Confirming months of speculation, KVSH Racing made additional cuts this week that prove it will revert to being a single-car entrant in the Verizon IndyCar Series and not pursue a second full-time car to partner with Sebastien Bourdais.
The reduction included the release of Bill Pappas, the engineer for the axed No. 4 car that had belonged to Stefano Coletti. With Coletti’s departure, Pappas had been moved to a technical director position with KVSH, but he told Autosport on Friday that the team had changed its mind again and decided to release him as well.
“I was told with the lack of sponsorship they needed to make some more cuts,” he said, calling his situation “quite a shock” and “very frustrating. It’s a struggle everywhere. IndyCar has to figure out a way to put more cars on the racetrack than they have. It seems we are going in the opposite direction.”
Per Racer, Pappas was given his release by team GM Steve Moore on Wednesday, while team owners Jimmy Vasser and Kevin Kalkhoven were on vacation and unavailable for comment on Friday.
It’s certainly frustrating for the longtime engineer, who thought he had a position locked up for 2016 and now needs to find another race team with just three months to go before the new season starts. But in terms of the bigger picture, the writing has been on the wall for KVSH Racing since the team cut Coletti in early December.
Half the entries means half the required resources and as discussed previously, KVSH’s best chance at moving forward was to condense its program and focus on providing a winning entry for Bourdais. From Pappas’s remarks, it sounds like that was their plan and while he was initially a part of that plan, the crunch was worse than originally figured.
The sponsorship problem he raises is not unique to IndyCar. Even NASCAR, which is seen as the country’s premier motorsports league, has its own issues with finding sponsors to back drivers. Fan favorite (and former IndyCar driver) Danica Patrick experienced that in 2015 when her longtime sponsor GoDaddy left NASCAR and was replaced by Nature’s Bakery.
The U.S. National Guard also ended its sponsorship of both its NASCAR and IndyCar entries, leaving a primary sponsorship opening on Graham Rahal’s No. 15 car that was filled by Steak ‘n’ Shake. That company has announced it will be returning with Rahal, who was a contender for the championship in 2015, for the upcoming season.
Every IndyCar team, from the single-car efforts to the major players, has to have sponsorship and financial considerations on their mind; that’s just the business side of the league. Just this week, fans saw Andretti Autosport put Ryan Hunter-Reay’s No. 28 on the auction block as a way to raise additional funds.
While situations like what happened to Pappas are unfortunate (and sound like they could have been handled better), they’re always possible when a team is contracting. Hopefully the engineer will land with another organization before the 2016 IndyCar season begins in March, but the best cure for financial woes is to find a way to succeed despite them.
For more on the Verizon IndyCar Series, visit the league’s website.