A Surprise Announcement Out of Nowhere

With the internet, social media and the never-ending quest to be first – it’s hard to keep a secret in the racing world these days. Without a doubt, the best-kept secret I’ve seen in a while was when Roger Penske announced that he was buying IMS, IndyCar and IMS Productions from Hulman and Company back on Nov 4. Never had I seen such an announcement of that magnitude kept completely under wraps like that one was.

This past Friday, another announcement came out of the blue that brought excellent news. While it wasn’t on the level of Roger Penske’s announcement, I don’t know of anyone that had heard this was coming.

Former IndyCar driver, team co-owner and NBCSN broadcaster Robbie Buhl and his partners announced that Citrone/Buhl Autosport will field a car for the upcoming Month of May. They will make their debut in the GMR Grand Prix on the IMS Road Course on May 9th.

There was no driver announcement for the newly-formed team, nor was there any mention of an engine manufacturer in the press-release.

There’s also the question if this will be a stand-alone team like Clauson-Marshall Racing was last year with Pippa Mann, or will they seek out an association with a full-time team like McLaren did with Carlin last year? Who would’ve thought that the start-up stand-alone team with Pippa Mann would’ve made the field, and the big-budget McLaren with a two-time World Champion Fernando Alonso in association with a full-time team would go home? That’s what makes the Indianapolis 500 so special.

Trackside Online (TSO) seems to think that Citrone/Buhl Autosport will be running a Honda engine. TSO contacted Chevy, who confirmed that the entry would not be powered by a Chevrolet. Just in case that wasn’t enough confirmation with only two engine manufacturers, TSO also contacted Honda. Honda would only confirm that they have been talking with a couple of new entries, but they wouldn’t go any further. Draw your own conclusions.

I will throw out an unsolicited plug here. It’s about time for me to renew my annual TSO subscription. It’s a whopping $22 per year. It’s the best $22 I’ll spend all year. If you’re an IndyCar fan (which I suppose you are, if you’re reading this site) then do yourself a favor and subscribe this season. Give it a one-year shot. If you don’t think it’s worth it next year, don’t renew.

Getting back to Friday’s announcement, this is big news. Just out of nowhere, a new team (and another car on the grid) pops up. The end of the press-release says that the team “…has aspirations of more entries at more races in the future”. While we’d love to see more fulltime teams, most teams start off small and grow into the series. That’s the way Sarah Fisher Racing started out, before going fulltime for several years. Juncos Racing is still in that embryonic phase as well as DragonSpeed. The worst thing a team can do is over-extend themselves.

Robbie Buhl has been down this road before and has learned a thing or tw along the way. He is a former IndyCar driver and is a former race winner. For years after his driving career was over, he was a very active part-owner of Dreyer & Reinbold. From what I understand, he is very well connected – both inside and outside the IndyCar world. Not only does he have business connections, but he can attract good personnel to come work for him.

I always liked Robbie Buhl. He wasn’t the best driver out there, but I always felt he made the most of what talent he had. While still fielding a car or cars on the grid, he served as a commentator on the Versus IndyCar telecasts for a few years. While he may not have been a natural born broadcaster, I always felt like he was a straight-shooter and brought good insight to the telecast – not only from a driver’s perspective, but also a team-owner’s way of looking at things.

I’m sure this was in the works long before Roger Penske bought everything back in November, so I can’t say this was a direct result of the new ownership – but it wouldn’t surprise me if there are more unexpected teams entering either the Indianapolis 500 or the NTT IndyCar Series.

In a time when most forms of motorsports are hurting, it’s good to see more teams coming to the series – even on a part-time basis.

George Phillips

2 Responses to “A Surprise Announcement Out of Nowhere”

  1. billytheskink Says:

    New teams formed by former driver-rich guy pairings have long been a mixed bag of results and longevity, but I’m always encouraged to see them because I know that at least one player in the partnership is undeniably passionate about racing.

    I cannot speak to this Citrone fellow’s interest in racing, but on the money side he appears to be closer to Gene Haas and Mike Lanigan than to Jay Penske or Bruce McCaw, which is encouraging.

    Maybe Robbie still has some friends at Purex? His Purex cars always looked good, though Purex has toned down their branding’s color scheme since they were on Buhl’s car. Mike Conway’s 2009 Purex car was not nearly as fun.

  2. I am always happy to learn about a new team and wish Buhl well in May. Can you believe we have almost survived the off season!!!

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