Monday, January 28, 2013

What Does Conway's One Off Tell Us?

It was announced today Mike Conway will drive for Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing at Long Beach this year. It is currently only a one off deal but what does it really say about the situation at Rahal-Letterman-Lanigan Racing?

The team seemed very keen on adding a second full-time entry in 2013 to partner with newly signed Graham Rahal. A few drivers have been rumored to the seat, most prominently defending Indianapolis 500 pole-sitter Ryan Briscoe. With Conway signing a one off deal, a few questions come to mind.

Could RLLR be bigger than we all think it is and have the capacity of running a two car team with a third entry possible at a few races, such as Long Beach and maybe Indianapolis?

Could the second seat be split between a few drivers over the course of the season?

Conway announced he was done racing ovals and got out of the seat at AJ Foyt Racing before the final round of 2012 at Fontana. He made it clear he was not fully retiring and has remained open to running road and street courses only in IndyCar and even tested a DTM car last year. Conway does state to the AP, "I'd like to continue in IndyCar if possible. I'd like to ultimately get together a full time street course and road course program, and I'm working towards that." If Conway is working towards running only road and street courses with RLLR, who would fill in for the oval events? The seat would most likely be filled for Indianapolis but would a quality driver be up to only running a total of six races in 2013? A younger driver coming up through the ladder system would probably take that offer but would, for example, Ryan Briscoe be up to only six races? Three of his seven career wins are on road and street courses, including Sonoma last year.

The Conway domino that fell today was unexpected and definitely throws a wrinkle into the IndyCar silly season picture. The possible second seat at RLLR remains unclear while other teams are drivers look to get their 2013 plans set.