No one wants to give Sarah Fisher an engine to race with UPDATE IndyCar Series CEO Randy Bernard has a problem. And it’s a big one.
The series’ only female owner—and one of its most popular people over the last decade, Sarah Fisher—can’t get an engine to go racing.
She has the money to pay for an engine. In fact, she has the sponsorship revenue to race a full IndyCar Series season this year.
Fisher has a promising American rookie driver—2011 Indy Lights Champion Josef Newgarden—a spiffy new Dallara chassis and a new shop being built on Main Street in Speedway.
The Ohio native’s team couldn’t be more all-American if it fueled its car with apple pie. Fisher couldn’t be more of a series loyalist if her last name was Foyt.
And still, Fisher can’t get one of the series’ three engine manufacturers—Chevrolet, Honda or Lotus—to sell her an engine.
Fans are starting to fume. Some on motorsports message boards are promising to turn their backs on the open-wheel series forever unless series officials step up to broker a deal—and fast. Sure, those fans might be blowing smoke. But at a time when Bernard is touting amped-up TV ratings and projecting attendance gains, he can’t afford to take that risk.
This is a tricky problem for Bernard.
Each manufacturer promised to supply up to 10 engines for the 2012 IndyCar season. Honda has stretched itself to supply 12 and Chevrolet is at 11. Lotus is at five, and according to company officials, unable to go any higher.
Fisher initially approached Chevrolet because she wanted an American company. But despite her team racing victoriously at Kentucky at the end of 2011, the all-American auto manufacturer told the all-American girl her money is no good here. Fisher turned to Honda, figuring at least its racing division was based in the good old USA, but by then Honda was over capacity.
Since engine manufacturers sell each engine at a financial loss, Chevrolet and Honda are not eager to rush to get Fisher an engine at their expense.
Lotus, the last of the three to jump into the IndyCar Series, has been behind from the start. Until recently, it was unclear if it would to be able to supply any engines.
Bernard could sweeten the pot for Chevy or Honda to try to sway them to make Fisher an engine. But it’s not clear if that strategy would work and is certain to raise a stink with other owners wondering why the series is doling out money to a competitor.
Honda officials said they likely will be able to add Fisher to their roster, but not until the Indianapolis 500 in May. That means Fisher’s team will miss the first four races of the year at St. Petersburg, Barber Motorsports Park, Long Beach and Brazil.
That essentially takes Fisher out of the 2012 series points battle before the year begins, and likely takes the promising Newgarden out of the Rookie of the Year hunt. It also puts the team at an extreme disadvantage for Indianapolis—the biggest race of the year. And that won’t sit well with Fisher’s sponsors.
At a time when everyone should be focused on the series’ new chassis and engine packages, and the first IndyCar Series on-track competition between engine manufacturers in years, the paddock and a bevy of auto racing writers are focused on Fisher’s dilemma.
Unfortunately for Bernard, and everyone else concerned about marketing the series, Fisher’s team is not alone.
Conquest Racing is in a similar situation, which is hindering the team from even hiring a driver for 2012. But Fisher is getting all the attention.
Several factors have led to the engine shortfall. First, there have been more blown engines in testing than anticipated. There have also been more teams requesting new engines than projected.
There were 25 cars on the grid for the 2011 season opener, while there are about 30 cars seeking to race this year’s season opener March 25 in St. Petersburg.
But this isn’t the season for excuses. For a series CEO, this is the season for action.
It’s a time to go green, not make your fans see red. IBJ.com
02/20/12 Robin Miller at Speed.com writes: Sarah Fisher has a good partner in Wink Hartman, a new shop in Speedway, a new Dallara and promising rookie driver for the 2012 IZOD IndyCar season.
|American Josef Newgarden sidelined because Sarah Fisher cannot get engines|
But she doesn’t have an engine for Josef Newgarden and, barring a last-minute save from Bobby Rahal, she’s not going to get one until May.
Now I want you to try and comprehend what you just read.
After months of trying, the only female owner in the series who was once its most popular driver was turned down by General Motors and given the Indy-first option by Honda.
The little squad that beat Chip Ganassi and won last year’s season finale at Kentucky is going to be on the sidelines the first two months instead of on the grid.
The Mazda Road to Indy for the 2011 Firestone Indy Lights champion turned out to be a dead end.
An all-American team housed on Main Street in Speedway might as well be based in Bahrain for all the respect it’s received.
In a nutshell, this blows. It sucks. It’s wrong on every level.
And before we go any further, this isn’t going to be a balanced story. Nobody is going to be quoted because there’s nothing anybody can say that makes any sense to me. This is a rant that hopefully makes somebody do the right thing before next month’s opener at St. Pete.
First off all, we know that the number of teams/cars for 2012 has turned out to be more than expected.
Based on the original estimates, Honda and GM fulfilled their obligations and 10-car lineups.
Lotus can’t and is struggling to field half as many cars.
With her all-American plan, Fisher didn’t want Lotus and her first choice was the Bow Tie Brigade, a natural for the mom from Ohio with the rookie from Tennessee in the shop located in the shadows of the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
But Chevrolet told her they were full and Honda (which has upped its commitment to 12 cars) is willing to power Fisher-Hartman Racing from Indy on but says all its blown engines in testing has made anything earlier impossible.
Now I’ve heard a lot of horror stories the past few months about these engine manufacturers not returning calls from owners and playing hard to get, etc. I’ll grant you that Honda and GM have made big investments and they certainly deserve to pick some of their dance partners.
The flaw in this process is that obviously they can also refuse to lease an engine to anyone and evidently INDYCAR is powerless to do anything about it.
Can you imagine Chevy or Ford telling NASCAR that they appreciate the fact Ricky Stenhouse was the Nationwide champion but they won’t be able to give him a Cup engine until Bristol? More at Speed.com