2020 IndyCar Series Silly Season Synopsis (Update No. 2)
Although there were a lot of surprised faces when Arrow McLaren SP revealed their driver line-up for 2020, that was just the beginning of the shockers for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series Silly Season.
The series revealed on Monday, November 4 that they have a new owner, with Penske Entertainment (owned by Penske Corporation) acquiring all Hulman & Company principal operating assets, including the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, the NTT IndyCar Series and IMS Productions.
The announcement brought forth a lot of questions, with a couple concerns about a double-edged sword with Penske owning a race team and the sanctioning body. However, with assurance from the Captain that both will be kept separate, combined with respect from his fellow competitors, that seems to be put under the bridge already. Instead, there is a optimism about the direction to which Roger Penske can lead them down next.
Here is the updated IndyCar Silly Season Synopsis as of November 9, 2019
Team Penske – Everything is remaining the same in the driver line-up, as Josef Newgarden, Will Power and Simon Pagenaud are back on-board for 2020. Though with taking over the series, Penske announced that he will not be on the timing stand this season.
Chip Ganassi Racing – Scott Dixon and Felix Rosenqvist are both back on-board for the 2020, with Marcus Ericsson behind the wheel of a third full-time entry. Ericsson joins the team following a solid rookie campaign with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, scoring three top-10 finishes with a season-best second in Detroit.
Andretti Autosport – Zach Veach, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay and Marco Andretti are all back on-board for 2020, with Andretti still under the Andretti Herta Autosport banner. Additionally, Mike Harding and George Steinbrenner IV have partnered with Andretti to form Andretti Harding Steinbrenner Autosport. Colton Herta, who drove for Harding Steinbrenner Racing in 2019, will be behind the wheel.
Although many people would assume that Fernando Alonso would partner with long-time partner McLaren for the Indianapolis 500, Michael Andretti recently told RACER.com that he has spoken to the driver about a possible deal. However, it is worth noting that Alonso does not have a healthy relationship with Honda dating back to his Formula 1 days. That was why he was forced to drive a Chevrolet entry in the Indy 500 due to Honda not wanting to supply a motor. If that could be soothed over, Andretti says he would “love to get back together and try to get him his first win at Indy.”
Arrow McLaren SP – Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports partnered with McLaren Racing to form Arrow McLaren SP. It also meant a switch in manufacture, with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports becoming part of the Chevrolet family for 2020. The team will have a pair of new drivers, as well, with Patricio O’Ward and Oliver Askew.
After winning the Indy Lights presented by Cooper Tires Championship in 2018, it seemed O’Ward was set for a full season with Harding Steinbrenner Racing. However, that deal quickly dissolved as a result of funding. O’Ward then joined on with Carlin Racing to run seven races, with a best finish of eighth at the Circuit of Americas, all well failing to qualify for the Indianapolis 500. The Mexican then joined the Red Bull Junior Team and competed with them through 2019, before parting ways in November for a return to IndyCar.
Oliver Askew won this year’s Indy Lights title with Andretti Autosport, and enters the IndyCar ranks with scholarship in hand. The quick assent through the Road to Indy presented by Cooper Tires has many eyes focused on him to see whether the success continues.
As a result of the new drivers, this would leave Marcus Ericsson and James Hinchcliffe – with the Hinchcliffe situation drawing a lot of interest. Originally when the Chevrolet deal was announced, concerns surrounded the Canadian due to his personal deal with Honda. However, Sam Schmidt at the time did not see that as being a problem moving forward, noting that the Canadian has been a great asset to the team and brilliant ambassador for their partners the past five years. Hinchcliffe expressed the same thoughts on a tweeted statement, adding that discussions with Honda “will need to occur but that is secondary right now to this exciting news.”
It was believed that he would be part of the team – until he learned that he would not be behind the wheel in 2019 on Sunday, October 27, with the driver announcement occurring three days later.
Additionally, Schmidt noted that he is still holding a ride for Robert Wickens for when he is ready to make his return behind the wheel. For now, he will serve as a driver coach for O’Ward and Askew.
Given the ties that McLaren has with Fernando Alonso, more than likely there will be a third entry for the Indianapolis 500 with him behind the wheel.
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – Everything will remain the same with Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato back on-board for 2020. Additionally, there has been discussions about adding a third full-time car to the roster, with Hinchcliffe as the latest discussed driver.
“I think it’s a shame for James, especially at this late stage, because a lot of teams are set for next year,” Bobby Rahal told NBCSports.com. “While we would love to have James at some level, we don’t have the money at this point. We’ll work on seeing what is possible if we can, but the odds are not favoring that right now. I’m in Italy, and when we get back tomorrow, we’re going to start to work on this. Again, I think the odds are not in his favor, but that doesn’t mean we won’t try.”
Dale Coyne Racing – It has already been confirmed that Sebastian Bourdais has another year on his contract, and will likely be back behind the wheel of the No. 18 Honda in the Dale Coyne Racing with Vasser and Sullivan entry. Santino Ferrucci is expected to be return in the No. 19 with Dale Coyne telling NBCSports.com on October 29 that the deal is “pretty close,” and expecting to be completed by the end of last week.
However, that doesn’t mean Coyne has not expressed interest in bringing Hinchcliffe on board, either. It would make sense with Craig Hampton, whose worked with the Canadian in the past, currently working for Coyne.
“We have not had any conversations with him yet, but I heard he is going to call us today,” Coyne said. “I need to have a conversation, see where he is at, what support and sponsorship he has now. I’m sure Honda is supporting him. Is it enough for us to make a three-car program work?”
Ed Carpenter Racing – Ed Carpenter will once again run the oval events for the team, with no other drivers yet to be confirmed. 2019 Indy Lights runner-up Rinus Veekay has had two IndyCar tests at Mid-Ohio and Portland with the team.
Spencer Pigot has raced for Carpenter the past two seasons, while Ed Jones ran the road and street course races in the 2019 season through a partnership with Scuderia Corsa. According to RACER.com, negotiations are taking place for Jones to return, but there is a possibility for Jones to find a new home in 2020.
“There’s some decent interest, I would say,” Jones’ manager Stefan Johansson commented in September. “There are openings in other teams, and I think people see his potential when everything comes together for him. He’s a good driver. It’s just that when you start overthinking things too much, you’re screwed! This sport is crazy that way. Ultimately the decision over who drives for the [Scuderia Corsa #20] car pretty much still comes down to Ed [Carpenter], although obviously I’m sure he’d talk it through with us. So we’ll see.”
A.J. Foyt Racing – The image of the team will look different regardless, as ABC Supply is taking a step back in their sponsorship of the team. Tony Kanaan has been confirmed to be returning, but his teammate has yet to be. It appears unlikely Matheus Leist will return following just two top-10 finishes in 2019.
Carlin Racing – There have been no announcements out of the team leading into 2020 following a season with six different drivers behind the wheel. They are expected to return with a two-car effort, and a third car for the Indianapolis 500, per what Trevor Carlin told RACER.com.
Max Chilton ran all of the events except for two, failing to qualify for the Indianapolis 500 with a best finish of 11th. You also have to consider Charlie Kimball as he has been a long stay on the grid; it’s just a question of how much sponsorship can he muster following seven races in 2019. Conor Daly and Sage Karam also make the short list after filling in a couple weeks.
“I can’t speak for Max, but we would love to have him with us for as many races as he wants, and Charlie’s been working very hard to build his sponsorship base,” Carlin added. “We’ve spoken with many drivers about next year, and those conversations take place on a daily and weekly basis. It’s too premature to say who will be driving what, and for how many races, (but) that’s the thing we’re working hard to answer.”
Juncos Racing – Just like Carlin Racing, there is no direction as to which way the team is going to head for 2020. Kyle Kaiser was the only driver to compete for the team last season, running two races – 18th at Circuit of the Americas and 31st in the Indianapolis 500.
MEYER-SHANK RACING – After running a limited schedule, the team will be entering a full-time effort in 2020 with Jack Harvey behind the wheel. This comes following a partnership with Andretti Technologies for technical support. They had been partnered with Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports previously, but that essentially became not possible with the team’s switch in manufactures.
DragonSpeed Racing – Ben Hanley is expected to return with the team, but the amount of races is unclear as of right now. They had talked previously about running the full 2020 season.
Indy 500 Prospects
One of the drivers that could do a run-off at the Indianapolis 500 is Kyle Busch. The Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series driver has expressed previous interest, with a possible deal falling through last season. When he was recently speaking with Bob Pockrass, he said it was certainly possible for 2020 if he could put together the right ride.
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