Wild rumours flying around Gasoline Alley at Indianapolis on Friday evening suggested that relations between Dragon Racing and their surprise star name driver, Scott Speed, had gone into meltdown and was descending into shouting matches.
At one stage it seemed all but certain that Speed had already walked out and exited the team for good, with a team representative telling SPEED.com
at one stage that "I cannot confirm or deny Scott's place in the team going forward." Other eyewitness accounts suggested that Speed had stormed out of the Speedway with no intention of returning for Pole Day.
The breakdown between team and driver seemed to be the result of disappointing performances during the two days of green flag practice sessions that the team have had on Thursday and Friday, which ended with Speed classified 39th and last on the Friday timesheets and a resultant fraying of tempers on both sides.
Speed seemed unable to improve on 224mph - which will not be good enough to make the 33-car grid over the weekend, all other things being equal - and moreover Speed was increasingly concerned about how loose his car was and demanding that the team do something about the handling before he ended up planting it in the wall.
There was also pressure on the former F1 and NASCAR driver after his less-fancied rookie team mate Ho-Pin Tung startled the team and media pundits by putting in consistent runs, which were exceeding Dragon's best hopes.
After practice finished for the day, it appears that peacekeeping efforts effected a reconciliation between the 28-year-old American driver and the team owned by Jay Penske, and he responded to a tweet reporting the quit rumour with "Lmao i love it!! Did u get your info from the tooth fairy?"
“I have no idea honestly how those rumors were started,” he subsequently told FOXSports.com
. "I read it on Twitter and just laughed. It was pretty funny."
He admitted that the team was facing an uphill battle going into Pole Day, however. “We're trying to do what we can with the situation we have. We've scratched our initial game plan and starting over," he said. "We haven't been able to hone in on anything yet and I've been trying to be really careful not to wreck the car."
Dragon Racing declined comment, either about Speed or on any other developments concerning their Indy 500 entry.
While replacements are possible and available even at this late stage - including Jimmy Kite, Jacques Lazier, Phil Giebler and even ALMS driver Simon Pagenaud who had been the original favourite to take the Dragon Racing seat for Indianapolis - a breakup would do neither team nor driver any good in the long term and relations are likely to be patched up overnight.
Speed is signed to race for Dragon in the IndyCar season finale at Vegas in pursuit of the $5m challenge prize for any non-series driver who can come in and win the race from under the noses of the regulars.
The question of whether Speed will take part in qualifying won't be definitely answered until the cars roll out at noon on Saturday, but the smart money has to be on a face-saving smoothing over of divisions to keep the show on the road through the weekend.