Meet the Fan Car

Posted by Iannucci | 2/13/2007 | 0 comments »
Bookmark and Share

In one of the more interesting developments of the off-season, a group of IndyCar fans has banded together in an attempt to sponsor their own car. The group is called IndyCar Fan Car, and they have begun soliciting pledges from other fans in the hopes of sponsoring a single car for this year’s Indianapolis 500.

This is actually a really cool concept, and not one totally unfamiliar to race fans. In 1997 Greg Ray was soliciting support from anyone and everyone in his unsponsored #97 car at Indy. I remember my father-in-law considered pitching in to help Ray’s cause, although ultimately he did not. Ray had a decent IRL career so I don’t think he feels to badly about not helping out.

It’s a daunting task they face because the Fan Car folks estimate their costs to sponsor a team will be around $750,000, but in the age of the internet anything is possible. For now they are simply searching for pledged amounts, but if they meet their goals they then will pursue actual collection. Judging from the numbers on their web site it appears they are off to a slow start, raising around $4000 in their first four days. You can do the unfortunate math and figure out it might take a couple years at that pace.

This is just a guess on my part, but the low commitment thusfar might be related to the fact that they haven’t determined who the driver or the team is that they would be sponsoring. Most prospective contributors would likely want to know if they’re getting behind Buddy Lazier or P.J. Jones or whoever. For example, how would you feel if it turns out your Fan Car dollars end up supporting the Big Felon, Little Al Unser Jr?

Like pretty much any form of racing, any remaining rides in the IRL are likely described as buy-your-ride. If a driver of even modest skill has the sponsorship (or simply the cash) then that driver can probably get a car and team together for a qualifying attempt. This may be a sad commentary on the state of IndyCar racing, but it is what it is.

Now given this reality it would seem that the Fan Car project would have a greater level of success if they could just find a driver and garner funds for him or her. As always there will be more drivers than rides at Indianapolis, and if one single driver could have the Fan Car backing it would bring a face to the whole experiment. There needs to be a certain level of tangibility to validate Fan Car, and with no driver or team it’s all still quite hypothetical.

I realize some drivers may be reluctant to participate in this sort of thing, but I’m sure there are some qualified individuals who can swallow their pride for a chance at qualifying at Indy. And if that driver can say “hey, I’ve got X amount of dollars for any team that wants me” then they’re probably a leg up on 90% of the other unsigned drivers.

I still think this is a really fun idea, and if nothing else it displays the deep attachment IndyCar fans have to their sport. Despite my concerns, I still hope at some point it’s a success.