The IZOD IndyCar Series will welcome at least one new team for the 2012 season as former Toyota Atlantic and current Grand-Am Rolex Sports Car Series entrant Michael Shank Racing has formed MSR Indy to compete in next year's full season. Shank intends to continue his three-car Grand-Am Daytona Prototype team and keep his 20,000-square-foot operations in the Columbus, OH area, rather than relocate to Indianapolis in order to claim the bonus offered to local teams by chassis builder Dallara.
Shank has two principal partners in the endeavor: Columbus area businessman Brian Bailey and NASCAR Sprint Cup driver AJ Allmendinger. Allmendinger, currently driving for Richard Petty Motorsports in NASCAR Sprint Cup Series competition, has raced in six Rolex 24 at Daytona twice-around-the-clock contests for MSR.
Although Shank said a driver for his single-car entry will be named at a later date, anyone expecting to see Allmendinger behind the wheel can forget about it: he intends to focus on his driving duties in the No. 43 RPM in the Sprint Cup Series. He does intend to run with MSR at the 50th Rolex 24 at Daytona.
"For me, the Indianapolis 500 has always been the dream," Shank said. "With the new 2012 Indy car, there is a window for a team like mine to join the series and pursue that dream. We are still working on finalizing several elements of our program, but we wanted to take this opportunity to announce our commitment to INDYCAR."
MSR Indy is the first team to acknowledge a commitment to the Lotus Indy engine currently on the Engine Developments Ltd dynamometer in the UK. "I have a lot of faith in John Judd," Shank emphasized. "Are they a little company? Yeah, but so are we." He expects to start testing the Dallara/Judd/Firestone prototype by the end of November, together with other Lotus teams.
© 2011 Anne Proffit