Supercross’ Trey Canard samples Honda IndyCar simulator (VIDEO)

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The Monster Energy AMA Supercross bike series made its way to the Midwest this past weekend, heading to Indianapolis. KTM rider Ryan Dungey won Saturday night’s race at Lucas Oil Stadium.

As part of the weekend, in a cross-promotion between IndyCar and Supercross, Honda organized a get-together with one of its Supercross riders, Trey Canard, and two of its IndyCar drivers, Josef Newgarden and Simon Pagenaud, at the home of its Indianapolis-based IndyCar simulator.

Canard has been unable to race this year due to injury but the Oklahoma native is on the mend and should be back shortly on his No. 41 Muscle Milk Honda. But he did get a chance to sample the simulator while in Indy, running at the Mid-Ohio Sports Car Course, to provide him a shot at driving a piece of four wheeled-machinery.

“It’s different because you’re not using your whole body. Having to control the whole feel (of the car) between your two hands is definitely different,” Canard told MotorSportsTalk. “We’ve all driven different road cars before, and we’ve all had a steering wheel in our hands at some point. It’s really fun. You feel the whole car moving underneath you, and turn it. It was awesome.”

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Pagenaud’s pointers as Canard suits up. Photo courtesy of Honda/LAT

Before Canard’s pair of runs, Pagenaud and Newgarden offered up some notes and pointers. Once they saw Canard actually take the reins of the simulator, the two rising IndyCar stars were impressed.

“He just did a great job. He impressed right away on the second lap,” Pagenaud said. “He had a squirrely moment since he was not used to a steering wheel in his hands. But knowing how tough it is to catch it. He improved lap after lap, was aware of the environment, and knew how to exploit it. On a bike, there’s not much in the way of braking. Overall, he was very impressive and up to speed quickly.”

Canard described how he improved from his first session to his second one.

“First off I’ve never experienced anything like that before, having the downforce,” he said. “My first one I had a really hard time with the braking. I broke at an angle rather than straight. I would come into the turns with using too much track. In the car, you learn quickly you have to brake straight, and then turn. The downforce is the thing I was able to deal with better the second time out.”

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Newgarden provides pre-run lowdown. Photo courtesy of Honda/LAT

For Newgarden, having the chance to see a Supercross rider tackle an IndyCar was a cool thing to see. The Nashville native is a fairly big Supercross fan and tries to watch as many races as possible.

“It’s a super fun sport,” he said. “It’s extremely competitive and it’s actually very similar to IndyCar, where there are a lot of guys who can win every weekend.

“I love dirt bikes; they’re really cool vehicles. I’ve always wanted to be a part of it, but I’ve never driven anything on 2 wheels. Maybe the fantasy of it is why I like it.”

Newgarden did a good job of providing some behind-the-scenes shots via his social media accounts, as did IndyCar. More on this will likely come later this week.

UPDATE, Thursday, 9:45 a.m. ET: We have video! The topic shifts from simulators to scarves.

Nearly 25 drivers already set for 2018 Indy 500… in mid-November

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Friday’s announcement that Danica Patrick would end her full-time driving career with a run in the 102nd Indianapolis 500, after also running the Daytona 500 in January, is another shot in the arm for the 2018 marquee event of North American open-wheel racing.

Surprisingly, it keeps the grid moving forward too to where nearly 75 percent of the 33 cars are already set… in mid-November, 2017.

Early confirmations of programs for the next year’s Indianapolis 500 aren’t new, but they’re seemingly coming earlier than normal this year, with a number of expected programs getting announced in the fall of 2017.

Coupled with the fact most of the IndyCar full-season grid for 2018 is set, it’s interesting to take a look at what’s already set for next year.

CONFIRMED FULL-SEASON (19)

The only things to add here are Dale Coyne Racing’s second driver in the No. 19 Honda, the road and street course driver for Ed Carpenter Racing in its No. 20 Chevrolet who may or may not be able to get an Indianapolis 500 extra seat in a third car, and the expected confirmation of Carlin’s graduation into IndyCar after three seasons in Indy Lights.

  • Team Penske (3, Chevrolet): Josef Newgarden, Simon Pagenaud, Will Power
  • Chip Ganassi Racing (2, Honda): Scott Dixon, Ed Jones
  • 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 (2, Chevrolet): Tony Kanaan, Matheus Leist
  • Dale Coyne Racing (1, Honda): Sebastien Bourdais
  • Harding Racing (1, Chevrolet): Gabby Chaves

CONFIRMED PARTIAL SEASON/INDY ONLY (4)

  • Team Penske (1, Chevrolet): Helio Castroneves
  • Andretti Autosport (1, Honda): Stefan Wilson
  • Juncos Racing (1, TBD): Kyle Kaiser
  • Team TBD (1, TBD): Danica Patrick

Here’s where it gets interesting. Castroneves is Team Penske’s confirmed fourth, and Juan Pablo Montoya could be a hypothetical fifth if the stars align – but it’s not in the immediate plans at this moment.

Patrick also makes her somewhat surprising Indianapolis comeback and with Penske, Andretti Autosport and Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing not fielding her, the stars are aligned for her to drive with Chip Ganassi Racing in what would be a third car. Neither Patrick nor Ganassi said it’s happening today, but Ganassi acknowledged discussions, via NASCAR Talk.

Wilson finally gets his Indianapolis 500 shot with Andretti a year later as its fifth car. The team ran six last year, with the two Indy-only entries coming in separate partnership efforts between McLaren and Honda (Fernando Alonso) and Michael Shank Racing (Jack Harvey).

Jack Harvey is a very intriguing story for how he’ll be racing next year. NBC Sports understands a working relationship is being hatched between Shank and Schmidt Peterson Motorsports, and with Harvey bringing a program on behalf of AutoNation/SiriusXM to grow his role into a third-to-half season of racing, this could slot in nicely as SPM’s third car. While not “officially” confirmed, it would not be a surprise to see news revealed from the concerned parties in December.

How could Harvey become SPM three when SPM three was already announced, you ask? With the Calmels Sport with SPM program reportedly on thin ice after negative press, the unlikely union of the French team owner Didier Calmels, one-time open-wheel driver turned-sports car veteran Tristan Gommendy and SPM appears set to join the “announced and dropped before ever turning a wheel” club.

Kaiser’s four-race program with Juncos Racing was announced last month and the Indy Lights champion will likely have Chevrolet power, given the team’s existing relationship from 2017.

WHAT’S STILL TO COME

Playing it out a bit with the usual, “how many engines can each manufacturer provide” story, we know Honda ran 18 cars this year and was stretched to capacity, leaving Chevrolet with the remaining 15.

Work the math from here. Provided Carlin officially announces its entry (it still hasn’t to this point, but is known to have hired IndyCar personnel) and with Honda already stretched between its 12 previously announced full-season cars (4 Andretti, 2 Ganassi, 2 RLL, 2 SPM, 2 Coyne), with a 13th engine available at some races, Carlin would have to be at Chevrolet.

For Indianapolis, Honda already begins to work its car count further beyond those 13 (if SPM 3 gets added for more races) with Ganassi 3 (a TBD, but would be Patrick if confirmed here) and Andretti 5 (Wilson) to get to 15, which leaves just three leases at play to get to 18… again, this is in mid-November.

Provided Pippa Mann can work towards her annual appearance with Coyne, factor in a possible sixth Andretti car and an 18th Honda lease – perhaps a third car at RLL or fourth at Ganassi, SPM or Coyne – and suddenly the Honda inn would already be booked up.

Chevrolet would have the rest, and you can figure out the math from there.

It may only be mid-November, but the race to secure a berth on the grid for next May is already well underway.