Tony George, more notes (cont.)
George remains in IndyCar exile
Tony George stood on a second-floor balcony of the control tower at Barber Motorsports Park, overlooking pit lane as teams from the IZOD IndyCar Series continued their preseason test. It was like seeing a former emperor in exile looking over the kingdom he once ruled.
George was ousted from his throne by his own family members who control the Indianapolis Motor Speedway Corporation's board of directors just two days after Helio Castroneves won the 93rd Indianapolis 500 last May. The board, comprised of George's mother, Mari Hulman George, along with sisters Nancy, Josie and Kathi, plus Indianapolis attorney Jack Snyder, gave him the opportunity to remain as Indy Racing League CEO, but George turned it down. He went into self-imposed exile when he decided to suspend operations at Vision Racing, the IndyCar Series team he started in 2005.
It's hard to believe that the man who created the Indy Racing League in 1994, saw its first season of competition in 1996, and endured lean times and struggles only to eventually gain control and force unification with rival Champ Car in 2008, is no longer in the sport. George is currently faced with two choices -- find a sponsor that will allow Vision to return to action or liquidate the team's assets.
"We've had to go through quite a process that led us to where we are today," George said. "We want to continue to operate and are pursuing options in that regard. We are also looking at options to liquidate. There are a lot of teams out there in need of assets to support their programs this year. If we have to re-start our racing operation, we are ready to."
Instead of watching his stepson and driver, Ed Carpenter, prepare for the 2010 season, the two are getting ready for the Vision Racing Liquidation Sale while hoping their sponsorship search pays off and the sale is stopped. Not even the Indianapolis 500 can lure George to put Vision Racing back on the track unless a sponsor signs up. "Only if we have sponsorship," he said. "I won't do it for the sake of doing it."
But, what if the starting field for the 94th Indianapolis 500 is stuck at 32 cars and George could save the day by bringing out a Vision Racing entry on Bump Day to fill the field as the 33rd?
"Not without sponsorship," he insists.
Lack of financial support has kept Vision Racing on the sidelines, but the outpouring of support that George has received from those in the racing community -- including some who were once bitter foes at the height of the CART-IRL open wheel ear -- certainly gives him pause for reflection and appreciation.
"There has been a tremendous amount of support," George said. "It's been tough laying everybody off, things haven't come together. It's been tough selling off assets. Fortunately, it's making it possible for other teams that have opportunities today to flip a switch and come out ready to start the season. We have provided some turnkey equipment and, in some cases, personnel to guys that have come together late with their programs."
On Monday, Randy Bernard took over as the CEO of the IndyCar Series, complete with a $750,000 a year salary. He reports directly to the IMS Corporation Board of Directors and not to IMS CEO Jeff Belskus.
"I obviously wish Randy well," George said. "I want to see the IndyCar Series thrive, so hopefully he'll be successful in his new role. But I've spoken to Randy maybe 10 minutes on the telephone and [had] a two-minute conversation in Detroit. That is the extent of my interaction with him. I really don't know too much about him."
As for George, the series he helped create to make it more affordable for team owners to get involved in IndyCar racing remains too costly to operate without a sponsor or without the support he was able to provide when he was the IMS Corporation CEO. "It's difficult on everybody, everyone on the Vision Racing team," George said. "It's been very difficult for all of us; not just Ed and me."
Ganassi teammates at odds after Vegas crash
Daytona 500 winner Jamie McMurray is feeling some of Earnhardt Ganassi Racing teammate Juan Pablo Montoya's Latin temper after the two drivers were involved in a crash on Lap 93 of Sunday's Sprint Cup race at Las Vegas.
Wonder what "the odds" of that happening were?
McMurray ran into the left-rear of Montoya's Chevrolet and both cars wrecked. Kyle Busch was an innocent victim of the Ganassi duo.
"Just Jamie, plain and simple, wrecked us," Montoya said with a mockingly high-pitched voice that was a not-so-flattering imitation of McMurray "Every time I am around him, he wants to run the (expletive) out of me. I'm sure on the radio it was 'Ah, I didn't mean that'. He is just trying to prove to people he can drive a race car and I guess he isn't doing too many favors on this team."
It looks like winning this year's 500 hasn't bought any extra credit for McMurray among his teammates.
"[Montoya] was really frustrated," he said. "I haven't heard what he said, but it wouldn't shock me that he was upset in a situation like that. We both had really good cars and, unfortunately, we both crashed."
McMurray's crew chief, Kevin Manion, said the teams need to move on from this episode before they get to Atlanta next weekend. "The only way we're going to get better and race each other for the win is to let this pass and show how we can be adults and say it was an accident and move on."
Sounds like these two drivers need to have a time out. Who would have thought when NASCAR said, "Have at it, boys" that the first takers would have been on the same team?
Quote of the Week
"It is tough. We came here to win and I felt like every decision that we made today on the track and in the pits was to try to win the race. When you are leading, sometimes that tough call can go against you. We were thinking more guys were going to take two tires. We aren't going to beat ourselves up over this one; we had an awesome, awesome Chevrolet. That thing was just strolling today."
Quote of the Week II -- The Lost In Translation Edition
"She got stuck with me. Right now, it's only the second day we've talked on the radio. She's got two learning curves -- learning NASCAR language this year and learning my language, too. I haven't made her mad, yet, that I know of."
What I'm looking forward to this week
While NASCAR heads to Atlanta for next Sunday's 500-miler, I'm off to Chicago to celebrate my birthday, which happens to be on Saturday. Don't even ask how old I am because I'm not telling. But cards and gifts will be accepted.