No IndyCar last weekend? No problem

Posted by Declan | 7/22/2009 | 8 comments »
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I have been cursed, from a very young age, with a love of pretty much anything competitive. If they keep score, I'll watch it. The only exceptions tend to be sports that involve judges, so you can keep your ice skating and your synchronized swimming.

As a kid growing up motor racing was unquestionably the most exciting thing in the world and I wasn't selective. As long as it had two or four wheels and there was timing and scoring, I was in. The World Sportscar Championship, CART, the ETCC, British F3, European RallyCross you name it I was a fan and could bore you to death with the minute details of each. I'm somewhat ashamed to admit that nothing much has changed.

So when the invitation came to spend the weekend in and around the booth at Lime Rock with my colleagues from the American Le Mans Series Radio Network, I did not need to be asked twice. What I didn't realise at the time was how much IndyCar gossip there was to be unearthed throughout the weekend. the following is what I managed to dig up during what turned out to be quite an eye opening weekend.

It all started on Thursday night with reception at Patron Highcroft Racing in Western Connecticut. The event was held in the 'lobby' of the race shop, the tequila was flowing and the food was really tiny. The class of an event is normally in inverse proportion to the size of the fare on offer. All of the food being served was what you would call 'comfort' food but in miniature! Tiny pizzas, microscopic burgers and regrettably undersized chocolate cake were being passed around at an alarming rate. I was tackling a vastly undersized grilled cheese sandwich while trying to avoid dropping miniscule crumbs into the cockpit of Mario Andretti's World Championship winning Lotus 79 which was one of the lobby 'ornaments'.

With my metaphorical IndyCar hat on I decided I needed to get to the bottom of the 'Patron Highcroft Racing' to ICS rumours. As I began to make my way to chat to those in the know at the team, fellow Acura runners, Adrian Fernandez and Luis Diaz arrived. Now I was in sniffing overdrive as they represent another team who could be making the jump to IndyCar in 2010. At this point it is very unlikely that we will see Highcroft racing anywhere other than in the ALMS in 2010. Acura have another year left on their contract too so this partnership will almost certainly not be moving to IndyCar. Scott Sharp, however, is likely to be seen in a Dallara for the month of May again in 2010 and the team are evaluating an entry into a 'certain race in France' as it was described by one of their executives. As for Fernandez Racing? They were in and out of the party quicker than a late race gas and go. Bugger!

Friday was a day of practice and qualifying for the ALMS along with the FBMW and Atlantic Series. I had a very pleasant but brief chat with Jonathan Summerton who said that he is unlikely to be back in a Firestone Indy Lights Car this year and wasn't particularly bothered by the prospect. 'If your not in an AFS/AGR car then there really isn't much point' was his forthright assessment of the situation. The weekend in Atlantics was absolutely dominated by Simona De Silvestro who was stunning in wet qualifying and utterly dominant in the dry race on Saturday. She is highly rated by the entire ALMS paddock and she is handled by Tony Kanaan's manager, Robert Clarke. Unfortunately for IndyCar and Indy Lights fans, she will probably take the $1M for winning the Atlantic series and use it to help finance a GP2 ride in 2010. She has her eyes firmly fixed on Formula 1 and has expressed a dislike for ovals.

Saturday morning began with a rather excellent chat with Lindy Thackston who "never googles herself" and she "doesn't read blogs and forums" so I can say what I like about her. She was ludicrously lovely and we ended up chatting for ages. She did reveal that Marco Andretti decided that the whole 'Danica doesn't get team work' spat after the race in Texas was her fault for asking the question in the first place! Now if that doesn't tell you everything you need to know about what is going on inside Marco's head then nothing will.

At this point in the proceedings the gossip started to come thick and fast from a variety of sources that will have to remain nameless and slightly murky. All is seemingly not well at NHLR as Graham Rahal and Robert Doornbos have what can best be described as a 'frosty' relationship. Doornbos is running out of cash and one source expected him to be gone before the end of the season with a possible replacement being Sebastian Bourdais. If Danica makes the increasingly likely jump to TCGR next season, Franck Montagny is at the top of the list to replace her at AGR. His performance at Le Mans this year was stunning and that was despite driving with a broken leg sustained in training camp 3 weeks before the race. He was consistently faster than Bourdais in the number 8 Peugeot and his talent has been criminally overlooked by both the F1 and IndyCar communities. Scott Dixon could be on his way out of TCGR to make way for Danica and despite a calm exterior, he is thought to be not too pleased about having a team mate who can beat him week in week out. The De Ferran name keeps appearing in connection with the Kiwi for 2010. A move to the fledgling De Ferran squad could see him paired with another hot shot in the shape of Simon Pagenaud. The Frenchman has been a revelation this season and has been stunningly quick at times in the Acura prototype. Much like Ryan Briscoe before him, sportscar racing has helped him grow enormously as a driver and he will be a major threat if he returns to American open wheel racing in 2010.

The prospects of multiple engine suppliers in IndyCar are diminishing rapidly. One team executive told me that the VW Group have 'gone cold' on the idea and that is partly due to the infuriating procrastination at 16th and Georgetown. There is also a major sporting brand struggle going on between VW, Audi & Porsche right now which is yet to be fully resolved and IndyCar is certainly a victim of that.

And finally, the continuing story of the 'Greatest Spectacles in Racing' or the Philippe family as they are known to most people. I had my first chance to see Wilson, the youngest of the racing brothers, race over the weekend and he's rubbish!


  1. Anonymous // July 22, 2009 10:41 AM  

    Em...that was too long. sigh.

  2. The SpeedGeek // July 22, 2009 10:43 AM  

    Awesome report, Dex. Copious insider information and rumor mongering during my lunchtime make me a very happy boy. I'd be happy for just about any of that stuff down near the bottom of your column to come true: Dixon to a new team as a new challenge, Montagny and Pagenaud to IndyCar, etc. Not good to hear about VW/Audi/Porsche being as annoyed as the rest of us about the endless noodling over the new engine spec.

    Keep this stuff coming! Though if you do, perhaps Jeff is going to have to change the name of the site to "My Name Is Racin' in General". Doesn't have the same ring...

  3. Anonymous // July 22, 2009 11:07 AM  

    Really Marco blaming Lindy for his comments. That kid is a piece of work. He probably is now refusing to do interviews with her. I hope we never have to hear him speak again.

  4. Damon // July 22, 2009 12:01 PM  

    Honestly Dex, I think Dixon's reluctance at a 3 car team is more about his general dislike for Danica and not wanting her as a teammate than it is about another driver in the same equipment who can beat him.

    After all, does anybody think she's going to beat him head to head over the course of a season?

  5. Leigh O'Gorman // July 22, 2009 12:08 PM  

    good stuff and a very good read; my only problem is i'm in the UK, so finding people to chat IRL with is... difficult at best

  6. Anonymous // July 22, 2009 12:25 PM  

    Wow, I'm amused too as how much talk about Indycar there is over the racin' world! Thanks for bringing up here

  7. AZZO45 // July 22, 2009 2:40 PM  

    Dickin' around @ the 16th & Georgetown offices (in regards to 2011 engines).... NO! Say it ain't so!!!

    I would say who cares I have my new love the ALMS... but I am worrying about her too!!! :( :( :(

  8. Anonymous // July 23, 2009 3:03 AM  

    Now if that doesn't tell you everything you need to know about what is going on inside Marco's head then nothing will.
    That it's empty like the majority of his family? Wow, never knew that.

    Why did you feel that you needed to bring it up though? Even if she did tell you about this, the spat from Texas is long over, even Danica fans have pretty much stopped using it as justification for her leaving the team. Surely she had more interesting things to say than just that if you were talking for ages?