With the recent injections of new life into the IndyCar Series by new teams, one of its oldest and most successful, Newman Haas Racing, has delivered a bodyblow by announcing it is closing its doors, citing financial concerns.
Team owner Carl Haas has delivered the shock news despite its two drivers from the 2011 season, Oriol Servià and James Hinchcliffe taking fourth in the overall series points standings and the Rookie of the Year Award respectively. Neither driver has commented yet on their reaction to the team’s closure nor how this will affect their search for finding race seats for the 2012 season.
Via a short statement issued late Thursday night, Haas, now 81-years of age, said “"Newman/Haas Racing announced today that it will not enter cars in the 2012 IndyCar Series. The economic climate no longer enables Newman/Haas Racing to participate in open wheel racing at this time."
The team was one of the most successful open-wheel entities from its debut in 1983 when it signed Formula 1 World Champion Mario Andretti, who won the IndyCar Series title in only its second season of competition.
They went one better in 1993, signing reigning Formula 1 World Champ Nigel Mansell, who came across the Atlantic and won the IndyCar title in his first attempt. Mansell became the only man to win open-wheel racing’s two most prestigious titles in consecutive seasons and joining Emerson Fittipaldi as the only other driver to have won a Formula One championship prior to winning the IndyCar title.
|Some of the greats of American open-wheel racing have driven (and won) for Newman/Haas (L-R): Andretti, Mansell, da Matta, Bourdais|
Further titles with Michael Andretti in 1991 and Cristiano da Matta in 2002 set the stage for 4 years of utter domination, albeit during the declining years of Champ Car when most of the major teams had already defected to the IRL, as Sébastien Bourdais won four consecutive Champ Car crowns from 2004 to 2007.
After joining the reunified IndyCar scene in 2008, the team won its second race at St Petersburg with Graham Rahal at the wheel, while Justin Wilson delivered what would become the team’s final victory at Detroit later that year.
Following the death of team co-founder and Hollywood acting legend Paul Newman in late 2008, and despite financial input from a new team partner in Mike Lanigan, the fortunes of the team began to fade. Nonetheless, through eight championship titles, 107 race victories and 109 pole positions, the name will continue to live on in history as one of the most successful and recognisable teams in American open-wheel history.
[Images via AutoRacing1, AutoTrend, Newman/Haas, LAT, Taurtoise Motorsport]