The DragonSpeed NTT IndyCar Series team has been noticeably absent since the Indianapolis 500 in May, and will close the year having contested three of the five races it intended to enter. According to team owner Elton Julian, there’s no reason to worry about the program’s future, as plans for a 10-race campaign in 2020 are being formalized.
With his globetrotting team participating in sports cars races as well as IndyCar, Julian’s multi-national crew were faced with new and unexpected entry issues in the United States, and with ongoing visa problems to overcome, post-Indy visits to Road America and Mid-Ohio were scrapped.
Having withdrawn from the FIA World Endurance championship after June’s 24 Hours of Le Mans, a simplified 2019-2020 calendar for the team with the European Le Mans Series and IndyCar as its main interests should prevent significant schedule changes.
“I think increasing to 10 races is fair,” Julian told RACER. “I think we can say right now we’re going to do more races, but I’m comfortable saying 10 races now.”
With England’s Ben Hanley at the controls of the brand-new No. 81 DragonSpeed Chevy at Indy, the rookie team and rookie driver shocked the IndyCar paddock and its fans when the single-car outfit made the field of 33 while bigger names and more established teams failed to qualify. If the crew’s visa issues had not materialized, riding the wave of momentum into June at Road America and July at Mid-Ohio would have been preferred, but in hindsight, Julian is satisfied with how things worked out.
“Who cares for the two races,” he said. “The fact that we didn’t run these last two races actually helps me with that next year, and we’re now preparing properly. And this all comes from a really positive place. I think that we learned a ton while we were there, but I really don’t think we’d do much better going back again this year without actually improving the package. But I do look at how much we will able to progress over the winter and come back stronger.”
Although the DragonSpeed team relies on internal funding, Julian has hired two new marketing representatives from the Formula E paddock to help source additional sponsorship for the IndyCar program. With the series’ announcement of a move toward hybrid powerplants in 2022, Julian has found that more companies are interested in talking about joining the team, which could lead to expanding its schedule next year. The team has also fielded inquiries from drivers who might want to break into IndyCar at some of the rounds where Hanley won’t be in the seat.
“If we do more than 10 races, there’s a potential of using somebody other than Ben for the other ones,” he said. “We’re a family, and Ben’s part of that family and he’s our driver. And there’s also a good opportunity next year to potentially do some other business and races with guys at the level. I don’t want to bring schmucks. Otherwise I don’t want to go. The target’s to do 10 with Ben, and then things are flowing and we’ve got a couple of boys who aren’t in IndyCar that want to come. People are talking to us.”