INDIANAPOLIS — Rick Ware will hopefully have two cars in the 105th Running of the Indianapolis 500 if all goes to plan. Well, that’s if they can qualify both cars. Nothing is guaranteed at Indy. If more than 33 cars show up this May, then the fastest 33 will qualify.
In NASCAR, Ware has four charters. He knows that all four of his car in the Cup Series will race all 36 points paying races. But Indy? Well, it’s a risk. The NTT IndyCar Series is bar none the most competitive series in the entire world. Due to the pandemic last year, 33 cars showed up to Indy for 33 spots. Ware had one of those cars. He teamed with Dale Coyne Racing and put James Davison in the field.
Now, he’s back. He’s actually grown his involvement in the series. His car is joined with DCR again but this team on a full time basis. He has a second car that will race in 4-5 other events outside of Indianapolis.
The primary car (No. 51 Honda) is looking for an oval driver to run at least three of the four oval events. Romain Grosjean will drive all 13 road/street courses and is open to the short oval at World Wide Technology Raceway in August. The Texas twostep and the Indy 500 are open.
The No. 52 Honda is open as well.
So, who are the takers?
One driver we know that will at least be a part of this is Ware’s son Cody. He’s racing in INDYCAR at some point in 2021. The question is though, in which car (No. 51 or No. 52) and to which track or tracks?
It was assumed that Ware would run the ovals in the No. 51. But, after a teleconference with the media on Wednesday, it now seems like he will run on road/street courses instead.
“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,” said Rick Ware.
To get to the caveat, you have to see what else he said.
“He’s got a fair amount of experience on ovals,” Ware continued. “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.”
Ware went on to single out the NASCAR All-Star weekend as a non points paying event for NASCAR and that it’s a great opportunity for Ware to try INDYCAR then. Well, they just so happen to be at Belle Isle that weekend – a doubleheader.
The 52 car may be best suited for Cody. The additional races could be on road/street courses for that ride.
But, the Indy 500 is also the goal for Cody too. While he has no oval experience in an INDYCAR either, Ware said that it may not be a hinderance either. He said that Coyne has taken drivers with no oval experience before this and those same drivers were competitive at Indy in the past.
They’d be open for Ware, Cody that is, to be in the Indy 500 so long as Dale Coyne allows it. That’s the first hurdle. Will Dale allow it or does he want two other drivers in the No. 51 and No. 52 rides instead?
If Dale is okay with that plan, then the second hurdle would be to find a plane. Cody Ware said during his Daytona 500 Media Day availability that he’s open to running Indy, but it’s a moot point right now because they don’t have a plane to get him to Charlotte after.
See, Cody is running the full slate on the Cup Series side. The Coca-Cola 600 is that night. They’ve not got the funding for a private flight and a commercial flight won’t get Ware from Indy to the Charlotte Motor Speedway in enough time to do both races in the same day.
So, first comes the blessing from Dale to put Cody in either the No. 51 or No. 52 entries for the Indy 500. Second comes finding a flight to get him back-and-forth. Third, comes a sponsor.
That’s the main objective for Rick Ware anyways – building a brand.
Some may ask, why not just skip Charlotte and run the Indy 500 if that’s what Cody Ware really desires? Well, it doesn’t fully help the brand though.
“Trying to build a brand around Cody as a driver, trying to attach a sponsor to him for his ongoing career,” was a sentence that Rick Ware also said on Wednesday.
“Trying to build a brand around Cody” is key there.
See, Ware is a small family owned NASCAR team. They’re capped out right now on what they can do in NASCAR. That’s why the INDYCAR endeavor came. Yes, Ware is a huge open wheel fan too. That helps. But, so is trying to build a bigger brand and doing what they’re doing in NASCAR isn’t getting them anywhere.
“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.”
One thing to offer sponsors to entice them to Rick Ware? Having a NASCAR as well as an INDYCAR team. Only Roger Penske and Chip Ganassi can say the same. That’s the list. Penske, Ganassi and Ware.
He can offer a sponsor prime placement on an INDYCAR for the ‘500 as well as a NASCAR for the ‘600 and that sponsor get 1,100 miles of racing with their colors and logo going around two historic race tracks on the same day.
That attention isn’t as great with two different drivers doing this for them. It has to be one and Cody Ware punches more weight than someone like James Davison to be honest.
That’s because Cody Ware isn’t a big name at all in NASCAR yet. Nothing against him, but when people here the prospects of Cody Ware doing the Indy-Charlotte double, they immediately question his credentials. They say he’s not ready. He’s not good enough. He can’t seriously do this right?
Well, why can’t he?
Him doing both will get a lot of attention of people truly seeing how someone that they’re giving no chance of doing well, actually succeeding.
Look, is Cody Ware going to win at either place? No. But, if Cody Ware can qualify for the Indy 500, that’s a huge success. That means Cody Ware is going to build a brand, right?
Ware will race in both of the biggest races in the same day. He’d join John Andretti, Robby Gordon, Tony Stewart and Kurt Busch as the only ones to do so. Just look at that elite company that he’d be in.
That’s a huge shot at building a brand.
“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,” Ware continued.
“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.”
So, this is all part of a brilliant plan for Ware. I can’t discredit that. He’s living an American dream and trying. He’s not just getting by. He wants to build further up.
His master plan is to grow and at the rate he’s going, he’s not going to ever compete for wins in the Cup Series. So, with some money to invest, he’s taking a chance of getting into INDYCAR to help grow his business on both sides.
The first part of the plan was to get into INDYCAR on a larger scale. The second part was to get a driver of Grosjean’s popularity. The third is going to be the Indy-Charlotte double. That’s got to be on their radar and unless you can get someone like Kyle Busch or Kyle Larson to run both races for you, the best shot is his son and it will further boost this team to the depths he’s trying to reach.
“We kind of just talked back and forth about kind of what my dreams were, where we wanted to be with RWR,” said Ware. “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.”