Indy 500 car count update: Four more driver/car combos needed for 33

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With a little more than one month to go until the 98th running of the Indianapolis 500 on May 25, deals to bring the Verizon IndyCar Series field to 33 cars haven’t yet been finalized.

Here’s where things stand at the moment, with a breakdown of the 29 confirmed driver/car combinations made by engine manufacturers, and the second Dale Coyne car with driver TBA (not this TBA):

HONDA (17)

  • Andretti Autosport (5): No. 25 Marco Andretti, No. 27 James Hinchcliffe, No. 28 Ryan Hunter-Reay, No. 34 Carlos Munoz, No. 26 Kurt Busch-R
  • Schmidt Peterson Motorsports (3): No. 7 Mikhail Aleshin-R, No. 77 Simon Pagenaud, No. 5 Jacques Villeneuve-W
  • A.J. Foyt Racing (2): 14 Takuma Sato, No. 41 Martin Plowman-R
  • Rahal Letterman Lanigan Racing (2): 15 Graham Rahal, 16 Oriol Servia
  • Dale Coyne Racing (2): No. 18 TBA, No. 19 Justin Wilson
  • Sarah Fisher Hartman Racing (2): No. 67 Josef Newgarden, No. 68 Alex Tagliani
  • Bryan Herta Autosport (1): No. 98 Jack Hawksworth-R

CHEVROLET (13)

  • Chip Ganassi Racing (4): No. 8 Ryan Briscoe, No. 9 Scott Dixon-W, No. 10 Tony Kanaan-W, No. 83 Charlie Kimball
  • Team Penske (3): No. 2 Juan Pablo Montoya-W, No. 3 Helio Castroneves-W, No. 12 Will Power
  • KVSH/KF AFS Racing (2): No. 11 Sebastien Bourdais, No. 17 Sebastian Saavedra, 6-Townsend Bell
  • Ed Carpenter Racing (2): No. 20 Ed Carpenter, No. 21 JR Hildebrand
  • Lazier Partners Racing (1): No. 91 Buddy Lazier-W

Time is running out to fill the final four spots, and add either a fifth or sixth to make 34 or 35 cars and open the potential for bumping.

Dale Coyne Racing will have a second car (Car No. 18) as mentioned above and a third car is still very possible. Those two would bring Honda’s number of potential engine leases up to 18, which is the likely maximum for the race per a Honda spokesman. If both of those entries happen, that makes 31 cars.

Other entries are possible from Ganassi (for rookie Sage Karam), Dreyer & Reinbold Racing, a so-called “Indianapolis-based mystery team” per the Indianapolis Star’s Curt Cavin and a possible entry from Davey Hamilton, who is a partner within the Schmidt Peterson team.

However, NBCSN IndyCar insider Robin Miller, in his RACER.com mailbag, wrote Wednesday that Karam may be farmed out to DRR. If that were to happen, it could knock out one potential car for the race.

Past the second Coyne car, which is the confirmed 30th car, some three-car combination of the above possible entries need to come together for the 33-car field to hit its target.

The field of 33 is still all but certain to happen, but suddenly time is a lot more precious this April 24 than it was a few weeks ago in early March, or when JR Hildebrand’s signing was confirmed just prior to the St. Petersburg opener.

Schmidt Peterson confirms all-Canadian lineup of Hinchcliffe, Wickens

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The Schmidt Peterson Motorsports team is going for a diet of denim, maple syrup, pace and politeness in its 2018 Verizon IndyCar Series lineup, with an all-Canadian pairing of James Hinchcliffe and Robert Wickens confirmed for next season.

Hinchcliffe was known to want a driver of Wickens’ caliber alongside him in the second seat after three less-than-fruitful seasons with James Jakes (2015), Mikhail Aleshin (2016) and a combination of drivers (Aleshin, Sebastian Saavedra, Jack Harvey) rotated through the second car the last three years.

Recent changes have brought them to this point and now leads them to becoming full-time teammates for the first time in a decade, since the defunct country-focused A1 Grand Prix series in 2007-2008.

Hinchcliffe has re-signed with Schmidt Peterson after three seasons with the team. His first was shortened due to his near life-threatening injuries sustained in an accident in practice for that year’s Indianapolis 500. A rapid and welcome recovery followed throughout the second half of 2015 before his comeback to action in 2016, with an Indianapolis 500 pole and a couple near-misses on wins that followed. In 2017, he won Round 2 at Long Beach but faltered in the second half of the year through a litany of mechanical woes and bad luck.

Wickens, meanwhile, faced an uncertain future when Mercedes-Benz announced earlier this year it would withdraw from DTM at the end of 2018. One of Hinchcliffe’s long-time friends, Wickens hasn’t raced full-time in North America in more than a decade since they were both in Formula Atlantic in 2007, at separate teams (Wickens at Red Bull Forsythe Racing and Hinchcliffe at Sierra Sierra Enterprises). As he pursued his Formula 1 dream and had a wealth of success in the junior series, he never got a proper shot, and has since gone onto several successful years with Mercedes in DTM.

A ride-swap between the two of them came together earlier this year where Wickens sampled Hinchcliffe’s No. 5 Arrow Electronics Schmidt Peterson Motorsports Honda at Sebring’s short course, while Hinchcliffe then flew to Italy to sample Wickens’ Mercedes-AMG C63 DTM after the St. Petersburg season opener. Hinchcliffe ended 13th in points in IndyCar, Wickens ninth in DTM this year, both with one win each during the year. Wickens also had a Friday to sample the No. 7 Lucas Oil SPM Honda at Road America this year, but had to relinquish the seat once Aleshin returned from a visa issue.

“Not only am I really excited to be able to say I’ll be back with SPM for next year and beyond, but I am also really looking forward to being teammates with one of my oldest friends,” said Hinchcliffe.

“Robbie and I grew up racing against one another, eventually took different paths, me staying in North America in open-wheel cars and him going off to Europe in sports cars, but it’s pretty neat that we both ended up here and we get to live our dream of being professional racing drivers, together on the same team.

“I think 2018 is going to be a great year for the SPM organization, from having Robbie here to the team’s new partnership with Honda and the 2018 aero kit; I just can’t wait to get back on track and bring some good results home for the Arrow Electronics crew.”

Wickens added: “This is an entirely new chapter to add to my racing career, and I am really excited for this opportunity that Schmidt Peterson Motorsports has given me.

“I think everyone knows the story by now that James and I grew up racing against one another in go karts, and to make it to the largest open-wheel racing series in North America together as teammates, it’s crazy to think about.

“I am very thankful for the six years I had with everyone at Mercedes and DTM; those are memories I will cherish forever. I can’t wait to truly see what the Verizon IndyCar Series is all about!”