French Connection

You never know who you will meet at a race. I couldn’t believe my eyes when leaving the garage area, Friday in Homestead, there was Alain Prost the three-time Formula One World Champion. Only when he turned his head to reveal that famous profile did I know it was actually him, and at a Winston Cup race at that. He was chatting with his son, Nicolas.

What brought the former Formula One team owner to the NASCAR finale wasn’t the prospect of meeting Britney Spears. He was a guest of George deBidart, a Busch team owner who may have a full-time Winston Cup team in the near future.

All he would say that morning “I’m here to see some people and look around the garages.” I don’t think that was the whole reason for his visit.

If deBidart doesn’t ring a bell like Rick Hendrick or Robert Yates, don’t worry. He’s the guy who gave Christian Fittipaldi his first Busch drive last year at Homestead, then Kenny Wallace who later moved to another team. He’s also responsible for the successful ALMS debut in Washington, D.C. earlier this year. His career as a behind-the-scenes mover and shaker is moving up as fast as Kurt Busch is on the track.

Okay back to Prost. What does a former Formula One team owner and a NASCAR team owner have in common? That’s easy, sponsorship.

Even though the Prost Formula One team failed due to financial troubles one year ago, the type of money needed over there makes even the most expensive Winston Cup deal look like petty cash.

Top Formula One teams spend $200 to $300 million a year. Suppose Prost can raise a mere five per cent of that conservative number or about ten million dollars. That’s real money over here.

Since NASCAR races are broadcast around the world these days, the only thing that surprises me, is that there wasn’t some international wheeling and dealing much earlier than now.

Both Prost and deBidart were not waiting around to be interviewed but don’t be surprised if some deal is cooking and there will be enough new financing to make it a serious effort.

Talk about cooking can you see the crew at lunch time? There’ll be the sponsors eating crepes suzettes and the tire carrier wondering why they’re having pancakes for lunch. Hero sandwiches will be served on skinny baguettes.

Will they be serving snails as an appetizer at team dinners or will the crew insist on good old steak frites (steak and fries)? Just hold the garlic.

Since these are modern times don’t expect that there will be red wine in the drink bottle, but who knows maybe Perrier for that fizz.

Will the crew wear berets when they don’t have to wear protective head gear? After watching videotapes of pit stops will they be forced to watch Jerry Lewis movies?

If the venture does come to fruition can it be that long before we have a young French driver in Winston Cup? And if that driver gets in trouble and causes a wreck we could really have a yellow flag for Pierre Debris on the track.

Unburned fuel from the Wastegate

The news from the CART race from Mexico City was very encouraging. The event was a success in terms of large attendance, although the estimated 250,000 crowd turned about to be somewhat less. Still any six-figure crowd at a new race means a job well done.

As you read here on , Paul Gentilozzi made his team announcement. Derrick Walker announced he’s continuing next year.

On Tuesday the Players Forsythe team made expected news that Paul Tracy and Pat Carpentier would be their drivers next year, and that Alex Tagliani was released as driver (he’s still under contract).

More news will be coming this week from the CART banquet in Miami Beach and we’ll have updates.

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Monster Energy NASCAR Cup, 2002

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