IndyCar on course at Long Beach, 2010Enlarge Photo
For the past eight years, the IndyCar Series has had a TEAM (Team Enhancement and Allocation Matrix) program that financially assists the top 24 entrants with fees over each season. For 2011, and with the arrival of new CEO Randy Bernard, the TEAM program has been amended to include only the top 22 car entrants.This move will prove problematic for two teams in particular – Conquest Racing and Dale Coyne Racing both finished outside the top 22 with one of their cars. Coyne’s entry for Venezuelan Milka Duno is affected, as is the No. 36 at Conquest, hurt because the team missed the first two races as it stabilized its annual program.
The loss of money – and this is approximately $1.2 million through the plan, an extension of IndyCar’s Leaders Circle program – might cause Coyne to park Duno, which would likely have the balance of the paddock jumping for joy as Milka is obscenely uncompetitive and doesn’t belong in the series. She drives at the behest of Venezuela’s Cesar Chavez.Bernard has the right idea with these changes: “Credibility is very important to us, and we consistently hear from fans that they want to see teams fielding the best of the best” at IndyCar Series contests. “When our fans show up at an event, we want to guarantee they’re seeing the fastest, most versatile drivers on the track. We never want to have someone uncompetitive who can buy their way into a series,” Bernard said. If he wasn’t singling out Duno, I’d be very surprised.
The TEAM program was designed to provide a financial foundation for entrants committed to running the entire IZOD IndyCar Series. If an eligible top-22 decides not to compete in the coming season’s races, a new entrant – or someone that finished outside the magic cut-off – could still qualify for the stipend, which guarantees at least $2.2 million to the winner of the 2011 Indianapolis 500, a tidy sum.
The TEAM and Leaders Circle programs were established to provide incentives to teams that participate full-time in the IndyCar Series. The program leverages relationships built by INDYCAR with its partners, sponsors and suppliers, thereby providing benefits directly to the participating teams.© 2010 Anne Proffit