NASCAR to combine two racing groups

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GRAND-AM Road Racing and American LeMans Series have united in one sports car organization.

After running as competitors for the past 24 years, the two announced their plans Wednesday morning at Daytona International Speedway.

According to sources within ALMS, NASCAR bought ALMS and will spend the next year developing a rule book that “will be the best of both worlds,” five-time Rolex 24 Hours of Daytona winner Hurley Haywood said.

The first year both will race under the same umbrella is expected to be 2014.

Don Panoz bought International Motor Sports Association in 1999 after strong factory support by Toyota and Nissan forced many independent teams out of IMSA. He later changed IMSA into ALMS.

GRAND-AM was created by NASCAR in 2002 with an emphasis on limiting costs.

Haywood, whose Brumos Racing built the first Daytona Prototype for GRAND-AM, said negotiations between GRAND-AM and ALMS have been ongoing since 2002. Talks intensified in the past five years, he said.

The two groups have waged a long, sometimes bitter, rivalry with teams being divided. Although both sides have agreed to come together, they still have a lot of details to work out – especially costs. Construction of prototypes and GT cars are similar but the costs of operating them are drastically different.

At the same time, it will expand the manufacturers in the sport. Joining the BMW and Ford-powered Rileys, Chevrolet Corvettes, Lolas and Dallaras of GRAND-AM will be purposely built prototypes by Honda, Toyota and the diesel-powered Audi.

“This has been a long time in the making,” Haywood said by telephone after arriving in California for Sunday’s GRAND-AM race at Mazda Raceway at Laguna Seca. “I think this is a great thing for sports car racing. We’re going to bring the best of both organizations.

“This will make us the strongest sport car organization in the world.”

Both sides have premier race tracks on their schedule. GRAND-AM boosts the 24 Hours of Daytona, Watkins Glen and Indianapolis Motor Speedway, while ALMS has Sebring, Road Atlanta and Long Beach.

Once the two sides are folded into one, they not only will share the top sport car venues, they will run the same cars used in Europe. That means GRAND-AM cars and teams will be able to compete in the prestigious 24 Hours of LeMans.

MUST-WIN RACE: Two weeks ago Ryan Newman held a wild-card spot in the Chase for the Championship.

Two races and two wrecks later, he’s on the outside looking in as the series heads to Richmond on Saturday night for the final race.

“We have to win,” Newman said. “That’s the bottom line. We have to get in Victory Lane to have a shot at the championship.”

Newman has one win and is 17th in points. Only the top 10 drivers in points are locked in for the 12-driver
Chase.

Positions 11 and 12 are wild cards awarded to the two drivers between 11th and 20th in points with the most wins.


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