I’ve sat on this for a week because it’s a report from Robin Miller over at SpeedTV, but since Curt Cavin gave this story a brief nod recently it’s worth noting. You might recall Mr. Miller has some credibility issues (most recently with his Mr Judd to Champ Car story) so take be sure to file this under “hopeful possibility” until a press conference is called.
It would appear that Gene Simmons and his band of merry marketers have finally managed to contribute something positive to the IRL, saving both a driver and a team in the process. Sprint car wizard PJ Chesson – who was last seen crashing into his teammate on the second lap of the Indy 500 – may be given a second chance in IndyCar with the recently shut down Fernandez Racing team. Fernandez laid off many their employees after both Scott Sharp and Kosuke Matsuura jumped ship, but it would appear The Illustrated Man has landed a sponsor to help sustain the team for 2007.
"There's a lot of paperwork flying around and it looks like a legitimate multi-year deal with a solid sponsor," said Tom Anderson, the co-owner of Fernandez Racing. "I'd say right now it's about 75-25 it's going to happen."Now keep in mind this is the same Tom Anderson who said in July the odds were “80% or better” that the team would retain Sharp and Matsuura, and this is the same Simmons and Abramson who actively failed to land a sponsor for Chesson when he was with Hemelgarn. Oops. It would be prudent to avoid holding one’s breath until this actually occurs.
"Actually, Gene Simmons and Richard Abramson brought the deal to the IRL in conjunction with Just Marketing and, because of the demographics of the sponsor, they decided P.J. Chesson was their man," said Anderson.
"They were kind enough to contact us and we're hoping to get this thing finalized. We've still got all our cars and equipment and I've been talking on the phone with some of the guys we had to let go and told them 'It's getting closer.'"
Chesson is an energetic presence in racing, and until last year Fernandez was a competitive team, so keeping these folks around is ultimately good for the IndyCar series. That is assuming The Illustrated Man figures out how to actually finish a race.
If this deal does in fact come to fruitiion then deserved praise should be given to Simmons, Abramson, et al for matching a driver with sponsor and a team. Now if they could just lend some help getting Sarah Fisher, Buddy Rice, and Wade Cunningham into the IndyCar series in 2007 we’d be getting somewhere.