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DATE News (chronologically)
Allmendinger to NASCAR  UPDATE #6 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement - See Hot News

10/24/06 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, If it is true of Allmendinger leaving for NASCAR, will Forsythe replace him for Mexico City? I hate to see him leave the series and wish him well - but why should Champ Car give him any more publicity. Tim Clingenpeel

Dear Tim, No, the Forsythe team should not replace him for Mexico City. First of all it is too late and second of all AJ showed great sportsmanship in Surfers Paradise by going over to congratulate the Newman/Haas crew for winning the championship after he fell out of the race. Remember, if RuSPORT had not fired him earlier this year, he would have never looked to NASCAR. You cannot hold grudges against a driver, after being fired and without a job, for seeking the best paying job he can, especially when it is for Toyota in NASCAR. You know Toyota is going to eventually dominate the series, so AJ is getting in on a good thing at the right time. He could end up becoming a big star because NASCAR understands the value in making its drivers the stars/heroes. Mark C.

10/21/06 According to this SPEEDTV.com article, NASCAR looks set to steal the best thing that has happened to open wheel racing in the America in a decade.  The article goes on to say:

CSS Stellar Management (A.J.'s representatives) was asking Gerry Forsythe for $3 million a year to keep the kid he picked up off the unemployment line back in June.

Forsythe, who had offered Allmendinger a five-year contract with incentives and wanted his signature before this weekend, rejected that figure and basically stated they were too far apart to even continue negotiating.

That was a week ago, and everybody is pretty quiet on both sides. A.J. claims he hasn't signed anything, yet his fiancée told friends on Wednesday night, "We're going to NASCAR."

And nobody on his Forsythe crew seems to think he'll be back.

According to AutoRacing1.com sources in NASCAR, Toyota executives are convinced that they will get Allmendinger and final papers are being drawn up.

A spokesperson for AJ Allmendinger, Tara Ragan, told AutoRacng1.com, "We were hoping to have AJ's situation sorted out before Surfers Paradise, and next week we will resume working on that diligently when we get back in the USA."

10/13/06 Dear AutoRacing1.com, Are you sure Allmendinger is going to move to NASCAR next year? This would be bad. Jeff Parker, Houston

Dear Jeff, No we are not certain. This is only a rumor. We were fed the rumor from the NASCAR paddock from a usually good source. However, as we originally stated in this Rumor, we heard from our Champ Car sources (which we trust more) that AJ would stay with Champ Car. The best thing for AJ would be to stay with his winning combination that he has at Forsythe. Mark C.

10/13/06 Confirming what AutoRacing1.com sources told us when we broke this rumor that Allmendinger is, short of a miracle, definitely going to NASCAR next season, Team Red Bull General Manager Marty Gaunt told Sirius Radio Speedway Thursday that there are three drivers remaining on his wish list, and that he hopes to announce a teammate for Brian Vickers within the next few weeks. "There are three guys that we have our eye on," said Gaunt. "We're looking for the best, pure driver we can find. This is not about who brings the most sponsorship to the program. We want a driver. We are obviously interested in AJ Allmendinger. He is a proven winner, and he has been very impressive in his two NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series races.  We talked about splitting the ride between a veteran and a rookie, and ultimately ruled it out," he said. "After giving it some thought, we decided that we want to have the same driver in the car, 100% of the time."  A.J. Allmendinger and Bill Elliott are believed to be two of the candidates.

As we pointed out awhile ago, if Allmendinger moves to NASCAR  he will be going from a winning combination in Champ Car to a losing team in NASCAR with little hope of winning for quite some time.  Team Red Bull's Nextel Cup debut will have to wait until at least Atlanta. Bill Elliott failed to qualify for the Bank of America 500 on Thursday night, posting the eighth-fastest time of the drivers trying to qualify on time.

10/11/06 A reader writes, If Allmendinger is indeed going to NASCAR next year, Gerald Forsythe should fire him effective immediately and put another driver in the car for Surfers and Mexico City, a driver that Champ Car can build on for the future, not a driver that has turned his back on the series.  AJ should be told to not even pack his bags for Surfers. Mike Newbower, Indianapolis

10/11/06 According to our NASCAR sources, Champ Car's current hottest property, AJ Allmendinger, and his agent have decided to take the NASCAR money and will drive in NASCAR starting next year for 3 to 5 years.  What this means for Champ Car is that they will now have no Americans in the series who have won Champ Car races.  We also hear Ryan Hunter-Reay will be in NASCAR next year and he was the only other young American who has won a Champ Car race.  Hunter-Reay showed that he had the character to turn down the Japanese money in the IRL (i.e. staying loyal to Champ Car), but being loyal and winning races doesn't seem to count for much in Champ Car......so, after waiting on the sidelines for over a year, he turned to NASCAR.   Mark C.
Allmendinger in Cup race, leaving Champ Car for NASCAR  UPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today - See Hot News.  Rumors say that Allmendinger was being paid $200,000 a year to drive Champ Cars for Forsythe Championship Racing. Allmendinger was offered a three-year NASCAR contract at three million dollars per year, plus percentages.  Allmendinger’s management team reportedly gave Forsythe an opportunity to match that offer, but Forsythe declined and broke off negotiations, saying the gap between what Allmendinger wants and what he is willing to pay is insurmountable.

10/23/06 According to this SPEEDTV.com article, A.J. Allmendinger is leaving Champ Car for NASCAR and it will be confirmed Tuesday at a Red Bull press conference.

"I spoke with A.J. and his agent tonight and they informed me of their decision," said Gerald Forsythe, who hired Allmendinger after he was fired by RuSPORT four races into this season.

"I told him that I was disappointed, our team was disappointed and Champ Car fans will be disappointed but I wished him well."

"They want three million dollars a year plus prize money and that's just not realistic," said Forsythe last week. "I want A.J. and Champ Car wants A.J. but not at that price."

[Editor's Note: Credit to Forsythe for not upsetting the salary structure in Champ Car by giving in to Allmendinger's demands. Yes, AJ is good, and yes he is American, but no one is irreplaceable. In fact, Scott Speed, from his F1 exposure, is far more popular than Allmendinger around the world, and with Champ Car becoming more global, they are better off investing the money in Speed should he lose his F1 ride. With that said, everyone in Champ Car is sorry to see Allmendinger go as he was a nice kid.  We have removed AJ from our 2007 Champ Car Silly Season page.  This opens up a good ride and a lot of drivers will be clamoring for it.]

10/23/06 Champ Car driver A.J. Allmendinger has been entered to drive Team Red Bull's entry in this weekend's Bass Pro Shops 500 Nextel Cup race, but he needs to be approved by NASCAR before he can focus on making his Cup debut. Allmendinger, who has five wins in the Champ Car series this season, will try to qualify for Saturday's Craftsman Truck Series race in a fourth Bill Davis Racing entry. Allmendinger has made truck series starts at New Hampshire and Talladega with that team.

Allmendinger is believed to be the leading candidate to join Brian Vickers when Team Red Bull begins fielding two Toyotas in the Nextel Cup Series next year. Bill Elliott had long been considered a candidate, but he failed to qualify the team's entry when it made its debut at Lowe's Motor Speedway. Elliott was also to drive for the team at Atlanta and Texas, but he'll now drive for R&J Racing at Atlanta. Scene Daily

Alonso may retire with third title  (GMM)  F1's youngest ever back to back champion, Fernando Alonso, says he would be content to retire after winning a third title.

"Senna won three so for me to achieve what he achieved would be the object of my career," Spanish television channel Telecinco quoted the 25-year-old as saying.

Alonso, who sealed his second drivers' crown at Interlagos on Sunday, also hinted that McLaren could be his last team in the sport.

Continuing the Ayrton Senna theme, he said: "To join McLaren and to never race with Ferrari reminds me a lot of (him)."

Alonso's McLaren contract is for three years.  The only drivers to ever win three championships in a row were Michael Schumacher and Juan Manuel Fangio.

The Spanish newspaper El Mundo, meanwhile, wrote on Monday that it hoped Alonso would 'calm down' and be less outspoken in the coming years.

"It was the same with Schumacher.  At the start of his career the German's image was not as good as it was at the end."

Could Michelin return to F1?  Michelin spokeswoman has refused to rule out a scenario where the French tyre supplier might return one day to F1. Following Bibendum's last blast at Interlagos, she replied to an email query about whether Michelin would consider a comeback: "Not in the foreseeable future perhaps, but this isn't an industry in which one ever says 'never'.

Michelin is pulling out of the sport in protest of the 'single tyre supplier' rule for 2008. The marque's motor sport director Frederic Henry-Biabaud says: "I don't see the appeal in participating in a series on those terms." Paddock Talk

Toro Rosso engine deal expected soon  Jean Todt says a decision will be made 'soon' about Red Bull's request to transfer its Ferrari engine deal for 2007 to secondary team Toro Rosso.

It was speculated at Sao Paulo that, despite earlier suggestions to the contrary, the energy drink company had succeeded in convincing Ferrari to allow the switch. Boss Todt's expected generosity is probably the result of Red Bull's agreement to extend the Toro Rosso-Ferrari deal for several years.

Red Bull has already penned a Renault engine deal for 2007.

Ferrari's Todt said on Sunday: "We are talking about possible changes (to the Red Bull deal). "We will let you know shortly." F1 Editorial

Tide sponsorship gone from PPI Motorsports?  Tide gone from PPI? UPDATE 3: hearing Tide will NOT being going to RYR as a sponsor and will NOT be back as a full primary sponsor in 2007 on any Nextel Cup team, currently Tide sponsors the #32 PPI Motorsports Chevy that Travis Kvapil drives.(7-9-2006)
UPDATE: After struggling for several seasons against the three- and four-car teams that have become the norm in Nextel Cup, single-car team owner Cal Wells still is in search of an alliance with another team that would help take his program to the next level. However, Wells is losing primary sponsor Tide at the conclusion of the 2006 season, and driver Travis Kvapil also been courted by other teams. Sources within the garage indicate that Wells has been talking to several teams – including Yates – about a possible alliance for next year, which also makes Wells a potential Ford team next year should a deal with Yates be made. Wells currently campaigns Chevrolets. As of now, Wells also has no manufacturer commitment for 2007.(Yahoo Sports)(9-23-2006) More ...
Crew Chief changes planned at Roush Racing  Jack Roush confirmed Sunday that a multi-team, crew chief shakeup is in the works in his five-team Nextel Cup operation [#6,16,17,26,99], but he said he hasn't decided which crew chiefs to pair with which drivers, though veteran Jimmy Fennig "might be a good choice" for David Ragan [in the #6] next season. Will Wally Brown be back as Carl Edwards' crew chief? "That's one of our dream-team packages," Roush said. "Wally Brown is one of my heroes; he's done a great job. But his dad, in Pennsylvania, isn't doing well, and Wally is missing his dad, and we've been talking, and Wally may have a change in venue, and in his career. If we lose Wally, it would be a huge loss."(Winston Salem Journal)(10-23-2006) Jayski's
Yates still looking for sponsor for 88  MARTINSVILLE, Va. - Everyone knows that nothing is definite in racing without a solid sponsor, so it's understandable why Ford's Dan Davis wondered whether the No. 88 team of Robert Yates Racing would be around next season. Doug Yates says that while nothing's signed from a sponsorship standpoint, he isn't planning on scaling back. That [two-car team] is our intention for sure," Yates said Saturday. "We need to be going the other way. It's been a tough year for us. We need to field two cars to keep strong here." Yates said he is happy with the progress and speed of rookie David Gilliland in the No. 38 car and hopes to have him a teammate soon in the No. 88 with a new sponsor and driver to replace departing Dale Jarrett and UPS.

"I know you guys have heard this before - we're really getting close," Yates said. "We feel real good about what we're working on and hopefully we can start getting some things lined up - drivers and get our crews secure for next year." Yates said the organization is not looking at a driver-sponsor package. SceneDaily 

Allmendinger in truck at Atlanta  UPDATE #2 A.J. Allmendinger will continue his NASCAR introduction next weekend at Atlanta Motor Speedway, as he attempts his third Craftsman Truck Series race of the season. Allmendinger, 24, who is considering full-time offers in NASCAR next season, will drive a Bill Davis Racing entry at Atlanta, team officials confirmed. He finished 13th at New Hampshire and fifth at Talladega in his first two starts. Rick Viers, who served as Allmendinger's crew chief in those races is expected to serve in the same capacity, but he no longer works for BDR. Team owner Bill Davis said Sunday that Viers, who did research and development work at BDR, has taken a crew chief position with Team Red Bull. Viers is expected to crew chief Red Bull's second Nextel Cup Series team, sources said. Viers' move fuels speculation that Allmendinger, who already has a personal services contract with Red Bill, could be in serious consideration for the team's second Cup ride. ThatsRacin.com

10/20/06 Although a Team Red Bull spokesman said he could not yet confirm the team’s plans for next week’s Nextel Cup race at Atlanta, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that Champ Car series driver A.J. Allmendinger will pilot the team’s entry there. Bill Elliott had been scheduled to drive it, but Elliott will apparently move to another car. Elliott failed to make last week’s race at Charlotte in the Red Bull team’s Dodge. The team will run Toyotas with Brian Vickers and a second driver to be named – with Allmendinger’s name mentioned among the potential candidates for that ride. ThatsRacin.com

10/20/06 Bill Elliott's plans to run in the Bass Pro Shops 500 at Atlanta Motor Speedway next week with a special paint scheme commemorating his 30 years of racing at his home track have been scrapped, but he'll race in front of the home folks anyway. Elliott said the Red Bull team that was set to field his car asked him to step aside so rookie A.J. Allmendinger could drive. Elliott agreed, then struck a deal to drive the #37 Dodge R&J Racing. "But the key is that I'll be racing, and that I don't let down the fans who have already bought tickets," Elliott said. Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Brawn announcement due this week  (GMM) Ross Brawn indicated on Sunday afternoon that he might still be Ferrari's technical director in 2007.

Widespread paddock speculation insists that the Englishman is set to follow Michael Schumacher into retirement - or at least take a so-called 'sabbatical' - but, asked whether reporters would see him at Albert Park next March, Brawn told 'Premiere': "I hope so.

"We will make an announcement this week."

The 'announcement' is a scheduled outlining of Ferrari's personnel structure for the future.

Brawn also said in Sao Paulo that he believed Schumacher's race-thwarting tyre puncture had been caused by contact with Giancarlo Fisichella, whose teammate Fernando Alonso sealed the '06 title.

"(Michael) was then 70 seconds behind," Brawn explained, "but his recovery was very impressive.

"Even if he could not win his last race, his race today was fantastic and I think a lot of people will not forget it."
Mercedes could buy McLaren  UPDATE #4 Autosport.com says - speaking at the Brazilian Grand Prix this weekend, Ron Dennis said that he and Mansour Ojjeh will remain in control of McLaren for the time being.

"Mansour and I have a controlling interest and that is the way it is going to stay in the foreseeable future," said Dennis.  It is annoying when specific individuals in the pitlane seem to think that they have this all-seeing knowledge of what other people are doing. It is quite true that Mansour and I visited Stuttgart last week, but the subject that was being discussed was not moving more equity to Mercedes-Benz. It was a completely different subject.

"It was relevant, as I have said repeatedly over the last few months, to pushing the group forward for the benefit of the group and the shareholders and to improve our performance on the circuit.  These meetings rarely take place, there are maybe two a year at most, and there were a range of issues to be discussed, they were discussed. But that (Mercedes-Benz taking over) wasn't on the agenda."

10/21/06 Ron Dennis and his McLaren partner Mansour Ojjeh went to Mercedes-Benz headquarters in Stuttgart last Wednesday for a meeting with DaimlerChrysler bosses. There were rumors that a deal has been struck to sell the remaining 60% of the business to the German car manufacturer but our sources say that these reports are wide of the mark although the meeting was almost certainly part of a negotiating process with that aim in mind. We hear that the two parties are still some way apart in terms of numbers but the intention seems to be to do a deal which will leave the team in German hands. Grandprix.com

08/17/06 (GMM) In addition to speculation that Mercedes-Benz is preparing to buy the remaining sixty per cent of McLaren, the German press reported on Wednesday that the deal was signed at a Hockenheim meeting in July.

'Auto Motor Und Sport' magazine wrote that team principal - and 30 per cent shareholder - Ron Dennis met with Mercedes officials Thomas Weber and Bodo Uebber prior to the German GP.

Syria-born Saudi Arabian entrepreneur Mansour Ojjeh owns the remaining thirty per cent of Dennis' outfit, after the German carmaker bought forty per cent of McLaren in 1999.

Auto Motor Und Sport estimated Mercedes' buyout at (US) $400 million.

08/15/06 (GMM) Mercedes-Benz is poised to buy the McLaren team, according to German reports.

It is claimed that the German carmaker is set to up its existing stake in the Woking based squad from forty to up to seventy or eighty per cent, with Mercedes' Norbert Haug to possibly take over from Ron Dennis at the helm.

'Auto Bild Motorsport' wrote that the Stuttgart-based manufacturer is dissatisfied with the silver collaboration's lack of championship success since 1999, despite consistently delivering perhaps the biggest budget in pit lane.

The report also said that Mercedes, whose rumored buyout would cost an estimated $380 million, is encouraged by BMW's progress since its rival German carmaker took over Sauber.

A spokesman was quoted as saying that it is 'no secret' that parent company DaimlerChrysler could up its stake in McLaren.

''Whether this will happen,'' the Mercedes-Benz spokesman added, ''has not been decided.''

Major German newspaper 'Bild', however, quoted a source at the carmaker as saying: ''Soon we will take over McLaren completely.''

08/08/06 (GMM) German carmaker Mercedes-Benz has declined to rule out buying the remainder of the McLaren team.

The marque's competition director, Norbert Haug, was asked by 'Bild am Sonntag' newspaper whether chiefs in Stuttgart had considered making an offer for the 60 per cent shares, which are held by Ron Dennis and team partner Mansour Ojjeh.

''We already have forty per cent,'' Germany's Haug was quoted as saying by the newspaper, ''and who knows, perhaps one day we will have more.''

But Haug also suggested that Mercedes was content with its current arrangement at the silver-colored team, and is therefore not in a rush to follow BMW's recent move to establish a full works squad.

He said: ''McLaren is an optimal partner for us.

''We are a team.

''If BMW would have had a partner like them, perhaps they would never have thought about making their own team.''

Champ Car on track in Australia until 2013  Australia's biggest motor sport event, the Lexmark Indy 300, is set to be locked in under a super deal keeping the event in Surfers Paradise until 2013. AutoRacing1.com has learned that race organizers, backed by the local government, have had secret talks with Kevin Kalkhoven and its joint managers IMG to extend the present contract 5 more years from 2008 until 2013. Queensland Premier Peter Beattie has confirmed his support, especially with a 2nd Australian team run by Paul Stoddart said to be in the works.

IMG chief Martin Jolly, who heads up the company’s Asia-Pacific arm said, "we've already entered into discussions with Champ Car about an extension of the contract and they're very keen to expand."
Pemex to sponsor Dominguez in 2007  We spoke to a very happy Homero Ninoderivera from the marketing department of Pemex after Mario Dominguez finished a strong 2nd place in the Lexmark Indy 300 Sunday. Right, Mario Dominguez celebrates with Pemex's Homero Ninoderivera

"Pemex is the No. 1 (largest) company in Mexico and it is important that we support the No. 1 Mexican driver," said Ninoderivera.  "This is a great result for Mario and for Mexico ahead of the Mexico City race." 

When we asked him if their support would continue in 2007 he said, "I expect that we are going to continue to back Mario in 2007." 

Another new Champ Car team  AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that a former CART team principal and later IRL co-owner, whose name we cannot reveal, has inquired about starting a Champ Car team.  When we eventually reveal his name it will be immediately recognized and you'll say, "now that makes sense."
Upcoming Champ Car testing  According to AutoRacing1.com sources new Champ Car team Pacific Coast Motorsports will test its two drivers, Alex Figge and Ryan Dalziel, on Monday and Tuesday before Thanksgiving using Rocketsports Lolas as the MSR Houston road course outside of Houston.

We also hear that the following week Forsythe Racing will test two of their Atlantic drivers in one of their Champ Cars - Andreas Wirth and Richard Philippe.

Hyundai eye F1 for 2010  (GMM)  Speculation is linking Korean car maker Hyundai with a new bid to enter formula one.

The weekly 'Automobilwoche' said Hyundai, once thought to be considering buying departed Paul Stoddart's Minardi team and also Jaguar and Williams, is now planning a possible appearance on the 2010 grid.

"We are in discussions with Bernie Ecclestone," a Hyundai chief was quoted as confirming.

Fellow Korean multinational Samsung, presumably as a sponsor, might also be involved in the Hyundai project.

[Editor's Note:  There is no room on the grid for Hyundai so they would have to buy into an existing team, and they would never badge another manufacturers engine.  They could, however, badge a Cosworth, and would be very smart to do just that as they are in no position to produce their own F1 engine.]

Aston Martin to F1 with Prodrive and Cosworth?  Billionaires Bernard Arnault and Albert Frere are considering a bid for Aston Martin, the luxury automaker that Ford Motor Co. has put up for sale, the Financial Times reported Friday.

The two announced this week that they would form an investment fund of up to $1.25 billion and that they are “looking at Aston Martin,” the Financial Times quoted a person “close to the pair” as saying.

Aston Martin makes about 5,000 cars a year, which cost upward of $100,000 each. The company has its headquarters, research and production facilities in Gaydon, England.

Ford bought a controlling stake in Aston Martin in 1987 and acquired full ownership in 1994 but recently announced it was prepared to sell out as part of a broader restructuring of the struggling company.

Arnault’s own fund, Groupe Arnault, and Frere’s Compagnie Nationale a Portefeuille, said they planned to invest mainly in European companies.

Frere’s Compagnie Nationale a Portefeuille said it had no comment on the report. Groupe Arnault did not return a call for comment.

Arnault is chairman, chief executive and controlling shareholder of luxury goods retailer LVMH Moet Hennessy Louis Vuitton SA; its brands include Louis Vuitton and Fendi. Detroit Free Press

[Editor's Note: These two gentlemen have a keen interest in F1.  Will they bring the Aston Martin brand to F1?  Someone needs to tell Cosworth they might need an F1 engine to badge.  Ford currently owns Aston Martin and of course for many years they branded the Cosworth.  Dave Richards will be coming to F1 with his Prodrive group in 2008.  Seems like a plausible pairing to us.] 

Honda test drivers aplenty  There are four drivers in the picture for the Honda F1 test drive next year as it is not virtually certain that Anthony Davidson will be moving on to race for Super Aguri. Our spies in the team say that the four men in question are Christian Klien, Gary Paffett, Timo Glock and James Rossiter. Klien has the most experience in F1 cars and thus must start as the favorite while Glock is an interesting new name on the list having been left out of BMW's plans which were announced earlier this year. Grandprix.com
NASCAR to add COT date  UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. NASCAR says it won't run the car of tomorrow at Talladega next spring. Some teams had wanted it because they will have to build a special car for the track with its new surface. Teams figured might as well make it the car of tomorrow since that car will be used at Talladega in the fall. NASCAR said no. Series officials say they told teams they would run 16 COT races, not 17 and they're keeping to that. Virginian Pilot

10/17/06 There's talk NASCAR might add one race to the "car of tomorrow" roster for 2007, opting to run the new vehicle in the spring race at Talladega, Ala.

Talladega's fall race was already to be among the 16 using the car, with the rest of the restrictor-plate races being added in 2008.

But the teams apparently have told NASCAR that the new paving job at Talladega changed that track so much that they'd have to build new cars for the spring race anyway. It would certainly not be cost-effective for them to spend about $150,000 to build cars that'd be good for that race only, then have to employ a "car of tomorrow" from then on.

NASCAR hasn't made a decision, but indications are it's listening. The truth is that some top NASCAR officials expect team owners to ask that the new vehicle be used in all races in 2008 instead of waiting to 2009 to phase in the intermediate tracks such as Lowe's Motor Speedway. Charlotte Observer

New W.VA team in works?  West Virginia fans could soon have their own NASCAR team to root for in the Nextel Cup Series. Four area businessmen from the Kanawha Valley have spent the past eight months developing a NASCAR team they hope will target the state's businesses and rabid fan base.

Jason Hager, Aaron Bowles, Denver McCallister and John Burdett, who work in the marketing and financial fields, developed relationships with NASCAR while working to sell retirement plans to team owners.

"One thing led to another and we started scratching our heads and said, ‘Let's give them a home team to root for,'" Burdett said.

The men's team, Revelocity Racing, has been assigned No. 73, but they are lobbying NASCAR to change to No. 35 for the order in which West Virginia was admitted to the union in 1863.

The team owners say they doubt they will be able to sell huge car sponsorships to local businesses, although they hope to attract them by offering other incentives. They have discussed packages ranging from $10,000 to 50,000 that would allow companies to get their logos on the truck hauler, placement on the team Web site or secure an appearance at a business by the car and driver.

"There's tons of ways to bring this to the local West Virginia communities," Hager said. "I think that's the big differentiator of what we're doing in the sport." More at Charleston Daily Mail

Will Red Bull boss retirement end F1 programs?  UPDATE (GMM)  Team boss Christian Horner has backed away from speculation that Red Bull's future in formula one could be limited to just three more years.

It was reported last week that Dietrich Mateschitz, the energy drink company's owner and billionaire mogul, might consider retiring at the age of sixty five.

He is currently sixty two.

Horner agreed that Austrian Mateschitz is 'heavily involved' in Red Bull's business activities, but rejected the three year timeline even though the Milton Keynes based team struggled with the RB2 car in 2006.

"His commitment to formula one is for at least the next five years, which is the length of the new Concorde or FOM agreement, so I think in the short term, it certainly won't have any affect on our plans or aspirations," Horner said.

10/20/06 In an interview with Format magazine, Red Bull boss, Dietrich Mateschitz said that he only intends running the company for another three years, until he reaches the age of 65, making a lot of people wonder what will happen to the two Red Bull F1 teams after that.

According to the Austrian, Red Bull's marketing expenditure in 2005 was "scarcely" €700m ($883m), and will increase to €900m ($1.136B) this year. This compares to Red Bull's net earnings in 2005, which were €412.8m ($521m).

Doornbos may cop grid penalty  (GMM)  Red Bull's Robert Doornbos is likely to lose ten places on the Interlagos starting grid after suffering a  problem with his Ferrari engine on Friday.

The Dutchman ground to a halt in the afternoon session with a suspected fault in his V8 power plant, but he said the details of the problem were 'now being investigated further'.

Pescarolo could quit over rules  Henri Pescarolo is said to be steaming mad and may quit the LMES and ALMS because when the ACO issued their rules changes for 2007 they did not take away the rules advantage that Pescarolo claims the diesel powered cars had over the gasoline powered car. However, because diesel contains 10% more energy per gallon than gasoline, the ACO reduced the fuel tank size of the diesel powered cars 10% to 81 gallons.

This not enough according to Pescarolo, who felt that the diesel cars should be given a weight penalty. Pescarolo issued the following statement:

“The president of the ACO, in front of witnesses, made me the promise after the last 24 Hours, that this equivalence would be re-examined. What they did with the new rules is scandalous. It's as if they take me for an imbecile. I will publish in the next days an open-letter with technical evidence to support my position. Some regard me as a spoilsport. This is ridiculous!”

Vettel to appear on GP Fridays in 2007  (GMM) Sebastian Vettel will drive in Friday practice sessions for BMW-Sauber next year, despite the demise of the 'third car' rule, according to widespread speculation in the Sao Paulo paddock on Friday morning.

It is rumored that the German squad's plans for 19-year-old Vettel could preclude him from the GP2 championship, although a final decision has not been taken. Nevertheless, the Renault World Series is also a possibility for him.

Team boss Mario Theissen is understood to be not keen on the idea of Vettel, 19, driving both kinds of single-seater on the same weekend, thus confirming BMW's intention to use him as a third driver for F1 practice.

The policy of utilizing a third driver on GP weekends, though, will create a problem for teams. The FIA regulations for 2007 forbid the use of a 'third' car, meaning that one race driver is likely to have to sit out either 90 minute session.

It is understood that BMW intend to get around the problem by preparing one car for Vettel for the first session, before mechanics switch its settings over to the race driver in the break before the final session.

It is believed that Theissen ruled out switching drivers between cars during a session.

Formula BMW
4-car Red Bull team  UPDATE #2 We hear that in a recent Forsythe Racing Atlantic test, John Edwards was faster than three other drivers looking to also break into the Atlantic Series next year. Edwards and Robert Wickens from Canada will drive the two Forsythe Red Bull cars in 2007 with the other two seats still up for grabs.

08/25/06 Rumors making the rounds are that Red Bull may have decided to sponsor not only two Forsythe Racing Atlantic cars, but they may even step up and sponsor two Champ Cars in 2007 for Neel Jani and another driver.

08/17/06 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Red Bull have signed two North American drivers to move up and race for the Forsythe Champ Car Atlantic team in 2007 with both cars running Red Bull livery.  We hear the two drivers are American John Edwards, currently racing Formula Renault Eurocup and Canadian Robert Wickens from Formula BMW USA.

If this rumor is true, will Forsythe expand to a 6-car Atlantic team, or will two of the current 4 drivers go elsewhere?

Big improvements in store for Houston  According to AutoRacing1.com sources, look for some big improvements for next year's Houston race. They are currently using a laser mapping machine to profile the race surface in preparation for a major diamond grinding effort that will go on to smooth the rough surface. We hear that in one area it may be cheaper to resurface it rather than grind it because too much grinding would be required. A consultant has been hired and the entire inside of the track will be laid out differently including all new larger grandstands. One very large grandstand has been bought by the Fiesta food store chain, which caters to Mexicans, and they will sell tickets to it exclusively to their customers, and it will include a shirt and other goodies. We also hear that a deal was done with Mexican star Adrian Fernandez to help sell the event to Mexican fans both in Mexico and the USA. Fernandez will participate in the event as an ALMS team owner. The ALMS event will be Saturday night. The track will also be slightly reconfigured with the pit straight prior to the first turn running more toward the northeast before turning left for a new permanent chicane in the first corner. The pitlane has also been reconfigured to accommodate more cars that are expected next year.
Rahal team to finally enter ALMS?  UPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  See our Hot News page for the announcement.

10/19/06 We hear the announcement later today will be for a GT2 program, not LMP2.

10/18/06 After being rumored a number of years, the Rahal Letterman team has called a major media conference for Thursday where AutoRacing1.com sources tell us that they will announce their entry into ALMS with a Porsche.  It is not yet certain whether that will be an LMP2 effort or GT2, but we suspect it will be LMP2 as Porsche finally makes the Spyder RS available to more than just the Penske team.
GM tryout to find next NASCAR star (Hunter-Reay)  GLADEVILLE, Tenn. - Ryan Hunter-Reay dumped his money into airline tickets and hotel rooms, traveling the NASCAR circuit and talking to everyone he met about switching from open-wheel racing.

Track after track. The two-time Champ Car winner had nearly maxed out his credit card when he finally got a call.

A job offer didn't come attached, but he was among 16 drivers selected for GM Racing's three-step talent search. The manufacturer's goal? Help its Nextel Cup, Busch and Craftsman Truck series teams identify NASCAR's next generation of stars.

Hunter-Reay finally got into a race car with a roof, making his personal bills worth the investment.

"I couldn't ask for a better situation. This is huge. This doesn't happen usually to guys trying to come over. I'm just happy that I'm being given a chance. I don't have any experience in these cars. I do have experience in top-level racing," he said.

"There's no better chance than to be in front of these teams and in front of GM. This is the best in the world right here."

Several pro sports hold drafts to help teams sift through talent. The NFL brings its 32 teams together for the annual combine to measure, poke and prod players.

In racing, looking for the next prodigy has been left up to individual teams.

NASCAR currently has rookies such as Denny Hamlin, J.J. Yeley, Clint Bowyer, Reed Sorenson and Martin Truex Jr. David Ragan will replace Mark Martin at Roush Racing next season. Alba Colon, GM Racing's NASCAR Nextel Cup program manager, said developing the next generation is a key.

"This is something that all the teams wanted, so this is not only us," Colon said.

"We have all our teams in this together. Everybody from money to tires to talent. We say, 'Let's be open with each other and let's bring the talent, see it and let everybody see the talent,' so that's what we're doing." More at AP article

Audi’s $12.5m Le Mans bid for Schu  (GMM)  Audi has already made a $12.5 million bid to reunite retiring Formula One driver Michael Schumacher with a race car.

According to the Cologne based 'Express' broadsheet, the German marque's competition boss Wolfgang Ullrich is hoping the offer will convince Schumacher - albeit with a personal fortune of more than half a billion dollars - to enter DTM or race at Le Mans.

The newspaper said $12.5m is more than the combined salary of all existing DTM drivers, including Schumacher's old F1 rival Mika Hakkinen.

But Ullrich cautioned: "I don't know if his contracts with Fiat and Ferrari would allow it."

37-year-old Schumacher's spokeswoman Sabine Kehm also played down the speculation, telling the BBC that he will 'miss the intensity (of racing) but really wants to let go for a while.'

Kimi's trainer to join Ferrari  (GMM)  McLaren's long time driver fitness trainer, Mark Arnall, is set to move with Kimi Raikkonen to the Ferrari team in 2007.

In an article revealing 27-year-old Kimi's purchase of an apartment in Milan ahead of his new three year tenure, La Gazzetta dello Sport said Mark Arnall - who previously worked with Mika Hakkinen at the Woking based team - is also moving to Italy.

Londoner Arnall, 34, reportedly told McLaren on Wednesday that he would not be seeking a new contract.

"Kimi is easy to work with," he said, "because he really loves sport so it's not like I force him to work."

Meanwhile, it is understood that Raikkonen will maintain Switzerland as his main residence, for tax reasons.

Byrne to stay until 2009 - newspaper  (GMM)  Rory Byrne has finally confirmed reports that he will stay at Ferrari for at least three more years.

The South African, 62, handed over control as the team's chief designer to Aldo Costa some time ago, but maintains a consultancy role.

Byrne, previously tipped to retire to Thailand with his wife, told the Milan-based Italian newspaper 'Corriere della Sera' on Wednesday that his new contract will see him stay at Maranello based Ferrari until 2009.

Technical director Ross Brawn, who could commence a 'sabbatical' next year, said: "Rory has got huge experience and we want to use that."

Walker eyeing possible 3-car team  Walker Racing team boss Derrick Walker told AutoRacig1.com Thursday in Australia that he is seriously considering running a three car Champ Car team in 2007.

"We would like to keep our existing two drivers (Tagliani and Power) and add Simon Pagenaud who won the Atlantic Championship for us this year. I met with Craig Gore yesterday and we talked about the idea. We have to come up with the money for two cars plus that which is necessary over and above the $2 million Simon won for the championship.
"I also know that Alex is talking to other teams for next year so we will have to see how it all sorts out. Alex has been very up front with me that he is talking to other teams as well, but we would like to keep him if we can. 

"We tried to get Ryan Briscoe (another Australian besides Power) but we just could not put another car on the grid due to all the crash damage we suffered this year. Ultimately Team Australia needs to have two Australian drivers."
Champ Car to use F1 layout in Mexico City  UPDATE #2 According to our Mexico sources who have seen the chicane that is in place before the Peraltada corner, say it is fast and they say when Justin Wilson was there recently he said the cornering speeds through the Peraltada will be very fast and the cars will exit that corner onto the main straight at a much higher rate of speed.

We also hear that things are looking very positive for this year's race. Ticket sales are definitely up and both TV Azteca and Pemex are promoting the race and Mario Dominguez heavily. All of the reserved grandstands through the esses will be open this year and they are very large stands and are expected to be full. Word in Mexico is that everyone is happy to see the Mickey Mouse section through the stadium gone.

Four top executives from Pemex will also be in town for the race.  We hear they could not sponsor Jourdain in NASCAR because of NASCAR's exclusive Sunoco deal, so that's potentially more money for Dominguez.  The top executives are coming to see the Pemex car in action this weekend and ascertain how much of an effort they want to make with Dominguez in Champ Car in 2007.

09/25/06 To the right is the Mexico City grandstand layout and diagram of the track to be used by Champ Car this year. The only thing missing from this diagram is the chicane that will be added before the Peraltada curve to slow the cars down.

09/18/06 In a press conference today OCESA announced that the Champ Car race in November will use the original F1 course design of the Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez (pictured left). 

The original course was changed to avoid using the most dangerous curve of the track, which was also the most famous part of the track, the so called "Curva Peraltada."  To avoid using this curve the design was modified to make the cars run through the baseball stadium (pictured right).  They will no longer run through the Mickey Mouse stadium section, but a chicane will be built before the curve.  Jose Arrambide reporting from Mexico
Drivers dislike Car of Tomorrow  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today based on this Sporting Life article.

Former champions Jeff Gordon and Matt Kenseth would like to see NASCAR's Car of Tomorrow be just that -- a car for the future, not 2007. Gordon and Kenseth were among drivers who tested Tuesday at Homestead-Miami Speedway. The three-day test session, which concludes Wednesday, is the final NASCAR-sanctioned test of 2006.

Five of the 20 participating teams brought their COTs to Homestead-Miami. The COT will make its limited debut in 2007, and although it strives to be fast on the racetrack it appears to be slow to win converts among drivers.

"I'll admit, I'm not a big fan of the Car of Tomorrow," said Gordon, a four-time champion. "I think there's some technology in there that's good. Certainly safety-wise, I think there's some things that I like."

Gordon's Hendrick Motorsports team didn't bring its COT to Homestead-Miami, but Gordon did participate in the test session at Michigan International Speedway earlier in the year.

Kenseth, the 2003 champion, also tested the COT at Michigan. "I wasn't very impressed by any of it, really," Kenseth said Tuesday. "I think they're going to be a lot different to set up. It looks like a normal car, but setting it up I think there's going to be a lot more engineering and more expense involved to figure out what these cars need to run fast."

The way the car looks is also an issue, they said.

"It's funny," Kenseth said. "You're out here (and) the normal car looks like a racecar, and you catch (a COT) and it kind of looks like a school bus or something. It looks really, really strange, so it is going to take some getting used to."

"The biggest issue I have with the car is it doesn't look like a racecar," Gordon said. "To me, (when) I think of a Car of Tomorrow, I think of the ingenuity, technology. ... But I think we could have done it by also making it look like the Car of Tomorrow. Have some futuristic things in it that look cool. It doesn't have that."

10/17/06 We hear that several very prominent NASCAR Cup drivers are disgusted with NASCAR's new Car of Tomorrow. Two drivers, who shall remain anonymous but between them have over 5 Cup championships to their credit, say, "That it both pushes and is loose at the same time and it is too susceptible to aero changes." So much so that making a chassis change during the race will lose its importance. The other said that, "It pushes too much as well and that it is ugly. They use to call Cup Cars Taxi Cabs awhile back. The COT looks like a Taxi Cab."

It's quite possible that the younger generation, who are into high-tech modern and sleek 'stuff' who reject NASCAR, further hastening its recent plummet.
Bernie gives hints about Brawn, Hamilton  (GMM) Bernie Ecclestone may have let two of F1's most closely guarded secrets out of the bag.

The F1 supremo gave a wide-ranging interview to the London-based 'Times' newspaper this week, in which he was asked to summarize the chances of leading teams ahead of the 2007 season.

Referring to Ferrari, which is yet to announce officially that its technical director is planning a 'sabbatical' or retirement, he said: "It will be a different team without Michael Schumacher and Ross Brawn."

75-year-old Ecclestone also may have spoiled Ron Dennis' schedule for the announcement of a teammate for 2007 McLaren driver Fernando Alonso, by saying: "Lewis Hamilton will not have a race drive (but) if it was my decision, I'd be prepared to take the risk."

Meanwhile, Bernie chimed in on the argument about 'dirty tricks' in Brazil by predicting that Michael Schumacher, racing for the last time, is unlikely to repeat indiscretions of the past by punting Fernando Alonso off the track.

"In my opinion," said Ecclestone, "Michael will drive in the most correct manner he has ever driven in Formula One."

McLaren may launch new car before second racer  (GMM)  Woking based McLaren could present a 'new identity' for 2007 at the event in mid January even before confirming the identity of Fernando Alonso's teammate, according to reports.

'AS' newspaper writes that contenders Pedro de la Rosa and Lewis Hamilton are likely to still be unaware of their exact roles at the Mercedes-powered team until a mere few weeks prior to the season opener at Albert Park.

Both men are expected to be signed for 2007, either as race or test driver.

Referring to 21-year-old rookie Hamilton, the 'AS' report read: "The Englishman is good, but he has not caused the same sensation as he did in GP2, where there is an overabundance of pay drivers.

"He will not race next to Alonso in 2007 if he does not prove over the winter that he is better than de la Rosa."

It is understood that both racers will be put through the most decisive head-to-head tests in January and February, after the launch of the new MP4-22.

"Ron Dennis has looked after this boy (Hamilton) since he was 13," 'AS' continued.  "He is not going to put him on a track only to be destroyed by the world champion (Alonso)."

Prague plans bid for Czech GP  (GMM)  The Czech Republic appears to be the latest name to have joined the queue for a grand prix in the future.

The central European country is believed to be planning a new privately-funded Formula One-style circuit for the capital and largest city, Prague.

The Czech proposal, reportedly backed by Lord Mayor Pavel Bem, would be designed by regular F1 architect Hermann Tilke and located in the district of Prague 10, according to Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes.

"(The proposal), which includes areas for a new hotel and other infrastructure, is still in the very earliest planning stages," a report by the international broadcaster 'Radio Praha' added.

[Editor's Note: Three years ago when Champ Car tried to race in South Korea, instantly rumors surfaced that F1 was going there.  When the Champ Car street race in Manchester, England rumors surfaced, instantly a street race for F1 in London surfaced.  When Champ Car was rumored to be eyeing South Africa, immediately Cape Town F1 race rumors surfaced.  Champ Car is rumored to be eyeing a possible race at Brno and instantly an F1 race materializes in the Czech Republic.  A coincidence?  Perhaps.  Or is it Bernie trying to undermine Champ Car's overseas growth?  Bernie leaves no stone unturned.]

Renaults to go Orange?  (GMM)  An official for ING, Renault's new title sponsor, has refused to confirm speculation that the formula one racer will be painted orange, dark blue and yellow in 2007 and beyond.

"I can only ask for patience until the car is presented in January," chief financial officer Cees Maas said.

He added that both Renault and ING, an Amsterdam-based financial institution whose three-year investment in F1 is estimated at up to (US) $170m, were presently 'working on the design' for next year's car livery.

Hunter-Reay to test Cup car  We hear that Robby Gordon is trying to get NASCAR to give Hunter-Reay, a two time Champ Car winner, a licensing waiver so that Hunter-Reay can participate at the NASCAR Cup open test taking place at Homestead.  If NASCAR will allow it Hunter-Reay will be testing a Cup Car for RGM tomorrow at Homestead.
Hunter-Reay to Sign with RGM for NASCAR Busch?  Our NASCAR sources tell us that Ryan Hunter-Reay did so well in the recently concluded GM Driver evaluation tests that several top teams are interested in offering him a full seat for 2007.  One of the most aggressive suitors is Robby Gordon Motorsport who may have already offered Hunter-Reay a full Busch ride for next season with two Fortune 500 companies as primary sponsors.  With RGM switching to Ford next year and Hunter-Reay under some type of option contract with GM it will be interesting to see where he lands.
Carroll eyes Champ Car  UPDATE #2 Adam Carroll is continuing to chase a drive in Champ Car after missing out on the vacant RuSPORT seat to Ryan Briscoe.

The Ulsterman had a test with RuSPORT as they evaluated potential replacements for the injured Cristiano da Matta, and attended the last race at Road America to talk to other teams.

But despite not getting a drive for this weekend's race at Surfers Paradise, Carroll will head to Australia to continue talks with teams.

"We're going to talk to everyone again because we've had some good interest from people over there," Carroll told autosport.com.

"The test with RuSPORT helped me, because people know what lap times I was doing and they were impressed.

"Champ Car is a good series, and it's getting stronger with the new car coming in, so it's a good career path to follow." More at Autosport.com

09/24/06 No fewer than four current GP2 drivers are here at Road America this weekend looking to break into Champ Car. They all view GP2 as a dead end because it is so hard to break into F1. Adam Carroll, who we showed on Friday, is of course one of them.

09/22/06 Seen at Road America Friday was GP2 driver Adam Carroll talking to CTE Racing-HVM team boss Keith Wiggins.  Carroll is rumored to be eyeing a possible move to Champ Car in 2007. To the right he is pictured with his managers.  We hear they think F1 is too far out of reach and they like what they saw at Road America Friday.
Lacroix eyes Champ Car Atlantic  Kevin Lacroix will use his last opportunity in the #74 UniSelect car this weekend to earn his first victory as the last round of the Star Mazda series takes place on a track where he had a lot of success last year, Mazda Raceway, also known as Laguna Seca in Monterey, California.  The 17-year old French Canadian had a win and a second place in the first double header of the F-BMW USA and he admits this is one of the best facilities he’s raced before. Over the last eleven years his karting and racing career spans, Lacroix has won in each and every one of them and he doesn’t want to be blanked in 2006.

“I’m going to Laguna for sheer pleasure, admits the French-Canadian. I had a great season so far, quite different from last year, and I’m quite satisfied with the end result. I was regular all season long, had no DNF and stayed out of trouble in every round. I think we have all the elements this time to climb on the first step of the podium. So, look out for the UniSelect 74 car this weekend.”

Lacroix will not remain idle for long. As soon as the season is over, he will consider testing with a few Champ Car Atlantic teams. “Any rookie coming in this series can test for six days from now until mid-January 2007, says Richard Galarneau, Lacroix’s agent. We are talking to many teams but we will have to settle for three with two-day testing each time. But, for the time being, we want Kevin to stay focused on the Star Mazda series until the season is done with.’’

Burton to Yates?  Ward Burton told Sirius Speedway (MRN/Sirius Satellite Radio) Monday that there is still an outside chance that he might team-up with Robert Yates Racing in the future, but he now believes the team is looking elsewhere for a driver. "Teams need economic support to race," he said. "If Robert Yates Racing aligned itself with someone like me -- an older driver -- they could lose an opportunity elsewhere that they don't know about yet. It takes a concerted effort by the driver, the team and its marketing department to make a sponsorship deal happen, and I guess I don't feel like that concerted effort has been made. Nothing against Robert and Doug Yates. They're in a situation that they haven't been in before, and it's foreign to them." Burton said there is a possibility that this weekend's one-off ride with Morgan-McClure Racing could turn into something more long-term, but stressed that talks are still at a very early stage. Sirius Speedway
Hunter-Reay successful in GM driver shootout  The following press release was put out by GM, but our sources tell us that ex-Champ Car driver Ryan Hunter-Reay was the best driver in the 3-stage intense shootout and will be the driver that Alba Colon, GM Racing Program Manager, is referring to. 

Detroit (MI) - The GM Racing Development Driver Evaluation Program concluded on Tuesday, Oct.11, 2006 at Nashville Superspeedway (NSS). Chevrolet NASCAR Nextel Cup Series (NNCS), Busch Series (NBS) and Craftsman Truck Series (NCTS) teams observed the invited drivers go through the paces on the1.333-mile concrete track at the two-day final stage of the three-stage program.

The drivers invited to showcase their talent in the Richard Childress Racing (RCR) prepared NBS cars at NSS were Landon Cassill, Jeremy Clements, Marc Davis, Jeffrey Earnhardt, Drew Herring, Woody Howard, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Joey Logano, Tim McCreadie and Jason Sarvis.

"All the drivers at Nashville did a great job," said Pat Suhy, GM Racing program manager, NASCAR.  "Overall I'm hopeful that this process has been of value to them and, equally as important, to our Chevy teams who nominated drivers and those who came to look at the talent for potential rides in the future. More ...

Paffet to Honda or......?  Test driver Gary Paffett's management has negotiated a release from his McLaren contract in order to chase a race seat in 2007.  According to reports in the Finnish paper Turun Sanomat, Paffett's manager, Martin Brundle, is seeking to get the English driver a (test) seat with Honda next season.

It is reported that the 25-year-old Englishman, who like David Coulthard is managed by former racer Martin Brundle, can return to the Woking based squad if he is not successful in landing the Spyker role.

Another alternative for Paffett, almost certainly now out of the running for the job alongside Fernando Alonso next year, might be Anthony Davidson's probably-vacant works test seat at Honda, which is being chased also by Christian Klien and Timo Glock.

Schu to stay in F1 paddock in 2007  (GMM)  Michael Schumacher's may still be a regular face in the formula one paddocks next year and beyond.

The Cologne based newspaper 'Express' reports that the 37-year-old German, although retiring as a race driver after Sunday's Brazilian grand prix, could be set for a Niki Lauda-style role as informal Ferrari 'advisor', involving attendance at most races on the 2007 calendar.

It is speculated that some Ferrari sponsors are requesting Schumacher's on-site advisory role as a condition of maintaining their current level of team backing.

Meanwhile, the 'manager-magazin' publication has listed 37-year-old Schumacher at position 161 on the annual list of the wealthiest German people.

His fortune is estimated at approximately (US) $750m.

Smith eyes Dyson and Peugeot  Rumor has it that British driver Guy Smith is looking at running with Dyson Racing in ALMS next year but is also trying to land a ride with Peugeot for the 24 Hours of LeMans.
Schumacher worth $700M  Estimates in Europe put Michael Schumacher's worth at around $700 M and he is the only athlete that ranks in the top 300 richest Germans.
McLaren says Paffett free to find drive elsewhere  McLaren have promised test driver Gary Paffett that they will not hold him back from joining another team next year if his current discussions with rival outfits are successful, autosport.com has learned. Paffett is in talks with several teams about both race and test deals for 2007, as he contemplates how best to move his career forwards. And although McLaren would be unhappy to lose the Briton after promoting him to a full-time test role this year, the team have said they will not stand in his way if he pulls off a deal to go elsewhere.

Speaking to autosport.com, Paffett said he was happy that McLaren were willing to accommodate his demands - and has not ruled out remaining on board for another season. His comments come after reports suggesting his McLaren deal had been terminated. "I am definitely still involved with McLaren," said Paffett. "I am still working with them and we've had a great relationship over the past year. Obviously if it does end and I go elsewhere, then it will be sad for the both of us. "But they are being good to me and have given me quite a lot of freedom to go and look for a race drive. They know my passion is to want to race in F1. "Although the McLaren race seat is still up for grabs next year and is not completely out of the question, it is looking more and more unlikely that I will get that seat. So, they have given us a certain amount of freedom to look elsewhere." More ...

Ten Drivers to participate in shootout for Spyker seat  Spyker plan to conduct a test 'shootout' over the winter to determine the identity of Christijan Albers' teammate for 2007.

Up to ten drivers are expected to be invited to the session at Jerez in the middle of next January, but only if the Dutch-owned camp is yet to have already appointed a driver for the second seat.

The team principal told the Kronen Zeitung newspaper that Christian Klien is 'naturally' a candidate, as is Tiago Monteiro. Fascinatingly, the newspaper also mentioned Super Aguri racer Sakon Yamamoto, as well as McLaren-contracted youngsters Lewis Hamilton and Gary Paffett.

The Spyker-linked Ernesto Viso, Markus Winkenhock, Adrian Sutil, Giorgio Mondini and Alexandre Premat complete the likely ten tipped to compete on track for the ride, even if each driver's level of personal sponsorship will play a leading role in the decision. Feed Me F1

Mark Martin's contract $5 million per year  The specifics of Mark Martin's new contract with the Bobby Ginn-Jay Frye Chevy team haven't been officially released, of course, but sources familiar with the situation say that it's a three-year deal for $5 million a year. Winston-Salem Journal
Longer pit stops recommended  NASCAR would like to change the gas-filler system on its Nextel Cup cars to slow pit stops considerably next season, perhaps slowing the stops - currently around 12 seconds for top crews - to as long as 17 seconds, according to some teams. That would supposedly eliminate the need for super-athletic pit-crew men.

One of NASCAR's goals over the next few years is apparently to cut the size of team rosters so that a car owner can be competitive with about 60 crewmen. Winston-Salem Journal

Denver site for future ISC track  International Speedway Corp. may be struggling to get a foothold in New York and a foothold in Seattle, but that apparently hasn't kept it from looking for more potential speedway expansion sites.

Denver now is on the ISC radar, according to real-estate sources familiar with the situation, with the ISC trying to get around 900 acres of land between downtown Denver and the Denver airport 25 miles east. It is unclear if that land is related to the development plans for the Rocky Mountain Arsenal, 19,000 acres once property of the U.S. Army.

The ISC is now ranked by Forbes magazine as one of the country's best 200 small businesses, "with rock-solid gross margins of 48 percent to 50 percent during the last four and a half years." Winston-Salem Journal

Something big is up in Mont-Tremblant  UPDATE #5 Another reader writes, In response to the reader dumbfounded about how CCWS would do business with Legault despite the lawsuit put up against him. The RDS.ca article you referenced mentions that the a verbal agreement was made between Gentilozzi and Legault to settle the issue out of court. This agreement was made during the evening the two had dinner. Alex Melikian, Montreal, Quebec, Canada

10/15/06 Another reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1, This is simply unbelievable! Just a month and a half ago, Champ Car was suing Legault over breach of contract and now they are willing business partners, again.

Also, when will Alan Labrosse and his staff get the recognition they deserve? As I can recall, Labrosse purchased the Molson Indy from Legault at about the time of the Long Beach GP in 2004 (when Legault himself did not believe in the future of Champ Car). Labrosse does his first event without a single flaw in just over 3 months. And everyone at Champ Car were singing Labrosse's praises. Then, Champ Car turns to Legault who had sold the company to Labrosse as he did not really want Champ Car in the first place. Then, Legault does not seem to promote at all the race in 2005. With only a few months to go, Labrosse steps in again to run the show for Champ Car in 2006. Labrosse and his team do an INCREDIBLE job ( I was at the race all 4 days!) with the time they had (example: getting sponsorship from Wal-Mart, a world first in sponsorship). During the event, Champ Car clearly states their support of Labrosse and what a wonderful job he did for them. Now, Labrosse seems to get the business end of a knife plunged into his back little over a month after the event. Thank you. If you post this, can you please put Anonymous.

Dear Anonymous, On the surface it appears Labrosse got the short end of the stick, but we were told Champ Car would stay involved with Labrosse in some capacity. Mark C.

10/14/06 A reader asks, Dear AutoRacing1, Why would Champ Car agree to work with Normand Legault for the Mont-Tremblant race if he was the one who conspired to drive Champ Car out of Montreal? If you post this, can you please put Anonymous.

Dear Anonymous, While there are many strange bedfellows in racing, on the surface this one seems to top them all. Is it possible that Bernie is behind it? It is possible he did not want the new faster Champ Car on the same track as his F1 cars which next year will be 2 seconds per lap slower when they bolt on the harder Bridgestones. While the F1 car will still be faster, we doubt he wants the comparison given the cost differential. Then of course there is deep pocketed NASCAR who just may have greased the pockets of every politician in Montreal in an effort to get into the market, thereby pushing Champ Car out. Whatever the reason, it is quite possible that Legault’s hands were tied and he really did not have it in for Champ Car.

Let's examine why it makes sense to work with Legault. 1) Access to Legault's large mailing list, surely a major plus; 2) Legault's Montreal political connections. We saw just how 'connected' he is this past year; 3) Legault's close relationship with the Mont-Tremblant track owner and perhaps an agreement to cross-promote between the two circuits; 4) Keep your friends close and your enemies closer. Mark C.

10/14/06 Sworn to secrecy when we broke this rumor, we can now reveal that ex-Champ Car race promoter in Montreal, Normand Legault (right), will co-promote the Mont-Tremblant Champ Car race to be held starting in July, 2007. This RDS.ca article spills the beans so now we can break the news that was previously embargoed. The bottom line is that Paul Gentilozzi negotiated a deal with Legault that will see Legault co-promote the Mont-Tremblant race, we assume in turn for Champ Car dropping their lawsuit against him. Track owner Lawrence Stoll and Legault are said to be very good friends and Legault's connections in Montreal will help with race promotion in the big city to get Montreal fans up to Mont-Tremblant for the Champ Car race.

10/05/06 AutoRacing1.com has learned that the Mont-Tremblant race has picked up a very interesting co-promoter of the event, a person who, when we tell you someday, will shock you. His connections and his race promotion savvy will dovetail nicely with the owner of the circuit who, in his own right, is very wealthy and very well connected.  It's now safe to say that the Mont-Tremblant race will absolutely be bigger than the Montreal race.  We also hear that a Ferrari Challenge type race will be part of the program and one can assume the Atlantic series will also be there.

09/26/06 Landing Champ Car is a coup for Circuit Mont Tremblant, a track about 140 km north of Montreal that once was called by Ferrari ace Michael Schumacher “Little Nurburgring,” in reference to the historic F1 layout in Germany.

“Canadian fans are very important to us,” Kevin Kalkhoven (left) said. “We have Canadian drivers both in Champ Car and in Atlantics (its primary support series). Canadian races are cornerstones of our whole North American program, and we want to make sure that fans get to see their heroes in action.”

Indeed, Canadians have long starred in Champ Car. This season’s grid includes Alex Tagliani of Lachenaie, Andrew Ranger of Roxton Pond and Toronto’s Paul Tracy, the 2003 champion and the series’ winningest active driver.

Outside Tremblant looking in, at least for now, is promoter Alan Labrosse, who also manages 19-year-old Ranger.

Labrosse organized two of the five Champ Car races in Montreal, including last month’s on reasonably short notice, and had a five-year deal with the governing body to promote a Montreal race on the Expo 67 island.

“My first feeling (about Champ Car’s return) is positive, because I also manage race-car drivers,” Labrosse said. “For me, it’s an opportunity for business, and for the ongoing talks I’m having with corporate sponsors for Andrew, having a race in Quebec is much better than not having one.

“I’m a little bit disappointed that I’m somewhat out of the loop, but I’ve learned over the years not to have too many expectations. You can do a wonderful job (promoting a race), but that’s only good for the time that you’re doing it.

“Did they need me to broker a deal (for Tremblant)? No. Can I be an asset for them and for a facility owner/operator? Yes.”

Kalkhoven said Labrosse will have a role in next July’s race.

“Alan is a very key and close ally and friend of Champ Car,” he said. “We believe very strongly in his capabilities and I’m sure you’ll find he is involved.”  More at Montreal Gazette

COT to debut at Bud Shootout  NASCAR has quietly asked teams if they'd be interested in running the Car of Tomorrow in an exhibition race at Daytona next February - possibly the Budweiser Shootout - as a warm-up for its October restrictor plate debut at Talladega Superspeedway. The COT will be phased in next season, starting with the March race in Bristol. The car was tested at Talladega earlier this week, and NASCAR wouldn't mind another on-track session with restrictor plates before running it in a race that counts. Many crew chiefs support the idea. Although the idea makes sense, many car owners are against it because of the additional costs it would require to prepare two regular plate cars for use in the Daytona 500, and another two COT models for an exhibition race. And, NASCAR isn't convinced it will be ready to run the entire inspection process on the COT by February. Series officials have also ruled out running the COT in Talladega's spring race. That means its first plate race will be during the Chase for the championship - a questionable time for a debut considering at least 10 drivers will be running for a title then. But NASCAR official Brett Bodine shrugged off concerns about the timing of the debut. "Talladega is a no-brainer," he said. "All you do is show up there and run wide-open. Handling isn't even an issue." FoxSports/AP
NASCAR to switch to 17-gallon fuel cells  The word in the NASCAR paddock at Lowe's this weekend is that next year NASCAR will switch from 22-gallon fuel cells at most tracks, and 14 gallon cells at the big tracks, to 17-gallon fuel cells everywhere.
Ralf rejects BMW rumors  (GMM)  Ralf Schumacher has rejected persistent speculation that he could return one day soon to BMW's F1 camp.

For five years until the end of 2004 the German raced a BMW-powered Williams, and at recent grands prix the Toyota driver was spotted in conversation with BMW-Sauber principal Dr Mario Theissen.

But 31-year-old Ralf insisted: "No.  I hear this (in the press) again and again because I often talk with Mario, but he is simply a friend.

"We have never spoken about me returning to BMW."

Nevertheless, Schumacher revealed that - unlike his retiring elder brother Michael - he is looking forward to close to another decade on the grid.

"I am 31 but the end for me is not in sight," the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag quoted him as saying.  "I can't see a reason why I shouldn't keep going until I am forty."

Roush and Yates to spawn off new team  There’s talk that Roush Racing and Robert Yates Racing might create a new team for Greg Biffle. The team would be Robert Yates’ third and would reduce to four the number of full-schedule Cup teams owned by Jack Roush. Ford Racing
Martin to drive a Chevy and a Ford?  Ford racing boss Dan Davis said a slim chance exists that Mark Martin could still drive Roush's NCTS entry in 2007. "He asked me that and I said, 'Mark, man, wow. You've sort of...my life at Ford headquarters is not real good right now because of your little deal here, so you're asking me something that's real hard,'" Davis said. "I didn't give him an answer yet and we haven't actually decided what to do yet. Maybe we need to get over the initial hurt of this whole thing and try to look at it in hard, cold business terms and that's what I would really like to do and be unemotional about it. Hopefully as a team at Ford, we'll sit down and try to figure out what to do." Ford Racing
Boxing star to start new Mexican team  UPDATE #2 According to this ChampCar.ws article, rather than start a new team with Chavez, it now sounds like Dominguez is trying to perhaps get Chavez involved with Rocketsports next year.

Could the Dominguez/Pizzonia/Rocketsports partnership at Surfers Paradise be a preview of things to come for 2007?  For his part, Dominguez wouldn't mind. He's wooing Pemex to re-up for the full '07 season, even as he's is in discussion about a partnership with boxing legend Julio Cesar Chavez.

"It's looking very good for next year with Pemex, and also we're trying to get Julio Cesar involved in the project, " he says. "That will also help to get maybe more sponsors. Especially the big market that is in the U.S. with Hispanic community. I mean we race in places that have a huge Hispanic population -- Long Beach, San Jose, Phoenix, Las Vegas, Denver, Houston. So I think that should be able to help us attract sponsors who are interested in penetrating that market. With a guy like Julio Cesar involved that should be a big help. Also that translates into a lot more ticket sales at the races."

We have left the Chavez team on our 2007 Champ Car Silly Season page, but it does sound like it could be a joint effort with Rocketsports if it happens.

09/29/06 The photos below are of Julio Cesar Chavez in Las Vegas Wednesday night where Champ Car was kicking off the 2007 Las Vegas GP.  Julio assisted in the presentation of the 2007 Champ Car Schedule as a member of the board of directors of the Las Vegas and Phoenix races.


09/23/06 Ex-boxing champion and Mexican idol Julio Cesar Chavez (the greatest Mexican boxer ever and for sure one of the three most important sportsmen in the history of Mexico)said that Brian Weymouth is trying to convince him to build a Champ Car team around Mario Dominguez for 2007.   According to Chavez, he will be in Phoenix next week to see the formal project. Mario Dominguez confirmed this story to El Norte/Reforma in a telephone interview from Elkhart Lake.

The five time world boxing champion will announce his plans to establish a corporation, Julio César Chávez Entertainment, that will focus on real estate investing and business, entertainment, and increasing the number of educational resources available for the Hispanic community.

“When I last fought in the Valley, I fell in love with this place. The people here are amazing. The following and fellowship that I had here was tremendous,” says Chávez. “I am very well aware of some issues that face this wonderful city and am excited to begin to develop more relationships in the community for the betterment of individual lives here in the Phoenix area.” More ...

New Renault F1 team sponsor  UPDATE #4 (GMM)  Renault is set to confirm its new title sponsorship for 2007 and beyond on Monday.

Journalists have been invited by Dutch bank ING Group to a press conference in Amsterdam, 'regarding sponsorship of the Renault formula 1 team'.

The event at 'ING House' will be headed by ING vice chairman Cees Maas as well as Renault bosses Flavio Briatore and Alain Dassas.

McLaren boss Ron Dennis hinted at Suzuka that his team had unsuccessfully courted the backing.

He told reporters: "We understand it will be a pretty comparable (deal) to the one they had with Mild Seven."

10/05/06 (GMM)  Dutch bank ING has confirmed reports linking it with sponsorship of the Renault team in 2007 and beyond.

A spokesman on Thursday admitted that the company is in talks with the world champion squad, amid speculation that ING could replace $50 million per year title sponsor Mild Seven.

Renault did not comment.

''F1 (would) provide us with a platform on all continents where we are active,'' Peter Jong said, but he insisted that the deal is not yet signed and would not comment on the proposed cost.

Jong added that ING Groep NV could also appear in the future on trackside advertising hoardings.

10/03/06 According to reports out of Holland today, ABN AMRO will not be the sponsor of the Renault team, instead ING (another Dutch bank) will be.  The deal will apparently be signed at the end of this week and will be for 5 years and worth € 50 million (US$ 62 million) per year.

10/02/06 (GMM)  Renault appears to have found a replacement for departing cigarette title sponsor Mild Seven.

With anti-tobacco advertising laws forcing the Japanese brand off the grid for the 2007 season, it is understood that team marketing manager Jason Campbell has been successful in tabbing a new deal.

The Netherlands' largest global bank, ABN AMRO, will this week be confirmed as the French team's next multi-year title sponsor, according to sources.

It is suggested that McLaren was also interested in the ABN-AMRO cash, but could not guarantee substantial exposure due to the Vodafone title sponsorship in 2007.

The deal could see the light blue on Renault's blue and yellow single seater become dark green for the 2007 season.

Mild Seven's annual contract was estimated at around (US) $50 million.

10/02/06 According to this Dutch website, ABN-Amro bank (a Dutch company) will replace Mild Seven as the primary sponsor for the Renault F1 team.
Gordon to keep Chevy or switch to Ford?  UPDATE #6 A particular problem for Ford is the two-car Robert Yates Racing team, which has fallen on hard times after being a championship contender for years.

“Certainly, the Robert Yates situation is a disappointment,” Ford motorsport boss Davis said. “We’ve been addressing that with them to try to help them with that. But, even with that, you don’t get 10. So we’ve got to bolster the overall number of championship-level teams, and we know that. But that is not a short-term possibility.”

“I view this as we’re getting the best single-car team available out there right now,” Davis said. “But we aren’t embarking on this for a single-car effort. This will, hopefully, be a multiple-car team with a solid, engineering-based approach where Ford can really apply all of our tools. We have someone in Robby who is just pulling on us for this stuff.”

“You can always suggest that I need to go talk to an existing powerhouse team to see if they’d like to switch, and the only thing I can say about that is that it has occurred in the past, on more than one occasion,” he said. “And individual teams have their reasons for not wanting to do that, and I respect that.

“It looks to me that the only way to develop championship-level teams is to grow them, and growing championship-level teams at the Cup level is a multiyear process and a very difficult process. The Robby Gordon team is a step in that direction.”

10/13/06 Nothing’s official and won’t be until Saturday afternoon, but it’s almost a virtual certainty that Robby Gordon and his self-owned Nextel Cup team will switch to Ford Fusions after this season. He created Robby Gordon Motorsports with Chevrolets this season, but without much success. All told, his #7 has 30 starts this year, no poles, no victories, one top-five and two top-10s. Only the most attentive NASCAR fans will remember that Gordon ran his first two stock car races (in February of 1991 at Daytona Beach and Richmond) in #90 Ford cars owned by long-time Ford loyalist Junie Donlavey. Also, Gordon was the first driver in the #28 Texaco Havoline Ford from Robert Yates Racing (at Talladega) after the July, 1993 death of Davey Allison. Gordon also did one 1994 Ford race for Michael Kranefuss before moving exclusively to Chevys when he returned to NASCAR in 1996.  He’s driven Chevys for the late Dale Earnhardt, Felix Sabates, Buz McCall, John Menard, Larry McClure, Richard Childress, Jim Smith and now himself. His career Cup stats: 229 starts, 1 pole (for Sabates), three victories (for Childress), 13 top-fives and 31 top-10s. Ford Racing

10/08/06 Tonight on Wind Tunnel Robin Miller said Ryan Hunter-Reay is going to drive a Busch car for Robby Gordon in 2007 and Ryan called and said it was in the works. Another American open wheeler, gone. This also means that Gordon must be sticking with Chevy because Hunter-Reay is rumored to be already signed by GM based on his test shootout results. NASCAR's gain is Champ Car's loss.

09/25/06 Robby Gordon, a longtime Chevy driver, denies a report that he has decided to abandon Chevrolet and switch to a Ford in 2007, and he insisted he's still debating his situation as an owner-driver. "That's just not true, that I'm not going to be back with Chevrolet," Gordon said. "We're doing the Dakar Rally with Chevrolet, and we have an off-road (Baja) deal with them (GM's Hummer division). When we get down to brass tacks (for a Cup deal), we'll see where we end up. I have not said I will not be back with Chevrolet. We're working methodically on it, and we want to make sure we make the right decision ... based solely on performance opportunities. We'll probably have a decision by Charlotte (Oct. 14)." But Gordon repeated his position that at the moment he's fifth on the Chevrolet totem pole, behind the Richard Childress, Rick Hendrick, Joe Gibbs and Dale Earnhardt Inc. teams, and that if he switched to Ford he would be at least third, behind Jack Roush and Robert Yates. Winston Salem Journal

09/24/06 This rumor is upgraded to 'near-fact' today.  Recall we said in another rumor that Robby Gordon was in Road America Thursday at the Champ Car event and rumored to be talking to Ford officials.

After failing to strike a deal to buy Robert Yates Racing – twice – Robby Gordon began making known his desire to be the No. 2 team with Ford (behind Roush Racing) instead of his current status as, at best, the No. 5 Chevy team. Officially, Gordon says "as of now, we have no manufacturer deal for 2007," but RGM has chosen not to renew its association with Chevrolet after this season. That leaves Gordon looking at Ford, Dodge and Toyota. And while Gordon has a past relationship with Toyota, his team doesn't fit into Toyota's immediate NASCAR plans. A source with a manufacturer says Gordon is most closely looking at Ford, which is in line with Gordon's recent comments on the subject. Ford officials have declined to comment as to the status of their relationship with Gordon, although they have acknowledged having a dialog with the owner/driver. In the meantime, Gordon's team has moved ahead with plans to expand its operation by building a new facility and expanding to two cars in 2007. Speculation centers on Motorola being one of the primary sponsors for the second car. Yahoo Sports

09/16/06 Robert Yates told SPEEDTV.com why the merger deal with Robby Gordon did not materialize.

“Well, there were things that needed to happen that had to work for both sides,” Yates said.  “The things that he wanted and wanted to do, I’m all for them. I’d love to have him in a car and work with him. I would love that. I have no problem with Robby at all.

“There were some other keys to it that didn’t materialize to benefit our side of it,” he said. “It still could be a scenario as far as they’re concerned, but right now it’s not on the table because of what other things could happen. … The reason that we didn’t move forward is that we didn’t get the things that we wanted to come with it. He (Gordon) knows where we were short.”

09/15/06 Robby Gordon, who had been trying to arrange a merger with Robert Yates Racing in recent weeks, has changed his strategy for 2007.

He's now working to build his own multi-car team. And that team could be using Fords, not his current make, Chevrolet. I'm done talking to other teams. [They] just don't have an interest, to be honest with you," Gordon said Friday. "We're going to keep our own little program, and we're going to build it."

Gordon says talking about the merger detracted from his team's efforts.

"We talked a lot with Yates, obviously, and once that didn't happen, I'm going to say it put us behind, by spending our time and effort to do that," Gordon said. "We should have put our time and effort into our own stuff." More at Scenedaily.com

Villeneuve to NASCAR reports gain speed  UPDATE #9 Roush Racing appears to be finalizing plans to put former Indy 500 champion and F-1 star Jacques Villeneuve in a Ford for several Busch Series races next year. Although the schedule isn’t set, it’ll almost certainly include the Saturday afternoon, Aug. 4 road race at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in his hometown of Montreal. Ford Racing 

[Editor's Note: So Villeneuve is going from being an F1 driver to being a lowly Busch Series driver and not for a full season but only for several races.  Although he would then have time to also be a full-time Champ Car driver in a series with three Canadian races, we suspect he will stay home on gardening duty.]

10/12/06 The rumors linking Jacques Villeneuve with Jack Roush Racing can end now, following the team's announcement that Truck Series regular David Ragan will replace veteran Mark Martin in the #6 Ford. That doesn't preclude JV from driving for them in the lowly Truck series.

10/07/06 One scenario floating through the garage Friday had former Formula One champion Jacques Villeneuve taking over the No. 88 Yates ride and bringing his own sponsorship money with him.

10/06/06 While former Formula One driver Jacques Villeneuve hasn't wanted to talk about his rumored jump to NASCAR, Jack Roush of Roush Racing says the team has met with the Canadian driver. Asked Friday if the 35-year-old Villeneuve could be in a Roush entry in 2007, team owner Roush said, "That's a possibility. I know we're in discussions.

"He came to see us in Detroit and he's been in Charlotte and had discussions around our program and what he can do and the rate of which he could get up to speed,'' Roush said. "If he's got the stomach for it, and if we can find the sponsorship for it, that's certainly a possibility.''

Efforts to reach Villeneuve and his agent, Craig Pollock, for comment were not successful but when the Iberville, Que., native was asked about the rumors earlier this week in Montreal he said "I'm retired,'' but said it with a smile.

Roush president Geoff Smith cautioned that a Villeneuve deal for next year is unlikely because he wants a contract similar to fellow F-1 driver Juan Pablo Montoya, who was to make his stock car debut Friday. The Colombian driver, who signed with the team owned by Chip Ganassi and Felix Sabates, plans to run races this season in ARCA, Busch and Cup to prepare for a full-time Cup ride in 2007. More at Globesports.com

Villeneuve, 35, is also now linked with another NASCAR team -- Robert Yates Racing.

10/05/06 Craig Pollock, manager for former F1 driver Jacques Villeneuve, denied a report from Italian newspaper La Gazzetta dello Sport that said Villeneuve signed with Roush Racing to race in NASCAR next year. Pollock: “What’s been said is totally unfounded.” But Pollock said that talks were “ongoing that could land Villeneuve in NASCAR next year.” Pollock said, “I’ve been in touch with numerous NASCAR teams and we are looking toward that for the future, but it being any one NASCAR team at this moment is unfounded” Montreal Gazette  More ...
Ford, Dodge or Chevy ready to exit NASCAR  UPDATE #12 The Autoextremist's Peter M. DeLorenzo is at it again predicting in his latest Fumes article that it is just a matter of time before Ford, Chevy or Dodge exit NASCAR.  He states that the ugly Car of Tomorrow will be just the ticket that pushes them over the edge.  We think it's more the case of Toyota coming in, destroying them on the race track by buying the best people, and they saying why should we spend $140 million per year to look like monkeys?  In every race series Toyota has entered in the USA, they drove all the American manufacturers out.  Let's take Ford for example.  If they are spending $140 million per year in NASCAR and are made to look like monkeys by Toyota, which is inevitable, imagine what they could do for themselves and for Champ Car by spending $100 million per year where they have exclusivity and can help grow the series to new heights with their marketing department having their fingers all over it.  A far better use of their money in our book.  Spend $140 to look like a monkey, or spend $100 million and win every race.  You decide.....

08/07/06 If the cutoff for the Chase had been Sunday, instead of five weeks down the road at Richmond, the sport's three most popular drivers all would have a chance to race for the Nextel Cup championship.

But the question was, "What's missing?"

And the answer is "Dodge."

Kasey Kahne's last-lap crash at the Brickyard and resulting 36th-place finish dropped him from seventh to 11th in the points standings, the first time Kahne has been outside the top 10 since finishing 12th in the season-opening Daytona 500.

That leaves the entire Dodge contingent outside the Chase with five races left to remedy the situation.

The absence of Dodge drivers in the top 10 also brings to the fore broader questions about the level of DaimlerChrysler's commitment to the NASCAR arena. The company already has cut back its support for the Craftsman Truck and Busch Series.

John Fernandez, director of Dodge Motorsports, and Bob Wildberger, Dodge senior manager of NASCAR operations, have taken early retirement. Fernandez now works for Ganassi Racing. Wildberger's last day with Dodge was the Friday before the Allstate 400.

So you have to wonder about Dodge's future in NASCAR, even in the face of DaimlerChrysler chairman Dieter Zetsche's public-relations trip to Daytona in July -- not to mention the appearance of his face on the hood of Mayfield's car.

The company's recent snappy ad campaign, featuring Dr. Z, represents a not-so-subtle shift in brand identity away from Chrysler and toward Mercedes. Does that also suggest a shift from a distinctly American sport, stock car racing? Sporting News

08/07/06 Bob Wildberger, another top Dodge Motorsports executive, is retiring. Dodge maintains it means nothing, and that they are committed to NASCAR.

08/04/06 See Hot News, as predicted, John Fernandez has left Dodge to work for Chip Ganassi.  Hmm......

07/01/06 Dr. Dieter Zetsche, Chairman of the Board for DaimlerChrysler, reaffirmed his company's commitment to NASCAR prior to the Pepsi 400 Saturday night at Daytona International Speedway.

Attending his first race of the 2006 NASCAR season and his first since last August's event at Michigan, Zetsche said Dodge remains committed to the sport. Dodge re-entered Cup racing in 2001. 

 "I don't know who is creating those rumors [we're leaving] - probably the competition. We have no reason whatsoever [to leave]," Zetsche said while standing in the pit of Dodge star Kasey Kahne. "We are very happy with NASCAR. It is a great platform, and Dodge is the right brand to race NASCAR. And of course we want to win championships, but lets see."

06/19/06 Below we predicted that if any of the Big 3 pull out of NASCAR it would be Dodge.  Then we hear things that make one go hmmm.....supposedly Dodge Motorsports Director, John Fernandez, will leave Dodge and take over the General Manager position at Chip Ganassi Racing on July 1st.  Does Fernandez see the writing on the wall now?  Rumors say that if Dodge bails, Penske and Ganassi will quickly jump ship to Toyota.

05/07/06 John Fernandez, Dodge's racing director, said things are running along quite smoothly this spring, but Detroit sources said some shakeups may be coming down in the Daimler-Chrysler racing camp. One potential issue - some Dodge dealers are said to be in revolt over the $70 a car fee they have to charge their customers to pay for part of Dodge's NASCAR operations. [Editor's Note: Like we said, if any of the Big 3 pull out of NASCAR, it will most likely be Dodge.....and then Roger Penske can move his team to Toyota as the rumor mill suggests.]

Nevertheless Dodge reported it sold 9,662 Chargers in April, 11 percent more than in March, making it one of the best sales months since the model hit the road last May, even though car sales in the U.S. generally fell in April, because of soaring gas prices.  Winston Salem Journal

05/03/06 Several Internet sites picked up our story about the potential possibility of one of the Detroit automakers pulling out of NASCAR, which set off shock waves in NASCAR Nation. Autoweek even weighed into the fray (while intentionally not identifying us) by contacting representatives from the Detroit Three's NASCAR programs, and they all denied having any knowledge of the fact that any discussions of this type were even going on. Which is true, because they wouldn't know. These discussions are ongoing and are confined at the very top of one of the companies - and the people currently involved in the stewardship of this particular company's NASCAR program are specifically being kept out of the loop for fear they are too close to the NASCAR solar system and can't be objective on the issue. That's why it's business as usual for the people assigned to the company's NASCAR program, because even preliminary knowledge or the hint of these kinds of discussions taking place would cause tremendous problems. But the discussions are real - and they're dead serious.

The NASCAR love-fest seems to have run its course with this one particular automaker. One high-level executive who understandably refused to have his identity revealed had this to say, "There's a growing feeling that the popularity of NASCAR is having less and less benefit for us when it comes down to what we need to accomplish in the marketplace. It remains a promotional and entertainment vehicle for our dealers, but that's about it. The timing of these discussions is not the greatest because outsiders will think we've come to this point because of the imminent arrival of Toyota in the series, but that has nothing to do with it...at all."   More at Autoextremist.com  More ...

tv news
IRL to lose Little to NASCAR  NASCAR's TV partners may be looking for way to shake those ratings blues. ESPN announced its new NASCAR announcers yesterday and the one getting the hardest look is Jamie Little (IRL pit reporter for ESPN/ABC), who may have a hard time with serious sports fans getting past the cover girl image of her FHM photo shoot entirely naked except for body paint and a strategically placed paint can (right). [See related Hot News Item] Not likely any stunt that Bill Weber or Tom Brokaw would consider.  Maybe Little will last longer than last year's NASCAR-TV hot bod, model-turned-broadcaster Leeann Tweeden, another FHM cover girl.  Winston Salem Journal
Where will Sharp take his money?  Scott Sharp tested a Rahal Letterman Racing car this week at the new Iowa Speedway, but that doesn't mean the former Indy Racing League champion is headed for that team next season. He said he has options.

One option is owning a team. If that is the route he chooses, it will include a short-term partnership with Chip Ganassi, allowing Sharp to build equity in the program while driving a competitive car.

"I don't want to waste a couple of years starting a team (from scratch)," he said Wednesday.

If Sharp, who has sponsorship from Petrone, a tequila company, decides to focus on driving, he could end up with one of several teams: Vision, Panther, Rahal or the fourth Andretti Green car if Dario Franchitti doesn't return.  IndyStar.com

[Editor's Note: Petrone?  Looks like long-time sponsor Delphi has given up their support of Sharp.  It is interesting about Ganassi Racing - will Scott Dixon return?]

Atlantic driver eyes Champ Car start  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today as the ChampCar.ws website confirms Andreas Wirth in the Dale Coyne car for Surfers.

10/07/06 Rumor has it that Champ Car Atlantic driver Andreas Wirth from Germany is talking to a Champ Car team (thought to possibly be Dale Coyne) about making his Champ Car debut in Mexico City.  If Champ Car races in Germany next year as expected, having a German driver on the grid can't hurt.
Who was that mystery person?  UPDATE Dear AutoRacing1.com, The mystery driver testing the Double Vision car was Nick Bussell.  Chad

10/12/06 Seen testing at Sebring yesterday was Tony George's Indy Car team Vision Racing. Although both Vision machines were there, only the No. 20 car was testing with a driver whose helmet was pained black and had no identifiable markings.
Frank Williams prepared to sue  Williams team boss Sir Frank Williams has expressed his concerns about the Red Bull Racing team supplying their sister team, Toro Rosso, with the same chassis in 2007, both designed by Adrian Newey. The only difference between the two teams will be the engine, one with Ferrari while the other will make use of Renault power.

"The same car with a different badge is out of order and not within the regulations," he told Autosport.  "That is not a legally driven statement, but a personal opinion after having read the regulations with regards to customer cars. I suppose what really matters is that if it is a rule, then please observe it. If not, then be ready to take the consequences."

Davidson to land Aguri seat  UPDATE #2 (GMM)  Anthony Davidson's father has all but confirmed reports that say the 27-year-old Briton could race for the Super Aguri team next year.

"He wants to race," the long time works Honda test driver's father, Denis, told the newspaper Hemelhempstead Today in England.

"It's never been a secret."

Denis Davidson hinted that his son deserves Honda's backing in securing the seat at the small Honda-powered team run by Aguri Suzuki.

"For years he's devoted himself to Honda at the expense of his own racing," Davidson insisted.

"The management are seeing what they can do for him."

Should diminutive Anthony Davidson make the grid in 2007, his Aguri teammate would almost certainly be his former formula 3 sparring partner, Takuma Sato.

10/03/06 (GMM) Anthony Davidson is on the verge of signing a contract to become Takuma Sato's teammate at the Super Aguri F1 squad for the 2007 season.

According to British broadsheet newspapers Independent and Guardian, the long time works Honda test driver's deal could be unveiled either in Tokyo this week, or at the Suzuka circuit prior to Sunday's grand prix.

''Neither Davidson nor the Super Aguri team would comment,'' the London based Guardian newspaper wrote, but Honda team principal Nick Fry conceded in Shanghai last Sunday that the 27-year-old Englishman 'deserves' a full time race seat.

Further evidence of the diminutive driver's near-certain job at Super Aguri are Christian Klien's recent comments, when he ruled out the Japanese team as a destination for 2007 because Davidson appeared so close to a seat.

Nicknamed 'Ant', Davidson became the Brackley based formula one team's test driver in 2001, racing for them once in 2004 and twice for Minardi in 2002.

10/02/06 Anthony Davidson is expected to be confirmed later this week in Tokyo as one of the drivers of Super Aguri F1 for 2007. The 27-year-old British driver has been a test driver with BAR since 2001. He was loaned out to Minardi in 2002 and took part in two Grands Prix for the Italian team but then went back to testing again until Malaysia in 2005 when he substituted for an unwell Takuma Sato. Although he has not raced much, Davidson has a huge amount of testing mileage and has done an impressive job as a Friday driver as well. He has tried to go racing on a number of occasions but could not secure a drive because he could not give any long-term commitment as Honda wanted to keep him under contract. But for this he might have driven for Williams and Jaguar. Now, it seems, his loyalty to Honda is finally going to pay off with the chance of a driver with Super Aguri F1. Honda Racing F1 is keen to develop the testing skills of James Rossiter, who does occasional tests at the moment while also racing in the Renault World Series. More at Grandprix.com.  We have updated our 2007 F1 Silly Season page.
Wheldon still hoping for F1?  UPDATE (GMM)  Dan Wheldon is the latest name to emerge on Spyker's short list for one of the last race seats on the 2007 F1 grid.

The 2005 Indy 500 and IRL champion is apparently holding discussions with the newly Dutch-owned team, despite previously admitting affection for his highly-paid place in America's racing scene.

Tiago Monteiro, Christian Klien and Gary Paffett, however, are also touted for the Silverstone-based ride, amid reports that the successful applicant will be the one with the most lucrative backing.

Asked if a decision about the seat could be expected soon, Spyker's director of racing, Michiel Mol, told Formula 1 RaceReport: "I hope it does not take too long, but we first want to concentrate on getting a title sponsor."

10/02/06 We hear that Dan Wheldon is still looking for a way to break into Formula 1 and could be seen testing for one of the F1 teams in the course of the winter months. Wheldon grew up racing Jenson Button and Anthony Davidson in karts in Britain and, not surprisingly, believes that he should one day be in F1. Unfortunately his career path took him to America early on because he did not have the backing to climb the European racing ladder. He had a stellar career in the US and has been racing successfully in the Indy Racing League since 2002. He has won the Indianapolis 500 and the IRL Championship and this year was a close second. He has nothing left to prove over there and wants to head home lest he end up in the trap that Sebastien Bourdais is currently in, having become dominant in Champ Cars but being unable to get F1 teams to take a look at him. Grandprix.com

[Editor's Note: That is the problem with the split IRL/Champ Car Series - they are not popular enough and don't pay well enough for drivers to view them as somewhere they want to stay long-term. Before Tony George destroyed the sport by starting the IRL and driving a wedge right through its heart, CART was very popular, had more sponsorship than NASCAR and drivers were not looking at NASCAR and F1 as "greener grass." CART was held in high regard and both young and old drivers viewed it as a pinnacle of their career. Now going on 11 years later, even Indy 500 winners are looking at NASCAR and F1. Bourdais and Wheldon should not feel as though they are "trapped." A re-unified Champ Car/IRL series would begin to restore some of that lost luster and again make open wheel racing in the USA a destination, rather than a pass-through point. ]

Open Wheel Racing in North America dead ...  UPDATE Another reader adds, In response to all of the talk about the Champ Car - IRL split and all of the resulting fallout, I think everybody is missing the point. Open wheel racing in America is now devoid of the basic premise that propels professional sports of any kind. And that is, the appearance that the sport "matters". That it makes enough of a difference in people's lives that they should, and must, "care."

Professional sports marketing is based on the fact that we, as fans, "care". Why do fans often cry when their teams are eliminated from the playoffs? Why do some fans paint their faces and/or bodies at a pro football game? Why do many fans HATE players from the team of their rival? The answer is because all fans have been programmed to believe the fate of their team "matters" - that the scores and results are so important and relevant to their lives, it should effect them in a very real way. Baseball, in particular, does a great job of this by so honoring the statistics of past teams and players. Thus, today's games are not only important for who wins or loses, but also because they are constantly being judged against history.

Professional sports commissioners and owners realize this and it is an ingenious marketing plan; because in realty, professional sports have no bearing on the quality of our lives in any way, shape or form. Fans have only been programmed to believe they do.

And this is the exact reason that Champ Car and the IRL are now dead. Before the split, it all seemed so important: when Bobby Rahal or Penske failed to qualify at Indy or when Michael Andretti returned to CART, with Chip Ganassi, to battle his Dad and Nigel Mansell. I'm sure we could all go on and on with examples of the very real drama a CART race would offer us each week.

However, now who really cares if Bourdais and Tracy don't like each other? Who cares if anyone can dethrone Bourdais? It just doesn't matter. The only thing left for either side is that Champ Car has awesome machines and the IRL has the history (NOT the present) of the Indy 500. And the only drama left is who going to win the split - the IRL or Champ Car?

So if open wheel racing wants to survive, both sides must unite and prove to us that it is, once again, important! Fans from both sides can then argue about Bourdais being better than Hornish; and Newman/Haas being stronger than Andretti/Green. Then this united open wheel series can sell us on the fact that each race will be filled with great storylines, subplots and drama!

Then, and only then, will it all "matter" again. Mark Maslona, Cleveland, Ohio

10/11/06 A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Just a quick shout out to let you know that many of the top karters in North America see their future only in NASCAR or Sports Cars at this point if they wish to pursue motorsports as a career...

Everyone knows that Scott Speed and AJ Allmendinger were anomalies and the norm is to never advance on talent alone, especially American talent. Unless they have a checkbook to run in Champ Car or the IRL. The egos that are thinly veiled in each series is amazing, as they continue to ruin a once great formula with no end or merger in sight for the benefit of everyone, including themselves ... Oh, too bad what money alone without passion will get you ...The recent driver tests and picks of those such as RuSPORT, ROCKETSPORTS and others where they pass up solid proven and incredible up-and-coming American talent to go with guys like Bremer, Briscoe, Pizzonia and the lot of the F1 castoffs makes Champ Car look like a joke to many of the young guys with their hearts set on open wheel as a passion and future.

No offense to the fine Euro drivers mentioned, as it is not their fault that F1 is crowded and the money they have that won't cut it there will buy them an easy seat here, however, what is happening when the Jon Fogartys, the Ryan Hunter-Reays, the Leo Maias, the Jonathan Bomaritos, the Alex Gurneys, the Joey Hands, the Alan Sciutos and so many others get passed by after proving that they are worthy champions, cast off to the land of sports cars on most occasions after a lifetime of chasing the open wheel dream of driving in Champ Car. What of certain team's mission of being the best open wheel team in North America .. with all American drivers ... the Americans they started with are long gone after a couple of short years ... Americans put Champ Car on the map ... Americans will be this series savior, unless the egos forget this is America and corporate America is not buying Champ Car ... NASCAR's formula is simple, it's as American as apple pie and all of the best racers in that formula run at the same track roughly 40 times per year to packed houses and BIG sponsor and fan loyalty ...
People in the karting game don't wonder why there is no interest in their sport or their young, talented Stars of Tomorrow ... Open Wheel at the highest level in North America has it all wrong, a business that is paid for by its talent ... Let's try that on baseball or football .. Let's tell the players in High School and College they can play for the best teams if they pay for their spot on the team ... We will then see how fast that sport dies too ...
Too bad young, passionate champions, the true Stars of Tomorrow are losing faith in what was once a great American pastime ...
I know this sounds like everyone else these days, but it's not a "whine" more than a broken heart because these guys are breaking the hearts of the little champions I see realizing their dreams end because no one cares enough to make things right at the top. Mark Maloney

Dear Mark, I suggest you send your letter to Tony George. CART, now Champ Car, was a fantastic sport up until 1995 with lots of great talent, many lucrative sponsors and good TV ratings. Then Tony George started the IRL and destroyed it all. Here it is 11 years later with the sport is as you see it. Mark C.

IRL to join ALMS at Mid-Ohio  UPDATE After breaking this story last week, this rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today - see Hot News page for story.  This also means a race at Michigan Speedway looks less likely.

10/05/06 After losing the Montreal race, which they thought they had in the bag (we hear Brian Barnhart is still fuming over that one) and with a hole to fill in their schedule around the August 5th weekend rumors say to look for an announcement that they will join the ALMS at Mid-Ohio the weekend of July 21-22, 2007. July 22nd would have been the traditional Michigan race for the IRL and MIS does not want the IRL on August 5th because it's too close to their August 19th NASCAR race, and the IRL is leery about two races in Michigan 4 weeks apart. August 5th was already booked at Mid-Ohio, so July 22nd fit as long as ALMS said yes, which we hear they will. That might mean the IRL won't be back at MIS in 2007 as rumored elsewhere on these pages. With 16,000 employees in Ohio, Honda gets to bring them all to the races to see their Acuras race on Saturday and their Honda powered Indy Cars on Sunday. The IRL has already announced that they are racing with ALMS at St. Petersburg and Belle Isle in Detroit.
The NASCAR ’best driver’ fallacy  [Editor's Note: As we have stated on numerous occasions, NASCAR TV announcers pronounce every week to viewers that NASCAR drivers are the best drivers in the world. Nothing could be further from the truth. Take them out of a stock car and most NASCAR drivers are complete wankers. However, drivers from other series come to NASCAR and have either dominated or run very well. Jeff Gordon, Tony Stewart, Ryan Newman, AJ Foyt, Mario Andretti all come to mind. There has never been a NASCAR driver that excelled in another form of racing. Never. This Toronto Sun article points out the bias exhibited by the NASCAR announcers toward open wheel drivers who show well in their sport.]

There were two significant things that happened during the Talladega Superspeedway's weekend of NASCAR races -- both of which have Canadian connections -- and neither of which got the kind of coverage they deserved.

First, it was Juan Pablo Montoya's third-place finish in the Auto Racing Club of America (ARCA). On Friday he saved his No. 4 Ganassi Dodge after being hit at 185 m.p.h. in his first restrictor plate race and ran great from start to finish.

Montoya has a long history of both Champ Car and Formula One racing in Canada.

The second was the thrilling fifth-place finish by A.J. Allmendinger in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race on Saturday.

Allmendinger, who now calls Toronto home, looked liked a seasoned veteran as he battled Mark Martin, Mike Skinner and Johnny Benson right to the checkered flag.

It certainly should put to rest the myth perpetrated up and down NASCAR pit lanes that open-wheel drivers rarely turn out to be good stock car racers.

Yet there was Michael Waltrip acting as a race analyst for the SPEED network during the truck race telling anyone who would listen that Allmendinger was in over his head.

In fact, there were five occasions during the race that Waltrip repeated his mantra: "He doesn't know what he's doing" in reference to Allmendinger's running with the leaders.

And he kept it up right to the checkered flag.

Did Waltrip finally acknowledge that maybe Allmendinger really did know what he was doing?

Not on you life.

McLaren, Honda, to land new sponsors  (GMM) A trio of important sponsors appear destined for next year's formula one grid.

With Renault's $60 million per-year 'ING' title sponsorship to be unveiled in the coming weeks, it is understood that McLaren and Honda are also likely to snare significant deals.

McLaren, to run reigning champion Fernando Alonso in 2007, is rumored to be edging towards a $18m a year deal with Spanish-based bank 'Banco Santander Central Hispano'.

Honda, meanwhile, is set to lose cigarette backer Lucky Strike at the end of the year, and could have harvested a sponsor from McLaren to fill the void.

Speculation is linking the Japanese marque with Emirates, after the international airline apparently baulked at the minimal exposure offered on McLaren's new Vodafone livery.

Aussie Champ Car race to top F1 race  OFFICIAL: Indy has burned off Melbourne's Grand Prix as Australia's premier street racing event. (Indy is the name of Champ Car's Surfers Paradise race).

The 18 per cent acceleration in early ticket sales confirms the prediction of Indy chairman Terry Mackenroth that the Grand Prix will be dethroned this year.

Indy's record 316,459 roll-up in 2005 may speed past 350,000 if ticket interest is sustained.

Take a bow Gold Coast. The Qld Gov't invests $11million in the Indy production each year. To put that in perspective, the Victorian Gov't spends up to $28 million for its Grand Prix at Albert Park. That's more than double the money for an inferior result.

"Bleeding like never before," groaned our sister Melbourne tabloid The Herald Sun.

Despite giving away 20 per cent more tickets than last year, the 2006 GP attendance dropped 68,000 to 301,800...

... Losses on Melbourne's Grand prix leapt from $13 million in 2005 to $21 million this year...

... Indy, which will be at full throttle in two weeks, backs up its roar and razzamatazz on its glorious beachside setting with a Gold Coast economic punch worth up to $70 million.

Grand Prix officials bravely claim a $175 million economic boost from their event... Gold Coast Bulletin

Briscoe could drive for RuSPORT in 2007  RuSPORT President Jeremy Dale hinted today that Ryan Briscoe's 2-race deal with the team in Surfers Paradise and Mexico City could turn into a full-time ride in 2007.

"Every day since August 3rd our hearts have been with Cristiano da Matta and his family," said Dale. "I'm just so pleased that he is making the phenomenal recovery he is.

"We have been very clear with Ryan, and he understands where we're at. As we look at the remainder of '06, we potentially look into '07, we do that with one eye on Cristiano and his recovery, and one eye on these two races and the potential to take this relationship forward.

"This is one step at a time. That's the way we laid it out. We said, Listen, let's identify the candidates. Let's go down to Sebring. Let's take the first step. That's a test, okay. Let's identify a driver. Let's go and do the last two races. That's the next step. Along the way we keep an eye on Cristiano, how he's doing.

"It is a difficult thing to do, but it's not the first time in this sport, and it won't be the last time in this sport. That may sound a bit harsh. It's not meant to. It's the reality of this business and this sport.

"Ryan recognizes that and Cristiano recognizes that. That's just the reality of where we're at.

Briscoe concurred and hinted that he would very much like to turn the 2-race deal into a full-time ride, but recognizes that he and the team will cross that bridge during the off-season after da Matta's medical status can be ascertained.

"For my future down the road, you know, it's time to start looking at various options," said Briscoe. "But for the time being with RuSPORT, we're just going to take it for these two races, Surfers Paradise and Mexico. It's definitely a chance for us to get to know each other. For the time being, we're just focusing a hundred percent on trying to do a good job here. Then for whatever plans down the road, we'll talk about that. For the time being, you know, it's definitely just we'll do what we can right now and then we'll see."

Pizzonia back to Champ Car  UPDATE #5 Rocketsports tells us that the Speedtv.com report was in error.  Pizzonia is only signed for Australia right now.

10/10/06 Speedtv.com reports that Pizzonia will be back with Rocketsports the final two races of this season in Australia and Mexico City. 

"I’m glad to be invited by Rocketsports to drive once again, and I accepted the challenge of getting to know a new circuit and help with the team’s development,” said the 26-year-old. “Street circuits are usually narrow and short, but Surfers seems to be wide and long, so it’s going to be a new experience for me.”

Mario Dominguez was previously announced as the other driver for Rocketsports.

08/23/06 This Hot News item is the official announcement on Pizzonia.

08/22/06 It has been reported in the Brazilian media today that Antonio Pizzonia will indeed drive the Rocketsports Champ Car in Montreal this weekend.  We await the formal announcement.

08/19/06 Now hearing Pizzonia is coming over to drive for Rocketsports in Montreal, not RuSPORT. Pizzonia drove for Rocketsports in Long Beach earlier this year.

08/19/06 According to AutoRacing1.com sources Brazilian Antonio Pizzonia is on his way over to the USA to test for either RuSPORT or Rocketsports, but our source is fairly confident it is to replace the injured Cristiano da Matta.
Paffett or Monteiro at Spyker  (GMM) Gary Paffett has emerged on Spyker's short list for the race seat alongside Christijan Albers in 2007.

After earlier speculation that had linked him with the 2007 seat next to Fernando Alonso waned, it is understood that the McLaren test driver's management - led by former racer Martin Brundle - earned Ron Dennis' support in seeking a drive elsewhere.

It was also rumored in recent days that newly crowned GP2 champion Lewis Hamilton had been mentioned for the Spyker seat, but the McLaren protégé now appears more likely to make his debut for the Mercedes-powered squad in 2007.

The stumbling block for 25-year-old Paffett, however, could be Spyker's preference for a paying driver. It is not thought likely that either McLaren or Mercedes would fund the Briton's grand prix debut. He is also not significantly funded by sponsors.

Should he not appear on next year's grid, Paffett is understood to be assured of a continued test role at McLaren.

We hear that Tiago Monteiro is more likely to retain his seat in the team having raised the necessary financial backing.

Noise could be an issue for IRL at Daytona  Robin Braig, Daytona International Speedway president, on IRL testing at his track. “As I sat up in race control when the first car went out on track and hearing that noise – we haven’t had any neighbors call yet. The first thing I thought of is our friends from Indigo Pines and Pelican Bay that tolerate the Richard Petty driving school. That was not a Richard Petty driving school noise this morning.” Valvoline.com

[Editor's Note: Wait until they get 18 IRL cars on the track together. The general consensus in the racing industry is that the IRL cars emit the most annoying noise in all of racing.]

Earnhardt fans out to harm Vickers  Lowe's Motor Speedway is beefing up security for driver Brian Vickers after angry race fans called the track to complain that Vickers wrecked Dale Earnhardt Jr. and Jimmie Johnson on the last lap at Talladega.  Vickers spokesman Chris Haid said the team has declined the offer.

"We feel we have the situation under control," Haid said. "Obviously, this is a publicity stunt. In fact, it's like adding fuel to the fire."

The Nextel Cup Series is scheduled to race Saturday night at Lowe's in Concord, N.C., and track owner Bruton Smith felt the need to offer Vickers assistance because of the flood of phone calls the track received Monday.

"We want to make sure Brian has an uninterrupted weekend here and that he is able focus on his driving duties," Smith said. "We will offer security escorts in and out of the speedway and anywhere he feels he needs our assistance."  USA Today

RuSPORT to choose Briscoe  UPDATE #2 We had already upgraded this rumor to 'fact' last week, but here is the official team announcement.

10/06/06 We can now upgrade this rumor to 'fact' as Briscoe has the ride for Australia and we assume that means Mexico City too.  We hear Briscoe was the fastest in last week's test.

10/06/06 According to SPEEDTV.com, RuSPORT is leaning toward choosing Australian Ryan Briscoe to fill the seat vacated by the injured Cristiano da Matta for the last two races of the Champ Car season.
MB2 to Ford. Martin part owner?  UPDATE Bobby Ginn, majority owner of MB2 Motorsports, yesterday denied Internet reports that his team will switch from Chevrolet to Ford. The rumor came two days after MB2 signed Mark Martin to a contract to share a ride with Regan Smith.  "Somebody says something and somebody gets it started, and it's pretty easy to spread," Ginn said. "But we're a Chevrolet team." Times Dispatch

10/08/06 The LTN Radio Network reported today that Mark Martin's long-term plans with MB2 Motorsports will include at least part ownership of the team. This ownership, combined with Martin's long-term relationship with Ford, means the 3-car team will change to the "blue-oval" before Daytona 2007. The team will also include 2 Busch cars and 2 late models for a driver development program. LTN Radio Network
Gordon insinuates Earnhardt has cheater motor  Jeff Gordon made it clear yesterday he's not happy with the bumping tactics of Dale Earnhardt, Jr. Then, he challenged NASCAR officials to do something about it.
"I don't know if it's motor or what he has there, but that guy [Earnhardt] seems to be able to run into the back of people harder than anybody else out there," said Gordon, who finished 36th after starting fourth. "He's a great drafter. I love racing with him, but man, does he run into the back of people."

Earnhardt, ultimately bumped from the lead in the waning moments on the last lap, responded by suggesting Gordon deal with it.

"I pushed Jeff Gordon into the lead five times, and every time I do that he complains that I'm bump-drafting him in the corners and blah, blah, blah," Earnhardt said. "So, I'm just not going to push him anymore.

"Besides, every time I help him out, he never gives it back in return. That's why he doesn't have too many friends out there. I was trying to be his only friend, besides his teammates, who are kind of paid to draft with him."

When asked to respond to Earnhardt's comments, an angry Gordon simply looked the other way. Times Dispatch

[Editor's Note: Reading between the lines here it sounds as though Gordon is saying that Earnhardt must have more HP than anyone else because he is able to slam people from behind harder than anyone else. Is Gordon saying that Earnhardt got the infamous "call" and was given the bigger restrictor plate than everyone else, or is he just mad because Earnhardt is banging him around too much? It's difficult to be certain of Gordon's real intent with that statement.]

RYR gets "the call"  A reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, Originally I failed to believe the conspiracy theorists about "The Call" in NASCAR, but now I am a firm believer that it happens a lot. The latest examples were when Kevin Harvick was going to lose GM Goodwrench as a sponsor and the team was trying to land a new sponsor. All of a sudden he started to do well and presto, they land Shell as a sponsor. Next was Robert Yates Racing, who lost sponsorship for the No. 88. All of a sudden both Yates cars sit on the front row for last weekend's Talladega race after running miserably all year. When the green flag dropped they were passed like they were towing a boat anchor. What happened to all that speed they had in qualifying? Answer - Timing & Scoring was programmed to give them the front row in qualifying to get them the free publicity in hopes of attracting a new sponsor. In the race they were slow slugs like they have been all year. I can go on and on. NASCAR is a farce. It's so transparent. Mordichai Rosen, Los Angeles, California.
Reiser to become Roush GM?  Robbie Reiser, who has been #17-Matt Kenseth's crew chief since his debut in 1999, laughed over talk that he could become a general manager at Roush Racing. Not that he wouldn't want the job, but he knows that decision belongs to Jack Roush. "That's Matt Kenseth-Greg Biffle talking in the media program," Reiser said Oct. 8. "I've been hired to be a crew chief and that's what I do. That's a question you need to ask Jack. I can't answer that." Reiser won the Cup title in 2003 with Kenseth. SceneDaily.com
Glock to test for BMW  BMW had been considering running Timo Glock as a test driver in races this year but the German driver injured his wrist in the final round of the GP2 Series in Monza and has been out of action ever since. It is expected that he will test for the team when testing starts again in December by which time his wrist should be completely healed.  Grandprix.com
Unser, Allmendinger eye NASCAR - No  UPDATE #6 A reader asks, If AJ goes to NASCAR do you think Forsythe should go after Buddy Rice? At first I didn't think it was a good idea BUT you need a recognizable American driver in your series as your backup plan. Plus I think the France Family is out to get Champ Car because of the Phoenix Grand Prix fiasco too. Alistair Fannell

It's not only the France family that would want Allmendinger, so too would Toyota and of course Red Bull. However, our sources say that Allmendinger will probably stay in Champ Car and not walk away from the winning combination he has with his engineer Mike Cannon. As for other American drivers, Graham Rahal is expected to move up to Champ Car next year so Buddy Rice may not be viewed as necessary by the Champ Car owners. Mark C.

10/06/06 As we reported on September 29th, and now reported by SPEEDTV.com, Gerald Forsythe has made a longtime contract offer to A.J. Allmendinger to remain in Champ Car but the only American in the series hasn't made his decision.

"We had dinner after Elkhart Lake and I offered A.J. a five-year deal," said Forsythe, who fired Mario Dominguez and hired Allmendinger four races into the 2006 season.

"I told him we wanted him in Champ Car and he indicated he wanted to stay here but said he didn't feel comfortable negotiating so I'm going to meet with his agent before Australia."

09/29/06 According to our sources today, much like his teammate Paul Tracy, Allmendinger has been offered a long-term contract with Forsythe Racing to stay with Champ Car. Since moving to Forsythe Racing, Allmendinger has been on a tear, winning five races in 7 or 8 starts. Allmendinger is happy to be in a winning situation and Gerald Forsythe is happy to be winning on a regular basis again.  If Allmendinger had been with Forsythe since the start of the season, we suspect Sebastien Bourdais would not be leading the championship and on his way to a third straight title. 

09/26/06 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, as tempting as NASCAR may be, AJ Allmendinger will very likely remain in Champ Car for the foreseeable future.

09/23/06 Despite Allmendinger saying this week that he would probably re-sign with Forsythe, we are hearing that he has already signed a deal to run NASCAR trucks full time next year. We are bumping this rumor back up to 'speculation' and we'll see how this plays out.

09/18/06 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today for AJ Allmendinger. Obviously, with his three consecutive wins for Gerald Forsythe this summer and the fact he's been great for open wheel racing, the fans of Champ Car don't want to see this talented kid head for NASCAR in 2007.

"First of all Gerry (Forsythe) was nice enough to let me run these two races and I appreciate that," said the 24-year-old Californian. "He's made me a contract offer and most likely I'll be back." ChampCar.ws

09/18/06 From the "Everyone-Loves-NASCAR" department" - Al Unser Jr. is the latest driver interested in moving into stock-car racing. Unser, 44, certainly has the name and the credentials. An Indy-car star - he was the tour champion in 1990 and 1994, IROC series champ in 1986 and 1988, and 1992 and 1994 Indy 500 winner - Unser retired as a driver two years ago but came back this spring to run the Indy 500, finishing 24th.

In his only NASCAR Cup start, Unser finished 36th in the 1993 Daytona 500 in a Rick Hendrick Chevy.

And Indy-car driver A. J. Allmendinger, 24, finished 13th here in Saturday's Truck debut, running for Bill Davis, in what could be a tryout for a Toyota ride next season with Team Red Bull on the Nextel Cup circuit. Allmendinger has won four Indy-car Champ Car series races this season. He plans to run a Davis Truck at Talladega in three weeks. Winston Salem Journal

Hamilton could make Brazil debut  (GMM) Lewis Hamilton is still in the running to make his grand prix debut for McLaren in Brazil in two weeks.

Boss Ron Dennis admitted at Suzuka that team officials will make their decision following the GP2 champion's second extensive test, at the Jerez circuit next week.

But Dennis, who is torn between risking the 21-year-old Briton's debut or sticking with the reliable Pedro de la Rosa, insisted: ''When we think it through there's not a massive upside to (Hamilton) racing in Brazil.''

Whether Hamilton appears at Interlagos or not, he is still in pole position for the race seat alongside Fernando Alonso next year.

Rumors in Japan, meanwhile, also suggest that Hamilton could make a lower-profile debut in 2007 for Spyker.

Familiar names/faces for ABC/ESPN  There will be several familiar faces to race fans when ESPN debuts its NASCAR coverage next season.

Dr. Jerry Punch, NASCAR veteran Rusty Wallace and former NASCAR champion crew chief Andy Petree are expected to take prominent roles in ESPN’s return to NASCAR coverage, The Charlotte Observer has learned.

Among the others taking part in the networks' race weekend and daily coverage of the sport are Allen Bestwick, Dave Burns, Jamie Little and Mike Massaro, multiple sources confirmed Saturday. Bestwick and Burns work with NBC currently, while Little and Massaro both work with ESPN. Little works with the Indy Racing League and Massaro with NASCAR.

ESPN and ABC are expected to officially introduce their team of on-air talent and producers during a news conference Thursday at Lowe’s Motor Speedway in Concord, N.C.

“We have a news conference at Lowe’s on Thursday at which time we are going to reveal our announcers and producers who will be ushering our return to NASCAR in 2007,” said George McNeilly, ESPN’s senior director of corporate and consumer communications.

“We’ve asked everyone associated with that team to please refrain revealing their involvement. I have an obligation to abide by the same rules.

“However, it is no secret that Thursday’s announcement will be the culmination of months of auditions and assessments. Certainly, a number of these people have been under serious consideration.” ThatsRacing.com

Waltrip Racing announcement soon  Michael Waltrip said that he hopes to make an announcement soon concerning who will drive his team's No. 00 Nextel Cup car next season.

David Reutimann is considered the leading candidate for the Toyota ride as a teammate to Dale Jarrett and Waltrip. Reutimann has met with both Michael Waltrip Racing primary sponsors, Burger King and Domino's Pizza.

An announcement could come in the next week.

"It's just going good," Waltrip said Saturday at Talladega Superspeedway. "I'm really happy with where we are. Hopefully soon we can enlighten everybody on our driver situation. We're not quite there yet."  Scenedaily.com

Alonso sees hope in rivals' tires  (GMM) The last skerrick of hope for Renault's off-the-pace Fernando Alonso at Suzuka was the appearance of worrying blisters after qualifying on the Bridgestone tires of his rival, Michael Schumacher.

The Michelin-shod Spaniard was spotted checking out the tires of other Bridgestone cars in parc ferme on Saturday.

But he admitted to reporters that Ferrari's 'graining' often clears up during a long-run, 'so I don't think we can be too optimistic because of that'.

Alonso noted: ''But our tires looked a lot better than theirs.''

GM fallout: Reduced NASCAR effort  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement that Shell is replacing GM Goodwrench on the No. 29 Kevin Harvick car.

10/07/06 It's not only Ford that are cutting back their auto racing expenditures.  While Ford has cut back its sponsorship of the three Canadian Champ Car events, rumors suggest that GM will cut back their NASCAR effort.  The Richard Childress team has scheduled a press conference today in Talladega.  GM Goodwrench, Dale Earnhardt's primary sponsor between 1988 and his death in 2001, is believed to be cutting back on its sponsorship of Richard Childress Racing at the end of the current season, as the company looks more and more to controlling its spending in the face of serious economic problems.  Rumors suggest that Shell Oil could become the primary sponsor with GM taking a secondary role.
NASCAR to open up Toyota engine program  It may be impossible to buy a Toyota racing engine or parts to build one. NASCAR is looking for a way to open up Toyota's engine program so that it's open to the independent motor builders. The big three, Chevrolet, Ford and Dodge have open programs so that anyone wishing to build one of those engines, can buy the parts and construct one. But Toyota's program is closed and doesn't allow the independent builders to buy the parts. It's not available to anyone not a part of the Toyota Racing family. Insider Racing News
Kalkhoven to buy Elan Technologies  UPDATE Being told that this rumor is not true so we are downgrading it to 'false.' 

10/05/06 One rumor making the rounds is that Kevin Kalkhoven, perhaps in conjunction with his Champ Car partner Gerald Forsythe, may buy Elan Motorsports Technologies from Don Panoz (right) if the details could be worked out. Panoz is rumored to seriously be looking at retirement.  After acquiring Cosworth to control his engine supply, the next logical step is to acquire the company that makes your chassis.  With complete control of equipment, and with the series' key races under their control, Kalkhoven and Forsythe will have secured their series from outside influence - the oval track cartel and Bernie. 

To connect the dots still further, what might this have to do with an IRL/Champ Car/ALMS merger that we speculated about a few days ago.  If Tony George does not want to play, it could be that Kalkhoven and Forsythe eventually acquire the entire Panoz Motorsports empire.  We always said that there needs to be consolidation in road racing to fortify the sport against the oval track cartel onslaught.

NASCAR to penalize more cheaters  NASCAR - the motto should be "Where cheaters come to win."  At Talladega Friday NASCAR confiscated fuel vents from the cars of Jeff Gordon, Mark Martin, Jamie McMurray, Kirk Shelmerdine and Mike Wallace during inspections.  Each of the vents had one end that was too large, which could, in theory, allow additional fuel to be carried.

NASCAR normally hands out penalties on Tuesday of the following week.

Grand-Am team to Champ Car  UPDATE #2 Hearing that the Pacific Coast 2-car Champ Car team is fully funded for the next three years.  Still no word of Gelles Racing's Champ Car team. 

09/02/06 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' now - see Hot News page for story.  AutoRacing1.com has also learned that 5 or 6 other teams from various series are in serious discussions with Champ Car for next year.

09/02/06 AutoRacing1.com has learned that former Atlantics team Pacific Coast Motorsports, who are currently fielding a car in Grand-Am, will later today announce a 2-car Champ Car team for 2007 with Alex Figge and Ryan Dalziel as drivers.
Vasser might run Vegas race  Jimmy Vasser, the Champ Car team owner, doesn't know whether his team will have enough cars to allow him to come out of retirement and race in the inaugural Vegas Grand Prix next April.

Jimmy Vasser, the semi-retired driver, said he wants to race around the streets of downtown Las Vegas so bad that he joked he would consider driving for a competing team if he had to.

As he stood in front of the downtown World Market Center recently and surveyed what will be the race course's first turn, Vasser sounded an awful lot like a man who was planning to be in the cockpit of a 750-horsepower open-wheel car on April 8.

"I would definitely leave that door open," said Vasser, who has not driven in a Champ Car event since April of this year but has not officially retired.

"It would be nice to run Vegas and Long Beach, but I think the cars are going to be (in short supply) at the front end of the season next year and maybe it's going to make it more difficult."  Las Vegas Sun

Martin to MB2  UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement.  See Hot News page for details.

10/05/06 Mark Martin will drive part time in an MB2 Motorsports car for the 2007 Nextel Cup season, multiple sources close to the team told NASCAR.COM on Thursday. It is believed that Martin will run 22 races for the team. Busch Series driver Regan Smith will drive the remaining 14 Cup races, the sources said.

An announcement is scheduled with Jack Roush and Martin at 10:30 a.m. ET Friday at Talladega Superspeedway.

Martin, who announced his retirement before the 2005 season, was coaxed by Roush into returning for a second "Salute to You" go-round this season in the No. 6 Ford.

Klien eyes Honda test seat  (GMM)  Another possibility for Christian Klien in the 2007 season is a test driver role for works team Honda, it has emerged.

The Red Bull refugee is still linked with the vacant Spyker seat alongside Christijan Albers, but that option took a hit during the week when team officials indicated that a traditional pay-driver would likely get the nod.

Honda, however, could be on the lookout for an experienced replacement for Anthony Davidson, who is on the verge of a 2007 racing role at the Super Aguri team.

Klien's father and manager Johannes apparently counts a test seat at the Japanese carmaker as an option for his son, alongside possible openings at Spyker and Champ Car.

Champ Schu to retire F1's no.1?  (GMM)  If the retiring Michael Schumacher wins the drivers' title this year, the coveted 'number one' could disappear from the formula one grid for a year.

In the 1994 season, after quadruple champion Alain Prost won the title for Williams and then retired, Damon Hill oddly wore the number '0'.

''I don't know what would happen,'' Germany's Schumacher told reporters at Suzuka.  ''I'm not sure if they have changed that (regulation) or not.''

F1 to be slower in 2007  Champ Cars have always been slower than F1 cars because 1) They weigh about 400 pounds more with driver, and 2) Except for the tire war years, have always run on hard spec tires.

Next year the new Champ Car reduces the weight disadvantage to just 300 pounds, and the F1 cars are about to get slower, much slower, as they too will run on harder spec Bridgestone rubber.

Autosport.com reports that Bridgestone's technical manager Hisao Suganuma said, "We more or less have some idea of which type of tire we are going to supply, and we are now starting to think about how we can do the testing," explained Suganuma.

"Compared to this year's compounds, it will be hard. It is an older construction with some modifications. I think it will be about two seconds (per lap) slower."

The Japanese marque's sporting director, Hiroshi Yasukawa, allayed the fears of currently Michelin shod runners by promising a harder tire that will be a couple of seconds slower.

He said: ''And Bridgestone has a very good reputation for treating everyone equally.

''I don't think our current teams will have any advantage in real terms.''

With the new lighter, more sophisticated Champ Car sure to have been faster at Montreal next year, and the F1 cars going 2 seconds per lap slower, Bernie Ecclestone probably had nightmares worrying about the comparisons in lap times between Champ Car and F1. Would be quite embarrassing for F1 if a car costing 1/10th the amount was within 1 second, or even 2, of an F1 car.....in steps his friend Normand Legault, and lo and behold, Champ Car is no longer racing in Montreal. Would Bernie worry about such a detail? You betcha.

track news
Darlington eyes open wheel race  It has been more than 50 years, and it wasn’t that successful the first time, but open-wheel, open-cockpit racing might return to Darlington Raceway.

Officials from International Speedway Corp., which owns Darlington, have had discussions with the United States Auto Club about the possibility of holding a Silver Crown event at NASCAR racing’s oldest superspeedway.

“I don’t know where it’s going to go,” Darlington president Chris Browning said. “I think our company’s already hosting four of those things, and our track, at least configuration-wise, would lend itself to those cars.

“But we really won’t know if it would work until they come out here and do a test.” More at TheState.com

Kubica on track for 2007 seat  (GMM) A BMW spokesman has refused to confirm reports that impressive Polish rookie Robert Kubica is sure to retain his race seat beyond the end of 2006.

Reports suggest that Kubica, 21 - who replaced BMW-Sauber Jacques Villeneuve as of the Hungarian grand prix in August - is heading for the ride in 2007 despite the team's insistence that a decision is not yet made.

The spokesman said: ''We will make an announcement at the end of the season.''

Team principal Mario Theissen, however, enthused about Kubica and indicated that he is doing a good job alongside contracted 2007 race driver Nick Heidfeld.

''We put Robert in the car,'' said the German, ''and I think it helped the entire team, including Nick, to improve.

''Unfortunately I said at the start of the season that I would confirm our drivers at the end of the season so I have to stick to that. There is no other reason behind it.''

The spokesman also denied separate rumors that Hinwil-based BMW-Sauber could revert to the simpler name 'BMW' in 2007.

''No name change is planned,'' he added.

No MIS race for the IRL in 2007  UPDATE #2 This MLive.com article says, The Indy Racing League is close to finalizing its 2007 schedule, and there is still no agreement between the IRL and Michigan International Speedway for a race in Brooklyn next year. "We do not have a signed sanctioning agreement right now, but I still remain very confident that we're going to have an IRL race next year," new MIS President Roger Curtis said Tuesday. "I just can't honestly tell you what date it's going to be right now. "If the IRL were to announce its schedule (today), I assume it would be without us."
"We anticipate closing out our schedule by the end of the week," IRL spokesperson Amy Konrath said on Monday. "We are currently at 14 races and plan to be at 17. Talks with MIS continue."

"Our understanding all summer long from the IRL was that we had a July 22 date," Curtis said. "That move back one week was predicated by the move of the (NASCAR) Brickyard 400 race to July 29, and the last Sunday in July has traditionally been the IRL date at Michigan.   We wanted to go a week earlier to accommodate our fans who in the past have gone to both races."

A few weeks ago, however, the IRL threw Curtis and his staff a little curveball. The IRL asked MIS to move its race back to Aug. 5 in 2007.   We were kind of surprised when the IRL came to us a couple of weeks ago and asked if we would be willing to move to an Aug. 5 date," Curtis said. "They came to us with all of their reasons why, and they were all very good, very understandable reasons.  And we kind of gave them some reasons why we'd like to keep it in July. We agreed at that time to just continue the dialogue and see what we could to do work things out, and that's kind of where we're at right now."

There are several reasons a move to Aug. 5 would not be good for MIS.  The second of the two Nextel Cup races at MIS is scheduled for Aug. 19, just two weeks after the proposed date. And the return of the IRL to Belle Isle on Sept. 2 would mean two IRL events would be held in the same market in a span of four weeks.

09/29/06 We are bumping this rumor up to 'strong' today as the word is spreading that the IRL cannot sell tickets in the Michigan market as it is, let alone do it for two events now that Belle Isle is official. Yet another one of Roger Penske's original oval tracks that no longer holds an open wheel race. We still recall the day in the Nazareth press room whereby Roger chastised CART for dropping its race at Nazareth and said he considered it a kick in his teeth. Now, after Fontana, Michigan, and Nazareth (3 former Penske tracks) have been dumped by the IRL we wonder if Roger still views it as a kick in his teeth? Why did Roger invest so much effort in resurrecting Belle Isle when he could have spent that effort at MIS, an ISC track that he and his son Greg are still major stockholders? In essence, the IRL's move away from ovals and towards street and road courses justifies CART's original business plan. The creation of the IRL has set the sport of Indy Car racing back over 10 years as it morphs into what CART already was in 1995. Amazing. Mark C.

09/29/06 The Indy Racing League's trip to Daytona Beach, Fla., this week might prove to have been beneficial to completing the league's 2007 schedule.

Not only did the Indy cars test on a road course at Daytona International Speedway. League officials met with their counterparts at International Speedway Corp., which has its office across the street from the track.

The IRL is trying to clean up a mess created by an inability to secure a race in Montreal next year on Aug. 5. The backup plan was to run a race on that date at the Honda-preferred Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course in Lexington, Ohio, but the track is unavailable due to a motorcycle event.

That led IRL officials to ask ISC-owned Michigan International Speedway to accept a move to Aug. 5. The problem was, MIS had already sent out ticket renewal forms indicating the race would be July 22, the date the IRL promised track officials this summer.

The prospect of an Aug. 5 race is not good for MIS on several levels, starting with a NASCAR Nextel Cup race there Aug. 19. Plus, Detroit officials will announce today that a race on the Belle Isle street course adjacent to downtown will be held Sept. 2.

That would give the market two IRL races in the span of four weeks.

Also, MIS would not be able to pair the IRL with ARCA because the stock-car series will be racing that weekend with NASCAR at Pocono (Pa.) International Raceway.

New MIS president Roger Curtis called the turn of events "not attractive at all."
IRL spokesman John Griffin said league officials feel bad about the situation and have vowed that MIS hosting an August IRL race would be "a one-year situation."

IRL contracts have not been signed by Mid-Ohio or Michigan. Indy Star

[Editor's Note: First, the IRL won't be racing in Montreal, which we told you in this rumor. Second, this excuse for not holding the MIS race may be a way for the IRL to gently ease out of MIS and its massively empty grandstands. With Belle Isle being announced today, MIS might be history for open wheel racing.]

Schrader/Wood to split time in 2007  Wood Brothers/JTG Racing will again field one Nextel Cup team [in 2007], two Busch Series teams, and two Craftsman Truck teams. The team also expects to field a second Nextel Cup car for select Cup races. Driver and sponsor relationships for 2007 are quickly coming into focus. Ford Racing Technology will again be supporting all divisions with the Ford Fusion in the Nextel Cup and Busch Series events and the Ford F-150 Truck in the Craftsman Truck Series. Little Debbie Snack Cakes will continue to be primary sponsor of the famed No. 21 Nextel Cup Ford for 18 races in 2007 with Ken Schrader in the driver's seat. Chris McKee states, "We are very pleased to have Ken Schrader behind the wheel of the Little Debbie Ford Fusion for the 2007 NASCAR NEXTEL Cup series. Little Debbie fans and NASCAR fans relate well to Ken Schrader and we're looking forward to a winning season." Third generation driver Jon Wood will share driving duties with Ken Schrader in the No. 21 Nextel Cup ride. Ore-Ida Extra Crispy French Fries and Delimex Delicious Mexican Cuisine are proud to join Wood Brothers/JTG Racing as primary sponsors of the No. 21 Ford Fusion for a limited schedule as well as being a major associate sponsor for the remainder of the season. Tad Geschickter, team co-owner stated "It's time for Jon to get started in the Cup Series. He will also compete full time in the NASCAR Busch series in the No. 47 Clorox/Armor All/American Red Cross Ford Fusion. We look forward to getting Jon plenty of seat time by combining this limited Cup schedule with his duties in the No. 47 Busch car." Also Marcos Ambrose will move to the Busch Series No. 59 Kingsford Charcoal Ford after a year in the Craftsman Truck Series, with Stacy Compton, moving from the No. 59 Busch ride, back to the Truck Series for Wood Brothers/JTG Racing. woodbrothersracing.com
Hopes of Racing Merger Dim  The newly released 2007 schedule for the Champ Car World Series provides tangible evidence that hopes for a merger to reunite Champ Car with the nation's other major open-wheel auto-racing series, the Indy Racing League, appear to be fading.

Both series' leaders began merger talks early this year, exploring ways to end the decade-long civil war between Champ Car, whose races including the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, and the IRL, whose signature race is the Indianapolis 500.

But no agreement has been reached, and Champ Car's schedule for next year — with new races in Las Vegas; Phoenix; Zhuhai, China; and St. Jovite, Canada — indicates that the series plans to stay independent.

Champ Car's new schedule also focuses exclusively on street and road-course races, eliminating races on oval tracks — the type the IRL prizes. Champ Car left its last remaining oval event, in Milwaukee, off the 2007 schedule after a poor turnout this year. Both series had run on the mile track at the Wisconsin State Fairgrounds in recent seasons and the IRL will continue racing there.

In addition, Champ Car is introducing a new chassis for next year, which would seem to add another obstacle to a union any time soon. More ...

Racing News
France family's march toward motorsports monopoly  Don't think for one short moment that the France family does not only want to monopolize auto racing in North America. Now they are branching out and are starting a motorcycle racing series to be managed by Grand-Am. In this interview Grand-Am President Roger Edmondson dropped the bombshell very nonchalantly - "We have the Rolex Series, but we're also going to be introducing our new MOTO-ST motorcycle championship."

When questioned further about it, he said, "Well, actually my background before I got the call, as we call it, to come down here and start Grand-Am was in motorcycle road racing. I was able to bring to Grand-Am some of the things that had worked well in the World Superbike and the AMA Superbike Championship, some of the things I had a hand in bringing into those sports. We tried them in car racing and It worked out.

"At the same time, this is a business where there's no book on how to do it. You learn something every event and every year. We think that there are some things in our Grand-Am program, in our car racing program, that would enhance motorcycle racing. We've announced and are working with a couple of other groups, our involvement in a new endurance championship for twin-cylinder motorcycles only, the BMWs, the Harleys, Ducatis, and certain Suzukis and Kawasakis, so forth. We're real excited about it. The first event comes up in about three weeks at Daytona, the 8 Hours At Daytona. It's interesting to see the entry list build, some of the old names coming back."

Don't for one moment think that the France family will do this half-heartedly.  They don't do anything that way, and if we were the AMA, we would start to worry whether this is another divide and conquer motorsports effort because motorcycle racing was getting too popular for them not to have their fingers all over it.

Glock to BMW Sauber effective immediately  UPDATE #2 (GMM)  Despite reports elsewhere, GP2 driver and former Jordan racer Timo Glock is unlikely to be fit enough to test for BMW-Sauber at Jerez next week.

The German driver, who is also linked with Williams' vacant third driver role for 2007, had to sit out the recent GP2 finale following a crash at Monza's Parabolica corner.

24-year-old Glock has been in talks with the German BMW-Sauber team, but as recently as this week he was being treated in a German clinic not only for a sprained wrist but also injured fingers.

10/03/06 We reported this several weeks ago but today Autosport.com is reporting Glock will test with the team next week at Jerez. Glock is German, BMW are German - looks like he's found himself a home.

09/14/06 Timo Glock is likely to be the 3rd driver for BMW Sauber at this year's last three F1 rounds, in place of Sebastian Vettel. The reason is because Vettel, who made a very good impression during both the Turkish and Italian GPs as the BMW Sauber Friday driver, has a long-term Red Bull contract and they have first option on him from 2009 onwards!

Red Bull has contracts with many young, up and coming talented drivers. By contracting Mark Webber and already relying on David Coulthard's services for 2007, this means there isn't any space for these drivers for the time being (this could mean both DC and MW might also have long-term contracts with RBR....at least until 2008!?)

As Vettel's future with BMW is therefore doubtful, the team has been looking for a driver they can build a future with. According to rumors the decision has been made in favor of Timo Glock, who will join the BMW Sauber team immediately and will be a test driver for next year.

Glock was previously a test driver for Jordan GP and competed in 4 F1 Grand Prix's in 2004. In 2005 he competed in Champ Car with Rocketsports (2nd in Montreal) and went back to Europe for 2006 to compete in GP2, finishing a credible fourth in the championship with two win's. Pieter Slinger/PWS-Consultancy reporting for AutoRacing1.com

Klien turned down $2M offer  UPDATE #5 A reader writes, Is it just me or does it seem Klien has a few screws loose in his head from the bumpy tracks!? Or he is just an arrogant _____.
He leaves an amazing sponsor to hopefully drive for a Formula One backmarker, turns down an awesome drive in Champ Car, brags to the press now about how he doesn't have to bring money to Spyker and practically makes fun of Premat and others.
On top of all that he announces that RuSPORT, Newman/Haas, and Forsythe are hanging by the phone praying he'll grace them with a phone call!  Whatever he's drinking I want some. Jeff Teravainen

Dear Jeff, We suspect Newman/Haas, RuSPORT and Forsythe all made overtures to Klien when he had the lucrative Red Bull backing.  Now that he has none, we suspect they would not even answer the telephone if he rang.  We think he believes he is a superstar.  Mark C.

10/03/06 Christian Klien is all set to join the Spyker MF1 team next season. Speaking to F1Racing.net the former Red Bull Racing driver confirmed his talks with the Silverstone-based team and that he is close to reaching an agreement.
"My plans with Spyker are quite concrete, everything is looking good," Klien said, adding that his backup plan was "to join a Japanese team as their Friday and test driver."

Klien has recently also been named by Honda F1 team boss Nick Fry as a possible replacement for departing number three driver Anthony Davidson.

Klien rubbished claims that he was meant to pay for a driving seat for next season saying: "I was not asked to bring any suitcase full of money. This is also why I am not worried by the likes of Alexandre Premat, Adrian Sutil and Ernesto Viso. They even have to pay for their test drives."

Should all else fail, Klien would cross the ocean to start in the Champ Car Series. "I don't need Red Bull for that project. I have received offers from three of the best teams, Newman/Haas, RuSPORT and Forsythe. All I need to do is to say yes." F1Racing.net

10/03/06 Spyker MF1’s director of racing Michiel Mol has revealed that the second seat at the team for 2007 will most likely go to a driver that brings money to the outfit.  “For next year we have to,” he told Formula 1’s official website.  “Maybe if we get a title sponsor that might change.”

09/22/06 (GMM) A 'Friday' seat for the team this year has been ruled out, but Christian Klien is still hot on the trail of a 2007 racing role with Spyker.

The Red Bull refugee will sit out the remaining three grands prix of this season, but on Wednesday he met with Spyker-MF1 principal Colin Kolles at Silverstone and was even shown the progress that is being made with the 2007 race car at the wind tunnel in Brackley.

He may even have discussed the team's future plans at Monza with 2007 technical chief Mike Gascoyne, amid rumors that he has landed the backing of an Austrian sponsor that is already associated with Spyker-MF1.

Klien, 23, was also reportedly interested in a test seat for a works team, but uncertainty about the implications of the 30,000km test limits next year has led him to push the Spyker option.

09/18/06 It is understood that Venezuelan rookie Ernesto Viso will shortly be unveiled as Spyker-MF1's third driver for the free practice sessions in Brazil.

The 21-year-old reportedly met team chiefs at their Silverstone headquarters on Monday, where he is later expected to test in order to satisfy the FIA's Super License rules.

Viso will also meet the team at the Silverstone test this week, although it is understood that he will not be driving the F1 car.

Red Bull refugee Christian Klien, meanwhile, is top of the list to drive Spyker's third 'M16' car at Shanghai and Suzuka.

If Spyker turns down Klien's advances, we wonder where he will drive next year.  Instead of getting paid $2 million to drive in Champ Car, perhaps he will stay home and tend to his garden.

09/15/06 According to this German website article, Austrian Christian Klien turned down a $2 million offer from Red Bull to drive for PKV Racing in Champ Car, instead preferring to try to land a ride with a backmarker F1 team like Spyker.  Like we said, his career is over.

IRL to announce Belle Isle race on Friday  UPDATE #4 So it seems the Belle Isle race will indeed cost the Detroit taxpayers $1.5M according to this Detroit Free Press article. Roger says any profits will be passed back to the city, however rest assured there will be no profits- not with two sanctioning fees to pay. Roger also says he will go to the state to get more money if necessary. All total it could cost taxpayers $5M to $10M because attendance on Belle Isle will never be enough to pay for all the costs it will take to set up that circuit.

09/29/06 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement.

09/28/06 Another reader writes, Dear AutoRacing1.com, So let me see if I've got this right - if all goes according to plan, soon the IRL schedule will have stops at Homestead, St. Pete, Michigan, Montreal, Motegi, Mid-Ohio, and Belle Isle?  Why don't they just call the series CART Redux?  The false "Vision" can be seen as the mirage it truly was now! Eric Zehnbauer, Palm Bay, FL

Dear Eric, Let's not forget the other former CART venues that the IRL has been or still is going to - Watkins Glen, Fontana, Phoenix, and New Hampshire.  Mark C.

09/28/06 A reader asks, With the expected announcements of Mid-Ohio, Montreal and Belle Isle, tell me again why Tony George started the IRL? Arno Fritz, Milwaukee, WI

Dear Arno, It was, and always will be, about control of the sport.  CART had it, and Tony George wanted it.  Mark C.

09/28/06 We have it on good word that the IRL will announce a race on Belle Isle in the Detroit River, site of CART Champ Car races in the early 90's thru 2001, tomorrow at noon (EDT) in Detroit at the Coleman A. Young Municipal Building. Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, Roger Penske and officials from the IRL are expected to be in attendance. The rumor is that the race will be held on Labor Day weekend. Having failed in their original business model with all rural oval track events, the IRL is now trying to copy CART/Champ Car's urban race model. When all the big names were in the sport and when CART was going strong, this race did not draw a large attendance. What has changed in Detroit to make the IRL think this race will be a success this time around?
Is racing dead in Rio de Janeiro?  UPDATE #4 Here are some more images of the Hermann Tilke redesigned Rio de Janeiro track. The circuit will be reduced from its current 3.08-mile layout to just 1.67 miles, with a watersports park and indoor sports arena built on the northern portion of the track.

Also disappearing will be the 'roval' course, which has remained dormant since the last Champ Car visit in 2000. The circuit is set to close for the whole of 2006 while the alterations take place.

At 1.67-miles, only national-level racing will be possible at the shortened circuit, which will not be long enough to qualify for an F1 race license.

However, roads around a new velodrome, stadium and an aquatic park could still be utilized to form a temporary extension for top class racing. 

The image below shows what the course could look like at 4.8km in length.

Work on the Rio circuit is scheduled to take place throughout 2006, with the revised circuit opening in 2007 - the same year the city hosts the games.

Although a bit small for F1, with its 'urban" setting this would appear to be the perfect venue for Champ Car's return to Brazil in 2008.

09/04/05 Further analysis of this situation tells us that the cash-strapped city of Rio would not invest in a revamped circuit without certain understandings with Ecclestone. The city will not allow itself to be hoodwinked by Bernie. Remember they held fast against CART when Jorge Cintra went belly-up and could not pay CART. Neither did the city. We now believe F1 could leave Interlagos, and if they do, a Champ Car race there would have a greater possibility. Vice versa, if F1 does not go to Rio, then Champ Car should. BTW, the city of Rio is doing a lot to improve the Copacabana beachfront. Mark C.

09/03/05 According to eTracksonline, It seems that the Pan American Games organizers have realized that half a racetrack is no racetrack at all and hit upon a compromise. A full length circuit will be retained it seems, albeit with half of it having only temporary facilities and the various stadia built inside its perimeter. As Hermann Tilke has done the redesign, it's not beyond the realms of possibility that F1 could return, but I'd still rate it as an outside bet. A strange track will result - part full road course, part street course!

Rio de Janeiro's Nelson Piquet circuit at Jacarepaguá looks set to live on for international races even after reconstruction demanded for the Pan American Games in 2007. More ...

Too many races in Mexico  NASCAR announced that the Busch Series will again be in March in Mexico City in 2007.  This means the month of March will have three international race events, two of them on the same track - A1GP and Busch Series in Mexico City, and the World Rally en Leon.  This was certainly a huge mistake by the A1GP organizers.  They knew that the Busch series has run in March the last two years, and they knew the World Rally is also in March.   There is not enough sponsorship money for three international series in less than 30 days, nor can Mexican fans, who earn meager wages, afford all three, and the A1GP is likely to get the short end of the stick.  J.J. Arrambide reporting from Mexico
Wallace signs 3-year sponsor deal  KANSAS CITY, Kan. -- Mike Wallace was nearly sick on Saturday at Kansas Speedway after he lost more than half a second between practice and qualifying for the Yellow 300 -- but thinking about his Busch Series future brought a smile to his face.
On Oct. 13 at Lowe's Motor Speedway, Wallace will announce a three-year sponsorship deal with a "billion-dollar corporation that's dabbled somewhat in NASCAR previously" to compete full-time in the Busch Series.

Wallace's car owner James Finch is currently 10th in the Busch owner standings -- the highest non-Nextel Cup affiliated Busch team. Wallace, who's run 17 of the 29 races for Finch, has two top-five and three top-10 finishes.

IRL, Champ Car schedules indicate anti-merger  So much for the unification of the Champ Car Series and the Indy Racing League.

Remember the talk this summer that the merger was all but complete? One newspaper even ran a bold headline that it was a done deal. Yeah, and Dewey defeated Truman, too.

The 2007 schedules are out for both series, and there are no hints at unification. There is even a hint at a backward step.

Both sides had indicated that Champ Car would leave much of May open so that its drivers could take part in qualifying for the Indianapolis 500.

Instead, Champ Car scheduled a race in China on May 20, the second weekend of qualifying for Indy. Champ Car drivers could qualify on the first weekend (May 12-13) but it would make for an awfully busy travel schedule, from Indy to China to Indy.

During a teleconference promoting an interesting 15-race schedule, Champ Car president Steve Johnson was asked about the difficulty of putting together a schedule with the possibility of a merger with the IRL.

Johnson indicated the unification was never a factor in finalizing the Champ schedule.

"I am running the business of Champ Car," Johnson said. "I am not running the business of trying to put a merger together. I took to our board what I felt was the best schedule that I have seen Champ Car have in many years.

"From a merger standpoint, my focus is and continues to be running the business of the Champ Car World Series, and if anything were to happen with a merger we'll see how that fits in down the road." Houston Chronicle

[Editor's Note: With all the new races added by both sides, those contracts will be an additional barrier to unification.  It will cost the sanctioning body money to break those agreements.  The only way to merge then might be our two divisions with a playoff system (under one governing body) just like we proposed in April of 2005.  We still think that might be the best possible scenario for the short-term as it allows both sides to control something - i.e. their division.]

Bourdais covering his bases  UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today. According to the team Bourdais will drive for Newman/Haas Racing in 2007.

09/29/06 According to AutoRacing1.com sources, Champ Car powerhouse team Newman/Haas Racing is expected to pick up their option on Sebastien Bourdais if he does not get an F1 offer for 2007.  Bourdais' contract is up after this year.   However, rumor has it that Bourdais has signed a letter of intent with Andretti Green Racing to drive one of their four IRL cars should Newman/Haas not pick up that option.  This would seem like a smart thing to do on Bourdais' part (cover his bases) but he has said in the past he viewed IRL cars as too dangerous, so one must take this rumor with a grain of salt for the time being. 
Korea GP is blow for Russia, Mexico  UPDATE (GMM)  South Korea's successful landing of a formula one race in 2010 and beyond is a blow for the hopes of a GP in Russia (and Mexico).

At the signing of a minimal seven year contract in Seoul on Monday, the governor of the South Cholla province, Park Joon-young, said: ''We competed with seven countries including Russia to host the formula one grand prix here.'

Indeed, reports that Russia was still eyeing formula one have waned in the last six months, and sources describe that the last attempt - championed by billionaire Roman Abramovich - did founder.

Since F1 cannot meet the world demand for races, is Champ Car prepared to step into Russia?  At one time a group was trying to bring a Champ Car street race to St. Petersburg, Russia, but it never materialized.  Now that Russia's hopes for an F1 race are over (F1 schedule is full - no room for anymore new races) will there be renewed interest for the Champ Car race?  Perhaps, but whomever takes Will Wilson's place as head of marketing (his last day with Champ Car was this past Friday)  must be prepared to market Champ Car as a true global sports property, and Champ Car must provide him/her with the requisite marketing budget.

07/03/06 Ron Dennis said the F-1 schedule will include Mexico and Korea by 2009 and he expects a race in Russia within the next five years. Indy Star 

[Editor's Note: The big boys, NASCAR and F1, will fight over every possible sponsor dollar available in Mexico in the coming years.  Champ Car will likely drop the Monterrey event from its schedule in 2007 and if it does not put a renewed focus on Mexico soon, it could end up losing the entire Mexican market.  When Joe Heitzler and his team were stationed in Mexico full-time looking after that race the attendance and sponsorship for the CART/Champ Car event was huge.  Once he and his team were yanked out of Mexico, the floor dropped out of the Mexican market for Champ Car.  You cannot manage a business from 5,000 miles away.  Not having a Mexican driver capable of winning races did not help Champ Car's cause either.  Why isn't Salvador Duran in a car yet?]
Ferrari engine to change Red Bull teams  (GMM) Jean Todt says discussions about possibly moving the 2007 Ferrari customer engine deal from Red Bull Racing to Toro Rosso are still taking place.

The Ferrari boss was believed to have answered 'no' to the energy drink company's request to alter the contract, after Red Bull penned a separate supply deal with Renault.

But he admitted in Shanghai that the question is not yet resolved, amid suggestions that Red Bull would prefer to transfer Todt's V8 power plants to the sister team.

''We have been discussing,'' the Frenchman told reporters on Sunday.

''In the meantime we have signed an agreement for 2007 with Spyker, and in the coming days we will keep discussing with the Red Bull organization.''

Principal Todt, meanwhile, rejected internet reports that said the Spyker contract includes the supply of Ferrari engines for Spyker road cars.

He insisted: ''The agreement is only formula one, exclusively formula one.''

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