Bourdais out at Coyne

Four-time Champ Car champion Sebastien Bourdais will not drive for Dale Coyne Racing in 2020.

“Very happy that Sebastien decided to drive for us after his Formula 1 tour in 2011, and again the last three years, and appreciate all he’s done for our team, but the ever-changing landscape in IndyCar has changed our plans for 2020,” Coyne told RACER.

Bourdais was unavailable for comment.

It’s believed Frenchman, who joined the team in 2017 with his title-winning race engineer Craig Hampson, was informed the final year of his contract to pilot the No. 18 Honda fielded by Coyne, Jimmy Vasser, and James ‘Sulli’ Sullivan will not be honored.

A new need for funding is said to have led to Coyne’s decision to stand Bourdais down in favor of finding a paying driver to complete the entry’s operating budget.

It’s unclear whether Hampson, who joined the team specifically to be reunited with his Champ Car driver, will remain with the Illinois-based outfit.

The timing of Coyne’s late decision could be crippling for Bourdais, whose options appear to be severely limited with a new season rapidly approaching in March.

Although seats are open at A.J. Foyt Racing and Carlin Racing, both of the Chevy-powered programs are searching for funded drivers. Other potential landing places for Bourdais, including the third Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda car the team endeavors to run, also need significant funding.

One interesting scenario which came to light over the summer was a proposed contract swap between Arrow McLaren SP and Coyne where Bourdais and James Hinchcliffe would have traded places in 2020.

While the deal did not go through, the well-funded AMSP team, which lacks a proven veteran to groom its young pairing of Patricio O’Ward and Oliver Askew, could find value in Bourdais after learning of Coyne’s shocking decision. The chances, though, of AMSP preparing a third car for Bourdais, after declining to do so for Hinchcliffe, appear to be slim.

And Hinchcliffe — whose efforts to raise the backing to continue his IndyCar career after being parked by AMSP is said to be making progress — could be a leading candidate to replace Bourdais at Coyne if his sponsorship hunt proves to be successful.

With Hinchcliffe serving as the off-season’s first casualty, and the recent news of Ed Carpenter Racing’s Spencer Pigot being dropped for budgetary reasons, Bourdais finds himself in a club of full-time drivers who are shocked to find themselves rideless and fighting to remain in the NTT IndyCar Series.

The Week In IndyCar, Nov. 21, with Mike Shank

Team owner Mike Shank is back for the latest episode of The Week In IndyCar to discuss listener-driven questions on Meyer Shank Racing’s move to a full-time entry for Jack Harvey in 2020, deep insights on the business of running an IndyCar team, the extreme costs and how Roger Penske might make change to the series he now owns, and more from the engaging Ohioan.

IndyCar veteran John Martin dies at age 80

He was owner, driver, chief mechanic, engine builder and sponsor finder — all at the same time.

John Martin was the last of a breed at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway in the 1970s and used his talent, guile and work ethic to make five Indianapolis 500s.

Martin, who passed away unexpectedly Wednesday at the age of 80, embodied the little guy at IMS and carved out a career despite never having much money or anything resembling a big crew.

He bought an old Brabham chassis from Sir Jack in 1971 and qualified for his initial Indianapolis race in 1972. At that time, USAC made each entry list a chief mechanic and even though Martin assembled the car, made all the chassis adjustments and constructed his own Offenhauser engine, he put Mike Mullins down as the chief. Mullins had never worked on an Indy car but was a bright kid that John took a liking to and they qualified 14th.

Because of his friendship with Peter Revson, Martin was able to purchase an M-16 McLaren in 1973 and after being caught up in the first-lap melee, he soldiered home to eighth place in the rain-shortened race.

In 1974, he scored a major sponsor for him (the Sea Snack Shrimp Cocktail) and finished 11th — again doing everything. The following May was his last as owner/driver and he qualified his old McLaren 16th.

Martin’s final start at Indy came in 1976, driving for Grant King.

Growing up on a farm around St. Louis, Martin became enamored with speed and began racing a Corvette in the early ’60s in the SCCA before landing a job with the AMC Trans-Am team in 1967. But he was hired as the chief mechanic for Peter Revson and George Follmer. At Mid-Ohio that summer, Follmer was running somewhere else on Saturday so John asked if he could qualify the car and, if he won the pole, could he keep the ride for Sunday’s race?

“The team owner rolled his eyes and said, ‘Sure John,” you go win the pole and the ride is yours,” recalled Martin. “Well I put it on the pole and Revson was second and when George got to the track on Sunday he found out I was driving his car. He wasn’t too pleased but I led until it broke.”

During the past decade Martin was a fixture at Bill Throckmorton’s shop, building Offy engines for Rick Duman’s restoration business, and also making appearances at the Vintage Indy Registry weekends at Gateway and IMS (pictured, top).

He loved coming to Charlie Brown’s every Friday for team lunch with his iPad so he could show the group a video of his latest Offy and turn up the volume to that sweet sound. Everyone marveled at what great shape John was in and he still had that desire to go to the shop every day.

He is survived by wife, Linda.

Watch Robin Miller’s video retrospective of John Martin, part of his “Tough Guys” series, below:

Change to Beyond the Flag power rankings for 2020

Prior to the 2019-2020 Formula E season and the 2020 Formula 1, NASCAR Cup Series and IndyCar seasons, the Beyond the Flag power rankings are set to undergo a small change. Since the start of 2018, a formula has been utilized to produce the Formula 1, Formula E, NASCAR Cup Series and IndyCar driver power […]

Change to Beyond the Flag power rankings for 2020Beyond the FlagBeyond the Flag – Your #1 Destination for Motorsports News and More

Andretti calls for a return to IndyCar team franchises

NTT IndyCar Series team owner Michael Andretti would welcome a shift in business practices to give entrants defined value for the entries they field.

Unlike Major League Baseball, the National Basketball Association, or the National Football League, where admission to the ranks of team ownership is subject to approval by the league or the other owners, prior to purchasing a franchise, IndyCar lacks a formal ownership structure. From A.J. Foyt Racing to Team Penske, every IndyCar team operates as an independent entity.

Provided an interested party can secure an engine lease from Chevy or Honda, a tire lease from Firestone and afford to purchase a spec Dallara DW12 chassis, there’s nothing to stop that team from entering the series — which, from Andretti’s perspective, makes establishing value for a team highly subjective.

The 1991 CART IndyCar Series champion, who owns five Honda-powered programs under the Andretti Autosport banner, desires a return to the franchise system that gave CART owners an established commodity that could be bought, sold, and hopefully, rise in value.

“How do we make our franchises worth something? Because, right now they’re not worth anything,” he said. “Look at what Formula E and Formula 1 have done. I mean, those franchises are worth a lot of money now. There’s real value.”

As the owner of the BMW i Andretti Motorsport Formula E franchise, which has a rumored value of $30 million, Andretti would like to see Roger Penske, IndyCar’s new owner, explore a similar team ownership structure.

“Now, any Joe Blow can buy a car and a truck and show up at the racetrack, and it’s too easy, if that makes sense. There’s got to be a way to the franchises, the 22 or 24 franchises, worth something,” he continued.

“So I think we’re going to probably talk a lot about that, shares, and things like that. I think that could be a positive. I think that could be something that’s right at the forefront that we need to do. It’s something that I’ve been pushing Mark on for a long time. We’ve got to figure out a way to get value, and Roger sees that and understands that.”