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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 –