Associated Press

2/12/2004 INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - The new Champ Car World Series is on the verge of winning two battles.

On Friday, owners Gerald Forsythe, Paul Gentilozzi and Kevin Kalkhoven are expected to close a deal that will put the open-wheel series back on track. They won a bidding war for the former CART series in bankruptcy court two weeks ago.

Next week, the new series probably will announce that Jimmy Vasser will continue racing in the renamed series.

''I'm bullish on Champ Car,'' Vasser said in a phone interview Thursday night. ''I really believe the market has hit bottom and I'm bullish on the future of Champ Car.''

The addition of the former CART champion would give the circuit another name driver, joining the likes of Toronto's Paul Tracy and Bruno Junqueira - the top two finishers in the standings last year.

Vasser won the 1996 CART points title while driving for Target Chip Ganassi and has finished in the top 10 in points eight of the last nine years. He's been one of the series' mainstays since the Indy Racing League split from CART in 1996.

The question now is which team will Vasser join.

Speculation has centred on PK Racing, which is owned by Kalkhoven and Craig Pollock. But Vasser declined to say which team he was negotiating with, saying only that he was close to working out a deal and that he expected an announcement next week.

''It won't happen by the end of this week,'' he said. ''But I'm not in a position to say anything right now.''

A spokeswoman for PK Racing said there was no announcement scheduled.

Last year, Vasser finished 26th in the Indianapolis 500, driving for Bobby Rahal. He dropped out with a gearbox problem after finishing 102 laps. He also drove part-time last year in NASCAR's Busch series.

Both the IRL and Busch series offered him a chance to drive on their circuits, but Vasser declined, hoping CART would emerge from bankruptcy and race this season.

''I went out on a limb pursuing things,'' he said. ''I'm overjoyed that it's come through this way.''

On Friday, the owners of the new Champ Car World Series are expected to close on their purchase of CART, which lost nearly $78 million US in the first nine months of 2003.

Jim Carr, their bankruptcy lawyer, said it was just a matter of finishing the paperwork.

''We have some loose ends to tie up, but it should all come together at or around (Friday),'' Carr said. ''It's just things like assigning lease space that need consent forms from two landlords, things like that.''

Announcements about a television contract and a race schedule could come next week, a Champ Car spokesman said.

For Vasser, it couldn't come soon enough.

''I believe in the series and the guys,'' he said. ''It's been an off-season of thought and confidence in our guys doing it. That's really what I wanted to do.''