(by Robin Miller speedtv.com 9-9-09)
The surviving owners from Champ Car who joined the Indy Racing League got free cars and engines in 2008 as part of the unification agreement. They all had to pay Honda for leases this season but there was still no bill for their Dallara chassis.
Eric Bachelart, Dale Coyne, Carl Haas, Kevin Kalkhoven, Mike Lanigan and Keith Wiggins received an email from IRL president of competition Brian Barnhart on Tuesday requesting a payment of $100,000 per car.
The teams were given the option of having that money taken out of their next TEAM check (all teams who run the full schedule are given $1.2 million per car by the league) or possibly working out a payment plan.
If IndyCar doesn't have its money by Jan. 14, the cars could be repossessed.
"We had a free car in '08 and we got an extension for this year so I've been expecting this for some time and I have no complaint with it, it's fair," said Bachelart, whose Conquest Racing team has competed in seven races this year and intends to contest the final two at Japan and Homestead.
"My understanding is that we will own the cars so that means we can run the next two years for $50,000 a car and that is more than reasonable."
Wiggins, whose HVM team has gone from one to two cars in the past couple races with Robert Doornbos joining E.J. Viso, had a few questions about his bill.
"I was the only team that didn't get a new car, I got a 2003 and 2004, so should I have to pay the same amount?," he said. "In the original agreement we were told we had the option to buy and I guess the only surprise is that we didn't have a number.
"Any number is scary right now but it seems reasonable."
Longtime owner Derrick Walker said the IRL didn't do anything sinister.
"It wasn't a deal that changed," said Walker, who originally had possession of an IRL car but lost his partner and was not able to compete. "The original agreement wasn't a forever free deal and, in fairness to the league, it gave the teams free cars for two years.
"It may be a bit naughty to ask for it at the end of the year instead of the beginning but, obviously, with the economy and new management, the IRL is saying 'Hey boys, we can't afford to carry this debt any longer.'"