Like most American kids that grew up in the 80's I watched the Indy 500 every year and became interested in motorsports thanks to that race, but I didn't really get hooked until I started watching Formula 1 racing in the late 90's. My favorite era were those years with the great Mika Hakkinen/Michael Schumacher battles. (I was a Mika Hakkinen fan) So my fondness for Formula 1 waned once Mika retired and Schumacher started winning everything, even at the expense of his teammate Rubens Barrichello. My interest in F1 has only been lukewarm since.

Then I turned to Champ Car racing here in the US for my motorsports fix. However that was quickly extinguished once Champ Car and Indy Car merged and we were stuck with Tony George and his many foibles. (It was entertaining to watch the Hulman/George drama I'll admit.) My interest has been less than lukewarm with Indy Car lately, even without Tony George at the helm.

Over time however, the excitement I once had for motorsports has slowly gone. Maybe it has to do with my age, I don't know. But I think I will pour my efforts into my Trooper and my interests in the outdoors to add excitement to my life.

Thanks for checking out my blog, I hope you enjoy it. I will still post racing news when I find something interesting or noteworthy.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Are you kidding me? TG Back?

(crapwagon.com 2-26-11)

Originally Posted by panchess

A lot of family scions make their progeny go work in another business for a while before coming home to the family business. Not only does it bring fresh ideas into the business, it cuts down the sense of birthright entitlement many family enterprises have.


Obi-Wan

I’m not sure I understand your point. In this context “scion” and “progeny” mean essentially the same thing: namely, “a descendant, heir, or young member of a family.”

Mari Hulman George is seventy-seven years old and her son Tony quit his positions in the family businesses on his fiftieth birthday in a gesture probably meant to symbolize that he was “disowning” his family (before they could do it to him).

Prior to his ouster Tony George reportedly never worked a day in his life outside appointed positions in his family’s businesses. It took him six years to get a bachelor’s degree from Indiana State University, evidently because he did more partying than studying. He married his pregnant college sweetheart in his senior year and upon graduation reportedly lived “the high, fast life” of a trust-fund baby (according to his divorce papers). Between 1984 and 1987 he tried his hand at being a racecar driver, like his father Elmer, eventually competing in the American Racing Series (forerunner of Indy Lights) for his godfather A.J. Foyt’s team. George “retired” from racing in 1987 after Foyt reportedly told him that he would never be any good at it. His grandmother then appointed Tony to a position as vice-president of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, where he was given an office down the hall from that of the Speedway’s president, Joseph R. Cloutier (who was Tony Hulman’s former “right-hand man”). There’s no report of Cloutier mentoring 26-year-old George – Joe was a busy man – and Tony credits his Speedway education to the time he spent with Charlie Thompson, the IMS grounds superintendent, learning the facility and its procedures. Thus, when Tony speaks of “maintaining the greatest race course in the world,” he probably means that literally.

Cloutier died in office on December 11, 1989, age 81, and 30-year-old Tony George was appointed to take his place as Speedway president in January 1990 by his mother and grandmother. Less than two years later, 31-year-old Tony George attempted to force the team owners of the CART PPG Indycar World Series to sell the sport to him. He threatened that if the team owners didn’t sell to him, he would use his control of IMS and the Indianapolis 500 race to ruin them and the sport. The team owners declined to sell and George made good on his threat.

The only time that George has worked outside the shelter of the family businesses as an adult (that I am aware) was the brief period between December 30, 2009, when he resigned from the family, and February 17, 2011 when his mother and at least one sister allowed him back in. In the interim he became a franchisee for a German car-care product line (SONAX) and closed the doors of his race team, Vision Racing, due to lack of sponsorship. According to at least one sister, Tony spent most of the time after his somewhat impetuous resignation trying to rescind it and begging to be reinstated. He also attempted to buy the IndyCar Series with the backing of investors but his mother refused to sell it to him.

So, if it is Tony George you are referring to in your post, the only “fresh idea” he has had recently was that it was really, really stupid to quit his cushy jobs in the family businesses during a recession when he hasn’t any job skills to speak of. As for cutting down on his “sense of birthright entitlement,” it’s too late for that; Tony could serve as the poster boy for birthright entitlement or the Lucky Sperm Club’s national ad campaign.

IMHO

--------------------


scorpion

Maybe someone can fill in the blanks for me, but, 400 barrels a day @ $100 barrel is $40,000 a day. I'm sure the family does not get all of that, though I don't know what is normal for oil well leases. Let's say the H-G's get half. That's $20K per day or $7,300,000 per year. I could live on that and if it was all used to fund the .irl the .irl would STILL be a money loser. It is estimated the .irl will lose $15,000,000 this year.

We all know however, that not all of this money will be poured into the .irl. So really, this will not help the .irl all that much.


Obi-Wan

I think possibly you overlooked the bigger picture. According to the announcement:

Quote:

… a 400-barrel well is considered one of the most significant oil discoveries in 25 years and it may signal an important new oil field for Vigo County, in the southwest Indiana area east of Terre Haute.

Additionally,

Quote:
The well is within an ancient geologic formation known as the Illinois Basin, which has been a dependable source of domestic oil covering about 35,000 square miles in Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky.

So, potentially, the drillers have discovered an entire oil field on the Hulman farm, not just a single well. Also, the well is apparently capable of producing more than 400 barrels a day, but “the flow is being held down to preserve the natural resource rather than let it run unchecked.”

Ignoring for the moment the potential size of the oil strike, I think you are entirely correct about its negligible effect on the future of the IRL/ICS. As you said, ”… if it was all used to fund the .irl the .irl would STILL be a money loser….”

Moreover, there is no indication that there will come a time when the league will NOT be a money loser. League supporters, like Defender/Disciple, who spend all their time arguing about the size of the Hulman-George family’s losses overlook the fact that the more important issue is whether or not the losses are ongoing (which most credible reports indicate that they are). Hence, it doesn’t really matter if the family has lost $60 million (the reported cost of the Formula One track in the IMS infield) or $600 million (their widely rumored total losses), if the leaky league could easily devour another $600 million and STILL not become profitable.

That’s one reason the income from the oil wells on the Hulman farm should be very attractive to the other Hulman-George heirs: they don’t have to wait for Mari and Tony to try to get their money back out of the bottomless pit of the IRL/ICS, this is NEW money that hasn’t been earmarked to go down the drain. If I were one of the H-G heirs I’d look into the possibility of trading my share of the IRL/ICS for Mari and Tony’s share of the oil royalties.

JMO

Friday, February 25, 2011

Big oil gusher found on Hulman Indiana farm

(by Bruce Smith indystar.com 2-25-11)

Indianapolis-based CountryMark announced today that one of the biggest oil discoveries in years has been made on the Hulman family farm near Terre Haute.

Yep, it's the farm of the family best known as the owners of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

Known as Hulman Farms #1, the well has been flowing in a test for 21 days and is producing about 400 barrels of Indiana oil a day. The well could produce more; however, the flow is being held down to preserve the natural resource rather than let it run unchecked, according to an announcement from CountryMark.

The well is within an ancient geologic formation known as the Illinois Basin, which has been a dependable source of domestic oil covering about 35,000 square miles in Indiana, Illinois and Kentucky.

CountryMark, which has 95 gas stations in Indiana and neighboring states, buys only crude from the Illinois Basin and refines it into gasoline at a plant at Mount Vernon.

Company officials said a typical oil well in Indiana flows about 4 barrels a day, and good wells produce closer to 100 barrels a day.

So a 400-barrel well is considered one of the most significant oil discoveries in 25 years and it may signal an important new oil field for Vigo County, in the southwest Indiana area east of Terre Haute.

CountryMark is a farmer-owned cooperative and is Indiana's only American-owned oil exploration, production, refining and marketing company. Its plant refines about 26,800 barrels a day.

CountryMark President Charlie Smith said the Hulman farm discovery, along with other drilling activities by CountryMark and other producers in the state, are steps toward American independence from foreign oil.

--------------------

Are you kidding me? TG back?



Is there no justice?!

Another confirmation of the adage that “it’s better to be lucky than good.” Sheesh!

Still, though, looking on the bright side this windfall will probably hasten the breakup of the Hulman-George dynasty.

That’s because dollars to donuts, Tony is going to want Mari to flush the new wealth down the same IRL/ICS toilet in pursuit of another of his false promises of league success.

However, before they struck “Texas tea” on the old homestead, the two sisters who oppose Tony (Josie and Kathi) were stuck: their mother and brother had consolidated most of the family’s assets into the family motorsports businesses; which have yet to stop hemorrhaging red ink. They couldn’t get their inheritance out because it would mean selling the Indianapolis Motor Speedway at a fire-sale price and their mother would never go for it. One of the few motorsports assets they had that was worth anything, their share of the Chicagoland track, was sold for $69 million and the money was given to Tony so that he could help his lame motor sport limp to the Indy 500 centennial year. The rest of their motorsports “assets,” save IMS, aren’t worth spit. So, the sisters were stuck with the impossible task of trying to turn Tony’s sow into a trio of silk purses.

Sister Josie, for one, was fighting to win a place for her two sons, Jarrod and Kyle Krisiloff, in the family business. A place that her brother Tony seemed less and less inclined to offer; what with his sudden attempt to restructure Hulman & Co. to consolidate power in his hands alone.

This was obviously a bone of contention in the acrimonious board meetings leading up to Tony’s dismissal. One of the first things that Tony said in his defense in his first interview after his ouster was:


Quote:
Originally Posted by Boss Gomer

“But having said that, I did expect I would reduce my role with both and work on transitioning members of the family into leadership positions. In fact, in March of 2009, (March 17, 18, and 19 to be exact), I organized an initial meeting with an executive leadership consultant that I had worked with previously, to begin working with my son and nephew, both of whom were working in the business.”

Brother, there’s a patsy off excuse if ever I saw one. After all the talks about succession over the course of years, Tony had just scheduled an “initial” meeting with a friend of his to talk about grooming his nephew and son for the long process of taking a leadership role in the family business a few short months before the women gave him the axe. Is it any wonder they socked it to him, he obviously had no intention of handing over the reins of power short of his death bed.

So, Josie stuck it to Tony, for her kids; it was probably the only way they were going to get anything (assuming of course there is anything left after Tony’s mismanagement).

Now, who do you suppose Boss Gomer was referring to in the same interview when he said:


Quote:
Originally Posted by Boss Gomer

Any family enterprise, with the size and breadth of holdings like our extended family, especially by the fourth or fifth generation, likely foments internal grasping and deceit that can come from a lifetime of deep-seated resentment and anger that only a family can inflict on each other.

This is so common in large family enterprises it is almost a cliche. This can be painful and damaging not only on the current generation, but also on spouses and children of the next generation. The bottom line is that I truly love my mom and sisters, but I am truly grateful and relieved to now get the opportunity to explore other ways to live the most productive years of my business life and attend to the needs of my own wife and children.

In case you lost your scorecard, the grasping, deceitful one filled with a “lifetime of deep-seated resentment and anger” is probably someone whose name begins with “J”. And the “spouses and children of the next generation” who took it in the head are most likely wife Laura, who the sisters fired from her IMS make-work position a week or so before deposing Tony, and their daughter Lauren (a part owner of the moribund Vision team along with her folks) and step-son, sometime Indycar driver “Special Ed” Carpenter.

Tony’s other son by his first marriage, Tony Jr., is probably in the same boat as Josie’s son Jarrod Krisiloff. Meaning if Ed Carpenter had had to wait for his Indycar seat as long as Tony Jr. and Jarrod have waited for some real authority in the family business, Ed would probably still be driving midgets in USAC’s Regional Series.

Now, as they used to say in the Grindhouse movie commercials: “Tony’s baaa-ck! And he’s looking for revenge!!!”

Why mother Mari and sister Nancy allowed Tony and his carpet bagger yes-men on the new Hulman & Co. board of directors is a mystery; but it bodes an ill wind for sisters Josie and Kathi.

Which likely divides the family and sets the stage for a battle over division of its resources. I think it is pretty clear that Tony and Mari have badly mismanaged the family’s assets and it’s probably going to become even clearer when the family is once again asked to pony up big bucks for Tony’s folly come 2012. If Tony is once again in charge, de facto or otherwise, and Josie’s Messiah (Ropin’ Randy) is pushed aside at least one segment of the family is probably going to be feeling pretty hopeless. Maybe enough to take the oil money and other assets and run for the hills (Beverly, that is).

Time will tell.

JMO

Another one bites the dust

(crapwagon.com 2-25-11)


Obi-Wan

Now it begins.

Remember last January when Cave-in said:

” Organizing an IndyCar team isn’t as snap-the-fingers as it might seem. It takes time, resources and a commitment that many of these [NASCAR] people aren’t interested, especially given the relatively low rate of return. There aren’t many of the current IndyCar owners making a lot of money at this. Most of them do it because they love the sport and wouldn’t otherwise know what to do with themselves.
Link

In other words, most of the team owners in Gasoline Alley are pursuing the sport “they love” as a hobby. And unless you’re crazy you don’t jeopardize your house and mortgage on account of your hobby.

Obviously, Gil de Ferran, Baby Pimpski and Steve Luzco aren’t crazy. As Gil said:

“Believe me, we looked at every scenario available, half a season, Indy, some races near the end but I couldn’t build a case for it,” he said.

Consequently, every team owner in the ICS paddock, save the Pimp man himself, will accommodate ride buyers. Did I say, accommodate? How about welcome with open arms and a champagne celebration.

Thus it doesn’t pay, literally, to be a team owner in the New Age IndyCar Series.

However, somebody has got to pay or there is no show. Until two years ago it was the Idiot Grandson, using Mommy’s checkbook. Then Mommy took it away from him and handed it to the family’s resident bean-counter (Belskus), who still paid for the show by writing checks; but for only half as much.

Two years ago. That’s when the IRL became a hobby for team owners who “wouldn’t otherwise know what to do with themselves.”

The fatal flaw in the makeup of the ICS can be summed up by a piece of advice once offered by Clinton campaign strategist James Carville to ex-president G.H.W. Bush: “It’s the economy, stupid.”

Meaning, the economy within the ICS no longer makes sense for anyone; including its owners, its sponsors, its team owners and its would-be drivers.

It’s now that last group, the would-be drivers, who are largely expected to carry the weight of financing the entire series. That’s what the sad saga of Tony “The Toucan” Kanaan demonstrates. According to Tony, a former IRL champion more or less in his prime, he tried 88 separate meetings with potential sponsors with not one taker. The last fund-raising confabs took place in his native Brazil, where nationalism and patriotism were probably talking points as well. The result was not one centavo for Indy but a bona fide offer to drive stock cars in Brazil’s home-grown series where the sponsors could see some return on their investment.

And that’s the key. If one approaches auto racing as a business and not a hobby, there has to be some return – or the promise of a return – on one’s investment or it’s a no go.

In the history of the sport there have been a few wealthy drivers who pursued it as a hobby but most of today’s “professional” drivers can’t be counted among them. Nowadays an up-and-coming driver races on someone else’s dime (usually from sponsors) after he/she has more or less exhausted every ounce of the wealth available to them. Most drivers starting out are fortunate to break even and most work (drive) for less than nothing. Why? Well, they get to do something they enjoy but most of them also hope there’s going to be a big payday down the road if they’re good enough at their job and they catch some breaks.

The Toucan was lucky enough to come up in the sport at a time when its economics made sense for those investing in the sport. Consequently, after many years toiling in ladder series and then paying his dues in the big leagues, the Toucan got himself a $3 million a year contract to drive Indycars. Actually, it is said that that is something of a pay cut from the salary he got for turning coat on CART; when according to rumor he and Mr. Judd were paid $5 million a year for their services.

As the Toucan himself admits, he wasn’t paying much attention to the bottom line as the economy in the ICS went to hell in a handbag. Tony says, “I had never been on that side before and now I know how fortunate I’ve been all this time to have a good deal.”


Or as Joni Mitchell said about Paradise: ”That you don't know what you've got. Till it's gone.”

The Toucan had a three-year contract with the Andrettis worth $9 million. Only it wasn’t worth $9 million to the Lesser Andretti and Da-Da. So they asked the Toucan to take a pay cut and Tony (and/or his agent) refused; so they made use of the buy-out clause and sent the Toucan in search of a ride. Right about now I’m guessing he wished he took the pay cut.

Be that as it may, the Andrettis pere et fil aren’t involved in racing as a hobby and they’ve got a pretty good idea of what to do with themselves, so their involvement with the sport is strictly business, not personal. Nowadays, with the screwed-up economy in the ICS, that means they require ride buyers to pay their bills or they will close up shop and cut their losses.

Which returns us to the reality of the sport being financed by would-be drivers. Today there is no golden future on the horizon for even the best Indycar driver; that’s just a fact. If you want to get rich driving a racecar, you’d better get good at driving stock cars; the average full-time Cup driver’s salary is said to be around $15 million annually not counting lucrative personal endorsement and merchandise income.

Moreover, the Road to Indy leads nowhere else. Formula One team owners ignore Indycar drivers completely, if they even notice them at all. And all the Indycar champions, real or imagined, who bombed in their attempts to segue into stock cars – Montoya, Franchitti, Hornish, Almendinger, etc. – make Gasoline Alley a poor recruiting ground for Cup drivers. The only current drivers who have been able to parlay their Indycar experience into sponsorship and full-time rides in other series have done so based on their gender and not their driving talent. Which is why the distaff half are almost the only new drivers able to find sponsorship in the ICS and the reason that for the last five years the count of female drivers in the Indy 500 continues to increase. Male drivers for the most part are flat out of future prospects and luck, as the Toucan just discovered.

It should be instructive that Tony’s contract with de Ferran Dragon, signed in December, was completely contingent on his buying his seat. No doubt Baby Pimp wanted to look good to The Captain with his own successful team but he wouldn’t have earned the respect of the Old Man if he used his own money in pursuit of his goal. Racing is his father’s business and one assumes he expects his sons to treat it as such also. Unfortunately for the Toucan, Baby P didn’t have his father’s ability to leverage business-to-business deals into part-time sponsorship of his team. So BP’s in the same no-win position with potential sponsors as the owners of the Coyne, Conquest, Newman Haas, Dreyer & Reinbold, KV and Foyt teams.

The new reality was reflected in a question & answer exchange between Cave-in and a Gomer with rose-colored glasses:

Quote:

Question: With 2011 being the last season for the current car package, would it be easier (cheaper) for one off teams to attempt Indy? What drivers/teams are looking at doing that? Would love to see 36+ attempt Indy to make bump day interesting. (Mike, Wendell, N.C.)

Cave-in: It should be cheaper, especially for the races after Indy, but I’m not sure it will be easier. There won’t be a lot of new parts made for this season due to the equipment change. And there still isn’t an excess of sponsors for these programs. I can’t give you a list at this point, but I expect it to be north of 36, although not by much.

That’s a good summary, IMO: “cheaper but not easier.” Next year, it isn’t going to be cheaper and there’s no reason to believe that it will get any easier.

RIP IRL.

Oh, and FTG.

JMO


Indy

I would add to what you said, Obi, that the reason for all of this is that Tony George created a product that no one wanted. There is no sponsorship because there are no fans, and there are no fans because of the evil nature of the League and because it just plain sucks. It's like if you owned a restaurant and you served lousy food until no one in town came to eat there anymore, and you went to your neighbors and complained that people just weren't willing to pay restaurant prices anymore.


Scorpion

In part what I think you're saying Obi, is that when the crop of ride buyers finally realize there is no future in .irling, that they as a source of funding for the series will dry up, and that unless the H-G's reopen the check book in a major way, the series will be completely toasted and done.

Given the greater expenses of new chassis, aero kits, and motors for 2012, I would expect there will be fewer drivers with the funds and willingness to spend them.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Indy family feud


(Kathi George-Conforti, Nancy George, Josie George, Jack Snyder, Mari George, Tony Geogre)

(by Robin Miller speedtv.com 2-24-11)

After Tony George was re-instated to the Hulman & Company board of directors last week, the IndyCar community found itself buried in an avalanche of anxiety.

Fans, drivers, mechanics, owners, sponsors and promoters were burning up phone lines or furiously typing e-mails and they all asked the same questions:

1. Is this good or bad?
2. What does this really mean?
3. Will it affect Randy Bernard?
4. Should we be concerned?

Here’s the short-form answers:

1. Not good.
2. Too early to tell.
3. Probably.
4. Damn straight.

Just when almost everything in INDYCAR racing seemed to be moving in a positive direction for the first time in 16 years, this thunderclap of potential negativity seemingly came crashing out of nowhere.

George, who had walked away from his positions at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Indy Racing League and Hulman & Company after having his power usurped in June of 2009, had been campaigning to get his former job(s) back for more than a year.

His supposed bid to purchase the IRL last summer (with investors) went nowhere and his attempt to re-join the IMS board a few weeks ago was blunted before he finally got the nod to come back to the family business.

It’s not difficult to gauge the reasons behind TG’s change of heart.

First, without the family checkbook to draw from, his Vision Racing team folded. He lost two decent paychecks by resigning his positions on the board at IMS and Hulman & Company and there’s always been that rumor he was hurting financially.

Having the guy who carried the biggest stick in the open-wheel war from 1996-2008 back in the fold with a seat on the board wouldn’t appear to be that big a deal.

Heck, it’s only one vote, right?

Or, as one car owner said: “I think its fine that Tony is back. He’s not going to mess with Randy.”

Don’t be so sure of that.

First off, I’m sure George has to be mighty jealous about all the rave reviews directed to the man who took his place at the top. Bernard has given Indy car racing direction for the first time in decades.

He smartly hired Tony Cotman to get the new rules, cars and engines in place. He got General Motors back in the game, held onto Honda and also nabbed Lotus. He wisely dumped ISC as a partner and hooked up with Bruton Smith.

Bernard also reduced the series’ staggering losses to a reasonable number in his first year. While George ran the IRL like a country club, Bernard came in and began running it like a business.

And Bernard also dumped the moniker that connotes bad memories (IRL) for INDYCAR.

It’s believed George has been privately critical of Bernard for wanting to break the track record at Indy and for wanting to offer $20 million if a driver could win Indy and Charlotte on the same day.

To put it mildly, he’s not a fan of Bernard.

If TG just had that one spot on the board, it would only be him, his three sisters (Nancy George, Josie George and Kathi Conforti-George) and mother Mari Hulman George. No big deal. That was the same power structure that sent him packing.

Ah, but here’s the kicker. Those three businessmen who were also named to the board (Andre Lacy, Michael Smith and Jerry Throgmartin) with Tony last week not only represent the first non-family members to be allowed a seat, they’re all friends of Tony’s.

To me, it’s mind-blowing to think that a privately held company comprised of family members for more than 150 years would all of a sudden allow strangers into their board room. That they all came as one big package shouldn’t be overlooked.

If these new people are hand-picked by the guy who was outside looking in the past two years, it doesn’t take a lot of imagination to see that, suddenly, George now potentially has FOUR votes in the holding company for the Speedway, INDYCAR series and Clabber Girl. The balance of power at 16th & Georgetown has been completely altered.

Oh, did I mention that the only way to get on--or back on--the IMS Board of Directors is to be nominated and voted on by the board of Hulman & Company? So it’s only a formality before TG and his amigos are making policy for the Speedway.

It’s ironic because Mari has always been a big fan of thoroughbreds and now she’s housing Tony’s Trojan Horse.

After speaking with Nancy George a couple weeks ago, it sounds like she probably helped orchestrate her brother’s return because she felt sorry for him. Of course Mari also had to sign off on it as well as family attorney Jack Snyder.

Josie George, who gets credit for finding, pursuing and hiring Bernard, and Kathi Conforti-George have been vocal supporters of the former CEO of the Pro Bull Riders and they had to be more or less blindsided by their brother’s power play.

One would assume after all the family’s infighting concerning TG’s runaway spending and the depressed, wayward state of open-wheel racing, everybody in the Hulman-George family would be eternally grateful to have Bernard in charge.

Obviously, that isn’t the case.

It’s possible TG will be content to sit back and watch progress instead of doing anything disruptive or trying to regain control. It’s also possible he’ll ruin all the good that’s occurred in the past 12 months.

But, I can promise you this: The first time that Tony George interferes with Bernard’s plans or makes his job difficult, Randy will be on the first flight out of Indianapolis.

The hard-working cowboy will be gone and so will any hope of this series continuing its ascension back to respectability.

de Ferran Dragon Shuts Down



(by Robin Miller speedtv.com 2-24-11)

What promised to be a re-energized Indy car team is now out of business and one of the best drivers on the circuit is again looking for a ride.

The de Ferran Dragon operation, which signed Tony Kanaan last December, officially closed its doors Thursday.

“We worked hard to fund this thing and tried everything we could but, at the end of the day, we just couldn’t raise enough funds to do it properly,” said Gil de Ferran, who was co-owner along with Jay Penske and Steve Luzco.

“It’s a shame because we kept our full crew (16 employees) through the winter, did a lot of R&D and I was confident we had a good season ahead of us.”

Founded in 2006, Luzco Dragon ran a limited schedule in 2008 before hiring Rafa Matos, who contested the full schedule in 2009 and 2010 with a best finish of fourth.

After Kanaan was cut loose by Andretti Autosport last fall, the 2004 IRL champion was approached by Panther Racing but opted to go with his fellow Brazilian.

“It’s a shame because we worked really hard the past couple months to try and find funding and I had 88 meetings with people looking for sponsorship,” said Kanaan, who had two more years left on his contract with Michael Andretti but was left with little choice but to take a buyout after 7/Eleven bailed.

“I had never been on that side before and now I know how fortunate I’ve been all this time to have a good deal.”

The 35-year-old veteran may be able to hook up with Dale Coyne but there’s not many options remaining.

“I’m available, I’m not going to give up,” he said. “I had offers to stay in Brazil and drive stock cars and Kyle Busch still wants me to drive his truck but I want to be in Indy car.

“I’ve still got the talent and the desire, I just need a ride.”

There had been talk that de Ferran/Dragon might run a partial schedule but the 2003 Indy 500 winner opted not to.

“Believe me, we looked at every scenario available, half a season, Indy, some races near the end but I couldn’t build a case for it,” he said.

Asked if he might try to re-surface as a team owner in 2012, he replied: “Speaking personally, I love auto racing it’s always been my life and I love Indy Cars. But I’m not going to make any immediate decisions about the future.”

Yeah ... but will it stay in Las Vegas?



(by John Oreovicz espn.go.com 2-22-11)

INDYCAR finally confirmed on Tuesday that its 2011 season finale will be contested Oct. 16 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.

Of course, Las Vegas is known for (among other things) its quickie marriages, and Indy car racing has had its share of brief affairs in Sin City. The question is whether open-wheel racing's latest spin of the Vegas roulette wheel will result in a lasting, mutually profitable relationship.

USAC, CART, IRL and Champ Car all staged races in Vegas over the years. Bobby Unser won a one-off USAC tilt at the defunct Stardust Raceway in 1968, but Indy car racing disappeared from the scene until CART picked up the crumbs left behind by Formula One in 1984 to stage a one-and-done event in the parking lot of Caesar's Palace won by Mario Andretti.

Las Vegas Motor Speedway was one of the Indy Racing League's original ovals in 1996, but like many venues new to open-wheel racing during the CART/IRL war, it failed to attract a large enough audience to maintain staying power. Switching from a fall to a spring date failed to improve the commercial viability of the event, which was dropped from the IRL schedule after the 2000 season.

Four years later, Champ Car stepped into the void for a self-promoted September date at LVMS added to the NASCAR Truck Series weekend. Oval races were a rarity for Champ Car, but that still didn't bring many unique fans to the gate and the Trucks were generally considered the event's headliners.

Champ Car took one more bite of the Vegas apple in 2007 when it held its season opener on a new street circuit in the old downtown area. There was plenty of controversy about shutting down city streets, and again local interest was minimal. While the street course was praised as one of the best of its kind, poor attendance contributed heavily to the event's lack of staying power.

So why could returning to Las Vegas be a smart thing for INDYCAR? Obviously, it's one of the most prestigious markets in America, and NASCAR and LVMS have proved that racing events can be successful there.

Another positive is the fact that Las Vegas will host the Izod IndyCar Series championship finale, which has gone right down to the wire the past five years. Unless recent form is upset, fans are going to get a tension-filled event with significant championship implications.

The announcement of a $5 million prize for any non-IndyCar driver who manages to win the Las Vegas race could spur interest, though it may be difficult to find "name" drivers able to participate and teams in championship contention are unlikely to want to be distracted from their primary effort by running an extra car. Formula One is set to race in Korea that weekend, but the NASCAR Sprint Cup's race at Charlotte Motor Speedway will be the night before the IndyCar finale, theoretically opening the door for Cup driver participation.

Finally, given their strengthening relationship with INDYCAR, it's reasonable to expect that track owners Bruton Smith and Speedway Motorsports Inc. will put a massive promotional effort into the event.

The Truck series race has done reasonably well on its own as a stand- alone event. And with a much greater level of promotion than in the past, it's not a stretch to conclude that Indy cars will enjoy a far larger audience than they have ever seen before in Las Vegas.

For the future, INDYCAR CEO Randy Bernard has shared his dream of ending the season with a double-header weekend featuring a race at the LVMS oval and a street race, ideally on or near the Las Vegas Strip. That would allow INDYCAR to crown both road racing and oval champions, as well as an overall champion, at the season finale.

A street race on The Strip may be a pipe dream, but Bernard enjoyed a very strong relationship with Las Vegas city officials during his tenure as head of the Professional Bull Riders circuit and that could play strongly in INDYCAR's favor.

Given Bernard's successful track record during his year on the job with INDYCAR, anything is possible.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Bayne youngest Daytona 500 winner, ends Wood Brothers drought



(cbssports.com 2-20-11)

Trevor Bayne finally made a mistake. Fortunately for him, it didn't happen until he missed the turn pulling into Victory Lane at the Daytona 500.

The youngest driver to win the Great American Race gave the historic Wood Brothers team its fifth Daytona 500 victory -- its first since 1976 with David Pearson -- and Bayne did it in a No. 21 Ford that was retrofitted to resemble Pearson's famed ride.

In just his second Sprint Cup start, the 20-year-old Bayne stunned NASCAR's biggest names with a thrilling overtime win Sunday at Daytona International Speedway, holding off Carl Edwards after fan favorite Dale Earnhardt Jr. crashed in NASCAR's first attempt at a green-white-checkered flag finish.

"Our first 500, are you kidding me?" said Bayne, who needed directions to Victory Lane. "Wow. This is unbelievable."

Unbelievable, indeed.

Just one day after celebrating his 20th birthday and leaving his teenage years behind, the sport's biggest race was captured by an aw-shucks Tennessean who shaves once a week and considers Rugrats his favorite TV show.

When he found himself at the front, and victory just two laps away, he never thought it would last. Bayne was content just to say he had been leading at the start of the green-white-checkered.

"I'm a little bit worried that one of them is going to come after me tonight," he said. "I'm going to have to sleep with one eye open. That's why I said I felt a little undeserving. I'm leading, and I'm saying, 'Who can I push?'"

Bayne thought for sure Tony Stewart or someone else would attempt to pass.

Nobody did.

"We get to turn four, and we were still leading the band," he said. "It seemed a little bit too easy there at the end."

The rookie had been great throughout Speedweeks, even proving his mettle by pushing four-time champion Jeff Gordon for most of a qualifying race.

"I figured they had a chance after seeing that boy race in the 150s," said Pearson, who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame in May. "I talked to him this morning. I told him to keep his head straight and not to do anything crazy. I told him to stay relaxed. I'm proud of him."

With the win Bayne breaks Gordon's mark as the youngest winner in Daytona 500 history. Gordon was 25 when he won the 500 in 1997.

"I think it's very cool. Trevor's a good kid, and I love the Wood Brothers," Gordon said. "I'm really happy for him. And I think it's great for the sport. To have a young talent like that -- he's got that spark, you know?"

The victory for NASCAR pioneers Leonard and Glen Wood ended a 10-year-losing streak, and came the week of the 10th anniversary of Dale Earnhardt's fatal accident on the last lap of the 2001 Daytona 500.

This was only the fourth win in the past 20 years for Wood Brothers, which hasn't run a full Sprint Cup season since 2006.

"When you miss a race, like the Daytona 500, it's like somebody died," said Eddie Wood, part of the second generation of Woods now running the team. "When you walk through the garage and you run into people you see every week, they don't look at you, they don't know what to say."

The rebuild has been slow, and they got Bayne this year for 17 races, on loaner from Roush-Fenway Racing, the team that snatched him up late last season when Michael Waltrip Racing -- which gave Bayne his start in 2009 -- couldn't promise a sponsor for this season.

So it was on to Roush, which plans for Bayne to run for the Nationwide Series title this season, and a deal was made to get him some seat time in the Cup Series with the Woods. It wouldn't be for points, and he wasn't eligible to run for rookie of the year.

But the stunning Daytona 500 win -- and the $1,462,563 payday -- might change everybody's plans. The team already said it will now go to Martinsville, the sixth race of the season, which had not been on its original schedule.

Bayne could possibly retract his decision to run for the Nationwide title.

"I don't even know if that's an option," Bayne said.

Sunday's race had a record 74 lead changes among 22 drivers, and a record 16 cautions that wiped out many of the leaders, including Earnhardt Jr. on the first attempt at NASCAR's version of overtime. It put Bayne out front with a slew of unusual suspects.

David Ragan, winless in 147 career starts, was actually leading the field on NASCAR's first attempt at a green-white-checkered finish. But he was flagged for changing lanes before the starting line, then an accident that collected Earnhardt in the middle of the pack brought out the caution, and Bayne inherited the lead.

But he had two-time series champion Stewart, now winless in 13 career Daytona 500s, lurking behind with veterans Bobby Labonte, Mark Martin and Kurt Busch, who had collected two previous wins over Speedweeks. All were chomping at the bit for their first Daytona 500 title, but Bayne never blinked, holding his gas pedal down wide open as he staved off every challenge over the two-lap final shootout.

"It was too easy," Bayne said.

Edwards wound up second in a Ford and was followed by David Gilliland, Labonte and Busch.

Juan Pablo Montoya was sixth, Regan Smith seventh, and Kyle Busch, Paul Menard and Martin rounded out the top 10.

Earnhardt Jr. wound up 24th.

The race was a battle of attrition, thanks to the dicey two-car tandem racing at nearly 200 mph that was the norm throughout Speedweeks.

Hendrick Motorsports had a rough start to the season as three of the team's four cars, including five-time defending Sprint Cup Series champion Jimmie Johnson, were involved in an early 14-car wreck.

Gordon, who started on the front row, and Martin also sustained damage in the melee.

Gordon questioned the aggressiveness of his fellow drivers, especially so early in the race.

"What I don't quite understand is why guys are doing it three-wide, three-deep running for 28th," he said.



Friday, February 18, 2011

Tony George Reinstated To H&C Board

(speedtv.com 2-17-11)

Almost two years removed from his angry and abrupt departure, Tony George is back in the family business.

SPEED.com has learned that George has been reinstated on the board of directors of Hulman & Company, the umbrella that funds and administers the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, IZOD INDYCAR series and Clabber Girl Baking Powder.

It’s believed that Mari Hulman George, board chairwoman for Hulman & Company in addition to being chairman of the board at IMS, made the call to bring her son back into the fold.

It doesn’t appear that George’s re-emergence will immediately affect the day-to-day operation of INDYCAR or the Indianapolis 500, although he was known to have made an unsuccessful attempt last summer to purchase the series he started with a couple of investors.

George had served as Chief Executive Officer of Hulman & Company and the Speedway before resigning both positions on June 30, 2009 following what can best be described as a civil war among his siblings.

The only male child of Mari Hulman George and the namesake of IMS savior Anton Hulman, Tony had held those offices since 1989 and was replaced by a pair of longtime IMS loyalists -- Jeff Belskus and Curt Brighton.

Belskus, the chief financial officer for Hulman & Company for 20 years, was elevated to president and CEO of IMS on July 1, 2009 while Brighton, who served as general counsel for the Hulman/George family beginning in 1994, took over as president and CEO of Hulman & Company.

Since founding the Indy Racing League in 1994, George had spent hundreds of millions of dollars on IRL teams, drivers, entry fees, marketing plans, airplanes, personnel and his own team.

The IRL was a financial loser from Day 1 and, coupled with the estimated $60 million overhaul of IMS to accommodate Formula One in 2000, George’s sisters voiced their concern to their mother over the spending habits of their brother.

Nancy George, Josie George and Kathi Conforti-George finally convinced Mari Hulman George to take the check book and unchecked power away from Tony George in June of 2009.

That didn’t sit well with George and not only did he resign both of his positions at IMS and Hulman & Company, he also stepped down as IRL president and became just another car owner with Vision Racing, which closed its doors in 2010.
“As members of his family, we are sorry to see Tony leave,” said Mari Hulman George in 2009. “We are grateful for his service to our company as a board member and for serving as CEO and president of our companies.

“I speak for our whole family in wishing him well. All of us had hoped Tony would continue to serve on the board and we made that clear to him. We are disappointed with his decision to step down despite our wishes.”

Josie George took it upon herself to find a successor for her brother and she hired Randy Bernard away from the Pro Bull Riders in January of 2010.

Since taking over the IRL, Bernard’s aggressive approach has new cars and engines in place for 2012, two new engine manufacturers in General Motors and Lotus and multiple companies interested in building bodywork kits.

Bernard also greatly reduced the overall losses for the series in 2010.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Bernard says Motegi not a good fit


(Helio - "This is the thanks I get for moving over to let Danica win?")

(by Curt Cavin indystar.com 2-9-11)

IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard said today that the series’ race at the Twin Ring Motegi circuit in Japan didn’t work for either party, and that’s why the annual event won’t be held after this year.

The final race is Sept. 18.

“To us, it didn’t fit in that time of the year,” Bernard said. “Here we are gaining momentum for the championship and we have this race at 2 in the morning.

“It would make more sense if you had a big TV following in Japan, but it’s marginal.”

As for the track’s ability to make money on the event that requires expensive international transportation, Bernard said “it was a fair deal, but no one was doing great.”

The 1.5-mile egg-shaped track in the mountains north of Tokyo opened in 1997 and hosted five Champ Car World Series events before switching to IndyCar. Motegi is owned by Mobilityland Corp., a wholly owned unit of Honda Motor Co.

Scott Sharp won the first IndyCar race in 2003. Danica Patrick won her only series race there in 2007. Dan Wheldon and Helio Castroneves won two races each.

Bernard said he isn’t worried about losing an oval track because there “are plenty of options.” He declined to name them, but he has been particularly interested in Phoenix International Raceway.

Also possibilities: Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, Calif.; Chicagoland Speedway; Nashville Superspeedway, among others.