CHAMPCAR/CART: Long Beach Premiere Notebook 2004-03-08

2004 Champ Car Season Premiere Monday Notebook LONG BEACH, Calif. (March 8, 2004) -- The Champ Car World Series today began to let the motorsports world in on some much anticipated news during the first formal day of its 2004 Season Premiere at...

2004 Champ Car Season Premiere Monday Notebook

LONG BEACH, Calif. (March 8, 2004) -- The Champ Car World Series today began to let the motorsports world in on some much anticipated news during the first formal day of its 2004 Season Premiere at the Westin Hotel in Long Beach, Calif., part of a two day affair in which drivers, series and team principals will address the media for important news regarding the 2004 championship and beyond.

This morning's activities kicked off with a Champ Car press conference featuring series owners Kevin Kalkhoven and Paul Gentilozzi, along with Champ Car President Dick Eidswick. The three governing members gave their insight on the recent acquisition of the Champ Car World Series and revealed plans for the upcoming season that is set to open with the 30th Annual Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 18th.

Gentilozzi unveiled the 2004 schedule, one that keeps alive the tradition of the series with long time Champ Car venues including Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca, Cleveland's Burke Lakefront Airport circuit, the streets of Denver, Portland International Raceway, the historic Milwaukee Mile and Road America's 4.048-mile scenic ribbon of pavement. Stops at all three Molson Indy events in Toronto, Vancouver and Montreal were confirmed, as well as the two standard Mexican stops in Monterrey and Mexico City. Seoul, South Korea joins Surfers Paradise, Australia as the fly-away events for 2004, and will continue the series' international presence.

Day One of the Premiere also featured the first round of driver announcements for the upcoming season, led by Herdez Competition and their first confirmed entry for third-year pilot Mario Dominguez of Mexico. Rocketsports Racing and team owner Gentilozzi unveiled their expanded two-car effort with returning Canadian veteran Alex Tagliani, who will team with 17-year-old Skip Barber Dodge prodigy Nelson Philippe of France. When Philippe takes the green flag in Long Beach next month, he will best Michel Jourdain's record of being the youngest driver to ever contest a Champ Car race, a record Jourdain set when he broke into the series as a 19-year-old rookie.

Forsythe Racing confirmed that defending champion Paul Tracy would return to the squad, but this time running the #1 Indeck Ford-Cosworth/Lola/Bridgestone, signifying his dominance a season ago. Fellow Canadian and Tracy's 2003 stablemate Patrick Carpentier was on hand to announce his involvement with the team again for the '04 season, along with second year pilot Rodolfo Lavin of Mexico, who makes the move to Forsythe Racing after piloting his Corona-backed machine for Walker Racing last year.

Kalkhoven and PKV Racing completed the team announcements when they unveiled a pair of NII Holdings, Inc. (formerly Nextel International) sponsored machines for 1996 series champion Jimmy Vasser and Mexican rookie Roberto Gonzalez. With the announcement, Vasser joins the wildly popular Mexican driver Adrian Fernandez as the series' only owner/driver this year. The team formerly known as PK Racing expands to two cars this season under the PKV banner, as Vasser claims a stake in the team with high tech industrialist Dan Pettit.

Series backers Ford and Bridgestone both addressed the media Monday, with Dan Davis of Ford and Al Speyer of Bridgestone both reiterating their support of the series. Formula BMW USA announced that it would join four Champ Car World Series weekends in 2004 as part of its 14-race schedule. The entry-level open-wheel series will run seven dates under Champ Car sanction, with four coming alongside the Champ Cars. The series will run a double-header format on a weekend.

The last major announcement of the day will propel the Champ Car World Series into the stratosphere, as the series became presenting sponsor of the captivating X PRIZE, an international contest that will reward the a $10 million purse to a design team for developing a spacecraft capable of putting three humans into space. Plans are being finalized to have a flyover from one of the competing X PRIZE teams for the season opener in Long Beach next month. More details about the ground-breaking X PRIZE project can be found at <> .

The second and final day of activities and major announcements will take place Tuesday. The day will feature the release of the 2004 Champ Car World Series television package, with another round of team and driver lineups including Newman/Haas Racing, Team Rahal, Fernandez Racing and RuSPORT Racing.

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Series IndyCar
Drivers Jimmy Vasser , Adrian Fernandez , Patrick Carpentier , Alex Tagliani , Paul Tracy , Paul Gentilozzi , Mario Dominguez , Rodolfo Lavin , Skip Barber , Roberto Gonzalez , Nelson Philippe , Kevin Kalkhoven , Michel Jourdain