INDIANAPOLIS — It should be no secret, Team Penske will once again going to be among the top teams to beat in the NTT IndyCar Series for 2020. They’re coming off of a nine win season last year including their third championship in the last four years as well.
In terms of their top competition, expect Chip Ganassi Racing and Andretti Autosport to also shine too. Since this new car came out in 2018, the “Big 3” in Indy Car competition has combined to win 27 of the 34 races run.
Penske, has won 15 races over the last two years — most in the series. Andretti Autosport has won seven times themselves with Ganassi taking the other five.
Rahal/Letterman/Lanigan Racing is the “best of the rest” with three wins, while Harding Steinbrenner has won twice and Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports and Dale Coyne Racing once each as well.
But, HSR has formally agreed to merge with Andretti and now falls under their banner. That bumps that number up to 29 of 34 races won by those teams. Then, factor in SPM merging with McLaren and having a rebuilding year on tap for 2020 and DCR losing tons of top level talent and too look to be heading towards a rebuilding effort, and you get a season in 2020 which will likely be top heavy.
Penske and Ganassi have combined to win the last seven championships anyways and if you factor in Andretti’s triumphs, that’s 17 straight years the “Big 3” has hoisted the Astor Cup championship trophy. The last time a non Penske, Ganassi or Andretti driver won the title was Same Hornish Jr. with Panther Racing back in 2002. So, with the top teams getting better, or remaining the same for 2020, and several other teams hitting the reset button, look for a big year from the “Big 3” next season.
I mean, start with AJ Foyt Racing. Once again, they could be facing two new drivers. We know Matheus Leist won’t be back for 2020 and how involved Tony Kanaan will be remains to be seen. Kanaan, should at least be with them for the Indy 500, but past that, is up in the air. Also, ABC Supply, their long time sponsor, has left the organization in full and will just be on the 14 car for Indy only.
Foyt hasn’t won a race since 2013 and has been a back marker ever since. 2016 saw them with Takuma Sato and Jack Hawksworth. 2017 was with Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly. 2018 and 2019 Leist and Kanaan. 2020 will feature at least one new driver. At some point, you have to recognize it’s not the driver that’s the problem when no matter who drives those cars, the results are the same. 2020 looks to be another rebuliding year for the popular team.
For Carlin, they too are heading towards a likely rebuild. Max Chilton will be road/street courses only. Conor Daly is in the running to run all ovals outside of Indy for them. The other car is still open.
Arrow McLaren SP is also heading towards a big rebuild and honestly don’t expect to be very competitive for 2020. Gone is Marcus Ericsson and James Hinchcliffe. In is, Pato O’Ward and Oliver Askew. Both are the last two Indy Lights champions and have tons of talent. But, what they lack is seat time in an Indy Car and with a revamp of the entire organization, they’re preaching patience. Craig Hampson leaves DCR for a new role with the outfit but even he knows that 2020 will be a rebuilding effort.
“This will be a year of growth and learning but I’m confident that this team has the expertise, commercial backing, access to technology and willful ambition that makes it possible to plot a course where in due time we will regularly challenge for race wins, Indy 500 victories and season championships,” Hampson said on Monday.”
Speaking of DCR, they lost Hampson (Arrow McLaren SP) and Michael Cannon (Chip Ganassi Racing) this offseason. Those were two big pieces for their engineering department. Then, they lost their top driver, Sebastien Bourdais, too as he left due to a lack of funding and will race sports cars. Three of the four most important pieces to DCR are gone. In is a rookie driver in Alex Palou and likely a second year driver in Santino Ferrucci. Expect them to take a big step back for 2020.
Those are six cars (3 teams) that saw their gap to Penske/Ganassi/Andretti get bigger and potentially two more (Carlin) as well. Penske, Andretti and Ganassi have won 62 of the last 82 races overall and they look the part for another big year. Penske remained status quo with all three drivers coming back again in 2020. Ganassi kept Scott Dixon and Felix Rosenqvist and even added a third car that will be driven by Marcus Ericsson. Andretti, kept all four drivers from 2019 and then added Colton Herta, a two race winner in 2019. Think any of them are taking steps back? I can make a case where all three took steps forward.
With the “Big 3” taking steps forward and the bottom three or four organizations in the series taking steps backwards, the gap is bigger than in years past from top to bottom.