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Las Vegas Grand Prix to Open Champ Car Season

July 21, 2006|Jim Peltz | Times Staff Writer

The Champ Car World Series will open its 2007 schedule on Easter in Las Vegas after city officials approved plans for a street race downtown, Champ Car announced Thursday.

The Vegas Grand Prix is scheduled April 8 on a specially constructed 2.4-mile, 14-turn course just north of the Las Vegas Strip, after approval Wednesday by the Las Vegas City Council.

The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, also run on local streets, has been Champ Car's opening race for the last three years. But next year it will be held April 15 as the second race on the series' schedule, Champ Car spokesman Eric Mauk said. The full year's schedule hasn't been released.

The Long Beach race is content to be second because "we have never run on Easter," said Jim Michaelian, president of the Long Beach Grand Prix Assn., which manages the race.

He added, "We have made a determined effort that we will not be competing with the Masters" golf tournament for television viewers. The final round of next year's Masters is April 8.

The Long Beach Grand Prix is owned by a group that includes Kevin Kalkhoven and Gerald Forsythe, who also are principals of the Champ Car World Series.

The Las Vegas event is being organized by DDB Ventures, led by partners Bradley Yonover and Dale Jensen, a co-owner of the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Phoenix Suns.

"Las Vegas hasn't seen auto racing like this since the old Caesars Palace Grand Prix in the 1980s," Yonover said in a statement, adding that the race would be part of a three-day event including a concert and boxing match.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman said the event "has the potential to do great things" for the city and "we look forward to welcoming motor sports back to downtown Las Vegas."

Yonover and Jensen also have been trying to organize a Champ Car street race in Phoenix, but have run into opposition from Phoenix International Raceway and others.

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