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DATE News (chronologically)
10/15/11
irl
Overheard in Las Vegas - Friday (Vegas Back)  UPDATE It looks like our assumption below that the 17th event (18th race) being looked at for the 2012 IndyCar calendar would be IndyCar renting the track in Kentucky (or Chicago) was correct. 

Kentucky Speedway general manager Mark Simendinger said the speedway has been unable to reach an agreement with IndyCar about bringing the IndyCar Series back next season.

IndyCar chief executive officer Randy Bernard isn't ready to throw in the towel just yet.

He was planning to meet with Bruton Smith, who is chairman of the company that owns Kentucky Speedway, on Sunday in Las Vegas. "We don't give up," Bernard said. "We think it is a great facility and great racing. We'd like to be back there if possible."

Simendinger left the door open for a return by the IndyCar Series, but said a deal would have to come together quickly for it to happen in 2012. zzzz

"I think the reality of it is as time goes on it gets harder and harder for both of us to put something together," he said. "They've got to get on with their plans to do their schedule. We've got to get on with our plans to do ours. It makes it more challenging as time goes on. But if they come up with a good concept (i.e. rent the track from SMI), we are certainly a venue that would love to put on another IndyCar race.

"It's always been a good show in the past and I don't see any reason why we wouldn't continue to do it here."



10/14/11 It was a typical warm and sunny day in Las Vegas Friday where the IndyCar Series was practicing and qualifying for Sunday's big finale.  The series of events IndyCar has arranged around this event is very much NASCAR and F1-like in 'Wow- Factor."  Tonight's charity Blackjack tournament at the MGM to benefit CARA and another charity has sold out its 250 slots open for players.  All monies will go to charity........Today's 2012 IndyCar schedule announcement has been postponed  - see more on this below.

Paul Tracy is trying hard to put a full-time IndyCar ride together for 2012 and he's talking to several teams we hear.....Similarly we spoke to Katherine Legge who is in a similar position - talking to three teams seriously, but just short of putting a full year deal together.  TV ratings do not help we hear.

Look for Sunday's race to feature a lot of 'pack' racing.  With HP down 6 to 7% due to the almost 2,000 foot elevation of Las Vegas the cars should be closer together in performance leading to more 'pack' racing. zzzz

We spotted Eric Bachelart and Keith Wiggins talking to a representative from Lotus Friday but still no announcement that Conquest Racing and HVM Racing will run Lotus engines in 2012.  Wiggins told AR1.com that they have signed their engine deal and are just waiting for a few more deals to fall into place before making an announcement.  Speaking of Lotus, it was assumed that KV Racing would run Lotus but then the rumors switched to Chevy.  However, at today's Chevy press conference today in Vegas where Chevy introduced their teams and talked about the status of their new engine, KV Racing was not present.  Might they be having more talks with Lotus? No, we hear they cannot announce their Chevy deal until their current Lotus contract expires after this race.  So we still expect KV Racing to be the 4th Chevy team.

Speaking of Chevy, they are very happy to be back with IndyCar and, according to US Vice President Jim Campbell, "we see a lot of technology transfer possibilities between Chevy‚Äôs IndyCar small displacement, twin turbo, direct injection V6 running on 85% Ethanol fuel and our passenger cars, which are all moving to the same technologies."  Chevy has assigned one of their engineers to work in England with Ilmor to learn as much as possible about the new engine and to help with technology transfer down to their passenger cars.

Campbell told AutoRacing1.com that Chevy will have their engines in between 10 and 12 cars next year.  The three teams present today - Penske (2 to 3), Andretti (3 to 4) and Panther (1 or 2) - represent 6 to 9 of those cars.  They expect to announce a 4th team shortly (assumed to be KV Racing) that will get them to the 10 to 12 range.

Team

No. Cars Chevy Honda Lotus Notes
AJ Foyt Racing 1 or 2 Car team - 1 - Has ordered 2 cars
Andretti Green Racing 3-Car Team 3 - - 2 or 3 cars, Chevy Confirmed
Bryan Herta Autosport 1-car team - - 1 Assumed Lotus
Conquest Racing 1-car team - - 1 Lotus.  Maybe a 2nd car
Dale Coyne Racing 2-car team - 2 - Will run Chevy or Honda
Dragon Racing 1-car team - - 1 Assumed Lotus
Dreyer & Reinbold Racing 2-car team - - 2 Lotus a guess
Sam Schmidt Motorsports 2-car team - 2 - 100% Sure
HVM Racing 1-car team - - 1 Lotus
KV Racing Technology 3 car team 3 - - Near 100% Sure
Michael Shank Racing 1 car team - - 1 Have ordered new Dallara
Newman Haas Racing 2-car team - 2 - Confirmed
Novo Nordisk Chip Ganassi Racing 2-car team - 2 - Honda Confirmed
Panther Racing 1 or 2-car team 2 - - Chevy Confirmed on 10/7/11
Rahal Letterman Lanigan 1-car team - - 1 Lotus Assumed
Target Chip Ganassi Racing 2-car team - 2 - Honda Confirmed
Team Penske 3 car team 3 - - 3rd Car 90% Sure
-

Totals

11 11 8 30-Cars possible

Team owners Roger Penske, Michael Andretti and John Barnes all expressed satisfaction with the Chevy program and are all happy to be part of the Chevy team. Campbell stressed that "we are using the NASCAR model, which works so well, here in IndyCar with all the teams working together as a team for the common goal to raise everyone's game."

The Chevy engine was still on the drawing board in January and Ilmor has done quite a job getting the engine manufactured, built, dyno tested and on the track by late September.  They ran 300 hard miles at Mid-Ohio recently and the engine ran well.  After Sunday's race Penske will stick around to test on the oval with Ryan Briscoe, Ryan Hunter-Reay will be testing for Andretti and JR Hildebrand will test for Panther Racing. 

"We put together a team of people from each of our teams," said Penske about the "shared testing program."  Ryan and JR will run the car along with Briscoe.  It's a team effort.  The crews and owners are committed to it.  We have a lot on our shoulders but we are all used to working under pressure."

JIM CAMPBELL (U.S. Vice President for Performance Vehicles and Motorsports, Chevrolet): "It's so great to be here, we are excited to be re-joining the (IZOD) IndyCar Series. It's exciting because racing has been part of our heritage and history all the way back to Louis Chevrolet. In our recent open-wheel racing history we have had a lot of success. We have looked at the engine rules laid out by Randy Bernard and his team, and they align well with our production side including bio-fuel and turbo-charged engines. What we learn on the engine development side in racing will help make our production engines better. It takes great teams to be successful, and we have three of them here today: Penske Racing, Andretti Autosport and Panther Racing. We can't wait to have all of these people here with us next year."

ROGER PENSKE (Owner, Team Penske): "Obviously this is a big moment for (INDYCAR). The opportunity to get Chevrolet back in our sport is so important. People have been asking who is going to get the engine first. We've put together a testing team with people from each of our teams so this is truly a team effort. With this group of team members and owners, we are fully committed to make this a success. This engine was a piece of paper in January, and it has run over 300 miles just this past week."

MICHAEL ANDRETTI (Owner, Andretti Autosport): "I have very fond memories of Chevrolet being behind me as a driver. It will be fun to work with Penske and Panther Racing. I can't wait to get out there. It has been very smooth so far."

JOHN BARNES (Team principal, Panther Racing): "We won 15 races and two (IZOD IndyCar Series) championships with Chevrolet, and we've missed them. We talked to all the other engine manufacturers when deciding what would be best for our team; but the high level of engineering with Chevrolet really stood out to us."

MARK KENT (Director, GM Racing): Back in May I said we were ready to fire up the engine for the first time. We did fire the engine up, and since then we've been working on building power and reliability. We have begun Dyno testing and in-person testing. We have purchased a new car from Dallara and had it painted quickly, which we completed before Honda did.

WILL POWER (Driver, Team Penske): It was awesome driving out of pit lane for the first time and feeling the turbo engine. The test went flawlessly, which shows you what kind of job Chevrolet and Ilmor have done. We will continually ramp it up and work on making the engine better.  It will be a great year in 2012 having turbo engines back in the series.

Will Power will test the car again on the road course at Barber Motorsports Park November 14 and 15.

Las Vegas seats 132,000 people.  That is a lot of seats to fill.  So whatever the crowd on Sunday, even if they get the 70,000 they are hoping for, will look bad with almost 50% of the seats empty.  IndyCar has rented the track this year and they announced the same deal for next year, with the race being on October 14, 2012.  Randy Bernard says he knows what Las Vegas can do for a sport and he is willing to make the investment in Vegas, even a track rental deal, because he feels the "wow" factor of Vegas will help grow the sport's popularity.  Of the 120 suites at the Vegas track, IndyCar has sold all but 5 of them, so that should be some indication of the popularity of this Vegas race.  Vegas is the best place for IndyCar to hold their championship finale.

Randy Bernard told AutoRacing1.com that the China race is looking good for next year and that there will be two races in Canada again in 2012.  The holdup in the schedule is getting all 17 weekends (18 races) signed before announcing the schedule. If this is the case, then we may see another race added to the schedule that we were not anticipating. So what will be the 18th race added to the schedule below?  If we had to guess it would be an oval event that IndyCar could self-promote like Chicago or Kentucky.

  1. March 25 - St. Petersburg, FL - street/airfield course
  2. April 1 - Birmingham, AL - road course
  3. April 15 - Long Beach, CA - street course
  4. April 29 - Sao Paulo, Brazil - street course
  5. May 27 - Indianapolis, IN - oval track
  6. June 3 - Detroit, MI - road course
  7. June 9 - Ft. Worth, TX - oval track (Sat night TWIN race 1)
  8. June 9 - Ft. Worth, TX - oval track (Sat night TWIN race 2) 
  9. June 24 - Newton, IA - oval track (Sat night race)
  10. July 8 - Toronto, Canada - street course
  11. July 22 - Edmonton, Canada - street course
  12. August 5 - Lexington, OH - road course
  13. August 26 - Sonoma, CA - road course
  14. September 2 - Baltimore, MD - street course
  15. September 15 - Fontana, CA - oval track (Sat Night Race)
  16. September 23 - Qingdao, China - street course
  17. October 13-14 - Las Vegas, NV - oval track
    Bold = Confirmed Date

Bernard promises to release the schedule in 2 weeks.  Why the lack of ovals?  "I have a business to run," said Bernard.  "I love the oval races and we need them or the American fans will lose interest.  But I am not going to sign a deal to lose money, so we have to find the right oval races."

Milwaukee needs a $1million title sponsor before the race will return there and they were close on signing a deal with Laguna Seca for 2012 but they first want the track to commit to changing the configuration a bit to improve the racing.  Did you know that Marlboro gave away 20K tickets and Firestone 8K (for a total of 20,000 free tickets) the last time IndyCar drew a big crowd there.  Once you plaster the market with free tickets fans won't buy tickets the next year waiting for more freebies.  Free tickets should only be given to non-race fans in the hope of winning them over.

Want to see some excellent images from last night's event on the Las Vegas Strip - Check this out.  Randy Bernard told us that last night's closing of the Vegas strip helped their cause of someday having a race on the strip.  He tells us it will take a couple of years to get it done and they already have a course laid out that includes part of the strip near the Mandalay Bay Casino.

Word is that a number of drivers will get a souvenir Dallara IndyCar after the season is over.  If the Indy Lights series is not going to take them over (no word on that yet) there will a lot of now useless IndyCar collecting dust in race shops.

And last, check out this video highlighting Chevy's announcement to sponsor the Detroit GP.  Mark C. reporting from Las Vegas

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