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DATE News (chronologically)

Logano may run more Cup races
Joe Gibbs Racing (JGR) driver Joey Logano continued his Sprint Cup Series education by turning test laps at Kentucky Speedway today. “I’m here today in the Cup car just trying different stuff for Joe Gibbs Racing we haven’t really tried yet. We’re wingin’ it to see what we’ve got and to see if we can learn a thing or two,” Logano said.

Today’s Sprint Cup Series test follows yesterday’s announcement that Logano will not complete the final three events of a previously-announced five-race Sprint Cup Series stretch with Hall of Fame (HOF) Racing. While he’ll yield the #96 seat to veteran Ken Schrader for the Oct. 11 event at Lowe’s Motor Speedway, the Oct. 18 race at Martinsville and the Nov. 2 clash at Texas, Logano will see Sprint Cup Series action in a #02 JGR machine at Atlanta Motor Speedway Oct. 26.

“When things aren’t working right, you’ve got to make a change. We couldn’t pinpoint what was goin’ on. In the practice that was rained out at Richmond at least we were fast, so we’re going to back to that deal and we’ll try to go from there. I think I learned a lot in those (two Cup) races, but they were no where near the runs we were looking for. Personally, I’d like to race a lot better, so we cut a little of those (HOF) races back, but I think it was worth it. We’re going to run the No. 02 Home Depot Toyota in Atlanta and possibly a couple more races. I feel like I’m going to be in a really good car,” Logano said. Kentucky Speedway PR


New venue for Australian GP?
The Victorian Government has dismissed claims it has spent $250-million securing the Australian Formula One Grand Prix until 2015.

The New South Wales MP Ian Macdonald revealed in Parliament what he says is the cost of the new deal signed by the Victorian Government.

Earlier this year, the Victorian Premier, John Brumby, refused the say how much the new five-year contract cost.

The event cost the state $35-million last year.

A Victorian Government spokesman has rejected the MP's claim as ridiculous speculation.


DEI to rob from the grave to survive? UPDATE #3 Not so fast, Rusty Wallace said in a statement released via e-mail to the Observer by his son, Greg, who is vice president of Rusty Wallace Inc.

"I love Kenny to death; he's been trying to get me back in a car ever since I retired after 2005," the statement said. "While any rumors like this are certainly flattering, they're untrue. I have a long-term commitment to ABC and ESPN and I really love what I'm doing right now."

10/01/08 From an article at SPEEDtv.com by Kenny Wallace: The hot NASCAR rumor right now is not something you’d hear anywhere other than around the race shops in Mooresville, N.C. Everyone wants to know if my brother Rusty Wallace is coming out of retirement to drive for Dale Earnhardt Inc. next season.

I’m running the #00 Michael Waltrip Racing Toyota in Sunday’s Sprint Cup Series race at Talladega and was at Michael’s shop Tuesday being fitted for my seat. Six different crew members came up to me and said they’d heard a rumor Rusty was coming back to drive for DEI. These rumors get started in the Mooresville area because the shops are so close to each other and nothing can be kept secret for long. All I can say is that where there’s smoke, there’s fire. And he is definitely considering stepping back into a race car. He’s considering this huge move because he watched Brett Favre come out of retirement in the NFL and his good friend Mark Martin is giving it another shot next year at Hendrick. If Mark had quit, Rusty would have been comfortable with his retirement. But watching Mark, who is a couple of years younger than my brother, stage this comeback has really tugged on Rusty’s heartstrings.

Rusty has told me numerous times he can outrun half the drivers in the Cup Series and he truly is giving a lot of thought to returning to the track. If he wants to make that commitment, I’ll support him 110-percent. The decision is Rusty’s and his wife Patti’s, but I think the whole possibility is very inspirational and I’m looking forward to his answer. If he comes back, I think he’ll be a bit surprised by the new car. I predict Rusty will be successful but he’ll be shocked that he won’t have control of the chassis the way he used to. He’ll have an adjustment period because the cars are controlled by engineers, bump-stops and seven-post machines, technology that wasn’t in such great use when he left the sport. There is no doubt Rusty has the talent to run well but he’ll probably be upset he won’t be able to set up the car on his own or tell the team how to do it. Maybe we’ll know sometime soon if I’m right or not. SPEEDtv

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Moscow to start construction on F1 track this week UPDATE (GMM)  Work on a formula one standard circuit began near Moscow on Wednesday, Russian media said.

We reported earlier this year that Hans Geist, formerly in charge of F1 projects in Austria and Bahrain, is to oversee the construction of Moscow Raceway, located 77 kilometers west of Moscow in the town of Volokolamsk.

The Hermann Tilke designed circuit, to bid for DTM and MotoGP races, is slated to be completed in 2010.

"The track will be designed to formula one standards.  But the operator may not necessarily have a grand prix, even if the opportunity would be accepted if presented," Geist said earlier this year.

Russian media on Wednesday said the cost of the project is $215m (5.5 billion rubles).

09/30/08 Work to build a brand-new Formula 1 track near the city of Moscow will start on Wednesday. According to the Russian media the track 'Moscow Raceway', which is situated about 80 miles from Moscow, should be finalized in 2010.

German architect Hermann Tilke designed the track that will be build in a little town called Volokolamsk. Hans Geist, former manager of the A1-Ring in Austria and the Bahrain International Circuit, will lead the project in Russia.

The Moscow Raceway will be able to host both Formula 1 and MotoGP races.


Senna on pole for STR seat - Buemi UPDATE #5 (GMM)  Bruno Senna this week admitted he is in promising negotiations to step up into a formula one race drive in 2009.

The 24-year-old Brazilian, who was born mere months before his late uncle Ayrton made his own grand prix debut in 1984, revealed that his good opening season in GP2 has led him to talks with F1 teams.

"I guess it gave me good possibilities to go to formula one next year," said Senna, who finished the sport's feeder series second behind champion Giorgio Pantano.

"We have been speaking with quite a few teams and there is great interest from a few of them," he told reporters at a Mercedes event in Germany.

"So there are a few opportunities as a race driver, a few as a test driver, but there is a lot of competition and I need to come ahead of the competition right now on the negotiations and see if I can get a race drive," Senna added.

It is believed that Toro Rosso - co-owned by a close friend of the Senna family, Gerhard Berger - is Senna's most promising opportunity to take up a spot on the 2009 Melbourne grid.

There are also openings at other teams, including Honda, but opportunities there are likely to be limited to test driver roles.

"Toro Rosso is one of the possibilities, not the only one, but it can make the whole difference and for sure he (Berger) still gives me great advice and help all the way," said Senna.

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Car dealerships to go belly up faster
U.S. new-vehicle dealership closures may rise as much as 40 percent this year as slumping sales and surging borrowing costs cut into profits, the National Automobile Dealers Association said today.

As many as 600 may shut down or consolidate with other dealers, equal to about 3 percent of the total, said Paul Taylor, an economist at the McLean, Virginia-based group. That compares with 430 a year ago.

Dealers that sell cars from General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC probably will account for the bulk of the closings, Taylor said. Americans have tightened spending as gasoline prices hover at record levels. At the same time, dealers are paying higher interest rates to get cars on their lots, shrinking profit margins.

``There are more dealerships out there than there are cars to sell,'' Taylor said in a telephone interview.


If Ghosn gets the axe, so too may Renault's F1 program
Renault SA Chief Executive Officer Carlos Ghosn needs a new blockbuster to pull Europe's worst-performing auto stock out of a nosedive and defend his reputation. He may not get it when he introduces the revamped Megane compact at the Paris Motor Show this week.

Ghosn unveils the car as key models are losing ground to Volkswagens, Peugeots and Fiats. To keep sales growing, the Boulogne-Billancourt, France-based company has relied on the low-cost Logan sedan in emerging economies, where sales are beginning to slow as the global financial crisis take hold.

``The tide's turning against them now,'' said Stuart Pearson, an analyst at Credit Suisse in London who switched his rating on Renault to ``underperform'' from ``outperform'' yesterday. ``The international markets that were Renault's strength are becoming its Achilles heel, and the new Megane isn't going to be enough to meet next year's targets.''

Renault's share of the western European market dropped to 7.7 percent in the first eight months of this year from 9.7 percent in 2005 -- when Ghosn took over -- even as it outspent rivals on model development. Two years ago, Ghosn vowed to post a 6 percent operating margin by 2009 or ``take the consequences.''

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A Williams/Patrick hookup?
Comedian Robin Williams was spotted drinking double espressos while dining with race car driver Danica Patrick at Gibsons in Chicago Saturday night.  Hmm.....was it romantic or is there a movie or TV project the two are working on?


Heidfeld's job is on the line, move to Honda? UPDATE #5 (GMM)  Nick Heidfeld could be set to move from BMW-Sauber to Honda for the 2009 season.

The struggling Japanese team's chief executive Nick Fry told spox.com that he is keeping an eye on the availability of the 31-year-old German, whose inconsistent form this year has cast doubt on his future.

It is believed that Jenson Button will definitely be retained by Brackley based Honda next year, but team chiefs have been weighing up their options for the seat currently occupied by veteran Rubens Barrichello.

Honda's most high profile target was Fernando Alonso, but the Spaniard is now widely expected to stay at Renault.

"I've already spoken with Nick, and more than just saying 'hello'," Fry is quoted as admitting.

The Briton also confirmed rumors that 2008 GP2 runner-up Bruno Senna is in the frame, even though it is believed team boss Ross Brawn is pushing for an initial test driver contract.

"He has the name, he has the genes," Fry said.

Wilder speculation, repeated in the authoritative French sports daily L'Equipe, is that Toro Rosso has thrown in a serious bid to sign the available Alonso next year.

"Of course I am interested (in Alonso), but so is everybody else," team co-owner Gerhard Berger said, admitting that his Faenza based team cannot compete with the financial incentives offered by its rivals.

Honda's Fry, meanwhile, advises Alonso to spurn BMW-Sauber's advances.

"Fernando found that McLaren is rigid, and BMW is even worse," he said.

09/25/08 (GMM)  Despite earlier speculation about his future proving untrue, the future of Nico Rosberg is once again the subject of paddock rumors.

Several weeks ago, before Heikki Kovalainen was confirmed for 2009, McLaren dismissed suggestions it was looking to buy out the young German's Williams contract.

The rumor had been triggered by famous driver manager Willi Weber, whose charge Nico Hulkenberg is a Williams test driver this year.

Weber hinted that Rosberg could be set to move on soon.

Williams and Rosberg have since pledged to stay together in 2009, but the Swiss newspaper Blick is from Singapore reporting the possibility of a shake-up.

Blick claims that Rosberg, 23, and BMW-Sauber's Nick Heidfeld could exchange cockpits at the end of this season.

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Scott Speed to make Cup debut, replace Allmendinger UPDATE #4 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement.

09/26/08 Red Bull Racing general manager Jay Frye stopped short Friday of declaring Scott Speed the driver of the team’s No. 84 Toyota next season, but called Speed, “a very key and important part of our program going forward.”

Frye’s assessment of Speed’s role with the group comes three days after it was announced the team will part ways with driver AJ Allmendinger at the end of 2009, and perhaps even earlier.

Allmendinger’s move would allow Speed - who is part of the team’s driver development program in the ARCA/ReMax Series and a part-time driver of the Red Bull-sponsored Bill Davis Racing entry in the Craftsman Truck Series - to possibly take over Red Bull Racing’s open seat in the Sprint Cup Series next season.

“What we’ve always said we were going to do with him was we were going to take it slow and as he progressed, we would graduate him when he was ready,” Frye said. “Every time we’ve graduated him, he’s far exceeded any expectations. The other night at the [Cup] test at [Lowe's Motor Speedway], he was phenomenal. We had high expectations for the test and he exceeded them again.”

Frye was particularly impressed by how Speed handled himself during the test and interacted with Red Bull’s other drivers.

“He was good all weekend,” he said, noting that he expects crew chief Jimmy Elledge to work with the new driver of No. 84 car next season. “In two days, every time he went out he got better. He has a pretty methodical approach, how he goes about his business, and he’s just a professional. All three teams … worked together really well. It was a really, really good test.”

09/23/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today.  Scott Speed knows that there is an opening for a Sprint Cup driver at Red Bull Racing, but the former Formula One driver said Tuesday that he still doesn’t know if he will be tapped to replace AJ Allmendinger in the No. 84 car.

Speed was testing the No. 82 car at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in preparation for making a Cup start later this year. If a team tests a car, it typically needs to race it during the season.

Red Bull announced Tuesday that Allmendinger will not return next season.

“Who knows?” Speed said prior to the test session Tuesday afternoon on whether he would be full time in the Cup series next year. ”So far, every decision Red Bull has made for me, every car I’ve ever driven has been what Red Bull says. … I was very successful in Europe doing it.

“I made it all the way to Formula One, so I have trust in their decisions and what they decide for me are going to be the right ones.”

Currently leading the ARCA standings in his first full season of stock-car racing, Speed is expected to see his first Cup start at Charlotte in a few weeks. He has ARCA commitments this weekend and then will compete in the ARCA Talladega race the following weekend.

The team plans to use Allmendinger in the No. 84 at Kansas Speedway this weekend but has not announced its plans for that car beyond that race.

“Preparing to race Cup has always been the plan since I first got here – everything we’ve done has been towards that,” Speed said. “Honestly, I could have came back from Europe and jumped into a Cup car and raced and not looked stupid, but the more learning and the more experience before I make that step into Cup, the better I will be. We’re trying to do as much as possible before that time comes.” Scenedaily.com

08/23/08 Between now and the end of the 2008 season, Scott Speed likely will make his Sprint Cup debut. Red Bull Racing will probably employ its test team – which includes veteran Cup crew chief Richard “Slugger” Labbe — for a third car for Speed, said team Vice President and General Manager Jay Frye said Friday at Bristol Motor Speedway. Red Bull is still deciding whether or not to run two or three full-time cars next season, or two full- and one part-time cars, and whether it will retain AJ Allmendinger in its #84 Toyota. Speed, who has a chance to win the ARCA RE/MAX Series title this year, has been exceptionally impressive transitioning to stock cars, while Allmendinger has shown huge improvement since the start of the season. Frye said he hopes to have 2008 plans finalized in October. SPEEDtv

08/04/08 ARCA and NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series driver Scott Speed tested a Sprint Cup car for Red Bull Racing last Monday and Tuesday, and said he expects to make his series debut later this season.

“Certainly we want to keep the ball rolling,” Speed said at Pocono Raceway. “It wouldn’t surprise me if I was in a Cup car by the end of the year racing.

“I think at this point, there may be certain people who are pushing very hard to do a full Cup season next year. I think it looks [like] I will do a full truck season and do a lot of Cup racing. The whole thing is adapting very well. I didn’t expect the test to go as well as it did. It went really well. There will be more Cup tests, there will be Cup racing. From that we decide what we want to do.”

Speed, a former Formula 1 competitor who drives for Bill Davis Racing in the truck series, insists that he is in no hurry to make the jump to Cup.

“I’d rather race trucks anyway,” he said. “It’s shorter racing, it’s fun with cool guys, [more] laid-back. ... Saying that, I haven’t raced Cup yet. We take it one step at a time. We’re in no hurry; I know there’s a car waiting for me. I know I’ll have a proper chance to see if I will be successful. And I honestly think I will be successful in it. It’s just a matter of time.” Scenedaily.com


FIA ponders permanent Stewards
The word in Singapore is that the FIA is planning to change the way in which the stewards operate, but this is not in reaction to the recent controversies, but rather a work which has been in progress for some time. FIA President Max Mosley has been mulling over the idea of having four stewards at each race since the end of last year. There are some who argue that this is bad idea as it will mean that more FIA politicians will be involved in the processes of judging the racers, and will thus make the system easier to manipulate. This is arguable as it largely depends on who the people taking the roles are. At the moment the stewards are largely members of the World Council and the job is seen as one of the perks of the job. Some of those are highly-experienced sports administrators but some are not, indeed there have been stewards in recent years who have never seen an F1 race before officiating at one.

The primary controversy in F1 at the moment is not actually about the stewards but rather is concentrated on the people around them who influence the decision-making process, notably the stewards' advisor Alan Donnelly, a close associate of Mosley, and Race Director Charlie Whiting. The disappearance of Tony Scott Andrews at the end of last year removed a highly credibly figure and the fact that he appeared at the recent FIA International Court of Appeal as a witness for McLaren suggests that he was none too impressed by what happened.

The FIA argues that it is hard to find people to do the jobs, arguing that if one chooses Britons, the Italians complain and if one chooses Italians the British complain. This is largely irrelevant as it is the credibility of the individuals involved which is most important. If they are trusted then the sport will be better off for it. The bad news is that not enough of the FIA World Council members are trusted, most being seen as willing to do whatever it takes to keep their roles rather than what is best for the sport. That may not fair but that is certainly the perception in F1 circles. Grandprix.com


F1 future in Asia not Europe
The Williams motor racing team boss says the future of Formula One lies in Asia not Europe.

Sir Frank Williams, who saw his driver Nico Rosberg finish second in the first-ever night race in Singapore, says with Asia's economic rise the importance of Europe and the United States is diminishing.

Williams says the future for F1 is absolutely in the Far East.

With Singapore now on the calendar, Asia and the Middle East have six Grand Prix races -- Australia, Bahrain, China, Japan and Malaysia being the others.

Abu Dhabi will make its debut next year with South Korea coming on board on 2010 and India 2011.

Williams says Singapore has a good chance of challenging Monaco for being the jewel in the crown of Formula One. Radionz.co.nz


Honda to Launch Hybrid Motorcycles in 2010
Honda is reportedly working on hybrid motorcycles and is planning to launch them in the market by as early as 2010. The company is also planning to introduce smaller electric motorcycles which could be launched by 2011.

Honda aims to implement car hybrid and battery technologies to develop the hybrid models of motorcycles.

Honda said that they believe they can shrink a hybrid engine enough to be mounted on a motorcycle frame.

The hybrid motorbikes will be available in engine displacements between 200 and 1,000 cc, and, according to Honda, will be 50 percent more fuel-efficient. Production will be cut by using common components in both hybrid cars and motorcycles.

Honda will also be producing a new line of electric scooters, and a successor to the Cub series motorbikes for commercial use, with an engine size of 50 to 125 cc with a limited range of about 30km.


FIA may ditch water barriers in Singapore
The commentators never picked up on this but it looked to us, and we watched it a few times, that the Sutil crash was the result of water from the water barriers that was dragged back on the track by Massa after he spun in the previous corner and re-entered the corner just preceding Sutil's shunt.

Water barriers on a street circuit?  Insane.


No. 42 team likely not to be penalized
Robin Pemberton, NASCAR's vice president of competition, said Sunday that Chip Ganassi Racing and Brian Pattie, crew chief for the #42 Dodge of Juan Pablo Montoya, are not likely to be hit with any further penalties for the technical violation that cost them the Kansas pole. "We'll continue to review it, but this is a lot like when we find a car is a little too high or too low in inspection," Pemberton said. "It's not a major offense and losing the pole is probably enough of a penalty." Montoya beat out Jimmie Johnson for his first Cup pole on Friday, but the postqualifying inspection found the gas pressure in his rear shocks exceeded the allowable maximum. Johnson was moved up to the pole and Montoya had to start 42nd. Montoya did the best he could with a tough situation, moving his way up to 16th in the first 100 laps and finishing 20th. "To get a top-20 from starting dead last is a pretty good day here," Pattie said. Associated Press/ESPN


Suzuka to return as next night race?
(GMM)  Suzuka could be set to return to the formula one calendar as a night race.

F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone suggested in Singapore that "Japan" is his next target to convince to install floodlights.

Currently, Fuji stages the Japanese grand prix, but from 2009 it is expected that Honda-owned Suzuka will begin alternating the country's annual F1 privilege.

The pit buildings and main grandstands have been demolished since Suzuka last staged a grand prix in 2006, and Motorsport Aktuell suggests that floodlighting could be in organizers' plans for the rebuilt circuit.

Spotted in Singapore at the weekend was Australian grand prix chief executive Drew Ward, but he insists that night racing is not in the immediate future of the Melbourne race.

"Our current contract runs through to 2015 and it has been ruled out in the present circumstances.  In the future, who knows?" he told the Herald Sun.


Kyle Petty to be axed by Petty Enterprises?
Was this #45-Kyle Petty's last race for Petty Enterprises? Sunday's Kansas 400 looks like it might well have been his last Sprint Cup run for the family business that he's worked for so many years, that his grandfather Lee founded in 1949 and that his father Richard has been running all these years. That pending departure-not of Kyle Petty's own doing-is the stunning word from Patti Petty, Kyle's wife. Kyle Petty has been the center of a family storm of controversy since the spring, and he insists he doesn't think he's part of the long-running problems at Petty Enterprises. And Patti Petty says her husband is determined to stay at the wheel of a Cup car.....for someone. Kyle Petty himself ... has been struggling with the entire situation, Patti Petty says. While Petty himself was stoic about whatever turmoil is going on behind the scenes, promising to talk about things eventually, his wife was quite emotional - "Maybe I'm the only one here willing to tell the truth," she said. "They haven't wanted Kyle in the car the last three years. They want a young driver, a 30-year-old, a 20-year-old. "But Wells Fargo, our sponsor, says it's going to stay with Kyle, whatever he does. I wish Chip Ganassi (a fellow Dodge team owner) would take a look at Kyle. He's got a 12-race sponsorship deal for next year that would be a perfect part-time schedule for Kyle. And Kyle could help mentor a young driver. They told him at Watkins Glen - right when he was standing there in his driver's suit - that they didn't want him in the car." There are indications that Michael McDowell, currently driving for Michael Waltrip's Toyota operation, and AJ Allmendinger, currently driving for Team Red Bull, are under consideration for the Petty ride, as teammate with Bobby Labonte. Kyle Petty is tentatively scheduled to run a Petty car at Phoenix in November, but Patti Petty says that looks too iffy. Winston-Salem Journal


Marc Gene renews Ferrari test deal
(GMM) Marc Gene will remain a Ferrari test driver next year after renewing his contract for 2009.

Reports in Spain say the 34-year-old from Barcelona has agreed a new one-year deal.

"The team does not usually announce these renewals, but yes, I will be staying for a fifth year with Ferrari," he is quoted as saying from Singapore by the Marca sports newspaper.


Hendrick to expand empire?
NASCAR team owner Rick Hendrick, who also has 62 automotive dealerships spread across the United States, appears to be adding 13 more.

Bill Heard Enterprises, one of the leading sellers of Chevrolet vehicles in the country, closed all 13 of its dealerships on Wednesday including a large store in Sanford.

Friday Rick Hendrick confirmed to Fox that he has spoken to the group but stopped short of saying they had actually purchased the entire group.

"If there's a potential opportunity to expand our company, we're always going to be interested in discussing it," said Rick Hendrick, chairman of Charlotte, N.C.-based Hendrick Automotive Group. "We're constantly looking at ways to grow the Hendrick Automotive Group organization.

"We have spoken with the folks at Bill Heard Enterprises, and I personally have appreciated their time and effort. If something comes of our conversations, we certainly will announce it."

According to a company statement released Wednesday through Atlanta public relations professional Alan Ulman, the Bill Heard Enterprises closures will affect about 2,700 employees.

The Columbus-based company had five dealerships in Georgia and nine in six other states -- Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Nevada, Tennessee and Texas. The Arizona dealership closed two weeks ago.


JTG Daugherty Racing to Toyota?
JTG Daugherty Racing hasn't named a manufacturer for next season when it moves full time to the Sprint Cup Series from the Nationwide Series but the team was working out of a Michael Waltrip Racing hauler on Saturday at Kansas Speedway. JTG Daugherty, which qualified on speed for Sunday's Cup race with driver #47-Marcos Ambrose, had a hauler fire in June that destroyed one of its transporters. The team got some help from Richard Childress Racing when it qualified for the Allstate 400 at Indianapolis Motor Speedway in late July. But could the team working out of a MWR hauler at Kansas be a sign of a potential affiliation and a move to Toyota? JTG Daugherty currently fields Fords. "Obviously we have a really good relationship with Michael Waltrip Racing," Geschickter said. "At this point, we're not ready to announce anything. But we know them better than most in the fact that we were able to go straight over there and borrow some equipment." SceneDaily.com


Kansas eyes night race
Kansas Speedway president Jeff Boerger says that he is intent on the 1.5-mile track “becoming the Mecca of Motorsports.”  At least one matter is already certain: Boerger and track executives are moving forward in their plans to acquire a second Sprint Cup date at their facility by 2011, and possibly by 2010.

The track recently won the rights to a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino scheduled to be completed by the time of the proposed second race date.

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IndyCar TV schedule UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  The IndyCar Series will begin assessing the virtues of the Versus television network as soon as the 2009 season begins. The cable network new to motor sports will open its coverage of Indy Racing League events with the season-opening race in St. Petersburg, Fla., on April 5. Versus, formerly known as the Outdoor Life Network and now owned by Comcast, will have 13 IndyCar races next season, including the first three before giving way to ABC for the Indianapolis 500. Versus' 10-year contract calls for expanded programming and three-hour windows for races.

ABC's four other races are bunched in a six-race stretch that includes Milwaukee (May 31); Newton, Iowa (June 21); Watkins Glen, N.Y. (July 5) and the series' inaugural race in Toronto (July 12).

Neither network has announced its broadcast team. IndyStar

09/26/08 Rumor has it that the Indy 500, Milwaukee, Iowa, Watkins Glen, and Toronto IndyCar races will be telecast on ABC in 2009. Versus will broadcast the rest.

racing news

Winston Salem-Journal to axe NASCAR writer
Rumor has it that on Tuesday, employees were notified by email that Mike Mulhern, the NASCAR beat writer the past 35 years, would be let go at the end of the Chase for the Cup in November.

The paper's management cited increased costs of travel and the changing face of NASCAR -- no longer a SE regional operation -- as contributing factors. Instead of paying for a reporter's expenses to Martinsville, North Wilkesboro, Rockingham, Darlington, Charlotte and Richmond twice a year, cities like Kansas City, Chicago, Fontana (Calif.), Dallas-Fort Worth have replaced old-line speedways, driving up travel expense costs.

The paper's management also said that RJ Reynolds no longer sponsoring the Winston Cup circuit, nor holding the annual Winston Cup Preview in Winston-Salem, made the NASCAR beat less important for the newspaper.

The paper's management said it will use the Associated Press and, when available, reports from other Media General newspapers (Martinsville, Richmond, Tampa) to fill the void created by Mulhern's dismissal.

Racing News

Paul Newman on last weeks, wants to die at home UPDATE #4 A Tribute to our great friend, Paul Newman, is on our Home Page.

09/27/08 Sadly this rumor is upgraded to 'fact'.  See Hot News page for story.

08/24/08 We are told Lime Rock Park was closed down for an hour and a half on August 13th to honor Paul Newman. He was attended by his family, close friends, Skip Barber, mechanics on his race team, and those who happened to be at the track.  Newman toured the track in his Corvette race car that he ran and won so many races at Lime Rock in. He had come to say goodbye. Diagnosed with terminal cancer he is not expected to live beyond September.

08/08/08 All cards and wishes for Paul can be sent to the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing headquarters in Lincolnshire, Illinois.

Paul L. Newman
Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing
500 Tower Parkway
Lincolnshire, IL 60069

This photo taken last July showed Paul Newman looking pretty well.  Rumors of his cancer surfaced this past January and the cancer has overcome him very quickly since that point in time.
Paul Newman has told his family he wants to die at home, according to new US reports.

The Oscar-winning actor has completed his chemotherapy but has told his family he has weeks to live.

Newman was recently pictured leaving the Weill Cornell Medical Center in New York in a wheelchair and reports say that he wants to be with wife Joanne Woodward and his daughters in his final weeks.

“He didn't want to die in the hospital,” said a close family friend. “Joanne and his daughters are beside themselves with grief.”

It was reported that the star of Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid has been putting his affairs in order.

The source, described as a 'close family friend' said that the star – who co-owns a motor racing team and has his own salad dressing brand – had spent the past few weeks getting his affairs in order.

His decision to give away his favorite car, a Ferrari, to a friend was also said to have angered his children, who are finding it hard to accept that their father may be dying.

“The sudden move angered his children,” said the source. “It's especially hard for them to come to grips with what's going on.”  The Sun  [Related rumor]


Carpentier could move to Nationwide Series
Patrick Carpentier, a former race winner on the defunct Champ Car circuit who came to NASCAR last year, is in a squeeze. With Reed Sorenson moving over to GEM for next season and sponsors in short supply, his chances of remaining with his #10 team appear slim. Although he said the door isn't completely closed on a return to GEM, he may wind up running full time in the Nationwide Series next season. Carpentier has competed in eight Nationwide events this year, with a top finish of second in Montreal. "I think I've got something for the full season in Nationwide for next year, and I'm going to run it," he said, adding that the ride isn't with GEM. As for his prospects of staying with the No. 10? "They're still trying hard, and if it works out, we'll be here next year. That's what I hope, because I like the guys. We made a lot of races this year. It's tough. For guys coming from open-wheel to here, you'd better park your ego at the entrance." NASCAR.com


Stanton Barrett to drive for Sudler/Beck IndyCar team UPDATE #2 This rumor, originally broke by AutoRacing1.com back in early September, is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Team 3G (three guys), formally announced Sept. 26 at Kansas Speedway its intention to compete in the IndyCar Series full time in 2009 with Stanton Barrett behind the wheel of the No. 98 Curb/Agajanian/Team 3G entry. Why Kansas Speedway? It's where Barrett was driving in the Nationwide Series event this weekend.

Stanton Barrett
"I am thrilled to be joining Team 3G and the IndyCar Series in 2009," said Barrett, who has competed in NASCAR Sprint Cup and Nationwide series for the past 15 years. "I feel the time is right to move to the IndyCar Series. They have a lot of momentum, and I think they will continue to grow in popularity with fans and corporate marketers."

Marketing partners for the team Include Interush.net, Phytter Phone, Curb Records, and Grandstay.net, with additional partnerships to be announced.

"Stanton will integrate nicely with the IndyCar Series competition," Beck said. "He has plenty of oval experience from driving in NASCAR, and has road racing experience from early in his career."

Beck and Steve Sudler, who brings 15 years of motorsports sponsorship and marketing experience, renewed acquaintances at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Pleasantries evolved into discussions about the future in unified North American open-wheel racing under the IndyCar Series banner.

"(Sudler) was looking to get more involved in a business that would grow," Beck said. "He knew our weak point was the marketing side of it. We started talking that the two of us working together would be better than either one of us trying to work alone. He's handling the marketing side of it and I'm basically handling the competition side.

"It certainly re-energizes in a way our efforts. We've always been here and trying to work at it, but with Steve being here it's been a big boost because he has so many connections. We're just so much further ahead than we ever have been in the year for next year." IndyCar.com

09/25/08 Going against the popular trend, Stanton Barrett is leaving NASCAR for open wheel and jumping into the IndyCar Series for 2009 with a new team that plans to operate more on efficiency than cubic dollars.

Barrett, a veteran of both the Sprint Cup and Nationwide series for the past 15 years, will be make the official announcement Friday at Kansas City that he’s driving for 3G Racing.

Based in Indianapolis at the westside shop of Greg Beck, 3G is the product of Steve Sudler, Barrett and Beck and stands for 3 Guys Racing.

“I’ve always been a big fan of Indy cars and open wheel, back when I was a kid and my dad and Paul took me to the races,” said Barrett, whose godfather in Paul Newman and whose father (Stan) was a big-time Hollywood stunt driver who also helped launch the Skoal Bandit NASCAR program. “I’ve spent 18 years in NASCAR and I went into it because I thought it was more talent driven, but now it’s so expensive and the cars are so different, and I got this chance with 3G so I took it.” More at SPEEDTV.com

09/05/08 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Team 3G, LLC, a newly-formed racing team based in Brownsburg, Indiana, today will announce its intention to compete in both the IndyCar Series and Indy Lights championships beginning in 2009.

We hear that the Team 3G ownership group consists of veteran racing and sports marketing professionals - Indy car racing veteran Greg Beck will lead the competition side of the new team.  Joining Beck as a Team 3G principal is Steve Sudler, a Plainfield, Indiana native.  Sudler brings 15 years of motorsports sponsorship and marketing experience to the new team.

In addition to the IndyCar Series, the team is planning to build a driver development program in the Indy Lights series. 

The team will be based in Brownsburg, Indiana.  We await the formal announcement.


Allmendinger may return to IndyCars
AJ Allmendinger.  Will he stay in NASCAR or head back to open wheel?
AJ Allmendinger says he has spoken with several NASCAR Sprint Cup Series teams about potential rides for next season and has even entertained offers from one or more IndyCar teams.

It was announced earlier this week that Allmendinger and Red Bull Racing, the Cup team he's in his second year of competition with, will part ways. The group may part company prior to the end of this season. Allmendinger, days after that announcement, says he has not settled on which team he will compete with in 2009 and beyond.

“I’ve definitely been fortunate enough to have been contacted by a lot of teams,” Allmendinger said Friday at Kansas Speedway. “We all know what’s out there right now for rides. I definitely want to stay in Cup. I’ve got offers to go back to IndyCar, possibly, but I’ve clawed and stressed way too long and felt like that my life was ending so many times over the last year-and-a-half, that finally to get this and start running up front, I don’t want to give that up. So I’m definitely looking at staying here and I think I will. We’ve just got to find the right situation.”

Allmendinger, who is considered a candidate to replace Reed Sorenson in the No. 41 Dodge next season at Chip Ganassi Racing, says he has talked with the Ganassi group but made no commitments to this point. Allmendinger says he has come to know team owner Chip Ganassi over the years.

“He’s one of the teams that I’ve talked to," he said of CGR. "He’s one of those guys that I look at that’s a real racer. He’s got a lot of great race teams, a lot of great background in auto racing. I’ve talked to him, but he’s one of several team [owners] I’ve talked to.”  Scenedaily.com


Economy crisis may affect F1
(GMM)  Formula one is not immune to the worsening global financial crisis, leading figures of the sport said on Friday.

In an amusingly pithy round of questions with reporters in Singapore, F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone said the sport's long-term contracts mean that formula one is not in the same danger as some other elements of the world economy.

"I suppose it will have some side effects but what they'll be, I don't know," the 77-year-old billionaire said.

But Gerhard Berger, co-owner of the small Toro Rosso team that faces needing to become a full constructor by 2010, predicts tough times ahead.

"I think it is going to affect all of us," said the Austrian.  "I think it is going to be difficult times, no question.

"If you look at new sponsors coming into formula one, it is very seldom, especially the big ones.  As I see it, it is not going to be easy the next two years," Berger said.

Red Bull's Christian Horner agrees.

"The global economy at the moment isn't in great shape and it affects all areas of the pit lane."

On the brighter side, F1's governing FIA is pushing hard for cost reductions, and the teams recently formed a rare unanimous alliance (FOTA).

"I think what is important, as with any business, is to prepare and we are trying to do that, some perhaps harder than others," said Adam Parr, chief executive of the Williams team.

"I think that in spite of the global environment we are in rude good health but we will only stay in rude good health if we prepare for the future because the world is changing right now, very, very fast, faster than anybody could have imagined even a month ago," he added.

"I think it is time to get down and change a few things."


Chevy Volt to get 100+ mpg rating
General Motors Corp. has reached agreement with U.S. regulators at a staff level that could result in the Chevrolet Volt range-extended electric vehicle receiving a 100-mile-per-gallon fuel economy rating, the company said

GM spokesman Dee Allen said the rating is far from set, stressing that what has been agreed to on a preliminary basis is that the Volt would be classified as an electric vehicle for the purpose of fuel-economy ratings.

If that is made certain, he said, then the Volt, due out in November 2010, would likely receive a rating of 100 miles per gallon or better.

Now if everyone would buy electric cars (with batteries charged from electricity from nuclear power plants) in the next 20 years as we have suggested then the USA dependence on foreign oil would be near zero and we could tell the terrorist harboring countries that sell oil at ridiculous prices, such as Saudi Arabia and Iran, to go pound sand......of which they have plenty of.


Japan to be next night race?
Would Honda really pay to light the Mt. Fuji natural terrain road course?
(GMM)  Trackside at F1's first night venue Singapore, F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone admitted he has set his sights on the next floodlit host.

"We're going to try to get Japan to do it," the 77-year-old billionaire said on Friday.

"It will be prime time in China and this part of the world and in Europe it will be at a sociable hour to watch rather than the middle of the night.

"I hope when people see this they realize it wasn't just a stupid idea," Ecclestone added.

However, he played down talk that the spectacle alone is strong enough to consider convincing European promoters to hold races at night.

"It's not cheap and I don't think there's much advantage," Ecclestone said.


A 5th possible French GP venue
There are already at least five projects for the French Grand Prix and later this morning there will be another as the department of the Yvelines throws its hat into the ring with a project at Mureaux, in the Seine Valley to the west of Paris, between Maisons-Laffitte and Mantes-la-Jolie. The project is being supported by Pierre Bedier, formerly the mayor of Mantes-la-Jolie, who is now the president of the regional council. Bedier wants to build a track on agricultural land close to the river. Grandprix.com


Allmendinger to be axed even before 2009
AJ Allmendinger.  Will he stay in NASCAR or head back to open wheel?
AJ Allmendinger expects this weekend's race at Kansas Speedway to be his last with Red Bull Racing. Allmendinger and Red Bull announced earlier this week they will part ways at the end of this season, and Allmendinger did not drive the #84 during the two-day test at Lowe's Motor Speedway. "I'm racing this weekend at Kansas, but I'm almost 100 percent sure I won't be with Red Bull after this race," Allmendinger said in his biweekly diary for Yahoo. "Hopefully I'll have something and I'll be in a car next week. Whether it's the team I'm going to be with for next year, and we can start working on that, or what ... that's kind of where we stand." Red Bull general manager Jay Frye said Thursday he expects to know at the start of next week what the # 84 team will do for the remaining seven races this season. Allmendinger said he expected to be released from Red Bull the past month, and even though he wanted to stay with the team, he passed on an opportunity to sign a one-year contract extension to stay with the team because it would have put him in the same position this time next year. Associated Press


Meira fired by Panther, may be hired by Jay Penske or Foyt UPDATE #4 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today with this announcement.  Our 2009 IndyCar Silly Season page above has been updated.

09/12/08 According to this SPEEDTV.com article, the hot rumor is that Meira will end up driving for Jay Penske's Luczo/Dragon Racing team.  Another rumor has him replacing Darren Manning at AJ Foyt Racing.

09/04/08 Vitor Meira said Panther officials sent him an e-mail Monday to say his contract wouldn't be renewed for the No. 4 car he has driven since 2004.

"Put two and two together," said Meira, who spent Tuesday contacting other IndyCar teams.

Meira said returning to Panther in a second car is a possibility, depending on sponsorship. But team officials said they are also pursuing options with either Anthony Davidson, a former Formula One driver, or GP2 Series driver Mike Conway for 2009. Indy Star

09/03/08 (GMM)  While Takuma Sato looks to resurrect his F1 career with Toro Rosso, fellow Super Aguri refugee Anthony Davidson may have to cross the Atlantic for his own return to a premier motor racing cockpit.

The 29-year-old Briton was a guest last weekend of the IndyCar team Panther Racing, as the American series raced at Belle Isle in Detroit -- an event won by the former Minardi and Jaguar driver Justin Wilson, who is also English.

It has emerged that Davidson was scheduled to test for the team, which is reportedly looking for funding to expand to two cars, two weeks ago, only to injure his shoulder in a mountain bike incident.

Davidson's potential shot at IndyCar may have been aided by his connections with Honda, for whom he tested for several years in F1 before racing with Honda power at the satellite team Aguri.

Commentating for British radio, he was in the paddock at Valencia for the recent European grand prix, admitting that while he wants to return to the grid, "I would accept a place as a test driver".

08/30/08 Former Super Aguri Formula One driver Anthony Davidson is in attendance at Detroit this weekend as the guest of Panther Racing. Davidson was scheduled to test the Panther Dallara-Honda two weeks ago at Infineon Raceway but injured his shoulder while mountain biking. According to the team, Davidson and GP2 driver Mike Conway are in the running for a second seat if the Panther can find the funding to run a second car in ’09.  SPEEDTV.com


Troubles for money-losing A1GP persist? UPDATE With less then 10 days before the first race of this season kicks off at Zandvoort, The Netherlands, there still seems to be quite a few problems for A1GP.

The last few weeks some disturbing rumors have been circulating at several race meetings, We mention a few: 1) Only 9 - 12 cars will be at Zandvoort,  2) The Zandvoort race will be a non-championship race or even be cancelled, 3) Race-teams are not allowed to build their cars because the seatholder hasn't paid yet, (i.e. who can afford these expensive new Ferraris?).

These all came after some previous rumors became reality:  First the A1GP race at Mugello had to be cancelled, then testing at several circuits was cancelled (due to several technical issues and production problems, due to the big shunt with Patrick Friesacher ...).

Only 4 cars were testing this week at Snetterton (incl. the test car).

The German team may not even race this year.  This is the team that two years ago won the title with Nico Hülkenberg. Team owner Willi Weber may sell the franchise rumors say.

09/16/08 The news that hedge fund RAB Capital has removed its chief executive Philip Richards is not good news for the A1GP Series, as it is a sign that RAB recognizes that the investment made in the series was not a good idea. Richards spent a rumored $200m at the end of 2006 to buy an 80% stake in the championship from Sheikh Maktoum Hasher Al Maktoum, using money from the RAB Special Situations company. The firm has since revised the value of the A1GP shareholding with write-downs which mean that the A1GP stake is now worth almost nothing. The series continues to run races but income from TV coverage seems relatively small with the racing currently being shown only on South Africa's SABC, Greece's Novasports, TV3 New Zealand, Fox Sports Australia, UK's Sky Sports and Holland's RTL7. There have long been rumors that only a few of the teams are properly funded and that the rest are subsidized by the organizers. A1GP lost an astonishing $240m in the course of the 2005-2006 season but since then has managed to reduce the spending, although it is said that the company has nonetheless worked its way through as much as $500m since its inception.

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GM to Speed Cost Cuts, May Sell Factory in France
General Motors Corp., struggling to stem more than three years of losses, said it plans to accelerate its $10 billion cost-cutting program and may sell a French parts plant.

The company expects to send out marketing materials during October for the Strasbourg plant, as well as for the Hummer sport-utility vehicle division, Treasurer Walter Borst said in a presentation posted today on GM's Web site.

The automaker also is reviewing other assets valued at more than its target of raising as much as $4 billion by the end of 2009, Borst said, without providing details.

GM, the largest U.S. automaker, is trimming expenses and considering more asset sales after $69.8 billion in losses since the end of 2004. By 2010, the Detroit-based company should be able to reduce its annual North American structural costs to as low as $26 billion, from $33.2 billion last year, Borst said.

In August, Chief Financial Officer Ray Young said GM by the end of this year may be able to reap more of the proposed savings than originally planned.

Among the savings that may be achieved in 2008 instead of next year are a portion of capital-spending cuts and 10 percent of the reductions in salaried payroll, Young said.  Bloomberg


Haug denies Singapore GP delay rumors
(GMM)  Norbert Haug has played down rumors that extremely wet conditions could endanger the running of the inaugural F1 night race in Singapore this weekend.

Paddock whispers at the Marina Bay location so far this week suggest that, should heavy rain dangerously compromise visibility for the drivers under the lights, FIA officials could simply recommend that the race be delayed or transferred to another date.

"I have not heard anything about that," Haug, the boss of McLaren's German engine partner Mercedes-Benz, told Auto Motor und Sport.

It rained heavily in Singapore on Wednesday.


Lost appeal cost McLaren up to $1m
(GMM)  The court bill accrued by the lawyers from Ferrari and the FIA will cost McLaren at least $500,000, but as much as double that amount, according to reports.

The bill, which accompanies the International Court of Appeal's rejection of its Lewis Hamilton penalty appeal, is another slap in the face of the British team in the eyes of that country's press corps.

"It would have saved so much time and money to have declared that (inadmissibility) to be the case ... a week ago," the Daily Express said.

The Independent claims throwing out the appeal because it was inadmissible is evidence of the FIA taking the "easy way out" in the face of deeper questions about governance.

The Mirror quotes British F1 legend Sir Stirling Moss as saying: "Formula one is no longer a sport and that's one of the worst things you can say."

Championship leader Hamilton arrived in Singapore yesterday wearing the same suit he wore in the Paris hearing.

The 23-year-old then sat on the cockpit of a mock McLaren in a shopping mall as youngsters played a F1 simulator.

"Local sources confirmed that the recreational machine was not fitted with electronic stewards," The Guardian newspaper sarcastically noted.


FIA likely to dismiss Hamilton appeal UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today - see Hot News article.  To rub salt in McLaren's wounds, McLaren was ordered to pay court costs.

09/23/08 (GMM)  Despite the full day of proceedings in Paris on Monday, the FIA's Court of Appeal judges are likely to rule that the McLaren appeal is not even admissible.

Only the first couple of hours of the eight-hour proceedings at the Place de la Concorde were spent arguing whether the 25-second addendum to Lewis Hamilton's Belgian grand prix time can be subject to appeal.

Even though retroactive time penalties can be appealed, Hamilton's actual penalty applied by the stewards was a drive-through, which could not be served in the normal way because it occurred so late in the race.

So while lawyers for McLaren, Ferrari and the FIA spent most of the day arguing about Hamilton's driving at the Bus Stop chicane and across the start-finish line, multiple sources report that F1's governing body is likely to announce on Tuesday that the McLaren appeal has simply been thrown out.

If the appeal is admissible, however, McLaren's lawyers had some strident arguments, including the suggestion that the FIA misrepresented the view of former chief steward Tony Scott Andrews in an email three days ago about an incident last year.

McLaren argues that its appeal against the Hamilton penalty is similar to the successful appeal last year involving Toro Rosso's Vitantonio Liuzzi at Fuji.

In an email to McLaren's lawyers, the FIA said Scott Andrews had admitted by phone to Charlie Whiting that he had been wrong to penalize Liuzzi in Japan.

But when McLaren checked last Sunday, Scott Andrews told team officials that he had not agreed the Liuzzi penalty was wrong.  He also submitted to the court that he was "extremely surprised" by the FIA email, which was "grossly inaccurate and misleading".

McLaren's QC Mark Phillips told the Paris court: "I ask you to reflect on that when you come to consider the way in which certain members of the FIA conducted themselves."

Hamilton is quoted as telling the media on Monday by The Times newspaper: "Did you catch on with the email?"

Also on Monday, FIA race director Whiting backtracked on his in-race confirmation to McLaren officials that the manner in which Hamilton had given back the gained position to Kimi Raikkonen was 'okay'.

"It became clear to me after seeing the incident in a more detailed way the whole advantage had not been given back," he said.


Allmendinger axed by Red Bull UPDATE #4 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Red Bull put out the following statement: Red Bull Racing Team and driver AJ Allmendinger have agreed to part ways for the 2009 NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season.  Allmendinger is in his second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series season driving the No. 84 Red Bull Toyota, which currently sits 34th in owners’ points. “AJ is a talented driver and we really enjoyed working with him,” said RBRT Vice President and General Manager Jay Frye. “He’s come a long way in just two years and we wish him nothing but the best.”  In an effort to continue the development of the No. 84 team, Red Bull athlete Mike Skinner will drive the No. 84 Red Bull Toyota during this week’s Lowe’s Motor Speedway open test.  Skinner has been called upon by RBRT on multiple occasions since the team’s 2006 NSCS entrance, including a five-race stint in the No. 84 earlier in the 2008 season, as well as mentor duties for both Allmendinger and Red Bull development driver Scott Speed. Skinner will round off a three-car test for Red Bull Racing Team alongside Red Bull development driver Scott Speed in the No. 82, and Brian Vickers in the No. 83.  Red Bull Racing Team will make an announcement regarding the 2009 driver lineup at a later date.

09/17/08 Red Bull Racing's driver, former open-wheel racer A. J. Allmendinger, has made great strides since his stock-car debut last season, although his future with the team is still up in the air. In addition, Team Manager Jay Frye has former F1 driver Scott Speed waiting in the wings. Speed has been nothing short of remarkable this season, winning both Craftsman Truck series and ARCA stock car races. He leads the drivers’ standings in the ARCA series. Speed will make his Sprint Cup debut this fall at Lowe's Motor Speedway, and all signs point to him running a full Cup season next year. A decision on Allmendinger’s future is expected by week’s end. Yahoo Sports

09/11/08 From A.J. Allmendinger's column at Yahoo: "As far as my contract situation for next year, there’s no new news. Hopefully I’ll know something next week. But not knowing anything is hard. It’s stressful. You know, I just want an answer. Am I going to be back with Red Bull next year, yes or no? Of course I’d like it to be yes and they’d like me to stay and we have a great rest of the season and prepare for 2009. I love everybody at the shop and it’s hard because they’re asking me questions. They want to know what’s up, and I don’t have an answer for them. I mean, I really don’t have an answer. I’ve had conversations with other teams since August – and there were some good rides available – but I truly believe we have something here with Red Bull, so I don’t want to leave. We’ve been through a lot together as a team and I’ve been through a lot just to learn. I’ve had people tell me, ‘You suck. You shouldn’t be here,’ and I’ve had other people say, ‘Keep working. We know you got the talent.’ And I’ve fought through all that and in my opinion I think I deserve to be in the car. But right now, realistically, I think it’s about 50-50 at best that I’ll be back at Red Bull next year. Yahoo Sports

09/07/08 Red Bull Racing general manager Jay Frye was noncommittal when asked about the future Sunday – both his own and that of the team’s driver lineup.

Frye, reportedly being courted to head the Stewart-Haas Racing team next year, said “I’m happy where I’m at” several times when asked whether he would consider leaving Red Bull.

“There’s obviously a lot of things going on in the sport right now, there’s a lot of flattering things being said, there’s a lot of stuff to think about, but I’m very happy where I’m at,” he said Sunday prior to the Chevy Rock & Roll 400. “The last place I was at [MB2 Motorsports/Ginn Racing], I was there for 12 years, correct? We basically went down with the ship. I’m not somebody that has ever bounced around or anything like that. I love where I’m at. We’re doing some great things.”

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City to hand HOF another welfare check
The Charlotte City Council is poised to approve a $32 million addition to the NASCAR Hall of Fame budget tonight. But council members still want to know whether there will be more increases to the project's price. The latest increase would bring the hall's cost to $195 million, up from about $160 million two years ago. The city is paying for most of the project with a hotel room tax that cannot be spent on anything else. The income from that tax has been better than expected, officials say. The city is also contributing money from land sales along I-277. Officials emphasize that no property taxes will go toward the hall. The city would fund the budget increase mainly by restructuring loans and delaying royalty payments to NASCAR. -- Charlotte Observer


Rain threat to come true in Singapore
(GMM)  Rain is a very real possibility this weekend for F1's first ever floodlit night race on the twisty streets of Singapore.

Local forecasts predict stormy, tropical and wet conditions throughout this week and into the weekend, with rain typically the most likely in the city-state in the evenings.

Wet conditions under the beaming lights of the inaugural race are a concern particularly for the drivers, who are unsure how distracting reflections from puddles on the track surface, and glimmering rain droplets, will be.

"It rains every night (there)," team owner Vijay Mallya, a long-time Singapore resident, said.  "You don't have to pray for rain, it just comes."

Further complicating the unique track conditions will be the fact that, because of the European time difference, most teams have decided that not acclimatizing to the Singapore time zone is the best preparation for the night race for the drivers.

While drivers usually prepare for long-haul races by arriving early and adjusting, drivers will fly into Singapore as late as possible, and will eat breakfast in the afternoon, have dinner after midnight, and go to sleep in the early hours of the morning.

"We will concentrate on getting our rest and nutrition right to ensure the body is ready to react in the right way when required," said Honda driver Jenson Button.


Alonso's Ferrari move still on - report
(GMM)  The renewal of Kimi Raikkonen's Ferrari tenure was announced recently at Monza, but the news has not stopped speculation about the future of the Italian team's lineup.

'Mediaset', a major Italian television network, is claiming this week that Fernando Alonso could still be poised to switch to the Maranello based team following next year's championship.

It is reported that Alonso, 27, has already signed an agreement, and that Ferrari will simply terminate Raikkonen's newly-announced deal with a small buyout.

Mediaset said the contract extension announced by Ferrari at Monza was the result of Raikkonen triggering a one-sided option in his current contract to renew for one more year.

The Finn's option, however, reportedly leaves the door open for Ferrari to pay a financial penalty and annul the contract.  Mediaset said Ferrari's unannounced new 2010 sponsor, Santander, could pick up the bill.

The rumor also ties in with rising speculation that Alonso is set to stay at Renault for another season in 2009, rather than switch to BMW-Sauber or Honda and then need to move yet again to Ferrari in 2010.


US Big 3 to get welfare checks UPDATE #3 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today.  General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co., Chrysler LLC and their suppliers would be able to borrow $25 billion from the U.S. government to develop more fuel-efficient vehicles according to a draft of year-end spending legislation lawmakers are set to consider later this month.

The draft measure allocates $7.5 billion to fund the low- interest loan program, which was authorized in energy legislation last year. The money is allocated in a draft of House legislation called a continuing resolution, which temporarily pays for government operations until Congress completes work on its annual spending bills.

Chief executives of the three automakers met with congressional leaders last week to press for funding of the loans to help them revamp their vehicle lineups.

``Our companies are committed to transforming our businesses and making major investments in the U.S. to produce these new fuel-efficient vehicles,'' GM's Rick Wagoner, Ford's Alan Mulally and Chrysler's Robert Nardelli wrote to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Sept. 16.

Pelosi has called the loans ``a way to rebuild and strengthen the technological base of America'' and said funding for the program may be in the year-end spending measure. A spokeswoman for the House Appropriations Committee didn't immediately return a call seeking comment.

The bill also would allow drilling for oil and natural gas on the Outer Continental Shelf beyond 100 miles. States could permit drilling between 50 miles and 100 miles. The provision, passed by the House in a broad energy bill Sept. 16, would alter a congressional moratorium on drilling off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts and in parts of the Gulf of Mexico that has been included in spending bills since 1982. Bloomberg

09/08/08 Auto industry allies hope to secure up to $50 billion in government loans this month that would pay to modernize plants and help struggling car makers build more fuel-efficient vehicles.  With Congress returning this coming week from its summer break, the industry plans an aggressive lobbying campaign for the low-interest loans. The situation is growing dire after months of tumbling sales, high gasoline prices and consumers' abandoning profitable trucks and sport utility vehicles.

Lawmakers authorized $25 billion in loans in last year's energy bill to help the companies build fuel-efficient vehicles such as hybrids and electric vehicles. With credit tight, automakers and suppliers now want lawmakers to come up with the money for the program -- and expand the pool of money available to $50 billion over three years.

Industry leaders have argued that the loan guarantees are not a government bailout because it would hasten production of fuel-efficient vehicles and reduce dependence on imported oil.

"This is not about benefiting Wall Street," said Ford Motor Co.'s President of the Americas Mark Fields, referencing recent federal support for the investment firm Bear Stearns and troubled mortgage companies Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. "This is benefiting Main Street, the working men and women. The auto industry is part of the backbone of the U.S. economy."

The low-interest loans, at rates of about 4 percent to 5 percent, would pay for up to 30 percent of the cost of retooling plants to build hybrids, plug-in hybrids, electric cars and other alternatives. Detroit News

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Giedo may join Hamad for GP2 Series
Bahrain's Hamad Al Fardan could be partnered by ex-Formula One test driver Giedo Van der Garde on Team Gulf Finance House (GFH) iSport for the upcoming GP2 Asia Series, which begins next month.

According to a source close to the Bahraini motor racing star, Van der Garde, from the Netherlands, is iSport's leading choice to take the team's vacant race seat for the continental championship.

"Van der Garde is iSport's number one choice," the source told the Gulf Daily News. "Hopefully he signs with the team. He is a great racer, and he is very much respected by Hamad."

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Robby Gordon DEI merger?
Robby Gordon, the highly talented but stubborn NASCAR owner-driver who has made a career out of tilting at windmills, and trying to prove that a hard-working, underdog independent can indeed compete against this sport’s giants, appears at another career crossroads.

After what looks like a rather ugly breakup to the season-long partnership with the Ray Evernham-George Gillett Dodge operation, Gordon now seems to be looking at a new partnership elsewhere in the Sprint Cup garage.

And the word-on-the-street is that Gordon may now be headed back to General Motors and Chevrolet in a still murky deal with Dale Earnhardt Inc. that would make him a teammate with DEI’s Martin Truex Jr. and the others at that company.

Gordon had no comment on the report, and neither did anyone at DEI. But sources close to the situation said it did indeed look like a deal was in the works, and said something might be announced as soon as Monday.

Gordon was a Ford man last season, though apparently not very far up the pecking order. And just hours before this season opened at Daytona Gordon made the jump to Dodge, in an arrangement to get engines from Evernham-Gillett.

Gordon’s jump was so quick that he wound up with the wrong nose on his cars at Daytona, and that cost him a sizeable NASCAR fine, in an angry controversy.

While he was with Ford and Dodge, Gordon also had a major off-road sponsorship deal with GM’s Hummer division, for the Dakar Rally. And when that event was called off, because of terrorist threats, Gordon wound up in another controversy.

Where Gordon stands in the Dodge camp is unclear, because Dodge executives have been unavailable for any comment.

And just what Gordon’s legal status is at the moment, after Friday’s surprise announcement that Gillett-Evernham would be dropping its lawsuit against Gordon over what Gillett-Evernham said was breach of contract, is also unclear.  More at independenttribune.net


Tagliani to race for Conquest Racing in 2009
On page 9 of Conquest's new marketing brochure – of the kind sent out to prospective sponsors – it states:

The team "will field two cars in the 2009 IndyCar Series. With Alex Tagliani, the team will have a wily veteran with the experience and commitment to continue moving the team forward. Joining Tagliani will be a driver of equal gift and grit to round out a balanced driver package."

There's been no grand announcement. In fact, there's been no announcement at all.

Tagliani drove for Eric Bachelart's Conquest Racing team at the end of the 2008 Indy Car season – Detroit and Chicago.


Waltrip team to run 3 or 4 cars in 2009
While many teams continue to search for sponsorship for the 2009 Sprint Cup season and beyond, one team that seems confident about sponsorship is Michael Waltrip Racing. MWR Executive Vice President Cal Wells said Saturday that he believes the team has enough sponsorship for two cars and three-quarters of another. He said he could envision the team running a fourth car part time in 2009. “I believe we’re in really good shape,” Wells said. “I’m hoping we’re actually going to run a fourth car. I don’t know that we can get it off, but we have so much in the pipeline.” As far as who would be teammates with already signed Michael Waltrip and -David Reutimann, Wells said the team hopes to re-sign Michael McDowell, who has run most of the season in a third car for MWR. “We’re selling hard around McDowell,” Wells said. “We’ve got a lot of stuff we’re working on. I honestly don’t know. There’s some more talent out there.” Wells also dismissed the idea that MWR would merge with another team. “We’re looking at doing some service providing stuff with some folks that are trying to come in, kind of like the Hall of Fame Racing deals with Joe Gibbs Racing,” Wells said. “We’re not to the point of announcing anything yet, but we’re looking for business. We’re not looking at merging.” SceneDaily.com


Carmichael eyes move from 2 wheels to 4 UPDATE #8 Kevin Harvick said Friday he hopes to run former motorcross champion Ricky Carmichael in selected NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races for Kevin Harvick Inc.

Carmichael, a 15-time American Motorcyclist Association champion, is currently driving for Ken Schrader Racing in the NASCAR Camping World East Series. Harvick has entered him in the ARCA race at Talladega next month.

“Our plan is to put him in a third truck,” Harvick said. “Obviously, we’ve got to get the sponsorship and everything rounded up. … He’s done a great job. Obviously, he knows how to race, whether it has been in a car or truck or a motorcycle. He knows how to race for a championship. He’s got that will and determination to make something happen.”

09/17/08 Ricky Carmichael, a 10-time AMA national motocross champion from 1997 - 2006, will attempt to make his ARCA RE/MAX series debut at Talladega Superspeedway on Oct. 3. Carmichael, a rookie on the Camping World East Series this season for Ken Schrader Racing, has been entered into the event at the 2.66-mile speedway by Kevin Harvick Inc. With three top-5 finishes and six top-10's Carmichael, 28, is eighth in the Camping World East Series standings after 11 of 13 events this season. Hartford Courant

Ricky Carmichael

01/08/08 Mark Martin said DEI is negotiating to sign motocross star Ricky Carmichael to drive a full Camping World East Series (formerly Busch East) schedule this year. "Ricky has the fire, desire and talent to do this stuff,'' said Martin, who worked with Carmichael at Ginn Racing before the merger with DEI last season. ESPN.com

08/05/07 When Mark Martin, offered to mentor Supercross star Ricky Carmichael in stock-car racing, that became Carmichael's next career move. Martin has been driving for Ginn Racing, owned by zillionaire resort magnate Bobby Ginn, and Carmichael signed with Ginn as a development driver, with an eye toward running local races this year, some regional NASCAR races in 2008, and probably a Busch Series schedule in 2009. But last month, a monkey wrench was tossed into those plans: Ginn merged with Dale Earnhardt Inc., which is also facing an uncertain future with the departure of Dale Earnhardt Jr. As part of the restructuring, Ginn fired Sterling Marlin and Joe Nemechek, and Martin moved under the DEI umbrella. And apparently, Carmichael is moving with him. "I had some good talks this past week with Mark," Carmichael said. "I haven't heard anything from Ginn, but I'm excited about the DEI connection." Orlando Sentinel

03/21/07 Ginn Racing is finalizing a deal that is expected to put Ricky Carmichael's chief Supercross sponsor, Monster Energy Drink, on the car for his first stock car race this weekend.

When Monster in January 2006 signed a reported two-year deal with Carmichael, widely regarded as the Michael Jordan of motorcycle racing, its marketers had no idea he would be driving a vehicle with four wheels instead of two. But the move to stock car racing and possibly NASCAR broadens the audience for Monster, the No. 2 energy drink in sales behind Red Bull.

"What we like is it takes one of our personalities over to the more mainstream, corporate side of the world with Ricky's NASCAR involvement," said Scott Sepkovic, president and CEO of Crown Athlete Management Group, the procurement agency for Monster. "We want to stay on board and follow Ricky." Sporting News

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Dodge teams eye switch to Toyota?
Rumors continued to swirl in the Cup garage this weekend about a possible buyout of Bill Davis' Toyota team by George Gillett. There appears to be more than just smoke here and the current U.S. financial market crunch may have resulted in a temporary snag in the deal.

Dodge's Director of Motorsports Mike Delahanty insists that GEM has a Dodge contract and that all the talk of Dodge teams seeking out partnerships with Toyota teams is "nothing more than media hype." Yahoo! Sports


Loomis Courted by Stewart-Haas UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  Petty Enterprises vice president of racing operations Robbie Loomis said he is not entertaining an offer from Stewart-Haas Racing. Loomis' name surfaced when Jay Frye opted to remain general manager at Team Red Bull.

"All of my interests are to continue to do what I'm doing, and that is get the No. 43 back in Victory Lane," Loomis said. "All of my focus is here with Petty Enterprises."

09/20/08 Sirius Speedway has learned that Petty Enterprises Vice President of Racing Operations Robbie Loomis is now at the top of Stewart-Haas Racing’s wish list, as they attempt to hire a new Vice President/General Manager. Red Bull Racing’s Jay Frye recently turned down the job in favor of remaining in his current position, and sources says Stewart-Haas is now interested in talking with Loomis. Motorsports Soapbox


Will IndyCar lose one of its most talented drivers?
Raphael Matos came to America with $5 in his pocket and the hope of making a career in racing.  So far he has proven to be a great talent, winning everything he drives.  He won the hugely competitive Champ Car Atlantic Series in 2007, and followed that up with the Firestone Indy Lights title in 2008.  In between he has proven he is fast in any type of car.

Yesterday at Miller Motorsports Park he found himself in the lead after the final refuel and tire change with 28 laps remaining in the Grand-Am Rolex Series race. On the ensuing restart with some very talented drivers in tow, Matos held the lead and then assumed control, growing his gap over the field to nearly 30 seconds at the finish.  In other words he buried them.

However, there have been no rumors that an IndyCar team is willing to pick up Matos next year and it may be that another great open wheel talent leaves the Indy Car paddock because too many teams still hire drivers for 1) nepotism, 2) the money they bring, or 3) what sex they are, regardless of whether they can win races, which is not a way to grow a 'professional' race car series.  In baseball, football, basketball, soccer or any other professional sport, if a player cannot cut the mustard they are sent to the minors or out the door.


NASCAR to announce new drug policy today? UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement - see Hot News page.

09/20/08 NASCAR on Saturday morning will host a mandatory meeting with its teams at Dover International Speedway, which multiple industry sources say will lay out the sanctioning body's new drug policy. The new policy, sources said, will include random testing for drivers, over-the-wall crew members and NASCAR officials. Those same industry sources said NASCAR would not implement any specific list of banned substances, claiming they, as a sanctioning body, want to be as strict as possible with this new plan and that any substance can be abused. NASCAR officials, reached by phone Friday, chose not to comment. ESPN.com


Ford Chairman not bullish on Ford future?
Ford Motor Co. Chairman William Clay Ford Jr. sold 1 million common shares for $5.05 million yesterday, according to a U.S. regulatory filing.

Bill Ford, 51, sold the shares, at an average price of $5.05, to retire debt incurred in exercising options, company spokesman Mark Truby said in an interview. The chairman declined a salary when he was chief executive officer for five years through September 2006 and received the options instead.

``It's a puzzle,'' said David Healy, an analyst with Burnham Securities Inc. in Sierra Vista, Arizona. ``He's been pretty public in supporting the turnaround of Ford, optimistic on that front.'' Bill Ford has overseen an 91 percent decline in the value of the automaker's stock since he became chairman almost 10 years ago. The great-grandson of the company founder yielded the CEO post to Alan Mulally, recruited from Boeing Co. two years ago to stem losses that have totaled $23.9 billion since 2005.

Bill Ford now directly holds 4,956,971 common shares, according to the filing. Accounting for the 398,920 shares held indirectly, the sale represents 16 percent of his common shares. The price ranged from $5 and $5.095. The average sale price is about 16 percent below the average of $6.03 for Ford Motor common shares this year.

The chairman also owns about 3.8 million Class B shares, Truby said. The 70.9 million Class B shares held by the family give it 40 percent of voting power at the second-largest U.S. automaker. Ford gained 1 cent to $5.29 at 4:15 p.m. in New York Stock Exchange composite trading. The shares lost 21 percent this year. The U.S. filing was released after the close of regular trading. Bloomberg


Allmendinger / Menard may be in different 2009 rides
Seats for 2009 are filling fast in the Sprint Cup Series, and two new names have emerged as possible job candidates. #15-Paul Menard indicated Friday he could leave Dale Earnhardt Inc. at the end of the season, and AJ Allmendinger is still without a new contract at Red Bull Racing. Neither driver wanted to discuss their future after qualifying at Dover International Raceway, but when asked if he was considering rides with both DEI and Yates Racing next season, Menard said "Yes. We'll let you know when we get to it," Menard added. Menard drives the #15 for DEI and the car is sponsored by his father's Midwest-based hardware chain. The family could move the sponsorship and Menard elsewhere, and Yates is considered a candidate because it has both the room to grow its two-car operation and is in need of financial support.

Allmendinger, meanwhile, has been in limbo as Red Bull decides the future of its race team now that former F1 driver Scott Speed is waiting in the wings. Speed is favored by executives for the Austrian-based energy drink maker, which invested heavily in developing Speed for Formula One. When he lost his ride in that series, Red Bull sent him back to the U.S. to learn stock cars and he's been very good in both the Truck Series and lower-level ARCA Series. It could mean that Allmendinger, despite marked improvement in the second half of this season, could lose his ride in the #84. Allmendinger declined to comment Friday on his future. Should the team not re-sign him, or offer him just a temporary one-year deal while Speed continues to develop, Allmendinger could look elsewhere and one seat still open is the #41 at Chip Ganassi Racing. Reed Sorenson is leaving that team at the end of the season, and Ganassi has yet to name a replacement. Associated Press


Yates may have edge over DEI in battle for Menard
Ask Max Siegel one day about Dale Earnhardt Inc.'s prospects of keeping driver Paul Menard in 2009 and he's very confident. Ask him the next and his outlook is more grim.

"We're just in the heat of competition right now for Paul," said Siegel, DEI's president of global operations. "As of right now, nothing has changed, but my gut feeling seems to change frequently."

Speculation mounted Friday at Dover International Speedway that Menard had decided to move to the Yates Racing organization next season, but both Siegel and Yates team owner Doug Yates denied a deal had been completed. Both said, however, a decision was expected very soon.

"I feel good about what we have tried to do for Paul and the progress he's made," Siegel said. "I would love to have him here at DEI. I think he's a good fit."

Yates is working to expand the current two-car Sprint Cup operation, which fields Fords for Travis Kvapil and David Gilliland.

"Eventually, we want to get to four teams," Yates said. "We have been talking to Paul and I feel we have a very good chance at getting him to join our organization.

"I think this will all come together one way or another with Paul shortly. I'd like to be able to answer the question today, but I can't."

Menard, 27, is in his second full Cup season and has one top-10 finish in 66 career starts. He is currently 27th in points. He has one win in 114 career starts in the Nationwide Series as well.  ThatsRacin


Ganassi and GEM to merge?
Since early July, Ganassi's future existence has been linked to a merger with virtually every multi-car team left in the sport. The car owner had lunch with Michael Waltrip at Daytona; immediately, rumors sprouted up the two were joining forces. Since then, rumors have swirled that anyone from Roger Penske to Robby Gordon was buying Ganassi out, or that the owner was looking to get out of the business altogether.

Like Gordon's team, CGRFS is a prime target for any interested owner due to his organization's "locked in" qualifying spots (both are in the Top 35) as well as his race shop's prime real estate. Built in 2004, the top-notch facility was built right next to the Concord airport, and is just a heartbeat away from Charlotte for teams looking to move closer to racing's central hub. Speculation peaked on Thursday, when multiple sources told SI.com Ganassi was planning to join forces with Gillett Evernham Motorsports.

Gillett has been looking to add a fourth car since buying a 50% share in Evernham Motorsports last season. Rumored to be brokering a deal to buy Bill Davis Racing this week, negotiations on that side have fallen through. Bill Davis Racing officials had no comment on the process, but all indications are their organization is still up for sale -- just not to GEM.

A spokesman for Gillett Evernham Motorsports said the team won't comment on any merger speculation. That prompted a strong response from Ganassi, who told SI.com he adamantly denies anything's going on with Gillett.

Ensuring SI.com he's here to stay in NASCAR for the long haul, Ganassi claimed in an exclusive interview he has no plans to merge with any organization at this moment -- with plans to run his two cars full-time in 2009. Sports Illustrated


Overheard at Chicagoland - Sunday 2 UPDATE The part of this rumor about Franchitti taking over for Wheldon at Surfers in the  No. 10 Target Chip Ganassi Racing car is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement.

09/07/08 We hear that the AGR team is working hard to keep their ALMS program going if sponsorship can be found......Word in the paddock is that Jimmy Vasser is working hard to keep the exact same driver lineup and pretty much the same personnel lineup in the KV Racing Technology team for next year. They have not won any races yet this year yet but they have been fairly competitive. We hear in the off-season they have some aero and mechanical R&D planned in an effort to catch up to the established IRL teams.....When asked about putting Dario Franchitti in Dan Wheldon's seat for this year's Surfers race, Chip Ganassi told AR1.com "It would be nice if we can make that happen, since he will be driving that car next year. We are working on it."......We hear that Jay Howard has a couple of sponsors lined up for 2009 but it is not enough for a full year yet. He prefers to stay in IndyCar but would consider ALMS or Grand-Am if nothing pans out in IndyCar.  Mark C. reporting from Chicago


ISC to ask NASCAR for a second Cup date at Kansas UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Kansas Speedway officials expect to have two NASCAR Sprint Cup races no later than 2011 after it was announced Friday that the track will be the location of a new Hard Rock Hotel & Casino.

As part of the proposal by International Speedway Corp., which owns the track, to Wyandotte County (Kan.) leaders and the Kansas Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board, ISC President Lesa France Kennedy said that ISC would petition NASCAR for two Sprint Cup dates if ISC was awarded the casino contract.

The 2009 schedule is set, but the track could get a second Cup date as early as 2010 from NASCAR, which is owned by the France family, including France Kennedy.

ISC did not announce which track it would pull a date from. By NASCAR's structure, the group would need to shift a date from one of its other facilities instead of being awarded an additional race. ISC’s tracks with two Cup dates are Daytona, Auto Club (Calif.), Martinsville, Phoenix, Richmond, Michigan and Talladega. Its tracks with one date are Watkins Glen, Homestead, Chicagoland, Darlington and Kansas.

“Now that we have been given the green light to develop one of the nation’s most unique sports and entertainment projects, we look forward to moving forward with our other announced plans – this includes requesting that NASCAR move a second NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race to Kansas Speedway,” Kansas Speedway President Jeff Boerger said in a statement. “I look forward to NASCAR’s premier stock car series racing twice a year in the nation’s heartland by no later than 2011.”

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track news

Is Road Atlanta now safe enough for IndyCars?
Road Atlanta has undertaken a major improvement project that will create an Auxiliary Turn 12 primarily for motorcycle competitors offering a safer and slower transition to the start-finish line straightaway [Could this also work for IndyCars?  Turn 12 was always given as the primary reason why Champ Car/IndyCar could not race at Road Atlanta].

Changes to the dangerous Turn 12
In addition, the project includes paving a new section of asphalt on rider’s right at the entry into the Esses, creating a 200-foot long chicane that results in a different line and additional runoff room.

“We are excited about making these improvements to preserve our long-standing place on the AMA Superbike Championship Series calendar and our position within the top levels of motorcycle racing,” says Road Atlanta President Geoff Lee. “The Road Atlanta doubleheader has been a favorite of riders and fans for many years. We expect these changes will not only improve rider safety but will also offer some new challenges and create even more exciting racing.”

Designs for the new Auxiliary Turn 12 and improvements in the Esses were made with the input of two engineering firms that have designed numerous improvements at Road Atlanta, along with AMA officials and representatives from the Rider Safety Council.

The changes will be visually evident when competitors and fans arrive for the Suzuki Superbike Showdown presented by Rockstar Aug. 29-31. The new track configuration will also be used during both WERA events, June 27-29 and Grand National Finals Oct. 9-12 as well as during the Kevin Schwantz Suzuki School.

While the original Turn 12 remains unchanged for sports car events like the 11th Annual Petit Le Mans Oct. 1-4, the Auxiliary Turn 12 will be strikingly different.

Among the design features of Auxiliary Turn 12: 

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Buemi to race with Toro Rosso in 2009 UPDATE #7 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Toro Rosso boss Franz Tost has told a Swiss newspaper that Sebastien Buemi will be signed to make his formula one race debut with the Faenza based team in 2009.

The Swiss teenager this week tested the team's STR3 car at Jerez, as did Takuma Sato, as Toro Rosso looks to replace the Red Bull-bound Sebastian Vettel.

Tost, who admits that Buemi is team part-owner Red Bull's recommended driver for the post, told Le Matin that he was delighted with the youngster's performance in Spain.

"After what we have seen this week, and as long as we manage to find a suitable experienced driver to be next to him, I think we can take the risk to have Sebastien with us in 2009," he said.

"You can take that as an official declaration," Tost added.

The team's Austrian-born boss continued of Buemi: "He is very, very talented, and as we belong to the Red Bull family, we must help to support their drivers."

A race contract with Buemi has not yet been signed because "we are not in a hurry", but Tost indicated that it is only a matter of time.

Sato, the 31-year-old veteran of approaching 100 grands prix, remains an outside chance for a 2009 seat at Toro Rosso, especially while the future of Sebastien Bourdais is unclear.

"If they need me, I would be ready," the Japanese is quoted as saying by Switzerland's Blick newspaper.

09/16/08 (GMM)  Sebastien Buemi could make his formula one race debut with Toro Rosso within the last four races of the 2008 season, a member of his management team has said.

Bahrain-based Humbert Buemi, the uncle of the 19-year-old Swiss driver who also lives in Bahrain, told the country's local newspaper Gulf Daily News that Buemi might benefit from a reshuffle among Red Bull's two F1 teams.

Although denied by the Scottish veteran, it has been rumored for some time that David Coulthard could be asked to retire before the end of the season, thus allowing Sebastian Vettel to take up his 2009 seat early.

This would create a vacancy at the junior team Toro Rosso, who this week is giving Buemi and Takuma Sato an evaluation test at the Jerez circuit.

Sebastien Buemi
"The possibility of Sebastien being in F1 this year is very real, but it depends on a lot of factors that are out of our control," said Humbert Buemi, who is the brother of Buemi's father Antoine.

It is believed that Dietrich Mateschitz, who is an owner of both the Red Bull and Toro Rosso teams, told Coulthard at Monza last weekend that he is not expecting the reshuffle to happen.

Humbert acknowledges this but insists that it is still a "possibility".

Buemi raced in the feeder series GP2 this year, and is also a F1 test driver for Red Bull Racing.

His uncle, who said Toro Rosso is likely to announce its 2009 driver lineup in the second half of October, added: "I am convinced that Sebastien can do well in Jerez, and hopefully race in F1 soon."

09/15/08 Sebastien Buemi could be driving in a Formula One Grand Prix as early as this season, it has emerged. Buemi's uncle, Humbert, who works in the kingdom and is part of his management team, told the GDN exclusively that based on recent discussions around the F1 paddock, a race seat may open up with Toro Rosso for the remainder of this season, and Buemi could be the one who takes it.

The 19-year-old Swiss, who resides in a family home in Budaiya, is currently a test and reserve driver for Toro Rosso's sister team Red Bull Racing, but has yet to start a Grand Prix. He is also one of the top candidates to join Toro Rosso next season, but the chance of racing this year has now arisen and Buemi would be pleased to make the most of it.

"The possibility of Sebastien being in F1 this year is very real, but it depends on a lot of factors that are out of our control," explained Humbert, who is the brother of Buemi's father Antoine.

According to Humbert, the situation would play out if Red Bull veteran David Coulthard is asked to give up his race seat to Toro Rosso's Sebastian Vettel for the remainder of the season. Coulthard has announced he will retire at the end of the current campaign, and Vettel has already been revealed as his replacement. But Red Bull may want Vettel to man their RB4 car in at least one of the four remaining Grands Prix on the 2008 World Championship, in order to give the young German some immediate experience alongside teammate Mark Webber which could prove valuable for next year.

Vettel's move would leave a seat vacant in Toro Rosso, which Buemi could step into as he is greatly admired by top officials from both teams. "Of the new generation, Sebastien is the only one who can say he is really ready (for F1)," Red Bull motor racing adviser Dr Helmut Marko has said.

Added Humbert: "The scenario has been of great talk around the paddock in recent weeks, but word after the Italian Grand Prix on Sunday was that Red Bull owner Dietrich Mateschitz told Coulthard he wants him to finish the season. We are currently not sure about this, so there is still the possibility for Sebastien racing this year."

Meanwhile, Humbert added that Buemi's F1 future relies more heavily on tests scheduled to take place in Jerez, Spain, tomorrow and Friday. Toro Rosso have scheduled and confirmed the sessions, which will be used to evaluate Buemi's capabilities in an F1 car compared to those of rival candidates Bruno Senna of Brazil, Takuma Sato of Japan, and Anthony Davidson of Britain.

Senna, like Buemi, is one of the top drivers in GP2, which is F1's feeder sport, while Sato and Davidson have both raced in F1 Grands Prix in past seasons.

"I'm pretty sure that Sebastien will impress," said Humbert, who said that his test tomorrow will be in Toro Rosso's STR3 car, and then on Friday in an RB4.

"He's tested in Jerez before and he is extremely quick there. I believe that in the past, he was even faster than Coulthard and Webber at the circuit, so definitely the potential is there.

"It's just a question of when he will get the chance to race in F1. In terms of talent, Sebastien is probably the best out of all the aspiring F1 drivers, but other factors can come into play, like the sponsors you can bring into a team. If we get even one major sponsor, his chances would increase dramatically. Unfortunately, Sebastien is lacking that right now.

"As a test driver for Red Bull, Sebastien has a great relationship with the entire team, including all the engineers and mechanics. This is very important, as they rely heavily on him for shake-downs, which is when they test spare parts, tires, the aerodynamics, etc. They say that he gives very good feedback to them, which is very helpful.

"I am convinced that Sebastien can do well in Jerez, and hopefully race in F1 soon." Gulf Daily News

08/29/08 (GMM)  Of all the youngsters queued at F1's door, only Sebastien Buemi is ready to make his debut for Toro Rosso next year.

That is the claim of Dr Helmut Marko, the Red Bull motor racing advisor who is making no secret of his quest to accommodate the Red Bull test driver and GP2 racer at the energy drink's de-factor 'junior' team in 2009.

STR, co-owned by Gerhard Berger, has at least one vacancy, due to the promotion of Sebastian Vettel to Red Bull Racing next year.

"Of the new generation, Sebastien Buemi is the only one who can say he is really ready.

"For the others, formula one is still some distance further away," Marko is quoted as saying by Switzerland's Motorsport Aktuell.

However, Berger and Toro Rosso team principal Franz Tost are known to be very interested in Bruno Senna.

Also among the GP2 field, Senna claims his management has been in talks about the future with every formula one team, with the exception of Ferrari.

Reportedly among his best options for 2009 are a race debut with Toro Rosso, or a test driving berth with McLaren, with whom he shares the hotel chain Hilton as a sponsor.

"I am seeking a long-term commitment," Senna is quoted as saying.  "It makes no sense to look for something for only one year and then stand with empty hands in 2010."

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Title sponsor for Toronto race to be announced UPDATE #3 This rumor, originally broke by AR1.com is now upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement.

09/18/08 Andretti Green Promotions is expected to unveil Honda today as the new title sponsor for next summer's Indy Racing League stop in Toronto.

The announcement is one of the final pieces of the puzzle needed to bring open-wheel racing back to the streets of Exhibition Place, after the 23rd edition of the Toronto Indy was cancelled this year because of the demise of the Champ Car World Series.

The Honda-branded race will be run on July 12 on the 11-turn, 2.825-kilometre temporary street circuit. The other Canadian date on the IRL calendar is two weeks later at the City Centre Airport in Edmonton.

2001 - One of 7 Michael Andretti wins at Toronto
Toronto's race was put on hiatus this year after Champ Car filed for bankruptcy in February and its teams were swallowed by the IRL. The series ran in Watkins Glen, N.Y., on the weekend slated for the Toronto race and could not find an alternate date. The merged series made its Canadian debut in Edmonton in July.

Andretti Green Promotions bought the assets of the Toronto race from former Champ Car co-owners Jerry Forsythe and Kevin Kalkhoven in May. Michael Andretti, the chairman of Andretti Green, won on the streets of Toronto seven times.

As many as 28 cars could line up for the green flag next summer.

The deal solidifies Honda's links with Andretti Green Promotions, a subsidiary of the IRL's Andretti Green Racing team. They have combined forces on the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, where the car manufacturer has been the title sponsor since the race appeared on the IRL calendar in 2005. The IRL's first street-course event, St. Petersburg, also staged a Championship Auto Racing Teams (CART, which later became Champ Car) race in 2003. Globe and Mail

09/16/08 AutoRacing1.com sources are hearing that Honda will become the title sponsor of the Toronto race.

09/14/08 This Thursday Andretti Green Promotions has called a  media conference to announce a major title sponsor for the Indy Racing League Grand Prix of Toronto.


New animated NASCAR TV Show planned
Fox has extended its relationship with comedian, Jeff Foxworthy, greenlighting an animated pilot presentation from Foxworthy about a dysfunctional family set in the world of NASCAR. Twentieth Century Fox TV is onboard to produce. Untitled animated laffer comes from Foxworthy and "10 Items or Less" exec producers Nancy Hower and John Lehr. Foxworthy, Hower and Lehr will write and exec produce, while Parallel Entertainment's J.P. Williams will also exec produce. Foxworthy will also lend his voice to the presentation, with other voice actors to be determined later. variety.com


STR Monza win death knell for customer cars
(GMM)  Paul Stoddart, the previous owner of the team now known as Toro Rosso, believes Sebastian Vettel's Monza victory was not a win for the argument in favor of allowing customer cars in F1.

The Australian, who ran the Faenza based team before selling it to Red Bull at the end of 2005, said he excitedly sent a text message to founder Gian Carlo Minardi as he watched on British television his old Minardi crew celebrate a grand prix win at Monza.

But while delighted, Stoddart admits Vettel's feat was probably the death knell for the team's chances of being able to continue in its current form beyond 2009.

"If I were Frank (Williams) or Force India, I wouldn't be in a hurry to entertain any discussion on customer cars -- which leaves Red Bull and Toro Rosso in a very difficult position," the 53-year-old told Reuters.

Separate to Force India's earlier threats of arbitration against Toro Rosso and Super Aguri's use of customer cars, Williams was an obstacle to Prodrive's aborted plans this year to race an off-the-shelf McLaren package.

"I feel for Frank," Stoddart said.

"There are very few that have given more to the sport and he now finds himself struggling against manufacturers with massive budgets and billionaire teams with his old designer," he added, presumably referring to Red Bull's Adrian Newey.


Porsche gets control over VW
In the latest turn in the long struggle for dominance of Volkswagen AG, sports car manufacturer Porsche SE said Tuesday that it had raised its stake to 35.1 percent of the voting rights and now had "de facto" control over Europe's largest carmaker.  But its declaration does not signal an end to the bitter, three-year fight, financial analysts said.

Porsche faces resistance on many fronts, chiefly from Volkswagen's second-largest shareholder, the German state of Lower Saxony. Its premier, Christian Wulff, threatened last week to raise the state's holding from just over 20 percent to 25 percent -- a level that would assure Lower Saxony representatives veto power on the supervisory board.

Volkswagen, the world's third-largest automaker according to mid-year global rankings, is based in Wolfsburg, in Lower Saxony. VW unions also oppose a takeover by the small, family-controlled Porsche firm based in Stuttgart.

Porsche said in a statement Tuesday that it had added 14.4 million VW shares, or 4.9 percent, and now holds 35.1 percent of the voting rights. In a related, technical matter, Porsche also offered to buy the tiny minority of shares in premium automaker Audi that VW does not own, but said it intended to resell that stock eventually to VW.

"Our goal continues to be to increase our stake in Volkswagen to more than 50 percent," Porsche CEO Wendelin Wiedeking said in the statement. "Today's step is a further milestone along this road."

Porsche has deep ties to Volkswagen -- the original Beetle was designed by Ferdinand Porsche. His grandson, Ferdinand Piëch, is chairman of VW's supervisory board and was CEO.

But analysts say members of the founding family seem to be fighting among themselves, too. Detroit News


Fisher Racing to sign sponsors
Popular Indy Racing League driver Sarah Fisher is making plans to drive at least 10 races next year. Fisher is currently in negotiations with Dollar General and other unnamed sponsors to get back on the track in time for off-season testing.  “The ultimate goal is to do the whole series,” said Klint Briney, Sarah Fisher Racing executive brand manager. “The logical next step is to do all the ovals.”  Briney described discussions with sponsors as ongoing and lively. Fisher, 27, said she is personally involved in all sponsor negotiations. “Sarah is very hands-on and gets the big picture,” Briney said. “No one can sell this team better than she can.”  IBJ.com


Vettel to double retainer in 2009
Vettel happy to handle his own affairs
(GMM)  Monza winner Sebastian Vettel is set to more than double his retainer by switching from Toro Rosso to parent team Red Bull in 2009.

Germany's Bild newspaper reports that the 21-year-old German, who became the youngest race winner of all time last weekend, will make 1.5 million euros next year.

Swiss based Motorsport Aktuell said recently that Vettel is currently the third lowest earner among the 20 race drivers, with his 600,000 euros surpassed even by Kazuki Nakajima.

But even though Michael Schumacher's manager Willi Weber believes he could help Vettel pocket 100 million euros from his career, the young racer insists he has no plans to hire a manager.

Vettel is a rare breed in F1, choosing to handle his own affairs.

"He does everything himself," his father Norbert confirmed.

Vettel, who used a single lawyer to help him with his new two-year Red Bull contract, said: "I am not going to change anything.  Not at all.  I don't see why I should start doing things differently now."


Five alternatives to replace Magny-Cours in 2010 UPDATE #2 The Parisian suburb of Sarcelles is best known these days for the riots that took place in the public housing districts in the south of the commune in November 2005 which brought to light the plight of France's young immigrants. Ever since the commune has suffered with that reputation. There are plans to use Formula 1 to change the image of the area with a bid to the French GP in 2010. This has been put forward by the mayor of Sarcelles Francois Pupponi and is supported by former F1 winner Jean-Pierre Beltoise.

The project is to be part of a development called the "Pole Val de France" and will be built on 270 acres of state-owned land, with a circuit of around three miles in length with a technology park alongside. The project will be funded with private money and it is reckoned that the construction costs will be around $280m. The long term goal is to create around 10,000 new jobs in the area. There are believed to be at least four other projects which include Le Bourget (an executive jet airport, which is close to Sarcelles), Evry in the south of Paris and two in the east at Melun and Disneyland Paris. Magny-Cours is also hoping to retain the race. Beltoise and Pupponi argue that their project will help develop a region which needs help while the Disneyland idea will simply add to an area which is already on the up. The project will include a $170m stadium complex with 150,000 seats, 40,000 of them under cover. This would be used for the race and for other sports. The site is located close to the D104 Paris ring road, known as La Francilienne, and is very convenient for Paris Charles de Gaulle airport. The area lies under the western flight path of the airport and so noise will not be as big a problem as might be the case in other locations. Grandprix.com

09/09/08 (GMM)  The French commune Sarcelles, in the northern suburbs of Paris, could be ready to host the French grand prix by 2011.

That is the information of Frenchman and former grand prix driver Jean-Pierre Beltoise, who is closely involved in the Sarcelles bid.

"We are very well located," Sarcelles mayor Francois Pupponi said recently.  "We are 20 kilometers from the Eiffel Tower, near hotels and the airport, and well served by the highway."

Beltoise questioned reports that an alternative venue for the French grand prix, currently held at Magny-Cours, could be ready by 2010.

"Who is going to be ready for 2010?  We will be ready for 2011," he said.

The future of the French GP is set to be discussed by the French motor racing federation, and representatives of up to five alternative venues, at a meeting in October.

09/08/08 It is no secret that Bernie Ecclestone is eagerly trying to find an alternative to host a French Grand Prix as Magny-Cours' infrastructure is found outdated. Five different alternatives are currently known and will be evaluated by the French automobile federation to determine the best option.

At the time of writing, 5 projects are the most likely to be chosen from: those of Marne-la-Vallee (Disneyland which is favored by Bernie Ecclestone), Le Bourget, Evry, Melun and Sarcelles.

The leading opinion is a revolutionary circuit at Marne-la-Vallée is under consideration, local governments have confirmed. The project involving Disneyland Paris is backed by Formula One champion Alain prost and the Lagardère group which would operate as the event promoter. It involves an investment of at least 50 million Euro, partly because it very much takes the environment under consideration. Architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte went to the drawing board. He also worked on the Melun project, putting forward a genuine desire to build the first "green circuit" of history: photovoltaic cells to produce electricity site, plants absorb CO2 emissions, noise walls, etc...

EuroDisney itself meanwhile, "formally denies being involved" in a draft circuit in Val d'Europe. "We are happy to make our land a future devolved to the third Disney park," said an official of the leisure giant, which denies having been approached by Lagardère. However, Arnaud de Belenet, the chairman of Val d'Europe: "Last spring, I have learned with amazement that the direction of Disney had commissioned studies on flows Road and absorptive capacity of public transit in the metropolitan area, for an annual event type Grand Prix F1".

Four outsiders are also still in the race. The Sarcelles project set up by former driver Jean-Pierre Beltoise is codenamed "Pôle Val de France". The details of which have only recently been uncovered: drawn under the direction of the architect Gilles Terrones, the complex aims to qualify HQE (high environmental quality) and would be built on 110 ha of land currently owned by the state.

The circuit, whose layout is yet to be determined, would comprise of 150.000 seats, 40.000 of which covered. The project is particularly supported by the former president of PSG, Charles Biétry.

Little is known on the remaining possibilities. All that is known from the Evry entry is that it is located in an oval with a road course in the centre of it.

The site chosen by Melun is close to the Villaroche airport. It should be 5.2 km long and requires an investment of approximately 140 M€. Source: leparisien.fr


Mercedes set for McLaren takeover UPDATE #5 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  Ron Dennis has ruled out German car manufacturer Mercedes-Benz taking control over the McLaren team in the near future. There have been persistent rumors around the F1 paddock that Mercedes-Benz are looking to increase the 40 percent shareholding that they currently have in the team however Dennis has said that the manufacturer are happy with the current setup and are not planning to make increase their stake in the F1 team.

Ron Dennis

When asked by Italian newspaper Corriere della Sera whether Mercedes were looking to increase their stake in the team, Dennis replied, “No – I don’t see the point. Things are fine as they are. Each year, we discuss our plans together and we are agree on everything.”

Dennis has also revealed that despite contemplating retiring or decreasing his involvement with the sport at the end of the season, he will not be changing his current role.

“In early 2007 I was thinking of becoming less involved in the races. Then what happened, happened, and I didn’t want to leave on those terms. Sooner or later something will change because I have other things planned. But I will not give up the team totally – I’ll just change my role in the team. McLaren is in my blood, and I am not an employee so no-one can fire me!” Formula1.net

01/16/08 (GMM)  Mercedes-Benz on Wednesday would not confirm reports that it is poised to take a majority stake in the McLaren team.

Auto Motor und Sport claimed that that the Stuttgart manufacturer has been positioning for the takeover since October 2007, and has now agreed a shareholding arrangement and price with the McLaren Group.

Official confirmation is reportedly due before the start of the 2008 season in March.

But the British news agency Reuters quotes a spokesman as saying: "The status quo has not changed at all.

"Daimler still holds 40 percent of the McLaren Group.  We ask for your understanding that we will not comment on speculation beyond this."

Mercedes paid an estimated $400 million for its 40 per cent stake in 1999.

Read more & Comment...


Win by STR will hurt in the long run
Scuderia Toro Rosso's victory at Monza was a popular one, but now that the spray is settling there are going to be some questions asked about how that victory was achieved - and whether it was something that is acceptable in F1 circles. The last victory by a customer car was in Spain in 1970 when Jackie Stewart drove a March, run by Ken Tyrrell, to victory at Jarama. Only a few months ago Red Bull paid Force India around $4m to stop an arbitration claim which aimed to stop the Italian team using chassis built by Red Bull Technology, which is supplying the same chassis to Red Bull Racing.

The fact that Toro Rosso beat Red Bull Racing will be seen by many as an embarrassment for the "factory" Red Bull team, particularly as that organization decided at the end of 2006 to switch its Ferrari engine deal to Toro Rosso as it wanted to use Renault engines in 2007. That move was logical at the time but has now backfired as it is fairly clear that a large part of the Toro Rosso victory at Monza was down to engine power. Monza is a low downforce track where horsepower is important and Toro Rosso had more horsepower than Red Bull Racing. The set-up of the cars is also part of the equation and much credit for that must go to Giorgio Ascanelli and his engineers at Toro Rosso, but it must still be noted that Ascanelli has been there for quite a time and the improvement at Toro Rossi is relatively recent.

It is rumored that Toro Rosso has been getting the latest Ferrari development engines in recent months and that would help to explain how the team managed to beat the Ferrari factory team. Although there is an engine freeze going on, teams are able to improve their engines if they apply for modifications which they can justify as being for reliability or cost reasons. The FIA accepts or rejects such requests and only those rejected are circulated to the other teams to given them an idea of what is acceptable and what is not acceptable. Renault boss Flavio Briatore has made much of the fact that Renault has fallen behind the other teams by abiding by the rules, but in F1 that is no excuse. If the rules allow for improvement then there should have been improvement.

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CVC likely to buy Lehman's F1 share
(GMM)  CVC Capital Partners is very likely to buy the 16.8 per cent share of F1's commercial rights owned by the failed investment bank Lehman Brothers.

New York based Lehman Brothers announced on Monday it has filed for bankruptcy.

Private equity firm CVC, as F1's majority owner, has first refusal on buying Lehman Brothers' stake from the administrators, the British newspaper The Telegraph reports.

"In reality, we are the only buyer," said Nick Clarry, CVC's UK managing director.  "We have made an offer to buy Lehman's shares in the past and may do so again."

CVC currently owns about 70 per cent of The Formula One Group.


Ascanelli: Inexperience has cost us
Having two inexperienced Formula 1 drivers on board has cost the Toro Rosso squad in 2008, the squad's Technical Director Giorgio Ascanelli has told Setanta Ireland.

The Italian outfit claimed their first ever win in the sport at their home event in Monza on Sunday, the result hardly too much of a surprise considering their recent improvement in form.

However, STR have also had to overcome the fact that both their racers - Sebastian Vettel and Sebastien Bourdais - need to learn what several of the tracks are like in a F1 car from scratch, which has hampered the team's progress ever so slightly.

"I said at the beginning of the year that our target was to finish in the championship behind Red Bull," Ascanelli told Setanta.

"Valencia was a circuit that erased memory for everybody, so our two drivers didn't have to pay the price of inexperience.

"In Spa, quite the opposite, both Vettel and Bourdais, who has raced there in the 24 hours [race], so it was quite familiar.

"Most of the difference in performance is coming from the drivers. No matter what we can do I still think drivers are most important." Setanta Ireland


Troubles inside of Honda team?
Toro Rosso's highly popular win at Monza not only sees the Faenza-based outfit leapfrog its sister team (Red Bull) in the Constructors' Championship, but demote Honda to eighth, last of the points scorers. Having finished eighth in the 2007 Constructors' Championship, much was expected this year, especially with the recruitment of Ross Brawn.

However, it soon became clear that having created another 'bitch' of a car, the Brackley based outfit would concentrate on 2009, with Brawn insisting that the new rules will suit his team.

However, Pitpass hears that other than its problems on track, there continue to be problems back at Brackley, with internal political struggles continuing to damage the team.

We previously referred to a "culture of fear" within the Brackley outfit, and according to our sources this continues. According to one source; "instead of discussing how we can best improve the package and get to the front end of the grid, people are simply focusing on what they should say or do in order to keep their job.

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No return to Indy for USGP UPDATE #2 There are discussions going on with the aim of taking Formula 1 to a purpose-built racing circuit near Palm Springs. The appearance, albeit fleeting, of Chris Pook in the paddock at Monza set tongues wagging. Pook was the man who created the Long Beach Grand Prix back in the 1970s and went on to ran CART between 2001 and 2003. He then retired to Palm Springs but has remained close to Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone.  The United States Grand Prix is a name that is now believed to be owned by Indianapolis Motor Speedway, but that does not mean that we could not see a Californian Grand Prix in the future.  Grandprix.com

09/09/08 (GMM)  A return to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway reportedly does not figure highly on formula one officials' list of priorities.

Team bosses and Bernie Ecclestone got together at Spa-Francorchamps to discuss reinstating a US grand prix, after Indianapolis dropped off the calendar following last year's race.

2010 was reportedly earmarked as the most realistic return date, with all parties keen to explore the idea of another venue.

Indeed, when asked by the local Indy Star newspaper about the latest reports, Indianapolis Motor Speedway boss Tony George said he has not spoken with Ecclestone about 2010.

Autoweek quotes Speedway spokesman Fred Nation as responding to suggestions that Bernie and F1 teams would prefer a race on the east or west coasts: "Good luck."

Asked the same question, George added: "I assume I know what they want."

He explained that talks to revive the US grand prix for next year "broke off during the summer".

09/09/08 The chances of the United States Grand Prix returning to the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the near future appear slim, after it was revealed that there has been no ongoing discussion about the event.

Speaking to the Indianapolis Star during last weekend's IndyCar Series finale at Chicagoland Speedway, IMS CEO Tony George confirmed that there had been no contact with Bernie Ecclestone or anyone else at Formula One Management regarding the race since talks broke off earlier in the summer.

"I assume I know what they want," George said on Sunday, "A race on the east or west coast."

In our opinion the only viable alternative is Long Beach, which was an F1 race in the late 70s and early 80s until CART/Champ Car took over when Bernie Ecclestone's asking price became too high.  As a circuit Long Beach is far better than, say Monaco, where passing is near impossible.  At least drivers can pass at Long Beach.  They would have to lengthen the circuit slightly to meet the minimum F1 requirement of 2.02-miles.  Long Beach is currently 1.97-miles in length.

Long Beach would require construction of some sort of temporary garage facilities for the teams to operate out of.  With Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe owning the Long Beach event, we're not so sure they would be keen on helping Bernie Ecclestone with anything, plus how would a 2nd race in Long Beach affect the IndyCar event ticket sales?


Yet another NASCAR team to fold
Nationwide Series driver Bobby Hamilton Jr. said Team Rensi Motorsports will close its doors in December if a new sponsor to replace Smithfield Foods isn’t found by then.

Hamilton Jr. is in his second stint with Team Rensi and nearly was without a ride this season until a sponsor was found in early December. Smithfield told the team last Monday it would not return next season, Hamilton Jr. said.

“It’s simple: If they don’t have nothing by December, they’re locking the doors,” Hamilton Jr. said. “That’s for real. They’ve already let people go. They’ve tried to keep as many good people as they could. We’ve already lost several good people because they didn’t know what was going on and they had to have jobs. It’s a bad deal. It’s for real.”

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Ganassi-Waltrip merger? UPDATE #2 The hottest rumor floating around the Cup garage this weekend [at New Hampshire] is that Chip Ganassi still is trying to make a deal with another team to keep himself in NASCAR. This week it was supposedly an arrangement with Michael Waltrip Racing, which would expand to four cars and put Montoya in a Toyota. Yahoo Sports

08/06/08 Juan Pablo Montoya's "Chase or Bust" year that team owner Chip Ganassi proclaimed before the season has gone bust.  Pocono, for instance, is likely to not be remembered very fondly by the No. 42 team. On Sunday Montoya started 13th but almost immediately fell a lap down when he had to pit because of a loose plug wire. He worked his way back through the field but his engine blew on lap 146. He ended up 40th and fell three places in the standings to 25th. At Indy he was an early casualty of the Trail of Tattered Tires.

Toyota likes Montoya, both winning a lot of races together in CART.  Perhaps there is more to the Breakfast Summit at Daytona -- where Ganassi and partner Felix Sabates broke bread with Cal Wells and Rob Kauffman of Michael Waltrip Racing .

The breakfast sparked a torrent of speculation about Ganassi and Waltrip forming one four-car team and Ganassi switching to Toyota. That makes sense on many levels.  The best employees from both teams can be retained and the deadwood dropped. Four car teams have more setup data to share, Toyota avoids having to drop the Waltrip team and they get to keep Montoya

07/26/08 Car owner Chip Ganassi pulled the plug on Franchitti's team a month ago, in a shocker that left 71 people without jobs. That move by Ganassi has led to intense speculation about Ganassi's NASCAR future. Some of that speculation includes the possibility of some merger between Ganassi and the Michael Waltrip operation, which is also struggling and may be down to one sponsor next season for that three-car operation. Winston Salem Journal


MWR has some prospective sponsors for 2009
Ty Norris, vice president and general manager of Michael Waltrip Racing, said three prospective sponsors for next season -- two new to the sport, one old, according to Norris -- are taking notice that MWR's three teams have been running better lately. Heading into Sunday's Sylvania 300 at NHMS, the #44 piloted by David Reutimann ranks 27th in owner points, Michael Waltrip's #55 Toyota ranks 32nd, and the #00 currently being driven by rookie Michael McDowell is 35th. With UPS and its considerable dollars headed elsewhere, MWR needs to find new money to fill the gap if it's going to field three teams again next season. Waltrip is set with NAPA signed on as the primary sponsor of his car next year, but Reutimann has only half of next season currently covered by Aaron's, which hopes to serve as a co-primary with another sponsor. Norris said he has no timetable for the aforementioned three prospective MWR sponsors, and admitted that fielding a third team for next season, which is the current plan, may hinge on what happens. "A lot of our current sponsors are re-signing. And we have at least three very, very solid opportunities that would, one, shore up the second half of the Reutimann car and, two, create a primary opportunity for McDowell," Norris said. "Time will tell, but at least those things are in the funnel, so to speak. More from NASCAR.com


Hockenheim’s future as F1 venue fades UPDATE (GMM)  Mercedes-Benz F1 boss Norbert Haug has ruled out helping Hockenheim to survive a financial crisis and keep hosting the German grand prix.

The circuit alternates running the annual formula one race with the Nurburgring, but Hockenheim mayor Dieter Gummer has said the situation is "no longer justifiable" beyond 2010 due to continuing losses.

Williams driver and German-born Nico Rosberg is quoted as saying by the news agency SID: "That is inconceivable.  Germany must have a formula one race.

"Mercedes and BMW have to make it happen, or it is up to Bernie Ecclestone to require lower fees," he added.

But Haug, long in charge of Mercedes' involvement with McLaren, answered: "That is not our job.  A football player doesn't build the football field."

BMW-Sauber team boss Mario Theissen adds: "For us as car manufacturers, a formula one race in Germany is important.  It is a home event for us that we look forward to, as do many of our supporters."

09/12/08 (GMM)  The future of the German grand prix at Hockenheim does not look bright, the town's major Dieter Gummer has admitted.

He told the Mannheimer Morgen newspaper that, after recording a loss of more than 5 million euros when the event was run earlier this year, the circuit may not be able to continue alternating the hosting rights with fellow German venue Nurburgring beyond 2010.

"Keeping formula one past 2010 is economically no longer justifiable in the present circumstances," Gummer said.

The town of Hockenheim owns 94 per cent of the Hockenheimring.


Customer car row set to rage again?
(GMM)  The so-called 'customer car' saga may soon be back on the agenda, despite recent reports that the paddock dispute was now at an end.

Amid Force India's vehement opposition to the racing of customer cars, it emerged earlier this season that - given the demise of Super Aguri - a settlement with Red Bull had finally been reached.

But rumors in the paddock earlier this weekend suggested that, despite customer cars being set to exit the grid beyond 2010 and Dietrich Mateschitz putting his Toro Rosso share up for sale, the whole customer car issue could raise its head again.

On Sunday at Monza, a customer car won a grand prix for the first time, with Sebastian Vettel's Toro Rosso run by the little Faenza based team but actually designed and built by its parent.

"Red Bull Technology can be very proud of the car that they have provided," Red Bull Racing boss Christian Horner said after the Italian grand prix.

Adrian Newey, who designed the Red Bull Technology car, was asked to comment on the latest rumors about the future of customer cars.

"I'm not aware of any changes to the decision that was made six months ago," he said.

Williams, on the other hand, is strongly opposed to customer cars, and the Grove team's technical director Sam Michael said of the issue: "I think that was sorted out about six months ago, wasn't it?"

Perhaps understandably in the heat of celebrations, meanwhile, Toro Rosso co-owner Gerhard Berger, who described standing on the podium as a winning constructor as the best moment in his long career, declined to comment on Sunday.


Safety car to lead Monza GP start?
(GMM)  Deep puddles littered the Monza paddock on Sunday, and rumors say the race may begin behind the safety car.

The ultra-fast Italian circuit is typified with long straights into hard braking zones, particularly the chicane at the beginning of the lap.

There are concerns however that the dangers of the start could actually be amplified by the safety car.

Toyota driver Timo Glock is concerned that, despite the field being more spread out, higher speeds into the first chicane could spell trouble.

"If we start behind the safety car, then we arrive faster in the first curve than after a standing start," the German told motorsport-total.com.

There has not been a wet Italian grand prix since the 1970s, though the 2002 event was run in partially wet conditions.


Forecast rain may affect race start time
Torrential rain storms from the remnants of Hurricane Ike at the scheduled 3pm local start time could force race officials to move the starting time of the inaugural Indianapolis MotoGP to an earlier time today.

All riders and race officials agreed last night, during the Safety Commission meeting, that if conditions were as bad as they were Friday during the first day of practice, then some of the support races may be scrapped altogether.


Kyalami revs up bid to host F1 again
(GMM)  A bid to bring a South African grand prix back to the formula one calendar is gathering speed, according to a local report.

The country's Sunday Times newspaper said talks about a new race from 2011 at the Kyalami circuit, last scene of a formula one event in 1993, are taking place between the provincial Gauteng government and Bernie Ecclestone.

The newspaper said the F1 chief executive has agreed in principle, and that a memorandum of understanding could be signed by the end of the year.

South African race officials are understood to have inspected the F1 venues in Melbourne and Silverstone, and will be trackside for the sport's first ever night race in Singapore in two weeks.

A government spokesman would not comment specifically about F1, but he said: "We value the contribution motor sport can make to the economy of the province and will continue to look at opportunities."

It is suggested that F1 officials have inspected the Kyalami circuit, which has hosted many South African grands prix, and given guidance about what would need to be done to get the venue up to the sport's modern standards.

A spokesman for Motorsport SA, the controlling body of all motorsport in South Africa, said a local formula one race is "very possible" but revealed there has been no approach by the sport's governing body, the FIA.

In January, Renault announced that it entered a partnership agreement to promote the Gauteng province.


Alonso plots F1 future without Ferrari
(GMM)  Former double world champion Fernando Alonso insists he is plotting his future successes in formula one without Ferrari.

The Italian team announced at Monza that it is retaining Kimi Raikkonen and Felipe Massa for the next two seasons, but Spaniard Alonso insists he is not disappointed to hear it.

"Not at all.  I know there was talk about me going there for 2010, but it was rumors only.  It was never an option," he told Spanish reporters.

Alonso, 27, dismissed suggestions the doors to the famous Maranello based team may re-open for him in 2011.

"In two years?  Maybe in 2011 Ferrari will want to renew their drivers again, or maybe they will be seventh and I will not want to go there," said the current Renault driver.

"In 2011 I want to be winning, for sure, and I hope it is with the team that I am already with in 2010."

It is rumored he has closed a multiple-year deal to switch to BMW-Sauber beginning in 2009.

"We are in the middle of 2008 and I am thinking about winning races, or even better, beginning next year.  All my efforts are focused on finding a car for that.

"If the Renault car is better next year, who knows," Alonso said.


Engine freeze disparity fix looms - Briatore
(GMM)  A remedy to the current situation of engine disparity amongst the F1 teams may be in sight, Renault boss Flavio Briatore hinted at Monza.

The French squad believes it has fallen behind amid the current 'engine freeze' because it has adhered to the letter of the rules, while some competitors add performance under the guise of reliability or economical gains.

"We are discussing it with the other teams to find a solution," Briatore is quoted as saying by Spain's AS newspaper, amid rumors that Renault may have fallen as much as 25 horse power behind the likes of frontrunners Ferrari.

"The engines were frozen but three teams took advantage of their reliability problems to improve," the Italian continued.

"I have discussed it several times with Max Mosley, and at the end of the season it could all be solved."


Dennis denies involvement in sex scandal UPDATE #3 (GMM)  Max Mosley at Monza made plain his suspicion that the notorious expose about his sex life was the brainchild of his formula one enemies.

The FIA president, despite surviving the News of the World scandal that erupted after a prostitute wore a concealed camera, has engaged top British spy Lord Stevens to investigate the true source of the story.

"The fact that Stevens is quiet does not mean that Stevens is not working," Mosley told reporters at Monza, on a rare visit to a grand prix paddock on Friday.

"I do believe that it had more to do than with one lady.  It's not from my private life.  It's most likely something to do with motor racing," he added, agreeing when asked if by 'motor racing' he meant F1.

05/05/08 (GMM)  Czech automobile association chief Radovan Novak has refused to withdraw his insinuation that McLaren officials may be responsible for prying into Max Mosley's private life and triggering the sex scandal.

He told Prague radio recently that the News of the World expose, involving the FIA president's sadomasochistic romp with five prostitutes that now threatens his job, could be retaliation for the devastating espionage affair of 2007.

McLaren chairman Ron Dennis categorically denied the charge that he ordered the London investigation, revealing that he has written to Novak for clarification of his remarks.

The Briton said his company was also "considering the appropriate route" for a correction or withdrawal by Novak.

But Novak, reportedly a close ally of Mosley's, confirmed to the Czech news agency CTK that the theory linking McLaren with the News of the World expose is "definitely a possibility".

Novak's quotes in the Czech language were reported in translation by the German specialist magazine Auto Motor und Sport.

"That is definitely a possibility that each intelligent person must consider," he said of the McLaren link.

"However, perhaps Mr. Mosley already knows who is responsible for it (the investigation)."

05/02/08 Radovan Novak, the head of the Czech Automobile Association who controversially suggested that Ron Dennis and McLaren helped to bring the Max Mosley sex scandal into the public eye in the belief that the matter is related to last year’s espionage saga, is standing by his comments.

Talking to Prague radio station Radio Impuls, Novak claimed that McLaren could have been involved in the setup against Mosley.

Ron Dennis has denied that he had any involvement in the matter and the McLaren team have written to Novak asking him to clarify what he said.

A statement released by Dennis read, “As I have consistently said whenever I have been asked about this, I categorically deny that I have anything to do with the News of the World investigation into Mr. Mosley.

“Neither does anyone connected with the McLaren Group or the Vodafone McLaren Mercedes team. And neither does any agent or any other party acting on my behalf or anyone connected with the McLaren Group or the team.”

Despite McLaren’s denial of any form of involvement at the letter asking for clarification, Novak has told the Czech Press Agency that he stands by his comments. “It is definitely one of the possibilities every intelligent person has to consider,” he explained. “But then maybe Mr. Mosley already knows who was behind it.” Formula1.net

05/01/08 (GMM)  Ron Dennis has vehemently denied suggestions that he could be the unknown figure behind the covert investigation that triggered the Max Mosley sex scandal.

Mosley, who faces a confidence vote in his FIA presidency next month, recently openly questioned the origin of the News of the World revelations.

He wrote in a letter to FIA affiliates in April that he had been pursued not by the tabloid newspaper, but for "reasons and clients as yet unknown".

The scandal aroused suspicions that Dennis may have ordered the investigation into Mosley's private life, in retaliation for the devastating 'spy scandal' and penalties of 2007.

"I categorically deny that I have anything to do with the News of the World's investigation into Mr. Mosley," Dennis, chairman of the McLaren Group, told the Times.

He also denied that "anyone" connected with his company, or anyone acting on his behalf, had anything to do with the revelations.

Dennis has written to Czech Automobile Association chief Radovan Novak, who recently intimated on Prague radio that the spy and sex scandals may share Dennis as the common link, for a clarification of his remarks.

Dennis confirmed that he is looking for Novak, a close ally of Mosley's, to "withdraw or correct" his statements.

It emerged just this week that Mosley has engaged an expert detective agency, Quest, to identity the source of the News of the World story.


Roush Fenway's Ragan in running for UPS sponsorship for '09 UPDATE #3 This rumor has been upgraded to 'Fact.'  UPS announced on Friday at the New Hampshire Motor Speedway that they will sponsor Roush Fenway Racing's David Ragan starting in 2009.

09/12/08 UPS will move its NASCAR sponsorship to Roush Fenway Racing and driver David Ragan, the SportsBusiness Journal reported Thursday.

UPS officials have a news conference scheduled for 9:30 a.m. EDT on Friday at New Hampshire Motor Speedway, where it will announce its new driver and team for 2009.

According to the SportsBusiness Journal, that driver will be Ragan.

09/02/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today. UPS has reportedly reached to a multiyear agreement with Roush-Fenway Racing to sponsor David Ragan and the No. 6 Ford Fusion next season, with an official announcement expected within the next two weeks.  UPS will leave Michael Waltrip Racing at the end of the 2008 campaign, after backing Dale Jarrett and David Reutimann for the last two years. Ragan is in his second year of Sprint Cup competition, and ranks as one of NASCAR’s most improved drivers. He is currently 13th in the championship standing, just 17 points out of the Chase with one regular season race remaining. Motorsports Soapbox

08/16/08 UPS was linked to Roush Fenway Racing three months ago when the organization was looking for sponsorship for Carl Edwards.

Aflac ended up sponsoring Edwards, but Roush Fenway Racing still might land UPS as the organization still needs a sponsor for David Ragan. Talks with UPS are continuing as UPS has not committed to a team in 2009, Roush Fenway Racing President Geoff Smith confirmed.

Michael Waltrip Racing is not expected to retain UPS, and Roush Fenway needs a sponsor to replace AAA for Ragan.

“We are a candidate,” Smith said in an email. “We don't know at this time whether or not we will win. … Of course it would be fantastic to be associated with UPS.”

UPS has been linked to several drivers and organizations. Gillett Evernham Motorsports still needs a sponsor for its No. 10 car and has not committed yet to current driver Patrick Carpentier. Stewart-Haas Racing still needs a sponsor for Ryan Newman, Dale Earnhardt Inc. still needs sponsorship for its No. 01 car, driven this year by Regan Smith. Yates Racing still needs sponsors for its drivers as well. SceneDaily.com


Honda to bench Hayden
SpeedTV.com are reporting Honda will not let Hayden finish the season after this race, apparently after comments he made about the lack of support for him vs. teammate Pedrosa. I expect Honda to not release him to test with Ducati until the season is over.


Kimi to retire or extend Ferrari deal through 2011 UPDATE #4 The part of this rumor that Kimi Raikkonen will retire at the end of the 2008 season is downgraded to 'False.'  Ferrari has announced that Raikkonen will stay with the team at least until the end of 2010.

09/02/08 (GMM)  Kimi Raikkonen on Tuesday fuelled speculation that he is set to retire at the end of the season.

It has long been rumored that the reigning world champion would retire sooner rather than later, and comments in his latest blog entry on the Ferrari website make for interesting reading.

Referring to the reaction to his recent performance slump, the Finn wrote: "It's a shame to be involved in many negative stories, but these things happen: it wasn't the first time and it might not have been the last in my career."

His unusual choice of words comes at a time when speculation about his future is rife, and teams make their driver selections for the coming season.

Fascinatingly, a similar blog posted on the 28-year-old's personal website on Tuesday omitted the reference to possibly the "last" negative speculation of his career.

"It's never nice to be in the middle of all kinds of negative stories," the website entry quotes Raikkonen as saying, "but it just happens.  It's not the first time in my life and you just have to live with it."

The driver market is currently at an impasse, as team managers wait essentially to see what the former double world champion Fernando Alonso does.

It is believed the Spaniard, who has been linked in recent weeks with Honda, already has an agreement with Ferrari for 2010, with an option for 2009 should Raikkonen retire.

08/01/08 Kimi Raikkonen has moved to quell rumors that he is considering retirement, claiming that the suggestion is the invention of the media keen to find a story.

The Finn has appeared lackluster at times this season, his first as reigning world champion, and has admitted that he will not go on racing forever, but denies that he has actually discussed retiring either at the end of his current Ferrari contract or, earlier still, at the end of this year.

"I never said anything like that," he told journalists after a late arrival at Thursday's press conference in Budapest, "I only said that I have a contract until the end of next year and then somebody made up that I will stop at the end of this year or the end of next year, but I never said that. “I’m still enjoying F1 but, like I said, there are a lot of other things in life. But I'm enjoying this. I have a great time, I have a great time with [the team]. Of course, it would be better if we could do a little bit better right now, but that's racing and, for sure, we will get where we want.

"[My motivation] hasn't disappeared anywhere but, of course, it's not nice when it's not going so well. But it's not the first time. We just keep pushing and, at some point, it starts going better again."

07/23/08 (GMM)  Kimi Raikkonen insists he has not lost the desire to win, but the defending world champion is still refusing to commit to formula one beyond the end of his Ferrari contract next year.

The 28-year-old Finn had a notably lackluster German grand prix last weekend, amid rumors his heart is no longer in it and he may be contemplating an early retirement.

"The desire to win hasn't decreased at all," Raikkonen said on Tuesday, insisting that last year - when he ultimately won the drivers' title - he similarly went six races without a victory.

But in an interview with the Spanish newspaper El Mundo, he refused to confirm whether he will still be on the grid in 2010.

"I am not in a hurry to decide," Raikkonen said.  "I have one more year on my contract that I want to fulfill.

"For 2010, we will see.  It is not an easy decision, it is necessary to evaluate many things."

Many observers cannot understand why, with possibly F1's most lucrative contract and one of the most competitive seats, Raikkonen would be considering hanging up his helmet.

"I don't feel like I need to explain, I will make my decision when I am ready.  Ferrari is not rushing me either.

"There are many things to do outside of formula one -- I will find ways to amuse myself," he smiled, "and I have never had problems with having spare time."

Similarly, Raikkonen does not exclude the possibility of simply continuing at Ferrari in 2010, and would welcome Fernando Alonso as a teammate.

"Why not?" he answered when asked about potentially having Alonso as a teammate.  "Who knows, but I am not the one who makes the decisions about drivers."

Kimi Raikkonen
(GMM)  World champion Kimi Raikkonen is on the cusp of signing a new two year extension to keep racing for Ferrari beyond the 2009 season, according to the widely circulated German newspaper Bild-Zeitung.

It was being speculated that Raikkonen, the 28-year-old Finn, was growing weary of the grand prix world and - despite his contract for next year - might even have gone into early retirement at the end of this season.

His teammate Felipe Massa has two and a half years left to run on his own agreement with the Maranello based team.

If confirmed, the Raikkonen news would deal a blow to the hopes of double world champion Fernando Alonso, who reportedly has a deal in place to race with Ferrari if a vacancy arises for 2009 or 2010.

"It does look as though the Spaniard will have to stay with Renault," former triple world champion Niki Lauda told the newspaper.


Meanwhile the Guardian newspaper reports - Kimi Raikkonen's below-par performance in Germany and subdued demeanor has prompted a fresh wave of speculation that the Finn could retire from the sport.

After being out-qualified again by Ferrari team-mate Felipe Massa, the World Champion trailed home a distant sixth while Lewis Hamilton surged to victory.

According to The Guardian newspaper, 'Raikkonen appeared unfocused throughout the Hockenheim weekend' and 'His refusal to confirm or deny that he is on the brink of retirement hardly clears the speculation and uncertainty that surrounds him.

'He finished sixth on Sunday and talked afterwards, in disconsolate tones, about a lack of grip. It is thought he was referring to his car. But whatever the state of his transport, he is a man who sometimes appears to be in the damp hold of a malaise,' the newspaper continued.

'If Raikkonen does leave Ferrari, he will leave formula one. Where else would he want to go? He might even devote more time to his snowmobile racing. It would be a terrible waste. But perhaps his mood has been further darkened by the realization that he is up against somebody whose talent for driving a racing car at immense speeds with exceptional skill is even greater than his own.'

Sunday Times columnist and ITV pundit Martin Brundle has also questioned whether Raikkonen could be on the verge of leaving the sport.

'With Raikkonen refusing to confirm or deny that he is considering retirement - maybe even at the end of this year - the expectation is that Alonso would replace him should he do so, and that the Spaniard will be at Ferrari regardless in 2010.

'After he shoved a photographer on the grid at Silverstone a fortnight ago, and watching him behind the wheel here at Hockenheim, there is a part of Kimi that is unhappy and frustrated at the moment. I would still be more than surprised if he retired this year, but if he wants to sign off as world champion, he needs more speed and balance in his car,' Brundle wrote in his column this weekend.

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