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Cars 'n' Stars: NASCAR/USAC Near Merger, Bikes At Vegas Speedway, M-B's 1998 Lineup is Extensive.

1 October 1997

At one point it was believed in the racing world that NASCAR was going to make an offer to buy the beleagured United States Auto Club but as talks contine it appears a merger may be at hand. It is a tough call, as USAC is set up as a non profit organization. The Lawyers are trying to work out a deal.

The almost new Las Vegas Speedway will stage a four day motorcycle racing show for riders in the AMA. They will run on the big oval, road course and the dirt track adjacent to the big oval.

Mercedes' big gun for 1998 is the ML class sport utility; extensive facelifting has taken place on the rest of the line. European buyers can get the CLK coupe with a blower. The expensive SL500 and SL600 are unchanged. E300TD gets a new turbo diesel, and the S320 sedans come in short and long wheelbase. The E320 sedan gets a new V8 motor.

In NASCAR for next year, Dr. Pepper soft drinks will sponsor the Washington Erving (Dr. J) Ford Taurus, which will debut at Daytona in February in the hands of Jimmy Foster.

In F-1, Damon Hill has signed on with Jordan, and Jean Alesi and Mika Salo have joined Sauber/Arrows for 1998. Also in the world of GP racing, BMW has confirmed it will be on the track in 2000. It is rumored that Michael Douglas will appear in the Sylvester Stallone film about Formula One racing. The film may tie-in with McLaren, who is rumored to have about 100 F-1 cars in stock. Warner Bros is thinking about doing a movie on the late great Ayrton Senna.

It was 118 degrees in Fontana last weekend for the running of the California 500. Next year the race will take place November one.

John Andretti signed with Cale Yarborough, but his major sponsor, RCA, hasn_t stepped up to the plate yet. Petty Enterprizes is looking for a replacement for Bobby Hamilton, who took the Kodak/Chevy ride for '98.

The split between ProSportsCar boss Andy Evans and Bill France over the Daytona 500 could turn into a bloodbath, as both sides are talking about "alternatives." Evans says he may run a $1 million 24 hour race at Sebring. Sebring ain't no Daytona International Raceway, it's a dump . . . and the European teams know it.

As reported here last week, there is talk going around about a F-1 race at the Brickyard. Now the talk is getting serious: Tony George has "planners" working on a road course layout plan that he will send to Bernie Eccelstone, FOCA boss, with a proposal. George was in England recently chatting with Bernie.

Robby Gordon's top ten finish in Carl Hogans CART car at Fontana last Sunday may land him a seat for 1998, as Dario Franchiti has jumped ship looking for more $$$.

Arie Luyendyck, injured in the Cal 500 when Arnd Meier spun in front of him, is out of the hospital and has re-upped with Treadway racing for the 1998 IRL season. Penske may be the only team on Goodyears next year, as Firestone is winning all the races.

Bill Maloney The Auto Channel