“There have been a few things that have hurt the team on the sponsorship level in the past few years. One was losing Paul, then there was the move from Champ Car to IndyCar, and the big economic crisis we have been through which affects IndyCar and NASCAR and Formula One and any other form of racing. It just put us all in a tough position.”
Andretti also felt that a healthy Haas may have helped the team avoid closing its doors. Although Newman/Haas has indicated it might join another racing series, possibly American Le Mans, in the days following the announcement, there’s little doubt the loss of the team will reverberate through the IndyCar paddock.
“It’s the end of an era — they were a major player in IndyCar for so many years it’s a big loss for the sport,” said Andretti. “The team was so successful and so visible and they will be missed. It’s one of those things that no matter how you prepare for it, it’s always a real shock when it actually happens.”
The news also threw a stick in Hinchcliffe’s spokes after the young Canadian hoped to keep things going in 2012 and build on the success of his first year in IndyCar where he won rookie of the year honours.
Instead, a shocked Hinchcliffe found out about the team’s withdrawal from the series about 10 minutes before the news broke. It wasn’t exactly the early birthday present he wanted.
“I think like everybody I was pretty surprised,” said Hinchcliffe, who turned 25 on Monday.
“We knew the team was looking at a couple of options and talking to a bunch of people about next year, but honestly I didn’t have much warning that this was going to be the decision.”
While Servia was aware the team had not raised enough sponsorship to off-set the outlay needed in the next few weeks and knew shutting down was always a possibility, it still wasn’t easy news to hear.
He spent three days in the shop last week before heading home to Spain for the holidays where he got a call from the team before the decision was announced.
“It was shocking just because it’s a team with such a history and it happened after we had such a good year with both cars,” said Servia.
“This is not what should happen, but unfortunately not enough sponsorship was there. We had really high hopes for next year, we wanted to keep the same team and have continuity which is a big deal in this racing game, and things with James were working great. “
Canadian fans might recall one of Servia’s best races with the team in Champ Car in Montreal in 2005, when he took his only career win after replacing the injured Bruno Junqueira, who broke his back in a crash in the Indianapolis 500.
Hinchcliffe’s performance was a revelation during the 2011 season, capped by the rookie crown despite his missing the first race of the year as he waited for his sponsorship deal with Toronto businessman Eric Sprott to materialize.
Although Hinchcliffe said the news was personally tough, he thinks the fans will be the biggest losers when the 2012 season begins with the Newman/Haas name missing from paddock.
“From a completely unselfish point of view, not to have them in IndyCar next year as a fan is a pretty tragic thing if you think that next year they’re not going to be lining up on the grid when they have been for more than a quarter century,” Hinchcliffe said.
“They won the championship in their second ever season, so they have been front runners from the get-go — this was not a team that was just filling in the numbers — so I think it’s going to look a lot different even though it was just one team of many, it was a really prolific one.”