Run on confirmations kicks IndyCar 2017 silly season into overdrive
There hasn’t even been one month since the checkered flag flew at Sonoma Raceway to mark the end of the 2016 Verizon IndyCar Series season, but in the few weeks that have followed, the dominos have officially started falling for 2017.
In order, it’s gone:
- Menards announces expansion to 10 races with Simon Pagenaud, Team Penske in 2017 (Sept. 17)
- Ryan Hunter-Reay, DHL re-up with Andretti Autosport through 2020 (Sept. 18)
- Ed Carpenter Racing confirms Josef Newgarden will leave (Sept. 29)
- Alexander Rossi re-ups with Andretti-Herta Autosport (Oct. 3)
- Newgarden confirmed at Team Penske (Oct. 5)
- Juan Pablo Montoya has an Indy 500/possible sports car seat with Penske if he wants it (Oct. 5)
- Chip Ganassi Racing switches to Honda (Oct. 7)
- Tony Kanaan, NTT Data renew with Ganassi (Oct. 11)
- Sebastien Bourdais confirmed with Dale Coyne Racing (Oct. 12)
So that leaves this as the confirmed scenario for 2017:
- Team Penske (4, Chevrolet): 1-Simon Pagenaud, 2-Josef Newgarden, 3-Helio Castroneves, 12-Will Power
- Chip Ganassi Racing (3 of 4, Honda): 9-Scott Dixon, 10-Tony Kanaan, 83-Charlie Kimball
- Andretti Autosport (3 of 4, Honda): 27-Marco Andretti, 28-Ryan Hunter-Reay, 98-Alexander Rossi
- Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (1, Honda): 15-Graham Rahal
- Dale Coyne Racing (1 of 2, Honda): TBD-Sebastien Bourdais (No. 18 or 19)
- Ed Carpenter Racing (1 of 2, Chevrolet): 20-Ed Carpenter (ovals)
Schmidt Peterson Motorsports is yet to formally confirm James Hinchcliffe and Mikhail Aleshin for another season, but with both drivers testing their Hondas at Gateway on Thursday, they’re safe bets. A number of drivers are in the running for a part-time third entry, if it materializes.
Several engineering moves have also happened. Bourdais will have Craig Hampson and Olivier Boisson join him at Coyne from Andretti and KVSH Racing, respectively, and Michael Cannon will remain as lead engineer for the second car. Jeremy Milless, Newgarden’s longtime engineer, moves from Carpenter to the Andretti-Herta entry for Alexander Rossi as was first reported by Trackside Online and picked up by several others. RACER.com reported Eric Bretzman, Ben’s brother, will also join Andretti’s engineering department, and that sees that team continue to strengthen its arsenal. With Ganassi’s move to Honda, Honda gains the engineering strength assembled by CGR.
Question marks now follow for the remaining entities:
- The Juan Pablo Montoya situation. Linked to at least three, possibly four teams, Montoya is hungry and determined to remain in a full-time IndyCar seat next year. He’s also motivated to prove his 2016 season of frustration was a fluke.
- Carlos Munoz’s future in the balance. The Colombian was the highest finishing of four drivers for Andretti Autosport this year, 10th overall in points. The team wants him back, but he could be an attractive fit at one of the other vacancies out there.
- Does Max Chilton come back? Chilton was in Indianapolis for the championship banquet. The fourth Ganassi seat would figure to be his if he wants it.
- On Coyne’s second seat... Coyne wants the second car confirmed by the end of the month. The identity of Bourdais’ teammate will be an interesting one, because both Conor Daly and RC Enerson impressed this year. Other drivers could be in play here as well.
- When/who switches manufacturers from Honda to Chevrolet? A.J. Foyt Enterprises is the leading candidate to switch the other way (Honda to Chevrolet) to account for the Ganassi-to-Honda move. Might another team need to switch as well? That seems doubtful.
- What’s KVSH’s future look like? Fluid, certainly. It depends on how the co-ownership portions of the team, Kevin Kalkhoven, Jimmy Vasser and James “Sulli” Sullivan move forward as a group, or perhaps individually. Losing Bourdais and Boisson will hurt, but the team is determined to move forward in some capacity. The rumors of a potential Carlin team partnership are just that for the moment.
- Who gets the ECR seats? The full-season seat in what was Newgarden’s No. 21 Chevrolet is highly coveted. And there’s still the road and street course races to run in the No. 20 car.
- What happens at Foyt? So much is up in the air here - drivers, manufacturers and confirming ABC Supply Co. to continue - it leaves Foyt with the most question marks among teams.
- Ed Jones’ three-race deal will be at...? The proverbial TBD for the moment. The Dubai-based Brit has made his U.S. home in Miami and the Indy Lights Presented by Cooper Tires champion is still attempting to figure out where he’ll be, although he’s had meetings with several teams.
- So many drivers, so few seats... Whether you’re Conor Daly, RC Enerson, Sage Karam, Gabby Chaves, JR Hildebrand, Matthew Brabham, Spencer Pigot, Stefan Wilson or any of the litany of veterans seeking another chance or hungry young lions waiting to make their debuts, there’s always the question of who lands where and who gets left on the sidelines.