2007 to be Champ Car’s breakout year

UPDATE More cars next year. Guaranteed.

But will two of them be Rahal-Letterman cars from the Indy Racing League?

Bobby Rahal shook up the auto racing world a tad with his comments in the Sun yesterday about the possibility of his team jumping from IRL to Champ Car.

"Bobby has seen, because of his son racing the support series, the quality of racing and the quality of venues such as we have here in Edmonton,'' said Champ Car owner Kevin Kalkhoven yesterday. "Obviously it's had an impression on him.''

Rahal started his professional racing career in Edmonton at a Players Series race in what is now the Formula Atlantic Series, in which his 17-year-old son Graham is a rookie. He had his Rahal-Letterman unit in the Champ Car paddock this weekend and suggested it could be here for more than just a visit in the future.

"You never know,'' he told the Sun. "It's a great series. Owners like to race in great series. Many things depend on sponsors. They're putting on great events. It's great racing.''

He also suggested Roger Penske, Chip Ganassi "or ourselves are probably 50-50 odds'' to switch series in the event.

One Champ Car team owner, Carl Haas of Newman-Haas racing, said he can't see all three.

But, Rahal … there's a chance.

"I think so,'' he said of the owner, along with CBS Late Show host David Letterman, who have female star Danica Patrick driving one of his Indy Racing League cars.

"But Penske? Chip? I don't see Penske or Ganassi. Absolutely not.''

That said, Haas said he thinks there will be some movement from the IRL series which raced Milwaukee yesterday and which is viewed by some as being "on life-support'' outside of the crown jewel Indianapolis 500.

"I think there are people looking to do that. People are definitely interested, from what I'm told,'' said Haas, who met partner Paul Newman here when he used to race sports cars in the Edmonton International Speedway days.

"If we could bring this to a single series, it would be the ideal situation. There's not quite enough room for two. It would also bring more TV. It's hard for people to get sponsors. It's very hard.

"Kalkhoven is trying very hard. Some of the new venues like Edmonton are great. We have Las Vegas coming on next year.''

Newman, also here for the race, was not available for comment beyond raving once again about the crowds, track and atmosphere here.

There's the suggestion Newman-Haas has been talking about hiring Rahal's son Graham, 17, to join Sebastien Bourdais as a driver with their series-leading team.

"It was a conversation,'' said Haas of having talked to the Rahals on the topic.

"He's a good young driver and he's an American.''

Champ Car has but one U.S. driver, A.J. Allmendinger, who won the previous three races in the series and finished third yesterday.

Kalkhoven said one thing he can guarantee.

"We'll come here next year with more cars. I say that without hesitation.''

The first two Edmonton Grand Prix have featured fields of 18 cars each.

"I believe the new chassis we're going to next year, combined with the excellent new venues like Edmonton we have in our series, will result in a number of new teams in the series. It's now getting very attractive. I think we'll see a number of new teams in the series.'' Edmonton Sun

07/22/06 As we have stated on numerous occasions, 2005 and 2006 would be foundation building years for Champ Car and 2007 will be the year the company begins to generate a profit and build upwards. We have rumored a number of new teams lately, but being sworn to secrecy we did not tell you all we know. However, Alex Tagliani gives you further proof that what we tell you is true:

''What they need is a couple more cars,'' admitted Alex Tagliani. ''That's what they're working on. Behind the scenes I know there are a lot of cars on order from Panoz. There are going to be a lot of cars delivered before Christmas. There are rumors that if you do a car count, you will see there are going to be more teams next year, just by looking at the orders. There are some teams coming from somewhere.''

Couple that with some new sponsors, new races in Las Vegas, Phoenix, China, and perhaps San Antonio, Morocco and Holland or Eastern Europe, and you have the makings of a series poised for some great things.

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