Below are some of the key racing moments from 2007 as determined by National Speed Sport News.
OVER AND OUT
After 33 years, the International Race of Champions went out of business after a title sponsor did not materialize. By the end of the year, the cars had been sold and the final chapter in the glorious history of the series that pitted the world’s best drivers in identically prepared cars, was over. Tony Stewart, who won the 2006 title, will go down in history as the final IROC champion.
The McLaren Formula One team was fined a record $100 million for its part in a spying scandal, which saw it receive proprietary information regarding Ferrari’s Formula One car.
While Sebastien Bourdais earned his fourth straight Champ Car World Series title, the series had more than its share of hardships during the 2007 season. Months before the season began, Ford withdrew its support of the series and then races in Korea and China and on the streets of Denver and Phoenix were canceled.
NASCAR Nextel Cup Series veteran Ricky Rudd, longtime Indy car racer Michael Andretti and five-time NHRA drag-racing champion Kenny Bernstein all decided to retire for the second time, but don’t be surprised if any or all of the trio of drivers is behind the wheel again before 2008 is over.
NICE TRY, MARIO
Racing legend Mario Andretti made an attempt to broker an open-wheel summit with representatives from the Indy Racing League and the Champ Car World Series, but the talks broke off before they started, leaving little hope that the two series will ever unite. If Mario Andretti can’t make it happen, who can?
WHAT’S IN A NAME
The NASCAR Nextel Cup Series will be retitled the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series in 2008 thanks to the 2006 merger of Nextel and Sprint. As well, Busch is gone after 25 seasons sponsoring the Busch Series, and Nationwide will debut as sponsor of NASCAR’s junior circuit, now known as the Nationwide Series, in February. Finally, 2008 will be Craftsman’s final year sponsoring NASCAR’s Truck Series. The sanctioning body is currently courting replacements for the Sears-owned tool manufacturer.
A trio of Indy 500 winners will be migrating to stock-car country in 2008. Defending Indy winner Dario Franchitti will join another former Indy winner, Juan Pablo Montoya, with Chip Ganassi Racing with Felix Sabates, while 1995 500 champ Jacques Villeneuve will race for Bill Davis Racing, and 2006 Borg-Warner trophy winner Sam Hornish Jr. shifts from the Penske Racing Indy car team to the Penske Racing NASCAR operation.
OUT OF THE BOX
Toyota’s first season in the NASCAR Nextel Cup Series was a struggle. It did not win a race and Dave Blaney was the only Toyota driver to finish in the top 35 in points. The Toyota effort will be bolstered by the addition of the Joe Gibbs Racing team and Hall of Fame Racing in 2008. Toyota won a pair of NASCAR Busch Series races, with Jason Leffler and David Reutimann each taking short-track triumphs.
With the costs of racing in the Nextel Cup Series getting higher and higher, several prominent teams found investment partners or merged with other operations. With a large investment by John Henry and the Fenway Sports Group, Roush Racing became Roush Fenway Racing. Montreal Canadiens owner George Gillett Jr. bought an interest in Evernham Motorsports, making it Gillett Evernham Motorsports. Ginn Racing ran out of money and merged its operation with Dale Earnhardt Inc., and Michael Waltrip Racing secured the financial support of investment banker Robert Kauffman. As well, Arizona Diamondbacks executives Jeff Moorad and Tom Garfinkel purchased a controlling interest in Hall of Fame Racing.
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