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CHAMP CAR News and notes



Published: Sun, July 10, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



Merger won't happen: The owner of Champ Car said Saturday that talks of merging his series with the Indy Racing League are over and a reunification will not happen. Kevin Kalkhoven, co-owner of Champ, was confident America's top two open-wheel racing series will never come together. "Hey guys, it's very simple -- there is no merger. There are no merger talks," Kalkhoven said. "It is as simple as that and I am really bored about the subject." There had been preliminary discussions about ending the decade-long feud between the two series, and the subject heated up in May during the Indianapolis 500 when several high-profile drivers and owners stated publicly that a merger was the only way to resurrect open wheel racing in North America. But it's believed the talks failed because IRL owner Tony George, who also controls Indianapolis Motor Speedway, refused to listen to a 50-50 ownership proposition made by Champ officials. Kalkhoven did not discuss particulars of the failed negotiations, instead urging everyone to just move on. "This subject comes up every year, and frankly, both series should be concentrating on what they need to do to be able to continue to go," he said. "It doesn't really matter what the terms of reunification are. It's really not something that is wanted, let's just put it that way." Kalkhoven insisted that the Champ Car series does not need to merge with the IRL to survive and pointed to new venues in Edmonton and San Jose, Calif., that have had impressive ticket sales for their inaugural races later this month. But he acknowledged that Champ has plenty of work to still do, including increased promotion of its stars. He also said the series needs to do a better job of grooming its young talent and keeping it in the series. "We are very conscious of the fact we need to have new young drivers who will be with the series a very long time and continue to grow it," he said.

Legge on slow track: Champ Car officials believe they have their own version of Danica Patrick in Katherine Legge. But series co-owner Kevin Kalkhoven said he won't rush Legge's career simply to capitalize on the sudden interest in women in racing. Legge currently competes in the lower-tier Toyota Atlantic Series, Champ Car's pipeline program. "We don't have a situation with Katherine where she is automatically assured of a drive in Champ Car," he said. "She has to prove her worth because I am not going to endanger other drivers by putting someone who is not quite ready in a seat." Legge became the first woman to win an open-wheel race in North America when she won a Toyota Atlantic event on April 10 at Long Beach, Calif. Since Patrick's strong showing in Indianapolis, many racing series have been anxious to promote a female because of the strong fan and sponsorship interest. But Kalkhoven said he won't push Legge until she is ready. "I think she is going to be a strong and competitive driver, but she has to earn her stripes," he said. "I am not going to automatically put her in and just say 'We need you for publicity. Would you mind getting in a bikini and draping yourself over a car?' I am not going to give anybody a free ride just by saying 'You are a woman, get in the car and drive.' That's not the rules of the game as far as I am concerned."

Wilson misses out: Justin Wilson just missed winning the pole for the Toronto Molson Indy. But his third-place qualifying effort proved his RuSport team is headed in the right direction. Wilson has qualified in the top three in four of six races this season. His run Saturday was a drastic improvement from earlier practice sessions -- he was seventh on Friday. "We're very pleased to have made this jump," he said. "It's quite an improvement." Wilson, a former Formula One driver, is in his second season in the Champ Car Series and said his team is making strides. "It's purely just more education, time together, just keep working on our setup and the understanding of myself, my engineer and the rest of the team," he said. "It's not been straightforward yet. Like yesterday, we came here, we didn't have a good balance to start off. But I'm very pleased that we've managed to turn this one around and get the car to work."

Associated Press




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