Top Gun Racing co-owner Gary Trout says the team he’s formed with Bill Throckmorton has changed its plans to delay their NTT IndyCar Series debut with driver RC Enerson to 2021, and will now attempt to run as many as three races in 2020.
The reversal comes days after Trout took to social media to declare the team would not, as previously announced, partake in August’s Indy 500, or the remainder of the season, due to the reduced crowd size at Indianapolis, which was at odds with Top Gun’s sponsors demanding a facility filled to capacity.
Nonetheless, Trout says he and the Throckmortons will press ahead to try and make the Indianapolis 500 and two late-season road course events.
“Well tentatively, we’ve outlined three events,” Trout told RACER. “RC Enerson is still considered a rookie as long he runs just three events and no more — he’ll still be eligible in 2021. Our goals right now are three events this year. We’ve penciled in the 500, of course, and then the last two races that are on the schedule right now, which are the Harvest Grand Prix at Indianapolis and the St. Pete race at the end of the season.”
The challenge facing Top Gun Racing centers on turning a conceptual team into something real in the six weeks left before practice begins for the Indy 500. The process starts with acquiring a car (the picture above depicts the team’s virtual car in the IndyCar iRacing Series), followed by Chevy or Honda agreeing to provide an engine lease.
“We do not [have a car], but we’ve got choices,” Trout said. “We’re negotiating some of these with teams that I’m not going to name. There are new chassis. We prefer to buy a chassis that’s already been developed to some degree, already has components that you don’t get when you buy a car that would take us time and money. Time is important to us right now.
“On the engine side, we’ve had discussions as late as yesterday with Chevrolet. There’s talks with Honda. We anticipate a decision on the chassis side and the engine side imminently.”
Trout says joining forces with an existing IndyCar team to have Top Gun’s name and driver fielded by a veteran outfit with the necessary cars, engines, and personnel is not the path he wants to pursue.
“I’ll tell you that our goal is to not partner,” he confirmed. “When we look at the IndyCar Series, we see a lot of partnerships, but if you boil that down and you look at the number of teams, it’s really a small number of teams. I think for the series, as well as us, it’s important for us to be a standalone team. Again, there’s a lot of veterans on this team, a lot of knowledge, but it is important that we’re standalone and we have all our own equipment — we basically control our own destiny.
“Have there been talks? There has been with one (team), specifically. We’ve got multiple plans here in place to make sure that we’re prepared when we do run our first race. We’ve had sit-down meetings with that owner. So there’s several contingencies here to make sure that we don’t get caught out.”
Along with the car and engine lease, Trout says his team will need to find a dedicated home to serve as Top Gun’s base of operations, and fill out the key staffing requirements involved with running an IndyCar program.
“There’s actually two race shops in Indiana,” he said. “The final spot will be Brownsburg, but there’s another one in Southeastern Indiana. So there are two shops currently that we have that are operational – there are personnel here and we’re getting prepared, but it will end up being in Brownsburg. We had been talking to Bill Simpson about a piece of property, and unfortunately we lost Bill, kind of untimely. But there still are other opportunities up there and we’re taking a look at those right now.”
On the long inventory of major assets Top Gun Racing will need to acquire before it can go racing, a hauler has been crossed off the list.
“We do have a transporter,” Trout said. “One of our sponsors is a large producer of tractors and they will be announced. They’ve committed to us, not only funding, but multiple tractors to pull our transporters. And we anticipate a long-term relationship there.”
Along with the transport sponsor, rumors of a military sponsor for Top Gun’s desired entry have made the rounds. Despite the formidable expenditures and workload ahead, the proposed team is committed to its Floridian driver.
“We’ve developed a great relationship with RC and we’ve outlined long-term plans for him,” Trout said. “Not interested in jumping around with a lot of different drivers. I think we’re all going to stick together and see what can make out of it.”