The IndyCar season starts March 25 but because of new chassis' and engines, testing is ongoing and critical. Some new teams haven't officially formed an entry yet and two big names are involved: Paul Tracy and Rubens Barrichello. It might be either or.
It looked good for Tracy just about ten days ago when he announced the outline of a deal between himself and Michael Shank's MSR Indy team (see related articles). The only potential hold up seemed to be which engines the team would run. Shank had been an early adopter of Lotus but Tracy had sponsorship from Honda of Canada. However, there now appears to be other issues.
The biggest issue is money - yes, when isn't it about money. Possible funding was going to come from what IndyCar calls the "Leaders Circle" or "TEAM" (Team Enhancement and Allocation Matrix). The top 22 teams are given a payout from the series but since Newman-Haas ceased functioning at the end of this past season (see related articles), those monies were or are to be reallocated. But who gets the funds?
The dollars were said to be roughly in the $1.3 million range which for a new team is considerable. Teams offered their reasons to the league for why they deserved the extra investment. IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard has said in the past that a team needed to prove they warranted being given the extra outlay. Did they offer added public relations to the series? Can they present more marketing advantages that would give a boost to IndyCar? Is there an additional WOW factor? Does the team have a driver that adds clout to American open wheel racing?
Rubens Vs Paul
And that brings us back to who's the best choice: Barrichello or Tracy. KV Racing has offered a ride to Barrichello who is currently pondering a decision (see related articles). One part of his process involves bringing in funding. As a Formula One driver with a long history and huge following, Barrichello would certainly offer a WOW factor with clout that would furnish the series extra marketing PR.
Tracy wants this to be his farewell tour season. He certainly makes people pay attention whether they like him or hate him. His Canadian ties are unquestionably a powerful draw and a Paul Tracy send-off tour offers a lot of extra PR and buzz.
So who gets the dollars and who goes wanting? Who adds value to the sport? It seems these two teams are in the front of the pack for the money but there is a difference. Shank may not run if they don't get the dollars, while KV Racing sounds like they'll get another driver if it isn't Barrichello. So does that influence the decision IndyCar has to make?
That's one of many questions but we're left with a possible choice between the two. Which driver/team will Bernard choose and who would you add?
Sources - IndyCar, Yahoo! Sports
Daryle has been involved in motorsports most of his life and has three decades of experience inside racemarketing, plus blogged about every type of racing for several years.