SALINAS, Calif – Two dominoes have fallen in the NTT IndyCar Series Silly season on Saturday. First, Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing announced that they have exercised their option to keep Takuma Sato in the second seat for the 2020 season. That wasn’t too shocking in that Sato has given RLL their last three victories.
Then, Andretti Autosport will reveal that they will move Colton Herta over to a fifth car for next season too. Herta, will bring the Steinbrenner Racing relationship back over to the team that he raced for in Indy Lights competition. The 19 year old has a few years left on his contract with Andretti, so his move under their umbrella isn’t too surprising.
Where Harding Racing goes is unknown. Right now, their prospects to be on the grid in St. Pete next March are in doubt.
So, with these announcements, what’s next?
McLaren/Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has a ride available which is highly coveted. There’s a number of drivers in the mix for that seat including Conor Daly, Felipe Nasr and others. James Hinchcliffe’s status was questioned but sources have told me that he will be back despite being in a lame duck status with the team for 2020.
Carlin will have Max Chilton back on a part-time basis in 2020 as he will not race on ovals again according to several sources. Carlin, is interested in Daly which says that he can run on all ovals for them, but there’s some complications for the Indiana native to run there full-time.
Charlie Kimball is in play for the other ride as he’s close to securing enough funding to return to full time status after racing only part time in 2019.
Don’t count out Matheus Leist for one of the Carlin seats either. All signs point to him not returning to AJ Foyt Racing in 2020 as Leist won three Indy Lights races including the Freedom 100 for Carlin in 2017.
Speaking of AJ Foyt Racing, obviously both drivers are free agents at seasons end and there’s still not word on whether Tony Kanaan will return or not. The problem is, if he doesn’t come back, finding a full time seat elsewhere is slim.
Ed Carpenter Racing has a full time seat as well as the part-time road/street course ride open. Spencer Pigot is in play to return to the full time seat. Daly, would make sense for the road/street course program if he chooses to run all ovals for Carlin/Andretti Autosport.
Daly, said that Andretti will run a sixth car during the Month of May for him and he has an option to run the rest of the ovals for Carlin, but he wants full time, so if he can make it work with ECR, that could be a bizarre full time effort for three teams.
Dale Coyne Racing knows Sebastien Bourdais will be back and it depends on whom you talk to about Santino Ferrucci. Some say Ferrucci has the option to choose where he goes for 2020 but other say it’s DCR. Nevertheless, unless Ganassi or RLL brings out a third car on their own or McLaren comes calling, Ferrucci should just stay put.
Chip Ganassi Racing will have Scott Dixon and Felix Rosenqvist back and are interested in a third car for 2020. The best scenario for their third car is an alliance like Andretti had with Harding. Meyer Shank Racing or Harding makes the most sense there.
MSR also makes sense with RLL as RLL is wanting a third car but the pieces for them to handle a third team are diminishing. An alliance with another Ohio team that also has sports cars makes the most sense.
The rest is pretty much done.