Encouraging words

TERRY JONES -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 11:02 AM ET

Any nervous doubts about a twist or turn on this course involving the IndyCar people, who prefer mostly left-hand turns, appeared to be eliminated yesterday.

The worry was more about the 'when' than the 'if,' but it now looks certain there will be a Rexall Edmonton Indy and that the dates will be July 25-27.

Nothing is official. But it's now all but guaranteed with the official unification press conference yesterday in Miami.

"We're going to make an effort to add Edmonton and Australia to this year's calendar. Both of those events, the details surrounding them, are yet to be worked out. But we feel good that we'll have a good plan for that," said Indy boss Tony George.

"We're very encouraged," said Northland's GM Ken Knowles of the Champ Car series event founded by Ric Forest, Bruce Saville, Ken Kupsch and Keith Freisen and transferred to the local fair board to run as an extension of Capital Ex.

"Right from the outset, Tony George referenced Edmonton and later he said it was a matter of completing details.

"That's exactly how we see it as well. There are still details to be worked out," said Knowles of transferring the remaining three years of a five-year Champ Car contract between the Edmonton investors who sank over $6 million into setting the event up for this day.

"We've had good conversations in recent days," Knowles added.

None, he laughed, included any offer from IRL to switch the Mid-Ohio July 25-27 date to somewhere else on the schedule so Edmonton could maintain the same date for the race from the Champ Car schedule.

So mark down July 25-27 on your calendar.

"Those dates have been put on the table by the IRL," admitted Knowles.

Considering Edmonton is the only Canadian race on the schedule and only one of three tabbed to join the IndyCar series takes away any inspiration to fight over that date for 2008.

And here's something to chew on until the result and the dates are made official.

It could turn out that the Edmonton Indy will be the only Champ Car race which runs with all cars from both series in the unification.

George confirmed the April 18-20 Long Beach race will not involve IRL cars this year due to a conflicting date in Japan.

The Champ Car teams will run Long Beach in last year's cars as a going-away party, a final race celebration of the series before putting the cars in moth balls and getting back in IndyCar equipment they'll start the series with March 29 in Miami.

Full IRL points and prize money will be awarded for both Long Beach and Japan events.

Australia, due to the Oct. 24-26 date and the IRL's contract for Chicagoland Speedway's Sept. 7 date to be the final race in the IndyCar season, is no slam dunk.

The Australians are to meet with IRL officials in the next few days to attempt to sort that out. A new series schedule will not be announced until after that meeting.

George provided hope for the Toronto race returning to the series next year but didn't offer much encouragement for Montreal.

"In 2009, we'll be able to start with a cleaner sheet of paper and will look at other events. We do not want to disenfranchise everybody," he said of the Champ Car stops which were scheduled, in order, for Houston, Laguna Seca, Belgium, Spain, Cleveland, Montreal, Toronto, Edmonton, Portland, Elkhart Lake, Wis., the Netherlands and Mexico City.

"I see 20 races in the series, with half on ovals and half on road courses," said George of a series which will go to 19 this year if Edmonton and Australia are confirmed and you count Long Beach this year.

With the obvious exception of the Indianapolis 500, Champ Car races have generally been considered more successful events than IRL events.

IndyCar has a few real duds which even most IRL teams would love to see replaced.

Which leaves Edmonton with an interesting role other than being the first home game for the Champ Car teams with the IRL teams on the track.

A ballistic success here could go a long way to bringing other Champ Car events back into existence. And who would have imagined that three years ago?


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