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INDYCAR OWNERS THREATEN TO BOYCOTT NEXT YEAR’S 500

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IndyCar owners have threatened to boycott next year's Indianapolis 500 unless qualifications for all 33 spots are open to all drivers, The Indianapolis Star reported today.

The newspaper said that IndyCar plans to race at Brooklyn, Mich., on May 26 - the same day as the Indianapolis 500 - unless qualifications are held as usual. Roger Penske's Michigan International Speedway is considering honoring all Indianapolis 500 tickets.IndyCar teams are protesting Indianapolis Motor Speedway President Tony George's revamped qualification requirements. George announced in July that 25 of the 33 spots in the Indy 500 will be reserved for top series points leaders in the new Indy Racing League.

"This isn't some idle threat," said a car owner who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "We will run at Michigan if Tony doesn't get off his high horse."

George is trying to lure IndyCar drivers to his new five-race, oval-track series, which begins in 1996.

"I heard rumors about it, but I haven't received a letter or petition or anything else," George told the Star on Tuesday. "As far as an ultimatum, we don't make them, and we're not interested in being on the receiving end."

IndyCar chairman Andrew Craig could not be reached for comment.

"All good business organizations have solid backup plans in place and, although we can't comment specifically, we do have a Plan B. It only makes good business sense," IndyCar spokesman Adam Saal said.

"It only makes good business sense. That's why the IRL seems to be approaching Plan Z."

George has criticized the dominant IndyCar sanctioning body, Championship Auto Racing Teams, for its street races and foreign flavor. In turn, CART has denounced the IRL as divisive and has left the Indy 500 off its 1996 schedule.

CART has dominated Indycar racing since breaking away from the United States Auto Club in 1979. CART officials recently tried to meet with George to discuss a compromise, but it never occurred.

"Each side submitted a position paper, and we asked (longtime racing manager) Les Richter to put together a scenario for a meeting," George said. "But it wasn't a real attention getter, and we suggested it wasn't the right time to have one (a meeting)."

One owner said CART was ready to run at all IRL races, restructure the board to four owners and four IRL representatives, drop IndyCar's logo and adopt the Indy Racing League.

In return, CART allegedly asked George to adopt the 1996 IndyCar rules and retain Craig as chief operating officer.

"That's not entirely accurate. . . . All I can say is that there is more to it than that," George said.

So far, only three owners - A.J. Foyt, Ron Hemelgarn and John Menard - have committed to the series, which George plans to open at Orlanda, Fla., on Jan 27.