Five years after the open-wheel racing split between the IndyCar Series and the Champ Car World Series ended with IndyCar‘s governing body buying its competitor, the chasm between the two biggest series in American sports car racing — the American Le Mans Series presented by Tequila Patron and the Rolex Sports Car Series — has come to an end.
In a joint press conference at Daytona International Speedway this morning, NASCAR Holdings, LLC (owner of Grand-Am Road Racing) announced its purchase of Panoz Motor Sports Group (owner of the ALMS) with plans to merge the two series together in 2014, after each series runs a separate schedule in 2013.
Also acquired in the deal was the International Motor Sports Association, which sanctions ALMS along with the GT3 Cup Challenge by Yokohama, the Cooper Tires Prototype Lites Championship and the Porsche GT3 Cup Challenge Canada by Michelin. Road Atlanta in Braselton, Ga. and the Sebring International Raceway in Florida will also become part of the France family empire.
“Today’s announcement will transform sports car racing on this continent, along with having world-wide industry implications,” Grand-Am President/CEO Ed Barrett said in a press release. “Aside from the organizations involved, everybody wins: drivers, teams, manufacturers, sponsors, tracks – and most all, the fans.
“This new approach is going to be revolutionary, as we take the best components from two premium brands, combine them and then benefit mutually from the considerable resources both sides will bring to our efforts. This is a bold move – and the right one – for the long-term, optimum growth of sports car racing.”
ALMS founder Don Panoz also spoke in approval of the merger.
“The American Le Mans Series was founded for the fans and I’m personally gratified that they will benefit greatly as we now work together with GRAND-AM to take this sport to the level at which it belongs in the North American and international motorsports landscapes,” Panoz said in a press release.
The five-class American Le Mans Series was created in 1999 and boasts the 12 Hours of Sebring and the Petit Le Mans (held at Road Atlanta) as the cornerstone events of its 10-race schedule, aired nationally on ABC and ESPN2.
Grand-Am Road Racing’s premier slate, the two-class Rolex Sports Car Series, boasts the Rolex 24 at Daytona, the Six Hours at the Glen and the Brickyard Grand Prix as its top events, aired nationally on SPEED. Grand-Am also sanctions the Continental Tire Sports Car Challenge, the Total Performance Showcase, the North American Endurance Championship presented by VisitFlorida.com, the Ferrari Challenge and the Grand-Am iRacing Online Sports Car Series.