CLEVELAND -- After 18 years as a CART event, next year's Cleveland race could be sanctioned by the rival Indy Racing League.
Sources on both sides of the negotiations between race promoter International Management Group and CART have indicated Sunday's Medic Drug Grand Prix of Cleveland will likely be the last sanctioned by CART.
Bud Stanner, president of IMG, which has promoted the race since 1992, declined to discuss details of the talks, as did CART boss Andrew Craig.
"What is best for Cleveland is a profitable race," Stanner said. "That is what this is all about."
CART, which increased sanctioning fees for all of its events this season, has upped the Cleveland payment from just over $1.4 million to $2 million for 2000. An IRL event reportedly would cost IMG about $1 million.
Stanner said his company is still talking with CART and the IRL, as well as with NASCAR about a possible truck event and the SCCA about its Trans-Am series. But he went on to say, "We'll have things cleared up in a week."
The race is currently run on a 2.106-mile, 10-turn temporary road circuit built on the runways and taxiways at Burke Lakefront Airport. If it becomes a venue for the all-oval IRL, IMG would erect a modified oval on the same site by connecting parallel runways.
CART currently has a 20-race schedule, including short and superspeedway ovals, as well as temporary and permanent road courses. Several tracks, including Road Atlanta, a permanent road circuit, and Las Vegas Motor Speedway, a 1´-mile oval, are seeking CART races.
The current IRL schedule is 11 races run on nine tracks.
[bf]PENALTY PHASE:[nf] Thanks to a slick, bumpy track, CART's rule penalizing drivers who cause red flag stoppages during qualifying came into play considerably more often than usual this week in Cleveland.
The rule states that any driver bringing out the red flag must park his car for eight minutes in that session. If the red flag comes out in the final 10 minutes of any session, the penalty is served at the end of the next session, whether the next day or at the next road race.
On Friday, penalties were assessed against Max Papis, Dario Franchitti, Michael Andretti and Richie Hearn. During Saturday's qualifying, rookie Luis Garcia, Papis, Hearn and Gualter Salles were penalized for bringing out red flags for a variety of problems.
Since the Friday incidents involving Andretti and Franchitti came in the final 10 minutes, both were held out of the last eight minutes of Saturday's qualifying.
"I don't know whether it's right or wrong, but if you mess up the last 10 minutes of qualifying, you have to have some penalty," Andretti said. "I just made a mistake and I paid for it."
The penalties for Hearn's Saturday incident and Salles' fiery blown engine will be served in the first round of qualifying in two weeks at Road America in Elkhart Lake, Wis.
[bf]BIG CHANGE:[nf] CART drivers generally enjoy racing on Cleveland's flat, bumpy road circuit, but it is a big change from the race a week earlier at the natural-terrain Portland International Raceway road course in Oregon.
"In Portland, it's nice and cool, the track is all green," said Helio Castro-Neves, who started second in Portland. "You come here and it's flat and hot. But it's changes like that which make this sport so much fun.
"This track is much more demanding physically, due mostly to the bumpiness of the circuit. Mentally, it's different as well, because there's not much in the way of reference points between the corners."
That puts a premium on staying physically fresh and alert.
"I worked out more than usual in between the races to make sure I was good and ready for this weekend," Castros-Neves said.