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Merger appears to kill longstanding Portland race Portland's 25th anniversary Champ Car race, scheduled for July 27 at Portland International Raceway, is expected to be scratched after officials from the Indy Racing League and Champ Car signed a deal today to unify the two American open-wheel series.
The IRL will reportedly include Champ Car's Long Beach, Edmonton, and Surfer's Paradise (Australia) races for 2008, and perhaps two more Champ Car events. The IRL does not have a race scheduled on Portland's weekend. However, a much stronger Champ Car event -- Toronto -- is already positioning itself to perhaps be run as an IRL event on July 27. Mike Nealy, who has helped promote the Portland Champ Car race's since the event began in 1984, said his understanding is that the Edmonton race, originally scheduled for July 20, will slide into Portland's spot. Nealy believes Portland has a shot at landing an IRL race in 2009.
"It's disappointing that it has come to this, but with our 24-year history, we should be able to make a strong case for (next year) and that's what we intend to do," Nealy said. "We will see what happens."
Mark Wigginton, the PIR track manager, said he is disappointed that Portland will lose its race but that he also believes the IRL will consider PIR for 2009.
IRL officials did not return phone calls today. "I'm pretty disappointed, because you don't get very many opportunities to have a 25th anniversary race," Wigginton said. "I'm also disappointed in the way Champ Car has handled this from the very beginning -- the way they've treated their staff, their competitors, the people that work for them, and the fans." Wigginton was alluding to the fact that many Champ Car teams found out about the merger talks through conversations with reporters. "You had a business slowly closing down, you had a lot of people (still working) to put on a good show and offer a good product, and everything was done in secret," Wigginton said.
"They haven't been straightforward with any of their stakeholders. It's just too bad. -- it was a bad end (for Champ Car)." Wigginton said PIR, which has just been re-paved, will not take a financial hit without a Champ Car race. "What we've made in the last couple years is just a little more than we would make in a typical week of rental," Wigginton said. "I've got an open date in July now. We're going to take a hard look at what sort of options we can come up with. If nothing else, we will just have a normal week."
Regarding a potential IRL race for 2009, perhaps paired with the American Le Mans Series sports cars, Wigginton said, "I think we've got a good chance -- if we can come up with a promoter group to put up the money. It's not something the track can do, it's really about making sure we get the right group of guys together to make it possible. I think the IRL and the ALMS would love to be in the Northwest." The Oregonian
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