Up to three IndyCar Series teams are set to miss next month’s season-opening race at St Petersburg, having so far been unable to secure engine or crucial sponsorship deals for the upcoming seasons.
We had previously reported that the Conquest Racing outfit looked set to miss the first few rounds of the 2012 season, but now it appears that Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing and the debutant Michael Shank Racing look set to join them on the sidelines. The former has not been able to secure and engine deal, while the latter is seemingly short of funds.
Despite his new team being launched with much fanfare, team owner Michael Shank has conceded that he “isn’t where he wants to be just yet” in his hopes of getting his one-car team onto the grid at Florida.
“We’ve got the car in the shop and the people we need to go run the car, but at this point we are still working to have the full budget in place to go racing,” said team owner Shank, who set up the IndyCar operation in conjunction with former ChampCar racer AJ Allmendinger and businessman Brian Bailey.
Shank was believed to be on the verge of signing a deal with veteran racer Paul Tracy, but the team has “had a setback as an anticipated partnership program for the MSR Indy campaign did not develop as had been intended.”
It is believed that this “anticipated partnership” related to one of Tracy’s backers, who may have pulled out at the eleventh hour.
Despite Tracy’s long-time links with Honda, MSR has secured a customer engine deal with Lotus.
Facing a similar uphill battle is the Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing team, winner of the last race of the 2011 season, which has been unable to secure an engine deal.
Everything else is in place for the Indianapolis team, which has purchased two new DW12 chassis’, secured substantial new backing and signed Indy Lights champion Josef Newgarden for the upcoming season.
“Our appearance there is not looking promising. Still digging deep, please keep up the prayers. We need this kid [Newgarden] in a racecar,” she wrote on her Twitter feed.
It is understood that Fisher had been pushing for her outfit to be branded as an all-American team, and tried to leverage that approach with her preferred engine supplier, Chevrolet.
But both Chevrolet and rival engine builder Honda (who she turned to next when Chevrolet apparently knocked her back) were unable to help as they’ve hit the ceiling in the number of teams that they can supply for the moment.
It is hoped that a deal could be secured ahead of the Indianapolis 500 in May, but her team’s absence from the season-opener would represent a significant blow to the credibility of the IndyCar Series.