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Fear for his life, Ashley wanted Dario out of IRLUPDATE Actress Ashley Judd wasn't by her husband's side Wednesday, but she played a part in Dario Franchitti's decision to move from the Indy Racing League to NASCAR. Franchitti announced Wednesday that he will drive the No. 40 Sprint Cup car for Chip Ganassi Racing next season.
And with Franchitti comes the famous actress.
"She was very much included in the decision," Franchitti said. "We talked about it quite a lot. She's excited about it - she's real excited about it.
"She's been a great supporter throughout my open-wheel career. She's ready to go."
Obviously, NASCAR will love to have similar shots that the Indianapolis 500 had of Judd celebrating her husband's victory. It would play well beyond the NASCAR audience and would gain interest worldwide with Judd and her Scottish husband.
"When you have anyone with the worldwide stature of [drivers] Dario, Juan [Pablo Montoya] and the celebrities that are involved in NASCAR and be a bridge to a broader audience, no matter where they come from or who they are, it's always a positive and something we're certainly excited about," said NASCAR Broadcasting and NASCAR Digital Entertainment President Paul Brooks, who attended the announcement. Scenedaily.com
09/12/07 These are not good days for open-wheel racing. The IndyCar Series probably will lose two more of its stars to NASCAR in Franchitti and Hornish. So the last two IndyCar Series champions, and the last two Indy 500 winners, are moving on to Cup.
And Sebastien Bourdais, the man who probably will win his fourth consecutive Champ Car title, is moving to Formula One.
People are wondering why Franchitti, an open-wheel racer all his life and a man at the peak of his Indy-car career, would jump to NASCAR. Lots of reasons: more money, more attention, a new challenge. But one reason stands far above the rest for the classy Scotsman -- safety.
It's really that simple. Driving a Cup car, especially the Car of Tomorrow that will race in every event next season, is much safer than racing an Indy car on high-speed ovals.
Franchitti had two scary accidents in back-to-back races this year when his car got airborne and became a 200-mph target of destruction.
Sources say famous wife Ashley Judd had seen enough. She didn't want her hubby taking those kinds of risks any longer.
Driving a car with sheet metal surrounding you at slower speeds is much safer than an Indy car on fast ovals. ESPN.com
GM to deep-six ALMS effort? Steve Wesoloski, who oversees GM's ALMS, GrandAm, and SCCA World Challenge programs, says Corvette may not be back in ALMS next year just to beat itself.
“It all depends—if we have someone to race, we’ll likely be back in the ALMS next year. It doesn’t even have to be a factory team we race against, but it does have to be some one that allows us to fight and demonstrate what makes us unique. That’s why we do this.”
“We’ll be back to the 24 Hours of Le Mans, that’s not a question—it’s just a matter of what our American program will or won’t be. The FIA GT series is also growing, so that’s another areas we’ll have to assess. There are a lot of contingencies in place for us to follow based on how the GT1 category shapes up in the short-term.”
Marino gets sacked with brother? A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Do you guys know what happened to Marino Franchitti at AGR? Why is Meira driving and not him at Petit LeMans? M. Jones
Dear M. It would appear that Marino may have been part of the deal when they signed his brother Dario to the team this last time. When Dario quit to go run in NASCAR it seems Marino got the boot. Marino is a very well regarded sports car driver. He has had his own success without his brother's help before. He has totally outclassed his teammate all season, quicker and able to cope better with the mechanical problems you get by the very nature of long sports car races. The reason he (the quickest driver in the team, usually the quickest Acura) is not racing this week? Try looking up spite in the dictionary. AutoRacing1.com Staff
Winslow to drive for Conquest?UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. Eric Bachelart told AutoRacing1.com that "James Winslow is not ready and needs more testing in Champ Car, plus we do not have a 2nd car to run at this time. We are very hopeful that we will have a 2-car team in 2008. We are much better off now than we were a year ago and it seems there is more sponsorship available from outside the USA than in."
10/01/07 According to this crash.net article, British driver James Winslow will join the Conquest team at the two remaining Champ Car races this season – at Surfers Paradise and the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez – and is hoping that the two parties can move towards working together in the future. Winslow tested with the team at Sebring last week.
“Joining Conquest at Surfers will give me a chance to really get a feel for Champ Car and learn about the strategies and fuel-saving tactics involved in being successful,” he said, “It's a great opportunity to get a sneak preview of where I'd like to be in 2008.”
And this rumor says that Nelson Philippe will also drive for Conquest at Surfers. If true, that might be an 18th car on the grid.
NASCAR close to announcing new Busch sponsorUPDATE Nationwide has reached an agreement to be the title sponsor of NASCAR's No. 2 series beginning in ‘08, sources told SportsBusiness Journal, replacing Anheuser-Busch. Terms of the deal were not available. The Columbus, Ohio-based insurance company, which ranked No. 104 on the ‘06 Fortune 500 list, submitted an offer to NASCAR last Thursday and finalized an agreement yesterday.
10/02/07 Michael Smith of SportsBusiness Journal reports this morning that Nationwide Insurance is moving into the final stages of negotiations to title sponsor NASCAR’s No. 2 series. Nationwide and Subway submitted a final offer last Thursday. Nationwide’s talks with NASCAR continued to progress over the weekend and a contract proposal is believed to be in the legal pipeline at Nationwide.
Riggs to drive for Haas/CNC Scott Riggs has signed a contract with Haas/CNC Racing to drive one of the team’s two Chevrolets in 2008, sources close to the team confirmed to ESPN.com Tuesday. The team is expected to issue a statement Wednesday. It is unknown whether Riggs will pilot Haas/CNC’s No. 66 or No. 70 or who will back the team financially. Sources said current drivers Jeff Green and Johnny Sauter will be evaluated throughout the remainder of the 2007 season and a decision as to whom Riggs will replace will be made at the end of the year. ESPN.com
Are McLaren, Ferrari, planning 'super teams'? (GMM) According to intensifying speculation and reports, moves that could have a major impact on the makeup of formula one in the future are currently taking place behind the scenes.
Spanish media sources, including the news agency EFE, claim that McLaren-Mercedes could effectively 'split' its operation next year to create - in conjunction with Prodrive - effectively a 'super team'.
The newspaper Marca speculates that the split would solve McLaren's driver dilemma, with Lewis Hamilton going to one team, and Fernando Alonso to the other.
But paddock rumblings about Ron Dennis and David Richards' plans - to run four identical MP4-23 cars next year - have reportedly attracted the ire of rival teams including BMW and Williams.
Ferrari may also be opposed, but as a back-up plan may be considering bolstering its alliance with Toro Rosso by also supplying an identical chassis to a 'satellite' outfit, the Brazilian newspaper O Globo reported.
At the centre of the issue is the uncertainty about regulations that would allow so called 'customer cars' to be sold from 2008, and the delay of a new Concorde Agreement to sanction them.
So belated is the 2008 Concorde by the customer car issue, in fact, that it is now being rumored that the document will simply be deferred for a whole year.
This would, however, have serious implications for Prodrive, which has always planned to enter F1 next year with a fully legal customer McLaren.
Also affected would be Super Aguri, whose chief Aguri Suzuki is nervously awaiting the outcome of the Concorde negotiations before going ahead with his plans to use an identical chassis to Honda's works team in 2008.
"I hope he can continue to do his racing team," Honda's Yasuhiro Wada said in Japan last week. "It depends on what is decided."
City might stop Bruton’s plansUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. While pledging loyalty to auto racing, Concord City Council members voted unanimously Monday to halt construction on a drag strip that's being built at the Lowe's Motor Speedway complex.
Residents told council members they were worried about noise.
The Monday night session was a special meeting called by city officials who said they weren't getting data from Smith's company, Speedway Motorsports, to show how loud noise from the drag strip would be. Speedway Motorsports representatives didn't provide noise data at the meeting, however.
"The burden is on them," Padgett said.
He said council members could reverse the decision if the company provides them with more noise information.
"This is a way we can protect our citizens and put us in charge of the decision-making," Padgett said.
09/27/07 The Concord (NC) City Council will hold a special meeting on Monday to consider stopping SMI Chair & CEO Bruton Smith from “adding a drag racing strip to the motorsports complex” at Lowe’s Motor Speedway. Charlotte Observer
Did NASCAR fix Kansas race? This Winston Salem Journal article lays out several arguments of why NASCAR gave Biffle the race win last Sunday in Kansas because it appeared Greg Biffle ran out of gas and was not able to keep up with the pace car on the final lap. Other cars passed him and followed the pace car until it came to a stop and the argument is that NASCAR wanted to give Biffle the race win because his Roush Ford had not won for so long.
And if you don't think everything happens for a reason in NASCAR read this similar article that outlines how inconsistent NASCAR is in applying its rules.
Zolder dates for 2008 According to AutoRacing1.com sources in Europe, next year's race in Zolder, Belgium is slated for June 8th. We hear it will likely be paired with a race in Nurburgring, Germany. Next year's German GP is at Hockenheim and Nurburgring has no F1 race in 2008 because it hosted the German GP in 2007. We wonder if Champ Car will alternate years between Hockenheim and Nurburgring, racing at each on off-F1 years.
Champ Car musical chairs: Philippe to returnUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' tonight. We await the formal announcement on Wednesday. AutoRacing1.com has learned that Nelson Philippe's car will be displaying over 5 brand new sponsors to the series. We learned that a young Australian businessman has been working on the sponsor deals and brought them to fruition.
The decision to replace Jan for Surfers makes commercial sense because 1) There will be new Australian sponsors, and 2) Nelson, who won in Surfers last year, has a huge profile in Queensland. The Gold Coast Bulletin newspaper has an article every month regarding Nelson and girlfriend Sarah Buller, who is from Queensland and was last year's Miss Indy. The couple have become the darlings of the tabloid media. Mark C.
10/01/07 [Editor's Note: With the rate at which Champ Car changes drivers from year to year, and race to race, they will never develop a big fan following. The musical chairs of drivers has resulted in lower TV ratings and cancelled races due to fan's getting disgusted and walking away from the sport. Instead of adding more cars, Philippe replacing Heylen, who replaced Matt Halliday who replaced Charles Zwolsman (etc.) before that in the Conquest No. 34 does nothing to increase the car count nor the fan count.]
Last year's Lexmark Indy 300 winner Nelson Philippe was back on track at a charity kart race at Ormeau yesterday, and it won't be his last Gold Coast race for the year.
The flamboyant Frenchman joined five locals in completing 100 laps of the track at Karting in Paradise, to raise money for Buccan man Kris Canning, who received severe brain injuries after a domestic accident last year.
Despite playing it coy about whether or not he would defend his Lexmark Indy 300 title, Philippe said he would participate in this year's event, one way or another.
"Well I have some news but that's going to be announced on Wednesday," he said.
"I'm going to be racing something at Indy but I'm not going to tell you what.
"Especially since I won there last year, it might be tough to sit and watch."
Philippe has spent the past two months in Australia but will fly home to Miami, US, tomorrow, before returning to the Gold Coast for the start of Indy celebrations, which get under way on October 18.
It is rumored that Philippe will sign up with the Conquest racing team and return to defend his crown. More ...
Bourdais, Vettel to drive Ferraris in F1 As McLaren is moving towards becoming the first team with a serious customer supply deal, the rival F1 teams are beginning to react, knowing that McLaren stands to get an advantage if it uses all four cars successfully as this will mean that the chassis in question will get twice as much testing as its rivals and should therefore improve accordingly.
The team that is going to be most affected by such a development is Ferrari and so it is not real surprise to hear rumors that the Italian firm is in serious negotiations to create a similar situation. We are hearing that Ferrari is close to a deal with the South African Portuguese businessman Tony Teixeira.
He is the man who runs the A1GP Series and the suggestion we hear is that Teixeira will buy control of Scuderia Toro Rosso from Red Bull and this will then allow the team to be transformed into a serious Ferrari customer team. The team is currently being supplied with chassis by Red Bull Racing and uses Ferrari engines. As part of the deal there appears to be an arrangement in place that will see Ferrari named as the supplier of engines and chassis to the A1GP Series. This will produce some useful income for Ferrari and give the team connections in the business world in emerging markets in Asia and the Middle East, where A1 has had its most impact. Grandprix.com (Related rumor)
Hamilton win was in doubt - report (GMM) According to a Spanish newspaper, Lewis Hamilton's crucial Japanese grand prix win was for seven hours in doubt on Sunday evening.
'Marca' claims that stewards at Fuji Speedway deliberated for seven hours and well into nightfall before officializing the result, after investigating the British rookie's "dangerous braking maneuvers" while he led the field behind the safety car.
Sebastian Vettel, penalized ten grid places for the upcoming Shanghai round for crashing into Mark Webber, had in a meeting with the stewards blamed Hamilton for the incident.
"I saw Lewis going really slowly, I don't know why, but I thought he had a problem. By the time I looked forward again, I was already in the back of Mark's car and I think he had also reacted to Lewis," the German rookie had told the press.
'Marca' said Hamilton was also summoned to the stewards' room, but no penalty was ultimately applied.
Will McDonald’s move over to Rahal’s car? Rumor has it that the McDonald's sponsorship that the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing team had on the Sebastien Bourdais car could move over to the Graham Rahal car because we hear Rahal's sponsor, Medi | Zone, probably will not be back next year. If true this opens up the Bourdais seat for either Justin Wilson or Robert Doornbos. If you recall our previous rumor, Doornbos supporter Harry Muermans was keen on placing Doornbos in the departing Bourdais seat. Likewise, at one point in time CDW was interested in backing Wilson in the Bourdais seat, but we hear they, like Medi | Zone, probably are not returning in 2008. Medi | Zone, like Red Bull, hardly did any activation with their sponsorship this year so it does not surprise us if they join Red Bull and CDW making an exodus after the season is over. If these rumors are true, that would mean three less cars have sponsorship for 2008, making this coming off-season for Champ Car that much more challenging.
Bernie predicts Alonso sabbatical in 2008 (GMM) As far as the most powerful man in the paddock of Fuji Speedway knows, Fernando Alonso could be set to take a year off in 2008.
Speaking with British reporters at the scene of the Japanese grand prix, F1's chief executive Bernie Ecclestone says he has been "told" that Alonso might be heading to Ferrari, but only after his McLaren contract runs out.
"It would be terrible but there is nothing you can do about it," the 76-year-old said of the prospect of a multiple world champion on the sidelines.
"It might suit Ron (Dennis). Ron might say, 'I'll pay you but you can't drive for anyone else', like they do with the designers."
For the moment, it's all paddock chatter.
"He has no idea, nor has Ron. He's got a contract and if Ron wants him to stick to it he'll have to," the diminutive Briton said.
Ecclestone also predicted that the Spaniard's championship run-in with teammate Lewis Hamilton might be destined for a Senna-Prost-esque collision over the last three races.
"I'd love to see that," he mischievously confessed, adding that he reckons Alonso declared that sort of war two weeks ago at Spa.
"I think he tried to take him off. It looked like it, didn't it? In the old days they were a bit naughty but now it's much safer.
"Like the $100m fine, it would bring a lot of publicity and it'd be very dramatic. That would be great.
"Imagine if it happened on the last lap of the last race. The guy who was leading at the time, points-wise, would be the winner. So it would be a controversial end."
For what it's worth, Alonso played down the possibility of such a clash. "It will not happen," he confidently said.
Changes at Yates Yates Racing could move its two-car Nextel Cup operation next door to Roush Fenway Racing headquarters next season, team owner Doug Yates confirmed on Friday.
Yates said he is looking at moving to the building, which has recently housed the part-time No Fear Racing team that fields Fords for driver Boris Said. The building formerly housed the MB2 Motorsports Cup program.
“We’re looking at moving to Concord. We want to get closer to (Roush) so we can have better communication. We’re working with Boris and his guys about that possibility,” Yates said.
In addition, Yates said his top priority is to get his two Cup team up and running for 2008. So operating a Busch Series team might not be in the organization’s plans for next season. Robert Yates Racing currently fields a Busch team with driver Stephen Leicht.
“It’s not the No. 1 priority. If (the sponsor) would like to come back, maybe could run it. But the No. 1 deal is to get our Cup teams back and running where they need to be,” Doug Yates said. More at ThatsRacin.com
North Wilkesboro to be bought? This weekend 11 years ago, the NASCAR now Nextel Cup, next year Sprint Cup Winston Cup Series visited North Wilkesboro Speedway in North Carolina for the last time. The then 50-year-old track was sold to other racetrack owners, who mothballed the facility after the 1996 racing season. Time has stood still at North Wilkesboro Speedway since that chilly September day. Banners still hang and tables are still set, and the track office is still filled with old ticket stubs and brochures. It's like the world locked the door to the track behind them that evening, and tomorrow never came. But rebirth for the speedway could be right around the corner if a land developer gets his way. Worth Mitchell, 33, says he's got a plan in place to buy the track within six months. After talking quietly for seven months with the track's realtor, Andy Stancil, Mitchell stands ready to revive the 61-year-old track. "This isn't the biggest deal I've put together, but this is a lot more than a deal," Mitchell said. "This is about reviving a town." The small towns of Wilkesboro and North Wilkesboro lost millions of dollars to its local economy when the track closed. Since then, residents have watched many individuals and groups come in and try to reopen the racetrack, but none have been successful. But Mitchell has what the others didn't: money. "I know this track isn't going to be given away," Mitchell said of North Wilkesboro Speedway's $12 million price tag. "But it has all the potential in the world." Stancil says he's confident Mitchell can strike a deal with the track's owners, Bruton Smith and Bob Bahre. Smith and Bahre own several racetracks that NASCAR currently races on and bought North Wilkesboro Speedway in 1996 to take the track's dates away to bigger facilities - Texas Motor Speedway and New Hampshire International Speedway. The track went on the real estate market late last year. Mitchell says he's still looking for a few partners and ideas on what to do with the track. He said he would like to open up a neighboring hotel and retail center and host local concerts and festivals at the track as well as racing. Ocala Star-Banner
Hamilton nears $110m five-year McLaren dealUPDATE #2 (GMM) Lewis Hamilton's father-manager on Friday joined Norbert Haug in refusing to confirm rumors that the British rookie has successfully negotiated a hefty pay-rise for 2008.
"We are proud of this team. Our partnership stands on a very good and firm foundation," Anthony Hamilton said in the paddock of the Fuji Speedway.
"I am not going to say anything; not even if there was anything to say," he added.
It is interesting that the speculation of an amended, $110m contract through to 2012 has coincided with 22-year-old Hamilton's most outspoken comments of his maiden season in the sport.
After openly questioning the loyalty of teammate Fernando Alonso on Thursday, Hamilton left no doubt about whether or not he had been silenced overnight by his superiors when again surrounded by reporters on Friday afternoon.
Referring to his Woking based colleagues, and Alonso's recent on-track moves and behavior surrounding the spy saga, he said: "They've bent over backwards to make him feel comfortable.
"We've done that and then you saw what he did."
McLaren has stressed the importance of equality throughout the season, but 26-year-old Alonso must now be aware that any support from the occupant of the sister silver car has vanished.
"Winning a world championship is a job that is done by everybody, from the first to the last mechanic, not only here in the track but also in the factory," the Spaniard told reporters on Friday.
09/28/07 (GMM) Norbert Haug has refused to confirm reports that Lewis Hamilton has been offered a $110 million contract to stay at McLaren until the end of 2012.
"That is only speculation," Mercedes-Benz's competition director was quoted on Friday as telling the news agency 'sid' at Fuji.
Championship leader Hamilton's father Anthony also denied the story in Japan on Friday, confirming only that his son was already contracted for 2008 to the Woking based team.
Haug added: "Lewis is bound for the longer term, so there is no doubt whether he drives also next year for us."
09/27/07 (GMM) Lewis Hamilton is on the verge of signing a (US) $110 million deal to stay on at the McLaren team until the end of 2012.
The German newspaper Bild claims the contract, representing a mammoth pay-rise over his debut salary, is worth $17m every year plus - oddly for a McLaren contract - the ability for his father Anthony to negotiate separate marketing arrangements.
Mercedes-Benz's Norbert Haug confirmed: "We would like to cooperate with Lewis on a long-term basis. He is a great person and a great driver."
Hamilton's father said they are yet to sign the deal.
"Not yet," he said, then referring to the upcoming FIA inspections at Woking. "There are still things to go through, such as whether the team is definitely in formula one."
The news coincides with Hamilton telling reporters in the McLaren motor home that he has earned more respect from the team than his championship rival Fernando Alonso.
"And since what's gone on in the last few weeks they've realized who the real people are in the team and who they really should back," the Briton, 22, added.
"We arrived at Spa and he is sitting there laughing and joking. I don't understand it."
Hamilton confirmed suspicions that his relationship with the Spaniard is almost non-existent.
"He is not the person I imagined him to be," he said.
Rahal Letterman Racing layoffs?UPDATE #3 Patron has a contract with Rahal Letterman Racing for 2008 and has every intention of being with the team in 2008 with Scott Sharp. The question is whether it will be in the IRL or ALMS.
09/24/07 Official statement from the team confirming the layoffs: Officially, we are making changes to streamline our organization and to make it more efficient. This is something that we do at the end of every season, as a way of evaluating our personnel and our business to see how we can make improvements for the future. We will carry on with our IndyCar and sportscar programs in 2008 and beyond, and expect to continue building toward a bright future.
09/23/07 We are getting further reports that there were layoffs at Rahal Letterman Racing and that indeed the Patron sponsorship may be going elsewhere with Scott Sharp. The rumor is that a total of 12 people were let go.
09/21/07 Unconfirmed reports have the Rahal Letterman Racing Indy Car team laying off personnel for the off-season. With the IRL's long off-season it's hard for teams to justify keeping a full staff on board. Sponsor Patron was rumored to be departing along with Scott Sharp but we don't know if that is true. Attempts to contact the team have so far gone unanswered.
Villeneuve expected at UAW-Ford 500UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement.
09/28/07 Jacques Villeneuve is expected to make his NASCAR Nextel Cup debut at Talladega Superspeedway next weekend in the No. 27 Bill Davis Racing Toyota Camry.
The former Formula 1 and CART champ, will be one of three BDR entries in the UAW-Ford 500 on October 7. Slugger Labbe, who received his release from Ginn Racing last month, will serve as Villeneuve's crew chief. The race marks two milestones — the coming-out party for Villeneuve in the Cup, and the first Car of Tomorrow race on the 2.66-mile speedway (the biggest track to date for a COT race).
Villeneuve ran his first CTS race last Saturday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway. The 36-year-old native St. Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, qualified seventh and finished 21st. The "rookie" participated in a successful test with Cup regulars on Sept. 10-11 at Talladega. By running a significant number of laps competitively in the draft with Cup regulars along with his performance at Vegas, NASCAR deemed that Villeneuve was ready to roll next weekend. Cup Scene
Candy giant Mars near deal to move to GibbsUPDATE Look for this announcement to be made Wednesday, October 3rd in NY City.
09/20/07 Mars Inc., which has sponsored both Nextel Cup teams at Robert Yates Racing this season, is finalizing a deal to become the sponsor of driver Kyle Busch at Joe Gibbs Racing next season, The Charlotte Observer and ThatsRacin.com report. If the deal is completed as expected, the Mars' M&M's brand would sponsor Busch's No. 18 Toyotas next season, multiple sources said on Thursday. A formal announcement of the sponsorship change could come as early as the first week of October. Officials with JGR and Mars Inc. did not immediately return calls for comment on Thursday night. ThatsRacin.com
Mexico City race in trouble?UPDATE #2 Dear AutoRacing1.com, I want to make a couple of comments about your rumor “Mexico City race in trouble?”
I have been heavily involved directly with this race since 2003 and I have never seen the promoter work so close with Champ Car like they have done lately. We have had lots of good meetings the last couple of weeks and we have reached several agreements that will reflect positively in the event. For example, we have reached an agreement with TV Azteca for the last two races that most probably could be extended for next year. I had dinner last night with Federico Alaman from OCESA and top Executives from Azteca and they were excited about the kind of agreement they reached with Champ Car, so they will put everything within their reach to promote this race. Also it is important to say that Champ Car is working in conjunction with OCESA to put a heavy media campaign that includes newspaper ads, billboards, bus stops, radio and TV ads, promotional activities, etc. Last week Simon Pagenaud was here in Mexico for two days doing several interviews and appearances. This week we had Lauren Gardner doing an exclusive photo session with Maxim magazine (to be included in the November issue) as well as a media tour with the major media outlets in the country (including three TV appearances). Next week we will have several activities with Mario Dominguez and David Martinez and the week before Australia we are planning to have another driver’s visit. Yes, Telmex has said they are not sponsoring the race, but they also announced they are not sponsoring A1 neither, so the reason is NOT Champ Car, it is only that they are changing their strategy. On the other hand Tecate is sponsoring and promoting heavily the race. Mazda Mexico will be sponsoring Mario and Bridgestone, Mc Donald’s, Sherwin Williams, Banamex along with Mazda are supporting the race as well.
We had put together a complete PR/marketing/promotional plan that will include drivers’ visits, Face of Champ Car, the mobile marketing unit, press releases, press conferences, advertising campaigns, interviews, street parades, etc. that will make things come around.
The bottom line is that not because you heard/read something in esmas.com this means that that’s the actual situation down here. Estadio newspaper, Excelsior newspaper, Record newspaper, La Jornada newspaper, TV Azteca, Imagen Radio, Cadena 3, etc… they all have said/wrote good and positive things about the race. Jose Escamilla Joublanc, Hispanic PR Manager, CCWS
09/27/07 The future of the Champ Car World Series is at risk in Mexico City due to the lack of sponsor and fan support, reported Televisa Deportes via its internet outlet Esmas.com yesterday.
Champ Car will finish its season with El Gran Premio de Mexico on November 11th, but the race might not come back to Mexico City in 2008 because Telmex, its major sponsor, will withdraw its economic support after this year's season finale.
"They (Telmex) have changed their strategy this year. We still have the support of many other sponsors to make this event happen" ensured Federico Aleman, OCESA sports director (Mexico City race promoter).
"We want to keep it (the Gran Premio) for many years, but it does not depend solely on our company, it depends on many other things, such as the sponsors" he added.
In a press conference Wednesday with the Mexican media, where both Mexican drivers Mario Dominguez and David Martinez were on hand, along with series president Steve Johnson, and OCESA sports director Aleman, Johnson did not want to make any comment about the Champ Car World Series return to the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez in 2008, which has been hosting the Gran Premio since 2002.
With that said Telmex appears to have stepped up their sponsorship effort and we hear that Telmex will partially back Mario Dominguez the remainder of this year and all of next year, so if they did pull their sponsorship from the race they may have moved it over to back Dominguez. Kevin Kalkhoven was recently down in Mexico to salvage the race and as we understand it, he has. Banamex is still the presenting sponsor, but we don't see any signs that Roshfrans is still involved. Mazda has started promoting the race. Tickets go on sale next week for Banamex VISA card holders followed two weeks later by sales to the general public. Hector Serrano reporting from Mexico
09/18/07 Mexico City sports newspaper "The Record" had an interview with Federico Alaman today, who is the person responsible at OCESA/CIE for the sports events promotion and organization activities. He says in the interview that things are looking bad for Champ Car in Mexico and the November 11th race will have its worst attendance in history. The Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez will open only 5 grandstands for the event - the ones in front of pit lane, the miniscule one at the Peraltada and the one above the pits. With this plus general admission they hope to get 50,000 fans per day, which of course won't happen on Friday for sure. He blames the lack of a full-time Mexican driver in the series and the fact the races are not broadcast on TV in Mexico. This event has gone from being the largest Champ Car ever had, with over 200,000 on race day alone, to now a former shadow of itself.
We predicted Champ Car's demise in Mexico years ago when 1) There was no full-time Mexican driver in the series, 2) no live TV in Mexico, and 3) When NASCAR was allowed in. First the Monterrey race got axed and the way the Mexico City one is going Champ Car may soon find itself out of business in Mexico altogether due to sheer neglect.
Wurz heads for new F1 role in 2008? (GMM) According to the latest paddock murmur, Alex Wurz might be staying at Williams next year -- but perhaps not as a driver.
After getting comprehensively outpaced by teammate Nico Rosberg this season, the Austrian driver is out of contract and not really a feature of the silly-season.
Wurz, 33, also revealed recently that he had reached some sort of "agreement" with Sir Frank Williams not to give any hints about their plans for next year.
It sparked rumors that Wurz, who raced for three seasons until 2000 and then spent six years as a full time McLaren and Williams test driver, could still be in the paddock next year but in a very different role.
"You are mentioning things that for the moment are not up for discussion," Wurz, renowned as a highly intelligent, analytical and technically-minded driver, told the Austrian publication Ö3.
"Frank and I have agreed not to speak about my future. We are talking, including about what might happen in the future, but I do not want to talk about it (with the press)," he added.
Revealingly, however, Wurz hinted that his future "has nothing to do" with the Fernando Alonso factor -- a statement that any other driver on the market would be unlikely to repeat at present.
"It is about team-internal things, which are to be discussed between Frank and myself, but I do not want to go into too much detail.
"I am not having fun making your readers wait; it is not tactics or anything but just an agreement that I respect, because Frank is my boss and he wants it like that."
Haas CNC team looking at options Haas CNC Racing could be the next Nextel Cup Series team looking to make a driver change for the 2008 season.
Haas has yet to exercise the one-year option on the contract for Jeff Green, who drives the organization's No. 66 Chevrolet, and the team has been exploring other driver possibilities, multiple sources confirmed on Wednesday.
One possible target is Scott Riggs, who has yet to solidify his future with Gillett Evernham Motorsports for next season. Riggs could not be reached for comment on Wednesday.
Reached by phone, Joe Custer, general manager for Haas CNC Racing, said no decisions have been made regarding Green's future with the team.
"I'm not going to say we haven't been looking around because we have. Everybody does," Custer said. "You need to make the best possible decisions for your team and your sponsors." Scenedaily.com
Todt Snr, Jnr and Massa to Toyota? (GMM) Rumors linking Felipe Massa to Toyota for 2008 took a fresh twist on Thursday in Japan.
While the Brazilian driver denied visiting the motor home of the Japanese team in Belgium, and any knowledge of his manager's visit, it is suggested that Nicolas Todt's mission may have been wider than simply lining up a new drive for his Brazilian charge.
Citing Italian sources, the Cologne publication Express claims that Massa's manager may have been operating on behalf of his father; Ferrari principal Jean Todt.
It is speculated that Todt has fallen out with Ferrari president Luca di Montezemolo, including over the latter's desire to pair Fernando Alonso alongside Kimi Raikkonen next season.
Todt Snr, Jnr and Massa, therefore, might be eyeing Toyota for refuge.
Massa, though, bluntly rubbished suggestions that he is switching to Toyota when speaking to reporters at Fuji.
"I am really happy in Ferrari and I would like to finish my career in Ferrari," he said.
Massa, however, confirmed reports that he may now play a supporting role at Ferrari so that Raikkonen has the best possible chance to win the drivers' title.
"I don't have any problem to help the team if I have no chance," he said.
"But at the moment, I still have a chance of taking the title."
Busch close to completing sponsorship deal Mars U.S. was finalizing a deal Thursday to use its M&M's brand to sponsor Kyle Busch when he moves to Joe Gibbs Racing next season.
M&M's would replace Interstate Batteries, which has sponsored Gibbs' flagship No. 18 since its 1992 inception.
J.D. Gibbs, president of the race team, didn't respond to a request for comment. But two people familiar with the negotiations told the Associated Press that Mars was working on a deal to sponsor Busch that will be officially announced next month at M&M's World in New York City. They requested anonymity because the deal was not yet complete.
The sponsorship would be a financial upgrade at JGR, which first partnered with Interstate 16 years ago. Interstate chairman Norm Miller is a close friend of Gibbs', and Miller funded the No. 18 to help Gibbs launch what was then a single-car team. Bobby Labonte drove the car to a Cup championship in 2000.
But JGR rapidly expanded into a three-car operation, and Interstate could not financially compete with the big budgets of new Gibbs sponsors Home Depot and FedEx. But Gibbs continued to work with the company out of loyalty, even as Interstate began selling off races to other sponsors.
When the team signed Busch in August, Miller attended the announcement and said he was prepared to sponsor the car in 2008.
"We're on the contract for '08, but we are also open to develop some type of partnership," he said. "We're hoping to get the best we can out of it all, and come up with a good partner. But if push comes to shove, we'd be delighted to ride with Kyle here through the whole season.
"Cards are kind of up in the air right now. They're going to settle down here hopefully like within a month that we'll know exactly where we stand." More at CBS Sportsline
Massa made Ferrari 'number 2' - report (GMM) Felipe Massa has been assigned 'number two' status as Ferrari bids to win the 2007 drivers' title with his teammate Kimi Raikkonen, according to reports.
With Ferrari now guaranteed the constructors' title, Sport Bild journalist Ralf Bach claims that the Japanese grand prix this weekend will be the first time in 2007 in which the Finn, seven points ahead of Massa in the championship but 13 points behind the leader, is to be given preferential treatment by the Maranello based team.
Michael Schumacher traditionally enjoyed number one status at Ferrari, but the Italian team reverted to equality with its new driver pairing this year.
David Coulthard, who in the late 90s supported his McLaren teammate Mika Hakkinen at the crescendo of his titles, explained that Massa's new role will begin as early as Friday practice at Fuji.
"Only one driver can receive the best strategy for the race," he is quoted as saying by Sport Bild, "and it is obvious that the one who gets it is the one who has the best chance to win the championship."
Brazilian Massa, 26, has not specifically confirmed his new lesser status for the last races of 2007, but earlier this week he emphasized the importance of working towards the best team result.
"As usual I will do my best to do the better result for the team," he said.
"At Ferrari, our main priority is the interest of the team. However, there is a lot to do, but you never know what might happen."
McLaren-Mercedes, on the other hand, has reaffirmed its policy of driver equality ahead of the fifteenth race of the season.
Amid rumors that Fernando Alonso, almost certain to leave McLaren at the end of the year, may be given sub-standard support from now on, Mercedes' competition director Norbert Haug told Auto Motor und Sport: "Fernando has never experienced anything other than absolute equal treatment this year."
Bud Shootout up in air The future of the Budweiser Shootout after the 2008 season has yet to be determined with Tuesday's announcement that Coors Light will be the new official beer of NASCAR.
The Shootout, a season-opening, non-points event between the previous year's pole winners and past champions at Daytona International Speedway, will be run in 2008 under the Budweiser name.
After that it will be up to International Speedway Corporation whether to continue the race with Coors Light or another sponsor.
"Our agreement does not include the Shootout," said Andrew Giangola, the director of business communications for NASCAR. "That is a separate entitlement with ISC."
ISC spokesperson Lenny Santiago doesn't expect the Shootout to go away, but he said it's too early to determine sponsorship.
Although Budweiser is the official beer of Daytona International Speedway, Santiago did not rule out an agreement for Coors Light to sponsor the race.
"This sport is laden with sponsors in the same category," he said. "Pepsi has a sponsorship with Jeff Gordon running in the Coca-Cola 600. There's always conflicts and a way to work around that. At this point we just have to see where this lead.
"The race has become a staple of the season and I would suspect that race would go on, but it's too early to speculate on what might happen." More at ESPN.com
Will Denver return?UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. We have learned that the debris fence and cable was recently sold to Brainerd International Raceway in MN, the bridges are being sold and someone is interested in the barriers walls...the promoter is bankrupt and closed. We're pretty sure if Champ Car was thinking about bring it back themselves they wouldn’t be selling off the assets.
09/26/07 A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1.com, When the Denver race was cancelled Champ Car said it was for one year and that they might be back. Might it return for 2008? Don Westphall
Dear Don, Yes, it might, we stress the word might. The Democratic National Convention interferes with the only weekend date available (ie Auraria Campus restriction) for 2008 and thus there will be little likelihood on the race being staged in 08… earliest would be 09. We hear there is talk about it in Denver, but we'll have to wait and see if there is any credence to it. Our inside sources in Denver tell us that preliminary engineering work is secretly being done for a NASCAR track outside of Denver, so you know ISC will do whatever lobbying it can to kill off Champ Car's efforts in Denver should they get approval to build a track. Mark C.
End is near for GP Masters series Delta Special Projects, the Silverstone-based company which supplies the chassis for the Grand Prix Masters series is seeking a winding up order against the organizers for non-payment of invoices. The petition will be heard at the Royal Courts of Justice in London on November 28. The Grand Prix Masters series in which ex-Formula 1 drivers raced against each other in identical chassis powered by identical engines started in 2005. To date only three races have taken place, the last in August 2006. Grandprix.com
Could Rosberg replace Alonso or Ralf?UPDATE #4 (GMM) Rumors that Nico Rosberg could be set to leave Williams at the end of the year gained new momentum in recent days.
It had been reported that the impressive German 22-year-old, who is believed to be under contract to his current Grove based employer also for next year, had been spotted at Toyota's formula one factory in Cologne.
But 'Motorsport Aktuell' insists that Rosberg's visit to Williams' engine supplier was innocent enough.
Rosberg had reportedly been invited to Cologne to give his opinion about the Japanese manufacturer's V8 engine.
Alex Wurz has gone to Cologne for a similar meeting, the Swiss publication added.
Rosberg, meanwhile, travelled to Tokyo this week -- but not for more Toyota meetings. He simply had a raft of sponsor commitments, and wanted to adjust to the Japanese time zone ahead of the grand prix at Fuji.
Teammate Wurz's trip to Japan this year will be stressful for another reason.
"My wife Julia is expecting our third son and he's scheduled to arrive in the days between Japan and China," the Austrian revealed.
"So naturally I'm leaving home with a bit of an uncomfortable feeling."
09/15/07 Nico Rosberg has ruled out the possibility of joining McLaren next season in the event that Fernando Alonso parts company with the team. Speaking to ITV Sport's James Allen, Rosberg insisted that he was committed to Williams for next season.
When asking directly if that meant he was ruling himself out of contention for a potential McLaren seat, Rosberg replied: "I am".
He added that he is extremely pleased with how his season with Williams has gone, and feels that the team is still gaining ground.
"As a team we have made a step forward," Rosberg said.
"The last few races have been a lot better.
"This has been a very positive year for me." More ...
Why Interstate reducing NASCAR involvement According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Interstate Battery sent a memo to all their distributers today telling them that Interstate will be on the Joe Gibbs Racing car for 6 races and M&Ms on for the rest in 2008. Interstate will be the "official battery of Joe Gibbs Racing" and will have NFL ties. They cited a decline in TV ratings for NASCAR as a key driver.
Toronto race to lose title sponsorUPDATE #2 This is a year-old rumor so do not read too much into its title. Recall that last August we said Coors would be dropping sponsorship of the Toronto race and moving the money to NASCAR. Today they announced they would become the official beer of NASCAR in a 5-year $20M deal. Steelback did step up to sponsor the Toronto Champ Car race this year and did an excellent job with it.
09/07/06 This rumor, first reported by AutoRacing1.com, is upgraded to 'fact' today. "The Molson Grand Prix of Toronto is no more. The race will live on, but under a new name with Molson opting not to renew its title sponsorship of the Champ Car race in 2007, though it remains the beer sponsor for the event.
“For the first time in 21 years it won’t be the Molson Grand Prix of Toronto, it will be the ‘XYZ’ Grand Prix of Toronto,” confirmed Charlie Johnstone, president and CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Toronto, which manages the event.
From its inception in 1986 through to 2005 the race was owned by Molson Sports and Entertainment and called the Molson Indy. Molson sold the race to the Champ Car in 2005 but stayed on as title sponsor for the renamed Molson Grand Prix of Toronto in 2006.
Johnstone said the association has been considering the possibility Molson may pull out for months, but just received official word last week.
And while he would not provide a specific reason for the decision, he said it was a strategic move on Molson’s part that had nothing to do with the health of the event. Last November Molson Canada also dropped its title sponsorship of the Champ Car race in Montreal..." Marketing Magazine
[Editor's Note: As we predicted when NASCAR opened an office in Canada, and in Mexico, while Champ Car tried to manage those markets from thousands of miles away, NASCAR would ultimately pluck the Champ Car paddock dry of all Mexican and Canadian sponsorship. That prediction is coming true, one sponsor at a time. The exodus is nearly complete. The same source who told us Molson would drop the Toronto event, told us that Molson would likely pick up the Montreal NASCAR event. Just as NASCAR took over the USA market, they also aim to take over the Canadian and Mexico markets.]
08/27/06 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Molson will not be back as the title sponsor of the Champ Car race in Toronto next year, and instead will probably just be the "Official Beer" of the race. We hear Molson-Coors will sponsor the NASCAR Bush race in Montreal under the Coors name......so now you know where the Champ Car Molson money is going.....and the open wheel split continues.
Villeneuve bought his NASCAR ride We have it on good authority that Jacques Villeneuve paid for his NASCAR truck drive from his own pocket! That explains his all-white driver's uniform with not a single sponsor on it.
In return he gets a cut of the race winnings. He thinks in the long run his investment will pay off. He also gets the NASCAR TV announcers, as they do with all the NASCAR drivers, gushing praise all over them to make them into "heroes." This is one of just many ways NASCAR builds their brand on the backs of the "heroes" they make.
Jimmy Spencer, analyst on NASCAR RaceDay “We’ve got to look at Jacques Villeneuve’s record - he was the 1995 Indy 500 winner, he won a CART championship, 11 Formula One wins and a Formula One championship. That’s way past Juan Pablo Montoya. Jacques Villeneuve will make it. Is he with the right team? I don’t know - time will tell. The bottom line is Jacques Villeneuve will be a factor in this sport. It may not be at Bill Davis Racing but let’s not give up on Tommy Baldwin and those guys at Bill Davis yet.”
Kenny Wallace, analyst on NASCAR RaceDay “Jacques Villeneuve is too big of a name for anybody to give up on him. We admire him. There was pandemonium over Juan Pablo Montoya coming over here. One thing I need to draw a point to - all of Bill Davis Racing’s cars are outside the top 35. Dave Blaney missed this race (Dover Cup race). What I’m worried about is Villeneuve actually having a performance in the Daytona 500. Will he make the Daytona 500 and how hard will it be on him?”
Coors Light to become the official beer of NASCAR Coors Light will announce Tuesday a $20 million deal over five years to become the official beer of NASCAR starting in January. Coors replaces Anheuser-Busch as the official beer sponsor. The new deal includes renaming the pole award to the Coors Light Pole Award from the Bud Pole Award.
For Coors, the NASCAR deal also replaces its sponsorship of the No. 40 Dodge in the top-tier Nextel Cup Series.
"Our deal was up with those guys and this opportunity came up," says Andy England, chief marketer for Coors. "It feels like we are elevating our game." ESPN.com
Penske to Grand-Am?UPDATE Rumors circulated during Grand-Am's season finale at Miller Motorsports Park that Penske Racing would field a Daytona Prototype in the 2008 24 Hours of Daytona. However, team president Tim Cindric said Penske's sports car program has considered entering Grand Am's 24 Hours of Daytona event for "about the last three years or so" without doing so, and he isn't sure anything will change.
The reason: Mostly time.
"My focus is this third Cup team (for Sam Hornish Jr.)," he said. "And then, depending on what Sam does, I have to get an Indy-car program sorted out." AutoWeek
09/16/07 Rumors at Miller Motorsports Park are that Penske Racing could field a Daytona Prototype at the Rolex 24 next year. We doubt. Porsche would not want to see Penske's ALMS effort diluted.
NASCAR may change age rules There are also reports that NASCAR is considering changing its minimum age rules for Busch drivers next season, which would allow Joey Logano to step up to that tour. Logano, who doesn’t turn 18 (the current NASCAR minimum) until next May, just won the Busch East championship on Friday. Logano will to drive for Joe Gibbs’ Busch team as soon as NASCAR gives him the OK. Winston Salem Journal
Hinchcliffe eyes Champ Car In a radio interview with Norris McDonald of Racing Radio in Canada, Champ Car Atlantic driver James Hinchcliffe says he is talking to Forsythe Championship Racing about a possible Champ Car ride in 2008. Like always, it comes down to money.
Red Bull eyes Stewart All may not be rosy behind the scenes at Joe Gibbs Racing with driver Tony Stewart.
Gibbs announced two weeks ago that the organization would switch manufacturers in 2008 abandoning General Motors in favor of Toyota.
And while driver Tony Stewart smiled publicly and seemed to support the decision there is some speculation that away from the public eye, General Motors may be making moves to keep Stewart in their fold.
Stewart’s contact with Gibbs expires in 2009, and Stewart was been working on a contract extension until the Chase began. He now says he won’t work on the deal after the season.
Dietrich Mateschitz, owner of Team Red Bull, could be making a bid to sign Stewart to their team when the season ends. And despite public denials, Team Red Bull will swap their Toyotas for Chevys with a big check from Detroit and Red Bull as an incentive in order to keep Stewart as a member of the Bow Tie brigade. Cup Scene
Mario might race again Speaking of the 24 Hours of LeMans, Mario Andretti, 67, said in his introductory press conference at Miller Motorsports Park last weekend where he was Grand Marshal, that he would still like to compete in the famed endurance race one more time. He said he would like to team with his son, Michael Andretti, and his grandson, Marco Andretti, in the race next year.
"I have been trying to get that done for quite some time, and I am not getting any younger," he said. "The biggest problem I have is convincing Michael. He thinks that I am too old and he thinks that he might have to do all the work for me.
"It's [being discussed], I just have to get Michael to agree to it. He's my biggest problem right now." Salt Lake Tribune
McLaren expected to not appeal verdictUPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today because McLaren chose not to appeal before yesterday's 4 PM deadline.
09/20/07 Lewis Hamilton's McLaren team are expected to let Friday's 4pm deadline pass without appealing against their punishment in the Formula One spying scandal.
The Woking-based team were last week fined a record $100million (£50m) and disqualified from the constructors' championship for using technical secrets from rivals Ferrari.
But McLaren boss Ron Dennis will almost certainly opt for "closure", claiming that accepting the World Motor Sport Council's decision best serves the interests of the sport.
In truth, he knows that an appeal would also expose McLaren to the possibility of further penalties — including the expulsion of leader Hamilton and his disgruntled team-mate Fernando Alonso. DailyMail.com
Red Bull to dump Toyota?UPDATE #2 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. Despite speculation suggesting a switch to Chevrolet to boost its Cup performance, Team Red Bull reiterated its commitment to Toyota. "The rumor keeps coming up, but we are staying with Toyota," Team Red Bull vice president of competition Guenther Steiner said Friday. "We don't want to want leave Toyota, we want to stay with them and I hope I have to say it for the last time now."
09/21/07 NASCAR's Red Bull team could be leaving Toyota for Chevrolet as company czar Dietrich Mateschitz has been unhappy with the manufacturer's performance this season. A.J. Allmendinger, the former Champ Car World Series driver, and Brian Vickers are not the problem, according to Mateschitz. Indy Star
09/18/07 As the NASCAR Nextel Cup Chase for the Championship moves to the Monster Mile at Dover International Speedway Sunday there are negotiations taking place that seem to have slipped under the radar of most garage watchers.
Sun Media has been told that Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz has been in discussions to switch manufacturers from Toyota next year.
Those in the know say that Mateschitz has been deeply disappointed about the results of both the No. 83 and No. 84 Red Bull Toyotas in the team's inaugural Cup season.
And he is not pointing the finger at either A.J. Allmendinger or Brian Vickers.
The general feeling among team members is that Toyota has not stepped up with the kind of technological and engineering support that the team expected when it signed on with the Japanese auto giant.
After a 33rd-place finish at New Hampshire International Speedway on Sunday, AJ Allmendinger expressed his frustration at the team's progress in the Toyotas.
"We have to get better. That is all there is to it," he said. "It is not fair to (the team) -- they work their butts off day in and day out. I am frustrated that I could not give them a better finish than where we ended up. The only positive thing I can take away from the day is that we finished the race."
With Chevrolet losing Joe Gibbs Racing to Toyota next year, there certainly is room for Red Bull to fill that void in the Bow Tie brigade. Edmonton Sun
Kalkhoven eyes Fisher Was that Champ Car owner Kevin Kalkhoven chumming up to IRL driver Sarah Fisher at the recent Indy Car awards banquet? Not quite but we had to do a double take at first. Must have been Kalkhoven's twin brother who fills in for him at Tony George meetings.
Champ Car, IRL to follow NASCAR’s leadUPDATE #2 Announced by the IRL - Each IndyCar Series event will be televised nationally in high definition by ESPN, ESPN2 or ABC starting in 2008. Will Champ Car be the only remaining racing series not broadcasting in high-definition? Perhaps not say the rumors.
07/27/07 We hear that there is more to the possibility that Champ Car and the IRL will move to high-definition broadcasts next year than just speculation. It costs more money so that is always the issue, but it is being looked at we hear. Can either series afford not to do it given the proliferation of High Definition availability as well as consumers now buying high-def sets at an increasing pace. Very few people are still buying sets that are not high-def..
07/24/07 According to this USA Today article, and based on what we see happening in the marketplace, this is the breakout year of High Definition TV. Over the next 12 months most popular channels will be broadcast in high-definition and cable TV (Comcast, Cablevision, Time Warner, etc), Satellite (DirecTV, Dish) and fiber optic (Verizon FIOS) will be doubling and tripling the number of high definition channels they offer. Champ Car and the IRL must follow NASCAR's lead and switch to high-definition production and broadcasts in 2008 because the current picture quality compared to NASCAR pales in comparison and how do you convince a sponsor to put their name on the sidepods of a car if the TV viewer can seldom read it?
Waltrip's Toyota team could fold Michael Waltrip Motorsports figures to pay big for its struggles this season. Already, it appears two primary sponsors on the team's No. 00 car of David Reutimann (Burger King and Domino's Pizza) will not return in 2008. Indy Star
Champ Car team to splitUPDATE #6 Our integrity has been questioned regarding whether our report of the Hustler Strip Club sponsorship decals on the No. 8 Champ Car prior to being shipped to Europe was true. Let's just say we bit our tongue long enough. To throw some cold water on all those naysayers, here you go, in living color on the No. 8 car. Notice how the car was wrapped in a tarp so the livery wasn't visible until our agent uncovered it. [Note: Photo pulled at the request of Champ Car, we assume to avoid further embarrassment to the series.]
08/27/07 Correction: CDW is not in competition with Trust. Trust, a Dutch firm, makes computers and accessories and CDW sells such equipment so in fact there may be some synergy between the two companies should Trust choose to sell through CDW at some point in time.
08/25/07 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, What was the other company that was going to sponsor the #8 car that was in competition with CDW and hence caused the split in the team? Dan Parker
Dear Dan, The split between the two teams came about because the #8 car was loaded onto the plane in Indy to come to Europe with decals on the sidepods for Larry Flynt's Hustler Clubs. When Gerry Forsythe found out he met with Paul Gentilozzi this past Tuesday and told him he couldn't run with sponsorship from the Hustler Clubs, it wouldn't fly with normal sponsors like McDonald's and CDW, which is similar to why the AVN sponsored car was squashed despite AVN's press release. Hence the car is devoid of any sponsorship here in Europe. The #8 car was running the Wal-Mart Canada logo (even after the three Canadian races) in violation of US Wal-Mart rules so they too had to be removed from the car. There wasn't anymore money behind it anyway. So even though the teams are operating as two entities now, the #8 car still cannot just put any sponsor they want on the car. Mark C.
08/24/07 This Hot News item explains the relationship between Rocketsports and RuSPORT going forward. The split had to do with a sponsor conflict Rocketsports was pursuing that competed with CDW.
08/23/07 Hearing now that the split may only be temporary, Apparently there was a sponsor conflict then the deal didn't happen. The wheels were in motion and it died yesterday so the team may be back together by Assen. Very confusing we must say.
08/22/07 We hear that RuSPORT will keep that name, even though the Ru in the name was for the previous team owner Carl Russo.
08/22/07 According to AutoRacing1.com sources the RuSPORT and Rocketsports Champ Car teams that merged earlier this year under the RSPORTS moniker, will go back to being individual teams. We assume Rocketsports will assume their old name, but will RuSPORT become PSPORT, the P being for Dan Pettit?
Rodriguez-Spyker deal to be revealedUPDATE #2 This rumor is now 'fact' with today's announcement.
09/19/07 This deal will be announced Thursday September 20th we are told. A photo of Rodriguez is shown right.
The highest ranking Spanish motor racing official has added credence to rumors that another countryman is set to join the formula one grid in 2008.
It was reported earlier this week that 22-year-old GP2 driver Roldan Rodriguez, apparently with $15m in sponsor backing in tow, would shortly be unveiled as a Spyker racer for next year.
In an interview with the newspaper Diario As, Carlos Gracia - the Spanish motor racing federation president, and an FIA vice-president - confirmed: "Roldan Rodriguez will surely be announced as a driver for Spyker.
"The negotiations are going very well indeed, and it will be good news for Spanish motor sport."
09/18/07 (GMM) Roldan Rodriguez will in the coming days be unveiled as a Spyker racer for the 2008 season, according to reports.
The Spanish newspaper Diario As says the 22-year-old GP2 driver, who last week tested the Dutch team's single seater for the first time, has essentially reached a deal to debut in the category next year.
His appointment, thought to include a $15 million private sponsorship bounty, could be unveiled as early as Wednesday or Thursday in Madrid, it is believed.
Rodriguez's teammate next year could be Spyker incumbent Adrian Sutil, who is under contract, but 'As' said the talented German is being linked with moves to Williams or Toyota.
The newspaper said Pedro de la Rosa is another Spaniard that might be racing in formula one next year, but that prospective employer Prodrive is still waiting for the financial terms of the 2008 Concorde Agreement to be settled before even committing to 2008.
Will Power eyes NASCAR In an Australia newspaper Australian Champ Car driver Will Power said he could follow Marcus Ambrose into NASCAR. "NASCAR is huge, it's bigger than F1," Power said at Sandown Raceway. "After I have a shot at the Champ Car championship I definitely want to have a go at NASCAR." [Editor's Note: Power has been drinking too much of the sponsor's wine if he thinks NASCAR is bigger than F1. With Aussie Vineyards in NASCAR you can bet they will be the ones calling the shots where Power races.]
More evidence Alonso will leave McLaren (GMM) Reports that Fernando Alonso could be heading back to Renault next year have gathered even more pace.
Bob McKenzie, the formula one correspondent for British newspaper Daily Express, claims that the French team's boss Flavio Briatore "has asked his main sponsor ING for a few more millions" to help bring back the Spaniard following an unhappy single season at McLaren.
Dutch sponsor ING's current Renault deal is reputedly worth about (US) $30 million a year.
McKenzie asserts that the value of ING's required increase to accommodate Alonso in 2008 could be $10m.
The likelihood that the 26-year-old will leave McLaren at the end of the year, despite a solid contract for 2008, had increased yet more on Wednesday with the publication of the World Motor Sport Council transcripts.
McLaren boss Ron Dennis told the Paris hearing less than a week ago that he had not even shared a single word with the reigning world champion since early August.
"The relationship between Fernando and myself is extremely cold. That is an understatement," he added.
Corvette SS rumors Here are the latest rumors on the now 650 HP Corvette SS (called the Blue Devil previously) (Photos).
The motor is a 6.2L supercharged V8. It's called LS9 and it is an all-new engine. The decision to make the motor supercharged rather than turbocharged was made at least two years ago. We hear that Behr will make the supercharger. The supercharger will utilize an intercooler that is integrated into the intake manifold. While the motor is making significantly more than 650hp on a test stand, we hear to look for it to be rated very close to, if not at, 650hp.
The brake rotors are ceramic
The program code is GMX245 SSC.
The body will have significant use of carbon fiber (CF) as well as some polycarbonate. As for CF use, expect at least the hood, roof, fenders and rockers to be CF.
The start of production has slipped to July 2008.
Expect this car to debut at NAIAS 2008. There is only one auto show GM would debut a car like this at, and it is Detroit.
The next generation Corvette, the C7, is slated to be in production in July 2010 and it probably will not be mid-engine as some have reported. The C7 Z06 will go into production sometime in 2011.
Japanese investor saves Super AguriUPDATE #3 Dutch billionaire Marcel Boekhoorn, who we mention below, is pictured right...in case he becomes a partner in the team.
09/15/07 (GMM) Aguri Suzuki has sold a stake of his formula one team to a mystery backer.
The Japanese started searching for an investor when major backer SS United failed to make due payments in 2007.
The Austrian newspaper Salzburger Nachrichten said a powerful Japanese businessman has plugged the budget hole, therefore securing the future of Leafield based Super Aguri.
The new investor is set to be announced officially at Suzuki's home race at Fuji in two weeks.
"I am also negotiating with another partner, Suzuki is quoted as saying, "because it is not necessary that I keep 100 per cent of the team in my name.
"The danger never existed that we would have to stop this year, but now we have been saved for the future," the Japanese added.
It is rumoured that the other possible Super Aguri investors are Tony Teixiera, an unnamed Dutch billionaire, and Spanish businessman Alejandro Agag.
Suzuki also revealed that he has not yet decided whether to run a customer car next year or built a bespoke Super Aguri.
"A customer car is not so attractive," he said, "because of the distribution of the TV funds. On the other hand it costs $200m and 200 men to make your own.
"We will weigh up our interests with our partner."
09/15/07 Sources in the Formula 1 paddock say that there are four bidders for shares in Super Aguri F1. These are believed to be the South African wheeler-dealer Tony Teixeira; Dutch billionaire Marcel Boekhoorn; Spain's Alejandro Agag and a fourth mysterious buyer who is believed to be from Asia. Grandprix.com
09/12/07 The Italian Grand Prix was a busy affair with a lot happening in the Formula 1 paddock. One man who slipped under the radar was Tony Teixeira (pictured right), who was to be seen walking the grid with Mr. E on Sunday. Teixeira is best known in motor racing circles for being one of the founders of the A1GP Series. He is still involved but has sold a large chunk of the business to the RAB Capital hedge fund for a considerable sum of money. Teixeira is now talking about buying a Formula 1 team and Bernie is only too keen to have in the business. A1GP is not much of a threat in the overall scheme of things but it is nonetheless competition of sorts in some of F1's newer markets. Getting Teixeira into F1 will give him less incentive to work on A1GP - and perhaps convince him that the concept is flawed, as many in F1 believe. Teixeira is a very wealthy man having made his money in the rough and tumble world of natural resources in Africa, where his name is known across the continent. The word is that Teixeira was hoping to buy his way into Spyker F1 but was beaten to it by Vijay Mallya and so he is now looking at Prodrive and at Super Aguri F1, both of which are looking for backers.
Having Teixeira on board may also help Formula 1 to find a way into the African market. He comes from South Africa (although he is Portuguese by descent) and it may be that having a South African-owned team would make life easier with a race in either Cape Town or Durban. A1GP has used a street track in Durban and held its first race there in January 2006. The tight twisting circuit is two miles in length and runs along Snell Parade, next to the sea, before ducking and weaving through the downtown area before returning by way of the Suncoast Casino to Snell Parade. A1GP erected grandstands which had a capacity of 22,000 and sold an additional 80,000 tickets. Grandprix.com
Luca Filippi signs for Ferrari? Our spies in Italy are telling us that 22-year-old Luca Filippi has been signed up as a Ferrari test driver for 2008. It is expected that he will also compete in the GP2 Series with Nicolas Todt's ART Grand Prix team and be managed by Todt Jr. It is anticipated that Luca Badoer will remain as the team's number one test driver. Grandprix.com
Gillett Evernham considering merger with PettysUPDATE George Gillett Jr., the majority owner of Gillett Evernham Motorsports, has been a big fan of seven-time NASCAR Cup champion Richard Petty for more than 30 years. Now he wants to be business partners. Gillett is actively pursuing a merger that would make Petty Enterprises and GEM a four-car team. Sources close to the situation say the merger likely would happen before the start of the 2008 Sprint Cup season, with Petty likely moving his two-car operation of Bobby Labonte and Kyle Petty to GEM's Statesville, NC facility. Gillett would only confirm that there have been discussions.
"He's a man of great integrity, honesty," Gillett said of Petty. "His values are something like I've never seen. ... I'd love to figure out a way to be associated with him. I'm not prepared to say any more than that today. Richard and I are good friends." GEM minority owner Ray Evernham said such a deal would make both organizations stronger. "From my point of view, I would like to see that happen," Evernham said of the merger. "For me, the sooner the better." Evernham has been looking to expand to four teams. The difference here, he said, is he would have four good teams that are solidly in the top 35 for next season. Gillett said expansion is the only way to keep up, and not just in terms of teams. He is looking to build a large shop in the Charlotte area that will become a destination for racing fans.
"Ray Evernham has every bit of technical skill and genius as the best of any one of those programs," he said of Evernham, who won three Cup titles as Gordon's crew chief. "So we will deploy ourselves in a way that gives us as much competitive strength as is possible to do within the rules." More ...
Champ Car going global (update) As a follow-up to a previous rumor, word is that in coming years Champ Car will reduce the number of USA race to as little as 4 to 6 as it looks to diversify its portfolio of races by becoming more of a global series. The series will still be predominantly North American based with about 50% of its events on this continent.
Three USA races could eventually be axed to make way for more overseas races in Europe (4), the Middle East (1), Asia (2), and possibly even South Africa (1) where the thirst for open wheel racing hasn't been smothered by NASCAR. If true the challenge ahead for Champ Car will be to land sponsors looking for a global platform, to market the series as a global product and to have a TV package that reaches many more countries than it does today. A1GP has tried this strategy and failed miserably, reportedly losing as much as $200M per year.
Canadian GP in jeopardy? Talking to a Canadian motorsports insider at NHIS, we got the impression that even the Canadian GP in ‘08 could also be scratched because of the expenses associated with bringing Bernie’s Circus to North America is very expensive. When the USGP and the Canadian GP were a week apart it worked out good for the series. That was the hot rumor making the rounds in Toronto recently.
If that’s so then it would be another opportunity to move another high profile event into the road course adjacent to the Lotto Quebec Casino. How about a Champ Car/IRL doubleheader! Motorsportnews.net
Honda 'sabotaged' Super Aguri at Spa (GMM) Honda "sabotaged" satellite operation Super Aguri's Belgian grand prix in a bid to save the works team from further embarrassment, according to rumors after the Spa Francorchamps event.
The website of American broadcaster Speed TV cited "sources close to" the Leafield based team as accusing its engine and chassis supplier of not allowing Super Aguri to use a wing that it tested successfully at the Spa test in July.
Anthony Davidson and Takuma Sato were subsequently offered less effective options, including a Barcelona-spec wing, whereafter Davidson said his car was "undriveable".
After Sato and Davidson qualified 19th and 21st, the team's sporting director Graham Taylor said: "We are in the position our opposition has wanted for a long time now. They've expected us to be at this level and, sportingly, we have succumbed to their behest."
In the end, Honda's works team fared little better, however, and remain two points behind the satellite squad run by former Japanese driver Aguri Suzuki.
It is also rumored that flagging support for Super Aguri from Tokyo has forced Suzuki to sell a considerable portion of his team to an unnamed Japanese businessman.
Lawyers start work on Alonso's McLaren exit (GMM) The wheels are now in motion for the early conclusion of Fernando Alonso's McLaren contract, according to reports.
The German daily 'Bild' on Tuesday said the team's lawyers are now working on ending the deal, after Spaniard Alonso's relationship with McLaren reached a new low following the espionage affair and claims of lying and extortion in Belgium.
"Adios, Alonso!" Bild exclaimed.
The news brings a fresh perspective to team boss Ron Dennis' admission at Spa-Francorchamps that he is seeking "closure" after one of the most difficult seasons in his 40 year career in racing.
"Part of our closure will be to take all the controversy out of the team," the Briton said, adding that any variation to any driver contract for next year would be "by mutual agreement".
It is believed that Alonso will return to Renault, where under the guidance of his mentor Flavio Briatore he secured back to back titles in 2005 and 2006.
The 26-year-old's McLaren contract was to run to the end of 2008 and also included an option for a third year.
What next for Wurz? Williams F1 driver Alexander Wurz is not sure if he will stay in Formula 1 for another season. The Austrian could extend his contract at Williams, join the all new Prodrive F1 team or quit Formula 1. According to Wurz an announcement shouldn't be expected too early.
Wurz doesn't expect his racing future to be cleared up at the Japanese Grand Prix in two weeks time. "Perhaps around the Chinese or Brazilian Grand Prix things will clear up," Wurz told Austrian news agent APA. But the Austrian refused to speculate about his future. He did admitted though his F1 career could come to an end at the end of the season.
There is no Austrian GP, so Wurz might be expendable in Bernie's eyes.
SJ race to Laguna Seca in MayUPDATE #3 Loyal fans of Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca and Champ Car World Series have lobbied long and hard for the return of Champ Car to the "dry lake" and turned out to the series' Spring Training event in March to show their support. It didn't fall on deaf ears and the Champ Cars will be running here again in 2008 both for Spring Training in March and either a May or September race date. This will be the 23rd Champ Car race at Laguna Seca, 22 consecutive from 1983 to 2004. If the May date is agreed to by all, it would be as part of a doubleheader with the Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series. That date, along with the rest of the season schedule, will be announced Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. at Laguna Seca. Monterey Herald
09/11/07 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement - see Hot News page.
09/11/07 Champ Car World Series will announce soon that the series is returning to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for a race the weekend of May 16-18 according to sources close to the negotiations.
The event will share the race weekend with the previously announced Grand American Rolex Sports Car Series.
Champ Car was a regular at Laguna Seca through 2004. San Jose hosted races from 2005 through this year. It appears that race will not return.
Champ Car held a "spring training" testing session at Laguna Seca last March which was attended by more than 3,000 fans. Spring training events elsewhere have drawn crowds in the hundreds at most. The series announced last week it would once again hold its spring training at Laguna Seca in 2008. Monterey Herald
[Editor's Note: This does NOT yet mean the San Jose race is being cancelled, but it might]
09/10/07 Rumor has it that Champ Car may axe the San Jose street race from its schedule after three years and that Champ Car could move the race back to Laguna Seca. The Mickey Mouse San Jose track was too small from the outset to make for good racing and too small to erect enough grandstands with viewing areas conducive to the paying customer's enjoyment.
Four investors talking with Petty George Gillett Jr., the majority owner of Gillett Evernham Motorsports, isn't the only person pursuing a partnership with Petty Enterprises. Robbie Loomis, the vice president of racing operations at Petty Enterprises, said there are four potential investors interested in NASCAR's most storied organization. There's some days I'm for sure we're going to do something," Loomis said. "Then there's other days I'm, 'Dang. Are we going to get there?'" Petty Enterprises already purchases engines from GEM and has had discussions about sharing chassis. Loomis said that would be a natural fit if it could work, but he put no timetable on it. "We do have a great relationship with Ray," he said of minority owner Ray Evernham. "What I like about Ray himself is he's a winner." ESPN.com
Budweiser moves to Kahne’s carUPDATE #2 The fact Kasey Kahne will drive a Budweiser-sponsored Dodge in 2008 is old news. What's interesting is that the No. 9 won't be red in every race. In fact, sometimes it may be blue. Sources close to negotiations told ESPN.com on Sunday that one of Kahne's current sponsors, likely Allstate, would serve as primary sponsor in "a couple of races." (Which races the blue car would run was not known.) That would be a significant move; Anheuser-Busch isn't apt to offer up the hood of its car to another sponsor. Dale Earnhardt Jr. has driven several different paint schemes during his eight full Nextel Cup seasons in the No. 8. But they all were Budweiser-sponsored. ESPN.com
09/14/07 On Tuesday, Sept. 18, 2007 at 10 a.m. EST, Gillett Evernham Motorsports has finalized and will announce a multi-year sponsorship for driver Kasey Kahne and the No. 9 Dodge. Gillett Evernham Motorsports principals George Gillett and Ray Evernham will make the formal announcement during a press conference at the team’s shop in Statesville, N.C. where Budweiser is expected to be named primary sponsor.
Budweiser has been the primary sponsor for Dale Earnhardt Jr. and the No. 8 Chevrolet at Dale Earnhardt Inc. since 2000, his rookie season in Nextel Cup. But Earnhardt announced earlier this year that he would have new sponsors for his first season at Hendrick Motorsports in 2008.
Hendrick officials and Earnhardt are holding a news conference Wednesday in Dallas to announce his new sponsors and his new car number.
08/30/07 Gillett Evernham Motorsports has “agreed in principle” on a deal for Budweiser to be the primary sponsor of Kasey Kahne next season. The “biggest issue is licensing revenue.” Kahne’s reps want to ensure that he is “not giving up more than he gains because there’s a possibility this could hurt his relationship with Allstate and his Vitaminwater deal” NASCAR Now
Red Bull eyeing Alonso? (GMM) Red Bull mogul Dietrich Mateschitz has played down speculation that his outfit might have now joined the running to accept Fernando Alonso from McLaren next year.
With the Spaniard looking increasingly likely to switch camps at the end of the season, it was rumored in the Spa-Francorchamps paddock that Ferrari was now looking to join Renault in bidding for the reigning world champion for 2008.
Alonso, 26, was then spotted entering and departing Red Bull's 'Energy Station' motor home in Belgium on Sunday morning, and in between met with team boss Christian Horner.
Red Bull, however, has already confirmed that David Coulthard and Mark Webber will be staying with the team for next year. More ...
Kentucky might buy Loudon, move Cup date Kentucky Speedway officials are interested in buying New Hampshire International Speedway and moving one of the track's two Nextel Cup dates to the Bluegrass state. Jerry Carroll, the chairman of Kentucky Speedway, visited with NHIS owner Bob Bahre during Sunday's race. Carroll isn't Bahre's only option. John Henry, the owner of the Boston Red Sox and part-owner of Roush Fenway Racing, has had discussions with the 80-year-old track owner. "The way he's talking he's probably interested in doing something," Carroll said. Carroll believes Kentucky deserves a Nextel Cup event, reminding the sold-out crowd of 70,000 for the track's last Busch Series event was as many as the Labor Day Weekend Cup race at California Speedway. ESPN.com
Earnhardt, Jr and Yeley could test for their new teams Dale Earnhardt, Jr. and J.J. Yeley both know they’ll be with new teams next year, and both know where they’re headed, but they can’t escape their contracts until season’s end. There’s a possibility they could get a chance to at least test with their future teams in a few weeks, when there’s an open trial at Atlanta, though a series of dominos would have to fall if that’s to happen.
Yeley hopes to test the #96 car that Tony Raines currently rides, which would allow his eventual replacement, Kyle Busch, to steer the Interstate Batteries Chevy, but in order for that to take place Earnhardt would have to be allowed to take Busch’s seat in a Hendrick Motorsports machine. Whether that’ll happen, however, remains in question. Dale Earnhardt, Inc. president Teresa Earnhardt has already said Regan Smith will test with Junior’s current team at Atlanta, but hasn’t yet released her stepson to test with Hendrick, so the whole equation may break down and leave the lame ducks with their soon-to-be defunct teams.
“The biggest domino is if Teresa will let Dale Jr. go drive for Hendrick,” Yeley said. “If that’ll happen, I think you’re going to see next year’s lineup four months in advance, but that comes down to Teresa.” Concord Monitor
McLaren test, media ban for Alonso? (GMM) McLaren-Mercedes bosses on Sunday denied rumors that Fernando Alonso has been banned by the team from testing and giving interviews to the press.
"I've heard that as well -- Fernando may talk," Mercedes-Benz competition director told the German broadcaster Premiere after the Belgian grand prix.
It is understood that the rumor began when Alonso turned down an interview for German television prior to the race at Spa-Francorchamps.
Amid speculation of blackmail and treachery following the espionage saga and the infamous 'spy emails', as well as rumors that Alonso will surely leave the team at the end of 2007, Ron Dennis also rejected suggestions that the Spaniard will no longer be allowed to test -- starting with the session next week at Jerez. More ...
Why Alonso now faster than Hamilton A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I would appreciate it if Mark Cipolloni would explain two of his statements in his Sept. 15 story from Spa. Namely: 1) Hamilton has been getting favoritism from his team (that presumably allowed him to unfairly outdrive Alonso on occasion) 2) How Alonso "has stopped the favoritism".
I follow a lot of F1 sources, and I haven't seen any reports to those effects. Maybe Mark has some kind of scoop there. Larry Balch
Dear Larry, Ask yourself this question. Why was it that Alonso was rumored to be wanting out of his contract at McLaren? Answer, because of how he was being treated. The British team members were seen cheering Hamilton over Alonso on more than one occasion.
Alonso finally put his foot down and threatened to leave. The rumors of his departure began immediately. It then emerged that Alonso visited Ron Dennis on the morning of the Hungarian Grand Prix last month and "suggested" that he had information that would be of interest to the FIA in the Spygate trial (which this week indeed came out as fact). Did Alonso blackmail Dennis into giving him equal treatment? The favoritism immediately stopped and since then Alonso is beating Hamilton.
And why will the team continue to not show favoritism to Hamilton the remainder of the year? Because Alonso knows exactly how McLaren used the stolen Ferrari secrets (contrary to McLaren maintaining they used none of it) and will reveal to the world the facts should Dennis allow the team to favor Hamilton again. Now on equal footing, Alonso's intent for the remainder of the season is to bury Hamilton and all indications are that he will, having easily outpaced him since Hungary. Mark C.
Dodge Dealers back on the #19 in 2008 Elliott Sadler’s #19 Gillett Evernham Motorsports Dodge will continue to carry the colors of Dodge dealers nationwide, who again in 2008 will ante up to stay in Nextel Cup. SPEEDtv.com
Reutimann to stay with Waltrip team?UPDATE David Reutimann expects to get a contract proposal from Michael Waltrip Racing by early next week, but he didn't rule out going to another team. "It's an option," he said of re-signing with MWR. "It's a solid option. But I haven't seen the proposal yet. "Reutimann would not expand on his options, but said recent improvements at MWR don't hurt the organization's chances. Sponsorship issues with Burger King and Domino's are the biggest question. ESPN.com
07/13/07 "My contracts with Michael Waltrip Racing for the Nextel Cup and Busch rides were for one year. Nobody from the organization has talked to me about next year yet. They're trying to make sure all the sponsorship stuff is line before they talk to me. Michael Waltrip, was quoted last week saying he's 99 percent sure he'll be able to bring me back in the #00 Cup car. I'd feel better if he was 100 percent sure, but I'll take 99%. Everybody knows the kind of money it takes to run one of these teams, and you aren't going to do it without a sponsor. At this point, I don't have a plan B if this situation doesn't work out. Hopefully, things will work out. I feel like I have a ton of unfinished business in the Cup series and in Busch as well. I want to win some races, run better, and do all the things I came here to do." Tampa Tribune
Childress still contemplating 4th teamUPDATE Richard Childress Racing has extended its own internal deadline to land a sponsor for its proposed fourth car until the end of this month. A team source at Richard Childress Racing said Saturday that contrary to Internet rumors making the rounds, the team has not signed David Reutimann and has nothing definite on a possible fourth car. SPEEDtv.com
08/16/07 Now that he’s lost out on the Kyle Busch sweepstakes, car owner Richard Childress is contemplating his next move. He’d like to add another quality Nextel Cup Series driver to his team so he can put a fourth full time car on the track next season. However, time is running out to get that done. “We’ll make a decision by September 15th if we’re going to do it or not”; said Childress. “That’s my deadline I’ve set. If we don’t do it by then we probably won’t do it.” If the pieces don’t fall into place, RC says “We’ll run four cars some races next year, but there’s a couple of opportunities out there that’s not even in NASCAR.” When asked if one possibility was Canadian Patrick Carpentier, Childress would only say; “He’s not on my list...but you are getting in a good area.” PRN's Garage Pass Radio Show
Pony Cars Coming To Busch Series SPEEDTV.com reports that NASCAR hopes to inject new life into its Busch Series by changing the types of cars raced, beginning as early as 2009, according to sources in the paddock.
If plans go according to schedule, the next-generation Busch Series cars will be Chevrolet Camaros, Dodge Challengers, Ford Mustangs and an as-yet-to-be named Toyota model, sources said. “That way, out top three divisions each have their own models,” said a NASCAR source, who said the new models will be built on the old-style NASCAR Nextel Cup chassis, which are in plentiful supply as the Cup Car of Tomorrow will make the older Cup cars obsolete next year.
NASCAR may give "regular-season" bonus NASCAR is considering creating a reward for the winner of the "regular season" in response to the huge points lead Jeff Gordon built before the Chase for the championship. NASCAR chairman Brian France said earlier this week he is willing to explore the idea of rewarding the driver who is leading the points at the end of the 26th race of the season. Gordon built a lead of more than 300 points, but lost all of it when the field was reset this week for the Chase for the championship. NASCAR spokesman Jim Hunter said Friday that the sanctioning body will discuss the issue during the off-season. Among the ideas being kicked around are awarding additional bonus points to be used in the seeding, more prize money or a trophy different from the Nextel Cup. Associated Press/Yahoo Sports
Earnhardt’s new car number Dale Earnhardt Jr. will drive two stylized 8s next season for Hendrick Motorsports, sources told ESPN.com on Friday. Robert Yates Racing, sources said, has agreed to sell the No. 88 that Dale Jarrett drove to the 1999 championship.
The car, which sources said will be sponsored by Mountain Dew and the Amp energy drink, will be revealed for the first time at a Wednesday press conference in Dallas. Earnhardt, who owns a Busch Series car with the No. 88, would not confirm the report. More ...
UAW to strike GM? The UAW is planning a 10 p.m. phone call to union halls across the country to announce whether they will strike General Motors Corp., union sources said today.
A deadline on GM's contract with the United Auto Workers union expires tonight at 11:59 p.m. If there's not an agreement, the union could decide to either strike or extend negotiations with the automaker.
The union has been working since Thursday to mobilize thousands of blue-collar workers to be ready for a walkout.
Did Alonso turn McLaren in to get out of contract?UPDATE #2 (GMM) Following the espionage scandal verdict, Fernando Alonso is almost certain to leave the McLaren team to join Renault next year, according to a newspaper.
The Berlin based daily newspaper Die Welt reiterated on Friday that the Spaniard's current contract includes an exit clause that will have been triggered due to McLaren's exclusion from the constructors' championship.
"A return to Renault for Alonso is considered very probable," the newspaper contended.
The reigning world champion's relationship with team boss Ron Dennis was already strained, and Alonso is believed to have been calculatingly excluded from McLaren's Paris delegation on Thursday despite his leading role in the evidence that incriminated the team.
Indeed, the FIA's 15-page evidence dossier released at Spa-Francorchamps on Friday acknowledged that Lewis Hamilton - who, like Pedro de la Rosa, attended the hearing - had "no information" about the spy saga, while Alonso provided by email information that the World Motor Sport Council found "highly relevant".
09/14/07 It is also rumored that the FIA sanction might nullify the drivers' contracts, with Fernando Alonso obviously unhappy in 2007 and this may be his way out of his contract. McLaren might also be keen to offset the huge fine by employing a cheaper driver in 2008 and beyond.
09/14/07 Our spies in the FIA World Council meeting have revealed that there are going to be some surprises when the details come to light next week. We understand that the most extraordinary revelation will be in relation to the identity of the man who tipped off the FIA that there was additional evidence against McLaren: it was none other than Ron Dennis.
It appears that this strange turn of affairs came about because Dennis and Fernando Alonso argued about the details of the Spaniard's contract. Alonso seems to have mentioned that he was in possession of information that might be of interest to the FIA. In order to deprive Alonso of this rather unsavory negotiating tool and negate the possibility of anyone else using it against McLaren and because it was the right thing to do Dennis reported the information to the FIA in the hope that his display of good faith would underline the fact that the team has been honest throughout the investigation. More at Grandprix.com
Will Champ Car plug holes in ’08 schedule? A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Will Champ Car plug the ridiculous holes it had in its 2007 race schedule in May and September next year? Don Davis
Dear Don, After three races in April to start the 2008 season (Las Vegas, Long Beach and Houston), it's expected that the recently announced Laguna Seca race will be the weekend of May 16-18. We then hear it could be off to Europe for two back-to-back races the first and 2nd weeks of June (Zolder and another race), so the 'May' gap will be much less in 2008.
We expect the two other European races to be in late August/Early Sept and the Surfers and Zhuhai races to be October 12th and 19th or thereabouts, so unless Champ Car fills that gap with another race, the 'September' gap will remain.
As we stated previously, the ideal Champ Car schedule would be:
1. Las Vegas: Late January 2. Mexico City: Early February 3. Australia: Late February (Could not be moved to this date for a couple of years) 4. China: Early March 5. Houston: Late March 6. Long Beach: Early April 7. Europe 1: Late April 8. Europe 2: Early May 9. Laguna Seca: Mid May 10. Cleveland: Early June 11. Mont-Tremblant: Late June 12. Toronto: Early July 13. Edmonton: Mid-July: 14. Road America: Early August 15. Europe 3: Late August 16. Europe 4: Early September 17. Orlando: Late September (Season finale - night race under lights)
Lights to be added at Chicagoland Sources have told 1340 WJOL that Chicagoland Speedway has been given a 12 million dollar check from ISC - International Motor Sports - to install lights for the 2008 racing season. This would make Joliet's track the 10th Nextel Cup facility able to run night races. There is no confirmation from Chicagoland Speedway, nor any word on how this would affect the now traditional season ending IRL race. Questions also exist on whether this could increase the possibility of a Craftsman Truck race coming to Chicagoland Speedway. 1340 WJOL
Yates-Newman/Haas/Lanigan merger offUPDATE The decision against hiring J.J. Yeley to drive the No. 88 Ford by Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing executives was really all Doug Yates needed to see. It wasn't a deal breaker, per se, but from his estimation was a stark indicator of the commitment level of his new partners.
Yates really liked Yeley, and felt he was a talented and quite marketable young man. But Newman/Haas/Lanigan dragged its feet, prompting Yates to change direction toward an alignment with Roush Fenway Racing.
"All three of those guys are great people. We had good intentions," Yates said of team owners Paul Newman, Carl Haas and Mike Lanigan. "The deal was a handshake deal and a letter of intent, and there wasn't enough commitment there.
"Some things came about that we really needed to make decisions on and nobody would move on it. In this sport windows of opportunity open and close quickly, and some key ones came and went and it just wasn't moving fast enough. ESPN.com
09/07/07 In an article related to this rumor, Robert Yates announced Friday he’ll retire at the end of the season with his son, Doug, taking over the racing operations in a new company called Yates Racing. The move means a planned merger with Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing will not take place. Yates Racing instead will operate in association with Roush Fenway Racing. Doug Yates said his team would welcome the opportunity to work with Newman/Haas/Lanigan in the future. But the team will “have full support from Roush Fenway Racing, including hardware, engineering, marketing and operational practices” from the Roush Fenway team. The Yates and Roush operations previously combined their engine operations.
Alleged McLaren/Renault 'spy' named (GMM) More detail about the possible new espionage scandal involving Renault has now emerged.
It was earlier reported that McLaren, facing the World Motor Sport Council on Thursday accused of using confidential Ferrari information, might be in possession of evidence that could incriminate Renault of a separate spying offence.
The FIA even confirmed that lawyers for the Woking based team had tried to draw Renault into the affair by recently raising "certain matters regarding Renault F1".
The Swiss newspaper Blick said the case centered around the departure of an engineer to Renault, who allegedly took with him three disks of detailed information about McLaren's cooling and electronic systems.
Salzburger Nachrichten has now named the defector as former McLaren design engineer Phil Mackereth.
The Austrian newspaper also said Ron Dennis obtained in Monza from Flavio Briatore "a written confession" that this year's Renault R27 incorporates unauthorized intellectual property belonging to McLaren.
It is not known why Briatore would sign such a document, but it is believed that Dennis wanted to present it as evidence at the World Council meeting on Thursday but was prevented from doing so.
The rumor would, however, explain Briatore's visits to the McLaren motor home at Monza a week ago, and possibly also his subsequent 60-minute meeting with F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone.
Saturn electric Vue may be on the road by '09 Saturn will put General Motors Corp.'s first plug-in hybrid -- a Vue compact SUV that can run up to 10 miles solely on electricity and switch to an engine for longer trips -- on the road "very quickly," brand general manager Jill Lajdziak said Wednesday.
"In 2009-ish," Lajdziak said.
The new 2008 Saturn Vue crossover vehicle debuted at the Los Angeles auto show last year. A plug-in version of the compact SUV is expected as soon as 2009 and could make GM the first automaker to get such an Earth-friendly, fuel-efficient vehicle on the market.
Saturn showed its latest production model, the European engineered, designed and built Astra compact to journalists Wednesday near the Frankfurt Auto Show.
Other automakers are working on plug-ins, but that timetable gives Saturn at least a fighting chance to give GM the high ground in the battle for environmental leadership and the huge PR benefits that go with it.
It also would be a major win in GM's fight to reclaim the mantle of technical leadership it held for decades.
The Vue plug-in will become the third hybrid version of the popular Vue SUV. It will combine lithium-ion batteries and GM's innovative two-mode hybrid system with the ability to recharge from 110-volt household current.
Saturn already sells what it calls a mild hybrid version of the Vue that uses electric power to reduce fuel consumption.
The Vue plug-in will use different technology from the electric drive powertrain GM is developing for the Chevrolet Volt.
Piquet to replace Fisichella in 2008?UPDATE #2 (GMM) Nelson Piquet has dropped a big hint that he will make his formula one debut next year for Renault.
The French team's Brazilian test driver has said in an interview that he is not disappointed that he did not line up on the grid for the Enstone based outfit in 2007.
"If I would have driven this year for Renault, it would not have been so good because the team is not in top form," Piquet, 22, is quoted as saying by sportnet.at.
"Perhaps next year will be exactly the right time for me, as was the case with Lewis (Hamilton at McLaren)."
Irrespective of Flavio Briatore's reported interest in re-hiring Fernando Alonso for next year, Heikki Kovalainen is thought to have his race seat secured for 2008.
Italian veteran Giancarlo Fisichella, meanwhile, said in Monza last week that he was expecting to be confirmed for 2008 "maybe this weekend, maybe next week".
08/28/07 There is much talk in Holland that Nelson Piquet Jr will replace Giancarlo Fisichella at Renault next season. Piquet is half Brazilian and half Dutch and while Renault has yet to confirm its driver line-up for 2008, the team has obviously been holding out a hope that Fernando Alonso would leave McLaren and go back to his old team. The fact that BMW re-signed its two drivers suggests that he is not available.
Renault was caught on the hop by Alonso’s decision to quit the team back at the end of 2005 and was not able to sign a top star for the 2007 season as all the big names were under contract elsewhere. Team boss Flavio Briatore reckoned that Heikki Kovalainen would grow into a replacement for Alonso but, despite many thousands of kilometers of testing, his progress has been disappointing although he has now finally overtaken Giancarlo Fisichella in the Drivers' World Championship.
Other sources say that McLaren is going to be willing to release Alonso, but this seems unlikely as it makes no sense for McLaren to free one of its biggest assets to a rival team, thus making life difficult for itself. The team has said that Fernando has a contract and hopes that he will honor it. If he does not, it is likely that he will have to sit out 2008 unless some kind of swap could be arranged with another team which would give McLaren a suitable team-mate for Lewis Hamilton. The only driver likely to fit the bill would be Nico Rosberg. Williams would not say no if Alonso came knocking on the door.
Keeping Fisichella in 2008 makes little sense for Renault. He is a solid driver who scores points when he can but he still makes mistakes - as was seen in Turkey. Signing Piquet is a risk but Briatore may be hoping that he will become the star that Kovalainen was supposed to be.
The key issue at Renault, however, is not the drivers because they can do little without a good car. An average driver in a great car can win races in F1, but it is a lot harder for a great driver in an average car. The other point is that Renault has made no secret of the fact that it wants the F1 program to be cost-effective and thus paying millions for Fernando Alonso makes little sense, unless Briatore can find someone else to pay the Spaniard's salary. Grandprix.com
08/04/07 (GMM) Nelson Piquet Jr has now signed a contract to debut for the Renault team in 2008, according to a Brazilian sports newspaper.
The Rio de Janeiro-based 'Lance' reported on Saturday that the Enstone based team's 22-year-old current test driver, the son of the triple world champion of the same name, will replace Giancarlo Fisichella at the end of the current season.
The French squad's boss Flavio Briatore said this weekend that he would decide the 2008 lineup probably by the Italian grand prix next month.
Asked specifically about Rome-born veteran Fisichella, he said: "I never bet on anything in my life, so I'm not betting about Fisichella. I don't know."
IRL to lose Indy 500 Champ - Franchitti wants outUPDATE #6 No formal announcement yet (there will be), but Dario Franchitti made a guest appearance on the Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson Wednesday night, which he handled pretty well. When the guest appearance was over, Ferguson's departing remark to Dario was "....and I look forward to seeing you in NASCAR next year."
09/11/07 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' as our inside sources have learned that Franchitti is definitely going to NASCAR. We await the formal announcement.
09/10/07 The decision appears to have earned the blessing of Franchitti's wife, actress Ashley Judd. The couple lives outside of Nashville, Tennessee. "When the appropriate time comes, we'll make an announcement," Judd said after Saturday's qualifications. Yahoo Sports
09/08/07 Chip Ganassi Racing is expected to announce next week that Dario Franchitti will drive the No. 40 Energizer Dodge in 2008, sources told FOXSports.com.
Franchitti, 34, who won the 2007 Indianapolis 500 with Andretti-Green, currently leads CGR driver Scott Dixon by three points in the Indy Racing League Series with the season finale scheduled for this weekend at Chicagoland Speedway.
Franchitti will participate in a training program similar to the one Juan Pablo Montoya (who beat Franchitti for the 1999 CART title) used to prepare for his rookie season. Franchitti will drive in a variety of series, including NASCAR's Busch Series in Ganassi's No. 42 Dodge. FOX Sports
09/07/07 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. Reed Sorenson will likely be the only American driver competing in the Nextel Cup Series next season with Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates. David Stremme, who has driven the No. 40 Dodge for Ganassi, since the 2006 season, will not return to the team next season. Earlier this week, Ganassi officials announced sponsor Coors Light would not be returning to the team.
Likely set to replace Stremme is current Indy Racing League points leader Dario Franchitti, The Charlotte Observer and ThatsRacin.com have learned.
Ganassi already fields former Formula One star and Colombia native Juan Pablo Montoya in the No. 42 Dodge. Reached by phone on Friday, Ganassi said he was working on several new options for the No. 40.
09/02/07 Rumor in the Detroit paddock is that Franchitti would soon test for the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Champ Car team. We hear rumors ever year that Dario may be moving to Champ Car and every year it is just a ploy to get more money for Franchitti out of the IRL side to keep him in the paddock.
08/18/07 Looks like another open wheel star is looking for an exit out of the IRL. The next prominent open-wheel driver to break into NASCAR could be Indianapolis 500 champion Dario Franchitti.
But don't expect to see Ashley Judd flitting along the frontstretch in sundresses just yet. Franchitti is friends with Nextel Cup team owner Richard Childress, who's had preliminary discussions with the 34-year-old Scotsman about possibly piloting a fourth car for Richard Childress Racing next season.
"If you watch him race, he races every lap just as hard as he can," Childress said Friday at Michigan International Speedway. "That's what impresses me about him. A lot of open-wheel guys have come here and tried it. I think if there's a guy who can do it, it's him. He's really level-headed, and he's really a hard racer. Whether he's ready this coming year or whenever he's ready, he'll be able to do it."
Franchitti, who won the rain-shortened Indianapolis 500 in May, lives in Nashville, Tenn., with Judd, his actress wife. Childress said Franchitti, who has 17 career Indy-car wins and is the current points leader in the Indy Racing League, is one of about three drivers he's looking at for next season, and the only one from outside of NASCAR. More ...
Zanardi to test Champ Car According to an article on autosport.com, Jimmy Vasser is trying to entice former champion Alex Zanardi to test a Champ Car to see if he could race one again. With no legs Zanardi would need a hand brake and hand throttle controls added to the steering wheel to go along with the steering wheel mounted paddle shifter.
Vasser would like the test to happen soon to see if Zanardi can do it and be competitive.
"I want him to test as soon as possible," said Vasser. "If he wants to, we can organize this thing before October's race at Surfers Paradise."
"He's already driven rather well in the BMW F1 car, so I don't think he'd have problems with this one," Vasser added. "It's important for him to do a test, to understand whether there are solvable technical problems and to get the fire back into him."
"I don't see anything wrong with a test, while for racing it's a different matter," said Zanardi. "I'm 40 now, can I go back to live in the USA at my age?
"But Jimmy knows me well, he wants to make the desire come back to me with a test. He knows how to talk to a driver to stimulate him."
I smell a ratUPDATE The reader also neglected to say that Franchitti spent 2 years as a very successful driver in the German and International Touring Car Championships - front engine with roof over his head.
09/11/07 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, I read this story about open wheel drivers becoming hot property in NASCAR. Give me a break, I was not born yesterday. This is an orchestrated effort by NASCAR to strip open wheel racing of its biggest stars and destroy it. And NASCAR has not only engaged some teams but also some manufacturers. Hornish, Villeneuve, Allmendinger, Franchitti, Montoya, Stewart, Gordon, I can go on. These guys never raced a car with a roof over their head and an engine in the front and now all of a sudden they are the best NASCAR candidates? I say BS. NASCAR is out to drive the final nail in the coffin of open wheel racing in America and Tony George, the man responsible for putting the open wheel corpse in the coffin, is too blind to see what he has done, and too pig-headed to do what's right to fix it. Jeff Tolman.
Dear Jeff, You might be correct, or it may be that there is a general recognition that open wheel drivers are better drivers once they learn the tricks of a stock car. After all, you will never see a 'stock car' trained driver do well in open wheel cars. They have yet to prove they can make the reverse switch. But with so much money now available in NASCAR, what stock car driver would want to switch to open wheel racing at this point? Also recognize that open wheel racing on road courses requires fast reflexes, whereas NASCAR racing is all about managing your tires, something even an older driver can do. So guys like Franchitti and Villeneuve may see NASCAR as a way of extending their career well into their 40s. Mark C.
Cup Banquet moving to Las Vegas Speedway Motorsports Inc. chairman Bruton Smith believes chances are good NASCAR will move the Cup postseason awards banquet from New York City to Las Vegas in 2008.
"I think it's 80 to 90 percent likely to happen," Smith said Tuesday from his office in Charlotte. "I think it would be a wonderful thing for everyone involved if we can get this worked out."
Ramsey Poston, NASCAR's managing director of corporate communications, said talk of moving the banquet is strictly speculation.
"NASCAR has no current plans to relocate the banquet," Poston said. "However, NASCAR is courted on a regular basis by other major cities, and on a consistent basis for the Cup banquet and other banquets."
Smith said he recently has engaged in some favorable conversations with NASCAR chairman Brian France about the possibility of moving the awards banquet to Las Vegas.
"I think everyone is more accepting of the idea now," Smith said. "It seems we've worn out our welcome a little bit in New York. That was obvious when plans to build a track up there fell through." ESPN.com
FIA evidence may crown 2007 F1 champion (GMM) The evidence to be presented at Thursday's World Motor Sport Council could crown the 2007 world champion.
Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport described the alleged proof as "crushing", claiming that McLaren not only knew Ferrari's secrets but actually experimented with implementing some of its rival's technology.
Britain's The Times claims that the new evidence runs to 166 pages in total, including not only the emails between Pedro de la Rosa and Fernando Alonso, but how they match up with phone and text message traffic between Nigel Stepney and Mike Coughlan.
'Diario As', meanwhile, reported that Lewis Hamilton could be in strife following Max Mosley's warning last Friday that McLaren drivers face the loss of their Super Licenses if they do not cooperate with the FIA inquiry.
The Spanish newspaper claims that the rookie championship leader is cited in the new evidence, but unlike de la Rosa and Alonso did not respond to Mosley's letter.
Spain's 'Marca' newspaper, meanwhile, said de la Rosa and McLaren are in the clear.
"They are not spies or informers," a source close to McLaren reportedly told the 'paper.
"Fernando and Pedro have not accused their team of anything and the team knows this. They are simply witnesses and have acted as such."
Details of the evidence has probably leaked into the public domain because, last Friday, all 26 members of the World Motor Sport Council received a copy of the dossier.
It is rumored that the FIA might even make the 166-page dossier public after the World Council's decision is announced on Thursday.
McLaren tried to involve Renault in spy case (GMM) A FIA spokesman has strengthened speculation that McLaren tried to drag Renault into F1's escalating espionage affair ahead of the World Council hearing on Thursday.
Following rumors that boss Ron Dennis is in possession of potentially explosive evidence that could incriminate the French team as well as Ferrari, the governing body was contacted for comment.
ITV quotes a FIA spokesman as confirming that "certain matters regarding Renault F1" have been raised in recent days by McLaren, as the Woking based team prepares to face new and potentially damning evidence at the World Motor Sport Council on Thursday.
It is understood that McLaren's information about Renault and Ferrari is technical in nature, rather than relating specifically to the spy scandal.
"We can confirm that McLaren lawyers have recently brought to our attention certain matters regarding Renault F1," the FIA spokesman said.
"But we can also confirm that the (Renault) team does not form any part of our investigations into McLaren's alleged breach of Article 151c of the International Sporting Code.
"The FIA has reminded McLaren that the World Council hearing in Paris on Thursday will focus solely on the new evidence in that investigation.
"To the extent required, any other matters will be dealt with as part of an entirely separate process.
"Renault F1 is aware of this and is happy to cooperate."
Renault boss Flavio Briatore told La Gazzetta dello Sport: "(Dennis is) throwing stones a bit everywhere. We are calm, no problem at all."
Franchitti NASCAR deal worth $30 millionUPDATE According to what we hear Franchitti will be making around $10M per year with merchandise sales for 5 years for around $50M, not $30M as reported by the London Times.
09/11/07 Dario Franchitti has been handed the chance of a $30 million (about £14.8 million) NASCAR contract according to the London Times to make him one of the richest British racing drivers in history after winning the IndyCar championship at a dramatic last-gasp final race of the season.
The victory means more riches for one of the highest-earning British sportsmen, even though he is little known at home. Apart from his $1 million championship prize money, he is being tempted to join the NASCAR series, the USA’s most popular form of motorsport. He says he needs a fortnight to consider his options but the estimated $30 million deal could tempt him, ironically, to follow Montoya, who left Formula One for NASCAR last year.
IRL to implement revenue sharing plan IndyCar hopes to boost the size of its fields beyond the current 18-20 car norm with a new prize structure.
In an effort to help its smaller to mid-level teams and possibly attract new ones, SPEEDtv.com has learned the Indy Racing League will implement a revenue-sharing plan in 2008 that pays guaranteed money to IRL regulars but race purses would be eliminated except for the Indianapolis 500.
And it’s believed there will be an increase to next May’s Indy purse with the winner receiving $2 million and 33rd place paying no less than $300,000.
It remains a work in progress, but it’s believed the current plan calls for a team to receive $1.3 million for every car committed to the 17-race schedule. In other words, if you’re a two-car team, you receive $2.6 million spread out over 12 months. More at SPEEDTV.com
[Editor's Note: A revenue sharing plan is exactly what Champ Car has been doing for years, yet they were criticized by the IRL contingent for not paying purses. Now that the IRL will implement exactly the same plan it will be a good idea and the history revisionists will pay homage to the IRL for such forward thinking. And why wouldn't the IRL copy Champ Car's plan? They have copied everything else Champ Car/CART has done. It's a pretty sorry state of affairs when your business plan, if one exists, is to copy your opposition.]
Wheldon wants out of Ganassi team This Yahoo Sports article speculates that there is bad blood in the Target Chip Ganassi IndyCar team and that Wheldon wants an early exit from his contract to pursue the open Sam Hornish seat at Penske Racing. They also speculate that AJ Allmendinger and Ryan Hunter-Reay could be candidates for the Wheldon seat at Ganassi. Allmendinger recently signed to drive some Busch races with Ganassi which could parlay into a full-time IRL ride if Toyota lets AJ out of his NASCAR contract. Ryan Hunter-Reay has made an immediate mark in the IRL as a rookie and we know that Ganassi has tried before to steal Hunter-Reay away from Champ Car. At the time Hunter-Reay stayed loyal to Champ Car and what did he get? They turned their backs on him so now this personable American, who is a proven race winner, will further his career in the IRL and bring his popularity to that series. Champ Car's loss is the IRL's gain.
Dario taking Canadian Club sponsorship to NASCAR? This Yahoo Sports article says........when [Chip] Ganassi was able to get Canadian Club as a sponsor to replace Coor's Light in the No. 40 Dodge driven by David Stremme, he was also able to get Franchitti as the driver in NASCAR.
Portland race could get the axeUPDATE #3 Portland's open-wheel racing future still is under discussion.
Champ Car cancelled two U.S. races this year and has indicated that the 2008 schedule will place more emphasis on races outside the United States. But the struggling racing series hasn't decided about Portland, according to Champ Car officials.
"Portland is not on, or off, the schedule yet," Champ Car president Steve Johnson said Monday.
Champ Car and Portland race organizers reportedly are hundreds of thousands of dollars apart in negotiations for a 2008 race at Portland International Raceway. The city's three-year contract with Champ Car came up for renewal in June.
Mike Nealy, the race's local promoter, said the open-wheel series wants Portland to pay its own way. Or come close.
Nealy estimates Champ Car spent close to $3 million in 2005, 2006 and 2007 on races at PIR.
If Portland remains on the 2008 schedule, its traditional mid-June date might change.
"By a week or two, or a month," Johnson said. More ...
Wilson to race in Grand-Am eventUPDATE This rumor is now upgraded to 'fact.' Team owner Mike Shank announced today that Champ Car championship contender Justin Wilson has signed on to race the No. 60 Michael Shank Racing Lexus-Riley in Saturday's Sunchaser 1000 at Miller Motorsports Park in Tooele, Utah. The affable Briton will share the driving duties with 2006 defending race winners Mark Patterson and Oswaldo Negri. The Rolex Sports Car Series event marks the second Rolex start for Wilson, who scored a strong 2nd place with Michael Shank Racing in the Rolex 24 At Daytona in 2006 when he teamed with Patterson, Negri, and AJ Allmendinger.
Wilson arrives with Formula 1 and Champ Car experience and has shown great speed in the Daytona Prototypes; he’s also bringing a little bit of momentum with him out West, having won the most recent round of the Champ Car World Series at Zolder in the Netherlands.
“I’m really happy about the opportunity to race with this team again,” said Wilson. “We had a great race together at Daytona last year and I’ve been keeping tabs on them ever since. I have never run at Miller before, but it sounds like an very interesting track. These cars are a lot of fun to race, and really, who better to team up with than the guys who won the race last year? I’m really looking forward to it.”
The team is hoping to create another positive “Rolex Moment” again this weekend as the two-car squad looks to defend an excellent team performance at Miller last season, taking fifth place as well as the win with the two team Lexus-Riley entries. The performance has been selected as one of the top “Rolex Moments in Time,” and fans can pledge their support at this address: http://www.grand-am.com/News/Article.asp?ID=9066 09/10/07 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Champ Car driver Justin Wilson may race for Michael Shank Racing in the Grand-Am Season finale Sunchaser 1000 at Miller Motorsports Park this coming weekend. The Shank team won the race last year.
And in a related rumor, this SPEEDTV.com article speculates that Justin Wilson could be a candidate to fill the Andretti Green Racing seat vacated by Dario Franchitti. That we think might be a stretch.
Kvapil could be in No. 88 before end of year Travis Kvapil said many details are still not finalized. He's uncertain who will sponsor him, but said "it all sounds promising." He hasn't been promised he'll have a ride if sponsorship doesn't materialize, he said. "To be honest with you we haven't even really talked about any of that stuff yet," he said. "I'd hope to think so. It takes a lot of money to run these cars, but we just haven't gotten to that point yet, but I'd like to think with Roush Fenway's marketing we'd be able to swing a couple deals for that car and fund it for a season." But what about now? The current full-time driver in the #88, Ricky Rudd, is week-to-week with a left shoulder separation. He's uncertain whether he'll return. Veteran Kenny Wallace replaced Rudd at Richmond last weekend and finished 28th, but might Kvapil take the seat early, before the end of '07? "I know it's been kicked around. We talked Thursday and Friday about it," he said. "We just don't want to get the cart before the horse going into these next couple of weeks, here. Not sure right now, but we have talked about it." Dover, Kvapil said, presents the lone obstacle. While the Busch and Cup Series are at The Monster Mile, the Craftsman Truck Series is in Las Vegas. With three victories in the past eight races, Kvapil currently ranks third in the 2007 CTS standings. As for next year, Kvapil hopes to run a Busch Series slate to supplement this Cup schedule. ESPN.com
NHIS sale to Roush-Fenway possible New Hampshire International Speedway's president, Bob Bahre, confirmed to FOX Sports today that he and Boston Red Sox owner John Henry have had discussions in the past month about the sale of the Loudon track to Henry's Roush Fenway Racing. No deal has been made. Union Leader
Overheard at ChicagolandUPDATE One part of this rumor is 'false.' There’s been a lot of speculation about Steve Horne getting back into racing as an IRL owner and there was a report the former CART regular was at Chicago making his final plans.
”First off, I wasn’t at Chicago and secondly, I have no plans to get back into the racing business right now,” said Horne. “I would dearly love to run the Indy 500 again if it made financial sense, because I think it still owes me one.
”And the IRL contacted me and I spoke with Terry Angstadt (IRL marketing) and he was very enthusiastic, but I can’t see the numbers working.” SPEEDTV.com
09/10/07 Former CART team owner Steve Horne was rumored to be visiting with old friends at Chicagoland this weekend and recently said he did not think Champ Car would survive after exploring options with that organization. The rumor in Chicagoland is that Horne might want to start an Indy Car team.....Ryan Briscoe is still rumored to be replacing Sam Hornish Jr. who appears headed to NASCAR.....No one knows for sure who will replace the departing Dario Franchitti at AGR. Tomas Scheckter's name has come up but we hear otherwise. It's a top ride and a lot of drivers will be gunning for that seat ......Robin Miller reports that Dario Franchitti might be taking Canadian Club sponsorship with him to NASCAR......The IRL's last two champions and Indy 500 winners appear headed to NASCAR and in the last two years four Indy 500 winners have joined NASCAR (Montoya and Villeneuve in addition to Hornish and Franchitti) which is going to hurt the series significantly. Most put it down to another nail in open wheel racing's coffin. Because there still is no merger between IRL and Champ Car open wheel racing in America is being plucked dry.......The AGR team will add an energy sponsor next season.........If Dario Franchitti goes to NASCAR full time in 2008, as expected, the Indianapolis 500 will lose another reigning champion. Franchitti would be the fifth winner since 2000 not to take the green flag the next year. The others were Kenny Brack, the 1999 winner who moved to CART; Juan Pablo Montoya, the 2000 winner who switched to Formula One; Gil de Ferran, the 2003 winner who retired; and Buddy Rice, the 2004 winner who was injured in practice. That plus last year's winner and IRL all-time winningest driver Sam Hornish Jr. is headed to NASCAR as well.
NASCAR still eyes Colorado track Aurora Colorado is still in the running for a major NASCAR racetrack planned for Colorado, despite a lack of news about the proposal in recent weeks, said a city councilman who is helping to lead the effort to attract the facility.
"The discussions are still ongoing," said Aurora Councilman Ryan Frazier. "No deal has been finalized ... but it's still very much alive."
Reports earlier this year seemed to indicate that NASCAR's proposed track in Colorado would meet with too much opposition to ever be built. CupScene.com
Hornish to attempt Cup debut this weekend IRL driver Sam Hornish Jr. is expected to make his NASCAR Nextel Cup debut this weekend at New Hampshire. That's assuming he even qualifies. In his eight career Busch Series starts in 2006-2007 his best finish was a 15th at Atlanta. Typically he crashed out.
McLaren exclusion possible (GMM) Lewis Hamilton at Monza admitted for the first time that Sunday's Italian grand prix might have been his last formula one race for a while.
The British rookie finished second at the Autodromo Nazionale, which brought his victorious McLaren teammate Fernando within three points of his lead in the drivers' title.
But with the Woking based team now heading to the World Motor Sport Council ahead of next weekend's Belgian grand prix, 22-year-old Hamilton expressed concern at the possible sanctions that could result.
While most in the paddock agree that McLaren will minimally be docked of championship points for its involving in the espionage scandal, Hamilton also acknowledged the FIA's ultimate power.
"When you really think about that, you think 'wow, I could be out of a job next weekend and then what happens?'" he said in a pre-race interview on Sunday with the British broadcaster ITV.
Hamilton enjoyed a dream start to his formula one career this year, but said recent off-track developments have been like a "big knife" to him and his team, including his childhood mentor Ron Dennis.
"I never actually thought I'd be sitting here saying I hate something about formula one, but the politics and people wanting to be bigger than others is just incredible," he continued.
"F1 would not be the same without McLaren, so let's just keep our fingers crossed that nothing else is going to happen."
Roush to outsmart NASCAR with alliance Roush Fenway Racing officials have been looking for a way around NASCAR's four-car cap rule ever since it was introduced at the end of the 2005 season.
Their alliance with Robert Yates Racing appears to be the answer.
Roush Fenway Racing, which already shared an engine program with RYR, will expand its relationship in 2008 to include building and selling cars and parts to its fellow Ford partner as well as licensing and marketing.
That ultimately will allow Roush after the 2009 season -- the deadline NASCAR has set for it to get to four teams -- to send its fifth car and whatever employees that might go with it to RYR.
"That's not part of the deal, but it certainly won't shock anybody here if in two years that's where it goes," Roush Fenway president Geoff Smith said before Saturday night's Nextel Cup race at Richmond International Raceway.
"When you shrink an organization like NASCAR is doing to us you end up not being able to promote people because they don't have places to go, so they end up leaving us for somebody else. This gives us a chance to really keep all that training money within our Ford Motor company camp." More at ESPN.com
Milka Duno to be parked for good Milka Duno was so slow again Sunday in Indy Car's season finale at Chicagoland that she was a danger to all drivers. Dario Franchitti's wife Ashley Judd went on national TV to say it was time to park Duno as people's lives are on the line. Announcer Scott Goodyear's comment, "Any slower and they'd have to assign her a zip code."
Anyone with any common sense knows that Duno has no business driving in open wheel racing as she simply does not have the talent. Will the IRL do the right thing and pull her license for good, or are they so desperate for another sex symbol that they will put other drivers lives in danger again next year?
Klien not keen on testing, might consider Champ Car (GMM) Christian Klien is not keen on spending another season as a mere Honda test driver.
The Austrian, however, after racing for Jaguar and Red Bull between 2004 and last year, admitted that his chances to return to the formula one grid any time soon are not bright.
"It is really hard to have to just sit and watch," Klien, who nearly landed the Spyker race seat recently before Sakon Yamamoto was appointed, is quoted on Saturday as saying by motorline.cc.
He accepted the Honda test seat this year as a route back to racing, and insists: "I am not sure if I would want to do another year such as this."
Many test drivers have bemoaned the test agreement this year, where private mileage is limited and restricted, while the absence of a third car rule for Fridays means that non-race drivers are also rarely used at grands prix.
Klien admitted that Honda have an option on him for next season, but he said it is "too early" to speculate about his role for the future.
Spare race seats elsewhere on the grid are also a scarcity.
Klien, though, would not rule out continuing links with Spyker, even with the Silverstone based team's new Indian ownership, but he said Super Aguri and Prodrive are unlikely options.
"With Super Aguri you would probably have to bring a sponsor on board," he explained, "and Prodrive will probably go with the McLaren test drivers."
He said he would be reluctant, however, to leave the F1 paddock altogether, such as to explore options in the American Champ Car series.
"The problem," Klien explained, "is that if he take your feet out of the formula one door, it is not so easy to get them back in again.
Albers (not Verstappen) and Trust to Champ CarUPDATE #6 This Dutch Telegraaf newspaper article talks about Trust's deal with the Carlin GP2 team and the fact he will forego the idea of buying into the Conquest Champ Car team, but will remain a sponsor in Champ Car. Between NASCAR (taking all the best drivers out of the IRL) and F1 (yes Bernie is a part owner of GP2) they are plucking the IRL and Champ Car paddock dry of its best and brightest.
09/08/07 This rumor is close to being downgraded to 'false' today. Just announced on Dutch RTL 7 TV : Michel Perridon (CEO Trust) has decided not to move into Champ Car for 2008 but into the GP2 series, together with Carlin Motorsport in 3 year deal!
09/04/07 According to our sources in Europe, Trust and Verstappen have split again because Verstappen refuses to live in the USA to race in Champ Car (a must if he is to do well) and that there is a very good chance former F1 Dutch driver Christijan Albers will get the Trust Champ Car seat (as we previously rumored below). We hear Verstappen will now try to land a ride in DTM. Mark C.
07/29/07 Jos Verstappen looks likely to race in Champ Car next season with his backer Trust closing in on a deal to takeover a team, GPUpdate.net can reveal. The computer supplier is looking to purchase a team in the US series as it endeavors to break into the US market. Verstappen, whose sponsorship from Trust helped secure a drive with Minardi F1 in 2003, is in pole position to take one of the seats.
Trust founder Michel Perridon is currently in San Jose, where the ChampCar teams are competing this weekend, to bash out a deal. There are apparently two teams vying for Perridon's signature to become 'Trust Team USA'.
"We are here trying to negotiate a deal to purchase a team in the Champ Car Series for next year," Perridon told GPUpdate.net exclusively. "But it is still relatively in its early stages." When asked about the possibility of running 35-year-old Verstappen, he said: "It is a bit premature to be talking about drivers at the moment but the link (with Verstappen) is obvious." GPUpdate.net
07/28/07 Former Dutch Spyker F1 driver Christijan Albers (right) name is also being linked to this team. Perridon, stressed that everything is still in the very early stages. “At this moment we’re exploring our options to take over an existing Champ Car team," said Perridon. "It’s at this moment too early to tell if Verstappen might be in the picture. Everything is at this moment still very premature.” The team would be called Trust Team USA....similar to Minardi Team USA.
07/28/07 Seems there might be more to this rumor than meets the eye because a high ranking official from Trust is here in San Jose this weekend. Whether they start their own team or buy into a team remains to be seen.
07/28/07 From the 'We'll believe it when we see it' category because we see this rumor almost every year now, this Dutch website article says that Michel Perridon is planning to enter Champ Car with his company Trust. They are looking to take over an already existing Champ Car team and that Arie Luyendyk might become its team manager. Jos Verstappen would be the primary driver and mentor for the second young driver, which would be either Arie Luyendyk Jr. or Renger van der Zande. It also states that the project is still in a very early stage. One team that comes to mind that they could buy into is the Eric Bachelart Conquest team, which is in need of a major cash infusion. (See related rumor from the off-season)
Grand-Am race fixed? No.UPDATE #4 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, You have a great site and I am glad to see you covering the other series better. Great job on breaking this before even AutoWeek.
As to the response you posted from Grand-Am I can only say while I was born at night, it was not last night.
A quick visit to the Grand-Am web site stats page has some very interesting information compiled by Grand-Am. The 'Grand-Am Rolex Series Team Performance Index' lists the teams based on 'Performance' in descending order. The #01 Chip Ganassi Racing LEXUS is listed as the best performing Team year to date this season! Of the top ten teams in the performance index four are Lexus powered while four are Pontiac powered despite the fact that there are more teams powered by Pontiac engines than Lexus engines! Lexus and Pontiac dominate, therefore it appears Grand-Am should have been looking harder at helping the Porsche, Ford and BMW teams than the Lexus teams. The #01 CGR Lexus has handily beaten the #75 Krohn Pontiac all season, shouldn't the Krohn Pontiac receive some last minute help?
As for dynos having no favorites 'most' engineers will confirm that static dyno test results, even on in floor dynos, are not always replicated on the race track due to a complex set of variables otherwise F1 test teams would rely on bench racing rather than being forced to go to the track to prove, or disprove, what the dynos, windtunnels, and computers spit out.
If, as Grand-Am claims, 'The Lexus engine has run at a disadvantage in horsepower and torque all season' why on earth wouldn't the sanctioning body have implemented this horsepower and torque 'recipe' mid-season where everyone could see what the advantage would be and things could be remedied if it was too big of a step? If it's an equalization formula they are trying to attain then it is hard to argue they already had it with only three points separating the top three teams going into the last race.
It is obvious to me, and many others I assure you, that the horsepower and performance enhancements granted Lexus teams were implemented to help a specific team beat an independent minnow team that has been punching well over its weight to the irritation of the big players and powers within Grand-Am.
How much of a coincidence is it that Grand-Am gives out a last race horsepower increase and Ganassi's driver, Scott Pruett, is now scheduled to appear on Wind Tunnel the night following the conclusion of the Championship [Editor's Note: Wrong, Pruett will appear on Wind Tunnel this Sunday, not next] despite Alex Gurney and John Fogarty's record breaking season and having been named as two of the best sports car drivers in the world? Like I said, I was born at night, just not last night. Nicholas Bennett
09/07/07 Grand-Am threw a curve ball into the ultratight Daytona Prototype title battle, giving one of the championship aspirants a break ahead of the series finale at Miller Motorsports Park on Sept. 15.
The 5.0-liter Lexus engine, which powers the Chip Ganassi Racing Riley driven by Scott Pruett-who is one point off the championship lead-will use a new cam-shaft. Grand-Am officials believe the Toyota Racing Development-built powerplant lags behind the Pontiac V8 used by the two other teams fighting for the title, Gainsco/Bob Stallings and SunTrust Racing.
Ganassi managing director Mike Hull welcomed the news. He was unable to put a figure on the horsepower increase the cam will provide, but he rubbished suggestions from GM that it could be as much as 25 hp. GM road-racing boss Steve Wesoloski, not surprisingly, came out against the move by Grand-Am. "I don't think we've been pulling away on the straights. It has taken Gainsco seven victories to pull a one-point advantage. That shows how close it has been, so why change it now?" AutoWeek
09/07/07 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' and we apologize to the Grand-Am for not checking the facts with them first. Facts as presented to us by the Grand-Am:
Fact: We dyno test engines when they are presented, without regard to the time of year, point standings, media favorites, sponsorship programs, etc. The Lexus engine has run at a disadvantage in horsepower and torque all season. This is straight from the dyno and most people agree that the dyno has no favorites.
Fact: TRD has presented an engine that produces horsepower and torque that is virtually identical to that produced by the Pontiac. Not more. Nearly identical.
Fact: Grand-Am has approved that engine recipe and those teams fielding cars with the Lexus/TRD engine are now free to take advantage of being equal to the Pontiacs.
Fact: There is no talk in the paddock as we have not held a race since the approval was granted. If there is talk in the paddock next week, I hope it will be of a more informed and adult manner than you imply.
Fact: There is no reason to await a series announcement. Simply checking our web site would have produced this information as early as August 31st.
09/07/07 Also, the Wayne Taylor team is 3rd just 3 points behind in the championship with Pontiac power and they too will lose out if Lexus gets more HP.
09/06/07 The word in the Grand-Am paddock for the season finale at Miller Motorsport Park in Utah is that the Grand-Am series (read that the France family) have decided to fix the outcome of the race and hand the championship to the Chip Ganassi team. The Gainsco team has won eight straight poles and taken many race wins and now lead the Scott Pruett led Chip Ganassi Lexus team by one point. Now comes word that the series is going to grant the Lexus teams more HP ahead of this weekend's season finale so that the Scott Pruett car can win the championship. We await the official series announcement on more HP for the Lexus teams.
Things that make you go hmmm..... What was Champ Car team owner Paul Newman doing in the hospitality area on Sunday morning of the Detroit GP Indy Car race last weekend? Newman has been an outspoken critic of the IRL.
Earnhardt won’t be on No. 25 Q) Will the Owner Points for the #5 and #25 stay in place where they are in 2008? A) Rick Hendrick: "Yes, they'll stay like they are. Casey will move over to the #5 car and that's the only that will change there and the number will change on the #25." Q) Do you already know what number and sponsor Dale Jr. will have and can you reveal it? A) Rick Hendrick: "It's not going to be the #8. Nor the #25. And the sponsorship, hopefully in the next two weeks we'll be able to announce that and the number at the same time. We hope that's going to be probably something with the #8 in it but we really don't even have that locked in right now. That's a true story." GM Racing PR
Robert Yates to retire, Kvapil to replace RuddUPDATE This Rumor is upgraded to 'fact' as reported in this That's Racin' article.
09/07/07 Yates Racing is expected to announce a management structure change Friday night that, according to multiple sources close to the situation, will include team owner Robert Yates' retirement. Those same sources say that Travis Kvapil, current driver of Roush Fenway Racing's #6 Ford in the Craftsman Truck Series, will replace Ricky Rudd in the #88 Ford for the 2008 Sprint Cup season. Sources said Doug Yates, Robert's son and the president of the team, will assume the ownership role and preside over the company. Sources also said that Roush Fenway Racing will provide full support to Yates, including licensing, marketing and engineering. It was unknown how this might affect the recently-announced partnership between open wheel team Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing and Yates. Robert Yates has been a Cup Series owner since 1989. During that time he has established himself as the premier engine builder at NASCAR's highest level and has collected 57 victories. ESPN.com
Baseball owner may buy into RCR Nextel Cup team owner Richard Childress said Friday that it's possible Texas Rangers owner Tom Hicks will get involved in NASCAR by partnering with an existing team.
Hicks and his sons, Tommy Jr. and Alex, were Childress' guest last weekend at California Speedway.
"They wanted to look at our sport," Childress said. "I know they are doing due diligence on our sport, as all good businessmen would do. I think it would be great if they wanted to get involved. They would be a huge asset."
Childress said Hicks is a friend and he invited him to the race. Hicks was in Southern California because the Rangers were playing the Angels in Anaheim.
But Childress said he isn't looking for another partner at the moment. He has a partner in Chartwell Investments, a New York-based equity firm.
"I only want one partner at the end of the day," Childress said. "There's nothing right now that we're really talking about." More at ESPN.com
Champ Car to return to Laguna Seca Pleased by last year's turnout and results, Champ Car will soon announce they will be returning to Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca for spring training March 10-14.
Spring training is the final open test and tune-up for Champ Car before the season begins in April. Champ Car, which once included Laguna Seca on its annual circuit, returned last year for spring training. Monterey Herald
ATT could sponsor Busch SeriesUPDATE #2 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' based on this Hot News item.
09/07/07 Richard Childress Racing likely will lose AT&T from its No. 31 Chevy if the telecommunications company loses its lawsuits with NASCAR and Sprint. Team owner Richard Childress told reporters at California Speedway that AT&T will have no reason to stay with driver Jeff Burton if his car can't carry the company's logos or decals.
"They can't afford to stay with a blank car," Childress said. "It's all up to Sprint. It's in their hands and NASCAR is being controlled by what Sprint lets them do."
Childress said AT&T is prepared to spend three times the money on print and radio/TV advertising as it does on the team. "They'll spend millions of dollars promoting their products, and in that product they're helping promote our sport," he said. "If they get beat and end up leaving, not only will RCR have a loss, but the sport will lose, too." AutoWeek
[Editor's Note: We would expect that NASCAR will try to place AT&T in one of its other divisions rather than let AT&T’s millions walk out the door. But the notion of AT&T sponsoring the Busch series could be problematic because 1) It makes AT&T look busch league compared to Sprint Nextel, 2) Sprint Nextel will object to AT&T sharing the spotlight with them week-in-and-week-out in the NASCAR paddock with AT&T's name everywhere, 3) Pissed off as a result of the lawsuits, AT&T may take pleasure in giving NASCAR the middle finger on its way out of the sport.]
09/03/07 NASCAR’s search for a sponsor for its Busch series seems to have hit some snags, and it’s unclear if that has anything to do with the NASCAR battle with AT&T over its Nextel Cup sponsorship and NASCAR’s claims of exclusivity, which AT&T is challenging. NASCAR has a $30 million price tag on its Busch tour. One possibility - that NASCAR might persuade AT&T to take that Busch series sponsorship. AT&T’s annual media ad budget is $3.4 billion. Winston-Salem Journal
McLaren in major trouble (GMM) An Italian newspaper on Friday published excerpts of what it claims is the 'new evidence' that could cast a pall over formula one and, particularly, Ron Dennis' McLaren team.
Following the FIA's confirmation that one or more of the team's drivers could be in possession of key evidence, La Gazzetta dello Sport quoted sections of an email exchange between test driver Pedro de la Rosa and his Spanish countryman, world champion Fernando Alonso.
"Do you know that I've found out how Ferrari is able to get its tires to work to perfection?" de la Rosa, 36, was quoted as writing to Alonso earlier this year.
He added: "Nigel Stepney told Mike Coughlan."
"I don't believe it," Alonso reportedly replied.
If de la Rosa is proved to have known not only about Coughlan's possession of the 780-page Ferrari dossier but also its contents, the ramifications could be grave for leading management of the Mercedes-powered team, another Italian newspaper claimed on Friday.
McLaren already faces the prospect of a two-season disqualification at next Thursday's extraordinary hearing of the World Motor Sport Council, and the newspaper La Repubblica said team boss Ron Dennis and seven others - including Coughlan and Nigel Stepney - could also be charged criminally and even jailed.
The Rome based daily said prosecutors in Modena believe "senior figures within McLaren" have known about, used and withheld their knowledge about the Ferrari secrets since March.
Carpentier close to signing with GEM While it appears Patrick Carpentier is close to signing with Gillett Evernham Motorsports, it looks like the next step for the Canadian driver is a test session with the NASCAR team. Carpentier's business partner, Robert Desrosiers, said Wednesday that he has had regular talks with the team over the last few weeks. "We don't have any contract signed with them, we don't have any schedule for which race he will do," Desrosiers said.
"The only thing that I know for sure is that Patrick will be testing in the very near future." Desrosiers said the test session will likely be on an oval in Kentucky, possibly as early as next week. "I believe that after the tests, I think all of the cards are going to fall in place and we'll have more of a definite schedule on what Patrick's going to do this season," he said.
"There are still quite a few races left in Busch and Nextel Cup and it's going to be up to Mr. Evernham and Mr. Gillett to see where they want to put Patrick." There was no immediate word on which car Carpentier might drive, but the former Champ Car and IRL driver should be comfortable testing on an oval with his open-wheel experience. Canadian Press
Alonso part of FIA’s ’new evidence’ - report (GMM) Fernando Alonso could be set to emerge right at the centre of the espionage saga.
Ahead of the latest hearing of the World Motor Sport Council on Thursday, it is rumored in the Monza paddock on Thursday that the Spaniard could have been among the team employees who knew about chief designer Mike Coughlan's possession of sensitive Ferrari information.
The FIA this week reinvigorated the so-called 'spy' affair by revealing that it had received unspecified "new evidence".
German specialist magazine Auto Motor und Sport claims that Alonso and fellow Spaniard Pedro de la Rosa, who is McLaren's primary test driver, could be among the sources of the mysterious evidence.
According to the rumors, de la Rosa was earlier this year given confidential Ferrari setup information by Coughlan, who has subsequently been suspended, before passing it on to reigning double world champion Alonso.
The unconfirmed story ties in with even wilder speculation that Alonso, 26, might be deliberately delving into the spying affair so that McLaren is punished by the FIA, thereby releasing him from his unhappy tenure with the Mercedes-powered team.
Another likely source of the additional FIA 'evidence' is Nigel Stepney, who recently sent a letter to the governing body, according to the Italian newspaper La Repubblica.
In the letter, Ferrari's sacked former chief mechanic admits to meeting with Coughlan, and discussing the team's controversial floor design, "to evaluate McLaren's reaction" with "a person I respect".
Stepney wrote: "I met Coughlan in Barcelona, but I didn't give him the designs of the F2007; they were stolen from me within Ferrari."
Coughlan also recently sent a letter to the FIA, La Repubblica reports.
AGR getting special Honda engines? In his latest column Gordon Kirby writes, The Ganassi IRL team is a little perplexed about the speed demonstrated this year by the Andretti-Green cars on big ovals. "We were close, but not quite there, and we don't really know why, to be honest," Hull said. "If we did, we'd be as good as those guys are. We have standard Dallara parts. We don't have any tweaked or special parts. We're doing everything we can on the big ovals to be equal to Andretti-Green and we're a little confused as to why they're faster than we are on the big ovals.
"In the last two or three big oval races in particular," Hull added, "Kanaan and Dario were faster than anybody else on non-tow laps. Even in the races on the big ovals, their non-tow laps were significantly faster than everybody else, not just Ganassi Racing. We find that to be unusual."
[Editor's Note: In the past Honda has given certain drivers or teams development engines that have a bit more HP. One year the Ganassi team dominates, then Penske and this year it is AGR again. This of course with the same Dallara cars. One might speculate that AGR is getting something extra from Honda. When Buddy Rice won the Indy 500 the rampant rumor in the paddock was that his Honda had 50 more HP.]
Lewis and McLaren face exclusion -for 2007 maybe 2008 McLaren and Lewis Hamilton are facing the serious threat of exclusion from the Formula One World Championship as new evidence has surfaced in the 'spy' saga.
McLaren and Ferrari were due to attend a Court of Appeal hearing in Paris next Thursday after the Italian marque appealed the World Council of Motorsport's decision to impose no sanction on their Woking-based rivals.
However, with the emergence of new evidence, this meeting will no longer take place and instead a second hearing will take place a week from today.
None of the parties have yet indicated what the new evidence is, but after the first hearing in July, the FIA did say that the WMSC's decision was far from final.
Their statement at the time read: "If it is found in the future that the Ferrari information has been used to the detriment of the championship, we reserve the right to invite McLaren back in front of the WMSC where it will face the possibility of exclusion from not only the 2007 championship, but also the 2008 championship."
Acura threatens ALMS pullout Acura has pulled back on its plans to move up from LMP2 to LMP1 in the ALMS because the rules changes implemented cause instability and uncertainty. The new rules favor "green" racing and require closed cockpit cars and less imaginative aerodynamics because the cars are to take their cues from road cars.
"Unfortunately, this causes us to reassess our plans for the future," said Acura and Honda race boss Robert Clarke. "When you convince a company like Acura to go racing, it is with a plan for x number of years. To have the game changed after you have sold it to the company board could be very damaging.
"The real danger is this creates an opportunity for management and the board to say, 'Screw it, we want out.' Rule changes normally add expense."
Busch to Gibbs with Toyota, Yeley to No. 21UPDATE #19 The Gibbs team today announced they are moving to the Toyota camp in 2008.
09/02/07 Joe Gibbs Racing President J.D. Gibbs indicated his team had not signed an agreement with manufacturer Toyota and would not confirm that a Sept. 5 news conference has been scheduled with the pair. JGR driver Tony Stewart indicated earlier this week that news conference would happen.
"I hate the fact that I can't say, 'Hey, here's the deal and this is what is going on,' but the reality of it is we're still in the process," Gibbs said Sept. 2 at California Speedway.
And what about incoming driver Kyle Busch's comments that he's been told that he will drive a Toyota next year? Busch is replacing J.J. Yeley in the team's No. 18 next season.
"God bless Kyle - he's going to fit right in with the rest of my guys," Gibbs said about his stable of outspoken drivers. "I can't really comment which direction we're going into at this point."
08/30/07 Joe Gibbs Racing, which has fielded General Motors cars in NASCAR competition since the organization's inception in 1992, will move to Toyota beginning in 2008, The Charlotte Observer reports. A news conference has been tentatively scheduled for 11 a.m. Wednesday at JGR's headquarters in Huntersville, N.C., where the official announcement is set to take place, sources said on Thursday. Officials with Toyota, JGR and Nextel Cup drivers Tony Stewart and Denny Hamlin are scheduled to be in attendance. Officials with Toyota declined to comment.
08/23/07 Last Saturday morning at Michigan International Speedway, Chevrolet and GM Racing announced that they were extending their longstanding relationship with Richard Childress Racing for 2008 and beyond. GM will also renew its deal with Rick Hendrick and Hendrick Motorsports in the coming weeks, possibly at the Chevy Rock & Roll 400 coming up in Richmond, if not sooner. The big question continues to revolve around whether or not Joe Gibbs Racing will re-sign with GM, a source of much conjecture in recent weeks. But judging by the tone and tenor of GM executives' statements last week - and their demeanor while avoiding comment on the situation - it's clear to me that Joe Gibbs Racing is as good as gone.
The easiest reason to suggest that it's already a done deal is the fact that Toyota is very disappointed in its inaugural effort in NASCAR this year. Even though the Toyota "Camry" entries have shown signs of life of late - especially in the hands of young hot shoe Brian Vickers - make no mistake, despite the public pronouncements, Toyota expected more. Much more. And they're not willing to show up at Daytona next February without a significant and aggressive upgrade to their effort. That means going after Joe Gibbs Racing with a serious demonstration of their commitment to win, which in NASCAR translates to money. Lots of money. Toyota is dangling huge numbers in front of JGR, according to one insider, a sum that may be as much as 50 percent more than what GM is offering the team to renew.
But it's not just about the money for Joe Gibbs at this point, because there's one thing gnawing at Gibbs even more - and that is the fact that Gibbs feels that if he stays with Chevrolet he will always be a "1A" team to Chevy's "A" teams fielded by Hendrick and Childress. And it's hard to argue with that logic, because Hendrick and Childress clearly hold sway over GM Racing - and it shows. Not only is Toyota offering Joe Gibbs Racing a ton of money, it is willing to make JGR its priority by offering the full technical resources of the company to Gibbs. That means no more second-class citizen status within the GM Racing family for Gibbs. And with JGR boasting arguably the premier driver lineup in all of NASCAR in 2008 - with Tony Stewart, Denny Hamlin and the meteoric Kyle Busch as his drivers - Gibbs feels that Toyota will give him the best chance to win. More ...
Ralf Schumacher to DTM?UPDATE (GMM) German manufacturer Audi has rubbished reports that it is preparing to make a more than $3m bid to sign Ralf Schumacher for its DTM campaign in 2008.
The German touring car series' boss Hans-Werner Aufrecht this week admitted that he would like the 32-year-old, whose Toyota contract runs out at the end of the season, to rescue his embattled career in DTM.
But Audi's Motorsport boss Dr Wolfgang Ullrich told the German news agency Sport-Informations-Dienst on Wednesday that the link between his outfit and Schumacher has no basis in truth.
"These speculations have been plucked completely from the sky," Ullrich said.
He insisted: "Audi has had no contact with Ralf Schumacher, nor any interest in signing him. We do not need Ralf Schumacher."
09/04/07 (GMM) Embattled formula one veteran Ralf Schumacher has been invited to take refuge next year in the premier German touring car series DTM.
Hans-Werner Aufrecht, who is chairman of the category's organizing body ITR, envisages an on-track duel next year between former grand prix rivals Schumacher, 32, and twice world champion Mika Hakkinen.
"DTM does need names such as those," he told the German news agency Sport-Informations-Dienst (sid).
Aufrecht said that with Hakkinen already with Mercedes-Benz, Schumacher - whose Toyota contract runs out at the end of the year - should therefore link up with Audi.
He added: "I am convinced that, with a competitive car at his disposal, Ralf Schumacher could play an important role in the DTM.
"No doubt, he would be a good fit with us."
Motorsport boss Dr Wolfgang Ullrich stopped short of confirming a link between Audi and Ralf, including rumors of a (US) $3.4m offer for 2008, but he admits that, "without a doubt, (Schumacher) is a popular German F1 driver.
"If he comes and fully supports the series, he can be an asset for DTM."
For now, Schumacher's manager Hans Mahr says he is focusing completely on prolonging his charge's grand prix career.
But he added: "We will definitely not be so arrogant as to say that the DTM is uninteresting to us."
Kovalainen to keep his job with Renault (GMM) Renault's two technical chiefs have offered strong praise for Heikki Kovalainen, raising the prospects that the rookie Finn will be given a new contract for 2008.
With the French team expected to unveil next year's driver lineup at Monza this weekend, 25-year-old Kovalainen admitted two weeks ago that he had not yet been guaranteed his seat beyond the end of 2007.
He had a shaky start to his rookie season earlier this year but in recent races has got on terms with experienced teammate Giancarlo Fisichella, whose own future at Renault is also not yet assured.
The Spanish newspaper Diario As late last month, however, reported that Kovalainen was likely to race alongside current test driver Nelson Piquet Jr in 2008.
Renault technical director Bob Bell said in the team's official pre-Monza podcast this week that Kovalainen is "really coming on strongly now" after twelve career grands prix.
"I think that as we have improved the performance of the car he has been able to exploit it and really show his true colors. He has been getting stronger and stronger, more and more confident -- he is a race winner," Bell said.
Asked about Kovalainen's veteran teammate Fisichella, meanwhile, engineering director Pat Symonds commented: "Well, still good, steady performances; I think as Bob said, Heikki is just coming on in leaps and bounds, he's got his confidence now.
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