Grand-Am Rolex Series team owner Michael Shank announced his expansion into IndyCar on Thursday at Las Vegas Motor Speedway, with the launch of MSR Indy. The team's car, which will carry No. 60, is the first to be announced with Lotus power for the 2012 season.
The IndyCar side will see Shank joined by Columbus area businessman Brian Bailey, while NASCAR Sprint Cup star – and one of Shank's Rolex 24 at Daytona drivers – AJ Allmendinger joins as a principal partner. The team's driver will be named at a later date.
Shank said he would prefer to have a driver with experience join the fold – he said there are “a couple I would love to have.” He also said he will be testing Indy Lights driver Jorge Goncalvez in the team's Daytona Prototype next Monday and Tuesday at Barber Motorsports Park. Another young driver he spoke highly of is 2011 Indy Lights champion Josef Newgarden.
“I would probably take a driver with experience, but I love the idea of helping young guys – I get the ladder system,” Shank said. “It could be next year to have a young driver but it depends on the whole package.”
Regarding the engine, Shank said the Lotus motor, which is being developed by British-based race engine builder Judd, is on the dyno and should be ready for on-track running in mid-to-late November. Though Shank's team is the first team announced with Lotus power, it was not designated as Lotus's “anchor team.”
“Do I have any concerns? I have a lot of faith in John Judd,” Shank said. “They are a little company, but so are we – it fits. This is the same model as Atlantic. We started with one, ended with three. It was the same with DP, from one to three. It's the exact same model I've had success with. We have 15 full-time people, and we're a couple technical ninjas from being ready to go as an IndyCar team.”
In Charlotte for this weekend's NASCAR race, Allmendinger said he was excited to be involved in open-wheel racing again as part of his role with MSR.
"Obviously, I have a close connection to open-wheel racing, but add that to the chance to work with Mike and his organisation and it's something that really appealed to me," said Allmendinger. "Mike is one of the hardest working guys in motorsports and he's a racer. I've always liked that about him, so I know he'll fight hard for MSR Indy's performance.
"We also hope to open some business relationships for our NASCAR Cup partners with this effort, too."