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Rubens Barrichello, who spent 19 years in F1 before moving to IndyCar this season, believes Alesi is handicapped by his Lotus engine.

“It’s been very unfortunate that the Lotus power is not up to the speed,” Barrichello said. “If we do end up racing with that 10- or 15-mile (speed) difference, it could be a problem for both of the (Lotus drivers). I hope just that he has a safe race.”

IndyCar needs Alesi and Simona de Silvestro in the race to avoid not having a full 33-car field for the first time since 1947, but it’s possible that the two cars will be black-flagged for failing to maintain a reasonable speed.

There was disappointment Sunday when no team owner threw together a last-minute entry to try to bump one of the Lotus cars out of the field. Both Jay Howard and Pippa Mann indicated they were close to putting together deals, but couldn’t get Chevrolet or Honda to give them an engine. That led to rumors it was IndyCar who halted the engines to protect Lotus _ an allegation series officials vehemently denied.

Let’s not forget the TurboGate saga, either, with Chevrolet losing two appeals trying to prevent Honda from using a new compressor cover on its turbocharger. The defeat has supposedly left powerhouse owner Roger Penske so infuriated he’s refusing to speak to Bernard, but yet it’s Penske who has a driver on the pole and two more starting on the second row.

Penske, who at least publicly has preached a message of unity and support of IndyCar leaders, goes into the 500 perfect on the season with five poles and four victories. Honda, meanwhile, had only one driver qualify inside the top 10.

So from the outside, it sure looks like a mess for IndyCar. But Bernard is fond of claiming “all press is good press,” and if drama gets fans to tune into Sunday’s race, then maybe IndyCar knows exactly what it is doing.


Jenna Fryer covers auto racing for The Associated Press.


AP Sports Writer Noah Trister in Detroit contributed to this report.