We may not have Bobby Rahal to kick around much anymore. The intrepid Curt Cavin has uncovered what’s going on with these lawsuits: Scott Sharp wants to win and Bobby Rahal just wants to get paid.
Sharp believes Rahal Letterman is no longer committed to IndyCar racing because of the recent release of 10 crew members, including race engineers Jeff Britton and Ray Lehto, Sharp's attorney, Michael Josephs, said Thursday.
Sharp's complaint also alleges that Rahal doesn't want to field an Indy Racing League program, won't participate in the league-provided test sessions and is not investing in a research-and-development program.
"Scott didn't like what they've been doing (at RLR)," said (Sharp’s attorney Michael) Josephs, mentioning use of the Patron-supported budget to pay for repairs to the No. 17 car. "The contract requires them to give their best effort, and gutting the team and not doing anything in terms of testing or development isn't staying with the best teams. We're far behind giving the best effort."
Remember those questions Danica Patrick about loyalty issues when she left RLR? My memory grows fuzzy.
Anyhow, you understand how Scott and the good folks at Patron are probably more than a touch irked that their cash was going to pay for things not related to their No. 8 car. Here’s Sharp at the tail end of his career, he still wants to go for a while longer, so he parts ways with longtime sponsor Delphi and cultivates a longer-term deal with Patron – and the RLR team starts laying off people and pocketing the cash. Why shouldn't Sharp be upset? Why shouldn’t he want the most bang for all of those bucks?
And why shouldn't Ethanol, who's been an even more visible presence in the IRL the past few years, want a similar commitment towards testing and personnel spending? They're probably flattered The Bobby was spending someone else's money to please them, but they can't be too excited with the overall operation right now.
Perhaps the tipping point of the issue is this new MATRIX Payout plan, which brings $1.2M to the team that fields the car. If you were Sharp and you had a $5M or so commitment from Patron to go along with that guaranteed cash, would you not consider starting your own team instead of paying a middle-man like Rahal? Especially since Sharp has been mentioned as a possible owner in the future – why shouldn't he start now?
Well, there appear to be legal issues – that’s why. But at some point this will be resolved with money exchanging hands and IndyCars will be racing in 2008. Just don't bet on the Rahal Letterman Racing team fielding any of those cars.