Team 3G Should Step Up or Close Up
I am a big supporter of large fields at all IndyCar races. Who wouldn’t be? Small fields equate to lack of competition, lack of sponsorship and ultimately lack of interest. But being a supporter of large fields does not mean that I am a supporter of field fillers. Unfortunately, that is exactly what Greg Beck’s Team 3G has quickly become.
I remember before the season started, there was talk that Tomas Scheckter may have put together sponsorship for a second car at Team 3G in time to start the season at the second race in Long Beach. After seeing the team in action at St. Petersburg, the sponsor supposedly had second thoughts and would not commit the money to Scheckter for that seat. I don’t know if the sponsor was Mona Vie – Scheckter’s current sponsor – but if it was, they are to be commended for doing their due diligence.
I first heard of Greg Beck when he showed up for the 1995 Indianapolis 500. He ran a silver and black car with blank sidepods and a Japanese driver no one had heard of. Surprisingly, he was able to get Hideshi Matsuda solidly into a very competitive field that year (remember, even the Penske cars didn’t make it). Matsuda qualified twentieth and finished fifteenth in a year-old Lola chassis. This was a commendable effort for the driver and a team that was operating on a shoestring budget.
For 1996, Greg Beck ran Robbie Buhl in the inaugural IRL season. Buhl finished third in the championship. The team ran a second car at Indianapolis, again piloted by Matsuda who finished eighth. When Buhl left Beck Motorsports for Team Menard for the 1997 season, Beck inexplicably turned to Dennis Vitolo to be the sole driver for the team. Not surprisingly, the team did not fare well and Beck Motorsports did not return for the 1998 season.
After a one-year layoff, Greg Beck decided to give the Indianapolis 500 another try in 1999. He returned Matsuda to the cockpit and he promptly delivered a tenth place qualifying effort as well as a tenth place finish – all on an almost non-existent budget. The tandem returned for the 2000 Indy 500 but failed to qualify.
For 2001, Beck partnered with Cary Agajanian and Mike Curb for the entire IRL season with Billy Boat as their driver. Agajanian was the son of legendary car owner, J.C. Agajanian – a two time Indy 500 winning car owner. Agajanian owned the 1952 winner driven by Troy Ruttman and “Ol’ Calhoun”; the car that Parnelli Jones had driven to victory in 1963. Agajanian’s cars always carried #98. As a tip of the hat to his father; Cary Agajanian had the car carry #98 and a paint scheme reminiscent of Ol’ Calhoun. Boat had a best finish of second that year at Nashville and finished fourth in the championship.
For 2002, Beck was on his own again – fielding a car in only three races for Robby McGehee. For 2003, Beck ran Japanese driver Shinji Nakano at Indy and Motegi with uninspiring results.
In 2004, Beck reunited with Cary Agajanian and Mike Curb. They placed driver PJ Jones, the son of Parnelli, in the #98 entry that was again painted like his father’s 1963 winner. Jones finished in twenty-eighth place. For 2005, they tried to squeeze an inexperienced Arie Luyendyk, Jr. into the field, but AJ Foyt had other ideas. Foyt pulled Felipe Giaffone out of an Indianapolis mall to hop into one of his backup cars and proceeded to bump the young Luyendyk.
The group joined forces with Team Leader Motorsports for a two-car effort for the 2006 Indy 500 with Stephan Gregoire and PJ Jones as drivers. They both started thirtieth and thirty-second respectively. Gregoire finished twenty-ninth while Jones ended up with a nineteenth place finish. For 2007, the team had ended its partnership with Team Leader and ran Alex Barron in a handful of races – including Indianapolis, where he finished fifteenth. The team failed to qualify for Indy in 2008 with Roger Yasukawa.
For 2009, things sounded promising as they announced new funding, new partners and even a new name – Team 3G. They were going to have a full-fledged assault on the IndyCar schedule. Things quickly got quieter when it was announced that one of the new partners, NASCAR refugee Stanton Barrett, would be the team’s driver. Then they lost their main sponsor before the season. Still after a slow start, Barrett showed some promise at the season opener at St. Pete and brought the car home in twelfth place.
At Long Beach, Barrett was a backmarker for most of the day and finished seventeenth. It got worse at Kansas as he was the last car running, nineteen laps down and finished seventeenth again. The downward spiral continued as Barrett and the team failed to qualify at Indy. Not only was this an embarrassment to be the only full-time team to be bumped from the race, but also it costs the team about three hundred thousand dollars to miss the race. The following week at Milwaukee, Barrett crashed in practice. With no backup car, the team had to pack up and go home.
By the next race at Texas, veteran Jaques Lazier had replaced Barrett, but the results did not change. Rookie Richard Antinucci was brought in for a few road course appearances and showed some signs of promise – for himself, not the car.
At the beginning of the season, the car at least had a catchy blue and white paint job – probably reflecting the sponsor that fell through. Since Texas, the car has been simply a basic black – which to me signifies that they don’t even care to put any imagination into their presentation. Week after week, the car is always one of – if not the slowest car on the grid. Normally, the gap between the Team 3G car and the next slowest car is huge.
This is not a fitting way for Jaques Lazier to wind down his career. He is better than what this team gives him. But if he wants to race, this is about his only choice. It’s also not a way to start a career like Antinucci is doing. I guess the thinking is that if he can do anything in the Team 3G car, he must have talent.
Greg Beck has built a career over being able to do more with less than just about any team owner in the paddock. Unfortunately, he hasn’t been able to pull a rabbit out of his hat this year. The car is an embarrassment to the team, the league and whatever driver has the misfortune of driving it in any given week. Hopefully, they can finish the last two races of the season without any mishap being caused by such a slow backmarker on the track.
For 2010, Team 3G should find some proper funding and get some better people on board or else close up shop. They are accomplishing nothing for themselves, their drivers or the rest of the field by putting such a poor product on the track as they have this season. I wish them all the best in retooling their team. The IndyCar Series needs owners like Greg Beck in the paddock. They just don’t need the car they have put on the track this season.