 points for a NASCAR infraction regarding a roof template that didn't fit his Bass Pro Shops Chevrolet, and Truex Jr. was furious with the mistake.
In addition, rumors have swirled all week that team owner Teresa Earnhardt is looking to sell the legendary team to President of Global Operations, Max Siegel. There has also been speculation that Paul Menard, driver of DEI's #15 car, and his wealthy father, may take their sponsorships dollars to Yates Racing, and that DEI might also shut down Regan Smith's #01 car due to a lack of sponsorship interest. Sources said, all of this DEI drama is weighing heavily on Truex Jr.'s decision to re-sign with the only race team he has ever known. Stay tuned...silly season is just beginning. - John 'Captain Thunder' Nevins
GM to Announce Significant Investment in U.S. General Motors will announce a multi-million dollar investment into its Lordstown Complex on Thursday, August 21, 2008. The announcement ceremony will include the release of the first photos of the Chevrolet Cruze, GM’s next generation small car, which will be officially unveiled at the Paris Motor Show next month.
UPS to sponsor NASCAR truck series According to a source within UPS, the package delivery company is in serious negotiations with NASCAR to sponsor the truck series. Craftsman, the current sponsor of the series and the only sponsor the series has known since it’s formation in 1995, is bowing out after the 2008 season.
NASCAR had been in talks with Kobalt Tools, but talks allegedly broke down more than a month ago over the length of the commitment. Kobalt Tools is a division of Lowe’s, the primary sponsor of Jimmie Johnson’s #48 team. According to sources, Kobalt and NASCAR came to terms on the dollar amount, but could not come to terms on the length of the deal. NASCAR wanted a long-term contract, and Lowe’s was not willing to commit for more than three years.
Sources also said, UPS had talks with Stewart-Haas Racing about sponsoring the #4 car, which will be driven next year by Ryan Newman, but Stewart-Haas already had a deal inked with Burger King and UPS did not want to be part of a split sponsorship. UPS currently sponsors Michael Waltrip Racings #44 car driven by David Reutimann, but they have been looking to leave Waltrip since early spring.
NASCAR had been looking for a five-year commitment at an annual rate of at least $15 million dollars per year, and sources have confirmed that UPS has agreed to those terms. Some minor details are still being worked out, such as the possible repainting and re-branding of the UPS delivery trucks to reflect the new sponsorship, but an announcement could come soon as NASCAR and UPS would like to begin promoting their new relationship as soon as possible. Captain Thunder
Russian billionaire in talks to buy Hummer Russia's richest man, Oleg Deripaska, has held talks with General Motors about buying Hummer, the brand of gas-guzzling cars modelled on the US military's heavily armored Humvee combat vehicles.
The billionaire oligarch has had exploratory contact with GM, although any deal is some way off, sources close to the negotiations told Reuters.
Hummer's future has been in the balance since early June when GM announced a strategic review of the business and called in Citigroup to advise on financial options. Sales of the vehicles have plummeted by 40% in the US this year.
Deripaska, who is worth an estimated £14bn, made his fortune in aluminum and recently purchased a stake in Magna International, a Canadian car parts manufacturer. He is thought to be keen to get Magna involved in making Hummers.
A GM spokeswoman declined to comment on the discussions, saying only: "We are working through the process of a strategic review of Hummer." More at The Guardian
Max to launch series to go against Bernie's GP2UPDATE Rumor has it that the new F2 category being pushed by Max Mosley will run with a 400 HP BMW engine in a Mygale chassis and fit neatly in between F3 and GP2, which of course is where Bernie Ecclestone wants GP3 to lie. Should get interesting.
06/25/08 (GMM) F1's governing body, the FIA, plans to resurrect Formula Two as an inexpensive feeder category in 2009 (to go head-to-head against Bernie Ecclestone's GP2 series).
A statement issued after Wednesday's meeting of the World Motor Sport Council in Paris said it will invite tenders for the new series, which would presumably be run in competition to the Bernie Ecclestone-organized GP2 category.
"Formula Two ... would be launched in 2009 and used as an inexpensive platform to develop emerging driver talent for formula one," the statement, issued by the federation headed by president Max Mosley, said.
The FIA said it hoped an F2 season could be funded for about 200,000 euros per car.
Formula Two became Formula 3000 in 1985, and finally GP2 in 2005.
The FIA on Wednesday also revealed that F1 team entry fees for 2009 will be 309,000 euros, a 3 per cent increase over this year, despite earlier suggestions that the fee would be drastically increased.
"The FIA will launch a consultation with the formula one teams for the introduction of further fees to cover improved safety systems and equipment at every grand prix," the statement said.
Kyle Busch To F1? Not Impossible He won the Nationwide Series race at Mexico City, the Sprint Cup race at Sonoma and the Sprint Cup race at Watkins Glen. Kyle Busch, obviously, is a pretty good road racer.
So what's next, Formula One?
Busch still plans to test a Toyota F1 car in Japan after the season. It's a publicity gimmick, but with Busch emerging as one of the top drivers in NASCAR and maybe even a special talent on road courses, who's to say he wouldn't get a second look for the world circuit if he fares well in his test?
He's still young enough at age 23. And he's certainly brave enough.
"From what I'm told by Scott Speed and Juan Pablo Montoya, the engineers sort of set it up and they drive it for you," Busch said. "They tell you where to brake, how fast to go through that corner and stuff. If they tell me to go wide open through one corner, I'd better hope it sticks because I'm going to do it."
Here's a note of interest about Busch's road course prowess. Busch has won two of his first eight Sprint Cup road courses races.
The great Dale Earnhardt won only one of his 47 career starts on a road course. TBO.com
[Editor's Note: Too funny. A NASCAR driver will never get a F1 ride. Never. There hasn't been a NASCAR driver yet who has shown they can be competitive in a rear-engine open wheel car.]
No offers to race in F1 came following his Honda F1 joyride, Marco appears content staying in IndyCar.
Coming off a strong third-place performance on the oval at Kentucky Speedway on Saturday night, Marco Andretti remains the only AGR driver still unsigned for 2009. But nobody, including Marco, expects him to be going anywhere else for the foreseeable future.
“We obviously want to be signed as soon as possible,” the youngster said hours before the Kentucky race. “This is where my heart lies, with this team. They brought me into the game. It’s exactly where I feel at home and where I think I can do big things.
“There’s nobody else I want to win with (more) than my father. I think we have the resources within the team to allow me to follow through on my ultimate goals: Win the Indy 500 and the championship and just win races.”
His father was just as certain that Marco will remain a part of the team that also includes Tony Kanaan, Danica Patrick and rookie Hideki Mutoh.
“I was just asked the question, ‘Would it be good for him to go and see another side, another team, maybe, from the standpoint of growing and seeing the grass isn’t always greener?’ From that standpoint, it probably wouldn’t be bad for him to do it,” Michael Andretti said. “But, from the other side, we really feel that he’s on the verge of being a major player in every race. I really believe that.
“He’s got all the tools and it’s all starting to come together. You’d hate to lose that.”
Besides, if Marco did leave, where would he go?
“Yeah, what else is there?” he said, grinning. “I mean, (I’m) already at the top, as far as the top team in open-wheel racing in America.”
What about Formula One, where his grandfather is one of two Americans to win a championship and his father had a brief, mostly unsuccessful run?
“If an opportunity would present itself in Formula One—the right one, which I’m not sure would … “ he said, his voice trailing off. “It has to be one of the top three teams. The reality of it is, if I won Kentucky, Ferrari’s not going to be knocking on my door.
“That would probably be the only other thing that I would do, which I’m sure Dad would be right there with me, as far as supporting me. But my heart lies in America. I think we can do big things within the team, and it’s definitely where I want to be.”
Newman's 2009 plans to be announced Friday?UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today based on this story
08/13/08 Ryan Newman will be introduced as the second driver at Stewart-Haas Racing on Friday at Michigan International Speedway, a source close to the situation told ESPN.com on Wednesday. Newman reached a verbal agreement with Tony Stewart a few weeks ago, but details about his sponsor and other contractual details had to be ironed out before the deal could be officially announced. Stewart, who recently took over 50% of Haas CNC Racing, will drive the #14 sponsored by Office Depot and Old Spice. Newman will drive the #4, with Burger King, U.S. Army and UPS being mentioned as potential sponsors. Newman also was pursued by Evernham Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing and Petty Enterprises after announcing he would not return to Penske Racing next season. Newman will be reunited with Matt Borland, now the competition director at Stewart-Haas. Borland was Newman's crew chief at Penske for 12 of his 13 Cup victories. Attempts to reach Newman and Stewart were unsuccessful. ESPN.com
Ecclestone in talks for 'GP3' coup (GMM) Bernie Ecclestone is working on a coup to scuttle fellow F1 powerbroker Max Mosley's plans for a low-cost 'formula 2' feeder series.
Already in the driving seat of the official support category GP2, it is rumored the F1 chief executive is in talks to fashion a third tier to his empire - 'GP3'.
According to the authoritative Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell, his plans involve the European-based junior series International Formula Master (IFM), which was conceived in 2007 as a competitor to formula 3.
It is believed Ecclestone sees his GP3/IFM concept as superior to FIA president Mosley's plans to revive F2 with an ultra-low budget in the realm of 200,000 euros per car.
While a typical GP2 season costs each car up to 1.5m euros, and a berth in the F3 Euroseries costs about 800,000 euros, IFM is already competitively up and running with annual budgets of around 450,000 euros.
Waltrip Racing benches McDowellUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Mike Skinner will assist Michael Waltrip Racing in efforts to evaluate its 18-month-old full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup Series program by racing the #00 Champion Mortgage Toyota Camry at Michigan International Speedway, Bristol Motor Speedway and California Speedway.
"Michael Waltrip Racing is fully committed to our sponsors, the success of our race teams and ensuring Michael McDowell, Josh Wise, David Reutimann and I have the necessary tools to succeed as drivers," Waltrip said. "We've asked Mike Skinner to evaluate areas where we can improve our on-track performance. I thought he did a really nice job of working with Red Bull and A.J. Allmendinger earlier this year and our #00 Champion Mortgage team could use the same experienced insight."
"We feel the same way about Michael McDowell as we did when we signed him," Waltrip continued. "But this is the toughest, most competitive form of racing in the world and I know Michael and MWR can benefit from Skinner's input."
Raybestos Rookie of the Year contender Michael McDowell is scheduled to return to his seat at Richmond International Raceway. "I support doing whatever it takes to improve the performance of our team", said McDowell. "No driver wants to get out of the car, but I understand that every part of our program needs to be evaluated, and that certainly includes me. I plan to support Mike Skinner and our team any way I can, and hopefully learn some things that will help when I get back in the car."
Will Ford be forced to sell Mazda? Some analysts fear the ailing U.S. automaker may be forced to raise funds by unloading its interest in its much healthier Japanese partner. Just a week after Ford's (F) disastrous quarterly earnings announcement on July 24, (BusinessWeek.com, 7/24/2008), Mazda (MZDAF), the Japanese company one-third owned by the ailing U.S. automaker, on July 31 once again highlighted how much better it is faring than its larger partner.
In a tough environment for all automakers, Mazda's operating earnings slid an expected 12%, to $265 million, but that was largely explained by a sharply stronger yen. Perhaps more important, the company said it still expects net earnings of $750 million during the current financial year. Despite weaker U.S. sales in July, Mazda plans to sell 1.48 million cars this year, up 9% from 2007.
The Japanese carmaker's prospects for the second half of 2008 also look relatively bright. On July 23, it began production at AutoAlliance International in Flat Rock, Mich. of a fully remodeled version of the popular Mazda6 sedan. In January, the company will launch a new version of the Mazda3 hatchback, its global best-seller. In North America, despite a weak July—news of which triggered an 8.8% slump in Mazda's stock in today's Tokyo trading—Mazda's sales are down just 1.7% during the first seven months of the year.
Casting a Shadow over Mazda That contrasts starkly with the grim news from Ford, which has scrapped a plan to return to profitability by 2009 and now has a market value of $10.4 billion—just $2.4 billion more than Mazda. Ford's year-to-date sales are 1.265 million, down 14.4% from a year ago.
Aston Martin to increase presence in ALMS? Aston Martin Racing head boss George Howard-Chappell was spotted in the ALMS paddock at Road America over the weekend as he met with Bell Motorsports and Drayson-Barwell customer teams. It also fueled talk that Aston Martin may have an increased presence in ALMS later this year and could field additional factory supported entries for the last couple of races this year. We think that would mean an AM-powered prototype at the very least – already one ALMS team has approached Howard-Chappell about acquiring such a package - and bringing much-needed competition to Corvette in GT1.
Big money backing Arab driver's F1 push (GMM) A Bahraini race driver, one of the first Arabs to approach the pinnacle of open wheel racing, may soon enter the formula one radar, the boss of his GP2 team has predicted.
It is believed 21-year-old Hamad Al Fardan is now the most heavily sponsored driver in the F1 feeder category, following the announcement this week of his partnership with Gulf Finance House (GFH) for the next GP2 Asia Series.
"Hamad is an exciting talent with the potential to become a national sporting star, and he could find himself behind the wheel of a formula one car in the future," said GP2 team iSport principal Paul Jackson.
Hamad is also sponsored by Gulf Air, another Middle Eastern company involved in the upper echelons of motor racing.
Kentucky IndyCar race to sell outUPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. With 25 to 30% of the seats empty on race day it certainly didn't look anything like a sellout. Either that or a lot of people who paid money for a seat decided it was not worth watching. In fact they were probably free giveaways to people who could care less about racing.
08/07/08 Kentucky Speedway announces approximately 2,000 grandstand tickets remain for its Aug. 9 IndyCar Series “Meijer Indy 300 Presented by Pepsi and Edy’s” event.
Brisk sales have placed the venue on pace to entertain its first IndyCar Series capacity crowd. The official speedway grandstand capacity is 66,089 and the track has attracted an average crowd of 53,600 for its previous eight IndyCar Series events. The venue attracted its largest IndyCar Series crowd of 62,595 on Aug. 13, 2005. The figure marked the third time an IndyCar Series event eclipsed the 61,000 attendance plateau at the track. The 2007 series event brought 56,482 to the speedway.
The track set its all-time single-race attendance record at 73,195 earlier this season on June 14 for its eighth NASCAR Nationwide Series event. A capacity crowd Saturday also would mark the first time in speedway history that two race events sold out during the same season.
Kentucky Speedway Executive Vice President and General Manager Mark F. Cassis credits the sales surge to economic factors and an excellent weekend weather forecast.
“We’re ecstatic that IndyCar Series sales are exceeding expectations. Our team has done an excellent job and will continue to drive toward achieving our first IndyCar Series sellout through the next few days.
“Clearly, consumers are choosing to stay close to home this summer to utilize the great venues in our market. If the weather forecasts come to fruition, we’re in for a beautiful weekend in Sparta, Ky.
“We’ve enjoyed an excellent season to date and a sold out IndyCar Series event would provide a great closing note to our ninth season of operation,” Cassis said.
The “Meijer Indy 300 Presented by Pepsi and Edy’s” field will feature defending event champion Tony Kanaan, two-time Indianapolis 500 winner and “Dancing with the Stars” champ Helio Castroneves, current series championship leader Scott Dixon, fan favorites Sarah Fisher and Danica Patrick as well as IndyCar Series legacies Marco Andretti and Graham Rahal.
Remaining tickets can be reserved online at www.kentuckyspeedway.com, by phone at 888-652-RACE (7223), through Meijer stores and by visiting Kentucky Speedway ticket offices located at 400 Buttermilk Pike, Suite 100, in Ft. Mitchell, Ky., next to the Montgomery Inn Restaurant or Sparta, Ky., Fan Center located off of Interstate 71 Exit 57 and Ky. Hwy. 35 North.
Chrysler to switch to 4-day workweeks to cut costs As energy costs skyrocket, Chrysler LLC is looking at different ways to save money, including, perhaps, a move to workweeks of four 10-hour days at several of its factories. “We’re looking at doing four 10s across the shops to help reduce energy costs,” Chrysler Executive Vice President of Manufacturing Frank Ewasyshyn told the Free Press Monday.
A shorter workweek had been suggested earlier this summer by Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson as an option for employees. It has since spread to other governments and private businesses.
“For us, it’s a big energy savings,” Ewasyshyn said, “just as it is for employees with gasoline in their cars.”
NASCAR out to discredit Grant? There has been a run of stories in the past few days about the $225 million lawsuit filed against NASCAR by former Nationwide Series official Mauricia Grant, capped off by Sunday morning's issue of ESPN's "Outside the Lines" series on the topic. Late last week, NASCAR used the media to unleash a campaign to discredit Grant by dredging up some legal issues she faced in years before she was employed by NASCAR. It was a shameful tactic, suggesting that since NASCAR couldn't go at Grant on the substance of what she claims happened to her while working there the company needed a diversionary tactic. Let's deal with that first and move on. Even if we assume that Grant did everything NASCAR says she did to the worst possible degree, that does not change by one molecule the level to which she is protected, by law, against discrimination and harassment on the job. It is not more acceptable to discriminate against or to harass a "bad" person than it is a "good" one, no matter who is drawing the lines between who's bad and who's good. On Friday, then, NASCAR filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York a 29-page document outlining its defense in Grant's suit. In rough outline, NASCAR says that Grant was habitually tardy for car pools leaving to take her and fellow officials to work at the track. Charlotte Observer
Toyota may cut Kentucky workforce Toyota Motor Corp., with U.S. sales hurt by falling demand for trucks, may cut temporary jobs at its Kentucky car plant should the market keep weakening. Reuters reported the possible job cuts earlier today after interviewing Steve St. Angelo, the executive in charge of the Georgetown plant, who spoke at a conference in Traverse City.
Sydney or Adelaide may poach Aus GPUPDATE #7 The radical revamp of the Eastern Creek circuit near Sydney, could secure the long-term future of Australian Grand Prix, according to organizers.
Allan Moffat, a board member of the Australian Racing Drivers' Club, said he thought the work could be enough to tempt the Australian Grand Prix away from Melbourne - despite the Albert Park circuit’s recent deal to host the event until 2015.
Speaking to the Australian Daily Telegraph, Moffat said: "Bernie Ecclestone will get sick of Melbourne's refusal to host a night race. We would be in a position to take advantage.
"It would cost three times as much to develop a suitable facility on virgin land. We have the basis for it right here in the middle of Blacktown, Australia's fastest growing area."
As part of the £43 million plan to develop Eastern Creek into a 'super-circuit', the new facility would use more than 70 per cent of the current circuit and would be reversed to run anti-clockwise. Organizers have said that work could be completed in two years.
08/07/08 (GMM) Rival organizers have not given up hope of stealing the Australian grand prix from Melbourne.
It was reported recently that The Australian Racing Drivers Club had, at a cost of some $350,000, commissioned a study into the feasibility of plowing $93m into the Eastern Creek circuit - located about 40 minutes from Sydney - as an alternate venue to Melbourne's Albert Park.
Since the report was commissioned, F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone - despite pushing for a night race - agreed a new deal with Melbourne for a twilight event until 2015.
But ARDC board member Allan Moffat said: "Bernie Ecclestone will get sick of Melbourne's refusal to host a night race.
"We would be in a position to take advantage," he told Sydney's Daily Telegraph."
05/07/08 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, there is no to little chance that Sydney will pay the money for the GP as they would not pay for the V8 Supercar street circuit round!
We are hearing that Adelaide will once again stage the Australian GP as talks are moving rapidly and some of the states best businessmen have been appointed to a special GP board. Adelaide has the best street circuit in the World (besides Monaco) with a great party atmosphere. The South Australia Government headed by Mike Rann love the F1 Grand Prix and they have said they want the race in Adelaide again.
Adelaide's problem is that it is significantly smaller than Melbourne and so is able to generate less income and thus cannot afford to invest as much as Melbourne. However Adelaide also has fewer people opposed to the F1 event and runs a very successful street event for V8 Supercars which annually attracts 350K+ people over the race weekend. Rann's government invests $1.2m a year in the event but considers this to be a real bargain. It is estimated that the visitors inject around $15m into the economy but these numbers would grow considerably if F1 returned because of the increase in out of state visitors.
05/05/08 (GMM) 1980 world champion Alan Jones has cast doubt on a Sydney circuit's ability to host the Australian grand prix in the future.
It was reported recently that officials of the Eastern Creek circuit, which is located 35 kilometers from Sydney, have commissioned a $350,000 feasibility study into a possible upgrade to accommodate the F1 event after Melbourne's contract runs out in 2010.
But while the circuit is seeking government backing for the proposed project, former Williams driver and Australian Jones, 61, doubts the Sydney venue's ability to step up to formula one standard.
"They're talking about spending 30 million dollars on it, which would probably furnish Bernie's office, but I don't think it'd build a good F1 track," Jones, who is now involved in the A1 GP series, told Eurosport.
"They're kidding themselves," he added.
Jones was born in Melbourne, the location of Australia's current grand prix, but he also doubts whether his home city can retain the race.
"If I was a betting man I wouldn't say F1 is going to be in Melbourne either after 2010.
"I'd be sad to see the Australian GP go. I'm a big F1 fan and proud of the way my country's hosted those events in the past," he said.
Ford to axe two cars from lineup Ford Motor Co. plans to halt production of the Mercury Sable sedan and Ford Taurus X crossover next year, according to company documents reviewed by The Detroit News.
Both vehicles are built at the company's Chicago Assembly Plant, which recently began production of the Lincoln MKS sedan. The factory also produces the Ford Taurus sedan on the same platform. That vehicle will remain in production.
Sales of the Taurus X -- the vehicle formerly known as the Freestyle -- are down more than 25 percent this year. Sales of the Sable, formerly known as the Montego, are down more than 8 percent from last year's already low tally. The vehicles have not been big successes for Ford and both are in conflict with the company's plans for their respective brands.
The full-sized Sable sedan does not fit with Ford's new vision for Mercury, which involves narrowing the marque's focus to smaller cars and crossovers to complement the bigger vehicles offered by Lincoln.
The full-size Taurus X crossover is an aging design that makes little sense in the Blue Oval lineup now that Ford has launched the all-new Flex crossover.
Ford would neither confirm nor deny the moves.
"We don't comment on speculation on about future product plans," spokeswoman Jennifer Flake said. Detroit News
Sato and STR a good fit for 2009 - report (GMM) The latest rumor in formula one circles is that Japanese race driver Takuma Sato could soon be back on the radar in the wake of the Super Aguri collapse.
It emerged recently that, following Honda-backed Aguri's demise in May, the 31-year-old turned down offers to contest Le Mans and American series in order to focus on resurrecting his F1 career.
"There is nothing concrete yet. I am speaking with some teams," he said at the time.
The authoritative Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell now reports that Sato, who contested approaching 100 grands prix since his debut for Jordan in 2002, is being speculatively linked with one of the Toro Rosso race seats for 2009.
The Faenza based team has potentially two spots to fill at the end of the year, given Sebastian Vettel's confirmed switch to senior outfit Red Bull, and the disappointing form of his teammate Sebastien Bourdais.
Co-owner Gerhard Berger has said his ideal lineup for 2009 would be a youngster - for example Bruno Senna or Sebastien Buemi - alongside a more experienced teammate.
Motorsport Aktuell reports that Sato is a potential candidate not only for his experience and fighting qualities, but to assist in the development of energy drink partner Red Bull's penetration of the tough Japanese market.
[Editor's Note: Unless STR is switching from Ferrari to Honda engines we doubt the Honda backed Sato will end up at STR, unless of course Honda pays for Sato to drive a Ferrari powered car, which would seem unlikely. Sato is a decent driver, but we do not see him doing any better a job for STR than Bourdais is doing. In the past Sato has never been 'star' material.]
Schrader back with BAM and/or RCR? Don't expect to see Ken Schrader in a Sprint Cup race anytime soon. But when it happens, he will drive for Beth Ann Morgenthau and perhaps Richard Childress. "The BAM team swears they're coming back," Schrader said. "Childress said I might run a couple of races. I don't give a (care). Whatever happens. I've got a bunch of stuff I want to do. It isn't any problem." In the past two years, Schrader has raced only 18 times in 57 races, including just five of 21 this season, earning $496,309. In those five events, he has driven for BAM, Childress, Chip Ganassi and Haas CNC Racing. His best finish came with BAM at Las Vegas on March 2 when he wound up 21st. He last hit the track in Charlotte on May 25 where he finished 33rd in the Coca-Cola 600 while driving for Childress. Since then, Schrader's name can't be found in the Sprint Cup results, which suits him just fine. "I'm not retiring," he stressed. "There just comes a time when you don't have anything to drive."
After a 37th-place finish at Martinsville on March 30 with Morgenthau, the team announced it was switching to Toyotas from Chevrolets and would miss the next two races at Texas and Phoenix. There was hope the team would be up and running by Talladega on April 27. But a primary sponsorship deal once planned for the majority of the season has been scaled back to a portion of the season. Now it looks like BAM may return in the fall. That means Schrader can do anything he wants. And even though the NASCAR silly season is in full swing, Schrader's name is never mentioned as a possible replacement driver for 2009 because of his advanced age. "It's not going to be. It's not going to be," he said. "That's just the way the sport is. I don't have a problem with that. I was there a long time and it isn't any biggie."
To replace his NASCAR fix, and as has he has done all his life, Schrader does not sit still. He can be found racing a car in the ARCA series and at his first love — racing on a dirt track some place in the United States. He was at his own track, I-55 Raceway in Pevely, last Saturday night, racing his late model in the Tri-Track Challenge, where he finished fifth in the 40-lap feature. He also owns a NASCAR Craftsman Truck team, and he will race that truck at Bristol on Aug. 20. As well, he owns a car that is driven by former Supercross champion Ricky Carmichael in the Camping World East Series. St Louis Post Dispatch
Mexico wants to join 2010 calendar (GMM) Mexico is hoping to be added to an expanded formula one calendar in 2010.
Mexican racing official Jose Abed, an FIA vice-president, believes F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone has been given a green-light to add two new races to the 2010 schedule.
"Those changes will be made by 2010 and, if it happens, (Mexico will) have to work hard to have a proper track. Even so, we must wait for Bernie Ecclestone's decision to include Mexico," he is quoted as saying by Sportsya.
Abed, who was involved in the Mexican grand prix held at Mexico City's Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez between 1986 and 1992, said Puebla, Cancun and Tijuana are interested in becoming the country's new GP host.
He also said that governments at both the federal and state levels are willing to back the race.
"We are able to do it, because the authorities are willing to make the relevant investments and everyone has a chance. We just have to afford it since a Formula One track is worth more than $50 million," said Abed.
[Editor's Note: Won't happen. Mexico cannot afford to build a track let alone pay Bernie the high sanctioning fee.]
McDowell could get the axe Michael McDowell, the Michael Waltrip Racing rookie, said Friday that he may be on the market for a new team, depending on MWR’s sponsorship search. He’s already spoken to several teams about his driving future, including Petty Enterprises. Petty official Robbie Loomis said Friday that McDowell is among a small group of three or four drivers being considered for the team’s #45 car next season. McDowell said MWR has an option on him, but if it does not secure a sponsor for him in the next few weeks, he may have to look elsewhere for a ride. Casey Mears and Chad McCumbee have also been mentioned as candidates for Petty’s #45 car. Other options that potentially could be available to McDowell include Chip Ganassi Racing’s #41 car and Gillett Evernham Motorsports’ #10 car. There are also openings at Penske Racing and Richard Childress Racing. SceneDaily
Kobalt Tools tells NASCAR no Kobalt Tools, the Lowe's brand that was considered the leader to be the title sponsor of the NASCAR truck series, has withdrawn from the bidding, sources say. Craftsman is in its final season as the title sponsor. With Kobalt stepping away, the door is open for Craftsman to renew its status as the official tool of NASCAR, which the brand had hoped to retain even though it was not renewing title sponsorship of the series. Sports Business Journal
Star Mazda to move under IRL umbrella With Tony George saying no to the Champ Car Atlantic Series being part of the IRL ladder system, we are now hearing that consideration is being given to moving the Star Mazda series over to the IRL as the step below Indy Lights. Makes sense because the Atlantic cars would have turned faster laps times than the Indy Lights and caused much embarrassment. There is no chance that the Star Mazda cars will embarrass the Indy Lights series as they definitely are slower.
We said long ago that the new Atlantic car should have been a Formula 3 spec car rather than its own proprietary formula. That decision will eventually come back to haunt that series and it already is.
TSN getting set to launch companion channel In an ambitious move that will have an impact on sports television in several ways, TSN in Canada is planning to launch a companion channel called TSN2.
The new service, which will start in the fall, will provide content that will include major-league programming such as NHL and NBA telecasts on a cycle of 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Executives and spokespeople at TSN are mum on the subject, but sources in advertising say TSN has already bought for the channel the rights to NBA games that were discarded by Rogers Sportsnet at the end of last season.
The new service will provide extensive auto racing and tennis coverage and, apparently, will air at least one major-league event daily.
And it will be the first digital channel in Canada to provide programming in high-definition television.
Rumors for 2009 ALMS season Once upon a time the “silly season” of rumor and speculation about the future of drivers, teams, sponsors and manufacturers generally broke out around late July and early August and was largely focused on the following calendar year. Well, it’s early August and the silly-season is in full-bloom in the American Le Mans Series. In fact it has been since early June.
Perhaps that’s a function of the Le Mans “break” that leaves those folks not partaking in the ACO’s annual twice ‘round the clock clam bake’ with of lot of time on their hands. And you know what they say about idle hands being the Devil’s workshop.
On the other hand, as the recent goings-on at Andretti-Green, Audi, Farnbacher Loles and VICI Racing indicate there’s real substance to this silly season. What’s more, the changes rumbling through the paddock this summer have, more often than not, been immediate rather than forward-looking. When the Series convenes at Road America for this weekend’s Generac 500 presented by Time Warner Cable, there will be very different lineup to that which contested the Larry H. Miller Dealerships Utah Grand Prix at Miller Motorsports Park in May. Heck, it’ll be quite different from the lineup at the past two races at Lime Rock and Mid-Ohio in July.
Ganassi to snatch Kanaan from Andretti teamUPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. According to this SPEEDTV.com article, Tony Kanaan decided to stay with AGR despite making a verbal agreement with Chip Ganassi to switch to his team. "I went to bed on Wednesday night thinking about my career options but when I woke up Thursday morning I was convinced I wanted to stay with my guys at AGR," said Kanaan on Thursday night. "I decided to stay with AGR and 7-Eleven and it's a good contract that should be my last one in Indy cars." Ganassi, who said he began negotiating with the 2004 IRL champion on Aug. 2, claims he was floored by the news.
"It's unbelievable," said Ganassi. "I talked to him (Kanaan) on Wednesday night and he said we were fine, we were great and we're a go. "Then I get a call from his agent who says Tony has flipped and he's staying with AGR. He said something about Tony not liking one of the clauses in the contract but I didn't change anything."
08/07/08 Tony Kanaan is the most valuable player at Andretti Green Racing, but he’s also the most valuable free agent in American open-wheel racing and Chip Ganassi is poised to snap up the 2004 Indy Racing League champion.
SPEEDtv.com has learned that Ganassi has made a multi-year offer for Kanaan to join Scott Dixon at Target/Ganassi Racing starting in 2009 and the 33-year-old veteran is expected to sign the contract in the near future.
Repeated phone calls and text messages to Kanaan the past three days were not returned, while Ganassi, reached at his Pittsburgh home on Wednesday night, offered the following when asked about trying to sign Kanaan.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. “But feel free to give him (Kanaan) my phone number.”
But, when pressed to address the likeliness of pursing someone of Kanaan’s caliber, Ganassi then replied: “I think you’d have to look at it. You have to do the right thing for your team and your sponsors.”
It’s believed that Ganassi covets Kanaan over Dan Wheldon because the IRL is adding more road courses and street races -- where T.K. clearly has out-performed the 30-year-old Brit. More at SPEEDTV.com
Dennis wants to retire with '08 title - reportUPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' today. A McLaren spokesman on Thursday denied reports that team boss Ron Dennis wants to retire with a title at the end of 2008.
Dennis, the Mercedes-powered team's 61-year-old chief, was quoted this week by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport: "If I do step back, I would want to do that with a title."
The magazine claims the Briton, who began working as a mechanic in formula one as a teenager in the 1960s, is so desperate to return the silverware to Woking that the team is still flat-out on the 2008 car, rather than switching its focus to the sweeping rules changes for next year.
The team spokesman said Auto Motor und Sport's article was "based around a very old quote".
"Ron has made it clear on numerous occasions that he has made no decision as to if and when he may or may not step aside.
"Ron's, and the team's, focus remains on winning every grand prix we start -- and that applies to this season, next season, the season after that, and so on," he continued.
"As a result, we are maintaining development of our 2009 car at undiminished levels, while continually improving our 2008 car, race by race, test by test, in the normal way."
08/07/08 (GMM) 2008 may be Ron Dennis' last season at the helm of the McLaren team -- particularly if the Mercedes-powered squad wins its first championship in nearly a decade.
The 61-year-old is quoted as saying by Germany's Auto Motor und Sport: "If I do step back, I would want to do that with a title."
The magazine claims the Briton, who began working as a mechanic in formula one as a teenager in the 1960s, is so desperate to return the silverware to Woking that the team is still flat-out on the 2008 car, rather than switching its focus to the sweeping rules changes for next year.
Late last year, Dennis resisted pressure to quit McLaren, of which he is still a shareholder, over the espionage scandal.
Versus to replace ESPN/ESPN2 for IndyCarUPDATE #2 Versus will become the exclusive cable television home of the Indy Racing League next year with its agreement to a 10-year deal worth an estimated $60 million. Versus, which will take over from ESPN and ESPN2, will carry 13 races. ABC will continue to broadcast the Indianapolis 500 and four other IRL events. The agreement also gives Versus the rights to carry all of the Indy 500 qualifying. Scott Guglielmino, a vice president for programming for ESPN, said shedding the 13 IRL races was not connected to the network’s holding NASCAR rights. NY Times
[Editor's Note: Bottom line: ESPN wanted the IRL to buy time on its network and Versus was willing to pay the IRL $6 million per year. However, cumulatively the teams and the league will lose more than $6M per year in sponsor revenue because ratings on Versus will be a small fraction of those on ESPN, so is this a case of the IRL being penny-wise and pound foolish?]
08/07/08 As when Champ Car moved to Spike TV, Versus will help the IRL become invisible to the general public as it is not a channel most sports fans think to channel surf to and many hotels and sports bars don't bother to have it. Certainly the IRL and its teams will take a major hit when it comes to landing sponsorship because of this move.
08/07/08 Curt Cavin of The Indianapolis Star is reporting that Versus will join ABC as a television partner for the series next year.
The ABC Network has signed a new contract that will keep them with IndyCar through 2012. They’ll broadcast five events in 2009, including the 93rd Indianapolis 500. But Versus, which is owned by Comcast and is home to the NHL and the Tour de France, will carry a minimum of 13 races next year in a multiyear agreement.
According to Cavin, the channel will utilize pre/post-race shows, longer time windows, and specialty shows to try and overcome a gap of 23 million homes between itself (73 million) and ESPN/ESPN2 (96 million each). We should know more about those new offerings later this afternoon at 2 p.m. ET, when the league holds a teleconference to presumably discuss the matter.
Mazda to enter ALMS LMP1 category?UPDATE This rumor is finally upgraded to 'fact' today. This week Mazda confirmed to British weekly Autosport that the B-K Motorsports team would indeed be debuting a brand-new Lola B08/80 Mazda at the Petit Le Mans. And just a few days later, SPEEDTV.com’s Marshall Pruett published an interview with Mazda Motorsport’s Manager, John Doonan, revealing the team’s goals with the new car. BP livery will be on the car (see sneak peek at the livery).
01/10/06 After seeing one Mazda entry in the American Le Mans Series for 2005, there's a strong possibility that the Japanese manufacturer could have as many as four cars on the Series' grid for '06. In addition to B-K Motorsports' efforts (who apparently will switch from Courage to a Lola chassis around mid-year), there could be a second Mazda-powered entry in LMP2 (we don't know the chassis, though). The possibility also is out there that Mazda's Speed6 could compete in GT2S later in the season. Mazda could be joined in the Series by other Japanese manufacturers Honda and Nissan (Toyota's American arm, Lexus, already has committed to a two-team effort).
Truex to re-sign with DEI or move to Stewart-Haas?UPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Martin Truex Jr. has re-signed with Dale Earnhardt Inc. for next season, multiple sources confirmed Wednesday. DEI picked up the option on Truex, who is in his third year competing in Cup for DEI, but both sides had to agree to terms of the extension. Truex has said in the last couple of months that he was having good discussions with DEI, but the 28-year-old was still considered one of the top free agents available until he signed.
07/12/08 As far as his contract status with DEI, which intends to pick up his option, Truex said those talks took a backseat after the Daytona infraction. "Certainly, last week . . . I said to myself, this isn't the first thing on my list," Truex said of his contract. "Through this week, we've had great meetings about what happened, how we want to fix it, the direction we're headed as a race team, and so hopefully this week we'll get back to talking about the rest of that stuff. It's been going well. There's just been a lot of other things on the plate as a race team to figure out." He did not rule out he could be a candidate for the second team at the newly formed Stewart-Haas Racing. "I guess if you look around the garage, anybody who doesn't have a contract signed for next year you have to look at as a candidate . . . for that deal right now," Truex said. ESPN.com
Martin Truex Jr. from NJ
07/08/08 Mark Martin’s new deal with Hendrick Motorsports will make it much easier for DEI to re-sign #1-Martin Truex Jr. Early Sunday morning, sources close to Truex Jr. said Martin’s release from the team at the end of the 2009 season would free up more than $8 million dollars. That money now appears to be spearheaded for Truex Jr. DEI has said they have an option on Truex Jr for 2009, an option that Truex Jr has discounted. Mark Martin was being paid more than $8 million dollars to drive part-time according to sources within the DEI organization. Now that Martin has agreed to terms with Hendrick Motorsports to drive the #5 car full-time next season and part-time in 2010, this money has become available for Truex Jr. Sources said DEI and Truex Jr. are closer than ever to announcing a contract extension that would lock in the New Jersey native through 2012 in the #1 car. Captain Thunder Racing
Despite winning in NASCAR Toyota expects profits to plunge Rounding out a bleak earnings season for automakers, Toyota Motor Corp. is expected to report a steep drop in quarterly profits Thursday because of slumping U.S. auto sales, this despite winning on a regular basis in NASCAR. Win on Sunday, sell on Monday certainly does not apply anymore.
Unfavorable currency trends also weighed on the Japanese automaker, according to analysts who forecast its operating earnings may be down more than 40 percent for the three months to June 30.
Detroit Big 3 tell NASCAR to cut schedule, elevate tech Leading up to the Brickyard 400 at Indianapolis a couple of weeks ago - and in intense discussions ever since - the Detroit manufacturers have been dissecting their involvement in NASCAR with a fervor not seen since, well, ever. NASCAR officials got an in-person earful at The Speedway from various Detroit auto company executives in attendance. The message? The financial numbers aren't good, cutbacks are a certainty - and that means our NASCAR programs too - and we will be discussing what shape our future involvement with NASCAR will take in the coming weeks. Whether or not Brian France and Mike Helton & Co. were surprised or not is immaterial (they shouldn't have been), because NASCAR management left Indy with the realization that for the first time in memory Detroit's involvement wasn't going to be "automatic" for the foreseeable future. And it was sobering for NASCAR and its teams.
Cut the schedule. To the manufacturers this is a "no-brainer." You want to cut costs? Then cut the number of races, which will allow the manufacturers to reduce their overall expenditures. One manufacturer in particular has already suggested eliminating at least four races from the overall schedule, while adding two more road races, which means effectively cutting six existing races from the schedule. The easiest solution to get there? Do away with the double visits to certain tracks during the season.
Elevate the technology. This is something that NASCAR better get on board with, because the manufacturers are more than adamant about it. They're tired of NASCAR's head-in-sand approach when it comes to applying technology to Sprint Cup. On the manufacturers' wish list? Direct fuel-injection, overhead cams and alternative fuel. And that means walking away from "spec" engines too - and doing away with the common bore centers that NASCAR is requiring. And the fact that NASCAR just went to unleaded racing fuel not long ago isn't cutting it with Detroit, either. They're thinking E85 instead. Autoextremist
2009 F1 Silly Season page With all the recent driver change rumors we have started our annual 2009 F1 Silly Season page. It can be found here, or using the link above. We will do our best to update it daily between now and the start of the 2009 season.
Briatore to stay at Renault in 2009? (GMM) Flavio Briatore seems likely to stay with the Renault team in 2009, but his future as a formula one chief is unclear beyond next year, the Spanish publication sport.es reports.
This season is the second of a two-year contract extension the 58-year-old millionaire, who was recently married, signed at the end of 2006.
F1 may copy Champ Car's colored sidewall concept for the softer tires
(GMM) When F1 farewells grooved dry weather tires at the end of this season, Bridgestone must come up with an alternate way of visibly distinguishing between the 'hard' and 'soft' compounds at races.
It is believed the front-running idea for the return of slick tires in 2009 is to color white the sidewalls, rather than an inside groove as is the current practice.
The concept, and possibly others - including the possibility of colors other than white being used - will be tested prior to the beginning of the 2009 season, Bridgestone sources report.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that F1's official tire supplier plans to use a reflective white paint for the groove for the first-ever night race in Singapore on September 28, according to the Dutch magazine Formule 1 Race Report.
Riggs may be out of rideUPDATE With the thought that Scott Riggs won't be asked to stay with the Stewart-Haas team, Riggs said he has been in talks with other teams about 2009. "I've been having a lot of conversations," he said. "I'm trying to figure out what is going to happen with me. I know this organization is on the way up and going to have a great group of guys and drivers coming on board. It will be interesting to see where my feet land and I've been talking to a lot of people, but right now I'm focused on what we are doing and trying to be the best we can be for the rest of this year." NASCAR.com
08/02/08 Scott Riggs, driver of the #66 for Haas CNC Racing which will become the #4 Stewart-Haas car next year, is already talking with others about his future. "I'm 99.99999 percent sure I won't be here next year," Riggs said Friday. Joe Custer, the team's general manager, said, "no one is out," but expect a decision on the driver lineup next week. "We're wide open on it," he said. "A deal is not done until it is inked so for us to say we're about there means we are not there. I can tell you we are working on them." NASCAR.com
2010 IndyCar schedule could look a lot different According to this SPEEDTV.com article, existing contracts dictated the majority of the 2009 18-race lineup. Next year is the final one for the contracts with Kansas, Milwaukee, Texas, Richmond, Watkins Glen, Kentucky, Motegi, Detroit, Iowa, Miami and Mid-Ohio. The IRL has multi-year deals in place with St. Petersburg, Edmonton, Long Beach, Sonoma, Chicago and Toronto. Oh yeah, and Indy. Therefore, in 2010 the IRL has a chance to revamp its schedule in a big way if it so chooses.
NASCAR appears headed back to Montreal in 2009 The Nationwide Series appears likely to return to Montreal for 2009 and it could be the only international race on the No. 2 series’ schedule.
NASCAR has already said it would not return to Mexico City next year, but NASCAR Vice President of Racing Operations Steve O’Donnell said officials from the sanctioning body “anticipate” Montreal being back on the schedule for 2009.
O’Donnell said Circuit Gilles Villeneuve would not host a Sprint Cup date in 2009, and he would not speculate on whether the Cup series would race there beyond ’09.
“We were a little bit surprised just how big NASCAR is in general in Canada,” O’Donnell said.
O’Donnell said the Canadian Tire Series has been well received, perhaps even more than NASCAR hoped. Part of the goal of that series is to produce Canadian driving talent for NASCAR’s three national series, and O’Donnell cited Andrew Ranger as hope for that farm series. Scenedaily.com
Petrobras to back F1 move for Bruno Senna? (GMM) Timo Glock's continuing tenure at Toyota means that Kazuki Nakajima, who races with the backing of the Japanese carmaker, is likely to stay with Toyota-powered Williams in 2009.
However, there may also be moves within the Grove-based Williams team to look seriously at Bruno Senna, the nephew of F1's famous triple world champion Ayrton Senna.
Senna, 24, has been increasingly impressive in the feeder series GP2 this year, attracting not just the attention of his late uncle's former McLaren teammate Gerhard Berger, who has a vacancy at his team Toro Rosso for next year.
Race seats at Honda and Williams may also be up for grabs, and paddock rumors indicate that the Brazilian oil company Petrobras - which already sponsors Williams - could be willing to substantially support Senna's graduation to F1.
Test seats at BMW-Sauber and Toyota may also have been discussed for 2009 with Senna's management.
"If a very good team offered me a test drive for a year and a race drive for the next year, that's a good prospect. But I'd primarily prefer to have a race seat," he is quoted as saying by GPWeek.
Honda chief executive Nick Fry does not deny he has his eye on Senna.
"But there's been no specific move in that direction," he insisted.
Toyota to re-sign Glock Timo Glock is poised to be offered a new contract by Toyota as a reward for his outstanding drive to his first Formula One podium finish in Sunday's Hungarian Grand Prix.
The 26-year-old German drove with great skill and determination to finish second just two weeks after departing his home German Grand Prix in an ambulance following a heavy crash.
Both he and his senior teammate Italian veteran Jarno Trulli are expected to keep their seats with the Toyota team after a run of solid results.
"We intend to keep both of our drivers," said Toyota team chief John Howett after Sunday's race at the Hungaroring, won by Finn Heikki Kovalainen, who secured his maiden Formula One triumph.
"I'm just happy that Timo had a really strong race here. Jarno would have had a stronger race if he hadn't been caught behind Mark Webber because of a bad start. Overall I'm very happy we had a strong result." Fox Sports
Ford, GM explore joint engines General Motors Corp. and Ford Motor Co. are discussing a possible collaboration to develop new engines and other powertrain technologies, according to sources at both companies.
The rival automakers are keen to find ways to reduce research-and-development costs even as they struggle to respond to a dramatic shift in consumer demand from big trucks and sport utility vehicles toward smaller, more economical cars and crossovers.
A deal could give Ford access to GM's Volt technology -- if it becomes commercially viable. It could also help GM offset cuts to its product development budget.
GM first approached Ford more than a month ago, two sources familiar with the situation said. GM told Ford that it was willing to discuss a wide range of possible collaborations. More at Detroit News
Goodyear to make larger tire for CoT A bigger tire could be in NASCAR's future.
In the wake of last week's tire controversy at Indianapolis, where some of its tires failed, Goodyear is looking ahead to a tire that could work better with NASCAR's new Car of Tomorrow, a bigger, heavier vehicle than the previous models used in Sprint Cup.
"We had some discussion about a larger tire ... several years ago with NASCAR when we started this whole discussion about the Car of Tomorrow," said Stu Grant, general manager of worldwide racing for Goodyear, the exclusive tire supplier for NASCAR's top three professional series.
"But, obviously, we've been working with the current size on the Car of Tomorrow. This spring, we decided to ramp that (new) program up."
Grant said there would be several differences from the current tire.
"We are working on a larger contain-air volume, a bigger section width, taller tire, larger bead diameter," he said. "Right now, it's all modeling. We're trying to figure out what the right size would be."
Goodyear hopes the bigger tire would be a better match for the CoT, but it will be two years before the new model would be available. Grant said NASCAR has been "totally supportive." Heraldnet.com
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