2020 IndyCar Series Silly Season Synopsis (Update No. 5)
Since the final checkered flag of the NTT IndyCar Series season, the news has been filled with several rumors, drivers leaving teams, and new partnerships being formed. In just the past couple weeks, there’s been three interesting confirmations made from teams.
Here is the updated IndyCar Silly Season Synopsis as of December 29, 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. Alonso was also quick to clear up any possible issues with Honda recently, telling the BBC that there’d “no problem” in using a Honda-powered car.
“They are not the only options but for sure they are the strongest two,” he added. “I have a loyalty to McLaren and there is also how good I felt in Andretti, and I feel part of that staff and team. I have a very good relationship there.”
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.
The team will have veteran leadership in place, with Craig Hampton joining the outfit following a couple seasons with Dale Coyne Racing working with Sebastian Bourdais.
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, there could 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 – Super Formula race winner and Rookie of the Year, Spaniard Alex Palou will be coming to America to compete full-time in the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series driving for Dale Coyne Racing with Team Goh. He fills the seat previously held by Sebastian Bourdais.
Bourdais was believed to be returning in 2020 due to another year on his contract, but Coyne revealed that they will not be honoring the contract the deal “due to the ever-changing landscape of Indy car racing, we have no choice but to make a change for 2020.”
Their second driver has yet to be announced yet, but it is believed that Santino Ferrucci will be back, with Coyne telling Motorsport.com. ““The [Santino] Ferrucci deal looks like it’s coming together and Olivier [Boisson] will be staying on as his race engineer.” Although, he had stated at the the time he believed Hampton would return and that turned out not happen.
Other drivers on the short list for the seat that Palou fills included James Hinchcliffe and F2 ace Sergio Sette Camara, per Coyne to Motorsport.com in early December.
Bourdais tweeted following the announcement that he is not done racing in IndyCar as he would like to return, but will be sharing the No. 5 Mustang Sampling Racing Cadillac DPi-V.R for JDC-Miller Motorsports with Joao Barbosa the next two seasons in the IMSA WeatherTech Sportscar Championship.
Ed Carpenter Racing – After scoring a runner-up in the Indy Lights standings, Rinus Veekay will get his chance in the NTT IndyCar Series, set to run the full schedule in 2020. It will mark his rookie campaign with his series debut being the season opener at St. Petersburg.
Ed Carpenter will once again run the oval events for the team, with Conor Daly joining the team following a partial campaign this year to run the road and street courses.
Beyond that, Carpenter has said he was hopeful that the Scuderia Corsa co-entrant partnership, initiated just this year, will continue into 2020.
“We haven’t completed that deal yet,” Carpenter told Motorsport.com in November, “but that was mainly because I’ve been focused on trying to get some other pieces in place so we can figure out how it will work. I think both ourselves and Scuderia Corsa have the intention of moving forward together.”
Ed Jones held the co-driver position in 2019 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.”
As of right now with the shifts in the team, Spencer Pigot does not have a ride for the 2020 campaign.
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. Sage Karam also makes 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 – Just before Christmas, they announced that they will be running six events in 2020 – St. Petersburg, Long Beach, the Indianapolis 500, Texas Motor Speedway, Mid-Ohio, and Laguna Seca, with the “driver and sponsors announcement after the new year.” Ben Hanley was expected to return with the team after competing with them last year.
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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