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Hornish replacing de Ferran for Penske

By Compiled from Times wires
Published August 26, 2003

Sam Hornish is making his move.

And it's little surprise that it's to Team Penske.

Hornish, the two-time defending IRL IndyCars champion, will fill a seat in the Penske camp vacated by Indianapolis 500 champion Gil de Ferran, who announced Monday he will retire at season's end.

Hornish, 24, figures to drive the IndyCar schedule while working his way into NASCAR with a combination of ARCA, Busch and Nextel Cup races next season. Roger Penske, who runs the most successful Indy-style team in history, also has a NASCAR operation that includes drivers Rusty Wallace and Ryan Newman.

"The opportunity to drive for the most successful open-wheel team in history and to follow in the footsteps of the organization's remarkable driver lineage, including Gil, is an honor," Hornish said.

De Ferran, 35, won CART championships in 2000 and 2001 before Team Penske moved into the IRL. He is second in this year's standings behind teammate Helio Castroneves.

"I felt it was important to stop while I was at my best," de Ferran said. "I wanted to wait until the end of the season to announce to everyone my decision to stop driving; however, I realize it is in the team's best interest for me to do so at this time so they have the opportunity to hire the best possible driver. I feel they have done so with Sam."

CHILDRESS EYES OTHER EARNHARDT: The late Dale Earnhardt helped Richard Childress become a multimillionaire car owner. Now Childress might make a move to show his appreciation.

Childress said last weekend he's preparing a car for Kerry Earnhardt, Dale's 33-year-old son, to drive in selected Winston Cup events, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

"We're probably going to give him a shot at it," Childress said.

Kerry, brother of Winston Cup driver Dale Earnhardt Jr., has raced in ARCA and the Busch series the past five seasons with moderate success. He won his first ARCA race on Father's Day in 2000 at Pocono and registered three wins the next season.

But his career has gone backward this year. He was dismissed from the Fitz-Bradshaw Racing Busch team and his talents were publicly criticized by team co-owner Terry Bradshaw.

Over the years, Childress has been known to hire from the heart. It worked with Robby Gordon, whose abilities were questioned when Childress hired him but now has two wins this season and is in the top 10 in points.

It might happen again with the lesser known of the Earnhardt sons.

"I think he deserves a chance," Childress said.

GET GOING: CART president and CEO Chris Pook said Sunday the company's board of directors has instructed management to continue negotiations of a possible buyout of the struggling Champ Car series by Open Wheel Racing Series LLC as soon as possible.

"At an all-day meeting of Champion's board of directors on Saturday, management was given very clear direction to continue its negotiations ... and seek to conclude those negotiations as quickly as possible so that everyone clearly understands the future direction of the company," Pook said.

The investor group made an offer to purchase the remaining public shares of CART and take it private. The offer was about 50 cents a share, or $7.4-million, for all the outstanding stock.

Open Wheel Racing Series is a new holding company whose investors include CART team owners Gerald Forsythe, Kevin Kalkhoven and Paul Gentilozzi, as well as entertainment promoter Carl Russo. CART said the men control 23 percent of its stock.

PIT STOPS: IRL driver Sarah Fisher was released from Lehigh Valley (Pa.) Hospital after being held overnight with back pain. Fisher was hurt when her Chevrolet-powered Dallara spun into the wall on the backstretch a few minutes before the end of Saturday's post qualifying practice. She qualified 12th but sat out the race.

[Last modified August 26, 2003, 06:59:19]


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