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SPORTS WEEKEND | MOTOR RACING

Indy Tradition Might Provide the Perfect Formula

September 01, 2000|SHAV GLICK

In three weeks, Formula One, motor racing's No. 1 global sport, will return to the United States for the first time in nine years. It will be at Indianapolis Motor Speedway on an infield road circuit using part of the famed 2.5-mile 500 track.

There will be no American driver, no American team, no American presence except for major corporation sponsors. Formula One succeeded at Long Beach primarily because it had world champion Mario Andretti, then failed in Detroit, Las Vegas and Dallas before falling completely on its face in Phoenix.

What are its prospects this time?

For one thing, the stands will be full, with more than 200,000 seats already sold. The mystique of Indy has attracted not only F1 fans from this country, but also the curious from abroad, all of whom know about the Indianapolis 500.

"At the moment we have 400 million viewers worldwide, watching live every Grand Prix, but we have not been able to have anything like the same ratio of appeal in the U.S.," said team owner Eddie Jordan in a call from England.

"It is up to us to help [American racing fans] understand it, to get it more exciting, to show the technology of it, to make sure that the drivers become household names. Now, I know that there are lots of different sports [in the U.S.], things like baseball and NFL, those type of things, which are huge.

"We have a chance of a lifetime here that we had better not lose. We have to open our hearts, our teams, our people to Formula One to give as much education as we possibly can.

"If we fail it is our own mistake."

MOTOCROSS / SUPERCROSS

Ricky Carmichael, riding for Team Chevy Trucks Kawasaki of Irvine, won the opening race of the AMA national 250cc motocross championship last May at Glen Helen Raceway and never looked back.

The 5-foot-4, 150-pound rider from Havana, Fla., won his eighth event last week, tying the legendary Bob Hannah for most wins in a season. On Sunday, Carmichael will go for the record in the season finale at Delmont, Pa.

"I'd like to get the record, but I'm already getting ready for next year's Supercross season," said Carmichael from his personal training track in Cairo, Ga. "I want to be going 110% when we hit Anaheim. Last year the start was a bummer."

Three of the first five races in the 2001 Supercross season will be at Edison Field, starting Jan. 6.

Carmichael broke his collarbone in a motocross in Paris on Nov. 13 and did not ride for four weeks. When the season began in January, he lacked the stamina for the grueling 20-lap stadium motos and won only one of 16 events. "I'm skipping all the lucrative European and Japanese races this year to concentrate on the Supercross," said Carmichael, who has undergone a strenuous training regimen during which his weight has dropped from 170 to 150 since June. That was when he hired former World Cup mountain bike rider Aldon Baker of Calabasas as his personal trainer.

"Since I started working with Aldon and learning to stay focused on my racing, I haven't lost," he said. "I was kind of porky when he came aboard, but now I look skinny, and feel great."

After Sunday's race, Carmichael will join Travis Pastrana and Ronnie Hughes as United States representatives in the Motocross des Nations in France next week.

"It's time we brought the Des Nations trophy back home," Carmichael said. "This will be my third time and I want a win."

The U.S., which won 13 straight titles from 1981 to 1993, has not won since 1996.

Carmichael will return home to ride in the U.S. Open of Motocross at the MGM Grand Hotel in Las Vegas on Oct. 14-15.

"The U.S. Open is on such a tight little course that it's more like Arenacross than Supercross, but it pays a bundle so everyone will be there," he said.

The winner of the Open collects $1 million, making it the richest motorcycle race in the world.

Jeremy McGrath, seven-time Supercross champion, will return to competition in Las Vegas after sitting out most of the outdoor motocross season. McGrath will continue to ride a Yamaha, but with new sponsorship. His longtime backer, Chaparral, is dropping out of the sport.

DRAG RACING

California Speedway will become a drag racing facility this weekend. The Jackson Racing Battle 2000 compact car extravaganza will use a temporary one-eighth mile track on the pit straightaway. More than 500 import and compact cars are expected to compete in the International Drag Racing Assn. event.

Lisa Kubo of Rosemead, the Shirley Muldowney of import racing, will be one of the favorites in the pro import class. Kubo drives a highly modified turbocharged Honda Civic capable of more than 153 mph in 9.59 seconds.

Jackson Racing, a Goleta aftermarket manufacturer, has spent more than $35,000 to transform pit lane into a drag strip. Promoters are expecting 15,000 to 20,000 spectators for the Saturday-Sunday competition.

BAJA 1000 BONANZA

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