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Paul Tracy And Alex Tagliani Nixed From Support By IZOD IndyCar Series – UPDATED

Paul Tracy driving the Ralphs supermarket sponsored Dallara for KV Racing Technology entering turn #9 during the 2011 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2011)

The IZOD IndyCar Series leaves Paul Tracy and Alex Tagliani off of the list of drivers and teams that are expected to share in the benefits received through large IndyCar Series advertising and broadcasting contracts. A pool of money is distributed between teams and drivers and since Tracy and Tagliani are not on the list, they will not get the expected subsidy of the approximately $1.3 million dollars each which helps teams to field a driver for a full season.

The program set up to assist teams and drivers is meant to reward teams for both past performance and a commitment to a full season of racing to a driver is called the Leader Circle program. Not including Paul Tracy will impact his chances to put a full season ride together with Michael Shank Racing. It is expected to have less of an impact with Alex Tagliani as the Montreal native already has a full-season sponsorship deal in place with premium sound electronics giant Bowers & Wilkins to support his ride with Bryan Herta Autosport.

The decisions behind who actually receives the Leader Circle program which is limited to only 20 teams has many people scratching their heads.

Alex Tagliani as he sits in his Bowers & Wilkins Dallara while in the pits for adjustments between warm-up sessions at the 2011 Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2011)

This excerpted and edited from the Toronto Sun –

IndyCar gives Tracy, Tags cold shoulder
BY DEAN MCNULTY,TORONTO SUN

Oakville’s [a Toronto, Canada suburb] James Hinchcliffe did make the cut with the No. 27 team from Andretti Autosport.

The so-called Leader Circle program is meant to reward teams for both past performance and a commitment to a full season of racing in 2012.

[Bryan] Herta was livid at the news his team — that won last year’s Indianapolis 500 with the late Dan Wheldon behind the wheel — was not among the Leader Circle cash recipients [with the seat being picked up by Alex Tagliani].

“I’m extremely disappointed and angry, it’s a travesty,’’ Herta told SPEED-TV. “We’ve got the only national brand as a primary sponsor and I was always told the Indy 500 was the most important race in the world. But obviously it wasn’t enough to get us into the 20 most important teams.”

In an astounding bit of irony Tagliani’s old team — Sam Schmidt Motorsports — was awarded one of the $1.3 million aid packages based on his performance with that team in 2011 where he won the pole at the Indy 500.

SSM’s money will go, however, to support Simon Pagenaud of France, who has no poles and no wins in his one-season of IndyCar racing [note: Pagenaud was a CCWS Formula Atlantic Champion, edging out Graham Rahal in 2006].

For Tracy — the 2003 Champ Car World Series champion and winner of 31 career races — it is a bitter pill to swallow as it shows that IndyCar is still throwing its established stars under the bus.

For example the list of 20 teams and drivers that were awarded Leader Circle money includes an open spot on the KV Racing Technology team that is being held for Brazilian Rubens Barrichello.

This would be the same Barrichello who is out of rides in Formula 1 after a career with no championships and just 11 wins in 326 races.
—-
Barrichello, who turns 40 this season, is only two years younger than Tracy, so it is not as if IndyCar teams are seeking out new and exciting drivers to entice fans back to their events.

Tracy, contacted on Friday, said he was going to wait until all of his options are looked into before commenting on the loss of the Leaders Circle money.

However in typical Tracy fashion he tweeted his thoughts: “People want to know my thoughts on the leader circle, never thought I would get one in the first place, not wasted any time thinking on it.”
[Reference Here]

It is understandable that the IZOD IndyCar Series would want to broaden the appeal of the racing series with strong or recognized names from Europe, but if the limit is only 20 teams, the driver’s past performance, certainly in Paul Tracy’s and Alex Tagliani’s case, should be given a greater weight.

Frankly, to shun these two top Canadian drivers over some of the other drivers mentioned who are receiving the Leader Circle subsidy at a time of formula transition seems a little fool hardy. Fans are concerned about how the new DW12 package will translate to the competition on the track and to not have those with a greater history and traditions of American open wheel racing on the track would be to allow a potential disconnect between fan and series.

UPDATE:

Randy Bernard, CEO of the IZOD IndyCar Series, responds to the questions raised when some good drivers and teams were left out of the subsidy funding provided by the ICS program known as Leader Circle.

Randy Bernard (left) shares a happier moment of camaraderie with Bryan Herta - BHA (right), Dennis Reinbold - DRR (facing) and Keith Wiggins - HVM (from behind) looking on, in the Lotus Group Ltd. booth during the IZOD IndyCar/Lotus team press announcement at the 2011 LA Auto Show. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2011)

This excerpted end edited from Racer.com -

Q & A: Randy Bernard on the eve of 2012 State of IndyCar address
David Malsher, Racer.com – February 11 2012

On the eve of his State of IndyCar address, series CEO Randy Bernard talked with RACER editor David Malsher about some of the major topics brewing in the IZOD IndyCar Series right now.

DM: It’s caused a lot of controversy, so tell us, how were the Leader Circle allocations decided this year?

RB: We said from the start that the top 22 in points last year would qualify. So at the end of the year, those 22 were guaranteed a slot. When Newman/Haas Racing decided to throw in the towel, we decided that, with interest in the series meaning we might have 28-29 cars, what we’ll do with those other two Leader Circle slots, will be to invite all teams to tell us why we should choose them – what are they going to do for the series to bring fans in? Why do they deserve that $1.1m? And they came back with some compelling stories and information. Jay Penske promised 50 million impressions from all his internet websites committing to IndyCar. His presentation was head and shoulders above everyone else’s. And then Ed Carpenter came in with a sponsor that was committed to creating four-week, three-week and two-week marketing strategies in every IndyCar market to help the promoters sell tickets as well as helping us with other areas of promotion. Then we considered also that Sebastien Bourdais is a hell of a driver who deserves to be in the series, and Ed Carpenter won a race last year. So those were the two we chose.

But after that, Lotus DRR [formerly Dreyer & Reinbold Racing] and Andretti Autosport told us they were going to give back one Leader Circle each as they cut a car from their lineups. So we’ve interviewed everyone – Jay Penske wanted another one, as did Ganassi, and then there was Bryan Herta, Michael Shank, Eric Bachelart and Bobby Rahal. But they were so on a par, we didn’t feel it was fair to, for example, choose Herta and Rahal over Ganassi and Shank. It was too close to call, it would get political – and it shouldn’t be about politics. So if no one was head and shoulders above the others, how do we make it fair for everybody? OK, we could have just taken that $2.2m and put it into our bottom line, because we don’t owe anybody anything, but we said “Let’s put it into prize money.”

So there are five places for non-Leader Circle entrants eligible for payouts in each race aside from the Indianapolis 500. The highest finishing non-Leader Circle entrant will get $80,000 through to the fifth non-Leader Circle car getting $26,000. Then, additionally, all entrants in the starting field get bonuses of $35,000 for first place, $25,000 for second, $20,000 for third, $15,000 for fourth and $10,000 for fifth place at each race [not including the Indy 500]. So if you finish first of non-Leader Circle cars, you can do a lot better than you could from the Leader Circle program, and come in second all the time and get the equivalent of a Leader Circle. So I think that what we did was the best thing for the sport going forward because it’s created another storyline. Paul Tracy is a great driver, so if he’s good enough and Michael Shank Racing is good enough, then they’ll win a lot of money.

DM: Why have the Leader Circle scheme at all? Why not scrap the scheme and use the money to substantially boost the prize fund for each and every race? The rich would get richer but so would the poor. Wouldn’t that encourage teams to a) start the season and then accrue further funding by doing well and you’d have a race-by-race meritocracy?

RB: Right, and I think that may be the way to go. If you’re not prepared to race for success and its rewards, what are you in the series for? Are you in it to make a profit or are you in it to win? I read Eric Bachelart’s comments about how he’s been loyal to Indy car racing for 16 years, but to my mind, there are two things he should be saying to himself right now: 1) “Am I in IndyCar to win?” and 2) “If I am and I’m not in the top 22, then I have a problem.” And if he’s in it just to make money, then I have a problem with it. We’re not just about making money: we have to create a great product and show credibility to our fans.

[Reference Here]

Still smells a little like Tony George, lurking in the background, pulling strings.

… notes from The EDJE

 

- Article without UPDATE first published as Paul Tracy & Alex Tagliani Nixed From Support By IZOD IndyCar Series on Technorati -

Oriol Servia Captures DRR Seat, Becomes One Of The Lotus Legion

Oriol Servia driving the #2 Telemundo Newman/Haas Dallara through the end of the left-sweeping turn #10 at the 2011 37th Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach. Servia went on to finish in the top 10 at P6 while avoiding late race mishaps. Image Credit: Edmund Jenks (2011)

ChampCar standout and leader in performance consistency, Oriol Servia secures the lead seat on the planned two-car effort at Lotus works powered (Judd) Dreyer and Reinbold Racing (DRR).

Last year driving the old Dallara in its final season for the now disbanded Newman/Haas Telemundo sponsored effort, Oriol finished every race registering three podiums. This performance netted the Spainard a fourth in points lead by season’s end, ahead of Team Penske’s Ryan Briscoe and Helio Castroneves, and all four rides in the Andretti Autosport stable. Not bad for a one-year campaign on an understandably proud but fading team.

At the announcement, Oriol said this about the courtship with Dreyer & Reinbold Racing; “I couldn’t be more excited, for many reasons. DRR is a team that I raced against since 2008 and they’ve always shown to be very professional at the racetrack.”

“Although I knew the owners, I didn’t know them very well, to be honest. Before signing with the team, like everybody else, I did my research and I couldn’t find one individual that didn’t speak highly of Dennis or Robbie, which gave me a lot of confidence.”

“I went to the team’s sponsor summit last week and met all of their partners that they have been involved with for many, many years, which was another clear sign that they are good people.”

On Dreyer and Reinbold running the Lotus twin-turbo power-plant prepared by John Judd in the back of the new DW12 chassis … Servia is really anxious to give it a spin.

“I started on the front row for the Indianapolis 500 and I want to improve on that. I’m at the best point in my career and it was very important to partner with the right team. When I visited the DRR facility in Indianapolis, I couldn’t have been more impressed.”

“We are starting with a new engine and chassis, and I have confidence in Lotus and our ability to develop a quality product in 2012. When you have everyone [four teams, and factory support from Lotus works] pulling in the same direction like we are now is when we can accomplish our goals.”
(ht: The Checkered Flag)

At this time it is not known who will be Oriol’s DDR team-mate but the rest of the Lotus Legion is filling in quickly and holds some pretty substantial and recognizable names from the former ChampCar World Series (CCWS) and CCWS open wheel ladder step, Formula Atlantic Series.

Joining Oriol Servia – Spain – (8 years CCWS finishing season P2 in 2005) in fielding a Lotus-powered DW12 in its inaugural season are the recently announced Dragon Racing stable of Sebastien Bourdais – France – (4-time CCWS Season Champion for Newman/Haas) and Katherine Legge – England – (Toyota Atlantic won three races in 2005, becoming the first woman to win a major open-wheel race in North America – First woman to drive and lead a lap in CCWS 2006), Bryan Herta Autosport’s Alex Tagliani – Canada – (CCWS standard-bearer in Atlantic and ChampCar for 12 years – 107 consecutive CCWS starts – finishing with CCWS co-owner Paul Gentilozzi’s Rocketsports Racing team) … still waiting for a team-mate, and HVM Racing’s Simona de Silvestro – Switzerland – (CCWS Formula Atlantic race winner – Long Beach 2008, 2009 season P3) who is also waiting for a team-mate … currently, the Lotus Legion for 2012!

… notes from The EDJE

- Article first seen as Oriol Servia Captures DRR Seat, Becomes One Of The Lotus Legion at Technorati -

Post Dan Wheldon Tragedy Reaction Review To Safety On Banked Ovals

A memorial to Dan Wheldon is displayed at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, where the British-born driver was killed in an accident on Sunday [click image to launch video of three-abreast lap salute to Dan Wheldon in his passing at LVMS]. Image Credit: Robert Laberge/Getty Images via guardian.co.uk

Post Dan Wheldon Tragedy Reaction Review To Safety On Banked Ovals

The safety debate centers on the fact that IndyCar Dallara vehicles, which all have the same bodies and engines, can not avoid pack racing at very high speeds on a circuit as small and banked as the Las Vegas track, and this sets up a condition that is dangerous with open-cockpit, Indy-style cars. The wide track bed combined with steep banking and the mushroom shaped vortex wash that comes out from behind the cars, set up a very unstable mix.

Driving the Go Daddy No. 7, Andretti Autosport Dallara, Danica Patrick posted the fastest practice time with a staggering 224.719 mph on Oct. 13. After learning her time, Patrick’s reaction proved prophetic.

“It’s friggin’ fast here,” said Patrick. “Almost a 225 lap is like Indy speeds. The track is nice and smooth and we’ll be three-wide out there, which will be exciting. The race is going to be crazy and the crashes will be spectacular.”

Danica, who will be driving in NASCAR next year, was not the only driver talking up the danger of the course in the days before the race.

“It’s so fast and you’re so close to each other, it’s exciting,” veteran driver, and IMS Radio commentator, Hewlett-Packard sponsored Davey Hamilton told the Las Vegas Review-Journal, also noting that he expected four wide racing. “There’s really no room for error.”

Driver comments after the Wheldon tragedy where 15 cars were collected in a fiery mess confirmed the fear of this unstable mix.

“We all know this is part of the sport,” driver Oriol Servia said of the danger. “We all had a bad feeling about this place in particular just because of the high banking and how easy it was to go flat” out on the throttle.

“Within five laps people started to do crazy stuff,” Dario Franchitti said immediately after the accident. “I wanted no part of it. I love hard racing, but that to me is not what it’s about. I said before, this is not a suitable track. You can’t get away from anybody. One small mistake and you have a massive wreck.”

“Now we need to rethink the way we’re doing things,” said Tony Kanaan, who started on the pole.

The Dallara IR-05 was built specifically to be driven in excess of 230 mph and protect its driver in the event of an accident at those speeds. Its carbon fiber chassis was designed to break apart during a collision and absorb the forces of a series of massive impacts while keeping the cockpit surrounding the driver intact.

Since its introduction in 2005, only one driver, Paul Dana, had died behind the wheel of the Dallara before Sunday. In a freak accident during practice for the 2006 season opener in Homestead, Fla., Dana lost control of his car and hit a damaged vehicle that had come to a stop on the track in front of him head-on, at an estimated speed of 176 mph. In a bit of irony, Dan Wheldon went on to win that race. Since then, the cars had been used in 100 races and covered more than 500,000 miles in competition without any loss of life, and few major injuries.

But one thing the vehicles can’t do is prevent an accident like the 15-car pileup that took the 33-year-old Wheldon’s life.

Driver James Jakes, whose car was damaged in the incident, added that “unfortunately, it’s something I think a lot of us thought might happen. We practiced with no more than five or six cars in a group and now we’ve got 34 … there was going to be some trouble.”

During the 15 car collection in turn #2, Wheldon’s car got airborne and came into contact with the catch fence above the wall. The metal mesh fence is designed to keep vehicles and debris from leaving the confines of the track, but can cause additional damage in the process.

“It is one of those things that when you are racing you are always aware that there are risks,” Dan Weldon teammate, Alex Tagliani said. “But you never think it is going to come to that.”

“I am very sad and angry,” expressed Alex. What angered the 38-year-old was that no one listened to the drivers’ fears over the conditions before the race. Tagliani felt that, like NASCAR, when it revolutionized driver safety after the death of Dale Earnhardt in 2001 at Daytona International Speedway, IndyCar must look at doing the same in its series.

“If we are going to come back to these (1 1/2-mile banked ovals) we are going to have to change the aero packages to slow the cars down,” continued Alex. “It is just not right that some one has to die to make those changes.”

One thing that Tagliani proposes is that drivers, team owners, track owners and IndyCar bosses get together in the off season to talk about what can be done to make racing both better and safer.

“There is definitely things that need to be discussed and things to look at,” Tagliani concluded. “We for sure have to talk to the series bosses. Right now my mind is so confused. We have to talk about racing these types of cars on these types of race tracks. I don’t think tracks like the mile and a half at Las Vegas is the right thing for us.”

On Friday, IndyCar President and CEO Randy Bernard announced that the series plans to return to Las Vegas for its finale in 2012, and the organization has not yet said if it is reconsidering that decision.

In an interview with Fox Sports in the wake of the crash, former CART/ChampCar driver and current NASCAR star A.J. Allmendinger said, “obviously, with the new car coming in, it needs to be safer, but there are tracks that they don’t need to race at.”

A template situation that IndyCar could have learned from as it relates to high-banked mile and a half ovals happened in 2001. CART/ChampCar, one of the two open-wheel racing series that later combined to form IndyCar, was forced to cancel a race at the Texas Motor Speedwayafter drivers complained in practice about getting dizzy and blacking out from the g-forces created by the high speeds that their cars were capable of on the steeply-banked 1.5-mile oval. In this case the rules were changed to slow the cars down through downforce and engine set-ups at subsequent events held at the track.
(ht: various news services – FoxNews/Huffington Post/Toronto Sun – for quotes and background on the Dallara IR-05)

The two biggest words that stand out the most, if one were to read between the lines, in all of these post Dan Wheldon tragedy driver reactions to safety on banked ovals – Race Control.

Upon reflection … Race Control has been the overriding story (race call miscues effecting championship points standings, recommended car set ups, and venue management) for the 2011 IZOD IndyCar Series World Championship season and the last season of the Dallara IR-05.

… notes from The EDJE

 

[Article was first published as Post Dan Wheldon Tragedy Reaction Review To Safety On Banked Ovals at Technorati]

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