SBD/Issue 111/Leagues & Governing Bodies

George Paying Less Than '04 Offer For Champ Car World Series

George To Pay Less Than $13.5M
To Acquire Champ Car Assets
IRL Founder Tony George “will pay less to acquire the assets of Champ Car World Series than he offered in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in 2004, but his commitment to the unification of open-wheel racing still will cost him at least $30[M],” according to Curt Cavin of the INDIANAPOLIS STAR. The actual amount of last week’s offer has not been revealed, but IRL Exec VP/Communications Fred Nation said it was less than the $13.5M George offered four years ago for Champ Car. George has agreed to supply all Champ Car teams joining IRL with two cars and an "engine lease that costs just under $1[M].” League officials are “expecting between nine and 12 cars to migrate to the IRL,” including two from Champ Car co-Owner Kevin Kalkhoven’s KV racing. In the new agreement, George also gets “all of Champ Car’s assets, tangible and otherwise, including its traveling medical center, trademarks and all historical documents.” George and the Champ Car owners “currently have only an agreement in principle; they don’t yet have a contract,” and Nation said that it is “one of the many things still to be finalized” (INDIANAPOLIS STAR, 2/28).

TITLE SPONSOR: Just Marketing Founder & CEO Zak Brown, whose company is being retained by IRL as a consultant, said that “several companies have expressed an interest in the unified series and he anticipates announcing a crucial title sponsorship this season.” Brown said that he is “targeting financial institutions and electronics companies in the Fortune 1000 -- mentioning Bank of America, Panasonic and Sony -- for what he expects would be a $10[M] deal.” IRL Commercial Division President Terry Angstadt said of reaching a deal, “It’s very important because the title sponsor helps build the racing series and its profile (much like Winston did for NASCAR). It’s a must we get one” (SI.com, 2/28).

RACE SCHEDULE: At a press conference at Homestead-Miami Speedway yesterday, George said that the Edmonton Grand Prix “would survive in his series for the time being,” but he confirmed the end of the Champ Car in Montreal. George: “What’s going to be key is not to disenfranchise anybody so all the best opportunities remain out there for us. Toronto is an event that was discussed. ... It falls into the category of one of those events that you don’t want to disenfranchise someone with that much history” (TORONTO SUN, 2/28). George also said that he hopes the Champ Car race in Surfer's Paradise, Australia, "could be added to 16 scheduled IndyCar Series races this season” (N.Y. TIMES, 2/28). The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach Champ Car race will be “run as scheduled on April 20.” However, the race will feature just Champ Car drivers, as the IRL will race that same weekend in Motegi, Japan. Drivers competing in the Long Beach event will be “awarded points toward the newly combined IRL series championship” (L.A. TIMES, 2/28).

Kalkhoven Looking Forward
To Open-Wheel Unification
BUILDING UNITY: George “dismissed the notion that he will be the sport’s sole leader.” George: “I’ve never considered myself that. You’re only as good as the people you surround yourself with. I’m fortunate to have a lot of good people that I depend on and I’m going to have a lot more now. There’s plenty of wisdom, knowledge, experience out there to draw from to help lead the sport." Kalkhoven said, “I think we all recognize there have been issues in the past. It’s not really a time to be looking back, and the exciting thing today is that we are really looking forward” (ESPN.com, 2/27). IRL team owner Roger Penske: “A unified open-wheel series should really help galvanize everyone. Not only will all the teams and drivers benefit from being together, but it should create more opportunities for sponsors as well, and that means more marketing and promotion for the series” (N.Y. TIMES, 2/28).

DRIVING AHEAD: ESPN.com’s John Oreovicz wrote it is “going to take time and effort to bring back the fans, sponsors and manufacturers who turned their back on the sport over the past dozen years. But for the first time in a long time in the IndyCar paddock, there is a genuine sense that it can -- and will -- be done” (ESPN.com, 2/27). Autoextremist.com Editor Peter DeLorenzo: “I think (the IRL) definitely can get a toehold. Will they ever recover from the 12 years of rancor and discord that basically handed the platform of American racing and the mainstream media to NASCAR? No. There’s no chance.” However, IRL driver Helio Castroneves: “We are not competing against NASCAR. We’re just a different type of racing. Now we just have good things to show everyone.” Champ Car driver Graham Rahal: “The way we look at it now is we’re not going to be a challenger to NASCAR right away, but certainly I think over time we can get back to that position” (SI.com, 2/28).

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