Ultimate IndyCar Silly Season Guide (January Update)
The 2018 calendar year opens with pretty much everything set in stone, minus one full-time confirmation, the need for one road course ringer, and a handful of one-off efforts in the 102nd running of the Indianapolis 500.
As POPULAR OPEN WHEEL went to press, no confirmation between Dale Coyne Racing and its believed to be lead candidate Conor Daly has occurred. The Indiana-native is the Verizon IndyCar Series‘ most popular pilot without a ride yet for 2018, and the current roadblock is related to necessary funding.
Ed Carpenter Racing has yet to name a driver to replace the team owner at the road and street course events and may be waiting on a climax to the situation at Coyne before doing so. There are also a small number of Indy 500-only seats yet to be secured, although some are now off the table. For the second straight year at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway, Andretti Autosport will run six cars with Carlos Munoz being added to the squad prior to Christmas.
Danica Patrick’s destination for her final Indy 500 remains unknown as January opens; however, Chip Ganassi Racing has been removed as one possible location. Options range from Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing, where she made her Indy debut in 2005 to Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, among others.
So with those teasers revealed, here’s how the IndyCar paddock is taking shape as of January 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), ??
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. Danica Patrick, who finished fourth in her rookie Indy try for Rahal in 2005, could also be in play here.
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. Squad is hoping for further backing to extend Harvey’s event count, however, with hopes of adding at least two more. The team could still enter a fourth car at Indy, possibly for Danica Patrick.
DALE COYNE RACING: Sebastien Bourdais (CONFIRMED), Conor Daly (Probable), Pippa Mann (Probable, Indy 500 only)
Conor Daly appears set to take the second ride for 2018, if he can find the necessary money. Expect another Indy 500 effort for Pippa Mann, a partnership that has existed since 2013.
ED CARPENTER RACING: Ed Carpenter (Ovals Only, CONFIRMED), Spencer Pigot (CONFIRMED), Esteban Gutierrez (Road Courses + Indy 500, Probable)
It looks like the Carlos Slim-supported Esteban Gutierrez is the top option to drive the No. 20 Chevrolet at the road and street venues in 2018. The question now is whether or not the team will provide an extra for the Mexican at the Indy 500, something they did not do for Spencer Pigot in 2017. However, for a low budget operation, the additional Telcel dollars could increase the chances of a three-car Indy attack.
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), ???
2017 Indy Lights champion Kyle Kaiser will compete in at least four races, more if further funding is obtained.
The organization could consider entering a second car for the Indy 500, with 2017 pilot Sebastian Saavedra being a possible target. However, the goal remains to run at least one car full-time, and that seems to be priority one.
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 former Chip Ganassi Racing teammate Charlie Kimball in the other.
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.
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