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Champ cars return gets a green flag

The newly named Champ Car World Series Ñ formerly CART Ñ will run at Portland International Raceway.

'I'm very excited about it,' says City Commissioner Jim Francesconi, who facilitated the return of the fledgling series.

The race, a traditional Portland Rose Festival event, will take place June 20 at PIR, with practice and qualifying sessions and support races June 18 and June 19. One of the support races will be the Trans-Am Series, which was part of the CART events in the 1990s.

Portland promoter Mike Nealy of Global Events Group says: 'We're working feverishly on the sponsorship side of things. That's where we have to concentrate our efforts.' A title sponsor is being sought.

Champ Car spokesman Eric Mauk says the deal 'is close.'

Team owners Paul Gentilozzi, Gerald Forsythe and Kevin Kalkhoven, collectively Open Wheel Racing Series LLC, successfully bid for CART's assets in bankruptcy court late last month.

The group had promised 15 races with 18 cars on the grid to satisfy promoters, and had been asking Portland to pony up a $1 million sanctioning fee. Nealy, who says corporate interest for the event has increased in recent weeks, did not say whether Open Wheel would waive all or part of the sanctioning fee or assume some of the promotional responsibility.

'It involved some tough negotiations, but both parties wanted this to happen,' says Francesconi, who oversees Portland Parks & Recreation. 'Everybody sacrificed some: the city, the private sponsor (Open Wheel), the Rose Festival and the promoter.

'This is a shot in the arm to our economy that needs it right now. It's a way to showcase Portland and market us. But we have to build on this. There's still some flaws.'

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