Coulson Brings Bingham On Board
September 21, 2000 | 12:00 A.M. EST
It didn’t happen, but that’s not stopping Coulson.
Coulson plans on running the season finale at Texas Motor Speedway with rookie Chris Bingham behind the wheel.
Bingham, who is competing in the all-road-course American LeMans Series, may seem like an odd fit in an IRNLS car, but don’t tell Coulson that.
"He’s done some Indy Lights," Coulson said, emphasizing that league’s oval events. "He’s got minimum experience with ovals, but he has experience with high-horsepower cars."
And that makes him a good candidate to replace Roberto Guerrero in the team’s 1999 No. 40 G Force-Aurora, he said.
Bingham has already convinced Coulson that he can do the job. Now he has to convince IRNLS officials in his rookie test at Texas on Oct. 4 and 5.
"If he passes the rookie test, we’ll definitely be running him in the 1999 car," Coulson said. "We’re preparing the car.
"Nothing’s guaranteed, but we’re gonna give him a good setup."
Brian Barnhardt, the IRNLS vice president of operations, Al Unser, Johnny Rutherford, Scott Goodyear and Team Coulson engineer Tim Whiting will observe Bingham.
During a rookie test, a driver must run 10 consistent laps between 190-195 mph, 195-200 mph, 200-205 mph and 10 more laps at 205 mph or faster to pass. Observers will be watching to see how easily Bingham can get up to speed and how consistent his racing lines around the track are, among other things.
Passing his rookie test will be just the first of Bingham’s hurdles on his way to the season finale. He’ll also have to adjust to a brand-new team and a year-old car.
But, Coulson believes developing an understanding between driver and team is the key. To accomplish that, Coulson and Bingham have talking and planning their strategy for the past few weeks. On Friday, the deal to test Bingham came together.
"He doesn’t know us, and we don’t know him very well," admitted Coulson, who first started discussions with Bingham in May.
Coulson also crossed paths with Guerrero for the first time in May. That led Guerrero to the seat of the No. 40 that Bingham will be testing at Texas. The deal with Bingham hasn’t left Guerrero out of the picture, though.
Coulson is purchasing a 2000 car that Guerrero will drive if enough funding can be secured within the next week or so. It’ll be delivered to Coulson’s Houston, Minn., headquarters in a couple of weeks.
"Whether I run it at Texas or not I’m not certain," said Coulson, adding that there is a 50-50 chance of running two cars at Texas. "If not I’ll just prepare for next season."
Before addressing next season, though, Coulson and Bingham will have to face the ultra-fast 1.5-mile Texas oval that produced one of the most exciting open-wheel races ever in June. Coulson has no elusions about the team’s chances there.
"We’re wanting him to finish the race,” Coulson said. "This’ll be his first time out and we want him to be comfortable, stay out of trouble and see where we wind up.
"There’s a good chance he’ll become a regular in the circuit if it happens."
If becomes an IRNLS regular, Coulson hopes it is with his team as a teammate to Guerrero.
"We’re looking for funding to be able to do that," Coulson said. "I’d be happy to run one car the whole season, but if these things happen, there’s a chance for two cars."
"If the funding is there we can do a damn good job on both of them."