tampabay.com

IROC shows interest in city race, but logistics difficult

By BRANT JAMES, JOANNE KORTH
Published April 2, 2006


ST. PETERSBURG - Andretti Green Promotions vice president Kevin Savoree sees the idea as a way to improve the overall show with some added star power. IRL drivers see it as a way to get those NASCAR boys out of their comfort zone and force them to do some real racing.

International Race of Champions president Jay Signore is intrigued, and talked with Grand Prix officials this year about bringing the all-star series to the downtown streets as a support event.

But the chances of IROC ever coming here remain remote as long as NASCAR drivers dominate the lineup and the Grand Prix continues to fall on Nextel Cup dates. Though IROC will contest a road course at Daytona International Speedway for the first time in years, the series remains an oval-dominated, occasional companion to Nextel Cup events. The 2007 Nextel Cup schedule has not been released.

Still, Savoree can dare to dream.

"If you have a race of champions, what better way to prove your skill than to race on different circuits?" he asked. "I think it would be awesome for them."

Savoree added that he planned to re-open the dialogue with IROC for 2007.

There are other logistical problems but most could be overcome, Savoree said. IROC could test during a Grand Prix race weekend to learn what tire compounds are needed for the following year, he said. Sam Hornish, an IRL driver and IROC participant, is intrigued.

"That would be kind of cool," he said. "I'd like to get those guys out on a street course."

Nextel Cup driver and IROC participant Ryan Newman is not so enthralled.

"It's not something I'd be real interested in, but that's just me," he said. " Tony Stewart offered to let us use his short track (in Eldora, Ohio), so that could be fun."

QUICK WORK: Tony Kanaan was more pleased than most to have races on consecutive weekends - a new feature of a compressed 14-event schedule - after crashing into a wall trying to pit and finishing 11th last Sunday at Homestead-Miami Speedway.

"It's better to have a back-to-back so you're not even thinking about it," Kanaan said. "You finish, Sunday, okay, Monday, I was working shooting a commercial. Tuesday we're on the racetrack testing at Homestead's road course. Wednesday I was already driving up here, so I'm like, "Okay, that's gone, let's think ahead.'

"It's much better so you don't have a weekend off sitting and watching TV thinking about last week."

HEY, YOU'RE NO. 1! Former Andretti Green teammates Dan Wheldon and Kanaan remain good friends, though Wheldon left to drive for Chip Ganassi this season.

"Every time I see him I do wave a lot," Kanaan said. "At the Homestead road course test I think he had a problem in the morning and he was sitting in the grandstand outside of Turn 5. You can't miss him because he has the sunglasses that look like two plasma TVs."

On his cooldown lap, Kanaan gestured.

"I gave him a sign, um, like a thumbs up," Kanaan said. "Next time out he was in the middle of the track on the grass flipping me off. That's the kind of ex-teammate I have."

QUOTE OF THE DAY: "Maybe it will work out better this time and I will get some more laps. For sure, A.J. Foyt IV will not be able to run over me this time."

- HELIO CASTRONEVES, who was wrecked after 12 laps last April and was driving back to Miami in his Lexus before the race even reached the mid-point.