CHAMPCAR/CART: Out of the woodwork in Long Beach

New race dates and drivers in the 2004 Champ Car World Series are coming out of the woodwork today with the Season Premiere going on at Long Beach, California, site of the series opener on April 18th. The Series acknowledged its 16 race dates,...

New race dates and drivers in the 2004 Champ Car World Series are coming out of the woodwork today with the Season Premiere going on at Long Beach, California, site of the series opener on April 18th.

The Series acknowledged its 16 race dates, with one vital change to a date, two self-promoted races, one brand new and two TBA races. The two self-promoted events in 2004 are Portland and Cleveland. The July 3rd race in Cleveland will be a day race this year, instead of the under-the-lights thriller in '03.

There's just one oval race on the schedule and it will, once again, occur the first weekend of June at The Milwaukee Mile, a great traditional venue where the new model Champ Car excels. In between the 30th annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach (April 18th) and Milwaukee on June 6th, the Champ Cars make their fourth trip to the mid-Mexico industrial city of Monterrey on May 23rd.

Off to Portland June 20th, in Cleveland July 3rd and then the Canadian double starts, with swings to Toronto on the 11th and West to Vancouver July 25th. Open Wheel Racing Series and Elkhart Lake's Road America have made peace with one another, resulting in an event on the seminal 4-mile road course on the 8th of August.

With ownership of the Denver Grand Prix of Denver assumed by sponsor Centrix Financial Services, the Mile High race is set for August 15th, while the Champ Cars make their third trip to Montreal in Quebec province on August 29th.

Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca returns to a more traditional September 12th date, which should bring back the crowds. There is a late September TBA date which some believe could be in South Africa, followed by a two car Far East fling in October: a confirmed October 17th race in Seoul, South Korea and an October 24th romp through the streets of Surfers Paradise in Australia, a team, driver and crowd favorite.

A third visit to Mexico City is on tap for November 7th and a final race, its date and site still TBA will be stateside after Mexico City. That gives the CCWS a total of 16 races, and the focus of key players is to secure the series and look forward to 2005.

Once the schedule had been defined this morning, OWRS Rocketsports Racing confirmed its #17 LeasePlan Lola/Ford-Cosworth/Bridgestone entry in the 2004 CCWS campaign, driven by Nelson Philippe, who just happens to be, well, 17 years old. Great idea! The Frenchman, who currently makes his home in Miami - home to many other Champ Car, Indy Racing League and even Formula One drivers, has been associated with LeasePlan for much of his professional life. The company felt the move to Champ Cars would be the perfect way to showcase its global vehicle leasing and fleet management capabilities.

Forsythe Racing brought three drivers to the party and announced the team would run at least two of them. Of course Paul Tracy, last year's champion returns, but this time he has Rodolfo Lavin as a teammate who joins the team with his yellow and blue Corona livery. While contracted driver Patrick Carpentier was presented with this duo, his role was not confirmed as Forsythe continues to hunt for funding on a third car.

It's possible Carpentier could be farmed to another team, much as Forsythe and sponsor Player's did last year with Alex Tagliani, who landed in just the right spot at Rocketsports, where he returns for a second season of Johnson Controls sponsorship, this time running a blue #8 car, the same number the French Canadian utilized on his first kart.

PKV Racing (formerly PK Racing) confirmed two drivers, Jimmy Vasser and Roberto Gonzalez for their expanded two-car team, last year they debuted with one car and multiple drivers during the season. The team's primary sponsor will be Nextel International.

More news will be forthcoming on day two of the Season Premiere in Long Beach.

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Series INDYCAR