Ganassi Sues Palou

Photo by Chris Jones, Indycar

Chip Ganassi racing has filed a lawsuit in Marion County, Indiana, against Alex Palou, a driver for the team and current NTT Indycar Series champion. The complaint was sealed, but the suit likely involves Palou allegedly signing with McLaren for next season even though Ganassi exercised their 2023 option on Palou.

A team spokesperson said that Palou will drive the 10 car in this weekend’s Gallagher Grand Prix at IMS and is expected to drive the remaining 2022 races.

The filing

Ganassi has requested expedited discovery, within two weeks. as he wants to resolve this case as soon as possible.

I think this case will drag on awhile. McLaren said today they will not buy out Palou’s Ganassi contract, so a settlement doesn’t appear likely.

The implications for Palou’s Indycar career are troubling. Should he not work out at McLaren, I don’t think another Indycar team will touch him. McLaren has not even said that Palou will drive one of their cars in the series next season. AMSP driver Felix Rosenqvist said last weekend that he doesn’t think Palou will be driving at all next year.

It would be a shame if Indycar loses one of its brightest future stars, who already has a championship, because a team is trying to hoard all the top talent in the series.

I thought having a legendary brand like McLaren in the series was going to be great for the series. I really don’t like what they are doing. Their signing tactics are not good for the series as a whole.

I wrote about this subject just a few days ago:

Draining the Talent Pool

Draining the Talent Pool

Tuesday’s Alex Palou tug-of war between Chip Ganassi Racing and McLaren has some serious implications for the NTT Indycar Series. Zak Brown has a lot of money to throw around, and McLaren has a lot of cars in several series. The organization is in Indycar, F1, Formula E as of next season, and Extreme E.

Five drivers in the Indycar paddock- Colton Herta, Alexander Rossi, Pato O’Ward, Felix Rosenqvist, and let’s assume Palou- have contracts of some sort with Mclaren. All are in the top 11 in the standings. Only O’Ward, Herta, and Rossi are guaranteed to be in Indycar in 2023. Herta will likely still be with Andretti Autosport. He recently completed his first F1 test with McLaren with more to come. Rosenqvist and Palou are aligned with McLaren, not necessarily the Indycar team. Arrow McLaren SP has plans for a third full time car in Indycar next season but has not named a driver.

Rosenqvist appears headed to Formula E, but we don’t know where Palou will be should McLaren prevail.

My concern is that McLaren is taking several of Indycar’s best drivers and stockpiling a driver pool to assign to their various racing ventures. Will they stop when all their seats are filled, or are they looking for some reserves as well?

The good news is that Indycar talent runs deep, and McLaren can’t get everyone, but what effect will this have on the series? Team owners may have to start offering better salaries to keep the top drivers, and perhaps offer them rides in other series they wish to try. Will the higher price for drivers cause smaller teams to fold?

I have become a big fan of Alex Palou, and I would hate to see him leave the series after just three years. he has the potential to be a huge star and win several Indycar titles and the Indianapolis 500. I would hate to see Indycar become a series where drivers win and one year and leave the next.

Limited 500 Seating? Other News of the Week

An answer to a question by Robin Miller in Racer magazine mailbag may offer a hint as to what to expect attendance wisewhenever the Indianapolis 500 is run. I’m still not optimistic about August. The answer:

From IMS President Doug Boles: “We are not installing the southern third of the Pit Road Terrace seats this year. The Pit Road Terrace seats are the temporary bleachers that we install behind the pit road fence on the south side of the Pagoda. It would not impact a decision to bring back the apron or not. A couple of reasons for the change: (1) With IndyCar using the Gasoline Alley garages on July 4 weekend, it helps us with our install time by not putting up as many seats between the race and Aug 12, and (2) in a typical year, we only sell about 50% of these seats, so a third reduction in more appropriate related to demand. And, not the reason why, Skip is correct that it would be a benefit in a COVID year in the sense that it is less people in the area. Ticketing customers in the impacted seats are being relocated inside the remaining Pit Road Terrace seats or given an option for another seat without having to pay the seat price difference.”

Along with fewer seats there will likely be no fans in the infield. Another blurb I read last week said that 175,00 tickets have been sold. Will IMS cap the sales now? I would expect a decision about August needs to come by mid July. The COVID-19 numbers in Indiana continue to decline, but several other states are experiencing large spikes in cases and deaths. Stay tuned. Wash your hands.

From earlier: Schedule Set for GMR Grand Prix

https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/90591962/posts/2775920421

Barber Renewal or Extension?

Earlier this week an announcement from the Birmingham News Journal said that the NTT Indycar Series and Barber Motorsports Park signed an extension of their agreement through 2023. Today, a Barber spokesperson said the contract runs through 2022.  Barber is a staple on the Indycar calendar. The track is a great setting for a race. It is one of my favorite tracks to go to.

Illinois Opens Tracks With Limited Attendance

The state of Illinois has allowed race tracks to open with fan attendance limited to 20%. I’m not sure of the specifics of Illinois’ phased openings, so I don’t know what this means for Gateway yet. Gateway is another track that may have to make an attendance decision. The best attended non Indianapolis oval could open the first turn grandstand to allow the fans to spread out more.

McLaren Financial Troubles

reports this week say McLaren is facing some financial issues. The company is seeking a loan and legal action to raise 280 million pounds. A buyout and lease back arrangement is a possibility. We will have to wait and see what effect this has on their Indycar program.

A Positive Ending

Former Indy lights driver Aaron Telitz has signed on full time with AIM Vasser Sullivan’s IMSA GTD program. Telitz replaces Chase Parker, who was let go by the team last week. Telitz is a good driver. He is with a team with an Indycar connection, which I hope will earn him a chance at an Indycar ride someday.

Kody Swanson, USAC midget and Silver Crown driver, tested an Indy Pro 2000 car this week. Swanson is another driver who is long overdue for a shot at Indycar. It would be great if he could get some Road to Indy races in this year.

We are just nine days away from the next Indycar race!

 

 

Thoughts on McLaren

Silly Season was straightforward this year. Alexander Rossi stays with Andretti. Done. Wrap it up. Look to next year. Today, with McLaren’s announcement that they are joining Arrow Schmidt Peterson for 2020, the dam has burst. There are ripples throughout the paddock. Here are some of my thoughts about this development.

McLaren has a lot to prove after their debacle in May. Will partnering with Schmidt Peterson help them?

I’m disappointed that McLaren does not add to the car count. I’ve said before they are looking to come in the easy way, becoming part of an existing team instead of building their own team with  a technical alliance with an established team.

It’s a shame the way Honda’s hand was forced to make this deal happen. I can’t think of a Chevy team that would be a good match for McLaren. I’m not sure they even considered one.

My first concern was for James Hincliffe and Robert Wickens.  In Marshall Pruett’s story, he said that the commitment to Wickens will be honored. Later this morning, Hinchcliffe issued the following statement:

hinch statement

I hope he also  has a contract extension. Hinchcliffe’s current contract expires after the 2020 season. He also is losing his Honda commercial deal. I hope that he receives compensation for that.

Marcus Ericsson was likely going somewhere else anyway. he may be in a carlin car next year. Which brings up the question- who will drive the second car for the new team? Fernando Alonso said he is not interested in a full time Indycar ride.

Colton Herta may be available, but I think he will become the fifth driver at Andretti Autosport.  If he is, is Conor Daly once again out of a potential full time ride? It’s those paddock ripples splashing up.

With whom  does Meyer Shank now partner with as they prepare for a full schedule in 2020? The team is committed to Honda. An alliance with Andretti or Coyne seems most probable. I don’t think Ganassi is interested in being anyone’s partner.

The new team name is Arrow McLaren Racing SP. It bothers that mcLaren comes before Schmidt and Peterson and that the two founders names are reduced to initials. Since mcLaren is buying the team or acquiring the shares of either owner, I guess it’s a name recognition thing.

The biggest positive in today’s events is that Indycar now has a worldwide name in its paddock. it should help with recognition in Europe and may cause a bit of a bump in the United States.

I will keep updating as i learn more.  Everything I just wrote could be incorrect by now.

 

Daly Returns to Andretti for Finale; Some Other Tidbits

Photo from @FollowAndretti Twitter feed

The jaws are back. Andretti Autosport announced today that Conor Daly will drive the number 25 USAF car, the same one he drove in this year’s Indianapolis 500, in the NTT Indycar Series finale at Weather Tech Raceway.  In the 500 Daly started 11th and finished 10th. he ran as high as fifth during the race.

This season Daly has also driven twice for Carlin Racing- at Texas, finishing 11th after a 19th place start, and  at Iowa, where ended 13th from 16th on the grid.

I am glad Daly will drive for Andretti again this season. I was hoping he would be back in this car before Laguna Seca. Part of the reason I think the team is entering him in the finale is to serve as a point blocker to help Alexander Rossi get the championship. It would depend on where Daly qualifies, but it could help.

McLaren Closer to Indycar?

This Tweet from Adam Stern indicates some progress by McLaren toward the 2020 Indycar season. The engine issue and James Hinchcliffe’s contratc still seem like huge stumbling blocks. There is word McLaren is also after Colton Herta. I think there is still a lot of work to be done before we see orange cars  on the grid full time.

Third Car for Rahal?

In an interview with RACER magazine Bobby Rahal said this week that  a third car for Rahal letterman Lanigan Racing is closer than they’ve been before. The third RLL car has been a perennial Silly Season story.  I hope it finally appears at St. Pete next March.

More Indy Lights Drivers Test Indycar

Oliver Askew tested with Chip Ganassi Racing at Portland International Raceway yesterday. The CGR team was impressed with his performance. Rinus VeeKay also tested for Ed Carpenter Racing the same day at Portland.

Andretti Autorsport Indy Lights driver Ryan Norman also tested for Andretti at Mid Ohio last week.

I don’t get too excited about Indy lights drivers testing with Indycar teams.  It’s great that they get the experience, but the tests have zero implications for future Indycar rides.

I’m thinking the hybrid engine may not be the last bombshell announcement of this Silly Season.  We need a race soon. Very soon.

McLaren/Alonso Split- Thoughts

Motorsport Magazine reports this morning that McLaren and Fernando Alonso have parted company. The separation is believed to be amicable.

“We have no plans to run him in any further F1 test sessions this year…He is free to pursue other opportunities in motorsport and we support him doing so,” a McLaren spokesman said.

Alonso has had an off and on relationship with McLaren since his first season with them in 2007, when he complained of the team giving preferential treatment to Lewis Hamilton. When he returned to McLaren for the  2015 season, Alonso complained loudly and often about the uncompetitive Honda engine.

This past May at Indianapolis Alonso and McLaren failed to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 after a series of missteps by the team.

Where does Alonso go from here? If he wants to pursue the triple crown Alonso will need to find an existing team. Will it need to be Chevy team? I’m not sure. it seemed Honda was less happy with McLaren than Alonso.  He will also need to bring a lot of money.

I believe his commitment to Toyota in WEC ends after this season as well.  Alonso has talked of racing in virtually every major series in the world, so I wouldn’t be surprised to see him doing a bunch of one-offs. We might see him in the Daytona 500 next year as well as the Indianapolis 500.  Perhaps a couple more races with Wayne Taylor Racing are in the cards.

I would like to see  Alonso try a couple of Indycar road races, especially road America and Laguna Seca. While McLaren may eventually come to the NTT Indycar sreries full time, I see Alonso just running selected races.

We know wherever he races there will be crowds of fans and press following him.

McLaren Reveals Car for 500; Some News; Barber Photos

McLaren revealed the car Fernando Alonso will drive in the 103rd running of the Indianapolis 500 next month.  The mainly  papaya orange machine, the traditional McLaren color, has blue accents. While similar to Scott Dixon’s car, I think they are different enough to tell apart. The McLaren has less blue in the middle and is a different shade of orange from the Ganassi PNC Bank entry.

The sidepod sponsor is an e-cigarette company and includes a health warning. Don’t look for tobacco companies to come rushing back to motorsports just because they can add a health warning.  This si the second e cigarette company to be on a car. Blu sponsored Sebastien Bourdais a few years ago.

It’s a great looking car and it always adds to the race to have a former F1 champion in the field.

HSR Adds King Taco for Long Beach

Harding Steinbrenner Racing will carry King Taco sponsorship on Colton Herta’s car at Long Beach this weekend.  King Taco usually sponsors a car in their local race.  GESS, the primary sponsor of the 88 at Barber, is an associate sponsor this coming weekend.

It will be interesting to see if GESS commits further with the program in May.

Rich Energy Sponsors Jordan King

Jordan King, who will drive in the Indianapolis 500 as a third entry for Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, yesterday announced Rich Energy is now a personal sponsor. This might help King, who drove the Ed Carpenter Racing number 20 on the road/street courses last year, get more races. Not sure if Rahal wants to do a third car for more than Indianapolis with the momentum the team has built the last two races.

Frye- Third OEM May Become Necessity

In a media availability at Barber Motorsports Park this past weekend, Indycar President Jay Frye said as more teams enter the field, a third engine manufacturer may “become a necessity rather than a luxury.”

It sounds as if he expects some more teams may be planning to enter the series. I agree. Honda and Chevy are getting stretched a bit already, especially in May.

Frye did not give any hints that a third OEM is imminent though rumors persist that a certain German company may have its name mentioned next month.

Last Look at Barber in Photos

Here are some final photos from Barber. The first two are from my friend Kyle McInnes, a photographer aspiring to become an Indycar photographer. Check out his work at kylemcinnesphoto.com.

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Top: Matheus Leist after spinning in practice.

Bottom: Spencer Pigot brings out another red flag Friday’

Photos by Kyle McInnes

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Scott Dixon makes his final pit stop.

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Sato’s crew celebrates after the checkered flag.

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Takuma Sato addresses the media after his convincing victory.

The last three photos are mine.

Back Thursday with a Long Beach preview.

The Pit Window Plays Santa

The big day approaches rapidly, and The Pit Window has gifts for Indycar. Before I pass them out, I want to thank everyone who has read the column this year. There has been a 300% increase in readership in 2018. I am humbled and appreciative. I hope everyone has a great holiday season no matter what or how you celebrate. On to the gifts.

For Indycar- An improved aero package for ovals. The street and road package is great. I hope you can find the answer to improve the oval racing. It seemed to improve as the year went on.

For IMS-

A tweak to the Indy 500 qualifying format to accomodate the larger entry list.

An IMSA race for 2020.

For A. J. Foyt Racing- Some top five finishes in 2019.

For Juncos Racing- A car on the grid for several races, including the 500.

For Zach Veach- Your first Indycar victory.

For Scott Dixon- Your first back to back championship.

For Will Power- Another Indy 500 win. The celebration was worth it.

For Robert Wickens- Continued progress toward full recovery. Watching you battle has been inspiring. You were a joy to watch on track, and you have shown that same spirit in therapy..

For McLaren- A successful Indy debut that leads to fuller participation in the series.

For NBC- Great coverage of all races and an outstanding Indy 500 broadcast.

For All Teams and Drivers- A safe, competitive 2019 season.

I will return mid week next week with a news roundup and a look at what you’ll see here in 2019.

Happy Holidays to all.

Catching Up with Indycar

Seems as if a lot has happened in Indycar since last Wednesday. I had a great time at the PRI Show. If you ever get a chance to attend, please do so. It is an amazing display of all things racing. Having the show in December helps the off-season blues.  Anyway, here are some news tidbits and some thoughts on each one.

Harding Steinbrenner Racing to Use Honda Engines

The hissing sound you heard was the sigh of relief from the Indycar paddock, who had grave concerns about Andretti Autosport giving technical aid to a potential Chevy team. I have voiced concerns about this since the possibility first arose.  Honda now has 14 full time entries for 2019.

In a related announcement, McLaren announced they will have Chevy power at the Indianapolis 500. Any technical partnership will be with a Chevy team. McLaren partnered with Andretti in 2017.

E85 fuel to Power Indycars Through 2020

Although Indycar will have Speedway as the official fuel supplier for 2019, E85 will remain the fuel for the next two years. There had been some talk of returning to methanol whent he new car came on in 2021 to add more horsepower. That is still possible, but keeping the same fuel formula makes sense since the engines are essentially the same.

It appears that this will be a seamless transition from Sunoco to Speedway.

BC39 Returns to IMS

The BC39 midget event will be back at IMS September 4-5 as a prelude to the Brickyard 400 weekend. this year’s event was a rousing success with great racing and sellout crowds. The race is the perfect opportunity for people like me who keep saying, “I should go to a dirt track this weekend” and never get around to it.

It was one the best events I attended in 2018.  MY review of it can be read here:

https://wordpress.com/post/thepitwindow.blog/8551

Foyt to be Inducted into Houston Sports Hall of Fame

A. J. Foyt will be inducted into Houston’s Sports Hall of Fame 2019 class. Foyt is a Houston native who operates part of his racing team in Houston. This is a great honor for him. My question- What took so long? The induction comes on the 60th anniversary of Foyt’s first Indianapolis 500. While he didn’t finish that race, he did pretty well in subsequent races.

Reader Billy the Skink added an explanation about the Houston Sports Hall of Fame:

To be fair to the Houston Sports Hall of Fame, they didn’t take all that long to induct Foyt. This is only the hall’s second year of existence (the project was proposed many years ago and languished in development hell for a lonnnnnnnnnnng time). They rightly recognized that Foyt was one of the first nationally prominent sports figures to hail from or be associated with Houston. The only reason he was not an inaugural class member is likely because the hall’s organizers liked the synergy and splash made with a 3-person class of Hakeem Olajuwon, Nolan Ryan, and Earl Campbell, all patron saints of sorts of Houston’s 3 major pro team sports and all wearers of the number 34.
Foyt has long been a member of the more established Texas Sports Hall of Fame, along with other racing Texans Johnny Rutherford, Carroll Shelby, Jim Hall, and the Labonte Brothers. Still need to get Lloyd Ruby, Jim McElreath, Kenny Bernstein, Eddie Hill, and Ted Johnson in there.
So it didn’t really take that long for A. J. to get in the hall. I apologize tio the Houston Sports Hall of Fame.

Indycar’s IMSA Invasion Continues

The Weather Tech Sportscar Series is quickly becoming Indycar’s second home. Roger Penske debuted an Acura DPi team last year. Chip Ganassi has been in the series for a long time. Bobby Rahal also has a two car team. Michael Shank was in IMSA before he entered Indycar. For 2019 Ricardo Juncos will have a DPi team as well.  Many drivers participate in the Rolex 24 and Sebring 12 hour events.

Graham Rahal drove for Penske last year. In 2019 Alexander Rossi will join Helio Castroneves and Ricky Taylor in one of the Penske entries. Simon Pagenaud will co drive the other car with regulars Juan Pablo Montoya and Dane Cameron.

Rahal said the reason for the switch is that he cannot fit comfortably in the car. Ryan Hunter-Reay backed him up on that point. Hunter-Reay has driven the Wayne Taylor Racing prototype.  Rossi is one of the taller drivers in the series as well. I’m not sure that this move changes much. Rossi is a bit slimmer than Rahal, but I think the height is the issue.

In related news, Alex Zanardi was confirmed for the Rolex 24 as a co driver of one of Rahal Letterman Lanigan’s cars. The car will have special hand controls to accommodate Zanardi. It will be gbreta to see him in major racing again.

TV Summit

This weekend NBC met with nine racing series that are on their networks to work out plans to better coordinate schedules. Some things discussed were joiny events and a Racing Week in America, seven nights of racing on television. Yes, please! I will have more about the summit later this month.

Coming Attractions

After my move this week to The Pit Window’s move to winter headquarters, look for a post on another 500 mile race program and another in which  I play Santa for the Indycar community.  My last 2018 post will be around the 28th.