Sarah Fisher can relate to the Rodney Dangerfield. Extended fan applause, but ...
Right about now, once again, Sarah Fisher has to be wondering what she has to do to get some respect from anybody outide her legions of fans, including me.
Sarah Fisher posted this on Twitter Friday:
"Making some headway. Still have full season funding available to start at St Pete and continue beyond. However, our appearance there is not looking promising. Still digging deep, please keep up the prayers. We need this kid in a racecar"
Whaaa? Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing NOT make the grid at St. Pete? Leave it to IndyCar to come up with a way to kick off 2012 with a dark cloud of PR not-good hanging over its head as the winning team of the last race and the hot-shoe American Firestone Indy Lights champ (Josef Newgarden) sit and watch.
Let's review Sarah's situation ...
What Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing has:
- TWO new cars that are paid for
- Funding for a whole season
- The reigning Firestone Indy Lights Champion, American Newgarden, who most agree is a freak of the weak on road and street courses.
- A team payroll of 18 people
- Ground broken on a $2.5 million shop in the much beloved renovation area of downtown Speedway, next door to the new Dallara building and within blocks of IMS
- A team owner who was multiple most-popular IndyCar driver and done every dog and pony thing asked of her to promote the league for the last 12 years.
- A team that won the most recent race in Kentucky with Ed Carpenter in arguably the biggest non-Indy oval upset the last six-ish years. David (Sarah Fisher Racing and Ed Carpenter) coldcocked Goliath (Target Chip Ganassi and Dario Franchitti).
What Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing does NOT have ..
- An engine or a commitment from any engine maker
Turns out Randy and IndyCar listened a little bit to the "critics" he blasted at the end of the public State of IndyCar meeting and underestimated the 2012 car count.
As copiously and well documented by SPEED.com's Marshall Pruett, most recently here and here, IndyCar series peeps got together last year and guessed that the grid would need 25 new DW12s by St. Pete this year. Engine manufacturers Lotus, Chevy and Honda "committed" to providing engines for 40% of the field. Do the math of 40% of 25 and you get 10, so that is what the manufactures budgeted and planned for. What if more than 25 show up? Oops. No contingency plan. Awesome.
After all, all-new IndyCar engines aren't just knocked out in a weekend for $100 each. We're talking thousands of man-hours and millions of dollars here to create these engines, so telling manufactures "we need 10 at the most" (which is more like 30 when you figure replacements, parts, etc. etc.) and then asking them for 12 is kind of bogus. Honda and Chevy have come through on their 10 (actually, Chevy went to 11 by adding Ed Carpenter Racing recently). But Lotus, late out of the chute, did came up with 5-maybe-7, not 10, even though Randy Bernard continued to assure us late last season that Lotus was right on track.
According to Pruett, Lotus expects to get to 10, but maybe not by St. Pete. Maybe by Indy. Meanwhile, more than 25 cars showed up for 2012 and musical chairs ensued. Sarah Fisher -- a member of the Mount Rushmore of female open-wheel drivers (Guthrie, St. James, Fisher, Patrick) -- was left without a chair.
(Update: Frankly, the whole issue of how many engines each company has to produce is a Festival of Gray. The agreement between IndyCar and the engine makers seems to be not fully known and influx which mostly likely contributes highly to this whole FUBAR situation.)
Allegedly Randy Barnard is working to find Sarah an engine, because having her sit with no engine (reglardless of the reason) would a Fesitval of Not Good. Sarah Fisher has a lot of passionate fans. You can roll out the new car and have all the sparkle show you want, but the party will be a bit tainted with the No Joe & Sarah "storyline" -- a self-inflicted wound.
I anticipate the "they'll find an engine for Sarah" response and I certainly hope it is true. It is more likely to happen if people like you and me bitch a little bit about it.
Which brings me back to respect, and lack there of. Frustrated by being on the B-squad in other teams, Sarah and her husband Andy O'Gara started her own team for Indy 2008. Her alleged primary sponsor turned out to be an illusion and fans donated $50,000 in 10s and 20s to get her into the race. Then she was collected by a Tony Kanaan/Marco Andretti incident in the race and was, again, screwed. Dollar General's CEO happened to be watching that race and, moved by Sarah's teary passion, made a deal with her (details here). Everything is great through 2011 with Dollar General, but a few days before Ed Carpenter won, Sarah gets told Dollar General was pulling out. (Sarah career retrospective here.)
So there's Ed, Sarah, Andy and their infant daughter, Zoe, celebrating their historic win, sitting on a car with a sponsor that has bailed on them. To be fair to Dollar General, their three-partial-seasons support was highly appreciated and everyone seemed to part as friends. But still, the ironic timing of the win was almost too insane.
Well, it gets crazier. Oil zillionaire Wink Hartman, who had already been a sponsor on Sarah's car (again, moved by her fan support before the 2008 Indy 500 and Sarah's teary post-race moments), ups his involvement in 2012 to join the team as a principal, creating Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing. BAM, back in the saddle! Now this.
Somebody should make this into a made-for-TV movie. I pray (literally) it has a happy ending.