IndyCar has announced that its TEAM funding system will be limited to the top 22 finishers in this year's championship next season, rather than the top 24 as has previously been the case, in a move aimed at boosting the quality of the field.
Originally introduced to assist the unified field when Champ Car was merged into the Indy Racing League in 2008, the TEAM program gives $1.2 million in additional financial support to full-time entrants.
The change means that Dale Coyne Racing's No. 18 car – driven by Milka Duno this year – and Conquest Racing's No. 36 car, in which Bertrand Baguette, Francesco Dracone, Tomas Scheckter, Roger Yasukawa and Sebastian Saavedra made appearances, are no longer eligible for TEAM funding in 2011. Series boss Randy Bernard said the change was intended to encourage a higher quality field.
"Credibility is very important to us, and we consistently hear from fans that they want to see teams fielding the best of the best on the track," said Bernard. "Our fans want to see the very best teams and drivers, and in achieving that goal, it was very important for us to define our sport.
"When our fans show up at an event, we want to guarantee they're seeing the fastest, most versatile drivers on the track. We never want to have someone uncompetitive who can buy their way into a series. It also creates a sense of urgency for our teams to finish in the top 22 at the end of the season."
Competitors outside the TEAM cut-off can still receive other payments from IndyCar's various prize and bonus systems, and should any top-22 entrants not compete in 2011, those behind can move into the TEAM bracket. Bernard is confident that the change will not adversely affect grid sizes.
"Even with these changes, we anticipate 25 to 28 cars per race, when factoring in full-time non-Leaders Circle teams and one-off entries," he said.