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DATE News (chronologically)
Shank and Tracy to miss IndyCar season opener? UPDATE #3
Paul Tracy loses backing from Honda.  Honda was not going to sponsor Tracy with a Lotus engine in the car
This rumor is upgraded to 'strong' today.  The chances of Canada’s Paul Tracy starting the first IZOD IndyCar Series race at St. Petersburg next month are down to just 30%, team owner Michael Shank told the Toronto Sun at Daytona.

The biggest stumbling blocks, Shank said, are money and time — as in the closer the Honda Grand Prix of Petersburg gets without a major sponsorship deal the less the chances are Tracy will be in the event.

He said the MSR Indy team has a Dallara DW12 chassis and now has a Lotus engine but it needs more sponsorship to allow the team to get some testing in before committing to filing an entry form for St. Petersburg on March 25.

“As most of the world knows — because PT likes to talk and that’s one of the things I love about him — we had a (sponsorship) deal in place and we were ready to go forward with our IndyCar program ... I bought a car and last week our deal fell through,” Shank said as he stopped to talk in the media centre at Daytona International Speedway.

But what appears almost certain at this stage is that Tracy’s dream of a farewell IndyCar season where he makes all 16 races on the 2012 calendar is now pretty much dead.

Shank said the priority of MSR Indy is just to get Tracy in as many races as possible.

“Right now we just want to get him in as many races as we can get him in whenever we can,” he said. “There are no deadlines. The moment we can put him in a car, we will put him in the car.”

The loss of the sponsorship deal — believed to be with Honda — put the team right back to square one.

“We are now back to searching again,” he said. “I want to run Paul. He and I get along really well. It is just not there right now.” Toronto Sun

02/07/12 Further analysis of the Shank/Tracy situation leads us to conclude that yes, getting the Leaders Circle money is going to be an issue for them.  Remember how it works:  The leader circle money goes to the top 22 in Entrant points (not driver points) from the previous season.  Taking a guess of the entrant points, it will be similar to the 22 in driver points except that Dreyer & Reinbold and Coyne would just have one each of their cars in. 

Now, there are a couple of teams that dropped out, such as the 2 from Newman-Haas and 1 potentially from Andretti.  That would leave 2 or 3 spots open to be given to an entry at IndyCar's discretion.  Supposedly, the teams will have to make a presentation to IndyCar executives outlining their marketing and long-term business plans for their teams and sponsors and IndyCar will use this information, along with performance information, to make their decision regarding who gets the Leaders Circle spots.

Here are the teams that will be looking for a spot:  Herta (Tagliani), Carpenter, Rahal (Sato), Hartman/Fisher (Newgarden), Shank (Tracy) and Lotus Dragon (Bourdais and Legge).  There are 6 entries with possibly 3 spots available.  Here are the ones IndyCar will likely give them to, based on what we know about them: 
  • Herta, because he is a factory Lotus team, and defending Indy 500 winner, plus has dedicated sponsorship sales team. 
  • Carpenter, because he has one of the biggest (and only) new sponsors in the series with Fuzzy's Vodka. 
  • Rahal because he is a factory Honda team with Sato, and Indy 500 winning team, but weak sponsorship/marketing team.
  • Dragon has an outside chance because it's Roger Penske's son's team and because they do have a reasonable level of sponsorship. 

The others probably won't get a spot as of today, because they either don't have a strong sponsorship sales team or sponsorship package in place, or weak marketing potential for the long-term. 

Based on calculations, the non-Leaders Circle (LC) teams make about $400k less in prize money, but the biggest benefit for being a LC team is that they are guaranteed a prize money pay-out for Indy, even if they miss the race.  Non-LC teams must qualify for Indy to be eligible for prize money.  In essence, Shank will need an extra $500k in sponsorship to make up for the loss of not being a LC team (not to mention he doesn't have an engine contract yet, which means he will have to pay the approx. $1 million fee instead of the $700k fee.).  We're hoping they make it to the grid, but it won't be easy.

02/07/12 The countdown is on as to whether Paul Tracy’s stellar 20-plus-year open wheel racing career is over.

Tracy had hoped to make the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Series season a farewell tour with Michael Shank Racing but that deal is now in jeopardy.

The road block is a $1.3 million U.S. IndyCar “Leaders Circle” payment that MSR team owner Michael Shank said is necessary if Tracy is to drive for the team.

IndyCar officials told the Toronto Sun in an e-mail Tuesday that a decision on the MSR request will be made within the next week.

But sources close to Tracy say the 42-year-old Toronto native is not hopeful that the funding will come through.

IndyCar boss Randy Bernard is on record as opposing subsidies for teams and has said that IndyCar teams need to make the grid on their own financial merits.

Without the Leaders Circle money Tracy and MSR would have to raise the $1.3 million and that would be on top of the reported $2 million in sponsorship money Tracy has already brought to the table.

Shank was on the road Tuesday attempting to drum up more potential partners to make the Tracy deal work, but in an interview with veteran motorsports journalist Gordon Kirby late last week Shank said he was not prepared to start the season at the Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg without full funding in place.

“We’ve bought a lot of the equipment already and we’ll pull the trigger on the rest without an issue once we know the money is there,” Shank said. “I need to make some sizeable contracts with the tires and the motor, so I want to make damn sure (we have the funding) before we make the move.” More at London Free Press

02/06/12 Michael Shank hopes to pull his IndyCar team together in the next few weeks with Paul Tracy behind the wheel reports Gordon Kirby.

"I didn't play around," Shank said at the end of last week. "I bought the car--chassis number fifteen. We've done some work on it and we're going to start to work again on Monday on making some progress.

"It's ebbing and flowing," he went on. "We're really pushed right now to say we can make it to St. Pete. That's our goal, but I'm not sure. We'll see. Certainly that is my intention but we've got to get everyone on the same page. We're waiting to hear about the details of the Leader's Circle program.

With the new car and engine it was worth it to me to risk the dough. I knew what the downside was, but I was willing to risk it. We just need a couple of things to happen and we're going. We are trying very hard with one of Paul's sponsors to get them on board. We think we'll have some backing but we're not sure what that will look like. It looks like we're going to have to puzzle the pieces together to make it work.

"I've got three or four guys who will go onto the IndyCar program immediately and I know a handful of other guys who I want and know are available. I think we can make that happen pretty quick. We've bought a lot of the equipment already and we'll pull the trigger on the rest without an issue once we know the money is there. I need to make some sizeable contracts with the tires and the motor, so I want to make damn sure before we make the move."

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