2019 IndyCar Series Silly Season Synopsis
Although the news seemed to slow down through the holiday season, it has picked right back up with drivers and teams finalizing things as the 2019 NTT IndyCar Season nears closer. From confirmations that were expected, to small surprises, there has been a little bit of everything.
As we begin the month of February, here is the updated IndyCar Silly Season Synopsis as of February 4, 2018.
TEAM PENSKE: Josef Newgarden is the only driver linked to a long-term contract, but no worries as Will Power and Simon Pagenaud are back. You will also likely see an Indianapolis 500 entry once again for Helio Castroneves.
CHIP GANASSI RACING: As the season neared conclusion, Scott Dixon confirmed that he will be back at Chip Ganassi Racing for a couple years to come, with a focus on more championships like this the past season. The new addition at the team, though, will create some buzz. Ed Jones will be replaced by Felix Rosenqvist behind the wheel of the No. 10 NTT DATA Honda following a career that includes FIA European Formula 3, the DTM European touring car series and FIA ABB Formula E. He also ran 10 Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires races in 2016, scoring three victories with only two finishes outside of the top-nine.
ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT: Michael Andretti will once again boast the same line-up in 2019 with Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Zach Veach, and Marco Andretti confirmed. The only change is Marco Andretti now holds an ownership stake in his ride.
They will also have a fifth entry for the Indianapolis 500, this time with Conor Daly behind the wheel.
TEAM McLAREN: When Fernando Alonso announced he was leaving Formula 1 full-time, there was an immediate discussion started about possible IndyCar plans due to a successful Indianapolis 500 attempt.
While discussions had been ongoing about a possible full-time season, Alonso turned that down feeling it’d be too much on top of his sportscar commitments. It was officially announced on November 10 that he will run the Indianapolis 500 in May. McLaren then revealed a month later that their entry will be Chevrolet-powered, rather than Honda like Alonso’s first running.
RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING: Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato will both be back with the team in 2019. They will also have a third entry for the Indianapolis 500, with Jordan King behind the wheel. King spent last season with Ed Carpenter Racing, running the 11 street and road course events. He qualified in the Fast Six twice during the campaign, with a best finish of 11th in Toronto.
DALE COYNE RACING: As confirmed at the season finale, Sebastien Bourdais will be back with the team once again. In January, it was officially announced that Dale Coyne Racing and Vasser-Sullivan signed a multi-year agreement that will see them be co-entrants on the No. 18 Honda.
Bourdais will be joined by Santino Ferrucci, who made his INDYCAR debut in June at the Chevrolet Detroit Grand Prix presented by Lear doubleheader. He returned for the final two races of the season in September, at Portland International Raceway and Sonoma Raceway. Ferrucci’s best finish came in the finale, the INDYCAR Grand Prix of Sonoma, when he finished 11th despite dealing with a throttle issue the entire race.
Pietro Fittipaldi’s future in IndyCar is questionable, as it was recently announced he will be a test driver for the Haas F1 team. Zachary Claman De Melo, meanwhile, will make his return to Indy Lights with Belardi Racing.
There are also discussions surrounding the Indianapolis 500, and whether rides will be available for the likes of Pippa Mann.
ARROW SCHMIDT PETERSON MOTORSPORTS: Arrow’s involvement with the team has expanded entering the new year, as they have become the title sponsor of the organization with branding all entries.
James Hinchcliffe is confirmed to continue with the organization in 2019. He will be joined by Marcus Ericsson. Ericsson most recently drove for Sauber in F1, but is a two-time champion (Formula BMW UK, 2007; Japanese Formula Three, 2009), and has twice claimed the Swedish Junior Racer of the Year award (2007, 2009).
Notably, Robert Wickens is confirmed on paper, however questions surround whether his recovery will be at the point of getting back behind the wheel of a racecar. If it is does, Schmidt has stated a car will be available at that time.
A.J FOYT RACING: Both Tony Kanaan and Matheus Leist have been confirmed for 2019. A third car for the Indianapolis 500 is a possibility, though.
ED CARPENTER RACING: Spencer Pigot put together a strong enough program to stay on-board for another season, while Ed Carpenter will continue running the oval races. A unique partnership with Scuderia Corsa will bring Ed Jones on-board to run the road course events and Indianapolis 500, despite struggling a little this past year with Chip Ganassi Racing.
CARLIN: Carlin Racing announced in January that Max Chilton will run the full NTT IndyCar season, while Charlie Kimball will be running a partial schedule. Recall Trevor Carlin previously told Motorsport.com that he was looking to add a third car due to demand from drivers to race in the series; there have yet to be any confirmations of the sort there, though.
HARDING STEINBRENNER RACING: After a successful debut year in IndyCar, Harding Racing, led by Mike Harding with team president Brian Barnhart, has teamed up with Steinbrenner Racing’s George Steinbrenner IV to form Harding Steinbrenner Racing. The team will enter a pair of cars, with 2018 Indy Lights Champion Patricio O’Ward and 2018 Indy Lights runner-up Colton Herta behind the wheel. Steinbrenner is no stranger to open-wheel racing, having co-owned Herta’s Indy Lights entry the past two years with Andretti Autosport.
This brings an interesting dynamic as originally it was stated that Gabby Chaves was on contract with Harding Racing, but there has been no mention of his name in the silly season rumors since late September. He has made a pair of IMSA starts so that is always a possibility.
JUNCOS RACING: Riccardo Juncos was quoted in August about expanding to two entries for 2019, rotating drivers in the process. Those thoughts were backed up with a November update in having their second car close to completion. While no drivers have been confirmed as of yet, Kyle Kaiser and Rene Binder drove for the team last year.
MEYER-SHANK RACING: Michael Shank will continue to expand his IndyCar involvement in 2019, with plans to enter Jack Harvey into 10 events throughout this year. This marks an increase from running six in 2018, with a focus on running a full schedule down the road.
DREYER-REINBOLD RACING: There has been discussions about fielding a team full-time, but no driver announcements have been made as of this time. Sage Karam and JR Hildebrand are possibilities based on their Indianapolis 500 past.
DRAGONSPEED: After rumors being spread for the past several months, the team announced they compete in five races next season, including the 103rd Indianapolis 500, powered by Chevrolet engines and with driver Ben Hanley. They added that they intend to be on the grid full-time in 2020.
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