Time to answer the bell

DEAN MCNULTY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:09 AM ET

The deadline for Andretti-Green Racing to pick up its option to buy the Toronto Grand Prix passed yesterday without a deal in place.

That's the bad news. The good news is that talks are continuing.

It is now in the hands of politicians whether the Toronto Indy/GPT will roar around the temporary street course at Exhibition Place in 2009.

The federal, provincial and municipal governments have all given "vocal" support of the race that was the model for similar races in Canada -- Edmonton Grand Prix and the late Molson Indy Vancouver -- and around the world.

It can't be lost on Ontario politics that while they dither over finding about $2 million in concessions for Michael Andretti and his partners Kim Green and Kevin Savoree, Alberta already has pledged its support for the Edmonton race that will be the lone Canadian stop this year for the united Indy Racing League.

No one is disputing the economic footprint the race leaves in southern Ontario. Two studies -- one by the provincial government, the other by Tourism Toronto -- show that the benefits of holding the race exceed $50 million a year.

Even the most math-challenged folks among those in charge of our tax dollars have to sit up and pay attention when the return on a $2 million investment is $50 million.

At a time when too many politicians are crying crocodile tears about joblessness and dismal economic growth, here is an opportunity for them to trumpet an industry that actually creates jobs -- 550 of them in Toronto 2007 and as many or more in Edmonton in the same period.

According to the pair of studies on the impact the Toronto race has on the community, the benefits go far beyond the immediate influx of cash for area restaurants, hotels and other service industries.

With a television contract from ESPN/ABC in its pocket, the IRL can bring a worldwide audience to the door for both Toronto and Edmonton. That kind of exposure doesn't show up on the balance sheets, but as sure as Warren Buffet makes money it shows up in dividends down the road when those in that audience are making up their minds for a summer, or winter vacation.

The message to AGR from the city, the province and the feds must be that support of the race is unwavering. It's time to answer the bell.

ASTON GRABS FRENTZEN

Veteran Formula One driver Heinz-Harald Frentzen has cut short his retirement to race in an Aston Martin in the famed Le Mans 24 Hours.

Frentzen will face off against old foe Jacques Villeneuve -- the Canadian 1997 world champion -- who is expected to compete again this season in a Peugot 908 sports prototype.

The 40-year-old German will drive the No. 007 Aston with Italian Andrea Piccini and Austrian Karl Wendlinger.

"I've only driven at Le Mans once, 16 years ago, so it's a great pleasure to come back to such a famous race -- especially with a prestigious team like Aston Martin, which has formed part of the history of motorsport," Frentzen said.

His decision to drive the around the clock race comes after Frentzen tested for Aston-Martin at France's Paul Ricard circuit in March.

"(Le Mans) is obviously very demanding, but the biggest challenge for us will be to stay fully focused and concentrated over the course of the whole 24 hours."

Aston-Martin beat the Corvette of Ron Fellows, Jan Magnussen and Johnny O'Connell in the GT1 class last year. Aston Martin Racing team principal George Howard-Chappel also confirmed yesterday a second car -- the 009 -- will be driven by David Brabham, Antonio Garcia and Darren Turner.

FINISH LINES

New England Patriots wide receiver Randy Moss loves life in the fast lane so he'll get his need for speed fix next season as a team owner in the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series. "We don't have all of the details in place just yet, but I am very excited about Moss Motorsports becoming a part of NASCAR," Moss said. "I am by nature a very competitive person and this is an outlet for me to compete at another level." ... D.J. Kennington hopes to finish at Richmond International Raceway tomorrow night what he started at Talladega -- get a top-5 result in the NASCAR Nationwide series. Only a blown tire with just 27 laps left kept him from fifth place at the Alabama track ... The NASCAR Canadian Tire Series Dodge teams were testing yesterday at Kawartha Downs Speedway, getting ready for the May 24th season opener at Cayuga Speedway Park.


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