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Kanaan, DFDR money struggles a kick to IndyCar's gut

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It's been a rough off-season for Tony Kanaan, who may face the prospect of limited - or no - track time in 2011. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
It's been a rough off-season for Tony Kanaan, who may face the prospect of limited - or no - track time in 2011. (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)
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On paper, the combination was unbeatable.

Roger's youngest son Jay Penske and Seagate's Steve Luczo owning; one of the smartest driver/engineers around, Gil de Ferran, at the helm; veteran Tony Kanaan at the wheel.

One look at that lineup should have made potential sponsors nearly incontinent with the desire to partner up with De Ferran Dragon Racing.

Instead, today Tony Kanaan is (again) contemplating life on the sidelines and DFDR is quietly breaking the bad news to employees who will have to take their tools and look elsewhere for work. It's a double-whammy of bad news in an off-season that has looked otherwise bright.

It's telling how difficult the financial environment is in motorsports these days when a veteran driver of such experience and talent could see limited or no track time in 2011. It gets worse when you factor in the organizational and engineering skills of Gil de Ferran, one of the brightest minds in the IndyCar paddock, not being enough to inspire sponsors to come on board.

It's not just Kanaan and De Ferran Dragon Racing that are in this boat. Daytona 500 winner Trevor Bayne will be taking to the track this weekend in Phoenix on an emotional high but a financial low - competing in cars with no decals and no outside backing. That's how bad things are these days.

But it is a particular kick to the fellas for IndyCar given the context of the past year, as Randy Bernard has worked the elbow grease to slowly, laboriously, yet inexorably begin to lift the series out of the doldrums in which it has been mired for over a decade and a half. With all of the good news, it was perhaps inevitable that there would be some bad.

If we're being honest, though, we were all hoping that the disappointments would be limited in scope to, say, Paul Tracy struggling to find a ride, or Tomas Scheckter having to watch from the grandstands, or maybe Highcroft Racing not being able to answer the bell for their rumored IndyCar effort. None of that stuff is pleasant, and to be certain it's all bad news.

Not as bad, though, as one of IndyCar's winningest drivers and biggest stars in the prime of his career, together with a name like Penske (even if it's Jay) and the proven ability of de Ferran, possibly being forced out of the game. That is the kind of bad news that strikes at the core of the sport, not the fringes.

Racing is a business, and in business things like this happen every day. That doesn't stop me from hoping that there is an eleventh-hour reprieve for TK and DFDR. If the rising tide lifts all boats, it'd be a real shame if these folks get left at the docks.