CHAMPCAR/CART: CART is dead! Long live Champ Car!

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CHAMPCAR/CART: CART is dead! Long live Champ Car!

Two of the three principals of Open Wheel Racing Series, LLC, Paul Gentilozzi and Kevin Kalkhoven, spoke to the media today about their plans for the future of the "racing series formerly known as CART." That's right, formerly! While the CART...

Two of the three principals of Open Wheel Racing Series, LLC, Paul Gentilozzi and Kevin Kalkhoven, spoke to the media today about their plans for the future of the "racing series formerly known as CART." That's right, formerly! While the CART name has been part of the world of racing for a quarter-century, the series' new owners have no plans to continue use of the name. The "Champ Car World Series" will continue. As Kalkhoven said today: "We recognize the legacy of Champ Car. I think the CART name is probably inappropriate."

Paul Gentilozzi.
Photo by Jack Durbin.
The continuity that the Champ Car name represents is a major theme of the plans the new owners have for the series. The majority of the drivers and teams from the exciting 2003 Champ Car season will be back in 2004. American Spirit Team Johansson folded operations earlier this fall, but Gentilozzi said today that it was the only team he knows won't return and that both ASTJ drivers, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Jimmy Vasser, would return with other teams. Earlier this week, when OWRS' purchase of CART assets was announced, Gentilozzi committed to having 18 cars at each '04 race.

Also on the list to return are Ford and Bridgestone. Both primary suppliers and title sponsors will supply the same package as they did in 2003, giving the new owners hope for the racing to compare to that in the exciting season recently completed.

That's not to say that there won't be major changes for Champ Car under the new owners. The schedule will shrink to 15-17 races for 2004, down from the 19-race list proposed in earlier OWRS releases. Specifically, the Miami street race and the super-speedway race at Fontana, California will not return, as OWRS did not purchase CART's contracts for rights to those events.

More detail was revealed about a few other races from the list issued last month. The St. Petersburg, Florida race, recently postponed from its season-opening February date, will apparently happen this year, either in May or late in the season. The venue for the Las Vegas race has still not been determined and the previously announced date - May 16th - is now likely to change. Gentilozzi expressed hope to end the 2004 season there or in Mexico City. The race could be a race on the oval at Las Vegas Motor Speedway or, as Gentilozzi said: "an event in conjunction with a major casino in a facility adjacent to the Strip." An updated 2004 calendar will be released "in the next few days."

Another change will come in the mix of support series sharing Champ Car race weekends. The Toyota Atlantic Championship was included in the OWRS/CART deal, continuing the historic small-bore series. OWRS, in a separate transaction this week, bought Gentilozzi's interest in the equally historic Trans Am series. To complement those series, OWRS expects to complete an arrangement with the new-to-America Formula BMW series later this week, and Gentilozzi expressed interest in a multi-manufacturer sedan series similar to SPEED's World Challenge as another undercard supplier. Look for some Drifting events to be part of a few Champ Car weekends as well. Not mentioned in these plans is the Barber Dodge Pro Series, which could lose its "Ladder Series" designation.

The television package will be a bit different. The network races will still show on CBS but the cable coverage will be moving from SPEED to Spike TV. Official announcement of the TV plan's details will happen as soon as the deal is completed. Another announcement expected soon is the details of Motorock's place in the new world of Champ Car. Like many other things discussed today, it is apparent that the groundwork for these business deals has been done and now that OWRS is in control of Champ Car's destiny, those deals will be completed soon.

And what follows that observation is the realization that Gentilozzi, Kalkhoven and their partner, Gerry Forsythe have done their homework while they waited for approval of their purchase plan, and will have things buttoned up and ready for the 2004 Champ Car World Series season opener at Long Beach in April.

Announcements coming soon!

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Series AUTOMOTIVE , INDYCAR