T.O. race needs sponsor

DEAN MCNULTY -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

Canada will double its Indy Racing League quotient in 2009 with back-to-back races in Toronto on July 12 and in Edmonton July 26.

The release of the 2009 IRL calendar yesterday marks the return of open-wheel racing to Canada's biggest city after a 21-year run that ended this season when the series could not negotiate a date in time after its merger with the defunct Champ Car World Series.

The Edmonton race will continue to be promoted by the Edmonton Northlands group while the Toronto race will be taken over by Andretti Green Promotions -- a subsidiary of Andretti-Green Racing.

AGR's most visible partner -- Michael Andretti -- won a record-setting seven times on the 11-turn, 2.824-kilometre track at Toronto's Exhibition Place.

And AGR managing partner Kevin Savoree said yesterday that he and his team are just "weeks away" from signing a deal that will bring a new corporate sponsor to the event.

Savoree was in Toronto yesterday setting up new offices for the race management team.

"It's a huge market; there is so much history here," he said. "I mean, we walked in, we moved offices just kind of around the corner from where (the old office) was, and I walk in and I see this huge picture of Bobby Rahal, the inaugural Toronto Molson Indy winner. And I think in a way that really feeds on the heritage of open-wheel racing and IndyCar racing."

As for the twin Canadian July races, Savoree said it would be a great selling point for the IRL.

"The fans here in Canada love their open-wheel racing, and there's so many great stars that are going to be coming here next year in July," he said. "It's the traditional date (for Toronto). So I think the fans are really going to warm up to that."

Savoree said that he was actually out on the Exhibition Place circuit yesterday.

"I mean driving around the circuit this morning, there's just so many great memories," he said. "It's a fantastic facility. And we look forward to even making it better."

The first item that will get Savoree, Andretti and third partner Kim Green's attention will be a title sponsor for the event, which Savoree said is close to being a done deal.

"We want somebody who just wants to work with us in the market, and we're pretty close," Savoree said. "We're actually in draft stage of a contract with a title partner. Hopefully before the month of August is over we'll have an announcement on that."

TAWS TO TRY NASCAR

Ashley Taws, a former open-wheel rising star in the Canadian Formula Ford series, will become the first female driver to compete in the NASCAR Canadian Tire Series NAPA Auto Parts 100 Saturday at Circuit Gilles Villeneuve in Montreal.

Taws, who lost four full seasons after suffering serious back injuries in a traffic accident in 2002, will be driving the No. 72 Barbie Wal-Mart Chevrolet.

The previous female to race in a top stock car racing circuit in Canada was Kelly Williams, from Val D'Or, Que., in the old CASCAR Super Series.

Taws has had only a very limited number of testing laps in the NCATS stock cars but did compete last season in the Ontario Sportsman Series.

She has little seat time in her Canadian Tire Series ride and, for that reason, has no grandiose expectations for the Montreal race.

"I have raced on the track before, so only the car will be new to me," she said.

"I am a little nervous, but probably more excited than anything. I just want to learn the car and begin to earn respect among the drivers as a solid racer."

Taws plans to compete in only one other Canadian Tire series event this year (Trois Rivieres).


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