IndyCar Series, Champ Car to Unify Open-Wheel Racing for Upcoming Season
Owners of the Champ Car World Series and Indy Racing League divulged more detail regarding the unification of open-wheel racing during a Feb. 27 news conference.
"I want to join Tony (George) in expressing my satisfaction about what is happening in terms of the unification. Tony and I have actually talked on and off I would guess for, what, four years. It's been a long and hard road to be able to get here, but we are here.
"I think that the winners are the fans, the teams, the drivers, and indeed the potential that we have to be able to grow the sport over the next few years. I've said many times that in itself, unification isn't some sort of magic bullet to be able to get us forward. It's going to take an awful lot of hard work. This is something that is going to still require a huge amount of work, but I think the long-term potential is extremely exciting for everybody associated with this," Champ Car World Series Co-owner Kevin Kalkoven said.
Officials expect several Champ Car World Series teams to join the unification movement this season, some as early as the first race March 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. Others should join by the time practice starts for the 92nd running of the Indianapolis 500 May 4. A list of well-known drivers that could eventually join the series full time includes 2007 Champ Car World Series champion Sebastien Bordais, Ryan Dalziel, Bruno Junqueira, Graham Rahal, Alex Tagliani and Paul Tracy.
Initial plans include the addition of Edmonton, Alberta Canada and Surfers Paradise, Australia venues to the current 16-race ICS schedule this season. The historic Grand Prix of Long Beach Champ Car World Series finale will be held the same weekend as the already scheduled April 19 ICS race in Motegi, Japan. Champ Car will operate the Long Beach race with Champ Car World Series teams competing. IndyCar Series points and prize money will be awarded for both races to teams participating in the IndyCar Series.
"I'm looking forward to being able to bring the series to Long Beach. This year is going to be an exciting time a we're going to actually have our final Champ Car race. I think the combination of the '500' with all its stature and Long Beach with its 34 years of history now is going to be two anchor points of what will be an incredibly successful and interesting series," Kalkoven said.
The series will race Dallara chassis and Honda engines this season. Champ Car teams committing to the IndyCar Series and demonstrating the ability to fund operating budgets will be provided a one-year Honda basic engine lease, two Dallara chassis from a pool of new and used cars based on availability and $1.2 million per car from the IndyCar TEAM economic program designed to develop parity in the series.
IndyCar Series officials also introduced an integration assistance program that assigns an IndyCar Series team to work directly with a Champ Car World Series team (i.e. Rahal Letterman Racing will work with Newman/Haas/Lanigan.)
"I think they're genuinely pleased with the package offered. Certainly it creates a lot of logistical challenges. We've gotten a great deal of support from all the IRL teams currently to help try to bring this about. We're all really excited about this opportunity. It's such a tremendous opportunity for all of us who have been a part of open-wheel racing, and I know there's been some suggestion that there's some reluctance or reticence about the amalgamation of these two series. I guarantee you that our race team (Vision Racing), the Rahal Letterman race team, the Target Chip Ganassi race team, everybody is excited about working with Champ Car teams that are coming over, to help them transition.
"Our job is to make everyone feel warm and welcome and, as always, never run a season apart," IndyCar Series Founder and CEO Tony George said.
Beginning in 2009, the Grand Prix of Long Beach will be part of the ICS schedule. In forming the 2009 schedule, series officials will review the viability of all current Champ Car World Series and IndyCar Series venues as well as other opportunities to produce the most viable schedule of short ovals, superspeedways, street courses and road courses to best benefit fans, promoters, sponsors and racers.
The unified series will make its Kentucky Speedway debut Aug. 9 in the Meijer Indy 300 Presented by Pepsi and Edy's. Fans can meet their old favorites and the new faces of the series during the Aug. 8 Fanfest day that will feature a garage-area autographs and practice sessions. Tickets are on sale now and can be reserved online through the tickets pages of this Web site or by phone at 888-652-RACE (7223). Fans also can visit any Meijer store or the Kentucky Speedway ticket offices at 200 Buttermilk Pike, Suite 100 in Ft. Mitchell, Ky., next to Montgomery Inn or the speedway Fan Center off of I-71 Exit 57 and Ky. Hwy. 35 in Sparta, Ky. Season race plans also are available now and can be reserved by phone at 859-578-2300, online through the Kentucky Speedway Web site or through track ticket offices.
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