With the news that Sebastian Saavedra is out of money for his ride at Conquest, we now look to see how another round of musical chairs is about to play out. Conquest Racing is not out of the running for TEAM money, but their #34 car is 34 points behind the current P22 entry in the TEAM standings. It’s not insurmountable, but they aren’t going to make it up if they bring in Francesco Dracone or Enrico Pallazzo. They need quality drivers and quality finishes over the last three races, and they’ve made a great start with Joao Paulo de Oliveira.
If you’re going to race on the Motegi road course, bringing a two-time course winner and defending Formula Nippon champion is a great start. Motegi is going to have a few tricks to it, de Oliveira should be able to get up to speed quickly. Given the circumstances, this seems to be a pretty savvy move for Eric Bachelart’s guys.
So what about Kentucky and Las Vegas? Saavedra has stated he’d like to find the money to come back for the Las Vegas World Championships, but what if he doesn’t?
First, let’s look at Kentucky. If I’m Conquest, all things being equal, I’m looking to see if Bertrand Baguette can drive for me at Kentucky. Triple B/Breadman/The Bagman had a great race there last year, qualifying P6 and finishing P10. Knowing I’m on the edge of what it takes to get that TEAM money, if I’m Eric Bachelart, I’m seeing if I can work something out with my fellow Belgian. He’s already got his oval license, and he was stellar at Indy.
I do believe having someone with an oval license (or who can easily procure one) is going to limit this somewhat, along with the required funds to jump into the ride, are going to limit this somewhat. Tomas Scheckter’s a veteran who’s been able to pull together some funding now and again, but had mixed results with Conquest in his two races for them last year (P28 Chicagoland, P14 Kentucky). I think he at least has to be in the discussion there.
Bottom line, there are good drivers out there that could give Conquest a chance to turn these circumstances into a plus. I think Scheckter and Baguette are very likely two of the better potential options out there, but ultimately we’ll have to wait and see what Conquest Racing and Eric Bachelart decide. Will they go with someone who gives them a better chance to fight for position and points, or will we see someone non-competitive just filling out the seat?
Hopefully, Conquest Racing is willing and able to put a quality replacement driver in their car after Japan. I want them to be a part of the battle for that last TEAM Money spot, and with some luck and the right driver(s), I think they have a chance to pull it off.
(Additionally, as a quick note, although I didn’t cover it today, I wanted to mention how pleased I was at IndyCar and GoDaddy bringing back the $5 Million Challenge at Las Vegas for Dan Wheldon and one potentially lucky fan. It might be a Plan B, but that doesn’t mean it’s not a good plan! I think it’s going to be a blast to watch, and hopefully Wheldon gets a great shot at contending).