Penske president: IndyCar battle with Ganassi an “intense competition,” not a rivalry

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Last fall before the 2013 Verizon IndyCar Series finale, Penske Racing president Tim Cindric and Target Chip Ganassi Racing managing director Mike Hull spoke of their teams’ rivalry with tones of admiration and respect for the other side.

But in an interesting turn of events, Cindric has now said that he doesn’t regard the Ganassi-Penske duels for wins and championships as a rivalry at all.

In an interview with USA Today, Cindric tells writer Jeff Olson that while Chip Ganassi himself wants to think of it as a rivalry, he and Team Penske do not – explaining that it’s more of a “intense competition” instead.

“…Rivalries take place over a long period of time,” Cindric said. “If you want to think of it in baseball terms, it would be the Yankees and the [Miami] Marlins – a team with a long history against a younger team that came on strong and won a couple of World Series. Maybe that’s not a good analogy, but I don’t see it as the Yankees and Red Sox.”

He then goes on to say that Ganassi “has more to gain by putting himself in the same league as Roger [Penske],” noting his boss’ accomplishments both in and out of motorsports.

“Anytime you can compare yourself to him, it’s a positive,” Cindric says. “[Ganassi] has more to gain than Roger does by comparing himself to Chip.

“…[Ganassi’s] primary concern is how Roger is performing. Our concern is how we are performing in terms of everyone else. We wouldn’t be content just beating Chip, where I feel like Chip would be content just beating Roger.”

It must be noted that Ganassi hasn’t just been beating Penske in recent years but everyone else as well. Ganassi’s drivers have claimed five of the last six IndyCar titles (Scott Dixon – 2008, 2013; Dario Franchitti – 2009, 2010, 2011).

On the other side, Team Penske hasn’t won a title since Sam Hornish Jr. earned his third career IndyCar crown in 2006, two years before he went to NASCAR.

Still, it seems that Cindric’s comments got under the skin of Franchitti, now retired after his devastating crash last fall at Houston but still working with CGR as an advisor. Jenna Fryer of the Associated Press relays the following from St. Petersburg:

Ganassi himself also mentioned Cindric as well this morning:

Something tells us that this has been taken as “bulletin board material” by the Ganassi camp, and that may mean some added spice to the proceedings this weekend in St. Pete.

Street race in Vietnam could lead Formula One’s Asia expansion

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TOKYO (AP) — Formula One is expected to add more races in Asia, including a street circuit in the capital of Vietnam, a country with little auto racing history that is on the verge of getting a marquee event.

“We think Hanoi could come on in the next couple of years, and we’re working with the Hanoi government to that end,” Sean Bratches, Formula One’s managing director of commercial operations, told the Associated Press.

There is even speculation it could be on the schedule next season, which Bratches rebuffed.

Vietnam would join countries like Azerbaijan, Russia and Bahrain, which have Grand Prix races, little history in the sport, and authoritarian governments with deep pockets that serve F1 as it tries to expand into new markets.

“This (Hanoi) is a street race where we can go downtown, where we can activate a large fan base,” Bratches said. “And you have extraordinary iconography from a television standpoint.”

A second race in China is also likely and would join Shanghai on the F1 calendar. Bratches said deciding where to stage the GP will “be left to local Chinese partners” – Beijing is a strong candidate.

Bratches runs the commercial side of Formula One, which was acquired last year by U.S.-based Liberty Media from long-time operator Bernie Ecclestone.

Formula One’s long-term goal is to have 24-25 races – up from the present 21 – and arrange them in three geographical segments: Asia, Europe and the Americas. Bratches said the Europe-based races would stay in middle of the calendar, with Asia or the Americas opening or ending the season.

He said their positioning had not been decided, and getting this done will be slowed by current contracts that mandate specific places on the calendar for several races. This means eventually that all the races in Asia would be run together, as would races in Europe and the Americas.

The F1 schedule is now an inefficient jumble, allowing Bratches to take a good-natured poke at how the sport was run under Ecclestone.

“We’ve acquired an undermanaged asset that’s 67-years-old, but effectively a start-up,” Bratches said.

Early-season races in Australia and China this year were conducted either side of a trip to Bahrain in the Middle East. Late in the season Formula One returns to Asia with races in Japan and Singapore.

The Canadian GP this season is run in the middle of the European swing, separated by four months from the other races in the Americas – the United States, Mexico and Brazil. These three are followed by the season-ending race in Abu Dhabi, which means another trip across the globe.

“With the right economics, with the right structure and cadence of events across territories, 24 or 25 is probably where we’d like to be from a longer-term standpoint,” Bratches said.

Big changes are not likely to happen until the 2020 season ends. This is when many current rules and contracts expire as F1’s new owners try to redistribute some income to allow smaller teams to compete.

“There’s more interest than we have capacity in the schedule,” Bratches said, firing off Berlin, Paris or London as potentially attractive venues. “We want to be very selective.”

“Those cites from an economic impact standpoint would find us value, as do others around the world,” Bratches added. “It’s very important for us as we move forward to go to locations that are a credit to the Formula One brand.”

An expanded schedule would have to be approved by the teams, which will be stretched by the travel and the wear-and-tear on their crews. The burden will fall on the smaller teams, which have significantly smaller revenue compared with Ferrari, Mercedes or Red Bull.

Bratches also envisions another race in the U.S., joining the United States Grand Prix held annually in Austin, Texas. A street race in Miami is a strong candidate, as are possible venues like Las Vegas or New York.

“We see the United States and China as countries that could support two races,” he said.

Liberty Media has reported Formula One’s total annual revenue at $1.8 billion, generated by fees paid by promoters, broadcast rights, advertising and sponsorship. Race promotion fees also tend to be higher in Asia, which makes the area attractive – along with a largely untapped fan base.

In a four-year cycle, F1 generates more revenue than FIFA or the International Olympic Committee, which rely almost entirely on one-time showcase events.

Reports suggest Vietnamese promoters may pay between $50-60 million annually as a race fee, with those fees paid by the government. Bratches said 19 of 21 Formula One races are supported by government payments.

“The race promotion fee being derived from the government … is a model that has worked historically,” Bratches said.