ROADBLOCKS REMAIN FOR COMPETING 500 RACES

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Memorial Day weekend looks like it still will feature dueling car competitions, as rumors two 500-race rivals would mend their differences proved false.

The upstart U.S. 500, conceived by Championship Auto Racing Teams, said last week it had signed its first sponsors.

As things stand now, May 26 will see the CART-backed U.S. 500 being run at the Michigan International Speedway as the Indianapolis 500 is under way at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.

What sparked creation of the U.S. 500 was Indianapolis Speedway President Tony George's plan to allocate most spots at the Indy 500 to cars from his new Indy Racing League (AA, Jan. 8).

TALKS SPARK RUMOR

CART VP-Public Relations Adam Saal said the rumor his group was going to cancel its race was fueled by talks between CART founder Roger Penske and Mr. George. Talks like that are not uncommon, Mr. Saal said.

"The speedway proposed more than the traditional 33 cars for the Indianapolis 500, but basically it was a Band-Aid for the situation and a solution for the speedway and their problems," he said. "It was all for them and nothing for us."

The plan to add more cars to the Indy 500 was conditional on CART canceling the U.S. 500, but the two groups couldn't come to an agreement on that proposal.

IndyCar President-CEO Andrew Craig said his organization is committed to the U.S. 500 and the race will go on as scheduled.

MORE ISSUES

Mr. Saal said the IRL only wanted to address the Indy 500 issue, while CART is looking for a more comprehensive settlement that includes the governing of the sport, purse and the nature of an alternative series.

"If we go back to the speedway on friendly terms, there is going to be a certain amount of impact on the IRL," Mr. Saal said. When the IRL was announced, its organizers counted on a mass exodus of teams, sponsors and drivers from CART. "That hasn't happened, and it isn't going to."

Target Stores, Miller Brewing Co., No Fear, Mobil Oil Corp., Hollywood Tobacco Corp., LCI International and American Honda Motor Co. have signed $200,000 sponsorship packages for the U.S. 500. Philip Morris Cos.' Marlboro will be on board in the next few weeks.

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