Driver news: Legge, Rahal, Allmendinger - and Austin
5 August 2012
Katherine Legge will be racing at the Indy Grand Prix of Sonoma later this month, the Dragon Racing team confirmed this weekend.
Dragon fielded a two-car team for the first five races of the season consisting of Legge and Sebastien Bourdais, but their acrimonious split from engine suppliers Lotus in the run-up to the Indianapolis 500 meant that they were only able to pull together a last-minute single engine deal with Chevrolet to carry on competing in the IZOD IndyCar Series in 2012.
As a result, the team opted to run Bourdais as road courses while British racer Legge was to tackle the oval events. However the team announced at Mid-Ohio that Chevrolet had now been able to supply a second engine to the team to allow them to return to a two car line-up and run Legge alongside Bourdais at Sonoma on August 26.
“I am extremely grateful to Chevrolet for making this second engine available so we can return to a full team effort in Sonoma,” said team owner Jay Penske. "With the team back to full strength we are all really looking forward to competing in Sonoma."
“Obviously I'm thrilled to get back behind the wheel of my TrueCar Chevrolet in Sonoma and also to get the opportunity to test there prior to the race,” said Legge. “We're all racers and anytime you have to sit out a race its tough, but we've been doing the best with the situation and hopefully we will be able to get the results we know we're capable of in Sonoma.”
Graham Rahal set to exit Ganassi
Graham Rahal's two-year stint with Chip Ganassi Racing looks set to end after the current season, as it was confirmed that the deadline for Rahal and Ganassi to sign an extension to the existing contract had lapsed last Wednesday.
The Ganassi team had reportedly offered the driver a deal, but there were no guarantees about a car actually being available for him to drive at this point because of issues finding sponsorship for a full season campaign.
“It wasn't about the money ... They don't have the funding secured at this time,” Rahal said about the deal he'd been offered. "It just was not a wise one for me to take. I need to be racing next year," he added. "In my shoes, like anybody else, I can't sit around and wait. It's a shame, that's for sure, but what else can I do?"
It's still possible that Rahal and Ganassi could reach an agreement that would keep him in the #38 in 2013, but in the meantime Rahal is free to talk with other teams and explore opportunities. One such opening might be at Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, the team co-owned by his father and former Indianapolis 500 winner Bobby Rahal.
"In the past I might have treated him as a kid but after all these years and all the racing he's done I have confidence that he gets it; he knows what he has to do," Bobby Rahal told reporters at Mid-Ohio this weekend.
Shank wants Allmendinger for IndyCar entry
Michael Shank has confirmed that he wants his friend and business partner AJ Allmendinger to come back to IndyCar in 2013, telling reporters: "I think it's possible he could end up in IndyCar, but I don't know to what degree," adding that "He's said he's interested in doing something here."
Allmendinger is a partner in Shank's MSR Indy venture that tried to field an entry in the 2012 IZOD IndyCar Season with Paul Tracy or Jay Howard at the wheel, only to be thwarted by the lack of an engine deal. Shank still hopes to enter the series in 2013 and is currently eyeing Allmendinger's participation.
“I don't think it's impossible, but you've got a couple factors here to deal with.”
The main factor is Allmendinger's current suspension from NASCAR competition after testing positive for stimulants in a random drugs test last month. Allmendinger denies knowingly taking a prohibited substance but had agreed to undergo NASCAR's 'road to recovery' rehabilitation programme.
“He's real passionate about NASCAR. He doesn't want to just go away and feel like he was defeated," said Shank. "He does not want to be that guy."
While there is no formal reason why Allmendinger can't switch to IndyCar, series officials have said that they would not sign off on the involvement of any driver who was undergoing disciplinary action in another motor racing series, so it's likely that Allmendinger would still have to complete his programme and be reinstated by NASCAR before he could be consider for an IndyCar drive.
However, even after he completed the 'road to recovery', Allmendinger's chances of getting another competitive seat in NASCAR look gloomy. That might encourage the 30-year-old Californian to return to open wheel racing where he made his name in the Champ Car World Series in 2004-2006.
AJ Foyt signs Chase Austin for 2013 Indy 500 bid
Racing legend AJ Foyt has confirmed that his team will be fielding a car for Chase Austin at the 2013 Indianapolis 500 next May.
Assuming that it comes off, then the 22-year-old Kansas native would become only the third African-American driver to compete in the 'greatest spectacle in motorsport.' Austin has already competed in the Firestone Indy Lights Freedom 100 support race at Indianapolis, finishing in tenth place earlier this year.
“My son Larry and I have watched Chase drive and we want to give him a chance,” said Foyt. "He's done a real good job in the Lights series, and I believe he can qualify for the Indy 500 with Honda on board."
"For me to say that I am anything other than excited about this opportunity to compete in the Indianapolis 500 with AJ Foyt Racing and Honda next year would pretty much be an understatement," beamed Austin.
The program is the continuation of a three-year motorsports diversity initiative between Starting Grid, Inc. and car manufacturer Honda's American operations.
“Words simply cannot express how appreciative I am for American Honda's support of our motorsports diversity initiatives over the past two years," said Starting Grid's principal, Chris Miles. "It is incredibly gratifying for me to have Starting Grid associated with such an American racing icon [as Foyt].
“I am extremely proud for Chase to receive this tremendous opportunity to race for AJ Foyt Racing," added Miles. "Chase has performed admirably with his limited experience in open-wheel cars, and I am completely confident in Chase's ability to settle into the big cars with no problem."