Newman Haas race team leaving IndyCar in 2012

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INDIANAPOLIS (AP) - One of the biggest names in IndyCar racing is leaving the series next season.

Newman-Haas Racing, the team started by late actor Paul Newman, has decided it will not compete in 2012. It’s the first time since 1982 Newman-Haas will not field an open-car team.

Carl Haas, the team’s co-founder, made the announcement in a one-sentence statement indicating the team had trouble finding sponsorship.

“The economic climate no longer enables Newman-Haas Racing to participate in open-wheel racing at this time,” he said.

The move came as a surprise following a solid season in which Spanish driver Oriol Servia finished fourth in the points. Only Target Chip Ganassi teammates Dario Franchitti and Scott Dixon and Team Penske driver Will Power were ahead of Servia.

Newman-Haas‘ other driver, Canadian James Hinchcliffe, was last season’s rookie of the year.

Both were expected to return to the team in 2012, and Newman-Haas was scheduled to receive the first of its new 2012 IndyCar models Dec. 15.

But the team was struggling to find enough sponsorship to remain competitive next season.

Servia’s primary sponsor in 2011 was Telemundo, the Spanish-language television network. Hinchcliffe was sponsored by Sprott Asset Management, a Canadian financial company.

Though the team’s statement did not mention either sponsor, both drivers are now looking for new jobs. Neither was available for comment because they were traveling overseas this week.

Newman-Haas was one of the open-wheel teams that stayed with the now defunct CART Series when the two leagues split in 1996. It didn’t return until the two sides merged in 2008.

Over the past 29 seasons, Newman-Haas established itself as one of the most successful open-wheel teams. It won eight championships, 107 races and 109 poles _ but the team that had some of the most famous names in racing never won the Indianapolis 500.

Among those that drove for Newman-Haas were Mario and Michael Andretti, Nigel Mansell, Paul Tracy, Sebastien Bourdais and Christian Fittipaldi.

Newman-Haas Racing is a first-class organization that has left an indelible mark on our sport,” series officials said in a statement. “We will miss having them at the track next season.”

Though the announcement leaves some wiggle room for the team to get back into the series this season if it can find sponsorship, it’s the latest twist in what has already been a tumultuous offseason for IndyCar.

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