Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Net worth: Champ Car auction rakes in $1.2 million

It is hard to put a price on history, but it turns out the last vestiges of the Champ Car World Series were worth about $1.2 million.

Most of the assets of the defunct series sold at auction June 3, as organizers liquidated an extensive catalog of pace cars, racing equipment, transporters and other memorabilia.

Champ Car filed for bankruptcy March 5 after agreeing to merge with the Indy Racing League. The cash from the auction will be used to pay an extensive list of creditors. Will Power won Champ Car's last-ever race, at Long Beach in April.

Car transporters were big-ticket items, with one selling for $92,000 to Newman Wachs Racing. The team plans to use it for Atlantic Series and vintage racing duties. Several other trailers each sold for more than $55,000.

Pace cars also drew extensive interest, led by a 1996 Dodge Viper and 2006 Ford Mustang. Each sold for $37,000. A wide range of other cars sold for between $5,000 and $29,000.

Other items of note included:

-- A one-of-a-kind red Lola race car that hung on the lobby wall inside Champ Car's former headquarters ($17,000).

-- A 2000 Reynard show car with no engine ($47,500).

-- A slew of memorabilia, including posters, helmets and racing suits, was also sold.

The chance to own a slice of history proved alluring for fans and collectors, while several racing team reps arrived looking to augment their own equipment. About 750 people showed up for the auction in Indianapolis, and there were another 800 online bidders.

The strong turnout made for competitive bidding--used transporters went for nearly six figures--and even fairly insignificant items went for well above their market value. Tents--that's right, tents--with the Champ Car logo went for more than $700, while tools also sold at a premium.

"A lot of people were out for a piece of history," said Norman Gallivan II, chief executive of Gallivan Auctioneers & Appraisers, which handled the sale.

Still, not everything was museum ready. An '87 Volvo that had 317,669 miles on the odometer sold for $300, and a '91 Cadillac Eldorado went for $850. They were joined by cases of oil, used brake rotors, tires and other assorted parts.

"It looked like the greatest collection of crap I've ever seen," said Eddie Wachs, who owns Newman Wachs Racing with actor Paul Newman.

For those still looking to grab a piece of Champ Car, the series is auctioning off more memorabilia with an online sale that ends June 12.

For more details, go to

Johnson, Edwards both win in NASCAR finale

Carl Edwards started the Ford 400 at Homestead-Miami Speedway needing a miracle or three to wrest the Sprint Cup from two-time defending champion Jimmie Johnson. Even if Edwards won and led the most laps, he had to hope that Johnson would wreck out or blow up early or lose dozens of laps with a mechanical failure. "Yeah, I know it's a long shot," he said the Thursday before the season finale, "but at least it's a shot. We didn't come down here to run second."

And so he didn't. Edwards, in fact, led the most laps, outran Johnson virtually all afternoon and into the night and stretched his fuel mileage just enough to win the 267-lap, 400-mile race. But even with a late-race, green-flag "insurance" stop for fuel and tires, Johnson finished on the lead lap in 15th, enough for his third consecutive Cup, this one by a 69-point margin. He joins Cale Yarborough (1976, '77 and '78) as the sport's only other three-peat champion in 60 years.

"It hasn't sunk in yet," Johnson said an hour after the race. "There were times this year when we weren't even in the ballpark, but everybody buckled down and worked hard. I'm so proud of this team and the fight it's had. Growing up in El Cajon, Calif., and racing motorcycles, I never thought I'd be in this position. I'm so thankful and so blessed, because these guys didn't want to have history slip through their fingers."

Depending on lap-leader bonus points, Johnson needed only to finish 36th to 39th to keep Edwards from his first Cup. He started 30th and easily reached the top 20 but struggled to reach the top 10. He used two-tire pit strategy under caution at lap 200 to take the lead the only time (laps 201-206), then slipped back. He was still in the top 10 (easily within his safety zone) until his last gas-and-two-tires stop with 13 laps remaining. He was briefly in the low 20s before coming home 15th.

After dominating most of the night, Edwards slowed appreciably down the stretch, just as he'd done in Texas two weeks earlier. He hung on and limped across the line ahead of Kevin Harvick, Jamie McMurray, Jeff Gordon and Clint Bowyer. It was his series-leading ninth victory this year, his third in the last four races and the 16th of his career, all with Roush Fenway Racing. Except for two costly DNFs, he was fourth or better in all 10 Chase races, a record not even Johnson could match.

Matt Kenseth ran out of fuel while leading with four laps to go. He carried the same fuel load as Edwards and thought he'd slowed enough to nurse his car home. Instead of a likely top-five and a cinch top-10 in final points, he finished the race in 25th and dropped to 11th-ranked, two behind Kyle Busch. Dale Earnhardt Jr., a DNF 41st with wheel problems, finished the season in 12th, the tour's unofficial "worst of the best."

That position was very unlike that of Johnson, his Hendrick Motorsports teammate--once again crowned "best of the best."




1. Carl Edwards, Ford, 267 laps at 129.472 mph avg. speed; 2. Kevin Harvick, Chevrolet, 267; 3. Jamie McMurray, Ford, 267; 4. Jeff Gordon, Chevrolet, 267; 5. Clint Bowyer, Chevrolet, 267; 6. Kasey Kahne, Dodge, 267; 7. Travis Kvapil, Ford, 267; 8. Casey Mears, Chevrolet, 267; 9. Tony Stewart, Toyota, 267; 10. Martin Truex Jr., Chevrolet, 267;

11. A. J. Allmendinger, Dodge, 267; 12. Bill Elliott, Ford, 267; 13. Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 267; 14. Scott Riggs, Chevrolet, 267; 15. Jimmie Johnson, Chevrolet, 267; 16. Scott Speed, Toyota, 267; 17. Juan Pablo Montoya, Dodge, 267; 18. Greg Biffle, Ford, 267; 19. Kyle Busch, Toyota, 266; 20. David Reutimann, Toyota, 266;

21. Ryan Newman, Dodge, 266; 22. Dave Blaney, Toyota, 266; 23. Brad Keselowski, Chevrolet, 266; 24. David Ragan, Ford, 266; 25. Matt Kenseth, Ford, 266; 26. Robby Gordon, Dodge, 266; 27. David Gilliland, Ford, 266; 28. Elliott Sadler, Dodge, 266; 29. Sterling Marlin, Chevrolet, 266; 30. Paul Menard, Chevrolet, 266;

31. Reed Sorenson, Dodge, 266; 32. Brian Vickers, Toyota, 265; 33. Bobby Labonte, Dodge, 265; 34. Regan Smith, Chevrolet, 265; 35. Aric Almirola, Chevrolet, 265; 36. Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, 264; 37. Tony Raines, Chevrolet, 264; 38. Michael Waltrip, Toyota, 264; 39. Chad McCumbee, Dodge, 263; 40. Jeff Burton, Chevrolet, 259;

41. Dale Earnhardt Jr., Chevrolet, 246 (wheel bearing); 42. Marcos Ambrose, Toyota, 222; 43. Kurt Busch, Dodge, 207 (crash)

TIME OF RACE: 3h 5m 36s


PURSE: $5,374,166, winner's share $371,025

FAST QUALIFIER: Reutimann, 31.462s (171.636 mph)

PROVISIONALS: Riggs, Almirola, Ambrose, Waltrip

DID NOT QUALIFY: Ken Schrader, Max Papis, Sam Hornish Jr.


LEAD CHANGES: 15 among eight drivers

CAUTION PERIODS: Seven for 31 laps

FINAL STANDINGS: 1. Johnson, 6,684; 2. Edwards, -69; 3. Biffle, -217; 4. Harvick, -276; 5. Bowyer, -303; 6. Burton, -349; 7. J. Gordon, -368; 8. Hamlin, -470; 9. Stewart, -482 ; 10. Kyle Busch, -498; 11. Kenseth, -500; 12. Earnhardt, -557

NEXT: Feb. 15, 2009, Daytona Beach, Fla.


BMW M3 convertible--Drivers log

SENIOR EDITOR BOB GRITZINGER: Tune an already superb 3-series chassis to M level, add a 414-hp V8 heart stopper tied to a supermanageable seven-speed dual-clutch transmission, toss in a spectacular interior, and what could possibly be missing? Maybe a hardtop convertible roof? Got it. This car seemingly has everything. OK, so you’re saying at $78,000, it ought to have everything including the kitchen sink, and it’s hard to disagree. But for BMW buyers who don’t need the M5’s bigger cabin, it’s hard to argue with the M3’s dynamic abilities, pure power and fun-to-run value. Drop the top, drop the hammer, and drop your cares on the pavement receding in the rearview mirror.

Some might argue for a manual, but I’m coming to terms with BMW’s dual-clutch box. If you’re looking for smooth starts and relatively smooth shifts, dial the transmission’s controller down (if you’re at a stop, it shifts from first to second when you dial it down for smoother takeoffs). For spirited driving, punch up the trans action, or take over shifting with the steering-wheel paddles. It’s the best of both worlds--the solid connection of a clutch-actuated manual gearbox with the real-world ease of an automatic when you want it. You might wish for the control that a foot-operated clutch gives, but you won’t miss that third pedal when you’re fighting traffic.

MOTORSPORTS EDITOR MAC MORRISON: I would not opt for the convertible, as the car is still plagued by the shakiness of the standard 3-series drop-top. Plus, while the folding hardtop looks better than a cloth roof, the car loses its badass profile. And look at that curb weight! This weighs almost as much as a Mercedes SL. It’s a good thing the engine is so potent and the chassis so well sorted, but that number is insane for what is intended to be one of the world’s most nimble corner carvers.

The real story here, though, is the dual-clutch gearbox. Compared with the steaming disaster known as SMG in the old M3, this may as well be alien technology from Nebulon 12. With the shift speed dialed to the max and a heavy foot, the gear engagement is still brutal, with the tires chirping when you snap the right-hand paddle to shift from first to second. But you can soften that by lifting between shifts or by dialing back the shift speed with the associated switch. When you do so, the gearbox shifts smoothly and predictably in both manual and automatic modes. The engineers made a huge step here, and this system is up there with the market’s best, giving buyers a legitimate alternative to the six-speed manual.

SENIOR EDITOR KEVIN A. WILSON: This is a great engineering achievement. Not a great experience. I can’t get over how heavy the car is and feels. To this old-school driver, the mass of this feature-laden “luxury” car is entirely out of keeping with the M3’s origins as a compact screamer, and adding the folding roof makes it worse.

Also, the car isn’t fun to drive slowly. It used to be that you’d compare a M3 with a pretender, say a Lexus, and note that the pretender was fine all the way up to nine-tenths, then couldn’t hold a candle to the real thing. The performance emphasis--perhaps in combination with the mass--seems to have flipped that equation some. If you’re not driving hard, the BMW is clunky. If you’ve got the bit between your teeth and you’re working up a sweat, instant turn-in and ultracrisp shifts are just the thing. If you’re just trying to get to the drugstore, it’s a pain. I said I was an old-school driver, and we remember when performance came with a penalty in comfort. That’s not what I’m objecting to so much as the sense that this car is trying to be all things to all people, loaded down with all of the toys and all of the tech in shifting, ride control and driver aids, and that makes it neither fish nor fowl. Strip it down, give me a basic 3-series and only the M gear that makes it faster--not heavier, not more complicated--and leave all of the 7-series rubbish at the curb.

In fleet: Oct. 21-Nov. 4

As tested price: $77,970

Drivetrain: 4.0-liter V8; RWD, seven-speed sequential manual

Output: 414 hp @ 8,300 rpm, 295 lb-ft @ 3,900 rpm

Curb weight: 4,145 lb

Fuel economy (EPA/AW): 15/15.4 mpg