Kanaan, Rahals engage in social media spat after Baltimore

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While the latest Scott Dixon vs. the combination of Beaux Barfield, Will Power and Tim Cindric drama inevitably will steal headlines and discussion in the days and weeks to come, there was another post-race brouhaha that emerged after IndyCar’s Grand Prix of Baltimore presented by SRT.

Those disagreeing in this instance are current Indianapolis 500 champion Tony Kanaan, former Indianapolis 500 winner and team owner Bobby Rahal, and Rahal’s son and driver Graham.

Rahal actually was having one of his better weekends of the season in the No. 15 blu eCigs Honda for RLL Racing. He started 12th, but would have made the Firestone Fast Six had his two fastest laps not been deleted for qualifying after an incident in Turn 8.

Rahal, who ran Firestone’s primary blacks the first two stints, was a passing demon early as he advanced to sixth place on Lap 10, and maintained impressive pace on the harder of the two compounds while those ahead of him were on the softer alternate reds.

He led 5 laps and ran in the top five most of the day, even despite making contact with Scott Dixon on a Lap 48 restart at Turn 1 and avoiding a penalty. A pit stop from the lead on Lap 57 took him out of that position, and contact with Kanaan on Lap 68 put pause to his race. Kanaan brushed the wall on his own on the penultimate lap in the No. 11 Hydroxycut Chevrolet for KVRT-SH. He finished 15th, and Rahal 17th.

Rahal’s official quote first: “The blu eCigs car was awesome today; I don’t have any complaints there. We should have won that race; that was my race but everything kept going wrong for us. The strategy was on par really until those yellows. I don’t understand why they were so long but they were and it took us right out of it but at the end we started to claw our way back. I got a really good restart and I got by Kanaan. I don’t even know how far back he was but I looked in Turn 2 and couldn’t even see him. The next thing I knew, I was trying to line those guys up for the exit and he just drove absolutely square into the side of me. I really don’t get that and I’m definitely going to have some words with him.”

And here’s Kanaan’s quote, without mentioning anything regarding the incident: “It was a very physical and bizarre race. All the crashes on the restarts, all the cars that were involved just made the whole race difficult. I drove the whole first stint with a damaged front wing and still got up to sixth. I was hanging on the whole time and trying to fight through it. We pitted a bit out of sequence and got to the front avoiding all the carnage. After the last restart the car started getting away from me. It got worse and worse and finally I hit the wall in Turn 12.”

Things spilled over to social media in the aftermath. Kanaan made a general observation first:

Shortly thereafter, Bobby Rahal “subtweeted” Kanaan and suggested he had lost any respect he held for the KV Racing Technology – SH driver. Kanaan then responded saying “Hey Bob this is my twitter handle” and Bobby Rahal replied with an offer to bury the hatchet. Here’s the exchange. Make of the actions and reactions what you will. All I’ll say is that it’s a different world now where “Twitter wars” take precedence over post-race disagreements on pit lane that the cameras can see. I’m not sure I like it.

 

IndyCar’s 2018 full-field grid nearing completion

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Following Wednesday’s confirmation of the all-Canadian tandem at Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, each of the eight full-time teams in the 2017 Verizon IndyCar Series season have announced at least one driver for 2018, leaving very few remaining question marks.

What stands confirmed is below:

CONFIRMED

  • Team Penske (3, Chevrolet): Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power
  • Chip Ganassi Racing (1, Honda): Scott Dixon
  • Andretti Autosport (4, Honda): Ryan Hunter-Reay, Alexander Rossi, Marco Andretti, Zach Veach
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (2, Honda): Graham Rahal, Takuma Sato
  • Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (2, Honda): James Hinchcliffe, Robert Wickens
  • Ed Carpenter Racing (2, Chevrolet): Spencer Pigot, Ed Carpenter (ovals)
  • A.J. Foyt Enterprises (1, Chevrolet): Tony Kanaan
  • Dale Coyne Racing (1, Honda): Sebastien Bourdais
  • Harding Racing (1, Chevrolet): Gabby Chaves

There are four additional drivers confirmed for selected races or an month of May program:

  • Team Penske (1, Chevrolet): Helio Castroneves
  • Andretti Autosport (1, Honda): Stefan Wilson
  • Calmels Sport with SPM (1, Honda): Tristan Gommendy
  • Team TBD (1, TBD): Kyle Kaiser

All told that’s 17 full-season driver and team combinations confirmed and four additional part-time programs, at least, that are set. Several of those driver/team combinations will have engineering and strategist changes, as well.

In a minor note since our last update at Sonoma, Marco Andretti confirmed he won’t run No. 27 next year. Of note, Bryan Herta served as Andretti’s race strategist this year, although the car he was an entrant on was Alexander Rossi’s No. 98 car. Herta will continue his relationship with Andretti Autosport again next season.

WHAT’S LEFT TO SORT? NOT MUCH

Elsewhere, there’s only a handful of remaining question marks as the series hits mid-October, a rarity from past years and an illustration of the urgency to fill seats to get as much preparation time in testing with the new 2018 Dallara universal aero kit as possible.

NBC Sports expects 2016 Indy Lights champion and 2017 IndyCar rookie-of-the-year Ed Jones to be confirmed soon as second driver in Dale Coyne Racing’s No. 19 Honda alongside Sebastien Bourdais, with team personnel and Bourdais both having indicated a preference in keeping the Dubai-based Brit for a second year.

NBC Sports also expects Jones’ successor as Indy Lights champion, Kyle Kaiser, to have his future announced shortly in terms of which team he’ll step up to IndyCar with. It would not be a surprise if Kaiser does graduate along with Juncos Racing, although Kaiser is known to have talked to multiple teams. The Mazda Motorsports scholarship nets him $1 million for a three-race program, including the 102nd Indianapolis 500, with the driver then needing to secure additional funding for further races, as Jones and Pigot both have each of the last two years.

The status of Brendon Hartley has now been thrown up as a slight question mark dependent on how his Formula 1 debut with Scuderia Toro Rosso goes at this weekend’s United States Grand Prix, and if Toro Rosso provides him a further race opportunity in one of the remaining three Grands Prix thereafter. Having been all-but-earmarked for Chip Ganassi Racing’s second seat in 2018, if an F1 offer comes, Hartley’s potential IndyCar bow could get delayed.

A McLaren-named entry competing either in the Indianapolis 500 or full-time seems further off than realistic for next year, McLaren’s Zak Brown told reporters on a teleconference this week. McLaren maintains an IndyCar technical presence though, via its McLaren Applied Technologies outfit.

What’s left then are the dominoes of whether Carlin’s IndyCar plans officially come to fruition as the team has gotten closer than it ever has to doing so, and who emerges in the second seats at A.J. Foyt Enterprises and Ed Carpenter Racing (road and street courses), respectively.

A number of young IndyCar veterans – Max Chilton, Charlie Kimball, Carlos Munoz and Conor Daly namely – are yet to land for 2018 and there’s no guarantee all four of them will be back in IndyCar next season.

There’s also a handful of young drivers, namely RC Enerson, Jack Harvey, Esteban Gutierrez, Santiago Urrutia, Zachary Claman DeMelo, Sage Karam and Matthew Brabham among others, who could well emerge in the frame for seats.

Gutierrez’s status seemed dependent on Mexico City being added to the 2018 calendar, and although the race still could be added, the fact neither is in place at this point doesn’t inspire as much confidence about his presence as a regular on the grid as it did earlier this summer.

All told, there’s not nearly that much to sort out as IndyCar’s grid for 2018 is looking very much close to set at this early stage of a long offseason.