INDIANAPOLIS — Last week it was unveiled that Dale Coyne Racing and Rick Ware Racing would team up for two cars during the 2021 NTT IndyCar Series season. At that point, we thought it would be the No. 51 Honda as a full time entry and the No. 52 Honda as Indy only.
We found out late last week that Romain Grosjean would be in the 51 for road/street courses. It seemed at the time that all that was open in INDYCAR silly season would be the ovals for that ride and just the Indy only seat in the 52.
That has since changed a bit. In fact, it could be a little more confusing now.
In speaking during the media teleconference on Wednesday, it was unveiled that the 51 car is still full time and it’s still Grosjean taking on all 13 road/street courses. Where it gets confusing is that the 52 car will now race an additional 4-5 races on top of Indy too.
So, where does that now stand then for the open races on these cars? I get that this could be very confusing on what’s going on.
Right now, we know Ed Jones will race the No. 18 Honda for all 17 races in the joint partnership with Vasser Sullivan Racing. Grosjean is in the 51 for all road/street courses. That leaves the doubleheader at Texas, the Indy 500 as well as the race at World Wide Technology Raceway open on that car.
The 52 has Indy open as well as 4-5 additional races too.
We do know that Cody Ware will figure into these plans somehow. His dad, Rick Ware, said that they’d be prepared to take on all four ovals in the Grosjean car but it actually sounded more like he’d do some road/street course performances instead.
Grosjean, has ruled out Texas and Indy but not St. Louis yet, so that’s the only hold up for that ride.
In the case for Cody Ware, it does sound like even though he has no oval experience that the Indy 500 may be in the cards which leaves me to believe he could be slotted for the 52 car. That’s because Rick Ware is all about building a brand and looking at on track as well as marketing off the track in helping.
What better marketing brand than to have his son run the double in May? That could be where the 52 car is his because he could do some road/street courses in that ride and the Indy 500 if he chooses.
Ware single handily pointed out the NASCAR All-Star race as a non points paying event in Cup and that is also the Belle Isle doubleheader weekend. Cody Ware could run the 52 in both races which would be half of the additional desired entries.
We know Ware is full time in the Cup Series, so if he does run Indy Car, it would have to be circumstances to where the races aren’t overlapping.
“Cody only ran a few races last year because we decided to wait until we had proper funding,” said Rick Ware. “Cody is now going to run full-time in the Cup schedule.
“A few of the Cup races that conflict, we have some really good drivers that we’re going to fill in. We’ve been able to achieve sponsorship with Nurtec ODT, the migraine medication. They’re going to be involved in some INDYCAR. They’re involved in NASCAR heavily in the Cup Series and Xfinity.
“That’s an example of how we were able to get a full-time publicly traded company like this. We are trying to be an entity that for a certain amount of money you can be part of the three largest motorsports opportunities in North America.
“We’re very serious in trying to see how maybe Cody can work into a handful of races a year, to be part of an ongoing sponsor program.
“He’s got a fair amount of experience on ovals. He does really well there. So there might be some potential to do a handful of those here and there throughout the year. But right now he’s really looking forward to doing some testing, the road course, some INDYCARS.
“One of the weekends we have on the schedule, the All-Star weekend, which is a non-points event for the Cup cars. We’re just kind of looking at all that, trying to build a brand around Cody as a driver, trying to attach a sponsor to him for his ongoing career.”
Here’s the timeline on how this all happened.
How The Coyne/Ware Partnership Happened
It all started in last year’s Indy 500 when the two partnered on a ride for James Davison. It took off from there as once Ware got to Indy, he wanted more. Coyne was open and Ware had a car.
With Alex Palou departing for Chip Ganassi Racing, it made this all possible. DCR had a second team available but obviously needed funding. Ware, has some funding and a car. All they needed then was a driver.
Conversations between Coyne and Grosjean started taking place.
“I grew up with a road racing background initially,” said Ware. “We’re kind of knee deep into NASCAR. But follow road racing, love road racing. Anybody that’s in motorsports obviously I believe follows Formula 1 to a huge extent.
“We had some opportunities for sponsors to expand a little bit last year, from an owner’s standpoint I’ve never been to Indianapolis. Who could not want to be part of that? When James Davidson came onboard, we started talking. The racer in me wanted to try to figure out a way to do it. Talked to several people. Had nothing but great stories about Dale, working with him.
“Got to meet him. I felt like we kind of hit it off as far as he’s a journeyman driver into a team owner. Kind of the same with us. This is our 30th year in motorsports. This is all we do for a living. We live and breathe it.
“The racer in me, man, just ate up Indianapolis. Of course, we’d been there with NASCAR. Indy is about INDYCARS. We put a deal together. I really started seeing the benefit of trying to expand just our reach as a race team.
“To go in and say that we’re going to just do it all on our own would have been a huge feat. Right now with where we are in our career, we want to have success. I joked a little bit with Dale, I kind of want to be him when I grow up. He’s been very, very successful.
“We kind of just talked back and forth about kind of what my dreams were, where we wanted to be with RWR. I wanted to expand in the business and marketing model like Penske, Ganassi, that can go to sponsors and be able to offer different motorsports platforms.
“We just talked more and more. I think over the long haul we really didn’t have a second plan really for a driver. We said there’s maybe an outside chance that something may happen with Romain. I think we waited for several months. Selfishly, we figured it was going to be a great story to have a great driver. It’s a business, obviously, first.
“I’m excited to have a guy like that drive for us. I’m excited to just get to the racetrack, expand our sponsors. It’s all business, but man, some part of it I’m kind of like a kid, too. I’m just so thankful to be here.”
When asked what drew him to the series, Grosjean had an interesting response.
“Sexiness. As I say, after the accident, there’s one thing I realize in life, is to have the choice to say no or yes. Really I think INDYCAR is a top series, top drivers, top cars, super exciting to drive.
“I shouldn’t mention it, a competitor of mine right now, but yesterday Will Power posted on Twitter a nice video from the helmet, testing in Sebring. Hearing the sound of the engine and watching the onboard, I just took the clip, sent it to my wife and said, This is why I do it. I felt like this is what I want to do. This is what I want to race. It looks mega. Let’s do it.”
Grosjean Was Open To Ovals Before Crash
Romain Grosjean started talked to Dale Coyne last year about this endeavor which leads us to the next part of the timeline. It sounds as if this was originally going to be a full time venture for the two. But, once that horrific crash in F1 occurred in late November, that left the French driver wanting to run just road/street courses after.
“We wanted Romain from the beginning,” said Coyne. “Before Bahrain, we were talking quite seriously. He was always our target. We’re happy that it all worked out together that we could make this happen.
“Obviously we respect that he’s only going to do the road courses. But we’re happy with the whole program and looking forward very much to the year.”
Grosjean, didn’t leave the race at World Wide Technology Raceway off the table for later in the season though, but he did say that the two superspeedway’s (Texas/Indy) aren’t being discussed anymore at all.
“I think if I was 25 and single or even with no kids, I would be racing ovals definitely,” he said. “No, it’s also a family choice. I think on the 29th of November, 2020, for 2 minutes 45 seconds thought they had lost a dad and my wife unfortunately lost her husband. The idea of putting them back into that situation, really I can’t take it.
“The speedways at the minute, no. But I am not saying 100% no to Gateway. Let’s see how the season goes. If we can do some testing on short track and see how it goes.
“It’s not 100% yes and 100% no, but for now I just need to look after my family in the speedways.”
Why Grosjean Chose INDYCAR?
“I mean, it’s the one I want to do,” he said. “I have a chance after doing 10 years in Formula 1, I had the option to discover something new. There were few options on the table, but I felt like the one that I wanted to do was INDYCAR.
“I got in touch with Dale last year, before Imola. I really felt there were a big enthusiasm on getting me onboard. It’s something that I really, really loved and felt good about.
“I looked at the options that I had. I say what I want to do is to go in INDYCAR because I’ve been watching the races. The series looks super competitive. The car looks fun to drive. The circuits looked amazing, just the old style that I really like. When you look at Road America, Mid-Ohio, the street courses, Laguna Seca, they’re part of the circuits that I used to play video games on those 20 years ago. Not good to say that, but 20 years ago (smiling).
“I am super excited to discover the championship. I’ve been absolutely amoring the YouTube channel of the INDYCAR over the Christmas period, watching every race for the last three seasons, trying to understand what I need to learn.
“There’s lots to learn from a rolling starts to doing the pit stop to learning the car. I’m ready to tackle the challenge. I think it’s the right one.
“This is something I’m very, very much looking forward to. I’ve been watching the races. The way you can follow the car in front of you, the way you can slide the tires, the way you can either try to play with your ‘push to pass’, the fact that the cars in qualifying are within 6/10ths of each other. This is all really exciting.
“You need to get the details right and so on. I think, yes, as you say, you don’t have the differential you can move, you don’t have the recovery and all the shaping and the braking, the systems you can have in Formula 1.
“I think the racing, yes, the car a little bit slower, but the racing looks much better from everything I’ve been seeing. I think in that respect I’m super excited about it.”
Why IndyCar for Rick Ware?
Now that the plans have been solidified, why INDYCAR and why not for Ware? He has plenty on his plate in NASCAR. Why branch out to try another series? Well, this is all part of the plan to build their brand and be one of just three organizations that have teams in both series’.
“The reality is, NASCAR, until the new car comes, which they say is coming next year. It was supposed to come this year. We are stuck in some certain parameters with our budgeting, what we can afford to do and to not do,” Ware said.
“Last year we ran more cars. We are running less cars this year. All of our cars across the board are going to be running I think dramatically better, better level.
“As you know within NASCAR, you get a sponsor, you get a driver. You’re at a certain level. Just because you spend more money doesn’t mean that you’re going to move up two or three or four spots. We have teams that we’re spending 14 and 15 million dollars for the season, 10 million dollars more than we were. They finished two, three, four spots ahead of us in points.
“What we have to do is we have to make sure year in, year out how we survive and that we’re here and we grow every year. You’ve seen how we’ve grown over the years. It takes a lot marketing-wise to make this happen. We brought in 20 new primary sponsors last year. We’ve kept about a third of them over into this year.
“To make it through the COVID, to make it through year in, year out, you’ve got to have marketing partners, you have to have sponsorship, you have to be able to offer some things that people don’t have to offer.
“We’re not taking money away from the NASCAR side. We’re generating new dollars. It’s a family business. We invest everything back into our business anyway. So my hope is to grow this to where all the conversations I’m having right now are going to talk about running two or three NASCAR cars and full-time INDYCAR in the 2022 season and beyond.
“We are investing more this year into our NASCAR, and we are investing into INDYCAR as well. I firmly believe that will allow us to have longevity. We’ve seen a lot of really wealthy owners. They got tired of losing $10 million a year. This has to be a business. There has to be a fine line.
“We had several top 10s last year. That’s hard to do for a small team. To go compete against teams like Romain’s car owner and Stewart-Haas is no easy feat. We’re trying to grow and be financially responsible.”