- John Oreovicz, Autos, Open-Wheel
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INDIANAPOLIS -- You could swear you heard three distinct sounds within a few seconds of 6 o'clock Sunday evening at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway:
• The gun signifying the end of qualifying for the 92nd Indianapolis 500 (May 25, noon ET, ABC).
• Mario Dominguez' car hitting the Turn 1 wall.
• A cash register, signifying the loss of at least $300,000 in prize money.
OK, most people probably didn't actually hear that cha-ching sound.
But Dominguez and Pacific Coast Motorsports owner Tyler Tadevic almost certainly did.
Tadevic is brand-new at the team owner game, having acquired PCM from Tom Figge, who started the team five years ago to advance the career of his son, Alex. Tadevic was PCM's team manager.
Alex Figge competed under the PCM banner in Formula Atlantic, the Grand-Am Rolex Series and the Champ Car World Series. When Champ Car folded and American open-wheel racing suddenly emphasized oval tracks, the Figges pulled out.
Tadevic didn't give up. He had been instrumental in bringing Dominguez into PCM's Champ Car team in mid-2007 with the support of Tecate beer. Still maintaining plenty of Mexican sponsorship contacts, Tadevic found enough backing from the Mexico City tourism board to put together a full-time IndyCar Series effort for Dominguez.
The only catch: They would be starting at Indianapolis, not exactly the easiest venue in terms of learning the track and the IndyCar Dallara-Honda.
The other teams making the transition from the Champ Car World Series had the benefit of already running three IndyCar Series races this year, including two on ovals. Dominguez had not competed on an oval in more than two years, and never at Indianapolis.
Perhaps understandably, the 32-year-old Mexican struggled. He crashed in practice on May 9, then again on the morning of the second day of qualifying.
Dominguez struggled to run 218 mph most of Bump Day, when strong winds made for treacherous conditions at IMS. Yet with everything on the line, he ran a lap of 219.700 mph, making what was literally a last-second final qualifying attempt.
Alas, Dominguez and the PCM Dallara couldn't maintain that pace for four laps or even two laps, for that matter. Dominguez entered Turn 1 a bit high, the back end snapped around, and faster than you can say "Visit Mexico!" the No. 96 car was again heavily damaged.
Had Dominguez made the race, PCM would have been guaranteed at least $300,000 as part of the IndyCar Series' TEAM incentive program. But Tadevic put on a brave face.
"We were three laps from being in the biggest race in the world, but as clichéd as it sounds, it is just another race and we need to turn our focus now to Milwaukee," he said.
"I am so proud of this team and the job that they have done. We timed it perfectly today, being the last car to qualify. It has been a successful month of May for us in any respect."
There is no doubt Dominguez was trying his absolute hardest -- he's not known as a crasher -- but the speed just wasn't there in the car.
"I am very, very sad," he said. "Every person in the PCM organization gave 100 percent and I am proud of the effort.
"After we got bumped, we trimmed the car as much as we thought we could do and it was just a little too much," he added. "The car was very, very loose and we were in an all-or-nothing situation. We will regroup, take a rest and get ready for Milwaukee."
It was hard not to feel sorry for Dominguez, who is most famous for winning the 2002 CART race in Surfers Paradise, Australia, without leading a green-flag lap.
The Mexican came back a year later to take a fully legitimate Champ Car victory at Miami and finished a career best in the championship in 2004. His solid run to third place in the Champ Car finale was the final key in Tadevic's acquisition of Pacific Coast Motorsports.
All in all, after a shaky start, Dominguez put together a solid Champ Car career and he is looking forward to competing in the IndyCar Series. But he'll have to wait until Milwaukee to make his debut.
"I feel terrible for me, for my sponsors, and for the team," he said.
"The only thing that makes me feel good is that we tried until the end.
"It's a great team. I think it's the best team out there. They've done a fantastic job and I feel terrible I could not qualify for this race."
John Oreovicz covers open-wheel racing for National Speed Sport News and ESPN.com.
Mario Dominguez will have to wait 'til Milwaukee to make his IndyCar Series debut. The Turn 1 wall at Indy saw to that, writes John Oreovicz.