Phil Pash’s World of Wheels

OWRS gets CART assets

Open Wheel Racing Series, LLC (OWRS) will take over operations of the CART Champ Car World Series after a decision last week in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Indianapolis by Judge Frank J. Otte. He ruled the bid submitted by OWRS partners Paul Gentilozzi, Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe was the best option for all concerned parties. OWRS bid $3.2 million for the assets in open court. The IRL, led by founder Tony George, offered $13.5 million.The ruling means OWRS acquires all assets of the Champ Car World Series, including all race-related equipment as well as the race contracts with various promoters. In effect, the ruling guarantees the open-wheel racing series will compete in 2004 and beyond. The final 2004 race schedule, television plans and team, driver and sponsorship announcements will be forthcoming throughout the next two months. The season will begin April 18 with the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. OWRS says it has commitments for 18 cars to conduct a 15-race schedule. The series will race at Road America and Laguna Seca after track promoters withdrew their objections, Gentilozzi said. Judge Otte based his ruling on the issue of potential liability that would have resulted if the IRL offer had been accepted and the majority of scheduled races been canceled. “There’s a vast difference of opinion on that issue (of the value of race event contracts),” the judge noted. “There is no way we can be certain what the damage would be, but we can be certain there would be litigation.” The damage was estimated by the CART creditors’ committee at between $10 million and $30 million, although attorneys for the IRL disputed those numbers.

The Rolex 24 at Daytona

Bell Motorsports No. 54 Kodak Pontiac Doran driven by Terry Borcheller, Forest Barber, Andy Pilgrim and Christian Fittipaldi won the Rolex 24 At Daytona. Two GT Porsches were second and third. … NASCAR stars Tony Stewart and Dale Earnhardt Jr. and road racing vet Andy Wallace finished fifth. They appeared to have the twice-around-the-clock race won until the final hour when a broken suspension piece cost them. Stewart was at the wheel of the Chevrolet-powered Crawford when the left rear tire pulled off the rim and sent the 2002 Winston Cup champion spinning to a stop on the backstretch, just missing the concrete wall. Pilgrim drove into the lead with 15 minutes remaining, passing Stewart and the car that had led since late in the seventh hour. … The winners covered 526 laps and 1,872.56 miles, finishing three laps ahead of the runnerup, a Porsche GT3RS co-driven by Englishman Johnny Mowlem, Mike Fitzgerald, Joe and Jay Policastro and Robin Lidell. They barely held off the GT3 Cup car of Johannes van Overbeek, Seth Neiman, Lonnie Pechnik, Peter Cunningham and Mike Rockenfeller to win the GT class by 6.97 seconds. … The Super Grand Sport class was won by the Porsche GT3 Cup shared by Jean-Francois Dumoulin, Robert Julien, Greg Pootmans and Marc Lieb. They finished ninth overall. … Rain began falling less than three hours after the start and continued throughout the night. The race eventually was stopped for almost three hours. It was the first time the race had been stopped since thick fog caused severe visibility problems for several hours in 1989. … Among the 53 starters was 79-year-old movie actor/racer Paul Newman, whose car, Gunnar Racing Porsche Fabcar, was 48th after completing 185 laps. His co-drivers were Kyle Petty, Gunnar Jeannette and Michael Brockman. … The pole-winning Lexus Riley of Scott Pruett, Max Papis, Jimmy Morales and Scott Dixon was 10th, completing 508 laps. … CITGO Petroleum Corp., which got off the Jeff Burton-driven No. 99 Roush Ford in NASCAR Nextel Cup after last season, landed on Milka Duno of Venezula and her Grand American racing team. Duno teamed with NASCAR driver Robby Gordon, Stephane Gregoire and car owner Doug Goad in Spirit of Daytona Racing’s No. 9 CITGO Pontiac Crawford Daytona Prototype. The car finished 35th, completing 401 laps. … CITGO also sponsored the No. 2 Chevrolet Crawford driven by Stewart, Earnhardt Jr. and three-time Rolex 24 winner Wallace. … Craig Stanton and Terry Borcheller led a 1-2 Porsche finish in the Grand-Am Cup race at Daytona, driving their 996 to a 38.347-second victory over Mark Plummer and Guy Cosmo in another 996. Mike Cronin Jr. and Stu Hayner were third in a Nissan 350Z. The top seven cars all completed 70 laps. Fifty-seven cars started.

NASCAR Nextel Cup

The Budweiser Shootout for last year’s pole winners will be Saturday night under the Daytona lights. Daytona 500 pole qualifying (actually for the top two spots) will be Sunday with the twin Gatorade 125s on Feb. 12 and the Daytona 500 Feb. 15. Michael Waltrip is defending champion. … Announcing a multi-year agreement, Schwan’s Home Service—a unit of the Schwan Food Co.—will sponsor BAM Racing’s No. 49 Dodge and veteran driver Ken Schrader in the Cup series. Schrader drove Schwan’s No. 90 Red Baron Thunderbird in the late 1980s. … Whelen Engineering will be the primary sponsor on the No. 23 Dodge driven by Dave Blaney for Bill Davis Racing in both the Bud Shootout and Daytona 500. The Daytona deal is in addition to Whelen’s plans for a 10-race Busch Series schedule with Blaney and Ted Marsh Racing this season … New Hampshire International Speedway owner Bob Bahre, 75, was injured in a highway accident in Maine. Track spokesman Ron Meade said Bahre had a fractured vertebra, broken ankle, concussion and rib injuries. … Ty Norris, general manager and vice president/operations at Dale Earnhardt Inc. since 2000, has left the company. Norris’ departure reportedly followed a reorganization of the company’s management by CEO Teresa Earnhardt. Richie Gilmore, executive in charge of the engine program, was named director of motorsports, replacing Norris. … Hendrick Motorsports and Kellogg Co. have a new multi-year agreement that secures the Michigan-based cereal maker as primary sponsor of the No. 5 Chevrolet Monte Carlos of two-time Cup champion Terry Labonte, who also signed a contract extension with Hendrick. They all have been together since 1994. Kellogg’s is the “Official Breakfast Food of NASCAR.” … Dale Earnhardt won six of his seven NASCAR championships driving for RCR, making the No. 3 famous. Earnhardt started Dale Earnhardt Inc. to help his son, Dale Jr., compete in NASCAR, and he also wanted to help Kerry, his older son. Now RCR owner Richard Childress plans to enter Kerry in at least five 2004 races as a research and development driver in the No. 33 car. Andy Petree Racing previously used the No. 33. Kerry started 2003 with FitzBradshaw Racing in the Busch Series but was replaced late in the season after crashing six times in 19 races. His best finish was 14th, four times. … Ryan Newman is winner of the 2003 Richard Petty Driver of the Year Award from the National Motorsports Press Association. Newman won eight races and 11 poles in 2003, statistics that led 68 percent of the NMPA members voting for the Driver of the Year Award to choose him. Newman got 53 votes to 15 for Matt Kenseth, who won the Winston Cup title.

NASCAR Busch Series

The season-opening race at Daytona, the Hershey’s Kisses 300, will be Feb. 14. Dale Earnhardt Jr. won last year’s Busch race. … John McGill and Carl Natale, owners of DCT Motorsports, have committed to running at least 29 races this season, beginning at Daytona, with driver Steve Grissom, a former champion, and crew chief Ricky Pearson. It is the first NASCAR team with owners from the Cleveland, Ohio, area. The team’s shops are in Spartanburg, S.C. … Team Rensi Motorsports has signed Kevin Grubb to a 10-race agreement for 2004. He will drive the No. 35 Ford as a teammate to Bobby Hamilton Jr. Veteran mechanic Charles Wright will serve as the crew chief for Grubb. … Team owner Andy Petree is trying to sell off all of his considerable Nextel Cup equipment to switch over to a full-time Busch program for Paul Menard in No. 33 Menards Chevrolets.

NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series

The trucks will open their season Feb. 13 under the

lights at Daytona. Last year’s Florida Dodge Dealers 250 featured a three-wide photo finish with Rick Crawford winning over Travis Kvapil and Robert Pressley. … Kvapil, 27, is entering the 2004 campaign with his third team in as many seasons—Addington Motorsports, Xpress Motorsports and Bang Racing. “I’d like to stick with a team and build on it for a couple of years,” said the Janesville, Wis., native, who started his racing career at Rockford Speedway and won the 2003 truck title. “The team I’m with now, I believe we can do this. Hopefully, we can all move up together.”

Other Stock Car Racing

The ARCA RE/MAX Series opens its season Saturday in the Advance Discount Auto Parts 200 at Daytona. Also at Daytona, the iPower Dash 150 will run Sunday and the IROC cars will race Feb. 13. … Tim Sauter, 1999 American Speed Association national champion, will return to the series full-time in 2004, teaming with sponsor Lester Buildings. Sauter, who has six career ASA wins, will utilize Don Fanetti-owned Fords. Both Tim and younger brother Johnny are former ASA champions. In all, four Sauters have amassed 24 wins in the series; that includes victories by Tim’s father, Jim, and older brother Jay as well. … Veteran Ken Schrader, in a Pontiac, won the Jan. 25 NASCAR West race at Phoenix. He has 14 wins in 15 years at Phoenix. Austin Cameron was second, Matt Kobyluck third. Schrader won by 7.997 seconds at 98.720 mph. … USAC open-wheel driver A.J. Fike, 23, of Galesburg, is eyeing the ARCA RE/MAX Series Rookie of the Year Award and will have a top mentor in his crew. Fike will be driving the Fast Track High Performance Racing School car under the tutelage of former ARCA champion Andy Hillenburg. …. RBR Enterprises will team with driver Matt Carter in the 2004 USAR Hooters Pro Cup Championship. Carter, son of NASCAR team owner Travis Carter, will compete for the Rookie of the Year title. In 2003, Carter won the Hickory Motor Speedway track championship, finishing sixth in the NASCAR Dodge Weekly Racing Series Atlantic Region standings.

Formula One

All Formula One teams will get a $10 million boost this year once a deal to secure the sport’s future has been finalized, according to Renault Sport chairman Patrick Faure. “If, as I believe we will, we reach a definitive agreement, we will be able to count on an immediate initial benefit, from 2004,” he said in a statement at the launch of the French manufacturer’s new R24 car in Sicily. “All the teams will receive a budgetary boost of around $10 million.” Carmakers, the banks that control the commercial rights and F1 supremo Bernie Ecclestone agreed to pay teams a far greater share of the revenues in a restructuring of the sport. The three parties have signed a memorandum of understanding on F1’s future structure, and a deal is expected this year. The agreement ended the threat of a rival series by the GPWC group, made up of carmakers Renault, Ford, DaimlerChrysler, BMW and FIAT. It also promised to make life far easier for cash-strapped smaller teams. … Imola, the F1 circuit that has featured some of the sport’s most exciting and tragic moments, will be axed next year, F1 chief Bernie Ecclestone said. “This year is Imola’s last. From 2005 it will vanish from the calendar and Italy will have only one race,” Ecclestone told La Gazzetta dello Sport. Imola’s swan song will be April 25, just before the 10th anniversary of the death of Brazilian champion Ayrton Senna there on May 1. Senna died in a high-speed crash during the 1994 San Marino Grand Prix, 24 hours after Austrian Roland Ratzenberger was killed in practice. The 1982 race turned out to be the last for Canadian Gilles Villeneuve, father of 1997 world champion Jacques, who died in practice two weeks later. … Brazilian Antonio Pizzonia, dropped by Jaguar as a race driver last year, says he will be with Williams as a second test driver this season. “I’m going to be with Williams for the whole year,” he told the Autosport Web site after lapping the Valencia circuit in Spain in record time. Williams has yet to confirm Pizzonia’s appointment, with Brazilian Nelson Piquet Jr. also due to test for the BMW-powered team this week. Spaniard Marc Gene is the official reserve driver. … German Nick Heidfeld, 26, will drive for Jordan this season. His teammate has yet to be decided, and team principal Eddie Jordan said he would not be rushed into a decision. … Reuters says Dutch driver Jos Verstappen’s hopes of staying in F1 this season appear to be over after talks with Jordan broke down. Verstappen, 31, who partnered Michael Schumacher at Benetton in 1994 when the German won the first of his six titles, drove for struggling Minardi last year, scoring no points.

IRL IndyCar Series

New rules regarding engine displacement could leave the Indianapolis 500 short of the traditional 33 cars, a published report indicates. Officials with the three IRL engine manufacturers—Toyota, Honda and Chevrolet—acknowledged they will be feeling the pinch when new 3.0-liter engines are introduced for the 88th running of the Indy 500 in May. “We’ve tried to be very open with people that there could be a shortage here,” Honda Performance Development general manager Robert Clarke told the Indianapolis Star. “Companies like ours just don’t go off and build extra engines so we can have them. There are some spares in the system, but giving them away now can hurt current (customers).” … Manufacturers also admitted that—had Tony George’s bid to take over CART been successful—the IRL wouldn’t have had enough of the current 3.5-liter engines to accommodate new teams. In an effort to slow speeds and improve safety, the IRL will switch to 3.0-liter engines for the 500, the fourth race of the season. … Nineteen teams currently have engine contracts—seven each for Toyota and Honda and five for Chevrolet. The Star reported the first two IRL races will be limited to 24 cars because manufacturers aren’t building any more 3.5-liter engines.

Open-Wheel Racing

A benefit for injured midget race car driver Quinn McCabe will be held from 1 to 6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 22, at the Eagles Club, 3829 11th St., Rockford. There will be a $5 donation at the door, which will include food and a chance to win a door prize. On the program will be a DJ, auction, raffles and the Gotham City Band. Proceeds will help pay for his substantial medical expenses and home modifications. Quinn was injured in a racing accident Sept. 20, 2003.

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