UPDATE (5-Aug, 12:37 p.m.): Adding to his report from yesterday (below), Robin Miller is reporting that Oriol Servia will fill the Newman/Haas/Lanigan No. 06 car at Mid-Ohio. With that in mind, it does not change my idea in the article below:
Robin Miller is reporting that Robert Doornbos (or DoorKnobs, as my wife first referred to him) is leaving Newman/Haas/Lanigan Racing and heading over to HVM Racing. This obviously leaves a competitive seat at NHL for the final five races of 2009, and already the usual cast of characters (Paul Tracy, Bruno Junquiera, Sebastien Bourdais, Oriol Servia) is being tossed around as potential replacements.
Now, it stands to reason that whomever drives the No. 06 machine for the final five races of 2009 will have the inside edge on a full-time ride with NHL in 2010. But for now, let me make the case for Newman/Haas/Lanigan stepping outside the box and making a tremendous splash in 2010, even if it is a tad far-fetched.
Here's my plan - re-sign Graham Rahal and sign Marco Andretti away from his father's team. Crazy? Yes. Unlikely to happen? Yes. But hear me out.
Rahal, at 20, is one of the IndyCar Series' best spokespeople, sounding nearly as polished as his veteran counterparts. Already he has won a race and is consistently getting better on oval tracks, as his fifth-place result at Kentucky demonstrates.
Sponsored by McDonald's, Rahal has one of the series' largest and most influential sponsors, given the reach of McDonald's not only in America, but around the world.
Now, obviously signing Marco Andretti is a reach. Would his father really let him leave his team? I doubt it. But keep in mind that both Michael and Mario Andretti drove for (then) Newman-Haas Racing back in the 1990's, with great success (the Indianapolis 500 excluded). NHL may be the one team Michael might let his son leave for.
If Marco could find the sponsorship (I doubt K-Mart would sponsor him, but it'd be very "retro" of them to do so), then it's a no-brainer from NHL's end. In Rahal and Andretti, they would have the two young, male, up-and-coming American drivers in open-wheel racing. For an entire generation of developing IndyCar fans, Newman/Haas/Lanigan would be the team to watch.
They wouldn't just be the team to watch because of the potential of the two. Rahal and Andretti have traded verbal jabs in the past, attempting to tweak each other at opportune times. If the two formed a competitive rivalry on the same team, that would make for interesting watching, as well.
And the final selling point - every weekend, the "Marco vs. his dad's team" story line would draw veiwers. What if Marco wrecked Tony Kanaan? How would Michael deal with it? What if Mutoh spun Marco to gain position - would Michael be ok with it? Eyeballs would be following that story line, I guarantee it.
Now, it's probably just a pipe dream for Marco Andretti to find his way over to Newman/Haas/Lanigan and become teammates. But, just think about the possibilities if it were to happen. The interest it could generate would be outstanding for Newman/Haas/Lanigan and the IndyCar Series on the whole.