IndyCar Series hopes to add two Champ Car races to '08 schedule
HOMESTEAD, Fla. -- While the Champ Car World Series is no more, there will be one more Champ Car race.
Indy Racing League founder Tony George and Kevin Kalkhoven, owner of the now-defunct Champ Car series, revealed some details Wednesday of the unification of America's two open-wheel series, including the fact that the April 20 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach will be run by Champ Car teams with their old equipment while their new IndyCar Series brethren are in Japan.
Points earned at Long Beach will count toward the IndyCar Series championship.
"It's going to be a celebration of Champ Car and I hope of the IRL," said Kalkhoven.
George said running two races on the same weekend in different parts of the world presents a huge challenge.
"But I think the efforts of some very capable people and the scenario that allows Champ Car to showcase for one final time the [Panoz] DP-01s, the drivers and teams that are familiar with that equipment, to go out and put on a great show, really make Long Beach a great event," he said.
The unusual plan was made necessary when neither Long Beach nor the traditional IRL race at Motegi, Japan, set for April 19, would agree to change their dates.
At one point in the negotiations, Kalkhoven said that there could be no deal without the Motegi date being moved. But the eventual answer was to have the IRL regulars run in Japan and to reprise the Champ Car series for one more race.
"Our teams have agreed to this and it's going to be something special," Kalkhoven said.
The long sought-after unification was announced last Friday, but George said there are many details still to be taken care of before the unified series begins its season March 29 at Homestead-Miami Speedway.
Among those details are finding enough Dallara chassis to accommodate the Champ Car teams that plan to make the move to the IRL and firming up the dates for the former Champ Car races at Edmonton, Alberta, and Surfers Paradise in Queensland, Australia. Those will be the only additions to the 16-race IndyCar schedule for 2008, with other Champ Car events under consideration for 2009 and beyond.
"We have to put our teams together to work on coming up with a good plan to integrate teams into one series, to integrate some events where we have the opportunity to fill some slots," George said. "We've got a lot of challenges that go along with doing all those things, but I think we're going to successfully overcome those."
Kalkhoven said he and Champ Car co-owner Gerald Forsythe will also keep alive the developmental Atlantic Series, which will run a 12-race schedule in 2008.
Kalkhoven called the agreement a huge step forward for open-wheel racing in North America.
"Tony and I have actually talked on and off [about unification] for four years," he said. "It's been a long and hard road to be able to get here, but we are here. I think the winners today are the fans, the teams, the drivers and the potential that we have to be able to grow the sport over the next few years.
"I've said many times that unification itself isn't some sort of magic bullet to be able to get us forward," Kalkhoven added. "It's going to take an awful lot of hard work, and that has already begun."
Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press