|Canada's Paul Tracy of Dragon Racing answers questions at a news conference at the Edmonton Indy in Edmonton, Alberta, July 22, 2011. (REUTERS/Todd Korol)
The IZOD IndyCar Series has made its decision on which drivers and teams will get the approximately $1.3 million each in subsidies for the 2012 season.
And to no one’s surprise Canadians Paul Tracy and Alex Tagliani are not on the list, although Oakville’s James Hinchcliffe did make the cut with the No. 27 team from Andretti Autosport.
The so-called Leader Circle program is meant to reward teams for both past performance and a commitment to a full season of racing in 2012.
The exclusion of Tracy and the Michael Shank Racing Indy team from that list will very likely end Tracy’s dream of a farewell tour after a 22-season open wheel racing career.
It probably won’t affect Tagliani nearly as harshly as the Montreal native already has a full-season sponsorship deal in place with high end electronics giant Bowers & Wilkins to support his ride with Bryan Herta Autosport.
Still, Herta was livid at the news his team — that won last year’s Indianapolis 500 with the late Dan Wheldon behind the wheel — was not among the Leader Circle cash recipients.
“I’m extremely disappointed and angry, it’s a travesty,’’ Herta told SPEED-TV. “We’ve got the only national brand as a primary sponsor and I was always told the Indy 500 was the most important race in the world. But obviously it wasn’t enough to get us into the 20 most important teams.”
In an astounding bit of irony Tagliani’s old team — Sam Schmidt Motorsports — was awarded one of the $1.3 million aid packages based on his performance with that team in 2011 where he won the pole at the Indy 500.
SSM’s money will go, however, to support Simon Pagenaud of France, who has no poles and no wins in his one-season of IndyCar racing.
For Tracy — the 2003 Champ Car World Series champion and winner of 31 career races — it is a bitter pill to swallow as it shows that IndyCar is still throwing its established stars under the bus.
For example the list of 20 teams and drivers that were awarded Leader Circle money includes an open spot on the KV Racing Technology team that is being held for Brazilian Rubens Barrichello.
This would be the same Barrichello who is out of rides in Formula 1 after a career with no championships and just 11 wins in 326 races.
And those numbers put up by Barrichello are hugely inflated by the fact that for six seasons he played the part of second banana to Michael Schumacher at powerhouse Ferrari.
Barrichello, who turns 40 this season, is only two years younger than Tracy, so it is not as if IndyCar teams are seeking out new and exciting drivers to entice fans back to their events.
Tracy, contacted on Friday, said he was going to wait until all of his options are looked into before commenting on the loss of the Leaders Circle money.
However in typical Tracy fashion he tweeted his thoughts: “People want to know my thoughts on the leader circle, never thought I would get one in the first place, not wasted any time thinking on it.”
It takes about $6 million a season to run an competitive IndyCar program and it is understood that Tracy and Shank have commitments for about two-thirds of that in their budget, but without the Leader Circle funds that program would be hard pressed to make the starting grid in anymore than a handful of races this season.
Shank, however, remained at least hopeful that he and MSR Indy could cobble something together to save his season.
“We all felt like we deserved it so it’s frustrating,’’ Shank told Indianapolis Star motorsports columnist Curt Cavin. “This doesn’t kill our Indy car program ... it hurts us but it doesn’t paralyze us.’’
Ferrari signalled its intention to battle for the F1 world championship with Fernando Alonso when the Spanish driver topped the speed charts in the final day of testing Friday at Spain’s Circuito de Jerez with a best lap of one minute, 18.877 seconds .... IndyCar rookie of the year for 2011 James Hinchcliffe has been added to the racing stars who will make an appearance at the Canadian Motorsports Expo at the International Centre this weekend.