Bruce Martin
Monday August 30th, 2010

NAPERVILLE, Illinois -- There are many traditions in IndyCar racing. One includes the fact that team owners are often at odds with the series sanctioning body over such things as rules, cars, tracks, schedules and other issues. It has led to divisive splits, including 1978 when CART was formed and broke away from USAC and in 1996 when the Indy Racing League went into competition and practically every team in CART held its ground and refused to participate in the Indianapolis 500 until Chip Ganassi was the first "big team" to return in 2000.

When Champ Car ceased operation in 2008 and its teams joined the IndyCar Series, there was a brief time of harmony and single-minded purpose. But there has been dissatisfaction from a group of team owners regarding the new Dallara IndyCar that is scheduled to be the new car in 2012.

Team owners that have cried out to replace the current Dallara that has been used in the series since 2003 are now saying they don't want to buy the new car; that the financial burden of new equipment is not a wise move in a bad economy. Others may simply be upset that the car they supported -- including the radical DeltaWing -- was not chosen.

Team owners have held meetings independent of the Indy Racing League officials to voice those concerns so IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard was able to hold an owners meeting on Saturday to unify the troops.

"We just wanted to make sure that we let you know that the league and the team owners are 100 percent behind one another," Bernard said. "We're 100 percent behind building this brand and building IndyCar. And we felt it was very important that we come here today, and after some of the talk this week, visit with you about that.

"We believe that we need to be one, and whenever we hear of things start to break out there, we need to come together as one and work to build things. And that's exactly what took place today, and that's the way it should happen. We're never always going to be agreeable on everything. That's going to be but what we can do is come together and create the best solution to make everybody working together and happy and taking the league in the correct direction."

Team owner Dennis Reinbold of Dreyer & Reinbold Racing appeared with Bernard to show solidarity from the owners' side.

"Our main concern is we wanted to dispel any rumors or talk out there that we are not working in lockstep together because that's not factual," Reinbold said. "We are working very closely together. We met with Randy as well as Tony Cotman today to discuss a variety of issues and a manner in which we can go forward. So I'm only here not as myself but just representing the team owners that were there together in this meeting. And we are very much in lockstep, as I said, and we're going to work very closely with Tony Cotman on the future development of the future chassis for 2012, and I guess that's our main announcement."

Two weeks ago, Bernard installed Cotman as the man to be in charge of the new car program including costs, development and implementation.

"Tony has got a lot of good expertise in chassis building, and we want to make this the right thing," Reinbold said. "There's a lot of concern from the owners that we've got a shot here to really build our series and keep the momentum going, so we wanted to get our heads together and then combine that with Randy and Tony to try to help any way we can to make it from the standpoint of economically feasible and from the standpoint of making it the best chassis that we can for the fans.

"Concerns are costs and cost effectiveness and replacement parts and things like that, just typical concerns you would have over any new chassis, and we don't have a lot of those answers yet, but Randy and Tony have agreed to work with us and we'll work with Dallara, who's an excellent provider, to really work through some of those things to make it the best that we can on all aspects. It has to work for everyone."

The team owners believe a big concern is how much the changeover from the old car to the new car will cost. Many team owners want to have parts that work on the current car to be used on the new car to help reduce the financial burden. Other owners are concerned that the rules for the new car have yet to be issued -- that they don't have anything in writing to let them know what is involved with the 2012 Dallara.

"Well, the first and foremost objective is Tony is right in the rules," Bernard said of Cotman. "He has 100 percent authority from me to hire anyone that he needs at any time he needs. I've given him 100 percent. I believe that after today's meeting he has made it very clear with everyone that he wants their input, and I would like to think that Tony doesn't represent just the league; he represents the league and the team owners. That's very important, because this has to be a win-win for everybody, and if it's a win-win for us, it'll be a win-win for the fans."

Reinbold said the team owners have scheduled another meeting with Cotman next week to exchange additional information.

"I think we all left that room very satisfied with the direction that the new chassis is going to take," Reinbold said. "With our involvement I think that's -- you'd have to say we're very satisfied."

Team Penske president Tim Cindric said the owners simply want to understand what the approach is going to be for the new car and to get the input from the owners.

"The one thing that I think is very encouraging is the solidarity of that group and the group being behind Randy Bernard and the overall program," Cindric said. "There is no dissension between that group and Randy that I can sense. We just want to make decisions that we have thought through and we can maybe do this car in phases because of cash flow -- what we can buy new and what we can phase in. It is a work in process. We are still 18 months away from actually racing that car, so some of the rules can wait. The bigger things that need to be decided are from an economic standpoint than a competitive standpoint."

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing team manager Larry Curry was disappointed that no rules were in place when the series gave an update at Mid-Ohio on Aug. 7 but believes the right man is in charge of the new car process.

"I think that is an absolute positive to have Tony Cotman in charge of this process," Curry said.

IndyCar Series president of competition Brian Barnhart emphasized that the new car will definitely be on track in 2012 and not delayed until 2013.

"They have some concerns and rightfully so because there are some unknowns and some answers they are looking for," Barnhart said. "It's a matter of us finalizing details and working with the owners. We live in a world of instant gratification and I think this is an example of that."


Here is the dilemma the IZOD IndyCar Series finds itself in every year regarding its upcoming schedule:

Its best races are by far on the ovals, but that is where it draws its smallest crowds except for the massive throng that attends the Indianapolis 500 every year. Its biggest crowds come at the street and road course venues but unfortunately, those races are "Follow the Leader" high-speed parades.

And of the ovals that IndyCar competes at, many of them are owned by the International Speedway Corporation (ISC) which is owned and controlled by the same people that do the same for NASCAR. ISC has shown little interest in properly promoting and advertising the IndyCar Series while putting virtually all of its effort concentrating on its NASCAR dates. Because of that, Bernard has drawn up a preliminary schedule that does not include any races at ISC tracks in 2011.

If that happens, it would be a tremendous shame to lose Chicagoland Speedway where some of the best races in series history have been staged. But from taking a look at the woefully small crowd that attended Saturday night's PEAK Antifreeze and Motor Oil Indy 300, Bernard can't be blamed for pulling out of this track.

John Saunders, the president of ISC, realizes that Bernard wants to form an oval-track alliance with rival Bruton Smith of Speedway Motorsports Incorporated and met with Bernard on Saturday at Chicagoland Speedway in an attempt to save the IndyCar race at this track. Saunders also wants to lure IndyCar back to Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California where it would be the 2011 season-finale now that it is losing one of its two NASCAR Sprint Cup dates.

Bernard admitted on Saturday that the decision hasn't been made to leave Chicagoland and discussions are ongoing.

"Chicago has been a great place, great races," Bernard said. "We have great fans here. It would most likely be Chicago or Milwaukee possibly (on next year's schedule). I don't know if we need both. At Chicagoland, ISC has their primary objectives and IndyCar has their primary objectives, and I'm not sure if we're all on the same page right now. But we still have a great relationship with ISC going forward, and we're still trying to figure out what that would be.

"There is no news on Fontana. We're putting our finishing touches on the schedule. The very first time I met with the press, we want to talk to all the promoters, we want to get all of them here and say, okay, which one of you want to do the best job for IndyCar, which ones are going to act on their marketing, which ones are going to make sure they try to bring as many fans as possible? We're still in that process. We're down to those final stages of really determining who those are, but that's where we're at."

That there was an IndyCar Series race in the Chicago area came as a great surprise to many of the residents. Friends of mine that live in the area said there has been no advertising or billboards in the area promoting the race.

For those fans that did attend Saturday night's race, they saw a thriller with 25 lead changes among 11 drivers and cars running in such tight packs that potential mayhem lurked around every corner. But while the fans that were there found itbreathtaking, the drivers in the race considered it "heart stopping."

"I really don't like these kinds of races," said Tony Kanaan, after finishing fifth. "It's quite a show for the fans but you guys aren't sitting there at 220 miles per hour about to hit each other every single lap so I'm really not enjoying it. It felt like hell. It's great for the fans but you are hanging on for your life. I'm sure I upset a lot of people and they upset me because there is no way to hide. You are running four-abreast into the corner, 15 cars all together. I know that everyone likes watching this at home but I was really not enjoying it."

This is the type of racing that makes the IndyCar Series the most exciting on earth. It featured high speeds, close racing and drama to the very end.

"I hope it was as entertaining for the fans as it was for the drivers," Dan Wheldon said. "It was pretty hairy at times. I think it would be a shame if this race were not on the schedule. It always produces the racing that I think the fans like to see."

There was a time when the Chicagoland IndyCar race drew a big crowd, but that was before ISC took full control of the track when it was partially owned by the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation. If properly promoted, this race could be a big hit, but with the NASCAR date being moved from mid-July to the first race of "The Chase" in mid-September, Bernard and the IndyCar Series have plenty of reasons to leave this track.

And that would be a real shame considering how great the races are at this 1.5-mile oval.


"Just kick a guy in the nuts when he is down. I'm not a factor any more. I understand they have to hold up the rules but they must be bored in race control. That is stupid. I'm not points racing -- I'm here to race for wins and try to get myself a ride for next year. It didn't affect the outcome at all after I ran out of fuel. When the car cut off, the pit-speed limiter went off on pit road and then they gave me a drive-through." -- IndyCar Series driver Ed Carpenter after he was assessed a "drive through" penalty for exceeding the speed limit on pit road at Saturday night's race at Chicagoland Speedway.


While Labor Day Weekend always meant the traditional Southern 500 at Darlington, S.C. from 1950-2003, the landscape has changed dramatically. After a failed experiment giving the Labor Day date to the track in Fontana, Calif. from 2004-2008, NASCAR came to its senses and returned that date to a track in the South and Atlanta Motor Speedway responded with a sellout crowd for the Sunday night race in 2009. Expect another big crowd this weekend. And for the IndyCar fans, they will have a night race, too -- a Saturday night race at Kentucky Speedway as the battle for the 2010 IndyCar Series title heats up with just three races to go.

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide - from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Seth Davis, and more - delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.