2020 IndyCar Series Silly Season Synopsis (Update No. 9)
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 some more announcements.
Here is the updated IndyCar Silly Season Synopsis as of February 19, 2020
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 – with Helio Castroneves in for the Indianapolis 500, as well. Additionally, V8 Supercar driver Scott McLaughlin will make his series debut at the Grand Prix of Indianapolis following a successful test in January; he is leaving supercars at the end of 2020, creating curiosity of what is possible for 2021 and beyond.
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.
They then revealed on Wednesday, February 19 that James Hinchcliffe and his sponsor Genesys, a cloud customer-experience tech company, will return to the organization for three races – the Indianapolis Grand Prix, the Indianapolis 500, and Texas Motor Speedway.
Through much of the off-season it appeared as though Fernando Alonso would partner with Andretti for the Indianapolis 500 once again. Everything also seemed aligned to make it happen, until the deal was axed by Honda in the 11th hour, according to RACER.com. It comes as a big surprise as there were supposedly discussions of Alonso competing in some road course events.
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. 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.
As a result of the new drivers, this would leave Marcus Ericsson and James Hinchcliffe on the outside.
Given the ties that McLaren has with Fernando Alonso, there could be a third entry for the Indianapolis 500 with him behind the wheel – but those rumors seem to be dying off and took a bigger hit when his partnership with the team as an ambassador expired, and was not renewed for 2020. They could be renewed, though, given Honda’s recent rejection of having Alonso in an Andretti Autosport entry and Arrow McLaren SP running Chevrolet power.
Sam Schmidt recently told Motorsport.com that the team has not entered serious negotiations or discussions with any drivers in regards to an additional entry at Indianapolis, due to being currently focused on the upcoming year with their young drivers.
“We haven’t made any decision about our third car at Indy, but we didn’t expect Alonso to be available,” he said. “It’s great for Chevrolet if it turns out that for Fernando to get a ride at Indy means he’ll be in a Chevy car – but he could equally decide that he sits this one out if the right opportunity isn’t available. The truth is, he’s an amazing talent and I think more than anything, the fans of IndyCar racing deserve and need to see Fernando Alonso in the Indy 500. I mean, I want to see that as a fan of IndyCar myself and the guy proved in 2017 that clearly he can win the race if given the right equipment. But for now, we as a team are just thinking about Pato and Oliver.”
Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing – Everything will remain the same with Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato back on-board for 2020. There were discussions about adding a third full-time car to the roster, with Hinchcliffe as the latest discussed driver – however, that will not be happening.
Bobby Rahal told RACER.com they are simply looking at entering the third car for only the Indianapolis 500.
“We were excited about the possibilities of running Hinch, but that didn’t end up happening,” RLL co-owner Bobby Rahal told RACER. “We are still looking to do a third car, but time is running out. And we’d only do it with the right driver. We all agree that if we can’t find a driver that can add to our Indy 500 program, we’d rather be the best two-car team we can be with Takuma and Graham.”
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.”
They then revealed on January 23 that Santino Ferrucci will be back behind the wheel of the No. 18 Team SealMaster Honda. The Connecticut native won the Indianapolis 500’s Rookie of the Year award after advancing 16 positions to finish seventh in Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 19 car.
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.
Beyond the team’s regular season schedule, there are discussions of an additional entry for the Indianapolis 500, with Carpenter sparking discussion when he told RACER at the end of January that he would be interested in having Kyle Busch on his squad, as long as it worked out well for all parties involved. He added that they have “talked over the past couple of years,” and has “no doubt that Kyle could come in and do a great job, so I have no problems seeing him come.” Though at the same time, Carpenter added that “it’s highly unlikely that would happen for us in 2020, just because of where we are with our program.”
Carpenter’s comments follow comments recently made by Busch when he was speaking with Bob Pockrass.
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. It was then confirmed that Charlie Kimball will drive the No. 4 entry with longtime sponsor Novo Nordisk on-board as the sponsor.
There will be one familiar factor, as Tony Kanaan is back on-board for the 2020 campaign. He will run his last season in NTT IndyCar Series competition before stepping away this year, competing in the five oval events on the schedule. Following this season, the only event that the Brazilian said he would return to run would be the Indianapolis 500.
The rest of the events on the calendar will be split by Bourdais and Dalton Kellett. Bourdais, who spent last season at Dale Coyne Racing, will be running St. Petersburg, Barber, Long Beach, and Portland. That will then leave the Circuit of the Americas, GMR Grand Prix of Indianapolis, Detroit, Road America, Toronto, Mid-Ohio, and Laguna Seca for Kellett; he will also compete in the Indianapolis 500 in a third Foyt entry. Kellett graduates to the top-level following experience in Indy Lights.
Bourdais will also be racing outside of the IndyCar, 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.
As a result, Matheus Leist appears to join the list of drivers without a ride following just two top-10 finishes in 2019.
Carlin Racing – Max Chilton will return to the organization, running 12 road and street course races along with the Indianapolis 500 behind the wheel of the No. 59 Gallagher-sponsored entry. The team stated his teammate would be announced “at a later date.”
In the recent test at COTA, they employed 2018 WeatherTech SportsCar Championship Prototype title winner and former Formula 1 driver Felipe Nasr and Formula 2 race winner Sergio Sette Camara behind the wheel of the No. 31. Both drivers have experience with the team through the junior ranks.
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.” Since, they revealed Ben Hanley will be back with the team for at least the season opener at the Grand Prix of St. Petersburg; Hanley ran a limited schedule for them this past season.
Dreyer and Reinbold – Dennis Reinbold told RACER.com at the beginning of January that the team will be running a at least four races this season – St. Petersburg, Toronto, and both events at Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Over the past six years, they have entered the Indianapolis 500 – five times with Sage Karam, once with Townsend Bell; they also entered a second-car in 2018 and 2019 for J.R. Hildebrand.
“Sage will be back, and we’re working on J.R.,” Reinbold said. “We’re also working on the rally car side of things, and that enables us to keep everyone on board year-around. We’ve got 10 full-timers and that helps with our continuity and progress.”
Indy 500 Prospects
Jimmie Johnson was in attendance for the test at the Circuit of the Americas, and has expressed interest in running some road course and short oval events following his retirement from full-time NASCAR Cup Series racing.
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