McLaren boss Zak Brown. Photo: Getty Images.

McLaren won’t run IndyCar team in 2019, but could still do Indy 500

Leave a comment

In what isn’t a complete surprise, McLaren will not mount a full-time effort in IndyCar in 2019.

After months of speculation, McLaren boss Zak Brown announced Friday that the organization will hold off on entering IndyCar until at least 2020 so that it can continue to devote more time and resources to rebuild its lagging Formula One program.

“We’ve taken the decision to not compete on a full-time basis in 2019,” Brown said, according to ESPN. “We’re simply not ready yet and are focused on Formula One, so we won’t be doing that in 2019.

“We do have the desire, as we’ve mentioned before, in the near future.”

However, Brown – who spoke with reporters Friday at Circuit of the Americas in Austin, Texas, site of this Sunday’s U.S. Grand Prix – did not rule out the possibility that McLaren could still enter a car in the 2019 Indianapolis 500.

McLaren took part in a joint venture with Andretti Autosport to field Fernando Alonso in the 2017 Indianapolis 500. Alonso led 27 of the race’s 200 laps, and appeared to be a strong contender to win until his car suffered engine failure late in the race. Takuma Sato ultimately won the race.

MORE: 2-time F1 champ Fernando Alonso hints Indy 500 return possible

If McLaren does field an entry in the 2019 Indy 500, it likely would be another partnership situation. Speculation has included a partnership between McLaren and Andretti Autosport once again, as well as talk of a deal with Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing.

“As far as the Indy 500 (in 2019) is concerned, it’s something that remains of interest to us,” Brown said. “That’ll be a decision that ultimately we take in the off-season and it’s something Fernando would like to do.”

Alonso has announced that this will be his final season in F1, of which he’s a two-time past champion.

“Right now we’re still focused on Formula One and until we get a little bit of fresh air we’ll remain focused on that,” Brown said.

It’s unclear what Alonso will do for 2019 in terms of open-wheel racing. He tested an Andretti Autosport Indy car for a full day last month at Barber Motorsports Park in Birmingham, Alabama.

Speculation on McLaren’s pullback from racing in IndyCar next season also centers about whether it would be able to get an adequate powerplant to field an entry for all 17 races in 2019.

Honda has balked at the possibility of providing engines to McLaren due to past issues involving the F1 program.

Chevrolet, the only other engine provider in IndyCar, could be a potential supplier, but there does not appear to be a current IndyCar team that would be able to field a car for Alonso.

Follow @JerryBonkowski

Dean Wilson’s life as a privateer reconnects the rider to his roots

Leave a comment

One of the added benefits of subscribing to NBC Sports Gold is the in-depth interviews from each Saturday’s action. Last week between the first and second rounds of qualification for the Glendale Supercross race, a relaxed and confident Dean Wilson joined Race Day Live’s Daniel Blair and Jim Holley to review his fourth-place finish in the season opener and his mindset moving forward.

Losing factory support from Rockstar / Husqvarna at the end of 2018 was not exactly what Wilson had in mind, but after getting off to a great start in the first two races this season, it may well have been a blessing in disguise.

The life of a privateer is not exactly relaxed, but it affords a rider the opportunity to call his own shots. For Wilson, it is also a way to reconnect with the grassroots feel that attracted him to Supercross in the first place.

“I think that’s what I like,” Wilson said on Race Day Live. “I think that’s the environment and atmosphere I like – it’s just more low key. At Anaheim I, you would think I was local racing at Glen Helen. I had a Sprinter and I had another trailer just to chill in, do my spins. It was so cold I had a little propane heater to warm me up. But I like that. That’s what works for me.”

MORE: Dean Wilson’s Cinderella story at Anaheim 

The program Wilson was able to put together during the offseason produced back-to back top 10s – a much better start to the 2019 season than he experienced last year.

In 2018, Wilson did not score a top 10 until his fourth feature at San Diego. His first top five would not come until late March in Indianapolis.

This year Wilson got the hole shot and led 14 laps at Anaheim in the opener before finishing fourth. Last week in Glendale, he finished eighth.

“What was going through my head was ‘it’s about time; it’s about five years too late to lead some laps here,’ ” Wilson described his emotion as he led at Anaheim. “It was nice because I did a lot of work in the off-season and my starts were really good. The thing is I haven’t over-analyzed my starts and practice.”

At Anaheim I, Wilson struggled with visibility as his goggles began to get fouled by mud. A once comfortable lead was eroded by Justin Barcia. With pressure from behind, Wilson made a minor mistake that was then compounded by lapped traffic.

“I was leading my laps; I was just trying to hit my marks. I was doing really well until I made a couple of mistakes. I couldn’t hit that middle double, double … the rut was getting real chewed out, but I was already on the right side where you couldn’t double the middle part so you had to go roll, roll, roll – and Barcia was already on me.”

Wilson’s pair of top 10s was enough to keep him fifth in the standings, three points behind Glendale’s winner Blake Baggett.

For more, watch the video above.

Next Race: Anaheim II Jan. 19, 11 p.m., NBCSN

Follow Dan Beaver on Twitter