In wake of scandal, Venezuela freezes support money for drivers

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The government of Venezuela has frozen all disbursements of hard currency for race car and motorcycle drivers who compete internationally, according to a report from Jorge Rueda of The Associated Press.

One of the drivers affected is Andretti Autosport’s E.J. Viso, who was said to have been “ill” and mentioned trying to recover from food poisoning in a tweet yesterday. Colombian driver Carlos Munoz has taken over Viso’s No. 5 Chevrolet – which features backing from Venezuela’s state-run oil company, PDVSA – for tonight’s MAV TV 500 at Auto Club Speedway.

According to Rueda’s report, Venezuelan officials are investigating a sports currency scandal stemming from its Cadivi state agency, which is in charge of helping Venezuelan businesses abroad obtain currency.

Sports Minister Alejandra Benitez told a local newspaper that an initial investigation of the disbursements found that one unnamed driver received $66 million and that her signature had been forged on 60 disbursement files for hard currency.

The freeze on these disbursements could have a major effect on many Venezuelan racers around the world, as according to Rueda, Benitez mentioned that more than 98 percent of her foreign competition budget goes toward motor sports efforts.

Venezuela helps support programs in a variety of disciplines such as IndyCar, sports car racing, and Formula One, where Williams driver Pastor Maldonado, like Viso, also receives support from the PDVSA oil group.

The death of longtime Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez in March had been seen as potentially having severe consequences for Venezuela’s drivers, and the country’s economy has gone on a downward slide since then. However, PDVSA noted shortly after Chavez’s death that its support of Maldonado would continue.

Defending winner Takuma Sato to grace front of 2018 Indy 500 tickets

Photos: IMS/Chris Owens
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The Indianapolis Motor Speedway has unveiled what the ticket for the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500 will look like.

The ticket features blue and red foil stamped with a sculptural embossing of last year’s 500 winner, Takuma Sato, in victory lane, holding the ceremonial winner’s bottle of milk. Sato became the first Japanese driver to win the Greatest Spectacle In Racing, driving for Andretti Autosport.

The ticket was revealed Thursday during a ceremony at the Indiana Statehouse that featured Sato, now with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, as well as Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb, Hulman & Company President and CEO Mark Miles, IMS President J. Douglas Boles and Hulman Motorsports Senior Vice President of Events Allison Melangton.

The Indianapolis 500 presented by PennGrade Motor Oil will be held Sunday, May 27 at IMS.

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