Test Results are back

Posted by Iannucci | 2/29/2008 | 2 comments »
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Two days of testing at Homestead are in the books for IndyCar and Indy Pro series drivers, and the first thing that can be concluded is that no matter which shoes, which hairstyle or which teeth Dan Wheldon is sporting, he still owns this track.

On Wednesday the Well Done one went out and posted a top time of 213.312 mph. Wheldon and fellow Target Twin Scott Dixon initially were the only drivers to post times in excess of 213 mph, although that would change on Thursday . Other familiar faces like Kanaan and Castroneves were near the top of the charts, but there were two surprise names: Foyt and Mutoh.

Patrolling the neighborhood in an unmarked Vision Racing vehicle, Quattro posted times in the Top 6 on both days. For those of you thinking only eight cars have a shot at winning any races this year – think again. Foyt may be destroyed on the twisties, but on the ovals expect him to be running towards the front all season long.

Meanwhile Hideki Mutoh took Dario’s former entry (more or less) and put it right where he needed to be – in the Top 8 each day. There a lot of more experience “rookies” this year, but after his rapid progress in the IPS last year Mutoh-mania may be exploding this year. Watch the sales of Godzilla dolls and unusually large prosthetic ears for an indication of his popularity.

Thursday belonged to an entirely different driver of an entirely different gender. Various unfounded rumors say Danica Patrick missed testing on Wednesday because (a) she couldn’t bear that Sarah Fisher would become the first woman to start a multi-race team, (b) she needed to take her beaver to the veterinarian for grooming, or (c) pressdog spiked her lunch. Regardless, the Danistar was unleashed – but not undressed – as she quickly ascended to topping the speed charts on Thursday with a best time of 213.182. With a season debut like that expect her to be all over the pole like an exotic dancer.

Somebody stop me. Please. Please!

Not to be forgotten, Thursday also featured the first open-entry test session for the Indy Pro drivers. The Indy Pro cars tend to stay pretty close together and this season looks to be no different. Former Atlantic series champion Raphael Matos - who has virtually no oval experience – asserted himself by posting the fastest lap time, slightly ahead of IPS veterans Bobby Wilson, Logan Gomez, and Sean Guthrie – three good ‘ol American boys, I might add. But the times were close, as roughly a tenth of a second separated Matos from the seventh-fastest driver, Richard Antinucci.

Others from the 20 participating drivers you may have heard mentioned here at My Name Is IRL fared well. Cyndie “Swiss Miss” Allemann had the ninth-fastest time, and please note she has been co-opted to driving for PDM Racing instead of American Spirit. Probably a money thing, but it WAS a bit awkward to have a foreign driver representing a team named “American Spirit”. Also of the female persuasion, Ana Beatriz was tenth-fastest for series dominator Sam Schmidt Motorsports, while distinctly male N-Word refugee Brent Sherman was fourteenth fastest.

Lastly, our buddy Mike Potekhen struggled to only fifteenth fastest, but don’t feel to badly for him because according to the Apex Racing site the team has “arranged a Indy 500 ride for Mike Potekhen in 2008.” The applause light is now turned ON. Mike’s a solid driver and a REALLY nice guy, so he’ll make a fine underdog for The Month of May.

One final note: Miles Nelson has returned to updating his Ovalicious site with notes and pictures from at the track. Be sure to check it out, including his picture of Tony Kanaan’s...whitewalls?

Casualties of war

Posted by Iannucci | 2/29/2008 | 19 comments »
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Tuesday’s Kumbaya Konference featured more than one photo opportunity of the IRL’s Tony George and Champ Car’s Kevin Kalkhoven smiling, shaking hands, being chummy and doing everything but passing notes under the table to one another. (Although Mr George should have slipped Mr Kalkhoven a Ricola.) The scene was necessary because in recent years Kalkhoven had become the face of the CCWS leadership, but in reality there were three other men who also had pieces of ownership of the series – Gerry Forsythe, Dan Pettit and Paul Gentillozzi.

As noted yesterday, Forsythe – who poured over ONE HUNDRED MEEEELLION DOLLARS of his own money into Champ Car – decided he didn’t want to pay another dime to race in a series he did not own. After signing driver Paul Tracy to a multi-year contract in January Forsythe closed the doors and let Tracy go, and will now race only field entries in the Atlantic series, which of course he co-owns.

Dan Pettit has also walked away from the unified world, where he was also co-owner of Champ Car’s PKV (as in Pettit, Kalkhoven, Vasser) Racing. Some of us with less than optimal hearing originally missed this this quote from Mr Kalkhoven during the Kumbaya Konference.

I'm actually obviously going to be part of the series with my own team, which is now KV Racing, with my partner Jimmy Vasser.

And as for Gentilozzi, he has expressed the sentiment that his one-car Rocketsports team will likely go race somewhere else. While his departure is not certain, from a business standpoint it would leave the smiling, hand-shaking, “I AM MINDY!” badge-wearing Kalkhoven as the only one of the owners to have actually survived the prolonged open-wheel war.

So it's probably time to just say "Welcome to the party!" to Kevin, and thank him for not picking up his toys and stomping home like a spoiled brat. The more the merrier.

One last note: as of this morning there is another notable casualty – ChampCarFanatics.com. Today’s word of the day will be “schadenfreude”.

UPDATE: It appears CCF is back, for your viewing pleasure.

Minus One

Posted by Iannucci | 2/28/2008 | 23 comments »
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At least one Champ Car team won't be making the transition, leaving the most (in)famous driver in the series without a ride.

In a shock announcement today, Forsythe Championship Racing, which employs Toronto’s Paul Tracy, announced it would not participate in the 2008 Indy Racing League season.

Forsythe, a Chicago businessman, owned the Champ Car World Series racing organization, along with Kevin Kalkhoven and other partners. Champ Car announced late last week it would be going out of business after an agreement was reached with IRL founder and Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Tony George to run open wheel racing in the United States.

Early last year, he signed Tracy to a five-year, multi-million-dollar contract to drive in Champ Car after Tracy dipped his toe into sports car racing and NASCAR. There was no reaction from Tracy early this afternoon.

(MORE from Toronto Star)
That's one small step for fiscal sanity, but one giant leap for boredom.

UPDATE: Robin has more. P-Dog is lamenting. Chris is ticked.

And TSO shares what was mentioned in the comments.

We thought there would be some subtractions from the list of nine - and apparently this is the first one. BTW, Paul Tracy told Robin Miller at SpeedTV.com

"I got a call from Neil (Micklewright, president of Forsythe Racing) this morning and he said, 'I've got some bad news for you,'" related Tracy from his home in Las Vegas.

"Neil said he'd been trying to get a hold of my manager but he was having a colonoscopy today. That's ironic 'cause that's what I feel like I got."

Reality check

Posted by Iannucci | 2/27/2008 | 40 comments »
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One of the fortunate folks attending the Kumbaya Konference at Homestead today (live streaming at 12:25pm ET courtesy of IndyCar.com) was kind enough to forward, well, THIS.



Excuse me, my eyeballs just fell onto my desk.

UPDATE: Oh, what the heck. With all of the news going on today it's probably best to just keep it all in this post.

Is It May Yet? has found this photo of Vitor's new co-sponsor and livery. Try to act shocked when they reveal this later today.

IndyStar says there will be NO schedule announcements today. Bummer.

TrackSide Online notes that although Buddy Rice is still not officially announced for D&R, a trailer has officially shown up with cars for both Mr Rice and Ms Duno.

LIVE:...and we're waiting for the video feed to magically appear at IndyCar.com. Without a doubt, the most anticipated press conference since OJ Simpson was first taken into custody.

12:18 It's up. Lovely faux palm trees by the podium.

12:30 Nothing yet, and all I see is the podium to the right. Is it wrong to have expected a huge table where a symbolic signing could take place? You know, with big feather pens?

12:31 We're starting, and now it's just a photo op with Mr George and Mr Kalkhoven shaking hands in front of a whole lotta drivers.

12:32 OK, everybody sit down...a-ha, a table!

12:33 TG: "We are going to unify." I think he just said THEY called HIM.

12:36 KK starts off by coughing into his hand. Nice.

12:38 Anyone keeping track on the number of times these guys are using the word "potential"?

12:40 We are told Robert DUNE-boss (err, Dornboos) is in the house.

12:43 TG confirms Long Beach will be "the Champ Car finale", and Edmonton and Surfer's Paradise should be on the schedule this year. At Long Beach teams WILL be using the DP01s, and afterwards they will hold a demolition derby outside of West Coast Choppers...OK, I made the last part up.

12:46 Teams will be partering to help get up to speed (literally). NHL will team with RLR (Hi, Graham!) and PKV will be working with Ganassi.

12:48 KK coughs some more, hopes Champ Car Fan(atics) can be "amicable". At least the ones not yet in paper suits.

12:49 Robin wants to know who gets new cars and who gets used cars. He's obviously thinking of opening a Dallara dealership.

12:51 KK just hinted that "we might see a couple of drivers come back from Motegi and jumping in a DP01". Hey, if they get points for both events, why not?

12:52 I'm not within sniper range so I can safely say Brian Barnhart should seriously consider dialing down the blow dryer.

12:55 TG: "...our offseason is way too long." Amen, brother. AMEN!

12:57 Cavin asked "Was it worth it?" Not exactly a definitive response as KK said he didn't want to look back and TG said "Can I use his answer?" Many chuckles.

12:58 Uh-oh. Mr George says “I think we’ve pretty much exhausted our opportunities for ovals”. Anticipates a 20 race schedule, half being ovals.

1:00 TG: It's about the fans...bring everyone together...happy fans.

1:01 Oreo asked about TV ratings. He works for ESPN, ya know.

1:03 KK: Atlantics will continue with a 12 race schedule. Cosworth has non-racing related revenues so it's all good.

1:05 I couldn't hear very well but I think someone just asked if KK has any interest beyond being an owner. TG (not KK) stumbled through a non-response about "leadership".

1:08 TG is high on adding Toronto in the future but as for Montreal "...uhhh, I don't have an idea as to what the commitment is there."

1:11 For sheer entertainment purposes this shindig should have included Derek Daly.

1:14 Barnhart says Dallara will produce 14 new chassis by May. You can purchase them at Robin Miller Dallara of Greater Indianapolis.

1:16 ...and that's a wrap! Let's get some cars on the track now.

Big Fish

Posted by Iannucci | 2/27/2008 | 6 comments »
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If you listen closely you can hear the rejoicing of FishHeads everywhere.

Sarah Fisher, the first woman to secure a pole position and finish as high as second in an IndyCar Series event, adds another first to her résumé: team owner.

Fisher, 27, will announce Wednesday at Homestead-Miami Speedway that she will field a one-car, part-time effort this season, becoming the first woman to own an IRL team since the series launched in 1996.

"We're at about eight employees, not including myself," Fisher said. "This isn't something I really thought about doing until recently. It's been a little stressful, but I've had a great time doing it."

(MORE from USAToday)
Thanks to the ever-vigilant pressdog for forwarding this to me at 5am.

Foyt IV in No 2

Posted by Iannucci | 2/26/2008 | 15 comments »
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Look who's on the list for testing at Homestead this week.

No.2 A.J. Foyt IV, Hockley, Texas, Vision Racing

The biggest headline from today’s entry list is the virtual confirmation of A.J. Foyt IV as a Vision Racing driver. Vision has yet to confirm its ’08 lineup, and there was much speculation that the squad could downsize to just one car (for Ed Carpenter) this season. - SpeedTV

Quattro looked rather competitve on ovals towards the end of last season, and the acqiblendabsormergified racing series would greatly benefit from competitive racing by anyone with a familiar name like "Foyt". Or "Andretti". Or "Rahal".

UPDATE: Thanks to John, uh, (which John are you?) for noting that Vision Racing has made the official announcement.

Milka is a cartoon character

Posted by Iannucci | 2/26/2008 | 6 comments »
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It's been mentioned before that she's in the upcoming live-action "Speed Racer" flick, but the Milkalicious one is also exploring her entertainment options in other forms of media. From the Dreyer & Reinbold press release.

In the end of March, she will be releasing a new childrens' book, Go, Milka, Go! It features Duno as a cartoon character sharing the importance of education to children of all ages -- a cause for which she is very passionate.

"Go, Milka, Go!" sounds like something her spotter would be yelling at her. I mean, it should be a fun book and all, but you may have to turn the pages verrrrrry slowly.

Traffic

Posted by Iannucci | 2/26/2008 | 7 comments »
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Behold, the power of "free" racing.

The IndyCar Series could reach record participation if a Monday meeting at Indianapolis Motor Speedway is an indication.

All nine of the Champ Car World Series teams were on hand for an introductory meeting with Indy Racing League officials.

Those nine teams accounted for 16 car-and-driver combinations last season. If most join the IRL, the league record of 31 cars for a race other than the Indianapolis 500could be approached.

(MORE from IndyStar)
Sweet fancy Moses - do we have enough pit boxes at some of these venues?

Oh, by the way: "Plus, Tomas Scheckter and Sarah Fisher have part-time rides." The press conference for the Fisher Queen is scheduled for tomorrow, in addition to other press conferences declaring peace, love and the Homestead Accord.

Hunter-Reay finally hired fulltime

Posted by Iannucci | 2/25/2008 | 21 comments »
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It's like RLR almost forgot to announce this.

HILLIARD, Ohio (February 25, 2008) – Ryan Hunter-Reay opened eyes throughout motorsports last season when he stepped into the Rahal Letterman Racing Indy Car at Mid-Ohio and made his series debut without a single lap of testing and carried the car to a seventh-place finish.

The American-born Hunter-Reay will now get a chance to chase the championship in 2008 with a full complement of preseason preparation as the Floridian was named today as the driver of the #17 Ethanol Dallara/Honda/Firestone for Rahal Letterman Racing.

(MORE from Rahal Letterman Racing)
Congratulations, Ryan. I guess we need to find you a nickname now.

Newly refurbished series title for sale

Posted by Iannucci | 2/25/2008 | 3 comments »
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Amid the joyous quotes and good wishes (see TrackSide Online, IndyCar NewsStand) in a unified world, there was one that jumped out from the IndyStar.

Zak Brown has fought that confusion since his Zionsville-based sports marketing company, Just Marketing, started selling Indy-car sponsorships a few years ago. Unification leads Brown to predict the IRL will soon have a title sponsor for the IndyCar Series, something it hasn't had since Northern Light, an Internet search engine company, left in 2001.

"I guarantee there will be a title for '09," Brown said.

"And it will be a big, blue-chip brand."
It's easy to be bold when you read news like this today, also in the IndyStar.

Brian Barnhart, the IRL's president of competition, expects representatives from six teams accounting for 10 cars at the meeting.

The expected two-car teams are Newman/Haas/Lanigan, PKV, Forsythe/Pettit and Conquest, with Walker and Minardi Team USA fielding one each.

If all participate, the IRL will have 26 cars.
Race Marketing 101 says it's a lot easier to get series sponsorships when you have more than 18 cars, and you don't have to be a marketing wiz like Eddie Gossage to know that.

Three Disciplines

Posted by Iannucci | 2/25/2008 | 26 comments »
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Last night Mr George was answering a question about the future schedule of the series, and his response said they would look to balance the schedule with respect to the "three disciplines" of racing. I tried rewinding the DVR to see if those three were clearly defined, but they weren't.

If anyone saw the interview on "Wind Tunnel" last night, do you think he meant:
1. superspeedways
2. short ovals
3. road/street courses

... or did he mean:
1. ovals
2. road courses
3. and street courses?

Because if Mr George meant the latter, well, that would mean darn near BECOMING the series they just "acqiblendabsormergified".

Longtime readers (all named “John”) know that as an IRL fan I was never a proponent of a merger, but what happened last week was definitely not the merger for which everyone had been pleading. I'm not overly-hyped to see my favorite series add three more street races parades, but if it means adding a lot of skilled drivers for other races, creating a stronger open-wheel product, and ending the endless unification banter then yes, sign me up for that smokin' deal.

However, for the IndyCar series to head in the direction of systematically dropping ovals in favor of adding parades would be suicidal. That other series tried that, and obviously it didn't work out. Twice, actually. This is how we got here.

Recall this from 1995. "The purpose of the IRL is to provide growth, stability and opportunity for open-wheel, oval track racing." Remember this, Mr George? Wait, let me change that from being a question to: Remember this, Mr George!

Right now Helio and Danica are as recognizable as nearly any driver in this country and showcasing them in a unified series provides a huge opportunity to elevate the indyCar series like never before, but trying to make the racing product look more like F1 and less like the N-Word is snobbishly declaring you want to make more period pieces and less action flicks. I'm saying less "Atonement" and more "Spiderman", please. Remember this, Mr George.

More Milka. Seriously.

Posted by Iannucci | 2/25/2008 | 19 comments »
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The week of improbabilities continues.

Milka Duno has revealed that she will embark on her second season in the Indycar Series after switching teams and signing with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing to drive the #23 CITGO-sponsored Dallara.

Once again, as in her seven-event debut campaign in 2007, the Venezuelan will only contest selected races this season, but will join the rest of the field at this week's Homestead-Miami Speedway test session, before decamping to Sebring International Raceway next week for her first taste of an IRL car in road course guise.

(MORE from RaceTech)
There's nothing real in the world anymore.

IT'S OVER

Posted by Iannucci | 2/22/2008 | 38 comments »
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We won. February 22nd, 2008 is V-I(ndianapolis) Day!!!


Don’t worry about if there are enough Dallaras to go around, or that more street race snoozefests are on the way, or that there’s only a month for the new teams to figure out the equipment, or that having a bunch of drivers new on a super speedway increases the likelihood of something very bad happening at the season opener, or that after spending this year behind everyone else these new teams may decide they’d rather race in the ALMS.

Just run outside, grab yourself a nurse (or sailor), and start smooching!

One series...one champion...one love.

Here comes the bride

Posted by Iannucci | 2/22/2008 | 8 comments »
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From Cavin's blog.

Feb. 22: A deal is at hand

Curt's note: It's 3:55 p.m. and Kevin Kalkhoven just told me an announcement about a deal is imminent. Like minutes away. Kalkhoven said they don't everything completely done, but it's apparently close enough to move forward with an announcement.


Check out IndyCar.com, friends. "DONE DEAL"

Welcome to Friday

Posted by Iannucci | 2/22/2008 | 18 comments »
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Good morning friends, and fasten your seatbelts! This is final approach.

Unification talks continue

Joint statement: The ongoing talks between the Indy Racing League and Champ Car World Series will continue into at least (Feb. 22) in regards to the unification of open-wheel racing.

Any confirmation will be made once an agreement is in place. There are no plans for a news conference at this time. Much progress has been made toward unifying the sport.
- IndyCar.com


Open-wheel racing still had two series after meetings between owners of the Indy Racing League and the Champ Car World Series ended Thursday night.

Another round of meetings is scheduled for today, according to IRL spokesman Fred Nation.

Nation said there is no cause for concern even though a news conference planned for this morning at Indianapolis Motor Speedway was put on hold.

"Absolutely not," he said. "They made a heck of a lot of progress, but they're not over the hump yet."
- IndyStar


“I don’t think there’s any fatal problem, they just didn’t quite get everything done,” said Fred Nation, the IMS vice president of communications.

“They stopped for the evening and they’ll resume in the morning.”
- SpeedTV


The final details of the deal, according to David Higdon, executive vice-president of strategic development for Champ Car, were being put together last night by George and Kalkhoven.

"Kevin and Tony George met yesterday to finalize an agreement that all sides wanted to see happen," Higdon told Sun Media in a phone interview from Indianapolis, where the talks took place.

"There will be a public announcement tomorrow," he said.
- Toronto Sun


IRL officials have made arrangements to stage a press conference to confirm and detail the open-wheel "merger" when terms are finally agreed. However, with the series' official media day scheduled for Tuesday at Homestead-Miami Speedway in Florida, they may decide to delay the announcement until then.

The IRL's first open test session of the season occurs February 27-28 at Homestead's 1.5-mile oval, followed by four days of road course testing at Sebring International Raceway in Florida on March 3-6.
- ESPN


In the meantime, look to Curt Cavin's blog for updated "absorption" and power-broker breakfast information.

"Can you merge me now?"

UPDATE: Cavin says Kalkhoven has left the building, as well as the city.

Curt's note: My guy in the sky said KK's plane left Indy at 11:41 a.m., according to flight logs. Guess that means no announcement today. Still waiting on word from the IRL.

No conmfirmation on whether or not Anthony Fedele was on that plane.

UPDATE 2: Cavin is simply on fire.

Kalkhoven could not be reached for comment, and George admitted to being "anxious" that details are still not resolved after a lengthy dinner meeting Thursday night at a downtown restaurant.

"We're still not where we need to be, and the more time passes the more challenging it becomes," he said.

(MORE from IndyStar)
...tick...tick...tick...

The train is pulling into the station

Posted by Iannucci | 2/21/2008 | 36 comments »
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The bigwigs are meeting.

Will Power, Justin Willson, and Graham Rahal are being added to IndyCar.com.
(good catch, IndyCar NewsStand)

And the name "Indy Racing League" will soon be obsolete.

Oh, dear. My Name Is...ICS?

UPDATE: As readers have noted, the names of Champ Car drivers are currently OFF the Indycar.com site. Webmasters have been known to get squirrelly, so that's not a huge deal. Yet. Meanwhile Curt Cavin - clearly under pressure to say something - has published a story about nothing.

Barring an 11th-hour snag in negotiations between IRL founder Tony George and Champ Car World Series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven, who planned to meet Thursday night, the two Indianapolis-based sanctioning bodies are expected to officially become one, potentially as soon as a 11:45 a.m. news conference Friday at Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
(MORE from IndyStar)
"...potentially as soon as...11:45 a.m...." carries about as much weight as saying it's definitely possible someone could show up and start talking around, oh, 11:45 p.m. Maybe. But it could totally happen. Really.

Also, he used the word "absorption", which if memory serves is the term first coined here by The American Mutt. Which makes me wonder if Cavin's leads have run so dry he's now scouring blogs for any shred of information. (Everybody, please smile and wave to Curt.)

All I know is it's 8:00 p.m. here in Arizona, which means it's time for "Lost". With all the plot twists in open-wheel racing this week it wouldn't be surprising to see Tony George and Kevin Kalkhoven appear on the island(s).

UPDATE 2: Go to bed. Curt says they're thisclose, but not there yet. Hey, after all these years of "split" what's a few more days, right?

Not dead yet

Posted by Iannucci | 2/21/2008 | 4 comments »
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Cosworth still alive and kicking

Cosworth, the U.K.-based engine builder that lost its last Formula One customer at the end of 2006, faces another possible blow with word that Champ Car (for which it is the sole engine supplier) is set to go out of business or merge with the Indy Racing League.
The Dead Collector: Bring out yer dead.
[KK puts Cosworth on the cart]
Kevin Kalkhoven: Here's one.
The Dead Collector: That'll be ninepence.

The company--owned by Champ Car co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven--eliminated 200 jobs after losing its deal with WilliamsF1.
Cosworth: I'm not dead.
The Dead Collector: What?
Kevin Kalkhoven: Nothing. There's your ninepence.
Cosworth: I'm not dead.

However, it has developed new markets in the aerospace and defense industries. Cosworth is hiring staff and investing about $2 million in new machinery to fulfill orders for precision-engineered pistons for aerospace and premium automotive customers.
The Dead Collector: 'Ere, he says he's not dead.
Kevin Kalkhoven: Yes he is.
Cosworth: I'm not.
The Dead Collector: He isn't.
Kevin Kalkhoven: Well, he will be soon, he's very ill.
Cosworth: I'm getting better.
Kevin Kalkhoven: No you're not, you'll be stone dead in a moment.

(from AutoWeek)
And imdb.

And now a new word

Posted by Iannucci | 2/21/2008 | 14 comments »
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"Merger", "unification", "acquisition", "amalgamation"..."blend"?

A deal that would unify America's two open-wheel racing series entered the final stages Thursday.

Rather than a merger, talks have centered on a proposal in which some teams from the Champ Car World Series would blend into the Indy Racing League's IndyCar Series.

With the deal apparently nearing completion, it appeared Wednesday between six and 10 cars from the Champ Car side would take the offer from George of a free Honda engine lease program, free Dallara chassis and $1.2 million in team incentives.

Several Champ Car teams are not expected to take George's offer because, even with the engines, cars and incentives, it would take an additional $2 million or more to compete in the IRL. The teams that don't have the sponsorship or backing to continue will either close down or move to sports car racing, which is less costly.

(MORE from the Associated Press)
"You say tomato, I say to-mah-to, you say..." Wait, I just remembered that line ends with "let's call the whole thing off."

TRANSLATION: The article above also mentions this:

"There are four issues they will try to hammer out by the end of the night," IRL spokesman Fred Nation said. He did not identify the issues.

Oh, we can "identify the issues", Fred. Kevin Kalkhoven, Gerry Forsythe, Paul Gentilozzi and Dan Pettit. And Tony George brings his hammer to work every day.

Mixed signals

Posted by Iannucci | 2/21/2008 | 16 comments »
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Then again...

Canada's Paul Tracy said yesterday an expected merger between the Champ Car World Series and the Indy Racing league may not happen this week, or even this season.

In a telephone interview from his home in Las Vegas, Tracy said he had been told to cancel a scheduled trip to Indianapolis, that would have had him being fit for a seat in an IRL Dallara chassis in preparation for that series' opening race at Miami-Homestead Speedway on March 29.

"All I know is that three days ago there was a plan for me to go get ready to drive an IRL car; that there was going to be a merger," he said. "Now (yesterday) I was told: 'Don't bother coming to Indy' because the balls are all back in the air."

(MORE from Winnipeg Sun)
Years from now we'll all look back at this and have a big laugh, right?

NOT AN UPDATE: But just for the sake of reference.

"I'm not gonna drive one of those crapwagons!" - Paul Tracy (9/24/03)

You always hurt the one you love

Posted by Iannucci | 2/21/2008 | 5 comments »
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You always hurt the one you love
The one you shouldn't hurt at all
You always take the sweetest rose
And crush it till the petals fall
You always break the kindest heart
With a hasty word you can't recall
So If I broke your heart last night
It's because I love you most of all


The Intrepid Curt Cavin is reporting that Tony George will be returning to Indianapolis today from a Formula One-related conference in Florida (start your own rumors with that one) while Kevin Kalkhoven is arriving from London after conferring with penguins. Or family members. Whatever.

It looks like the powers that be will be having a nice afternoon of sitting down in person and trying to seal the deal, which at this point seems to still be held up by the same issue that existed two weeks ago.

Still to be resolved is the April 19-20 weekend that currently shows an IRL race in Motegi, Japan, and a Champ Car race in Long Beach, Calif., the latter of which has a contract that must be executed.

Jim Michaelian, Long Beach Grand Prix president and chief executive officer, said Wednesday he is still awaiting unification notice and final details.

Michaelian said he is aware one option is to stage both races as planned. If that happens, Champ Car's teams and its cars would go to Long Beach and its participants would receive the same number of points as the IRL drivers receive for racing in Japan.

Another option would be for the IRL to cancel the Japan event even though tickets are already on sale.

(MORE from IndyStar)
Wow. Asking Honda to cancel their showcase event in their homeland so that the IRL could feature a race in Long Beach sponsored by Toyota would require some serious bowling balls in Tony George’s pants, but both series have gone so far down this path together in recent weeks they can’t let a little thing like upsetting the sole engine manufacturer get in the way of the Almighty Unification.

This re-marriage is looking as messy as the last divorce, but one way or another it really really really looks like it's going to get done.

Closer

Posted by Iannucci | 2/20/2008 | 21 comments »
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Wednesday...Thursday...how about Friday?

IndyCar officials have scheduled a press conference for 11am on Friday in Indianapolis where they will announce the long American open-wheel racing war has come to an end.

Series officials had hoped to make the announcement on Thursday, but Champ Car principle Kevin Kalkhoven will not be back from England, where he is tending to family business.

Friday's announcement will end the 13-year feud that began when Indianapolis Motor Speedway president Tony George announced the creation of a new racing series on March 20, 1994.

(MORE from The Press Association)
There's more in there about "intellectual rights" and the addition of the race in Mexico City, but at this point who knows what's actually accurate. It might as well say they're racing on Moon Base Alpha this year.

UPDATE: TrackSide Online says the following.

Initially the story said a press conference had been confirmed for Friday at 11:00am, though that has been changed a couple times and now reads: "IndyCar officials have tentatively scheduled a press conference for Friday in Indianapolis, where they likely will announce that the long American open-wheel racing war has come to an end."

TSO has spoken with IRL officials and they insist that a press conference has not been officially slated yet.
In the immortal words of Mr Incredible, "We get there when we get there!"

UPDATE 2: "We're (down to) just grinding out the details," (Kevin Kalkhoven) said by telephone from London. "You know what happens when you get attorneys involved." - IndyStar

Thank heavens for small favors

Posted by Iannucci | 2/20/2008 | 5 comments »
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Dancing With the Stars announced their latest roster of contestants, and fortunately there are NO DRIVERS.

Huzzah, your humble host is spared from another weekly shredding of his man-card!

Although, I'm almost intrigued enough to tune in to see if Monica Seles grunts during her routines. Almost. But not quite.

UPDATE: In what was surely the tipping point in convincing the CCWS to fold into the IRL, Helio will be appearing on Oprah's show tomorrow. Now that The Oprah has chosen her side the open-wheel war is effectively over. Later on Friday, Danica will be on Ellen's chatfest.

Helio, Oprah, Danica, Ellen. When you're HUGE you only need one name.

Shotgun wedding announcements

Posted by Iannucci | 2/20/2008 | 3 comments »
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Still no definitive news, but still lots of words about the lack of news. Some words more dramatic than others.

"Champ Car series is on its deathbed". - Edmonton Sun

DUH-DUH-DUUUUUUUUUH!

"We are still trading drafts of a (possible) agreement," said Fred Nation, spokesman for IRL founder Tony George. "We are whittling away at the issues, but they have not been eliminated. We're optimistic these things can be resolved, but . . . it's always possible that (someone) will decide they don't want to (unify)."

Nation said the emphasis in negotiations has shifted from the April 19-20 weekend, where both series have a race scheduled, to finances. He would not elaborate.

"That could be anything from cash (exchanged) to what pieces and parts are on a chassis," he said.
- IndyStar

I hope Mr Nation points out how much money they'll be saving in nose cones.

Larry Curry is the team manager at Vision Racing and will be in charge of not only preparing the cars that will be going to the new teams joining the IndyCar Series, but also his own effort for his drivers.

"I think certainly we've anticipated this was in the works and I want to say that we are prepared," Curry said. "If and when we get the final word that we need to get some of that stuff distributed we'll be able to answer the bell. It hasn't been totally defined exactly yet how all of that transpires if and when it becomes official to tell you the truth.

"If they announce this thing tomorrow, it's not too soon for me."
- Sports Illustrated

Of note to AJ Foyt IV fans, Curry specifically states in the SI article "We're going to run two cars full time. Tony George needs to officially announce his driver lineup with that but what we would do beyond that is yet to be determined."

Champ Car has become a questionably viable racing series that essentially no one in North America cares about. It features a field of drivers that may be quite talented in their own right, but no one in North America cares about them, either.

The IRL's Indy Car Series, which has been in existence since 1996 and has yet to capture the hearts and minds of auto racing fans in the United States beyond the Indianapolis 500, isn't doing much better.

It has a marquee event in the Indy 500 and it does have a driver that also moonlights as a Sports Illustrated swimsuit model, but the rest of the field is sadly just as faceless as the starting lineup of a Major League Soccer club – and that might be an insult to a soccer club.
- Yahoo! Sports

Bob Margolis, author of the above quote, must not watch very many dancing shows. I mean I've got co-workers who would instantly recognize Helio, and they wouldn't know Jimmie Johnson if he was standing in front of them in his firesuit.

The merger talks between the Indy Racing League and Champ Car were characterized Tuesday as “heating up” and an announcement that America’s two top-tier open wheel series are going to be one may be made later this week.

That sounds good, except, well...we’ve seen this movie before. And though the villains change, their motives never do.

Money and power.
- HeraldNet

Villains? Money and Pow-wah? Friends, scribes like this for years have piled on these series owners for NOT getting together, and now that they finally are getting down to brass tacks this guy is saying "ah, they'll never merge". Sheesh, some of the people you can't please none of the time.

Oh, the drama. How's that humpy/lumpy song go? "No no drama. You don't want no drama." That song is truly annoying, but it's appropriate.

Counter Invasion

Posted by Iannucci | 2/19/2008 | 13 comments »
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This just showed up in the email, but darned if I can find a link anywhere. Anyhow - Behold! The first of surely (ahem) many N-word drivers is immigrating to the (allegedly) newly unified world of open-wheel racing!

Sherman joins Panther Racing: Panther Racing has signed veteran Brent Sherman to drive its Indy Pro Series car for the 2008 season. Sherman recently completed a test with Panther on the road course at Homestead-Miami Speedway, and Panther team owner John Barnes believes the Minnesota-born driver can lead his Indy Pro Series team to another championship season.

"It says a lot about the Indy Pro Series when a driver of Brent Sherman's caliber wants to make this historic move from NASCAR to open-wheel racing," Barnes said. "I was surprised when I got the first call from Brent, but after getting to know him and seeing his talent first-hand in Panther's (Indy Pro Series) car, I realized this is a guy that can win races and deliver another championship to our race team."

Sherman competed in the Barber Dodge Pro Series and Grand Am before making the move to the NASCAR Nationwide Series in 2004. He racked up more than 60 starts in the Nationwide Series from 2004-2007. He began the 2006 season as a full-time NASCAR Sprint Cup driver with BAM Racing.

"Open-wheel racing is where I started my career and I'm happy to be back with a team like Panther Racing," Sherman said. "I want to be successful, and I'm here to win races and championships. I've been a lot of places in my career, but the opportunity to drive for a championship caliber team like Panther is the opportunity I haven't had elsewhere."

"I'm just really excited to join Panther Racing and a great series like the Indy Pro Series," Sherman said. "I don't think a lot of guys in NASCAR realize the kind of opportunities the Indy Racing League has. Guys down there are scraping together all the money they can find to run a partial season or a test in ARCA, Craftsman Trucks or the (Nationwide) Series when they could run a full season of Indy Pro Series. I'm happy to be here."


Panther has indicated in their Ask the Pack section that it is possible they may have multiple Indy Pro drivers this year. This is noted so Leilani Münter fans can come off the ledge until further notice.

Chairman of the bored

Posted by Iannucci | 2/19/2008 | 11 comments »
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We need some comic relief today, and who better to amuse us then JPM? If there's gonna be like 42 different "ESPN" channels on cable, there may as well be room for one called ESPN: Juan Pablo Montoya. Once again it's time for Fight Night with Pablo, who's gradually moved up in class from Pablo vs Videographer to Pablo vs Kevin Harvick and now Pablo vs Some Big Wrestler Dude.



If auto racing personalities are getting into wrestling then this begs the question of which happens first: Danica wins a race or Danica hits someone with a chair?

(thanks to Marc at Full Throttle for finding this)

Maybe they should phone a friend

Posted by Iannucci | 2/19/2008 | 2 comments »
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The intrepid Curt Cavin - and others - are keeping themsleves busy today. Now he's reporting that unification has come down to a multiple choice question for Champ Car owners. Who Wants To Be An IndyCar-illionaire?

The four owners of the Champ Car World Series could decide the fate of the Indianapolis-based series today, but one of them offered a word of caution.

Paul Gentilozzi doesn’t expect to see very many, if any, Champ Car teams in the Indy Racing League this season.

“I don’t know of a Champ Car team that is a go,” Gentilozzi said today. “(One owner) told me he’d run (the Indianapolis 500), but he will not run the season.”

Gentilozzi said Champ Car’s owners have a document in their possession to vote on, and a decision could come as early as today. Bankruptcy is among the options they could consider. Gentilozzi did not discuss the document’s details, but it likely centers on bankruptcy of the series they purchased in 2004.

(MORE from IndyStar)
If I may be so bold as to offer a lifeline to these folks, allow me to do so with three simple words: Vote for Helio!

The end is near

Posted by Iannucci | 2/19/2008 | 15 comments »
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Tomorrow is the day.

The Indy Racing League series will hold a press conference tomorrow to announce its unification with Champ Car, sources close to the series said. John Griffin, Indy Racing League vice president of public relations, said though the exact timing of an announcement has not been confirmed it is “a fair assumption” that there will be an announcement tomorrow. - Indianapolis Business Journal

Let's see if Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe dress accordingly. You know - something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue.

UPDATE: Oreo says THURSDAY is the day.

NOT AN UPDATE: But Diecast Dude at Restrictor-Plate This has produced this amusing graphic in honor of the day's news.

Signs

Posted by Iannucci | 2/19/2008 | 5 comments »
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We may already be walking in a unified world, we just don't know it for certain. Here's what there is to be found to corroborate or refute the premise.

"There is so much to do I haven't been able to sleep," said Brian Barnhart, the IRL president in charge of competition. - Autoweek

AUSTRALIAN Champ Car star Will Power has called for the series to merge with the rival IndyCar Series, even though it will ruin his title hopes. - Melbourne Herald Sun

...if Panther’s telling the truth, then we have to wonder if Haas has telegraphed a sooner-than-expected jump to Tony George’s series by going after Meira, a guy with plenty of oval experience to balance out Wilson and Rahal’s road-racing background. - Indy Racing Revolution

Laguna Seca officials confident Champ Car will return in May - Monterey County Herald


UPDATE: Curt Cavin says Brian Barnhardt is on a chassis hunt. Warning: the following story contains actual cited quotations from real people. Reader discretion is advised.

Indy Racing League officials are making plans to accommodate Champ Car World Series teams, the latest sign that the two open-wheel series are nearing a deal to end their split.

Brian Barnhart, the president of the IRL's competition division, said today that league founder Tony George, who is negotiating a possible reconciliation with owners of the Champ Car World Series, has asked him to determine which IRL teams have cars and equipment to spare.

Barnhart noted at least 60 cars owned by various IRL teams.

"(He) has me talking with these teams about chassis, but he does not have (anyone) buying it yet," Barnhart said.

(MORE from IndyStar)

Are we there yet?

Posted by Iannucci | 2/19/2008 | 11 comments »
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Well, now that we have that big stock car race out of the way we can rejoin our regularly scheduled Robin updates.

Most Champ Car teams were told to quit working on their Panoz chassis Monday and expect delivery of their new cars in a few days. Paul Tracy is coming to Indianapolis later this week for a seat fitting. And one of Champ Car’s co-owners admitted to a fellow owner there would only be one series in 2008.

SPEEDtv.com has learned that the Indy Racing League and Champ Car have officially, and mercifully, agreed to become one entity. A press conference could come as early as Wednesday if Kevin Kalkhoven is back from England in time.

Following nearly two weeks of negotiations between Tony George, Gerry Forsythe and Kalkhoven, an agreement is in place to bring several Champ Car teams and a handful of races into the IRL domain. It’s believed attorneys from both sides worked all weekend to finalize some kind of arrangement for the two men who claimed CART’s assets in bankruptcy court in 2004.

George, who started the IRL in 1996 when CART was in its heyday, would not confirm any deal when contacted late Monday night. “While it is true that I continue to believe we at the threshold of something long-overdue, we have not yet stepped across it,” he said.

(MORE from SpeedTV)
After several weeks of Chicken Little-type reporting from all sorts of places it's probably best to wait for something - ANYTHING - official. Until you see the Champ Car site redirict to IndyCar.com, or a big red whit and blue ICS logo on the Champ Car team sites, or Gerry Forsythe sporting "I Am Indy" gear, it's not yet a done deal.

39 days to Homestead.

UPDATE: As pointed out in the comments, Curt Cavin's blog today starts off with this.

Curt's note: As of this morning, I don't have confirmation that a deal is done, but I believe it is. Stay tuned.

Hey, I believe in Santa Claus, but I still need the elves on record to confirm his existence. Imagine all of the auto racing reporters furiously talking at various voicemail boxes RIGHTNOW!

UPDATE 2: Speaking of long-standing animosity, I see that Fidel Castro has resigned. Coincidence?

Down under and going under

Posted by Iannucci | 2/18/2008 | 20 comments »
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One of the three or so races from the CCWS schedule are mentioned as being acquired, err, "merged" into the IRL docket is the Surfer's Paradise race in Australia. This article from Gold Coast makes it sound like Champ Car has lost the date regardless.

The Bulletin understands that if the merger talks fail between the Indy Racing League (IRL) and Kevin Kalkhoven's Champ Car series, A1 GP may take over as the international component of the Surfers Paradise race.

The V8s are already an established part of the Surfers Paradise event, but to secure the $11 million in State Government sponsorship, Indy bosses must enshrine the international component.

(MORE from GoldCoast)
Crikey! Meanwhile back in the states Champ Car teams are pretty much doing NOTHING while waiting for a decision.

I spoke with a couple of local folks from Minden who are heavily invested in the Champ Car series. Katie Brannan does PR for the Pacific Coast Racing team and Richard Raeder manages the Sierra Sierra Formula Atlantic race team, defending series champions. Both of them told me that from the Champ Car/Atlantic side of things everything is up in the air with no official word coming out of the Champ Car offices and all the teams pretty much on hold.

"Our team owners have put a stop to all expenditures, and we have four chassis in-house that are pretty much paperweights at this point," Raeder told me.

(MORE from Nevada Appeal)
Tick...tick...tick...

Quote of the Day

Posted by Iannucci | 2/18/2008 | 8 comments »
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Because Oreo says they're still talking.

"Is it too late? Don't know, don't care. I raced there many years ago. Is it going to bring open-wheel back to greatness in America? I really doubt it. People in America are a lot more interested in NASCAR than they are with open wheel.

"It's good for the general sport, and maybe for teams to find sponsors for that series. But all the good teams right now are in IndyCar, apart from Newman/Haas, so it isn't going to change that much." - Juan Pablo Montoya
He's almost as excited about unification as Tony Stewart is.

Invasion of the ride-snatchers

Posted by Iannucci | 2/18/2008 | 9 comments »
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The Daytona 500 represents a bitersweet day, and not because of presence of former open-wheel drivers who've gone on to greener (and slower) pastures. No, it's because it's our national "Opening Day" of racing, and it reminds me that there is still over a month to go before the IndyCars fire up.

For those who did not peek in on Sunday's festivities here's a summary: two hours of napping and yardwork, one hour of racing, one hour of yellow flags, five minutes of excitement. That's just me - your mileage may vary.

Since this is of course an IndyCar site we will note only "open-wheel invaders". Ahem. First up is Sam Hornish Jr who had a relatively good day by staying up near the front and finishing 15th. Only in the N-Word can one use "good day" and "finishing 15th" in the same sentence. Roger Penske said Sam drove a "masterful race", so you can only imagine the praise he heaped upon Sam's teammates who finished first and second.

Dario Franchitti had a decidely different day, finishing 33rd. This doesn't mean the week was entirely forgetable, because not only did his wife cause a stir with her wardrobe (complete with enormous hat) but Dario's mentor - the esteemed Jackie Stewart - revealed that years ago he tried to get Dario to change his name to "Jock McBain". What?!?

Speaking of name changes, "Jack" Villeneuve failed to qualify for Sunday's race and now will also not be participating for the next Whatever Cup race in California. Some invaders are less invasive than others.

Villeneuve's countryman Patrick Carpentier was in the Top 25 in qualifying speed but also failed to make the race due to those funky rules they have. Fortunately for Carpentier his team has committed him to the AJ Allmendinger plan of a full-season of qualifying attempts with several actual races scattered hither and yon.

Oh yeah, Allmendinger didn't qualify either.

Speaking of South Africans

Posted by Iannucci | 2/15/2008 | 9 comments »
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Tomas Scheckter's three-race ride with Luczo Dragon (a.k.a. The Team Run By Roger Penske's Son) is now official.

Former Vision Racing driver Tomas Scheckter will drive three races in the 2008 IndyCar Series season for Luczo Dragon Racing. The Indianapolis Star reported on Feb. 1 that the South African driver was leaning toward joining LDR.

Scheckter will drive in the Roadrunner Turbo Indy 300 at Kansas on Apr. 29, the 92nd Indianapolis 500-Mile Race on May 25, and the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma at Infineon on Aug. 24. All profits made from the three races will be donated to charity.

(MORE from Indy Racing Ravolution)
We can only hope that charity is "Tomas Scheckter's Full Season Fund."

Busting his Tschops

Posted by Iannucci | 2/15/2008 | 1 comments »
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My Name Is IRL is always on the lookout for talented and interesting personalities in the Indy Racing League, and it seems another one has arrived. Ladies and gentlemen, please give a warm welcome to Tschops Sipuka, who not only bears the nickname “The Transkei Tornado” but also refers to himself on his website as both “Racing Driver par excellence” and “A proud South African Dude”. I am totally not making that up.

‘Chops recently passed his Indy Pro rookie test, so the 29-year-old from the VERY Deep South should soon be representing Brian Stewart Racing.

Sipuka, an automotive engineer in South Africa, has competed in both touring cars and formula cars in South Africa and throughout Europe. He won back-to-back Volkswagon Cup titles in 2002 and 2003 and was named the 2002 South African Motorsportsman of the Year by the South African Guild of Motoring Journalists.

(MORE from IndyCar.com)
Can’t wait to see you race, Dude!

An update on nothing

Posted by Iannucci | 2/15/2008 | 11 comments »
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After growing accustomed to a constant flood of unification updates from everyone’s favorite “unnamed sources” the spigot seems to have been turned off all of a sudden. Maybe it’s the clam before the storm or maybe it’s the calm after the storm, but either way there isn’t much.

But here's what there is for sake of discussion.

In his Q&A Curt Cavin refuted the “Kevin Kalkhoven has cleaned out his office” report earlier posted here, and today he has an interesting quote from a previously silent IRL owner, who ponders the obvious.

"I want to see where we fit into this when it's all worked out," (Dennis Reinbold) said. "Obviously, the Champ Car teams will get some assistance to run. We'll see if that applies to any of us (already in the IRL)."

(MORE from IndyStar)
How about similar sentiment from another IRL team owner, Mr AJ Foyt?

Regarding the negotiations between the Indy Racing League and Champ Car, Foyt said, "I don't really know as you hear this today and that tomorrow. I haven't talked with Brian (Barnhart) or Tony (George) about it, so I really don't know. I don't know whether the merger would make much of a difference, although we might pick up a couple more races somewhere. I do know it would be better to have one circuit than two; that would be a plus.

"The top names and owners are there (IRL) now and the only ones you would pick up would be Newman-Haas. I don't know of any American drivers other than Graham Rahal over there, plus Paul Tracy, who is a Canadian driver. Other than car count I don't know where you would gain."

Reportedly, the IRL stands ready to offer incentives to Champ Car teams to make the change. "I would throw a fit and pack up my bags if that was true," Foyt said. "And others may do the same."

(MORE from Motorsport)
You do not want Foyt angry with you. Just as Arie Luyendyk.

Meanwhile Robin’s latest update expressed frustration, so much so he just vomited out a bunch of unverifiable stuff.

In the past 24 hours I’ve heard:
• Gerry Forsythe has decided to keep Champ Car going without Kevin Kalkhoven.
• Forsythe is buying all of Derrick Walker’s equipment because he’s going to have to field at least six cars to make sure there’s a dozen on the grid.
• Kalkhoven and Craig Gore, the co-owner of Team Australia who still owes Derrick Walker a fortune from 2007, are going to run a team in the Indy Racing League.
• Kalkhoven owns the majority rights to Long Beach so he’ll still cut a deal with George to have the IRL there in April and Motegi will be postponed until 2009.
• Champ Car will show up at Long Beach for the season opener, then disband and join Tony George’s series at Indianapolis.
• The four Champ Car owners will have a conference call on Friday to decide their fate.
• They’ve already decided to file for bankruptcy but, for some reason, they’re dragging their feet.

(MORE from SpeedTV)
OK, then. One thing that keeps being mentioned in a “unified” schedule is the CCWS event in Edmonton, although a report from the Calgary Sun indicates that event – like so many other Champ Car races – is bleeding like a stuck pig. Except cash instead of blood, of course. Sorry if the metaphors seems off lately.

Let's talk about drivers for a change

Posted by Iannucci | 2/14/2008 | 10 comments »
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It’s time to take pressdog’s advice and just back away from the newswires and the message boards for just a moment. Breaking news could likely happen in the next few seconds but, oh well. For now here’s a roundup of stories on IndyCar drivers.

Ryan Hunter-Reay was testing here in the Valley of the Sun earlier this week. Oddly enough RLR happened to mention what AGR did not, which is that both Hideki Mutoh and Danica Patrick were testing at PIR as well. It was a bit cold earlier this week so it’s unlikely Danica was going commando. Just sayin’.

Speaking of Danica, how would you like to get in her pit box? (DOH!) AirTran is having a contest providing winners to be a member of her pit crew for various races. You’re probably not going to be her right-rear tire changer, but if you get to wear the snappy black and blue Motorola gear you’ll be a total rockstar at the track. You can also still enter to win driving lessons from Danica in the Peak Sweepstakes, although if you’re lucky enough to win BOTH you could also be hit with a restraining order.

Both Oreo and Jeff Olson have stories on Danica’s REAL better half (that would be Dan Wheldon) worth reading, although neither author asked the hard-hitting dental questions that race fans demand.

Lucky for us Dan has fully exposed his new choppers in this amusing piece of work celebrating Scott Dixon’s wedding this weekend. Honestly after all the discussions we’ve given to his new grill I have to admit: those teeth almost look real.

Quote of the Day

Posted by Iannucci | 2/14/2008 | 27 comments »
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Ah, the folly of youth.

"I used to say specifically that I wanted Champ Car to live and I wanted the IRL to die off, but the truth is, the IRL isn't going to die off because they've got the Indy 500. Right now, the way I look at it we need to have one series, whatever way we can achieve that." - Graham Rahal

Gee, we're looking forward to seeing you too, Graham.

Seriously though, the kid is just a teenager but he's already figured out "the IRL isn't going to die off because they've got the Indy 500". That alone puts him in the upper percentiles of the Champ Car crowd. Now if he can figure out WHY the Indy 500 is so popular we'll buy that young man a tenderloin.

Mutiny

Posted by Iannucci | 2/13/2008 | 7 comments »
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Forget comparisons to the Titanic, Champ Car appears to be exploding into pieces like the Hindenburg. If this report is to be believed, the series formerly known as CART has just suffered yet another split, because the word is now that Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe are no longer BFFs.

By Monday, many had come to the conclusion that the inevitable was just around the corner. While it is widely agreed upon that a single unified series is what is needed to rebuild and grow open wheel in America, this was not the unification that anyone was willing to accept. This was total capitulation. This was rushed and messy and ugly and a hollow victory for AOW. By late Monday evening things started to appear worse than previously thought, and rumors of a bankruptcy filing began to circulate. Champ Car as we knew it would be no more. The epitaphs and eulogies were free flowing as there was nothing else to do but await our fate.

This morning sources inside the Champ Car HQ's confirmed that indeed the Pi data acquisition folks had begun to remove equipment and Kevin Kalkhoven's belongings were being packed up and removed. And that's when things got interesting.

A late afternoon staff meeting at Champ Car headquarters allegedly revealed that Champ Car would not be declaring bankruptcy, but rather would push forward with the 2008 season. However, it is being speculated that it will be without longtime majority co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven, again lending credence to the wide spread belief that there was fire behind the smoky whispers of discord amongst the leadership of the series. Worse than just losing an owner however, there are additional rumors that Kalkhoven could be taking his team, PKV racing, with him over to the IRL, with the possibility of other teams following. In fact an AP article posted late this evening is stating that Derrick Walker is so exasperated by the back and forth and lack of communication that he is concentrating solely on an IRL entry for 2008 unless something changes drastically, and soon.

(MORE from ChampCarWorld.net)
Good times, eh? The braintrust at Trackside Online says there are reasons to believe Kalkhoven may be bringing several other - but not all - Champ Car teams along to the IRL as well. However...

Additionally, this causes HUGE problems because not only were Forsythe and Kalkhoven partners in the CCWS, they also co-owned several races (Long Beach, Toronto), along with PI Research and Cosworth. How those two settle up will be a major issue.

If Forsythe keeps Long Beach (and from his perspective, that only makes sense), then obviously the IRL doesn't get that race. Even if Forsythe is just delaying for a better deal, then there are time problems that need addressed.

(MORE from TrackSide Online)
Oh, the humanity!

Incedentally, if you're sitting by the computer just hitting refresh you could instead do yourself a favor and drop $19 for a subscription to TrackSide Online. They're an IndyCar ONLY news service that will send to your email box not only their proprietary updates but also every press release from every IRL team and track. Plus not only can you check out their snappy photo galleries, you can also compete in their fantasy league with people like me and pressdog. (Assuming of course he wants to try to defeat me again this season.)

Liquidation Station

Posted by Iannucci | 2/13/2008 | 17 comments »
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Oreo has added his two cents to the unification sensation sweeping the nation, providing us with the following observation.

Ironically, the four-year history of the limited liability corporation Kalkhoven and Forsythe set up to manage the Champ Car series may end in the same place it was started: federal bankruptcy court. Insiders said they believe Champ Car is considering an emergency liquidation in an effort to pave the way for the IRL to take over as the sole sanctioning body in American open-wheel racing.

(MORE from ESPN.com)
After further investigation involving many unnamed "insiders", My Name Is IRL can now confirm that this is indeed the case. In fact, a hastily assembled video providing for this liquidation of the remaining CCWS assets has been produced to be shown on QVC in a one-hour, tape-delayed broadcast in the very near future. Here is a partial transcript.

RB: Hi folks, Rick Benjamin here along with Jon Beekhuis, welcoming you to the very special Champ Car Unification Liquidation Auction.

JB: Rick it’s great to be here amid some great Champ Car memories. All proceeds from the sales today will be going to some incredible charities, and with any luck will be able to scrape together some money for ourselves.

RB: Let’s start off the show with something special, Jon. It’s a collection of photo submissions from aspiring Grid Girls from around the world. All I can say is Wow!

JB: Submissions, indeed Rick. We don’t have a lot of time so let’s point out this stack of unpaid invoices, all featuring the genuine Champ Car logo. Take some of the babies home and frame them for posterity, or if you like you can actually try to collect on them. Hey, who doesn’t enjoy a good scavenger hunt, right?

RB: Of course! Right next to the paperwork is Paul Tracy’s famous “Nacho Libre” costume. Come on folks, Halloween is just around the corner, and what would be spookier than racing wrestler, or a wrestlin’ racer, or…well, how about maybe just bidding on this pair of glasses left behind by Sebastien Bourdais?

...

JB: Hey look, here’s an autographed VHS tape of everyone’s favorite racing movie - “Driven”!

RB: Autographed by whom, Jon?

JB: Looks like none other than Chip Ganassi! There's a blast from the past.

RB: Well, it's all gotta go, including this beautiful bottle containing, what’s this say? “Newman’s Own Bitterness”. Folks remember, all proceeds go to charity.

...

JB: Check out this bucket here. It contains every single remnant from Katherine Legge’s Wild Ride at Road America in 2006, save Ms Legge herself of course. And speaking of Road America, over here’s a deer head. What is that, an 8-point?

RB: I have no idea. Now look over here, friends. Here’s a personally autographed picture by Mrs Doubtfire herself, Mr Robin Williams...oh, wait. This says “Kevin Kalkhoven”. Nevermind.

JB: Now if we look in this closet here friends we can see that this auction will include every single racing uniform ever worn by Oriol Servia. We’ve got Dale Coyne Racing, Newman Haas, Patrick Racing, PKV, Walker, Conquest, Forsythe, PPI…wow, you could form your own series with this Spaniard’s wardrobe!

...

RB: And for the ladies, here’s some locks of Nelson Phillipe’s hair. Not sure how that ended up here.

JB: Rick, how about this life-size cutout of Michelle Beisner? Hang on – it IS Michele Beisner! Michelle, what are you doing here?

MB: Just helping the cause boys! I’m here to present the feature item.

RB: Hey – is it Robin Miller’s hard card? Oh, what race fan wouldn’t want to hang that on the old Christmas Tree this year?

MB: That’s certainly a worthy item, but here’s something you don’t see everyday – a fully completed DP01! This is the actual prototype folks, not the low-rent, low-budget version that was actually used in Champ Car races. No sir, this right here is a thing of American-made beauty. Auto show only folks, you wouldn’t want to actually drive the thing – you know what I’m saying?

RB: Friends, we’ve got all sorts of memorobilia from four unbelievable years of Champ Car racing. Hundreds of DP01 nose cones, thousands of hero cards from anonymous drivers, a huge stack of “Arizona Grand Prix” merchandise - you name your price and it's yours.

JB: You can even have my own personal copy of Derek Daly’s Great Big Book of Irish Colloquialisms!

RB: Hold on to your Hollyhocks, because it’s all got to go in the name of “unification” and bidding for every item starts at just a buck. Proceeds benefit the Champ Car Wayward Debtor’s Foundation, as well as the Ronald McDonald House. Because unification isn't just a buzzword – it’s for the kids.

Law and Order

Posted by Iannucci | 2/13/2008 | 5 comments »
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I was going through some old posts and I found this ironic quote by Scott Sharp from last fall.

"We're committed to the IRL for another year, at least, although we might add a sports-car race here or there," (Sharp) said.

Riiiight! The good news for Sharp is that he will not be legally prevented from racing in “a sports-car race here or there” this year, but the Judge presiding over the dueling lawsuits between Sharp and Rahal Letterman Racing determined Scott’s going to be a bit lighter in the pocket book.

Miami (February 13, 2008) – Because Scott Sharp violated his obligation to race exclusively for Rahal Letterman Racing in 2008, Rahal Letterman Racing was vindicated today in its breach-of-contract allegations against Scott Sharp Sports, LLC pursuant to an order issued by United States District Court Judge Hon. Adalberto Jordan.

Specifically, in the final conclusion of the seven-part ruling, Judge Jordan states: ‘It seems to me that (Sharp) has knowingly breached one agreement in order to enter another. He may continue to race for Highcroft in the 2008 season, but this case shall go on, and he may pay for his choices in the end, quite literally, if a jury views the evidence as I do.’ In addition, Judge Jordan stated that ‘according to the evidence presented so far, Rahal Letterman (Racing) has not committed fraud or breach of contract. If anything, it is the Sharp defendants who have breached and abandoned their contractual commitments’.

Judge Jordan also analyzed the evidence as follows: ‘The record demonstrates that Rahal Letterman (Racing) did everything basically right and worked with the Sharp defendants at all times in good faith…Therefore the Sharp defendants have no excuse for violating the restrictive covenant in the Driver Agreement. For these reasons, I conclude that Rahal Letterman (Racing) will likely succeed on the merits of its breach of contract claim against the Sharp defendants.’
So The Bobby will get a check somewhere down the line and The Immortal One will go on to race sports cars elsewhere. Scott may race them here or there, he may race them anywhere!

Walking back

Posted by Iannucci | 2/12/2008 | 14 comments »
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Forget any unification news, Derrick Walker is straight up taking his team from Champ Car back to the IRL.

Walker, a Champ Car owner who has also competed in the IRL, told The Associated Press on Tuesday he believes Champ Car is finished.

"It has all the makings of the end of Champ Car," he said in a telephone interview. "How it's going to be done, I don't know. But I think Champ Car is going to shut down."

Walker was so concerned about the series' future that he instructed the team to return to Indianapolis without ever testing his car in Sebring, Fla., earlier this month.

"We are working toward (the IndyCar series) 100 percent until someone can show me that Champ Car is really going," Walker said. "That's part of my frustration. My truck was on its way to the Sebring test and I turned it around and brought it back because we had not had anyone in Champ Car tell me what was going on. So we put it all in the corner, left it alone and put our energy in IRL 101."

(MORE from Associated Press)
If you had a dime for every story that talked about CCWS teams not getting paid, well, you'd have more cash in hand than many of these teams.

For now, get used to the fact that his driver's name really is Will Power.

Danica hates clothes

Posted by Iannucci | 2/12/2008 | 8 comments »
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Apparently there’s this magazine called Sports Illustrated, and they have this annual swimsuit issue that’s rather popular. I don’t know – I’m not a subscriber. Anyhow, fresh after unzipping in some GoDaddy ads Danica Patrick is now unzipping in Sports Illustrated.

Looks like GoDaddy does NOT give her all the exposure she needs.

Because you’ll be so fascinated looking for her “tramp stamp”, the pictures are here. There’s also a Q&A with Danica and some guy named Dan involving more discussions of undressing.

DAN: Have you worn a swimsuit underneath your suit while racing?
DANICA: [Pause.] Not quite.
DAN: What have you worn underneath the suit?
DANICA: [Laughs.]
DAN: Have you gone naked under the suit?
DANICA: Well, uh, kind of.
DAN: So, no underwear in the race suit?
DANICA: Yeah, well, you know ... they get in the way.
DAN: You go commando?
DANICA: I don't know. Maybe we shouldn't talk about that.
This would explain why she hasn't been doing any Victoria's Secret ads, although with these new weight requirements for 2008 she might as well put her undergarments back on. Ahem.

Champ Car reportedly bankrupt. Again.

Posted by Iannucci | 2/12/2008 | 8 comments »
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It's 2004 all over again. Hopefully without the court proceedings.

Tony George was still optimistic about a plan to unify open wheel racing for 2008 following his trip to Japan to try and reschedule the race at Motegi to accommodate Long Beach.

But, by the time George returns to Indianapolis, there might only be one series standing anyway.

The word on the street late Monday was that Champ Car plans to file bankruptcy within the next 24-48 hours which, effectively, will end the 12-year war in open wheel.

(MORE from SpeedTV)
Robin says Kevin Kalkhoven is "adamant" Long Beach be on the schedule if any "merger" is to be arrived at. That's probably because that's the last bargaining chip Kalkhoven has at this point, and with all the collectors mentioned in the article he wants to cash in whatever chip he can find.

"Tony, throw me a freakin' bone here."

Robin also notes that on her first day of work the new Champ Car Media Relations Director was basically sent home. Who do they think they are to dare treat the blogger-friendly PR maven Pat Caporali so cruely!

Being hard on the beaver

Posted by Iannucci | 2/12/2008 | 6 comments »
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In case you haven't seen the "banned by Fox" GoDaddy ad featuring Danica Patrick, allow me to congratulate you on your overwhelming sense of decency. Because I know my children are prone to reading this site I will summarize by saying Danica is talking about her, umm, furry little dam builder.

Which would have been nothing, were it not for the fact that mere days after the release of this commercial, the pilot of the #7 has been nominated by Nickelodeon for a Kids Choice Award as Favorite Female Athelete.

Are you kidding me?

Danica is many things, but I think at this point she's may have gone off the cliff as a Kid's Choice. You can't be making ads like that and still be a paragon towards childlike virtue. Our buddy pressdog has taken her to task for not being able to live up to this nomination, and now your humble host offers an Open Letter plea to the raven-haired one.

Dear Mrs Hospenthal,

I’m a big fan of your IndyCar career, and as such I though it was time to pass a note to you. You’ve done a lot of great work in promoting the Indy Racing League the last few years by probably saving the series from certain financial ruin, but more so for me personally your competitive runs have intrigued my oldest daughter enough that she now shares a passion for racing as well. Fortunately she doesn't share your passion for F-bombs (at least not yet) so for those other contributions I will always be grateful to you.

I understand that part of the reason – OK, most of the reason – for your popularity is due to your relentless branding towards a “sexy” image. I get that this somehow sells phones and antifreeze and pastries and pays the bills for you because your sponsors really dig the whole “hot chick in a fast car” thing. That’s all well and good, but even you should realize there’s a difference between “sexy” and “trashy”.

And that new GoDaddy “Beaver” ad of yours is clearly the latter.

Despite the fact that you were made to look like you were completely undressing in public before paparazzi for no apparent reason, I don’t have any particular moral objections to that commercial that Fox rejected. However I do think the folks at Fox were doing you and your sponsor a favor by keeping it off the airwaves, because that was the far and away the most lame, ridiculous thing I’ve ever seen you do. And I'm counting last year's ad. This new one was like someone let a 14-year-old boy write the script, and honestly I thought your appeal was trying to be a bit beyond the Beavis and Butthead crowd. I suppose you were trying to go for laughs with the whole debacle, but “where’s the beaver” isn’t going to get them.

Come on - you were talking about "my beaver". To the camera.

So as a fan I’m politely asking you to try being a bit more judicious in your self-promotion. Embarrassing yourself with this juvenile nonsense isn’t going to help you land future sponsorship deals (Larry Flynt not withstanding), isn't going to advance auto racing, and it certainly isn’t going to help your current image with fans like me or my daughter. What it will do is make many of us question your true intentions, because since you have reached the top of the marketing ladder we can only presume that you are able to make select from many choices of ad campaigns for which you wish to appear as a representative.

Please choose more carefully before you become a liability instead of an asset to the sport we love. We care about you and your career, but not necessarily your beaver.

Most Sincerely,

Jeff Iannucci
My Name Is IRL

A good meeting

Posted by Iannucci | 2/11/2008 | 2 comments »
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Recently in his Q&A blog, Curt Cavin revealed how the intrepid one is grappling with the pesky IndyStar policy that doesn't allow him to quote unnamed sources. Not to be foiled by journalistic integrity, tonight Cavin checks in with former Honda honcho Robert Clarke, who has been serving as chaperone to Tony George and the fine folks at Honda this week.

Robert Clarke, the former president of U.S.-based Honda Performance Development, said today that he is optimistic merger talks with Champ Car can continue.

“It was a good meeting, yes,” said Clarke, who joined George and IRL presidents Brian Barnhart and Terry Angstadt in the meeting.

“Am I optimistic? I don’t see any reason why not (to be).”

(MORE from IndyStar)
A good meeting, eh? Mr George demured “Nothing is going to happen quickly, if at all,” which is a strange thing to say when things are happening so quickly. TrackSide Online adds some deja vu to this story.

TSO is also hearing unsubstantiated rumors that the CCWS will file for bankruptcy as early as this week. Again, we have not confirmed this and it's strictly a rumor right now, and frankly we aren't even 100% sure which entities that make up the ChampCar World Series would be included. Series owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerry Forsythe have significant assets that are racing related (like Cosworth, Long Beach, Toronto), that are probably not directly under the CCWS legal umbrella.

Needless to say, this could (and will) get complicated.

(MORE from TSO)
Now just for fun let's add this bit from an AutoWeek article a few days ago (thanks to Indy Racing Revolution for the find).

One Champ Car source went so far as to suggest the IRL is trying to “sabotage” Champ Car’s 2008 season and that there is no way negotiations can be completed by the Long Beach race in April. Still another source involved in contract negotiations with Champ Car said the negotiations were on schedule until a few days ago, when “the phones just sort of went dead at Champ Car.”

(MORE from Autoweek)
So about this meeting. Was it anything like that one in "The Untouchables" where Al Capone kept talking about the new TEAM plan or some such thing? Yeah, that certainly was a good meeting.

Let me know if Mr George has traded in his hammer for a baseball bat.

She’s a man, baby

Posted by Iannucci | 2/11/2008 | 7 comments »
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It’s no secret My Name Is IRL often contains posts at the expense of the loose cannon that is Robin Miller. Robin has moments of being a cutting-edge reporter and others of just looking like a horse’s behind, but always there doing the same thing we are – talking about racing. Self-indulgent, yes, but an undeniable part of open-wheel motorsports and without that cranky mug yammering away there would be a lot less posts around here. Plus there wouldn’t be a need for this groovy picture.

And besides, Robin is finally coming around to talking up the right league.

So at the risk of looking like a total hater of the one person who with an army of unnamed sources is keeping folks like us glued to the newswire this week, this post now appears here to draw attention to something so minor it may result in a simple chuckle. Go to this recent article by Robin, click on Robin's “profile” and see what you can see.

Please forgive me, Robin, because this post only exists for the sake of using the Austin Powers line "Well, no offense, but if that is a woman it looks like she was beaten with an ugly stick!"

UPDATE: It appears after this posting Robin's SpeedTV profile has since been edited and no longer reads "female". So in case you click and don't get the joke, it's not you.

Webmasters messing with us

Posted by Iannucci | 2/11/2008 | 8 comments »
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A few weeks ago Tomas Scheckter disappeared from the Vision Racing driver roster, and now it appears AJ Foyt IV has vanished as well.

So does this mean Tony George is saving money to buy Dallaras for new teams? Or simply that Quattro will be employed somewhere else? Or is he in witness protection?

News from abroad

Posted by Iannucci | 2/11/2008 | 5 comments »
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This just in from Australia's Goldcoast.com.

Deal seals Indy's future

In an agreement that has the motorsport world abuzz, the two rival North American open-wheel racing bodies are poised to sign a historic merger deal.

In the past week, the major hurdle that needed to be cleared was getting officials at Twin-Ring Motegi in Japan to move its race date from April to later in the season so that the Long Beach could be added to the IndyCar schedule.

Indy sources said Honda had agreed in principle to the date change and it was expected that the deal would not be lost because of Honda's reluctance to sign off.

"It's a done deal," said the Indy source.
Take this all with a shovel full of salt because the article also says this.

Gold Coast-based Team Australia, owned by Craig Gore, with Will Power and Ryan Briscoe as its two drivers, would be part of the super 2008 series.
...and as Helio Castroneves could tell you that's not exactly accurate.

This is still an IRL site

Posted by Iannucci | 2/10/2008 | 11 comments »
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...but that doesn't mean there isn't some relevant info worth relaying from Champ Car.

First, this weekend the Minardi team took the unusual step of releasing a statement on the whole development, including some very optimistic wording.

In common with other teams competing in the Champ Car World Series, Minardi Team USA is aware of the latest news regarding the possible merger of the Series with the Indy Racing League. Minardi Team USA views this as potentially a very positive development for the future of North American open-wheel racing. As with any major business deal, however, the devil is in the detail, and we understand there are still a number of important matters that remain to be resolved, not least of which is negotiating a suitable 2008 schedule. There are some very good, experienced people working on finding solutions to the outstanding issues, however, and like everyone who is passionate about open-wheel racing in this country, we hope their efforts will be successful. We now await further developments.
Note that didn't exactly say "we're fine no matter how this turns out".

Meanwhile Robin reported on SpeedTV tonight that the Walker team has a Dallara in their shop right now. Reader John E quickly alerts us to the Walker Racing site, which reads:

Walker Racing seeks new employees for 2008 expansion of open wheel programs

Track Engineers with experience in Indy Car, Champ Car, Atlantic,
Indy Pro Series or Star Mazda.

Mechanics with two years of experience in Indy Car, Champ Car,
Atlantic, Indy Pro Series, Star Mazda or Formula BMW.


So if you happen to see Arni the Indy Insider walking around with a sign that says "THE END IS NEAR!", you know why.

UPDATE: USAToday confirms that Walker Racing has a Dallara and is looking at returning to the IRL regardless.

"We're just a small company who is trying to sell our wares, which for us is getting sponsors and going racing," said (Derrick) Walker, who is in discussion to keep his drivers (Will Power and Simon Pagenaud) and main sponsor (Aussie Vineyards) on board if he makes the transition. "That's our business. So we had to look at the IRL and look at the Indy 500, which we thought had a comeback year in 2007."