Champ Car to drop Denver race UPDATE #4 This rumor is upgraded to 'fact' today - see Hot News page for announcement.
01/18/07 Champ Car World Series president Steve Johnson confirmed Wednesday that the Grand Prix of Denver might not take place this year and beyond.
In addition to lacking a local promoter and title sponsor, the annual street race on the Pepsi Center grounds has been bumped from its 2008 August weekend because the arena will be preparing for the Democratic National Convention.
"We have some challenges that we have to solve for the event, and there are a number of challenges - from the promoter, to the sponsor, to even the event date," Johnson said. "We are in contact with a number of people to see if we can pull this off."
Pepsi Center spokesman Brian Kitts confirmed that the arena has revoked Champ Car's 2008 race date.
"It doesn't give us much flexibility from a date standpoint," Johnson said. "Dealing with the folks at the Pepsi Center, with all the things they have going on, you have to be flexible."
Champ Car's European expansion races that were added Sept. 2 and Sept. 9 could have a negative impact on saving the Denver race, which has been held in mid-August the past three years.
Champ Car's 2007 schedule features back-to-back races in Elkhart Lake, Wis. (Aug. 12), and Denver (Aug. 19), then the series heads to Europe. With the DNC conflict in 2008, the race likely would have to be moved to June or July.
Kitts said the Pepsi Center is willing to work with Champ Car to find a 2008 date, but it won't be easy.
"The Grand Prix is the biggest event that we ever have done," Kitts said. "It has so many moving parts, it will always be the biggest thing that we do. So it would be difficult to just slide it in and out. More at Denver Post (See also Rumor Update directly below) [Editor's Note: With the loss of a title sponsor, and a loss of the 2008 date due to the Democratic National Convention, one can pretty much assume this event will be axed.]01/18/07 Despite the addition of two European races and an expanded Champ Car World Series schedule, the Denver Grand Prix remains on the schedule . . . for now.
The Grand Prix is without a title sponsor, and many race fans have wondered if the event, scheduled for Aug. 17-19 on the 1.645-mile temporary street course around the Pepsi Center, would be staged for a sixth year.
Steve Johnson, Champ Car president, told the Rocky Mountain News on Wednesday that challenges remain but that the series does not want to lose Denver from its 17-race schedule. There were discussions in September about moving the date to one of the first two weeks in September, but that no longer is being considered.
That option was lost Tuesday when Champ Car announced it has scheduled inaugural events Sept. 2 in Assen, Holland, and Sept. 9 at the Zolder Circuit in Belgium.
"Right now, the Denver race is still on the schedule," said Johnson, who is attending the Champ Car winter meetings in Las Vegas. "We have challenges, no doubt. My team will have a call later this week or within the next two with the folks at the Pepsi Center (and owner Stan Kroenke). We have had discussion with people in Denver, but we don't have anything firm yet.
"We don't have many dates to work with under our schedule, and we can't really go with the later dates," Johnson said. "We want to examine all our options and, in the next few weeks, have a better feel." More at Rocky Mountain News01/17/07 This rumor is downgraded to 'speculation' today as we hear this race's future has yet to be decided. We hope to have more info later day.
01/16/07 The Grand Prix of Denver appears to be coming to an end after a five-year run on the Pepsi Center grounds.
Although the race remained on the 2007 Champ Car World Series schedule as of Monday, an announcement today that two new European races will be added to the circuit is further evidence of trouble in Denver, according to Jim Hancock, former president and current consultant for Sutton International Motorsports, co-owner of the Denver race along with Champ Car.
"I'm fairly confident that Denver is dead," Hancock said. "I'm fairly certain that they are announcing that (Denver) assets have been sold, along with a bunch of other things." zzzz
Champ Car spokesman Eric Mauk said Denver has nothing to do with today's expansion announcement, but conceded the event is in trouble.
"It's still on the schedule, (but) I know they have concerns," Mauk said of Champ Car president Steve Johnson and co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven.
Neither Johnson nor Kalkhoven returned phone messages from The Denver Post on Monday.
Denver-area resident Jim Freudenberg, the 2005 Grand Prix of Denver general manager, who owns expansion Champ Car races in Phoenix and Las Vegas, said it is premature to say the Denver race is dead, but it doesn't look good.
"Yeah, it always looks that way without a sponsor and a promoter," he said, "but I think it's really too early to tell right now because racing is a passionate sport and Champ Car has passionate owners."
Champ Car ran the 2006 Denver race on its own, after Bob Sutton, then CEO of Centrix Financial, backed out of promoting, sponsoring and running the event because of business problems.
"I'll be very surprised if they run it again," said John Frew, Sutton's attorney, who served as the event's first general manager.
The Grand Prix's downtown office closed after the 2006 race, and first-year general manager Rob Johnson resigned. Steve Johnson previously said Champ Car would continue in Denver without a local promoter. Hancock said he is unaware of any discussions between Champ Car and Sutton to produce a 2007 race.
It is possible Champ Car put Denver on its 2007 schedule to keep the rival Indy Racing League from expanding its street racing interests in the city this year.
Hancock said he expects Denver to host future street races, but probably not with Champ Car. "Denver was a viable market," he said. "The struggle is with Champ Car." Denver Post
[Editor's Note: We got wind of this race being in trouble last year in Mexico City, but Champ Car president Steve Johnson denied it would not happen. As it turns out, our original info appears correct. Champ Car comes across looking very weak with each and every race that goes under. How cheesy does it look to have your first major news of the year in the U.S. being that races you have on your schedule are being cancelled? This is the third or fourth year in a row that they've had to cancel races the same year.
Denver was a big market with a decent attendance, better than, say Montreal's attendance, so to see Denver fail sends out a negative message to other race promoters and potential series sponsors. Recall Dick Eidswick's statements a couple of years ago that Champ Car would not exceed 16 races per year. With the loss of Denver, the 2007 schedule would be reduced to 16.]