Grand-Am Road Racing, American Le Mans Series To Become Unified Series In '14
American sports car racing’s premiere series today announced the merger of Grand-Am Road Racing and the American Le Mans Series into a unified series in '14. The name and branding of the combined series are still being determined, as are the specifics of its '14 schedule. The first combined season will open with the Rolex 24 at Daytona followed by 12 Hours of Sebring. The series will be run by a new BOD led by Grand-Am Founder Jim France, who will serve as Chair, and ALMS Founder Don Panoz, who will serve as Vice Chair. The two founders began discussing a merger six months ago and agreed with a handshake during a round of golf. During a press conference announcing the merger, France read a quote given by his father, Bill France Sr., the day after NASCAR was formed, and compared that historic moment to the Grand-Am-ALMS merger. ALMS CEO Scott Atherton said that the combined series will pull from the best of what the Grand-Am and ALMS have done well in years past. Atherton: "You're going to see the best and the brightest. The best practices, best procedures of both series. ... It’s truly going to be a best-of-the-best example." Though many of the details of the new series, from schedule to competitive class structure to technical rules, still need to be worked out, motorsports marketing experts already were heralding it as a positive move. JMI CEO Zak Brown said, “This is a great change for sports car racing. The schedule will get an immediate bump. They can get a better TV deal. While both were struggling independently, you mash them together and you’ll have a starting grid with lots of teams. The manufacturers are excited. There’s still a lot of work to do, but it’s exactly what the doctor ordered.” Other board members of the new series include Atherton, NASCAR Vice Chair Lesa France Kennedy, Grand-Am CEO Ed Bennett and NASCAR VP Karen Leetzow. Grand-Am and ALMS will run independently in '13.