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.

Al Unser Jr. back in IndyCar after a decade away: ‘Life is very good’

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There’s been somewhat of a hole in Al Unser Jr.’s heart ever since he retired from racing in 2007.

It was a void, something was missing.

But now, after a decade away from racing, Unser has found the right medicine to fill that hole in his heart: he’s back in the racing game again.

No, he’s not driving again (although he does participate occasionally in vintage races), but the two-time Indianapolis 500 (1992 and 1994) winner is definitely back in the IndyCar world.

And he couldn’t be happier.

“For me, it’s a dream come true,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “Since I stepped out of the race car and retired from racing, there’s been something missing from my life, and it’s racing.”

Unser has hooked up with Harding Racing. The team competed in three races last season as a ramp-up for a full 17-race effort this season. While Unser’s official title with the team is “consultant,” he’s involved in so much more.

His main role is as a driving coach to 2015 IndyCar Rookie of the Year Gabby Chaves. But he’s also involved in so many other areas, including helping the team obtain sponsorships and much more.

He then added, “I’m involved in every sense of the word except actually driving the car. And I’m happy about that because I’m too old to drive the car.”

Unser, who won CART championships in 1990 and 1994, is now 55. He’s so involved with his new job that he even moved from his native New Mexico and has relocated to suburban Indianapolis.

Not only is it a new start for Unser, it also is for Chaves. After running all 16 races in 2015 for Bryan Herta Autosport with Curb-Agajanian, he competed in just seven races for Dale Coyne Racing in 2016 and only three races for Harding Racing last season.

But he definitely impressed the team, with a fifth- (Texas) and ninth-place (Indianapolis 500) finish in the first two races and 15th (Pocono) in the team’s final run of the season.

That’s why when Harding Racing decided to go fulltime in 2018, Chaves was their pick for behind the wheel. And Unser was their pick to help guide him to potential stardom in the series.

“(Team owner) Mike Harding is definitely a person that when he decides to do something, he does it right,” Unser told IndyCar.com. “The potential for this organization is through the sky. We’re all working really hard here and we see the potential.”

And as for Unser?

“Life is good, life is very good,” he told IndyCar.com. “We’re back full force, eager and better than ever.”

Click here for the full story about Unser from IndyCar.com.