Action Express Racing team manager Gary Nelson says that he “doesn’t see anything changing” with its driver lineups and team partners, despite rumors of a possible shakeup for the 2020 IMSA WeatherTech SportsCar Championship season.
Questions have surrounded the future of Whelen Engineering’s involvement with the team, while defending Prototype champion Felipe Nasr has recently completed IndyCar and LMP1 tests.
It comes amid paddock talk of Joao Barbosa potentially stepping into a Michelin Endurance Cup-only role in the team’s No. 5 Cadillac DPi-V.R.
While admitting they are currently in the midst of contract negotiations, Nelson downplayed any substantial changes to either program for next year.
“We typically go year-to-year with drivers, sponsors, which is pretty standard in IMSA,” he told Sportscar365.
“We’ve had some very positive conversations with both Whelen and Mustang Sampling.
“Right now, there’s nothing that tells me that things are not going to be the same. Everybody’s working hard to get our program back together for next year.”
Nelson admitted that Nasr’s IndyCar test with Schmidt Peterson Racing this week “stirred up a lot of people” but would not speculate whether the Brazilian could make a return to open-wheel racing.
Nasr also recently tested Rebellion Racing’s LMP1 car at the FIA World Endurance Championship Prologue test, as one of five drivers in evaluation for a full-time drive with the Swiss squad in the 2019-20 season.
Currently there are no clashes between the WEC and WeatherTech Championship, which is due to release its 2020 schedule on Friday evening at Road America.
When asked about the future of Barbosa with the team, Nelson said he “heard that [rumor] too” about the longtime Action Express driver potentially taking a reduced role, although would also not comment.
Nelson said an announcement on its 2020 program is expected to be made next month at WeatherTech Raceway Laguna Seca.
“We have a few things to button up but certainly we will get done with the full-season program with sponsors and drivers [first],” he said.
“I think we’re pretty far down the road but we’re just not ready to make any announcements.”
WEC Calendar Format Change Has Affected Driver Market
Nelson said the WEC’s shift to a winter calendar has affected the driver market, particularly in securing drivers for the entire four-round Endurance Cup.
The team’s No. 5 car has been unable to run a run as a three-driver lineup in the full four-round championship due to various situations surrounding Mike Conway.
Visa issues forced Conway out of the Mustang Sampling-sponsored Cadillac at Daytona, while his contract with Toyota prevented the LMP1 driver from contesting the Twelve Hours of Sebring.
“We were fortunate enough to be able to work with guys like Conway and others,” Nelson said. “Now it’s going to be a little more difficult to slot that all in.
“Not only because they start their season now, and we’re in the middle of ours this time of year, and we start ours in Daytona.
“If we can figure out that a WEC driver can run [all the Endurance Cup races], even in Sebring if it’s just a minimum role. Sebring you can do with two-and-a-half drivers.
“All we need is a WEC driver to do a small part of Sebring and we can go for the [Endurance Cup] championship with the three guys.”
Nelson admitted that other drivers, including Fernando Alonso, are also “on the radar” for Endurance Cup drives with the team as well.