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Promoter seeks area race again

Officials from two major road racing sanctioning bodies _ Grand American Road Racing and the Trans-Am Series _ are interested in reviving the Florida Grand Prix through the streets of St. Petersburg.

The city council agreed Thursday to negotiate for races per a request by Thomas Begley and Associates to possibly conduct an event in February.

Begley promoted the Florida Grand Prix in 1996 and 1997.

The Trans-Am Series was the marquee series in all eight grand prix (1985-1990, 1996-1997). Its executive director, John Clagett, said Monday that he and Begley talked last weekend at Sebring International Raceway.

"His dream continues, I guess," Clagett said. "We're always interested. Obviously the St. Petersburg venue is one that has been near and dear to the heart of Trans-Am through the years.

"If the right circumstances were created and it looked like a viable event, I don't think there would be any question that we would take a very serious look at trying to put it back on."

Roger Edmondson, president of the Grand American Road Racing Association and a St. Petersburg native, said he last spoke with Begley in October 1999 while visiting a proposed course around Tropicana Field.

"We've had no ongoing discussions since," he said, "other than a general agreement that when the time comes and he thinks he's got everything in order, we'd like to take another look at it."

A race in early February would suit both series well.

The Grand Am season begins in early February with the 24 Hours at Daytona while the Trans-Am series could make a St. Petersburg race its season opener before the 12 Hours of Sebring in March.

"We already have a strong program in Florida with two races at Daytona and one at Homestead," Edmondson said. "From our standpoint, I would like to add an additional race in Florida if all other things could be handled properly so you could build a fan base."

TALLADEGA RULES: NASCAR plans to continue using the aerodynamic rules it had in place for the Daytona 500 next month at Talladega Superspeedway.

"We are not anticipating any rules changes for Talladega (in April)," NASCAR president Mike Helton said Saturday. "We are looking at different things like we normally do, but we are not anticipating any changes for the next restrictor-plate race."

NASCAR wanted to slow cars aerodynamically for the sake of more competitive racing at its two longest tracks last fall. So it straightened the rear spoiler, lowered the front air dam, added a 1-inch strip across the roof and reduced the size of holes in restrictor plates before the Winston 500 at Talladega.

DIFFICULT DEBUT: In the team's debut in the Indy Racing League, Roger Penske's elite drivers from the rival CART series failed to finish the Pennzoil 200 at Avondale, Ariz.

Gil de Ferran took the lead on Lap 74 when he stayed on the track as most other front-runners pitted.

As de Ferran slowed in Turn

4 to come into the pits on Lap 77, Jeret Schroeder slammed into the rear of his car and sent both hard into the concrete wall.

Mark Dismore, coming up fast on the outside, then slid into the back of de Ferran's car.

"Unfortunately, Gil got drilled coming into the pits," Penske said. "We were right on our strategy, running conservative on fuel."

De Ferran's teammate, Helio Castroneves, who started 17th, worked his way to the front and found himself trailing winner Sam Hornish by just more than 1 second when his engine blew on Lap 143.

ODDS AND ENDS: Jeff Gordon joined a growing group on Sunday at Darlington Raceway. He is the fourth driver this season _ Michael Waltrip, Sterling Marlin and Rusty Wallace are the others _ to start a Winston Cup race with the points lead only to leave without it. He finished 40th. Buzz Calkins and Davey Hamilton have been running at the finish of a record 30 consecutive Indy Racing League events.

_ Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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