Some News Out Of Left-Field

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I understand that at my ripe old age, I’m not up on the latest trends or fashion. Come to think of it – even when I was in my twenties, you could have probably said the same thing about me. I’ve never really cared about the latest pop star or what everyone was wearing; hence my solid white Reeboks that everyone seems to take great pride in making fun of. But one thing I always took pride in was knowing the latest sports news – whether it was football or IndyCar racing.

That’s why I have been a longtime subscriber to Trackside Online (TSO). For twenty-two dollars a year, I get every press release as well as their own content that gives analysis and opinions. It’s always the best money I spend each year.

Mid-morning on Monday, I got a press release from TSO that caught me off guard. It was an announcement that there would be a new team joining the IndyCar Series on a part-time basis in 2018 – DragonSpeed.

The release detailed that they were a current sports car team that had bought a new Dallara chassis and they would be running Chevy engines in their abbreviated five-race schedule that includes St. Petersburg, Barber, Road America, Mid-Ohio and the Indianapolis 500. It went on to say that the car would be driven by Ben Hanley, a thirty-three year-old Brit.

My initial reaction was “Wait…what?”

I immediately went to Racer.com to see if there was any more info on this team and driver. It was mostly the same information, but the Racer article said that they had initially revealed their plans to go IndyCar racing back in August. How did I miss this?

As I said earlier, I can’t name two current TV shows that are not sports/news related nor can I tell you any of the latest movies at the box office. But I keep up with the very latest in IndyCar news – not just because of this website, but because it’s what I’ve done for decades. Somehow, every bit of this news escaped me and I feel a little embarrassed by it. Am I the only one that was caught off guard by this, or was this clear out of left field for many of you?

I will be the first to admit that I don’t follow the World Endurance Championship. As I said on Monday, I’ll usually watch the Rolex24 and Le Mans – but I couldn’t name any teams or drivers that don’t have direct IndyCar connections. But if one of those teams had been hinting at expanding into IndyCar, I think I would know about it.

I am on a group text with a couple of IndyCar friends and we all live in different states. I sent them a text asking if I was the only one that had never heard of Ben Hanley. One friend responded that he was “…checking out his Wikipedia page as we speak.” Another immediately responded by asking if he should have ever heard of DragonSpeed. OK, I immediately felt better. I wasn’t the only one who felt in the dark with this announcement.

I immediately joked that by the name, I was expecting some involvement with Jay Penske – the man behind Dragon Racing, which was also known as Luczo Dragon Racing and de Ferran Dragon Racing. Jay Penske apparently likes Dragons since he also owns Dragon Books. That led to a series of snide comments among the three of us that recalled the names of Scott Speed and Ho Pin Tung. We may or may not have made jokes about Jay Penske allegedly urinating on a woman’s boots at Nantucket, but I digress.

As it turns out, there is no connection whatsoever between DragonSpeed, Dragon Racing or Jay Penske.

DragonSpeed is a US-based team founded by American racer Elton Julian in 2007. Their first race was in the GT class in the 2011 Rolex24.Many of you probably already knew this, but they won the 2015 GTA title in the Pirelli World Challenge. In 2018, they made their debut in the LMP1 class of the World Endurance Championship, with Hanley as one of their drivers.

I guess what perplexes me the most is how this slid under the radar back in August. My scientific sampling of three (counting me) hardcore IndyCar fans have no recollection of any talk back in August. And it’s not like the other two are old and senile like me and have bad memories. One is in his late twenties, and the other in his late thirties. None of us had heard of DragonSpeed, Ben Handley or had any recollection of them revealing plans to race in IndyCar.

Don’t get me wrong – I’m not complaining. Anytime a new racing entity that is successful in another series, decides to expand into IndyCar – that can be nothing but a good sign. It shows that IndyCar is being recognized in the motorsports community as bringing value to its participants and consequently to sponsors.

There is another plus. Here we are in mid-December, and the entry list for the Indianapolis 500 already stands at thirty confirmed entries – sixteen for Honda and fourteen for Chevy. In years past, we are sometimes in April before hitting the thirty confirmed entry mark. At this rate, some are speculating that we could end up with as many as forty entries by the time practice for the 103rd Running of the Indianapolis 500 starts on May 13. I don’t know if they’ll reach forty, but the car count is looking strong for an interesting Bump Day.

Although DragonSpeed will only be racing in five events this coming season, they plan to expand to being a fulltime team in 2020 – the same year that Meyer Shank Racing will become a fulltime team.

It wasn’t that long ago that some IndyCar races featured as few as eighteen cars. Just in the past couple of years, we’ve seen new entries from Shank, Juncos, Carlin, Harding and now DragonSpeed. There are also rumors that won’t go away that say that Dreyer & Reinbold is eying a return to being fulltime in IndyCar. And don’t forget, McLaren is buying its own equipment for their run in this year’s Indianapolis 500 with a possible fulltime run in 2020 as well.

The announcement by DragonSpeed is a definite shot in the arm for the IndyCar Series that has been getting a lot of good news lately. I just wish I had known something about them before their announcement Monday morning.

George Phillips

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6 Responses to “Some News Out Of Left-Field”

  1. I heard one mention of it this summer but nothing since. The announcement caught me by surprise since I had only heard that brief mention I August

  2. BrandonWright77 Says:

    Surprised you weren’t aware, it was mentioned back in July by several outlets so yesterday’s news didn’t surprised me at all. And yes, Dragonspeed is a fairly well-known team in the endurance racing world, really happy to see them jump on the IndyCar bandwagon. Below are articles from three major motorsports news outlets posted in July.

    https://www.autosport.com/indycar/news/137344/dragonspeed-plans-2019-indycar-team

    https://racer.com/2018/07/09/dragonspeed-aiming-for-part-time-2019-indycar-program/

    https://us.motorsport.com/indycar/news/dragonspeed-in-indycar-entry-talks-1058832/3139510/

  3. Paul Fitzgerald Says:

    I definitely heard about them possibly coming in August, however then I heard they might not come because of Indycar’s new drivers license restriction which was going to keep Ben Hanley from being their driver which they said they would only come if he was their driver. So yes I knew about this team.

  4. I do remember the piece(s) about them back a few months ago, but at the time, I discarded them as largely fanciful talk (kind of like I did with the talk of Scuderia Corsa being their own entrant for 2019 back around the 500 this past season). This being said, this is definitely a pleasant surprise.

  5. Puff.

  6. billytheskink Says:

    I recall the August news about DragonSpeed (and Hanley), but at the time it seemed more of a “we would like to” announcement than a “we intend to” one. I assumed at the time they were putting the “news” out there in a potentially vain attempt to shake the sponsor tree, I guess that worked.

    They have got a heck of a learning curve ahead.

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