IndyCar: Long Beach entry list notes

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We have an official entry list for the Toyota Grand Prix of Long Beach, the first of 13 Verizon IndyCar Series races you’ll be seeing on NBCSN this year.

A few things to note from the entry list, per sponsor designations and other updates:

  • Helio Castroneves’ No. 3 Team Penske Chevrolet will be adorned with the familiar blue and white colors of AAA of Southern California. Castroneves has traditionally run this livery at Long Beach and Fontana the last several years. It shifts from the red, white and black of Hitachi run at St. Petersburg.
  • Ryan Briscoe’s No. 8 Chip Ganassi Racing Chevrolet has TNT Energy Drink as the primary sponsor, and is expected to be a predominately red livery in comparison to the red, white and blue for NTT Data. It should be a different shade of red, as compared to the Nos. 9 and 10 Target CGR entries.
  • Sebastien Bourdais’ No. 11 KVSH Racing Chevrolet shifts from the black and green of Hydroxycut to the green and white of Mistic electronic cigarettes this race. A fellow eCig company, blu eCigs, made its debut in IndyCar at this race last year on Mike Conway’s No. 17 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda.
  • Oriol Servia’s listed for his first start, with a sponsor currently to be determined on the No. 16 Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing Honda. Servia tested at the official preseason test in Barber in a black primer livery, with red wing endplates and Mi-Jack signage on the wings (Mi-Jack is team co-owner Mike Lanigan’s company).
  • Colombian rookie Carlos Huertas is back for a second race in Dale Coyne’s second car, the No. 18 Honda. This isn’t a surprise and was expected, but is still good to see officially considering he was only confirmed just for St. Petersburg at the eleventh hour.
  • Along the Colombian rookie lines, Carlos Munoz’s No. 34 Cinsay/AndrettiTV.com Honda is now listed as Andretti – HVM in the entry list, owing to HVM’s Keith Wiggins. The HVM/Andretti link began last year, when the No. 34 in 2013, then the No. 5 driven by E.J. Viso, took on the Leaders’ Circle points scored by the HVM entry in 2012.
  • The standard Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing car name is listed for third year driver Josef Newgarden, as he’s expected to be in the yellow, black and white car livery he drove at the Barber preseason test rather than the orange, black and white St. Petersburg livery thanks to the Florida Lottery sponsorship.

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.