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Changes Coming As ALMS And Grand-Am Move Closer To Merge

Though it had been projected to fall later in the day, rain became the talk of the morning at Sunday’s American LeMans Series race at Elkhart Lake, Wisconsin’s Road America.

But it was change, and not just the rain, that was on the minds of competitors and fans alike.

America’s National Park of Speed has hosted ALMS and Rolex GRAND AM racing events for years, but those groups will join together in 2014 to form United Sports Car Racing; and that’s where the problems of change begin.

As with any marriage, becoming united can bring with it a difficult transition period and the two racing groups are going through that process as you read this.

Change? Try balancing driver ratings, race scheduling, sponsorships and officiating along with blending competition rules for the various prototype and GT classes run by ALMS and GRAND AM that have to be combined into one rule book. Get all of that settled long before United’s inaugural event in 2014 and you have accomplished some kind of balancing act.

Committees have been formed, with members from both groups working from both a competition and marketing view, but with GRAND AM having bought out ALMS, the rules pendulum (especially in the prototype classes) is likely to swing toward the spec cars of GA rather than the high-tech vehicles of ALMS.

There were unofficial suggestions earlier this year that this Road America weekend, which featured GRAND AM on Saturday and ALMS on Sunday, would be an ideal venue to put cars from both groups onto the track for a Monday test session. It was suggested that crews could test different aero and engine packages on a course that everyone in the paddock is familiar with. The results could have gone a long way toward coming up with rules that would level the playing field and results could have been compared between the two groups; apples and apples (not oranges).

But nothing will happen here on Monday. GRAND AM is off to race on the infield road course at NASCAR’s Kansas Speedway next weekend and ALMS teams will head home to prepare for their Baltimore street course event in three weeks.

Racing is a confusing and illogical sport at times. Rules and regulations are often lost on fans. They just want to see great competition, and yes Tony Stewart, even passing.

Many feel that the NASCAR-owned GRAND AM series-type cars will prevail with regard to both making rules and track scheduling.

We’ll know the entire rule book shortly as some of those decisions (especially the GT class and PC class) have already been announced.

Also to be decided, however, is which past events will be retained in 2014?

Road America should be on the United group’s schedule next year. But with a twelve-race schedule being discussed, and Daytona, Sebring and Road Atlanta events almost guaranteed dates, only nine openings would remain. Project those nine as: Long Beach/ Monterey/ Laguna Seca/ Mosport/ Circuit of the Americas/ Watkins Glen/ Indianapolis/ Mid-Ohio, and it’s easy to include RA- or is it? Kansas Speedway is owned by NASCAR-International Speedways. Would they pick one for the home team and choose Kansas over RA as the twelfth venue?

Road America must be on the 2014 schedule, and United Sports Car Racing should have taken the opportunity to test here on Monday.

Wouldn’t that have been logical?

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Paul Gohde heard the sound of race cars early in his life.

Growing up in suburban Milwaukee, just north of Wisconsin State Fair Park in the 1950’s, Paul had no idea what “that noise” was all about that he heard several times a year. Finally, through prodding by friends of his parents, he was taken to several Thursday night modified stock car races on the old quarter-mile dirt track that was in the infield of the one-mile oval -and he was hooked.

The first Milwaukee Mile event that he attended was the 1959 Rex Mays Classic won by Johnny Thomson in the pink Racing Associates lay-down Offy built by the legendary Lujie Lesovsky. After the 100-miler Gohde got the winner’s autograph in the pits, something he couldn’t do when he saw Hank Aaron hit a home run at County Stadium, and, again, he was hooked.

Paul began attending the Indianapolis 500 in 1961, and saw A. J. Foyt’s first Indy win. He began covering races in 1965 for Racing Wheels newspaper in Vancouver, WA as a reporter/photographer and his first credentialed race was Jim Clark’s historic Indy win.Paul has also done reporting, columns and photography for Midwest Racing News since the mid-sixties, with the 1967 Hoosier 100 being his first big race to report for them.

He is a retired middle-grade teacher, an avid collector of vintage racing memorabilia, and a tour guide at Miller Park. Paul loves to explore abandoned race tracks both here and in Europe, with the Brooklands track in Weybridge England being his favorite. Married to Paula, they have three adult children and two cats.

Paul loves the diversity of all types of racing, “a factor that got me hooked in the first place.”