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NASCAR Hall of Fame costs to rise 20% The $163 million NASCAR Hall of Fame project in Charlotte s revving up a revised, higher cost of construction. City staff is rumored to tell council tonight that the budget has grown to $195 million, an increase of $32 million, or 20%. Leaders of the NASCAR Hall of Fame will present council a plan to pay for their updated wish list. The additions include upgraded exhibits, additional architectural flourishes and the installation of equipment designed to increase energy efficiency. Those elements are budgeted for $20 million, with the remaining $12 million targeted for the project’s already depleted contingency fund. Tim Newman, chief executive of the Charlotte Regional Visitors Authority, and NASCAR Hall of Fame executive director Winston Kelley plan to outline the changes and additions at the City Council meeting. Jim Schumacher, assistant city manager, serves as the city’s lead liaison on the hall of fame. Public funding, including a new 2% hotel tax and dedicated hospitality taxes, provide much of the funding for the hall of fame. The price tag includes an adjacent convention center ballroom and a 1,000-space parking deck. All of the projects are in Second Ward near the Charlotte Convention Center at 501 S. College Street. Schumacher says the projects are on schedule to open in May 2010. He expects council to approve the request to alter the budget. Business Journal of the Greater Triad Area
F1 teams look at new customer car proposal The e-magazine GrandPrix+ is reporting that the Formula 1 teams are studying a new proposal from the Formula One group that will allow for the continued use of customer cars in 2010 and beyond. It had been thought that the whole concept of customer chassis had been closed because of opposition to the idea, but it seems that an attempt is being made to find a new compromise to help keep Scuderia Toro Rosso alive. The team is currently the only F1 organization to use cars built by another team, in Toro Rosso's case, the sister operation Red Bull Racing.
Dodge pulls out of NASCAR Truck SeriesUPDATE Bobby Hamilton Racing-Virginia is looking for a new manufacturer after being told that Dodge will not support the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series team following the 2008 season. The team recently suspended operations of one of its trucks for the rest of the season as it prepares for the switch in manufacturers. The BHR-Virginia team was the only one that Dodge supported in the series in 2008 and the manufacturer is not expected to support any beginning in 2009.
“We’re talking to other manufacturers and seeing what’s available,” said team co-owner Clay Campbell. “Obviously it’s a tough time for everybody.”
[Editor's Note: Sure appears like Dodge has pulled out to us.]
09/06/08 At the beginning of the Truck Race today, they said that Dodge will not be supporting ant teams next year. They are not pulling out, they just are not going to have factory support. If you are not supporting teams, doesn't that mean you have pulled out?
RGM-GEM Proposed merger may be in jeopardy Robby Gordon said he still wants to merge with Gillett-Evernham Motorsports, despite a suit just filed against him by Gillett-Evernham. Gordon, who has been using engines supplied by Gillett-Evernham this season, said he expects to have a legal response in the next few days to the lawsuit filed against him by the Ray Evernham-George Gillett operation that claims a breach of contract on a proposed sale of Gordon's NASCAR operation to Evernham-Gillett. But already there are rumblings in the NASCAR garage over what might be the real story behind the suit: whether Evernham and Gillett don't really want to do that deal with Gordon any more, perhaps because they have a better proposal, or for some other reason.
One key part of the entire situation is Gillett's plan to move his team from its relatively isolated Statesville airport location down much closer to the Charlotte-Concord heart of the sport. Evernham and Gillett haven't been here to explain the situation from their viewpoint, but Gordon said he still wants to do the deal with them. One key to the proposed $20 million deal apparently is a sale of Gordon's shop and real estate -- some prime racing real estate -- to Evernham and Gillett.
There is increasing speculation that Chip Ganassi -- a Dodge team owner like Evernham, Gillett and Gordon -- might also be a potential merger partner with Evernham and Gillett. And Ganassi has prime real estate too, right next to the Concord airport. "Unfortunately I guess you'll have to learn more about all that in our answers to their complaint," Gordon said. "But we have a deal with them, we have a contract that is still in effect. What they have asked -- I wouldn't say it's so much against Robby Gordon, but they have asked for release from the contract. But we've already done so many things together that I don't know if that's possible." Might Evernham and Gillett want to drop the Gordon deal so they can do a deal with someone else? "Maybe that's what the case is, but I'm not privy to that information, so I don't know," Gordon said. Winston Salem Journal
Rumors abound amid Spa-Monza dash (GMM) As the formula one world this week dashes across Europe between the Spa-Francorchamps/Monza double header, rumors abound about possible driver changes for the future.
Despite Sebastien Bourdais enjoying a strong weekend in the Ardennes, the Belgian paddock on Sunday night buzzed with speculation the Frenchman's days at Toro Rosso may be extremely numbered.
Indeed, some sages whispered that Sunday's Italian grand prix could be his last, as the Ferrari-powered squad possibly turns to giving 2009 contenders Takuma Sato, Sebastien Buemi and Bruno Senna the opportunity to prove their worth at the remaining races of this season.
There is also movement behind the scenes at Renault, where the future of the Brazilian rookie Nelson Piquet looks in doubt.
Indeed, it is reported by Switzerland's Motorsport Aktuell on Monday that another Brazilian - 24-year-old test driver Lucas di Grassi - is to test for the French team on all three days of the forthcoming Jerez test.
The report said the test is an evaluation with possibly replacing his countryman for 2009 in mind, amid uncertainty that di Grassi's recent strong form in GP2 can cross over to the senior series.
It was also rumored at Spa-Francorchamps that grand prix veteran Nick Heidfeld, whose seat at BMW-Sauber seems insecure for 2009, may be a contender to race with Renault next year.
Heidfeld thinks he can retain BMW seat (GMM) Nick Heidfeld did his chances of retaining his BMW-Sauber race seat for 2009 no harm with his performance at Spa-Francorchamps, team boss Mario Theissen admits.
After a dismal outing at Valencia two weeks earlier, the 31-year-old German bounced back in style in Belgium.
His performance was strong all weekend at the famous venue, but the inspired decision to switch to wet tires two laps from the end gave him the grip to drive around his rivals and race to the podium.
Rumors abound that BMW is considering giving Robert Kubica, who is understood to have signed a new one-year contract, a new teammate for 2009.
But with the regulations set to drastically change, Theissen agrees that is a strong reason to retain as much stability as possible in other areas.
Moreover, Fernando Alonso aside, it is not clear from where on the current driver market the Hinwil based team might source an obviously better alternative for 2009.
Theissen told reporters in Belgium that he has delayed the decision about finalizing the team's next lineup.
He also hailed Heidfeld's race, particularly the decision to switch to wets.
"It tells you something about racecraft and about racing experience to judge a situation like this within a few seconds," Theissen said.
Referring to the possibility of retaining Heidfeld, meanwhile, the German added: "We won't have technical stability next year and stability is something positive."
USGP not to return in 2009, but maybe 2010UPDATE #3 Tony George told the Indy Star he has not spoken to F-1 boss Bernie Ecclestone about F1 returning to Indy, and he knows many in grand prix racing would rather race on either the East or West coasts. We predict that if Ecclestone gets it done, the race will be in Las Vegas, a place he has coveted for a long time.
09/07/08 This rumor is now changed to the year 2010 and upgraded from 'false' to 'speculation. The prospects for a return of a Formula One race in the United States have improved after Bernie Ecclestone held talks with F1 team principals in Belgium about putting the event back on the calendar in 2010, autosport.com reports. As the article reports, the USA market is vital to most of the teams because the USA is the biggest market for manufacturers who support them (plus American sponsors like AT&T and HP). However, the teams want a race on either the West or East coast, not Indy, which is a small market for them.
06/25/08 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today as the FOX TV announcers were wrong. Here is the 2009 F1 schedule.
06/23/08 According to the FOX TV announcers during the broadcast of the French GP Sunday, the USGP looks pretty certain to return to Indianapolis in 2009. Recall previous rumors that Tony George wanted the race back in time for the 100-year anniversary celebration of the famed Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Will Wilson be back with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing? After having a lackluster year before finally winning in Detroit last weekend, Justin Wilson said he still hasn't been told if his contract will be picked up by the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing team for next season. Indy Star
Overheard at Chicagoland - Sunday 1 Bruce Ashmore was seen in the Honda hospitality area still pushing his low downforce, high HP ideas for the next generation IndyCar. CART tried this one year, it ruined the racing and the cars become suicidal coffins on wheels. Road racing is one thing, but high banked ovals? Order the flowers and plan the funerals.......We hear that Enrique Bernoldi will not be back in IndyCar this year, having torn a ligament in his left thumb. We also hear he will not be returning to the Conquest Racing team next year either. The team is very happy with Alex Tagliani and are trying their best to put a sponsorship package together around him. Bernoldi is talking to a lot of other teams for 2009......We hear that AGR would consider a 5th IndyCar team in 2009 if the sponsorship was there. Rafael Matos, who just wrapped up the Indy Lights title for the team, would love to move up, but the money does not appear to be there. We hear he will run a Grand-Am race in Utah for the Michael Shank team and he will compete for the factory Mazda team at Road Atlanta as that manufacturer re-enters sports car racing. We hear Mazda likes Matos so don't be surprised if the IRL loses the very talented Matos to ALMS in 2009. Why wouldn't Matos want to drive for a factory team? He has had 8 Indy Car test days with AGR and has been very helpful to the team at some of the tracks he tested on. Even though he beat up on all those American drivers in his very first year in Lights, won the Atlantic championship last year, and is obviously very talented, it appears unlikely that a team will pick him up in IndyCar as it sits right now, and that is a travesty for open wheel racing because talented drivers continue to walk right out the door because of lack of sponsorship. Mark C. reporting from Chicagoland
Force India to retain drivers for 2009UPDATE Indian billionaire owner Vijay Mallya sees Fisichella's experience as vital if the team are to make further progress in 2009. Although Fisichella, along with team-mate Adrian Sutil, has yet to score a point for the team this season, Mallya has indicated the 35-year-old Italian's role is vital.
"This team needs the experience of Giancarlo, has needed it, and as we design the 2009 car, needs it even more," said Mallya on the 13-season veteran. This team has never had the benefit in the last two or three years of an experienced driver. To give you an example, I race horses, and what the jockey tells you, no-one else can. You can have the best trainer in the world, but you need a jockey to tell you how good or bad the horse is. Similarly, I firmly believe driver feedback on a car is invaluable and that is why Giancarlo is performing a very valuable role for us."
08/11/08 (GMM) Force India is likely to field the same race driver lineup in 2009, high profile co-owner Vijay Mallya has said.
Mallya, the billionaire Indian businessman, told F1's official website that he is "happy" with both Giancarlo Fisichella and Adrian Sutil.
A year ago, Mallya suggested that while his needs for the team's debut year were unique, an Indian driver would "certainly" feature in the 2009 lineup.
Karun Chandhok, an Indian driver in the feeder category GP2, has now suggested he is on the verge of breaking into F1.
But Mallya, despite also possessing the highly motivated Tonio Liuzzi as a test driver, insists: "The experience of Giancarlo is invaluable to me and Adrian has lots of talent. I think he is improving race by race, becoming more consistent.
"I am quite happy with them," he continued.
"More importantly, they have a great attitude that will help me to face the challenges of tomorrow and I think they will be very satisfied driving the 2009 car, which I personally am sure will be a significant improvement and a big surprise," Mallya added.
We have updated our 2009 F1 Silly Season page above.
Overheard in Chicagoland - SaturdayUPDATE We forgot to mention that Dale Coyne told AR1.com Saturday that it is very likely he will have the same driver lineup in 2009 (Junqueira and Moraes) as he does this year. The team, like most ex-Champ Car teams, lacks the money to go Wind Tunnel testing to improve their car aerodynamically like Penske, Ganassi and AGR have to be competitive on the ovals. If the car won't go through the air fast enough, there isn't much the driver can do when the car is 100% throttle and completely trimmed out and it's still not fast enough. You could try to make the track shorter like Helio Castroneves tried to do in qualifying for the Chicagoland race
Dario Franchitti talks to reporters in Chicago Saturday
yesterday by driving below the white line and hope Brian Barnhart doesn't see you (he will of course).......Also forgot to mention that Dario Franchitti said in his press conference yesterday at the track there is a possibility he will drive for Ganassi in the non-points event at Australia in October. "I think there's a definite possibility of that," Franchitti said. "I think Dan's [Wheldon] going to do the race with Panther (Racing), so I don't see any roadblock to doing that. I think if I could get a couple days testing in first just to get used to things again, that would definitely be helpful."
09/06/08 We hear that the Australia race was given the option of running in early spring by the IRL, which they probably should do if they ever want the race to be a points paying event. September does not work for the promoter because of Australian football playoffs, and the IRL has no intention of ending their season outside the USA, especially in late October, well into the American football season........We hear another reason the IRL will switch to a turbo engine, besides all the reasons we have given previously, is that the turbo helps an Ethanol powered engine perform more on par with a gasoline engine. Remember that ethanol generates less power per gallon than gasoline, hence why if you put ethanol in your fuel tank your fuel mileage drops noticeably. We hear the engine manufacturers who are talking
Tony George lets nepotism get in the way of his team winning races
to the IRL about the new engine are ok with staying with ethanol.....Look for Vision Racing to keep the same driver lineup of Carpenter and Foyt IV as this year. Tony George doesn't have the heart to fire his stepson and his godson even though they are not performing adequately on the road courses, which will soon comprise 50% of the schedule. Meanwhile, Paul Tracy who destroyed both of them in Edmonton (his only race) sits on the sidelines. Blood is thicker than common sense. ........Not sure how many cars will be on the IndyCar grid in 2009 but it could be over 30 if everything falls into place we hear. In this economy, however, that is doubtful. Mark C. reporting from Chicagoland
Did Massa get a free pass? What happened to the rule instigated earlier this year stipulating that cars on track during qualifying must run no slower than 120% of the drivers fast lap?
During the second session Ferrari's Felipe Massa clearly was running very slowly back to the pits on his cool down lap. While he did not seem to impede either of the McLaren drivers, the fact is he was way off the 120% limit to save fuel.
Let's not forget, both Hamilton and Kovalainen were docked 5 grid spots during the Malaysian GP for driving too slowly on their cool down laps. This was one of the reasons the rule was introduced.
So, did Massa dodge a bullet or was the Stewart's gun not even loaded? Ray Masters, Hawaii
McLaren gives Kovalainen the shaft? Did anyone else pick up on Heikki Kovalainen's demeanor during the post qualifying interviews? This guy was pissed! Heikki always has at least a smiling and easy going way about him even in times of failure.
This was different. Watch him while Lewis is talking to see just how unhappy he was.
All morning it looked to us like a McLaren one two with Lewis a close number two. Then after outrunning his teammate in both previous sessions, Heikki ends the day half a second adrift in 3rd place!
Bad driving? I think not. He was easily faster in sector one. In the interview he said he lost it somewhere in the second sector but does not know exactly where .....and he obviously does not want to discuss it.
I say that Ron Dennis will not make the same mistake twice, and that the team slowed Heikki's car via a command sent to the car in sector 2 and Lewis was given the pole and Heikki given the shaft because Hamilton is running for the title and Kovalainen is not! Ray Masters, Hawaii
NASCAR to clip Toyota's wings furtherUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Toyota officials are less than pleased about NASCAR's latest rule change to its motors, this one aimed at cutting back horsepower in the Truck Series engines. NASCAR in July throttled the horsepower in Toyota's Nationwide Series engines, which also incensed the manufacturer.
Toyota Racing Development president Lee White said Friday both NASCAR moves were aimed at evening the competition in series in which Toyota dominates.
"Without a question, this latest one is a direct result of winning four straight races and finishing 1-2-3-4 at Bristol," White said. "I just don't swallow the technical argument."
Johnny Benson won Kentucky, Indianapolis and Nashville in a Toyota, and Kyle Busch, Todd Bodine, Scott Speed and Benson gave the Tundra the top four positions at Bristol.
NASCAR believes Toyota's engine program is so advanced over the other manufacturers, that it has built an unfair advantage over the competition. NASCAR has stressed that Toyota has played within the rules, but it's technology has given it an edge.
White is upset Toyota is being punished for working hard.
"In our opinion, there is no technical justification for this unjustly choke," he said. ThatsRacin
[Editor's Note: Too funny. Did Lee White really think NASCAR was going to let Toyota dominate even though they are doing it fair and square? How long will it be before Toyota tells NASCAR to go pound sand and pulls the plug.....especially on the Truck Series where sales of the Tundra have tanked and NASCAR is doing nothing for them? With news that Dodge has pulled the plug on their Truck program, and with truck sales worldwide down due to high fuel prices, and with race attendance soft at best, how much longer before NASCAR shuts down the Truck series?]
08/21/08 NASCAR impounded eight truck engines for routine testing after the O’Reilly 200 Wednesday night at Bristol Motor Speedway. NASCAR will take the engines to its facility in Concord, N.C., to check horsepower numbers. NASCAR uses that data to help determine whether the rules encourage balanced competition. Look for the Toyota teams to get restrictor plates to slow them down. This isn't F1 or CART Toyota, this is 'managed racing' where gaining an advantage through hard work and skill is frowned upon.
Bill Davis Racing’s Johnny Benson, the series points leader, had his engine taken, as did fellow Toyota driver Todd Bodine (Germain Racing). NASCAR also took the Circle Bar Racing Ford engines from Brendan Gaughan and Rick Crawford, the Bobby Hamilton Racing-Virginia Dodge engine from Dennis Setzer and the Chevrolet engines from T.J. Bell (TRG Motorsports), Jack Sprague (Kevin Harvick Inc.) and Jimmie Johnson (Randy Moss Motorsports).
Sorenson to bolt early? Do not be surprised if #41-Reed Sorenson leaves Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates before the year ends. Sources close to the situation say the relationship between the driver and the team owner are, to put it mildly, strained. Ford Racing
Red Bull to become 3-car team? Jay Frye, who has engineered a solid turnaround at Team Red Bull is back from a post-California trip to the company's Austrian headquarters, and is reported to be seriously considering moving to the Stewart-Ryan Newman Chevy team next season. According to those close to the situation, Red Bull boss Dietrich Mateschitz wants Frye to put former Formula One driver Scott Speed in a full Cup ride next season, though there is still only sponsorship support for two drivers. #83-Brian Vickers and #84-AJ Allmendinger are the team's Cup drivers, and Frye wants to keep both. If Frye stays, that would likely mean a three-car team. Winston Salem Journal
Carpentier to the backmarker Wood Brothers Len and Eddie Wood may be looking at signing Canadian Patrick Carpentier as their Cup driver next year. Carpentier is apparently out at Ray Evernham’s, and he’s looking for a new ride. “I haven’t talked to anyone and I don’t plan on talking to anyone until I get my cars working better,” Eddie Wood insisted. “But I do like Patrick.” Winston Salem Journal
Racing Veterans to Form New IndyCar Series Team According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Team 3G, LLC, a newly-formed racing team based in Brownsburg, Indiana, today will announce its intention to compete in both the IndyCar Series and Indy Lights championships beginning in 2009.
We hear that the Team 3G ownership group consists of veteran racing and sports marketing professionals - Indy car racing veteran Greg Beck will lead the competition side of the new team. Joining Beck as a Team 3G principal is Steve Sudler, a Plainfield, Indiana native. Sudler brings 15 years of motorsports sponsorship and marketing experience to the new team.
In addition to the IndyCar Series, the team is planning to build a driver development program in the Indy Lights series.
The team will be based in Brownsburg, Indiana. We await the formal announcement.
Driver hierarchy likely for FerrariUPDATE Kimi Raikkonen has conceded that, should he not raise his game in the next few grands prix, there is a very good chance that he will be asked to play a tail-gunner role for Ferrari teammate Felipe Massa in the Formula One championship race. Asked whether he could imagine the scenario where he has to support the Brazilian, despite 'team orders' not being permitted by the regulations, Raikkonen admitted that 'it can happen'.
09/05/08 (GMM) After saying there is currently no driver hierarchy at Ferrari, team boss Stefano Domenicali has cleared the path for the situation to change in the near future.
With McLaren's Lewis Hamilton 6 points clear in the championship, some have suggested that Felipe Massa's advantage over the struggling Kimi Raikkonen is reason to appoint a number one with six races left to run.
"As always, the priority at Ferrari is the interests of the team," Domenicali is quoted as telling Italy's La Gazzetta dello Sport.
"This means that both of our drivers are aware that, if requested, they will help one or the other in the final stages of the championship," he added.
At the end of last season, Massa supported the successful title bid of his teammate, the current reigning world champion Raikkonen.
Domenicali insists: "If the situation had been reversed, then Kimi would have given the same support.
"At the moment there is no hierarchy because, mathematically, with 60 points still available, there is not enough space between them.
"Once that situation changes clearly, then we will act accordingly," Domenicali added.
Santander, Alonso, set for Ferrari switchUPDATE #6 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' with this statement from Alonso.
07/31/08 (GMM) Fernando Alonso has denied he spent time between the German and Hungarian grands prix searching for a new residence closer to Maranello, possibly the location of his future F1 team.
Alonso, who currently drives for Renault, was reportedly spotted looking at properties in Lugano, an Italian-speaking region of Switzerland near the Italian border.
Lugano is less than 300km from Maranello, compared with his current Swiss abode at Mont-sur-Rolle, which is nearly double the distance to the Ferrari factory.
Alonso, 27, said this week: "It is true that I was in the Italian region of Switzerland, but I was on vacation and looking for a hotel, not a house."
The former double world champion had nothing new to say on the topic of his future, insisting that he will only make a decision about 2009 and beyond after the summer.
"I do not know where I am going to be next year; whether I stay at Renault or I change teams," Alonso insists.
"In the end I will do what is best for my career."
07/29/08 It seems from what we are hearing that Alonso's future will largely depend on what happens to Kimi Raikkonen as the Finn may possibly retire at the end of the current season and that would give Ferrari a problem for next year. We believe that Alonso is waiting to see what happens and could be in a red car in 2009 if Raikkonen decides that he has had enough.
07/28/08 (GMM) Speculation about a future move to Ferrari for Fernando Alonso is gathering momentum in the Italian press.
The authoritative sports daily La Gazzetta dello Sport reported on Saturday that the Spaniard, who currently drives for Renault, is on the market for a house located closer to Ferrari's Italian headquarters at Maranello.
La Gazzetta said Alonso, 26, was spotted looking at properties in Lugano, an Italian-speaking region of Switzerland near the Italian border.
Lugano is less than 300km from Maranello, compared with his current Swiss abode at Mont-sur-Rolle, which is nearly double the distance to the Ferrari factory.
07/15/08 (GMM) McLaren looks likely to retain its Santander sponsorship beyond the 2009 season, notwithstanding widespread reports that the Spanish bank wants to switch with Fernando Alonso to Ferrari.
It has now emerged that McLaren in 2010 and beyond will probably run with Abbey branding, which is Santander's UK subsidiary.
Santander began sponsoring McLaren last year, coinciding with Spaniard Alonso's ultimately ill-fated tenure with the Mercedes-powered outfit.
The latest rumor is that while the Santander branding is expected to switch to Ferrari in 2010, the Spanish company may want to continue to benefit from the huge interest generated by Lewis Hamilton's role at McLaren.
Indeed, at the recent British grand prix at Silverstone, title sponsor Santander ran joint Santander-Abbey signage on its trackside advertising.
07/14/08 (GMM) Multiple sources and reports are now claiming that McLaren sponsor Santander is set to switch to Ferrari in 2010.
We reported last week that the speculated deal, worth up to 25 million euros per season, could involve the driving services of former double world champion Fernando Alonso.
The daily newspaper Publico says Santander currently pays McLaren 20 million per year.
But following suggestions that Santander and Alonso may arrive at Maranello in 2009, however, a spokeswoman for the bank insists that its current contract with McLaren runs out only at the end of next year.
It is understood a contract between Ferrari and Santander has not yet been signed.
"The bank has always wanted to be with Alonso but the sponsorship contract was done with McLaren and not with Alonso," the spokeswoman said.
The Spanish newspaper ABC now reports: "(Santander) has already informed the team of Ron Dennis and has a deal with the Italians from 2010".
The business newspaper Expansion adds that "the new deal with the Spanish bank could coincide with Alonso leaving Renault to join (Ferrari)".
Santander, a Spanish bank, is rumored to be switching allegiances to Ferrari for 2009
07/09/08 (GMM) Major McLaren sponsor Santander, a Spanish bank, is to switch allegiances to Ferrari for 2009 and beyond, according to reports.
German magazine Sport Bild claims that the deal is worth up to 25 million euros per season, and could involve the driving services of former double world champion Fernando Alonso.
Santander began sponsoring McLaren last year, coinciding with 26-year-old Alonso's multi-season contract to race with the Mercedes-powered outfit.
His relationship with the team famously turned sour, however, and it now emerges that Santander wants to follow suit and depart.
Sport Bild says the Santander-Ferrari-Alonso deal involves lettering on the drivers' overalls as well as front and rear wing signage, and a 30 million euros per year contribution to Alonso's retainer.
Alonso said at Silverstone that he is waiting until as late as September before determining the identity of his team for 2009.
Fascinatingly, Ferrari - albeit with both current drivers already under contract - often announces its next driver lineup at Monza, which this year takes place on September 14.
Santander boss Emilio Botin was at Silverstone for last weekend's British grand prix.
The Spanish newspaper Diario AS speculates that Alonso's teammate at Ferrari next year would be Kimi Raikkonen, following Felipe Massa's disastrous showing at Silverstone last weekend.
"I don't know if the rumors are true," Ferrari test driver and Spaniard Marc Gene told sport.es, "but I don't see there would be a problem having Kimi with Alonso, or Felipe with Alonso, or staying with what we have now."
Kubica inks new BMW deal for 2009 - reportUPDATE (GMM) Robert Kubica on Thursday would not confirm reports that he has signed to stay at BMW-Sauber next year and remain a free agent to join Ferrari or another team in 2010.
"It's the first time I heard this," the Pole told reporters at Spa-Francorchamps, scene of this weekend's Belgian grand prix.
When asked whether he expects to race with BMW next year, Kubica, 23, answered: "I don't know. We will see. I don't see a need to hurry."
He was, however, prepared to name his tip for the 2008 championship -- Ferrari's on-form Brazilian driver, Felipe Massa.
"I think in the past he did quite a lot of mistakes, and also starting this season, but lately he is doing really a very good job," said Kubica.
"To put Kimi in trouble is not easy and he has done it. Okay, in some races Kimi is still quicker but lately Felipe has been more often in front of him and with quite big gaps."
08/26/08 (GMM) Robert Kubica is believed to have penned a one-year extension to his contract to race with BMW-Sauber in 2009, the British newspaper Daily Telegraph on Tuesday said.
The London based publication speculates that the news, which is yet to be confirmed officially, could pave the way for the Pole to move on to Ferrari a season later.
At Valencia on Sunday, team boss Mario Theissen suggested that he would "prefer" longer term agreements with his top drivers.
The Daily Telegraph said Theissen wanted a new three-year deal with Kubica.
Theissen at Valencia also revealed that BMW-Sauber will confirm its full 2009 driver lineup "between now and the end of the season".
(GMM) Nick Heidfeld is under obvious pressure to perform strongly at this weekend's Belgian grand prix.
At the end of the Valencia race two weeks ago, at which the German's teammate Robert Kubica finished on the podium, BMW-Sauber technical boss Willy Rampf said the team had "expected" Heidfeld to at least retain his eighth position achieved in qualifying.
Heidfeld finished the European grand prix ninth and therefore out of the points.
"His pace was simply too slow," Rampf said plainly.
A few days before action kicks off at Spa-Francorchamps, then, BMW chief Mario Theissen is making the team's next expectations clear.
"We plan to see both cars finish solidly in the points," the German is quoted as saying by Focus, a German publication.
Should Heidfeld, 31, lose his BMW-Sauber seat, his options to remain in formula one in 2009 appear limited.
It was reported recently that Heidfeld's manager Andre Theuerzeit was spotted more than once in the Red Bull motor home at Valencia, possibly to explore the vacancies at the energy drink company's junior team Toro Rosso.
STR co-owner Gerhard Berger told Germany's Sport Bild: "If Nick is on the market then you have to have a look at him.
"But at the moment, unfortunately, you have to say his achievements have been a bit down," the former ten time grand prix winner said.
Sato may buy a ride at Toro Rosso with Honda money (engine subsidy).
(GMM) According to the latest speculation in Italy, there may be more than meets the eye to Takuma Sato's Toro Rosso evaluation test later this month.
In a statement released by the Faenza based team this week, Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost lauded the 31-year-old Japanese as a "good fit with the Red Bull spirit", while Sato's "recent F1 experience would be undoubtedly valuable to our team".
But according to the Italian rumors, repeated in the pages of Switzerland's Motorsport Aktuell, Toro Rosso may also be interested in Sato's connections with the Japanese manufacturer Honda.
Sato, who since 2002 has raced for Jordan, BAR and Super Aguri, has always been powered in formula one by the marque's engines.
The Toro Rosso-Honda rumor is surprising, given the Red Bull junior team's impressive recent performances with Ferrari's customer V8.
On the other hand, perhaps it will open the door for senior team Red Bull Racing, currently struggling with Renault power, to take over Toro Rosso's Ferrari contract.
Did the France family just lose their antitrust lawsuit? There's a story flying under the radar out in Kansas that the powers that be within NASCAR would prefer you didn't know about - at least until the deal is done, that is - but it illuminates everything about what's really driving NASCAR these days and why the fundamental changes that really need to be made to the NASCAR circus are not only not being made, but are being swept aside in the interest of corporate greed.
The reports trickling out of Kansas are revealing, to say the least. It seems there's a bid out to operate the state-owned casino in Wyandotte County. According to the Associated Press, a 2007 state law provides for four casinos, including one in Wyandotte County. The law calls for the Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board to choose the winner based on which applicant would bring the most revenue to the state, increase tourism and be in the state's best interest. Kansas Entertainment LLC is in competition with three other bidders to capture that prize - which is a staggering 15-year deal. The prime mover behind Kansas Entertainment LLC? None other than Lesa France Kennedy, president and vice chairperson of the Board of Directors for International Speedway Corporation.
In the course of the bid process, it seems that the president of the Kansas Speedway, Jeff Boerger, has all but assured the state that if Kansas Entertainment LLC is awarded the license to operate the Wyandotte casino, the Kansas Speedway will be awarded another Sprint Cup date, no problem (the speedway is part of the partnership). Boerger also promised that the speedway would build a 2-1/4-mile road course in its infield, designed for the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series and events by various sports car clubs. Boerger said the track has approval from its parent company, International Speedway Corp., to construct the road course. He also said he saw little problem in transferring a Sprint Cup race from one of the other 11 ISC tracks to Kansas. "We have moved races from one track to the other in the past so that's why I'm confident we can do it," he said. Kansas Entertainment also plans to put a $705-million Hard Rock Hotel and Casino at the No. 2 turn of the 1-1/2-mile D-shaped oval track.
Truex or Stremme to replace Newman at PenskeUPDATE #5 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement.
09/01/08 David Stremme, who signed earlier this year as a test driver for Penske to go along with his Nationwide Series driving duties for Rusty Wallace Racing, has been considered the primary candidate for the job the last few weeks.
Stremme said that he might be able to talk about his future next week.
“I don’t have anything [to say],” a terse but polite Stremme said Saturday at Auto Club (Calif.) Speedway. “We’ll see [what happens].”
When asked if he was worried about the talk that Penske's people talked with Brad Keselowski (Keselowski says he was never offered the ride), Stremme said he wasn't.
"Talk to them at Penske, they probably know what's going on," Stremme said.
08/20/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. David Stremme, the driver for Rusty Wallace’s Nationwide effort, appears to have the inside track to replace Ryan Newman in the No. 12 Dodge at Penske Racing next season.
While refusing to acknowledge that a decision has been made, all signs from within the organization point to an announcement within a matter of days, as soon as the details on sponsorship for the team have been finalized. Current primary sponsor Alltel, which merged with Verizon this spring, has been forced to leave at the conclusion of 2008.
Based on team owner Roger Penske’s past history hiring drivers, bringing Stremme on board as a test driver this past April signaled that the Indiana-born Stremme was being considered to be more than just a test driver.
Stremme has also been given the thumbs-up for the move by former Penske driver and business partner Wallace. Yahoo! Sports
07/28/08 David Stremme said he has talked with Penske officials about driving the No. 12 Sprint Cup car next season. “We’ve talked,” Stremme said Saturday at O’Reilly Raceway Park. “Obviously, I’m doing testing for them. But there are a lot of opportunities open, too. Who wouldn’t want to be racing for Roger Penske? He’s very successful in motorsports. I like how they do their program. I just want to run good, and I want to be around people that want to race and perform,” Stremme said. “I can get right back in there and be competitive. I’m in the cars about every week testing. It’d be cool to get to drive for him - or another organization. But it’d be neat really for him because his reputation in motorsports and the success he’s had.”
07/15/08 There are too many rumors out there regarding Martin Truex Jr. to Penske. My sources have confirmed to me that at this time, Truex Jr. does not have any interest in joining Penske Racing. I am hearing that David Stremme remains the leading candidate to take over the recently vacated seat in the #12 car.
Truex Jr. continues to be courted by the newly formed Stewart-Haas Racing and is being heavily pursued by DEI to sign an extension. Ryan Newman and Truex Jr. are close friends, and sources told me that Newman has shared in detail with Truex Jr. just how bad things are at Penske. I would be very surprised to see Truex Jr. sign with Penske when one of his closest friends just decided to walk. Look for Newman and Truex Jr. to join Tony Stewart at Stewart-Haas Racing very soon. - John 'Captain Thunder' Nevins for www.captainthunderracing.com
07/15/08 Penske has offered no hints as to who might replace Ryan Newman. Martin Truex Jr.’s name has been mentioned, but Truex’s current contract with DEI is still the subject of legal debate, and it is unclear if DEI will indeed force Truex to return for another season or give him his release. Truex has been pushing quietly to become a free agent. David Stremme, who drove for fellow Dodge owner Chip Ganassi until being released at the end of last season, has been a Penske test driver this season, and Stremme could also be under consideration. Winston-Salem Journal
Acura to scale back ALMS effortUPDATE #5 Hearing that AGR might still run an LMP2 entry for Acura in 2009 if it gets the right deal? But why bother? AGR did not have a great year in IndyCar this year. It's probably best to focus their efforts on their four cars there, rather than spread themselves so thin they lose everywhere.
08/29/08 The AGR team will indeed no longer figure in Acura's ALMS plans (see story) as rumored. Acura is moving up to LMP1 class with Patron Highcroft and De Ferran, but still maintaining an LMP2 entry with Fernandez Racing.
08/27/08 Michael Andretti said that Andretti Green Racing's American Le Mans Series program is no sure thing to return next season, but it will not merge with Gil de Ferran's team as recent rumors suggested.
"If we do it, it will be our own deal," Andretti said. "We'd like to do it if we can. Yeah, it's a question mark as we look for sponsorship; it's not 100 percent. But it's far from where [the rumors] have it. I'd say it's about 70 percent that we're going to do it."
Andretti also squelched speculation that the team's ownership group, consisting of himself, Kim Green and Kevin Savoree, will change.
"We're probably getting along better now than we ever have," he said. "Part of the strength of this program is that we don't always agree." Andretti added that his son, Marco, is "close" to signing a contract to remain with Andretti Green Racing's IndyCar team. AutoWeek
08/22/08 We now hear that Acura will probably have the same number of cars in 2009 as they have now, but make the 1-car teams 2-car teams so they function better from data sharing and teamwork. Hence look for Acura to drop the 1-car AGR entry and add a 2nd car to the De Ferran Motorsports team. Meanwhile Honda wants AGR to focus on IndyCar.
07/18/08 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. An Acura spokesperson told AutoRacing1.com that "Acura is not scaling back their ALMS effort in 2009 and in fact may increase it. Whether that is more LMP2 or a move up to LMP1 as previously rumored is still not determined because the ACO is still changing the LMP1 rules and Acura does not want to do a car for LMP1 only to have to change it. For now we can stay in LMP2 and compete against the likes of Porsche and Penske. And LMP2 is more competitive than LMP1."
07/16/08 In this SPEEDTV.com article Robin Miller says he hears Acura may drop one of its ALMS teams next year and that AGR is on the bubble.
Franchitti appears to be staying in NASCARUPDATE #2 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' with the announcement today by Target Chip Ganassi Racing that Dario Franchitti will replace Dan Wheldon in the No. 10 IndyCar next year.
07/27/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with this story that Franchitti has agreed to step down to NASCAR's AAA farm league - the Nationwide Series with the Ganassi team where he will also run as a backmarker.
07/09/08 It appears former IndyCar Series champion Dario Franchitti is remaining in NASCAR, at least for time being. According to NASCAR's most recent entry list for this weekend's Nationwide race at Chicagoland Speedway, Franchitti is now driving the No. 40 in Friday night's Dollar General 300, replacing rookie Bryan Clausen, who was originally scheduled to be in the car. Ganassi has gone on record as saying Daio can stay in NASCAR and drive his Nationwide car the rest of the year, but we are not sure what would happen to Clausen if that were to happen. Perhaps he will share the No. 40 with Dario.
Wheldon’s future up in the airUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with the announcement today by Target Chip Ganassi Racing that Dario Franchitti will replace Dan Wheldon in the No. 10 IndyCar next year.
Will Dan Wheldon be taking his refurbished 'pearly whites' back to England after 2008?
Dan Wheldon, who obviously occupies the seat that Ganassi was shopping to Kanaan as Scott Dixon is under contract for 2009 and is on the verge of winning his second career series title.
Compared to Dixon, Wheldon hasn't had the best of seasons the past two years, but he still has two wins in each of his three seasons in Ganassi's No. 10 car.
It's likely salary is the sticking point, and Wheldon didn't sound like a driver set on his future on Friday.
"Let's keep (talks) between Chip and I," he said. "I'm just concentrating on the final four races." Indy Star
Franchitti eyes 4th RCR seatUPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' with the announcement today by Target Chip Ganassi Racing that Dario Franchitti will replace Dan Wheldon in the No. 10 IndyCar next year.
08/09/08 Dario Franchitti has been talking to teams and manufacturers about driving next season – in all sorts of series. “I haven’t talked to anybody in the IndyCar Series yet,” Franchitti said. “I’ve talked to a lot of other places, though.” Franchitti said he will talk to other teams in NASCAR, though he said he hasn’t spoken to Tony Stewart about the #4 Stewart-Haas Racing ride. Richard Childress Racing’s fourth car is a possibility, he said. “I speak to Richard all the time,” Franchitti said. “We haven’t spoken specifically about the fourth car yet, but that’s a subject I’m definitely going to talk to him about, for sure.” SceneDaily
Franchitti is still considering a number of options for his future outside NASCAR, including a switch to the American Le Mans Series.
"Right now is seven Nationwide races, but there's still the chance for me to do other stuff in other series as well," Franchitti said. "Whether it's Cup, whether it's sports cars, I've got the option to do that.
"But right now the core of that is probably going to be seven races in Nationwide."
Franchitti to replace Sorenson?UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' with the announcement today by Target Chip Ganassi Racing that Dario Franchitti will replace Dan Wheldon in the No. 10 IndyCar next year.
08/28/08 Chip Ganassi President Steve Lauletta isn’t looking up in the sky and waiting for a boulder to fall on the team.
Yes, in the last week the team saw Texaco announce it was leaving as a half-season sponsor for Juan Pablo Montoya and driver Reed Sorenson announce he has signed with Gillett Evernham Motorsports for 2009. But the team has known those moves could happen.
“We’re not surprised by any of this stuff,” Lauletta said in a phone interview Wednesday. “I’m the exact opposite of being in a state of panic. … We’re moving in the right direction.”
Sorenson’s departure was announced Tuesday, leaving an opening for the No. 41 Cup car sponsored by Target. Sorenson is 31st in the driver standings in his third Cup season. Lauletta said the team hopes to have a new driver named quickly.
“A lot of people have called,” Lauletta said. “Chip, being a driver's owner so to speak, whenever there is a seat in any of the cars available, a lot of people call.
“We’re working through our options. … I don’t think there’s one thing that we’re looking for that’s going to weigh the decision one way or another.”
Senna to land test seat at McLaren in 2009?UPDATE #2 (GMM) A week after dismissing the latest round of rumors, GP2 frontrunner Bruno Senna insists he still has not secured a seat on the 2009 formula one grid.
Raging speculation at Valencia two weeks ago suggested the Brazilian, the nephew of the great Ayrton Senna, had signed to race next year with the partly Gerhard Berger-owned Toro Rosso team.
It was also rumored on the verge of the European grand prix that Senna, 24, may be close to penning a back-up option to become BMW-Sauber's test driver in 2009.
"All I can say at the moment that none of these rumors has any basis in fact," he said in his latest column for motorsports-magazine.com.
"We are currently engaged in serious negotiations with various people from various teams, but nothing has been decided yet."
It is suggested that Senna's situation, as with many subjects of the current F1 silly-season, will develop over the next few weeks.
08/25/08 This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' today. Bruno Senna has offered a choice rejoinder to raging speculation at Valencia that he has now signed to make his formula one debut next year with Toro Rosso.
It was also rumored on the verge of the European grand prix, scene also of the support category GP2 for which 24-year-old Senna competes, that the nephew of the great Ayrton Senna may be close to penning a back-up 'option' to become McLaren's test driver in 2009.
The Brazilian was asked specifically by reporters about the latest Toro Rosso story.
"Yeah, I've been hearing that story as well ... oh dear," he laughed, according to GPWeek.
'Oh dear' indeed, but is it true?
"No, it's all lies. All bullshit," Bruno Senna replied.
08/22/08 Rumors about a possible Formula One future for Bruno Senna, nephew of Ayrton Senna, have taken a new turn. After being linked with the Scuderia Toro Rosso, Bruno is now put together with the McLaren Mercedes team.
Hilton Sport Sponsorships announced Bruno Senna as their new Hilton Racing's newest Brand Ambassador. The Hilton Hotel chain is one of the sponsors of the McLaren Mercedes Team and therefore links Senna to the Woking-based outfit.
It could be possible that Bruno Senna will join McLaren as test driver for the 2009 season as Heikki Kovalainen and Lewis Hamilton are both certain of their race seat next season. But in 2010, Lewis Hamilton and Bruno Senna might team up and form the public relations 'dream team' for McLaren.
Bruno Senna's uncle, Ayrton, raced for McLaren from 1988 to 1993 and won 3 championship titles with the team.
(GMM) Retiring grand prix veteran David Coulthard may relinquish his seat at Red Bull Racing before the end of the 2008 season, according to the latest whisper in formula one circles.
The rumor coincides with Red Bull junior team Toro Rosso's confirmation on Tuesday that Sebastien Buemi and Takuma Sato will be tested later this month in view of replacing Sebastian Vettel in 2009.
In a statement, Toro Rosso said the pair will get a day each at the wheel of the STR3 at Jerez following the Italian grand prix because the team is "turning its thoughts to its 2009 driver lineup".
"The time has come to try and find a suitable replacement for Vettel," Toro Rosso principal Franz Tost said.
According to the Coulthard rumor, the 37-year-old Scot would hand over to Vettel after Monza, thereby creating an early vacancy alongside Sebastien Bourdais at Toro Rosso.
The Ferrari-powered team would then be free to trial teenager Buemi, Super Aguri refugee Sato, or any other 2009 candidates - perhaps Bruno Senna - at the final four races of the season.
In terms of the current constructors' championship, however, the rumor makes little sense.
STR's Vettel was the star of the recent Valencia race, collecting three points for sixth place, but the team sits just ninth out of the ten teams -- three and six points respectively behind Honda and Williams.
Will AT&T be able to stay in Cup Series? AT&T won't be able to sponsor the No. 31 Sprint Cup car of Jeff Burton next year, but that doesn't mean it will be nowhere to be seen around NASCAR tracks.
The company is still weighing its options on how to market to NASCAR fans without having its logos on a car. As part of a settlement of a lawsuit against NASCAR over the sponsorship and whether it could change logos on the car from Cingular to AT&T, AT&T agreed to cease its Richard Childress Racing sponsorship at the end of 2008.
“Obviously having to step away from the Cup Series, we’ve been approached by every other racing circuit out there – teams, drivers, racing leagues,” said Tim McGhee, AT&T director of national sponsorships. “We’re evaluating all of our opportunities right now.”
McGhee, speaking following a tribute to Jeff Burton’s 500th start at Auto Club Speedway, ruled out sponsoring a car in the Nationwide or the truck series.
“If we were going to continue down that path, we’d stay with Richard,” McGhee said. “We really don’t want to be in the Nationwide or the truck series now. As the premier brand, we would want to be associated with the premier series within NASCAR, not to say anything against the other two.”
AT&T has spent significant money on advertising as well as sponsoring segments on the Sprint Cup telecasts.
Frye to move to Stewart-Haas team According to this ESPN.com article, Longtime Sprint Cup Series team executive Jay Frye has been offered a contract by Stewart-Haas Racing, and is mulling a departure from Team Red Bull before season's end to accept a management position at SHR, ESPN.com has learned.
Sources close to Stewart-Haas confirmed Monday that Frye is the man they've targeted to run the organization's day-to-day operations. He is expected to accept, sources said, and would be titled vice president/general manager.
"He is a huge hire for Stewart-Haas," one source close to SHR said on condition of anonymity. The source is not at liberty to discuss organizational matters.
North Carolina town eyes IndyCar raceUPDATE The promoter of this proposed race writes in response to this rumor, Dear AutoRacing1.com, We are very happy to see you have an interest writing about some our plans for developing a multiple Festival of Motorsports Events in High Point, NC to include a grand prix race on a temporary street circuit.
We are also happy to say that we have done our homework. Aside from the usual sponsor requirements, we have learned a couple of very important things as they relate to the success or failure of an event such as this. One, having the actual circuit (track) located on commercially lined streets of a very large and popular city does not always make for a successful event. Two, having a world class track in the middle of a city with very few (almost no) commercial conflicts of large metropolitan area is a gift i.e. High Point.
After spending a week immersed in High Point, internationally recognized racing consultant, Chris Kneifel determined that we have an outstanding location for an event unlike any other in North Carolina. In fact Chris stated that, "What High Point offers is as good as any temporary street circuit in North America, including Long Beach, CA." He went on to say, "There are so many positive points in favor of High Point, including vacant streets, sweeping elevation changes and bending turns. It's location, in the heart of the Triad (Greensboro, High Point, and Winston-Salem) strategically positioned between the Triangle (Raleigh) and metro Charlotte, combined with its motor sports connections and heritage, make High Point a nearly perfect location. I go to many cities larger than High Point that just don't have what you offer here."
No tumbleweeds blowing here
Fact of the matter is we have a circuit & site which can accommodate the highest levels of North American Racing and we will pursue series which fit the “High Point Model” and look forward to speaking with many… TBD… as for which series, the circuit & site could accommodate Indy Cars but that is not necessarily the goal... I would also like to say that the response from the community has been "over the top."
Note: As you can see from the attached photo, there are no tumbleweeds blowing around here.
Kind Regards, Mike Foster, Chairman Furniture City Motorsports
08/15/08 As the furniture industry declines, plants close and jobs move overseas, many people in High Point are searching for a way to bring tourist money to the city and revitalize downtown.
The latest idea: race Indy cars downtown.
Furniture City Motorsports floated that idea at a news conference Thursday at Emerywood Country Club.
The group, a nonprofit that is working to make High Point a racing city, unveiled its plans to bring a road race to the streets downtown as early as 2010.
Rich Brenner, retired TV sportscaster and Furniture City Motorsports board member, said the group realizes it's a lofty goal for just 18 months - but dreaming big is the first step.
Brenner reminded the crowd of a few dozen High Point residents, media and politicians that no one believed this state could have an NFL team when Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson announced his dream in 1987. A few years later, it was a reality.
"There's a lot of work to be done, but if you have a vision and you have a goal, you can seize that moment," Brenner said.
"Good things are economically set to happen here," Brenner said. "We've got new interstates, the airport hub and industry looking to come here."
Brenner said an annual race could capitalize on all those things and bring in much needed tourist money.
How much? Furniture City Motorsports' Mike Foster said the group's research points to between $11 million and $50 million in direct benefit to the area, with as much as $150 million possible in indirect benefits.
"The sky's the limit," Foster said.
Championship driver and racetrack consultant Chris Kneifel was on hand to unveil a proposed track through Main Street, Centennial Street and English Road.
Kneifel said he could see a High Point race becoming similar to California's Long Beach Grand Prix, one of the longest-running open-wheel races in North America. That could mean as many as five racing series in the city with 20 to 40 cars competing in each category. News-Record
[Editor's Note: Let’s see, the IRL won’t come back to Cleveland (or Road America and even Surfers), a hot bed of open wheel racing enthusiasm, where Bobby Rahal and Michael Andretti are regarded as gods, where they packed the stands and had six figure attendance over the weekend, one of the highest rated TV races on the circuit, a race which the drivers absolutely loved…and some promoter thinks High Point, NC, in the heart of Bubba land, where those who have even heard of him think it’s “Bobby Ray Hall,” has a better chance. Granted, the streets of High Point have tumbleweeds blowing down them between furniture markets, so that’s about the only thing going for this idea. It definitely wouldn’t inconvenience any of the residents.]
Famous Spa F1 layout to be shortened?UPDATE (GMM) An official for the Spa-Francorchamps circuit on Monday played down reports that the much loved formula one layout may be shortened from its current 7km.
This rumor is downgraded to 'false.' Local reports in Belgium say historic Spa, the longest layout on the current F1 calendar, had - with Bernie Ecclestone's approval - proposed to connect the Pouhon corners with Blanchimont, thereby cutting out famous sections including the Fagnes chicane and Stavelot.
But circuit spokesman Luc Willems told the Dutch language f1today.nl: "Spa has always been an unique circuit and that is not going to change."
He said there is a difference between proposals and reality.
"Our circuit is as it is and is not going to change," Willems insisted.
Ralf Schumacher at Spa in 2005
09/01/08 (GMM) Spa-Francorchamps, the much loved but longest layout on the formula one calendar, may have to be shortened for future editions of the historic Belgian grand prix.
It is being reported in Belgium, including by f1-club.be, that a portion of the 7km circuit is proposed to be cut out.
The famous Eau Rouge section is safe, but the proposal for the new shortened circuit in the Ardennes is to connect the current Pouhon left-hand sweepers with Blanchimont.
Left out of the new layout, therefore, is the high speed Fagnes chicane and Stavelot, and the existing Pouhon and Blanchimont are likely to be altered.
The report said the modifications could take place prior to next year's Belgian grand prix, or in time for the 2010 race.
Championship leader Lewis Hamilton said last week that the disappearance of many of the more challenging 'driver tracks' is a shame.
"You really feel the history of those places whenever you race there; they have real character," the McLaren driver said.
"Each time they are refurbished, they lose a little more of their individuality - but they are made safer, so we can continue to race on them - so that's a good compromise."
Ganassi team to expand to 3 cars in 2009 Ganassi Racing isn't just working to bring back Dan Wheldon to the IndyCar Series in 2009. Team officials also are in talks to have Alex Lloyd team with defending champion Scott Dixon, as well. Yes, three cars. "That's what we're working on, and we were almost there (with sponsorship) mid-season," team general manager Mike Hull said prior to Sunday's Detroit Indy Grand Prix. "We'd like to do that because we think Alex is special." IndyStar
Penske sick too?UPDATE #2 So this rumor was 'fact' after all, with Penske finally admitting he had a health issue. Roger Penske, who took over promotion of the Belle Isle race last year, was again proud to showcase the event Sunday, but what looked even better was his step. In the aftermath of surgery in June, he has more of a bounce in his step than in recent weeks. "We put a new set of tires on it and said, 'Let's go,' " he said, joking. In removing a spot on his kidney, Penske also had a kidney and a rib taken out. The incision through the middle of his body was about 2 feet long. "That makes it hard to either stand up or even walk," he said. IndyStar
08/24/08 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. Visually here at Infineon Raceway Roger looks perfectly healthy to us, but some rumors say he visits the Mayo Clinic regularly.
08/21/08 Question: Wondering if you could provide any update regarding the health status of both Paul Newman and Roger Penske. My sources indicate both are battling cancer. (Doug, Brownsburg, Ind.)
Answer: I can't give you a specific update; that's for them to describe. But Newman didn't look good at Indy. Penske hasn't looked as strong recently as earlier in the year, but remember he's recovering from surgery. Indy Star
[Editor's Note: There have been rumors that Penske may be battling cancer too, but whatever it is, it's far worse than the public is led to believe.]
Did Wheldon bring out caution intentionally? When Dan Wheldon hit a tire barrier on the 69th lap of Sunday's IndyCar race on Belle Isle, there were suspicions that Wheldon had taken one for Target Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Scott Dixon, the series points leader who was running in fifth place behind Helio Castroneves of the Team Penske.
Wheldon crashed well back in the pack, and the two-lap yellow flag allowed Dixon to close the gap. But Wheldon had previously radioed the pits that he was having gearbox trouble, and Mario Moraes also missed a turn and stopped on the track on the same lap, so the yellow flag would have come out anyway. Detroit Free Press
According to reports in the German-language Motorsport-total.com, Porsche is very interested in coming back to the Indy 500. The article's author, Pete Fink, says that there are lots of CART/CCWS fans in Germany, and this keeps Porsche and Audi/VW very interested in the IRL. It also appears that "f*cking Tony George" has its German translation, so some bridges need to be repaired.
And of course Porsche loves to produce turbocharged engines.
Petty team will be forced to take marginal driver Robbie Loomis, vice president for racing operations at Petty Enterprises: "As far as driver lineup for next year, we are very aggressive on moving forward…but we are facing the fact that, based on where our cars are running right now, we won't be able to get that A-level driver as a teammate with #43-Bobby Labonte. So we have to create that player: like Brett Favre at Green Bay. We're still working on those plans. Kyle [Petty] will run some races next year. And Bobby will have a teammate that we hope can grow into that B-level or A-level player." Winston Salem Journal
Two new manufacturers may join ALMS ALMS President Scott Atherton said this morning in Detroit that the series' green racing efforts are gaining attention. According to Atherton, the response to the Green Challenge that will debut at the Petit Le Mans at the beginning of October has been outstanding. The Peugeot 908s are coming back to challenge the Audi R10s again in the LMP1 class. Atherton revealed that at least two manufacturers that are not currently involved in ALMS are seriously looking at joining the series specifically because of the Green Challenge.
The Toyota LF-A supercar may never reach the showroom floor
The writing has been on the wall for some time. Although the Lexus flagship graduated from "concept" to "prototype" when it campaigned in the 24 Hours of Nurburgring, Toyota has refused to even hint at a production date for the V10 supercar. Then Toyota declined to place an LF-A silhouette on their Super GT racer, electing to continue with the doomed SC 430 jello mold.
Then news broke that production cars would cost a whopping $225,000, but the LF-A still wouldn't turn a profit. Needless to say, Toyota doesn't like things that are not profitable.
Finally, members of the testing and development crew who have been putting the car though its paces in Germany, as well as test drivers from rival Honda and Nissan crews, have told Autoblog that the LF-A is not destined for the showroom, and will remain only a development platform.
No reasons were given, but we can think of a couple. How many people are willing to part with nigh on a quarter of a million bucks for a Toyota/Lexus? Also, the world's most prolific car maker may not be willing to join the current Nurburgring pissing contest unless it is 100% sure that they can beat the Viper, ZR-1 and perhaps more importantly, the GT-R and upcoming NSX replacement.
Actually, one 'Ring test driver didn't mind going on the record with his opinion. Former Nissan racer, NSX development driver and Nurburgring legend Motoharu "Gan-san" Kurosawa reckons, "Toyota are good at making money, but they're no good at making sports cars." Autoblog
Kesolowski not in Penske picture? Brad Keselowski said he visited Penske Racing last week but did not have an offer on the table to drive the Sprint Cup #12 car next season. "I just went down and said, 'Hi,' and checked everything out, looked at their beautiful building," Keselowski said Friday at Auto Club Speedway. "I only live like a mile from the place. I heard it's a cool shop, and I had to check it out." Keselowski said the Penske officials asked him what his contract situation was, and Keselowski said he was committed to JR Motorsports. Penske Racing is looking for a replacement for Ryan Newman. Penske test driver David Stremme is considered one of the candidates for that ride. "I basically told them flat out that I have a contract to drive for JR Motorsports, and I'm committed to it," Keselowski said. "The biggest thing is I've got a good ride. We won last week, so it has to be pretty good. We're winning races and we're happy, so why mess with that? SceneDaily.com
Will Hornish move over to fill Newman's seat?UPDATE Sam Hornish Jr. says he hasn't had any conversations with Penske Racing officials regarding a possible move from the team's #77 Dodge to the #12 for 2009, or a possible points swap between the two. "All I know about it is that no decision has been made," Hornish said Friday while at Auto Club Speedway. "I just know they need a driver for the 12 car." Teammate Ryan Newman's impending departure means the Penske organization has one driver opening to fill. Putting Hornish in the 12 would likely placate primary sponsor Alltel and would guarantee the driver a spot in the field through a minimum of next season's first five races (when final owner points from 2008 are used). SceneDaily.com
07/22/08 Sam Hornish Jr. says there have been no discussions of him moving over from Penske Racing’s No. 77 Sprint Cup car to replace Ryan Newman in the team’s No. 12 car next season and that he has been given no indication of who will.
Penske Racing announced last week that Newman would leave the company at the end of the 2008 season for another team.
That team is widely speculated to be the new Stewart-Haas Racing, which will absorb Haas CNC Racing at the end of the season with Tony Stewart coming on board as part owner and one of the team’s two drivers.
“As far as who [team owner] Roger [Penske] is hiring or any of that stuff I don’t have ideas,” Hornish said Tuesday in reference to the vacancy at Penske. “I’m sure with Roger’s resume, we’ll get another spectacular person in there.”
One driver considered to be in the running to replace to Newman is David Stremme, who currently serves as a test driver for Penske Racing and competes in the Nationwide Series for Rusty Wallace Racing. More at Scenedaily.com
Will NASCAR or IRL race at New Jersey Motorsports Park? One particular question has been on most people's minds since plans for a racetrack in South Jersey were first being laid out: Is NASCAR coming?
Offering the most popular form of auto racing in the country and boasting the most recognizable names, cars and teams, a NASCAR event certainly would be a prized possession for any circuit. And the New Jersey Motorsports Park is no different.
"It is our intention to invite NASCAR to visit our facility," said Don Fauerbach, an official at the Millville park. "And it's our intention to invite them to see if they're interested in having any of their series visit our facilities."
NASCAR operates three national series -- the Sprint Cup, the Nationwide Series and the Craftsman Truck Series -- in addition to four regional series and two international series. According to NASCAR, one of those regional series, the Camping World Series, appears to be the most likely fit for the park.
"I think its safe to say the Camping World Series would be the place to start for a track," said Jason Christley, manager of communications for the NASCAR touring and weekly series. "They did approach us last year about holding a Camping World Series event, but with the track just opening, we weren't able to put anything together for the 2008 calendar."
Corvette likely moving to GT2 class Corvette Racing appears increasingly likely to move from the GT1 class to GT2 as early as the middle of next season. A proposal is on the table that would see the existing Corvette C6.R GT1 car race in the American Le Mans Series--up to and including the 24 Hours of Le Mans--before Chevrolet switches to a GT2 version.
The new car, developed, as was its predecessor, by Pratt & Miller, then would take part in selected ALMS races during the second half of the season.
"We will hopefully get to a 95 percent answer very soon," said General Motors road-racing boss Steve Wesoloski. "Over the next six weeks, budgets will be finalized, so we can determine the 2009 program in detail." AutoWeek
GM to reduce NASCAR involvementUPDATE #5 The series, which is already struggling in a sluggish economy, is nervously awaiting the auto company's decisions on sponsorships. A few years after NASCAR was founded in 1947, a General Motors executive named Charles Wilson uttered the memorable line that "what was good for our country was good for General Motors, and vice versa."
But what's good for GM today might not be good for NASCAR.
As NASCAR's Sprint Cup Series arrives for the Pepsi 500 on Sunday at Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, the sluggish economy already is making it tough for the series, race teams and tracks to attract all the corporate sponsors to help pay their bills.
GM is reeling from huge financial losses and the giant automaker plans to slash annual spending by $10 billion. Its support of NASCAR and other auto racing is not exempt from possible cuts.
GM's slump added to economic problems now buffeting NASCAR stock-car racing, the IndyCar Series, the NHRA drag-racing circuit and smaller niche circuits such as sports-car racing.
The tough economic times, combined with high gas prices, also are keeping many fans from attending races. That's causing problems not only for the series and teams, but for the top two operators of U.S. race tracks, International Speedway Corp. -- whose properties include the Fontana venue -- and Speedway Motorsports Inc.
In addition, two other major U.S. automakers, Ford and Chrysler (Dodge), are struggling as well and reportedly are weighing whether to cut back their motor sports activities.
"The Detroit manufacturers have been dissecting their involvement in NASCAR with a fervor not seen since, well, ever," Peter M. De Lorenzo, a former auto advertising executive, recently wrote on his website Autoextremist.com.
Three of the top Cup teams -- Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing and Dale Earnhardt Inc. -- race Chevrolets. Roush Fenway Racing is the leading Ford team, Joe Gibbs Racing is the top Toyota team and Gillett Evernham Motorsports and Penske Racing head the Dodge teams.
GM hasn't provided details as yet. "We're in a very early stage of evaluating all of our marketing initiatives and I just can't elaborate" on what might get scaled back, said Terry Dolan, Chevy's racing manager. LA Times
07/24/08 Terry Dolan, marketing manager for Chevrolet racing, said Thursday that it is too early to predict where the company could cut into its NASCAR marketing program as it tries to return to profitability.
“We are examining and continuing to examine all expenditures,” Dolan said at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, a track where Chevrolet is an official sponsor. “This is not an unusual occurrence by any means.
“We continually review not only our marketing initiatives but all of our racing programs to insure there is a solid return on our investment. But racing has been part of our DNA going to back to [co-founder] Louis Chevrolet. We build cars. We race cars. And we are natural-born competitors. And we compete successfully on the track with a variety of manufacturers and we plan on continuing to do so.”
Chevrolet mainly supports four Sprint Cup race teams – Hendrick Motorsports, Richard Childress Racing, Dale Earnhardt Inc. and Haas CNC Racing. Chevrolet won 26 of the 36 races last year (when Chevrolet also had Joe Gibbs Racing) but has won only four of the first 19 races this year.
“Frankly, when it comes to our involvement in NASCAR Sprint Cup competition, we value the philosophy of our co-founder Louis Chevrolet,” Dolan said. “We plan on continuing to honor Louis Chevrolet’s legacy of 'never give up.'" More at Scenedaily.com
07/16/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' as the move has begun. General Motors has notified two racetracks that run NASCAR events that their current contracts will not be renewed as part of an overall $10 billion cost-cutting program. Speedway Motorsports Inc., which owns eight tracks that hold NASCAR events, already has been told GM will not renew contracts at two tracks—New Hampshire Motor Speedway and Bristol Motor Speedway. GM has contracts with 12 of the 22 tracks where NASCAR’s top Sprint Cup series races and is the title sponsor for the fall race at Richmond International Raceway.
Another IndyCar sponsor moving to NASCAR Monster Energy drink, who was a personal sponsor for Paul Tracy in Champ Car, and was presumed to stay with him if he found a ride in IndyCar, is rumored to be on its way to sponsoring Robby Gordon's NASCAR Sprint Cup car for at least one race this year with an eye toward more involvement in 2009.
'Fixer' denies Abu Dhabi facing F1 delay (GMM) Renowned 'F1 fixer' Philippe Gurdjian has denied whispers that the new Abu Dhabi circuit will not be ready to host its inaugural formula one race next November.
The United Arab Emirates' capital is scheduled to host the 2009 season finale, with a circuit winding through the Yas Island marina and sand dunes currently under construction.
Earlier this year, however, Gurdjian stepped down as chief of the Paul Ricard test circuit in France in order to oversee the Abu Dhabi project.
His appointment complemented rumors that Abu Dhabi is struggling to be ready for its November 15 race date.
"I don't listen at all to what people say," Gurdjian told the Abu Dhabi daily The National.
"We will soon be ready to answer questions to all the people who want know about this project," the Frenchman, previously involved in organizing F1 races in France, Spain, Malaysia and Bahrain, and deeply trusted by Bernie Ecclestone, insisted.
'09 bodywork to promote overtaking (GMM) Detailed computer simulations of next year's sweeping aerodynamic bodywork changes predict that the new rules will lead to more overtaking.
After November's season ending Brazilian grand prix, the formula one cars of 2009 will look considerably different; smaller wings and no winglets or bodywork appendages.
Also to be altered radically is the rear diffuser, which can take a lot of the blame for processional races like last Sunday's European grand prix at Valencia.
"The Toyota is particularly bad," Toro Rosso driver Sebastian Vettel told the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport.
"You cannot get closer than about one second behind," the German explained.
Auto Motor und Sport said McLaren test drivers Pedro de la Rosa and Gary Paffett, at the wheel of the state of the art facility at Woking, were "thrilled" with the exploration of simulated overtaking possibilities for 2009.
(GMM) Alongside Sebastien Buemi and Takuma Sato, Super Aguri refugee Anthony Davidson may also be given an evaluation test drive by the Toro Rosso team at the southern Spanish circuit Jerez next month.
In the local newspaper Gulf Daily News, Red Bull tester and GP2 driver Buemi's Bahrain-based uncle Humbert said the Swiss is "excited" about his forthcoming Jerez ride.
"We believe that he is ready for the challenge and he is looking forward to doing well at the tests," he added.
In the same report, Gulf Daily News claimed that Japanese 31-year-old Sato is not the only former Super Aguri racer also in the running for a 2009 Toro Rosso seat.
The newspaper also said Davidson, who is 29, is a contender.
"They are (all) expected to get separate tests in the Toro Rosso car," Gulf Daily News reporter Patrick Salomon said.
Japan Series to use IRL enginesUPDATE #4 This webpage shows photos of the new Formula Nippon car with IRL-like Honda and Toyota engines being tested in the new American Swift chassis. There are even links to YouTube video of the testing.
01/03/06 There are signs that Formula Nippon is reviving over in Japan with rule changes aimed at giving the series the kind of relevance it had back in the 1990s. The organizers of the Formula Nippon championship say they expect a grid of 22 cars this season, after a rule change which allows rival engine manufacturers to compete using old IRL engines.
Both of Japan's biggest motor manufacturers, Toyota and Honda, will be represented in the championship which will have three new two-car teams for 2006.
With just three months before the opening race at Suzuka, each of the teams has now chosen its engine partner.
Impul, Arting, Kondo, Le Mans, Cerumo and Team Mohn will run with Toyota engines, while Dandelion, Nakajima and 5Zigen will use the Honda powerplant.
The three new teams include the return of Aguri Suzuki's ARTA squad, running Honda engines, while TOMS and Inging will both use Toyota. Testing of the new engines continues on January 15th at Fuji, when Honda and Toyota will run on the same track together for the first time.
09/08/05 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. Formula Nippon will use a new bespoke Lola chassis mated to the IRL engines detuned from 650 HP to 450 HP. The new car will have more downforce to handle the extra HP and Honda and Toyota will have an outlet for their old IRL engines.
09/06/05 It should be noted that in 2005 this series only had 13 drivers and raced on just 5 circuits (Suzuka; Motegi; Sportsland Sugo; Fuji; Mine), so it appears this series is not too healthy either. Motorsports in Asia in general is not thriving primarily because the Japanese auto manufacturers are spending the most money racing in Europe and the USA. It may take the Chinese and Korean companies to step in and start pumping money into Asian motorsports before we see motorsports prosper in that region of the world.
08/31/05 Rumor has it that the Formula Nippon Series may switch to detuned leftover IRL engines from Honda and Toyota. Perhaps some interesting ramifications if true.
Dodge Viper could be history at Chrysler The Dodge Viper sports car could be history--at Chrysler LLC. The company said on Wednesday that it is "exploring strategic options for the Dodge Viper business."
"This strategic review comes as the company focuses on enhancing its core business and leveraging its assets," Chrysler said in a statement.
Here is what Chrysler CEO Bob Nardelli said about the potential sale of the Viper: "We have been approached by third parties who are interested in exploring future possibilities for Viper," Nardelli said in a memo to employees.
"As the Company evaluates strategic options to maximize core operations and leverage its assets, we have agreed to listen to these parties. We will do so keeping in mind the best interests of those who have shown tremendous support for the vehicle--including employees, suppliers, dealers and a worldwide group of loyal Viper owners and enthusiasts.
"Viper is an integral part of this company's heritage. While this is a strategic review, our intent would be to offer strong operational and financial support during any potential transaction, in order to ensure a future for the Viper business and perpetuate the legacy of this great vehicle." AutoWeek
Tony Stewart to name new Crew Chief Tony Stewart who became half owner of Stewart-Haas Racing in July is expected to announce soon that Darian Grubb will become his crew chief in 2009 Grubb, currently a team engineer at Hendrick Motorsports will become only the second full-time crew chief in NASCAR’s top tier series that Stewart has ever had. Stewart, who raced for Joe Gibbs Racing for nearly a decade, had previously teamed with Greg Zipadelli. Zipadelli recently signed a long term contract to remain with Gibbs and will become crew chief for new driver Joey Logano who takes over Stewart’s No. 20 Toyota in 2009. Grubb served as an interim crew chief for Jimmie Johnson when Chad Knaus was suspended in 2006. During his short tenure Grubb led the No. 48 team to two wins including the Daytona 500. CupSceneDaily
Gibbs team and Busch to get revenge on Edwards J.D. Gibbs and Carl Edwards spoke briefly after Saturday's race at Bristol, shortly after Edwards had beaten Gibbs' driver Kyle Busch and then had a post-race altercation on the track. Edwards said that Gibbs, president of Joe Gibbs Racing, told him that "you reap what you sow.'' J.D. Gibbs explained Monday his discussion with Edwards:
"I was leaving the NASCAR hauler and walking back to the team hauler and Edward's kind of grabbed me and said, "Hey,' " Gibbs said.
"Most of what we said we'll just keep to ourselves but ... I did say, 'Hey, you reap what you sow,' but I also said that goes for me, that goes for Kyle, that goes for everybody. It wasn't a big deal. It wasn't just a deal where I was telling him ... hey, we're going to come after you.'' Roanoke.com
[Editor's Note: Sure he wasn't. Too funny. However, would not surprise us if Toyota pulls another 25 HP out of their back pocket and Busch just destroys the field in the Chase. That would probably be their sweetest revenge.]
NASCAR series to get ESPN/ESPN2 shaft This DalyPlanet article talks about how the Nationwide Series will be bounced around on ESPN and ESPN2 once the college football season begins. At least with ESPN, ESPN2 and ESPN Classic there is some flexibility to move to another sister channel if a previous event runs late. With say a VERSUS, or any other provider with just one channel, no such luck. If a previous event runs late you are dead in the water.
Valencia to be Mediterranean GP from 2009 (GMM) Valencia's new formula one street race is likely to be renamed the Mediterranean grand prix for 2009 and beyond.
With the European grand prix title probably needing to return to the Nurburgring event next year, due to the race name ownership saga in Germany, F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone hinted last month that Valencia could adopt official 'World grand prix' status from now on.
But the authoritative Swiss publication Motorsport Aktuell said the Mediterranean grand prix moniker is actually the most likely outcome for Valencia from 2009.
Ferrari has new number one (GMM) Despite rising pressure from commentators and the influential Italian press, Ferrari is yet to declare officially that Felipe Massa is the team's number one driver for the remainder of the 2008 title fight.
"The Finn is a problem," La Gazzetta dello Sport said after the European grand prix at Valencia, referring to world champion Kimi Raikkonen's continually waning form.
"Ferrari has to make a decision now," the sports daily added.
Corriere dello sport declared after Massa's Valencia victory: "Ferrari has its new number one."
But in the pages of the Spanish sports newspaper Marca, Brazil's Massa - now leading the Ferrari points charge but 6 points shy of championship leader Lewis Hamilton - said it is not up to him to ask for top billing.
"That is a decision for others," the 27-year-old clarified. "I do my work in the same way because the only thing that interests me is to be the best on the track.
"If the (number one) decision comes to me, I will only be the recipient," Massa explained.
To the German newspaper FAZ, however, he said he is not ruling out the challenge posed by his talented teammate.
"Kimi is very fast, but so am I," Massa said. "I think that we will fight for the title to the very end."
Sato back to F1?UPDATE (GMM) Toro Rosso has confirmed "talks" with the Japanese driver Takuma Sato, but would not back reports that the former Super Aguri racer is to be evaluated for a 2009 seat at next month's Jerez test.
It is already known that Sebastien Buemi will be tested at the southern Spanish circuit, but the German magazine Auto Motor und Sport this week said 31-year-old Sato is also to get a run in the Ferrari-powered single seater.
"We have had talks but there is nothing to confirm yet," a spokeswoman insisted.
Sato's manager told Reuters that they would welcome the opportunity to test with Toro Rosso.
"We'd be delighted," said Andrew Gilbert-Scott.
08/18/08 (GMM) Takuma Sato's manager has confirmed that he is fully concentrated on trying to bring the Japanese racer back to the formula one grid.
It emerged recently that, following the demise of the Super Aguri team, 31-year-old Sato turned down offers to contest Le Mans and American series in order to focus on resurrecting his F1 career.
The latest rumor is that Sato, who debuted in 2002 and has contested approaching 100 grands prix, is linked with one of the Toro Rosso race seats for 2009 -- a good fit, given Gerhard Berger's desire for an experienced hand, and sponsor Red Bull's efforts to crack the difficult Japanese drinks market.
His manager Andrew Gilbert-Scott, a former race driver himself, confirmed to GPWeek that putting Sato back on the grid is his focus at present.
"Formula one is all we are thinking about," the Briton said.
"It's where Takuma deserves to be, and naturally we are talking to a number of people about 2009."
Sorenson in, Carpentier out at GEMUPDATE #5 Chip Ganassi, Team Owner of Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates: "After much internal discussion over the last few months we agreed that parting ways with Reed was the right decision for all of us. The business side of sports is never easy and this was just a business decision that was made on both our parts. We wish Reed nothing but the best." CGRWFS PR
08/26/08 The part of this rumor that Reed Sorenson is joining GEM is upgraded to 'Fact' today. See the announcement in the Hot News that Sorenson has signed a multiyear contract with Gillett Evernham Motorsports.
08/24/08 Reed Sorenson appears headed to Gillett Evernham Motorsports to drive the No. 10 car next year, according to Chip Ganassi Racing co-owner Felix Sabates. Sorenson, in his third year in Sprint Cup with the Ganassi team, said Friday that he did not have anything done yet for 2009, and Chip Ganassi Racing President Steve Lauletta said in a phone interview earlier in the day that they were still in talks with Sorenson. Sorenson was 24th in points in 2006, 22nd in points in 2007 and 30th this year entering the Saturday race at Bristol. He was replaced for the road-racing event in Sonoma, Calif., earlier this year.
“From my point of view, his contract is over,” Sabates said. “I think Reed is today as good as he’s ever going to be. If somebody else wants to put him in a car, fine with us. We have a pretty good idea that he’s going to drive the 10 car. I wish him good luck.”
A spokesman for Gillett Evernham Motorsports said the team had no comment. Patrick Carpentier currently is the driver of the No. 10 car. Gillett Evernham also fields Cup cars for drivers Kasey Kahne and Elliott Sadler. Scenedaily.com
Davidson would accept role as test driver (GMM) The paddock of the inaugural European Grand Prix at Valencia, former Super Aguri racer Anthony Davidson was keeping up appearances with the F1 decision-makers.
At the Spanish race to commentate for British radio, the 29-year-old - seemingly a Formula One veteran but not even with 30 Grand Prix under his belt - made it clear he hasn't given up on returning to the sport sooner or later.
With his Super Aguri adventure now over following the closure of the team earlier this season, Davidson told Switzerland's Motorsport Aktuell that, if he cannot immediately reclaim a race cockpit, "I would accept a place as a test driver."
Between 2001 and 2006, Briton Davidson tested with the works Honda squad, which was initially known as BAR.
Since the Super Aguri collapse, he returned to the F1 cockpit with a one-off Honda test run.
Overheard at Infineon Friday - 1UPDATE As we rumored on Friday, the PCM team was in trouble and in this statement, the team owner states they are through for the year. Why are IRL teams having so much trouble getting sponsorship? Take for example Paul Tracy and Vision - they had a sponsor in the works with Subway, and they thought it was better to do 3 NASCAR races for more money, than do the whole IndyCar season. The problem is that the IRL like Champ Car has little value since the split because the TV ratings are so low. The costs to put the cars on the track are 10 times the value you would get on TV due to the low ratings (soon to get worse on Versus). The race yesterday changed channels 2 or 3 times because women's golf was running late, making it almost unwatchable.
And the IRL thinks it can grow the series strictly as a domestic product? We disagree strongly. With NASCAR being the monopoly that it is, they can steal every single sponsor out of the IRL paddock if they chose to go after them aggressively....as Vision Racing found out with Subway. Even Team Penske has been unable to find a replacement for Marlboro and they win on a regular basis. The only way IndyCar is going to be able to grow is to bring "new" money into the series from outside the USA. However, that is going to take international growth and a marketing staff with international experience, and currently that does not exist.
08/22/08 We hear that the Forsythe team had another layoff last week and they are down to a skeleton crew of about 7 people. Sure does not look like they will go IndyCar Racing next year as rumored unless they hire new people over the winter months.......We hear that the PCM team is in very bad shape financially. We are told the Mexican sponsors stopped paying and now team members paychecks have been delayed. The good news, if there is any, is that no one has quit the team as they believe in team owner Tyler Tadevic and are sticking it out in hopes a sponsor materializes............So far all the teams we have canvassed, and though no one wants to be quoted on the record for fear of IRL repercussions, fail to see how the new Versus TV deal is anything but bad for the series. Sure it placates the hard-core fan with more programming hours, but it's all about TV ratings when it comes to landing sponsorship and Versus broadcasts simply won't get high TV Ratings. One owner said "That deal just cost every team owner in this paddock $1M to $2M a year in sponsorship." Let's just hope the engine manufacturers that may have come into the series don't now bow out leaving Honda to hold the bag. Mark C. reporting from Sonoma, CA
Andretti to buy out Green?UPDATE #2 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. As for the ownership group, which has reported to be at odds, Michael Andretti said they're "probably getting along better now" than ever. "Part of the strength of this program is that we don't always agree," he said. "We have three different ways of coming about it. The thing that really works for our team is that we all listen and don't jump to conclusions on things." Indy Star
08/18/08 This SPEEDTV article by Robin talks about this rumor.
08/17/08 According to Robin Miller on Wind Tunnel Sunday night, Michael Andretti and Kevin Savoree may be looking to buy Kim Green out of his share of Andretti Green Racing. He also said (again) that AGR may not run an Acura ALMS LMP2 car in 2009 but that they might take over the American A1GP team and have Danica Patrick and Marco Andretti drive.
No changes to AGR lineup Andretti Green Racing likely will have its current driver lineup next year, team co-owner Michael Andretti told the Indy Star newspaper Sunday at Infineon Raceway. All three owners, including Kevin Savoree and Kim Green, will again be at the helm with Marco Andretti expected to join Tony Kanaan with a new contract. Danica Patrick and rookie Hideki Mutoh also will return. Marco joined the team in 2006. "It's just a few (details)," said the elder Andretti, who is not part of the negotiations due to his personal ties.......which is rather odd given the fact that AGR doesn't hold a test and hire the fastest drivers out there.
Similar to the Vision Racing team where nepotism is rampant, American racers will always be soft and never make it in F1 because rather than have to land a ride based on skill, you get it based on your family ties or how much money you bring to the table. If IndyCar Racing wants to be taken seriously in the global market, nepotism must cease and every driver must earn their ride based on skill. Can you imagine Joe Gibbs' son. J.D. Gibbs, becoming Quarterback for the Washington Redskins because his father was the coach? Would not happen unless J.D. was the best Quarterback out there. In sports it's all about the best athletes. IndyCar Racing is a sport isn't it? Maybe we are all fooling ourselves.
Marlboro to end its relationship with Ferrari? The e-magazine GrandPrix+ is reporting that Marlboro may be preparing to end its relationship with Ferrari, earlier than has been thought. The existing deal is due to run until the end of 2011. This six-year deal, signed in 2005, was for the entire car and is believed to have been worth around $1.1bn, although the tobacco company had (and has used) the right to sell the space on the cars to other sponsors.
This gave Ferrari a solid long-term budget and no hassles with needing to activate sponsorships. It is seen to be significant that the company has now hired two long-established
marketing men from the bigger British teams with McLaren's Steve Wright and Renault F1's Rhys Edwards. Wright has been running the Johnnie Walker deal for McLaren and Edwards has been looking after ING at Renault.
The rumored change of heart at Marlboro is believed to have come about because of fears that the European Union will introduce stricter anti-tobacco laws, such as banning point-of-sale advertising or even cigarette machines, if the tobacco companies do not make more compromises. Marlboro has taken its name off the cars, but in some countries has used racing cars on its cigarette packets, rather than running tobacco logos on the cars. There are still Marlboro-styled panels on both the cars and the drivers, and there is no question that these perpetuate the sponsorship, even if that happens only in a subliminal way.
There are other elements that may have led to a change of view, notably the March 2008 spin-off from parent company Altria of the Philip Morris International tobacco businesses.
The departure of Marlboro is not as big a worry as it might appear for Ferrari as most of Ferrari's sponsors would simply switch to direct deals with Ferrari rather than going through Philip Morris. There would be some spare space on the cars but Ferrari is such a strong and successful brand that there are certain to be other sponsors who would leap at the chance of a Ferrari deal. There have been rumors for some weeks that Spain's Santander could leave McLaren for Ferrari if Fernando Alonso is signed by the Italian team, as has been rumored for some time. Grandprix.com
Vettel has Ferrari engine advantage - AlonsoUPDATE Although engine development is outlawed under the freeze, teams are allowed to replace parts to fix faults and improve reliability. It has been suggested that big-budget teams such as Ferrari and McLaren have been able to exploit this rule to make performance-enhancing tweaks, while Renault have fallen behind in the arms race.
“The problem is that us, Renault, have stuck to the letter of the current regulations on frozen engines, and we’ve been buggered,” said Renault Team Principal Flavio Briatore earlier in the year.
“Others didn’t do that and are far ahead, while we suffer. It’s not fair.”
[Editor's Note: Why doesn't the FIA do like NASCAR and spot check some engines on the dyno to make sure no one is gaining an unfair advantage? Idiots.]
08/24/08 (GMM) Toro Rosso's superior Ferrari engine is powering its car clear of senior team Red Bull.
That is the view of former double world champion Fernando Alonso, who drives for Renault.
UK-based French competitor Renault also supplies engines to Red Bull Racing, whose car is almost identical to the two Toro Rosso runners, who both qualified in the top ten at Valencia.
In contrast, the Red Bulls of Mark Webber and David Coulthard are very much amid the bottom half of the grid for Sunday's European grand prix.
Alonso, 27, praised STR runner Sebastian Vettel's P6 in qualifying as the result of "a great deal of skill".
"But we must bear in mind that he uses a Ferrari engine and that is an advantage," the Spaniard is quoted as saying by Diario AS.
"The Red Bull and Toro Rosso cars are identical, but one is fighting for the top positions and the other, with a Renault engine, could not get past the Q2," Alonso told the Spanish newspaper.
Tracy to run Detroit and ChicagoUPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. Paul Tracy told AutoRacing1.com (AR1.com) that "Yesterday Tony thanked me for running in Edmonton but that he was not able to put together a deal to run the last three races of the year." This is too bad. If Tony really wants to win races he would run Tracy instead of the two drivers he has running for him - who have no hope of winning a race unless they get awfully lucky. Nepotism usually does not work in business, nor does it work in racing.
08/20/08 Paul Tracy and Derrick Walker won't be in Sonoma this weekend to drive/operate Vision Racing's third car. But rumor has it that Tony George is finalizing a deal that would see Paul Tracy run in the final races in Detroit and Chicago.
Ashley Judd In Trouble with the Law in Tennessee? Ashley Judd, wife of Chip Ganassi Racing driver Dario Franchitti and a celebrity in her own right, is in trouble with the law in Tennessee for a traffic infraction that occurred 15 years ago. According to public records, Judd was ticketed for doing 87 in a 65 mile per hour zone in 1993 but has yet to pay the fine. She could face additional fines and suspension of her license. Judd and Franchitti own a farm near Franklin, Tennessee. Cupscene.com
Overheard at Infineon Saturday - 1 (Surfers)UPDATE We are told that the meeting went forward with Tony George on Sunday morning and the Australia folks made a good proposal for 2009. The feeling is that the IRL will find a way to make it work that satisfies everyone. Some follow-up work has to be done and there apparently is still the issue as to whether ISC has a deal in place to be the "last" race of the year and whether the Homestead race, or another of their tracks can still be the season closer after Surfers.
Craig Gore, sporting new haircut and a sleeker body after his recent health problems
The discussion Sunday over the future of the Surfers Paradise race is certain to be a lively one. Besides former Queensland Premier Peter Beattie flying in, so has Aussie Vineyards boss Craig Gore (pictured right on Friday) who is sure to deliver the message that with no race in Australia they will likely be gone from the IRL because NASCAR delivers far more bang for the buck in the USA than IndyCar ever can. Beattie is sure to stress just how big the event is and that Queensland has options (such as A1GP) should IndyCar choose not to cooperate over the date. We hear that there was already a preliminary meeting on Thursday between Kalkhoven and IRL officials and that Kalkhoven is hopeful a compromise can be struck, but that the date won't be in September as a back-to-back date with Japan as had been hoped..........Word is that some folks in the IRL paddock think that the IRL should focus on North America and forget about going overseas at all. Sure, there are more North America venues that want an IndyCar race, but can they grow the series strictly as a domestic product given 1) The global marketplace economy we now live in, 2) NASCAR's total domination of racing in North America, 3) The diminishing strength of the USA dollar in the world markets, 4) The fact that the biggest banks in the world are no longer USA banks but banks in China and elsewhere, 5) The fact that even the very astute Bernie Ecclestone doesn't view the USA as worthy of a F1 race unless someone is willing to pay the big sanctioning fee he demands, and more telling, that no one in the USA can afford or is willing to pay it, underscoring the fact that the wealth in this world is moving from the USA to other countries?.........The key to all this is whether or not new manufacturers sign on to supply engines in 2011. If that happens new sponsors will come knocking and the new TV deal will become less of a negative factor. Mark C. reporting from Sonoma, CA
Keselowski rejects Penske offer JR Motorsports' Nationwide Series star Brad Keselowski has declined an opportunity to move to the Sprint Cup Series next season with Penske Racing, The Charlotte Observer and ThatsRacin.com have learned.
Keselowski, who won his second race of the season Friday night at Bristol Motor Speedway, spent last Tuesday visiting the Penske shop, where he met members of the organization and was offered the chance to drive the team's No. 12 Dodges next season, several sources confirmed Saturday.
Keselowski, 24, declined the offer, sources said. Keselowski did not immediately return a call for comment Saturday night.
The native of Rochester Hills, Mich., said earlier this summer he would return next season to the Nationwide Series to drive JR Motorsports' No. 88 Chevrolet, which is co-owned by Cup driver Dale Earnhardt Jr. and his Cup team owner, Rick Hendrick. ThatsRacin.com
Wheldon out, Junqueira in at Ganassi?UPDATE #3 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today if the September issue of IndyCar Series magazine can be believed. On page 9 it says, both Helio Castroneves (Penske) and Wheldon (Ganassi) have recently re-upped their contracts. Being the "official" magazine of the IndyCar Series, one would think they would have the skinny on this one.
08/22/08 We tried to press Dan Wheldon on whether he will drive for Ganassi after this year and he would only say that he "personally has not spoken at all to Chip about it. I am just worried about these last three races now and finishing the season as strong as possible."
When asked whether he was surprised that Chip has not spoken to him yet, his response was one word - "no." "I said that I have not spoken to Chip, but that doesn't mean Chip has not offered a renewal." So it may have come the way of team manager Mike Hull. Wheldon did his best to dodge the question and you could sense the urgency in his voice. He chose his words very carefully.
08/18/08 This SPEEDTV article by Robin Miller says Ganassi has reconsidering now that he lost Kanaan and Wheldon will probably be back in 2009.
08/11/08 On Wind Tunnel Sunday night Robin Miller rumored that Dan Wheldon most likely will not be back with the Target Chip Ganassi Racing (TCGR) team and rumored that Bruno Junqueira could likely be back at TCGR, a team that he has driven for in the past at Indy, but that Ganassi would also look at Graham Rahal, Will Power, Oriol Servia or even a driver from Europe.
HOF team may be forced to merge to survive Hall of Fame Racing doesn’t have a full-time driver for the rest of 2008, and the team is looking at a variety of options for 2009 on both who will drive and how many cars the team will have.
Those options include a possible merger/acquisition of another team, Hall of Fame Racing co-owner Tom Garfinkel said Saturday.
“There’s just about everything you can imagine going on in this garage, people talking to people,” Garfinkel said in the Bristol Motor Speedway garage. “The funny thing is that the rumors that I hear we’re involved with we’re not and the ones I don’t hear about are the ones [we’re talking with].
“We’re evaluating all our options for next year … to be able to build a great team and be competitive in the future.”
Garfinkel said the team would like to stay with Toyota but it might change depending on what happens.
“As we look at other teams’ situations, some of them require different manufacturers and we’re having those conversations as well,” Garfinkel said. Scenedaily.com
BMW to lose major F1 backerUPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' - see this Hot News report.
(GMM) After the Malaysian grand prix, Mario Theissen refused to entertain speculation that the BMW-Sauber team is set to lose its major Swiss backer, Credit Suisse.
It was reported on Sunday that the Hinwil based team, headed by Theissen, will no longer be supported by the bank in 2009 or beyond, following eight years of prominent sponsorship.
The German said at Sepang: "We do not comment on speculation."
03/23/08 (GMM) BMW Sauber will lose its long time sponsor Credit Suisse, a Swiss bank, at the end of 2008, reports on Sunday said.
Credit Suisse entered the sport with Peter Sauber's independent Hinwil based squad eight years ago, but does not intend to renew its latest contract beyond this year, the Swiss Sunday newspaper Sonntags Zeitung claimed.
The newspaper said the decision has been made internally, but not officially communicated to the now German owned outfit or public.
It is suggested that the reason for the decision is the recent departure of F1 fan Oswald Grubel as Credit Suisse's CEO, after he was replaced by Brady W. Dougan, who has not attended a single grand prix in his new tenure.
Kyle Busch could be penalized NASCAR officials will discuss on Monday if #18-Kyle Busch will be penalized for instigating an incident with winner #99-Carl Edwards on the cool-down lap of Saturday night's Sprint Cup race at Bristol Motor Speedway. Busch, upset over contact from Edwards when he lost the lead with 30 laps remaining, rammed the right side of his car into the #99 as they came back towards the start/finish line after Edwards took the checkered flag for the sixth time this season. Edwards retaliated by spinning Busch out. NASCAR officials immediately summoned Busch to the hauler. Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition, said the situation will be further evaluated. There is precedence for a penalty. Tony Stewart was fined $10,000 and placed on probation for five months after ramming Jeff Gordon's car on pit road in retaliation for a last-lap incident in the 2001 Bristol race. Edwards was not summoned by NASCAR, but he was stopped near the NASCAR hauler by Joe Gibbs Racing president J.D. Gibbs to talk about the exchange with his driver. "He just explained to me that you reap what you sow, which I believe," Edwards said. "I explained to him that's why that happened that way. That's it. I have a lot of respect for him and the organization. They do a really good job and I really look up to them, so that's that." Busch did not talk to reporters following the meeting with NASCAR president Mike Helton, Pemberton and series director John Darby. JGR owner Joe Gibbs, also in the meeting with NASCAR, said only that "NASCAR is smart at what they do. They handle everything the right way." ESPN.com
Childress may merge to get points for #33 RICHARD CHILDRESS, OWNER OF RICHARD CHILDRESS RACING, met with members of the media to announce the driver alignment for the #07 Jack Daniel’s Impala SS and the #33 Cheerios/Hamburger Helper Impala SS for 2009. Highlights from the transcript:
RICHARD CHILDRESS: “We have talked to the press several times over the last few months and said we are going to let you know, we are going to let you know, who is the fourth driver, what we are going to do. We did a lot of work, Mike Dillon, Ben Schlosser, our whole group. We looked at all the competition throughout RCR, we have picked Casey Mears as the driver of our fourth team, which all teams are equal, but he will be driving the Jack Daniel’s Chevrolet next year.”
CHILDRESS: “There have been a lot of questions asked about what we are doing and the one I get a lot is the points on the #07, are we changing them, what are we doing? The points will stay with the #07. We have all the confidence in the world in Clint and his team that we’re going to be ok there. We have some things working there as well. Right now, like we do every year at this time, we start evaluating our competition. Where we are at with all of our teams. We use Jeff’s and Kevin’s input a lot. Kevin is doing an appearance but Jeff is here, glad to have you Jeff. We are just thrilled about next year. We have our work cut out for us the next three weeks and that is what we are concentrating on right now is to get in to the Chase and at that point we want to be a championship contender which I know we will be. We’ve got to get through that and once we do that, then we will start addressing other things.”
Developer's plan: A $200 million NASCAR-ready track
Proposed Big Lake oval track
A state-of-the-art motorsports track complex, envisioned to attract the biggest names in racing, is being proposed for 400 acres in the Big Lake area.
The $200 million facility would be built for 90,000 fans and could expand to more than 150,000, said the developer, International Motorsports Entertainment and Development Corp. of Coon Rapids.
The complex would be financed privately by partners whom corporation president Jim Farnum declined to divulge. "We're not asking for a dime" of public money, he said, adding that he hopes to attract funding from Minnesota corporations.
Government officials in Big Lake and neighboring Big Lake Township said they are aware of the proposal, but no formal presentations have been made.
Also no hearings have been scheduled. Farnum said he expects to go before city and township officials sometime this year.
As conceived, the complex would have a 1.5-mile-high banked paved oval, a 1-mile flat paved oval, a quarter-mile drag strip, a 3/8-mile oval dirt track and a 100,000-square-foot exhibition and convention center.
Open space, rail line
If financing is secured, bureaucratic requirements are met and races lined up, the facility could have its first full season by 2011, said Farnum, adding that the International Motorsports Entertainment and Development Corp. was formed in 2006 for the sole purpose of building this complex.
As for the land, situated in Big Lake Township about 40 miles northwest of Minneapolis, Farnum said, "I have a purchase agreement for that already."
The Big Lake area was attractive, developers and government officials agree, because of the open space and the Northstar commuter rail line, which will run from Big Lake to Minneapolis and make it easy for fans from the Twin Cities metro area to attend races. The line is scheduled to open by the end of 2009.
Farnum, 54, said it's his intent for the complex to attract "at the highest levels possible" drivers in stock, road race, drag racing and open wheel (Indy style).
NASCAR spokesman Kerry Tharp, while unfamiliar with the corporation's proposal, said the nation's largest sanctioning body of stock-car racing is always looking for opportunities to run its races in new locations. As an example, Tharp said, the 7/8-mile oval in Newton, Iowa, will get its first NASCAR national touring event in 2009.
Tom Ryan, owner of Elko Speedway for the past eight years, said he was approached to buy shares in the project and declined.
"I don't think it's viable," said Ryan, whose track hosts races in NASCAR's fifth-ranked series. "I don't know what kind of races they would ever expect to get there. ... I don't think there is the interest [in this part of the country] to support a race track for real hard-core racing." Star Tribune
Richard Childress might bring the No. 3 back Richard Childress might bring the No. 3 back to an RCR vehicle in a NASCAR national touring division when grandson Austin Dillon competes in the series. Childress said Dillon likely will drive in a Nationwide Series race later this year and possibly could be in the series full time in 2010. Childress still owns the rights to the No. 3. Dillon, the 18-year-old son of RCR Vice President Mike Dillon, has driven the No. 3 car in the NASCAR Camping World East Series.
“He enjoys racing it in the Camping World East Series,” Childress said. “He’s been running it some. We might do it in Nationwide, but I don’t have any intention anywhere else.”
Dale Earnhardt Jr. drove the No. 3, made famous in Cup by his father, in the then-Busch Series in two races in 2002. Those are the only two races that number has appeared in the Nationwide or Cup series since Earnhardt Sr. died in the 2001 Daytona 500. SceneDaily.com
Overheard at Watkins Glen - 2 (Turbo V6 for the IRL)UPDATE #6 This SPEEDTV.com article notes the positive reaction from the drivers with the plan of IndyCar to switch to turbocharged engines in 2011.
08/23/08 As AutoRacing1.com told you in our rumors posted from Infineon yesterday - The sweet sound of turbocharged engines is expected to return to Indy-car racing in 2011, officials said Friday at Infineon Raceway. The plan to switch from the rougher-sounding normally aspirated V-8 engines -- used in the Indy Racing League since 1997 -- will be shared with industry executives during a meeting next month at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
IRL presidents Brian Barnhart and Terry Angstadt said they expect auto manufacturers interested in participating in the series to embrace this decision because it was their consensus at a meeting in June. The decision left to be made centers on engine size. Two are being considered, Barnhart said.
Erik Berkman, president of Honda Performance Development, said the debate "is over four (cylinders) or six." "But both of them include turbos," Barnhart said. "One of them includes twin turbos."
The IRL is seeking to increase engine power from 650 horsepower to about 750. The IRL's next roundtable meeting will be Sept. 16-17 at the Speedway. The event, like the initial one in June, will be closed to the public. More than a dozen manufacturers attended the June meeting, and Barnhart has said he expects "three or four," including Honda, the only current participating manufacturer, to show serious interest and perhaps commit. IndyStar
08/10/08 Per this Hot News article, Ford will turbocharge 90% of its engines by 2013. More evidence the IRL will need to copy Champ Car's turbo formula to stay current with engine trends.
And now we learn that Mercedes will turbocharge 100% of its engines by 2010.
07/16/08 GM will turn to small four-cylinder power plants, such as the 1.4-liter turbocharged engine. That engine will arrive with the Chevrolet Cruze, the replacement to the compact Chevy Cobalt, which is also reworked as a Pontiac G5.
The turbocharged four-cylinder engine fits perfectly with the way Americans drive, said analyst Jim Hall, the president of 2953 Analytics. "We don't drive flat out on the autobahn," Hall said. "Americans like cars that launch well."
On the Cruze, the turbo will allow for a quick start, but once it hits highway cruising speed, the turbo will stay off and the small displacement engine will sip fuel all the way to Chicago and back, averaging around 45 mpg.
GM also plans to unveil a new engine next year in the Chevrolet Equinox: A 2.3-liter direct injection four-cylinder engine that promises high gas mileage. There's the potential to see these engines work their way into current models, boosting fuel economy. Think Saturn Aura and Astra and Pontiac G6.
In the meantime, introducing more hybrids and improving transmissions will also bolster mileage. GM recently became the first carmaker to mate a four-cylinder engine with six-speed automatic transmission on its new Malibu, boosting its mileage to 32 mpg on the highway. "You're going to see a lot more cars using six-speed transmissions," Lutz said. Detroit News
07/07/08 As we reported/rumored below, it's likely that the next IndyCar engine will be a turbo V6 and this Auto Observer article appears to substantiate this as almost all manufacturers will be rolling out an abundance of turbocharged engines in the next several years (more power from a smaller displacement engine for increased fuel mileage) and a turbo V6 layout is going to be quite common. Will the V8 be dead?
07/06/08 AutoRacing1.com has learned that this is not the last year on the contract between McDonald's and Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing. In fact this weekend Justin Wilson is featured on McDonald's cups and tray liners at 95 McDonald's restaurants in central New York. Good to see them finally starting to activate around their driver. We also learned that Graham Rahal is still under contract to NHLR next year so he isn't going to Team Penske. Mark C.
07/04/08 Audi, BMW, Chevrolet, Fiat, Mazda and Volkswagen sent representatives to the IRL's recent engine forum to discuss the future specifications for Indy car racing. Engine builders Cosworth, John Judd, Ilmor and AER were also in attendance. A source that asked to remain anonymous told AutoRacing1.com that the afternoon format was interesting in that everyone sat around a square table and each representative had a button to push to vote anonymously on a whole range of questions around IndyCar's future engine formula. "I was surprised at how much agreement there was in the room given the diverse number of entities represented. There was a general agreement that the next engine should be turbocharged. However, it was the last two votes of the day that surprised a lot of people."
Given what you heard today, would you be interested in participating in the series with the new engine formula? 93% voted yes, which underscores how well the forum went and the future support the series can anticipate.
Given what you heard today, will you participate in the future meetings on this topic? 100% voted yes.
From another source we heard Brian Barnhart favored a 4-cyclinder engine format but the engine reps appeared to gravitate toward a turbo V-6 arrangement.
Another rumor we heard today was that with just one car sponsored (Wilson with McDonald's) and ailing Paul Newman and Carl Haas getting up there in age and losing their focus on racing, the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing team may be down to one car in 2009 and Graham Rahal could go to Penske Racing. Rahal is Roger's kind of guy - young, fast, well spoken and very polished.
We also hear that there will be less than 20 races on the 2009 IndyCar schedule and that the schedule will be announced at the end of July.
Ron Dennis career in jeopardy - to step downUPDATE #6 (GMM) Ron Dennis has categorically denied telling the Spanish newspaper El Pais that he is considering "taking a step back" from his role as McLaren boss.
The 61-year-old, who also fended off raging suggestions that he was stepping down over the winter period, was quoted as saying he harbors "ambitions" beyond heading the British team.
"All the difficulties of the past 10 months made it difficult to make decisions about my future," he was quoted as saying. "But if you ask me whether I am considering taking a step back, the answer is yes."
But according to PA Sport, Dennis is baffled about the reports.
"I haven't spoken to any member of the press for three weeks," he said at Valencia on Sunday.
"It's just a complete fabrication, an absolute fabrication. I don't know where the story has come from, but I haven't spoken to anybody for weeks."
08/23/08 (GMM) Speculation about the immediate future of McLaren boss Ron Dennis is back on the agenda.
The 61-year-old, who fended off raging suggestions that he was stepping down over the winter period, has told a Spanish newspaper at Valencia that he is indeed considering "taking a step back" from his leading role.
"I have still many ambitions," the Briton said in interview with El Pais.
Dennis admits that 2007, which involved the spy scandal, the Fernando Alonso saga and the breakdown of his marriage, was one of the worst years of his life.
"All the difficulties of the past 10 months made it difficult to make decisions about my future. But if you ask me whether I am considering taking a step back, the answer is yes," he said.
Dennis insists that even if he does step back, with Martin Whitmarsh primed to take over at the helm of the Mercedes-powered team, he would remain involved at McLaren.
"I do not consider the word withdrawal as meaning goodbye," he explained, "but instead a step towards other functions."
03/11/08 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. Following widespread speculation that Ron Dennis is preparing to step down as McLaren's team boss, it now appears that the 60-year-old Briton will actually stay in the role for the whole of the imminent 2008 season.
Eurosport on Tuesday has quoted team equity partner Mercedes-Benz's competition chief Norbert Haug as revealing the management structure is "unchanged" for this year, while it is understood that Dennis - before departing for Melbourne this week - told staff at the Woking factory that he is not stepping down.
Dennis is nonetheless expected to outline his plans for the future during a press briefing at Albert Park, but Haug insists: "I can say that our management structure is unchanged."
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