General News and Silly Season 11-19-07

Story posted - Nov 19 2007 3:43 PM

The racing season is getting pretty close to over. The Nextel Cup boys finished last night and the next major event we can think of is the Turkey Night Grand Prix for midget cars at Irwindale Speedway. In honor of the late J.C. Agajanian, the race will run 98 laps this year. 98 is the number his cars carried at Indy, with that tradition lately being carried on by his sons Cary and JC, Jr., through the Curb Agajanian partnership with Beck Motorsports.

The long since completed IndyCar Series season has finally started develop a little "silly" season action. Sam Hornish, Jr., is off to NASCAR where we wish him good luck in that endeavor. He is being replaced by Ryan Briscoe in car number 6 at Penske Racing.

That move combined with the confirmation of Hideki Mutoh at Andretti Green Racing has the IndyCar Series at 10 confirmed car/driver combinations for 2008. Filling the rest of the seats has taken a while, but as noted, we are getting some movement.

Marty Roth's chances of running two cars in 2008 seem to improve all the time. We've recently learned that Jay Howard is now the leading candidate for Roth's 2nd seat, and that deal may be done in the very near future. We haven't confirmed if that is a full-time deal or not, but it appears to be heading in that direction.

PJ Chesson was rumored to be the driver taking Roth's second car, and he drove just such an entry in the season finale at Chicagoland. Unconfirmed information now has Chesson talking to Panther Racing.

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In off track news, Gene Simmons recently told Billboard magazine about plans to have KISS concerts in conjunction with IndyCar Series events in 2008. We've done a little checking around and have NOT been able to confirm this. In fact, reliable information TSO has found says that this is far more of an idea than an actual plan. Our information says KISS is going to propose this idea to each promoter and it's up to them to decide if they want to bring in the band.

It is certainly not unusual to have a band at a race weekend, particularly for the street circuit events. Various bands have performed at St. Pete, Kid Rock played Carb Day at Indy last year, and Cheap Trick played at Detroit, but having the same band matched up for all the events seems like a bit of a stretch - particuarly someone like KISS who commands a very high fee for each concert.

KISS has inked a deal to perform as part of the F1 Australian Grand Prix weekend this year. For that race, we believe the race ticket will include the concert, but you can pay extra to get an "up close" seat.

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While not official, the IRL is tentatively planning major open tests at Homestead and Sebring next spring. Right now it looks like the testing will happen at the end of February/early March with a couple days at each track.

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The St. Pete Grand Prix could have a track location problem in it's future. Recent reports in the local paper down there have the Tampa Bay Ray's trying to swap out the dome at Tropicana field for an expanded and rebuilt Al Lang Field. Al Lang Field would then become home to the Major League Baseball team, while the Tropicana Field site would be sold for development.

For those that have been to the St. Pete GP, Al Lang is the minor league park in the middle of the course next to the Mahaffey Theater and during race time, the TV compound. The "Trop" is where people park and shuttle to the race track.

So, how is this a problem for the race? Well, the tentative plans call for the new stadium to sit on Bayshore Drive - the scenic backstretch that run along the water and past all the big yachts in town for the race. The idea being to build something like Pac Bell park in San Francisco so hitters can try and put home run balls into the bay.

Bayshore would be disappear at the stadium, and one of the key pieces of the track would go away. Other locations would likely be considered, but the present bayside/airport layout works pretty well.

There are a lot of things that have to happen before this plan comes to fruition, but you can follow all the details at http://www.sptimes.com/2007/11/10/Southpinellas/Rays_on_the_bay.shtml

By the way, if you don't follow baseball, the Rays are terrible. They came in to the majors in 1998, and have never managed a winning record (or really been even close). For the last seven years, they've been last in the American League in attendance, averaging just 17,000 people per game in 2007.

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TSO would like to congratulate Greg Cacali and wife Amy (both of whom work for SPEED) on the birth of their first child early this morning. Regan Elise came in at 8.15 pounds and 20 inches. Congratulations to them both!!

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And with that - here is the silly season list for 2008.
CONFIRMED ENTRY WITH DRIVER ANNOUNCED:

AGR - Kanaan
AGR - Danica
AGR - Andretti
AGR - Mutoh
Penske - Castroneves
Penske - Briscoe
Ganassi - Wheldon
Ganassi - Dixon
RLR - Sharp
Vision - Carpenter

Total Confirmed Car/Driver Combinations = 10

CAR CONFIRMED BUT WAITING FOR OFFICIAL DRIVER ANNOUNCEMENT:

RLR #2 (Ethanol Car) Ryan Hunter Reay is expected here, just waiting for it to be official. Panther #1 - Vitor Meira is expected here, but not officially announced yet.
DRR #1 - (The car will be on the grid, and the team is working to re-sign Buddy Rice, who is of course exploring all of his options)
Foyt #1 - (Darren Manning is expected to return to this one)

Total Confirmed cars (some waiting for driver announcements) = 14

75% CONFIRMED:

DRR #2 - (DRR wants to remain a two car team, and while we do NOT expect Sarah Fisher to return to this seat, it can't be totally ruled out.)
Panther #2 - (With the Super Aguri deal leaving, Panther has to work on other options and lately has seemed pretty confident they will remain a two-car team. PJ Chesson rumor has moved here recently).
Roth #1 - (Marty Roth is pretty much expected to make the move to a full-time team in 2008. He wants to run two cars, but for now, we'll leave this as just a one car deal until sponsorship or other announcements are made. Drivers in consideration: Marty Roth, Jay Howard)
Roth #2 - Same as Roth #1 but we now expect Jay Howard to be in this ride.
SAMAX #1 - Milka Duno is presently planning to return, though we don't know if that is a full-time deal or another partial schedule.

Total Entries at 75% or above = 19

OTHER RUMORED ENTRIES:

Vision #2 - TBA - There are a lot of rumors surrounding this one. We do not expect Tony George will fund this entry in 2008, but have heard of potential deals involving Davey Hamilton, AJ Foyt, IV, and several others. This will probably move up as the winter goes on and more information becomes available.
SAMAX #2 - The team is aggressively trying to put a second car on the grid in 2008. Driver unknown at this time.
Ganassi #3 - Chip Ganassi is likely to enter a third car in some 2008 races, particularly now that Alex Lloyd is signed as a development driver. OR we could see Lloyd loaned to a different team with some Ganassi backing.
Foyt #2 - AJ is looking to add a second car, and reports are the funding search is progressing well.
Penske #3 - This could be a Luczo-Dragon type satellite team though it now appears more likely as an Indy only operation.
Greg Beck - The TEAM program just might get Beck back on the grid as it alone covers tires and the engine lease. And he has some sponsorship in place. Whether it's enough for a full season deal is unknown. This could be a could place for a partially funded driver with some talent.

PROSPECTIVE TEAMS:

Sarah Fisher - There are qualified reports that Sarah is trying to put together her own team. Possibly with her new husband and crew chief (Andy O'Gara) and family.

Kingdom Racing - We dismissed this early on, but there is some reality to the effort here. If that effort can translate in to a real race team remains to be seen. We're skeptical because that is a difficult undertaking, but we believe they are doing enough to be listed.

In addition there are some other folks out there "kicking tires", but we don't have enough detail on them to list a "team" yet - we'll keep an eye out though as at least one of these entities has plenty of money, just have to decide if they want to do it or not.

For Indy-only, there are several new entities making serious efforts right now. The names (when they can be confirmed) will be familiar. One of these programs is planned to be a full-time IPS effort with an Indy 500 component.

DRIVERS:

Besides those we mentioned above, here is a list of drivers seriously trying to find a slot in the IndyCar Series for 2008:

CR Crews
Richie Hearn
Wade Cunningham
Jaime Camara (he has part of a budget already it's believed)
Roger Yasukawa (he has part of a budget already it's believed)
And many, many others!

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NOTE: We are aware that some ChampCar related entities have inquired with the IRL about running there in 2008. Right now we believe they are mostly just covering their bases in case the CCWS doesn't answer the bell for next year. Most sources presently believe the CCWS WILL exist next year (and they announced a schedule), and we are not aware of the IRL banking on any mass defections are part of their car count projections.

The one rumor that is most common involves Justin Wilson and his long time sponsor CDW. We hear lots of things, but lately, the most credible information has CDW either cutting back on motorsports or leaving it completely - possibly to increase their marketing involvement in professional golf.

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