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DATE News (chronologically)
05/29/11
irl
Overheard at Indy - Race Day  On a very warm day here in Indy there is a lot of behind the scenes activity going on in the paddock.  We spotted Michael Andretti, John Lopes and another executive from Andretti Autosports going into the Honda trailer for what appeared to be a business meeting with Honda HPD boss Eric Berkman.  We also spotted what appeared to be some Honda executives from Japan entering the same trailer moments before.  One can safely assume that Honda wants Andretti to be one of their teams and they are talking deal, or perhaps going so far as signing the deal today. 

We also spotted Duncan Dayton hanging outside the Honda business unit and with his former ties to the Honda Acura program in ALMS you know he will be hoping to sign on as a Honda team......assuming he has the sponsorship money together to run Simon Pagenaud full-time in 2012.

No word yet on which team will be the Lotus "Anchor Team" but speculation is that it will be KV Racing.  One might think that would be a conflict of interest as Cosworth (Owned by Kalkhoven and Forsythe) wants to do an IndyCar engine for some manufacturer so how could Kalkhoven's team be tied in with Lotus while doing an engine for someone else?  But contracts always have an out clause so if the right deal comes along with a manufacturer, KV Racing may be able to make the change  So, if this is all true, then KV Racing can be the Lotus Anchor Team.

Speaking of Lotus we spoke with their racing boss Claudio Berro (formerly with Fiat/Ferrari) who said they are 4 to 5 weeks away from announcing their Anchor Team. And we hear KV Racing has not signed with anyone yet as well, so our bet is KV Racing will be the Lotus Anchor Team, though we do know Lotus was talking to Andretti Autosport as well.  Lotus of course has a strong history with Mario Andretti, Michael Andretti's father.  Recall we reported earlier that starting Saturday the manufacturers can start to sign non-anchor teams so if Lotus waits too long there will not be any good teams left for them to pick from.

Mario Illien
Mark Cipolloni/AR1.com
Speaking of Cosworth, we hear the rumor of them going public is very speculative at best.

Spotted Mario Illien of Ilmor fame on the grid.  Did not have a chance to ask him if he was looking at getting back into the IndyCar game.  Mark C. reporting from Indy

AR1.com has learned that Danica is indeed almost certain to go to NASCAR in 2012 and rumor has it that France Family "Diversity Fund" money is being added to sweeten the deal.  The series has yet to develop a woman or minority star.  Danica fits that need perfectly.  Another key ingredient is TV.  Danica is a star and not happy that hardly anyone is watching the Versus broadcast, which means her brand is getting little exposure.  Just another example where IndyCar was pennywise and pound foolish when they signed the Versus deal.  Not only do the low Versus ratings cost them team sponsorship, now it may cost them their biggest star.

Bob Parsons, CEO and founder of Danica Patrick sponsor GoDaddy.com, told ESPN he expects her to make the move full-time to NASCAR next season. "She hasn't told me she will, but I believe she will and we'll be ready," Parsons said. "Here's the fact: She loves [NASCAR], it's much more exciting than IndyCar, with all due respect, and the TV audience for NASCAR is off the hook."

Word is that Patrick is working on a plan to race full-time in the Nationwide Series is 2012 and move to Sprint Cup in 2013.

"She came up to me right after she did her first NASCAR race [the 2010 Nationwide race at Daytona]," GoDaddy's Bob Parsons said. "She said to me, 'I absolutely loved it. This is what I was born to do.' "

"As long as I can stroke the check," he said. "I tell you what, she doesn't exactly work for minimum wage. I usually don't get into that too much until the decision's been made. But I've told her I would sponsor her if she started ice skating."

"Danica moving to NASCAR would be good for us," said Parsons. "The races she's in now in Nationwide, whether in front or in the back, it's still fantastic for us. I've had people tell me, 'I'm going to start watching NASCAR to see Danica.' She is the one person that America roots for. America loves her."

The crowd was large
Tim Wohlford/AR1.com
Don't look for the rumored Phoenix IndyCar race to happen. The fan base isn't there in Phoenix (remember both CART and IndyCar failed there already due to low fan base) and Randy Bernard wants to race in Phoenix in late January before the Daytona 500.  We like Randy but he is pipe-dreaming on this one.  The France family/ISC has to sell 70,000 tickets for the November Cup race and then sell 70,000 tickets for another Cup race 3.5 months later in late February right after the Daytona 500.  That is 140,000 tickets in the Phoenix market in 3.5 months and IndyCar wants to race smack between those two races in late January?  We just don't see it being successful.  We have a similar concern with New Hampshire, which also has two Cup races. Then there is Las Vegas, which has so many seats to fill the IndyCar crowd may look meager.

Richard Petty eyes up the crowd, wishing NASCAR could draw this well at the Speedway
Mark Cipolloni/AR1.com
On the grid we spotted Richard Petty eyeing the crowd, the largest since the CART days, and you could see he was trying to compare it to NASCAR.  Rumor has it the NASCAR ticket sales for the Brickyard 400 are way off and the crowd will be the smallest since NASCAR started to come to the Speedway.

As for Cleveland coming back on the schedule, nothing is imminent, and why should it be.  The race was always run when it was hot and humid.  Between the heat and the wood plank/high school quality grandstands the fans were forced to sit on they are not coming back.

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