No, Nissan Motor Corp. U.S.A. has not left open-wheel racing. It just seems that way.
After a promising second-place finish in last year's Indy Racing League opener, cars powered by the 'Infiniti Indy' engine placed no better than seventh. And as the results petered out, so did the number of drivers using Infiniti powerplants instead of the winning Oldsmobile engine.
At the debut of this season, only Dr. Jack 'The Racing Dentist' Miller had an Infiniti engine. But with a new powerplant developed over the winter, with more horsepower and less weight, Nissan is confident it can do better, says Nissan Motorsports Manager Frank Honsowetz.
However, persuading drivers and teams to gamble on Nissan again is another matter.
'A good dyno sheet and sales talk won't get you onto a good team,' Honsowetz says. 'We wanted to add more teams, but all the good teams are running Oldsmobile and are being standoffish.'
Nissan was not about to put incentives on its engine to get teams to come back, so instead it is entering the closest thing to a factory effort it can - signing on Raul Boesel, a top-tier CART driver who lost his ride after last year.
'We have a big push with Raul. We're showing them all our data,' Honsowetz says.
After all, it only takes one car to win the Indy 500.
Because its racing presence is less, so is Infiniti's racing marketing.
Indianapolis still will be the meeting site for the dealer advisory boards and the incentive destination for top sales managers, but only three other IRL races will have Infiniti marketing involvement, Honsowetz says.
There will be no advertising campaign, unlike last season, when Infiniti Q45 ads tied into the race effort.
Of course, should Boesel win Indy, the company will pull out all the stops.
Mark Rechtin is a Los Angeles-based staff reporter for Automotive News.