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UPDATE (Feb. 22): Owners of Champ Car and the Indy Racing League completed an agreement in principle today that will unify the sport for 2008, said a statement released at 4:40 p.m. by the Indy Racing League. Several Champ Car teams also released statements shortly following the unification announcement saying they embrace the merger. Gerald Forsythe, co-owner of Champ Car, signed an agreement in principle in Chicago, joining his partner Kevin Kalkhoven and IRL founder and CEO Tony George who had signed late Thursday in Indianapolis.
Details of a press conference about the agreement will be forthcoming.
Indy Racing League officials have tentatively scheduled a press conference at their headquarters for Friday, where they are expected to announce their unification with Champ Car. IRL boss Tony George will continue to control the unified open-wheel racing series, sources said.
One of the more interesting aspects of the deal is that the IRL will buy all intellectual property rights of Champ Car, and longstanding open-wheel records that predate the 1996 kick-off of the IRL will be restored. That means A.J. Foyt will be the all-time series career victories leader with 67, supplanting Sam Hornish Jr., who is currently listed in the IRL-exclusive record books with 19 career triumphs.
Series officials had hoped to make the announcement today or Thursday, but Champ Car principals could not get to Indianapolis in time.
Sources said organizers of the IRL race in Twin Ring Motegi, Japan have not agreed to change the date of their April 19 race. So the question of what will happen to the Long Beach Grand Prix April 20 remains. Motorsports sources have speculated that both races will be run, with IRL teams competing in Japan and former Champ Car teams racing in Long Beach. IRL is expected to take over Champ Car races in Edmonton, Alberta; Surfers Paradise, Australia and Mexico City.
Do you think there will be any surprise announcements Friday?