The Associated Press
story that Red Bull had informed NASCAR officials that they were pulling out of the sport
at the end of 2011 seems to have been all-but-confirmed by a statement from the Austrian energy drink giant which said that they were "currently seeking outside investors as we evaluate next steps in the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series."
Red Bull officials reportedly told team employees that NASCAR no longer hits the company's target market sufficiently to justify the level of investment required in running the team.
In the fall-out since the announcement, Red Bull's management style has been blamed for the disappointing performance of the team - with the company seeking to manage its NASCAR activities remotely from Europe with insufficient understanding of the details and culture of American stock car competition.
But the Red Bull Racing team itself does not accept that this is the end of the road for the operation, and various speculative suggestions flying around on Tuesday included a scenario that would put IndyCar star Danica Patrick at the centre of a rescued and revived RBR.
Team manager and vice president Jay Frye confidently asserted that "We have every expectation to be a two-car team next year," saying that that he is busy lining up investors. Not one to think small, he went on: "One of the values of this team is we have room to expand. We could be a four-car team.
"We have talked to some people who have great enthusiasm about what we're doing," Frye said during a conference call on Tuesday. "We believe we can put something together rather quickly in 30 to 45 days. But the process has just started ... We had a lot of inquiries yesterday [after the news broke.]"
Frye said he learned a few weeks ago that Red Bull might pull out of the sport, but added that "The good news is we have time to react." He pointed out that the news did not necessarily mean that Red Bull was entirely abandoning the sport and that the company could remain as part owner or sponsor of the team. "But we're still unclear about what will happen or in what capacity that might be," he admitted.
The problem Frye faces is where the investment that the team needs to carry on can possibly come from, in a difficult economic climate that has led to many of the far more established and successful teams having to scale back operations in recent months. Former Sprint Cup team owner Ray Evernham had been mentioned among those possibly looking into buying a portion of the team, but an Evernham spokesperson denied he had any interest in returning to team management.
But another possibility that was being raised in some quarters was that one of the biggest commercial sponsors of US motorsports that might be tempted to raise its involvement and step into the breach - in the form of GoDaddy.com, the internet hosting company that is a major personal sponsor of Danica Patrick.