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 d?but 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.

Newman/Haas' withdrawal also leaves only 33 cars listed on the provisional entry list for the Indy 2012, and another hopeful competitor - the MSR Indy entry with Jay Howard at the wheel - is also looking highly doubtful to go ahead.

"Still no motor for @IMS ... Wow this is getting tough! What to do??" tweeted team co-owner Michael Shank on Friday. "I think I'm going to need a lot of crossed fingers," he added in response to well-wishers.

Shank made clear that in his case, the problem was with engine suppliers.

"All I can ask is that the fans tell Honda and Chevy they want us in the 500," he posted on the social network, indicating that the cut-off deadline to get something in place was next Tuesday. "IndyCar is trying to help. A lot of people trying. #nothing."

Currently Chevrolet and Honda are both attached to 14 entries in the Indy 500, with Lotus adding three more. Since the publication of the provisional entry list, Bryan Herta Autosport and Dreyer & Reinbold Racing have parted ways with Lotus and both urgently need to get a confirmed deal in place with one of the rival manufacturers if they are to make the race. BHA is the defending race champion team, having won last year's Indy 500 with Dan Wheldon at the wheel.

Two more entries - for Ed Carpenter Racing and Sam Schmidt Motorsports - also currently do not have drivers attached to them. Buddy Rice has been attached to the former seat, while Townsend Bell and Davey Hamilton have been linked to the latter should funding become available.

The Indy 500 has always made its 33-car starting grid quota in the modern era, although on occasions it's been a last-minute thing with cars being entered as late as qualifying weekend, when it became clear that there was an open guaranteed starting grid slot still available for "the greatest spectacle in motorsport" and the biggest TV viewing audience of the year for a motorsports event.

However, the current situation would certainly take the drama out of the qualifying process if no one is left battling to make it into the race on Bump Day on May 20, one week before the race.

Failure to field a full 33-car line-up for the Indy 500 would also be embarrassing for the IndyCar Series organisers, who have been working hard on overhauling the series' outdated technical specs by introducing a new chassis and engine regulations for 2012.



Loading Comments...