IndyCar Silly Season Update

INDIANAPOLIS – The 2019 NTT IndyCar Series season is now behind us. Josef Newgarden won his second championship in the last three years as he heads into 2020 as the obvious favorite to win again.

But, the list of drivers joining him is already pretty well known. Just last weekend alone, we got confirmation that Takuma Sato would be back with Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing and that Colton Herta and his entire team now with Harding Steinbrenner Racing will shift to fall under the Andretti Autosport banner in a fifth entry for them.

So, what’s left?

McLaren/Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has a ride available which is highly coveted. There are 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. The budget to land a Carlin seat is around $1-2 million less than elsewhere, so they should have no troubles finding two drivers.

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 but Tony Kanaan appears to be coming back for 2020. His teammate though is up in the air as ABC Supply is pulling out. They’ll need someone who brings money.

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, also said that Andretti would 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 Rookie of the Year for 2019 Felix Rosenqvist back. But, they 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 a potential sports car team eyeing an IndyCar ride would be the best options 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.

2020 Rides

Chevrolet (14-16)

Team Penske (3) – Josef Newgarden, Will Power, Simon Pagenaud. No plans to expand to a fourth full time car.

McLaren/Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (2) – James Hinchcliffe will be back with the team for 2020. A teammate for him is still open as numerous drivers are obviously interested.

AJ Foyt Racing (2) – Currently both cars are open but Tony Kanaan has a handshake deal to return. The other car is available.

Ed Carpenter Racing (2) – The road/street course seat with Ed Carpenter is open, so if someone can play their cards right, they can run ovals for Carlin and road/street courses for ECR. Their full time seat is also open.

Carlin (2) – The team will be back with two cars, but other than Max Chilton racing on road/street courses, the ovals for that seat are open. The other ride is a full time entry for all races and is open too.

DragonSpeed (1) – The team wants Ben Hanley back and is eyeing as much as 10 races for 2020.

Juncos (1-2) – They have multiple chassis still but no word yet on if they use them at more races than Indy in 2020.

Dreyer & Reinbold Racing (1-2) – They’ve showed up to Indy the last two years now with two cars for Sage Karam and JR Hildebrand. I think they at least do so again for 2020. The goal though has always been more races. Can they make it happen next year?

Honda (12-14)

Andretti Autosport (5) – All four current drivers will be back as will Colton Herta. They’re not running six full time cars so they’re set.

Chip Ganassi Racing (2-3) – There’s talks of them expanding to a third car, but the most realistic option is to pair with an alliance. Scott Dixon and Felix Rosenqvist will be back.

Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing (2-3) – Same exact prospects as above. They want a third car but teaming with an alliance is their best option. Graham Rahal and Takuma Sato will be back too.

Dale Coyne Racing (2) – Sebastien Bourdais is back but what about Santino Ferrucci. The only Chevy seat he could go to is McLaren/SPM or ECR. Would they bring him over? Ganassi or RLL would take a look but can they afford him? DCR was a good fit in 2019 and would be again in 2020 but he’s getting the attention elsewhere too.

Meyer Shank Racing (1) – They’ll be back. They made that clear. The goal is still full time. They’ve strategically advanced their participation each year and 2020 was always the goal to contest in every race. They preferred to remain as an alliance with SPM but with SPM merging with McLaren and switching to Honda, that can’t happen. MSR has to stay with Honda due to their Acura ties in IMSA. A full time alliance with a Honda team should be easy though. RLL and MSR share a home state (Ohio) and have IMSA teams. Ganassi is after an alliance. Andretti still wants another alliance and them and MSR share a sponsor (Auto Nation). Jack Harvey will be back with them but the question remains, can they go to full time and whom do they partner with?

Key Free Agents

Conor Daly – He’s got to be at the top of everyone’s list now right? The super sub has proven he’s earned a full time seat. He’ll be mentioned for McLaren/SPM, Carlin, Foyt and ECR but if RLL expands to a third car or Ferrucci leaves DCR, those are good destinations for him too.

Santino Ferrucci – Depending on whom you talk to, some say Ferrucci holds the option for 2020 while other say DCR does. Right now, Ferrucci doesn’t have a ride for 2020 but that won’t last long. He’ll be back with DCR as long as McLaren or Chip Ganassi doesn’t call.

Tony Kanaan – Only putting him on here because he’s technically not signed, but Foyt will be where he ends up for a third straight year.

Marcus Ericsson – He has money and showed what he can do if he sees a track for a second time. I think Ericsson lands somewhere. Carlin, Foyt, ECR all seem logical but same for DCR if Ferrucci leaves and Daly doesn’t end up there.

Spencer Pigot – ECR is still high on him and he’s a good young driver deserving of another shot. If he doesn’t reup with ECR, a move back to RLL would make sense too.

Ed Jones – The kid has talent but he didn’t show enough of it with Ganassi in 2018 and after a ho-hum season with ECR in 2019, his options for 2020 may be limited. Carlin may be his best shot.

Matheus Leist – He had a rough go of it in his two years with Foyt but it’s not surprising either. I don’t see him going back there but Carlin is the most logical choice.

Charlie Kimball – If he can find the money, he’ll be back with Carlin.

Sage Karam – He has the talent, he just needs the money. DCR or a part time gig at either Carlin or ECR would make the most sense for him.

Jordan King – He would like to race in Indy Car. The problem is, he doesn’t have a ton of funding. If he can find it, he will have a seat. ECR, RLL or DCR would be prime landing spots for him.

Carlos Munoz – He didn’t race in 2019 but he has talent and is always a threat at Indy.

 

 

 

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