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Long-sought IRL-Champ Car merger faces another roadblock

2/8/2008

The latest merger discussions between Indy Racing League and the
rival Champ Car World Series hit a snag over race dates.

Series founder Tony George has offered Champ Car teams free
Dallara chassis and Honda engines, along with the $1.2 million in
incentives it is paying each of its own teams to race in the
IndyCar Series in 2008, IRL spokesman John Griffin said Friday.


The IRL also would absorb at least three of the 14 races on the
Champ Car schedule -- Long Beach, Calif.; Edmonton, Alberta; and
Surfers Paradise, Australia.

The biggest hurdle appears to be the head-to-head scheduling of
the Long Beach race, Champ Car's season opener April 20, and the
IRL's April 19 event at the Honda-owned Motegi track in Japan. Long
Beach officials say they cannot change their date because of
contracts with the Long Beach Convention Center, around which the
street circuit is set up. Motegi officials have refused to move
their date.

"As long as Honda won't move Motegi, there won't be a merger,"
Champ Car co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven told The Associated Press on
Friday. "It's certainly a major hurdle, but not the only one.

"I believe there are significant advantages in doing [the
merger], but I believe there are also significant advantages in not
doing it. At this moment in time, there are no discussions until
they move Motegi."

The story originally was reported by speedtv.com.

Griffin was more optimistic about the negotiations with
Kalkhoven and Champ Car co-owner Gerald Forsythe.

"This thing is moving forward, but there's still some work to
be done. I don't know how long it's going to take," he said. "We
are looking to add some teams and some races. [Retired Honda racing
boss] Robert Clarke and Tony are going to head to Japan to talk to
the Japanese about coming off their date."

George founded the IRL in 1995 and the series began racing in
1996. Champ Car, then known as CART, continued as a separate
series. Both sides have struggled to find sponsorship and
acceptance and have lived with meager car counts and television
ratings.

Most recently, each series lost its top stars -- four-time Champ
Car champion Sebastien Bourdais to Formula One and 2007
Indianapolis 500 winner and IndyCar champion Dario Franchitti and
three-time IndyCar champion Sam Hornish Jr. to NASCAR.

Numerous attempts to unite the groups over the years have
failed, mostly over who would hold control. Longtime racing star
Mario Andretti has made several attempts to get the sides together.

"It's the only solution we have to save the sport we love so
much," he said. "The bottom line is that this is desperately
needed. There's no losers in a situation like this, starting with
the fans."