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Gas prices to fall below $1 per gallon
Oil prices hit four-year lows Friday as employers cut the highest number of jobs in 34 years. The continuing decline in prices is so dramatic and so sudden that it is raising the prospect that gas prices could soon fall below $1 a gallon.

The worst jobs data in 34 years on Friday just added more fuel to the deepening global recession as U.S. employers slashed a far worse-than-expected 533,000 jobs in November and the unemployment rate rose to a 15-year high of 6.7 percent.

A gallon of gasoline can be had for 50 cents less than it cost just last month, and people are starting to talk about $1 gas.

Granted, gas prices are a long way off from that magic number last seen in March 1999 when prices were at 97 cents a gallon, according to motor club AAA. Prices at the pump fell 1.6 cents overnight to $1.773 nationally, according to AAA, the Oil Price Information Service and Wright Express.

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track news

Which track will lose Cup date for 2nd date at Kansas? UPDATE #3 Kansas Speedway will not receive a second Sprint Cup race in 2010 because the track’s parent company, International Speedway Corp., is going to have to reapply for the license to build a Hard Rock Hotel & Casino on the property.

Because of the current economic climate, ISC says it couldn’t build the entire $705 million complex by 2011 as required by its agreement with the Lottery Gaming Facility Review Board when it was awarded the license in September. As part of the agreement, ISC pledged to do everything possible to move a second Cup date to Kansas.

Because ISC must go through the bidding process again, even if it is successful in obtaining the casino license, it does not expect to have enough time to make a request for a second Kansas Cup date in 2010, ISC spokesman Wes Harris confirmed Friday. The original process took 18 months.

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IndyCar team to fold? UPDATE KV Racing Technology has every intention of being a better IndyCar Series team in 2009 even though it appears its primary sponsor, Team Australia, won't return.

Mark Johnson, the general manager of the Indianapolis-based team, said today that team co-owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Jimmy Vasser have assured him "we're going racing" next season.

"The edict has been, let's improve our team," Johnson said.

The team hasn't named a driver for either of its two cars, but it seems fair to say that Oriol Servia and Will Power will be considered. Servia finished ninth in the standings with four top-five finishes in IndyCar Series races (he was also fifth at Long Beach, the final Champ Car World Series event). Power was dominating the street course race in Surfers Paradise, Australia, from the pole when his car struck a barrier.

Johnson, who works with the owners in sponsorship issues, didn't reveal any details of the 2009 program, but he insisted that "we're encouraged."

"We have more things going on that we've ever had at this point," he said.

KV has even hired four people since the end of the regular season, including two in the engineering department. Indy Star

10/30/08 If the Surfers IndyCar race gets axed, Team Australia will be no more in the IRL.

Before this year's IndyCar race in Surfers, the Australian newspaper Gold Coast Bulletin quoted Gore as saying: "I just hope that Tony George and the rest of his boys of the IRL see sense and recognize that this is probably like throwing away the Indy 500. … It is far and away their second-biggest race. They probably need to hand out corncobs at some of the races to get people to some of them. I can tell you now if there's no IRL on the Gold Coast, there's no Team Australia," Gore added. "I have invested $20 million into this event and this team and flying the Australian flag, and made a significant contribution to the state and the country. Hopefully we can win it this year so if I do have to walk away, I can say we that have achieved what we set out to do."

The team did not win the race after Will Power crashed out while leading and things don't look good that the race will get added to the 2009 schedule, so PKV Racing could be down to one car in 2009 unless another sponsor materializes.


BMW staying committed to F1 for now
After the news of the immediate withdrawal of Honda from the pinnacle of motorsport, several other manufacturers are making statements on the subject. Just like Toyota yesterday, BMW states that it is still fully committed to Formula One.  Dr. Klaus Draeger, Member of the Board of Management of BMW AG, Development

"It is with regret that we learnt of Honda’s decision. It has no bearing on BMW’s involvement in Formula One.

"Our F1 involvement is an integral part of the company strategy. There is no better platform than Formula One for demonstrating our brand values. BMW, moreover, makes targeted use of the Formula One project as a technology accelerator for series production.

"With the BMW Sauber F1 Team, we have from the start focused on high efficiency and have achieved our successes with a compact and powerful team. The cost-benefit ratio is commensurately positive. The measures now proposed by FOTA for significant cost cuts starting as early as season 2009 are a further important contribution."


3 new engine suppliers may sign up with IRL UPDATE #3 Hearing from another source that Porsche is coming to the IRL in 2011 and this source thinks Roger Penske is behind it and his team may be the factory team.

12/04/08 In an XM Radio Powershift interview yesterday Terry Angstadt said he and other IRL officials are going to Germany (which goes along with rumor that Porsche and Audi are coming) on Dec 18th for more discussions on the new IndyCar engine formula, and that some people would be flying up from Italy as well, which supports the rumor that Italian manufacturer Alfa Romeo also was coming in.  He also said the new formula would definitely be turbocharged, but that whether it was a V6 or straight 4 engine was still up in the air.

10/12/08 Porsche and Alfa Romeo didn't have much success the last time they tried Indy cars but apparently both are seriously considering coming back to the Indianapolis 500 and IndyCar series. SPEEDTV.com has learned that Porsche, Alfa and Audi were the three engine manufacturers at last month's meeting here and all have shown interest in joining Honda in the series starting in 2011.

There has been very little information available about which manufacturers attended the second engine forum at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway but reliable sources indicate these three motorsports mainstays like the idea of designing a turbocharged, inline, 4-cylinder engine. More at SPEEDTV.com

09/29/08 A report on the German motorsport-total.com website says that representatives of the motorsport department of Porsche have attended the recent meetings in the USA to discuss the future engine rules for the IRL Indy car series.

The reports quotes Porsche’s Wolfgang Dürheimer as saying, “We see the engine question in the IndyCar series as an enormous opportunity.”

Although no precise details of the future regulation have been revealed one proposal is thought to be a 1.5 liter turbocharged engine with a 1.5 bar boost limit. This says motorsport-total.com fits with Dürheimer and Porsche’s view as to how motorsport should evolve in the future in the engine, "Fewer cylinders, less capacity and a turbocharger."


Two more teams could pull plug on F1
In the wake of the shock decision by Honda to pull out of Formula One, Max Mosley, the president of the FIA, issued a dire warning yesterday that two more manufacturers could quit the sport as the credit crunch deepens in the coming weeks.

As Formula One was trying to come to terms with the unexpected move by Honda to withdraw from the world’s most expensive and prestigious championship and put its Northamptonshire-based team up for sale with the danger that up to 700 people could lose their jobs, Mosley said that Formula One had better heed this warning or face the consequences.

“The problem is that all I have are rumors and one shouldn’t really work on rumors,” the FIA president said at a hastily arranged press conference, amid suggestions in Japan that Toyota has not ruled out following Honda’s lead. “But I think, as a matter of logic, it is very likely that we will lose another manufacturer or two unless we can demonstrate to them that the present level of expenditure in Formula One is going to cease.

“If we are going to be realistic, we have to assume that all the car manufacturers, when they start cost-cutting, shutting factories and letting people off, will look at Formula One and they will ask themselves the question, ‘Do we want to continue?’ And only they can answer that question, but we can be quite certain that it will be asked.”

Mosley’s comments came on a black day for the sport when the global economic downturn, which has led to car sales plummeting in the United States, hit Formula One where almost none had expected it, as Honda stunned fans and its paddock rivals by confirming that it is selling its team and that it will be wound up if a buyer cannot be found by the start of next season. London Times


Button to land Toro Rosso seat?
Franz Tost, the Toro Rosso team principal, is known to have a high opinion of the 28 year old Brit Jenson Button having worked with him when he drove for the Williams BMW squad during his formula one debut season in 2000. Sources close to the Faenza based team suggested today that Button could be invited by Tost to test one of their STR02s, in which Sebastian Vettel won the rain soaked Italian grand prix at Monza in September, at the three day test session scheduled for Spain's Jerez circuit from December 10-12.

Button, who took time out to thank the Honda workforce at Brackley today after the Japanese team said it was pulling out of the sport, would not be drawn into speculation about his future plans, though he did say Honda's withdrawal "came as much of a shock to me as everyone else".


Honda to pull out of F1 UPDATE #2 We are now able to confirm from our inside sources that this rumor is 'fact', the Honda F1 team is shutting down.  Who will be next to see the light that the cost for F1 is ludicrous?  A withdrawal by Honda will leave Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello out of drives.  The news would be a blow to the apparent incumbent Bruno Senna, nephew of the late Ayrton Senna, who has tested for the Honda team and was rumored to be replacing Barrichello. Mark C.

12/04/08 This rumor is upgraded to strong now.  Multiple sources are now reporting that Honda Racing F1 is being put up for sale and that if the sale is not completed by Christmas the team will be closed down.

12/04/08 Honda Motor announced yesterday that its sales in the United States in November had fallen by 32% in comparison to a year ago. This was around the same drop as Toyota reported on Tuesday. The Honda company share price in Tokyo fell nearly five percent after the announcement. The drop in US sales takes the company back to where it was in 2000 and is the biggest drop in 27 years. Honda has already decided to freeze its plan to increase production capacity in Turkey and will delay plant construction in India by at least one year.

Honda recently announced that it is to cut production at its plant in Swindon and that this will be mothballed in February and March next year as the company struggles to cope with slowing demand for its products. The company says that there are no plans for redundancies but is offering early retirement packages in the UK.

On Thursday afternoon we received a flurry of reports that Honda F1 personnel have suddenly started applying for jobs in large numbers. We have been trying to contact Honda Racing F1 this afternoon but have thus far been unable to reach anyone. There are also reports of a decision having been taken to introduce significant budget cuts and voluntary redundancies at the Brackley team. Grandprix.com

[Editor's Note: Perhaps getting tired of looking inferior by running at the back of the grid, Honda has decided to save a lot of money that could be put to good use in places like the IRL where it can actually win a race and have their product look good.]


Daytona 500 in 3D?
Fox Sports Chairman David Hill says Fox hopes to let theatergoers use 3D glasses to watch February's NASCAR Daytona 500. Hill says sports in 3D is "fabulous," and high-def TV "has just been a steppingstone" to get to 3D. But even though TV sets already being sold are 3D-ready, he says don't expect TV networks to lead the way. USA Today


Mosley may ram standard engines down F1's throat
Standard specifications engines could be forced in if Formula 1 teams cannot find a suitable alternative.

Max Mosley could force through 'standard engines' if Formula 1 teams cannot come to an agreement over how to drastically cut costs in the sport.

Formula 1 representatives are due to meet in the Swiss city next week for the FIA World Motor Sport Council to discuss a variety of ways to cut costs in the sport, although it is the specter of having a standard engine supply that is likely to dominate proceedings.

Mosley is proposing that the current 2.4-litre V8 engines are replaced with 1.8-litre turbocharged units, a move that has already sparked criticism from two-time F1 champion Fernando Alonso, who has threatened to retire from the sport if these rules are introduced.

Nonetheless, Mosley insists this will be implemented as early as 2011 if the teams cannot agree a convincing package to keep costs down. The consequence of this would be far reaching as the engines would expect to use 30 per cent less fuel, thus probably negating the need for refueling during a race. Subsequently, this will see the cars be designed differently to how they are now.

"The goal of the meeting is to define a common proposal for the future at short and medium term," Ferrari spokesman Luca Colajanni told the Guardian. "A lot has been defined for 2009, more is to come for 2010 and 2011 to reduce costs and improve the show. These are the leading principles." Yahoo! Sports


Sadler to lose crew chief to Reutimann UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Rodney Childers was officially announced Wednesday as Reutimann’s crew chief for 2009, taking over the job from Ryan Pemberton. Childers joins MWR from Gillett Evernham Motorsports, where he previously served as crew chief for Elliott Sadler.

"This is a great opportunity," said Childers, entering his fifth season as a crew chief on the Sprint Cup level. "When I heard the position was available, I looked into it because I really liked the idea of working with David. We have the same type of personality, and as I see the progress MWR has made, I see it as a place where I could have a long future. Their relationship with Toyota also attracted me because it is easy to see their commitment to NASCAR.

"David really burst onto the scene this past year and has proven that he can do this,"  Childers added. "He is comfortable and feels like he's as good as anyone on the track, and that's really important."

Reutimann is hopeful he and Childers can maintain the momentum the No. 00 Toyota team had at the end of the 2008 season.

"I am looking forward to picking up with Rodney where Ryan and I left off," Reutimann said. "The team built a lot of momentum during the latter part of the season. We've just got to build upon that. I feel like we have improved a great deal. If we can continue to position ourselves in the top-10, the top-fives will come and ultimately our first win."

12/03/08 Rodney Childers will leave Gillett Evernham Motorsports, where he was crew chief for Elliott Sadler, to become David Reutimann's crew chief at Michael Waltrip Racing, according to sources familiar with the situation. An announcement should come later this week.


Raikkonen house to go on the block
Formula One driver Kimi Raikkonen was Wednesday reported to be planning to sell one of his homes in the Finnish capital Helsinki, news reports said. Tabloid Iltalehti reported that the eight-bedroom house was up for sale for 14.5 million euros (18.3 million dollars).

Raikkonen, who won the Formula One title in 2007, was reported to live mainly in Switzerland but said to own at least three other properties in the Helsinki area.

The Finnish driver a few years ago paid 9.5 million euros for the 526 square meter-house on the island suburb Kaskisaari. The property will not be open for public showing and according to the report some foreign embassies have expressed some interest in it.


Bob Jenkins to do IndyCar broadcasts
Rumor has it that Bob Jenkins will do the “play by play” for the 13 IndyCar races on Versus in 2009.  He will be joined in the booth by two other announcers and three pit reporters.


GM almost out of cash
General Motors Corp. could run short of the cash it needs to operate if Congress doesn’t approve $4 billion in loans this month, the automaker said today in a 30-page report requesting federal aid.

“The first $4 billion is crucial,” President and Chief Operating Officer Fritz Henderson said. “Absent support, we can’t continue to operate."

GM is asking the federal government for a $12-billion term loan and a $6-billion line of credit to ensure adequate conditions through 2009.

The automaker is requesting $4 billion to ensure “minimum liquidity levels through Dec. 31.” And said it plans to ask for up to $4 billion to ensure adequate liquidity balances through January and a third draw of up to $2 billion in the “February-March” time frame, based on recent market developments for a total draw of $10 billion by the end of the first quarter.

That plan is based on expected U.S. total vehicle sales of 12 million next year.

However, if the industry were to worsen 10.5 million sales next year, he said, the automaker would need more aid, so it has also requested the federal government make available a $6-billion line of credit to ensure liquidity should U.S. auto sales be even worse than expected.

[Editor's Note:  And how does GM expect to pay back this huge loan given it has had to sell off some of its moneymaking divisions and car sales that will not pick up for a very long time?]


Alonso threatens to walk away from sport
Fernando Alonso has warned he could walk away from Formula One if plans to introduce a standard engine for all teams go ahead from 2010.  The sport's governing body, the International Automobile Federation (FIA), wants to make the rule change as part of its cost-cutting measures.  But Renault's double world champion said: "If they approve a single engine that would be the last straw.  It would be time to start thinking about retirement."


Denial of a government bailout for automakers could spell doom for NASCAR
Executives from General Motors, Chrysler and Ford will return to Congress Tuesday to present plans for a recovery and again ask for a financial bailout.

Some economists are predicting that should the automakers fail there will be a ripple affect across the entire American financial landscape.

But published reports suggest that NASCAR, which heavily relies on the Big Three for sponsorship marketing and team support, could be in trouble if the bailout is denied as well.

The television partners have already approached the sanctioning body in an attempt to find ways to cut costs.

According to Fox News, the sport could be set back “30 years” if the Big Three went bankrupt and pulled all their cars and sponsorships. Late last month GM ended its endorsement deal with golf superstar Tiger Woods, in part to save money. Ford had earlier announced their intention to withdraw factory support from the Truck Series in 2009.

“We’re optimistic that Congress will help support the automakers and help them get through this very difficult time,” Andrew Giangola, Director of Business Communications for NASCAR, told Fox News. “It would affect NASCAR if the manufacturers were not with us. It would [be] very strange to watch NASCAR and not see Chevy and Ford and Dodge racing around the track.”  Cupscene.com


Berger, Tost, Ascanelli to Force India? UPDATE (GMM)  Gerhard Berger has stridently denied reports he could become involved with the Force India team.

Following the withdrawal of his 50 per cent share in Toro Rosso, it was reported he - and other colleagues of the Red Bull sister team - might switch his allegiance to the squad run by Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya.

Responding to the speculation, he told the Austrian news agency APA: "There is nothing to it.  There have been no discussions, and I have no interest."

Despite denying the Force India link, the former grand prix winner and ex-BMW motor sport director said he would not exclude a return to the formula one paddock at some point in the future.

"No, no.  On the contrary, I am open to something else.  Formula one is and remains my life."

But as for the current rumors, he said "nothing is on the table at the moment".

12/01/08 (GMM)  Gerhard Berger could be set for a rapid return to formula one, mere days after it was announced he has pulled his 50 per cent share out of the Toro Rosso team.

According to speculation in the German-speaking press, the 49-year-old Austrian, and his countryman and Toro Rosso team boss Franz Tost, have been linked with Force India.

Force India, led by the Indian billionaire Vijay Mallya, recently inked a wide-ranging technical partnership with McLaren-Mercedes, and ousted chiefs Colin Kolles and Mike Gascoyne.

The Munich newspaper TZ said Berger, a former McLaren driver, has met several times with F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone in the past few weeks.

It is suggested that Berger could bring with him from Toro Rosso, which is likely to be sold or closed down by Red Bull, the highly experienced engineer Giorgio Ascanelli.

The final rumor, meanwhile, is that Berger could become the rising German talent Sebastian Vettel's manager.  The pair collaborated closely at Toro Rosso in 2008 and are said keen to remain united.

Vettel has previously insisted he does not need a manager, but told TZ: "If the right person comes along, I would not say no."


Mansells to run LeMans series in LMP1
Nigel Mansell has given the Ginetta-Zytek LMP1 machine a big thumbs up after testing alongside the slower of his two sons, Leo, and STRAKKA Racing pair Nick Leventis and Peter Hardman at Valencia.

While younger brother Greg looks set to continue his single-seater career with Ultimate Signature in the World Series by Renault, Leo - who hasn't shown the same open-wheel potential - looks set to move to sportscars, in either the European or American Le Mans Series.

"I want to race again, especially with Leo - maybe Greg, too - but it's going to be a commercial decision," he told Britain's Telegraph newspaper after the Estoril test, ""My heart says go for it, but my head says 'hold on, it's a tough environment, who's going to pay for it?'.

"We're testing tires with a great little team, but it's under-resourced, and to take on the big teams we would need some serious funding. Am I coming back to race? It's not that simple. I've been impressed by Leo - surprised, even - and the car is great to drive. But to tell you now that we're coming back, that would be too early. There's a lot of thinking to do." 


New series in works with Panoz Champ Cars UPDATE #12 We spoke to Kevin Kalkhoven today to clarify what is really going on with the Cosworth engines that Ben Johnston wants to use for his Green Prix USA series.  Kalkhoven told AutoRacing1.com, "The conspiracy rumors that Jerry Forsythe and I tried to stop Ben Johnston from buying the old Champ Car Cosworth engines for his Green Prix USA series, or to stop his series from racing, are not true.  They are high performance race engines that cannot be used with just any old parts.  We have offered to lease them to Johnston and maintain them in a safe and reliable working order at a very reasonable price."

11/27/08 On Tuesday, an auction was to be held in Indianapolis to sell the 93 turbocharged Cosworth engines. This auction was ordered by the judge after Ben Johnston negotiated for months with the Trustee and lawyers for the estate, and submitted a purchase offer of $250,000, which was recommended to the court by the Trustee and subject to approval by the Judge. The Judge called for an auction, presumably to ensure the maximum sale value for the asset, and held a hearing November 18 to establish certified bidders and several emerged, notably Aquarium, Inc, aka Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe.

The bidding on Tuesday would have quite possibly have reached into the millions, but that did not happen.

Mr. Johnston arrived at the assigned chamber in Indianapolis Southern District Court at 9:30 AM awaiting the 10:00 AM hearing that had been widely noticed and published on the internet and in court documents. But incredibly, the meeting time and location had been changed sometime since the hearing on November 18. Not delayed or postponed with notice, but held earlier-- in a different location.

Now that Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe have thrown their hat in the ring with Tony George and the IRL, they probably do not want a competing open wheel series to again emerge and dilute the efforts the IRL is trying to make in restoring some of the luster in open wheel racing in the USA.  So it seems Mr. Johnston has been outsmarted and if he is to start his Green Prix USA series he is going to have to contract with another entity to supply engines.

11/09/08 A little further research is a Federal Bankruptcy filing from the trustee.  That is not a rumor.  It IS a sale.  The only thing that could stop it from going through is either the Federal Bankruptcy Judge denies the trustee’s motion or another buyer steps up and delivers certified funds in excess of the $250k SALE that is ON THE BOOKS, both highly unlikely to happen for obvious reasons.  However, the engines come without ECU’s, the software to manage them, or the computer hardware needed to interface/manage them.

As for another rich guy stepping up to form a series…..heck the IRL only has a dozen cars confirmed for 2009 and the rest of the grid is tenuous at best.  Pook had $100M in cash in the bank and could not get in place a series to become viable, how is Ben Johnston, who is not as wealthy as either Kevin Kalkhoven or Gerald Forsythe, much less someone like John Menard (the wealthiest individual in racing in the WORLD)?

11/09/08 Rumor has it that Ben Johnston will pick up the 93 former Champ Car 2.65 liter Turbo Cosworth V8 engines at pennies on the dollar from this auction, detune them further, place them in the Panoz Champ Cars he is buying and go racing.

10/19/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today if one can believe Green Prix USA's website.

Ben Johnston
To the right is a photo of Ben Johnston.

10/09/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today.  Autosport Magazine reports that the fleet of Panoz Champ Cars could become part of a new series set up by the likely buyout of the Atlantic Championship.

Atlanta-based Ben Johnston, who raced in a handful of Atlantic races as an amateur in 2005, has a handshake agreement to buy the Atlantic series from Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe. He also revealed that he planned a new single-seater series around the Panoz DP01 and the final Reynard Champ Car.

Johnston, whose fortune is founded in a media-buying company, explained that he already had 17 of the final-generation Reynard Champ Cars and was in the process of buying as many of the DP01s as possible. These will be combined in a two-class series dubbed 'Green Prix' that he intends to get off the ground next year.

Johnston, who plans to use Cosworth engines in both types of car, said: "I intend to create an arrive-and-drive type schedule where I own and prepare all the cars. The plan is to tune the engines in the Panoz down to 650bhp and the Reynards down to 500bhp."  The first round is scheduled to take place next March in Savannah, Georgia.

10/08/08 At the Atlantic Series awards ceremony, Ben Johnston was introduced as the new owner of the series to a standing ovation among the teams. A formal announcement along with the 2009 schedule is expected within the next few weeks. Both Mazda and Cooper expressed their intent to continue their partnership in the longest running road-racing series in North America.

10/08/08 Some more information about 53 year old Ben Johnston - he is President, CEO and Founder of MBI Media Brokers and where did Champ Car fail - in marketing and media/PR.  Inc 500 listed them as one of the fastest growing private companies in the USA with $49.5M in revenue in 2007.  However, growth slowed somewhat between 2006 and 2008.  MBI creates and negotiates media strategies designed to dramatically increase clients' market share, revenues and profits. They source advantageous advertising opportunities, negotiate the lowest rates and manage results of intelligent advertising campaigns. He did drive Champ Car Atlantic cars back in 2005 for Blackforest Motorsports.  Although he would have been a good addition to the defunct Champ Car Series, filling in their major weakness, we see nothing so far that indicates to us he has the resources to start a new series from scratch unless he is able to round up some significant financial investors and sponsors.

10/07/08 This rumor is back up to 'speculation' from 'false' as we are being told there is more to this rumor than meets the eye. We are being told that the ownership of the Atlantic Series changed hands at Road Atlanta this past weekend and this transaction is some way related to what is planned for this new series.  Stay tuned, this could get interesting......

10/06/08 This rumor is downgraded to 'false'.  AutoRacing1.com did learn that Ben Johnston did buy one car, a Reynard.  He actually owned Choice Point, an employee drug testing company that he recently sold.  There were only show cars and the HVM car sold at auction.  There are 20+ cars and they belong to ten or so owners. Forsythe is not involved in any fashion.

10/06/08 There is some question as to just how many cars Johnston bought. It does not sound like he got his hands on anywhere near enough of the Panoz chassis at the auction, so unless he decides to have Panoz build more, this rumor may be all BS.

10/06/08 Rumor has it that Ben Johnston of Alpharetta, Georgia, the racing hobbyist who outbid all others for those 20 surplus Panoz Champ Car chassis at the  bankruptcy liquidation auction may be planning to start an eco-friendly race series in 2010.  The rumor is that the cars would use some sort of KERS or hybrid system and that Gerald Forsythe could have some involvement from the power industry that he is in.  Whether the Cosworth engines will be used in any way shape or form remains to be seen.

We also hear Johnston had some interest in buying the Atlantic Series from Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe as well.  If any of this is true, it could mean that the Atlantics would serve as the feeder series.


Wimmer may have Daytona 500 ride
Scott Wimmer, a part-time racer for Richard Childress this year, won a Nationwide race and finished in the top ten eight times. He's a six-time winner in the Nationwide Series. However, he was cut loose by RCR Racing after the season. He spoke with some owners this week and would love to drive both Sprint Cup and Nationwide next year. Scott Wimmer: "I talked to a team about running Daytona 500 so hopefully I can make a start down there again and run a Nationwide Car. I might be running both series so it might be a real busy year next year." WAOW.com


Blaney's NASCAR Sprint Cup career over?
Dave Blaney
Dave Blaney knows he’ll be involved in racing in some capacity in 2009, but that’s speaking in general terms. It could be in NASCAR Sprint, Nationwide or Trucks series or it could be as overseer of his 14-year-old son’s super late-model short-track activities. Following the last of 36 Sprint Cup races at Homestead Miami Speedway on Nov. 16, the Hartford native reflected on the 2008 season, but, more painfully, gazed into auto racing’s crystal ball. “I’m ready for a break,” said Blaney, who finished 31st in the owners’ points standings.

“I’m glad it’s over.” The uncertainty of his place in NASCAR’s top tier is utmost on his mind. “It’s hard to tell what’s going to happen,” Blaney said of the status of Bill Davis Racing’s No. 22 team, which, following Homestead, laid off most of its employees. “The 22 team is kind of up in the air. It doesn’t have sponsorship for 2009.” If it sounds like the end, that’s understandable, but the door doesn’t appear to have closed completely. Blaney said he’d consider the second-tier Nationwide series or Craftsman [Trucks].

Read more & Comment...

Monteiro to buy GP2 team? UPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today - see Hot News item.

11/02/08 Tiago Monteiro has been officially connected with a deal to purchase an existing GP2 team. However, the former Formula One racer and current Official SEAT Driver for SEAT Sport in the official FIA WTCC Championship, has made a point of stopping certain rumors in their tracks and stressing that to date, nothing has been finalized.

"To cross over to the other side of pitwall and head the undertaking of a project such as this is very stimulating for a driver," explained the Portuguese racer. "It means that I will need to find partners as well as sporting and commercial solutions that will guarantee that the company can be competitive. But even if the negotiations are well advanced, it is important that everyone understands that nothing is finalized."

Tiago Monteiro hopes that his experience in motor sport will contribute to the overall success of this new project. GP2 is a open wheeler Championship whose popularity is continually increasing, with worldwide exposure and has been the stepping stone to Formula 1 since its creation in 2005, with young talented drivers such as Lewis Hamilton, Nico Rosberg, Timo Glock, Nelsinho Piquet and Heikki Kovalainen to reach the pinnacle of Motorsports.

The GP2 Championship also enjoys exceptional press coverage thanks to a common race calendar with the Formula One series. As in any commercial process of this magnitude, Tiago Monteiro must respect the discretion of his current negotiations, but will reveal the full details of the situation in the coming weeks.  Monteiro PR

11/01/08 (GMM) Tiago Monteiro, the former formula one driver from Portugal, is reportedly in talks to buy a GP2 team.

The 32-year-old, who raced for the Silverstone based Jordan and Midland teams in 2005 and 2006, has been linked in internet reports with a buyout of the struggling Spanish team BCN Competicion.

In response to the speculation, Barcelona based BCN confirmed in a statement that it is "discussing a commercial operation that will be decided before end of November 2008".

Monteiro, now racing in the world touring car championship for SEAT, famously drove to the podium at the highly controversial six-car US grand prix of 2005.


Webber could face charges for bike crash UPDATE This rumor is downgraded to 'false'.  Charges will not be laid against Mark Webber following the Australian driver's cycling crash last week, Tasmanian police have confirmed.

Inspector Glen Woolley was quoted by a local newspaper on Thursday as suggesting either the formula one driver, or the driver of the four-wheel drive vehicle that struck his mountain bike head-on, could be charged with a traffic offence and summoned to court.

But in a subsequent statement, Tasmania Police said that while an investigation into the crash is ongoing, charges will not be laid.

Red Bull driver Webber, 32, is still recovering from surgery on the two broken bones in his right leg in a Hobart hospital, but is targeting a return to his single seater in February.

"At the moment there is pressure and swelling whenever I stand up.

"There is talk it will be like that for the next two or three weeks and come the first week of February we should be on target for me to be able to walk unaided," he told the BBC.

11/27/08 (GMM)  Tasmanian police could charge the injured Mark Webber, if it is found the Australian formula one driver caused his head-on cycling crash with a four-wheel drive on a public road last weekend.

The 32-year-old Red Bull racer is still recovering from surgery for his badly broken right leg in a Hobart hospital, but the local newspaper The Mercury said police were considering formal charges either against Webber or the driver of the car.

Inspector Glen Woolley confirmed: "We must look at the criminality of it to determine whether or not there was a statutory offence -- a traffic offence."

He said it is possible that charges will be laid against "the driver or the bike rider".

"It could be (for) inattention or fail to keep left.  We look at the criminality of it," Woolley added.

He explained that, should Webber be charged, he would receive a summons to court.

Geoff Donohue, director of the outdoor adventure challenge and involved with the driver's management, defended Webber.

"He's been a wonderful ambassador to the state, taking the message of Tasmania globally," he said.


Why SunTrust Racing really switched to Ford UPDATE A GM spokesman declined to comment on a report Wednesday that the automaker was considering whether to eliminate its Pontiac, Saab and Saturn brands as a way to cut costs and improve its chances of getting as much as $12 billion in emergency federal aid.  The Bloomberg report, quoting anonymous sources, said selling or dropping brands could help GM save cash and avoid running out of money, which the automaker has said it is in danger of doing early next year. In June, GM said it was reviewing the Hummer brand for possible sale.

11/26/08 In a surprise move this week Wayne Taylor's SunTrust Racing announced they were switching from Pontiac engines to Ford.  But why?  Is it because GM is looking to deep-six the Pontiac brand?

General Motors Corp., working to cut costs to win $12 billion in government loans, is studying whether to shed its Saturn, Saab and Pontiac brands in addition to Hummer, people familiar with the matter said.

Selling or dropping brands would save money and reduce overlap as the biggest U.S. automaker struggles to avoid running out of operating cash by year’s end, said the people, who didn’t want to be identified because no decision has been made. GM’s other U.S. brands are Chevrolet, GMC, Buick and Cadillac.

The review of the 82-year-old Pontiac division, one of GM’s earliest, shows the scope of the survival plan being given to Congress on Dec. 2 to show GM can repay federal aid. GM also seeks to cut debt levels and reduce costs for active and retired union workers, people have said.

Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner is under a deadline set by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Congress has scheduled a Dec. 5 hearing on a $25 billion auto-industry rescue and may vote the week of Dec. 8.

A GM spokesman, Steve Harris, declined to comment on what may be included in the Detroit-based automaker’s plan.


Barrichello has run his last F1 race UPDATE (GMM)  Rubens Barrichello has confirmed that Toro Rosso is one of his options to remain on the formula one grid in 2009.

The veteran Brazilian is hoping to be retained by Honda, who at the recent Barcelona test did not call up Barrichello but instead evaluated the young GP2 drivers Bruno Senna and Lucas di Grassi.

With his seat in clear jeopardy, it emerged that Toro Rosso, the Ferrari powered sister Red Bull team, might be an option for the 36-year-old former Ferrari driver.

According to the German website sport1.de, he confirmed his links with the Faenza based squad.

Along with his hopes of staying at Honda, Barrichello is quoted as saying: "That is what is motivating me at the moment.

"I love what I do and I still have a lot of energy," he added.

Rubens Barrichello
Rubens Barrichello will not be testing for the Honda team this week in Barcelona and that seems to suggest that the Brazilian veteran may have had his last race with the team. There have been a few odd rumors about Rubens doing negotiating with Scuderia Toro Rosso but at 36, with a record number of Grands Prix behind him, Barrichello may be able to sell his experience but has had trouble proving his commitment to Honda, despite having had a long relationship with Ross Brawn at Ferrari.

The team has now announced its testing roster and Jenson Button and test driver Wurz will complete the main test program focusing on the 2009 rule changes and slicks tires, while Brazilians Lucas Di Grassi and Bruno Senna will each do a day and a half of testing to evaluate their performance with a view to deals for 2009. Grandprix.com


Camping World to sponsor truck series? UPDATE #4 We hear that Camping World is paying just $2.5M per year to be title sponsor of the Truck Series.  That is how bad off (desperate) the Truck Series is.

10/23/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' with today's announcement.

10/23/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today.  Camping World is expected to be announced as the replacement for Craftsman as title sponsor for the NASCAR Truck Series later today.

NASCAR has scheduled a teleconference with Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Brian France and Camping World Chairman and CEO Marcos Lemonis for this afternoon.

The subject of the teleconference was not released. But a Camping World spokesman said Wednesday that the company was still negotiating for the series sponsorship and hoping “to have good news very soon.”

09/26/08 NASCAR is close to a multiyear agreement with Camping World to sponsor its Truck series beginning next season, the Observer and ThatsRacin.com have learned.

Some details remain to be worked out before the deal is completed, multiple sources said Thursday.

Steve O'Donnell, NASCAR's vice president of race operations, said the selection process remained ongoing, but that Camping World was "one of a few" companies still under serious consideration.

Camping World would take over for Craftsman, which has sponsored the Truck series since its inception in 1995 but announced it would end its sponsorship after this season. NASCAR officials have worked feverishly in recent months to nail down a new sponsor before the start of next season.

Financial terms of the deal were not known, but Camping World's move may come with an extra cost.

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Family could lose control of Ford
When Bill Ford Jr. walked onto the factory floor at the Rouge plant last month to inaugurate production of the new Ford F-150 pickup, every worker in the building stood up and cheered -- a testament to the power the Ford family still has over the company that bears its name.

But there are new threats to that power today.

As Congress weighs a historic bailout of the U.S. automobile industry, some on Capitol Hill have suggested that bankruptcy is a better option. Detroit's Big Three automakers have bristled at those suggestions and repeatedly insisted that bankruptcy is not an option they would willingly consider.

But Ford Motor Co. has even more reason than the rest to resist. A Chapter 11 filing would put the Ford family on par with other shareholders, stripping its Class B shares of the super-voting power that gives the family control of the company.

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F1 to unveil 'LG' as backer UPDATE This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today. As earlier predicted, the South Korean electronics giant LG on Wednesday was revealed as an official formula one sponsor.

"I don't like the word 'sponsor'," F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone insisted during a press conference in London.

"It makes it sound as though we need help, which is not the case.  What I'm much happier about is that we're able to use a lot of the technology from LG."

In what is believed to be an initially five year deal, beginning in 2009, LG will receive branding on the sport's international broadcasts and timing graphics, as well as marketing rights.

At the event on Wednesday, LG's chief marketing officer Dermot Boden admitted that the agreement is worth tens of millions of dollars.

He played down the questionable wisdom of pledging such sums in the midst of a global financial crisis.

"If you want to be successful, investing when there's a downturn is probably one of the best times to really build your brand," he claimed.

11/25/08 (GMM)  According to sources, formula one will announce an official sponsor at an event on Wednesday.

The event is slated to take place at London's five-star Landmark Hotel.

It is believed the sponsor in question, to pledge both a purely financial as well as technical input, is LG, the major South Korean electronics company.


Self-ban on testing contract?
Carl Edwards said a contract is circulating among teams that would impose a self-ban on testing. The deal would go beyond NASCAR's one-year moratorium at venues that host races in the top three series. "I've seen a contract that was written that (owner Jack Roush) said he's willing to sign, I'm willing to sign, that says if everyone will agree to this, then we won't test at all," Edwards said. "I think that's fine. That's great." Edwards favors two-day race weekends, though he knows it would cost tracks a day of gate receipts even as it saves teams travel expenses. His ideal weekend is "showing up and throwing the green flag."

"As long as everyone does the same thing, I mean, hell, what does everyone need all this practice for?" he asked. "…This is NASCAR Sprint Cup racing. We all know how to race. We've all been to these tracks before. Maybe you do a deal where guys who haven't been there before, they get a few hours of practice." St Petersburg Times


Will Bourdais return to Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing in '09?
Sebastien Bourdais may yet be dropped by the Toro Rosso team before the start of the new season, replaced by a ride-buyer with deeper pockets.

Should that happen the former Champ Car champion admits he has no backup plan regarding his future.

"I have no idea," he told the official F1 website when asked about his plan B.

"As far as I am concerned right now my priority is to stay here, but at some point I will have to make up my mind and take a potentially very difficult decision.

"In the meantime it is scary because I don't know what I'll be doing next year."

Speculation is that the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing IndyCar team would like nothing better than to have Bourdais back and have told Justin Wilson to look for another ride in case that were to happen.  Currently the team has sponsorship for just one car - McDonald's, which is said to be switching to the Graham Rahal team.


GM ends endorsement of Tiger, can NASCAR be far behind?
General Motors Corp. and popular professional golfer Tiger Woods said on Monday that they would end their endorsement deal at the end of the year.

GM, which has warned it will soon run short of cash and is asking the U.S. government for financial support amid the economic slowdown, and Woods, who is recovering from reconstructive knee surgery, called the arrangement "mutual and amicable."

They cited a desire by the golfer for more personal time with a second baby due in late winter, as well as a need for GM to cut costs as it struggles with declining demand in the U.S. market.

Can a termination of its NASCAR program be far behind?


Kyle Petty Heading to Daytona Prototypes Full Time? UPDATE #2 Kyle Petty took another big step towards racing in the Rolex 24 At Daytona and a possible full season in the Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16 Sunday, testing the No. 45 Orbit Racing InterMedia BMW Riley at the rechristened Palm Beach International Raceway.

Petty, who tested with the team at Daytona during Pirelli tire testing in October, ran more than 50 laps as he continues to make the adjustment from racing a NASCAR Sprint Cup Series stock car and the Grand-Am Daytona Prototype. IndyCar Series veteran Darren Manning did the initial installation on the car, with co-drivers Mike Riolo and Leo Hindery Jr. also sharing time at the wheel.

Going fast has not been a problem for Petty, an eight-time winner in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition. Slowing down has been difficult, though.

"Braking has been hard for me," Petty said. "Darren tried teaching me at Daytona until I ran into the tire wall. That was pretty exciting. When I ran a few laps here I told him, first I'm not brave enough, then I get stupid, so I have to back it up and figure out where I need to be, somewhere between ‘stupid' and ‘not brave enough.' Learning the braking is hard."

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Dennis dating Annabelle Bond - report
Ron Dennis gets a hot new girlfriend in Annabelle Bond
(GMM)  Nine months after announcing the end of his 22-year marriage, McLaren boss Ron Dennis is reportedly dating again.

The Briton, 61, is being linked with Annabelle Bond, a 39-year-old adventurer and activist, who in 2004 became the fourth woman to reach the summit of Mount Everest.

She is also the daughter of the British banker Sir John Bond, who is currently chairman of McLaren's title sponsor, Vodafone.

"She does know Ron," her spokesman confirmed to the Daily Telegraph.  "However, she is busy looking after her daughter, Isabella."


China may drop money losing F1 after 2010 - official UPDATE #2 (GMM)  Another official of China's annual formula one race has played down suggestions the grand prix in Shanghai might be in doubt beyond 2010.

Qiu Weichang, deputy director of the Shanghai Administration of Sports, said recently an "assessment" is taking place as to whether the current contract will be renewed.

F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone reacted by vowing to "help" China stay on the calendar.

But Leon Sun, a high ranking official of the Shanghai race's organizers Juss Events, believes the meaning of Qiu's comments about the loss-making and poorly attended grand prix was lost in translation.

"I would say it's likely it will stay after 2010," he clarified to Reuters.  "Formula one has only been here for five years.

"We think formula one is a very good product, a very good event for Shanghai city so at least from our company's point of view we want to continue promoting and building the event.

"Research shows there are more and more race fans in China, so I don't think we will say no to the formula one grand prix," he added.

Sun did, however, admit that more "internal discussions" will take place before contract renewal talks with Ecclestone begin.

11/16/08 (GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone seems keen that China retains its grand prix beyond the looming expiry of its contract.

An official of the loss-making event had said an "assessment" is taking place as to whether Shanghai will continue hosting formula one in 2011.

But Ecclestone, F1's chief executive, said Chinese officials have requested a contract extension be sent.

"We have a contract until 2010 with an option for five years after that," the 78-year-old told the Financial Times.

"We will talk to them about it, and meet up and see how we can help them," he added.

Ecclestone clarified that Qiu Weichang, who made the comments about the dubious future of the Chinese grand prix, works for the race promoter, rather than for the actual decision-making government.

11/14/08 (GMM)  Officials of the Chinese grand prix are unsure if they will seek to renew Shanghai's contract to host formula one races beyond 2010.

The metropolis built the bespoke Shanghai International Circuit at a cost of $365 million for its first race in 2004, but ticket sales have been poor.

Qiu Weichang, deputy director of the Shanghai Administration of Sports, suggested a decision about the loss-making event will be taken next year.

"We're doing the assessment.  By next year we should be able to give you an answer," he told the AFP news agency.

He did not seem keen to embrace Bernie Ecclestone's push for more night races in Asia.

While admitting that Singapore's inaugural floodlit event in September was interesting, Qui insisted that "we will decide based on our own situation what we're going to do to attract fans".


F1 to switch to new qualifying format
(GMM)  A proposal for a new qualifying format for formula one in 2009 could be tabled at the forthcoming meeting of the FIA's World Motor Sport Council.

According to widespread media sources, the new system - featuring a new session format, as well as possible prize-money and a point for pole position - is championed by the alliance of F1 teams, FOTA.

They have committed to discussing the proposal in more detail at a meeting early next month.

The website of the Spanish newspaper Marca reveals that, under the new system, all 20 cars would enter the circuit with low levels of fuel for a 14-lap sprint, with the slowest car eliminated after each lap.

During a short break, the surviving six cars will then return to the pits for new tires and fuel and then compete for pole position and a world championship point.

If agreed by FOTA, the proposal would then require ratification by the World Motor Sport Council.


Webber to be barred from future outdoor adventure challenges
(GMM)  There will be discussions about the future of Mark Webber's participation in his annual outdoor adventure challenges.

That is the admission of Geoff Donohue, the director of the 2008 event in Tasmania, and also involved with the 32-year-old's management team.

Webber, who drives for Red Bull, at the weekend badly broke his right leg in two places when he struck a car head-on during a mountain biking descent.

The Australian driver, who underwent surgery, is likely to be fit by the start of the 2009 season, but he could have to sit out the entire pre-season test period.

Despite the energy drink company Red Bull's association with extreme sports, it is suggested that Webber's contractual freedom to engage in dangerous activities could now come under review.

"It would be a stretch to say the event was in any kind of threat from that perspective but having said that, Mark is very loyal to his employer so I'm sure all of that will be discussed," Donohue told the Sydney newspaper Daily Telegraph.

"But if you look at other formula one drivers you will find they all do a variety of training that has risk."

Webber's father Alan, one of the first on the scene of the accident, has told Britain's Times newspaper that his son was lucky to escape even more serious injury.

It is believed that Webber's breaks to his tibia and fibula were compound (through the skin).  "It was messy," Alan Webber said from Hobart.

"Mark will have to stay in the hospital here for another four or five days.

"It's a question of whether he recuperates in Melbourne or comes up to our house in Queanbeyan, where he could use the Australian Institute of Sport to help aid his rehabilitation," he added.


GM circling the drain too UPDATE #2 General Motors Corp.'s board of directors does not consider bankruptcy protection a viable option to solve the company's financial troubles, but it has discussed Chapter 11 because it has a legal duty to do so, a spokesman said Saturday.

Century-old GM, an icon of American manufacturing, has been battered by a plunge in car sales as American consumers tighten their belts and shift away from the big moneymaking pickup trucks and SUVS that have long the staples of GM's lineup.

GM, which has slashed jobs and closed plants since early in the decade, has warned that it could run low on cash by the end of the year unless it gets a taxpayer-funded rescue from the government.

"The board has a responsibility to keep all options open considering the circumstances," said Vice President of Communications Tony Cervone. "Chapter 11 protection is not a viable option because it doesn't fundamentally address the issues at hand today."

The board, which has been meeting regularly by teleconference since the company's finances worsened, agrees with Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner that bankruptcy would be disastrous for the company, Cervone said. Wagoner has said it would scare away customers who would not make a big-ticket purchase from an automaker that is under court protection.

Instead, Cervone said the board supports Wagoner's strategy to seek congressional approval of low-interest government loans, getting the company through its liquidity problems until the U.S. auto market recovers and it can be profitable again, Cervone said.

"The board continues to support management and has continued to express support for management," Cervone said.

11/22/08 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today.  General Motors Corp.’s board of directors is willing to consider filing for bankruptcy protection, Reuters reports on its Web site, citing the Wall Street Journal.  The Journal, citing unnamed sources, said the board was willing to consider “all options” for GM, which has said it could be near the minimum amount of cash it needs to operate by the end of the year. The story said the board’s position on a potential filing put it in conflict with Chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner. Wagoner had told Congress this week that bankruptcy is not a viable option for the company because people wouldn’t buy vehicles from a bankrupt company.  Detroit Free Press

[Editor's Note: All three American manufacturers are already bankrupt, but their management is so bad they have not figured it out yet.  And you wonder why they are in such dire straits?]

11/09/08 General Motors Corp., for 77 years the world's largest automaker and an icon of American industry, revealed a dire financial outlook Friday that has the company teetering on the edge of bankruptcy.

Ford Motor Co. delivered its own grim forecast -- although not immediately as dire as GM's position.

Hemorrhaging cash and with sales dropping to 25-year lows last month, the Detroit automakers announced financial results that show they each are burning through more than $2 billion a month to maintain operations. GM warned that its cash reserves could sink below the minimum level it needs to operate by year's end unless it gets federal aid or can tap other resources.

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Bernie headed for billion dollar divorce UPDATE #3 Want to read a humorous interview with Bernie Ecclestone - read this.

11/21/08 Bernie said the news surprised him.  "Really?" he told the Daily Telegraph.  "Oh ... we will see.  I didn't even know she had a PR company.  You hear of things -- I must find out."

11/20/08 The wife of Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone has filed for divorce, it has been confirmed.  A spokeswoman for Slavica Ecclestone said the announcement had been prompted by media speculation.  This year's Sunday Times Rich List estimated her husband's personal fortune to be in excess of £2bn.  Mrs. Ecclestone will be represented by divorce lawyer Liz Vernon, who represented the wife of Arsenal and England footballer Ray Parlor in 2004.  She secured a deal which gave her client a third of her ex-husband's future earnings for four years.

Slavica (R) towers over Bernie Ecclestone (L) in both height and looks and will soon get billions from him in divorce, to be enjoyed by her next husband.  Their daughter Petra is in the middle.  Father Bernie looks like a midget compared to the woman in his life.
11/14/08  (GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone's wife has moved out of their Kensington (UK) home, reports on Friday said.

British newspapers including the Evening Standard and the Daily Mail claim the F1 chief executive could be facing a multi-billion dollar divorce, after Slavica Ecclestone moved into a flat overlooking the Thames owned by their daughter Petra.

Their split and divorce could be extremely complicated, given that it is believed most of 78-year-old Ecclestone's estimated $3.5 billion fortune is in his non-domiciled wife's name, for tax reasons.

The newspapers said Slavica, who is 28 years younger than Bernie and ten inches taller, moved out of their house while Ecclestone was in Brazil for the 2008 season finale.

The Evening Standard said Slavica has consulted with divorce lawyers.  It is believed Bernie would have to sue his wife to retrieve his fortune.

"I don't want to say anything.  You can talk to my husband," she said.

Bernie insists she moved out because of the noise of renovation work in the house next door.

He said: "She can't stand the noise.  I don't know if she wants a divorce or not."


Are Danica's days at AGR and the IRL numbered?
The SPEEDTV.com website has the following posted that raises some serious doubts about Danica Patrick's relationship with AGR long-term:

There have been some strange goings-on taking place over there the last two months. After Chicagoland, Danica cryptically referred to an impending announcement from AGR on her fan website which led to the logical speculation that AGR would be running A1GP and Danica would be driving the first race. Then about a week prior to the opening race at Zandvoort the posting on Danica’s website was pulled down and Charlie Kimball was hired for a “1 and Done” effort. Shortly after Zandvoort, Michael Andretti was quoted in a press release on A1GP’s website that both Danica and Marco would drive in A1GP for the season. Now over the weekend a story was published on Indycar.com stating that Marco would be driving the remainder of the season for Team USA. Then the story published on A1GP’s website quoting Michael Andretti’s statement saying Danica would participate in A1GP is then removed.

Now factor in the events of November 8-9 when Andretti Green tested former Formula 1 driver Frank Montagny for an unlikely 5th seat at the very same time that Danica and Pop just so happen to show up at Phoenix to “take in” a Nationwide Series race. If you remember back to the season Michael made an 11th hour blockbuster offer to keep Tony Kanaan. Did Michael make the decision to break the bank to keep TK knowing he would have to pay for it with other decisions? Would one of those decisions happen to be tossing Danica overboard after the 2009 season? It was stated in June that AGR and Danica would be opening talks for a new contract. In August Danica said she was happy where she was. Now we have actions that give the appearance of public posturing by both sides.

While Danica brings a lot of sponsorship to the team she is far from the fastest driver.  At the end of the day open wheel racing should be about winning, not looking pretty.  NASCAR will probably make a play for her pretty face in 2010 when her AGR contract is over.  With NASCAR's excellent TV package a lot more people will be exposed to Danica than with the IRL Versus deal, so Danica can demand a lot more money from her personal sponsors if she were in NASCAR.


Look for more ethanol bankruptcies
The ethanol industry is headed for a shakeout and consolidation as a record number of plants face bankruptcy, lenders attending the American Bankers Association's Agricultural Bankers Conference were told Monday.  "There's very possibly going to be 40 plants by the end of January that are in Chapter 11 [bankruptcy]" merger and acquisition specialist Mark Lakers told the bankers at their annual meeting in Des Moines, Iowa.


IRL In Crisis
Tony George won't want to read this but he needs to.

It's still five months before the IndyCar season opener but his series has more obstacles, dangerous terrain and bumpy roads than this week's Baja 1000. And hopefully the Indy Racing League founder recognized the car owners’ meeting he sat in a couple weeks ago at Las Vegas wasn't a bitch session as much as it was a universal cry for help.

The IndyCar paddock is in big trouble and it needs an immediate infusion of cash, common sense and corporate cooperation. More at SPEEDTV.com


Will IRL ethanol deal bring Emmo back to Indy?
Emerson Fittipaldi
Former Indy 500 winner Emerson Fittipaldi is into the ethanol business in Brazil and you can be sure he is watching closely the Brazil Ethanol sponsorship deal the IRL recently announced although he is heavily involved in the Brazil A1GP team.  Here he shares his thoughts on his ethanol business and why he thinks it is good for the environment.

Why are you helping to produce environmentally friendly fuel?
I’m developing a project I started three years ago making ethanol from sugar cane. We have 35 years’ experience of using ethanol as a fuel in Brazil. We are the No.1 country with this technology and I’m working very hard. That’s my main business now.

What’s the process of turning sugar cane into fuel?
We take the alcohol from the sugar cane. There’s much less pollution and it produces energy that is recyclable. A month ago, for the first time in Brazil’s history, ethanol consumption in cars overtook fuel.

Have you run into any opposition from oil companies?
For sure. There are people in Europe saying the production of ethanol in Brazil is affecting the price of food. What’s having a bigger impact is the ethanol made from corn in the US.

Are you interested in environmental issues?
I have had an orange farm for 35 years. I’m a farmer so, yes, of course I’m interested. Brazil is more conscious of the environment than most other countries. There was a perception in Europe of ethanol production affecting the Amazon. Sugar cane doesn’t grow in the Amazon, it’s too humid.


GM boss willing to step aside
General Motors Corp. Chief Executive Officer Rick Wagoner signaled that he might step aside, should he be asked to resign as a condition for the biggest U.S. automaker to receive federal aid.

"I'll always do what's right for the company," Wagoner said Wednesday in a Bloomberg Television interview. "But even more critical during a difficult time period is having the best possible management team. We have a good team at GM. That's not what I would recommend."

Wagoner, 55, spoke in Washington after testifying to a U.S. House committee with CEOs Alan Mulally of Ford Motor Co. and Bob Nardelli of Chrysler LLC to drum up support for a $25-billion rescue plan for the auto industry.


Chrysler credit rating could be cut
Fitch Ratings cautioned Wednesday that it might lower Chrysler's credit rating to a level that means default is probable, after the revelation that the automaker is quickly running out of money.

Chrysler LLC CEO Bob Nardelli reiterated to a U.S. House committee Wednesday that Chrysler had considered a prepackaged bankruptcy before seeking help from the government.

"Fitch expects that federal financial assistance over the next quarter and the forbearance of trade creditors will be required in order to avoid a default," the credit rating agency said in a statement.


Sirius to axe Stewart show
The news just gets worse in NASCAR every day.  Rumor has it that the Tony Stewart Live show on Sirius Satellite Radio Tuesday nights may be ending in December. The show has aired two years.


Ecclestone eyes Disneyland Paris GP UPDATE #10 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' today.  The prospective organizers of a French grand prix on the grounds of Disneyland Paris have scrapped their plans.

It has emerged that the collaboration, with Euro Disney providing the land and promoter Lagardere Sports over $100 million, was relying on additional third party financial backing that did not materialize.

Map showing Disneyland (right edge of map) geographic relationship to downtown Paris
An excerpt from a statement distributed by Lagardere, formerly the racing car company Matra, explained that "it proved impossible to reach an agreement with the other parties, which was an essential condition in the development of the project".

The Disneyland plans had been the most likely to materialize for 2010, after the current French grand prix at Magny-Cours withdrew from the 2009 calendar.

The news means that France is likely to be missing minimally from next year's formula one schedule, as well as in 2010.

10/16/08 (GMM)  Disneyland Resort Paris is the frontrunner to bring France back to the formula one calendar in 2010, French racing federation chief executive Nicolas Deschaux has admitted.

As the Federation Francaise du Sport Automobile (FFSA) announced that next year's Magny Cours race has been cancelled for economic reasons, Deschaux said he met this week with organizers of six alternate venues.

Disneyland Paris is located about a half hour drive from the French capital, and we reported recently that plans have been devised for a temporary track on the Euro Disney-owned grounds.

Moreover, the national sports newspaper L'Equipe reports that quadruple world champion and former F1 team owner Alain Prost is firmly backing the project, having declared the future of the French grand prix "an issue of national importance".

Deschaux said: "The only plan that can be put in place in 2010 is the Paris Val d'Europe (Disneyland) project."

He also said the other five hopeful venues have thought up "serious" propositions for the French grand prix.

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Red Bulletin to shut down
The word in Formula 1 circles is that the paddock newspaper, known as The Red Bulletin is to cease production in F1 next year. Red Bull is continuing to fund other publications and is in the process of launching a glossy lifestyle magazine.

We are also hearing that there are cuts coming in some of Red Bull marketing programs with no more big parties, smaller launches and other functions and no Formula Una program.

The Red Bulletin has been in operation since Monaco 2005 and has become a source of amusement to the F1 world every morning at races. The production cost Red Bull millions of dollars. Grandprix.com


Gas Guzzler producing Big 3 all headed for bankruptcy
The Senate's top Democrat has called off a planned vote this week on a $25 billion auto industry bailout.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said that he wanted to figure out some way to help Detroit’s struggling Big Three but that efforts to do so had stalled.

The White House and congressional Republicans rejected Democrats' plan to dip into the $700 billion Wall Street rescue fund to finance loans to U.S. automakers - to save the producers of Americans huge gas guzzlers so they can live to produce them again.

A bipartisan group from auto industry states is working to cut a deal on a scaled-down aid package. If agreement can be reached, Reid said the Senate could still vote on it as part of a measure to extend jobless benefits.

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Will IRL lose both title sponsors because of Versus deal? UPDATE #3 This rumor is updated to 'fact' today as we predicted that the Versus deal would drive potential sponsors away from the IRL.  The following article blames the economy.  Hogwash.

Efforts to land an Indy Racing League title sponsor have turned to 2010. Just two months ago, IRL officials said a deal appeared imminent. In October, the economy stifled negotiations. Now, almost all hope is gone for landing a title sponsor any time in 2009.

“Unless a miracle falls out of the sky, I don’t think we’re going to sign a title sponsorship deal for 2009,” said Zak Brown, president of Just Marketing International, which was hired by the IRL to lead the title sponsor hunt. “We’re still hammering away at it. We’re not going to stop working just because of the economy. But marketers are being very cautious with their budgets.”

In early September, Brown promised to land an IRL title sponsor by Jan. 1, and said an eight-figure annual deal “was on the doorstep.”

“I’m just glad I didn’t make a promise to run naked down the home stretch at Indy if the deal didn’t come through,” Brown said.

Subway restaurants, Kodak, William Rast clothier and two technology companies comprised the short list, sources close to the negotiations told IBJ in September.

Brown said sponsorship efforts across all sports have become exceedingly difficult since the economy began to tank this fall. “We’re still making some deals, we just made one in NASCAR, but it’s tough,” Brown said. IBJ.com

09/04/08 Despite switching its telecasts from ESPN to Versus next year, Indy Racing League officials remain confident they will sign an eight-figure, multi-year title sponsorship deal by year’s end.

League officials denied rumors that some of the companies on the short list to become the series title sponsor had backed out. Subway restaurants, Kodak, William Rast clothier and two technology companies comprise the short list, said sources close to the negotiations.

“When some people heard the news without hearing the details, they went “Whew, why are you going with Versus over ESPN?” said Zak Brown, president of locally based Just Marketing International, which was hired by the league to help land a title sponsor. “But when they peel back the layers of the deal, they see we’re going to get a custom studio, a Saturday pre-race show and three hours instead of two hours of race coverage. Not one of the companies we’ve been talking to said, “No thanks, we’re out of here.”

The new TV deal has lengthened negotiations, Brown said. “Since the TV buy figures into the deal and we’re not dealing with what we were dealing with six months ago, it’s required us to step back and do a re-presentation.”

Brown has little doubt the deal will get done before Jan. 1.

“We’re on the doorstep with a couple of these companies,” he said.  IBJ.com

08/29/08 IndyCar Series fans apparently weren't the only ones concerned when a 10-year contract with cable television upstart Versus was recently announced for the bulk of the races beginning in 2009.  The move away from ESPN's family of networks caused some consternation with a couple of companies interested in becoming the series' title sponsor, according to Terry Angstadt, the president of the Indy Racing League's commercial division.

"They were both initially (apprehensive), saying, 'We need to take a look at it; we're not sure,' " Angstadt said. "Now that they've run the full numbers, I think they understand (the TV package) and like it.

"They see they'll get more (exposure) from Versus than ESPN."

Versus, which is owned by Comcast, is scheduled to have at least 13 races next season. ESPN's outlets, including ABC, will do five, highlighted by the Indianapolis 500. It has not been decided which non-Indy races will appear on which network.

Angstadt said the response of other league partners to the TV deal followed predictable lines.

"The ones that are most familiar with the media space and most familiar with what we've been through (with ESPN) have said it's a great move," he said. "The others ran the other end of the spectrum saying, 'You're nuts. You're desperate. What did you do that for?' "  Indy Star

[Editor's Note:  Looks like the money saved with Versus will be lost 10-fold when you add in what the teams will lose in possible sponsorship, especially after the first ratings come in on Versus.  If too many teams fold Tony George will have to start writing some big checks again to keep them and the series alive. ]

08/27/08 A reader writes, Dear AR1.com, I see that in recent weeks both Subway and CitiFinancial have taken on bigger roles in NASCAR for 2009.  These two companies were the leading candidates to become series title sponsor of the IndyCar Series starting in 2009.  I read in AutoWeek that a new cable TV contract with the Versus network might have scared away two interested companies. Officials say they need a signed contract by the end of October to have a title sponsor for 2009.  Did they lose both of them to NASCAR?  Mordichai Rosen, Los Angeles, CA

Dear Mordichai, Let's hope not.  The top brass in the IRL are confident they can grow their series with more domestic venues and more domestic money despite NASCAR being the monopoly that it is.  We don't think so but who are we to question that.  Yes, NASCAR can deliver them huge TV ratings on ABC/ESPN vs. the VERSUS channel the IRL has to offer, but that should not matter to a sponsor if they want to be at the Indy 500.  The key to IndyCar's future will be if more engine manufacturers come into the series in 2010 as hoped.  Mark C.


Ride-buyers to rule the day at STR UPDATE According to Sebastien Bourdais the Scuderia Toro Rosso did not sign up any drivers as they are trying to get the best driver with the biggest budget, i.e. the best ride-buyer they can find. The Frenchman is the team's 2008 driver but as he is unable to bring a big sponsor along he fears a deal for 2009.

Ride-buyers put Bourdais' future with STR on hold
"If it was just a team principal decision we would have already resigned for next season," Bourdais told GPUpdate.net. "It is purely a financial issue unfortunately. Obviously it doesn't really matter what they want if you don't have the money. It is now a pretty simple, but nasty game. If you find the money you will be all right but if you don't they put you on hold. They can't make a decision until they have all the cards in their hands and I'm just playing the waiting game.

"I never expected it would be like this. This was not part of the deal. When I signed up the team looked to have enough funds but then...(pauses)... I don't think I can comment too much about it really but Mister Mateschitz is just doing what he said he was going to do. He will invest less and it will probably get worse next year. The team is unable to find good sponsors and when that is the case they just have to look for well funded drivers."

11/19/08 (GMM)  Takuma Sato expects to have to wait several weeks to find out if he can return to formula one next year.

The Japanese driver, who dropped out of the sport earlier this year with the Super Aguri demise, is in the running for a Toro Rosso race seat in 2009.

On Wednesday at the Circuit de Catalunya, the 31-year-old was the quickest of the three STR contenders in action.

It is believed that while the Swiss youngster Sebastien Buemi is almost guaranteed a 2009 seat, Sato is being considered for the post of a more 'experienced' driver next year, as is the incumbent Sebastien Bourdais.

But Sato said in Barcelona that he is not expecting an imminent decision.

When asked by F1's official website when Toro Rosso might decide, he answered: "I don't think that Toro Rosso is in any rush, so my guess would be at the end of the year, or even at the beginning of next year."

One factor playing in Sato's favor is that, compared with Bourdais, he is the more heavily sponsored.

"I really don't have cash," he insisted to reporters, "but hopefully, maybe with this difficult economy, some good personal sponsors will support us and that will be an extra bonus for me."


Huge layoffs expected in NASCAR UPDATE #4 Petty Enterprises, The Wood Brothers, Bill Davis Racing and Ernie Elliott's engine shop all reduced their staffs in the two days since Sunday's season finale. Although exact numbers are hard to pin down, Petty chief marketing officer Mike Bartelli said the company released 30 employees.

The Wood Brothers are believed to have let go more than 20 employees.

BDR, which has no sponsorship lined up for its Sprint Cup program, has cut its staff to all but a handful of employees. Elliott, who built engines for Chip Ganassi Racing, did the same since it's unlikely Ganassi will use his motors once he completes a merger with Dale Earnhardt Inc. Just last week, 100-plus employees were released from DEI so the team can move forward with its merger with Ganassi.

Ganassi let go of 71 people in July, starting a wave that has hit all teams regardless of their level of funding. Hendrick Motorsports, Joe Gibbs Racing and Roush Fenway Racing all had small staff reductions over the past month, and Roush let additional employees go this week as the organization adjusts to running fewer entries in the Truck Series next season. Associated Press

11/18/08 Stewart-Hass Racing [formerly Haas CNC Racing] laid off 16 people Monday, and Hall of Fame Racing laid off a lot of people and put their building up for sale.  As many as 1,500 employees are expected to get their pink slips this week.  Some teams are laying off because of the testing ban, but most are because the teams lack sponsorship.  Most certainly the NASCAR bubble has burst.

11/16/08 The number of employees who started the 2008 season working for a NASCAR team but will be without one by the time Thanksgiving comes is expected to rise following the season-ending race weekend at Homestead-Miami Speedway.  It already started in the weeks before, with Dale Earnhardt Inc. laying off reportedly 100-135 people following the announcement of its merger with Chip Ganassi Racing, a team that laid off 70 people during the middle of the season.
Bill Davis Racing announced it had layoffs in the week leading into Homestead, and Furniture Row Racing announced plans that it will need fewer people as it scales back to a limited schedule in 2009. JR Motorsports and Hendrick Motorsports combined to let about 30 people go a few weeks earlier. JTG Daugherty Racing was planning to cut a dozen people after Homestead – and those layoffs were just the ones that reporters heard about.
Dale Earnhardt Jr. said the prediction of 750 people being laid off by the end of the year was possible.
“There was a lot of teams that made a lot of layoffs earlier in this season, three or four months ago that were really, really substantial,” Earnhardt Jr. said Nov. 7. “A lot more [is going] to come, especially right after Homestead. … I don’t think it’s entirely restricted to the race teams either.  I think it’s going to echo in every facet of the race weekend of the series itself over the entire year.  It’s going to affect how the networks do business, how many people they bring in.  It’s really going to affect everything.”
Only 30 Cup teams have announced full sponsorship for next season.

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HOF team circling the drain? UPDATE Hall of Fame Racing, the NASCAR team owned by Arizona Diamondbacks executives, will cut its staff even if it secures sponsorship to run a full 2009 season. HoF general manager Tyler Epp said Tuesday employees were told no one will be laid off before the end of November, as team officials search for more funding. But with 44 employees for a single car operation, Epp said the team is overstaffed. "The reality is we ran 39th in points this year and personnel changes are going to be made," Epp said. "And we simply have too many people for a one-car team. We're going to have a reduction no matter what happens." Epp said the team is close on several possibilities, but a merger with another small NASCAR team is not likely at this time. The team has partial sponsorship from DLP HDTV for next season. Hall of Fame originally was formed by former Dallas Cowboys quarterbacks Troy Aikman and Roger Staubach, but they sold their interest in the team last year to Diamondbacks executives Jeff Moorad and Tom Garfinkel. Moorad is the Diamondbacks' chief executive officer, and Garfinkel is the chief operating officer. The team had a technical alliance with Joe Gibbs Racing, but Epp said the agreement most likely will not carry into 2009 as the team searches for a new partner. Depending on whom they lease their motors from - and JGR is still a possibility, Epp said - the team could also have a manufacturer switch. Associated Press

11/19/08 Epp said it was unlikely his team – whose ownership group is led by Arizona Diamondback executives Jeff Moorad and Tom Garfinkel – would merge with another team for 2009. “It’s been a rough year of transition, but that doesn’t change the intent and the model we’re trying to build,” Epp said. “Whenever you merge two different groups, you have to compromise on things, and we don’t want to compromise [certain] things.” As far as a driver for next year, Epp said he has had talks with at least six drivers whom he would be interested in having for 2009. “I can’t say enough about Ken Schrader and the job he’s done this year,” Epp said. “He’s certainly on the list.” Epp added that the team most likely will not be an affiliate of Joe Gibbs Racing next season, but he would like to remain with Toyota. He said the team likely would contract a body hanger, and the team also would need to find an engine supplier. Epp also said the team also is working on extending its lease for the building from Herzog Motorsports. The lease runs through December. SceneDaily


Alonso to be father?
(GMM)  Former double world champion Fernando Alonso could soon be a father, according to rumors in Spain.

The newspaper Diario Sport cites speculation that the 27-year-old's wife Raquel del Rosario, singer with the Spanish band El Sueno de Morfeo, is pregnant.

'Sport' said the news has not been confirmed.

26-year-old del Rosario met Renault driver Alonso during a program for the Spanish radio station Cadena SER in 2005.


NASCAR Rookie of the Year Regan Smith may lose ride
The last driver standing in the Raybestos Rookie of the Year competition was Regan Smith, who drives the No. 01 Dale Earnhardt Inc. Chevrolet.

Smith was the only rookie in the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway after his rival Sam Hornish Jr. failed to make the race. Smith finished 34th at Homestead on Sunday and became the first rookie driver in NASCAR history not to suffer a DNF.

"You know, there were a lot of big names that I was racing against and you look at the stuff at the beginning of the year, not very many people had me chartered as one of 'em that was going to contend for the rookie championship," Smith said.

"So (I) definitely had a little bit of a chip on the shoulder about that and wanted to go out there and prove that there is still a good ol' stock car path and NASCAR path to get to this series."

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Ford plans to sell off Mazda UPDATE #4 Japan’s Mazda Motor Corp. says Ford Motor Co. will cut its stake in Mazda to 13% from 33.4%.  Mazda said Tuesday it would spend up to 17.9 billion yen, or $185.3 million, to buy back up to 6.87% of its own shares in a Wednesday morning off-hours purchase.

The rest of the stake is to be bought by a group of Mazda’s business partners. The sale would provide Ford some desperately needed cash as it awaits a decision from Washington on government aid for the auto industry or eventual bankruptcy.

10/22/08 Ford Motor Co will sell up to five per cent of Mazda Motor Corp to Hiroshima Bank, nearly completing its search for buyers of the US automaker's partial stake in its Japanese affiliate, Kyodo news reports.

Cash-strapped Ford, reeling from tanking sales at home, is finalizing plans to sell part of its controlling 33.4 per cent stake in Mazda to a number of Japanese firms, preparing to outline the deal by next month, local media have said.

Kyodo, citing sources familiar with the matter, said Mazda was looking to buy about half the shares that Ford is selling. The report did not say what portion of its Mazda stake Ford was looking to offload. National broadcaster NHK reported earlier this month that it was looking to sell a 20 per cent stake.

At Tuesday's closing price, Mazda was valued at $US3.95 billion.

Shares in Mazda dropped 7.4 per cent to 263 yen in morning trade, while Hiroshima Bank was flat at 391 yen. The Nikkei average fell 2.9 per cent.

By purchasing Mazda shares, Hiroshima Bank may be looking to support the network of factories and subcontractors in Hiroshima prefecture, where Mazda has its headquarters.

A spokeswoman at the regional bank -- the biggest in western Japan -- said the company was checking the report. Mazda said it had nothing to announce.

10/16/08 Mazda Motor Corp. may buy back part of the one-third stake owned by Ford Motor Co. as the second- largest U.S. automaker considers unwinding its holdings, two people with knowledge of the discussions said.  Mazda may be joined by other Japanese companies to spread the risk, while Ford would keep part of its holding, said the people, who asked not to be identified because details including the price haven't been set. A transaction may occur next month, the people said.

Ford may reduce its three-decade-old investment in Mazda, ceding effective control, to boost cash as Chief Executive Officer Alan Mulally works to end losses. The holding was valued at $1.33 billion based on Mazda's share price yesterday in Tokyo.

``It finally clears a cloud over Mazda,'' said Koji Endo, an analyst at Credit Suisse Securities (Japan) Ltd. in Tokyo. ``Having new stable shareholders will eliminate worries about Ford's move on Mazda's stake.''

Mark Truby, a Ford spokesman, declined to comment. ``Nothing has been decided,'' said Ken Haruki, a spokesman for Hiroshima, Japan-based Mazda.

Ford holds 33.4 percent in Mazda and has been an investor in Japan's fifth-largest automaker since 1979. The companies jointly own factories, and Ford has based midsized models such as the Fusion sedan on Mazda's Mazda6. Bloomberg

10/11/08 Mazda denied today that a decision had been made by troubled Ford Motor Co. to sell its stake in the Japanese automaker, but it didn’t rule out a possible deal.  Japanese media reported today that Ford was considering selling its one-third stake in Hiroshima-based Mazda Motor Corp. Public broadcaster NHK TV, without citing sources, reported that Ford would maintain some of its stake in Mazda and management ties.

"Nothing has been decided," Mazda said in a statement received today by the Associated Press. "Any important decision will be disclosed."

Ford said in a statement, “We do not want to comment on speculation.”

“Our relationship with Mazda has not changed,” it said.

The move, should it happen, would be a symbolic retreat for U.S. automakers in Japan. General Motors Corp. similarly sold off its stakes in Japanese automakers in recent years.

10/11/08 Ford Motor Co is considering selling its stake in Japan's Mazda Motor Co, a source familiar with the matter said on Saturday, as debt-laden U.S. automakers struggle with weakening auto sales and the global credit crunch.

Japanese broadcaster NHK said earlier that Ford, which has 33.4 percent of Mazda, was considering selling about 20 percent and had already approached Japanese companies for the sale, adding Mazda would likely buy some of the shares.

The source did not specify how many shares Ford wanted to sell. Mazda has a market capitalization of about 408.5 billion yen ($4.1 billion), which would value Ford's entire stake at around $1.36 billion.

Slowing auto sales and the global financial crisis have sent shares of Ford and its U.S. rival General Motors Corp plunging, with investors questioning their turnaround plans.

Ford Chief Executive Alan Mulally on Friday ruled out a bankruptcy filing, saying the No. 2 U.S. automaker was focused on its turnaround and managing its cash "very, very carefully" as the market slowdown in the United States spreads to Europe and Asia. More at Reuters

[Editor's Note: Mazda was the only thing left at Ford that was profitable.  Stick a fork in Ford. They're done.]


Charity ALMS race coming to Philadelphia
Geoffrey Whaling, chief coordinator of Philadelphia-based North American Motorsport Events, confirmed Monday his interest in staging a race and "alternative energy festival" - a two-to-three-day motorsport event planned for at the Naval Air Station Joint Reserve Base in Willow Grove, Pa., near Philadelphia, in July 2010.

The race would be for cars in the American Le Mans Series, North American's top sports car series, which features former F1, IRL and Champ Car drivers. The event also would feature support races using alternative fuels or hybrids and would benefit local charities.


IndyCar to replace F1 in Montreal UPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today because it makes too much sense not to happen.  The Indy Racing League is ready to entertain talks of possibly staging a race to fill the void left in the wake of a failed collective effort by city, provincial and federal government officials to secure the future of the country's only Formula One race.

"All it takes is a phone call to ask if we're interested in looking at a potential date," John Griffin, spokesperson for IRL president Tony George, said Monday. "It's something we would be open to discussing."

Montreal officially lost the Grand Prix over the weekend after Formula One boss Bernie Ecclestone rejected a counter offer from city and government officials that was more than $60 million less than the head of Formula One Administration Ltd. demanded for the city to keep the race through 2013.

The race was dropped from the 2009 F1 calendar last month because of a contractual disagreement between Ecclestone and local promoter Normand Legault, chief executive officer and president of Grand Prix F1 Canada.

Legault said shortly after he was no longer interested in staging the race and officials from three levels of government quickly stepped in to mount a last-ditch effort to save an event which brought the city an estimated $75 million in economic spinoffs.

The IRL now includes remnants of the Champ Car World Series following the unification of the two North American open-wheel series after a more-than-a-decade-old split between the two. Champ Car races were held at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve from 2002 to 2006 and for the last time in Quebec in 2007 at Mont Tremblant.

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Watching the Car of Tomorrow (Really Car of Yesterday) come down pit lane last Sunday at Homestead, we could not help but notice that the cars are set up to crab (rear-end stepped out to one side from the front) as the car is going straight.

It's clear that the COT does not turn well so the teams have to monkey with the chassis to help this dud of a car turn.  After a lackluster season it is clear the COT makes the cars less competitive and fans are switching off the TV sets in droves.  Rushed into competition, the COT was not fully developed and the results showed on the track as Cup races have become parades with the leader – in clean air – rarely threatened. Side-by-side racing, especially in the turns, is even more unusual.  Once one of the most exciting sports on the planet, Cup races are now four-hour parades of boredom occasionally punctuated by some racing and pit stop contests.

Meanwhile, the cost of making the COT competitive fell to the teams. Team budgets swelled to the $25-$30 million mark, an amazing figure considering they were in the $5 million range just a decade ago. Because of the COT not being fully ready to race when it was introduced, teams have had to spend millions of dollars in research and development engineers, additional mechanics, test teams, and all the equipment needed to power them.

The sport of NASCAR racing has expanded so much the past few years that 100-man teams are almost the standard, and four-car teams carry 400-plus on their roster.

Running a major NASCAR Cup team today requires an annual budget of $20-$30 million, with maybe half a dozen teams in the $30-million range, and at least one well over that.

It’s little wonder people are getting fired by NASCAR teams. NASCAR has just posted one of its most abysmal seasons. Interest in the sport waned as ticket sales and television ratings were flat or off of 2007 levels. Even the Chase – NASCAR’s ‘playoff’ system for the Cup divisions, struggled to attract attention with no sellouts and just two of the events (New Hampshire and Kansas) posting higher television viewership than its 2007 races.

The television numbers are revealing. Yeah, the economy is tough, but the cost of plopping the family on the couch and watching the race is pretty minimal. Given the ratings numbers, it is clear fewer folks aren’t doing that and points to problems way deeper than whether sponsorships are tight or teams are saddled with excesses like too many employees.

Simply stated, the product at the most visible level – the Cup Series - isn’t compelling and the NASCAR bubble, under the leadership of Brian France, has burst.


F1 points system could change UPDATE #2 This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today.  Bernie Ecclestone is confident his plan to replace the current points system with Olympic Games-style 'medals' will be introduced in time for the 2009 season opener.

The F1 chief executive revealed recently he wants the drivers on the podium to be presented gold, silver and bronze medals, rather than awarded ten, eight and six points respectively.

The change, he argues, will rid the sport of the situation of the 2008 series finale in Brazil, where Lewis Hamilton was able to finish just fifth and still be crowned world champion.

If Ecclestone's new system had been in place, the McLaren driver and Felipe Massa would have been tied on 5 gold medals apiece, setting up a dash to be first to the checkered flag and the title.

It is believed that points will still be awarded to the teams for the constructors' championship on the basis of the current system.

Drivers finishing races 'out of the medals', meanwhile, will not score points, but their finishing positions over the season will determine their championship ranking.

Ecclestone, 78, told The Times: "The FIA and all the teams are behind it and it will be done."

He insists that the system will ensure that the emphasis of the front-running drivers' approach to races will be on winning, rather than scoring good points.

"The whole point will be, when they get to Melbourne for the first race, the guys will want to leave there with a gold medal.  They (will not) want to leave with ten, eight or six points," Ecclestone said.

The Times said the matter has been discussed by FIA president Max Mosley, but the details are yet to be worked out.

Ecclestone's system will require ratification by the World Motor Sport Council at its December meeting.

11/01/08 (GMM)  Bernie Ecclestone is pushing to totally scrap formula one's current points system.

Lewis Hamilton needs only to finish fifth in Sunday's championship deciding Brazilian grand prix to be champion, but if the F1 chief executive got his way, the Briton would have had to push to win.

He is proposing that, instead of winning points based on finishing in the top eight, drivers should compete only for either a gold, silver or bronze medal, as in the Olympics.

Going into the 2008 finale, then, Hamilton and Ferrari's Felipe Massa would be tied on gold medals with 5 wins apiece.

Bernie Ecclestone
"The way things stand, fans will not be given any wheel-to-wheel racing by the two title contenders in Brazil," Ecclestone told the British newspaper The Sun.

"There is no way in the world Lewis is going to try and win the race or go all out on the attack.

"Felipe can drive his socks off and win but Lewis merely has to coast home in the top five.  Under the current points system he'd be incredibly stupid to do anything else."

Ecclestone, 77, said Valencia was another example of Hamilton not making "any effort" to win, because second place affords only 2 points less than victory.

"Imagine the tension and excitement created because both drivers needed victory to secure the title," he said at Interlagos.

It is believed that, under to Ecclestone's medals regime, points would still be awarded to constructors on the basis of the current system.

10/26/08 Formula 1 boss Bernie Ecclestone believes that Lewis Hamilton will win the Drivers' title next Sunday but says he never wants to see such a one-sided ending to a season again.

Hamilton holds a seven-point lead over his nearest rival, Felipe Massa, and only needs to finish fifth to guarantee his first World Championship, an issue Ecclestone plans to fix.

"The problem with next week's race is that Hamilton barely has to bother. I'd much rather he and Massa had to race to the finish to decide the title. It's all about the racing. There's not enough of it these days, and I want this to change," he argued, speaking to the Mail on Sunday.

"I'm not criticizing Hamilton at all. He's played it smart, but the reality is he didn't try to win in Valencia or in Singapore and that's not right."

Ecclestone will propose a new championship scheme to next month's FIA World Council meeting as a result, one that will see the driver with the most race wins succeed by awarding gold, silver and bronze medals for first, second and third, with points retained only for the Constructors' championship.

If the system was already in place, then Hamilton and Massa would approach the Brazilian Grand Prix tied on five victories a piece with everything still up for grabs.

"I don't think points mean anything. I mean, David Coulthard has score more F1 points than another other British driver, but nobody really knows this because people look at race wins," the 77-year-old explained.

"I've managed to convince everyone that we should do away with the points and award medals instead. Everybody realizes it's the right thing to do." Setanta Sports


Honda's costs highest in F1 - report
(GMM)  Honda's annual costs are the highest of any competitor on the formula one grid, according to the Japanese team's latest accounts.

While the actual total budget is undoubtedly higher, the Daily Telegraph reports that Honda, funded by the Japanese automobile giant, spent nearly $218 million to finish just eighth in the 2007 constructors' world championship.

Team chief executive Nick Fry said recently that "the budgets for the top teams are in excess of $300m.

"While that is sustainable for a team like Honda, we recognize that others cannot compete at that level."

The British newspaper said that only about $10 million of the turnover came from sponsors, with the rest pumped in by the Tokyo-based Honda Motor Company.

The bulk of the costs were spent on the engine program, but more than $52 million was used to pay the team's 667 staff, representing an average annual salary of close to $80,000.

The Telegraph said Honda's accounts for 2008 are likely to show even higher costs, given Ross Brawn's heavy technological developments in preparation for next year.

In contrast, top team McLaren's total costs were $186 million, with 570 staff.


DEI could lose Bass Pro Shops
Sources say that DEI’s deal with Bass Pro Shops requires the team to field a minimum of three teams and that if it fails to do so, the sponsor could walk. And in this brutal economy, losing yet another sponsor is the last thing DEI could afford, figuratively or literally. - Ford Racing


Ecclestone to see $10m Canada GP rescue plan UPDATE #2 This rumor is downgraded to 'false' per this story as Canadian officials told Bernie Ecclestone to go pound sand over Bernie's latest demands.

The Canadian GP is toast
Mayor Gérald Tremblay has called a news conference for 3 p.m. Sunday to discuss the Montreal Grand Prix, which was dropped from the 2009 Formula One schedule, a move that has threatened millions of dollars of tourism revenue.  There was no immediate word on the nature of the announcement [Editor's Note: If they were smart they would save millions of dollars and switch to an IndyCar race].  Tremblay will be joined by Economic Development Minister Raymond Bachand. More to come. Canada.com

11/13/08 (GMM) The alliance of Montreal hoteliers has agreed to apply a one per cent 'grand prix' tax to the price of rooms in an effort to rescue the axed Canadian formula one race.

According to the French language newspaper La Presse, the Montreal hotel association will increase the room tax from three to four per cent, with the extra money to go to the organization of the annual race held at the nearby Circuit Gilles Villeneuve.

The newspaper said the proposal could generate up to $5 million per year.

With the Quebec and Canadian governments each promising $2.5 million apiece, the grand prix bailout pool would therefore be set to double to $10m.

The rescue plan will reportedly be presented to F1 chief executive Bernie Ecclestone in London next Thursday.


Ethanol not back with Rahal team in 2009? UPDATE Bankruptcy. Red ink. Painful shakeout.

Those terms, normally associated with old-line manufacturing, now are popping up to describe what was seen just three years ago as a sure bet for Indiana: high-tech ethanol plants.

Ethanol producers across the Midwest are being squeezed by falling prices, tight credit, overbuilding and the volatile market for corn. As a result, many have seen their profits shrink and their stock prices fall. Several have slid into bankruptcy and have scrapped deals and projects.

The latest setback came Friday, when Aventine Renewable Energy Holdings, struggling to conserve cash, said it would slow construction of a plant in Mount Vernon, Ind., near the Ohio River, and delay the opening for about nine months. The plant, designed to produce 220 million gallons of ethanol a year, had been scheduled to open early next year.

"The margins in the ethanol business today are not very good. They are near break-even," said company spokesman Les Nelson. "We need to make sure we have liquidity in our business."

The company also said it would suspend construction at a plant in Aurora, Neb., for about six months.

The abrupt reversal raises the question of whether the ethanol industry, once seen as a major force in Indiana's agriculture economy, is just going through a temporary market slump or embarking on a severe downturn.

It also puts a new wrinkle in the national discussion over alternative energy, which took center stage this summer when the price of gasoline soared to more than $4 a gallon.

Now with gas prices less than $2 a gallon, demand for ethanol has fallen. That's even though ethanol pumps have sprouted up across Indiana, from zero three years ago to 116 now. More at Indy Star

11/16/08 Rumor has it that Ethanol will not be back with the Rahal Letterman Racing team in 2009.  If true then what does it say for the IRL wrapping so much of its marketing around ethanol?  We tried to tell our readers that ethanol was not the way to energy independence in the USA and that prediction has turned true as the ethanol industry is taking a beating and losing money.  Consumers simply are not going to use a fuel that gives them 20% less fuel mileage than straight gasoline.  The IRL would be wise to incorporate some sort of KERS in their new car/engine formula in 2011 because that is one technology that makes sense and appears to have universal appeal.  However, in an effort to keep costs down we doubt they will do it.


Will Congress bail out Detroit or let it bankrupt?
A Congress, burned before by bailouts, returns to work this week to consider a once almost-unthinkable pitch: Put up billions of dollars in taxpayer-backed loans, and we just might save the domestic auto industry.  Equally remarkable is the response by some members of Congress: We'll have to get back to you [as many think it best to let the USA automakers fall into bankruptcy].

It's a deal Detroit's automakers are anxious to close, with weak vehicle sales, high costs, frozen credit lines and dwindling cash reserves calling into question whether they can survive much longer without government help. But it largely depends on the automakers and their supporters convincing skittish lawmakers that the economy at large depends on the bailout and that -- perhaps most importantly -- the United States won't be throwing good money after bad.

"It's a loan, it's a bridge loan," said General Motors spokesman Tony Cervone. "The fact is we're looking at a short-term liquidity crisis that needs a bridge loan."

Read more & Comment...

Conway eyes possible move to IndyCar
Mike Conway
GP2 Monaco race winner Mike Conway could find himself on the grid for the Indianapolis 500, after revealing he may join America’s Indy Racing League (IRL) for 2009.

The Sevenoaks racer had a difficult 2008 in the GP2 Championship, despite picking up a win at Monaco in June. He finished the season 12th in the driver standings with 20 points.

Without a drive confirmed for 2009, the 24-year-old is seriously considering a switch to the IRL Championship following a successful test with Panther Racing in August. 

Conway told Kent on Sunday: “The test I had over there was good as we ended up fastest and beat series champion Scott Dixon. It is something I am now seriously considering.

Mike Conway, shown above in his GP2 car,  could make the step down to the slower (on road courses) IndyCars in 2009
After being signed up by the Honda Formula One team as part of their young driver program in January, Conway was hoping to be considered for a Formula One seat for next season.

The head of Honda, former technical director to Michael Schumacher, Ross Brawn told KoS in July that he would not shut the door on Conway’s future with the team.

However, with drivers Jenson Button and Rubens Barrichello unsigned for 2009, test drives have been awarded to fellow GP2 racers, Bruno Senna and Lucas Di Grassi so far.

The decision has prompted Conway to look as far as America for the 2009 season in a bid to prove he is good enough to race in Formula One.

He said: “I have been working with Honda a bit throughout the year, but I have heard no word from them about a Formula One test. I know they testing Bruno Senna and Lucas and I wish them the best of luck, but I am looking at other options for next season.”

“I am still looking at GP2 but I have been looking at opportunities in America. Racing in America does not completely shut the door on Formula One.”   

If Conway does decided to cross the Atlantic for 2009, he will get the chance to compete in one of motorsport’s jewels in the crown - the 200 lap Indianapolis 500. Kent News


Montoya out of Bud Shootout if in a Chevy
Juan Montoya may get screwed by switch to Chevy but at least now he will be in a car capable of winning races, unlike his Dodge which he has had to carry
Chip Ganassi Racing’s #42-Juan Pablo Montoya will not be allowed to use one of Dodge’s spots in the 2009 Budweiser Shootout if the new Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing team switches to Chevrolet. According to the new rules, the top six teams from each manufacturer from the previous year qualify for the Shootout. When the new rules were announced in August, NASCAR officials said the issue of teams switching manufacturers in the offseason still needed to be worked out.

While Earnhardt-Ganassi officials say they have not finalized a manufacturer, NASCAR Vice President of Operations Steve O’Donnell said Saturday morning that the teams will use their points from the previous year but their manufacturer of the current year to determine berths in the preseason event that comes eight days prior to the Daytona 500. “It will be the top six Dodges starting for the ’09 season,” O’Donnell said. “Juan Pablo would be a Chevrolet. Let’s say Juan Pablo fell in #5 at Chevrolet, then Chevrolet could use him.”

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DEI/Ganassi team - Chevy or Dodge?
General Motors has not been told whether the new Earnhardt-Ganassi Racing team will field Chevrolets next season, according to Pat Suhy, GM's NASCAR manager. Dale Earnhardt Inc., a four-car Chevrolet team, and Chip Ganassi Racing, a two-car Dodge team, announced Wednesday their plans to merge for the 2009 season. They did not announce a manufacturer, but Dodge teams seem resigned to the probability that the new four-car organization will race Chevrolets next season. Scenedaily.com

[Editor's Note: Chip Ganassi is a smart businessman.  He knows that Chrysler will soon cease to exist as a company and he knows that Dodge cannot keep pace with Chevy and Toyota on the race track, so rest assured the merged team will run the Chevrolet nameplate.  The Ganassi cars will just have to change the decals on the cars from Dodge to Chevy and drop a DEI engine under the hood.]


GM boss to get the axe
Rick Wagoner, GM’s chief executive officer, could lose his job as part of any federal rescue package of the company, Bloomberg News reported Friday, citing comments from business experts and lawmakers.

“Management needs to be replaced,” said Robert Crandall, former chairman and CEO of AMR Corp. “The fact is that the management as a whole has had lots of opportunities to fix this. They haven’t.”

The government insisted on removing the CEOs of American International Group, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac as part of its bailouts, Bloomberg notes.  Wagoner has said he won’t offer to resign.


Honda ready to offer Schumacher superbike ride
Besides being F1's greatest driver in history with 7 world titles and over 90 F1 wins, Michael Schumacher is a fairly good motorcycle racer as well given his limited experience
Honda are ready to offer retired seven-times Formula One world champion Michael Schumacher a ride in the superbike world championship next year, the team's European boss has said.

Schumacher has taken part in German superbike races with Honda this year and recorded fast times on a Ducati in tests in Portugal last week.

"Michael is convinced that the German championship is right for him at the moment," Honda Racing's Carlo Fiorani was quoted as saying by Friday's La Gazzetta dello Sport.

"For the moment he has not asked us to race in the 2009 world championship. But if he wants to, there is a way for him (to do it). All he has to do is ask us."

The 39-year-old Schumacher said earlier this year that he had no intention of racing seriously on two wheels: "There'll be no second career on motorbikes," he told reporters at the time. "This is just a hobby." Reuters

track news

Bruton Smith no longer a billionaire
Bruton Smith isn't smiling as much these days
The Wall Street meltdown appears to have claimed another casualty: Bruton Smith's billionaire status. Like almost everyone, the speedway and auto sales titan has seen his stock holdings battered in the financial crisis. But as majority owner of two public companies -- one in the Fortune 500 -- Smith's hit has been bigger than most: Nearly $1 billion. That staggering amount makes Smith one of many corporate giants whose portfolios have been punished by the market plunge.

With Wednesday's close of 8,282.66, the Dow Jones industrial average has tumbled 36 percent in the past year, including 29 percent in the last three months. As founder, chairman and chief executive of Sonic Automotive, Smith, 81, owns more than 12 million shares in the Charlotte-based company, one of the nation's largest auto retailers. In the past year, the value of those shares has plummeted 87 percent, costing him more than $268 million.

Smith also is chairman and chief executive of Speedway Motorsports, which owns Lowe's Motor Speedway and six other major tracks. His roughly 29 million shares in the Concord-based company have declined in value by more than 64 percent, erasing more than $711 million. Put those losses together, and holdings worth more than $1.4 billion last November now check in at about $434 million.  Charlotte Observer


Air Force leaving Wood Bros. for GEM
The U.S. Air Force will part ways with the Wood Brothers after this season and sponsor the No. 10 Gillett Evernham Dodge and Reed Sorenson beginning in 2009, sources have told FOXSports.com

The Air Force has partnered with the Wood Brothers on the legendary No. 21 Ford since 2001.

Sorenson, who currently drives the No. 41 Target Dodge for Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, will also be joining GEM in 2009.


Delphi May Have to Liquidate
IRL sponsor Delphi Corp., could be forced to liquidate its U.S. operations if the automaker also seeks bankruptcy. Delphi, based in Troy, Michigan, is struggling to emerge from a bankruptcy case that began in 2005. It's already relying on Detroit-based GM to contribute about $10.6 billion to its restructuring by assuming pensions and amending contracts.

GM, the largest U.S. automaker, last week reported a $4.2 billion third-quarter operating loss and said it may run short of cash by the end of the year unless the auto market improves or it raises capital.

``If GM fails, it's likely the Delphi reorganization fails, and Delphi converts to a case under Chapter 7 -- a liquidation,'' Nancy Rapoport, a law professor at the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, said yesterday in an e-mail. ``For the creditors of Delphi, this of course isn't optimal, and the usual issues in Chapter 7, determining the liquidation value of the company, will apply.''


Obama may name auto czar
President-elect Barack Obama has raised the idea of appointing a so-called "auto czar" to oversee emergency federal aid to automakers, exact tough corporate reforms and ensure taxpayers earn a return on any investment in the auto industry.

The Obama transition team hasn't identified who the car czar would be, but the president-elect has three auto advisers. They are economic adviser Jason Furman, Georgetown University law professor Dan Tarullo and Joshua Steiner, a former Clinton Treasury official, but none of them have emerged as the point person on autos yet. Michigan Gov. Jennifer Granholm and former Michigan Congressman David Bonior also are advising Obama on the troubled auto industry.

It would be helpful, though not essential, for such an appointee to have an intimate knowledge of the auto industry or at least assemble a panel of expert advisers, said David Cole, chairman of the Center for Automotive Research in Ann Arbor.

"It can't be some ideologue or someone with an ax to grind or someone who read about the auto industry in a pamphlet two years ago," Cole said.

Read more & Comment...

Ganassi Racing in merger talks with DEI and Petty UPDATE #5 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today.  Teresa Earnhardt and Chip Ganassi will combine their slumping race teams next season, an effort to stabilize their organizations in a tough economic time, The Associated Press has learned.

The combined team will be called Earnhardt Ganassi Racing and will field cars for Martin Truex, Aric Almirola, Juan Pablo Montoya and a driver yet to be named, two people familiar with the decision told the AP on condition of anonymity because the deal has yet to be announced.

Both organizations have struggled to secure sponsorship this season, forcing the teams to pool resources.

Truex and Almirola will come from Dale Earnhardt Incorporated; only Truex's car has full sponsorship for next season.

Montoya has half a season of sponsorship, and Ganassi's flagship No. 41 has full sponsorship but no driver.

DEI fields Chevrolets, and Ganassi has a Dodge contract. Details of a manufacturer switch still are being worked out as the team is expected to use General Motors. SI.com

11/08/08 "Some of the rumors are true," Ganassi said. "Some of the rumors are not."

He also said "we're just waiting for a few other shoes to drop before we nail down a driver for the 41."

While he wouldn't speak to further specifics, Ganassi said that in general terms racing is battling the same economic issues other businesses are.

"Whatever business anybody is in right now, people think it is special for some reason," Ganassi said. "The oil business is special because it's the oil business. The car business is special because it's in Detroit. Racing is special because it's racing.

"The fact is, I don't think any of them are special. They're all just businesses. It's revenue and it's expenses and, hopefully, there's a little left over to buy lunch and grow your company.

"Things are tough right now and everybody has to do a little belt-tightening or adjusting or consolidating. There is consolidation in a lot of businesses right now. That's just the way of the world."

Read more & Comment...

When in doubt, follow the money
When you have a doubt why some decisions are made in life, follow the money to the real answer.

In the final half-hour of its telecast from Phoenix, ABC got a 4.6 rating. The 30-minutes it aired "America's Funniest Home Videos" got a 3.8. So ABC lost viewers. So why then would ABC switch?

Because the NASCAR race ran long, ABC had aired the commercials it had sold for the race coverage. Word is it had picked up all the money it was going to get there. By switching to its regular prime-time schedule, it also collected the money it was owed for commercials sold on that programming.


Alonso unlikely to test until 2009
Alonso and Renault could be a major factor in 2009
(GMM)  Fernando Alonso is unlikely to return to the cockpit of a Renault single seater until the new year.

The Spanish newspaper Sport reports that Renault will begin its winter test program in Barcelona next week, as will most other teams, without the former double world champion.

The 27-year-old, and other notable race drivers, will probably not reappear at test circuits until January, when the new 2009 cars begin to arrive.

However, Alonso is believed to have left the door open to possibly testing at Jerez in December, when many of the key attributes of the 2009 regulations will be up and running on the existing car.

Until then, Alonso plans to spend his time at his Swiss residence in Mont-sur-Rolle, and at his parents' house in Spain.

Renault's 2009 car is expected to be launched towards the end of January.

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