Thursday, December 8, 2011

Newman/Haas Moving Ahead With Streamlined Operation

Don’t count Newman/Haas Racing out quite yet.

“The team remains in business,” NHR General Manager Brian Lisles told SPEED.com Friday afternoon.

Despite Thursday’s shocking announcement, Lisles and NHR owners Carl and Bernie Haas will press ahead as they seek new opportunities and adjust to life after IndyCar.

With a few irons in the fire, NHR is keeping its doors open and maintaining a limited number of staff as it attempts to write a new chapter in the team’s illustrious history.

“Yes the race shop is open and Newman/Haas Racing remains in business,” Lisles continued. “As you can imagine there is a substantial amount of work to reorganize everything related to running in the IndyCar Series. That will keep us busy for a while and then will be followed by some new racing projects that I cannot discuss at the moment.”

Although Lisles wouldn’t be drawn on where he hopes NHR will reappear, rumors have linked the team to a possible American Le Mans Series program, and John Dagys, SPEED.com’s ace sports car reporter, has been tracking an as-yet unnamed team that is said to be fielding a Honda-powered Lola LMP2 prototype. Could NHR be that team?

“As we said in our press release yesterday, we are not entering the 2012 IndyCar Series," said Lisles. "I cannot discuss our other plans at this time, but we plan to stay in racing.”

Through Lola’s longtime US importer, Carl Haas Auto (which is unaffected by the changes at NHR), the team would be seem to be perfectly placed to run a customer ALMS team.

Lisles began fielding inquiries about the team’s newly available employees throughout Thursday, and this writer was also inundated with requests for contact information from open-wheel and sports car teams in need of talented personnel.

“We have spoken with a number of teams and we are circulating relevant contact details to everyone,” he said.

It’s believed that NHR will retain approximately 10 team members, and Lisles made it clear he would love nothing more than to put the entire NHR family back into place.

“We are in double figures not including the administrative staff, so we are still substantial,” he said. “We had a tremendous staff of people in 2011, as our results showed. So yes, we would love to have any of them back with us.”

As some of its former employees confirmed, the team broke with tradition by paying the departing staff through the end of the year, which is unique amongst cash-strapped open-wheel teams.

Compared to many who get cut and are offered nothing, Lisles says he wanted to make sure NHR did what its best to provide some financial support.

“When you have people who have worked for you for 19 years, you do not simply show them the door. Everyone received a severance related to their length of employment.”

The final item Lisles addressed was the fate of the new 2012 Dallara DW12s the team ordered in anticipation of contesting the full IndyCar Series championship.

“We have not decided [what we’ll do with them],” he said. “We are working through a variety of options.”

There’s no doubt that selling the cars and using the proceeds to boost NHR’s bottom line makes the most sense, but as their fans will likely attest, the thought of Lisles and the Haas family keeping at least one car tucked away for future use would be the best news of all.

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