Saturday, May 17, 2008

The Trials Of The Indy T-Team Ten

Mario Dominguez and the Pacific Coast Motorsports crew during qualifications at Indy. Image Credit: Andy Sallee (2008)

The Trials Of The Indy T-Team Ten

To say the least, watching the developments of the drivers and teams that were able to transition (T-Team) to the Indy Racing League (IRL) and compete for the championship of the IndyCar Sreies (ICS) has been an exercise in hope spiced with a healthy dose of frustration.

To the fan who favored the former ChampCar Series and its history legacy to CART and the spirit of competition this form of racing and equipment provided through the years, the process has had its moments.

When the announcement for the merger was first announced back on February 21, 2008, the obvious hope for fans and teams alike was that all of the teams and drivers would just port over and plug-in to the IndyCar Series and all racing life would go on for the duration of the 2008 season. As the reality set in after about thirty days, ChampCar was lucky to end up with as many drivers and teams that have now ended up at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to compete in the world’s largest staged racing spectacle.

Before the merge announcement of unification of ChampCar and IndyCar, the ChampCar Series was about to field 12 teams supporting the talents of 20 drivers in an 18 race event season. What remains going into the fourth race of the season, the Indianapolis 500 set to be held on May 25, 2008, are 6 teams supporting the talents of 10 drivers with one team and driver making this race its first of the 2008 ICS season (Pacific Coast Motorsports and Mario Dominguez).

The Indy T-Team Ten

Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing (NHL)
Graham Rahal – No Sponsor (Charity, Hole-In-The-Wall-Camps)

Justin Wilson – McDonald’s

KV Racing Technology (KVRT)
Will Power – Aussie Vineyards

Oriol Servia – Plantronics

Dale Coyne Racing (DCR)
Bruno Junqueira – Z-Line

Mario Moraes – Sonny’s BBQ

Conquest Racing (CR)
Enrique Bernoldi – No Sponsor

Jaime Camara – No Sponsor

HVM - former Minardi USA (HVM)
EJ Viso – PDVSA (Citgo Distribution)

Pacific Coast Motorsports (PCM)
Mario Dominguez – Visit Mexico City

(spotter's guide images credit:

Leading up to the month of May has been a series of set backs and break throughs. Set backs included a slow transition of teams announcing their participation, a parts shortage on the aerodynamics packages for the Dallara chassis delivered to the T-Teams as reported by Graham Rahal and the Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing team during the run-up to the first race of the season at Homestead. Writer Robin Miller later confirmed that this parts shortage would effect the T-Teams only.

Many experts predicted that the T-Teams and drivers will be at such a disadvantage this 2008 season that no team or driver could expect to win (let alone place, or show) a race until about the sixth to tenth race of the season at the earliest. On the second race of the season, the very same Graham Rahal who could not field a car due to the availability of parts at Homestead, came back and won the race through the streets of Saint Petersburg. The race was hampered by rain, but this did not dampen the spirits of the ChampCar loyal having a breakthrough this soon into the season.

The third round featured the last time the ChampCar teams would be racing exclusively together at Long Beach. Due to scheduling and the quickness of the merger agreement, the IndyCar established teams would race at Twin Ring Motegi, Japan (Honda’s, the IndyCar Series engine supplier, home track) while the ChampCar teams raced in their equipment, the Panoz DP01, for IndyCar points. Highlights include being able to see Paul Tracy, Jimmy Vasser, Alex Figge, Frank Montagny, Roberto Moreno, Nelson Philippe, and Alex Tagliani (to mention a few drivers) turn laps in an American Open Wheel racing environment for the last time in the 2008 season.

Winners included, the LBGP fans, Will Power (1st Place), Frank Montagny (one and only ChampCar race and placed 2nd), Mario Dominguez (3rd Place) … and probably the biggest winner of all, Pacific Coast Motorsports. The only professional open wheel racing team located on the West coast was able to take a third place win by Mario Dominguez and put together a two year sponsorship deal with the “Visit Mexico City” tourism bureau and show up at Indianapolis for the month of May. Further, Mario was able to keep the points he earned with his third place finish at Long Beach and apply them to the rest of the ICS season.

The two weeks leading up to qualifications at Indy also has its moments for the T-Team Ten.

The fastest lap times from this group were fairly competitive, however, these are only one-lap lap times and qualifying requires four consecutive laps. Justin Wilson (224.123), Graham Rahal (224.033), Will Power (223.550), Oriol Servia (223.440), EJ Viso (222.643), Bruno Junqueira (222.390), Mario Moraes (221.475), Enrique Bernoldi (220.645). Graham Rahal brushed the wall a couple of times while drifting up out of the corners, Viso and Power had crashes but all three were able to repair and field their cars in the show.

Mario Dominguez and the Pacific Coast Motorsports team were assigned the garage spaces between 14-time Indy 500 race winner Penske Racing and Ganassi Racing, which owns the top two spots on the grid after the opening qualifying session last weekend. Team owner, Tyler Tadevic’s reaction to this fortunate garage draw, "We're the meat in an ‘oh-(expletive)’ sandwich."

Mario has suffered from a lack of speed and two crashes into a wall. The first crash came earlier in the week as he was exiting the pits … cold tires spun his car out and he hit the inside wall at low speed.

Image Credit: Andy Sallee (2008)

The second crash happened just before the qualifying session today in warm-up practice. Since Pacific Coast Motorsports does not have a back-up car, a position most of the T-Teams are in being first time players in this series, they are hoping to be able to put the chassis back together and get it into the show. With only one spot open at the writing of this sentence and the team reporting that they have all of the parts they need, hope springs eternal.

Image Credit: Andy Sallee (2008)

At ten minutes after Two in the afternoon L.A. time, the following T-Team drivers are in the show with 32 of the 33 positions filled:

POS. Driver (Speed), Team, Sponsor
13 Graham Rahal (222.531), NHL, No Sponsor
15 Bruno Junqueira (222.330), DCR, Z-Line
16 Justin Wilson (222.267), NHL, Mc Donald’s
23 Will Power (221.136), KVRT, Aussie Vineyards
25 Oriol Servia (220.767), KVRT, Plantronics
26 EJ Viso (220.356), HVM, PDVSA
28 Mario Moraes (219.716), DCR, Sonny’s BBQ
29 Enrique Bernoldi (219.422), CR, No Sponsor
30 Jaime Camara (219.345), CR, No Sponsor

Marty Roth, who's best finish at Indy was 26th and best start, 29th, lines up with his Black, un-sponsored car, at just a couple of minutes left in the session, and goes out and puts together four laps at 215.506 as the slowest car in the closed 33 car field. The weather is forecast to be spotty with rain and drizzle. If the weather bypasses the track, "Bump Day" will be just that for tomorrow, Sunday.

The drivers left wanting to make it into the field include Mario Dominguez and PCM ... still insisting that the car will be put back together and if the weather holds off, they can make it into the show. The fastest speed Mario Dominguez was able to achieve in practice - 220.597. Mario said in an interview in the PCM garage that the Angel that is part of the logo of his "Visit Mexico City" sponsored car is the Angel of Independence, and that this Angel will get them back out on the track and qualify for the 92nd Indy 500.

Columna de la Independencia" in Reforma financial district. Image Credit: Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Mario will have to duke it out with AJ Foyt IV (220.972), Tony George's Vision Racing, Eli Lily, and "Mad" Max Papis (221.358), Rubicon Racing, LifeLock. Max Papis crashed earlier today and was able to make a deal with Dreyer Reinbold Racing for Milka Duno’s 2007 car but the car needed to have modifications to the tub in order to have the car make it through technical inspection tomorrow … Team owner and Indy legend, Sam Schmidt has dubbed the car “Frankenstein”.

Dominguez is so popular in his homeland that Mexico City is installing more than 90 Jumbotron television screens at sporting venues and parks around the city just for the race.

Image Credit: Andy Sallee (2008)

"This is not just a project of this team any more," Dominguez said. "This is the project of a country."

A final report has a potential of Jaques Lazier making a deal to field another teams back-up car ... it is said that anything can happen at Indy, and it usually does. No pressure.

Until tomorrow ...

... notes from The EDJE

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