INDIANAPOLIS -- There will be a 2004 Champ Car season.
The prospective owners of the troubled CART racing series said Monday a buyout agreement has been reached that includes having the series file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Open Wheel Racing Series LLC, formed by three CART team owners, said the deal would allow racing next season.
The deal includes the purchase of specific assets - including contracts with promoters, sponsors and teams - as Indianapolis-based CART goes through a planned bankruptcy process, Open Wheel Racing said in a statement.
No further details were being immediately released, said Wendy Gabers, a spokeswoman for East Lansing, Mich.-based Rocketsports Racing, owned by Open Wheel Racing partner Paul Gentilozzi.
The other partners in Open Wheel Racing are Kevin Kalkhoven, co-owner of PK Racing, and Gerald Forsythe, a co-owner of Team Players.
"Effective immediately, we're ready to begin work to implement our vision for Champ Car in 2004 and for many seasons beyond," Gentilozzi said. "Our purchase was with the express intent of supporting our teams and sponsors competing now and in the future."
A message seeking comment was left late Monday at CART's headquarters. CART released a statement earlier this month saying a bankruptcy filing was possible.
Open Wheel Racing also said Richard P. Eidswick would become the CEO of CART as it goes through the Chapter 11 proceedings.
Eidswick, co-founder and managing director of Arbor Partners, an Ann Arbor, Mich.-based venture capital firm, would replace Chris Pook, CART's president and chief executive officer since December 2001.
CART became a publicly traded company in 1998, when its shares traded as high as $33. It has been on a downward spiral in recent years following the creation of the rival Indy Racing League in 1996.
Open Wheel Racing in August offered $7.4 million - about 56 cents a share - for all of CART's outstanding stock. Open Wheel's statement said it would pay nearly $2.7 million in 2003 prize winnings to those teams that elect to participate in the series' 2004 season, but did not specify a total value of the deal.
The three Open Wheel Racing partners own nearly 23 percent of CART's shares.
"This was absolutely the right move for the future and longevity of Champ Car," Forsythe said. "I have every confidence that this decision will prove successful."
In October, CART warned that it would have to halt operations if the takeover was not completed and no alternative financing emerged. That announcement came as the series announced losses of $77.9 million for the first nine months of the year.
CART in November announced a 19-race schedule for 2004, but has since postponed the season-opening Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.
Open Wheel Racing said the 2004 season would begin with Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach on April 18. It also said that 2003 series champion Paul Tracy, who drives for Forsythe's team, would return.
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