Muscle Milk Pickett Racing exploring IndyCar options (4th Update) UPDATE #4 Klaus Graf admitted after Sunday's American Le Mans Series race that he was speaking more with his heart than his head.
“Whatever the new [sports car] series will be, we will be with a new package,” he said in the winner's news conference.
Afterward, the co-founder of Muscle Milk Pickett Racing backtracked, saying he doesn't know what series team principal Greg Pickett will have the team racing.
Will it be United SportsCar Racing or the IndyCar Series? That decision apparently is about a month away.
“That was me as a sports car driver speaking in there,” Graf said with a smile. “Very successful businessmen don't make harsh decisions without a lot of thought, and if they commit to something they commit to doing it right.”
Graf said he enjoyed watching Lucas Luhr, his teammate of the past two ALMS P1 championships, race an IndyCar last week at Sonoma (Calif.) Raceway, and Luhr said he enjoyed it so much that he was eager to race in Sunday's Grand Prix of Baltimore. That bid was derailed by an ill-performing engine.
“I would have loved to have done this one, too,” Luhr said.
Graf said Pickett enjoyed being with IndyCar for his first up-close look at the decision. Graf made a couple of promises about the Muscle Milk Pickett Racing team moving forward.
“We will make a mutual decision together,” he said, “and I can promise that our people will have jobs.” Autoweek
08/31/13 According to AR1.com sources, Honda does not intend to increase their car count for 2014, so if Muscle Milk is coming in with a 1-car effort, which existing Honda team is either going away or downsizing?
Muscle Milk Pickett Racing owner Greg Pickett is about a month away from deciding which direction he'll take the American Le Mans Series P1 team, and could be prepared to take a break from sports car racing.
Last weekend's GoPro Grand Prix of Sonoma IndyCar Series race featured Muscle Milk driver Lucas Luhr in a second Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing entry with Pickett Racing team manager Brandon Fry engineering the car and Pickett on the timing stand overseeing the effort, and according to the veteran driver-turned-owner, the experience has him seriously considering a full-fledged open-wheel effort in 2014.
Pickett told RACER at Baltimore. “Listen, we knew that it could be pretty effective from a branding standpoint, there was no question in our minds about that. We felt that our team is built with some people that are used to the type of technology that makes a difference there. And that's all we saw there. It's about getting all the small things right.
“We tried to find out: Could Lucas do this? I think, arguably, Lucas could do this and he likes it. I'll say that. We think we know the kind of things you have to pay attention to and that you have to invest in to make a difference. I think we saw some of that. Now, we knew what we didn't have and what we don't have yet and things that we needed to work on. The 7-post rigs and all of that.”
“So, by and large, we went away pretty positive about our IndyCar experience,” added Pickett. “Lucas liked it. Lucas can do it. We can do it relatively well. It would take us time. We know that. We'd have to invest a couple of years. We're very realistic about that. We sure were interested in seeing how Lucas adapted and I'm glad I did it.
“We've given ourselves about an Oct. 1. Before this [ALMS season] is over, before we go to Petit [Le Mans], I want to have some kind of direction. I need it; I need it for my brand and my company. We're well into the annual operating plan now for next year. And budget tightening down and all that. And I need some answers for that.”
“I don't think, there's no more money per se to do an adequate job in ALMS vs. Indy; you spend a lot in P1 on developments, on development parts, but it's different in IndyCar because you're only allowed to do so much to the cars, so you spend that money on those little areas alone,” Pickett explained. “I think it would be an R&D wash. So the big teams now are on very expensive shock dynos and spend a lot of time on that side of the game. They bring their springs and shocks ready to go; they know exactly what they are. And when they want this much of a difference here's what they bolt on.
“We were still taking them apart and putting different springs on them... That difference alone, that difference alone separates, I think, the guys in the top-12 from the rest. So you've got to work on that. And you got to buy a $150,000 [damper] dyno. You've got to do that. If you're not going to do that, then go do something else because you're not going to make consistently enough difference. It's all fine-tuning little improvements. That's what the big teams can squeeze out of endless time on shaker rigs and we understand all of that.”
Asked if he'd consider partnering with an existing IndyCar team, Pickett struggled to think of a program that would have the availability or quality he's looking for.
“If you're going to partner with somebody, you've got to be the third car with one of the boys. You want to try to do that. And the boys, well, Chip [Ganassi] has already done that, Roger [Penske] doesn't need to do it, so that's why he's not doing it. Andretti probably over-does that, in my opinion. Then you ask yourself: 'Who would be the next that would add anything to our trailer and our guys? With the proper budget?' And then you go: 'I'm not sure.'
“So partnering up with somebody is a good idea but it has to be one of the right teams – it just won't do you any good if it's not like that. So the likelihood of that is relatively rare. And so that kind of answers the question. We're looking at keeping our nose clean, keep everything together, work really hard on the stuff that we think could make a difference and see where we land.” Racer.com08/10/13 Greg Pickett said he's not sure which direction to take his successful Muscle Milk sports-car team, but for sure he has options.
There are at least four, he told Autoweek at the Road America circuit in Elkhart Lake, Wisc., that's hosting both Grand-Am and the American LeMans Series this weekend. The Grand-Am race is Saturday, ALMS on Sunday.
Pickett, who fields a Honda-powered LMP1 car, said he could choose between moving to LMP2 or the Daytona Prototype class, or he could move to the IndyCar Series, where teams have an annual budget similar to his (an estimated $5-6 million).
To that end, Pickett will be part of Lucas Luhr's drive with Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing's Honda IndyCar Series team at Sonoma Raceway. The test is Tuesday, and the race is Aug. 25. Pickett not only is contributing to the plan financially, he'll be actively involved in the race weekend planning.
“I've raced around (IndyCar) a lot,” he said. “But I've never focused on being embedded at a regular IndyCar race to see how it feels, how it works, how it happens.”
Pickett said he attended several Indianapolis 500s as a fan when Scott Sharp, a former IndyCar driver, was his son-in-law. Pickett met with Derrick Walker, IndyCar's competition and operations boss, Friday at Road America.
Pickett said another option for the Muscle Milk team is to move to GT. He has met with several manufacturers, including some not currently involved with the class, about a program.
“They want to align themselves with a good team, a really well-structured, well-funded team,” he said. “We could do that. We're having discussions about that.”
Pickett said he has used sports car racing's transition period as his time to “explore those options.”
Pickett did not reveal his timetable for making a decision, but he said “it's soon.” AutoWeek07/29/13 Muscle Milk Pickett Racing team owner Greg Pickett has always followed his heart when it comes to choosing a racing series, and with the loss of his beloved ALMS P1 class in the new-for-2014 United SportsCar Racing series, he's exploring all options going forward, including the IndyCar Series according to Racer magazine.
With last week's announcement that Lucas Luhr, one of his two champion drivers from the Muscle Milk P1 program, will drive for Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing at Sonoma, the veteran owner/driver tells RACER he'll use the event to take a deeper look inside a possible move to open-wheel.
“I've been to Indy before, but that's almost like a separate world, and we've also raced with IndyCar at Long Beach and Baltimore and places like that, but I've never been able to get plugged into the rhythm and the cadence of a normal IndyCar event,” said Pickett, who has backed his son-in-law Scott Sharp, the 1996 IRL co-champion, as recently as 2009. “And I was a part of Scotty's last Indy 500 run, but that wasn't a situation where I was in at the ground level of team operations, if you see what I'm saying.”