L.B. `on’ despite Champ troubles

LB track layout

Amid growing speculation that Champ Car World Series and Indy Racing League are on the verge of merging came reports Tuesday that Champ Car could be about to file bankruptcy, ending its existence.

However, Jim Michaelian, CEO of the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach, reacted strongly when asked if the annual race – scheduled this year for April 20 – would become a potential casualty of the Champ Car situation.

"We're going to run an event here on April the 20th," Michaelian said. "I can tell you that."

Despite at least one published report that Champ Car would file for bankruptcy this week, and one team owner saying he believed the series would be "shut down," Champ Car officials said Tuesday they would not acknowledge the reports.

"We're proceeding with our plans and will keep operating as Champ Car," David Higdon, executive vice president for Champ Car, told The Associated Press.

Michaelian said that even though Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe co-own the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach as well as a large portion of Champ Car, that doesn't mean that what happens to one happens to the other.

"We're a totally separate entity that operates as an independent company," Michaelian said.

Asked if he was saying that, should Champ Car fold, the Grand Prix of Long Beach would run as scheduled, Michaelian said: "Right now I don't want to speculate on what's going to transpire because I think it doesn't bring any value to what's going on here. I'm going to let the events unfold.

"However, I have gotten a number of calls today asking, `So, if something does transpire in regards to Champ Car, what impact does that have on Grand Prix'? And what I'm telling you is that they are two separate entities. And we will evaluate where we're going to go and what we're going to do if we need to based on the merits as it pertains to the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach LLC.

"And we won't be affected by anything that might transpire in regards to Champ Car World Series. I want to make that very clear."

Michaelian, who did not want to comment on a possible Champ Car bankruptcy, then took a deep breath and let out a sigh. He said there has been a lot of "rumors" and "innuendo," and that he wants to wait until the smoke clears before going any deeper into how the Grand Prix of Long Beach will continue.

He was supremely confident, however, that it will.

But the news of a potential merger of Champ Car and IRL, or a potential Champ Car bankruptcy, caused the City Council on Tuesday to delay a proposed contract extension with the Grand Prix Association of Long Beach through 2015. Michaelian said the timing of Tuesday's proposed extension was a coincidence.

One of the difficult parts of hammering out a deal for a merger has been the conflicting dates involving the Grand Prix of Long Beach and the April 19 IRL race on the Honda-owned Motegi track in Japan.

Kalkhoven has said that he will not compromise the date of the Grand Prix of Long Beach for any merger. And like Michaelian is sure the show will go on for the Grand Prix of Long Beach, Kalkhoven is also certain of one thing: "There will still be racing this year," he said. In part from Long Beach Press Telegram

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