Cup: Alex Bowman, Ryan Truex confirmed at BK Racing

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Add two more drivers to an already crowded rookie class for the NASCAR Sprint Cup Series, as Alex Bowman and Ryan Truex are set to join BK Racing this season after testing for them during Preseason Thunder at Daytona International Speedway.

As first reported by FoxSports.com’s Lee Spencer, Bowman will take over the No. 23 Toyota with sponsorship from Dr. Pepper – the car used to be the No. 93 but has now been re-branded, although the No. 93 has been retained on a “part-time basis” according to the team.

Truex, the younger brother of Furniture Row Racing’s Martin Truex Jr., is set to race the team’s second car, the No. 83 Toyota (pictured, from last year).

Dave Winston will work as Bowman’s crew chief on the No. 23, while Truex will have the services of Dale Ferguson on the No. 83.

“Alex and Ryan have always impressed me,” team owner Ron Devine said in a team statement confirming the two rookies as their 2014 drivers. “Both take care of their cars and have shown speed at every level they have competed in.

“With their abilities, we feel they can both excel in our equipment. As a team we are very excited, and their abilities to work with everyone here at BK Racing will be important.”

Bowman competed in all but one race last season in the NASCAR Nationwide Series, finishing 11th in the standings with two Top-5s and six Top-10s in the RAB Racing No. 99 Toyota (now driven by James Buescher). The Arizona native is also a veteran of ARCA and both the East and West divisions of the NASCAR K&N Pro Series.

Truex, who had been a Richard Petty Motorsports development driver as of 2013, competed in his first three career Sprint Cup races last year at Bristol (night), Richmond (fall), and Dover (fall). All of those outings were for Phoenix Racing, and he earned a top finish of 32nd at Dover.

With freshmen Bowman and Truex now on the grid, this year’s Rookie of the Year title will be decided among a group of eight competitors that also includes Austin Dillon (Richard Childress Racing), Kyle Larson (Chip Ganassi Racing), Michael Annett (Tommy Baldwin Racing), Justin Allgaier (Phoenix Racing), and Swan Racing’s Parker Kligerman and Cole Whitt.

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.