Izod IndyCar Update: Newman/Haas closes, Barnhart out as Race Director

Photo Credit: Izod IndyCar

Newman/Haas Racing, one of the most successful teams in American open-wheel racing, announced Thursday that they will not field cars in 2012.

While NASCAR's best occupy Las Vegas for the end-of-season festivities and the crowning of a new Sprint Cup champion, their Izod IndyCar compadres face the sobering reality that even a championship-caliber team isn't exempt from economic woes.

The same kind of funding and sponsorship issues facing NASCAR teams prompted the closure. In their public statement, Carl Haas said "The economic climate no longer enables Newman/Haas Racing to participate in open-wheel racing at this time."

IndyCar CEO Randy Bernard released the following statement: "Newman/Haas Racing is a first-class organization that has left an indelible mark on our sport including eight championships and 107 race wins. We will miss having them at the track next season.”

Founded in 1983 by race-car-parts importer Carl Haas and the late actor Paul Newman, the Newman/Haas roster reads like a who's who of open-wheel racing. They won their first CART championship in 1984 with Mario Andretti and went on to seven more with drivers like Michael Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Christiano de Matta and Sebastien Bourdais. Their 2011 team included veteran Oriol Servia, who finished fourth in points, and Sunoco Rookie of the Year James Hinchcliffe.

In addition to the closing of a prominent team, IndyCar made major changes to the series' organization this week. According to an IndyCar.com story by Dave Lewandowski, the responsibilities of President of Operations and Race Director are being separated into two positions, with the often-controversial Brian Barnhart retaining the title of Director of Operations but relinquishing that of Race Director. IndyCar looks to fill that opening by the time the season opens March 25 with the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg.

Barnhart faced opposition for his sometimes controversial decisions like restarting a race at New Hampshire Motor Speedway before the track was dry, which resulted in a multicar crash and open criticism from drivers such as championship contender Will Power and three-time Indy 500 winner Helio Castroneves. Also, IndyCar Commercial Division President Terry Angstadt resigned and will be replaced by the former Director of Corporate Business Development Marc Koretsky.

Koretsky orchestrated IndyCar's own end-of-season Las Vegas festivities, although the celebrations were cancelled after the tragic death of Dan Wheldon in a horrifying crash during the season finale at Las Vegas Motor Speedway.
Izod IndyCar Update: Newman/Haas closes, Barnhart out as Race Director Izod IndyCar Update: Newman/Haas closes, Barnhart out as Race Director Reviewed by Janine Cloud on Friday, December 02, 2011 Rating: 5