(Originally posted by Paul to Planet-IRL.com.)
So, the Edmonton Journal called the AGR boys the “biggest bust of this IRL season.” Those are some harsh words coming from the media regarding what used to be the dominant super-team of the IRL. Unfortunately for AGR, they are spot on.
It’s hard to know exactly where the problem is on this team, but something just isn’t clicking anymore. Really, this team lost its edge when the Honda financing went away several years ago. Yes, Dario won The 500 and the championship in 2007 — but really, this team hasn’t resembled the glory days of years past for quite some time.
People are of course going to be quick to blame Danica’s arrival and her “circus” as one of the underlying causes of the downfall. That would probably be a valid argument if her results weren’t the best on the team. Keep in mind that AGR shuffled many people around during the off-season to help the entire team. Most observers thought the clash of personalities between Michael and Danica would hurt her this year, but that hasn’t been the case.
Remember also that Marco had many requests and, as far as I know, he had most of them granted — not the least of which were the transfers of Eddie Jones and Kyle Moyer as race engineer and race strategist respectively. Those moves have not equaled success for Marco this year, garnering only a pair of top-five finishes at Texas and Watkins Glen thus far.
It’s no secret that TK is suffering through a miserable stretch of races since entering the Month of May as the season points leader. The suspension failure at Indianapolis really set him back, and it’s been a downhill slide for that team every since.
Can AGR turn it around? It seems highly unlikely this year, and the odds of that team winning a race this year seem more remote with each passing week. It’s painful to see such a good team fall so far. Certainly, the loss of Dan Wheldon and Dario in the past couple of years hurt this team and the camaraderie that they were once known for. I still think there’s some tension between Danica and Marco after the race at Texas this year, even though they both said the right things following that race. Remember, too, that those two had a little issue at Edmonton last year, and Pops went ballistic with the entire team after the race. The team hasn’t won a race since that time.
The interesting rumor that Wheldon may want to return to AGR could really be an interesting turn of events during this upcoming silly season. My completely uneducated guess is that AGR will cut back to a three-car team next year with the loss of Danica and Mutoh (presumed but no confirmed) and that AGR will bring Dan back on board. A more focused team with TK, Marco, and Dan could start to stem the tide next year and perhaps return a bit of the past glory to the once shining star, especially if TK and Wheldon can truly bury the hatchet from the whole Ganassi incident of 2008. Will they win the championship? Probably not, but it would at least get the team going in the right direction again.
By the way, if DW goes to AGR, that opens the seat at Panther. They could certainly use a talented, proven driver. An American would definitely be a plus driving the National Guard car. Vision Racing probably isn’t going to get a whole lot of extra funding for next year, and Ed is pretty much locked into that car. See where I’m going here?