Daily Edition: Mar. 27, 2006

March 26, 2006

IRL Driver Paul Dana Killed at Homestead

IRL IndyCar Series rookie Paul Dana, 30, was fatally injured in a two-car crash during the morning warm-up prior to Sunday's season opener at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

At 10:03 am, just three minutes into the 30-minute session, Ed Carpenter spun his No. 20 Vision Racing Dallara/Honda in Turn 2 on the 1.5-mile circuit and rolled down the banking toward the apron and came to a stop. The caution lights went on immediately and a number of cars drove past at reduced speed before Dana's No. 17 Rahal-Letterman Racing Panoz/Honda arrived on the scene, striking Carpenter's car in the left-rear wheel at what was estimated to be approximately 180mph. The impact split Carpenter's car in two and catapulted Dana's car over Carpenter's.

The medical crew arrived on scene immediately, and it took about 15 minutes to extract both drivers from the wreckage. Both drivers were flown by helicopter to Miami's Jackson Memorial Hospital. Carpenter, stepson of IRL founder and CEO Tony George, was reportedly unconscious immediately following the accident, but was said to be awake and alert before being placed in the helicopter. Later in the day it was reported that he had no broken bones and was being kept at the hospital for observation.

Dana was pronounced dead just before noon. An official cause of death was not released, but IRL president and COO Brian Barnhart said, "I believe he was pronounced dead from the multiple trauma."

Bobby Rahal, who co-owns Dana's team with television personality David Letterman, announced that the team would withdraw its other two entries, driven by Danica Patrick and Buddy Rice, from the race.

"It is a very black day for us, and on behalf of our entire team our prayers and sympathy go out to the entire Dana family," Rahal said.

Barnhart said that the trackside and dashboard-mounted caution lights were working properly, the caution flag had been displayed and spotters had relayed information about Carpenter's crash immediately. Rahal said that there had been no communications problems with Dana's radio, and that his spotter had alerted him to the crash ahead of him.

Dana had competed in three IRL races previously, all occurring last year with Hemelgarn Racing. He broke his back in a crash while practicing for the Indianapolis 500 and spent the remainder of 2005 in rehabilitation. He signed with Rahal-Letterman for 2006 and was preparing for his first race with his new team, for which he had qualified eleventh.

Dana was the third IRL driver killed in the series' history. Tony Renna died in a crash during testing at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in October 2003, and Scott Brayton was killed while practicing for the Indianapolis 500 in May 1996. The most recent death in NASCAR was Dale Earnhardt in February 2001, and the last driver to die in Formula 1 was Ayrton Senna in May 1994.

Dana's was third racing death at the Homestead track. John Nemechek was killed in a NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series race in February 1997 and Jeff Clinton died in a Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series event at the track in March 2002.

A native of St. Louis currently residing in Indianapolis, Dana had been racing for 10 years. He started out in the Bridgestone Racing School Mechanics Championship, where he scored two wins and six top-five finishes. He advanced through the Bridgestone Racing School Championship Series, the Skip Barber Formula Dodge Series and then the SCCA FF1600 and US F2000 series. He moved up to the Indy Pro Series in 2003, and finished second in that series' championship in 2004, scoring a victory at Milwaukee.

Dana would have turned 31 on April 15. He is survived by his wife Tonya.-John F. Gardner



GM: Turnaround Is Working

Final sales figures for March aren't due until next week, but General Motors is launching a pre-emptive strike this week in an effort to put a forward spin on a story - the success of its new products - that it believes has been overlooked in the seeming endless waves of grim news about finances and downsizing.

GM has scheduled a full-scale briefing this week to tell its side of the story ahead of the sales numbers. Those numbers are, according to an interim report on March sales activity put together by J.D. Power and Associates, rather humdrum. GM's PR offensive will argue that the new pricing strategy is working.
Steve Harris, GM vice president of communications, said GM believes some of the very positive aspects of the GM turnaround story have been overlooked in recent weeks as news organizations focused on the negative reports that swirled around the company.

GM: Turnaround Is Working (3/26/2006)
Company says new pricing plan, cuts are righting the ship despite looming engineering cuts.

Delphi Deadline Draws Near

The bankrupt Delphi Corp. faces some critical choices this week as the deadline for revising its labor agreement with the United Auto Workers fast approaches. 

Even though the UAW has agreed to a buyout deal, Delphi still has to come to an agreement with the UAW and the other unions on revisions to the existing contracts on wages and benefits. Robert 'Steve' Miller, Delphi's chairman and chief executive officer, said last month that if there is no deadline by March 30 he would have no choice but to petition the bankruptcy judge to have the existing contracts set aside.

Meanwhile, UAW officials from president Ron Gettelfinger on down have been signaling for past couple of weeks there was no way they could meet the deadline imposed by Miller. The UAW, with help from GM, did succeed in negotiating a buyout agreement that will allow some 13,000 UAW members employed by Delphi to retire or quit with a cash settlement of between $70,000 and $140,000. In addition, Delphi also appears to be on verge of buyout agreements with two other unions, the IUE-CWA and United Steel Workers, that would help it eliminate the jobs of another 4000 blue-collar workers, meaning that Delphi is on the verge of cutting its blue-collar workforce by more than half.

Delphi Deadline Draws Near (3/26/2006)
Will March 30 bring strikes or settlements?


Gas Prices Up as Refiners Brew Summer Gas

Gasoline prices continue their upward movement despite reports to rising inventories of crude oil. The national average for regular self-serve gasoline was $2.511 a gallon last week - nearly 12 cents higher than the previous week as refiners began producing summer blends.

In Southern California, the average price of self-serve regular gasoline in the Los Angeles-Long Beach last week moved up to $2.728, 9.9 cents higher than the previous week, 22 cents higher than last month, and 34 cents higher than last year, according to the Automobile Club of Southern California's Weekend Gas Watch.

"Prices in most parts of the region increased more than a penny per day during the past week, and we expect that prices will continue to rise for the next few weeks," said Auto Club spokesperson Carol Thorp. "More regions in the country are using ethanol in summer blend gasoline to meet federal clean-air standards, and prices are going up as supplies of this additive are being stretched."

It was also the same story across Texas, where gasoline prices shot up 14 cents a gallon last week, maintaining upward momentum from last week's increase of 7 cents, according to the AAA Texas' Weekend Gas Watch. "The seasonal switchover from winter grade fuel to the production of cleaner-burning summer fuels typically means higher prices," said Rose Rougeau, spokesperson for AAA Texas. "The change in gasoline processing slows the production of gasoline and temporarily reduces inventories, which helps drive up prices," she said. -Joe Szczesny


Ford Reviving Hurricane Engine?

The Detroit News reports that Ford's efforts to develop a rival to Chrysler Group's HEMI engine could be revived. The so-called "Hurricane" engine has been put back into development by Ford Americas president Mark Fields as a means of keeping the company's F-Series truck atop its class. The Hurricane project had been cut in Ford's massive budget slashing last year; the News says the plan now recognizes the need to stay competitive with power offerings not only from Chrysler, but now from Toyota and Nissan as well. The project will likely get a new name, given the intense storms that battered the Gulf coast last year.


Could Detroit Get New Cobo?

Prospects for a new Cobo Hall, home to the Detroit auto show, are taking an interesting tack. The Detroit News reports that the Detroit Auto Dealers Association is examining a plan to ask for federal money that could be used to expand Cobo Hall and create a research and exhibition center for automotive and energy technology. The estimated $600 million pricetag to add several new wings and more than 200,000 square feet of display space to Cobo could be underwritten in part with federal grants. The show organizers hope the new plan would net the Detroit show an additional 150,000 square feet of display space; it would, however, mean the end of Cobo Arena, which would be demolished to create a multilevel addition to the existing hall.


DaimlerChrysler Kills Four-Door Smart Forfour

In the latest chapter of DaimlerChrysler's expensive foray into microcars, the company will spend another $1.2 billion on its smart division to cancel production of the forfour four-door it developed with Mitsubishi Motors. If approved by Mitsubishi, the end of the forfour will turn smart into a one-car brand - and will end the division's autonomy entirely, as operations will be folded into the Mercedes brand. The brand could be profitable at that point, DC officials say, even with the launch of the updated smart fortwo in 2007. Smart stopped building its Roadster model last year.


All Ford Dealers to Get SVTs When Shelby Goes on Sale

When Ford rolls out its high-powered Shelby GT500 this summer, it will, for the first time, let all of its 3777 U.S, Ford Division dealers sell all vehicles badged as Special Vehicle Team (SVT) cars. In disclosing the change in a dealer-wide e-mail last week, Ford scrapped a process of limiting SVT vehicle sales to selected dealers. Only about 600 Ford dealers were franchised to sell all three SVT vehicles - Focus, Mustang, and the F-150 Lightning. Another 700 were certified for the Focus SVT alone.

The Mustang is the only survivor of the first SVT group. The Focus was discontinued in 2004, and plans to replace the Lightning with the Sport Trac Adrenalin were canceled as part of Ford's new "Way Forward" turnaround plan. A total of 144,994 SVT vehicles have been sold since the SVT program began in 1992.

Ford has not identified what additional products could be added to the SVT portfolio, beyond the Mustang and the Shelby GT500. Approximately 7200 SVT Mustangs have been sold each model year. "This will further strengthen the Ford brand by enabling us to drive more showroom traffic," said Darryl Hazel, president of Ford's customer service division. -Mac Gordon


FROM THE SOURCE headlines from the latest press releases


The Dodge barrage continues. This Sunday, Dodge, the Chrysler Group's best-selling brand, will begin marketing efforts to communicate the global launch of its all-new 2007 Caliber. The Dodge Caliber is one of nine new vehicles launched by the brand in 2005 and 2006. "With bold styling, five-door functionality, space-efficient packaging, and clever innovations, the all-new 2007 Dodge Caliber is designed to appeal to global consumers looking for value in a vehicle that stands out from the crowd," said George Murphy, Senior Vice President - Global Marketing, Chrysler Group. "Starting at $13,985, Dodge Caliber is not your typical small car, and our target market is not your typical consumer."


Name Symbol Last Change
Autobytel, Inc. ABTL 4.60 0.00 (0.00%)
Autoliv Inc. ALV 57.41 -0.01 (-0.02%)
AutoNation Inc. AN 21.53 -0.22 (-1.01%)
ArvinMeritor Inc. ARM 15.21 +0.18 (+1.20%)
American Axle & Mfr. Holdings Inc. AXL 18.05 +0.38 (+2.15%)
Ballard Power Systems Inc. BLDP 6.42 +0.05 (+0.78%)
BorgWarner Inc. BWA 60.29 +0.59 (+0.99%)
Cummins Inc. CMI 105.13 +0.36 (+0.34%)
Dana Corporation DCN 0.66 0.00 (0.00%)
DaimlerChrysler AG (ADR) DCX 56.30 +0.62 (+1.11%)
Dura Automotive Systems DRRA 2.24 -0.04 (-1.75%)
Eaton Corporation ETN 70.94 -0.18 (-0.25%)
Ford Motor Company F 8.09 +0.01 (+0.12%)
General Motors Corporation GM 22.65 +0.65 (+2.95%)
Gentex Corporation GNTX 17.49 +0.26 (+1.51%)
Goodyear Tire & Rubber GT 14.02 +0.23 (+1.67%)
Honda Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) HMC 30.89 +0.40 (+1.31%)
Johnson Controls Inc. JCI 76.98 +0.13 (+0.17%)
Lear Corporation LEA 17.27 -0.17 (-0.97%)
Magna International Inc. MGA 75.18 -0.04 (-0.05%)
Motorola Inc. MOT 22.33 +0.30 (+1.36%)
Nissan Motor Co. Ltd. (ADR) NSANY 23.92 +0.31 (+1.31%)
Sonic Automotive Inc. SAH 28.43 +0.06 (+0.21%)
Siemens AG SI 90.60 +0.06 (+0.07%)
Sirius Satellite Radio SIRI 5.03 -0.11 (-2.14%)
Toyota Motor Corporation (ADR) TM 108.18 +0.98 (+0.91%)
TRW Automotive Holdings TRW 23.55 +0.08 (+0.34%)
Tower Automotive Inc. TWRAQ.PK 0.11 0.00 (0.00%)
United Auto Group Inc. UAG 43.23 +0.41 (+0.96%)
Visteon Corporation VC 4.62 +0.11 (+2.44%)
XM Satellite Radio Hold. XMSR 21.70 +0.30 (+1.40%)
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