It’s now over 10 years since rumors surfaced that IndyCar was close to signing a 3rd engine manufacturer to race alongside Chevy and Honda in the NTT IndyCar Series.
10 years of rumors.
10 years of rejection by every engine manufacturer out there.
The latest rumor has Roger Penske trying to lure Toyota back into the series.
Toyota raced in the CART IndyCar World Series from 1996 to 2002. Its early years in the series were marked by struggles. Toyota-powered cars, campaigned by the All American Racers and PPI Motorsports teams, languished at the back of the grid, slow and unreliable. Toyota didn’t even lead a lap until Alex Barron led 12 laps at the Vancouver street circuit in September 1998.
Toyota started seeing its fortunes improve in 1999 as Scott Pruett took pole position at the final race of the season at the California Speedway. The next year, Juan Pablo Montoya gave Toyota its first-ever CART win at the Milwaukee Mile, the first of 5 races won by Toyota-powered cars that year. Toyota-powered cars won six races in 2001. In 2002, Toyota’s final year in the championship, it turned things around completely from its bleak debut. Toyota won the Manufacturer’s championship, 10 races, and Cristiano da Matta rode Toyota power to the driver’s championship, with Bruno Junqueira, also Toyota-powered car, finished second.
Toyota moved to the IRL IndyCar Series in 2003 and provided direct factory support to former CART teams Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing as well as other teams. They were one of the top engines in their first year, winning the Indianapolis 500 with Gil de Ferran and the championship with Scott Dixon. However, 2004 and 2005 were not so kind and wins were few and far between. Following the 2005 IndyCar Series, Team Penske and Target Chip Ganassi Racing announced they would switch to Honda engines, leaving Toyota with no championship contenders. As a result of this and their intent to re-allocate resources for NASCAR, Toyota announced they would leave the IndyCar Series prematurely during the off-season.
After 10 years, of crying wolf about a 3rd engine manufacturer, and none coming because TV ratings were so low on NBCSN there was no value, can The Captain, Roger Penske finally land that 3rd engine manufacturer now that most races are broadcast on over-the-air NBC and the ratings are higher?
Mark C. reporting for AutoRacing1.com