Swan Racing struggles reportedly worsen, future uncertain

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The future of Swan Racing in Sprint Cup racing is not looking good.

The team issued a statement Thursday that it was reevaluating its future after expected sponsorship for the two-car operation of rookies Cole Whitt and Parker Kligerman failed to materialize.

Afterward, SiriusXM NASCAR Radio’s Dave Moody, host of SiriusXM Speedway, said in his blog, “Team employees were reportedly informed (Thursday) that the team is suspending operations, and many of them are already seeking employment with other teams.”

Moody added, “(the team) may not compete in the circuit’s next race at Richmond International Raceway on April 26.”

A number of different scenarios appear to be in play.

One would be complete suspension of both teams.

A second option would be to perhaps condense operations and field only one driver, most likely Cole Whitt (photo).

Shortly after team majority owner Brandon Davis issued the statement that the organization was evaluating its options, Swan minority owner Anthony Marlowe tweeted, “My mission is to ensure @ColeWhitt races in every #NASCAR Sprint Cup event this season.”

A third option, according to sources close to Moody, “there is a possibility that Whitt’s No. 26 Toyota could be absorbed into the existing BK Racing operation, if Swan Racing is unable to continue.”

Where any of those options leave Kligerman remains uncertain.

The Swan saga appears to be one of moving too fast, too soon. Davis purchased the assets of Inception Motorsports in 2012 and rebranded it as Swan Racing, with David Stremme continuing on as its driver.

Swan remained a one-car operation in 2013, although Stremme left the team after the race at Atlanta, with several other drivers filling in for the remainder of the season including Michael Waltrip, Kevin Swindell, Kligerman and Whitt.

Swan became a two-car operation in 2014 – adding minority owners Marlowe, former NFL star Bill Romanowski and rapper 50 Cent – with Whitt and Kligerman both running full-time schedules and each vying for the Sprint Cup Rookie of the Year honors.

Whitt is 33rd in the Sprint Cup points standings, with a season-best finish thus far of 18th at Fontana last month.

Kligerman, however, has struggled terribly, failing to finish four of the first eight races, and has yet to finish the full length of any race, often winding up several laps behind the lead lap.

His best finish to date was 29th at Daytona, although that was a DNF. His best overall finish without a DNF was last Saturday at Darlington, where he wound up 30th. Kligerman is ranked 38th in the Cup standings heading into Richmond.

While hopes and expectations were high for Swan entering the 2014 season, this week’s events paint a dismal future in the short term – if there’s any type of future remaining at all.

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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.