(from autosport) (This is an interview with Tony George just prior to this weekend's first race of the season for the unified open wheeled series) IRL IndyCar Series boss Tony George believes that the first 'fruits of reunification' will be seen during this year's Indianapolis 500. The former Champ Car teams joining the merged series are expected to struggle in their first oval races, but George is confident they will be challenging the established IndyCar front-runners by May. "It won't take everyone long to get acclimatised and get really competitive," George told Indianapolis radio station 1070 The Fan. "We've been focused on trying to help each other out to get to that first race and get through the first couple of races. I would expect things to really start to heat up come May." The Indy Racing League founder also predicted that the Indy 500 build-up would see a number of new sponsorship announcements. "We've seen some progress in the off-season with sponsorship interest when we were just trying to sell IndyCar, and I think they were seeing the same when trying to sell Champ Car," he said. "Now that we've seen unification, that interest has gone up a couple of degrees. We've got some really good things in the works, both at a series level and a team level. "I think that by May we'll start seeing the fruits of unification starting to pay off with some announcements. I believe that in the next couple of years, if we continue to do our job well, we'll build on this foundation that we're laying this year." George expects the merged series to continue growing, and believes next year's calendar could feature as many as 22 races. "It just depends on where the right opportunities are, but it could be anywhere from 18 to 22," he said. "I think 20-ish races feels right, and probably a couple more international races." He said the series would focus on finding the strongest venues overall rather than seeking an equal balance of ovals and road courses. "It has to make sense, but it will probably be close to 50/50 (road courses and ovals) for the foreseeable future," George said. "But it could be something like six temporary road courses, six permanent road courses and six ovals." George also admitted that the IndyCar Series could soon have trouble accommodating all its potential entries - with 26 cars set for the full 2008 season, and several more teams planning partial schedules or 2009 programmes. "The fact is that at a lot of the places we race at, we will be limited by pit space," he said. "So if we become a victim of our own success, that will become an issue."