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Tiger's parting presents wheel problem

The big carmakers need celebrity to fill void as pitchman or pitchwoman

SO, NOW that Tiger Woods has parted ways with General Motors, who's left to sell us our cars?

The superstar golfer and the troubled automaker announced last week that they mutually agreed to part ways a year early.

The two had been together for nine years. GM says Woods wanted to spend more time with his family, and it's likely GM wanted to spend less money.

I never really bought into the fiction that Tiger actually drives a Buick, but that was between GM and Buick lovers, I guess.

But GM, for a long time, a major sponsor of sporting events and athletes, is cutting back. It will skip the Super Bowl this season, and also is out of the Masters.

Lexus teased us over the summer with some ads featuring star golfer Annika Sorenstam and others, but she's retired.

It's been a while since we saw NBA star Dwyane Wade hop out of a Lincoln Navigator and deliver a bunch of basketball equipment to a city neighborhood (indeed, the main reason we grew to like D-Wade).

Jeff Gordon drives Chevy Tahoes on TV, but driving a Chevy is his real job, too, so that doesn't count.

If you listen closely, you can hear Jeff Bridges pitching Hyundais, but - though we loved him in "Seabiscuit" - he's not an A-lister.

Jon Runyan, of your 6-5-1 Eagles, touts Ford trucks. So does Denis Leary (again, if you listen closely). Oh, and I guess John Mellencamp will warble about Chevys again.

The average TV sports fan probably sees three dozen car and truck commercials over an average weekend (at least if you think I'm the average sports fan), and there's not much there to wow me. Or woo me.

I don't see myself barreling through an obstacle course, like those firefighters, construction guys, etc., in Ram Challenge. I have no desire to pull a jetliner with a pickup.

In this economy, I might be able to afford to wrap a Hot Wheels with a Christmas bow, but not a luxury car.

Actually, I have the perfect celeb. With Sarah Palin mostly out of the limelight until about 2012, maybe American Express pitchwoman Tina Fey can lend her talents to one of the Big Three. Or maybe all three?

Hey, if she can't make us feel better about buying cars, who can?

Car fanatics have something new to get excited about if they head to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Fla.

The Indy Racing Experience is open for business.

Four Indy-style racecars have been fitted with 1.8-liter six-cylinder Honda engines. That's less powerful than Indy drivers race, but otherwise, the cars are the same as when they competed in the Indy Racing League.

Even with the smaller engine, however, some drivers have approached 100 mph. Not bad, becase the open-cockpit car weighs about half as much as a 2009 Toyota Corolla.

For $109, customers can be a passenger in a $600,000, two-seat Dallara Indy Car, driven by a pro, that has a real Indy Chevrolet engine.

Scott Jasek, co-owner of the Indy Racing Experience, thinks most first-timers will opt for the ride, but move up to getting behind the wheel.

"One of our main goals is to create new fans for the Indy Racing League series races," Jasek said.

If you travel to Kelley Blue Book's Web site,, later this month, don't think you mistakenly hit the Dodge site.

Chrysler and Kelley have teamed for a series of "homepage takeovers." During the week of Dec. 12, shoppers will see a large 2009 Ram floating around the site and links to get more info about the car. Chrysler will get analysis about potential buyers' click habits.

Fender benders: For those with some disposable income, the late Paul Newman's race cars are on sale to the highest bidder . . . Green Car Journal named Volkswagen's 2009 Jetta TDI as the "Green Car of the Year" at the Los Angeles Auto Show late last month, the first clean-diesel vehicle to win the prize. *

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