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The Next IndyCar Team?

Will Matheus Leist and Carlin move up to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2018? [John Wiedemann Photo]

 

Will Matheus Leist and Carlin move up to the Verizon IndyCar Series in 2018? [John Wiedemann Photo]

 

by Paul Gohde

Trevor Carlin may be the most prolific owner of open wheel race teams in current international motorsports.

With teams currently based in Farnham, Surrey England and Delray Beach, Florida, they compete in numerous series including the F4 British Championship, BRDC F3, European Formula Open and the FIA Formula 3 European Championship.

Carlin has developed many drivers who compete in Formula One today. Sebastian Vettel, Daniel Ricciardo, Kevin Magnussen and Daniil Kvyat have handled Carlin’s cars on their way up to F1.

In 2015 Carlin brought his teams to North America, competing in IndyCar’s Mazda Road to Indy. They found quick success, winning the Indy Lights Championship in 2016 with Ed Jones. The team is working hard to defend that title this season with driver Matheus Leist (among four Carlin pilots) currently in second place.

And now Carlin is looking to add to his empire.

He has had a move to the Verizon IndyCar Series in his head ever since he set up shop at his North American base in Florida; and that move may happen in 2018.

“I’ve got a bit of interest,” he told us at Iowa Speedway last week in a bit of an understatement. “I’m trying to put the jigsaw together really.”

The puzzle he’s trying to finish includes chassis, engines, drivers and crews among a myriad of pieces that could put them on the IndyCar grid in St. Petersburg next March if everything falls into place by September 1st of this year.

We talked to Trevor Carlin in his team hauler/office during the IndyCar weekend in Iowa where he explained some of those things needed to make that move to the Verizon Series happen.

  • When could this move happen? “We’re still working on it. It’s a way, way, way from getting done. It’s early July and I’ve still got plenty of time. The drivers are very keen to get with it and when I put it together it will be fantastic. I’m looking forward to getting it done…a decision made before the end of August. Might stretch that a bit.”
  • Engine choice? “I don’t think it will really be a problem. I think maybe some of the other teams will drop back a car or two next season. I’ve got no real tie to any manufacturer, Honda or Chevrolet, if they’ll have me. I’m not really concerned. I’d be happy to have either. I’m sure there’ll be engines available. I see positives in both. A year ago I would have said Honda (but now) I think more Chevy now that Ganassi’s got Honda. You’ve got Penske the top Chevy team and the rest of the guys. I think we could be competitive and be a second Chevy team fairly quickly would be my guess. I’ve (also) got a meeting with Dallara (about the new 2018 chassis) any second now.”
  • The team? “I want to do a full schedule. Yeah, that’s what we want to do. I may look at just a 500 deal (if his other plan doesn’t materialize). We’ve got one of those deals on the table already. But I want to do the whole thing and build and get people together-the 500 is just part of that program. It’s very difficult to get the right 20 guys together just for the month of May, (as the Juncos Indy Lights team did this year). I want to employ people for 12 months and build a team and a crew and get the chemistry down. Bear in mind we’re training up young 16-17-year-olds constantly in the U. K. and I want to do the same thing here in the states. I find that a bit harder to get going here.”
  • Logistics? “It’d be nice to run two cars. I’d love to run Matheus (Leist, his current Indy Lights second-place driver from Brazil) but whether he’s ready for IndyCar yet…he’s still very young. I’m not a believer in rushing these things. If he’s ready, then sure, why not. If he wins the (Indy) Lights championship, then he’s got to step up (to the IndyCar Series). That $1m that he’d win (for being champion) would really help us. Without it Ed Jones wouldn’t have made it this year. (Could his second driver be an IndyCar veteran?) That makes total sense. I’d need someone to help the team build a database. I think we’d keep our team’s base in Florida and then have a satellite in Indianapolis for the months when it’s very, very busy. We’d take a base there, but you’ve got a massive down time in the IndyCar schedule from September to March. I’d prefer my mechanics and crew to be somewhere warm, give the guys a nice environment to work in; you’ll get better guys to work for you.”

And just then the office doors slid open and the representatives from Dallara were waiting for their meeting with Carlin. Our next question regarding sponsors would go unanswered for the time being, but he did add that he hasn’t talked to Chip Ganassi or Roger Penske as yet, noting: “It’s not my style.”

August will come quickly and, as Carlin has said, there’s much to do yet. Rumors of Juncos Racing, the Harding Group and maybe others moving to or returning to IndyCar full-time in 2018 are circulating in the industry. A new chassis is being introduced next year and that should be a real motivation to come aboard sooner rather than later. More cars could be on that St. Petersburg grid come March, but if some teams do shrink a car or two, we could stay at 21-22. More planning awaits. There’s much work to do. It sounds like Carlin may have a jump on the rest of the pack. We’ll see.

 

 

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Paul Gohde
Paul Gohde heard the sound of race cars early in his life. Growing up in suburban Milwaukee, just north of Wisconsin State Fair Park in the 1950's, Paul had no idea what "that noise" was all about that he heard several times a year. Finally, through prodding by friends of his parents, he was taken to several Thursday night modified stock car races on the old quarter-mile dirt track that was in the infield of the one-mile oval -and he was hooked. The first Milwaukee Mile event that he attended was the 1959 Rex Mays Classic won by Johnny Thomson in the pink Racing Associates lay-down Offy built by the legendary Lujie Lesovsky. After the 100-miler Gohde got the winner's autograph in the pits, something he couldn't do when he saw Hank Aaron hit a home run at County Stadium, and, again, he was hooked. Paul began attending the Indianapolis 500 in 1961, and saw A. J. Foyt's first Indy win. He began covering races in 1965 for Racing Wheels newspaper in Vancouver, WA as a reporter/photographer and his first credentialed race was Jim Clark's historic Indy win.Paul has also done reporting, columns and photography for Midwest Racing News since the mid-sixties, with the 1967 Hoosier 100 being his first big race to report for them. He is a retired middle-grade teacher, an avid collector of vintage racing memorabilia, and a tour guide at Miller Park. Paul loves to explore abandoned race tracks both here and in Europe, with the Brooklands track in Weybridge England being his favorite. Married to Paula, they have three adult children and two cats. Paul loves the diversity of all types of racing, "a factor that got me hooked in the first place."