Champ Car '08 schedule has international flair

INDIANAPOLIS - The Champ Car World Series released its 2008 schedule Monday, and as expected, it includes the formula's first ever event in Spain.

However, absent from the 14-race slate is the Las Vegas Grand Prix, which debuted to mixed reviews in 2007. Las Vegas and the dead-before-it-started Phoenix Grand Prix (the intended 2007 season finale) were promoted by a group that included Arizona Diamondbacks co-owner Dale Jensen.

In announcing the series schedule for next year, Steve Johnson, president of the open-wheel
series, said, "The promoters of the 2007 Las Vegas event were the
same promoters who canceled our Phoenix event. To make a long story
short, we're not prepared to work with them again. Though we did
consider different options for returning to Vegas in '08, the tight
timetable just didn't allow it to happen.

"We'd certainly consider returning to Vegas in the future, but
really only under the right situation."

The 2008 Champ Car schedule is broadly similar to this year's 14-race lineup with a couple of key exceptions. The Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach kicks off the season April 20, followed by the Grand Prix of Houston, the first of three twin bills with the American Le Mans Series.

Only one race is scheduled in May (at Mazda Raceway Laguna Seca on the 18th), leaving the slim chance some Champ Car teams could enter the IRL Indianapolis 500. The series will then leave the country for June races at Zolder, Belgium and Jerez, a 2.752-mile road course in southern Spain that hosted the Formula 1 Spanish Grand Prix from 1986 to 1990.

The rest of the summer is business as usual for Champ Car, aside from a date change for the race at Portland International Raceway to late July. A trio of Canadian dates remain intact, and the series returns to Europe in September for a reprise of the popular race at Assen, Netherlands. A fourth European race could be twinned with Assen with FIA approval.

Long gaps in the schedule remain in the latter part of the season, with only four races currently scheduled between Aug. 10 and Nov. 9, when the championship will again come to a close in Mexico City.

Champ Car's Atlantic Championship development series is set for growth, with an expected return to the historic Trois-Rivieres street circuit in Quebec and a new venue for the championship finale -- Utah's Miller Motorsport Park.

John Oreovicz covers open-wheel racing for National Speed Sport News and ESPN.com.