DC's Going Slow, let's go racing!

OPEN-WHEEL UNIFICATION? Having already endured many near-misses on that front, this writer has learned to believe it when seen . . . probably on or about March 27 in the GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway. That giant...


OPEN-WHEEL UNIFICATION?

Having already endured many near-misses on that front, this writer has learned to believe it when seen . . . probably on or about March 27 in the GAINSCO Auto Insurance Indy 300 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

That giant sucking sound you hear are the checkbooks being opened by once sideline-sitting sponsors who wouldn't put a dime in (now former) Champ Car or the Indy Racing League until they were assured of race-day crowds and TV viewers having limited choices.

With Formula One seemingly inching ever closer to shooting itself in the foot, one wonders a little how fate's timing in this deal might play in the future.

HUNG OUT TO DRY

Or, North America's "Winners and Losers" in the "new" IRL.

Whatever occurring wherever, it's a universal law that there will be winners and losers when something happens.

Apparently left hanging without 2008 races in the wake of the IRL/Champ Car merger are Houston, Laguna Seca, Toronto, Road America and Portland (on the Left Coast).

The Edmonton and Mid-Ohio races are scheduled for the same weekend and one will have to yield as a result.

Given its Honda sponsorship, one might be inclined to believe the Mid-Ohio date would be more likely to come out on top. One very well-placed racing insider offered a different perspective.

"With Edmonton being one of the best Champ Car events, I suspect Mid-Ohio will be dropped or moved," the herein anonymous insider said.

After all, Hondas are sold in a lot of places.

ENGINES ARE ENGINES

Remember late chicken producer Frank Purdue's "parts is parts?"

What will become of the Cosworth engine now that it no longer is the engine supplier to Champ Car?

LET'S GO RACING

"I'm ready to go racing," former open-wheel driver and team owner Mike Shank said recently.

Now of the Rolex Sports Car Series presented by Crown Royal Cask No. 16, Shank said his phone was ringing off the wall last week as the opposing open-wheel camps worked to finalize Champ Car's demise - the details of which will be released Wednesday at Homestead-Miami Speedway where the "new" series will conduct its first 2008 race March 27.

Asked if he'll be among those teams, Shank said he wasn't about to leave the Rolex Series.

"I'd like to do a one-off Indy 500," Shank said. "It's something that's been in my blood since I was a kid dreaming about Indy, but I'm not about to leave the Rolex Series."

"The Rolex Series is as competitive as any I've ever been in. Just look at the type of talent you get there. It's no ordinary day when you accomplish something notable in the Rolex Series."

Shank is especially anxious to get back to some racing after the team's performance at this year's Rolex 24 at Daytona, where MSR owned the race's front row - a feat rarer than the handful of team owners who've repeatedly won the race.

(The only other owner to have placed two cars on the Rolex 24's front row was Andy Evans in 1996. One can only wonder the retrospective thoughts Rob Dyson might offer given that year's following Sebring race.)

Having compiled 38 more laps in the 2006 Rolex 24 than this year's race winner (733 to 695), Shank's No. 60 DP scored a second-place finish with Oswaldo Negri Jr., Mark Patterson, Justin Wilson and A.J. Allmendinger driving.

For Shank and others, the break between the Rolex 24 At Daytona and the season's second race - this year the March 27 GAINSCO Grand Prix of Miami at Homestead-Miami Speedway - just seems way too long of a break.

"I've got to scratch the racing itch," Shank said. "And while better than nothing, testing just isn't quite the same."

RIGHT PLACE; RIGHT TIME

Is it just me, or does it seem as though "GAINSCO" is springing up all over the place.

Until Lowe's Home Improvement jumped onto the car for the Rolex 24 by doing its thing this year with 2006 and 2007 NASCAR Sprint Cup champ Jimmie Johnson, GAINSCO has been the sole primary sponsor on Bob Stallings' No. 99 Pontiac-Riley - in which Alex Gurney and Jon Fogarty won the 2007 Rolex Series DP driving championship.

On March 27 the auto insurer will sponsor both the IRL and Rolex Series Homestead-Miami races - inking both deals well before recent news broke on the open-wheel front.

It wasn't too long ago when people were wondering what in heck a "GAINSCO" might be.

"We are very excited about the Miami Race at Gainsco," Bob Stallings said toward the end of the Rolex Series' HMS test. "The Bob Stallings Racing guys are not all that happy about the upcoming race, as we believe the Pontiac has a power (deficiency as) compared to the Ford and others."

SPEAKING of HMS . . .

(and Shank)

Homestead- Miami Speedway is hosting 19 Daytona Prototypes and 20 GT cars for a two-day Rolex Series test that concludes today.

In what shouldn't be too great of a surprise, "Ozz" Negri, in his Michael Shank Racing Ford-Riley MkXX DP, recorded the fastest times during the test.

Spencer Pumpelly and his TRG No. 66 Porsche likewise commanded the GT class testers.

In the public's eye for the first time since a rather inauspicious early January introduction at Daytona International are Krohn Racing's Nos. 75 and 76 Pontiac-powered Lolas.

"We've done a lot from the Daytona test until now," longtime Krohn Racing driver Nic Jonsson said.

Soft-spoken but assuredly "Big Stick" Tracy Krohn tends toward a zealous pursuit of winning, as 2006 DP driving and team championships - and his own 2007 Trueman Award - attest. Having long ago learned not to bet against him, one can expect Krohn's winning form will be eventually seen in the new Lola designs, too.

Also testing Tuesday at Miami - as yet without firm plans following it - is 29-year old Maria de Vilotta.

Born into a racing family who today operates a Spain-based driving school, the Spanish beauty is testing the No. 19 Ford-Crawford DP of Beyer Racing, which made its debut this week at the HMS test.

In the car for a Monday test was 21-year-old Daniel Herrington. Herrington's a nice guy and all, some would certainly consider him handsome, but de Volitta he ain't.

Bienvenida a la Serie Rolex Sports Car, mujer encantadora.

Defending race champion Sigal Sport is hoping to throw up a decent defense of its 2007 HMS win but, at the very least, it's missing a key component: Bill Auberlen, who now drives for the No. 23 Ruby Tuesday car fielded by Alex Job.

DONE DEAL

Longtime Rolex Series participant Burt Frisselle of Vail, (not-the-planet) Jupiter, Hawaii and who knows where else, will team with Italian-born but present-day Swiss citizen Gabriele Gardel in a No. 47 Ford-powered Dallara DP fielded by Doran Racing.

Most Rolex Series fans are familiar with Frisselle (but did you know that he and Oswaldo Negri led the 2004 HMS race in a Mike Shank Doran?).

Gardel comes from a lengthy European racing background that includes a 2006 touring car championship. His most recent stateside race was the Rolex 24, where he finished 41st overall in Doran's No. 77 Ford-Dallara.

Beyond being one of the sports' genuine good guys, the youthful Frisselle lives life on the edge, having in December taken a trek somewhere in the Arctic. Never mind roughing it in a hostile environment; can anyone imagine a 20-something going without a cell phone anywhere, anytime? For some strange reason, the Arctic is devoid of cell towers.

Oh, leading the race on five different occasions, Frisselle also happened to compile this year's Rolex 24's seventh-highest number of total lead laps (33) in MSR's No. 6 Ford-Riley car before a right-rear suspension collapse relegated the team to a 14th-place overall finish. (Little brother Brian Frisselle managed to post five laps in the lead before the AIM Autosport team's No. 61 Ford-Riley finished 48th, after two separate offs took their toll.)

Probably the best news in this whole deal for Doran is that the two-car team will put talented drivers in two different cars (Memo Gidley and Brad Jaeger in the No. 77 sister car), each searching for the best possible combination for any given track. If the Dallara proves to be as capable as many of its ancestors, this'll prove to be a formidable team.

Unfortunately, they'll not have their car for the March 27 HMS race and instead will debut it in the April 19 Mexico City Rolex Series race at Autodromo Hermanos Rodriguez.

The next-best Doran news is that he didn't switch from Ford power to anything else.

Later.
    DC Williams, exclusively for Motorsport.com

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About this article
Series General , Grand-Am , IndyCar
Drivers Alex Gurney , Justin Wilson , Memo Gidley , Jon Fogarty , Bill Auberlen , A.J. Allmendinger , Burt Frisselle , Spencer Pumpelly , Oswaldo Negri Jr. , Tracy Krohn , Brad Jaeger , Mark Patterson , Gabriele Gardel , Bob Stallings , Daniel Herrington , Alex Job , Andy Evans , Nic Jonsson
Teams Williams , Krohn Racing , Doran Racing