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Indy Car Series: The IRL Dominos keep on tumbling

Tony CastaneiraAnalyst IFebruary 4, 2009

Earlier today I posted an article entitled: IRL, Indy Car Series: A Case of the Domino Theory

In it, I list a series of four separate announcements that were released within a span of 72 hours.  Each of these announcements taken individually would have been just some bad news but happening one after the other in quick succession reminded me of Dominos tumbling.  Like dominos tumbling I theorized that this could be the start of a series of more bad news for the IRL’s Indy Racing League.

I hate to say it but it seems like I am right as three more dominos tumbled in Indy land.

Today’s first domino was the report from Speed’s Robin Miller that the winningest team of the past 20 years in open wheel will be signing two ride buyers.  One of the drivers Newman/Haas/Lanigan will be the talented Dutchman Robert Doornbos. That isn’t that bad as the economic situation of today makes sponsorship dollars hard to come buy and Doornbos is a proven race winner.

The Shocker is the other driver named.  Danica Patrick’s arch nemesis, Milka Duno.

Don’t get me wrong.  I really like Milka.  I have spent time with her on more than one occasion and have found here warm and witty and very intelligent but nobody can claim she is the caliber of driver deserving a seat in one of North American racing’s most respected teams.

The next domino came from the IRL itself in an attempt to generate some positive press to counter all of the bad press.  I opened up my e-mail today and was greeted by a new Indy Racing League press release which contained this gem.  “Indy Racing League officials confirmed today that five engine manufacturers: Honda Performance Development, Audi, Fiat Powertrain Technologies, Porsche and Volkswagen, continue to participate in the IndyCar Series Automotive Manufacturers Roundtables.”

At first glance you would think that having five manufacturers showing interest in the Indy Car Series would be great news.  Scratch the surface and this good news turns into spin.  Audi is owned by Volkswagen.  Volkswagen is owned by Porsche.  Suddenly the Five Manufacturers turn into three.  Honda is signed on till 2011 so they kind of have to be there.  That leaves just two outsiders showing interest.  Fiat is talking with the IRL.  Fiat is also Talking to ALMS, Grand-Am and believe it or not, USAC!  Don’t be surprised to find that the men from Turin are just trying to learn as much about the American market as they can at the expense of more than one series.

This brings us back to Audi, VW and Porsche.  Back in early November I was told by a very reliable source at VW that the Indy deal was all but signed and that the announcement would be in a couple of weeks.  Weeks past then the Porsche stealth take-over happened during the Holiday season since then nothing.  It is understandable with new management that things get pushed back and re-examined but it is safe to assume that they are hearing all of the other dominos clattering on the ground back at Ingolstadt, Wolfsburg and Stuttgart.

The same press release contained third tumbled domino.  Last year I sat in the back of the old media center at the Homestead-Miami Speedway during the re-unification press conference and listened as they outlined their grand future for open wheel racing in the U.S...  One of their plans was to announce the new engine formula at the Indy 500.  Well the Indy 500 came and went with the IRL saying they will have an announcement by the final race of the 2008 season.  That race came and went and not a word. 

Today’s Indy Car press release contained this ditty by Brian Barnhart: "As much as we'd like 2011, if I had to say while I mentioned we're waiting on a manufacturer in the next 60 days, and that is perhaps for 2011, my gut tells me in this economic environment and situation, we're probably looking more toward 2012 now. I wouldn't rule out 2011. But it most certainly and likely could be pushed back to 2012."

Indy Car desperately needs a new chassis and engine package.  The grotesque Dallara chassis is universally disliked and is reaching close to 10 years of age from its first inception.  Ten years is ancient technology in racing years. 

The Honda motor is in the same boat technologically and its sound at full song has been known to make even the most intense gear-head reach for their ear-plugs.

The Domino theory is based on the idea that once the dominos start tumbling it becomes harder to stop as more fall over.  The Dominos are starting to fall fast for the IRL.  If something isn’t done to stem it’s flow it will soon become nearly impossible to stop.