So get this. I’m crusing over to SpeedTV.com and in the headlines I see something that makes my brain backflip out of my skull. They’re reporting that one of the winningest teams in open wheel racing, Newman/Hass/Lanigan is about to sign Robert Doornbos (logical) and…wait for it….Milka Duno..(WTF?!?!).
Robert Doornbos (AKA Bobby D.) I can understand. He is a great driver and made it to third in the points in his first season of Champ Car racing back in 2007. He is also bringing a healthy amount of sponsorship dollars with him from investment giant ING, the same ING that sponsors Renault in F1.
What’s getting me is this whole Milka Duno thing! Don’t get me wrong, I don’t hate the lady. Shes very smart knows 5 languages and has a few Ph D’s to her name (no not those types of “D’s” you pervs). But as a race car driver shes mediocre at best. It’s rumored that other drivers refer to her as a “moving chicane”. So how is it that she is signing a deal with one of the most competitive teams in all of open wheel racing? Most logical minds can only think of one thing: CITGO.
CITGO is a major oil company from Duno’s native Venezuela that has been her primary personal sponsor and allowed her to buy her way into professional racing a few years ago. It’s rumored that CITGO is writing her a check for 5 million dollars this year to race with and there are rumblings that she has another major sponor lined up as well.
Most are coming to the conclusion that with tough economic times signing Duno is a strategy by N/H/L Racing to secure serious dollars to back their aces (Graham Rahal and Doornbos) while letting Milka get some much needed work experience with a top tier team.
However with all the strategy and leveraging that is taking place here a major casualty of this development is veteran driver Justin Wilson who captured the last win for N/H/L Racing just before principal owner and mentor Paul Newman passed away. It’s unclear where Wilson will end up or if he will even remain a part of the Indy Racing League for 2009.
I suppose that when you read between the lines this is a smart move but its certainly a shock to the system for any hard core open wheel racing fan to see at first sight. It’s almost like opening the paper and reading that the Lakers had a change of heart and decided that they really were going to sign Bill Murray as their point guard.
Honestly, I’m still in shock from all this. I think I’m gonna go curl up with some oreo cookies and watch some bugs bunny cartoons…that always clears my head…