More than just speed challenging the Indy 500 field of 33 …

Posted: May 15, 2012 in Uncategorized

By: Wm. R. LaDow

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Speedway, Indiana

Every morning before the Indianapolis Motor Speedway opens to the public; my first order of business is to walk the IndyCar garages in Gasoline Alley.

Since I arrived here last week, activity in the garages has been as it always has, teams working on their cars, examining parts and preparing their entries for the upcoming 500.

You can usually gauge the level of preparation by the pace in which team members seem to be working. The Penske and Ganassi garages always seem laid back and controlled. Most of the other teams though run through periods of start and stop, hurry up and wait.

But one set of garages here at the Brickyard had been silent. Those belong to Jay Penske’s Dragon Racing.

This season the son of Roger Penske once again made the commitment to campaign entries in the IndyCar series and hired two talented drivers. The first is former four-time Champ Car World Series champion and once the cornerstone of Newman-Haas Racing, Frenchman Sebastian Bourdais. The second driver is Katherine Legge, a Brit with over a decade of auto racing experience with two of those seasons also driving in Champ Car.

These drivers and their cars have been sitting idle because a partnership forged before the season began between Jay Penske and IndyCar supplier Lotus has turned dreadfully contentious leaving Dragon Racing without an engine suppler and Lotus defending itself against a $4.6 million lawsuit brought by Penske for “breach of contract” for openers. Marshall Pruett’s stellar report here tells the entire story.

Jay Penske has been scrambling to obtain another engine supplier since his team’s return from competing in the IndyCar race inBrazil in late April. It’s generally believed that Roger’s relationship with Chevrolet would be the likely source, but it appears that the Lotus contractual issue has to be cleared up first.

Other teams using Lotus engines reported that their speeds were non-competitive due to lack of power and began asking out of their contracts. Both Bryan Herta Racing Autosport and Dreyer & Reinbold were successful in extricating themselves from Lotus in the past few weeks and have aligned their teams with Honda and Chevrolet respectively. This leaves two teams here at Indy running the Lotus engines. HVM Racing who campaigns the No. 78 car for Simona de Silvestro and Lotus’ own entry the Tyce Carlson/Lotus–FP Journe Fan Force United No. 64 with former F1 driver, Jean Alesi behind the wheel.

The change to the new IndyCar Dallara chassis and three differing engines has drawn a smaller Indy field. This was to be expected in the first year of the transition. That’s why it’s understood by all those close to the situation that the presence of Dragon Racing’s two entries would go a long way to filling out the traditional field of 33.

So as every day dawns here at theSpeedway, my first stop is at the Dragon Racing garages looking for signs of new life.

Today was the first sign of something brewing.  Crew members were moving tools and it appeared that there was a chassis waiting to be prepared. I was also able to catch Sebastian Bourdais for just a moment as he was entering the garage. Recognizing that he was reluctant to be interviewed, I simply wished him the best and told him many of us hoped to see him on track soon. With a brief smile he replied … “Me too.”

If Jay Penske and Dragon Racing are going to make that happen, an announcement will have to come soon.

Very soon.


Photo by: Wm. LaDow

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