INDIANAPOLIS — We entered this week with five open rides available for the 2020 NTT IndyCar Series season. Over the last two days though, two of those five rides have been filled.
On Wednesday, Charlie Kimball was announced as the driver of the No. 4 Chevrolet for AJ Foyt Racing. On Thursday, Santino Ferrucci was confirmed as the driver of the No. 18 Honda at Dale Coyne Racing with a partnership with Vasser-Sullivan.
There are technically three full time seats open now. Those rides are both at Carlin, one at Foyt.
The Foyt ride is their flagship entry, the No. 14 Chevrolet, as that appears as of now to be a ride that will be split among a couple of drivers. Larry Foyt said on Wednesday that he expects Tony Kanaan back in some capacity. We know Kanaan is wanting to do the full campaign, but money is an issue. Kanaan, is certain for the ‘500 and hoping all ovals, but the odds of him running road/street courses are slim. Sebastien Bourdais and Dalton Kellett are in the running to split the seat with Kanaan in any kind of combination.
Carlin, well they’re wide open. Word on their end of the street is that their rides are available for $4-$5 million each. Max Chilton is back in a part time role on road/street courses, so they have a full time seat and part time seat for the taking. While racing for ECR now, Conor Daly, is still said to be in play for the part time role for ovals minus the ‘500. Both ECR and Carlin are Chevy teams so it would be seamless for Daly, plus he wants to still be full time and has four races (Texas, Richmond, Iowa and Gateway) left to fill. The only catch is, US Air Force can’t come with him to Carlin. With Daly being at his best on short ovals, this could be a nice relationship to continue for 2020 and would make Daly a full time driver again.
In terms of the full time seat, Matheus Leist or Ed Jones make solid candidates to drive for Carlin too as both are former Indy Lights drivers with them. Both have other rides in various forms of motorsports which could hinder that FT entry.
That leaves basically nothing left for James Hinchcliffe on a full time basis who has funding now for the Month of May. He looks like an Indy only entry at the moment.
Speaking of Indy only, there are several again. Andretti, Penske, Arrow McLaren SP, RLL, DCR, DRR and others are going to bring cars out of the shops for the ‘500 only programs again.
Andretti offered an Indy only seat to Daly again, but Daly has since gone to ECR. While Andretti has four of their own drivers (Marco Andretti, Alexander Rossi, Ryan Hunter-Reay, Zach Veach) and two alliances (Harding – Colton Herta, Shank – Jack Harvey), they’d be willing to still run that seventh car if at all possible. Hinchcliffe or Fernando Alonso are the top options if they do with all signs pointing directly towards Alonso.
Arrow McLaren SP will run a third car but needs a veteran. Oriol Servia could once again be in the mix there.
RLL and Ganassi have expressed interest to run an additional car for Hinchcliffe, but they need substantial funding to make this happen. Does Hinchcliffe have enough? They’d be the top two landing spots, but even if he doesn’t land with either, RLL will run a third car again.
Coyne will likely bring out a third car which too makes sense for Hinch.
Penske will run a fourth car at Indy for Helio Castroneves again. DragonSpeed is back with Ben Hanley for St. Pete but will have a veteran in other races including the ‘500.
Dreyer & Reinbold is going to run around four races in 2020 including the Indy 500 with Sage Karam. They will run a second Indy only car too.
The rest is pretty much done.
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) – The team announced that the last two Indy Lights champions in Oliver Askew and Pato O’Ward will drive the two cars in 2020. No expansion to a full time third car team will happen.
AJ Foyt Racing (2) – Kimball signed for the 4 car while the 14 could be split between Tony Kanaan, Dalton Kellett and Sebastien Bourdais in any kind of combination.
Ed Carpenter Racing (2) – VeeKay has signed on to be the full time driver. Carpenter is back in the part-time ovals only role while Daly will share the seat in all road/street courses as well as the third Indy entry.
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 is back but Ben Hanely right now will run just one race (St. Pete). While he could run more, the team will also run a veteran in select races too.
Juncos (1-2) – They have multiple chassis still but no word yet on if they use them at more races than Indy in 2020. Spencer Pigot has to be the top play with his past success with Juncos and he can run IMSA for them too. I’d like to see Pigot and Kyle Kaiser in a two-car Juncos effort with sports car opportunities for both when they’re not in an Indy Car.
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. They’ll do so again as a two car outfit. Karam will run the ‘500 and likely three more races too. His teammate, is up in the air.
Andretti Autosport (5) – All four current drivers will be back as will Colton Herta. They’re not running six full time cars but did land an alliance with Michael Shank Racing.
Michael Shank Racing (1) – They had to stay in the Honda family, so when Arrow Schmidt Peterson Motorsports bailed to Chevy, it left MSR searching. They landed with Andretti and will have Jack Harvey as their driver.
Chip Ganassi Racing (3-4) – Scott Dixon, Felix Rosenqvist and Marcus Ericsson are set. The only way they likely now run a fourth car is in an alliance or if Hinchcliffe can make it happen.
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) – Alex Palou is in and Bourdais out. Santino Ferrucci will return to the team for a second go around in 2020.
Key Free Agents
James Hinchcliffe – It’s surprising the news came this late of him being out at McLaren/SPM but not surprising given the lame duck status with the team past this season. Hinchcliffe is a popular driver that’s a proven winner and is fast. He has Honda’s backing, but is it enough to help him land somewhere. The problem is, RLL, Ganassi or DCR are his only options if he wants to run full time but all require at the very minimum $4 million (DCR) and $6 to $8 million for RLL or Ganassi.
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. What is up in the air is how much he will race.
Spencer Pigot – ECR was high on him but they need money and Pigot doesn’t have any to bring. He’s looking at IMSA options now. He’s a good young driver deserving of another shot but with guys like Hinchcliffe sitting there with some money available, Pigot falls down the pecking order.
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. Carlin or Coyne are his only logical fits.
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. 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.