Ultimate IndyCar Silly Season Guide (February Update)
The effort to secure one final drive in the Indianapolis 500 has been a frustrating one for Danica Patrick.
Since stating her intention prior to the Christmas holiday of her desire to close out her auto racing career with an appearance in both the Daytona 500 and the Indianapolis 500 in 2018, confirming a destination has been a challenge. While the Illinois-native has recently locked-up sponsorship from former backer GoDaddy.com, a team has yet to be revealed as POPULAR OPEN WHEEL went to press.
The best chance to strike a deal appears to be a second ride courtesy of former Verizon IndyCar Series full-time entrant Dennis Reinbold. The Indianapolis car dealership magnate has provided a car for Sage Karam in three of the past four Indianapolis 500s and may offer rides to both the Pennsylvanian and Patrick this time around. For the team owner, a move like this could be the springboard toward being able to contest the full schedule in the near future.
So with the big story on the table, here’s how the entire IndyCar paddock is taking shape as of February 1, 2018.
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)
Unless things take a dramatic shift, CGR will enter only two cars at all 17 events in 2018.
ANDRETTI AUTOSPORT: Ryan Hunter-Reay (CONFIRMED), Marco Andretti (CONFIRMED), Alexander Rossi (CONFIRMED), Zach Veach (CONFIRMED), Stefan Wilson (Indy 500 only, CONFIRMED), Carlos Munoz (Indy 500 only, CONFIRMED)
It is a six-pack of entries at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing for Michael Andretti, as two-time Brickyard runner-up Carlos Munoz has been added to the program for May.
RAHAL LETTERMAN LANIGAN RACING: Graham Rahal (CONFIRMED), Takuma Sato (CONFIRMED), Oriol Servia (Indy 500 only, Possible)
The only business to be settled are the chances of a third car for the Indy 500. With Danica Patrick reportedly out of play and Zachary Claman de Melo likely headed to Coyne, the only major player left in the game is Oriol Servia, who was among the top-five late in the 2017 race before being eliminated in a multi-car accident.
SCHMIDT PETERSON MOTORSPORTS: James Hinchcliffe (CONFIRMED), Robert Wickens (CONFIRMED), Jack Harvey (Six Races, CONFIRMED), ???
SPM has joined forces with Michael Shank Racing to enter a third car in six events for Jack Harvey, who replaced the departed Mikhail Aleshin in a few races late in 2017. The squad is hoping for further backing to extend Harvey’s event count, however, with hopes of adding at least two more. The squad could still enter a fourth car at Indy, maybe for Juan Pablo Montoya who due to numbers is out of an Indy ride for Team Penske or Conor Daly.
DALE COYNE RACING: Sebastien Bourdais (CONFIRMED), Zachary Claman de Melo (Part-Time, Probable), Pietro Fittipaldi (Part-Time, Probable), Pippa Mann (Indy 500 Only, Probable)
The rush to replace Ed Jones continues for the Windy City runners. Coyne has indicated that he hopes to have a set lineup in place before the Test in the West next week. Insider information suggests that the second seat will be shared by Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires veteran Zachary Claman de Melo and by Pietro Fittipaldi, the grandson of two-time Indianapolis 500 champion Emerson Fittipaldi.
The big question is what will the team do for the Indy 500? While Bourdais is a lock and a return for Pippa Mann also seems set, will the Chicago-based squad offer a car to both Claman De Melo and Fittipaldi, or for just one of them? Stay tuned.
ED CARPENTER RACING: Ed Carpenter (Ovals Only, CONFIRMED), Jordan King (Road Courses Only, CONFIRMED) Spencer Pigot (CONFIRMED),
FIA Formula 2 veteran Jordan King will replace the team boss in the road course events in 2018. The British youngster was at one time a teammate to 2016 Indy 500 champion Alexander Rossi in the European lower levels. Could conceivably run a third car at the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, with J.R. Hildebrand being the desired option from sponsor Preferred Freezer Services.
HARDING RACING: Gabby Chaves (CONFIRMED), ??
Chaves returns to full-time duty after a two-year absence. Team president Brian Barnhart is open to running a second car at the Indianapolis 500 and additional events if funding is made available. As options are dwindling, Danica Patrick and her GoDaddy.com sponsorship could wind up here.
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), Rene Binder (CONFIRMED, Four Races), ???
2017 Indy Lights champion Kyle Kaiser will compete in at least the Indianapolis 500 and three other events. Austrian Rene Binder will
across the Atlantic Ocean to contest four road course rounds. Still a chance for Juncos to field two entries at the Indianapolis 500, with a possible return of Sebastian Saavedra being an option.
CARLIN RACING: Max Chilton (CONFIRMED), Charlie Kimball (CONFIRMED)
It’s official, Trevor Carlin’s team moves up to IndyCar in 2018 with their former Indy Lights chauffeur Max Chilton in one seat and his Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Charlie Kimball in the other.
DREYER & REINBOLD RACING: Sage Karam (Indy 500 Only, Probable), Danica Patrick (Indy 500 Only, Probable)
Team boss Dennis Reinbold has increased his arsenal in the winter months. He has purchased two brand-new Dallara DW12 chassis and has been in talks with Sage Karam and Danica Patrick about rides for the Indianapolis 500. The organization has not been a multi-car attack since running four vehicles in 2011, but insider information suggests that may change in 2018.
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.
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