Newman/Haas Racing says that it has pulled its 2012 Indianapolis 500 entry and will not be competing in next month's race after all.
"We had every intention of being in the race, but simply ran out of time," the team's general manager Brian Lisles is reported as telling The Associated Press
on Friday, confirming that it decided to withdraw its provisional entry when it became clear that the team could not put together a proper operation in time.
Newman/Haas Racing was included in the first entry list for the event published by Indianapolis Motor Speedway last week, which linked them to a Lotus engine. It did not list a confirmed driver, despite earlier reports stating that former F1 driver and current Lotus brand ambassador Jean Alesi had signed to make his oval début with them.
It isn't clear to what extent Newman/Haas' decision to withdraw its entry was linked to the driver deal, or to the recent restructuring of Lotus' presence in the IZOD IndyCar Series which saw them drop two of the four full-time teams to which it supplies engines in 2012.
"It was everything," the AP
quotes Lisles as telling them.
Newman/Haas Racing decided to end its 28-year participation in US open wheel racing over the winter, citing the economic climate. Ironically it came at the end of a season that had seen the team looking rejuvenated and performing better than they had for several years, securing fourth place in the 2011 championship with Oriol Servia and the rookie of the year title with James Hinchcliffe.
The team's decision to return for a one-off appearance in the 96th Indianapolis 500 on May 27 surprised everyone, and seemed to be a result of a deal between team owner Carl Haas and the Lotus motorsports group. Lotus was keen to find a berth for Jean Alesi in the race after it appeared that HVM Racing had walked away from the opportunity to field the former Ferrari driver.
"There's not enough money to do it," HVM owner Keith Wiggins was quoted as saying about the Alesi deal, just days before fresh reports put the French-Sicilian racer into the surprise Newman/Haas seat instead.
With Newman/Haas' decision to withdraw, HVM is only one of two Lotus-powered teams still in next month's Indy 500. Assuming that Wiggins' decision regarding the Alesi deal is still applicable, it's also highly unlikely that Lotus Dragon Racing would be up for putting together a third car for Alesi alongside regular drivers Sebastien Bourdais and Katherine Legge.
That would mean Alesi's dream of making it onto the starting grid at Indianapolis - first announced back in September - will be over, at least for 2012.