Here’s the news from the world of motorsports:
• Bernie Talks Trash: Bernie Ecclestone threw a pre-emptive punch prior to the start of contract renegotiations with Indianapolis Motor Speedway, saying to London’s Times newspaper this past week, “It does not matter to Formula 1 if there is no Grand Prix in the U.S. What do we get from America? Aggravation, that’s about all. If you say ‘Good Morning’ over there and it’s five past 12, you end up with a lawsuit. We have never got any sponsors out there. The television has never taken off; we have more viewers in Malta than over there. If they want to continue having a round of the Formula 1 World Championship over there, I am happy to talk to them, which is what I will do when I get there. But I am not prepared to subsidize a race in America.” We love you too, Bernie.
• Another Head Rolls: Yet another high-profile F1 team boss got a copy of the home game this past week, as Honda Racing announced that technical director Geoff Willis was being replaced with former engineering director Shuhei Nakamoto, who was named as Senior Technical Director. Willis has not officially left the team yet, but he undoubtedly will.
• Whither Monty? Juan Pablo Montoya’s future has been the subject of much discussion this past week, with rumors floated that he might wind up back at Williams, from whence he came to McLaren, and Chip Ganassi chimed in with a quote saying he’d be glad to have him back in the IRL. One thing seems certain: if he were staying at McLaren, there would be no speculation.
• Have Your Say: The FIA, AMD and F1 Racing magazine have, for the second consecutive year, launched a fan survey to take the pulse of the ticket-buying public about what they would like to see happen in Formula 1. If you want to chime in, log onto www.fia-amd-survey2006.com and give them your opinion.
• Montreal Renewal: The Grand Prix F1 du Canada, Inc. company has signed a new five-year deal with the City of Montreal to continue to use the Circuit Gilles Villeneuve for the Canadian Grand Prix, which would keep the race on the unique island circuit in the St. Lawrence River where it has been held since 1978. All they have to do now is agree to terms with Bernie Ecclestone. We hope they aren’t looking for a fee reduction, or Bernie will have to start bad-mouthing the Canadians, too.
• Vickers to Red Bull: It was announced Sunday night that Brian Vickers, who recently revealed that he will be leaving Hendrick Motorsports, has signed to drive a Toyota Camry for Team Red Bull next season. Vickers will be replaced at Hendrick next year by Casey Mears, who is leaving Chip Ganassi Racing. No word on who Vickers’ teammate will be at Red Bull, but don’t be surprised to see the start-up team go after a former series champ in order to have a guaranteed “past champion” provisional starting spot in the first five races.
• Riggs Walking Wounded: Scott Riggs had a tougher time than most at Infineon Raceway this past weekend, since he cut both of his feet badly last week when he stepped onto an oyster bed while unloading his jet ski. Evernham Motorsports had Bill Elliott standing by as a potential stand-in, but Riggs was able to tough it out with some modified shoes.
• Who’ll Drive the Truck? The future of the UPS sponsorship in Nextel Cup has been the subject of much debate since the announcement that Dale Jarrett was leaving Robert Yates Racing. The rumor mill had it down to two teams, Roush Racing and Evernham Motorsports. If they can be believed, it now looks like Kasey Kahne will see what brown can do for him next year.
• Team Owner Arrested: Gene Haas, owner of the No. 66 Nextel Cup team and the No. 00 Busch Series team and founder of the Haas Automation company that hit it big with CNC machines, was accused in a 52-page federal indictment of running a bogus invoicing scheme to create fake tax deductions. Haas was arrested Monday on suspicion of conspiracy, filing false tax returns and witness intimidation. Federal prosecutors say Haas orchestrated a plan to list $50 million in bogus expenses that it could write off as business costs and save the company $20 million in taxes. Haas was reportedly released on Friday on $10 million bail, and his company issued a statement saying that the charges were related to the company’s former chief financial officer and would have no effect on the business, the racing teams or Haas’ recently announced $40 million wind tunnel project in Concord, N.C.