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Champ Car investors Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe helped secure the series' “long-term viability” Monday with the purchase of engine-maker Cosworth from Ford, according to Jeff Pappone of the Toronto GLOBE & MAIL. With the deal, they “ensured there will be no threat to the future availability” of engines for Champ Car. Cosworth sources confirmed that IRL team owner Chip Ganassi “unsuccessfully offered to buy the company,” which will continue to provide engines for F1 and IRL teams, and “there is talk that the bid also had the support” of IRL Founder Tony George. Kalkhoven, on rumors of Ganassi and George pursuing Cosworth: “I seem to have an amazing propensity for dodging bullets, particularly when they are not very well aimed.” Champ Car Newman/Haas Racing co-Owner Paul Newman: “The fact that they have bought Cosworth is obviously very important for Champ Car. All the momentum is going with us” (Toronto GLOBE & MAIL, 11/16). IMS VP/Communications Fred Nation said, “We did not aid or abet any effort to acquire Cosworth.” Cosworth Managing Dir Tom Routis said that five of the 60 bids for the group “merited serious consideration.” Ford Group VP/Global Product Development & Chief Technical Officer Richard Parry-Jones said, “Our decision was very heavily weighted on the impact the new owners would have on the employees and the sport. Kevin and Jerry moved quickly and were able to complete the deal on time, which was important because [F1] had a deadline of Nov. 15 for registration for the championship” (ESPN.com, 11/15).
DOLLAR STORE: In N.Y., Paul Tharp notes Ford also sold the Jaguar Racing F1 team to Red Bull Monday. While terms were not disclosed, sources said that Ford sold the team for $1 with a pledge that Red Bull invest at least $400M into the team over the next four years. Sources indicated it cost Ford $2.6M a week to run the team (N.Y. POST, 11/16).
NASCAR Trying To Cut Costs By
Changing Weekend Schedule
NASCAR announced several changes to its race weekend schedule beginning next season that will see a shortened weekend schedule at many tracks. NASCAR will hold Nextel Cup practices on Friday and move qualifying to Saturday. Also, there will be a post-qualifying impound procedure for the Nextel Cup Series, limiting the amount of work teams can do on their cars. On doubleheader weekends, Bud Pole qualifying could be followed by a Busch Series event (NASCAR). In Orlando, Ed Hinton writes the changes will not apply “at special events such as the Daytona 500 and Coca-Cola 600 at Charlotte, where time trials traditionally are run well in advance of the races.” Sources said Chicagoland has not yet agreed to the change while those in agreement include Daytona for its July race, Homestead-Miami Speedway and California Speedway (ORLANDO SENTINEL, 11/16). The AP’s Mike Harris reported Charlotte, Texas and Talladega have “not agreed to the change because they draw large crowds to Friday qualifying” (AP, 11/15). Atlanta Motor Speedway President Ed Clark, whose track also did not agree to the change, added of Friday qualifying, “Georgia Power is sponsoring pole night for the March race; Georgia-Pacific has pole night for the October race. A lot of tracks don’t have sponsors for pole day” (ATLANTA CONSTITUTION, 11/16).
COST CONSCIOUS: The AP’s Harris wrote the move was made “in an effort to save money for teams,” but Penske Racing South co-Owner Don Miller said, “You still have to bring your people in on Thursday so they can be at the track when the garage opens on Friday. The hotels are still going to have those three-day minimums and you still have people away from home for three or four days.” NASCAR announced another measure “aimed to contain costs –- a combination preseason test at Las Vegas Motor Speedway and California Speedway ... that will eliminate the costs of making two separate trips to the Western tracks”(AP, 11/15).
POINT WELL TAKEN: The AP’s Jenna Fryer reported NASCAR Chair & CEO Brian France will “keep the new points system in place for next year, satisfied that the closest championship race in history is proof” that the “Chase for the Nextel Cup” is working. Five drivers are separated by just 82 points heading into Sunday’s finale at Homestead-Miami. France said the new points system has “created interest and a scenario that was unthinkable under the old system.” France: “We may end up making some slight adjustments next season, but nothing very noticeable.” Fryer noted France is “particularly pleased with what the Chase has done for [TV] ratings.” NBC has enjoyed “a steady climb” since the fourth of ten Chase races in Kansas, including a 21% gain for the race in Atlanta two weeks ago. NASCAR “expects the Miami finale to post similar numbers” (AP, 11/15). In Charlotte, David Poole writes, “You don’t have to like the [Chase], but after Sunday’s Southern 500 at Darlington Raceway you cannot argue that it hasn’t done what it was designed to do” (CHARLOTTE OBSERVER, 11/16). ESPN’s Mike Massaro, on the new points system making for a close finish: “They’ve got to be thrilled. This was the whole reason behind changing the system” (ESPNews, 11/15).
Sharapova’s Win Comes In
Front Of Record Crowd
The WTA Tour Championships final Monday between Serena Williams and Maria Sharapova drew 11,397, the largest single-session crowd since the tournament moved to Staples Center three years ago. The six-day event drew an average of 8,890 fans per session, up 19% from last year’s six-day average of 7,448. Last year’s final between Kim Clijsters and Amelie Mauresmo drew 8,925 (THE DAILY). WTA Tour CEO Larry Scott said during a state of the game address before the final, “We’re pleased with the job our partners at AEG and Octagon have done. In terms of marketing and promotion the event has really gotten some traction [in L.A.].” In L.A., Lauren Gustus noted the tone of the address “was decidedly different than that of last year’s, during which Scott announced the tournament would not be returning” to L.A. The event will return to L.A. in ’05, but the location is undetermined after that (L.A. DAILY NEWS, 11/15).
ROCK & ROLL ATMOSPHERE: In L.A., Bill Dwyre writes Monday’s final “had sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll.” Sharapova, who was featured in racy ads for the event, “made the marketing guys look smart” by winning the tournament. Dwyre: “There were those in the media who ... objected strongly and publicly to the use of a 17-year old as a sex symbol.” Sharapova earned $1M for the victory and told the crowd that the Porsche that she also won would be donated to benefit the families of children who were victims in the Russian school shootings in September. Dwyre notes AEG “rolled the dice on this event and not only got Monday night’s tennis thriller/soap opera, but also got big-league entertainment Sunday from the Amelie Mauresmo-Williams semifinal” (L.A. TIMES, 11/16). In San Diego, Jerry Magee writes “decorum took a thrashing” at last night’s final. The PA announcer attempted “to rouse a crowd” before the match by asking, “Who’s got some energy?” The announcer also asked “at the top of his lungs ‘Are you ready for some tennis?’” Despite an increase in attendance this year, the tournament “wasn’t going to [recoup the $3M in purse money] drawing” less than 9,000 until last night (SAN DIEGO UNION-TRIBUNE, 11/16).
THE LADY IS A CHAMP: In Tampa, Eduardo Encina writes Sharapova “gave Hollywood and the WTA the glamour girl it wanted to revive what had become a season finale dud the past two years” (TAMPA TRIBUNE, 11/16).