Ultimate IndyCar Silly Season Guide (December Update)
Little has changed over the past month regarding full-time rides as the Christmas holiday approaches. The wait for the second confirmation at Dale Coyne Racing continues, as Verizon IndyCar Series veteran Conor Daly works to acquire the necessary backing to complete the deal.
If Daly falls short with Coyne, the Indiana-resident could still be in play for a part-time effort at Ed Carpenter Racing, focusing solely on road and street courses.
However, the biggest rumor mill has centered on the destination for Danica Patrick’s return to the Indianapolis 500 after a seven-year absence. The 2005 Rookie of the Year has chosen the 2018 edition of the May classic as her final effort in auto racing. Multiple teams are believed to be in play for Patrick’s talents, with Chip Ganassi Racing possibly being at the head of the list. Schmidt Peterson Motorsports could also be in the running after the team according to RACER Magazine, is believed to have severed ties with pilot Tristan Gommendy.
RACER reports the break-up involves Gommendy’s business partner Didier Calmels, who has had previous run-ins with the law. The history has led to bad press in the French media since the initial Indy 500 deal was reportedly struck.
So with that teaser out of the way, here are the current scenarios as of Friday, December 1 2017.
TEAM PENSKE: Josef Newgarden (CONFIRMED), Simon Pagenaud (CONFIRMED), Will Power (CONFIRMED), Helio Castroneves (Indy 500 only, CONFIRMED)
Everything is a go for 2018. Three drivers will be present at all 17 races, with an extra car given to Castroneves for both the 500 and the IndyCar Grand Prix. The same opportunity, will not be given to Juan Pablo Montoya, however; the Captain has allowed the Colombian to seek other possible opportunities.
CHIP GANASSI RACING: Scott Dixon (CONFIRMED), Ed Jones (CONFIRMED), Danica Patrick (Indy 500 only, Possible)
With Dixon and Jones looking ahead to the 2018 season, the focus has shifted toward the possibility of Danica Patrick joining the team in a third entry for the Indianapolis 500. Chip Ganassi told the Associated Press in November that he “liked the idea,” however no confirmation has been made at the time POPULAR OPEN WHEEL went to press. With most of the big rides being secured, CGR perhaps is the most competitive opportunity left for the May classic relating to the popular
ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT: Ryan Hunter-Reay (CONFIRMED), Marco Andretti (CONFIRMED), Alexander Rossi (CONFIRMED), Zach Veach (CONFIRMED), Stefan Wilson (Indy 500 only, CONFIRMED)
Unless Andretti offers a sixth seat for Indy as it did for Fernando Alonso this year, the silly season story is over with for 2018.
RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING: Graham Rahal (CONFIRMED), Takuma Sato (CONFIRMED), ??
The only business to be settled are the chances of a third car for the Indy 500. Indy-specialist Oriol Servia may be an option as could Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires veteran Zachary Claman de Melo, who made his IndyCar debut with RLLR at Sonoma, California this past season.
SCHMIDT PETERSON MOTORSPORTS: James Hinchcliffe (CONFIRMED), Robert Wickens (CONFIRMED), ??
RACER Magazine reported last month that the Indy 500 shot for Tristan Gommendy is off the table following bad press involving business partner Didier Calmels in France.
Could be second in-line for Patrick’s services if Ganassi deal is unsuccessful.
DALE COYNE RACING: Sebastien Bourdais (CONFIRMED), Conor Daly (Possible), Pippa Mann (Probable, Indy 500 only)
Chicago’s IndyCar squad has rejoined the silly season picture after Ganassi signed Ed Jones for next season. The popular choice alongside Bourdais would be Conor Daly, who drove for DCR in 2016. However, the Hoosier State veteran will need to secure more cash to make the dream a reality. Expect Mann’s return for Indy next May to be set in stone if and when Daly is made official.
If for some reason Daly cannot find the funds, Esteban Gutierrez and RC Enerson could become alternate routes.
ED CARPENTER RACING: Ed Carpenter (Ovals Only, CONFIRMED), Spencer Pigot (CONFIRMED), ??
Two questions still on the table with ECR at this point of the silly season. One is finding a road course ringer for the rounds in which the team boss will not contest. If Conor Daly is unsuccessful with Coyne, he could wind up here in the No. 20 Fuzzy’s Vodka Chevrolet.
The second is whether the team will return to its role of aiding the filling of the 33-car grid at the Indy 500. If that is a go, the departed J.R. Hildebrand could be back in the game plan for the Indianapolis Motor Speedway’s semi-home team.
HARDING RACING: Gabby Chaves (Probable), ??
The team confirmed full-time participation for 2018 following the addition of former IndyCar Chief Steward Brian Barnhart as squad’s president. Could conceivably run a second car for the Indy 500; however, funding would be a necessity.
A.J. FOYT RACING: Tony Kanaan (CONFIRMED), Matheus Leist (CONFIRMED), ??
2017 Indy Lights three-race winner Matheus Leist was tapped to join TK as Foyt’s twosome in 2018. There is still a good chance Foyt offers a third car for someone at the Indy 500, as they did in 2017 for Zach Veach.
JUNCOS RACING: Kyle Kaiser (CONFIRMED, Four Races), Carlos Munoz (Possible)
2017 Indy Lights champion Kyle Kaiser will compete in at least four races, more if further funding is obtained. Juncos had hoped to enter one full-time car in 2018, but it is unknown if that target is still in play for Kaiser or another pilot, such as free agent Carlos Munoz.
CARLIN RACING: Max Chilton (Probable), Charlie Kimball (Probable)
After backing out from possibly taking over the now defunct KV Racing team last year, Trevor Carlin is believed to be exploring entering the circuit on his own in 2018. With Max Chilton and Charlie Kimball the most likely to take the helsmen roles here, all that remains is the final confirmation of their participation.
DREYER & REINBOLD RACING: Sage Karam (Indy 500 Only, Possible)
Unless things are dramatically altered, expect Dennis Reinbold to field an Indy 500 entry, possibly for Sage Karam or another driver in 2018. Reinbold has hinted at a desire to someday return to the full-time fleet, but that likely will not happen next year.
LAZIER PARTNERS RACING: Buddy Lazier (Indy 500 Only, Possible)
With his son Flinn Lazier not quite ready to take over the driving duties, expect the 1996 Indy 500 champion to give it another go in the 102nd running of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing.
MICHAEL SHANK RACING: Jack Harvey (Part-Time, Probable)
Jack Harvey drove an Andretti Autosport-supported ride for Shank at the 2017 Indy 500 and plans for a limited schedule reportedly are making progress. The team will likely partner with another operation as opposed to going off on their own accord, despite the British former Indy Lights veteran carrying backing from multiple sponsors.
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