Newman-Haas Racing, the team that carried the name of late actor Paul Newman, announced today that they will not enter cars for the 2012 season. In a statement released by team officials, they said that the economic climate no longer would enable the team to compete.
The team has been involved in open wheel racing since 1983. They won 107 races, 109 pole awards, and a total of eight series championships in that time span. Some of the greatest drivers ever to get behind the wheel had the honor of driving for Newman-Haas. Guys like Mario Andretti, Michael Andretti, Paul Tracy, Nigel Mansell, Cristiano da Matta, Sebastien Bourdais, Graham Rahal, and this year’s drivers Oriol Servia and James Hinchcliffe.
Servia had the best year of his veteran career, finishing fourth in the IZOD INDYCAR Series championship standings. Teammate Hinchcliffe also had an outstanding season, earning the Sunoco Rookie of the Year award.
Speed.com reported this evening that the team’s 33 employees were told they would be released effective immediately, with severance pay through December 31st. After that, the team will close its doors for good.
The team members will likely find some work for next season, but the fate of the two talented drivers is up in the air at this point.
Hinchcliffe has been eyed by many teams around the garage area, and with his ties to Honda, he might be a perfect fit for either Rahal Letterman Lanigan or A.J. Foyt Racing. Servia has also been linked to those teams, as well as Andretti Autosport. Since neither driver has significant personal backing, it would be hard for them to land anywhere else.
Both drivers were expected to return to the team in 2012, and the team was scheduled to receive the first of its new 2012 cars December 15th. After struggling to find enough sponsorship in the offseason to remain competitive, they made the difficult decision to shut it down.
Hinchcliffe’s Twitter account had the following tweet once the news broke: “Thank you all for the support. I’ll put my thoughts into words tomorrow. For now, the phone goes off. Going to update my Xmas wish list.”
Servia’s fourth place finish in the championship shows what he can do behind the wheel if given the opportunity. He also led 18 laps in this year’s Indy 500, in route to a sixth place finish after qualifying on the front row.
Despite missing the season-opening race last season, Hinchcliffe went on to finish 12th in the final standings. He finished in front of talented drivers such as Takuma Sato, JR Hildebrand, Alex Tagliani, Vitor Meira, Mike Conway, and EJ Viso just to name a few.
The INDYCAR community lost one of its best teams today, but fortunately for the fans the drivers and crew members should be able to find jobs for the upcoming season.